“Behind This is My Earth there’s a beautiful and powerful idea: We all depend on each other to overcome adversity”

Our Resources

<< Back to all articles

“Behind This is My Earth there’s a beautiful and powerful idea: We all depend on each other to overcome adversity”

We had the privilege to talk to Tony Hiss, the author of fifteen books, including the award-winning The Experience of Place. He was a staff writer at The New Yorker for more than thirty years, was a visiting scholar at New York University for twenty-five years, and has lectured around the world. 

Hi Tony, thanks for giving us a chance to interview you. You often talk about the “experiences of places.” How do you explain the relationship we establish with our surroundings?

Hi! I live in New York City, the biggest city in North America, and amazingly enough, 11% of the land in New York is still a natural area. For the first time, we also have a group of people responsible for protecting these natural areas. We also have about 28% of the city land as parkland. For the first time, New Yorkers see nature as an asset, such as the libraries or museums. 

These engaged citizens have created a 17-cities coalition across the US, aiming to protect the large tract of natural areas in the urban areas. If you combine them, you will have 1.7 million acres of natural space. That’s almost as big as Yellowstone National Park

Why is Yellowstone so important?

Because it was the first national park ever, anywhere; it was created in 1872, 150 years ago. It gave birth to the whole national-park movement. We have about 6,000 national parks worldwide, but Yellowstone was the first one.

How has this national-park movement evolved?

Now, this movement has moved into our urban areas, so we are finally aware of the importance of nature within our metropolitan areas. Nature conservation for our health is fundamental. This is a significant change, a great change. The idea that “I don’t have to leave the city to feel in touch with the wildland” is much more powerful than we may realize. 

Did you leave the city when you were writing your last book?

While working on my Rescuing the Planet book, I got a trip into the boreal forests. That is probably the most extraordinary landscape I have ever seen, and in some ways, is the most memorable piece of land left on the planet. It’s more significant than the Amazon and more intact, as 85% is still untouched. This is the kind of landscape that when President Jefferson in 1805 sent Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition to reach the west coast was the same as it is now. So what they saw more than a century ago can still be seen today. From Alaska all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, nature remains the same. You go for miles and miles and hours and days without seeing any sign of human settlement. Also, the second largest river in North America, right after the Mississippi, flows through the boreal forest, and it is a strange, magical river.

Why is that?

Because it flows north-north! Form our own southern perspective, that is very shocking! It seems like totally the wrong way, but thanks to that, it has been a great savior of the boreal forests.

How so?

Although the Canadian government has always had a more positive approach to the native peoples compared to the US, tensions have also been aroused. Having a river flowing up, north-north, has been helpful to them in some moments.

How many native communities are still living there?

There are something like 600 Indigenous communities which are still present in the boreal forests, and nowadays, the Canadian government is turning to them and asking for help. Canadian officials say, “please, set up for us the second system of national parks; use your knowledge to identify biodiversity and be the rangers of these parks.” In Canada, parks like Yellowstone managed by Indigenous communities are coming into being – we’re taking about millions of kilometers with lakes so big that they make their own weather.

So a lot is going on, and I was very excited to be able to write this optimistic book. 

You focus a lot on aboriginal cultures and their efficient way of managing their own natural resources and lands. What can we learn from them?

They must be keeping their lands because they have been living among these landscapes and understanding them for ten thousand years. We are just catching up, but we have lived as naturalists for a couple of centuries, while they have been developing a deep knowledge of the Earth and the balance that supports life on it. We put many things at risk before we decided perhaps this was not a good idea, but native peoples have a deep time perspective and knowledge about animals and plants. We are now starting to think of them as our partners, and sometimes as our senior partners. This is an improvement. 

Where does the concept of Half-Earth come from?

The concept of Half-Earth emerged from a group of Western biologists. Since Yellowstone was created more than a century ago, we’ve managed to put aside about 15% of the land around the world. The challenge is to bring that up to 30% and then to 50%.

Why is that so important?

