Imagine living on a planet where humans haven't crowded out the native plants and animals. As recently as 12,000 years ago, you might have run into a giant beaver (or other megafauna such as mammoths and mastodons) roaming about -- including in the region that we now call Wisconsin [source: Yansa].
When we talk about rewilding, we're talking about restoring Earth's land and sea ecosystems and the wildlife that has been (or is about to be) wiped out of existence. Rewilding can also refer to the movement of people who take themselves out of modern society to live a more simplified life.
Think of it in two parts: one, rewilding your community, and two, becoming a little wilder yourself. Humans can make a significant positive impact on the environment, even without giving up the modern comforts of civilization to which we've grown accustomed. Even though no one among us will be able to single-handedly reintroduce camelops to North America, for instance, or save the whales, a few simple changes in our everyday lives can help rewild the places where we live, and reconnect us with nature.
While it may feel overwhelming to think about how you might go about rewilding the world, rewilding the land where you live -- your town, your neighborhood, maybe even just your own yard – isn't so daunting. Consider starting small: Reforest your yard with local, native trees and vegetation. Just plant trees and other greenery that would naturally grow where you live. Go one more step and work with your neighbors and your community to tie your efforts together. If you and your neighbor both go native with your yards, and you plant back-to-back, you've just doubled the size of your reforestation efforts.
And what about wildlife? Animals native to where you live will appreciate your planting efforts, and you may want to try your hand at raising your own fauna. Becoming a beekeeper will not only garner you your own honey pot, it will help save bees from becoming extinct. And if that all sounds too ambitious, volunteer with a local conservation group.
And then, of course, there's you. Could you survive in a time where those giant beavers roamed Wisconsin? For that matter, could you survive a night or two if you needed to live off the land? Invest in your own wildness by both consuming less (say it with me: reduce, reuse, recycle), and by learning basic wilderness survival skills. These include starting a fire without relying on a match or learning how to forage -- you can forage even if you're a city dweller, and what you consider a weed might be a tasty green you've been missing out on.
Author's Note: How can I experience re-wilding without giving up all my modern comforts?
As I was researching this piece, the idea of learning and practicing mindful meditation came up as a way to experience rewilding. At first, it didn't really make sense to me; but then a friend who has been practicing for years enlightened me -- mindful meditation heightens our natural wisdom, and practicing it can help us become more aware not only of our own self, but also our surroundings. That's a pretty good survival skill to have.
More Great Links
- Fraser, Caroline. "Rewilding the World: Conservation & Rewilding." (Sept. 5, 2014) http://www.rewildingtheworld.com/disc.htm
- Gross, Jessica. "A walk on the wild side: 7 fascinating experiments in rewilding." TED Blog. Sept. 9, 2013. (Sept. 5, 2014) http://blog.ted.com/2013/09/09/a-walk-on-the-wild-side-7-fascinating-experiments-in-rewilding/
- Sahn, Jennifer. "The Great Rewilding: A Conversation with George Monbiot." Orion. January/February 2014. Sept. 5, 2014. http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7966
- Whitman, Kenton. ReWild University. (Sept. 5, 2014) http://rewildu.com/
- Williamson, Lindsay. "The Importance of Beekeeping." Mother Earth News. Feb. 7, 2014. (Sept. 5, 2014) http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/the-importance-of-beekeeping-zbcz1402.aspx
- Yansa, Catherine H. "Pleistocene-Age Giant Beaver (Castoroides Ohioensis) and Extant Beaver (Castor Canadensis) Environments Of Southern Wisconsin." Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 41, no. 7. Page 257. Oct. 19, 2009. (Sept. 5, 2014) https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_165509.htm