Rewilding Britain


#1

The movement inspired by George Monbiot’s book ‘Feral’, as well as numerous small-scale projects across the UK, just put up their new website:

http://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/

They’ve also been getting some favourable media coverage, eg:

http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/130715/clipid/130715_REWILD_1307 (possibly only available here)

Still no mention of human rewilding, except in the context of ecotourism and an increased ‘sense of wonder’ in less domesticated landscapes, but I was heartened to see an English writer putting this point across in the latest Permaculture magazine:

http://amelialake.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/integrated-rewilding-and-permaculture-magazine/

No text from the article at that link, I’m afraid, but here’s the key passage fyi:

[...] the dominant view of rewilding perpetuates the false division between people and the rest of nature. Many indigenous communities do not have a word for 'wild'; they recognise themselves as part of nature, not separate from it. The wild should not be a place we visit, it should be something we are, an integrated whole that includes humans. Through recognising humans as part of nature we come to see that just as we domesticated animals and landscapes through agriculture, we also domesticated ourselves. In this sense humans need rewilding just as much as places. From this less well-known perspective rewilding is a homecoming to our own wildness, a simultaneous transformation of human systems and landscapes.

The ‘false division’ is in evidence in the Channel 4 piece, where it is set up as a conflict between the needs of wild nature vs those of the ‘human ecology’, referring to the barren uplands that have been grazed down to grass monocultures by sheep farming. So far there has been no analysis that I’m aware of as to why we have this division or how it came about (cough, agriculture). Monbiot views this as a problem inherent in the entire human species, as I mentioned in a previous thread, so this fits the alienated ecotourist vision, with barriers in place to limit our destructive activities and protect other species from us. There’s little or no emphasis on the need to implement sustainable or regenerative subsistence strategies as a way of breaking down this division and creating situations where human activity in relation to other species can be encouraged rather than limited and policed - or simply reserved as a weekend leisure activity for affluent city-dwellers. I might even side with the sheep farmers if that turns out to be the case!

Anyway, thought it might be of interest to see how some are taking the rewilding idea in different directions.

cheers,
Ian

PS: yay, we’ve got beavers again: http://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/reintroductions/beaver

:slight_smile:


#2

Ian, your post made my day. And great news about the pine martens too! And red squirrels. :smiley:


#3

Hey Vera, nice to speak again :slight_smile:

Yes, slow progress and there seem to be a lot of stupid hurdles in the way, but it’s all very promising. Things will get interesting with the first big predators. Always a strong urge to kill them off because of the threat - real or feverishly exaggerated - they pose to livestock. That coupled with their audacity of acting outside of the farmer’s immediate control, thus violating his self-appointed totalitarian mastery of the land…

Mark Fisher is writing interesting, informative stuff about this as always: http://www.self-willed-land.org.uk/

best,
Ian


#4

Interesting. Thanks for keeping us up to date! :smiley:


#5

ugh.


#6

“Rewilding isn’t an alternative to farming. On the contrary, rewilding can be farming’s greatest ally. Rewilding helps restore nutrients to the soil, provides for pollinating insects, purifies water, reduces flood risk and helps resist droughts. It’s about helping nature, and that can help all of us.”

…Yikes.


#7

Yes, their analysis is lacking on that point. Monbiot restricts his vision to the barren highlands (on land at least) and cautions against restoration on lowland farmland with more fertile soils.

It’s very accommodationist, recognising no necessity for conflict with those who have appropriated 30-40% of the entire planet’s primary production for their own exclusive use (via their domesticates and fuel/timber/other extractions):

http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/153031/

They’re looking for a ‘win-win’, but obviously in order for all the nondomesticated species to win (ie: have a fighting chance of not being driven extinct) agriculture and industry based societies have to lose. And not in a small way either! They’re pleading to a better nature that doesn’t exist. They don’t understand that the civilised culture wants it ALL. That’s why the sheep are still on the uplands, even if it’s massively unprofitable and requires huge subsidies. Otherwise that land would just be going to WASTE.

cheers,
I


#8

Perhaps part of the issue they are facing is a ferocious opposition from various private interest, lobbies and tabloids. This is the UK after all…


#9

Actually I’ve been surprised at the fair hearing they’ve been getting in the media (always a worrying sign!) so far. I mean they always insist on getting a farmer on to bluster about the possible loss of ‘traditional land management’, but the reception otherwise has seemed cautiously supportive. But yes, it wouldn’t surprise me if the machinery of the NFU and other groups are grinding into motion to hobble their efforts, and that we can expect a backlash soon. Maybe you’ve seen evidence of this already? I’ve not been following it very closely apart from the newsletters that RB send out via email occasionally.

