Rewilding is a modern form of conservation that involves taking a hands-off approach to nature. Instead of carefully curating what grows where, managing populations, killing weeds, mowing grass, and controlling every bit of marsh and brush, those who support rewilding allow nature to do its own thing.
They let predators control populations and let plants and trees grow as they may and water flow where it needs to. The idea is that, over time, rewilding will allow nature to reclaim barren land and that depleted farmland and eroded waterways will become bright and vibrant once again.
There are a significant number of major rewilding projects underway. Some are run by the government, while others are run by major non-government organizations (NGOs).1 The work that these projects accomplish is very important and they’re bringing life back to everything from the Central Apennines to the wilds of South America.2
Rewilding does not have to be about huge tracts of land in far-away countries, however. There’s a lot that individuals can do to restore balance to the planet by making small changes at home.
Rewilding in Your Local Community
Individuals can do a lot of good by being more mindful of how they interact with nature in the land that they own. Even something as simple as allowing hedges to grow, planting native flowers, and leaving piles of twigs or leaves for animals to make nests in can make a difference. As a homeowner, you can do these small things, and if you can get other local homeowners on board, then the difference will be continually amplified.
In developed countries, ecosystems are pretty out of balance. For instance, the robin is the national bird in the U.K and depends on worms and insects for food. Those worms and insects were once exposed for the birds to eat by the wild boar, but wild boars are now absent from British landscapes.
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So, robins rely on humans to expose these worms and insects during gardening.3 Yes, even the strip of grass outside of a humble home has an important part to play in sustaining bird populations. When people concrete over gardens because they believe they are too hard to maintain, they make it that much harder for wild animals to survive. Every action, even a small one like this, has repercussions for the ecosystem, especially today.
Respecting Nature and The Law
One of the challenges that the rewilding community faces is that a lot of people outside of the conservation community don’t understand what rewilding actually is and mistake rewilding for other more aggressive and controversial forms of conservation. If you want to get people on board with rewilding, then it’s important that you do so in a constructive and legal way.
This means rewilding your garden to attract bees, birds, and other animals without letting it turn to scrub and potentially breaching your tenancy agreement.4 Alternatively, it might mean lobbying landowners through the proper channels and developing a proper business case for them to adopt rewilding instead of trying to intimidate them into action.5
If you want to be involved in a larger scale rewilding project that actually does conservation work, then it’s probably best for you to seek advice from experts. For one, there may be challenges in terms of finance, legal structure, health and safety, and insurance that you need to take into account when running a community group.6
In addition, the balance of nature is quite delicate, and nature projects can be a huge challenge. It’s important to make sure that you know what you’re doing and that you have enough funds and expertise to see it through. It’s better to start small—providing food, water, and shelter for animals in the nearby area—and then expand from there slowly rather than taking on a huge plot of land and disrupting the natural balance.7
If you are able to obtain government funding or funding from a local charitable trust, and you can bring in experts to help with issues such as habitats, safety, disease, and population control. Also, there is a lot of potential for turning disused plots of land into something special and filled with nature. That kind of work may require planning permission and risk assessments, as well as a buy-in from those interested in the land. Be prepared for a long and difficult, but ultimately satisfying, road.
Rewilding has been called by some academics “the new Pandora’s box” when it comes to conservation because it is so hard to predict what will happen when you let new animals loose in the environment.8
Humans have spent so long trying to tame the planet and trying to take control of the environment, that the web of animals has become unbalanced. Yes, there have been some important success stories, such as the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, but that is something that was done carefully and under close monitoring.9
However, community projects can make a difference, and they can make your own little corner of the planet that much nicer to live in. Just remember to start small and be careful, as the main purpose is to re-establish the balance of nature rather than disrupt it once more.
Photo Credits: IgorAleks/shutterstock.com, AstroStar/shutterstock.com, WeAre/shutterstock.com, Rawpixel.com/shutterstock.com