Two books that significantly influenced Wilson growing up were the Boy Scout handbook and the King James Bible. You can see the rigor of the first and the gracefulness of the second in his tightly crafted prose ... Wilson's sense of the future cannot be easily dismissed. Over the years, we have learned a lot about the world and ourselves from him; and with Half-Earth, a book of vision and welcome optimism, he has yet more to teach us.
Half-Earth is one-quarter celebration and three-quarters lamentation — a celebration of the Earth’s extraordinary biodiversity, and lamentation of the assault (a word he uses repeatedly) that humanity has mounted against it ... Refreshingly, Wilson does not dwell on climate change as the sole culprit. Fragmentation of land, pollution of the water and air, the introduction of invasive species — all are destructive, with or without atmospheric warming. He plunges boldly into the politically charged waters of population growth ... Wilson’s aspiration, however noble, is that of a retired Harvard professor who has the time and money to ponder ants and dragonflies and grasslands.
For Wilson, there is only one solution. We must increase the land we have set aside for reserves for protecting wild plants and animals until this terrain covers half the globe ... Unfortunately, having prepared his case so carefully, Wilson then stops in his tracks and hesitates, providing no detail of the measures needed to ensure his goal is completed or any indication of how we can expand nature reserves so they reach the Half-Earth status he craves. Nor does he offer any inkling of what territories should be annexed or what funding mechanisms or agreements will be required to achieve his goal. This is a pretty serious limitation ... A book that was a little more prescriptive would certainly have been welcome. This is not say that Half-Earth is a washout. As an outline of our terrible ecological plight, it does a first-class job. Wilson is, if nothing else, a gifted wordsmith and Half-Earth is a much-needed antidote to the views of those who assert that our worldly woes are exaggerated and that everything is tickety-boo in the Garden of Eden.
Half-Earth is at its best when it describes some of the extraordinary creatures at the center of the biodiversity battle, such as the unfolding misfortune of the rhinoceros, a charismatic creature vanishing because its horn is thought by some to increase our sexual prowess. The book dives into the ocean to describe Picozoa, a submicroscopic new phylum named only in 2013. He tells of how the loss of the chestnut tree caused the quick collapse of the passenger pigeon. Wilson risks losing readers - as he lost me - when he goes into long digressions late in the book on the working of the human brain. And some of the chapters read a little thin. But fine: If he can get the world's attention on this issue, breaking through the cultural clutter and background noise of Kardashians and bachelorettes, Brangelina and Trumpism, he'll have accomplished something huge.