Page by Oliver Scofield
This New York Times article from 2010 presents the introduction of Caroline Fraser’s Rewilding the World, a book that discusses numerous examples of rewilding across the world and the importance of vast natural areas to preserve our declining biodiversity. The segment included in the Times provides an introduction to the importance of rewilding, what it is and why it is a needed practice in the world and some quick samples of rewilding in America.
Fraser starts off with an easy to follow, classic example of predators controlling populations, in this case coyotes helping bird populations by eating cats. She ties this in to a brief history of ecology and how humans have come to learn so much beyond just the animals in nature but also all the connections that one species can have and the implications harming that one species can have on the rest of the ecosystem. Since discovering these interactions, and as we increase our knowledge of individual species, we have realized that we are on the brink of what could be the “Sixth Great Extinction”. Animals and habitats everywhere are being diminished and pushed back by the needs of the ever-growing human race. Gradually we have grasped the idea that we are not independent of the processes that will drag the environment down. In spite of our ever-advancing technology, there are many things that can’t be found except in the natural world, many things important to humans, and not just for their own sake. Medicine is the key example that Fraser uses, and it comes from every corner of every environment, several of which are disappearing. But even with this understanding, it is not enough to reincorporate ourselves (and our buildings, policies and practices) into the natural world; we need to rebuild some of it first. Thus rewilding becomes an important practice for preserving what species we can, and saving many from going extinct.
As for the parks, preserves, reservations, and refuges we have already established, they are merely the beginning of where rewilding could take us. These places, created for numerous reasons, many without any consideration for the wildlife within, were a good start for a hundred years ago. Now, however, we need to expand these areas beyond their limiting political boundaries, boundaries that are often much too small for the habitat and range requirements of the resident animals. The isolated patches of protection are no longer sufficient; as the gaps between them become more and more developed animals can no longer travel to new habitats. And as we have come to know, small, separated populations are much less stable than ones that can exchange genes, follow their historical migration routes, and prey outside the lines humans have drawn on the map. The existing parks can be connected with lands brought back toward their natural state, ecosystems recreated, animals and plants restored to their original ranges. Fraser mentions several proposed connections: Yellowstone to Yukon, Algonquin to Adirondack, and Baja to Bering in North America; Paseo Pantera in Central America; the Terai Arc in Asia; Gondwana Link in southwest Australia; the transboundary peace parks in Africa (para. 27). Links that have begun to draw attention and started projects to rewild the land along the routes.
Overall, in a piece of elegant writing, Caroline Fraser gives us the reasons why rewilding is necessary and then connects how, through the parks and refuges we have already created, efforts are being made to expand the boundaries of our protected areas. She explains the importance of biodiversity to the future of humans and how we must realize that we are a part of this world, and then act on that knowledge.
Photo Credit: Oliver Scofield