Rewilding: stand back and let nature do its thing
Rewilding has become a popular venture for restoring the natural environment. It aims to restore large-scale ecosystems, reverse the loss of biodiversity and return things to where nature can take care of itself. Corporations have found it to be an attractive prospect for offsetting their carbon footprint, attracting some controversy and speculation. So is rewilding as much of a progressive move for the environment as it’s made out to be?
Britain’s mission to rewild was born out of some very harsh statistics. Over half of wild species are in decline and 15% of that group is facing extinction. The majority of Britain’s top predators have now already been hunted into extinction. Plus, only 2.5% of the land equates to native woodland. On top of that, marine life within Britain’s seas is being overfished to meet unsustainable demands.
And so rewilding has attracted both philanthropic businesses and large brands to its mission. This in turn has become a process by which these entities buy up large quantities of Britain’s land for the purpose of rewilding.
The wider implications
Land mass in Britain is not an abundant resource. The mass buying of land by the wealthy will have a detrimental effect on the way land is priced. In the last year alone, the average price of land in Scotland has increased by 87% according to research by the estate agent Strutt & Parker. This will likely only accelerate the existing rural housing crisis.
Thinking back over the five principles of rewilding, this certainly seems to be at odds with supporting people as well as nature. Not to mention securing prosperity for the long term. Britain’s land markets are not heavily regulated. Therefore, with the added incentives of green subsidies and tax breaks, Britain’s land could potentially be swallowed up at an increasing rate.
This will actively limit the amount of rural jobs and opportunities for new farmers to acquire a sustainable livelihood for themselves and future generations.
An alternative approach
Rather than sellout land to a wealthy minority, the alternative could be to take a community approach. Community buyout schemes could acquire land more affordably for more people in a democratised fashion. Councils could then restore farmland to be run by local authorities and help new farmers get a start in the industry.
The Langholm Initiative is a recent example of where this approach has been a success. The community managed to raise funds to purchase 5,200 acres of land during the global pandemic. This land included meadows, moorlands, rivers and peatland.
The community looks to further this effort by crowdfunding more capital to buy a further 5,300 acres to increase the size of their Tarras Valley Nature Reserve restoration project, one of the largest in Scotland.
Ultimately, rewilding has good intentions, no question. But it will require a more nuanced method of managing the land for it to work effectively. As always, the key lies in balance.
How can Britain strike that healthy balance for the planet and its people?
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