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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Rewilding



The concept of rewilding is not new but it is an interesting one, I have spent time in Sweden and New Zealand where things just seem a little wilder, maybe it's the presence of large mammal carnivores in Sweden or the access to vast tracts of land with relatively open access in both countries which makes it seem that way. Monbiot's words about rewilding human life by having access to rewilded habitats make me wonder; why can't project's like the Alladale wilderness reserve in Scotland be allowed a little more scope and support to rewild areas of the highlands? I know there are issues regarding access but no one in Sweden moans or complains or refuses to go to an area where there are bears or wolves and no one in North America refuses to go outside for fear of being trampled by a cow moose protecting it's calf, the fences are necessary to control the release of reintroduced species but you can still grant access to people via styles and gates if they want to camp and walk there.  
It's also not realistic, despite monbiot's suggestion, that we just leave things to themselves. Rewilding is not a case of just stepping back and letting nature take it's course, we have already disrupted natures course so severely that if we are going to 'rewild' we need to carry out some pretty major management to return things to a state in which they would manage themselves. The reintroduction of species already extinct from an isolated area (such as the UK) is an example, you can't leave an area of land and expect these species to reintroduce themselves, we have to be heavily involved and committed (financially as well as emotionally) to projects of this size. Species need to be reintroduced from other countries which requires licences and lots of money and expertise and there may even be a need to selectively breed species to produce an animal that will match the fauna historically found in the area  such as has been attempted with the Heck Cattle which were introduced to the Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands. These few points alone show that although the benefits of rewilding as Monbiot expresses them are very important and interesting carrying out that rewilding of ecosystems is not as strait forward or simple as just leaving nature to itself. 

What may be easier to achieve is the rewilding of our own lives, we dont need gigantic elephas antiquus or even the still living Asian elephant to engage with nature, a patch of weeds or a dry stream or canal (Pyle 2011) is enough. The rewilding of our own lives can be done very effectively through bushcraft and other outdoor activities, what could be 'wilder' than living off the land using bushcraft skills as people who would have shared our countryside with the extinct Irish Elk or the spotted hyena's and hippos which Monbiot talks about. 

Before people start thinking about rewilding they need to engage with the habitats we do have, get outdoors and see what nature and wildlife has to offer and then maybe there will be possibilities to fund a rewildling project in the UK.    

References;

Pyle R (2011) The Thunder Tree; Lessons From an Urban Wildland; Oregon State University; Reprint ed. 

Bushcraft Education Videos