How to Save the World According to Edward O. Wilson

Menno Cramer

by Menno Cramer


The rise of Biodiversity

Edward O Wilson is an architect according to Rohan Silva, Co-Founder of Secondhome. The Secondhome building who hosted a lecture from the distinguished biologist Edward O. Wilson last 4th November in London is full of fractal geometry, nature, round lines and circular shapes. There are no square lines. This approach to Biophilia is supposed to lead to enhanced productivity and creativity, an ideal place for companies to grow. The space has been built according to the legacy Edward O Wilson has started and is a celebration of biophillic theories.

Let’s start at the beginning, 66 million years ago a rock hit the earth with a speed of 20 km/s and stirred some things up around the coast of Yucatan, now Mexico. It killed the dinosaurs and it rang the planet like a bell. Since then a large flora and fauna has evolved. That is when we entered the age of the mammal. After the latest gletchers retreated some 12000 years ago the earth’s biodiversity reached its peak. Since then humans have been destroying natural habitats and biodiversity has plunged. This era is called the antropocene. Antropos, the era of mankind where pristine wilderness does not exist anymore.


“Nature is viewed as a commodity”

 (Edward O Wilson)


The decline of Biodiversity

After extinction one cannot return. Even though evolution has taken millions of years to produce a species when a species becomes extinct, there is no way back. The surviving fragments of nature are expected to live amongst us. This view is not right and detrimental to our existence. We as humans are visitors on this planet, not the owners.  What is the current state of this planet, is it all misery, are we doomed? There is some good news, In 2012 we as humans were able to save some species from extinction. 31 bird species were saved and not in threat of extinction anymore. In total 1370 plant or animal species were threatened. Due to conservation initiatives, 13 species are no longer threatened to become extinct. Unfortunately, 22 different species did die out despite human effort. 227 species were saved from extinction, however still threatened to become extinct.


“You are living on a used planet, If this bothers you, get over it.

We now live in the Anthropocene ― a geological epoch

in which Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere and

biosphere are shaped primarily by human forces.”

(Erle Ellis)


The antropocener’s view of nature is profoundly dangerous, they are the enemy. They see nature as a commodity and as luxury but do not realize it is a necessity for our existence. And that the existence of ten million species allows our presence. All species combined give us the stabilization of the global environment. Their existence is a gift to us. The most dangerous worldview is the view of someone who hasn’t seen the world. Despite some minor glitches in our existence, like: economic crises, global warming, and religious wars we survive as species. We are on our way, but where are we going? In this era we all want the same: food, pleasant habitation, law and order, freedom, sex without reproduction. Have we lost our purpose? Are these really our goals in life? Because, the family dog, has the same.


“Biodiversity is judged by

its service to mankind”

(Edward O Wilson)


We are facing multi level selection in population genetics. Evolution of society has created the current  advanced social behavior which have become the norm. Biologically this poses a problem. In survival of the fittest a selfish individual will always win from an altruistic individual. However, an altruistic based society will always win over a selfish society. This multi-layer selection occurs through group selection versus personal selection.


To understand life …

Why we exist we know by now and this offers promise for the future. Let me present you a chain of causation: the overall biosphere with its biodiversity gave rise to human kind. Human kind developed literate culture. Literature culture is human kinds greatest achievement.

Nature is alive; we live on this planet with roughly ten million species. The wilderness will not survive long. The habitat of all these species is changing. Slowly we are altering the habitat of all these species including ourselves from which we do not know if this is too far away from the natural habitats we and all species need. This change is not occurring through nature but by humans.  Who are we to alter habitats to such an extent that they lead to the extinction of species?


“Every species is sacred

in the sight of God.”

