Apocalyptic visions are getting harder and harder to ignore in the 21st century; they’re embedded densely in popular culture, the media frequently leans towards intense catastrophic fear-mongering, and many experts are espousing troubling theories about the nearing end-times, including the man who conceived of the ‘Gaia’ hypothesis, James Lovelock.
Instead of spurring a drive towards correction, this kind of embedded fear has all too often led to frantic action and bizarre offsetting of fear; Slavoj Žižek observes that in the face of impending sea level rises and the loss of both ice caps, people are instead attracted to (and fed by the media) stories about possible carbon-saving boat travel across the newly created Arctic sea, or the possiblility of Antarctica as an entirely new plain to colonise. This impedes the kind of radical environmental action massively; people are either happy to continue with business as usual or are too pessimistic to do anything proactive.
Rewilding is definitely proactive and radical; it suggests a drastic change in our approach to natural landscapes to just leave them be, or to reinstate vital aspects of ecosystems that we have helped eradicate (such as large predators) to enable them to be self-sufficient. Many, including George Monbiot in his seminal book on rewilding in Britain, entitled Feral, espouse human-oriented arguments that delve into the spiritual and the economic. I believe that, especially in the case of humans becoming extinct, rewilding is essential simply for the planet.
As the global landscape stands, especially in Europe, where there are animals, there are fences. We alone can permeate these fences; we bring the animals their feed, we rake away their droppings. The space animals, especially livestock, are allowed to occupy is a liminal space, often without natural function. The same can be observed in some ‘wild’ and natural spaces; conservation organisations created ‘natural disturbance’ to manage the lives of the animals therein, also most likely fenced in. What happens to these animals when we die?
Presumably, they also die. Without a supply of food, surrounded by their own muck and often separated from breeding partners, these animals will die, and rot, and provide food for the scavenging few that can even make it past the fence such as birds or insects. If this was a rewilded or truly wild space, it would be self-sufficient and naturally functioning. Animal carcasses would of course be present in the landscape, but they would be integrated into the natural processes present just as should occur in the wilderness. Species can roam, breed, interact, spread, just as animals and plants naturally do; they are fluid.
Although the lifetime of a fence is far greater than their own lives, the chance we would give them to be able to live and breed for generations yet to come before the fence finally falls is still a whole lot better than the meagre chance afforded to our pets, zoo occupants, livestock, pitiful nature reserves. To not think of the lives of those we implicate in our own past our species’ extinction is as absurd as assuming that when you die, everyone else dies. Besides, through proactive rewilding, we might even solve some of the apocalyptic issues currently plaguing our planet such as carbon emissions, deforestation, and the terrifying loss of biodiversity the world over.