Rewilding is not exactly a new idea. It's a progressive form of conservation that lets nature take care of itself. A few weeks ago Nichamon wrote an article on this blog on what it means to rewild our urban environments. Rewilding isn’t limited to natural landscapes. In fact, it isn’t even limited to conservation. Despite our efforts to distance ourselves from nature, we are intimately tied to the natural world. That means we can also rewild ourselves.
What does human rewilding look like though? One person who would know is Peter Michael Bauer. He’s the founder of Rewild Portland; an organisation aimed at fostering resilience through rewilding practices. He defines the act of rewilding as
“a return to a more wild or self-willed state; the process of undoing domestication.”
But, what does it mean to undomesticate humans? Human rewilding asks what caused nature to lose its autonomy. This is directly linked to human structures and narratives within society. Rewilding looks at how to dismantle these structures. In the process, we may be able to undomesticate humans and society. In this way, rewilding isn’t a single act or practice. It’s a lens from which to view the world.
That means rewilding will depend on the place and culture we find ourselves in. Regardless of where you find yourself, questioning and reconsidering all aspects of your life is fundamental to rewilding. From the way we work and play, to the way to socialise and build community, there is always the opportunity to rewild.
How to Rewild Yourself
1. Live with Less
Anyone can tell that our habits of production and consumption are unsustainable. The standard we have set in the Global North is not a norm that can continue. We buy, sell and consume without a second thought. All of this has led to irreversible environmental damage. Choosing to live with less may not only lessen this impact, but give us access to something infinitely more valuable.
Under our current structures, consuming is at the heart of all that we do. This product will make me happier, this thing will make me my “best” self. We are brought up with this norm, and we very rarely get the chance to question it. Rewilding asks us to rethink this idea. We can do this through voluntary simplicity.
Voluntary Simplicity is the understanding that fulfilment does not come from consuming. As Samuel Alexander, creator of the Simplicity Collective says:
“voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.”
Simplicity helps us redirect our time and energy towards non-materialistic things. In turn, this will lead to greater fulfilment that is not reliant on unsustainable systems of consumption. It might be artistic pursuits, community engagement, spiritual enlightenment, or even relaxing - a radical act in today's world. Whatever it is, it comes with the realisation that perhaps, material possessions are not all they cracked up to be.
2. Connect with Nature
This one might seem obvious, but stick with me. It’s one thing to go into nature. It’s another to connect with it.
Practices like forest bathing are growing a lot in popularity. We know that spending time in nature is good for us. But that’s using nature as a means to an end. It doesn’t properly see nature as something valuable. Connecting with nature requires something entirely different.
To do that, rewilding relies on place-based education. This involves understanding the natural geography and history of your local nature. From here you can build trust between you and your environment. You can understand the way it works, how it shifts and adapts, and how you can help restore it.
Foraging, off-grid living, and ecological education are just some of the activities that encourage this connection. The idea is to build ecologically-based resilience against growing environmental problems. Rather than looking solely at technological solutions, we can work with nature to overcome the climate crisis.
3. Build Community Connection
Rewilding looks to build alternative systems to those that have caused significant environmental destruction. But this can’t be done alone. It has to be a collaborative effort where all people contribute. That’s why building community is vital to rewilding.
If you want to rewild yourself, start by reaching out to others. Find people who are looking at alternative ways of living. Maybe someone in your area wants to start a local Co-op. Another might be starting a community garden to reclaim food sovereignty. Or perhaps there are others like you, simply waiting for the chance to rewild themselves. They are simply looking for the opportunity to do so.
Rewilding is difficult when we work within the systems that are causing environmental destruction. By building connections in your local community, you are exposed to the diverse knowledge and experience that exists around you. It’ll tie you closer to your home and help strengthen your community. Forming connections with those around us can help us create new systems. One’s that aren’t reliant on the constant destruction of our natural world.
4. Practice Rituals
One of the trickiest parts of rewilding is that it requires you to oppose many of the norms we have today. Humans are social creatures. We want to follow our fellow humans. When everyone is going one way, it isn't easy to go another.
Creating rituals can help us practice better rewilding habits. They allow us to take up space and divert from the paths we find ourselves on. By taking time out of our day, week or even year, we can begin to form the practices necessary to begin rewilding ourselves.
You might decide to celebrate the cycle of the seasons to recognise their significance to us. Perhaps you take time every week to learn how to forage, connecting with local flora. Or actively decide to spend Sundays at your community garden, educating yourself on off-grid practices. These acts - while small - help to reinforce a rewilding mindset. This is then carried into our everyday lives. It allows us to defy the circumstances we find ourselves in, hoping that we can improve.
For more rewilding rituals, I recommend the book Rewild Yourself, by Simon Barnes. Not only does it offer unique rewilding tips to connect with nature, but it will also open your eyes to wildness itself.
Why Rewilding is Important
Rewilding helps us to challenge the norms of our daily lives. Overconsumption, excess luxury, convenience and a disconnect from nature, are all symptoms of a broken system. In order to move beyond these harmful ways, we have to rethink the structures of our societies.
By rewilding ourselves, we can recognise what it means to be truly human. We can shift our perspective to one that prioritises human flourishing. Not only in a way that benefits all humans, but the natural world too. What exactly that looks like is hard to say. It first requires us to question and challenge our everyday lives. From here an ecologically stable and fair society becomes possible.