Tag: rewilding

Nature vs. culture or cultured nature?

Yosemite

Scenic landscape of Yosemite Valley. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When most people think of national parks they think of famous examples such as Yellow Stone and Yosemite in the United States or the Serengeti in Tanzania. These parks are large in scale with an emphasis on wild life conservation and the preservation of scenic landscapes.1 Human activity and presence is restricted and regulated and people are mainly visitors. This does not imply that the nature in these places has been untouched by humans. In Yosemite for example there was farming in the past and the management of he park is far from passive. The question is not wether untouched  nature is good and anthropocentric influence on natural systems is less desirable.2  The question is wether we would like to protect nature for the sake of nature or for the benefit of ourselves and other species. It is a question of grades of human interference and impact not one of untouched nature.

In recent years discussions of how to protect nature has been intensified with the debate surrounding the rewilding of landscapes outside of these national parks and some have propose to give more space to nature and restrict human activity.3 A new take on this debate will come from famous biologist E.O. Wilson  in a forthcoming book which proposes to set half of the land surface of the earth apart for wildlife. Unlike some others his take on rewilding is anthropocentric and he does not want exclude people from nature but regards them as an integral part of it.4 This sounds all quite novel but the reality is that in many countries nature conservation and human activity have never been separated like in Yosemite or the Serengeti. Continue reading

Podcast 56: The power of the wild

above_the_sea_of_fog

Wanderer above the sea of fog
contemplating the power of
nature. Separate or part of the
wild? Painting by Caspar David
Friedrich (1774–1840).
Source: Wikipedia.

The power of the wild is an idea that has been important in western thought as a place of refuge or separation where we can feel the power of nature. It is a place where humans are not in control and their power is limited.

Using nature as a category of power creates a dichotomy between humans and nature, which is problematic because humans are very much part of eco-systems in which we live. Is it then valid for historians to invoke models of power dynamics to study past interactions between humans and nature?

This was one of the questions considered at a workshop held at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, England in April 2013. The participants of the workshop also examined if a nature reserve like Wicken Fen can be made wild again, a process called re-wilding. In episode 53 of this podcast series Dolly Jørgensen argued that no re-wilding is needed but that the wild is all around us, even in urban settings.

In this episode of the podcast Paul Warde, reader in history at the University of East Anglia, argues that the experience of the wild is hard to find in an urban environment, even an urban park or in a nature reserve in densely populated England. The question is then if rewilding of an heavily dominated human landscape like Wicken Fen is possible and can be returned to a “wild state”. This desire of rewilding Wicken Fen also led to the question whether such a rewilded area would be truly wild.

Links & sites mentioned in the podcast
Dolly Jørgensen, Reflections on rewilding, Return of Native Nordic Fauna, 30 September 2013. Includes the video mentioned in the podcast.

The Places that Speak to us project website

Paul Warde, The Anthropocene: finding ourselves back in the wilderness. Reflections on the workshop on Re-wilding and Wild Desires at Wicken, 18-19 April 2013

Music credits
Truth and Fact (Orchestral)” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Into The Garden” by Loveshadow, available from ccMixter
Etincelle” by Oursvince, available from Jamendo

Podcast 53: Desire for the Wild – Wild Desires? The trouble with rewilding

Konik ponies

A foal in the Konik pony herd at Wicken Fen.
Photo: Dolly Jørgensen.

It is undeniable that human influence is now felt in almost every ecosystem, region and ocean of the world. As a result wilderness or wild nature is becoming less abundant. In response to this less wild world, landscape and ecosystem restorations are undertaken all over the globe. One of these places is the wetland area of Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, England, where the National Trust is attempting a landscape scale restoration. This programme is not just about restoring but also “rewilding” the landscape. A big part of the Wicken Fen restoration involves the introduction of large grazers: Konik ponies and Highland cattle.

In April a workshop was held at Wicken Fen entitled Desire for the Wild – Wild Desires? Re-wilding in a world of social, environmental and climate change. This workshop considered what “wild” and “rewilding” of nature means and what history can contribute to efforts to rewild and restore landscapes and ecosystems.

