Rewilding Britain: a complex idea, illustrated

Up until about 40,000 years ago - when modern humans showed up and spoilt all the fun - giant straight-tusked elephants dominated the ecosystem of Europe. Along with other animals we now associate with warmer climes such as hippos, rhinos, lions and hyenas, the elephants tramped around a rich, thriving, densely forested environment – a far cry from the tamed, cultivated landscape that passes for wilderness today.

But some believe we can be wild again. The launch of Rewilding Britain, a new charity with the aim of restoring ancient eco-systems across Europe, could be the first small step towards a future that resembles our wilder past.

While we may not remember those wilder times, nature itself hasn’t forgotten. A huge variety of plant life will spring up undeterred in any precious patch of land that happens to have escaped the homogenising effect of farming. And, according to journalist and author, George Monbiot, robust little trees like box, holly and yew hark back to the days when huge animals were still stomping about - the tough roots and branches of these hardy varieties making them very resilient to elephant damage.

Two years ago, as part of our ‘Made Simple’ series for the Guardian, we worked on an animation narrated by Monbiot in which he introduced the concept of rewilding. Compellingly articulated in his book ‘Feral,’ he proposes a mass restoration of the ecosystems that have been lost over the last few thousand millennia. He argues that areas currently kept flat, bare and wildlife-free by a farming industry that isn’t even fully utilising the land could be handed back to nature and allowed to rewild. And it wouldn’t just be a re-emergence of flora but fauna too.

Animals such as beavers and boars are already being reintroduced to Britain and if the conditions were right wolves, elk, lynx, bison and many more species could feasibly join them. Indeed, George even goes on to suggest reintroducing some of the megafauna too – the lions, hippos, rhinos and elephants. If that sounds a little alarming maybe that’s just because we’ve been keeping nature at arms length for far too long. As he says, “rewilding the ecosystem offers us a chance to rewild our own lives as well.”

The animation, which featured a memorable (for us, anyway) stop-motion elephant stampede was fun to make and served its purpose as a talking point, stirring up some interesting online debate. George himself called it “a brilliant and beautiful animation,” which was jolly nice of him. Recently, it also caught the attention of the fledgling Rewilding Britain charity, which, inspired by Monbiot, is aiming to build a wider movement for rewilding in this country.

Tasked with producing the charity’s website, Susan Wright came to us with the idea of bringing some of the animation’s hand-drawn charm to their online presence.

“When we were developing the Rewilding Britain website we were really developing the brand at the same time,” says Susan. “We had strong photography but we wanted a way to lift the brand, to reflect the warm, light side of rewilding.”

“Rewilding is all about restoring ecosystems and our connection with nature. It's a positive thing, a way to make a better world. Sure, the challenges are huge and the opposition serious but we want to be accessible and remind people that nature is our friend, something we're actually part of. When we saw the Rewilding Made Simple animation we knew we'd found the solution - Scriberia.” 

“Scriberia understood exactly what we were trying to do. They added their creative thinking to our loose brief  to come up with a series of rewilding drawings that absolutely hit the spot. We love them and we hope everyone else does too.” 

“We can't wait to use more of them in further Rewilding Britain materials. We're hugely grateful to Scriberia for contributing their talent at reduced rate to the rewilding cause.”

Please check out the fantastic Rewilding Britain website, and, if you have a little more time on your hands, we highly recommend George Monbiot's book Feral too.