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From darkness back into the light: humanity’s rewilding imperative

Updated: Feb 6

by Joe Gray and Eileen Crist


This editorial was just published in January 2023 by Joe and Eileen, from the editorial team of The Ecological Citizen, introducing an invited special open-access issue of the journal with a partial focus on rewilding. Eileen is a valued board member of Stable Planet Alliance.

See the original full article here, with citation Gray J and Crist E (2023) From darkness back into the light: Humanity’s rewilding imperative. The Ecological Citizen 6(1): 3–8.

Keywords: biodiversity; conservation; ecological restoration; protected areas; rewilding

A section of the Elwha River, after dam removal (photo by Richard Probst [CC BY 2.0;]).

Domestication, extirpation and simplification: These are the drivers of wilderness loss. Through them modern civilization has thrown an asphyxiating cloak over a world where ecological vibrancy, diversity and complexity were once ubiquitous. The magnitude of this many-layered wreckage resists description and perhaps even defies comprehension. What can be stated with a clarion certainty, however, is that accepting the wild’s suffocation as an irreversible reality only intensifies the tragedy. Mercifully, a powerful challenge to such an acceptance comes from a burgeoning fellowship of Earth citizens who are calling for the cloak to be peeled back, so that non-human life has a chance to rebound and the brilliant light of nature’s diversity can shine again. These people, us among them, are proponents of rewilding, which is a uniting theme for many of the pieces in the present issue. These contributions add to a body of content on rewilding that we have brought to readers in recent years, including through our role as co-publisher, in 2020, of the Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth.

Rewilding as reparation

Running through every rewilding initiative is the intent of reparation. This offers a counterpoint to the constant aggressive taking that characterizes civilization’s nature colonialism. Rewilding is giving back to the natural world without tallying what we humans might “get” in return. Considered at a planetary level, it is a wholehearted affirmation to set the Earth free, allowing her full expression of her ecological and evolutionary arts. The battle cries are: Return lost species! Give wildlife safe passage! Free large-scale ecologies! Maximize evolutionary potential!