In the lead up to the second-ever World Rewilding Day, Lésa van Rooyen, Peace Parks Communication Coordinator, sits down with three masters on the topic – Werner Myburgh, the CEO of Peace Parks Foundation, Frans Schepers, the Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, and Vance Martin, the President of WILD, to discuss the importance of restoring ecosystems in Africa and Europe to combat the global climate crisis.
In the past, ‘rewilding’ was a term that was primarily thrown around in conservation circles and little knowledge of what it entailed existed in the rest of the world. Fast forward a decade or two, and the topic is becoming somewhat fashionable… quite literally, with Vogue having published several rewilding related articles highlighting everything from “5 Simple Ways To Rewild Your Skin’’ to “How Rewilding Brought Nature Back To England’s Knepp Estate’’.
And why shouldn’t rewilding be part of the narrative regardless of the industry? It plays such an important role in solving the climate crisis – one of the defining issues of our age and a matter of global concern that affects all life on Earth.
The term ‘rewilding’ refers to conservation activities that protect and restore ecosystems to their natural state through the reintroduction of fauna and flora that have become locally extinct. The main goals are to increase biodiversity, mitigate climate change and create a self-sustainable environment, requiring little to no further human intervention.
Peace Parks Foundation is involved in restoring multiple transboundary ecosystems in southern Africa. Rewilding is a vital cornerstone of this. Werner explains that by looking at records from the past 100 years, the teams follow a systematic process of bringing back all the species that previously occurred in an area to ultimately re-establish functional ecosystems that benefit not only the natural environment but also the people living in these areas.
But it’s not only in Africa where rewilding has led to significant successes and challenges, as Frans highlights how Europe has brought a new narrative to the table. Contrary to the rural population increase currently in Africa, Europe is seeing a rural depopulation trend develop, leading to land abandonment. This has opened a realm of new possibilities which might have once been hard to imagine as nature has had a chance to bounce back. Due to the increase in wild spaces, tourism industries within these rural areas have emerged, bringing investment back into the local economy.
Looking beyond Europe and Africa, solutions to restore ecosystems and solve the climate emergency remain a global effort. The Global Rewilding Alliance is facilitating a high-level collaborative research and demonstration project that aims to confirm the massive role that nature and the health of the ecosystems play in mitigating climate change, which has been called ‘Animating the carbon cycle’. With a significant amount of evidence readily available, this groundbreaking science highlights that it is possible to supercharge climate mitigation through rewilding ecosystems.
Climate change is at the forefront of global concerns, and it often leaves people feeling helpless and uncertain about the future of our planet. Werner, Frans and Vance, however, all share a similar optimism, saying that there is indeed hope. They say that although organisations such as Peace Parks, Rewilding Europe and WILD should continue focusing on large-scale impact, individual action can actually make a significant dent in the climate crisis.
On World Rewilding Day, do your bit by joining nature-friendly community projects, reconsider your consumer behaviour and support by donating to organisations rewilding the planet.
Click here to donate to Peace Parks and help us make a difference.