Lots of field studies show that if we want most of the species to survive, we need them to have access to at least half of their original territory. We know that thanks to predictive biology methods; we have never used them before. What that biology is teaching us is that if we stay at 30% of the Earth’s land conserved, only about a quarter of the species will survive, whereas if we increase these protected areas to 50%, the survival rate will increase from 85% to 90%. Almost everything! It took us 150 years to get from 0% to 15%, and now we have to jump to 30% or 50% in about one or two decades. Nature conservation should be the top priority of everything we do

Let me now introduce you to an important person in our nature conservation story…

Who are you thinking of?

Benton MacKaye, often referred to as the father of the Appalachian Trail, understood the emotional pull of the wilderness. The way is constructed and protected almost entirely by volunteers. The Appalachian Trail is the only project entirely created by volunteers. MacKaye got his inspiration at the top of a mountain in Vermont. He got the sense of being in a “single place” and called it a “planetary feeling”, and that became his life work, the protection of the “Appalachian realm.”

How does his work relate to the Half-Earth Project?

Among the Half-Earth advocates, we used to say that there are three basic principles, often called our “three Rs”: retain what is still wild; restore areas that were once wilder; and reconnect those areas that have been isolated and fragmented from their ecosystems. That works at every scale, and there are plenty of things people can do. You don’t even have to like animals! [laughing]. Just understand that biodiversity is this network of living creatures that keeps the air and water clean for us to drink. The best example of it is plants, which can only survive with the existence of pollinators. This is a coevolution process, as species evolve by depending on each other. This is a beautiful way of growing up and going through life, if you think about it.

Why are you so optimistic?

I am an optimist because there is no other option. We have to overcome this challenge we have ahead in our lifetime. We must leave that work to the next generation. And that is very exciting.

You finish your book highlighting several revelation moments of public figures, and you close the last chapter with a beautiful line: “I came to realize that for this glorious, beleaguered planet, there’s room enough and time enough.” What can you tell us about your moment of truth?

I think the so-called “planetary perspective” grew on me gradually. I started writing this book, moved by the sense of loss. Many animals are disappearing. For instance, you have highlighted Lonesome George (or Solitario Jorge) at This is My Earth on your social media channels. He was the last of his subspecies, an “endling.” How did we let this happen? I started to try to understand what was going on and what could be done, and as I learned more and more, my whole sense of where we are now changed. In the book, I talk about the extraordinary geochemist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, who is equally revered in Russia and Ukraine. He wrote the first book about the biosphere. To Russians and Ukrainians, he was at the same level as Darwin or Einstein

What did he point out about the biosphere?

The biosphere is the container of living things in the universe. As far as we know, only our biosphere is gifted with life. It is not exactly a sphere, it has a strange shape, and it is very ancient. It goes back almost to the beginning of the planet. And the crazy thing about it is that the biosphere almost lacks the third dimension, meaning that it is the thinnest from top to bottom. Most species live between the top of Mount Everest and the bottom of the Mariana Trench (the deepest spot in the Pacific Ocean). That is only a distance of 12.5 miles. If it was laid flat on the surface of the Earth, it is the kind of distance that a car could easily drive across in less than 20 minutes. So all known life in the universe is concentrated in a very thin area. We have to unite our efforts and keep this thinness manageable.

What is our position in the biosphere?

Well, we are somewhere in the middle. There’s life under our feet and life above our heads, up in the air. We don’t live on the Earth, we live within the biosphere. Changing this way of thinking is crucial. 

We were talking to Ailish Hopper not so long ago about the current polarized situation in the United States regarding climate change. What do you think?

I’ve met ranchers for whom their whole life and identity is the land and the nature surrounding it. It’s ironic because most of their lands were taken away from Indigenous peoples, and I am pretty sure Native Americans also loved the land. But in general terms, I think farmers and people living in the countryside adore nature and think of themselves as stewards of the landscape. That is a crucial part of what they do. So, even if they might vote for the Republican Party, they are in favor of protecting the land. Sometimes they feel pushed to abuse their lands in order to produce more. If we could help them save and protect some of these lands they love, I’m very sure they would be looking forward to collaborating, as they know that land conservation improves the amount of pollination and the quality of the soil and helps their lands to recover faster.

