PROFILE:
Harrison Ford
internationally renowned actor and conservationist




Deep in the heart of Central America lives an ant with a famous name. The recently discovered Pheidole harrisonfordi, found in Honduras and Belize, is named after the star of the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films in honour of his work for conservation. For Harrison Ford’s most important, if less well known, role is as a campaigner for the Earth’s biodiversity.

The 61-year-old actor – who is a vice chair of Conservation International and has served on its board for over a decade – believes that ‘conservation of biodiversity is the issue of our times’.The veteran of 35 feature films – a record ten of which have grossed over $100 million at the box office – has won almost as many awards for acting on this conviction as for his performances, but none is as unusual as the ant’s name.

The name came about when Professor E.O. Wilson – the leading entomologist and Pulitzer Prize winning author who also serves on CI’s board – gave the board the naming rights to several ant species that he and other scientists had found. And the board used the opportunity to honour some of its greatest supporters: Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel, and his wife now share their name with a species in Mexico.

Harrison Ford says that he became interested in the environment after buying a spectacular 325-hectare ranch in Jackson, Wyoming, and developing a ‘sense of stewardship’ about it. He has recalled how the ‘majesty of nature’ t here helped to sensitize him to ‘the great needs of the Earth’ – and has given almost half of it, for conservation, to the Jackson Hole Land Trust.

In a public service advertising campaign for Conservation International on United States television last year he compared the world’s most vital biological regions to the body’s most critical organ. The human heart, he said, is ‘just over 1 per cent of your body weight’.Similarly, he went on, ‘our Earth has places, just over 1 per cent of its surface, which are critical to our survival. These hotspots are home to over 60 per cent of the world’s species'.

He believes: ‘Our health relies entirely on the vitality of our fellow species on Earth. When we protect the places where the processes of life can flourish, we strengthen not only the future of medicine, agriculture and industry, but also the essential condition for peace and prosperity.’

He calls the battle for conservation ‘a war without an evil enemy’ and believes that it can be won. ‘What we do today will set the course and the example for generations to come.’

Besides his work with Conservation International, he also serves as the first ‘airborne watchdog’ for the environmental group Riverkeeper, which identifies and prosecutes polluters of the Hudson River, which runs near his home in New York State. He patrols the river watershed in his helicopter, and this year received a Lindbergh Award for it.

His other prizes include the Harvard Medical School’s Global Environmental Citizen award, as well as the Golden Globe’s Cecil B. deMille award for Lifetime Achievement, the International Center for Tropical Ecology’s World Ecology Award alongside the People’s Choice Award as Favorite All Time Movie Star. But perhaps the greatest recognition of all remains the name of a small Central American insect


GL

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Töpfer | Biological backbone | Benefits beyond boundaries | Common inheritance | Beauty or beast? | Wonders of the world | Protecting heritage | People | Parks and participation | At a glance: Protected Areas | Profile: Harrison Ford | Scorecard, catalyst, watershed | Coral Reef Fund | Coral jewels | Reef knots | Brief window for biodiversity | Books & products | Conservation amid conflict | News | Green, red or black? | Keeping faith with nature | Make parks not war

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on WSSD, 2002
Issue on Biological Diversity, 2000
Issue on Culture, Values and the Environment, 1996


AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Biodiversity
Ecosystems