Rewilding, the act of returning land to its natural, wild state, is a beacon of hope in a world increasingly dominated by concrete jungles. From the forests of Australia to the underground orchards of California, from the radioactive wilderness of Chernobyl to the rivers of southwest England, rewilding efforts are breathing new life into degraded landscapes and offering valuable lessons for environmental conservation. This article explores the power and potential of rewilding through the lens of four fascinating projects from around the world.
This is our first blog post, and we hope that many of you will be interested and inspired by the information that we share on here.
Planting a Small Forest in 24 Hours: Beau Miles’ Tree Planting Challenge
Our journey begins in Australia with Beau Miles, an adventurer, filmmaker, and self-proclaimed “backyard explorer.” In his YouTube video, “Planting a small forest in 24 hours (1440 trees),” Beau takes on the ambitious task of planting a tree every minute for an entire day. His project serves as a powerful testament to the potential of individual action in rewilding efforts.
Beau’s challenge was born out of his love for trees and the rich soil of his local dairy country. His inspiration came from a self-flown joy flight over his home, where he noticed the stark contrast between the green farmlands and the bare creek lines devoid of trees. This observation led him to the idea of planting a tree every minute for an entire day.
This is an idea I have never seen floated around exactly, although there are many videos on YouTube that you have similar angles, ReWilding does not have to be on the same scale as this. Like most things, starting is the best thing you can do!
The preparation for the project took weeks. Beau collected 1440 mixed native local trees and sticks to use as stakes. He also had to pack and transport all the materials to his friend Heath’s farm, which was chosen as the planting site. Despite the challenges, Beau remained optimistic about the transformation he was about to make. He was excited about the prospect of standing in the same spot 24 hours later, surrounded by a newly planted forest.
Beau’s project is a testament to the power of persistence and vision in the face of adversity. It’s a reminder that rewilding doesn’t always have to be a large-scale, government-led initiative; it can start in our backyards, one tree at a time. His story also underscores the importance of planning in rewilding efforts. It’s not just about planting trees; it’s about planting the right trees in the right places.
The video captures the challenges they faced, including a bogged car and the physical toll of the task. Despite these obstacles, Beau remained optimistic about the transformation he was about to make. He was excited about the prospect of standing in the same spot 24 hours later, surrounded by a newly planted forest.
This video is a testament to Beau’s love for nature and his commitment to reforestation. It serves as an inspiration for viewers to take action in their own ways to contribute to environmental conservation. It’s a reminder that rewilding doesn’t always have to be a large-scale, government-led initiative; it can start in our backyards, one tree at a time. His story also underscores the importance of planning in rewilding efforts. It’s not just about planting trees; it’s about planting the right trees in the right places.
The Extreme Rewilding of Chernobyl
From Australia, we travel to Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear accident in human history. In a fascinating twist of fate, Chernobyl has become one of the most compelling examples of rewilding. In their YouTube video, “The Extreme Rewilding of Chernobyl: this is what happens when humans leave,” Mossy Earth explores the unexpected transformation of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone into a thriving wildlife sanctuary.
The Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986, resulted in widespread radioactive contamination and the creation of an exclusion zone spanning 4,200 km². Despite the initial devastation, nature has proven remarkably resilient. The monoculture pine plantations present in 1986 have given way to biodiverse primary forests, demonstrating nature’s ability to recover when left undisturbed. If you want to learn more about it there is an excellent HBO documentary about it.
The exclusion zone is now home to a wide variety of species, including grey wolves, Eurasian lynx, brown bear, black storks, European bison, roe deer, and boar. Studies have shown that despite initial radiation damage, the animal populations have not only survived but thrived. In fact, the abundance of wildlife in the exclusion zone is comparable to that in uncontaminated nature reserves in the region, with wolf abundance being seven times higher.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone offers a unique glimpse into what happens when humans leave and nature takes over. The absence of humans, more than the radiation, has allowed wildlife to reclaim the area. This underscores the pressure that human activity puts on ecosystems and the potential for recovery when this pressure is removed.
