Mya, 18, is a wildlife photographer and birder based in West Sussex. She has been passionate about the natural world and the environment since she was just eight years old. In the future, she would like to become a professional ornithologist or wildlife conservationist.
For the last ten years, wildlife and the environment have been my passion. All aspects of nature intrigue me, whether it be birds, bees or butterflies. As a teenager, I’m used to being unique in having this passion at school and among my peers. However increasingly over the last few years, thanks to social media, I have met many inspirational, like-minded young people with the same interests.
Our environment and biodiversity are in trouble and we are facing a climate and nature crisis. We must take action to prevent further impacts on our planet and natural world. Young people across the world are genuinely worried about our future and the state our environment will be in. ‘Eco-anxiety’ is becoming more prevalent as the destruction, disregard, and recklessness towards our environment and natural world continues.
In my opinion, rewilding will be part of the solution. Letting nature take the lead, by minimising human intervention, will allow ecosystems to flourish, store large volumes of carbon and help reverse the decline of many species. Creating a mosaic of habitats is vital across our country to ensure we have good levels of biodiversity.
Even on a small scale, rewilding can create a large impact. Take a lawn for example - leaving even part of it to grow wild throughout the summer can allow many wildflowers to thrive. This offers food in the form of nectar for many bees, butterflies and other insects. Our insects are declining so they need all the help they can get. They are paramount for our survival as well as wildlife all around the world, so we need to act fast.
Leaving nature to its own devices can be the solution in many places across the UK. Some may argue that this may not please those who feel tidiness and perfection is necessary. However, we urgently need to change our mindset. Beautifully mown lawns host little biodiversity and cutting down our roadside verges not only costs unnecessary money but prevents these abundant areas from becoming a thriving urban habitat. This year, due to the lockdown, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing these roadside habitats bloom as cutting was delayed due to the pandemic in my town. So many species can be packed into one small area, passed by hundreds of people in their cars each day. The striking ox-eye daisy, the delicate cuckoo flower, the vibrant birds-foot trefoil, and the utterly beautiful poppy.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience rewilding on a greater scale at Knepp Wildland in West Sussex, only a 20-minute drive from my house. Once intensively farmed, 3,500 acres of land is now bursting with wildlife because nature has been allowed to thrive. Important grazers like Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs, and longhorn cattle are the drivers of the creation of these important habitats. By grazing, they stop the land from becoming completely covered in closed-canopy woodland, which overall would be less biodiverse than a mosaic of habitats.
The site now hosts many of our declining species including the turtle dove, nightingale and purple emperor butterfly. Being a trainee bird ringer, I’ve also had the privilege of seeing up-close the variety of bird species which use these habitats for food, shelter and a place to breed. Scrubland is an under-appreciated habitat and many birds use it to nest in, including the whitethroat, linnet and yellowhammer. Knepp is just one fantastic example of rewilding.
After all the destruction humans have caused and the impact we have had on the natural world, we owe it to the planet to do all we can to enable nature to thrive once again. Heal Rewilding aims to buy land in the English lowlands and allow nature to blossom and natural processes to be reinstated. Areas that were once devoid of life will become successful, healthy ecosystems home to much of our wildlife.
Another benefit is that carbon can be captured by plants through photosynthesis. This is essential if we want to remove excess carbon from the air which contributes greatly to climate change. Urgency is needed when finding preventative solutions for climate change, otherwise temperatures will continue to increase every year, sea levels will rise, and we will experience more extreme weather conditions.
Rewilded spaces will not only become a paradise for wildlife, but for people too. Being out in nature is essential for your mental health as I have experienced personally. It can lower your heart rate, your stress levels and offer a distraction from daily stresses. For me, it’s a space for relaxation and intrigue, a place to wonder at the beauty of nature. With mental health issues emphasised by the pandemic, hopefully more people will turn to nature for therapy.
This is why rewilding is vital right now. We must take action and allow nature to intertwine itself back into our lives and let it be free to thrive on its own.
If you want to help, please donate whatever you can afford to help Heal buy land. You can even sponsor your own Heal 3x3 square and watch it rewild (something I’ll be asking for for my birthday)!