FROM scenes of seas of plastic to pictures of animals entangled in discarded face masks, we are witnessing a world where our relationship with nature is deeply dysfunctional and profoundly disrespectful.

Research supports this view. The 2020 Living Planet Report describes a dying planet. Over the last 50 years, 68% of species have declined – a figure that rises to 94% in tropical areas. Essential habitats that we depend on – such as wetlands to supply water and control floodwaters – have suffered an 84% loss since 1700.

Here in Scotland, only 1.5% of our land is national nature reserves, and just 4% is native woodland. A quarter of our land is severely nature depleted and doesn’t support the nature-rich forests, peatlands and river systems it should. Rural landscapes now support fewer people than previously.

These sad statistics are perhaps why the concept of rewilding is gaining so much momentum.

Rewilding means working with nature – not against it – to help it recover. Such a recovery would mean landscapes and seascapes – today increasingly silent and sterile – restored and rich in life again. Alongside the benefits for biodiversity, rewilding can also help solve other problems, including climate breakdown, flooding, pollution and degraded soils.

Sir David Attenborough has summed it up beautifully: “To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity, the very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis we’ve created – we must rewild the world.”

Now, more than 100 organisations from around the world have come together to hold the first World Rewilding Day, taking place today.

As part of this event, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance is highlighting its campaign calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first "rewilding nation".

The campaign calls for the rewilding of 30% of Scotland’s land and sea. This would see us growing more wild forests, genuinely protecting large areas of sea and restoring peatlands, moorlands, grasslands and wetlands.

This can be achieved with no loss of productive farmland, while offering landowners and farmers new opportunities for managing land in an evermore nature-friendly way, and benefitting from diversification.

Rewilding our towns and cities is essential too. This would ensure that all of us have opportunities to reconnect with nature – a fundamental human need, which is vital for our health and wellbeing.

The Rewilding Nation campaign also calls for rewilding to be added as a driver to the Scottish Government’s economic strategy, to ensure more investment in natural solutions.

More than 7000 people joined the Rewilding Nation campaign’s online launch last month. Our inspiring animation narrated by wildlife presenter and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan – which shows how rewilding can help make Scotland a place where nature recovers, wildlife flourishes and people prosper – has been viewed more than 400,000 times. Opinion polling by Survation has shown support for rewilding from more than three quarters of Scots.

Increasing numbers of Scotland’s MSPs are voicing their support too. Gail Ross (SNP, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) has placed a motion about Scotland’s potential to be a Rewilding Nation before parliament. The motion has already been signed by 22 other MSPs – including other SNP MSPs, as well as Labour, the Greens and LibDems.

We’re calling on more MSPs to support this important motion, and members of the public still have time to ask their MSPs to sign it. Alison Johnstone (Green, Lothian) has asked the Government directly about the motion, while the Greens have negotiated a new £10m Nature Restoration Fund to support rewilding projects.

There is increasing optimism that the next Scottish Government will declare Scotland a rewilding nation ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year. Such an act of leadership and hope would be a world-first, providing someone else doesn’t beat us to it.

Does this sound like it could be a long process or too political in nature? It doesn’t need to be and the rewards could be great.

Imagine what Scotland would be like if we really rewild our land and sea. Instead of seas of plastic, we would see seas full of fish. Instead of animals entangled in face masks, we would see beavers, red squirrels, golden eagles and crested tits brightening up our lives. Instead of denuded hills, glens and rivers, we could see a flourishing web of life supporting our health, offering fresh opportunities for farming and our local economies, and acting as a rewilding inspiration globally.

The world is facing overlapping nature, climate and health crises, all fuelled by our broken relationship with the natural world. But here in Scotland we have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves. The opportunity is there if we want to seize it.

Steve Micklewright is the convener of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and chief executive of rewilding charity Trees for Life