Return of the wild

Public support reintroduction of species to combat climate chaos

There is no longer any doubt our planet is deep in a climate change crisis that demands immediate action on a massive scale. Across the globe this year the multiple and terrifying storms, the flooding and drought, and the continuing, all too visible melting of the polar ice caps has proven once and for all that we cannot wait ten or twenty years or take until 2050. It must happen now. rewilding

World leaders finally, and some reluctantly, appear to have woken up to that glaring truth, with President Joe Biden admitting after Storm Ida swept across the nation, claiming at least 50 lives, that the “climate crisis is here.” When the USA speaks other nations tend to listen and even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is set to host November’s COP26 climate change conference for world leaders in Glasgow, has backtracked on his 2019 claim that he didn’t want to see Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “anywhere near it”.

Johnson appears to have realised that seeking political gain from fighting climate change might be unwise and that every nation must act swiftly to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5C to halt the destruction of the natural world and protect the health of both humans and the planet’s wildlife. The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5C above the pre-industrial average, plus the continued loss of biodiversity and the destruction of nature threaten irreversible damage. Governments must instruct both multinational giants and local industries to dramatically reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere. But that is just one step on the journey ahead.

Rewilding must also be a priority rather than an aim and a nice idea. Rewilding has become the catch-all phrase for how we can all, industry and individual, do something to improve the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. But the word also encompasses the wilding of previously industrial or commercial land and, more controversially, the reintroduction of animals that were mostly hunted to extinction in places where they previously roamed freely.

In the UK beavers have been reintroduced in 25 sites but the project has not been a total success. While their dam building has re-established wetlands and flood defences in some places, their endeavours have led to flooding and the destruction of agricultural land in others. Now, in Scotland, reintroduced beavers are already being culled. The magnificent white-tailed sea eagle has also been problematic, with farmers reporting the giant birds snatching lambs from fields. The pine marten, being a voracious hunter of the grey squirrel, which inflicts massive damage on forests and woodlands, is more of a success story.

So while the jury remains out on the reintroduction of certain animals, the benefits of the rewilding and wilding of land, with the co-operation of farmers and landowners, is an environmental no-brainer. It’s a question of striking a balance between man and nature, forests, woodlands, peatbogs, wildflower meadows, with their accompanying, returning wildlife, can help save us all – if we will just let them. Overall, our surveys show the public agree.

Surveys

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