Home   |   Donate-Join  |   Take Action!   |  Save The World's Forests™    4 Library Court, SE · Washington, DC 20003 · 202-544-9219

Intro | First| Second |Third | Fourth|Fifth | Sixth | Seventh | Eighth|


  E.O.Wilson: Interview on NBC Radio

Dr. E.O. Wilson on Preserving Biodiversity in the National Forests and
the Act to Save America's Forests

AUDIO Listen to the AUDIO FILE (Please be patient while file downloads)

TRANSCRIPTRead the Interview

NBC Radio Host: Edward Osborne Wilson is with us this morning; E.O. Wilson to his students and colleagues, the renowned biologist down from Harvard with a thing or two to say to our representatives in Congress about preserving America's ancient forests.

You and other scientists, Dr. Wilson, are lobbying for no logging zones…is that it?… throughout the national forests?

Dr. Wilson: That's right, we need a more clear-cut policy that draws a line to the save the last remnant old forests of this country, only about 5% of the original old growth forest of America are left. And the reason why scientist are getting in on this is not that they want to interfere in any way with the ordinary timber industry of this country … but they see the necessity of hanging on to that last remnant, because that is one of America's greatest natural resources. You could even say it's a large part of our natural heritage, these forests go back literally millennia, some of them probably millions of years, and they contain a substantial part of the fauna and the flora …the native fauna and flora in great richness. And when the last of those are cut, then they will never be recovered. But if we hold on to them, then we will help to hold on to a substantial part of America's native fauna and flora and we will have them for recreation and we will have them for still unimagined uses into the indefinite future. It seems to me that it is not just an economic issue to the long term but it is very much a moral issue, that we now have legislation [The Act to Save America's Forests: editor] to draw the line and say look; lets leave that last little bit alone.

NBC Radio Host: Well Dr. Wilson this is an argument that perhaps the laymen might struggle with, because you cut down a tree another one grows. We know the argument with reference to the spotted owl in the northwest, and there is also evidence that shows that the spotted owl can do quite well in forests other than the ancient forests. Why preserve the ancient forest?

Dr. Wilson: Well it was unfortunate, as it always is, to pivot any conservation argument on a single species. What is at issue here is tens of thousand of species that live together in closely integrated communities. When you cut one of these forests you are eliminating, not just a substantial part of the population of a few species like the spotted owl, but you are eliminating, with certainty, the entire habitat of many, many other species…only some of which have been studied by scientists at this point. You cut it, and then you let it grow back, it is a very different kind of a forest, particularly when it is planted or when certain species of trees are encouraged to grow as opposed to others. It becomes increasingly a tree farm with turn over… and you lose a large part of that tremendous assemblage of animals and plants that are centered there and which, in some cases, they are limited to that habitat.

NBC Radio Host: You lose something aesthetically too don't you?

Dr. Wilson: Well that is another point

NBC Radio Host: Of course

Dr. Wilson: Exactly…Right now…people…I think most Americans appreciate the beauty of the Grand Canyon, they appreciate the majesty of Washington's mall, and they are just beginning to appreciate the beauty and the majesty of America's biodiversity, that is its fauna and flora…and to come to realize that there is a great deal more to it than spotted owl or even American eagles, there are tens of thousands of species, many of them quite beautiful, some of them obscure…all of them of great scientific interest and a substantial portion of them of potential economic interest to us as well.

NBC Radio Host: Would this bill [The Act to Save America's Forests: editor] sponsored by New Jersey democratic Senator Robert Torricelli [currently sponsored by Senator Jon Corzine: editor], would that be a big blow to industry? What would the impact be of no logging zones on industry?

Dr. Wilson: This is not going to have a major impact economically, what it does is call for the last remnants to be protected by law in a clear-cut manner, it then preserves this heritage and encourages the timber industry to go on and cultivate what it is already doing massively on land that is used for timber…and to continue the practice of tree farming in areas that otherwise that do not have this immense value that the last remnants of our natural forests posess.

NBC Radio Host: What does logging do to the forest ecosystem…does it just totally destroy it?

Dr. Wilson: Yes, it depends on the forest itself, there are a few forests—they are not the ones we are talking about here really—that have relatively few species in them and they can grow back rapidly. [editor: tree farms on private, not public lands]

But a great many of these forests are very vulnerable and when you cut them, clear-cut them, that is what the bill above all is trying to prevent in as much area as can be defined as having these values that I have been describing. When you clear-cut you do drastically change the whole ecosystem…you…Just think about it, for a substantial period of time when you clear-cut you are not removing the dominant vegetation but you are allowing …intense sunlight and the strong air current to sweep through the remaining undergrowth and the litter and the soil where so many of these smaller plants and the animal forms exist and those go…they go extinct.

NBC Radio Host: You've got a letter in front of you, I think it is signed by hundreds of scientists.

Dr. Wilson: 600.

NBC Radio Host: 600, will that have any impact on our friends in Congress?

