The environmental importance of reducing meat consumption is filtering through in the mainstream media. Knepp Castle provides a beacon of how farming can change if people are willing to embrace the transition
Walking along a rough track dug out by off-road vehicles, dense shrub either side, game eyes weighing me up from a safe distance, I could have been in the savannahs of Africa. Could have, but wasn’t. I was in the wilds of West Sussex.
Knepp Castle Estate has been transformed, or rewilded to be precise, from a standard – and environmentally nightmarish – intensive farm to a unique sanctuary for fauna and flora. Deer, flowers, pig, trees, cattle, pony, rabbit, hare, owl, bat, birds of prey and much more are flourishing. Whilst freely strolling around the 3,500 acres you are transported back to a time when animals were abundant in our countryside and able to coexist with humans and agriculture. Sadly, it is a unique experience in England and I thoroughly recommend a visit.
The rewilding recipe is simple; remove fences, reintroduce herbivores, allow natural grazing, provide a little bit of cultivation, a dash of herbicides, a pinch of wild flow seeds and let nature take over. The recipe provides a platform for nature to reinvigorate itself and the result is an abundance of wildlife that simply could not be created by humans.
From a business perspective it seems to stack up. Produce is sold at a premium due to the quality and origin. There is a fantastic campsite (where I pitched up) in a wildflower meadow and some luxurious glamping accommodation, both with access to the onsite shop which sells local produce including meat from the Estate. A separate safari business provides guided tours around the Estate with specialist photography versions available. It is also an ideal research base for those looking to study the behaviour of ecosystems left to their own devices.
The bulk of conservation in the UK is a fallacy; the question of what is actually being conserved needs to be asked. More often than not a state of land – overgrazed, barren and lifeless – which has already been blighted by humans is the gold standard. In a very good talk George Monboit addressed the National Parks Conference on this very issue. For my money re-wilding is the way forward, not the glorified preservation of an already sad state of affairs. It is like restoring a 16th century church in art deco style; it doesn’t matter how nice the G Plan altar is.
The recipe at Knepp Castle is close, so very close, to perfect. It is agonisingly only one ingredient away. The trouble is what happens to all the herbivores? They are in this green wonderland of food, so they eat and eat. They then reproduce and consume even more. The wonderland becomes overgrazed, turns less green and less flourishing, like most of the UK’s National Parks. Not only the herbivores but the wider ecosystem suffers.
Paul Lister has a dream to re-introduce apex predators – previously native bears, wolves and lynx – at his Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland. That is the missing ingredient. Food webs not only work from the bottom up, as my recollection of school biology dictates, but the presence of predators also creates trophic cascades down. The presence of top carnivores changes the dynamics of each food level below, which in turn has knock on effects.
The re-introduction of wolves has had a transformative impact in Yellowstone National Park. One simple illustration; once reintroduced wolves hunt elk, this changes the elks behaviour, they stop grazing in certain areas allowing trees and plants to grow, the increased vegetation then allows other animals like otters and birds to prosper. American wolf hunter Aldo Leopold first acknowledged such relationships in his brilliant 1954 essay ‘Thinking like a Mountain’.
In the absence of predators, grazing is bound to be a key issue at Knepp Castle. There is never going to be a natural balance of herbivores, meaning human intervention is needed to estimate the correct levels. This also creates an interesting contrast, at Knepp Castle animals are raised and culled in order to create and protect the ecosystem, in stark comparison with the bulk of modern farming in which animals are raised and culled in spite of the damage caused to the ecosystem. The implications of this difference are huge.
The re-introduction of predators ignites a primitive excitement and would be brilliant to see but as it stands currently Knepp Castle is a fantastic project. The environmental importance of reducing meat consumption is filtering through in the mainstream media and I deem the arguments incredibly strong. Knepp Castle provides a beacon of how farming can change if people are willing to embrace the transition. Settled down for dinner in my tent, after a long cycle down to West Sussex and a walk around the Estate, the venison steak from the farm was mouth watering. My first piece of meat in two years; I find the case compelling.
Written by Douglas Drake
Aspiring adventurer, writer and environmentalist. Having sold his soul for a few years, Doug is now pursuing his true passions in life which revolve around animals and the natural world. With a background in business and finance it is likely Doug’s articles will tilt that way.
Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness
Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.
How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature
Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.
While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.
When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness. Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.
4 Practical Ways to Disconnect
If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:
1. Switch to a New Phone Plan
It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.
One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.
2. Get Rid of Social Media
Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).
If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.
3. Create Quiet Hours
If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.
4. Build Community
Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.
As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.
Untether Your Life
If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.
6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move
Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.
6 Tips for a Greener Move
Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.
1. Maximize Each Trip
When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.
If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.
2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep
The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.
3. Reuse Moving Boxes
Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.
4. Get Creative With Packing
Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.
5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies
Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.
6. Forward Your Mail ASAP
Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.
Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful
Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.
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