The UK is one of the worst countries in the world for 'biodiverstiy intactness' - the quantity and variety of species left. We have lost huge amounts of wildness. And the global picture is not great either:
Only 4% of mammals in the world are wild, the rest are humans and our domesticated animals.
Similarly for birds, 70% are poultry.
We live in a world where most birds are in cages
Wildlife populations have declined by an average 69% in the past 50 years.
This is a catastrophic loss of biodiversity. A tragedy for our imaginations and spirit. It is also an existential threat.
This isn't a problem for some far off land where the wild things are... it is about our countryside and what we want to experience on our doorstep.
This is especially a problem for the UK, as it is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
We can change this. It takes time, so we should start now.
There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is today.
We hear talk about nature everywhere. It can be a useful term. But, it often puts us - as humans - mysteriously removed from the rest of the world.
It can be similar with tree planting. Too often it is an illusory benefit and a way to forget and carry on as before. Trees are vital, but context is critical - the right trees in the right places. And as part of a journey.
The concept of "wildness" is essential for conservation efforts. It recognizes the intrinsic value of ecosystems and species. Beyond conservation, embracing the idea of wildness is critical for long-term environmental sustainability. It recognizes the complex and interdependent relationships between ourselves, other species and ecosystems.
It can go further. Wildness holds spiritual and cultural significance. Providing a connection to the natural world and the larger community of life on Earth. This connection, opens up a world of wonder.
Wildness highlights the active, dynamic, and unpredictable aspects of the environment. It engages us in the unknown and unknowable. It opens up the potential of new involvement with the wonder of life around us. In the words of Henry David Thoreau 'In wildness is the preservation of the world'.
Rewilding aims to restore ecosystems and allow wildlife to thrive. It lets natural processes dominate, reduces human interference and promotes biodiversity. This goes beyond tree planting into creating space for interlinked habitats to recover.
What this typically looks like is allowing plants to grow and removing human-centred elements. This might be removing livestock or drainage ditches. Over time most areas will start to return to a wilder state. This might be woodland, a wetland or wildflower meadow.
This takes time, and years of human intervention may permanently inhibit natural recovery. Often, rewilding will involve active intervention to overcome these issues and speed-up the process. This can be simplified to:
Rewilding has become a prominent conservation process with scientific basis. It can cover a range of different approaches. This can be landscape scale transformations with the reintroduction of species. One of the most iconic examples of this has been the restoration of Yellowstone Park with wolves. Or managing public parks and gardens to encourage wild flowers and pollinators to thrive.
As well as biodiversity benefits, rewilding can improve human well-being. Both through community involvement, and the hopeful future it can reveal. It can also mitigate the effects of climate change.
There are many successful rewilding projects in the UK. These include the reintroduction of species such as beavers and red kites. The creation of nature reserves. And the restoration of degraded ecosystems. Rewilding Britain has great resources on rewilding and information about rewilding schemes across the UK.
LINKS and FURTHER READING