I


#10

It took a while but the conservation rewilding movement in the UK has earned itself some backlash from the conservative farming/landholding interests, most notably from Tim Bonner, head of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation advocating for ‘traditional’ rural practices (mainly sport hunting, it seems) and defending the landowning aristocracy from challenges to their grip on the countryside:

http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/11/tim-bonner-ignorant-unjust-and-bad-for-the-environment-its-time-to-call-a-halt-to-rewilding.html

I’ve written a point-by-point rebuttal and forwarded it to the folks at Rewilding Britain, as they don’t seem to have come up with a response themselves, but they don’t seem to be interested as I’ve had no reply and not much in the comment section, despite a marked increase in traffic mostly from an unidentified facebook source. Anyone interested can find it here:

Most of his arguments were cheap and unsupported by any evidence, so easily debunked, but there were a few points of interest which for me spoke to the differences in outlook between conservation/landscape rewilding and what we’re talking about on these pages. For example, while there are plenty of examples of rewilding adovcates denying it (some of which I cite at the above link), Bonner’s characterisation of 'those with a John Muir-ian belief that man’s intervention in the environment is always a ‘bad thing’ ’ I think, while crudely expressed and intended to dismiss, rings true for some in the ‘movement’. Have a look at Rewilding Europe’s latest video for example:

They talk about the how the European countryside is being ‘abandoned’ with young people ‘leaving for the cities’. They want to ‘turn these problems into a historic opportunity’. But most of their chosen imagery depicts young people in spotless outdoor clothing, taking pictures, looking through binoculars, rafting down rivers or just hanging out, enjoying the view. Tourism in other words. There is some talk at the end of ‘business, jobs and income’, but how much of that will be in direct participation with the land & its nonhuman inhabitants rather than simply facilitating an alienated enjoyment by city folk on short holidays or weekend breaks? As much as they may be responsible for degradation of ecosystems and aggressive policies towards wildlife even up to the point of extinction, I think there’s still something valuable in traditional farming that is lost in this transition to abstract management; nature as a backdrop or screensaver for human activity which barely has anything to do with the Real World any more. I think a better approach would be to engage directly with those still living on & working the land and go through them (some of them probably know a lot more about these things than you do already) rather than trying to bypass them, even facilitate their extinction, and try to invent something totally new.

It’s telling that Bonner has referred to the rewilding (anarchism) wikipedia page, commenting that ‘The more contradictory nonsense I read about ‘rewilding’ the more it’s clear that we hunters have been doing it for years’. On the one hand I think he’s using the ‘anarchism’ label to discredit the conservation rewilders, but on the other you have this:

my wildfowling club involved in managed retreat on estuary 20 years ago…no grandstanding just good management

which would indicate some identification with the ideals of ‘regenerative land management techniques employed by hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists, as well as development of the senses and fostering deepening personal relationships with members of other species and the natural world’ which the wiki page mentions. Not much, but it’s more engagement with this strand of rewilding than Rewilding Britain or leading lights such as George Monbiot have so far attempted, while surely being aware of its existence (though others have started talking about it on the fringes - for example)

It’s been interesting to look at this whole argument while reading Nancy Turner’s book, The Earth’s Blanket, which describes many ways in which a removal of indigenous land management practices in NW America has led to simplified, degraded, fire-prone ecologies. Farmers, foresters and conservationists in Britain and Europe routinely make similar claims for their activities. Even if it’s bullshit - just another toxic mimic or claim to virtue - I think it reveals a deep longing for ways of relating to the nonhuman world in a generative rather than extractive & destructive way. Something to work with maybe…

cheers,
Ian


#12

PS: the beavers in Scotland just got legal protection, and the ones who arrived in England have been granted 5 years’ study instead of the immediate culling that officials wanted, thanks to local & national campaigning. Here’s a vid from well-known TV naturalist Chris Packham:

and a website where you can lend support, should you feel so inclined:

http://supportdevonsbeavers.org/

They’ve basically come back from the dead, so they should be at least made to feel welcome - royally celebrated even - not immediately chased back into extinction as the sociopaths want.

I