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The Many Meanings of Rewilding: An Introduction and the Case for a Broad Conceptualisation

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In this paper, I (1) offer a general introduction of rewilding and (2) situate the concept in environmental philosophy. In the first part of the paper, I work from definitions and typologies of rewilding that have been put forth in the academic literature. To these, I add secondary notions of rewilding from outside the scientific literature that are pertinent to the meanings and motivations of rewilding beyond its use in a scientific context. I defend the continued use of rewilding as a single term, despite its seemingly disparate usages, and I advance a clustered concept of eight overlapping characteristics as a way to conceptualise these. I argue that this breadth helps in understanding the wider interest in rewilding as an emerging environmental phenomenon. In the paper's second part, I turn to three key issues in environmental philosophy in order to connect rewilding with the historic themes of: (1) the exclusion of humans from wild or wilderness places, (2) the ontological purity of wilderness areas through their non-human origins and history, and (3) cultural landscapes and notions of place. I suggest that rewilding carries on some of the main themes of the wilderness debate, but considering rewilding broadly allows tensions and novel questions to manifest that are important to how rewilding should be discussed and understood going forward.
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Keywords: Rewilding; cluster concept; ecological restoration; meaning; wilderness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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