This sense of alienation might turn out to have implications for economics as well as ecology. Both are trending toward monocultures, wherein the interests of a few trump those of the many. Consider that natural processes are still one of the best sources of human inspiration, and it becomes plausible to find a link between dwindling biodiversity and the corporate appetite for amalgamation and monolithic branding. MacKinnon points out that Shifting Baseline Syndrome can apply to any system, natural or otherwise, and the idea that each of us takes the world we’re born into as normal gains frightening implications when measured against the rows of glowing Apple logos lining the hallways of many university lecture halls.
Orwellian extrapolation aside, the most appealing thing about rewilding is that it says, simply, “Just imagine.” It is an invitation. Its proponents are emphatic about it being a positive environmentalism – a way of asking not just what we don’t want, but what we do.
It’s a selfish and beautiful dream, focused not on what we are willing to lose from nature (apparently, almost anything) but what we are ready to accept for the wild things in all of us. Are we content with the world we have built, or is there something in us that still burns to imagine the epic ways in which the earth might yet surprise and delight us? What kinds of fun we might have by quitting work a few hours early to go look at some wild elephants? Doth the kraken still wait, writhing in the deep?
It can start much smaller that that, though. “Pay attention,” MacKinnon writes, “and we will value nature more.” Perhaps, for those of us who live in cities, it can mean taking a few extra moments away from the computer to stare at bees. To recognize, sure, that their global population is still collapsing, posing a potential threat to our food supply. But more so, to wonder at what ideas they might inspire in us, how many different and dazzling creatures’ existence might be contingent on their frolicking through the pistils. To watch closely, and conjure the taste of honey on the tongue.
J.R. McConvey produced the nature documentaries The National Parks Project and Northwords. Follow him on Twitter @jrmcconvey.