Rewilding is an ecological idea that is gradually gaining traction within environmental circles, and it bears significant comparison with some of permaculture’s guiding principles. Permaculture emphasizes the preservation of natural ecosystems and making efforts to repair ecosystems that have been damaged by human activity. Rewilding also proposes people taking a proactive approach to assisting natural ecosystems retain their former diversity and abundance – which have been curtailed by human encroachment on the land.
Whereas much wilderness management as it is currently practiced seeks to somehow contain or suppress natural processes, or managing the environment for the benefit of a single species, rewilding proposes letting nature re-find its own balance – in many ways letting the land turn feral, so that nature itself can work out what is best for it. Rewilding is about making a whole wilderness ecosystem truly wild – self-sustaining, abundant and diverse (which just happen to coincide with the aims of permaculture design). It is about creating a future in which humans and nature are equal parts of a global ecosystem, rather than separate and often antagonistic elements.
Given the damage that man has done to many natural environments, and the atomization of landscapes that would have once been joined by human activity, we must take active steps to help the rewilding process. There are several methods for doing this. The one that tends to get the most media attention in discussions about rewilding is the reintroduction of megafauna, typically apex predators, into environments from where they have been absent. The idea is that by, say reintroducing wolves into an area where there are a lot of deer, the wolves will naturally keep the deer population in check so that they do not decimate the native plant life, which in turn will create a more diverse ecosystem as more animals will be supported by the available plant life. Other methods of rewilding include creating corridors that link areas of wilderness that were once part of the same landscape but which have become separated by human construction (this allows different populations of animals to interact and thus breeding between family groups, which creates for a more biodiverse species) and regrowing native plants where invasive species have become dominant. This in turn should lead to the reinvigoration of native insect species and, in turn, the food chain that develops from them.
Then, once such steps have been taken and the ecosystem is able to function independently (the toxins we have introduced into the soil through agricultural practices have disappeared, for instance, or the invasive species have been eliminated), human interference is actively withheld; nature takes over. And given what we know about nature as permaculturists we can be certain that once that situation is reached nature will find the correct balance for that ecosystem, and will eventually reach abundance. There are several reasons why rewilding is an appealing prospect.
Human activity has been incredibly destructive in terms of the biodiversity of the plant. A 2014 report by the World Wildlife Fund detailed how in the last 40 years alone, humans have caused the disappearance of half the number of animals on the planet. This is through hunting, destroying habitats and pollution. Rewilding gives nature a chance to reestablish it natural state of abundance and biodiversity.
Self-Sustaining Systems
As we know from permaculture design, when ecosystems are allowed to blossom in their biodiversity, they naturally create a system that is self-sustaining. The elements of the system will eventually find a natural balance that allows all the elements to thrive. This means a system that does not require human intervention to support it. In permaculture, we seek to minimize the energy and time input we give to our site; by doing the same with natural ecosystems we allow them to form the balance that is their natural state.
Protect from Extinction
Reintroducing species to an area where they were once native is a way of protecting species from extinction. The large mega fauna in many areas, from the wolves and lynx in highland areas, to the bison on the American plains were reduced to near extinction by human activity (either deliberately through hunting or indirectly through destruction of habitat). By essentially giving them back land, and land that is their native environment and where they are best adapted to survive and thrive, we protect them from extinction again. This is also true of plant species and smaller organisms, from butterflies to beetles. All are potentially threatened by human activity (particularly in the case of insects and microorganisms by the impact of chemical use in agriculture). By allowing environments to return to natural states we protect the natural heritage of our countries.
Many critics of rewilding claim that it would harm the commercial interests of people that depend upon the land. They claim that by rewildingreturning highland areas, say, over to wild animals you destroy the livelihood of the sheep farmers that currently use them. However, rewilding does have commercial potential that could help finance its implementation. The best correlative is whales. Many former whaling communities now realize that there is more commercial viability in whale watching than in hunting whales. Safaris are another example where natural ecosystems can provide financial gains – which should then be used at least in part to finance the continued protection of the rewilded area.
Rewild Ourselves
The popularity of safaris and trips to view wildlife suggests that having encounters with the natural world is important to many of us. As such, rewilding is not only beneficial to the land and the animals that live on it; it is also good for humans. Rewilding is a way of siting ourselves as just one part of a larger, complex natural ecosystem, rather than as the domineering, destructive species we too often become. By deliberately creating truly wild areas we get in touch with a more elemental part of ourselves. It gives us a chance to interact with nature on its terms, and escape the sanitized, unnatural environments that we have overwhelmingly built for ourselves.

