Make nature wild again
The concept of rewilding is simple: bring back grassland mega-fauna (large herbivores as Konik horses, European Bison and Taurus) to make our ecosystem diverse again. Rich in plants and animals. Centuries of domestication and the spread of agriculture have done terrible harm to nature’s capacity to restore itself. It has downgraded earth.
It is also a great way to fight climate change. Soils store more carbon than all terrestrial plants, including rainforests. Rewilding (parts of) Antartica with herbivores could help keep the carbon stored in the soil, as the large animals snow trampling compacts the snow layer and leads to deeper winter soil freezing. Which sets in motion a series of events that favours deep-rooted grasses and herbs.
We tend to think that what we see and know, is what needs protection. But: forests are not the natural vegetation of our planet, vast grasslands are. The rewilding movement thus challenges the traditional conservation science, aiming at preserving – and expanding – what we have and what we see.
The great thing about rewilding science is that it is not about anti-globalism; it does not seek to restore what industrialization has destroyed or damaged. It wants to go hand-in-hand with technological progress. in the first place by organizing our available space more efficiently, thus freeing up space to rewild our nature: integrating nature and people, with a focus on innovation rather than on protection.
Akin to the big five of African wildlife, there is such a thing as ‘the big four’ in rewilding experiments: Oostvaardersplassen (‘OVP’, the Netherlands), Yellowstone (USA), the Pleistocene (Russia) and the Mauritian islands in the Indian Ocean. They have all their own characteristics (for starters their size: the Dutch ‘OVP’ project is dwarfed by the vast Russian Arctic territory), but together make up the avant-garde of the global rewilding movement. These areas work on reintroducing different ‘keystone spieces’ and have various rewilding approaches.
So, why haven’t we implemented this at scale yet? Money. And the concept is at odds with the current narrative, which means political backing. It can only work if society is aligned. And we all know, how hard that is.
Moreover, the current movement is mostly made up of activists and biologists, while the movement needs to become more financial savvy, i.e. leveraging carbon finance. If these projects can prove to reduce carbon emission (or capture carbon), then an income stream based on credits becomes viable.
According to the authors – Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe – rewilding is viable and is beginning to happen in Europe and America. They predict Europe will lead the way, because rural depopulation and the decline of traditional agriculture are creating large areas of land in need of a new future. When combined with economic reasons for nature-based solutions, a desire for commercial breeding and ranching could emerge.
This book’s a great introduction to this inspiring and exciting movement, that could make a real difference in the decades to come.