The natural world thrives when allowed to maintain the delicate balance of its ecosystems, but human activity has thrown nature off balance and we are now facing the consequences. In the past 50 years, approximately two-thirds of the world’s wildlife has been lost, and around 40 percent of plant species are on the verge of extinction.
To combat our own environmental missteps, we are trying to find more sustainable and eco-friendly ways to live, while also attempting to restore nature through tree-planting, conservation efforts, and the development of carbon-capture technologies.
That said, many people believe that the best way to address the climate crisis and support biodiversity is to allow nature to recover itself by minimizing human interference as much as possible. This progressive conservation movement is called “rewilding,” and is based on the principle that nature knows best when it comes to protecting itself.
Rewilding has previously worked for Yellowstone National Park in the US. At the beginning of the 20th century, the wolves in that area were hunted to near extinction. The drastic decline in wolves meant that elk populations skyrocketed, eventually leading to the overgrazing of the land which ultimately meant that trees such as aspen and willow were prevented from maturing.
The domino effect continued as other creatures such as birds and beavers were left without trees in their natural habitat. The lack of natural shade also resulted in rising water temperatures in the rivers, negatively affecting even more biodiversity.
To address this, 14 wolves were brought to Yellowstone from Jasper National Park in Canada to replace the ones that were lost. Once the wolves were acclimated to their new home, they were released into the park. Within 20 years, the wolf population was completely restored, which also brought balance back to the park’s ecosystem.
In Scotland, rewilding has gained popularity in recent years thanks to the Scottish Rewilding Alliance (SWA), an organization that calls upon politicians to create policies that would push Scotland to become the world’s first “rewilding nation”.
A poll taken last year revealed that the Scottish public approves of the SWA’s mission, as more than three-quarters of people from across the country reported being in favor of the rewilding process. Steve Micklewright, convenor of the SWA, explains that the alliance is urging all political parties to employ five different strategies to safeguard the environment:
- Commit to rewilding 30 percent of public land.
- Establish a community fund to support rewilding in towns and cities.
- Backing the reintegration of keystone species such as rehoming beavers and reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx where there is local support.
- Create a coastal zone where dredging and trawling are not permitted.
- Introduce a plan to control deer populations, allowing land to recover from overgrazing.
The SWA hopes that the public will continue to push for politicians who will back the rewilding plan so that Scotland can combat climate change, recover its natural balance, and support its biodiversity.