It’s no secret that preserving and restoring wilderness areas is good for ecosystems, but a new study has pinpointed another major benefit to rewilding. According to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, rewilding, or preserving and restoring wildlife and wilderness areas, could improve natural carbon sinks in ecosystems, therefore boosting natural methods of carbon capture and helping the world limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists studied nine wildlife species for the study: marine fish, whales, sharks, gray wolves, wildebeest, sea otters, musk oxen, African forest elephants and American bison.
Land change is a scientific term you’re not likely to hear in mainstream climate conversation, which is a shame, because what it refers to, the climatic effects of human damage to living landscapes, is a big part of the climate crisis. I talk in greater detail about land change and how it got left out of the climate narrative in an earlier Resilience piece, called Putting the Land Back in Climate. Here, I want to consider the effects of this omission, not only in the practical terms of climate policy, but in terms less definitive. What does it mean to our treatment of the land that it’s gotten left out of our picture of climate? Or another way of putting it: how does not knowing that our local landscapes hydrate, cool and stabilize our climates affect our relationship with those landscapes, or lack thereof?
We are animals. While human beings often repress this basic fact, the novel coronavirus has revealed our connection to and dependence on the well-being of other creatures. In various ways, our disregard for other species led to and worsened this pandemic. To mount an adequate response—and to prevent future disasters—we need to start taking animals into consideration. Like countless fearsome diseases, including Ebola and AIDS, COVID-19 is zoonotic in origin, meaning it jumped from one species to another (likely from bats to humans).
Well-shorn lawns are still the norm on the grounds of parks, schools, churches, hospitals, business parks and neighborhoods. While better than exposed bare earth, such swaths of green are still environmental minefields. Rain flushes dog poop, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals from those grassy surfaces into local streams. The springtime spreading of fertilizer to keep grass thick and green is a troublesome source of nutrients that are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay. Close-cropped grass grows from compacted dirt that doesn’t soak up much stormwater. The short, monoculture grass has no wildlife value. The army of lawnmowers needed to keep the grass cut to socially acceptable length emits air pollution at three times the rate of automobiles. And keeping everything a tidy green eats up mowing dollars that could be better spent on the missions of churches, schools and the like.