The word rewilding is a young one. Although, working to take care of the Earth and other species on this planet is not new. In fact, I believe that conservation is not a learned trait but rather something that is embedded in our human nature. As intelligent beings, we must partner with the rest of nature, to foster and maintain some semblance of symbiosis to coexist on this planet. It has been realized that our resources are finite and we must take steps to preserve them. That is where rewilding comes in. Coined in the early 1990s, it is still gaining popularity as more people talk about environmental conservation. Rewilding paints two very different pictures for me: the first is the idea of a balanced nature, where rejuvenated landscapes and ecosystems are enjoyed for generations to come. The second, however, is the almost absurd picture here Market Street Railway, of elephants walking down Market Street (2011). That is a major component in the rewilding effort – reintroducing “megafauna“(The American Museum of Natural History, 1998) back into habitats where humans may have chased them out.
Is something like that even possible? While the answer may sound like a resounding yes to some, there are many on the other side of the debate. There are three major areas to consider with a conservation effort of this magnitude: the backing and opposing science, the politics surrounding the matter, as well as any ethical objections or allowances. A major concern regarding the science of rewilding is that there isn’t enough of it. Simply, the field is so young that it hasn’t gone through the trials that only time and experience bring. Because there isn’t a significant amount of work on this topic, scientists have yet to make a firm judgment on the matter. Brodie Farquhar reports that reintroducing the wolves to Yellowstone National Park (2011) has shown much progress, but it is still being determined whether it’s a long-term solution or just a short-term fix that could lead to bigger problems down the road. That can only be answered with continued scientific observation.
Then there are the ethics and politics, the inherent arguments from both sides. Questions of, “What does relocation mean for the animals who have previously lived here, but haven’t for generations?” “What new laws and restrictions would have to be enacted?” Referring back to the image of Jumbo traipsing Downtown, most rewilding projects would not be in urban areas but consist of land set aside and solely dedicated to environmental rehabilitation such as national parks or antiquated farmland. Then, it would be a matter of which land would be chosen. The ethical debate consists of whether or not the relocation is beneficial to both the animals as well as the humans who live near the land. While some see it as our duty to save species on the brink of extinction, others are worried that it is not our place or that we are “playing God.” So many questions can and should be raised on this topic because as a concerned people we should be informed. Yes, I said we; I grouped you, dear reader, in under the term “concerned people.”
“Why?” you ask. As I stated before the desire to take care of the Earth, plants and animals, and other humans is ingrained in our very existence. You live on Earth and you should be concerned about and take care of where you live. As residents of this planet, humans, even with all of our technological advances, are not above the natural order. Yes, we have been able to utilize skills and tools to make life easier for ourselves but we still have our place. Being part of this chain means that we put things into the system in addition to taking what we need from it. As of right now, this is all we’ve got. Using up all of our resources would surely mean very bad things for human-kind. Luckily, questions are being asked and debates are occurring. We need to know whether rewilding is a viable option for humans in our contribution to our partnership with nature.
The American Museum of Natural History. (1998). Retrieved from http://www.amnh.org/science/biodiversity/extinction/Intro/GiantBeasts.html#megafauna
Dalton, A. (2011, January 4). Blast from the past: Elephants on Market Street [Web log]. In Sfist. Retrieved from http://sfist.com/2011/01/24/blast_from_the_past_elephants_on_ma.php
Farquhar, B. (2011, June 21). Wolf reintroduction changes ecosystem. In Yellowstone National Park; Retrieved from http://www.yellowstonepark.com/2011/06/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem/
Foreman, D. (2004). Rewilding North America: A vision for conservation in the 21st century. Washington, DC: Island Press.