Nature Needs Half
December 2010: We have one life, you got to do what you should.
One life, with each other… sisters, brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same, we got to carry each other, carry each other.
(One, U2, 1992)
What does everyone have in common? Needs.
As environmentalists we are more than aware of those who regard nature solely as a commodity and who pursue their “needs” through a worldview that sees nothing in natural land/seascapes except money-making opportunities – logging, mining, fishing, real estate development, agriculture and more. The catch-all term for such needy people is “developer.” In reality these pursuits are as old as humans are and are of course not inherently bad – natural resource use is an essential and necessary activity. However, unchecked, over-exploitive natural resource use creates a hydra-headed demon whose faces are population growth, consumerism, technological advances, human greed and poverty. The result is before us in the currently unfolding rampant, destructive and ultimately suicidal attack on wild nature that sustains all life on Earth.
As concerned and engaged environmentalists, we love nature and we dedicate our lives and work to protecting her from such flagrant disregard and abuse.
But let’s look at some of our own needs of a different sort. Yes, we all have nature-based needs, even those of us who try to manage our consumerism, carbon footprint, and the like. We might be mountain-bikers lobbying for more trails in a national park so we can do our thing in nature without bothering hikers on existing trails. We may be fishermen who want a new stream or coral reef opened up or the catch limit extended. We may be a hunter who wants to take a four-wheeler anywhere in the backcountry in order to harvest a deer/elk/impala/whatever. Or we may simply want the right to let our dogs run off-leash in a forest or field or for our cat to wander in-and-out at will. All of these activities can have negative impacts on nature and though they are surely more subtle than the outright “rape and scrape” of the “developers,” they come from a similar anthropocentric view of life on Earth.
It’s very instructive to attend public hearings of recreational planners or zoning authorities, the purpose of which is to change or limit the use of natural areas by specific groups of nature lovers. What a hubbub… and it’s all about what “I” need in order to enjoy nature and “my” taxpayer rights of access. These are not greedy “developers”… they are all self-professed nature lovers, expounding their needs, staking out their personal turf on the wild landscape.
We are clearly faced with rapidly increasing use of (and in some cases, assault on) large wild and natural areas. There is also an expanding need for healthy habitat with connecting corridors to allow wild flora and fauna to move and adapt to climate change and to assure human health and prosperity. As a result, there is an urgent requirement to reframe the “needs debate.”
The new question... What does nature need?
The basic answer… Nature Needs Half!
This simple statement is a call-to-action to protect and interconnect half of the planet’s lands and waters in order to sustain all life on Earth. Based on two different but mutually supportive ways to perceive the nature/human relationship, Nature Needs Half is:
A science-supported conclusion emanating from an ever-growing body of research on large natural ecosystems (terrestrial and marine) which concludes that these wild areas need to retain at least half of their original size in order to continue to provide the “ecosystem services” (I prefer to call it “life support”) that enable, enhance and sustain all life on Earth.
A common-sense understanding based on how to make a relationship successful and productive. If we want a relationship to work, we must be prepared to meet the other “half-way”. Nature and humans are the two main players on planet Earth. Nature is doing her piece to support us, and we need to “get it going with nature”, and give her what she needs.
No matter which of these perspectives makes sense to you – the scientific or the humanist – the prospect of not responding to Nature Needs Half is the same. The human/nature relationship will not just continue forever to be dysfunctional – it will ultimately be a failed relationship.
I’m not suggesting that we abandon the pursuit of our needs in order to achieve some Utopian, feel-good relationship with Mother Earth. To the contrary, because satisfying one’s true needs is essential to assuring survival, stability, and prosperity, Nature Needs Half is a direct response to a rapidly unfolding situation in which human survival, stability and prosperity is the least assured than it has ever been since our ancestors left the trees.
Nature Needs Half is as possible as it is necessary. Start in your own area, in a city watershed or county planning meeting, on public, private, corporate, or communal lands. As well as being a call to action for all of us as practitioners and activists, HALF is also a call to media and ommunicators to document what has been done and what needs to be done; why it is important; how to do it; and more. Creating a new world is not a spectator sport – Nature Needs Half needs you.
Be part of the action www.natureneedshalf.org
By Vance G. Martin, President, The WILD Foundation