There has been a trend as of late to move toward the use of a concept known as “rewilding” to combat climate change and realise a more functional relationship with nature, namely, restarting the ecosystem that may have emerged through evolution and eventual stability in the past. To rewild, as defined by Oxford Languages, is to “restore (an area of land) to its natural uncultivated state (used especially with reference to the reintroduction of species of wild animal that have been driven out or exterminated)”.
Many major bestsellers have followed, advocating such practices such as Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald or Wilding by Isabella Tree (aptly named). In both cases, the authors lay out potential solution, in theoretical or practical/experiential fervour. The latter being a real world example of the rewilding of an estate shows the benefits, the return to nature and subsequent healing it quantifies.
Although beneficial, there is a hidden irony in all of this practice and purpose, the fact being that we humans have to (as the definition even states) introduce a species of wild animal that may have otherwise been driven out or exterminated. Now it is entirely agreeable that the introduction of an animal given its driving out or extermination due to human activities, for example, deforestation, would validate morally and practically a decision of re-introduction. However, as an example, there is talk of resurrection of species that are extinct and which are not extinct completely due to the existence of humans nor the industrial revolution that followed. One company (a privately funded organisation) intends to resurrect the woolly mammoth which they believe could be a tool to fight climate change through their landscape changing abilities. Yes, the woolly mammoth was very much like those rewilding animals being re-introduced today, but the difference being it has been dead for thousands of years. Does it deserve another opportunity? Are humans the one that should make that decision?
The point of all of this is that it could be argued that fundamentally nothing is natural anymore. Humans dictate the boundaries of national parks, forests, nature reserves, local parks, gardens, and any other plot of land deemed non-residential, commercial and/or agricultural. Humans also decide and/or determine what species should be in a given habitat, what species are to be expected in a given habitat, and subsequently what should be re-introduced and therefore exist in a given place. Nature, as we call it, is now manmade and there is no turning back from this. Take our gardens as an example where we’re encouraged to invigorate nature by buying a bird feeder or plant wild flower for bees and butterflies. That in itself is unnatural, the closing off of an area of space, deeming it a garden and artificially subsidising “nature” with something that may otherwise be found if the garden was left ungardenlike without boundary and “care”.
We need to reconsider what is natural and what is not, the use of terms and/or labelling can at times seem pedantic and anal, but it lends understanding in what it is we are trying to achieve with this planet. Currently we are a parasite draining our host of all resource and energy, but soon we need to create a truly natural symbiosis without artificial decision making and subsidisation, instead bringing a balance to things that allows true nature to thrive.