(Pope Francis)


We are facing a larger extinction rate than birth rate, which means biodiversity is dying. On this planet two million species have been identified. We add 18000 new species to this list each year. It is expected that approximately ten million species exist on this planet. We know surprisingly little about our own earth. Before the anthropocene the extinction rate of species was one in one million. The creation rate was the same; one new species would come to life in one million species. Nature was at equilibrium with itself. We have distorted this equilibrium, and now we do not know how the graph will evolve. Now the extinction ratio has changed its somewhere between 100-1000 per million. Towards the end of the century it is expected to be catastrophically higher.


How to save biodiversity?

Our one and only option is ending the anthropocene. Start a war with the enemy. We need to create a stable death rate. Make sure the graph does not become exponential and extinction cascades occur. All species are interlinked in the food web in the web of life. If we take our crucial actors, the whole web will collapse. Biodiversity will die.

One option is apply  “zoning” to “earths service”, this is better known as the half earth concept. Creating corridors of uninterrupted nature. Making a grid to connect natures reserves. Allowing pristine wilderness to exist, so the worlds biodiversity can maintain itself without interference from human kind but in harmony.  The global population is currently around seven billion and is expected to peak at ten billion after which it will decline again. Female fertility rates have been dropping. This is currently around 2.1, still dropping, this means human population size is predicted to become stable.  It is better to have two high quality children, instead of trying to make sure two out of the ten wont be failures. Maybe we need to think of Chinese policies to ensure the survival of humankind.

The “ten billion world”, is suggested to be the maximum carrying capacity for the world alongside the current maximum population size of the human race. How will we host ten billion people? If we keep in mind the half earth concept how do we solve issues like density, food consumption, and resources? We will have to find solutions for these issues before we start eating ourselves. Can we use the human body or human mind as a model? One field which is particularly promising for finding answers to these issues is Artificial Intelligence. That is the reason why so much money is invested in “whole brain simulations”. Can we transfer minds into robots? Will this save humanity?

We will need to share services, develop organic evolution and reintroduce natural selection. All competitions of free market work to increase quality of life and reduce ecological footprint (resources, time, money, space). Luckily we have online diagnostics, which allow us to monitor much more, to analyze and predict the direction in which we are moving. Being able to develop microorganism that aid food production. Everything is about yield, increasing yield, increasing efficiency.  Nature does this too – evolution is adaptation to become more successful at living in the environment. Our challenge will be adapting to scarcity. Shrinking our ecological footprint is crucial.


“We could become immortal as species.”

(Edward O Wilson)


Ecology is going to be one of the major branches of science in order for humanity to exist. To keep the biodiversity we have we will have to burden our future generations with a huge responsibility to maintain and uphold the earths biodiversity. However, if we don’t do so and allow biodiversity to be destroyed the consequences for the future generations will be catastrophic. We as humans cannot all of a sudden take over the role of eight million different species with different roles, all over the planet.


To conclude…

Now I believe we have learned enough. Simple rule in everything we do, do no further harm to the biosphere. We are a dysfunctional species, we are not contributing to nature we are taking away from it, destructive to our own existence. We are developing Memo, this will be a powerful and unique memorial, an apology to nature.  A museum which will host all the extinct species caused by human doing. Memo will be on the Jurassic coast of Britain, a rightful place to educate future generations on what kind of species we are, a memory museum of all the species we have killed.


“We are a dysfunctional species”

(Edward O Wilson)


We have to do whatever it takes to keep earth alive with all the beautiful species it hosts, including ourselves. Everything we are investigating in science is about three questions. The first question is: Where do we come from? We know that by now. The second question is: What are we? We are looking at this answer now.  The last question however is: Where are we going? And nobody has the answer. Species evolve, we cannot take over what eight million species do including the evolution they have gone through. Wilson believes the half earth concept should be accepted and be put in place within 10 years from now. Humans do not have another solution. The tipping point is near, first it was controversial, now it will be ridiculed after which it will be accepted. The free market economy is changing rapidly, getting more with less.


“Stop the antropocene, stop the extinction of species.

We are biological species in a biological world.”

(Edward O Wilson)