Re-wilding in the UK

Currently, 70% of the land in the UK is given over to agriculture. Of this, just 15% is used to grow crops for human consumption. A further 22% goes towards feeding livestock. The rest is given over to livestock grazing.

This means that we give over 44% of the country to livestock, and a further 15% of the country to feed the livestock.

If growing food in a lab does indeed take off, 59% of the UK would suddenly be freed up – lab grown meat done properly could have a near 0 carbon footprint, and can be created in close proximity to the shop that will sell it -further reducing or eliminating the transport carbon footprint of food.

Now, assuming that this is to happen we would still need to keep some livestock. This would be needed to harvest cells. Never the less, we could still see a reduction of more than 99% of the livestock and land required. I do not believe that I am the only person who would be far happier satisfying my desire for meat, without the climate implications or indeed the fact that animals have to die to satisfy it (I am not a vegetarian, but over the last few years we have made efforts to reduce our meat footprint).

This would free up more than 50% of the country. What could we do with this?

Well my argument is that this land could be given over to rewilding. With this amount of land, we could suck up vast amounts of carbon a year. 50% of the UK is roughly 120,000 square kilometres. Now roughly speaking, forest suck up 500g per square m per year, or 500 metric tonnes per square km. Therefore, the UK could suck up 60 million tonnes a year. Now it is true that this is not huge compared to our emissions and we might have some other uses, never-the-less I am sure that I am not the only person that is frustrated by the lack of wilderness in the UK. Even just 10% of the gained land being given over to rewilding could make great progress in returning wilderness to the UK.

The Chernobyl accident was a devastating problem, however it is given a laboratory that we would never have had otherwise

After the Chernobyl nuclear accident an exclusion zone 2660 square kilometres (just over 1000 square miles) hod to be abandoned.

Bears are an apex predator, so their return to Chernobyl is a good sign, this photo was taken elsewhere

Now while the area is horrifically damaged by the the nuclear waste, the absence of humans has been such a boon that wildlife populations in the exclusion zone are doing phenomenally well.

The area hosts several dozen wolves, and bears returned for the first time in 2014 – having been absent from the area for more than a century.

Indeed what is fascinating about the area is the clear evidence that the damage caused by nuclear radiation is nowhere near as damaging as the human population.

Whether this can change and we can allow small pockets of wilderness in the heart of Europe is a question that most would answer no. However given how many benefits will genesis like this give to the area around them, perhaps we should be aiming to create more.

On the hunt for wild boar in the Forest of Dean

Photo – Tim Welby

During half term I took my two children, aged 4 and 6, up to the Forest of Dean for a couple of days. As with many parts of Europe this forest is quite old and wonderfully wild. However this wilderness is helped by being far more natural than other forests in the UK. One of the many species that we killed off is highly important for forests as their hunting for food turns the soil and allows for regeneration. I am of course talking about wild boar.

Continue reading “On the hunt for wild boar in the Forest of Dean”
See Animals Wild