The success of rewilding in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone highlights the importance of space for nature to thrive. The large size of the exclusion zone and the low human population density have contributed to the successful recovery of wildlife populations. This insight can guide future rewilding efforts, particularly in areas of land abandonment.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a testament to the resilience of nature and the power of rewilding. Despite the initial devastation caused by the nuclear accident, nature has reclaimed the area, creating a thriving ecosystem where wildlife can flourish. This transformation serves as a powerful reminder of the potential of rewilding to restore degraded landscapes and create habitats where wildlife can thrive.
For me it’s simply incredible to see what the world would turn into after humans are gone. I can only hope that so much life and wildlife would continue to live on without us (by the time we are done with it!).
The Underground Village and Orchard of Baldassare Forestiere
Our next stop takes us to Fresno, California, where Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant, transformed a barren plot of land into a thriving underground village and orchard. In her YouTube video, Kirsten Dirksen tells the story of Forestiere’s remarkable creation. I will leave a link at the bottom of this page.
Forestiere moved to Fresno with dreams of farming citrus. However, he soon discovered that his 80 acres of land were composed of “hardpan” soil, unsuitable for planting. Instead of giving up, Forestiere spent 40 years excavating a 10-acre underground village and orchard, using just a pickax and shovel.
With no budget, Forestiere mixed mortar from the dirt he dug out, creating his own concrete and bricks. He worked as a day laborer during the day, mostly digging irrigation ditches, and by the 1920s, he had completed about 50 subterranean rooms. His resourcefulness and innovation are a reminder that rewilding and environmental restoration can take many forms and do not always require vast resources. Remember, all he had was a pickax and shovel!
By digging as far as 20 feet below the surface, Forestiere reached depths where the soil was good, and his trees were protected from Fresno’s extreme summer heat and winter frosts. His underground village included a kitchen with a wood-burning stove, an ice box, a dining room, winter and summer bedrooms, many skylights, a subterranean fish pond, a car garage for guests, and a three-floor aquarium with an underground glass viewing area. This unique approach to rewilding demonstrates the potential benefits of unconventional methods and thinking outside the box. With temperatures rising around the world, many are considering any and all options as ways to escape the rising temperatures.
It’s especially positive as the house requires very little outside assistance to operate. With energy costs rising, rewilding may be the answer to our prayers.
After about 20 years of digging and underground farming, Forestiere could quit his day job and live off the fruits of his subterranean orchards. His story is a powerful example of the transformative potential of rewilding, not just for the environment, but also for individuals and communities.
Forestiere’s underground world is a testament to the power of vision, persistence, and resourcefulness. Despite the challenges he faced, he was able to transform a barren plot of land into a thriving underground village and orchard. His story serves as a powerful reminder of the potential of rewilding to transform landscapes and create habitats where nature can thrive.
Forestiere’s underground world also serves as a powerful reminder of the potential of rewilding to transform landscapes and create habitats where nature can thrive. His story underscores the importance of thinking outside the box and using innovative approaches to overcome challenges and achieve our rewilding goals.
Letting the River Run Wild: The Rewilding of the River Chew
Our example of rewilding takes us to the River Chew in southwest England, where Mossy Earth is undertaking an ambitious project to restore the river to its natural state. In their YouTube video, “We are letting this river run wild again – here’s how,” Mossy Earth outlines their plan to restore this river.
Rivers are vital ecosystems that support a wide variety of life. The River Chew, for example, provides food, shelter, and spawning grounds for important migratory fish and invertebrates, including the protected Atlantic salmon[^4^]. However, sections of the River Chew have been degraded by surrounding land use, highlighting the need for restoration and rewilding efforts.
Rewilding a river is not without its challenges. The River Chew faces issues such as pollution from agricultural chemicals and sediments, unrestricted livestock access, temperature fluctuations due to lack of tree cover, and areas of excessive shade. These challenges underscore the complexity of river ecosystems and the need for careful, well-planned interventions.
