George Monbiot: “Let’s let ecological processes rip”

By ‘rewilding’ nature and society we can forge a hopeful path through modern crises, said the journalist, speaking at Wilderness festival

By allowing nature to grow wild and engaging with the natural world and each other, we can create a positive response to the environmental and social crises we face, claimed journalist George Monbiot, speaking at Wilderness festival in Oxfordshire this morning.

Calling for a ‘rewilding’ of the UK, large areas of land should be left alone to grow wild, he said, so that we can “let ecological processes rip,” and allow nature to bring itself into balance and thrive.

The journalist and author of Feral explained that the conditions we try to preserve in the natural world are often based on the conditions of an area when it was first designated as protected. He claimed that usually these habitats – such as moorland heather – were originally created by agriculture, and the ‘invasive species’ we are stopping are in fact largely just trees.

“It’s absurd that we spend millions abroad to try protecting the rainforest from cattle ranching, and yet here we spend millions preserving what agricultural grazing created,” he said.

“We get locked down on a point in history, usually about 100 years in the past,” as our reference point for habitat health he said, but actually Britain’s ecosystems were largely influenced by mega fauna, including elephants. “We live in an elephant adapted ecosystem – the elephant in the forest is the elephant in the room,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience in the Secret Forum tent.

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“I’m looking into the future,” he continued. “Rewilding gives us a chance to bring back something very important: hope.”

Speaking out against “monoculture society and it’s focus on economic growth,” Monbiot said he wanted to keep the public mind open.

The neoliberal economic model continues to trudge forward “like the undead,” because of political backing and corporate lobbying he said. But, he added: “we all have an attraction to the magnificence of the natural world and each other,” saying that we also need a rewilding of society.

“What rewilding offers us, alongside ecological benefits, is the possibility that we can replace our ‘silent spring’ with a raucous summer.”

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