Building: (Building B) Faculty of Law, Administration & Economics Floor: 2nd floor Room: 201
Relative to big issues like global warming/the Anthropocene, resource depletion/sustainability, or degrowth/environmental justice, rewilding has virtually escaped attention from environmental political scientists and theorists. Yet rewilding, though not yet settled on a common definition (but getting close, as something like the “re”introduction into “re”naturalized environments of the “closest possible” equivalent of locally “original” species), deserves our attention. For one, as the modern answer to the old debate on restoration versus conservation, it is also a modern answer to what distinguishes us from ‘the wild’, to the question how we define the wild and how the wild defines us. It is also a potentially important addition to the concept of nature, and to the end-of-nature thesis. Secondly, rewilding is not just a philosophical issue but also deeply political: rewilding means redrawing borders, it means displaces humans and human activities, and requires balancing benefits, burdens and interests between humans (neighbours as much as rewilders), between them and animals, and between animals themselves. Thirdly, rewilding is, to use a Trumpism, huge. There is a joint European effort underway to create a rewilded zone from the Scottish Highlands and the Norwegian fjords to the tip of Iberia and the mouth of the Danube; similar large projects are reshaping the Americas. Despite the size and potential importance, the actual processes of rewilding are far from the public eye and from the political scrutiny that might accompany such massive shifts.
Some of the key questions this raises for political scientists and theorists:
(1) Is rewilding mature enough to agree on a common concept, and what is the goal of rewilding under such a common definition? What would a specifically political understanding of rewilding look like?
(2) How should the ‘re’ of rewilding be interpreted? What is the role of baselines in a politics of rewilding? Should de-extinction, genetic manipulation or other innovative forms of input for rewilding be put on the agenda?
(3) How to square the interests of individual animals with the interests of an ecosystem and their collective role in it? Can “re”-introduced animals communicate their interests or be agents in the first place and, if so, how ought rewilding take this into account?
(4) Does the notion of rewilding significantly modify classic dualisms of political theory, such as nature/culture or society/wilderness? Are these still tenable under a rewilding regime and, if not, what replaces them?
The discusses theoretical reflection on questions like these with concrete case studies (land, sea and air) of practices, but also of e,g. rewilding in literature and art. We anticipate a lively engagement between different approaches to rewilding, but keeping in mind the focus on the specifically political significance of rewilding theory and practice.
Format: two minute pitches, 10 minutes Q&A with the audience, two 5 minute responses from other panel members serving as discussants identifying the weakest spot in the paper respectively its merits as a contribution to the understanding of rewilding.