Mossy Earth’s project is a collaborative effort with the Bristol Avon River Trust (BART), demonstrating the importance of partnerships in rewilding efforts. By working together, these organizations can pool their resources and expertise to make a greater impact.
Despite the challenges, the potential for transformation is immense. Mossy Earth plans to spend £58,350 on river habitat restoration, riparian tree management, landowner engagement, and habitat and fish spawning surveys. These interventions aim to restore the river to a state where it can thrive naturally, demonstrating the transformative potential of rewilding.
An important aspect of Mossy Earth’s project is engaging with landowners. By involving the local community in their efforts, they can ensure that the rewilding interventions are sustainable and beneficial for both the river and the people who live alongside it.
The rewilding of the River Chew offers valuable insights into the process and potential of river restoration. It serves as a reminder that rewilding is not just about restoring land; it’s also about restoring our waterways. As we continue to explore ways to restore and protect our environment, projects like this one highlight the importance of looking beyond the banks and considering the vital role our rivers play in the health of our planet.
Closing Comments & Takeaways
From the forests of Australia to the underground orchards of California, from the radioactive wilderness of Chernobyl to the rivers of southwest England, rewilding efforts are breathing new life into degraded landscapes and offering valuable lessons for environmental conservation. These projects serve as powerful reminders of nature’s resilience and the potential for recovery when given space and freedom from human interference. They challenge conventional notions of environmental restoration and demonstrate the potential of individual action, resourcefulness, and innovative thinking. As we continue to explore ways to restore and protect our environment, these stories highlight the importance of looking beyond the surface and considering the vital role our forests, rivers, and even our underground spaces play in the health of our planet.
Each of these stories offers a unique perspective on rewilding, but they all share a common theme: the transformative power of nature. Whether it’s Beau Miles planting a tree every minute for 24 hours, the wildlife of Chernobyl thriving in the absence of human interference, Baldassare Forestiere creating a subterranean paradise in the hardpan soil of Fresno, or Mossy Earth restoring the River Chew to its natural state, these stories demonstrate the incredible potential of rewilding to transform landscapes, restore ecosystems, and create habitats where nature can thrive.
As we look to the future, these stories offer valuable lessons for our ongoing efforts to restore and protect our environment. They remind us of the importance of individual action, collaboration, community engagement, innovative thinking, and resourcefulness in rewilding efforts. They challenge us to think outside the box and explore new ways to restore our environment and create habitats where nature can thrive.
But perhaps the most important lesson these stories offer is a sense of hope. Despite the challenges we face, these stories remind us of the incredible resilience of nature and the transformative power of rewilding. They offer a glimpse of what is possible when we give nature the space and freedom to recover and thrive. As we continue to explore ways to restore and protect our environment, these stories serve as powerful reminders of the potential of rewilding to transform our world.
In conclusion, the power of rewilding lies not just in its ability to transform landscapes, but also in its ability to transform people and communities. Whether it’s through individual action, collaboration, community engagement, innovative thinking, or resourcefulness, rewilding offers a powerful tool for environmental restoration and a beacon of hope for a more sustainable future.
[^1^]: Miles, Beau. “Planting a small forest in 24 hours (1440 trees).” YouTube, uploaded by Beau Miles, 7 Dec 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbA-hoIuHM4
[^2^]: Mossy Earth. “The Extreme Rewilding of Chernobyl: this is what happens when humans leave.” YouTube, uploaded by Mossy Earth, 17 Dec 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulCkQoqYbHI
[^3^]: Dirksen, Kirsten. “Land was barren. He dug 10-acre underground village & orchard.” YouTube, uploaded by Kirsten Dirksen, 13 Dec 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUKRPoQKynk
[^4^]: Mossy Earth. “We are letting this river run wild again – here’s how.” YouTube, uploaded by Mossy Earth, 14 Dec 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaGXY3JVlMI