Half-Earth Project Aims to Educate Public About Species Protection

Presentation shares project mission to protect biodiversity with teachers and students


Caleb Steindel, News Editor/Staff Writer

Protecting the planet and promoting awareness of human impact was the topic of discussion last week when the Half-Earth Project’s Dr. Dennis Liu delivered an online presentation aimed at educating the public on biodiversity preservation.

Environmentalist Dr. Dennis Liu kicked off a series of speakers on Wednesday, April 20, two days before Earth Day, with a presentation about his Half-Earth Project and how it can be used to save our planet’s species. Liu is the Vice President of Education for the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and his Half-Earth Project is working to “conserve half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves,” according to their website.

Liu’s presentation covered a wide range of environmental issues, but he made his central goal clear: he says his desire is for everyone to become more aware of their impact on our planet and consequently become more engaged in taking care of it.

“If you take nothing else away from this, I hope you will think about your place in the natural world, and by extension the place of humans as a species in the natural world,” Liu said. “Humanity is part of nature, and amidst all the various environmental problems we’re facing today, one of the key things we need to keep coming back to is an understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from it.”

Liu spent much of his time discussing the various environmental crises facing our planet today. He informed viewers that Earth is essentially a closed system, which means that it is easy for us to become imbalanced. Problems with species loss, climate change, and excessive natural resource usage have had disastrous effects on our overall biodiversity, and when we are reckless with the planet’s resources, we strip it of its ability to sustain life.

“We depend on the planet’s system of life to sustain us,” Liu said, “and if we lose that, it’s unlikely that even our amazing technology will be able to reverse that.”

But, Liu assured his viewers that preservation efforts have a bright outlook. Conservation efforts have worked, and the Half-Earth Project is seeking to do its part. The Half-Earth Project is a movement seeking to change the culture, discover new species, and map biodiversity. The name comes from a book by the acclaimed naturalist E.O. Wilson, and the idea behind it is to focus on one half the globe – in this case, the Western Hemisphere – in order to focus biodiversity efforts on one area and be more effective impacting change. The Half-Earth Project features educational and interactive maps, panel discussions, and a news center to help the public educate themselves on biodiversity. It also has various programs to help people get involved, including an ambassador program and a scholarship program.

“The Half-Earth Project brings together deep scientific research, experienced leadership and inspirational engagement as never collaboratively convened before, creating fresh goal-driven energy where existing efforts are losing ground,” states the project’s website. “It addresses gaps in our current approach to our shared species extinction crisis and all of the cascading effects, and creates a compelling campaign for re-invigorated action.”

Liu exhorted everyone to take active steps to preserve our planet’s biodiversity. He said that we should all be working to first educate ourselves about the issues going on and then involve ourselves in activities like planting trees and caring for wildlife since we have that responsibility. He says he hopes people will study The Half-Earth Map and get involved with the organization’s programs in order to impact environmental change.

“If we can really embrace the notion that we are a part of nature, that’s where we’ll find our sense of direction and an ethical approach to the way we live our lives,” Liu said. “If we focus on reclaiming species, we will literally heal the land in the process.”

The full event, which took place throughout the entire day, was hosted by the GeoTech Center, a collaborative organization seeking to expand the geospatial workforce. The group brought together six speakers from various organizations to discuss the environment and technological advancements can help us better understand it. Dr. Liu was one of the featured keynote speakers, beginning the day with an environmental education talk and a call to collaborative action.

For the recorded version of this presentation, visit Dennis Liu Presentation For more information about the Half-Earth Project, visit Half-Earth Project. For more information about the GeoCenter, visit GeoTech Center.