Rewilding, the key to a sustainable future
It is no secret that the world's ecosystems are in a bad way. Widespread deforestation, pollution and unchecked economic development have degraded some landscapes to a shadow of their former selves. One solution to this global problem is that of ‘rewilding’ which has been gaining much attention in recent years. But what exactly is it?
What is rewilding?
Rewilding is a method that seeks to repair ecosystems by peering into the past, specifically to a time before human influence within a region. By studying components of a previously well functioning ecosystem, such as species type, distribution and number, scientists can find ways to ‘bandage up’ a current, damaged, ecosystem. An example of this is the reintroduction of beavers in the UK which have helped to ‘slow the flow’ of rivers in flood-prone areas. Human influence on landscapes such as flat farmland or concrete car parks has led to rainwater flowing very quickly downstream. The dams that beavers build allow time for the water to drain away before it reaches built-up areas.
Why is rewilding important?
Because rewilding focuses on allowing natural processes to manage a landscape for us, it reduces the cost that would otherwise be spent on paying humans to positively shape an ecosystem. This saved money can be spent on improving existing land such as planting more trees. There is also the benefit of creating truly wild spaces with interesting, nature dominated vistas and characteristic species such as the beaver. This creates an important revenue stream for ecotourism which brings in £21.8 billion in the UK alone.
Looking to the future
Leading voices in the world of ecological research, such as David Attenborough, believe we need to ‘rewild the world’ in order to save the earth. If we rewild 30% of the world's land then we can reverse the biodiversity crisis, halting 70% of projected extinctions and soaking up more than 50% of all carbon dioxide we have emitted to date. This is not only exciting and practical but it is also necessary if we are to live in a future that is sustainable, free of environmental issues and secure for all endangered species.
The ones who will be driving this change in global environmental policy will be the younger generations. New media such as mobile apps, games and other digital platforms have the potential to educate and inform young people about the concepts and need for innovations such as rewilding. This will need to be made available across the globe as we all have a part to play in the rewilding of our world.