Grumpy old birder

Rewil­d­ing our land is vi­tal for fu­ture sur­vival – for us and an­i­mals, says Bo Be­olens

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - Bo Be­olens runs fat­ and other web­sites. He has writ­ten a num­ber of books

Bo Be­olens says the rewil­d­ing of land is vi­tal for the fu­ture sur­vival of all

RE­CENTLY, I’VE BE­COME a com­plete con­vert to the rewil­d­ing move­ment… the urge is not to turn back the clock to some ide­alised, misty-eyed pas­toral utopia, but to try to save the planet and hu­man­ity from ir­re­versible de­cline. The wild world is not an over­sized zoo for us to visit for plea­sure, but a vi­tal re­source to keep planet Earth from de­clin­ing into an arid Mar­tian desert. It’s of­ten said that the rain­for­est is home to thou­sands of undis­cov­ered medicines and mil­lions of un­known plants and in­ver­te­brates. How­ever, more im­por­tantly, wild ar­eas are the lungs and header tank that en­able us to breathe and most of us to drink. Masses of phy­to­plank­ton, kelp and al­gal plank­ton in un­pol­luted seas pro­duce the air we breathe and still hold un­told re­sources and un­found mys­ter­ies. There are great chunks of the un­de­vel­oped world that are not much use as wa­ter­sheds or lungs, be­ing dry desserts and bar­ren moun­tains, yet there is still a lot that is wild. Un­for­tu­nately, as any school­child knows, huge ar­eas dis­ap­pear ev­ery day, burnt to clear land for un­sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and un­nec­es­sary crops like palm oil and corn syrup. What I only found out re­cently is that the pre­vail­ing opin­ion is that, to re­turn the world to a sus­tain­able ecol­ogy, 50% of it should be left wild! It is, of course, easy to rail against sub­sis­tence farm­ers in Mada­gas­car who cut down for­est, just as it is to vent our spleen on multi-na­tion­als that bull­doze rain­for­est to plant palms or burn it to en­cour­age grass­land growth for cat­tle. While I am happy to join that lobby, let’s start here at home. If 50% of the UK was given over to wildlife, great ben­e­fit fol­lows for us all. It doesn’t have to be real wilder­ness, so long as wildlife needs are pri­ori­tised and de­struc­tive an­i­mal hus­bandry or use of chem­i­cals, pes­ti­cides, her­bi­cides and the like are banned. There is room for rough graz­ing in the right places and even some or­ganic, wildlife sen­si­tive hay­mak­ing. While we are at it, let’s in­oc­u­late cat­tle against TB, not slaugh­ter Bad­gers! A to­tal of 13% of our land is used for forestry and it could be far bet­ter man­aged for a more nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. More­over, we could lead the world by tak­ing back the up­lands for de­cid­u­ous wood­land, thus solv­ing many flood­ing is­sues and cre­at­ing nat­u­ral wildlife cor­ri­dors on a ge­o­graph­i­cal scale, as well as up­ping the per­cent­age of Bri­tain that’s now forested to­wards the 30% that it should be! We don’t need grouse moors, nor should we go on sub­si­dis­ing sheep rais­ing where it de­grades the land. If land use is judged with the re-wild­ing yard­stick, there are still ways for peo­ple to make their liv­ing and for us to feed our peo­ple. We could all help by eat­ing meat less of­ten.

Un­for­tu­nately, huge ar­eas dis­ap­pear ev­ery day, burnt to clear land for un­sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and un­nec­es­sary crops like palm oil and corn syrup

WASTE Palm oil plan­ta­tion, Pangkalan Bun, Cen­tral Kal­i­man­tan, Bor­neo

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