Accepted Paper:

Becoming as nature: Rewilding a Welsh landscape  


Elaine Forde (Swansea University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper emerges from my research in an ecovillage in Wales. Based on the understanding that people live with nature, as part of nature, with no formal structure, the group has developed certain taboos pertaining to their environment ensuring a tangible worldview embodied in the landscape.

Paper long abstract:

During PhD research, I discovered the history of a group firmly intertwined with references to the landscape. Through a deliberate process of rewilding the community has seen open moorland become thickly wooded in less than forty years. Nevertheless, people talk of "fields" where there are none visible, and stake claims to "gardens" which don't seem to be there.

Many such groups, so-called intentional communities which are somehow estranged from society come together with a common purpose (Sargisson, 2007). In what may be thought of as a liminal place, usually existing rurally, physically away from the influence of society's institutions, yet recreating their own formal structures to mimic this role, such experiments often fail or change beyond their original goals (ibid). Much of the literature on intentional communities overlooks examples where groups have no formal structure. In this case, and in the absence of such formalities, the very materiality and resilience of nature, either real or potential, has proven to be a powerful organisational principle and reference point. By appropriating the existing form of the landscape, it is possible to create a sense of belonging to nature, a powerful discourse in environmentalism.

In this paper I discuss the process of rewilding and how conventions become taboos, such as the taboo on the cutting of green wood. I present examples of everyday environmentalism which, informed by Rival (1993), demonstrate how social groups use the processes of growth and decay which occur in their surroundings as keystones of their own histories.

Panel P29
Postgraduate forum