Thomas Lovejoy

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Dr. Thomas Eugene Lovejoy III is chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank, senior adviser to the president of the United Nations Foundation, and president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment. He introduced the term biological diversity to the scientific community in 1980.

Lovejoy, a tropical biologist and conservation biologist, has worked in the Amazon of Brazil since 1965. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.

From 1973 to 1987 he directed the conservation program at World Wildlife Fund-U.S., and from 1987 to 1998 he served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and in 1994 became Counselor to the Secretary for Biodiversity and Environmental Affairs. He is chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and is past president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, past chairman of the United States Man and Biosphere Program, and past president of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Thomas Lovejoy developed the debt-for-nature swaps, in which environmental groups purchase shaky foreign debt on the secondary market at the market rate, which is considerably discounted, and then convert this debt at its face value into the local currency to purchase biologically sensitive tracts of land in the debtor nation for purposes of environmental protection.

Critics of the 'debt-for-nature' schemes, such as National Center for Public Policy Research, which distributes a wide variety of materials consistently justifying corporate freedom and environmental deregulation, aver that plans deprive developing nations of the extractable raw resources that are currently essential to further economic development. Economic stagnation and local resentment of "Yankee imperialism" can result, they warn.

Thomas Lovejoy has also supported the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests.

Lovejoy played a central role in the establishment of conservation biology, by initiating the idea and planning with B. A. Wilcox in June 1978 for The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology, that was held in La Jolla, in September 1978. The proceedings[1], introduced the terms conservation biology and biological diversity to the scientific community.

Lovejoy serves on many scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups, is the author of numerous articles and books, and is the founder of the public television series Nature.

Lovejoy predicted in 1980 (see quote below), that 10–20 percent of all species on earth would have gone extinct by the year 2020.

Thomas Lovejoy has been granted the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category (ex aequo with William F. Laurance).



The natural world in which we live is nothing short of entrancing — wondrous really. Personally, I take great joy in sharing a world with the shimmering variety of life on earth. Nor can I believe any of us really want a planet which is a lonely wasteland.
—Reith Lecture, Biodiversity, 2000.

It is nothing short of scandalous that we probably only know one out of every ten species on earth, let alone where they are or, various aspects of their biology...
—Reith Lecture, Biodiversity, 2000.

Hundreds of thousands of species will perish, and this reduction of 10 to 20 percent of the earth's biota will occur in about half a human life span....This reduction of the biological diversity of the planet is the most basic issue of our time.
—Foreword, in Conservation Biology, Michael Soulé and Bruce Wilcox, 1980.

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