Global Charter for Rewilding the EarthAdvancing nature-based solutions to the extinction and climate crises
This Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth was developed by experts within the global conservation community preparing for the 11th World Wilderness Congress. WILD11 was scheduled to convene in Jaipur, India, 19–26 March 2020, but was indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Charter was subsequently approved by the WILD11 Resolutions Committee on behalf of the delegates.
We believe that the world can be more beautiful, more diverse, more equitable, more wild. We believe that nature’s innate resilience, bolstered by human care, can initiate an era of planetary healing. In that future time when the world
is whole and healthy, undammed rivers will run to the sea, their estuaries teeming with life. Following ancient patterns, whales and warblers will migrate unmolested through sea and sky. From tiny phytoplankton to tallest redwoods, all Earth’s creatures will be free to pursue lives of quality, and humanity will thrive amidst nature’s abundance.
We must keep wild that which is still wild and accelerate rewilding efforts in areas that have been diminished. By creating an interconnected system of wild habitats capable of supporting life’s full variety and richness—implemented through voluntary, participatory actions of individuals, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and governments—degraded lands and waters
will be restored. Such a system would support human welfare by contributing to climate stability, clean air and water, pollination services, beauty, physical and mental health, moral satisfaction, and other life-supporting services that undergird flourishing human communities.
Rewilding Definition and Application
Rewilding means helping nature heal. Rewilding means giving space back to wildlife and returning wildlife back to the land, as well as to the seas. Rewilding means the mass recovery of ecosystems and the life-supporting functions they provide. Rewilding means restoring and protecting specific places—on land and in the ocean—where nature is free to direct the ebb and flow of life. Rewilding is about allowing natural processes to shape whole ecosystems so that they work in all their colorful complexity to give life to the land and the seas. Such wild lands and waters are critical to sustain ecological vitality by supporting intact food webs and natural processes.
Rewilding is also about the way we think. It is about understanding that we are one species among many, bound together in an intricate web of life that ties us to the atmosphere, the weather, the tide, the soils, the freshwater, the oceans, and all living creatures on the planet.
Tools for rewilding include well-established conservation tactics such as designating national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and marine protected areas; securing habitat connectivity (“wildlife corridors”) between protected areas; promoting human/wildlife coexistence; making infrastructure, especially highways, more permeable to wildlife movement; restoring degraded forests, grasslands, mangroves, coral reefs, and other natural communities; removing unnecessary dams and roads; reestablishing populations of “keystone” species including apex predators such as gray wolves, big cats, and sharks; but it is particularly about eliminating or mitigating ecological wounds so that natural processes can rebound. Opportunities abound to apply these and other conservation tools to help sustain and restore wildness in places that reflect the variety of conditions covering the globe, from highly manipulated landscapes such as cities and farmlands to remaining large wild areas.
To adequately address the climate emergency and extinction crisis, humanity must implement nature-based solutions with unprecedented urgency. Wild forests, grasslands, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, seagrasses, and sea shelf sediments already pull vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it naturally in vegetation and soil, and restoration will greatly amplify this ability. Intact habitats are similarly crucial to maintaining biological diversity, the array of lifeforms with which we share the Earth.
The healing powers of nature are extraordinary but not unlimited. The innate resilience of ecosystems, bolstered by active interventions of an engaged citizenry, offers a practical, hopeful path toward solving the foremost challenges of our time, with benefits for humans and all our relatives in the community of life.
Principles for Rewilding
The ecosphere is based on relationships
Rewilding our hearts and minds is fundamental. Thus, a crucial first step toward widespread societal embrace of rewilding is to accept, celebrate, and activate the principle of “relationship,” the essential function and ethic that sustains life on Earth.
Making hopeful stories come to life
Rewilding is about telling the story of a richer, more vital future but also about executing successful projects—empowering others to support and join this movement by demonstrating positive results.
Embracing natural solutions and thinking creatively
Rewilding can help solve environmental, social, and economic problems. Conservationists should design and implement rewilding projects in ways that are ambitious, innovative, proactive, strategic, opportunistic, and entrepreneurial.
Protecting the best, rewilding the rest
Conserving the most intact remaining habitats and key biodiversity areas35 as well as working to recover lost interactions of nature at all levels and restore habitat connectivity in land- and seascapes at every scale, shows the complementarity of rewilding and traditional approaches to nature protection.
Letting nature lead
As in medicine, rewilding efforts should emphasize helping nature’s inherent healing powers gain strength, with the goal that management interventions would decline or cease over time. Humility will allow us to cede control, enabling restored natural processes to shape dynamic land- and seascapes of the future.
Working at nature’s scale
Natural systems operate at many scales continuously. Similarly, global rewilding efforts can work place by place, incrementally and at various scales to rebuild wildlife diversity and abundance and allow natural processes, such as disturbance and dispersal, to create resilience in natural and social systems.
Taking the long view
To ensure sustained positive effects on biodiversity and quality of ecosystem services (such as carbon storage), rewilding efforts must be planned and implemented with a long-term perspective.
Building local economies
Creating, expanding, and restoring natural areas with abundant wildlife can provide new opportunities to create economic vitality and generate livelihoods linked to nature’s vitality.
Recalling ecological history and acting in context
Successful rewilding efforts are informed by deep knowledge of the environmental and cultural history of particular places. Working within the social, biological, and physical realities of a territory will foster successful rewilding outcomes.
Evidence-based adaptive management
Learning from others, using the best-available evidence, gathering and sharing data, and having the confidence to learn from failure will lead to success and grow the institutional capacity of the rewilding community.
In the way that public/private collaboration has helped to expand protected areas, private initiative can catalyze public actions from governments at every scale, from local to national, so that economic and institutional frameworks provide increasing incentives for rewilding.
Working together for the good of ourselves and nature
Effective advocates for nature build coalitions and forge partnerships based on respect, trust, and common interest. Connecting different disciplines, working intergenerationally and honoring the perspectives of diverse stakeholders will produce successful rewilding results.
Call to action
In a spirit of hopefulness for the future of life, we call on individuals, communities, nongovernmental organizations, corporations, governments, and other institutions to advance efforts to protect remaining large wild areas and to support rewilding projects around the world (see Appendix A). A global rewilding movement—embraced by the broadest spectrum of constituencies and encouraged by governmental policy—can ultimately weave wondrous blue and green ribbons of wildness that wrap the Earth in beauty, offering the promise of a better future, with freedom and habitat for all.
Full text of the Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth