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