Conservation From the Last of the Wild to the Least of the Wild

April 23, 2014

The theme of Earth Day this year is "Green Cities," an important topic for the many individuals who live in urban areas but care deeply about the wild. In his blog marking this occasion, WCS President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper observes that as we work to inspire city dwellers the world over to care for nature, we would do well to recognize that our least wild places might just be the best hope for our last wild places.

The timing of Earth Day at the start of spring puts us in a fresh frame of mind for consideration of our planet's natural resources.

This year the global theme for this celebration is "Green Cities," an especially apt focus for those of us living in urban areas emerging from a long and chilly winter. Intoxicated by the spring thaw's first bulbs pushing up out of the earth and the calls of returning birds, we are drawn outdoors with a renewed appreciation for the natural world.

It is an opportune time to note that conservation today is taking place to a large extent in two distinct places: the last of the wild and the least.

The "last of the wild" are those few remaining areas on our planet where the human footprint is the lightest. Though these large ecologically intact landscapes and seascapes cover five percent of the earth's surface, they contain more than 50 percent of the world's biodiversity and provide critical ecosystems services for the livelihoods and food security for millions of people.

The "least of the wild," by contrast, refers to those highly developed urban areas where the greatest proportion of people congregates. While cities cover less than three percent of the planet's land surface, roughly 50 percent of the world's population lives in them. By 2050 that number is expected to climb to 70 percent. Earth Day's focus on "green cities" encourages us to think broadly of the challenges and opportunities inherent in this idea.

Read the full blog on the Huffington Post >>
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