Today is the World Wildlife Day. Today, there is less wildlife on our planet than at any time in the history of the human race. The degradation of the natural world and the disappearance of species is being so fast that we are experiencing a phenomenon known as mass extinction, something that has only been happening for the sixth time since the existence of life on earth. This new geological era, marked by the impact of the human being, has already been baptized as the anthropocene.
In Portugal, the sharp decline in the number of wild species is clearly visible to anyone who makes the effort to observe our protected areas and the species that stand out, either due to their rarity or their absence in the landscapes. From the reports and chronicles of the past, we know that wildlife was much more diverse and abundant, and that today this abundance and diversity is lacking in our landscapes. The reasons that led to this decline are known, and it is now urgent, based on this knowledge, to start recovering what has been lost. This process of bringing nature back, we call it rewilding.
At the same time, we know today, more than ever, that all forms of life on earth are in full interdependence and co-development. Applied Ecology allows us, with simple and recognized tools, to recover degraded and impoverished species ecosystems, creating opportunities for nature to regenerate and the wildlife to return.
Today, wildlife survives in hidden places that have escaped the threats and impacts caused by long and painful years of human arrogance, with our economies based on deterministic reasons and the belief in continuous progress, without caring about the other forms of life with whom we share life and existence on this planet.
World Wildlife Day celebrates these other forms of life, but their simple evocation it’s not enough. It is necessary for human societies to understand how interdependent we are all in this planetary hostel that revolves around the sun.
We need to be humble and dignified as a species in order to recognize the harm we have caused and which we are still causing, as well as the historic opportunity that presents itself to not only to elect a Wildlife Day a year or a decade, but rather to make a commitment to the future generations to provide them with a more abundant world of wildlife and a human habitat that benefits from the quality of the surrounding nature.
The climate crisis threatens us all, and we depend on ecosystem support networks, and on the regeneration capacity of the natural world to adapt and harmonize with the changes already caused. It is here that the human being must be humble enough to trust in the intrinsic capacity of nature that is sometimes so difficult for us to understand and respect.
The cultural and socio-economic context in which we live also brings together all the conditions necessary for us to make the necessary changes to live more sustainably. Decades of population decline in Europe’s rural and marginal areas, and in the face of successive crises, it has not resulted in a massive return to the countryside for a generalized subsistence economy. On the contrary, agricultural land with poor aptitude has been relegated to abandonment which, from the point of view of wildlife, is a unique opportunity to ensure their return.
This process of rural abandonment in Portugal is creating a unique opportunity to bring nature and wildlife back to our country. It is not enough to protect what has not yet been destroyed. It is time to restore our natural heritage on a large scale. On this World Wildlife Day, it’s time to acknowledge that the time has come to bring wildlife back.
Rewilding Portugal’s Team Leader