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For the Wild, 6: Rewilding Our Hearts in the Rage of Humanity

Wildlands Network published For the Wild in 2017 to celebrate 25 years of reconnecting nature in North America.  Every couple of weeks, we’ll be posting a new excerpt from this inspiring collection of prose, poetry, and photographs as a special feature on our website. Please join the Rewilding Society or our Wildlands Stewards giving circle to receive a bound copy of For the Wild. Visit our Donate page to learn more.

Rewilding Our Hearts in the Rage of Humanity

by Marc Bekoff

A fish with shiny skin and a purple tint jumps out of smooth water.
Coho salmon in a still inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest on the central coast of British Columbia. Photo: David Moskowitz

THE WORD REWILDING became an essential part of talk among conservationists in the 1990s, after Michael Soulé and Reed Noss published the now-classic paper “Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation.” The core words associated with rewilding projects are connection and connectivity, or the establishment of links among geographical areas so that animals can roam with few, if any, disruptions to their movements. Ecosystems must be connected to maintain or re-establish their integrity and wholeness.

I see “rewilding our hearts” as a dynamic personal journey and transformative exploration that not only fosters the development of corridors of coexistence and compassion for wild animals, but also facilitates connections between our hearts and our brains. In turn, these connections—or reconnections—result in actions that make the lives of animals better. Rewilding is all about unleashing our hearts in a way that also enhances our own integrity and wholeness. It’s about reconnecting from the inside out.

In his book Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding, George Monbiot recalls how, by watching salmon fly through the air, he became enraptured and felt as if he “had passed through the invisible wall that separated me from the ecosystem, as if I were no longer a visitor to that place but an inhabitant. [. . .] It was then that I realized that a rewilding, for me, had already begun.”

If we’re going to make the world a better place now and for the future, personal rewilding—which involves undoing the unwilding that results in alienation from other animals, their homes, and also ourselves—is central to the process. Rewilding our hearts will entail a major paradigm shift in how we view and live in the world, as well as in how we behave. And we must include youngsters, for they are ambassadors to the future. Personal rewilding can easily become a cultural meme that will spread from person to person and to future generations. Compassion and empathy are very contagious.

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