This Billionaire Is Donating $1 Billion to Save the Planet

Swiss philanthropist and conservationist Hansjörg Wyss will donate the sum over the next decade to help accelerate land and ocean conservation around the world.


(Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash)

Hansjörg Wyss believes in saving the planet. He believes in this so much, that he recently announced that he will be giving $1 billion over the next ten years to help conserve 30 percent of the Earth in its natural state by 2030.

To do so, he set up the Wyss Campaign for Nature which will help nations and nonprofit conservation organizations create and expand protected areas. Wyss is no stranger to philanthropy and conservation work. Since 1998, his Wyss foundation has already given more than $450 million to local conservation efforts.

In an Op-ed he wrote for the New York Times, he explains what led him to a life of conservationism: “a simple idea, born in the United States in the 19th century and now racing around the globe, may yet preserve a substantial portion of our planet in a natural state.”

“It is the idea that wild lands and waters are best conserved not in private hands, locked behind gates, but as public national parks, wildlife refuges and marine reserves, forever open for everyone to experience and explore. The notion of holding these places in public trust was one I became deeply influenced by as a young man, when I first climbed and hiked on public lands in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.”

"Since the creation of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872, 15 percent of the earth’s lands and seven percent of its oceans have been protected in a natural state,” Wyss writes. But to protect the planet's biological diversity, more is needed. Some scientists believe that we will have to preserve half of the planet to be able to save the other half.

The goal of 30 percent by 2030 is ambitious but Wyss believes that it is achievable. The 2030 deadline is directly related the UN's Sustainable Development Goals; a series of 17 goals to transform our world.

The nitty gritty is in the how to achieve it. Wyss says that conservation efforts to set aside protected areas are already being done worldwide by local leaders, indigenous peoples, and conservation groups. The money he is donating will be used to accelerate land and marine conservation.

"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," Wyss writes.

There are currently nine projects on the Wyss Campaign for Nature website including marine preserves in Costa Rica and the Caribbean, a national wildlife preserve in Northern Canada, and a national park known as the "place of many elephants" in Zimbabwe. The campaign is investing $48 million to save an estimated 10 million acres of land and 17,000 square kilometers of ecologically rich ocean areas across 13 countries.

Why the donation now? This initiate was timed to coincide with the UN Biodiversity Conference that will be held in Egypt from November 13 - 29, 2018. More than 190 countries will participate in an effort to step-up efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

According to Wyss, we have power as individuals to join and save the places and the animal and plant life that matter the most to us. We can be good stewards of the land and safeguard these places for our children and grandchildren.

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