What is rewilding and how can it save the planet?

There's no easy fix, but rewilding is a pretty good place to start.

We’ve already established that we’ve really fucked it with the climate crisis. Now it’s time to start talking about drastic solutions that will help cool the planet down. The good news is that there are loads of em – and we don’t need Elon Musk or any other billionaires to design new tech to solve the multiple catastrophes we’re facing. We actually need to do something way, way simpler. Introducing: rewilding.

Solving the climate crisis requires a lot more than just reducing carbon emissions. We also need to invest our time and energy in conservation work to rebuild natural habitats and remove the carbon from the atmosphere. One of the best ways to do this is through the process of rewilding, which means leaving things alone, chipping away at concrete and other manufactured materials where we don’t need them, and letting nature do its own thing for a while.

It’s bad enough that concrete is the source of about 8 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, but pouring it over soil and using it for pavements, roads and car parks has resulted in fewer wild green spaces available to sustain local habitats and let plants grow. It’s time to start ripping it out.

What is rewilding?

Nature knows what it’s doing and has done for millions of years. But then us humans came along and tampered with it so much that it’s now being destroyed on a scale never seen before, which is messing up its cycles. Rewilding is a concept that recognises nature’s restorative abilities and centres on creating the right conditions for it to thrive. This might mean depaving, removing dams to free up rivers, removing fences, allowing natural forest regeneration, reusing waste and easing up on the management of wildlife populations.

And guess what? There are already some tremendous rewilding projects underway in the UK. Most rewilding tips out there are for people who have access to land and own green space, but rewilding is a concept that we can also take into urban areas. Grab a shovel and dig in.

Why is rewilding important?

You only have to go outside to notice that the temperature is getting hotter year round. But there are some things that are harder to notice, like the fact that there has been a 68 per cent drop in wildlife populations in just under 50 years. That’s nearly three quarters of all animals disappearing in half a century. Another recent report also confirmed that 40 per cent of plants are at the risk of extinction.

When done safely and appropriately, rewilding can restore damaged ecosystems on a colossal scale, mitigate the climate crisis, tackle pollution and provide socio-economic opportunities for local communities. Basically, it’s a really simple way to help reverse extinction and support nature-driven processes.

Can we rewild in cities?

Yes! So many cities have already started fantastic initiatives to rewild, such as Derby, which has approved Britain’s most extensive urban rewilding project. Meanwhile in Singapore, rewilding initiatives have resulted in the retrofitting of over 100 buildings with green roofs, edible gardens, recreational rooftop gardens and verdant green walls since 2009.

Even if you don’t own private land (who does?), you can get involved with rewilding urban spaces. Rewilding in public spaces is particularly important. Contact your local council to find out if there are any plans for future rewilding projects to get involved with and, if not, encourage them to start rewilding in public spaces.

Some councils in the UK have already rolled out rewilding projects. Brighton and Hove are letting weeds grow around pavements, for example. There’s been some backlash, though, with some people complaining that rewilding projects are going too far” and making paths inaccessible for the elderly and disabled people. That’s not to say that there isn’t a way of rewilding that makes infrastructure accessible to everyone, because there is. But we’ve got to start somewhere.

Are there any rewilding groups I can join?

You can support rewilding campaigns such as Rewilding Britain and join one of their 17 local networks. Other groups like Rewilding Europe and Citizen Zoo are also always looking for new members.

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