The majority of the Earth’s surface, approximately 71%, is covered by oceans. The remaining 29% is land, but 33% of that land surface is actually desert. This gives us only a small amount of land that is actually usable or hospitable. Scientists predict that if we do not conserve at least 50% of Earth, then a majority of wild species will be wiped out within the next 100 years or so. Several species of animals are going extinct, 1,000 t0 10,000 times faster than predicted. Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, CEO of the Wyss Foundation, philanthropist and the US-based founder of the Synthes medical technology group, pledged to donate $1 billion to help protect 30% of the planet by 2030.
Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, has pledged $1 billion to help protect 30% of the planet over the next 10 years.
Hansjörg Wyss announced his plan last year, where he pledged to donate $1 billion to conserve the planet’s land and oceans. With the donation, Wyss hopes to expand the availability of clean air and drinking water to all of humanity.
Hansjörg Wyss, a billionaire and conservationist, released his plan in a New York Times op-ed that was published in October of 2018. Through the Wyss Foundation, Wyss explains that “lands and waters are best conserved when they become public national parks, wildlife refuges, or marine reserves”. By 2030, he wants at least 30% of the planet to be in a protected and natural state.
Wyss had previously pledged and donated more than $450 million to protect wild species on roughly 40 million acres around the world.
Greg Zimmerman, communications director at the Wyss Campaign for Nature, told Business Insider: “What we found over the years is that if it’s not being driven by folks who live in these communities, if there’s not local buy-in, then you’re going to have a political problem, you’re going to have a problem of these places [not] being protected permanently.”
Writing for the New York Times, Wyss says: “Every one of us – citizens, philanthropists, business and government leaders – should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. It is a gap that we must urgently narrow, before our human footprint consumes the earth’s remaining wild places.”
Wyss believes that by turning lands and seas as ‘public national parks, wildlife refuges and marine reserves’, we will be able to conserve at least 30% of the Earth by 2030.
As of 2015, there were 25,800 protected areas covering 1,294,476 km2 (499,800 sq mi), or 14% of the land area of the United States. “This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target,” said Wyss in the NYT op-ed. The money will be used by conservative groups and organizations, such as the University of Bern, who is conducting sustainable development projects in Kenya and Peru.
Wyss, who now lives in Wyoming, has already donated millions in environmental projects in Africa, South America, North America and Europe. The money was used to establish conservation projects in about 40 million hectares of land and water. Wyss became a billionaire after his company Synthes, was sold to the American multinational Johnson & Johnson in 2012. In 2017, the magazine Bilanz estimated his net worth to be approximately seven to eight billion Francs.
The same year, Forbes magazine described him as “one of the most philanthropic people in the world”. In 2014, Wyss donated $120 million to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) and the University of Zurich for a joint medical research center.
A recent study published in the journal PNAS predicts that if we continue with the same lifestyle and destroy our precious eco-system, we will cause a massive species extinction within the next 50 years. The study also states that our planet won’t recover from the damage for up to 5 million years.
Some scientists estimate that we need to protect at least 50% of the available land to eliminate the possibility of precious plant and animal species from going extinct. So far, we have only managed to protect 5% of the planet’s lands and 7% of the oceans in its natural state. According to Business Insider, Wyss plans to support locally-led efforts to manage parks and protected areas. He also plans to sponsor research at the University of Bern, Switzerland, to evaluate and determine the most feasible conservation method.
As history shows, Wyss is a man of his word and his plan to donate $1 billion within the next 10 years will surely help many plant and animal species to thrive.