December 2011| Volume 17, Number 3
by VANCE MARTIN
How much space does nature really need? This question has increasingly been the focus of conservation biologists and many others as the natural sciences have scaled up to consider nature from a landscape and seascape perspective, and in the process gaining a much better understanding of ecological services. Professor E. O. Wilson adroitly alluded to this in his seminal work The Future of Life (2002) when he said, “Half the world for humanity, half for the rest of life, to create a planet both self-sustaining and pleasant.”
As a result of this growing scientific consensus, an initiative called Nature Needs Half was launched at WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WWC) at Meridá, Mexico, in 2009. It is now being explored in different ways by numerous experts, groups, and communities around the world, and we present in this issue a European perspective from Dr. Magnus Sylven. As a member of the Executive Committee making initial plans for the 10th World Wilderness Congress, and on behalf of The WILD Foundation and our many collaborators, Magnus also gives us a preliminary insight into one of the core agendas for WILD10, proposed for Europe in late 2013. A formal announcement on the date and venue is expected shortly.
Why Europe? When considering wild nature globally today, Europe is one of the most exciting places on the planet. Wildness has been returning at an accelerated rate to Europe which is one of the most densely populated continents. Through a combination of factors – land abandonment in rural areas, evolving social patterns, changing economies, a resolution on wilderness by the European Parliament – more large wildland areas and connecting corridors are appearing throughout the continent. The presence of free-ranging carnivores is a seminal aspect of true wildness, and the European wolf is now almost ubiquitous, and is found in the most unexpected places. Spanish scientists estimate a population of 3,000 animals in their country. In the first week of September 2011, the first wild wolf was spotted in Holland, likely a young male from thriving populations in adjacent Germany, in search of new territory. Hence, from the convergence of these and many factors, Europe is an ideal location for the next WWC. Watch IJW for new announcements!
Nature Needs Half is a science-based statement, yet it is more than that. I invite you to understand it also as a call for a new relationship between humankind and nature, the two partners in the fundamental relationship on Earth. Few people would disagree that this relationship is dysfunctional, and we surely don’t want it to become a failed relationship. It is common knowledge that successful relationships are based on an ability of each partner to “go at least half way” to understand and support the needs of the other. Nature certainly does that, and more. In our human quest to develop and live from the materials, processes, and other forms of life support freely provided by wild nature, it is time that we learn to ask a new question – what does nature need? That will surely put us on a path toward a “planet both
self-sustaining and pleasant.”
Nature Needs Half addresses all of nature, not just land. Much attention is given to terrestrial wildness, so we will expand our exploration of “wild oceans” in this and succeeding issues of IJW. See Cyril Kormos’s perspective on scaling up global initiatives in this regard. A good, wide range of other articles explore topics of insights from wilderness experiences, training wilderness managers, the benefits of wilderness to local communities, and river stewardship issues in Mexico.
VANCE G. MARTIN is president of The WILD Foundation, based in Boulder, Colorado, USA, and one of the founding editors of the IJW. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.