July 11, 2021
From The Anarchist Library


I dedicate this book to all the living and dead, all the forgotten

…And to all the people trying desperately to remember.


I would first and foremost like to acknowledge the largest influences on
my thoughts and work: Daniel Quinn, Tom Brown Jr., Derrick Jensen,
Martín Prechtel, Joseph Campbell, Toby Hemenway, Jean Liedloff, M. Kat
Anderson, Nancy Turner, Jason Godesky, and Willem Larsen. Without their
words I would not understand the workings of civilization or walk the
path of rewilding. I will forever live in debt to them.

Secondly I want to thank my friends Lisa Wells, Nicholas Often, Brandon
Rubesh, Jeff Packard, and Nancy and Matt Fitzgerald (may they rest in
peace). Without their collective support I wouldn’t have become myself
and certainly wouldn’t have made it through my teenage years. I will
forever live in debt to them.

Thirdly I want to thank my family for supporting me and understanding
me. I could not do what I do without their unconditional support and
love. I will forever live in debt to them.

Fourth, I want to send my thanks to the Earth, the water, the fungi and
plants, the insects and animals, the trees, the birds, the wind, the
clouds, the sun, moon, and stars for talking to me even when I stopped
listening. I will forever live in debt to them.

Lastly I want to thank my muse. The invisible force(s?) that makes me do
what I do and whispers ideas in my ear. To the real Urban Scout, I send
my biggest thanks. I will forever live in debt to you.

Special thanks to George Steel, who spent hours nagging me to put
Rewild or Die back out into the world, and who dedicated hours of
formatting to make it look more professional. Huge thanks to Mindy
Fitch, who copy-edited this second edition.


Hi and welcome to the second edition of Rewild or Die, Urban Scout’s
anti-civilization manifesto!

At some point I gave up on this project and began a complete rewrite,
but I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish that, as I abandoned the Urban
Scout project in favor of my nonprofit Rewild Portland, which now
consumes the majority of my time and energy. I was also a bit
embarrassed about the quality of Rewild or Die, in that it was full of
typos (granted it is also written in an experimental version of
English). But still. I was nervous that my affiliation as Urban Scout (a
bridge-burning asshole, critic, and blogger) would affect my ability to
build relationships that would help Rewild Portland grow. I don’t agree
with everything Urban Scout said or did; in fact I’m not really even
that into his voice anymore. BUT, two words: George Steel. My friend
George Steel just wouldn’t allow me to kill Rewild or Die. He demanded
that I keep it up. I told him that if I were to put it back up, it would
need to be seriously copy edited and slightly edited for content. He
said he could do the typeface, but I needed an editor. I’m a broke
environmental educator working three jobs and don’t have the money to
pay a professional copy editor. Luckily I met Mindy Fitch, a
professional copy editor, and was able to convince her to edit my book.
Without those two, I would have let this project continue to fade away.

It’s strange reflecting back on the totality and various iterations of
my Urban Scout project. It’s been years since I donned a loincloth and
took to the streets to light bowdrill fires, years since I wrote an
angry, caffeine-enraged blog. Urban Scout is gone for now. So what
happened? Where did he go? Longtime readers often ask me this question.
In brief I say that Urban Scout was a moniker, a muse, and I’ve moved
on. But this feels unsatisfactory to me, so I’ll go into more detail.

Urban Scout started out as a fictional character created by me and a
friend. He was the protagonist in a short film we made during the summer
of 2003. He became more of an alter ego and muse for me in late 2004 as
the film wrapped up, and from there he turned into a blog and persona.
My blog was originally titled The Adventures of Urban Scout. I wrote
that Urban Scout was “part fact/part fiction, part man/part myth.” I
said that I tried “to use the comedic irony and novelty of our situation
as a clever disguise to cloak and spread a truly sustainable worldview,
for a time beyond our own.” The blog and online persona were very active
from about 2006 to 2009. By 2011 I wasn’t writing much anymore, and my
Rewild or Die book tour in the spring of that year was sort of a swan
song for Urban Scout. From time to time I hear his voice in my head, and
it feels like I have to hold him back. It’s not really me, but it’s
something deeper that speaks through me from a far-off place. That’s all
I can really say about that.

Looking back now is weird. I had to get my own identity back, learn to
interpret what Urban Scout says and filter it through my own head rather
than just give him the reins. I’m able to take what he says and feels
and translate it into something more broadly “appealing.” However,
that’s not particularly my goal. My goal since 2000 has been to actively
create a rewilding community in Portland, Oregon, through Rewild
Portland. Urban Scout has helped me clarify my own purpose and
understand the power of the muse. I’m too sensitive, though. Urban Scout
doesn’t give a darn what people think, really. But since we share the
same body, or rather because I let him use my body and mind as a
vehicle, I get blamed for his assholery. My heart just can’t take it
anymore. I’m a nice person and I want people to like me. I had to shut
him up because his spirit is one of “truth speaking,” and generally
people don’t want to hear the truth, especially when it comes from an
angry-sounding dude. Now that I don’t give my muse total creative
control (so to speak), I feel much happier, and I’ve made a lot more
headway in creating the kind of life I want to live.

I look back at the Urban Scout years with fondness, but as I read these
chapters I realize I’ll never really be happy with Rewild or Die, in
part because I do not feel as though I wrote it. It is Urban Scout’s
book. My new book on the same topic, if I manage to finish it, will be
vastly different from his. I am tentatively calling it Rewild and

Peter Michael Bauer, October 2015

A Quick Preface

I didn’t write this book to change people’s minds about civilization, or
to stand as “the word” of rewilding, or to prove to the civilized that a
horticulturalist or hunter-gatherer way of life works better for people
and the planet than the devastating effects of agricultural civilization
(okay, maybe a little). Many other books exist on those topics, full of
wide-ranging archaeological, historical, ecological, and anthropological
evidence (see my bibliography!). With this book, I intend to clarify the
meaning behind this cultural renaissance we call rewilding. I do this
through sharing my experiences and thoughts on rewilding in an attempt
to shed light on elements of rewilding that some may not have seen.

The thoughts in this book reflect my current level of experience and
collection of evidence as of 2008. My thoughts on these topics will most
likely change over time with new experiences and different pieces of
evidence. Honestly, I don’t agree all that much with some of the things
I’ve written here. But I feel getting the ideas into the world outweighs
any hesitations for publishing this work. I could write a whole Literacy
vs. Rewilding chapter about how the written word, like the verb to be
(see “English vs. Rewilding”), plays god by not allowing things to
change the way they did in oral cultures. But maybe I’ll save that for
another book.

Blah, blah, blah. That said, I have gleaned a lot of information and had
countless experiences with rewilding in my life. Though I don’t claim
expertise, I will stake my claim for the experience I do have! This book
works as a tally of my experiences and accumulated thoughts on
rewilding. Love it or leave it.

Rewilding: An Introduction

Rewild, verb: to return to a more natural or wild state; the
process of undoing domestication

The first time I saw the word rewilding, it grabbed me immediately. I
knew that at long last I had a word to describe what I do. For a decade
I had used many words attempting to describe my lifestyle: wilderness
survivalist, primitivist, anti-civilizationist, tracker, naturalist,
permaculturalist, environmentalist, green anarchist,
anarcho-primitivist… The list went on and on. Nothing quite fit until I
found rewilding.

No other word I’ve found encompasses the act of abandoning civilization
and its roots in domestication like rewild. It also struck me because,
as a verb, it implies an action, a process, rather than an end point. An
obvious premise sits in this word: giving something back its wildness.
Wildness means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
But let’s go with dictionary.com’s definition:

Wild, adjective:

  1. Living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated: a wild
    animal: wild geese

  2. Growing or produced without cultivation or the care of humans, as
    plants, flowers, fruit, or honey: wild cherries

  3. Uncultivated, uninhabited, or waste: wild country

  4. Uncivilized or barbarous: wild tribes

Combine that with:

Re: a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used
with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or
with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward
motion: regenerate; refurbish; retype; retrace; revert

Considering these definitions, particularly the first entry for wild
(“living in a state of nature”), it makes sense to define rewilding as a
return to a more natural state.

Why do definitions matter? People must have a shared reality in order to
work together in that reality. I once got into the most insane argument
with a man who refused to share reality with me, claiming that “nothing
is real” and “there is no such thing as facts.” These arguments looked
more like philosophical masturbation than practical thinking that would
lead to taking actions to create a sustainable planet. While I agreed in
the philosophical sense with him, it didn’t help anyone to make choices
about their actions, and to make those actions in the real world. While
I don’t believe in the concept of “facts,” I do believe that we can
agree on shared observations of reality. We can observe that
agriculture destroys the soil. If we can’t share that reality, we can’t
work together to change our subsistence strategy to one that builds
soil. Similarly, if we can’t share a reality of what it means to rewild,
the word might as well mean nothing at all. The more clearly we define
an idea, the easier time we will have using it for practical purposes.

In a sense, I will claim ownership of the term rewilding, in that my
life’s work centers around caretaking the idea of what it means to
return to a wild, undomesticated life. That, to me, means a
hunter-gatherer lifestyle in its wholeness. I don’t think of rewilding
as some new buzzword or some small scene of people or a just wildlife
conservation tactic. I see it as a complex lens through which I view the
world. This lens helps me to make decisions about how to live my life.

Now, some contention may lie in that I strongly advocate against running
away to the wilderness (which most people assume rewilding implies).
While I strongly advocate against it, I still see it as part of
rewilding. Because my focus lies in fostering as much rewilding as
possible, running away to the wilderness doesn’t effect much change or
create the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in its wholeness. It doesn’t mean
it doesn’t have its own merit: it certainly does! I also advocate for
creating “rewilding havens,” land where people can work together to
rewild. This differs from running away into the wilderness because
people still have an interface with civilization to draw out its
members, rather than shunning all of it and living as a hermit (which I
believe also has its own merit).

When it comes down to it, though, I don’t see one “right” way to rewild.
Everyone has their own limits and passions. I will continue to do what I
can to build a cultural momentum of rewilding, using the fullest extent
and articulation of the practical, shared definition. This shared
definition gives us a clear shared goal to work toward.

