Human civilization and their activities are growing by leaps and bounds, which has been negatively impacting the growth of nature and its ecosystems. We rely on nature for our food, water, shelter, and air. Even though the environment takes its own time to replenish, our activities are making it difficult every day.
Research shows tourism accounts for over 55% of traffic movement globally. Because of this reason, it contributes to about 3% of the total carbon dioxide emissions. As the number of tourists grows over the years, the emission levels will rise, which will directly contribute to climate change. Tourism is a leading contributor to greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere.
According to The World Counts numbers, About 1.4 billion tourists are arriving at their destination every year. This brings about negative impacts on the environment, as it depletes local natural resources and causes pollution and waste problems. Natural resources and local lands are rapidly consumed, leading to soil erosion, and loss of natural habitat and endangered species.
Ecotourism acts as a greener, more sustainable, and affordable alternative to tourism and its demand is growing. It benefits both the environment and the economies of tourist destinations. However, due to the same increase in demand, it attracts more tourists and defeats the purpose of being eco-friendly.
Thus, we need to take a progressive approach towards environment conservation by letting nature heal itself and its ecosystems. The concept of Rewilding is an important way to conserve nature and preserve our environment.
What is rewilding and why is it needed?
Rewilding is a form of environmental conservation and ecological restoration that can potentially help increase biodiversity, create self-sustainable environments, and control climate change. Its main focus is to restore lost species by giving them space to thrive, by population enhancement, and by reintroducing key native species. This way, it can create wilder and more biodiverse habitats.
Apart from bringing back lost species, there are other reasons why rewilding is needed:
- Rewilding gives nature a chance to re-establish its natural state of abundance and biodiversity.
- Ecosystems can become more self-sustaining and can find a natural balance that allows all the elements to thrive.
- It is a way of protecting species from extinction.
- It also gives us a chance to interact with nature which can improve our health and well-being.
How is rewilding practiced around the world?
Rewilding often requires 2 important human interventions:
- Removing barriers obstructing nature’s ability to thrive: These include removing dams and dykes, building wildlife overpasses, ending harmful activities like deforestation to plant native tree species, and as such.
- Reintroduce peak predators and species: Animals like wolves, jaguars, elephants, bears ensure species at the bottom of the food chain do not overpopulate and throw nature off balance. Knowing this, these species are often targeted and attacked first, as they are seen as a threat to human activities like recreation or livestock grazing. Reintroduction of these keystone species is important to these natural holistic systems.
An example of wildlife reintroduction is the Yellowstone National Park’s thriving wolf population. As of 2016, 11 packs and 108 wolves are reported, while there were none before the 1995 reintroduction of 14 Canadian wolves. The project was influenced by rampant elk overpopulation.
How can rewilding be promoted?
Given the damage that man has done to many natural environments, we must take active steps to help the rewilding process. More media attention is given to reintroduction of megafauna, typically apex predators, into environments from where they have been absent, as mentioned above.
Other methods of rewilding include creating corridors that connect areas of wilderness, once part of the same landscape, which have become separated by human construction. Re-growing native plants where invasive species have become dominant and the reinvigoration of native insect species will help the food chain that develops from them. We must also create awareness about the impacts of tourism and other harmful activities that are having a negative impact on the environment.
Various organizations are also working towards promoting and practicing rewilding. The Center of Wildlife Studies, India; The rewilding Institute, North America; and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are among those renowned organizations.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the environment and how we can help
Since the dawn of COVID-19 pandemic, a worldwide disruption was caused which significantly impacted the environment and climate. As traveling declined greatly, air pollution dropped. China saw a 25% reduction in carbon emissions and a 50% reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions. According to an Earth Systems scientist, over 77,000 lives were saved over two months. This shows how the environment was impacted positively, as all commercial and tourism activities were suspended for a few months.
Thus, awareness about rewilding and environment conservation should be brought about throughout the world and tourists must be more careful than ever while traveling in the post-COVID-19 world. They can do so by making the most out of Ecotourism through minimizing ecological damage. The development of ecotourism should be carefully planned from the beginning, keeping the following main points in mind:
- The number of tourists allowed in an area must be limited. Sustainable materials should be used in the construction of ecotourism sites.
- Renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, or water, instead of fossil fuels, are in many cases more practical, cost-efficient, and practical.
- Government officials and ecotourism operators should seek cooperation from conservation groups and nongovernmental organizations. Such groups can provide start-up funding, training, and technical assistance that can lend both legitimacy and sustainability to a project.
- Travelers can also reduce their carbon offsets by traveling local, reduce air travel, choose sustainable accommodation and activities, etc.