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Rewilding and Modern Culture

There is a predominant attitude in both urban and rural communities that the perfect yard is the one that looks like a golf course.  Green grass without dandelions or any other weeds, all trimmed to the same height, is perceived by most as perfection regardless of the chemicals needed to achieve the look.  Even during times of extreme drought it is normal for some to do anything including trucking water to keep it green. Given this predominate cultural norm it is considered extreme and even radical to support rewilding but none-the-less the movement is growing.

Rewilding does not have to be radical or abnormal. It is simply giving back spaces to allow Nature to thrive and may include reintroducing species.

The Rewilding Institute of North America, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, states its mission is:

“To develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America, particularly the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movement, and to offer a bold, scientifically-credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization in North America.”



  1. to reverse the process of domestication.
  2. to return to a more wild or self-willed state.


At home it is stated:

Rewilding means restoring ancestral ways of living that create greater health and well-being for humans and the ecosystems that we belong to. Many things lead people to rewilding — concern over ecological collapse or economic uncertainty, health problems, a nagging sense of something missing in life, or a desire to “save the world” — but from those starting points we come together in a desire to rewild our homes, our communities, and ourselves. Rewilding learns from the examples of indigenous people past and present provided by anthropology, archaeology, and ethnobiology. It means returning to our senses, returning to ourselves, and coming home to the world we never stopped belonging to.

My Mother was the first one who educated me on what it meant to rewild your own back yard.   In sharp contrast to her sister who lived next door and had highly structured and cultivated gardens, Mom decided she would include brush piles, a stinky Lotus Pond in her yard architecture. She allowed overgrowth in certain areas in order to nurture wildlife.  She learned about the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat certification program and maintained her own certification proudly in a frame in her office for all to see.     She constantly faced criticism and challenges from her sister who would actually sneak over with her big bottle of Roundup to kill off what she thought were unsightly weed piles.  It was a never ending battle for Mom who lived in a very rural area.  But what I learned from her I brought home to the city and hope to share with others.

One of the most important elements for rewilding any environment is water.  Most creatures need water.  In a rural setting it’s not unusual for farms to have ponds or creeks but in an urban center it’s much more difficult for wild creatures including birds and insects to find water.  Ecosystems need species diversity to really thrive so having water is critical.   It is popular to put out bird feeders but less so for water feeders yet there are many options such as normal birdbaths, hanging bird waterers or birdbaths,  or other yard water ornaments and features.  It can be a wonderful feeling to see lots of different creatures sharing a water source.

Creatures need shelter and food as well.  There is the myth that you should not feed animals because it attracts them and all their kin.  The truth is that the animals are already there.  If they are desperate enough they will search in places you may not prefer they invade.  If you start to provide and then abruptly leave off giving water and food they may temporarily search but will eventually move on to try and satisfy their needs. These creatures deserve to live in these spaces as much as we do.  That may be considered a radical notion but we are all members of the same tree of life. We all have a name in the animal kingdom.  The brutal truth is we developed land which should be shared by all of us.  Is it not our moral responsibility to give back?

Animals are not all that there is to rewilding.  The importance of flora to all of us cannot be understated.  It’s time to plant more in our yards including precious weeds, for example  Milkweed  which is critical to monarch butterflies. But it is trees we need more of so instead of cutting down that tree, plant more.  If you must cut down a tree, replant one in it’s place. Don’t just cut down a tree because it blocks your view or you worry about it hurting your home.

I had a disturbing experience when I discovered a neighbor had cut down a tree in the back corner of my yard while I had temporarily been living elsewhere and the tenant in my house did not notice or realize what had happened.  When I returned the neighbor came to visit and asked to cut down another tree so she could get some sun on the garden she’d chosen to put in that back corner of her yard.  She had numerous other options for her garden but wanted it in that particular place.  I pointed out that with the changing movement of the Sun over the course of the season there would never be adequate sunlight for full sun plants to grow in that particular location.  She disagreed and walked away quite unhappy with my decision to not allow the tree be cut down.  She also seemed completely unaware of the irony of her making her request on Earth Day.

My neighbor on the other side was also insisting I cut down some of my trees. She claimed that the squirrels were using it to get on her roof and into her attic.  Seriously.  It’s time to think about what is being cut down and for what reason. Not just at home but by cities and other officials.  It’s time to cultivate, reuse, and rewild for all our sake.  It’s time to educate and share why such notions are invalid.  For this particular neighbor I pointed out she had many trees of her own which a squirrel could easily use to gain access to the roof and perhaps she could get some help appropriately sealing up her attic.

There are those who believe we need to rewild ourselves. From March 27, 2015 Huffington Post:

“ReWilding is — in its essence — a celebration of our natural selves,” Vitalis told The Huffington Post. “It is about living a life aligned with our biology and experiencing the sheer pleasure of fulfilling our biological drives.”

Put more simply, ReWilding is about getting in touch with our “caveman” sides: hunting and gathering, spending time in the sun, drinking water from from natural streams and bathing in hot springs, to name a few ReWilding options.

So, who’s trying ReWilding? Vitalis tells HuffPost that the ReWilding movement has about 100,000 followers. Although the majority of Vitalis’ followers are between 18 and 34 years old, some are over 70.

Actress Shailene Woodley has spoken about the ReWilding lifestyle, and writer Eliza Krigman wrote a story about her month of ReWilding for the January issue of Marie Claire.

This sort of rewilding would be very good for all of the Earth’s ecosystems.  Unfortunately you will most likely put your health at risk if you “drink water from a natural stream” in most places in this day and age.  But the notion of rewilding ourselves is a healthy one and helps to combat the growing fear of Nature that is being seen in children in the USA.  And not just children but also their parents and others who have completely lost touch with the natural world and only see it as a threat.  When did we become so saturated with fear for all things?

Please consider rewilding your spaces.  There are thousands of ideas and approaches.  Just check out some videos on the topic on YouTube.  And remember, it isn’t just about changing your space, it’s changing attitudes; yours, your friends and family, your neighbors, and our culture in general.  It is vital for the health and well being of all of us and it is the one thing we could all have in common, the one thing that could unite us in these very challenging times.

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  1. Make Your Yard (or School Grounds or Office Building) a Wildlife Haven – Cool Green Science – Earth Network .news


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