The more I talk with people and read and write about rewilding, the more
I find that the above definition appears oversimplified for an average
member of civilization. Most people have preconceived notions of the
words wild, natural, and domesticated that stem from
civilization’s mythology, which means the definitions serve the purpose
of convincing people to believe in civilization. This means that when an
average person reads or hears the above definition they will not
understand what rewilding actually means to someone who has redefined
those concepts (outside of civilization’s propaganda). Therefore, the
definition can obscure more than it reveals unless we simultaneously
redefine several other concepts.

Now you see why I get a headache trying to explain rewilding in a couple
of paragraphs. The definition begs a more complex analysis. For example,
what does a wild state actually look like (compared to what our
civilized mythology tells us)? How do we define natural and unnatural?
How do we define domestic? What causes domestication to begin with? Why
would we want to rewild? Why would you want to undo domestication? What
stands in the way of undoing domestication? How do we surpass these
obstacles that prevent us from rewilding? Without fully understanding
the answers to these questions, the term rewilding looks to most
civilized people I’ve encountered like it simply means “getting back to
nature” or “primitive living.”

Rewilding refers to the action of participating in the social and
economic renaissance of humans who use the preexisting social and
economic models of our hunter-gatherer-gardener ancestors to recreate
the sustainable relationship that humans had with their ecosystems and
relatives for millions of years before the recent advent of agriculture,
empire, and civilization. This critique emerged from modern ecological
and anthropological studies that show how civilization, agriculture, and
empire inherently destroy the landbase on which we depend for our
survival. Rather than trying to fix a model built on unstable ground,
rewilding creates a new culture using an ancient recipe.

Rewilders recognize that as long as empire exists, it will force people
into domestication and prevent rewilding from taking place. In order for
rewilding to occur, empire must not exist. This reveals one of the
complexities of rewilding in comparison with, say, the idea of “simple
living” or “getting back to nature.” The collapse and removal of empire
stands as a pivotal topic in rewilding.

In order to accomplish rewilding, rewilders practice a multitude of
skills such as innovative team building, storytelling, martial arts, and
ancient hand crafts like brain-tanning deer skins into buckskins and
making tools from stone, bone, and wood. Because rewilders see rewilding
as part of a transition culture, they do not shun the use of modern
technologies such as computers, guns, and cars, knowing that those
technologies rely on an unsustainable industrial economy and will not
last through the end of empire.

In order to create a holistic culture empathetic to the land and our
other-than-human neighbors, rewilders emphasize storytelling and sensory
exercises that provide experiences in animism. Animism, which lies at
the heart of rewilding, refers to a way of seeing and experiencing the
world and its other-than-human members as beings who demand respect and
not inanimate objects put here for humans to exploit.

Creating and maintaining wild or feral cultures marks the goal of
rewilding. Rewilding does not denote an end point but rather a
continuing cultural process of learning how to relate to the land,
people, and other-than-humans in a sustainable way. Even wild or feral
cultures practice the art of rewilding.

After all this time, I’ve finally come up with a (rather mechanistic)
definition that I think will at least explain a lot more to the average
person, and perhaps pique their interest and let them see rewilding
through a more complex lens than the previous definition:

Rewild, verb: to foster and maintain a sustainable way of life
through hunter-gatherer-gardener social and economic systems, including
but not limited to the encouragement of social, physical, spiritual,
mental, and environmental biodiversity and the prevention and undoing of
social, physical, spiritual, mental, and environmental domestication and

Domestication vs. Rewilding

How do we define wild? We now know that “wild” hunter-gatherer
cultures greatly manipulated their environments. Where do we draw the
line between wild and domestic? Rewilding means undoing
domestication. If we wish to understand what that fully entails, we must
examine the words wild, natural, unnatural, and domestic as we
have come to know them in the context of civilization.

Domestic comes from the Latin domesticus, meaning “belonging to the
household.” Domesticates belong to the household. We could interpret
this in many ways, depending on our own personal perception of “the
household.” If we perceive the whole world as a house that we all
(humans and other-than-humans) belong to, I see no problem with the term
domestic. Culturally, however, we know that civilization does not
define the word in those terms, but in terms of belonging to the house
of humans. After all, the word has an uncle, dominion, which god told
us in Genesis we hold over all things natural. Dominion comes from the
Latin dominionem, “ownership.” Let’s not forget dominion’s nephew,
domination, which means “to rule or have dominion over.” Or, if we
think back to the terms of a “house,” it means “lord, master of the
house.” Domestic refers to all forms of creation that we
(civilization) master over.

The term master, as opposed to collaborator, demonstrates the basic
differences between wild and domestic relationships: control. The
difference between a wild and free, commensal symbiotic relationship and
a domestic, parasitic one involves the commitment to control or the will
to have power over rather than share power with.

In The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen defines natural and
unnatural in this way:

Any ritual, artifact, process, action is natural to the degree that it
reinforces our understanding of our embeddedness in the natural world,
and any ritual, artifact, process, action is unnatural to the degree
that it does not.

If every living creature has a connection to those it consumes and those
who consume it, the genetics of both will affect both. Domestication
removes all variables concerning the life and genetic changes of an
organism. When we do not allow other animals to eat plants (through
fences, “pest” control, etc.), we remove a variable of genetic strength.
When we breed animals and plants for genetic traits based on living in
an entirely human-manipulated environment, we remove the variables of
dynamic environments and they lose genetic strength in the real world.
Over time this makes them dependent on human culture (specifically
agriculture, factory farming, and civilization). It also feels like a
lot of work for the controller (constant weeding, tilling, fertilizing,
genetic engineering). Domestication ignores our embeddedness in the
natural world and seeks to control it. Using the above definition of
natural and unnatural, we can refer to the process of domestication
as unnatural.

Controller or controlled, both species breed weakness into their genes,
and in our case culture. Put a civilized human in the “wild” (which to
domestic peoples means “anywhere outside our control”), and they will
have a very difficult time meeting their most basic needs. We have
become so dependent on domesticated species that we have physically and
culturally domesticated ourselves.

A natural relationship breeds mutually beneficial relationships that
build strength in a given and changing environment with variables
outside of human control. As greater environments change through shifts
in climate and other environmental factors, these relationships maintain
a fluctuating baseline. Civilized people believe that in nature you must
“eat others or find yourself eaten.” Yet the reality of nature suggests
that you must caretake the things you eat, or you will die. If five
species eat salmon, all five of those species must caretake the salmon.
If one species caretakes wheat (and prevents anyone else from eating
it), the web of support breaks and both wheat and wheat eater become
weak. With many life forms tending each other, if one species chain
breaks, the other species will not feel as stressed, since many others
tend to them.

Rewilding means returning to a more natural or wild state and reversing
domestication. It means increasing our commensal symbiotic relationships
with humans, and more importantly with other-than-humans. This doesn’t
mean we just “let things grow.” Commensal symbiotic relationships do not
mean “hands off!” It means learning to tend the lives of those we eat,
so that they keep on living and so do we.

Agriculture vs. Rewilding

In order to understand the destructive nature of agriculture, you must
understand the phases of ecological succession. Ecological succession
refers to the phases of growth from barren rock to a climax forest. The
loss of biodiversity that creates a blank slate generally occurs through
a disturbance such as fire, flood, or volcanic eruption.


Ecological succession and subsistence strategies

Primary succession refers to the earliest phase of ecological
succession, characterized by the growth of pioneer plants such as fungi,
grasses, and annual wildflowers. These plants love sun, barren rock
and/or disturbed soil, and serve to create quality, life-giving soil
that makes secondary succession possible. Secondary succession refers to
the later phases of ecological succession, marked by the growth of
larger perennials such as shrubs and trees, which need established soil.
These phases work towards creating the final stage of succession, a
stable ecosystem, referred to as a climax forest.

Agriculture refers to a process of cultivation that simulates natural
catastrophe (such as burning, flooding, tilling) to inspire annual
pioneer plants, specifically grasses like corn, wheat, and rice. From
its foundation, agriculture causes a loss of biodiversity. Agricultural
subsistence means keeping the land in a fixed state of primary
succession. Agriculturalists have a fondness for monocropping.
Monocropping sets up the perfect environment for insects who love to eat
that particular plant. Slowly but surely, tilling to create continuous
primary succession exposes the soil to wind and rain until it erodes
away entirely—so much so that in order to grow crops, fields require the
importation of mineral resources known as fertilizer.

Ecological succession shows us that plant growth naturally progresses to
climax forests. Agriculture works against, rather than with, this
natural progression. Trying to stop insect populations when you have
provided them the perfect habitat requires a lot of work. Making
fertilizers that you would not need if you followed the flow of
succession requires a lot of work. Not only does this form of
subsistence destroy the environment, it also requires a massive amount
of labor (which characteristically comes in the form of a slave class).

Agriculture creates an extreme vulnerability to crop failure from large
insect infestations, disease, and climate change. This inevitably leads
to famine. If you put all your eggs in the agriculture basket, you die.
In order to combat this, agriculturalists invented food storage, aka the
granary. Initially this looks great—a little more work on their part,
but in the end they don’t starve to death during crop failures.
Unfortunately, food surplus affects the population growth of a species
inspiring it to grow.

Any animal population with a surplus of food grows to match that
surplus, humans included. A population cannot grow without an increase
in food availability, usually through an increase in “efficiency” in
food production. Therefore a population explosion implies more food
production. Full-time agriculturalists with a food surplus create a
positive feedback loop of growing more food to feed an ever-expanding
population. Eventually the soil beneath them degrades and washes away,
and they cease practicing agriculture, as we have seen with many
civilizations; or as in the case of our civilization, they expand into
neighboring forests and keep growing.

Civilization, a way of life characterized by the growth of cities, works
as an ecological phenomenon occurring when agricultural peoples reach a
certain population density due to their food-surplus-induced population
growth positive feedback loop. Though not a catastrophe in the “natural”
sense, as in fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, and comets, in
ecological terms you can literally call civilization a catastrophe.
Perhaps “cultural catastrophe” would serve as the best description.

It feels worth noting that many First Nations peoples and other
indigenous peoples around the world heavily cultivated the lands they
lived with in a manner very different from agriculture. These methods
have many names, but I prefer the term horticulture.

