Rewilding was first conceived as a landscape-level ecological restoration method, characterized by three “Cs,” including cores, corridors, and carnivores (Foreman, 2021; Gammon, 2018, 2019; Jørgensen, 2015; Monbiot, 2017; Prior & Ward, 2016; Soulé & Noss, 1998). The term “rewilding” now broadly applies to a variety of ecological restoration strategies, including rewilding of landscape-level wilderness, agricultural and cultural landscapes, and the “greening” of urban and suburban spaces (Monbiot, 2017; Thomas, 2020; Tree, 2019). “Rewilding” also now applies to a variety of ecopsychological strategies for reconnecting humans to the more-than-human world (Bekoff, 2014; Monbiot, 2017; Mortali, 2019; Thomas, 2020).
In North America, the rewilding movement largely advocates restoration on a landscape-level, reintroducing apex predators and securing significant land areas for them to repopulate and migrate, such as the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park (Jørgensen, 2015; Soulé & Noss, 1998; Tokarski & Gammon, 2016). Some go further to advocate for recreating the conditions of the pre-human Pleistocene Era in which herds of grazing megafauna and feline predators roamed the plains of North America and Europe (Carey, 2016; Donlan et al., 2006).
Rewilding has been approached on a landscape level as a practical method for ecosystem restoration, but in many cases, it effectively excludes humans and perpetuates the idea that “wilderness” is a place that humans visit but do not belong (Cronon, 1996; Ward, 2019). This view was initially conceived by colonizing white men as they moved westward ravaging and de-wilding the continent. As they subjugated wild lands into domesticity and brutalized Indigenous human co-inhabitants, they simultaneously envisioned a utopian human-free landscape, which had not existed for tens of thousands of years in the Americas and hundreds of thousands of years elsewhere (Carey, 2016). The U.S. forebears of wilderness preservation, such as John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, defined wilderness as a landscape “untrammeled by man” (Zahniser, 1964). The lands that were to become official wilderness areas, however, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, were not untrammeled by man, and the people who had been living in them for thousands of years were extirpated by force, making the act of designating wilderness also an act of colonization (Cronon, 1996; Jørgensen, 2015; Merchant, 1980; Plumwood, 1998).
Rewilding Agricultural Lands and Cultural Landscapes
Dominant interpretations of rewilding imagine humans as visitors in the wilds – as tourists, entering wilderness for recreation, contemplation, and other activities that perpetuate the narrative of the more-than-human world as an object to satisfy human wants and needs (Carfore, 2018; Ward, 2019). Such conceptions also limit rewilding potentials for agricultural and other cultural landscapes by creating artificial binary delineations between utopian notions of human-free wilderness and areas occupied and utilized by humans (Monbiot, 2017; Tokarski & Gammon, 2016).
Although also criticized as human control over more-than-human agencies (Plumwood, 1998), cultural landscapes represent sites of supportive relationships with more-than-human beings provided what matters to them is taken into account, the autonomy of more-than-humans is respected, and human interventions are minimized to what is strictly required for human subsistence (Gammon, 2019; Tree, 2019). Rewilding of cultural landscapes, focusing on reintroducing native plants and some grazing fauna, has been undertaken in Europe, where rewilding takes place when agricultural lands undergo self-willed successional changes (Jørgensen, 2015; Monbiot, 2017; Pereira & Navarro, 2015; Tree, 2019). For example, at Knepp, a centuries-old agricultural estate in England, former agricultural fields were allowed to go fallow and ecologically beneficial grazing animals were introduced (Tree, 2019). This rewilding strategy also allows for the respectful human use of wild foraged Animals for meat, while at the same time allowing for measurable improvements in floral and faunal biodiversity (Overend & Lorimer, 2018; Tree, 2017, 2018, 2019). Rewilding cultural landscapes can emancipate the more-than-human world for both human and more-than-human benefits (Monbiot, 2017; Pereira & Navarro, 2015; Tree, 2019). Traditional, Indigenous, and endemic agricultural practices can provide rich sources of local lore, wildcrafting, and entangled human and more-than-human histories (Tokarski & Gammon, 2016), and sustainable, centuries-old agrarian ways of life, centered on cooperation with fellow humans and integrated plant and animal species, can serve as borderlands for human inspiration and bonding in relationship with the more-than-human world and can provide valuable insights for sustainable food production and mutual flourishing (Anzaldúa, 1999; Berry, 1988; Haraway, 2016; Tokarski & Gammon, 2016). Beyond wilderness, the more-than-human world also exists within agricultural and cultural landscapes, suburbs, and cities; therefore, to realistically address the Anthropocene crisis, all places should be considered as potential sites for restorative rewilding (Clancy & Ward, 2020; Hopkins, 2019).
