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Podcast: With the passing of two icons, who will lead the conservation movement?

  • This is the first episode of the Mongabay Newscast of 2022, and sadly we’re starting the new year on a somber note as the conservation world recently lost two renowned conservation biologists: Tom Lovejoy and E.O. Wilson both passed away at the end of 2021.
  • Here to discuss the legacies both conservation icons leave behind and where we might look to find the next generation of conservation leaders is Rebecca McCaffery, North America president of the Society for Conservation Biology and a wildlife biologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). McCaffery tells us about the overarching influence of E.O. Wilson on the world of conservation biology and why she doesn’t necessarily think we need new conservation icons to lead us into the future.
  • We also speak with Mongabay staff writer Liz Kimbrough, who interviewed E.O. Wilson just a couple months before his passing. Kimbrough tells us about her conversation with Wilson, what his works have meant to her as both a science writer and a PhD-holding biologist, and where she sees the big ideas and leadership for the conservation biology space coming from in the future.

Update 2/2022: In late January, correspondence found among the late E.O. Wilson’s papers connected him with J. Phillipe Rushton, whose research in the 1980s and 1990s has been linked with white supremacy. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation has now issued a statement.

This is our first episode of 2022, and sadly we’re starting off the new year on a somber note as the conservation world has lost some giants: Tom Lovejoy and E.O. Wilson both passed away at the end of 2021.

Listen here:

Both were towering figures in conservation science. Here to help us discuss the legacies they leave behind and where we might look to find the next generation of conservation biology leaders is Rebecca McCaffery, North America president of the Society for Conservation Biology and a wildlife biologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). McCaffery tells us about the overarching influence of E.O. Wilson on the world of conservation biology, how his life and legacy have helped inform the work done by the Society for Conservation Biology, and why she doesn’t necessarily think we need new conservation icons to lead us into the future.

We also speak with Mongabay staff writer Liz Kimbrough, who interviewed E.O. Wilson just a couple months before his passing, as he was preparing for the annual Half-Earth Day, held on October 22nd to commemorate the publication of his seminal work Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life, which gave rise to the Half-Earth Project seeking to realize Wilson’s vision of conserving half of the lands and seas on planet Earth in order to safeguard biodiversity. Kimbrough tells us about her conversation with Wilson, what his works have meant to her as both a science writer and a PhD-holding biologist, and where she sees the big ideas and leadership for the conservation biology space coming from in the future.

Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler penned tributes to both conservation biology pioneers:

“Tom Lovejoy, prominent conservation biologist, dies at 80” (25 December 2021)

Tom Lovejoy. Photo by Bill Laurance.

“Edward O. Wilson, prominent biologist and author, has died at 92” (27 December 2021)

E.O. Wilson.

We’ve had the pleasure of hosting both Tom Lovejoy and E.O. Wilson on this very podcast in the past:

“Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson” (13 November 2018)

“Audio: The ‘Godfather of Biodiversity’ on why it’s time to manage Earth as a system” (5 September 2018)

“Audio: E.O. Wilson talks about Half-Earth, Trump, and more” (24 January 2017)

Further reading:

“E.O. Wilson’s last dream” (3 January 2022)

“Tom Lovejoy’s enduring legacy to the planet” (7 January 2022)

“Half-Earth, conservation, and hope: An interview with E.O. Wilson, Paula Ehrlich and Sir Tim Smit” (20 October 2021)

“Amazon forest to savannah tipping point could be far closer than thought (commentary)” by Tom Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre (5 March 2018)

“Renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson calls for preserving half of Earth to save biodiversity” (22 February 2017)

Subscribe to the Mongabay Newscast wherever you get your podcasts from! You can also listen to all episodes here on the Mongabay website. Or you can download our app for Apple and Android devices to gain fingertip access to new shows and all our previous episodes.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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