Horticulture refers to cultivation by means of secondary succession:
perennial shrubs and trees, aka forests. This still involves burning,
selective harvesting, crop rotation, pruning, transplanting, minor
tilling, and weeding. These methods can also lead to population growth,
but they do not lead to overall loss of biodiversity and soil as
agriculture does. This also does not mean to say that horticulturalists
never used agricultural practices, but that agricultural foods never
formed a staple of their diet.

Many people have a difficult time understanding the differences between
horticulture and agriculture. This may occur because some agricultural
strategies cross over into horticultural strategies. Linguistically the
term agriculture comes from the Latin agri (field) and cultura
(cultivation). Horticulture combines hortus (garden) and cultura.
Cultivating a field versus cultivating a garden. We can see the
implications of agriculture’s monocropping primary succession plant
obsession in its very name. We can also understand the implications of
horticulture’s diversity of plants and smaller-scale style through its

We can distinguish between the two by observing the results of how the
strategy affects the land. Does it create more biodiversity or less?
Does it strengthen the biological community or weaken it? It seems like
a good idea to create a list of horticultural and agricultural
strategies and reveal how and why you can use them to create more life,
or misuse them to create less.

Agriculture uses strategies of cultivation such as transplanting,
seeding, tilling, burning, pruning, fertilizing, selective harvesting,
crop rotation, and so on. But the main difference between agriculture
and horticulture involves agriculture’s focus on using these tools to
create one habitat: meadow or field. Horticulture uses the same
strategies of cultivation to promote ecological succession and diversity
of landscapes. Let’s go through and find out for ourselves.

Catastrophe: burning vs. tilling

When I hear the word tilling, the classic image of a farmer and his
plow pops into my head. I can see the deep trenches the plow has cut
into the land in pretty rows. I can smell the sweetness of the upturned
earth. Tilling works as an artificial catastrophe. Burning also works as
a catastrophe. Frequent small-scale burns return nutrients to the soil
without killing the roots of desired species. Burning also eliminates
succession and prevents large-scale fires from occurring.

Soil aeration: sticks vs. steel

Gophers and moles dig holes and aerate the soil. Foragers use digging
sticks to forage roots, tubers, and rhizomes. This breaks up the earth,
making it easier for the roots to grow, and aerates the soil. The plow,
on the other hand, goes too deep and destroys the mycorrhizal network of
fungi that distributes nutrients to plants. It also aerates the soil,
but it goes too deep and causes the soil to dry too much, which leads to
soil loss and erosion.

Irrigation: sticks vs. stone

Beavers build small-scale dams with sticks that create flood plains,
wetlands, and marshes that provide habitat for aquatic life. Humans too
have replicated this on a small scale. Civilization builds insanely
large dams of stone that destroy the river’s life by draining too much
water and drying it out.


Any squirrel will tell you, if you want to ensure that you have more to
eat year after year, plant a few more seeds than you’ll dig up to eat
during the winter.


Transplanting looks the same as seeding to me. Do you consider a seed a
plant? What about seeds that germinate into plants and then grow through
rhizome? Some willow trees can lose a branch, only to have that branch
drift downstream and grow into a whole new plant! Wait, would you
consider it new if it came from a preexisting tree? Do they share the
same soul? Have I gone too deep for a chapter about horticulture and

Fertilizing: poop vs. petrol

Shit. We all do it. Poop turns into fertilizer. Controlled burns also
work as fertilizer by quickly breaking down dead wood and making their
nutrients bio-available. Agriculturalists just import nutrients from
other areas, and in the case of oil, from under the ground.


Foragers and horticulturalists also used burning to keep down insect
populations. Civilization uses toxic chemicals that poison not only bugs
but also the soil, the water, the birds, and our own bodies.

Pruning and coppicing

Beaver pruning stimulates willows, cottonwood, and aspen to regrow
bushier the next spring. Black bears break branches. Hunter-gatherers
prune trees too, to encourage larger yields and materials for making
tools like baskets.


Horticulturalists don’t use this technique, which exists uniquely to
agriculturalists. Probably the larger symptom of control and
domestication. No weeds in my field!

Selective harvesting: strength vs. weakness

Every animal uses this technique. Wolves thin out the sick and weak
deer. Sometimes you take the weak so the strong survive. Sometimes you
eat the strong so your poop will fertilize the seed. Selective
harvesting shows us that systems evolve to work in cooperation. If we
look closely we can see the outcome of our decisions. Domestication also
works as a form of selective harvesting, only rather than strengthening
the plant or animal, it weakens it. I go more into this aspect in
“Domestication vs. Rewilding.”

Seasonal rotation

Aside from building strength through selective harvesting, seasonal
rotation of lands and food sources, and even yearly rotations, allow an
area to restore itself from the temporary impacts of the harvest.

Many people also make the assumption that those who practice
horticulture long enough eventually begin to practice agriculture. I’d
like to suggest that this perceived continuum from foraging to
agriculture does not exist. I’d like to suggest that a continuum between
foragers and horticultural peoples exists, but agriculture appears as a
completely different beast. It works in opposition to the fundamental
restorative principles that shape the continuum between foraging and
horticulture. Although it uses mostly intensified horticultural
practices, it disregards the most basic ecological principles.

Foragers, hunter-gatherers, and horticulturalists used (and in some
places, continue to use) the aforementioned methods to build soil and
create varying habitats of succession, creating more ecotones and
increasing biodiversity. If a continuum existed, we would see a decrease
in biodiversity in each new phase of the continuum: hunter-gatherers
would decrease biodiversity more than foragers, and horticulturalists
would decrease biodiversity more than hunter-gatherers. Because we don’t
see this, we can guess that agriculture exists outside of that
subsistence continuum as a completely different beast.

Many people use the term agriculture too loosely. Expressions like
sustainable agriculture make no sense when you take into account the
origin of the word agriculture. Sustainable agriculture looks like
an oxymoron. We need to differentiate between agriculture (the field or
monocrop) and horticulture (the garden of forest succession) if we want
to live sustainably.

This doesn’t mean that everything labeled “horticulture” falls under a
sustainable practice. On the contrary, most fruit-bearing trees these
days come in the form of clones—one plant spliced onto the rootstock of
a similar plant and pruned to encourage the graft, a perfect clone of
the original. Generally these plants have no fertility on their own,
which means they rely completely on their human caretakers. I can’t
think of a worse fate nor a better example of domestication.

To take the next step, we must translate this knowledge into practical
use. The question presses: How can we change our subsistence strategies
from agriculturing supermarkets to horticulturing-hunting-gathering
villages? How can we go from stupid-civilized-urban-dweller to

Keep reading.

At the core of rewilding lies the dismantling and abandonment of
agricultural subsistence, a catastrophic practice to which we all act as
slaves. We must create a new way of life using such ancient techniques
as horticulture and its modern cousin, permaculture, as a transition to
or to supplement a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Generalization vs. Rewilding

We know that humans who lived here for millions of years did so in a
sustainable fashion. We know that civilization has caused one of the
largest mass extinctions in only a few thousand. We know that the
thousands of cultures that did not practice agriculture and create
civilizations lived in a sustainable way. We know that a lot of those
cultures had cultural contamination by contact with civilization by the
time anthropologists wrote about them. Fortunately, enough writing on
less-touched cultures exists so that we can estimate how much
civilization contaminated an indigenous culture before anthropologists
wrote about them. For example, when someone argues that rape and spousal
abuse existed in indigenous cultures, we can often link that behavior to
post-contact with civilization. I don’t mean to say that all
hunter-gatherers had a perfect life. Assuredly not. Humans, after all,
belong to the animal kingdom, and environmental pressures can cause any
number of conflicts.

Respecting indigenous traditions and mindful of cultural appropriation,
I approach these cultures from a systems perspective, without fixating
on their particular dogmas or ceremonies. I generalize because I speak
of the overwhelming similarities in their respective systems approaches
to participating with the land and each other. I generalize because the
evidence says I can. Any exception usually reflects some form of
contamination by civilization (as in the example of rape) or a cultural
difference (like group sex, circumcision, warfare) that has nothing to
do with the principles behind rewilding, only working as a straw man to
keep the fundamental unsustainability of civilization from coming to
light. If you have trouble understanding this, please read some modern

This all means to say that when I talk about horticulturalists,
hunter-gatherers, indigenous peoples, primitive peoples, native
cultures, wild peoples, or animist cultures, I generally mean those
cultures that lived for millions of years in a sustainable way and had
little to no contamination from civilized culture. When I use words like
agriculture, agriculturalists, civilizationists, civilized, domestic, or
domesticated, I refer to the current culture that does not live in a
sustainable or desirable way.

Appropriation vs. Rewilding

A few (always white) people have attacked me as a cultural appropriator.
If I learned a Lakota song, recorded it, and sold it to others, you
could call me a cultural appropriator. If I make a fire using a
bow-drill, that doesn’t count as appropriation, because it represents a
piece of technology widely distributed around the world and carries no
dogmatic cultural practice with it. I don’t benefit financially from the
sale of particular indigenous traditional cultural practices. You won’t
see me sell a line of traditional Chanupa pipes.

If I made a traditional Northwest Coast mask, in that particular
artistic style, that would look like cultural appropriation. But I will
talk about how the Northwest Coast cultures encourage biodiversity
through their perception of, and practices with, the land. I will talk
about how we can restore this relationship in our own way using the same
practices. You cannot call that appropriation.

Many indigenous authors and teachers have explained that no one owns
these skills. Now, that doesn’t mean I practice particular,
long-standing traditions of a particular indigenous people (such as the
potlatch), but that I study their systems, and the systems of my own
ancestors, and create my own using the same principles.

For example, my friend Brian and I led a sweat lodge at a summer camp.
That does not count as cultural appropriation because we didn’t use any
particular native culture songs or themes. Cultures from around the
world use sweat lodges. You sit in a little room with hot rocks in the
middle and pour water on them. We also call it a steam bath. The basic
principle here involves sweating out toxins to cleanse yourself. Now if
you dress it with Lakota songs, and have no Lakota ancestry, that works
as appropriation. If you make up your own songs or sing the songs of
your own culture (I like Cat Stevens’ If You Want to Sing Out), you
have started to rewild.

