7: Rewilding: Rich Persons’ Plaything or Real Hope for People?

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He is richest who is content with the least; for content is the wealth of nature.1

High in the Conwy valley, amid the rugged splendour of Snowdonia, children from a local school are measuring the depth of the peat being restored by far-sighted farmers addressing a new reality: renewing the hills and uplands to help nature’s recovery.

For the young pupils from the Ysgol Ysbyty Ifan, the exercise represents science with an edge in the wild beauty of the great Welsh outdoors, beside one of the largest blanket bogs in the principality – the Migneint – where the 11 farmers have grazing rights.

In a riveting film, a nine-year-old well versed in the climate emergency describes how this bog, “vast and remote”, stores carbon on a huge scale. “But degraded peatlands damage our environment by releasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the air,” she explains authoritatively in Welsh. “This contributes to global warming.”2

In this small corner of a splendid National Park, the children are raising an issue at the heart of our challenge to reverse a post-war draining programme meant to ‘improve’ our moorlands – but which, in reality, only succeeded in degrading them.

To achieve the turnaround on the Migneint, thousands of ditches – opened up to speed drainage decades ago – are being blocked as part of an extensive renewal programme. As the nine-year-old explains, in the helpfully sub-titled film, this is important to “re-wet and restore the Migneint to its natural, wet state … to tackle the climate emergency we are all facing”.

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