American biologist EO Wilson, who died on Sunday at the age of 92, has been called the ‘modern Darwin’. He was a lifelong advocate of the protection of nature.
The American biologist Edward Osborne Wilson, considered the father of biodiversity, has died this Sunday at the age of 92 in Burlington (Massachusetts, USA), as reported by his foundation on Monday through a statement in which he does not detail what has been. the cause of death .
Even more influential was the concept of Half-Earth, which Wilson coined in his 2016 book of the same name ( Half-Earth. Our Planet’s Fight for Life ). The then-revolutionary idea that to prevent the current mass extinction of plant and animal species (which is happening faster than ever before in the past 10 million years) at least half of the planet (land and sea) must have some form of protection to get.
Only in this way, Wilson says, can we ensure that enough diverse and interconnected viable ecosystems continue to exist for all those endangered species to thrive, and ensure that the man-made extinction wave can be halted and perhaps reversed.
The term ‘Half-Earth’ partly formed the basis of the 30×30 project, the United Nations’ plan to provide legal protection for at least 30 percent of all land and sea on Earth by 2030; more than twice as much as it is now. All UN member states must subscribe to this goal. This will hopefully happen next spring at a major UN summit on biodiversity in Kunming, China, which has been postponed twice due to the pandemic.
Edward Osborne Wilson was born in 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. As a boy from a broken home, he became fascinated by nature and spent whole days in forests and swamps collecting and studying butterflies, ants, and grasshoppers. He studied biology and became a professor of entomology and evolutionary biology at Harvard University, to which he remained until the end of his life.
Wilson discovered over 400 species of insects, mostly ants — his favorite species, he was known as the Ant-Man for a reason. He studied ant and termite colonies as ‘super-organisms’, the phenomenon whereby millions of individuals succeed through sophisticated communication in taking joint action, such as building huge nests or going on organized raids. Wilson was especially proud of his discoveries about how ants warn each other of danger and food through chemical signals.
Although Wilson, partly due to his many books, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes, especially in later life, gained worldwide status as the eminence grise of nature conservation – comparable to his British colleague biologists and peers David Attenborough and Jane Goodall – there was also a period of controversy. That was in the 1970s after he published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis .
Wilson showed in that book how not only physical characteristics but also behavior are influenced by natural selection. Critics thought he also suggested that character traits such as altruism and aggression were the product of genes, rather than upbringing and environment, and dismissed him as an adept of eugenics, the infamous racial improvement theory. Wilson thus became a victim of the highly politicized ‘nature versus nurture’ debate in the 1970s, just like the criminologist Wouter Buikhuizen in the Netherlands.
Even after his retirement EO Wilson remained very active, he even recently published a book. In 2005, the EO Wilson Foundation for conservation was established in his name. Three years later, the Encyclopedia of Life, a Wikipedia-like website designed to map and describe all 1.9 million species on Earth, went online. An all-encompassing contemporary symbol of Wilson’s lifelong drive, biophilia.