This subject evokes a lot of emotion in many parties. Cultural
appropriation has really destroyed and further disrespected indigenous
cultures affected by civilization. Rewilding does not mean appropriating
native cultures. It means helping them thrive again, as we help
ourselves to do the same. We all have native ancestry if we trace back
far enough. Rewilding means respectfully learning from our
hunter-gatherer ancestors as well as from those alive today, honoring
their long-standing traditions so that we can reestablish a sustainable
relationship with the land that benefits all generations of life to

Civilization vs. Rewilding

You might assume that writing a chapter called “Civilization vs.
Rewilding” would come easy since civilization means the exact opposite
of rewilding. Then I got to thinking: most people don’t know what
civilization means

American Heritage Dictionary defines civilization thusly:

  1. An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material
    development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and
    sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing,
    and the appearance of complex political and social institutions

  2. The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or
    region or in a particular epoch: Mayan civilization; the
    civilization of ancient Rome

  3. The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state

  4. Cultural or intellectual refinement; good taste

  5. Modern society with its conveniences: returned to civilization
    after camping in the mountains

These definitions reek of a culture with a superiority complex. I love
how the line “the appearance of complex political and social
institutions” sounds like a glossed-over way of saying slavery. In
order to fully grasp what civilization means, let’s go on a little
definition journey. The first path we take will lead us to redefine many
of the words commonly found among mythologists and anthropologists. As
we explore these concepts, they will become tools, not static objects.
Take this definition of a hammer:

A hand tool that has a handle with a perpendicularly attached head of
metal or other heavy rigid material, and is used for striking or

Notice how the definition describes what makes a hammer: a handle with a
perpendicularly attached head of metal or other heavy rigid material.
Notice also that this definition includes the use of a hammer: striking
or pounding. This shows us an example of a dynamic definition. Most of
the words I use do not include usage in their definitions. The more we
begin to perceive them as tools for rewilding, the greater the need to
include their purpose or use, within their definition. So that we can
communicate on the same page, we’ll start by redefining and refining
definitions of words in the vocabulary of those-who-rewild.

Okay, this may sound strange, but let’s start with art. How do we
define this word? American Heritage Dictionary gives me this

  1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work
    of nature

  2. a. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms,
    movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense
    of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a
    graphic or plastic medium

    1. The study of these activities

    2. The product of these activities; human works of beauty considered
      as a group

These definitions describe art physically but leave us with no
understanding of why. Why do humans produce conscious arrangement of
sounds, colors, forms, movements? Why do humans make stuff? Something as
seemingly instinctual as art must have a purpose. Humans have a complex
language and live as storytellers; art gives us a way of telling a
story. Whether we use one image or a thousand, a piece of art contains a
story. So the purpose of making art works to tell a story. Maybe we
don’t see this in the dictionary because it serves a subconscious
function? Regardless, this leads to another question: why do we tell

Story, noun:

  1. An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true
    or fictitious, as:

    1. An account or report regarding the facts of an event or group of
      events: The witness changed her story under questioning

    2. An anecdote: came back from the trip with some good stories

    3. A lie: told us a story about the dog eating the cookies

  2. a. A usually fictional prose or verse narrative intended to interest
    or amuse the hearer or reader; a tale

    1. A short story

  3. The plot of a narrative or dramatic work

  4. A news article or broadcast

  5. Something viewed as or providing material for a literary or
    journalistic treatment: “He was colorful, he was
    charismatic, he was controversial, he was a good
    story” (Terry Ann Knopf)

  6. The background information regarding something: What’s the story on
    these unpaid bills?

  7. Romantic legend or tradition: a hero known to us in story

Yeah, yeah. But why? We use a hammer for striking or pounding. What do
we use story for? Why do we tell stories? I have asked many groups this
question and have heard answers like, “So someone won’t make the same
mistakes,” “So we can learn from the past.” These don’t satisfy me.
Maybe we should look at where storytelling came from. The word myth
has many connotations, mainly bad ones. Some people hear the word and
equate it to a lie. Others conjure images of ancient Greek or Roman
gods. When I use the word myth I mean something very different. In
order to understand civilization and its functions, we need to give
myth and how we perceive it a makeover. Let’s take a look at the

  1. a. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural
    beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in
    the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the
    natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals
    of society: the myth of Eros and Psyche; a creation myth

    1. Such stories considered as a group: the realm of myth

  2. A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person,
    institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate
    a cultural ideal: a star whose fame turned her into a myth; the
    pioneer myth of suburbia

  3. A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an

  4. A fictitious story, person, or thing: “German artillery superiority
    on the Western Front was a myth” (Leon Wolff)

Did you notice they made no mention of what people use myths for? I did.
Three definitions above say that a myth means a story. Three include
ideology. Let’s redefine a myth as a story that holds a culture’s
ideology. So then, what purpose do we have in telling a story that holds
a cultural ideology? In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell said,

The ancient myths were designed to harmonize the mind and the body. The
mind can ramble off in strange ways and want things that the body does
not want. The myths and rites were a means of putting the mind in accord
with the body, and the way of life in accord with the way nature

If ancient myths mean to put the human way of life in accord with the
way nature dictates, how do we know “the way nature dictates?” If that
shows us the purpose of the ancient myths, what of the purpose of
current myths? Do we have a general purpose of mythology that spans both
ancient and current?


  1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts,
    beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and

  2. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of
    a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian
    ; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty

  3. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a
    particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of
    expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical
    ; oral culture

  4. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the
    functioning of a group or organization

Again, no description of the purpose or use or function of culture. To
learn the purpose of an opposable thumb, you would study the physical
evolution of the human. Similarly, to understand the purpose of culture
you must study the social evolution of humans. In the preface to Iron
, Robert Bly writes:

The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the
wintering place, how to perform the mating dance—all of this information
is stored in the reservoirs of the bird’s instinctual brain. But human
beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new
situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the
instinctual system; they stored it in stories.

If you have ever gone out animal tracking you’ll find it easy to see how
the human brain developed. The brain takes in information from the
senses, links it together, and forms a story. Say you come across a set
of footprints on the ground. You can consider a million things when
reading it. Who made it? When? Where did they plan to go? Consider the
terrain. A track in the sand ages completely differently from one in
mud, clay, snow, debris, or grass. Once you have considered the terrain,
you must think about weather. Has it felt sunny? Rainy? Windy? All these
factors age the track in different ways, and of course, each terrain
acts differently too. Each animal’s track ages differently depending on
weather and terrain. How can you tell that seven days and three hours
ago a hungry fox traveled east in a hunting-style trot? And what other
information will this tell you about the local environment? Does the fox
hunt here often? If so, what does that tell you about the environment?

To get to the root of what it means to live as humans, we must look at
this question: what happened here? This question separates us from other
animals. We have the ability to question and tell stories in a way other
animals don’t. Other animals tell each other stories too, though. A wolf
out on a scout mission finds something interesting. It rubs its body
onto the scent and travels back to the pack where they greet it and
smell it. The wolf has carried this story in the form of a scent. The
scent can only tell the wolves what lies there, but it cannot give them
any more insight into the ecology or awareness beyond their senses. This
shows us where humans function differently. We evolved to ask, “What
happened here?” We can carry the story beyond the moment. The second
part of tracking requires the ability to communicate the story to others
in order to lead us to shelter, water, fire, and food. The better the
storyteller, the better the chance of survival. Tracking works as the
art of questioning and the telling of the story. Like the hammer,
storytelling functions as a survival tool.

Human culture formed by two simultaneous evolutionary transformations.
The formation of a social organization reveals the first transformation.
Animals evolve into social organizations because cooperation proves
advantageous for the group of cooperators as a whole. Therefore the
purpose of culture becomes obvious: ease of survival. Robert Bly hinted
at the second process: the externalization of instinctual survival into
stories or myths. So you could say that language, art, storytelling, and
myths all function as a means of survival. But wait. Because every
culture differs and varies in survival ideology, myth would not function
as a means for human survival as a species but for a specific culture.
This means that a myth works as a story that holds a specific culture’s
ideology for the purpose of survival. These ideologies serve as
blueprints for a culture, coming to life through mythological enactment
or ritual.


  1. a. The prescribed order of a religious ceremony

    1. The body of ceremonies or rites used in a place of worship

  2. a. The prescribed form of conducting a formal secular ceremony: the
    ritual of an inauguration

    1. The body of ceremonies used by a fraternal organization

  3. A book of rites or ceremonial forms

  4. Rituals:

    1. A ceremonial act or a series of such acts

    2. The performance of such acts

  5. a. A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed:
    My household chores have become a morning ritual

    1. A state or condition characterized by the presence of established
      procedure or routine: “Prison was a ritual reenacted daily, year
      in, year out. Prisoners came and went; generations came and went;
      and yet the ritual endured” (William H. Hallahan)

Because myths hold a “detailed method” of survival, we find ourselves
instinctually programmed to “faithfully or regularly” follow them. When
humans make choices, they enact the mythology of their culture. This
means that every choice we make works as a ritual, and that ritual,
again, serves as a function of survival. This brings up a discussion of
free will and whether such a thing really exists. If all our choices
come conditioned by a mythology, we make no choices without external
influence. I watched a movie about fast cars. I made the unconscious
choice to drive fast. I had enough awareness to consciously realize this
and choose to slow down because of another mythology called Johnny Law.
Both choices I made came from mythology: the story of fun (driving fast)
and the story of consequence (getting a ticket).

Culture means more than just “the totality of socially transmitted
behavior patterns.” It refers to a working system of two parts:
mythology and ritual. Kept alive by transmitting its survival ideologies
through mythology. This transmission leads to ritual enactment. Cyclical
ideals and actions.

My definitions thus far:

Mythology: A story that holds cultural ideology for the purpose of

Ritual: Choices made for the purpose of survival

Culture: Socially organized humans enacting an ideology for the
purpose of survival

But now we have a problem. To define a myth as story that contains
survival ideology would mean to ignore that all stories contain
fragments of a culture’s survival ideology. All stories would appear as
myths. Since all art works as a form of telling a story, and considering
that all human interaction means telling stories, you could define a
myth as “human communication.” But this dilutes the definition quite a
bit now. How about that word meme?

