This Forum article explains how many of today’s calamities—specifically, climate change, biodiversity loss, and COVID-19—are the result of humanity’s ongoing relationship to wildness. For millennia, humans have pushed unpredictability and discomfort out of their immediate surroundings in search of security and convenience. They have been remarkably successful. Today, many people, but especially the affluent, rarely encounter wild animals, suffer exposure to the elements, or even have to tolerate the capriciousness of other people. But wildness is akin to energy: it cannot be created or destroyed. As people craft havens of stability, they do not eradicate wildness but shove it into the lives of the less fortunate and onto the global level. These days, marginalized people face profound vulnerability, and key biophysical and social systems on Earth are spiraling out of control. This article demonstrates the dynamics of global wildness. It shows how trying to banish wildness from one’s surroundings leads directly to climate change, mass extinction, and COVID-19. It ends by advancing a strategy of rewilding as a way to address these challenges. It suggests that opening to greater uncertainty and a modicum of discomfort—both individually and collectively—can relieve some of the pressure generating global wildness and offer an ethically appropriate orientation for this moment of planetary intensification.

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