Rewilding will be discussed and explored to celebrate the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Environment Day on 5 June 2019 at a rewilding conference in Gateshead.

Rewilding – a solution for climate change, hosted by Climate Action North East and sponsored by Resilient Business Systems, will focus on rewilding as one of the potential solutions for mitigating the effects of Climate Change.

Exploring how rewilding can be considered a major influence in tackling climate change and restoring ecosystems, and discussing how to do it, the conference features speakers including Blue Planet Cameraman and Award-Winning Photographer, Doug Allan, and Rewilding Britain Specialist Advisor, Prof Alastair Driver.

Climate North East Action Managing Director, Sharon Lashley, said: “There’s growing interest in rewilding in Britain, and it’s important that we work to find understanding and take action to create ways of living that not only restores the natural world but also our prospects for a sustainable, safe and prosperous world.

“To achieve this goal on the scale that’s needed, rewilding in all its forms must be on the agenda and minds of everyone, not least those in the business world, conservation, farming and community sectors. This conference gives us the opportunity to bring everyone together and explore the opportunities and benefits that large and small-scale rewilding can offer.”

Fife-born Doug Alan first visited the polar regions in 1976, and during the 43-years since has witnessed the effects of climate change, including the impacts that global tourism and human lifestyles continue to have on the planet.

Doug Allan films in the Arctic

He said: “I’ll be covering successes and setbacks in my presentation at the Rewilding Conference during my own personal experiences exploring the challenges of climate change. I’ve learned to balance climate reality with climate optimism and most importantly, to realise that everyone has to be working together to inspire a change of direction.”

Doug Allan and Husky, Greenland

The conference will also welcome speakers: Isabella Tree, Co-Owner Knepp Estate and Author of Wilding, David Hetherington; Author of The Lynx and Us, Sacha Dench, Conservationist, adventurer and motivational speaker; Professor Chris Stokes, Glacier Specialist and Researcher; and will be chaired by Mike Pratt, CEO of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

Prof Alastair Driver said: Almost every square metre of our land has been impacted on by humans in some way over the centuries. This means our cultural links to the landscape are inextricably intertwined with our expectations of that land. It is therefore essential that we engage with local communities and stakeholders in an exemplary fashion if we are to achieve rewilding at scale. Only then will we be able to release the full potential of rewilding to mitigate the impacts of climate change – along with all the other long term benefits it can bring for people and nature. This rewilding conference provides the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the pioneering landscape-scale solutions to tackling this critically important issue.”

Amongst the pines – an old Oak tree rots away after being crowded out by fast-growing sitka spruce. Photo: Ben Porter / Summit to Sea

This event follows the successful conference “Rewilding The Future”, which took place in September and featured leading naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham.

Sharon said: “It was such a success and showed that there is a growing understanding and a real appetite here in the North East to take a coordinated, cohesive and practical approach to rewilding – this conference will build on this and continue the way forward to ensuring that rewilding becomes second nature.”

Held at the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel the conference, which is expected to attract around 120 people, will take place from 8.30am until 4.30pm. There will be exhibitors, networking opportunities, lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Tickets cost £55 plus booking fee and can be booked here.

The speakers
Doug Allan – Blue Planet Cameraman and Award-Winning Photographer. Doug spent eight years in Antarctica as a research diver, scientist and photographer for the British Antarctic Survey, before changing direction to full time filming in 1984. Since then he has become one of the world’s best known and respected cameramen. He specialises in natural history, expeditions and science documentaries in some of the wildest and most remote places on our planet, particularly the polar zones. Over his career, he’s filmed for series like The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Ocean Giants, Operation Iceberg and Forces of Nature. Doug’s photographic awards include eight Emmy’s and five BAFTA’s. He has twice won the underwater category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He has three Honorary Doctorates in recognition of his camerawork, as well as two Polar Medals and an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.

Professor Alastair Driver (FCIEEM) – Specialist Advisor for Rewilding Britain. Alastair is cited in “Who’s Who” for influence and distinction in the field of Environmental Conservation. He is an expert country naturalist and ecologist who became the first Conservation Officer for the Thames Cathchment from 1984-2002 and was National Head of Conservation for the Environment Agency from 2002-2016. Alastair is a Specialist Advisor for Rewilding Britain and Arup, an Honorary Professor at University of Exeter, a trustee of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and an environmental advisor pro bono for several organisations including the National Trust and the Wild Trout Trust. Alastair also advises governments and organisations around the world on conservation issues and leads wildlife studies on expeditions for the Scientific Exploration Society.

Isabella Tree – Author and Owner Knepp Estate. Isabella Tree is an award-winning travel writer and author, married to the conservationist Charlie Burrell. Her latest book ‘Wilding’ tells the amazing story of their daring wildlife experiment: the rewilding of Knepp Estate (3,500 acres) in West Sussex. Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy Sussex clay was economically ruinous, they decided to step back and let nature take over. By introducing free-roaming herbivores —proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain— the Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again. In less than twenty years wildlife has rocketed and numerous endangered species have made Knepp their home. Soils have been restored and are sequestering carbon. The Knepp experience challenges conventional ideas about our past and present landscape, and points the way to a wilder, richer future—a countryside that benefits farming, nature and us.

Sacha Dench – Conservationist, adventurer and motivational speaker. Sacha has carried out many roles ranging from wildlife biologist to running a film and photography unit, a pollution detective, to Director of Public Relations for different organisations worldwide. Sacha’s speciality is communication of complex conservation issues, in inspiring ways. Growing up in farming and fishing communities, Sacha has huge respect for all those at the forefront of the rewilding debate. She also knows first-hand what it means to publicly put your neck on the line for conservation. Recently, Sacha has become known for the award winning ‘Flight of the Swans’ expedition, in which she overcame a fear of flight to fly a paramotor (hanging from a piece of cloth by strings with a big fan on her back) 7,000 km from arctic Russia to the UK – following the migration of wild swans.

David Hetherington – Author: Lynx & Us. Dr David Hetherington completed his doctorate in 2005 at the University of Aberdeen. It explored the feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx to Scotland, and in the process allowed him to build up a network of contacts across Europe. He then moved to the Cairngorms National Park, where he still lives and works on strategic woodland expansion and wildcat conservation. He sits on the board of Trees for Life, an award-winning charity that works to enhance the native woodland ecology of the Scottish Highlands. He recently published a book with French wildlife photographer, Laurent Geslin, called ‘The Lynx and Us’, which examines the relationship between lynx and people across Europe, and discusses the implications of this for the UK.

Professor Chris Stokes – Glacier Specialist and Researcher. Chris is a Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK. His research focusses on glaciers and their response to climate change; and ranges from monitoring small mountain glaciers over the last few decades to large-scale reconstructions of continental ice sheets over tens of thousands of years. Chris has authored over 130 scientific papers, contributed to several edited books, and his work has been covered in both national and international media. He was awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize (in 2009) in recognition of his research contributions and has been awarded the British Society for Geomorphology’s Gordon Warwick Medal (2013) and Wiley Award (2008). Chris is a former President of the British Branch of the International Glaciological Society and currently sits on the international steering committee for a new interdisciplinary Arctic research network ‘PalaeoArc’ (Processes and Palaeo-environmental Changes in the Arctic: 2018-2024).

• Durham Wildlife Trust
• Northumberland Wildlife Trust
• WWT Washington Wetlands Centre
• EcoNorth
• Climate Action North East
• RSPB Saltholme
• Resilient Business Systems
• Wild Intrigue
• Mahouts Elephant Foundation
• And many more exhibitors to be confirmed.