How Human Rewilding Works

The Human Rewilding Movement

Human rewilding isn't a cohesive movement, but a mashup of several existing (and often clashing) philosophies. Survivalists and "doomsday preppers" are drawn to the rewilding movement for its emphasis on wilderness survival skills. Eco-activists love the idea of low-impact living "off the grid" using primitive DIY engineering. Hippies dig anything that frees us from slavery to "the man," especially if limited showering is involved.

The term "rewilding" was first coined by two American biologists in the 1990s who wanted to change the conversation about wildlife conservation [source: Kolbert]. Instead of protecting ecosystems as they exist, why not populate them with either native or nonnative species — particularly predators and large herbivores — that would restore the environment to a more perfect wild state? Rewilding entered the mainstream largely due to a popular TED Conference talk by George Monbiot called "For more wonder, rewild the world."

The origin of the term "human rewilding" is less clear, because people have been promoting versions of the rewilding lifestyle for decades. A survival expert and tracker named Tom Brown Jr. founded the Tracker School back in 1978 to teach the wilderness skills imparted by his Apache mentor Stalking Wolf [source: Tracker School]. Brown didn't call his methods "rewilding," but they serve as a model for schools and wilderness survival programs worldwide that subscribe to the rewilding movement.

If there is an overarching goal of the rewilding movement, it is for humans to integrate with nature, rather than extract from it [source: Rewild Portland]. Monbiot, the TED speaker, describes human rewilding as "trying to re-engage people with the natural world" [source: Monbiot]. Along with that engagement is an increased sense of wonder and curiosity, a desire to understand natural processes and to figure out how we as humans fit into the natural order.

Next, we'll list some of the core "ancient" skills being promoted by the human rewilding movement.