Urban and Suburban Rewilding
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, stories, both fantastical and true, emerged of wildness returning to urban areas. Social media exploded with images of wildcats in cities, and the pollution-moribund vistas of the Himalayas once again became visible (Crossley, 2020). The pandemic urban rewilding stories, and the human delight in telling them, portend the possibility and collective longing for connection with more-than-human kin, even in significantly human-altered landscapes, such as cities and suburbs (Clancy & Ward, 2020). Rather than reinforcing false either/or and human/Nature dualisms, urban rewilding offers realistic slivers of hope that human and more-than-human coexistence can be fostered in cracks in pavement everywhere (Haraway, 2008, 2016; Tsing, 2012).
Embracing the Trouble
The term “Chthulucene,” coined by Donna Haraway (2016), describes “a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged Earth” (p. 2). The Chthulucene, therefore, acknowledges and leans into the uncertainty and complexity of the troublesome entanglements that characterize contemporary Earthly existence. A Chthulucene approach to rewilding, therefore, would foster the dissolution of artificially constructed boundaries and human exceptionalism and embrace troublesome entanglements wherever they occur, with respect, reciprocity, and relationship characterizing human participation in the more-than-human world (Bekoff, 2014; Haraway, 2016; Kimmerer, 2013; Nelson, 2008). Rewilding in the Chthulucene will not result in an ecological Shangri-la, a utopian paradise, or a planet free of pain, suffering, and injustice. Rather, it will offer “more modest possibilities of partial recuperation and getting on together” (Haraway, 2016, p. 10), which could be good enough.
Rewilding the Human Psyche to Wholeness
Humans evolved within Earth’s ecology, embedding the human organism within sacred and necessary cycles of reciprocity, where security and wholeness develop through deep belonging within the more-than-human world (Kimmerer, 2013, 2014; Mortali, 2019; Shelby, 2018; Shepard, 1995, 1997). Restoring Earth and human wholeness requires human reconnection with the heart of the world (Abram, 1996; Aizenstat, 1995; Ralph Metzner, 1995; Nelson, 2008; Roszak, 1993, 1995).
Relationships form the framework of the world soul for rewilding and connecting nature with culture (Abram, 1996; Glendinning, 1994; Haraway, 2008; Kirby, 2017). “The ordinary is a multipartner mud dance issuing from and in entangled species” (Haraway, 2008, p. 32), and humans must embrace these messy muddles in order to heal (Glendinning, 1994; Haraway, 2016; Tsing, 2012). To move toward healing, humans must dredge the depths of the shadows of their subconscious to once again embrace the trouble with their wild side. The gradual easing of feelings of loneliness, meaninglessness, and emptiness that characterize the Western human existence then compensates for the painful, incomplete, and imperfect transformation process (Haraway, 2008, 2016; Kanner & Gomes, 1995; O’Connor, 1995; Tsing, 2012).
As ecopsychological rewilding reclaims the wild archetype from the shadows of domesticated repression, clearing a path to wholeness (Estés, 1992; Glendinning, 1994; Harper, 1995; Shelby, 2018; Snyder, 1990), the wilds of the human psyche open to sensory and emotional epistemologies that enable reconnection with the more-than-human world (Abram, 1996; Jensen, 2000; Seegert, 2016; Weber, 2014). The <em>I</em> of the human ego is subsumed and healed in the <em>we</em> of existence (Seegert, 2016). Rewilded humans understand themselves not as masters, managers, and spectators of the natural world, but as integral living, breathing, dying players in a cosmic unfolding (Haraway, 2008, 2016; Plotkin, 2014). As humans learn to embrace their own wilds, the imaginary boundaries between themselves and the rest of existence dissolve (Bragg, 1996; Devall & Sessions, 1985; Metzner, 1991; Mortali, 2019), allowing for simultaneous healing and rewilding of the human psyche and the more-than-human world (Bekoff, 2014; Roszak, Gomes, & Kanner, 1995).
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