Map Wicken Fen

Map of Wicken fen and location.
source: Ordnance Survey, One-inch
to the mile maps of England and Wales,
New Popular Edition, 1945-1947, sheet 135.

The guest on this podcast is is Dolly Jørgensen, a historian of Science and the Environment based at Umeå University in Sweden. Dolly presented a paper at the workshop on how rewilding has been an argument meaning different things to different academic sub-groups, all with a different historical notion of ‘when was wild’. Dolly deconstructs the different meanings of rewilding, and also follows the trail to find wildness all around us.

This podcast is the first of two episodes exploring the Desire for the Wild – Wild Desires? workshop.

Literature mentioned & further reading
William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”, In: William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), pp. 69-90.

Josh Donlan, et al., “Re-wilding North America”, Nature, Vol. 436 (18 August 2005), pp. 913-914.

Josh Donlan, et al., “Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty‐First Century Conservation”,The American Naturalist, Vol. 168, No. 5 (November 2006), pp. 660-681.

Caroline Fraser, Rewilding the World. Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009)

George Monbiot, Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding (London: Allen Lane, 2013)

Ian D. Rotherham, The Lost Fens: England’s Greatest Ecological Disaster (The History Press, 2013)

Relevant web resources
The Return of Native Nordic Fauna – A Research Blog by Dolly Jørgensen

Dolly Jørgensen, Reflections on rewilding, Return of Native Nordic Fauna, 30 September 2013. Includes the video mentioned in the podcast.

The Places that Speak to us project website

Paul Warde, The Anthropocene: finding ourselves back in the wilderness. Reflections on the workshop on Re-wilding and Wild Desires at Wicken, 18-19 April 2013

Carl Elliot Smith, Rewilding: should we introduce lions and Komodo dragons to Australia?, ABC RN Radio, Wednesday 3 July, 2013. Listen also to Future Tense to find out more about the strand of conservation theory known as rewilding.

George Monbiot, My manifesto for rewilding the world, The Guardian, 28 May, 2013.

Also listen to episodes 38 and 40 of Exploring Environmental History Podcast. Both explore the Wicken Fen Vision and the history of the Fens of Cambridgeshire.

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Cm 105 bpm” by Admiral Bob, available from ccMixter

AHRCThe Places that Speak to Us Project and the production of this podcast was funded by the AHRC Landscape & Environment Programme.

This podcast was simultaneously published on the Histories of Environmental Change website.

Podcast 40: Reframing a vision of lost fens

Wicken Fen

The landscape of Wicken Fen
(Photo: Jan Oosthoek)

Wetlands were once common over a large part of eastern England. Of these so-called fens only two percent survives today and most of it is now situated in nature reserves. One of these reserves is Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. It represents a landscape that was once common in the region, combining sedge fens, reed beds and woodland, and was once a major source of food and fuel for local communities. Wicken was one of the very first properties to be bought by the National Trust in 1899. Today Wicken Fen is the focus of a controversial proposal to radically expand the area of managed wetland around the reserve and to return arable land to its former wetland condition. On this podcast we interview Stuart Warrington, Nature Conservation Advisor for the National Trust at Wicken Fen, about these proposed changes and the role of history in recreating the wetlands.

Map Wicken fen

Map of Wicken fen and location.
Source: Ordnance Survey, One-inch
to the mile maps of England and Wales,
New Popular Edition, 1945-1947,
sheet 135.

The second half of the podcast is devoted to a talk delivered by Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University at a two-day workshop organised by the Histories of Environmental Change Network in November 2010. In his talk Ian analyses the attitudes towards the fens over the centuries and how these influenced the desire to drain thousands of square kilometres of wetland. He also considers the rich wild life in these wetlands and what a rich resources these provided for its inhabitants.

Website mentioned
Histories of Environmental Change

Literature cited
Rod Giblett, Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology (Edinburgh University Press, 1996)

T. C. Smout, Nature Contested: Environmental History in Scotland and Northern England since 1600(Edinburgh University Press, 2000)

Music credit
Mechanics in Love (Cue 3) flac Stems” by boomaga
Available from ccMixter
 

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