Here in San Francisco, we like to boast about how amazing our city is. We take pride in the fact that it is clean, green, and organic. We like to shop locally while thinking globally. The city has many environmentally aspects, but I have a vision for it to be more. I think that San Francisco is a perfect candidate for an urban rewilding project. I see this city becoming a sanctuary for more than just humans, but animals as well. By redesigning our city to fit the needs of wild animals and bringing native species or their close relatives back onto the land, we could create a harmonious environment that benefits all living creatures within its limits. There are people who support rewilding in cities and heavily populated environments. George Monbiot, who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, thinks that lions should be brought back to London. And then there are those who think that animals are better suited for conservation areas, away from the influence and noise of densely populated areas.
Wild, wild cities
Vancouver, is a perfect example of a city that is in the process of rewilding. There is no question that the people who inhabit it have dramatically changed the landscape, it was a rainforest only about 125 years ago (Glover, 2014). So residents are trying their best to bring nature back into it through various public programs. Vancouver isn’t the only instance of urban rewilding taking place. Author Tristan Donovan discusses how, due to climate change among other factors, more and more animals are migrating into urban spaces (Donovan, 2015). As evident in his book, this is a real, pressing issue that must be addressed, for the safety and well-being of all those concerned. Though, this shouldn’t be a source of despair or anxiety. In fact, in a recent interview with National Geographic editor Christine Dell’Amore, Donovan exclaimed that, “We should appreciate it more-it’s fantastic [evidence that] our cities are not dead and lifeless” (2015).
What happened to wide, open spaces?
However, this brings up concerns for safety of animals and humans alike. If we allow animals to come into close quarters with humans, they may become dependent on our food and then wander further into other areas where they are at risk of getting hit by a car or hurting someone. Exploring the Rewilding Europe website, all of their projects are focused on abandoned land with little to no human influence. The organization looks at this land use as both a moral opportunity to rehabilitate dwindling animal populations and an economic opportunity, as it’s their vision that the rewilded areas will eventually become tourist attractions. There is no mention of possible urban-based efforts because their mission is about giving nature more space.
In a study about Australia’s urban landscapes, it was found that urbanization not only negatively affects animals living in the city’s habitat but on surrounding lands as well. Through the research that was conducted, it was concluded and recommended that land be set aside away from human influence (Ikin, K. et al., 2015).
So now what?
Both are compelling arguments. On one hand safety is a major concern. Bringing back predators that once roamed on land that is now the modern-day financial district would be very dangerous for people. Not to mention, frightening for the animal. On the other, there is the reality that it is happening anyway. According to Donovan, nature is taking back what once belonged to her whether we like it or not. Wouldn’t it be better if we figured out a way to adapt and live along side it? I think so.
Dell’Amore, C. (2015). Feral cities: How animals are going urban like never before. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150421-urban-wildlife-animals-science-cities-coyotes/
Donovan, T. (2015). Feral cities: Adventures with animals in the urban jungle. Chicago: Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
Glover, J. (2014). Rewilding a city: The Vancouver example. [weblog post]. Retrieved from http://thiscitylife.tumblr.com/post/80581023186/rewilding-a-city-the-vancouver-example
Ikin, K., Le Roux, D. S., Rayner, L., Villasenor, N. R., Eyels, K., Gibbons, P., . . . Lindenmayer, D. B. (2015). Key lessons for achieving biodiveristy-sensitive cities and towns. Ecological Management and Restoration, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p206-214. 9p. doi: 10.1111/emr.12180