Rescuing the planet Protecting half the land to heal the earth

Tony Hiss

Book - 2021

Beginning in the North American Boreal Forest that stretches through Canada, and roving across the continent from the Northern Sierra to Alabama's Paint Rock Forest to a ranch in Mexico, Hiss sets out on a journey to take stock of the "superorganism" that is the earth: its land, its elements, its occupants, its greatest threats, and what we can do to keep it, and ourselves, alive. He invites us to understand not only the scope and gravity of the problems we face in this challenge,... but just why protecting half the land is the way to fix them, introducing us to the many institutions and organizations already involved in the fight. -- adapted from jacket

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2nd Floor 333.9516/Hiss Checked In
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2021.
First edition
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi book"--Title page verso
Physical Description
xii, 306 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes index.
Main Author
Tony Hiss (author)
Other Authors
Edward O. Wilson (writer of introduction)
  • Getting to half
  • Solitudes
  • All of life inside and nowhere else
  • The science of 50 percent
  • The animal as storyteller
  • A planetary feeling
  • A planetary perspective
  • Next steps
  • Spark bird.
Review by Booklist Review

Edward O. Wilson presented the ultimate in big-picture conservation in Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (2016), calling for the preservation of 50 percent of Earth's land and ocean to protect biodiversity and slow the rate of extinction. Hiss now reports with zest, fluency, and measured optimism on how the process to attain this dramatic goal is underway. Following Wilson's benedictory introduction, Hiss, whose sterling prose was forged during his years as a New Yorker staff writer and over the course of creating 15 previous books, begins with a visit to the enormous North American Boreal Forest to explain why it is necessary to conserve entire intact ecosystems to sustain the besieged biosphere. He travels to many more illustrious places on the continent, each unique, as he maps the rousing history of ecological science and portrays an array of colorful "extinction preventers" past and present. Readers will meet pioneering animal ecologist and Nature Conservancy founder Victor Ernest Shelford; biodiversity-hotspot experts and sisters Annette and E. Lucy Braun; wildlife-corridor innovator Reed Noss; and the audacious innovators who created the first wildlife-tracking collars. Thanks to their arduous efforts and those of many more, Hiss asserts that "we're already better equipped to defend the biosphere than we might think." With the U.N. declaring the 2020s the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, Hiss' deeply elucidating and inspiriting chronicle is a keystone resource.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Former New Yorker staff writer Hiss (Long Road from Quito) takes an illuminating look at movements aiming to head off mass extinction by protecting 50% of the land in North America by 2050. "The science of Half Earth," Hiss writes, began in the 1930s with an essay written by ecologists urging for protected buffer zones. In the ensuing decades, he notes, environmental activists and Indigenous communities have been working towards this goal. Hiss covers various approaches they've pursued, such as wildlife sanctuaries, Indigenous Protected Areas paid for by the government, and efforts to create a green reserve encircling Boston. One massive project, the Canadian Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, kicked off in 2003 and seeks to protect half of the Boreal Forest, a vast forest that stretches from the Yukon to Newfoundland. Hiss also highlights efforts to create wildlife corridors via a "network of sanctuaries" likeet hose that currently range down the Appalachian Trail, throughout Greater Yellowstone, and in Canada's Banff National Park. Hiss creates a sense of hope with lyrical descriptions and immersive portrayals of various programs across the continent: "It's our marvelous privilege to be participants in and guardians of an ancient community billions of years old, the continuousness of life itself." This eye-opening survey will leave readers inspired. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

In this latest work, award-winning author Hiss (The Experience of Place) puts forth an ambitious proposal to protect half of the land of North America by the year 2050. Though consequences of not stepping up efforts will be dire, resulting in additional species loss, this book is not just another gloomy forecast; it offers several examples of similarly audacious plans that have been at least partially implemented and proven successful. The overall strategy involves protecting what survives, repairing what's damaged, connecting spaces that have been separated, collaborating, and bringing nature back into people's daily lives. As Hiss shows, protection can be administered in varying degrees, with a meticulously protected inner zone surrounded by less stringently regulated buffer and transition zones. Linking individual protected areas into a continuous chain creates wildlife corridors, aiding preservation of species. Areas discussed include Banff National Park and the Appalachian Trail, along with projects in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and more. Although the book includes historical context, the material is timely, citing 2020 research and referring to COVID-19 and the impact of Australian bush fires. VERDICT An exceptional work that is highly recommended as a cohesive explanation of how small local projects can be pieces of larger efforts.--Teresa R. Faust, Coll. of Central Florida, Ocala

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A passionate argument for protecting the world's rapidly shrinking wilderness. A century ago, 15% of the Earth's surface was farm or pasture; today, it's 77%. Many experts maintain that this loss of natural land as well as the "sixth extinction" and all the effects of climate change have passed the point of no return. Former New Yorker staff writer Hiss disagrees, and he describes a campaign to protect 50% of the world's land, a plan that may strike many as absurd--until they read his cogent argument. Three great forested areas--Siberia, the Amazon, and the North American Boreal (in Canada and Alaska)--make up most of the world's wilderness. "Siberia is 60 percent cut over," writes the author, "and so is more than 20 percent of the Amazon, where the rate of deforestation is spiking." The Boreal, however, is 85% intact. Since human activities account for less than 40% of our continent, and 15% is already protected, the author's plan is feasible. Readers accustomed to a litany of doom will discover a modest amount of good news. Many well-financed environmental organizations are working toward the 50% goal, and, unlike the case with reducing global warming, governments tend to be amenable. The best scenarios have occurred in Canada and Australia, which have returned large amounts of land to previously displaced Native populations. The U.S. government is unlikely to buy into the entire plan, but a combination of activists, naturalists, and a few billionaires are making progress. Hiss illustrates his thought-provoking arguments with a handful of North American projects, including a major expansion of the Appalachian Trail, rejuvenation of New Jersey's Pine Barrens, restoration of the vast pine forests in the Southeast, and conversion of Yellowstone into a Greater Yellowstone protected area, essential to preserve its diminishing species. With its combination of passion, inspiration, and rigor, this makes a good companion to Bill Gates' How To Avoid a Climate Disaster. Excellent natural history and more optimistic than usual. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.