What do you think of This is My Earth as a project?

This is the first time someone has come up with an idea such as TiME, and it is great. Thanks to you, we have the chance to arrive faster to protect half of the Earth effectively. Also, the fact that you allow people to vote and that you go to schools to teach your program makes your project unique. I feel like behind TiME there’s a beautiful and powerful idea that, as in the coevolution process, we all depend on each other to overcome adversity.

What can we do to grow more?

As Shakespeare said, “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” We are being called upon this task. As we increase our necessity, we increase our capacity, and I’m sure This is My Earth will follow this path.

Thank you very much for your time!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

TiME ∙ Jan 2

14 min read

“Behind This is My Earth there’s a beautiful and powerful idea: We all depend on each other to overcome adversity”

We had the privilege to talk to Tony Hiss, the author of fifteen books, including the award-winning The Experience of Place. He was a staff writer at The New Yorker for more than thirty years, was a visiting scholar at New York University for twenty-five years, and has lectured around the world. 

TiME ∙ Jan 2

13 min read

Playing dice with the universe

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie (and the book) Jurassic Park occurred just before the characters learned that the cloned dinosaurs, although all female, had found a way to reproduce. In what later became an iconic phrase, which then turned into a viral meme, the mathematician says : “If there is one…

TiME ∙ Jan 2

16 min read

“Securing lands for conservation is one of the best investments you can do to secure your future and that of your family”

We had the privilege to talk to Margaret Otieno, CEO of our partner organization in Kenya, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Margaret has been great in managing and securing the land we’ve managed to save forever in 2021 in Maasai Mara. Good morning, Margaret, how would you introduce yourself? My name is Margaret Otieno and I…

TiME ∙ Dec 6

10 min read

“Our work in TiME has the most direct impact I’ve ever experienced in a nonprofit conservation organization”

We are introducing our new Land Conservation Manager, Masters in Conservation Leadership for the University of Cambridge, Gal Zanir.

TiME ∙ Dec 6

17 min read

“Conservation always needs support; we never have a spare hand”

We interviewed Santiago Rosado Hidalgo, a biologist and photographer at the El Silencio reserve in Colombia, and a contributor to This is My Earth.

TiME ∙ Nov 22

1 min read

This QR saves the planet: SCAN IT!

DOWNLOAD this poster and print it! You are amazing! You will make a difference!  You can hang it in your college, in your workplace, in your school, in your gym, or share it on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, or Twitter! Hang it on the walls of your favorite cafe or bar. You can show it to your friends, and display…

TiME ∙ Nov 2

12 min read

The cloud forests of Colombia

Flowers, such as orchids and magnolias, don’t cross most people’s mind when thinking about conservation. It makes sense: we are used to seeing them inside cities, homes, gardens, and at weddings and events, but they are rarely depicted in wilderness photos, which emphasize greenery, desert, or snow much more than vibrant bloom. But these flowers…

TiME ∙ Nov 2

14 min read

“Talking about nature conservation is the same as talking about human conservation”

Would you say you are a committed artist? Is this what is meant by your practice you call “translucency”? Well,  especially in Western societies, it seems like many of us have lost connection with the environment, and with the pandemic, we may have lost track of even one another. “Translucency” is just a word that…

TiME ∙ Nov 2

13 min read

“People die in the name of nature conservation in my immediate surroundings” 

How is your life in South Africa? I am originally from Germany, and living in South Africa has been an adventure. I moved to South Africa just before the COVID-19 pandemic started. I was finishing my training and then I had to move back to Germany and go through quarantine and lockdown. Finally, I’ve managed…

TiME ∙ Nov 2

13 min read

“I want my children to see and enjoy nature, but I’ve seen nature declining everywhere I’ve travelled”

How would you introduce yourself? My name is Jonathan Meyrav, I live in Israel, I’m married with three kids and I’m first and foremost a bird-watcher. I have been bird-watching since I was a child, and birds are my life. For the last 20 years, I have been working with Birdlife Israel, which is part…

