By Dr Tony Whitbread
Sussex Wildlife Trust President
The ‘Ending the War on Nature’ talks are a partnership between Sussex Wildlife Trust, Shoreham Wordfest, CPRE and the Ropetackle Arts Centre.
Between February and June, there will be a series of five illustrated talks about key environmental issues at the Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea. The first is a talk on Rewilding with Dr Tony Whitbread on 12 February, tickets here.
Our war against nature is something we are in danger of winning!
Our impact on the natural world is now so great that some geologists describe our time as the “Anthropocene” – a geological period dominated by humans. Because of our impact we are now living in the sixth of the earths’ great mass extinctions, greenhouse gases are shooting up and the earths live support systems are in question.
We are crushing the natural world, yet if we crush the natural world, we crush ourselves.
This is the background to a series of Sussex Wildlife Trust talks at Ropetackle Arts Centre at Shoreham.
Conserving nature, in terms of just looking after what is left, is no longer enough. The damage is so great that we now must rebuild whole systems. One way of doing this is rewilding – the subject of the first in the series of our talks.
This is part of the positive side of the environmental agenda. In Sussex we have some of the best examples of rewilding, not only in our own nature reserves but also at Knepp, a private estate with a 3,500 acre rewilding project.
Rewilding is the restoration of nature through the restoration of the natural processes that drive nature – encouraging nature to function for itself with lower intervention from humans.
Leave nature to itself and trees grow, eventually to form a forest. But alongside this is impact from large animals who browse trees and open up the forest. It is the interaction between tree growth on one hand and browsing / grazing on the other that creates diversity in nature. Today, however, the large grazing animals that were present in our landscape are extinct or missing. So, rewilding projects aim to reintroduce species that drive nature (such as beavers) or use domestic proxies (like cattle, deer and pigs) for the wild animals that would have been there in the days before humans.
This first presentation will look at what we mean by rewilding and its relevance to nature conservation, ecosystem restoration and our own health and wellbeing.