Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon spoke to Mongabay during a recent conference in Durham, North Carolina.Proceeds from the tour will support the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.He spoke to Mongabay about optimism, life on Earth, and more during an hour-long conversation.It was widely reported in 2016 that the performer was considering retirement from touring, but has now heeded Wilson’s call for saving biodiversity. DURHAM, North Carolina – Listening to Paul Simon talk is a little like listening to him sing. His voice is melodic and soothing; his words are thoughtful and evocative, capable of penetrating both heart and bones. A lyric comes to mind, and it enlarges to represent the motivation that brought Simon south from New York City to Environment Hall on the campus of Duke University in early March. I know what I know/I’ll sing what I said/We come and we go/That’s the thing that I keep in the back of my head.* Multi-Grammy winner Paul Simon joins renowned biologist E.O. Wilson on stage in Durham. Photo by Chris Sims, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. Simon was here to be of service to a friend. That friend – E.O. Wilson – is a legend of conservation with an audacious idea at a perilous time that has come late in life. Simon, sensing his own mortality, is eager to match Wilson’s unflagging energy and enthusiasm in the way he knows best. With his voice. The iconic master of the American songbook for more than a half century, winner of a dozen Grammys and the author of such enduring classics as “Sound of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” participated in Biodiversity Days, a two-day conference here sponsored by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. The conference aimed to promote the grand, central idea of Wilson’s recent book, Half-Earth – setting aside half of the Earth’s lands and seas to enable nature to recover from humanity’s global impact and vastly reduce the current rate of species extinctions. The 75-year-old songwriter has become an apostle of the 87-year-old biologist and conservationist, and hailed Wilson’s book as powerful and inspirational in a December essay in The New York Times. “Simply put,” he wrote, “if we don’t reverse the climate change that is causing sea levels to rise, and droughts and flooding to become chronic, the consequences will cause a collapse of the many ecosystems that are home to all living creatures and plants necessary for life itself to exist.” Not surprisingly, given a career of subtle musical activism (“Graceland”) and unheralded philanthropy (Children’s Health Fund), Simon agreed to Wilson’s request last fall to “do something” to help propel a potential Half-Earth movement. Wilson was supposed to announce Simon’s contribution to the cause to a sold-out audience at the Carolina Theater in downtown Durham on the evening of March 2. But in introducing his friend for a five-song set following an intense panel discussion on Half-Earth, Wilson simply forgot. Simon chose instead to break the news in his exclusive interview with Mongabay. This June, he and his band will embark on a 17-city U.S. concert tour that Simon believes will generate “millions of dollars” for the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and raise awareness for the Half-Earth cause and its leader. Funds could possibly be used to promote the protection of lands in and around Wilson’s native south Alabama where intact ecosystems still thrive in the wetlands and pinelands.