To keep the world wild, first recognize that wilderness is a choice preserved and protected by the sum of our decisions. Then embrace the fact that “our” decisions for wilderness begin with yours.
What type of world do you choose to create? Such a simple question has profound consequences, yet it’s likely a safe bet that few people have actually thought it through other than in terms of personal well-being or material comfort. When we consider this question, a simple values framework comes into focus that can help guide our decisions towards a world with abundant wilderness.
To begin, I’ll start with my own answer to this question, before asking you to consider yours.
Personally, I choose a world that is shared equally by people and nature, a ‘Nature Needs Half world’ created by people who are consciously willing a safe and protected place for nature, not passively waiting for a wild world created by default or disaster. Counter to the common view, my vision of the world is practical and possible, and already exists in many places. Moreover, according to the best science, it is necessary in order to maintain a livable planet and a sustainable society. Most importantly, it is also ‘right’, because it demonstrates our respect for nature’s work on our behalf. It embodies the rightness and power of reciprocity. It means we understand the true source of the life-supporting services upon which we utterly depend, but often take for granted until bereft of its gifts: It is abundant and healthy nature that gives us the fresh air and clean water we enjoy, the moderate climate we rely on, and the beauty and mystery produced 24/7 by Nature, for us that inspires us to be better, be present, be ourselves.
To choose a wild half means also that we choose the generative power of wildness! It means that we choose a future replete with diversity and life.
Because of my appreciation of wilderness and wildness, I often wear a small lapel pin on my jacket that spells out that powerful, short word…WILD. It never – repeat, never – ceases to attract a comment as I board an aircraft or when I’m in a restaurant, standing in a queue. Regardless of where I am, people always ask the same question, “What’s that all about…are you wild?” When I assure them that, “Yes! Of course, I’m wild!” I also tell them that it happens to be the organization and movement in which I work. And when they inevitably ask “What do you do?”, I respond by saying “I’m a relationship counselor.” This sparks their curiosity further because relationships are one of the few things that we all have in common, through which we have experienced the best and the worst times in our lives. Everyone knows what it takes to make a relationship succeed…you need to meet your partner or friend half way…at least.
And everyone also knows what happens when you don’t.
When these encounters happen, and it is not just in the West or North, but in many countries and situations across the globe…it reinforces two things in me. First, that people are viscerally attracted to ‘wild’ – it has an innate power or fascination, even if a person does not want to go backpacking, hunting, or hiking. When we see or hear the word it triggers that ‘wild gene’ within each of us, that shaped our very bones and blood and created our DNA during the millions of years we lived in and were shaped by the wilderness. Second, it also tells me that people respond to relationships. The word itself emits a personal vibe, and signals something akin to the social grooming that is innate behavior in all animals (that means us, too) as they/we seek to create community, security, future.
Without the powerful decision of individuals, that includes you too!, embracing the positive vision of a wild planet, wilderness will become a relic of history, a thing to observe and remember only in curated fragments scattered like dust across the surface of the world. Fortunately, I believe in you and me. I believe in the power of us and the sum of our best decisions. Like Margaret Mead, I’ve never doubted “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” We just have to choose to do so, and commit to our choices. Nature Needs Half is a big and aspirational vision for our globe. But it’s infinitely personal. Part of its functional beauty is that it is easily scalable, it’s a one-vision-fits-every-person and place. Rich or poor person, large or small area, you can work towards Nature Needs Half on your own property, in your own city and country, and for the eco-system, bay or forest, you care about most. By choosing to do so you not only make a personal statement about your values, you also work practically for a wilder world, a world that supports all life, and a world that respects relationship.
One thing is certain, when the power of one, the power of YOU, chooses Nature Needs Half, a whole new world is created. It’s within your power, it’s your choice.