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Rewilding 2023 Demands Expanding Our Self-Centered Mindsets

A Personal Perspective: Shifting how we interact with our fragile planet.

"Rewilding is largely a matter of humans getting out of the way and letting nature take charge."–Graham Lawton

It’s common knowledge that we are losing species and habitats at an unprecedented rate in a geological epoch known as the “Anthropocene”–the "age of humanity."

However, the so-called "age of humanity" is anything but humane. In fact, it’s extremely violent, and I prefer to call it the "rage of inhumanity.” One hope is that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decrease in human mobility during a period called the “anthropause” by Christian Rutz, and his colleagues, the arrogance with which we interact with nonhuman animals (animals) and their homes will decrease.

As wild animals enter urban areas, places that were once their homes, things will change for the better as people meet them. With hope, these individuals will help people bridge the empathy gap and display the same caring and compassion they direct toward companion animals to their new animal neighbors, who deserve to be there rightfully.

In Rewilding Our Hearts and elsewhere, I’ve asked people to become re-enchanted with the natural world, to act from the inside out, and to allow their hearts to guide them in dissolving false boundaries so they could truly connect with both nature and themselves. By personally rewilding, undoing the unwilding, and reconnecting, people will become re-enchanted with nature, overcome negativity, and see the world in more positive ways.

Personal rewilding means rehabilitating our hearts and tapping into our biophilic instincts that can lead to an emotional affinity for, and is one way to reconnect with, other nature.

I envision rewilding our hearts as a dynamic, intimate process that fosters corridors of coexistence and compassion for animals and their homes while facilitating corridors in ourselves that connect our heart and brain, our caring and awareness. In turn, these connections, or reconnections, can help us make wiser choices and pursue heartfelt actions that improve the lives of all beings.

Rewilding our hearts and rewilding the human dimension also means redefining the borders in our interactions with other animals and overcoming the cognitive dissonance that abounds globally.1 Redefining and softening these borders and distinctions is what rewilding is all about. Rewilding demands that we employ humility in our interactions with other animals and their homes. We need to be humble in the face of nature’s awesomeness. We should respect nature as a friend, one whose welfare matters for its own sake and even more so because it matters for our sake, too.

What does this all mean?

Personal rewilding is a positive and inspirational social movement about what we can and must do, as individuals within a global community, working in harmony for common goals, to deal with the rampant and wanton destruction of our planet and its innumerable and awe-inspiring residents and their homes. It is a personally transformative process.

It is about nurturing our sense of wonder. Rewilding is about being nice, kind, compassionate, empathic, and harnessing our inborn goodness and optimism. We really do need wild(er) minds and wild(er) hearts to make the changes that need to be made right now so that we can work toward having a wild(er) planet.

Rewilding our hearts is a psycho-social revolution based on a personal commitment to change how we interact with other animals, with other humans, and with the land we all share. It mandates a global paradigm shift on a deeply personal level. Rewilding is about melting the ice in our hearts so that we might all work together to solve the dilemmas posed by climate change.

The Earth is tired and broken and is not infinitely resilient. Like a fatigued person who is teetering on burning out, our wondrous and magnificent planet needs all the help it can get. Every second of every day, we decide who lives and who dies; we are that powerful. Of course, we also do many wonderful things for our magnificent planet and its fascinating inhabitants, but right now, rather than patting ourselves on the back for all the good things we do, we need to take action to right the many wrongs before it is too late for other animals and ourselves.

To sum up, “rewilding” is a mindset. It reflects the desire to (re)connect intimately with all animals and landscapes in ways that dissolve borders. Rewilding means appreciating, respecting, and accepting other beings and landscapes for who or what they are, not for who or what we want them to be. It means rejoicing in the personal connections we establish and need so badly. It is inarguable that if we are going to make the world a better place now and for future generations, personal rewilding is central to the process.

Laws and public policy won’t do it. Instead, each of us must undergo a major personal paradigm shift in how we view and live in the world and how we behave.

Personal rewilding also is a guide for action. As a social movement, we need to be proactive, positive, persistent, patient, peaceful, practical, powerful, passionate, playful, present, principled, proud, and polite, what I call the 13 Ps of rewilding.

Ultimately, we need a social movement and revolution in how we interact with animals and nature, a movement based on peace, compassion, empathy, and social justice. My vision of this movement is not that it represents a single idea or a specific program. There is no “membership.” Instead, we are all already members as living, breathing human beings who move in circles of coexistence. Peace, compassion, empathy, and social justice are all part of a much-needed revolution in thinking and acting with kindness for all.

One of my favorite bumper stickers is “Nature Bats Last.” We can try to outrun and outsmart nature, but in the end, she always wins. Will we allow ourselves to become one of the species that didn’t make it? Or worse, will we continue to be the one species that threatens all others and who allows uncounted species and individuals to perish so we can live where and how we please? I hope not.

Let’s make personal rewilding all the rage. Let's get youngsters involved. Let's foster widespread empathy. We're all intimately interconnected and can and must work together as a united community to reconnect with nature and rewild our hearts.


1) I prefer the word “borders” rather than “boundaries” or “barriers” because the latter words imply a less permeable interface between “them” and “us.” Jeff Hoffman also wrote to me about the need for humans to fix ourselves.

How Birds and Nature Rewild Our Hearts and Souls.

Why It's Essential to Rewild the World Before It's Too Late.

Animal Well-Being, Compassionate Conservation, and Rewilding.

Food Justice and Personal Rewilding as Social Movements.

A Rewilding Manifesto: Compassion, Biophilia, and Hope.

Your Brain and Health in Nature: Rewilding Is Good For Us

Nelson, Felicity. Empathetic People Seem to Have A Special Ability When It Comes to Animals. ScienceAlert, December 26, 2022.

Hawkins, Sally et al. (editors) Routledge Handbook of Rewilding. Routledge, 2022. (A comprehensive, cross-disciplinary, and transformational encyclopedia of rewilding from a strong global perspective.)

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