TiME ∙ Oct 23

10 min read

What happened to Scarface?: The most famous Jaguar in the world

Among the Mojo people of Bolivia, the prime candidates for the job of shaman were men who had survived a jaguar attack. The Olmec, the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca carved jaguar effigies into their temples, their spoons made from llama bones, their pot handles and their thrones. Some tribes in the Amazon drank…

TiME ∙ Oct 1

19 min read

“TiME is about sharing the word so that we can share the world more healthily”

We had the privilege to talk to Camille T. Dungy, poet and editor of the bestseller All We Can Save, about nature conservation, poetry and This is My Earth. In your poem “Characteristics of Life,” published in the book All We Can Save, the figure of the poet is presented as a powerful voice that…

TiME ∙ Oct 1

16 min read

“TiME is the only nature conservation nonprofit I know in which 100% of your donation goes to where it’s needed”

“We need to integrate all sorts of knowledge,” says Jordi Vilanova, PhD student and TiME volunteer. We had the chance to interview him before the beginning of his new adventure in Canada. What brought you to study Ecology and Biology? I’ve always been very interested in ecosystems and animals. When I started my Master’s, I…

TiME ∙ Oct 1

22 min read

“La fotografía de la naturaleza tiene que enseñar y despertar curiosidad y compasión por la biodiversidad”

[INTERVIEW IN SPANISH] – Entrevistamos a Santiago Rosado Hidalgo, biólogo y fotógrafo en la reserva El Silencio de Colombia, y colaborador de This is My Earth. Buenos días Santiago, ¿cómo te presentarías? Buenos días, mi nombre es Santiago Rosado Hidalgo, soy un biólogo colombiano y me dedico desde hace años a las estrategias de conservación…

TiME ∙ Oct 1

12 min read

The Cry of the Jocotoco

In 1997, the ornithologist Dr. Robert Ridgley and his scientific team discovered a new species of bird, until then unknown to science. It is a beautiful, long-legged, land-dwelling bird with a distinct call, from which its name, Jocotoco Antpitta, was derived. Deemed Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the Jocotoco is estimated to have only…

TiME ∙ Sep 12

13 min read

“We should let people understand the true cost of their choices because nobody is paying for the disaster that has been caused”

We had the privilege to hold an interview with Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of Built by Nature and contributing author to All We Can Save (allwecansave.earth), with her, we’ve discussed architecture, sustainability solutions and This is My Earth‘s contribution to nature conservation. How do you define yourself? I’m CEO of Built by Nature. I’m an architect,…

TiME ∙ Aug 28

10 min read

Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s biggest international crimes

Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s biggest international crimes Opinion column from Noga Syon - September 2022 (Part 2)

TiME ∙ Aug 28

9 min read

The transfer of animals from one location to another carries diseases, which spread and mutate easily

Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s biggest international crimes Opinion column from Noga Syon - September 2022 (Part 1)

TiME ∙ Jul 16

3 min read

“If you want the funding you need your followers and fans to vote in your favor”

SAM SHANEE on WHY protect Biodiversity through THIS IS MY EARTH – PART 4/4  What makes This is My Earth so special? This is My Earth’s funding model based on supports through crowdfunding and voting is fairly unique and it helps the people and the organizations like us who are waiting for the funding, to…

TiME ∙ Jul 13

19 min read

“TiME is this little animal running under the nose of more prominent corporations and saving the land before it’s too late”

This is My Earth Interviews artist Tomer Baruch. Hi Tomer! Thanks for your time. Can you please introduce yourself to the This is My Earth community? My name is Tomer, I am a musician, and I’ve created an Instagram account named “Animals and Synthesizers.” In that account, I take animal videos and compose electronic music…

TiME ∙ Jul 11

2 min read

“This is My Earth has been great in securing financing for land purchases”

