Editor’s  note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years  ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was  the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in  Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.

On an earth that seems ecologically on fire, and with Americans in the lead with kindling and matches, what can Idaho and Idahoans do from our privileged small part of it?

In two new books, two old scientists helped me put Idaho conservation in some earthly context. Edward O. Wilson’s Half-Earth makes the case to hold 50% of Earth in natural or near-natural condition. George Woodwell’s A World to Live In suggests that, as people (he hopes) rapidly eliminate carbon fuels, from all our parts of earth we also restore our local waters and lands as carbon sponges and toxin filters.

Woodwell is an ecologist, founder and director emeritus of the Woods Hole Research Center, founding trustee of Natural Resources Defense Council, and pioneer climate scientist. Wilson is arguably the world’s pre-eminent naturalist; he has probed into life and its processes, and thought out their conservation, more deeply and creatively than anyone I can name.

Both books are full of relevance for Idaho, though our state is named just once, when Wilson references Idaho Falls native Greg Carr. Four years ago Wilson wrote A Window on Eternity, a book about Carr’s project to restore the Gorongosa ecosystem in Mozambique for all its inhabitants.

From these books rich in counsel for local conservation, I’ll pick three instances.

It’s plain how a case to keep half of earth near to natural relates to Idaho conservation: over decades many Idahoans have worked to do something like that, on the two-thirds of our state that are public lands. Wilson recalls us to the basics of why and to what ends we ought do it – basics we can lose touch with amid political noise and to-and-froing over recreation. He links "preserve" and "restore" as goals and practices on a continuum, which also links public to private lands. He sorts the nonsense from the sense of the new balloon concept, the "Anthropocene." He makes us ask whether we in Idaho really do our share, if we only do it in Idaho. In short, his planetary compass resoundingly validates wild land protection in Idaho, but also complicates and challenges its parts and purposes.

Woodwell’s call to zero out carbon fuels is now widely shared, though his is grounded in 50 years of science and civic action. But then he argues it’s not enough. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, now over 400 parts per million and rising, must be shrunk back to 300 ppm, roughly where it stood a century ago. For him, Earth’s Idahos are where this will be done – local projects by the thousands that steadily restore carbon capture capacities to ecosystems (especially but not only forests), while steadily wringing out toxic loads as well. His scientific advice is also small-d democratic: "Place has emerged again as important. It is the local ecosystems, the parts of the biosphere, that keep the whole intact and functioning for all life, including people. The crisis of the biosphere can be alleviated but only by attention to the details of place, all around the globe." Yes, global action like the Paris accords, but also local actions restoring rivers, wetlands, forests, farmlands. These actions, conventionally conceived as "adaptation" to human-caused climate change, are essential foremost to reverse it, so those to come in all species including our own may then still have some decent chance to adapt.

Third, neither of these old men believes in God. Yet ethics, morality and faith are deep in their outlooks. I will put it that they have faith in nature, scientifically and humanly. I think a necessary task in Idaho conservation is to seek and speak for faith in nature, with words and practices that are ecological, ethical and reverent. We cannot leave holy ground only to others. We must make our place there.