How can we create a wilder future for the UK?
2021 Fellow and founder of new venture Mosaic, Jon Conradi, explains the power and potential of rewilding in the UK.
When I was young, I used to collect feathers. Like many children, I found birds fascinating and magical. An easy wildness all around, yet just out of reach.
Now I’m grown up, it can be difficult to recapture the magic of life surrounding us. Surprise encounters with foxes and bursts of cherry blossoms can bring it back for a moment, but it is easy to lose sight of the wonder amongst concrete and car horns.
This Sunday is World Rewilding Day, an annual celebration of ‘rewilding’, an idea that is transformative and growing in popularity. Rewilding Britain describes it as “restoring ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself, and restoring our relationship with the natural world.” For me, it is about being able to restore wonder and bring back life into our world.
Yet while the concept is gaining popularity, reconnecting with this magic is more challenging than when I was small. Not only because of more urban distractions, but we are also losing wild land.
Our screens can give us the illusion of wildness out there somewhere, full of magnificent predators and soaring canopies. So it is easy to underestimate how much of the world is actually domesticated. Some stark statistics: Only 4% of mammals are wild, 36% are humans, 60% our livestock, and 70% of birds are poultry. We have created a world where there are significantly more chickens than people.
Wildness and biodiversity enrich our imagination. It is also the basis of much of our economy. One calculation puts the value at over 125 trillion dollars a year, and another describes this as “a serious underestimate of infinity” (Toman,1998).
This is not just about the loss of jungle and savannah far away, but the loss of wildness on our doorstep. There is the sense that the UK is a green and pleasant land. But our concept of green (and pleasant) have changed over time.
Glancing out of car windows, it is easy to mistake blurs of fields and pasture for wildness. In reality, these often support just a handful of species. They are propped up by pesticides and strange financial instruments. The UK is, in fact, one of the most nature depleted countries in Europe. “We have led the world in degrading the natural environment,” as Dr Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum described his research on the Biodiversity Intactness Index.
Yet it is possible to create change. In fact, it can be as simple as leaving the land alone. Or it can involve the careful curation and soft intervention of thousands of acres, such as in Wild Ennerdale.
Exciting projects are springing up all over the UK. From local wildflower meadows to plans to create “one of the world’s biggest and best nature reserves” in East Anglia. Yet if you do not own acres or an estate yourself, you can be left feeling a little impotent. How can you contribute to or connect with this wonder?
I have recently created my own venture: Mosaic Rewilding. My business seeks to act as a catalyst, increasing the land that is being rewilded. We work with landowners to make it easy to start rewilding, a couple of acres at a time. We also work with people who don’t have this land themselves. Instead, they can sponsor a piece of it, enabling and being part of this plot as it is restored and life returns.
The aim is for this to act as a catalyst. We do not only want to restore the wild to our land, but our imagination. Mosaic aims to recapture the magic of seeing and feeling part of the life that teems all around us — taking people on a journey into wildness.
To find out more, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.wildmosaic.eco (coming soon).