54 Responses

  1. The definition of “wild” makes the difference.
    We don’t see the land as a wilderness to be feared but an undomesticated system that sustains life. Including humans.
    Semantics maybe but we are nature too.

  2. Agenda 21 suggests the idea of “rewilding” vast areas of now-inhabited land. This means tearing up towns and roads. This necessitates the destruction of private property rights.
    No, I do not support that!

  3. Well let’s see man has pretty much taken most of the wild out of the equation, so I feel it’s high time we tore down a lot of buildings and let the ecosystem resustain itself with our help of course. The continuing collapse of the wildlife is going to the absolute and total devestation of our planet. No I am not a hippie, just want to live to see my grandchildren have children and so forth and so on. Man could have made life better by keeping the wild forests and untamed land but NO money started coming in and man got greedy.

  4. Here’s some info about bio-char, which is great for building soil & restoring the planet.
    The following benefits occur with additions of bio-char, aka: ‘Terra Preta’:
    Enhanced plant growth
    Suppressed methane emission
    Reduced nitrous oxide emission (estimate 50%) (see 5.10 below)
    Reduced fertilizer requirement (estimate 10%)
    Reduced leaching of nutrients
    Stored carbon in a long-term, stable sink [ It helps sequester
    carbon into the soil, it takes thousands of years for charcoal to
    Reduces soil acidity: raises soil pH (see 5.01 below)
    Reduces aluminum toxicity
    Increased soil aggregation due to increased fungal hyphae
    Improved soil water handling characteristics
    Increased soil levels of available Ca, Mg, P, and K
    Increased soil microbial respiration
    Increased soil microbial biomass
    Stimulated symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes
    Increased arbuscular mycorrhyzal fungi
    Increased cation exchange capacity
    To make it myself, it takes about one or two hours: I just start a small fire and then keep
    placing garden debris upon it, branches, wood, leaves etc, then when
    the hot coals are a mountain about 18 to 24 inches high, and it is the most
    beautiful fire, I
    [sadly] put it out with water, then sift it with a screen that has
    holes that are 3/4th inch wide, that is the perfect size, then i mix it, by volume:
    2 parts biochar
    2 parts compost
    5 parts native clay soil
    this recipe I call ‘Recipe 5-2-2:’
    it is 22% biochar, 22% compost, 55% clay soil. WONDERFUL!
    For measuring, I use one and two gallon buckets to make a batch that can be mixed in a 6 cu ft wheel barrow.
    WIRE MESH: .75 inch mesh is VERY hard to find, and spendy…I found it here:
    ….and I stapled it to a white pine frame, 16″ x 18″ x 3.5″, which is a great size for a sifting frame
    Below are some interesting links, including the first one, which is selling Biochar for $4o.oo for a 1 cubic-foot bag!

  5. members of our house are working with the book Common Thread on rewilding. One of us is developing a career actually where she offers herself as a remediation consultant utilizing permaculture and hugelculture practises here on Saltspring Island, BC.

  6. I plant lots of trees…….both evergreen and deciduous, and have vegetation that I don’t cut down in the fall, food for birds and squirrels.

  7. if you burn wood in a fireplace, please spread the ashes on the ground rather than throwing them away in the trash as it nourishes the soil making it fertile! So if you are an avid camper, bring a hefty garbage bag or a bucket with a lid and scoop up them ashes from the fire and help re-nourish the soil. 🙂

  8. Ducks Unlimited has been doing this for over 75 years. No, you don’t have to hunt ducks although they are tasty and the time outdoors is worthy. Most importantly, the marshes, potholes and other similar areas are important not only to a duck’s habitat but to the earth as well.