Meme: A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or
idea, that we transmit verbally or by repeated action from one mind to

I hate this word. Many people do. It works as an analogy to gene but
does not mimic the genetic process in any other way. Many people argue
this and spend their waking hours taking it to the extreme trying to
match it perfectly. But mostly I hate how dry it feels, how scientific
it sounds. Not to mention the way it avoids delineating action from
idea. I hate the word meme and don’t use it. I just wanted to let you
know that people have used these other words, myth and ritual, to
describe memes for a long, long time, and meme appears useless, just a
cool analogy to gene. But for all you memetic freaks out there, this
just shows another way of looking at it. Let’s break down the definition
of meme: a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice
or idea (ideologies or worldview), that we transmit verbally (story) or
by repeated action (ritual) from one mind to another.

So where do myths come from? How do we form them? In The Power of
, Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers discuss how myths come from
people responding to their environment. Because myths form a detailed
method of survival, I think we can take this one step further and say
that myths (or memes) come from a culture’s relationship to the
environment. The way a culture interacts with its environment. It makes
sense to say that ancient survival ideologies evolved to work in accord
with “the way nature dictates,” or we wouldn’t stand here today.

In Never Cry Wolf, Farley Mowat discovered a connection between the
wolves’ hunting style and the health of the deer population. He found
that wolves only hunt the sick or weak members of a herd. This promotes
healthy genetics for the deer herds, which in turn benefits the wolves
by providing a constant food supply. They give back to the deer by the
method in which they kill them. The better an animal can fit into its
environment, the more success it will have, as will the health of the
entire ecosystem. Author Derrick Jensen calls this “survival of the
fit.” Joseph Campbell called it “the way nature dictates.” Farley Mowat
(and later Daniel Quinn) called it “The Law of Life.”

In other animals we call this behavior instinct. The instinctual
knowledge of “how human culture fits into the environment” describes
what we originally exported into story. Humans mythologized this
relationship and understanding into a worldwide religion known as
animism. Anthropologists of our culture studying indigenous cultures
throughout the world coined the term. It appeared as though every
indigenous culture they came across in their studies believed the


  1. The belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit
    natural objects and phenomena

  2. The belief in the existence of spiritual beings that are separable
    or separate from bodies

  3. The hypothesis holding that an immaterial force animates the

Coined hundreds of years ago by pretentious, culture-eating
anthropologists, no doubt this definition appears very superficial. It
lacks an understanding of the relationship to the environment that
created the belief system to begin with. It lacks purpose and function.
Animism serves cultures by giving them instructions for living in accord
with their environments.

Looking at this definition of culture, we can see an inherent weakness.
If the story becomes damaged and loses sight of “the way nature
dictates,” the culture and land suffer. How does civilization’s story
differ from animism? How does civilization relate to the environment, in
contrast to hunter-gatherers?

Let’s look again at how good ol’ American Heritage defines it:


  1. An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material
    development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and
    sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing,
    and the appearance of complex political and social institutions

  2. The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or
    region or in a particular epoch: Mayan civilization; the
    civilization of ancient Rome

  3. The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state

  4. Cultural or intellectual refinement; good taste

  5. Modern society with its conveniences: returned to civilization
    after camping in the mountains

Of course, conquerors write history. “An advanced state of
intellectual…blah, blah, blah.” No one ever looks at what makes all this
backslapping and high-fiving possible: the devouring of the world. The
conquerors spend so much time thinking so highly of themselves they have
little time to notice how they fuck up ecosystems. Civilization does not
listen to “the way nature dictates” at all. In fact, in order to support
these “advanced” systems, they not only ignore nature but actually
foster a hatred of the natural world. If we look at all previous
civilizations, we know that full-time agriculture gave rise to their
runaway population growth, and ultimately their death as the soil eroded
beneath them. I define civilization thusly:

A catastrophe created when a human culture practices full-time
agriculture, causing their populations to spiral into a cycle of
exponential growth, social hierarchy, soil depletion, and genocidal
expansion that leads to an eventual collapse of ecosystems, biological
diversity, and culture

Indigenous peoples did (and still do) not live in a culture of
civilization because they did not practice full-time agriculture, nor
grow to live in such density that they required imported, agriculturally
produced grains from a distant country. I hate it so much when I say,
“Native peoples didn’t have a civilization,” and a civilized drone says,
“Yes they did! Your comment sounds so racist! They did too have a
civilization, it just looked different from ours!” I have to calmly say,
“Eh hem. You have no fucking idea what civilization means. They had
complex cultures, sure. Sustainable, beautiful cultures that worked
better than civilization.” I call these cultures. And yes, they had
art and music and language and fashion and everything civilization tries
to claim a monopoly on. But they didn’t build cities.

Civilization continues because its cultural blueprints (mythos) and
infrastructure (ritual propagation of dams, tanks, buildings, soldiers,
consumers, etc.) go unchallenged, even in the face of collapse. It
exists in the ethereal realm of mythology and manifests itself in the
physical through monocropped fields, concrete buildings, bulldozers, and
million-men armies. Rewilding presents us with a challenge to civilized
mythology, providing us with a new set of cultural blueprints based on
the ancient, sustainable ones, and in full recognition of civilization’s
inherent unsustainability.

Empire vs. Rewilding

A power system sits in place that keeps the rich richer and the poor
poorer. This power system lies outside most people’s perception because
we grow up in it, never knowing anything different, never seeing it
articulated, but understanding it down to our bones. It feels as natural
to us as drinking a glass of water. This power structure keeps us as
slaves, forced to continue building civilization. Without empire,
civilization could not, would not, exist.

For a long time now I’ve focused myself more with the sustainable living
aspect of rewilding and not so much with the social structures. But with
all the green technology talk I’ve begun to worry. Even though
ecologically it could never happen, let’s pretend for a moment that
civilization became sustainable. Sure, that might feel great
environmentally, but what would that really mean for us socially?

Before the rise of cities that gave us the term civilization, empire
and slavery existed. In fact, I would say that cities and civilization
would not have come about without empire (rich elite with an army fueled
by grain production) forcing people (slaves) to build them. What does
empire mean, really, but a hierarchical social structure of masters with
an army to force other humans into slavery? When people advocate for a
“sustainable civilization,” they don’t realize that means they
simultaneously advocate for the continuation of slavery.

A slave means someone forced into labor under the threat of death,
torture, or some other form of abusive violence. It probably started
kind of like this: a sedentary agricultural community had a population
explosion. Something happened here. They went to their neighbors and
said something like, “Give us 10% of your food or we will kill you.”
Several thousand years went by, and now we have taxes, rent, food bills,
water bills, health insurance bills, electricity bills, gas bills, etc.
All of which everyone pays for without question: “Well, of course you
have to pay taxes!” We take in our slavery as we take in the air. Once a
system like this gets going it becomes very hard to stop. If you say no,
they have the power to kill you and steal your land. With an
ever-growing population from grain-based agriculture, they will quickly
fill your land with their ever-growing population of farmer slaves. If
you say yes, you get assimilated and enslaved. If you run, you will have
conflict with your neighbors, and if the expansion continues it will
eventually reach you anyway.

Growing up as an American, I received a flawed, inborn understanding of
how the rest of the world works. I grew up here, with electricity
twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I grew up with television,
telephones, and sports cars. I grew up with McDonalds, the Gap, Hot
Topic, and so forth. With democracy, free speech, freedom of religion.
My point: although we live as wage slaves and slaves to this culture, we
live in the richest country in the world. Slaves…with a lot of money.
Money in this instance translates to “rights.” We have a lot of “rights”
in America because we can afford to buy them from our masters
(temporarily of course). This gives most Americans the illusion of the
power of personal change through making the change in their own lives.
They have the luxury (and delusion) of “buying green.” They have the
luxury of time and money to invest in their home permaculture gardens.
Who else in the world has time or money or access to educational
resources to do that? Maybe a few other first world countries, but not
the majority of enslaved peoples.

I find it funny when I hear people say that our problems occur because
people don’t take personal responsibility. Blame the person, not the
culture, not the system of wealth management and the armies that enforce
it. Since climate change threatens us all, does that mean that a
slave-child sewing soccer balls in Taiwan has a personal responsibility
to stop climate change? Do you think the slaves in the third world have
a personal responsibility to stop climate change? Do you honestly think
they have the power? Where they can’t even afford to buy “rights”? Do
you honestly think us more privileged Americans do?

Of course, when most people I know speak of personal responsibility,
their words carry an unspoken premise that means they don’t try to
stop corporations from creating fucked-up products and forcing people to
buy them, but instead figure out ways in which they can learn to live
without the fucked-up products or buy expensive “green” products. This
ignores the entire system of how empire exerts its power. I have the
wealth to buy organic vegetables and free-range meats. Although I pay
rent, I have enough time and money to plant a garden and build a
humanure composting system. But what about your average American wage
slaver with two jobs and a family to feed? They shop at Walmart because
they can’t afford anything else. The majority of people around the world
cannot afford personal change, and those in power do not allow it
anyway. Sure, they still have a responsibility to stop corporations and
those in power from killing the land, because they live on this planet.
But the idea of personal change making a difference comes from
privileged people with money.

Since personal change requires money, it can’t work because the masses
can’t afford it. It also takes accountability away from corporations and
the military, police, and legal systems that protect them. Since those
with money and power don’t want to lose that money and power, they have
no interest in changing this system.

The overwhelming majority of hunter-gatherers had egalitarian cultures.
Sometimes they had hierarchical cultures, but without slavery—sometimes
with what anthropologists have labeled as slavery, but not quite the
same. Regardless, they had, and still have today where they have not
experienced genocide, nonhierarchical social structures based on
cooperation rather than competition.

