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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-350
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Values
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • rewilding, environmental hermeneutics, cluster concept, ecological restoration, wilderness


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