Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the philosophy and activities of rewilding, a contemporary environmental movement that practices the reintroduction of species to areas where they had become locally extinct. In addition to its being a widespread political and social movement, rewilding represents an aesthetic as well as a transformative process, one that draws from a moral, temporal and affective imaginary of nature that can be traced through Western thought since the 1700s. As a site of cultural meaning, nature has been conceived of as a 'moral and pure' place: untainted by the corruptions of modern society, and rematerializing intermittently in the aesthetics of the pastoral, 18th century landscape gardens and art (Green 1997), Romanticism, the philosophies of Rousseau, Thoreau, Olmsted and Muir; and more recently in back-to-the-land and urban gardening movements. With rewilding, the once lost wild is recalled to our present moment and offered refuge. Considered a repressed though continuing state of the human mind, moral goodness, manifested in inter-species compassion, is revived through contact with the wild (Bekoff 2014). With the bringing back of the wholesomeness of the past, rewilding anticipates a moral revival and heightened wellbeing, one that links time and place through the reintroduction of extinct ecologies. To understand the affective valence of 'nature, wild, rewilding', the concepts ethnoecology (Feit) and chronotope (Bakhtin) are applied to delineate a comparative ethics of ecology, and illustrate how temporal distinctions are used in the formation of imaginaries of place, and in conceptualizing cultural landscapes of the past, present, and future present.