In the wild, competition among plants and animals happens rarely, and
usually only during times of scarcity. Within agricultural communities,
we see wealth funneled away from the majority towards the few rich
people. If you have to give 10% or more of your own food supply, 10% you
had to toil in the soil for, your own food becomes scarce. If you
destroy the soil using agriculture and ruin your landbase, of course
you’ll have scarce resources. This fear of constant scarcity leads to
intense competition. If people have lived on earth for more than three
million years (as the archeological record shows), we can assume that
they have lived in a cooperative system for the most part, and that
those who didn’t, didn’t stand the test of time. Even though
civilizations seem to outcompete hunter-gatherers during their peak,
they don’t last in the long run.

A rather large emphasis sits on creating nonhierarchical social models
in rewilding. As long as empire exists, civilization will persist
because those who sit atop the pyramid will continue to enslave us.
Because agriculture lies at the heart of civilization’s destructiveness,
and because empire only becomes possible through grain-fueled population
growth, empire will never stop using agriculture. Even if everyone went
“green,” empire would not, could not, stop destroying the soil. When
people advocate for a sustainable civilization (which cannot exist),
they generally don’t realize that means they simultaneously advocate for
the continuation of empire, of slavery. This happens because they
haven’t ever articulated what civilization actually means, nor how
civilizations function ecologically or socially. It seems safe to assume
that if someone talks about sustainability without talking about
dismantling civilization and rewilding, they haven’t made this
articulation either.

We cannot rewild as long as empire exists. Those in power will continue
destroying the world whether we help them or not, and they will continue
to do so backed by million-men armies (and soon robot armies—seriously,
youtube that shit), nuclear weapons, and a brain-washed slave class. The
end of empire will happen whether or not we encourage its end. When the
oil runs out, when the soil turns to salt, we will see the end of
empire. Unfortunately we will also see the end of countless species,
including possibly our own. We must do what we can to dismantle empire
if we wish to rewild, if we wish to save some semblance of life here on
this planet.

English vs. Rewilding

Modern English language quite literally comes from no place. No
indigenous people spoke or speak it. It works as a conglomeration of
languages, a mishmash made for one purpose: trade. If languages provide
us with a context with which to perceive the world, then English
programs people to see the living world through the lens of
exploitation: trees as dollar bills, animals as units of meat, humans as
slaves. English tells us from the moment we utter our first word to our
last that the world exists for one purpose: commerce.

By now you may have noticed something weird or different about my
writing style that you can’t quite put your finger on. I’ll let you in
on a little secret. I’ve written this book in E-Prime (or English
Prime), a version of the English language that excludes the use of the
verb “to be.” You heard me right. I do not use is, was, am,
were, be, been, are, or any of their contractions. Stop for a
second and write a paragraph or two or three and see if you can write
without using “to be.” Pretty hard, huh? Now just think how hard it
would feel to write a whole book in it!

E-Prime came about because some very clever scientists realized that
B-English (“regular” English, which does not exclude “to be”) creates a
false projection of reality. The world constantly changes, and B-English
interferes with this change by attempting to fix reality in stone. It
seems only natural that a sedentary culture that resists change would
eventually evolve a language that projects our perception of control
into the natural world. We do it with the plow, and we do it with our

While doing who knows what kind of experiments, these nerds discovered
that an electron, when measured with one instrument, appears as a wave
and when measured with a different instrument appears as a particle. We
have a problem here: in Aristotelian B-English, an electron cannot “be”
both a particle and a wave, as surely as a table cannot also “be” a
chair. He realized that by “be-ing,” we label something as it “is,”
fixing it into an unchangeable object.

For example, I cannot simultaneously “be” both stupid and smart. But
what happens when Person A observes with a set of instruments (Person
A’s senses) that I have intelligence, and Person B observes through a
different set of instruments (Person B’s senses) that I say idiotic
things? Our linguistic world eats itself, and arguments ensue. “To be”
prevents us from experiencing a shared reality—something we need in
order to communicate in a sane way. If someone sees something
differently from another, our language prevents us from acknowledging
the other’s point of view by limiting our perception to fixed states.
For example, if I say “Star Wars is a shitty movie,” and my friend
says, “Star Wars is not a shitty movie!” We have no shared reality,
for in our language, truth lies in only one of our statements, and we
can forever argue these truths until one of us writes a book and has
more authority than the other. If on the other hand I say, “I hated
Star Wars,” I state my opinion as observed through my own senses. I
state a more accurate reality by not claiming that Star Wars “is”
anything, as it could “be” anything to anyone. Similarly one could say,
“I’ve seen Urban Scout act like an idiot before,” while another person
could say, “Man, Urban Scout has really made me think. I really
appreciate him.” We have two perceptions that do not contradict one
another but that came about from different perspectives.

“To be” plays god. It attempts to chisel reality in stone and works as
the backbone of the civilized paradigm. Of course it does: its
birthplace lies in the land of economic commerce, not a biological
community. English works to domesticate the world as much as tilling
means to domesticate it. Every element of our culture urges for
domestication, for slavery. If language shapes how we perceive the
world, nothing stands more fundamental (aside from the practice of
agriculture itself) to this process of domestication than our own

Some people believe that language marked the beginning of hierarchy and
we should walk away from language as well. But where do you draw the
line? At vocalization? Birds vocalize. Body language? Every animal uses
body language. Every animal has a language. If I run from a bear it will
chase me. If I stand my ground and avoid eye contact, I let the bear
know I don’t mean harm. The bear will huff and gruff and bluff to test
my stance. Eventually the bear will walk away and let me go. This
confrontation has a language to it. Peaceful confrontations do as well.
Birds use songs, companion calls, and alarms to communicate, to
emphasize their body language.

We know that indigenous peoples lived sustainably with beautiful, poetic
spoken languages. We also know that no indigenous cultures used the verb
“to be.” Knowing that, and understanding what “to be” does to our
perception of reality, it makes sense that the first step to rewilding
the English language should involve eliminating Aristotle’s mistake.
Willem Larsen has taken this concept much further and created
“E-Primitive,” a version of E-Prime that stresses verb-based sentences
(among many other changes). Most indigenous languages based themselves
in verbs rather than nouns. This shows us their focus on a fluid,
ever-changing perception of reality. Our noun-based sentence structure
shows us another symptom of our fixed-reality language.

E-Prime hardly fixes English (pardon the pun!). But it greatly defangs
it. It tears down many of the language’s footholds on control and allows
for a more chaotic, changeable paradigm to fall into place. The more I
write in E-Prime the more I see how “is” takes control of the world and
how fluid English can sound. Of course, I speak B-English and use it in
most of my other writings. I also have no illusions that E-Prime could
ever stop civilization from destroying the planet. Rather, E-Prime works
as a means of reconnecting myself to the wild through language. It
merely helps me to see the world through a more dynamic, accurate
linguistic paradigm.

Stockpiling vs. Rewilding

Hey there Scout,

I am just wondering that, while you are honing your skills to be able to
create new out of the aftermath of civilization while nature is still
intact, what are your thoughts about what to gather from this world
(i.e. ropes, tarps, rations, guns) to facilitate survival during
whatever happens whenever it happens. haha the future is so wonderfully
vague but extremely heavy if you have the proper amount of imagination
and paranoia! also do you have a place to escape to, do you think this
is necessary? a plan on how to get there undetected, other people to
join? i am working on all of these problems right now but my energy and
focus rise and fall like the sun and that quickly and if its a nice day
outside you can guarantee i am not focusing on the warm weather clothing
and wool blankets i will need stowed, mostly working on my tan (vitamin
d), muscles and ability to become nature as to remain undetectable. but
i know there are things that are extremely important that will insure
that the people with the right intentions for nature and the universe
can prevail and that we should have these at the ready just in case
anything happens. its funny because i have gone to some “survival”
website with lists about what to have, they will list “at least a half
gallon of water per day per individual, which does not provide water for
hygiene, so be sure to take breath mints and STRONG DEODORANT” seriously
these people are worried about “hygiene” and its the Apocalypse?!?!? i
guess if they weren’t intending to survive on MRES, which are sure to
putrefy their systems, they wouldn’t smell so foul but come on, if you
even wear deodorant right now i am pretty sure you have a special comet
with your name on it hurling towards the earth this second.

I don’t know how well to say thanks but keep exploring and sharing,


Hey Jessica,

Thanks for your questions! (And I appreciate your sense of humor.) I’m
sure you can imagine I get questions like these fairly often. What
supplies should I have for the SHTF (shit-hits-the-fan) scenario?
Unfortunately most people hate my response…because I’m not really one of
the SHTF people…

While you are honing your skills to be able to create new out of the
aftermath of civilization while nature is still intact.

I’d like to say first and foremost that I don’t think of myself as
honing my skills to have the abilities to create new out of the
aftermath of civilization; rather, I work on creating a new world to
live in right now because I don’t like this one. I would do this work
even if I didn’t think of civilization as collapsing. Which I’d also
like to say, started a long time ago. If we see that civilization has
already started collapsing, we can start to see that collapse does not
happen overnight, but rather like a slow and ugly death.

What will it take for people to fight back against civilization’s
destruction of the planet? When the salmon no longer swim upriver to
spawn? When the polar bears no longer walk through the snow? I like to
think of the SHTF scenario in the same way. How do you define your
personal “shit”? When the salmon go, does that represent the shit
hitting the fan? When the ice caps melt? etc.

Collapse works as a process, not an event. We can mark its progress by
larger events, but the process itself happens rather slowly and
painfully, depending on your addictions to civilization. I don’t mean to
say that fucked-up events that happen as a result of collapse can’t
happen overnight. Obviously tipping points (bigger pieces of “shit”)
exist in various systems, like the economy and the environment, and can
bring about quick changes.

What are your thoughts about what to gather from this world (i.e. ropes,
tarps, rations, guns) to facilitate survival during whatever happens
whenever it happens.

I think that the stockpile mentality represents a short-term strategy.
Even if you stockpiled food for seven years, at the end of the seven
years you’d better have a stable food production system in place.
Generally people who spend time stockpiling don’t have a long-term plan,
and if they do it involves seed saving for farming and domestication of
animals. The stockpiling person doesn’t make a long-term plan because
they operate under the belief that civilization will recover.
“Survival skills” in the end only keep you alive long enough for
rescue. Stockpiling only keeps you alive through an overnight tipping
point you think will end at some point. In a total collapse scenario,
civilized economic recovery will not occur. Not to the extent people
will believe it to. So when we look at supplies, we need to imagine what
level of technology, economy, and so forth we will maintain after

A stockpile represents a (false) sense of security. People want to feel
that they have their bases covered: “Once I get everything on this list,
I can survive anything!” Unfortunately for those people, that looks like
a delusion. In this culture we teach that monetary wealth and
possessions give us security. In natural systems, however, which will
take precedence in collapse, cooperative relationships form the best way
to maintain long-term security.

