Later this year, virtually all the countries on Earth are due to meet in China under the Convention on Biological Diversity to agree global conservation targets for 2030. Virtually may be the operative word, if Covid-19 precludes member states from meeting face to face in Kunming. Whatever the format, conservationists fervently hope that global leaders will agree to set aside 30% of the world’s land and sea for nature by the end of the decade. But is that enough?
In his 2016 book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life the biologist E. O. Wilson went further. He proposed ring-fencing half of Earth’s surface as a vast natural reserve dedicated to conserving biodiversity. If that utopian vision strikes you as more akin to cloud cuckoo land than to blue-sky thinking, let’s just remind ourselves why drastic measures are needed.