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Leading Conservationists E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy Die in Late December

The world's creatures lost two of their greatest champions last last year with the deaths of E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy. Wilson, who passed away December 26 at the age of 92, was the world's leading expert on ants, one of the most important biological theorists since Darwin, and the creator of the controversial theory of sociobiology. The winner of over 150 prestigous awards and medals worldwide, he wrote over twenty books, including two Pulitzer winners, On Human Nature (1979) and The Ants (1990). In the latter part of his career, Wilson became a leading conservationist. He helped create the field of biodiversity studies, and, in Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2014), called for setting aside fifty percent of the planet for natural habitats. Given the threat of the sixth mass extinction in natural history, Wilson insisted that nothing would suffice except “a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.” In the eyes of many, by the end of his life he had become the world's "greatest advocate for the defense of all species.”

Thomas Lovejoy, who died one day before Wilson at the age of 80, was an American ecologist who played a crucial role in making the world aware of the environmental importance of the Amazon. Known as "the godfather of biodiversity" (he introduced the term in 1980), Lovejoy focused his whole career on the danger of relentless deforestation and its impact on flora and fauna. He invented “debt for nature" swaps that allow indebted developing countries to avoid destroying their natural resources and tropical habitats in order to pay debts demanded by the IMF and international lenders. Lovejoy saw rainforests as part of the global hydrologic cycle, and he argued that deforestation in one area affects precipitation everywhere. One of the creators of the Nature television series, he held leadership positions at the World Wildlife Fund and Smithsonian and served as the chief biodiversity officer of the World Bank. 

 

The death of Wilson was reported on page five of the second section of the LA Times and Lovejoy received no mention at all. How do we become a scientifically literate society when such eminent figures are slighted in this way? Betty White died one week after Lovejoy and Wilson, and the Times has written sixteen articles about her so far. Really, it’s embarrassing.

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