"Rewilding on any scale — whether we're discussing landscapes and biospheres or deeply personal experiences — means never ignoring nature. This is because wherever we go and wherever we live, humans are continually and inevitably redecorating nature, whether intentionally or unintentionally. All our buildings and roads, every human community, every vehicle, every energy source, affects nature and nonhuman animals. We can't help redecorating nature, and for some it's almost a human obsession. They can't leave nature alone. Nor is this unrelenting intrusion going to change. Instead, it will only get worse. There are already too many of us, and more of us are arriving every day. Our ongoing population explosion is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing us.
"In short, our lives always impact nature, and it is difficult to live in our demanding world and not occasionally harm nonhuman animals, as much as we might try not to. This fact should keep us humble and nonjudgmental. We simply need to agree that we all must make every effort to minimize harm whenever and however we can. The best solutions are always a balancing act, a compromise between sometimes conflicting or competing needs. By agreeing to minimize harm to nonhuman animals and nature, we are agreeing to listen to the 'voiceless' beings all around us and to proactively include their concerns in all our decisions. Increasing our awareness of nature, in itself, is the transformative first step.
"Further, agreeing to minimize harm will lead us to focus on eliminating the obvious intentional harm that is currently being done and to confront it head-on. If we focused only on harm that is deliberate, easily avoided, or unnecessarily great, we could avoid much irreversible damage and make the world a better place for all beings. When we redecorate nature without compassion, we cause innumerable serious impacts on diverse ecosystems; we kill individuals, break up families, and decimate habitats. As nature becomes distressed, that in turn impacts us. Then, too often, our 'solution' to such problems is to do more killing or to dominate nature further in our efforts to again be untroubled. To break this self-destructive cycle, we must agree that a nonkilling world is more important than our own uninterrupted comfort.
"Knowing that other animals are sentient beings who experience unbounded joy and deep pain and suffering should help us care about what happens to them. This knowledge should help inspire us to want to minimize harm, though often it doesn't. Too often, we choose to remain ignorant of the many eyes watching us. Like my friend the red fox who regularly came by to say hello in the morning, animals see us, their lives matter to them, and they certainly notice when their lives are turned upside down and their homes destroyed. By rewilding our hearts, we pledge to treat all animal 'visitors' as welcome sources of connection and inspiration. Minimizing harm and fostering coexistence are the default 'best' choices. We need more compassion in the world. Yes, the human species leaves behind big footprints, but they can be footprints of compassion. There will always be trade-offs in deciding who and what to save and how to coexist. The tough questions facing us are incredibly difficult and frustrating. They ask each of us to think deeply and do the best we can for all beings."