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Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

(The Anthropocene Epoch #3)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,204 ratings  ·  223 reviews
In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 7th 2016 by Liveright
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Jun 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
38th book for 2016.

The idea behind this book, that 50% of the World should be put aside as a wildness (half for us, half for the rest), is a big idea very well worth exploring.

Unfortunately, this book does no justice to the idea. It rambles along. Talks a lot about the beauty of the natural world, of the joys of being a naturalist, rants against the stupidity of people who somehow see value in half-wild places, and finally in this short book pays a scant few pages to vaguely outlining the idea
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
“…[O]nly by committing half of the planet’s surface to nature can we hope to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it.”

In Half-Earth, American biologist and Pulitzer prize winner E.O. Wilson gives a well-researched, well-documented, eloquent, but above all, impassioned plea on behalf of our planet and all of those who call it home, human and non-human alike. Species are dying out at an alarming rate and it is Wilson’s contention that “only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or
Keith Akers
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Species are going extinct about 1000 times as fast as the “normal” rate of extinction. The solution, argues the author, is to give over half of the earth to the wild animals. I am a nonspecialist, and in addition to Wilson’s book and miscellaneous other articles, I’ve already read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History as well as Anthony Barnosky’s Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth.

The strong point of Wilson’s book is that he
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
3 stars and a half
This book has two parts, how to hate the humans and how to try to clean their mess
Some chapters were really interesting and some really boring.
What humans are doing to mother earth and all its living creatures is simply despicable!
Conclusion: humans are stupid and heartless
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Wilson argues that humanity's only chance for survival as a species is to cooperate with other life forms that make up the biodiversity of the earth. At the rate we're going, our destruction of the environment, in terms of global-warming, is having a disastrous effect on the millions of other life forms on this planet, most of them as yet undiscovered by humans. The long term effects of such destruction means the extinction of humanity. Many species have appeared and disappeared in the history ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic
Half-Earth is half distressing biology news, half Edward O. Wilson's love letter to species that are largely ignored by popular conservation because they aren't cute enough. Wilson is a natural biologist who studies ants, and his passion - especially for ants, particularly for bugs, and generally for any living creature - shines through every page of this book. I am a typical city dwelling nerd who hates little crawly things with too many legs, so it's completely foreign for me to imagine a ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment, science
This book is a terrific journey through the incredible biodiversity of our planet. Or at least what remains of our biodiversity. In this Anthropocene Age we live in, humans have sacrificed the earth's species on the altar of "economic development" and "freedom" and "the accumulation of material wealth." The result is a blind trip toward oblivion.

But for a few brief hours, I could enjoy the world's species and wild areas vicariously through the writing of Edward O. Wilson.

There are solutions
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good, though I still feel like Kolbert's The 6th Extinction does the best job of conveying the severity and anomaly of what is happening to the climate in ways that people can grasp that doesn't come across as stilted or preachy xx
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ecology
I hate to give E.O. Wilson anything less than 5 stars. However, his writing has really gone downhill, which makes me truly sad. The first book in this trilogy, Social Conquest of Earth, was great until the last chapter. He kept politics out of the whole book and then went on a rant about his political views. I actually agreed with those views but it was off-putting even to me. The rant came out of nowhere. If he had sprinkled his views throughout the book, as if they were not something he was ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book is a mess. The first part of the title, Half-Earth, refers to the supposed main argument that humankind must preserve the Earth's biodiversity by leaving half of the Earth as untouched wilderness (or maybe managed wilderness) in order to ensure humankind's survival. Amazingly, the author spends only a few pages unconvincingly discussing this idea. Instead of discussing the central argument, the book spends a surprising number of pages discussing things like artificial intelligence, the ...more
Josh Friedlander
Dec 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
If you're reading this, you're probably concerned about our unfolding ecological catastrophe, which has only gotten worse since this book came out. Wilson's comically unfeasible plan is to give over half the planet to wildlife. Given the inability of the world's governments to agree on even the mildest steps to protect the environment, you can safely ignore this pompous, rambling book, whose Pulitzer seems a perfect example of futile virtue signalling.
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
There's a really interesting idea behind this book, but the book doesn't really explore it that well. If anyone's interested I can direct you to more compelling writing on the subject (including some by the author himself). If you want to know why I found the book frustrating, read my full review here!:
Fred Rose
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: global-issues
E.O. Wilson is a great scientist and writer but this is not a very good book. He doesn't even get to his proposal (if you can call it that) for setting aside wildlife areas until 3/4 of the way through the book and it's so vague, it's hard to call it a plan, more of a plea. It's important stuff, no doubt, the more written about the 6th extinction, the better. It's as big a deal as climate change.
Fred Hughes
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
An interesting if distopian view of the world. While the idea is right, the way the book rolls it out could have been handled better.

Still, we as humans are walking, if not running, towards our ultimate destiny and it is not pretty for us or the planet
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Wilson is a scientist and a long-time ardent proponent of saving our planet. He has deep concerns for our biosphere and advocates setting aside half the earth for the natural world. Wilson lays down solid evidence for his worries, and I came away from the book nodding my head in agreement.

My takeaways from Half-Earth:

Many scientists believe man has had such a profound impact on the planet that we should acknowledge the end of the Holocene Epoch and replace it with the Anthropocene, the Epoch of
This book is half terrifying and half tedious. Raising the alarm over the coming crash of biodiversity is all well and good, but when you sound like Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Something-dee-oh-oh economics. Voodoo economics.”, it kind of undercuts the urgency. It doesn’t help that the text is completely unfocused and he wanders far off topic, even to the point of giving lists of various things repeatedly.

