Is it best to 'rewild' nature?

I am a layman conservationist based in the UK. I discussed ‘rewilding’ in a previous thread. It can mean three things:

  1. The reintroduction of keystone species such as beavers and wolves. I am for this 100%, though Wolves should not be reintroduced in countries such as the UK before widespread land reform.
  2. The rewilding of human life, the restoration of our relationship with nature. Again, I am 100% for this. We live in an era where children would rather search for Pokemon than minibeasts.
  3. ‘Stepping back’ and allowing life to find a way (sorry) without human interference. This I see as a problematic system, which 1) requires evictions of indigenous people, and 2) does not work.

See this excellent report by Survival International to learn more:

Simply put, indigenous peoples such as the Native Americans and Australian Aborigines have carefully managed the land for millennia to increase biodiversity, and prevent wildfires. Lo and behold, it works.

Shifting cultivation, also called “swidden agriculture”, refers to
a technique of rotational farming in which land is cleared for
cultivation (normally by fire) and then left to regenerate after a
few years. Governments and conservationists worldwide have
long sought to eradicate swidden agriculture, often pejoratively
calling it “slash-and-burn.”
Scientists now realize that shifting cultivation systems can
“harbor astounding levels of biodiversity.”41 Communities that
practice this form of agriculture, such as the Kayapo of Brazil,
actively manage the plant species found in forest areas, which
positively affects biodiversity and creates important habitats.42
Shifting cultivation systems also contribute towards a greater
diversity of species by providing a “mosaic” of different habitats.43
Research into the subsistence activities of hunter-gatherers in
the Congo basin, for example, has demonstrated that they lead to
significant improvements in the forest environment as a habitat
for wildlife, including forest elephants.44
Yet in spite of the increasingly recognized ecological benefits of
shifting cultivation, in most cases either the practice has been
banned or the communities who rely on it removed. This has
also had serious impacts on the communities affected, including
their nutritional health.45
In India’s tiger reserves, villages inside the reserves create special
grassland habitat for grazing animals that are important prey
species for tigers. When these villages are removed, the Forest
Department has to find ways to maintain these grasslands or
face a decrease in biodiversity. Although forest villagers lose
some crops and cattle to wildlife, most have lived with wildlife
for countless generations and would far rather be on their lands
in the forests than outside. Forest Department officials often
claim that relocations are “protecting” people from wildlife, but
this masks the fact that people are forced to move rather than
voluntarily relocating

In Australia, there is increasing awareness that the ways in which
Aboriginal peoples managed their land decreased the risk of
large, devastating fires.49 Over the last 90 years, wildfires have
cost Australia almost US$7 billion.50 Similarly, in Amazonia the
incidence of wildfires is lower in indigenous territories.51

Furthermore, my country, the UK has been altered beyond recognition by human activity since the stone age. Forests have been replaced by heather moorland, and the native species have evolved to flourish in such an environment. Yet this environment would quickly disappear into forests if left alone, and species such as the Red Grouse, Lapwing, Godlen Plover and Curlew would suffer for it. This is not to say I agree with the ‘Grouse Moor’ Management, which meddles with the environment by killing protected predators such as the Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle to encourage Grouse populations to expand to unnatural proportions so they can be shot for sport. Some legal predator control, and limited heather burning is necessary, but not killing protected species.

Thoughts?

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You may be on to something! I believe it is part of our commission from God to steward the earth. This is such a monumental task when you think about the intricacies of the created order and its codependencies that we are unable to do it properly without God’s guidance. There must be a balance between unregulated natural growth and the hubris that is trying to change complete ecosystems because of our greed. This balance must hold in tension human dignity and the fact that we all rely on the finite earth for our sustenance while on this side of eternity.

We have erred on the side of abusing our earth in the past. However, now we must think about future generations. The challenge is to not let the pendulum swing too far back in the other direction as we seek sustainability. We mustn’t cause unnecessary suffering to our fellow humans in the pursuit of righting the wrongs of the past. The ends did not justify the means then and they shouldn’t now.

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