A Selection of Quotations by E.O. Wilson

I know I’m late to the party. I plan on making up for years of not reading these works immediately.

Some of the many spot-on quotations from E.O. Wilson’s Diversity of Life (2010):


“[Hawaiian] honeycreepers disappeared as vanished species usually do, not in a dramatic catacylsm but unnoticed” (97)

“The committment must be much deeper–to let no species knowingly die, to take all reasonable action to protect every species and race in perpetuity…Insofar as biodiversity is deemed an irreplaceable public resource, its protection should be bound into legal canon.” (342)

“What is urgently needed is knowledge and a practical ethic based on a time scale longer than we are accustomed to apply.” (312)

“By the time we find out, however, it might be too late. One planet, one experiment.” (182)


“So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to disappear, humanity could probably not last more than a few months. Most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals would crash into extinction about the same time. Next would go the bulk of the flowering plants and with them the physical structure of most forests and other terrestrial habitats of the world. The land surface would literally rot. As dead vegetation piled up and dried out, closing the channels of the nutrient cycles, other complex forms of vegetation would die off, and with them all but a few remnants of the land vertebrates.” (133)

Valuing Ecosystems

“Each ecosystem has intrinsic value. Just as a country treasures its finite historical episodes, classic books, works of art, and other measures of national greatness, it should learn to treasure its unique and finite ecosystems, resonant to a sense of time and place.” (158)

“Beyond commodity value, economists fall short.” (305)

“If a price can be put on something, that something can be devalued, sold, and discarded.” (348)

Dead horseshoe crabs. Photo by author, 2016.

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