Rewilding is the latest trend in conservation, and it is something that is attracting a lot of attention even in the mainstream media. The idea behind rewilding is that instead of carefully curating the activities of nature, people sit back and allow nature to take its course.
Many rewilding projects take place on now-barren farmland or in forests, but there is a growing trend towards urban rewilding too and individual homeowners can do their part to protect the environment.
Rewilding to Make Cities More Resilient
Rewilding, as the term is used today, was first coined by the conservationist Dave Foreman, back in 1990. While most people think of restoring rainforests, rewilding is also a valuable way of making cities more resilient and creating a green infrastructure.1
Because of this, there are many projects that are focused on the idea of rewilding cities. The REI Co-Op, for example, has invested millions in the idea of improving access to the outdoors and natures. Their reasoning is that 80 percent of the population in the United States lives in urban areas, and the average American spends as much as 95 percent of their time indoors, so it is vital to start investing in improving access to the outdoors.2
Rewilding is about un-doing domestication and also directing resources away from the city and getting people to be more aware of where their resources come from. It is possible to rewild cities, although it doesn’t always feel like it.
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Cities have large populations, and it may feel like an impossible task to get everyone on board. However, cities also have good, efficient social networks. This means that you can communicate your goals and educate people more easily. You don’t have to get every single person on board, just enough to achieve critical mass.
For instance, the UK introduced a tax on the use of plastic bags and that successfully reduced plastic bag use by 85 percent, so it is possible to change attitudes.3 Without the support of a government tax, individuals aren’t likely to have such a huge impact, but permaculture and community garden projects can make a huge difference.4
Rewilding on a Personal Level
Rewilding isn’t just about creating pockets of nature that are not closely managed by humans. There is a small but vibrant community of people who are engaged in rewilding on a more personal level. Those people want to get away from computers and cars and eat better, move more, spend more time outdoors, and generally live a more natural lifestyle.
They want to stop eating packaged and processed goods and stop driving everywhere. They want to turn off their computers and phones and get a good night’s sleep and prefer to talk to people face to face.
It’s often easier to do that in a park or in a village or town that puts the emphasis on community. However, Kiki Nardiz of Rewilding Drum told her story of rewilding in Madrid, emphasizing that even in a big city, it is possible to make changes.5
Those who want to go a step further have other options too. There is a School of Life in Melbourne, Australia that runs courses on rewilding, including teaching people survival skills and teaching people how to reconnect with nature even when they live in a city. They cover everything from collecting bush food to making your own soap and clothing.6
Rewilding Can Happen Anywhere
There have been many successful rewilding projects, and while the ones that involve rainforests and jaguar reserves get the most attention, there are some that have happened in urban areas.
For example, the River Wandle in South London was the subject of a major rewilding project to re-introduce trout to the area. In the early 19th century, the river was considered to be one of the most used rivers of its size. There were ninety mills using the river, and it was frequently mowed of all natural features to ensure that the water moved quickly. The very last trout was caught in the River Wandle in 1934. To remedy this issue, the Wandle Trust worked to clean the river, redirect its flow, and restock it with trout and shrimp.7
Rewilding turned the River Wandle back into a beautiful and thriving water source, and it can do the same for many other places too. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature maintains a database of key biodiversity areas and many of the areas that it classifies as being important are in or near cities.8
Additionally, individual homeowners can make an impact by simply rewilding their gardens.9 Provide space for climbing trees. Let seasonal plants take hold, and allow your garden to get a little messy. Piles of leaves are places that timid creatures can hide or hibernate. Wildflowers are good for bees.
By opting to allow natural, native and hardy flowers to grow you will reduce your dependence on herbicides and pesticides, and this will be good for wildlife as well. Rewilding is low-effort in a lot of ways, and you can find a balance between keeping things tidy to please your neighbors and providing a nice environment for your animal friends. If every garden owner gave up a small corner to preserve nature, it would make a huge difference to our ecosystem.
Given the information highlighted above, rewilding in a city environment, or even in your own backyard is a lot easier than you might imagine. Use some of the successful rewilding initiatives described above as your inspiration to consider trying rewilding in your own space or participating in one of many rewilding initiatives.
Photo credits: chuyuss/shutterstock.com, BABAROGA/shutterstock.com, Ortis/shutterstock.com