Dr. Wilson: Well I certainly hope so [laughing]. I mean, scientists don't often mobilize in this manner but I have found that around the world the scientists who specialize on biodiversity—you know, on the study of the fauna and the flora and natural ecosystems—are virtually unanimous in their support of this type of measure [The Act to Save America's Forests: Editor] and their recognition that irreversible damage is being done around the world, it is very important, I think in addition, in terms of global significance, for the United States to set the example- we are all bemoaning the fate of the tropical rainforests, which are disappearing at the rate of about ½% or 1% of their cover a year with a devastating effect on the world's fauna and flora because so many of the species of plants and animals are found there, but we really don't have much moral high ground to stand on as long as we proceed, right in front of the whole world, to go ahead and mow down the last of our old growth forests with a large part of our own biodiversity.

NBC Radio Host: You know Dr. Wilson, there is some good news here, in that young Americans are much more attuned to the environment than then ever were. I am a child of the sixties and we didn't think that way. We didn't think of term of ecology and conservation back then, to the extent that kids are now. I think my point is that ecology and conservation is much more accepted than it used to be. Even though you still hear the pejorative term "tree huggers ". Are you a tree hugger?

Dr. Wilson: [laugh]…Yes… I don't nail spikes into the trees I am certainly a tree hugger. I think what we have here is a population that is gradually turning around and recognizing…as you're quite right…the new generations coming along become more and more environmentalist because they know more, they understand more. They realize that what we have here is not a threat in saving the last of America's natural environments. It is not a matter of imposing some great cost on American society for the delectation of a small group of people. But it is saving America's heritage, and it's clearly a matter of aesthetics, of value: it's a moral issue as well. And one that I think is going to pay off handsomely in every aspect of American life in the long term.

NBC Radio Host:
Well good luck in Washington, as you traverse the political forest down here, hope you don't get lost.

Dr. Wilson: Well, we need luck and all the support we can get.

NBC Radio Host: On a personal note, you started your career long ago in Alabama and then you went up to Harvard and you've been closeted up in Cambridge for the last forty some odd years…Tell us about your research now.

Dr. Wilson: I began my research, in fact, in the outdoors, I grew up in the beautiful woodlands, what is left of them, in Alabama. And of course to that I owe my deep personal interest in the environment. I studied insects; I am an entomologist originally, particularly the social insects. This led me to broad studies in the evolution of social behavior up to and including vertebrates and humanity…and that…I expanded my interests to the diversity, diversification of life, and the studies of ecosystems. And that is what I now balance in my research interest. And I'm then drawn out repeatedly from the closet, as you say, to speak usually on behalf of the scientific community on issues like the one before us today.

NBC Radio Host: That is wonderful to have your clear voice there and we thank you for it.
I am taking sides here…[Laugh]…aren't I, but why not? I am a tree hugger too! Tell us about your new book and then I'll let you go.

Dr. Wilson: Well, I am also in Washington . . . as I did last night . . . to have a panel discussion with a philosopher and a molecular biologist on the prospect of the unification of knowledge…the bringing together of science, the social sciences, and the humanities…which is the subject of a book I have just brought out with Knopf, which Knopf called Consilience. And Consilience has made, I am pleased to say, the New York Times Best-Seller List; which is sort of an aberration for a book of ideas…to get out there with books like Chicken Soup For The Soul. And this is now also another major issue in academia…is the relation of what we call the great branch of the learning and the fate of the liberal arts and the prospects of bringing them together and teaching them effectively to students. But also in designing future research projects and reconsidering moral issues such as the ones we have been discussing: the world's forests.

NBC Radio Host: Consilience?

Dr. Wilson: Yes, Consilience.

NBC Radio Host: Consilience

Dr. Wilson: Yes with an S

NBC Radio Host: I'll have to head to the bookstore. Well Dr. Wilson thank you for joining us.

Dr. Wilson: Thank you.

NBC Radio Host: Good luck in Washington


transcript of Radio Interview—NBC Radio—4.28.98

Dr. E.O. Wilson

Slide show, delivered by
E. O. Wilson, Ph.D.
April 28, 1998
U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC

"It is critically important the Act to Save America's Forests be passed into law as soon as possible. The Act is essential to protect the forests and biodiversity of America, and will prevent countless plants and animal species from going extinct."

Listen to Radio Interview
with Dr. E.O. Wilson

Biography Of
Dr. E.O. Wilson

Read E.O. Wilson Letter to President Clinton to Create Siskiyou Wild River National Monument

Read E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall Letter to Protect Most Biodiverse Forest in the World, Yasuni National Park in Ecuador

Dr. Jane Goodall visited Congress to support the Act to Save America's Forests too!

Dr. Jane Goodall Lecture
Read transcript, pictures
See streaming video


 Home   |   Donate-Join  |  Take Action!  | Save The World's Forests™    4 Library Court, SE · Washington, DC 20003 · 202-544-9219
Save America's Forests is the nationwide campaign to protect and restore America's wild and natural forests.
Citizen involvement is how our laws are made. Help shape U.S. forest protection policy.
Become an activist, a group or business member, or an individual supporter.
Together, we can protect and restore America's wild and natural forests!

Yasuni Rainforest Campaign, Save Yasuni, and Save The World's Forests are part of
Save America's Forests worldwide campaign to protect and restore forests around the world
and protect the rights of indigneous forest peoples who live in them.
© Copyright 1998-2017 Save America's Forests®. All rights reserved.