Rewilding Britain. A silver lining amidst a global pandemic?
Whilst coronavirus has put a stop to human life as we know it, quite the opposite can be said for nature and wildlife. We’ve seen the videos; Venice canals transformed to clear blue water, wild boar roaming Italian towns, and foxes walking across what used to be the busiest streets of London. Nature appears to be making its long-awaited comeback – could this have come at the perfect time for Britain’s rewilding efforts?
We humans have knowingly inflicted an enormous amount of damage to the planet and its inhabitants. Rewilding is one of the ways which conservationists believe the damage can begin to be reversed. However, before lockdown commenced, rewilding was a controversial topic. Environmentalists widely spoke about the uncapped benefits rewilding could bring, whilst farming communities held their ground with fears over its effects on livestock and food production. The reintroduction of the Beaver holds no exception, with arguments for and against their comeback easy to find with just one Google search. Despite the ongoing debate, life’s routine distractions have meant that, realistically, nature has not been at the forefront of most people’s minds over the past years. It can be said with some confidence that rewilding would not have been considered a normal go-to discussion when you sat down for dinner with your family.
However, for the past nearly three months human life in Britain has been turned upside down, and with it, perhaps, people’s attitudes to nature. The benefits that “green space” holds for mental health have long been known, however never has that been more apparent than when we were limited to one outing a day. The National Trust has publicly spoken about an increase of rare UK wildlife, such as otters and orcas, thriving in their natural habitat. Wildlife charities, perhaps most importantly, have reported an enormous surge in requests by people wanting to learn more about the environment around them. With humans being kept behind closed doors, stories concerning nature and wildlife have taken over the media, no doubt sparking related conversations across UK households. In fact, whilst many of us are looking forward to life returning to “normal”, some are calling for a “new-normal”, one where society and nature can co-exist harmoniously. With the great outdoors being far higher on everyone’s agendas than before, could it be suggested that society may be more interested in, and, more importantly, open to a rewilded society?
Similar to Covid-19 and the potential for future pandemics, climate change is one of the greatest threats society faces in modern times. There is already evidence showing the potential rewilding has on mitigating this threat through the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. If anything, coronavirus has shown that when faced with a crisis, society is willing and able to make big lifestyle changes. We’ve proven our adaptability and that we’re willing to sacrifice our livelihoods in order to protect one another during hard times. Albeit through dark circumstances, there has arguably never been a greater opportunity to move forward in a way that is sustainable for both humans and wildlife – of which rewilding would play a major part.*
(*This blog is written by an independent writer. Beaver Trust welcomes a breadth of opinions, and those expressed within this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Beaver Trust.)
Milly studied Biology at The University of Sheffield, followed by a Masters in Science Communication. A keen traveller, she enjoys raising public awareness of the natural world around us and getting involved in local conservation back home in Devon.
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© Milly Gigg 2020.