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Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution Hardcover – December 22, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Though the poisons of pollution and the encroachment of climate change are continuing environmental threats, it's the acceleration of biodiversity loss that most alarms Fraser (God's Perfect Child) in this well-sourced study of worldwide attempts to knit together enough ecosystems to keep life alive. The problem: the disappearance of nature itself—the mass extinction of species, from lumbering polar bears to fragile flowers—that could see half of all nonhuman life extinct by the end of this century. The solution: rewilding—a nascent resurrection ecology that designs wildlife refuges (cores) and, more importantly, creates corridors connecting one refuge to another so that species such as elephants, tigers and wolves can range more wildly, a key to survival. Successful rewilding in North America, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, has led to a rebound in mountain lion and bear populations; more unexpectedly, the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea, a narrow 155-mile-long corridor uninhabited by humans for 55 years, has seen an ecological rebirth and is now home to 67 endangered species. Though Fraser's fact-heavy prose is slow reading, her story of grassroots activism paired with the scientific is environmentally inspirational. (Dec.)
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"Makes a convincing case that [rewilding] represents the only realistic strategy for conserving our rapidly diminishing wildlife."
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature
—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance and author of Crimes Against Nature
—Richard Preston, author of The Wild Trees and The Hot Zone
"Give them room to roam! Caroline Fraser’s smart, passionate manifesto offers hope to the wild world. In an age of overwhelming loss, she shows us how to gain: more bears, more wolves, more biodiversity, more thriving ecosystems, more life. This is an important book about the cutting edge of conservation and how it might save our continent and our selves."
—Bruce Barcott, author of The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw
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Fraser highlights Michael Soule’s 1990 paper on complementary goals for continental conservation: cores, corridors, and carnivores. For example, core protected areas; corridors for animals to roam freely, migrate, and disperse; and carnivores (meat-eating predators) to maintain healthy ecosystems because they regulate other predators and prey.
Rewilding – a biodiversity campaign (since the 1990s) – aims to restore species by protecting and restoring habitats, creating migration corridors, and promoting peace between people and predators. It’s about equilibrium in nature. Unlike environmental campaigns that oppose dams, construction, drilling and so one, rewilding focuses on the positive – a connectivity of animals with their own environment, and a connectivity between humans and animals.
Fraser discusses the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative (Y2Y), launched in 1997, to forge a single wildlife corridor connecting isolated parks, national forests, and some of the largest roadless areas left in America. She discusses the Panther Path in South America, launched in 1994, a corridor for the wild cat; the European Green Belt established in the 1990s replacing the barbed wire of the former Iron Curtain with nature reserves; the wildlife corridors in Africa (an Africa without fences) and the trans-frontier Peace Parks; and Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape project to reconnect a ‘green necklace’ for the Bengal tiger, one-horned rhinoceros and Asian elephant – to name a few mentioned.
This is a fascinating comprehensive exploration of the rewilding philosophy. With example after example, Caroline Fraser presents a landscape of biodiversity conservation from grassroots to governmental levels, and globally from Africa to Asia to Australia, reinforcing the fact that rewilding is about making connections. Rewilding also connects science with social movements that realign human behaviour with the environment.
A journalistic overview, this book probably tries to do too much and a more focused account would probably have been better. Fraser's discussion of at least 3 topics is insufficient. One is ecosystem restoration in Europe. Due to declining population in some European nations, restoration efforts in Europe may be more successful than efforts in developing nations. I don't think Fraser adequately portrays one of the most salient features of modern restoration; that its targets are often impoverished ecosystems. Most ecosystems were characterized well in 19th and 20th century, well after many had already suffered considerable impacts from human activities, a fact increasingly appreciated by biologists and historians. Finally, Fraser doesn't really deal with the salience of climate change. All the ecosystems we know arose in the context of the relatively benign Holocence climate. Without successful efforts to curb climate change, all these restoration efforts are likely to be pointless.