Now I can hear you all saying, “Sure, sure, Scout, love your neighbor
and all that…But, uh, what should we stockpile?” It seems no matter how
many times I explain this to people, they still want me to give them a
list of supplies. What ends up happening when I do this? People just get
the list of stuff and think that when something terrible happens they’ll
survive without any effort. Let me say it again: nothing you can do or
buy will make you completely safe and secure as collapse intensifies or
during a SHTF event. Who knows? Yes, you can do things and buy items
that will increase your chances, but only in the short term. You need a
long-term plan, and by that I mean you need a long-term relationship
with the land, its other-than-human companions, and with people you can
consider family who also have this relationship with the land and its
other-than-human companions.

Also do you have a place to escape to, do you think this is necessary? A
plan on how to get there undetected, other people to join?

A lot of people have different ideas about this. Some people say you
need to hunker down and stay put, that staying in a familiar place
should sit at the top of your priorities. Again, this plan of “staying
put” can only really mean that you expect a cultural recovery to take
place. If you didn’t expect a recovery, you would want to stay on the
move, because once you (or your group) stay in one place long enough you
will deplete the resources you depend on for survival.

A more long-term strategy would involve getting to know multiple pieces
of land and tending them on a seasonal circuit, the way our
hunter-gatherer ancestors did. Then you won’t have to “escape” from
anywhere, because you’ll live right where you need to. And then we come
back to the idea that rewilding does not imply preparedness, but
re-creating a culture that uses regenerative principles.

But I know there are things that are extremely important that will
insure that the people with the right intentions for nature and the
universe can prevail and that we should have these at the ready just in
case anything happens.

The important things that will ensure the existence of people with the
intention of not fucking up the planet or fucking over anyone, have to
do not with stockpiling products but with stockpiling quality

“Okay, okay! Geez, Scout, I get it. But…seriously, what should I put in
my survival kit?” Oh, shit. Fine. I’ll tell you what I’ve got in my
survival backpack!…But only if you promise to shut up about it already.

  1. Carving knife

  2. Leatherman tool

  3. Water purifier

  4. Water bottle

  5. 12×12 camo tarp

  6. Matches (in a waterproof container)

  7. Three lighters

  8. 100-ft parachute cord (you’ll probably want more)

  9. Spool of fishing line

  10. Allen wrench set

  11. Small crescent wrench

  12. Rain jacket

  13. Rain leggings

  14. Spices/salt

  15. Collapsible saw

  16. Mini hatchet

  17. Medium-sized metal pot (for boiling water/cooking)

  18. Mini sewing kit

  19. Small waterproof notebook

  20. Pens

  21. Sleeping bag (in waterproof stuff sack)

  22. Road/topo maps

  23. Backpacking stove with one extra fuel container

  24. Roll of plastic baggies

  25. Small battery-free flashlight (the kind you shake to charge)

  26. Small Maglite with extra batteries

I think that list covers it. I’d take everything out and catalog it, but
then I’d have to fit it all back in again and that takes fucking
forever. One of the things you will notice about my list: I don’t have
food rations. Why? Because I know enough edible wild plants. I also know
how to kill enough game, assuming of course that any exist in a total
enviro-collapse scenario! But again, you can see that my list has
nonrenewable expendables. Once they break, if I can’t fix them, I’ll
need to know how to make them. To know how to make them, I’ll need to
know what trees serve what purposes. In order to know where the trees
live, I’ll need to have a preexisting relationship with the land. Etc.
etc. etc. So, yeah. That about sums it all up. Don’t rely on the
short-term stockpile mythology. Learn the lay of the land, learn the
plants and animals, and become comfortable as part of that system. Join
the community of life.

“Primitive” Skills vs. Rewilding

I have always used the term primitive skills to refer to the creation
of things like handmade tools such as the bow and arrow, social systems
such as tribal organizations, educational systems such as mentoring,
body skills such as heightening senses, or rituals such as giving thanks
to the landbase. After spending several days at Rabbitstick Rendezvous,
the oldest primitive skills gathering in the country, I figured out why
I get a funny feeling when I tell people that I practice “primitive

The term primitive can come across as racist to indigenous peoples.
Throughout history, civilizationists have used the term as an excuse to
kill, murder, and destroy these cultures. They use it to mean “lesser
than.” Even though most people I know do not use the word in this racist
way, because of its history I feel it necessary to refrain from using
it. For lack of a better term, I use it occasionally for ease among
people who wouldn’t understand what else I might mean. Please know that
when I use it in this book I do not mean “lesser than.”

Most people I know use the term primitive skills in reference to the
making of arts and crafts of “stone age” peoples. With a little digging
I determined how this definition came about. Looking through my
“primitive skills” books I see that none of them address
social-political-educational technologies used by indigenous peoples
(except perhaps Tom Brown Jr.). Why? Because most of the authors, like
the creators of Rabbitstick, work as “experimental archeologists”:
scientists who focus on “stone age” handmade tool replication. Not
anthropologists, mythologists, or theologists, but archeologists—those
who study the physical artifacts of primitive peoples. Unfortunately
this definition of primitive skills excludes the social systems that
make indigenous societies uniquely different from civilization. Anyone
can yield “stone age” handmade tools, including “stone age”

Looking at the diversity of people who attend primitive skills
gatherings, from the dirty, earth-loving hippies to the sexist, racist
homophobes (who care nothing for the ecology of the planet, let alone
their own bioregion), exemplifies how dis-connected from the land these
gatherings can feel. When you start to examine indigenous systems, you
realize the socio-political prejudice that exists within the minds of
civilizationists. For example, if you learn and teach “indigenous
mentoring,” you can’t help but clash with civilization’s compulsory
schooling model. This makes teachers and supporters of modern schooling
(both liberals and conservatives) very upset. If you teach teambuilding
and awareness of the land, you rub civilized people (who perceive the
world as dead or put here for “Man” to consume) the wrong way.
Basically, when you examine social systems it causes a lot of
controversy. A great example of this exists on the paleoplanet forum,
dedicated to discussing the replication of primitive tools. They created
a category called “Primitive Living Experiences,” and the head moderator
shut it down after people began to argue over the how and why.

No one censored me at a gathering when I talked about civilization’s
collapse (in fact, a lot of like-minded folks chimed in). But similarly,
no one will censor the rednecks who voice their hatred of illegal
immigrants. You’ll find the slang word abo (short for aboriginal)
thrown around along with stupid caveman jokes. I can’t help but feel sad
and angry as I see some of these archeologists and laymen perpetuating
the racist stereotype of civilization’s caveman mythology: grunting
white people with scraggly hair and badly tailored buckskin clothes
(common in movies such as Quest for Fire or Encino Man). White
“stone age” cavemen had only bioregional differences from other “stone
age” indigenous peoples such as Native Americans. To make jokes about
how stupid and shabbily our ancestors must have lived implies that all
“stone age” peoples have little intellect. Which obviously shows us why
they all didn’t build civilizations, right? One of my favorite civilized
delusions involves archeologists hypothesizing that “early humans” must
have “discovered fire by accident.” Just as I imagine modern astronauts
must have “accidentally” built a spaceship and flew it to the moon. They
can’t fathom that “stone age” people had the same level of intelligence
that civilized people do.

Since humans make up the systems they live in, when you begin to examine
other systems that work better, you come up against cultural prejudices
and mythologies that those systems have in place to prevent people from
wanting to use another one. Even if you can prove with physical evidence
that the other system works better. “Primitive skills,” when defined as
replicating physical artifacts, do not push any real civilized buttons
or encourage any kind of social change.

From a rewilding perspective, the how and why lie at the heart of
these skills. If you want to live sustainably you cannot separate
tool-making from cultural systems (aka politics) and sense of place (aka
religion). Take away the how and why and these tools become weapons
of destruction. For example, anyone can harvest anything anywhere at any
time. Know what plants to eat? Great. Eat them. But do you know the most
ecologically beneficial time of year to harvest them? You made a bow and
some arrows? Cool. But do you know which deer to kill to strengthen the
herd? You can’t separate ecology from handmade tools. Do you know the
best places to gather in your area during the right seasons? Do you have
a tribe of people to efficiently gather those plants? Does that group
have songs and customs that make the tedious work of gathering more fun?
Does your group have a system to distribute food equally among the
people? To assume that donning buckskins and making a bow and arrow
makes you a hunter-gatherer shows a great underestimation of the vast
wealth of culture and expert knowledge of indigenous peoples. It also
makes you an asshole.

I have found that many people do not understand how hunter-gatherers
blend into the ecology of their place. Hunting and gathering does not
mean killing whatever, whenever. A lion does not kill just anything
whenever it wants. It does not hunt down the strongest buck; it takes
the sick and the weak. Its instincts tell it to thin the herd. Nomadic
hunter-gatherers did not simply wander the landscape aimlessly in search
of food, taking what they knew they could eat, whenever and however they
pleased. Humans have externalized their instincts of what to take, when
appropriate and why, into cultural mythology and storytelling (aka
spirituality and religion). They moved through the same seasonal
circuits, the same places, year after year, tending them the same way
any other wild animal would. They kept these routines alive through
stories, adapting and changing them with the landscape.

As a bioregional extremist, I feel like primitive skills gatherings work
as nonbioregion-specific handmade-tool gatherings. For those who dream
of a culture of rewilding, primitive skills gatherings feel like a great
starting place. I don’t think of them as “good” or “bad.” They merely
serve a function: a place to learn handmade primitive arts and crafts
from highly skilled practitioners and meet other people who love these
crafts. Sure, you may find a rewilding friend wedged between a Mormon
and a Rainbow Child, but you won’t find the group intention of learning
the skills in the holistic sense and purpose that rewilding encompasses.

