Linde De Vroey –
Remembering a wilder future: an exploration of cultural nostalgia in rewilding
Rewilding has become a popular practice of nature conservation and a way of reconnecting humans to nature. But rewilding is also criticized as a revival of nostalgia in the environmental movement, founded on the longing for an idealized past.
A nostalgic vision of the past is involved in ecological projects restoring ancient landscapes and ecosystems. It is even more forthcoming in the cultural aspects of rewilding and reviving traditional and indigenous culture and language to reconnect humans with wild environments. This may seem mere popular nostalgia, encouraging escapism and historical fiction, revealing a conservative or reactionary tendency.
However, nostalgia’s role in rewilding is much more complex. Instead of taking inherent nostalgia as a reason to dismiss rewilding, I investigate how it might instead be a critical and future-oriented concept. Rewilding recognizes that concrete places are steeped in layers of history, memory, and tradition. This acknowledgment rekindles a relationship between humans and nature that was kept in language, culture, and place. It further denounces the modern rhetoric of progress by stressing the value of preserving, retrieving, and remembering wild nature. Retrieving non-modern notions of place and time, it challenges linear narratives and rejects the rupture between modernity and tradition.
Furthermore, rewilding expands and transcends the concept of nostalgia by taking an orientation toward the future. Far from being a passive reveling in memory or a desire to unequivocally reverse history, rewilding is an active practice of re-establishing ties to the past to strive for a wilder future.
Linde De Vroey (she/her) holds a Master’s degree in History and Philosophy and is enrolled as a Ph.D. researcher at the Center for European Philosophy of the University of Antwerp. Her research project focuses on the role of history, memory, and tradition in ecological and cultural rewilding.
She explores the critical and cultural potential of the notions of nostalgia, solastalgia, and re-indigenization in rewilding projects. Before starting her Ph.D. research, she worked as a historian for several museums and research institutions in the field of memory studies, ecological history, and public history.
She is co-founder of the audio-collective Wilderhistories that makes podcasts and guided tours in and about nature.