Airdate: Nov 28, 2001
Scientist: Edward O. Wilson
E.O.Wilson - Consider the Lily Pond
A riddle poses a serious question about the future of life on earth.
ambience: gray tree frogs
Over the last forty years or so, we have become much more aware of our place within the global ecosystem. We've acknowledged some of the harm we've done to the environment, and hope that may that it may not be too late to repair the damage. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. To make an ecological difference, we need to take a hard look at the long term effects of all of our environmental actions.
"I think it's important to recognize that just about everybody's an environmentalist. Everyone realizes that there's something that humanity has to do to preserve the environment, including the natural environment that we inherited and which we're proceeding to ruin."
E.O.Wilson is one of the foremost scientific thinkers of our day. He suggests that we consider a cautionary tale about a lily pond.
"The importance of long term thinking is illustrated by the French riddle of the twenty-ninth day. And it goes something like this . . . consider a pond, that is implanted with one lily pad, and each day, the lily pads in the pond double. The pond becomes completely full and there's no more room for lily pads to multiply on the thirtieth day. When is the pond half full and half empty? On the twenty-ninth day. And the environmentalist looks at the human population and grants that there's still empty parts of the world that can be converted to agriculture, and we can still squeeze in another billion or two, and maybe keep on going a little bit more. But the real environmentalist says "hey, looks like we're on the twenty-ninth day. Let's pull it short right now before we go all the way." (1:20)
Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.