“It’s a human-centred initiative”

Life next door to jaguars, ecological restoration in the heart of the city, and our best books of 2021.

“It’s a human-centred initiative”
Bees foraging on asters in a Toronto garden. Photo by Kat Tancock.

How do we restore relationship?

A recurring theme in rewilding stories is the human-nature connection. To what degree are humans part of the wild – or apart from it? How does the culture we grow up in affect our kinship with nature? And how can we shift societies to be more in touch with the natural world?

While “wilderness” is generally seen as sparsely populated and remote, more than 80 percent of people in countries like Canada and the U.S. live in cities. So for Peter Ewins of Project Swallowtail, urban ecological initiatives are an important way to kickstart a keener awareness of nature, be it in a city parkette or in a rewilded backyard. See his story below.

Of course, living closer to nature also has its risks, especially when it comes to large predators. In the United States, that inventory of animals now includes jaguars, which are moving back home after a long absence. We've republished an article from The Revelator on how to make that coexistence work.

Plus, for yourself or for gifts, we've rounded up all our recommended reads of the year. Have a look, and hit reply to let us know what we should read in 2022.

Stay well and stay wild,

Domini Clark and Kat Tancock, editors

How we’re rewilding: Peter Ewins, Project Swallowtail

Peter Ewins of Project Swallowtail holding a newly planted tree and a shovel

How do you get city dwellers to care about biodiverse, nature-led ecosystems? According to this former WWF staffer, urban naturalization projects can be an important first step.

Read the interview

Some of them were new this year, some of them are oldies-but-goodies. All 15 are worthy additions to your rewilding-adjacent bookshelf or your gift-giving list.

Read the list

Jaguars are returning to the U.S. Here’s what we need to make coexistence work.

A jaguar walking along a sandbank with green plants and shrubs in the background
A young male jaguar walking on a sandbank in Brazil. Photo by Bernard Dupont.

We can live and even raise livestock successfully in a landscape with jaguars – if we do it right. In 25 years of jaguar-related work, this is what I’ve learned.

Read the story

“The land means everything to my people. There is no distinction between my being and the soul of the Earth and trees and water. I had been angry for years by the time I took my place in the fight against the tar sands. Injustice makes anyone angry. But the violation of the tar sands is not just injustice. It was personal.”
Clayton Thomas-Müller, Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing

What will it take for humans to confront – and counteract – the devastating losses faced by the natural world in the Anthropocene? It’s this question and more that U.K. writer Karen Lloyd addresses in Abundance: Nature in Recovery, visiting destinations across Britain and Europe to immerse herself in lush landscapes of ecological restoration while grappling with the mental uncertainties of living with the effects of climate change.

cover image of the book Abundance: Nature in Recovery by Karen Lloyd

The questions Lloyd raises are worthy, but where this book truly excels is in its depictions of the people working on the ground to protect and recover endangered species and habitats, among them pelicans in Greece, capercaillies in fragmented Scottish forests and bears, wolves and lynx in logging-threatened regions of Romania. “The team keeps going because not to keep going is to abandon hope,” Lloyd writes of a group working to save meadow adders in Hungary. “They do this because they understand that, in the face of the alternative, this – for now – is enough.”

We encourage you to borrow Abundance: Nature in Recovery from your local library or purchase from an independent bookstore.

Elsewhere in rewilding

Melting permafrost is a huge potential source of greenhouse gases, and scientist Sergei Zimov and his son Nikita have been working for decades in remote Siberia to counteract the thaw by introducing large herbivores to encourage grassland development and tamp down snow. Could their plan be working?

Decades of ill-advised fire suppression are among the many contributors toward the recent huge wildfires in western North America. In southern British Columbia this winter, the Penticton Indian Band is using traditional syilx methods of prescribed burning to help prevent future catastrophic fires.

In order to rewild successfully, we need all the space we can get. One source of competition is solar power arrays, which are often installed on “empty” land. A possible solution? Putting solar installations on parking lots, instead. Bonus: the canopies created provide shade for cars and people, too.

Roads and highways are a major source of wildlife deaths, and many jurisdictions have created bridges and underpasses to help animals cross safely. In mountainous southeastern British Columbia, work has begun on “the most ambitious wildlife crossing system ever attempted in Canada outside a national park”: nine crossings over 36 kilometres of highway, including one overpass 50 metres wide.

In Finland, where those involved in fishing have been noticing the repercussions of global heating since the 1980s, a cooperative called Snowchange is rewilding former peat production sites while giving indigenous and traditional communities both ownership and agency.

Rewilding team loves

👩‍🎨 Domini is obsessed with moths (truly), so lately she's been debating whether to purchase another lovely faux taxidermy creation by Aleah Ford. She only drops new products occasionally, and they sell quickly, so start following her on Instagram if you're interested.

🇳🇿 If you’re looking for something delicious to bake, Kat highly recommends these colourful Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits (cookies) by recipe developer Erin Clarkson. They’re her homemade take on the store-bought cookies beloved in New Zealand for their pink icing covered in “hundreds and thousands” (what many of us know as sprinkles).

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