  9. FB stalking mostly…and talking to the people on the bus… LOL…My Plan :)!
    Found that there are prominent people who are highly educated and credible who also believe the same…about the same area!
    Lets break it down……..
    1. 400 Million gallons of water from East and West Maui Streams (over 30) is diverted by HC&S (Hawaiian Commercial Sugar Company) to feed one of the worlds thirstiest crops – Sugarcane
    2. HC&S grows the crop for 2 years, then has helicoptors spray round-up herbicide so that it dries out quicker to burn.
    3. HC&S then burns the surgarcane field which also includes, black plastic and PVC plastic, herbicide and pesticide residue. The ash then falls onto peoples homes, cars, business, farms, ocean, wetlands, etc…
    4. The sugarcane is then harvested and taken to a mill which is partially run off of coal imported from one of the worst coal mines in the State of Colorado and then partially processed.
    5. The molasses and other by prodcucts is then shipped to California (if it doesn’t spill into Kahului or Honolulu harbor killing off marine species) and processed into sugar.
    6. The non-organic sugar is then shipped back to Hawaiʻi and other places to be sold. (no explanation needed on the health benefits of sugar)
    7. Therefore, 28,000 acres or so drain all of Maui’s streams to process one of the worlds most unsustainable food products.
    8. The island of Oʻahu that has 1.1 million people uses around 200 million gallons of water a day vs. HC&S which uses 400 mgd for sugarcane cultivation.
    9. Every year acres and acres of HC&S sugarcane fields are being peeled off for development (Upcoming Target and retail outlets, Monstanto Fields, Waiʻale Development, etc…)
    10. 800 jobs to do all of this. Imagine the possibilities of 800 people growing healthy food crops on Maui, making Maui less reliant on the importation of food from the mainland and other countries!
    Important to listen to…
    APRIL 11, 2014
    History of Hawaii and Sugar
    Gregory Rosenthal was interviewed about Hawaiian history, labor, and the Hawaiian sugar industry. This interview took place at the 2014 meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Atlanta, Georgia.
    My Intention is to see our Island geared towards Tourism. With the Sugar Plantation Land as a forest, with all the wonderful varieties of Hawai’ian native plants, Hales across the landscape, with people living in them, all the streams flowing clear and singing sounds of water flowing, thoughts of Menehune to enchant, rain at night because we fixed the soil with worms and good fungus giving back life to the A’ina…Simple life where healthy children laugh and play.
    The soil is so dead in Hawai’i where they have grown pineapple and sugar cane.
    My idea is to make these huge wheeled containers that will slowly roll along, down hill, while dropping worm casings and worm water. We all separate our trash as best we can and use our garbage to feed the worms. By the second pass the soil should be ready to support life.
    the complete recycling of our garbage
    life put back in the soil
    restoration of the land from the plantations destruction
    a new direction with the community directely involved in the success
    We can use the old and unused containers from the plantation when they go out of business or we can let them run the worm restoration project…Growing GMOs as biofuel would continue the destruction. If the workers and company of HC&S want to continue working this is the WAY. And if there is any biofuel grown it must be native of Maui. For me I want to see pi’li grass grown, which is just about gone and extinct in Hawaii in the wild state. This is the grass that is used to make a Hale pi’li. The Hawai’ian will celebrate on that day. A return of one of the basic resources to life, material to make a home.
    Worms can eat everything except metal, glass and plastic. They sterlize the garbage.
    worm watch
    As with mycelium (fungus like mushrooms) ecology repair; worms need to come from the same area where they are used to repair the soil. Native Hawaiian worms No ka oi.

  10. I am educating my children about being good stewards of our natural resources… showing them there are alternatives to pharmaceutical medicines, conventional toiletries and providing food to them with information on how it is grown and can help or hurt their little bodies. We are also going to grow some organic herbs and veggies on our small patio balcony and are prepping for our seeds!

  11. We are keeping 13 of the acres we bought in current use and not developing those acres. In one acre of this wooded area I have spent the last fifteen years restoring the at -risk native plants that once grew here before the area was developed and logged. In this section of our land I have created a sanctuary for others to come see and learn about these rare native herbs and flowers. I’ve given school children and adults educational tours, and taken photos and printed information on the road to promote awareness of the importance of saving our native plants. I have been a member of United Plant Savers for over twelve years. I am a retired herb nursery owner ,and now devote full time volunteering to teach herbal health workshops, and workshops on native plants. See the website:

  12. My late mother-in-law used to toss handfuls of wildflower seeds on her “lawn” and just let it grow, weeds, wildflowers and all. She called it her American Heritage Garden. 🙂

  13. I am growing red worms in my closet,in a special growing unit and am also using a bokashi bucket to make compost as well, in an apartment. I look for good deals and buy food organically whenever possible. I work for peace and advocate for peaceful solutions to conflict, because without peace we can’t do anything very well, inasmuch as we need to work together. i maintain a strong hope for the future. That is the most important thing i can do. i try to go through the pain and learn what it teaches me, and it’s part in my life, instead of deadening those important warnings with alcohol and pills and pharmaceuticals, so i can continue to listen to, communicate and care for my own body and soul. I play music, and enjoy life. It builds the heart and spirit. I try to remain strictly honest, because otherwise, what is not, is not worth my time.

  14. sharing works inspired by Joanna Macy’s Active Hope/the Great Turning with burned out environmentalists, so they can “get up and do what needs to be done”

  15. Not using chemicals on my lawn or garden and a push mower to mow the grass. Keeping water flowing freely for the birds and butterflies and feeding them non-gmo food. Lisa Souders Coe

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