Letting It Be on a Continental Scale: Some Thoughts on Rewilding
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LIKE A DULL TWO-BIT AXE, indolence cuts roughly both ways. As Americans and other modern peoples have become more and more dependent on machines—and thus lazier—some formerly cultivated areas of the overdeveloped continents have been abandoned. People have moved away from lands considered marginal for agriculture, forestry, and other extractive uses toward more fertile lands, with increasingly intensified production through modern technologies. This has harmed wild nature by increasing energy consumption and the concomitant extraction of fossil fuels, but it has also permitted large areas of the planet to grow back into native vegetation. An outstanding example is the eastern United States, where European settlers cleared most of the original forest to make way for agriculture and which is now again more than half-forested, though not yet with trees of presettlement stature and grandeur.