Far from being a quixotic, utopian quest for a lost Edenic wilderness of the past, rewilding is a necessity, economic and existential. Along with alternative energy, the emerging professions of ecological restoration and management will help to drive the economy in the future. Already thousands of jobs in developing countries have been created in ecotourism, law enforcement, and agroforestry. From design to implementation, rewilding projects create jobs for a host of specialties—soil assessment, land system mapping, wildlife surveys and management, fire management—and for people in the construction and landscaping fields. Already projects are being designed to store carbon over decades in newly planted native vegetation, to restore connectivity and biodiversity in large-scale protected areas, and to train workers in restoring and maintaining wetlands and removing invasive species. Such projects could constitute the centerpiece of a global jobs program in developing and developed nations alike, training workers in environmental science and carbon sequestration.
Most important, rewilding can play a crucial role in addressing climate change. While it cannot stop the crisis by itself—only systemic changes in government policies and corporate practices can accomplish that—expanded core reserves and restored connectivity between them can stabilize and revitalize forests, protect biodiversity, reestablish the crucial balance between predator and prey, and restore the health of coastlines, prairies, deserts, oceans, and river systems. In this sense, rewilding holds the potential to stabilize far more than natural areas in peril: it can enhance and protect national security by sequestering carbon and safeguarding fresh water, fertile soils, cleaner air. It is a Marshall Plan for the planet.
Famously, Charles Darwin predicted that an extraordinary white night-blooming orchid found only in Madagascar—an orchid with a nectary so deep that only an impossibly long implement could penetrate to the pollen within— necessitated the existence of a night-flying pollinator, probably a moth equipped with a nearly foot-longproboscis. No one had ever seen such a creature. Forty years later, a night-flying subspecies of moth with a nearly foot-long proboscis was found feeding from the flower. It was named Xanthopan morganii praedicta, the Predicta moth. Nature itself is like that orchid— unique, fragile, locked in a relationship with a transient being on which it is utterly dependent: ourselves. We flew away for a while, thinking we could leave the natural world behind. But our destinies evolved together. We will survive only in a world as complex and biodiverse and interdependent as the one that created us.
Adapted from the book REWILDING THE WORLD: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution by Caroline Fraser. Copyright (c) 2009 by Caroline Fraser. Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company LLC.