When I first heard about Wild City by Alec Finlay, I thought it was a rewilding project similar to my own – however, it isn’t – rather than planting and creating or restoring wild areas in the city, Finlay has instead teamed up with The Walking Library (who was created by Dee Heddon and Misha Myers) and the poet Ken Cockburn to refocus the residents’ attention to the wild that already exists in the city; teaching them to connect with and respect it. The project is situated in Glasgow, which is a very urban environment, but because of the nature of the city layout, it also haas many areas in which wildlife can thrive – both in parks and in brownfield sites or other neglected or historical areas.
Throughout my work on my rewilding project, I have been trying to push for more wild spaces – particularly in our urban environments (although the environments of England and Scotland are different – Scotland is a much more wild and biodiverse country than England, although it still has it’s own issues to do with biodiversity and the climate) – but reading about Wild City has brought to my attention the worth of getting the public to reengage with the wilderness that currently surrounds us, educating them about it and teaching them to appreciate it much more than they currently do. The most important group of people to engage with on this level are the young people – particularly young people aged around nine to fifteen – as at this age, children will be starting to follow the societal patterns and feel the effect of peer pressure – which all too often lead to a thoughtlessness about and carelessness for the natural world that surrounds them. Teaching these children the value and importance of the natural and wild world – not only in terms of its importance for a lovable future for the planet and a way out of the climate crisis, but also as a means of regulating our mental health.
Finley, Heddon, Myers and Cockburn also obviously realised the importance of reconnecting young people with the wild world, because, as part of the Wild City project, they ran a series of ‘workshops’ (for want of a better world), where they went out with both primary and secondary school children into the areas around their schools – places that they were extremely familiar with, and re-examined the wildlife and biodiversity in and around those areas. Alongside this, they also investigated the “linguistic [and cultural] diversity” (Cockburn, K. 2018) of the students – looking at the interplay between cultural diversity and biodiversity, through implementing the other languages in their note making, and naming of the things that they saw around them.
I feel that examining the wilderness in the city with multiple languages might also create a stronger link between nature and themselves for the children – allowing them to implement their native or ‘home’ language (the language that is spoken at home) in the exploration of the natural world – in addition to using the English names – reinforces what they learnt and experienced, which in turn hopefully creates a longer lasting and more meaningful connection with the wild world, which will shape their relationship with it in the future.
Although the community in Kesgrave is nowhere near as diverse as that in a large city like Glasgow, exploring both the current and future (once the rewilding has started) wildlife and biodiversity in Kesgrave with a similar age group of children would be very beneficial for both the project and the planet, as it will hopefully teach the children to respect and protect the natural world through their cations as much as possible – which is a very positive outcome in the climate crisis. Additionally, it would also help to create a sense of community, which is increasingly lacking in contemporary society, and which is also in part responsible for the mental health crisis which my rewilding project also hopes to tackle.
Wild City (2018) wild city | fiadh-bhaile : the walking library and Alec finlay. Available at: https://wildcityglasgow.blogspot.com (Accessed: 4 June 2022)