Half-Earth Florida: Fantastical Thinking?

Ranger has stayed particularly close these last few days. For one thing, we’ve had daily thunderstorms, which he doesn’t like at all. Last night it poured rain, and when we were ready to go to bed I took him out anyway so he could pee, and he got soaked just in a couple of minutes, not to mention losing complete interest in doing his business. We finally came inside and shook ourselves off. But he also stayed close because he knows when my head is spinning with thought. We finished reading several E.O. Wilson books, and are coming to understand the need for Half-Earth.

Ranger: “So you’ve been pushing around the thoughts about Florida and if this, our home state, could possibly make a commitment to Half-Earth. It’s no wonder you’re morose the last few days.”

Ranger and I decide Florida is hopeless for Half-Earth. "This deflated Earth tells me we need to move."
Ranger and I decide Florida is hopeless for Half-Earth. “This deflated Earth tells me we need to move.”

Me: “Okay, when I say these numbers, please know that they are rounded off for the sake of the conversation, okay? Florida has nearly 54,000 square miles. If you add up all the federal, state, county, municipal and private park land you find that roughly 28% of that land is protected, about 9,400,000 acres. But think of the parks we know well, like 5 Points Park or Payne Park in Sarasota. Those are city parks and are devoted to human enjoyment and use. Myakka State Park, just down the road from us, is a mixed bag, offering humans an opportunity to camp, drive through, fish and kayak, but most of it is beyond quick access by people. Carlton Preserve is even more remote, but it too has bicycle paths and driving trails. Given the wide variety of uses, let’s argue that about half of the 28% would qualify as beyond human impact and could be counted as protective of biodiversity. So 12% of Florida could be protected for biodiversity. That, according to Wilson, is not going to cut it.”

Me, Continuing: “Next week Darryl and I (sorry, Ranger, it’s too hot for you to go with us) will be up on the panhandle touring the Nokuse Plantation. That is 53,000 acres set aside to recreate the long leaf pine forest that used to cover 6 million acres of the American southeast, but was decimated by clear cutting for lumber, pitch and turpentine. The point I’m trying to make is that we’re in need of a LOT more land to be set aside in order to achieve Half-Earth here in Florida. Efforts like Nokuse need to be multiplied, which is difficult when most Floridians don’t understand the need for large tracts of land to be completely set aside.”

Ranger: “Why must these tracts be large?”

Me: Oh, stay tuned!!! Next time.

Ranger Talks Senses

It is almost too hot and humid the past two weeks to even enjoy being outside. Ranger and I would far prefer to play chuck-it and ball out in the yard, but his paws sink into the mud and then we have to put him into the bathtub, which he absolutely hates!

Darryl shared a picture he got of a young hawk, which we share here, and it precipitated a conversation between Ranger and myself.

A young hawk has eyesight Ranger and I envy!
A young hawk has eyesight Ranger and I envy!

Ranger: “You have your glasses fogged up every time you go out of the house. You need them to drive. While my eyesight isn’t as good as this hawk’s, it certainly is better than yours. Did you know that this hawk can see eight times better than you? Imagine what you could do if you had eight times the eyesight you have! You add powerful talons to the mix and it’s no wonder the small critters scurry for cover when one is around.”

Me: “Don’t forget that I can also improve my sight with cameras. Humans, apparently, use their brains to make up for what we lack in natural sight, hearing… you name the sense, and it would appear that we work hard to match what a hawk has naturally. I want to talk about this more today, if you don’t mind.”

Ranger: “Yeah, go ahead. It’s too hot to go out anyway.”

Me: “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about science and technology, and about the Enlightenment, which was driven by a belief that humans would discover every bit of knowledge… and therefore wisdom…. necessary to manage themselves and the world around them.”

Ranger: “Isn’t that what’s happened? Don’t humans do exactly that? You realize I’m giving you a hypothetical question here….”

Me: “I can see that. But a funny thing happened on the way to Enlightenment. First, science became splintered into so many small fields the big picture was lost. Second, philosophy, poetry, literature all retreated to the privacy of the creative arts, ignoring science. Third, science has become increasingly focused on the role of humans within the evolutionary process rather than simply understanding and discovering nature. The further science and the humanities drifted apart, the less of a big picture there was. Don’t we have to bring them together to solve the crisis of global warming?”

Ranger: “I don’t know. You tell me.”

Me: “E.O. Wilson has become one of my heroes. He said, ‘It is within the power of the humanities and the serious creative arts within them to express our existence in ways that begin at last to realize the dreams of the Enlightenment.’ ┬áThe unique potential of the human future (more technology? more science?) can only be brought about by bringing science and the humanities back together.”

Ranger: “I think I get it! This is why you believe in E.O. Wilson’s ‘Half-Earth’ proposal. By embracing science and understanding the threats we face through climate change, AND proposing a big-picture solution like ‘Half-Earth,’ we could possibly save what is left of all species, both hawks and humans both.”

Me: “Species are completely disappearing at the fastest rate imaginable. Humans are taking over dominion of Earth and will soon degrade the environment to the point of making Earth uninhabitable. Only by setting aside half of Earth…. totally setting it aside…. will we be able to sustain all the species, including humans. We must do this or all face extinction. Better glasses and cameras are a wonderful addition, but we must understand that our very existence is at stake, for if we lose the ability to look at, hear and see the world it is pointless.”

Ranger: “Given the fact that most people are so wrapped up in their own lives, I don’t imagine ‘Half-Earth’ will happen soon. But we should try to help make that possible. Let’s talk about that in our next session.”