http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/wilson/ (CSPAN) The Science of Survival Edward O. Wilson . . . is among the world s great scientists. Author of two PulitzerMay 13, 2004 1 of 1View Sourcehttp://www.paulagordon.com/shows/wilson/ (CSPAN)
The Science of Survival
Edward O. Wilson
. . . is among the world's great scientists. Author of two
Pulitzer Prize winning books, Dr. Wilson spent a lifetime teaching at
Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. and which awarded him both of its
college-wide teaching awards. Currently Professor and Honorary
Curator of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, Dr. Wilson's
honors and awards include the National Medal of Science, top honors
from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Worldwide Fund for
Nature, the National Audubon Society, and Japan's International Prize
for Biology. He is on the Board of The Nature Conservancy,
Conservation International and the American Museum of Natural
History. Consilience, the Unity of Knowledge is his latest book.
The real work of the 21st century, according to the great
Harvard scientist Edward O. Wilson, is to settle humanity down before
we wreck the planet. Dr. Wilson says the explosion of the human
population promises 8 billion people living on earth within 40 years
(as compared to 2 billion in 1900.) It's a vast bottleneck coinciding
with a documented worldwide decline in arable land and water. And we
people are pushing the rest of life off the face of the earth. But
Wilson also offers both hope and plans for action.
While Dr. Wilson expects the 21st century will be a scary rush
of accelerating change, if -- and this is a very big "if" -- if we
address our challenges of natural resources, conservation, and human
population, we have a chance for a quieter, more secure time for
humans and other forms of life on the other side.
We need what we are destroying. Creepy-crawlies and weeds are
the very foundation of life, the little things that run the earth,
cycle and recycle nutrients, create the air and soil. And they do it
for free. Without them, Wilson assures us the terrestrial ecosystems
of the world would collapse within a year, making human life
unsustainable. That's before taking into account the species we are
driving to extinction provide us priceless resources for scientific
information, new pharmaceuticals, and much more.
Besides, Wilson asks, who are we to destroy Creation, the
product of 100s of millions of years of evolution?
People all over the world are in denial, Wilson worries. We're
refusing to face the urgency of pollution, environmental degradation,
climate warming and looming populations. Just providing adequate
nutrition for 8 billion people -- 80% of whom will live in developing
nations -- will be a challenge, let alone coping with their rising
expectations for American-style comfort and security. Meanwhile,
humans are causing a great extinction spasm on the planet. So what?
It will take evolution 10 million years to replace the species we are
poised to wipe out in the next couple of decades.
Right now, we don't have enough knowledge and we're not trying
hard enough to get it. Our public intellectuals are failing us - talk
show hosts, op-ed writers, advisors, political leaders and educators
are not telling us about the real world, not developing global
population and environmental policies. We can get through the coming
bottleneck if we are very, very careful and if we manage our
resources. But that won't happen if we continue in what Dr. Wilson
calls our current shortsighted, reckless, territorial, barbaric,
Confront and overcome our denial. Understand as exactly as we
can who we are, where we came from, how we relate to this planet.
Apply that understanding to create some kind of equilibrium so that
our natural resources are sustainable. Follow the evidence in the
sciences and the humanities that runs in the direction of our
fundamental commonalities within the human species and within
knowledge itself. Learn to deal with issues, to think on your own, to
cut across fields, to integrate science and the humanities. And do it
before it's too late.
When all else fails, do people really turn to reason? We'll
soon find out.
Professor Edward O. Wilson describes the accelerated pace at which
human society is causing a host of changes on the earth to Paula
Gordon and Bill Russell. Dr. Wilson explains the immediacy of his
concern that we face a human population "bottleneck" in the next 40
to 50 years, which will impact the earth in profound ways, foreseeing
severe difficulties for the 6 to 8 billion people expected on the
planet, as well as for the other forms of life we are pushing off the
face of the earth.
Dr. Wilson compares the ecological footprint of average Americans (12
acres each to sustain our current lifestyle and consumption) with the
one acre footprint of a person living in the developing world, where
80% of people live. With present technology, two more planets will
be required to bring others to Americans' current level of use of
natural resources. He tells us why the 21st century will be about
settling humanity down before we wreck the planet. He describes five
great extinction events over the last 1/2 billion years, at 100
million year intervals, the last one being when a giant meteor
apparently wiped out dinosaurs. He details how, at our current pace,
human activity will be the cause of the next great extinction spasm.
He describes the enormous consequences and implications of what our
actions promise and the stages of denial into which many people have
chosen to retreat. He offers us ways to address these worries,
starting with understanding who we are, where we come from and how we
relate to this planet, offering hope for how we can get through the
approaching human population bottleneck.