Saturday 20 April 2019

Rewilding & Climate Change: tying it all together - and a petition to sign

Caledonian pine forest, Ryvoan Pass, Cairngorms

With climate change in the news this week due to Extinction Rebellion, David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg all successfully raising the profile of this crucial issue I've been thinking about how this relates to rewilding and nature. Climate change is ultimately a natural phenonmenon. It is the result of how one species, us, is affecting the natural world. Climate change isn't outside nature, just as we're not separate from nature. And it's natural processes that can slow down and mitigate climate change.

My thoughts crystallised after attending an excellent talk on rewilding by Peter Cairns of Scotland: The Big Picture at The Grant Arms Wildlife Book Festival in Grantown-on-Spey (a really wonderful event, I'm pleased to hear it'll be held again next year). One of the questions after the talk was about climate change and whether it might render pointless years of rewilding work unless resilience of some sort was built in. Peter Cairns replied that with Cairngorms Connect, an ambitious project to rewild a vast area, this was being taken into account though of course the future couldn't be predicted.

The question seemed to assume rewilding and climate change are separate, unconnected issues. They're not. Both are natural processes and directly affect each other. It's not one way either, not just climate change being detrimental to rewilding. Rewilding can have a major positive effect on climate change. How and why is described in detail by a new body called Natural Climate Solutions. Its key statement is this:
"When living systems – like forests, peat bogs, saltmarshes and the seabed – are allowed to recover, they draw down carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the chances of climate catastrophe.Their restoration will also minimise extinction and ecological collapse, and create a richer world of wonders for us to enjoy."
So rewilding - restoring nature and allowing it to flourish - is an important part of combating climate change. I'm not surprised. It's what I've felt for many years from my understanding of how the natural world works. Now there is science to back this up.
However natural climate solutions receive little funding and support from governments and organisations concerned with climate change. To push it further up the agenda Rewilding Britain has a petition calling on the UK government "to restore nature to help stop climate breakdown". I've signed it and I urge everyone concerned with the future to do so.
Forest regeneration either side of Ryvoan Pass, Cairngorms

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