E.O. Wilson: What Is Man?

From the first page of his book HALF-EARTH: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2016).

What is man?

Storyteller, mythmaker, and destroyer of the living world. Thinking with a gabble of reason, emotion, and religion. Lucky accident of primate evolution during the late Pleistocene. Mind of the biosphere. Magnificent in imaginative power and exploratory drive, yet yearning to be more master than steward of a declining planet. Born with the capacity to survive and evolve forever, able to render the biosphere eternal also. Yet arrogant, reckless, lethally predisposed to favor self, tribe, and short-term futures. Obsequious to imagined higher beings, contemptuous toward lower forms of life.

This is a book about Wilson’s plea to preserve the biosphere of Earth by sectioning off and preserving from human development fully half the land area of the entire planet. This isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem: Rosling’s 2018 book (more on that soon) notes that the percentage of that land surface that’s been protected has grown from basically 0%, in 1900, to nearly 15%, in 2016. (Getting ahead of myself but: the dying off of small towns and the concentration of humanity into cities is a *good thing*, because that’s less likely to destroy the planet’s biosphere, upon which humanity’s future depends.)

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