SAM SHANEE on WHY protect Biodiversity through THIS IS MY EARTH – PART 3/4 How has your experience with This is My Earth been? Over the last few years we’ve worked several times with This is My Earth, they’ve been very great in securing financing for land purchases to extend or to create new land…

TiME ∙ Jul 8

3 min read

“Local communities are, by far, the best allies for nature conservation”

SAM SHANEE on WHY protect Biodiversity through THIS IS MY EARTH – PART 2/4 Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation of primates and their habitats in South and Central America. NPC aims to promote conservation and protect biodiversity in the Neotropics by working in several ways. NPC uses monkeys as…

TiME ∙ Jul 8

3 min read

This is My Earth explained in 1 minute

We have created this short video to explained most of the things we do: This is My Earth explained in 1 minute

TiME ∙ Jul 5

3 min read

“Even though there are wild areas with intact forest you can see that some of them don’t have any monkeys left”

SAM SHANEE on WHY protect Biodiversity through THIS IS MY EARTH – PART 1/4 Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation of primates and their habitats in South and Central America. NPC aims to promote conservation and protect biodiversity in the Neotropics by working in several ways. NPC uses monkeys…

TiME ∙ Jul 4

6 min read

An electronic music party raises funds for TiME, and ocean animals are the performers

“An organism is an evening dedicated entirely to the seam between the animal and the life. A protected space where algorithms can flourish and animals know how to play.” This is how artist Tomer Baruch introduces the party that will take place on the night of July 4 in Tel Aviv. Co-organized by the good…

TiME ∙ Jun 26

2 min read

Ask This is My Earth for funding: Here is how

This is My Earth is always actively looking for new nature conservation projects that have a key scientific and environmental interest. As you know, ours is a crowdfunding system through which empowered citizens around the world make small (or large) donations, as a gift, individually or in group, and vote on which nature conservation project…

TiME ∙ Jun 22

2 min read

What can YOU do to protect the planet? Join TiME’s team and help us spread the word through a monthly newsletter!

This is My Earth (TiME) is looking for a volunteer to craft their monthly newsletter to members. TiME is a non-profit, international environmental organization that seeks to protect biodiversity by purchasing land for conservation in biodiversity hotspots, in collaboration with local communities and organizations. Join our team and help TiME spread the word about: ·…

TiME ∙ Jun 19

22 min read

“Insects have survived the last five mass extinctions our planet has faced; but this time is different”

Dave Goulson (born 30 July 1965)  is Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) at the University of Sussex. Specializing in the ecology and conservation of insects, particularly bumblebees, Goulson is the author of several books, including Bumblebees: Their Behaviour and Ecology (2003), Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypses (2021), and more than 200 academic articles. In 2006 he founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust,…

TiME ∙ Jun 14

2 min read

The first international meeting of TiME volunteers puts Communication on the agenda

The first international meeting of volunteers of This is My Earth · TiME was held in virtual format on June 13th. People from all over the world, under the coordination of the organization’s Director of Volunteers, Reut Gilad, contributed their ideas and visions on communication, collaboration and how to grow the conservation project for almost…

TiME ∙ Jun 13

3 min read

We have created This is My Earth’s Annual Report for you

This is My Earth 2021 annual report collects the most relevant milestones achieved by the organization in the fields of conservation and biodiversity. It is open access and contains a fully transparent report.

TiME ∙ May 22

7 min read

𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲: This is our TiME List of protected animals

Since This is My Earth started saving lands in danger in 2016, the list of species and animals that have since been protected has not stopped growing. The international motto chosen for Biodiversity Day 2022 is𝗕𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲, and its objective is to promote the idea that we are all part of…

TiME ∙ Apr 18

7 min read

Join EARTH DAY global campaign to #InvestInOurPlanet – Download our Action Toolkit!

This is My Earth joins #InvestInOurPlanet campaign on the occasion of the Earth Day 2022 with a video and materials created by our network of volunteers.

