Rewilding and health
News around the climate and ecological crisis often seems unfailingly negative and for good reason, as the evidence seems to show we are sleepwalking into an ecological disaster and political will to fix the problem is lacking. The idea of rewilding is one that has gained pace in recent years and has brought hope to many people. Restoring ecosystems might also have profound benefits for human health in ways not yet fully understood.
Spending time in so called “green space” is known to be beneficial to overall health with people who live near a quality green space likely to have better health overall regardless of socioeconomic status.
But why is this? It is more than simply trees and grass being pleasant to look at and making us feel better. Recent research about the effect of the microbiome on overall health and how this is affected by time in nature shows that lack of time in diverse ecosystems might be having a serious negative impact on population health.
The concept of rewilding does not have a one clear definition but most proponents agree it involves giving nature space to recover and allowing ecosystems to regenerate naturally, rather than managing and attempting to control. Rewilding moves away from ideas of tidy landscapes and managing an ecosystem for one particular outcome. Much land in the UK has been intensively managed for years, even some of what we might see as “wild”. In the book Wilding Isobella Tree describes the experience of allowing nature to return to her families farm in Sussex and now Knepp farm is a beacon of rewilding practice for others to see and follow.
The exciting thing about rewilding is you don’t have to have a large plot of land to help nature flourish. Small changes can help rewild urban environments. From letting a corner of your garden go wild with wildflowers to encouraging councils not to mow verges and clear up regenerating scrubland, a change of mindset in the UK can have big differences. We can also encourage others to spend time in natural environments and campaign for laws to prevent pollution and allow public access to wild spaces. Although more people than ever live in urban environments the rewilding movement reminds us we remain enmeshed in the natural environment in ways we do not always fully understand and we must find space for nature space in all our lives.