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Campus Rewilding in the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-30)

Sun 25th September 2022 - Blog Posts, Schools and early learning & childcare settings

LfSS Steering Group member Duncan Zuill shares more about his campus rewilding project. This is an update from his last LfSS blog post.

In 2017, I convinced my school of the value of a campus rewilding project. 10 acres (2 hectares) of our campus is presently growing wild. . Biodiversity has been partially restored: common green grasshoppers, common darters (a red dragonfly), mallard ducks and black sexton beetles are here now because we have repaired broken habitats on our campus. These species found this year had not been seen on our campus in previous years. Our little ecosystem has been partially restored. 2021-30 is the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, so I feel like I’m on to something.

People do grow plants – but plants also grow people. We now understand more about the connection between campus vegetation and mental well-being. Recent studies have shown the positive contribution that greenery and wildlife make.

Recent books such as The Well Gardened Mind, The Natural Health Service, Rewilding Childhood and projects such as Incredible Edible, Knepp Wildland and Earthwatch Europe’s Tiny Forests Project now afford a compelling consensus that restoring habitat in and around towns and schools is hugely beneficial.

From an exotic pot plant on a desk to a native forest sheltering the whole community; plants improve Life.

I first encountered rewilding on Facebook as a battle ground between hunters and animal rights activists.

If that’s your experience, please put your phone away. I’ve started to understand rewilding better thanks to Cain Blythe & Paul Jepson’s book on the subject. It’s not just about beavers and wolves. ‘Rewilding: the Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery’ is very informative and I’m glad I paid the extra for the picture-book version. It brings research evidence to what Isabella Tree experienced and described in her fascinating book about Knepp Wildland. Put on the spot, I think rewilding is the reconstruction of an ecosystem that sustains itself where people live responsibly enough not to make a mess of it.

The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration is going to be a time of rewilding, and rewilding presents us with a new set of learning experiences. For rewilding costs almost nothing, and it changes our values in a scientifically-informed way. It is so sustainable that it exists outside of our grant-driven, GDP-centred, capitalist mindsets. Rewilding is all about growth and benefits but, like life itself, it is very hard to monetise and value it. That day might come and the term ‘rewilding millionaire’ will enter our lexicon.

Until then, we’ll look after our grasshoppers and beetles. We are sustainably developing a new biodiversity on our barren school playing fields.

Further Reading.

Rewilding: the Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery (2020) by Cain Blythe & Paul Jepson

Rewilding Childhood: Raising Children who are Adventurous, Resilient and Free (2022) By Mike Fairclough

The Natural Health Service: How Nature Can Mend Your Mind (2021) by Isabel Hardman

The Well Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature (2020) by Sue Stuart-Smith.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm (2019) by Isabella Tree.