03 JUL 2021
The notion that there is a dichotomy that separates humans from nature is false, and it always has been. We are as part of nature as any animal, plant, fungus, or bacteria. At one level this is obvious - we eat plants, animals, fungi, and are attacked by bacteria as much as we are intertwined with them even inside our bodies. But it is also true that we have created systems, processes, and structures that have forced an artificial division of human from nature. And this has caused adverse impacts we're only now beginning to understand and address.

So Rewilding is both an oxymoron and a necessary process we have to embrace in order to rebalance nature. In just the same way when a dynamic balance is forced into unstable patterns we have done the same to the ecosystem of our planet. But this is not a call to regress, to return to nature, but to negotiate a new balance within the ecosystems of Earth - where we share better and allow our partners on Earth to thrive as much as we ourselves do.

It is also a call to fairness - because by Rewilding the planet we Rewild ourselves, and if carried out well will increase equity within humanity because so many cultures exist closer to the environment, are more bound to it, and less reliant on the separation from nature our Western culture has embraced for so long.

UN agencies - UN Environment Programme (Unep) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) - have stated that "Governments must deliver on a commitment to restore at least 1 billion hectares of land by 2030 and make a similar pledge for the oceans."

This is not only for climate change reasons but for the long term stability of the planet's ecosystems and to prevent biodiversity loss that will have uncertain consequences for humans as just another animal sharing this planet with many others. Earth Overshoot Day is a way to visualise the undue impact we're having on the planet. It is a measure of how many Earths would be required to sustain our current level of exploitation. Currently the measure estimates 1.6 Earths would be required at the current rate.

Rewilding is one way to reset the balance. Inherent in the idea is that planting trees, and creating parks, is not the whole answer - we need to create space for other species to thrive, by reallocating land to nature, and nurturing ecosystems so the are restored. And we need to do it fast.

There are many examples of Rewilding such as Rewild Scotland and Pleistocenepark Russia or American Prairie - but Rewilding is not just some large landscape scale project... though we need these too. It is bringing nature back into our lives more generally.

Zealandia in Wellington is one example in New Zealand, but Christchurch has an opportunity in the earthquake damaged land of the Red-Zone to restore wetland forests and marshes in the heart of the city in a way that few other places could attain.

But many small interventions are also needed - like rewilding our own neighbourhoods by letting nature back in a bit more... allowing plants to grow a bit wilder, to let crop plants to go to seed for foraging insects, and to let a bit of the backyard grow wild so that insects and reptiles could recolonise the places between.

Beyond landscape scale is the ocean. New Zealand has one of the largest ocean economic zones and yet has not stepped up to protect a significant proportion. There are coastal protected areas - notably around Banks Peninsula a Marine Mammal Sanctuary has been established. I recall as a child when someone brought a drowned Hectors Dolphin to the caravan park. They had found it fouled in a set gill net. These are now banned around the Peninsula.

But New Zealand has an opportunity to ban dredging in our economic zone, and to partition off sections either permanently or for decades at a time to allow for the recovery of fish stocks. A proposed Kermadec Island Sanctuary is stuck with legal wrangling and a need to balance the interests of conservation with Iwi (Maori Tribal) rights to fish the area. But surely the right to fish also requires a responsibility to conserve the area too. If Maori are kaitiaki (guardians) of the oceans than it is in their interest to create the sanctuary. Ironically where there is a tradition of use-it-or-lose-it in connection to traditional property rights in Western legal traditions no one has ever exploited the area. Preservation now would not affect any contemporary or traditional rights - only unexploited future rights. Which is the point of the sanctuary - to preserve for the future.

Rewilding is an interesting and important concern - it is so pervasive as it touches on all of us, everywhere... how to live better with nature.

But central should be a recognition within all peoples, and cultural traditions, that to Rewild is to embrace our true selves as apes, primates, mammals, animals, and descendants of the first eukaryotes. We're part of the fabric of nature on Earth and we have to stop its unravelling.
By Hab3