What’s Going On Here?

A former chief scientific adviser to the UK government has said that half the nation’s farmland needs to be transformed into natural habitat to restore wildlife and help fight the climate crisis.

What Does This Mean?

This idea might seem radical to some but Prof Sir Ian Boyd—who worked at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for seven years—says the benefits would be a gamechanger for Britain’s efforts to cut carbon emissions and improve biodiversity. He says that instead of “subsidising a livestock industry that is causing huge environmental damage”, farmers should instead be paid for storing carbon dioxide and providing natural landscapes that the public could benefit from.

This could be good news for farmers too. UK farmers currently receive around €4 billion per year under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) but this will end after Britain leaves the European Union and it is unclear how long the UK government will meet the shortfall.

Boyd’s proposal is not the first time a rewilding plan on this scale has been floated. In January 2018, then environment secretary Michael Gove said that after Brexit, farmers would get subsidies for turning fields back into wildlife meadows, 97% of which have been destroyed since the second world war.

Why Should We Care?

At the moment, farmland takes up a third of the country and converting half of it into woodlands and parks would drastically change the landscape of Britain. Producing less meat and dairy also falls in line with recommendations that we should shift to a more plant-based diet in order to eat sustainably.Be Curious!

If you want to learn first hand what it means for a farmer to rewild their land then Isabella Tree’s book ‘Wilding’ is a must-read. Tree tells the story of her pioneering experiment which turned her farm in West Sussex into a new habitat for wildlife.

And for more information on Rewilding schemes across the country—and how you can implement them in your local area—visit the Rewilding Britain website.

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