Worst of all, he never really explicitly states
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This important and impassioned book by one of the great botanist-naturalist writers of our time is a stirring account of humanity’s impact on planet Earth. If we view humans as simply one of the millions of species that call Earth home, then mankind has negatively impacted earthly environments more than any other living species. Two important words the reader will learn from this book are biosphere (all the organisms alive in the world at any moment, which together form a thin spherical layer ...more
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An Impassioned Plea to Preserve Earth's Biodiversity from the Greatest Evolutionary Ecologist of Our Time

Noted evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson has written a polemic, but a polemic based on his life-long work in ant systematics and evolutionary ecology, that offers some glimmer of hope. This is a surprisingly terse book from Wilson, but one of sufficient length that it may serve as a rallying call to anyone who has some interest in conservation biology - which he should be viewed as its
Angie Boyter
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Half-Earth is Edward O. Wilson’s visionary conclusion to the trilogy he began in The Social Conquest of Earth and continued in The Meaning of Human Existence. In the first book, Wilson described his theory of human evolution (based on group rather than kin selection) and how it led to our domination of the biosphere. The Meaning of Human Existence presented a series of essays exploring more philosophically the question of why humans exist at all and whether we have a special destiny.
May 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
The general message that we should dedicate at least half the land of this planet to wilderness is an important one. However, it's pretty shocking what conclusions E.O. Wilson draws from that premise. According to him we need not just more research into biology, which is crazy enough considering that lack of information is clearly not the problem, but also more progress in robotics, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and the ephemeralization of our gadgets (making them smaller and more ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall I like the ecological concept of reserving half of the earth non water surface to support the other half and to promote biodiversity. This book blended a lot of current conservation concepts however execution of all of these concepts for the full execution of the half earth concept seems unsustainable provided the growing population.

To throw another concept in that Edward Wilson did not think about is that society could build central population areas taller freeing up more of the land
Hunter McCleary
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I occasionally wonder if we are becoming a world of mono-cultures-- humans, roaches, corn, Norway rats, and beef cattle. Wilson's new book puts that fear in perspective. We know precious little about the diversity of our world and at the rate we are going millions of species of plants and animals will go extinct before we even know about them. The ultimate in ignorance is bliss.

Preserving diversity is the key to solving so many of our problems, be they political, scientific, cultural, etc. Some
Mark Valentine
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Based on the evidence, setting aside even more than half of our earth's area for preservation makes sense but I don't think corporate and national interests will allow this. Wilson's documentation of habitat lose, the rise of invasive species, pollution, over-population, and over-hunting indicates that we have very, very little time left.

When combined with methane and CO2 gas emissions, I believe that we need a frantic mobilization of resources now. I can only fault Wilson with one piece of
Michael Layden
Deeply humbling book, I come away from it stunned about how little I know about the natural world. I realise I have only the vaguest knowledge about the stupendous, awesome, complex world we live in.
Living with the knowledge of the sixth extinction has been something I have been doing for many years but the shear love Edward Wilson has for all forms of life on this blue ball floating in space adds immensely to the feeling of horror.
It is a lot to digest, I've now ordered one of his earlier
Don Gorman
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it
(2 1/2) This is a very interesting book about an unbelievably important subject, the survival of the planet we live on. Unfortunately, it gets pretty darn technical and scientifically worded in lots of the text, making it difficult to stay with and follow. That being said, the message is very clear. We are killing the place where we live and we might or might not be able to make some changes to keep it alive. No, this is not just about climate change, but also about killing flora and fauna and ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This book has great parts that brought me back to high school biology class. E.O. is an incredible naturalist and talks about all species and ecosystems in an easy-to-follow tone. Unfortunately, he does not do a great job with his conclusion. I wanted more details about how the half-earth principle could work, more examples of conservation success stories (he really only gives 2), and more discussion of marine sanctuaries. Overall this is an interesting read but it rambles at the end and doesn't ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
"Like it or not, we remain a biological species in a biological world, wondrously well adapted to the peculiar conditions of the planet’s former living environment, albeit tragically not this environment or the one we are creating. In body and soul we are children of the Holocene, the epoch that created us, yet far from well adapted to its successor, the Anthropocene" (p.2).

Humans will not outlive the Anthropocene, by definition.
I received an advanced digital copy from Edelweiss for an honest review. This is the third installment of a trilogy Wilson has written. It is the first I have read. I first became aware of this man's ideas and visions after reading an in depth article in Audubon Magazine. His approach to saving the planet seems ideal on paper although I am not sure how realistic it may be. There is a lot to think about.
Adam Di Filippe
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I received this advanced copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Half-Earth presents an abundance of information in an accessible way. Wilson deftly weaves between where our environment is now and how we got here. With a strong culmination of what we need to do now. Overall this is a great read for people who want to promote change and for people that have made a career of environmental science.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology, non-fiction
2,5 stars. Contained a lot of information, a bit too much for my liking and too much for an actual story. There was also not really a thread throughout the book. But maybe I missed it because I skipped quite some passages and dozed off a few times..

I liked this quote though:
"To those who feel content to let the Anthropocene evolve toward whatever destiny it mindlessly drifts, I say please take time to reconsider."
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Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. He is Pellegrino University ...more

Other books in the series

The Anthropocene Epoch (3 books)
  • The Social Conquest of Earth
  • The Meaning of Human Existence
“Despite all of our pretenses and fantasies, we always have been and will remain a biological species tied to this particular biological world. Millions of years of evolution are indelibly encoded in our genes. History without the wildlands is no history at all.” 3 likes
“The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.” 1 likes
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