TiME ∙ Mar 16

4 min read

Some highlights from the IPCC Climate Report

The Working Group from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the United Nations invited TiME · This Is My Earth as a guest organization at the press conference where the 6TH ASSESSMENT REPORT – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was presented. On 27 February 2022, this international Working Group from the United Nations finalized…

TiME ∙ Feb 22

7 min read

History of the region’s Cacau-cabruca · Chronicles from Brazil

In 2020, hundreds of volunteers from all over the world helped us save an endangered land in the Sierra Bonita area of ​​Brazil (Google Maps +). Together, through TiME, we raised US$ 148,373 which helped Instituto Uiraçu organization – our partner in the area – to get down to work with the task of preserving…

TiME ∙ Feb 22

9 min read

Biodiversity faces its make-or-break year

The  United Nations decade-old plan to slow down and eventually stop the decline of species and ecosystems by 2020 has failed as most of the plan’s 20 targets have not been met. Among the strategic goals which have not been accomplished, there is the need to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity…

TiME ∙ Feb 20

3 min read

Scientists map 80% of unknown species

New map shows where the 80% of species we don’t know about may be hiding in the very interesting study "Shortfalls and opportunities in terrestrial vertebrate species".

TiME ∙ Dec 30

9 min read

TiME’s Newsletters

Here you will find links to the 50+ newsletters we have published in recent years. Don’t miss the opportunity, if you haven’t already, to register and receive our emails with our latest updates, news and campaigns in our action of nature protection, education and solidarity. 2021 December 2021 – Let’s go viral September 2021 – Nature based…

TiME ∙ Dec 29

2 min read

The ecological impact of war in Africa

Today’s declining number of large mammals around the world has been explained by many factors, including low reproductive rates, habitat destruction, and overhunting. However, uncertainties about the effects of armed conflict has complicated conservation planning and priority-setting efforts. In the past 70 years, humans have waged war continuously in the world’s most biodiverse regions. Between…

TiME ∙ Nov 30

6 min read

This is My Earth in Kenya with Professor Uri Shanas

The following interview with founder and co-chair Uri Shanas was published in our August 2016 newsletter: Hello, Uri. You’ve recently returned from Kenya. Can you tell us why you went? Kenya is one of the last places on earth where one can experience nature in all its might and beauty, so I was excited to visit TiME’s…

TiME ∙ Nov 29

3 min read

Chatting with Jasmine, a 12-year old TiME supporter

We spoke to Jasmine, daughter of two of TiME’s Board of Directors, Ondine Sherman and Dror Ben-Ami. She recently donated 1800 NIS (about 470 USD) to TiME, nearly a third of the gift money she received for her Bat Mitzvah. First of all, we asked Jasmine to explain a Bat Mitzvah: Jasmine: “In Jewish culture,…

TiME ∙ Nov 28

3 min read

A visit to TiME’s first biodiversity hotspot land purchase

“Please, Nestor, please continue to point out the orchid flowers,” I cried almost breathlessly to the CEO of Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) while we climbed up the land TiME had just purchased. “You know we both need these stops so we can catch our breath.” Nestor Allgas and I were trying to keep pace with…

TiME ∙ Nov 25

1 min read

Protecting megafauna and raising money for conservation

This piece was published in our March 2017 newsletter:

TiME ∙ Nov 21

4 min read

Ivory Belongs to Elephants

Since the dawn of humanity, we have been actively fighting nature: drying swamps, cutting down forests, using strong pesticides (such as DDT) and hunting wildlife to extinction (think of the dodo, Tasmanian tiger, passenger pigeon and many, many more). Today, experts believe that we are facing a sixth mass extinction, which is entirely attributable to…

TiME ∙ Nov 20

6 min read

Gold in Africa – an interview with Henry Gold, TiME board member

For TiME’s February 2017 newsletter we interviewed board member Henry Gold, co-founder of Canadian Physician for Aid and Relief (CPAR)and TDA Global Cycling: You worked in Africa for quite a few years. Can you tell us what kind of work you were doing? I’m trained as an engineer, but in 1984 I quit engineering and…

Keep up with our news and events

Get news and updates in your inbox

Subscribe to  and get our latest conservation news, project
updates, articles and more in your inbox once a month.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.