For that, we need to start our own bioregion-specific rewilding
gatherings, where we don’t have to waste time arguing with right wing
religious nuts about whether or not civilization will collapse, but can
start building communities of people aware of, and no longer in denial
of, civilization’s inherent unsustainability, who wish to toss the
shackles of domestication for the beautiful systems of living that
promote biodiversity and environmental integrity.

Resistance vs. Rewilding

When I think of “resistance movements,” I envision a small group of
people resisting a much larger and all-powerful militarized machine. If
I think of civilization as an all-powerful death machine, the idea of
resisting it makes me feel small and paralyzed. But when I view
resistance through the eyes of rewilding, it looks and feels very
different to me.

Civilization works as a way of life that attempts to domesticate, to
tame, to make dependent, to enslave the whole world. It fuels its
population growth through the domestication of grains. It cannot exist
without domestication. It also must work constantly to make its
domesticated members so: brainwashing people through television and
schooling, genetically engineering plants, growing meat in petri dishes,
etc. Civilization does so much work to keep the world domesticated
because domestication works as a form of resistance against the natural
flow of the world, which always wants to rewild.

When a tree’s roots slowly tear up concrete, the tree does not resist
the concrete, the concrete resists the tree. The tree just lives its
life the way all wild things do. Plants do what they can with their
resources to keep the world wild. Dams resist the natural flow of a
river. Over many thousands of years, if left alone, the water would
whittle the dam down to nothing. The water never resisted the dam. It
only did what water does to keep the world wild.

Populations of wild plants and animals that wild humans could eat for
food have nearly disappeared through civilization’s domestication. Wild
humans, as elements integral to the landscape, require an undomesticated
land in order to live. If we mean to rewild, it implies that, like the
water and trees doing what they can to rewild the planet, rewilding
humans need to use their unique, inborn abilities to rewild the world.

For example, civilization has domesticated the Columbia River and all
her tributaries, killing nearly all the wild salmon who once lived
there. If Cascadians want to live as wild humans, they will need to
rewild the Columbia River. Of course, the river itself works as fast as
its water can to break away the dam. Unfortunately for the fish and
other members of Cascadia, the water alone cannot work fast enough to
rewild the river. But rewilding humans, whose ability to make tools
comes as naturally as a tree’s ability to grow roots, can work much
faster to undomesticate that river.

In The Tales of Adam, Daniel Quinn uses a metaphor about a wounded
lion. If a wounded lion starts killing more than it needs, Adam (a
hunter-gatherer) says he will hunt down the lion and kill it because
“that is a lion gone mad.” Worried the lion would wreak havoc on the
entire ecosystem, he would hunt it and kill it so as to prevent that
from happening. I doubt that hunting lions felt like a favorable task
that any ordinary person would partake in…especially lions gone mad, as
they no doubt have less predictability than sane lions. Such a task
would definitely not look like the tribesman going about his daily
business, but it would fit in with the daily business of maintaining and
caretaking the land.

Like the wounded lion who kills at random and takes more than it needs,
civilization behaves as a culture that has “gone mad.” Like the hunter
who has the guts and the skills to hunt down and kill that lion, for
rewilding humans with the guts and the skills to remove a dam, it would
not look like an ordinary day of pruning a permaculture garden or
checking trap-lines. Yet it would still fit in with the daily business
of maintaining and caretaking the land. Hunting down a lion did not
require a big military operation (though to smaller-scale indigenous
peoples it may have felt like such). But removing a dam may require
something on a grander scale.

I think people will decide such actions by whether their band of
rewilding humans stands at the front lines of civilization’s boundary or
the farther reaches out of civilized control, as well as how far
civilization’s domestication reaches into others’ landbases. For
example, though someone may live in the Canadian Rockies, far from
militarized civilization, as long as those dams on the Columbia River
stay intact, they prevent salmon from getting to the Rockies. This means
that the Rockies still fall under civilization’s control. If the natives
of old had dammed the river and disallowed other natives upriver from
receiving fish, you can bet some shit would have gone down. Similarly,
if humans plan to rewild in the Rockies, they’ll need to think about how
civilization can keep them domesticated from afar. Of course, if we take
into consideration the civilization-induced climate crisis, we see that
civilization will try to keep us domesticated no matter where we rewild…

Many argue over whether actions like blowing up a dam will bring down
civilization or merely strengthen it. To wild humans, an argument like
this makes no sense. Like arguing over whether the tree whose roots tear
up the sidewalk will bring down civilization or strengthen it. Yes, the
tree may get cut down and the street repaved. But civilization will
never have the power to cut them all down, to repave all of those
streets. A dandelion growing in a suburban lawn, a tree ripping apart
the street, an earthquake tearing down buildings, and rewilding humans
dismantling logging equipment seems as natural a process as taking out
the trash feels to the civilized. I see resistance to domestication as
the wildness deep down in our souls bursting forth; a rewilding human
blowing up a dam as the natural world going about its daily
routines…with a little tenacity.

Many proponents who argue against such actions say that “civilization
will just rebuild.” The idea that civilization will go on resisting the
roots of a tree, cut it down, and pave another road, does not stop the
tree from growing roots. Similarly, whether or not civilization will
continue to resist the flow of water and build another dam does not stop
the actions of rewilding humans. The forces of nature at work, whether
we mean trees growing roots, water rushing to the ocean, or wild humans
caretaking the land, will continue to undomesticate the world regardless
of civilization’s growing or diminishing resistance to them.

The mythologists of civilization use the actions of rewilding humans to
further their own destruction and may hunt down and kill rewilding
humans, but they will never kill them all. Deep down we all have the
genetic code to live wild lives, despite the external memetic system of
domestication that most of us currently subscribe to. As civilization
collapses, more people will realize the need to rewild and will have
more and more success rewilding body, mind, river, country, forest,
farm, and city, whether they call it rewilding or not.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to blow anything up. As long as
you remove civilization and rewild the river. I think it comes down to
scale, bioregion, and in particular, rewilding groups having discussions
about their place. Do Cascadians need to rewild the Columbia to have a
softer crash in Cascadia? If so, how does one rewild the river? How
urgently does this need to happen? How can we do this as quickly and
thoughtfully as possible?

When I turn the term resistance on its head and see it as civilization
resisting the powers of nature, I feel more empowered to resist
civilization’s domestication. The more I rewild, the less I see
resistance as resistance but just living and caretaking the land, the
way a tree’s roots just keep growing and tearing up streets. Sure,
civilization may cut some of us down, but it does not have the power to
resist the flow of the wild world indefinitely. It will fail, and as
rewilding humans, we can help speed that failure up. When we rewild and
join with the other wild forces of the world, we become unstoppable.

Pacifism vs. Rewilding

Philosophically I loathe pacifism. Instinctively I would never even
consider it. Yet reflexively I enact pacifism when attacked, threatened,
or intimidated. I have pacifist values, not because I want or choose to,
but because of my training from early childhood in civilization and
specifically in school. We learn to never fight back or we will receive
worse than the violence we gave. If we wish to fully rewild, we must
rewild our relationship to violence.

In order for things to live they have to eat, which means they have to
kill. Whether you kill a plant or an animal, you use violence to do it.
I don’t judge violence as “good” or “bad” because I see it as a function
of nature. Like it or not, we cannot escape it. No animals live pacifist
lives except domesticated ones (and even then, when given the
opportunity…). I see violence in the wild and it looks beautiful to me.
We must kill to eat. Life implies violence through death. It can look
ugly if you fear death or look beautiful if you embrace it.

The question of violence or no violence bores the shit out of me,
really. I accept violence as a beautiful part of our nature, not some
grotesque animalistic quality that we left behind when we started
building civilization (we just traded in violence for abuse). Do you use
violence in a sustainable way, like that of a wild animal, or do you use
it in an unsustainable way to further civilization’s domestication?
“What?” you say. “You can use violence in a sustainable way?” Yes, you
can. Chew on that for a bit.

I also don’t have a problem with violent communication. When two bucks
bash their racks together, they may act violently towards each other,
but the violence does not look abusive. It looks real and raw and
beautiful. Yes, communication can look violent and not feel abusive.
Really, I think we need to learn nonabusive, violent communication. Our
culture conflates abuse with violence because those in power control us
by using violence or the threat of violence. To live as a domesticated
human means to live by the wishes of rulers or face the consequences.
Killing a life differs from torturing a life into submission. We have a
name for that kind of violence: abuse.

If people use violence to take down civilization, it does not work the
same way as civilization using violence to force you to live in
civilization. Civilization will kill this planet if it doesn’t come
down. Civilization attacks the whole world every day. If you
counterattack civilization to bring it down, it works as a defense
mechanism to end domination. Violence does not beget abuse. See the

You cannot live as a pacifist and rewild. Those who wish to rewild
without bringing down civilization do not understand what rewilding
implies. Those who don’t see how rewilding implies bringing down
civilization don’t understand rewilding either. By rewilding, you put
yourself against the forces of civilization that work to domesticate the
planet. If you don’t want to use violence to rewild (I sure don’t! I
swear it!), you might consider how you will meet that violence when it
comes. Without question, visible violence will come knocking at your
door at some point or another. Civilization, the collective group of
people who perpetuate this way of life, will not quietly put down their
weapons and allow you to put a halt to their death wish of
domestication. We need to rewild our relationship to violence,
retraining ourselves to fight back so that when the time comes we won’t
reflexively kneel to our masters and allow them to chop off our heads.

Now go put on that one track from the score to The Last of the
(you know the one), paint your face green and black, and
brainstorm a battle cry: “Freedom!?!” Sorry…mixing too many movies here.

“Primitive” Living vs. Rewilding

So you want to live like a pure, modern, technology-free
hunter-gatherer, huh? In order to do that we need to remove the barriers
civilization has in place to stop us from fully rewilding. If we wish to
remove these barriers, we must first identify them. The following list
shows many of the barriers I have come in contact with. The list feels
incomplete, but it covers much of the basics. It also reflects the
“pure” end of the rewilding spectrum: those who live so far from
civilization (culturally) that they no longer use any industrial-made
tools or interact with the civilized economy at all. The most basic
survival course covers your immediate needs: shelter, water, fire, and
food. We’ll start with how survivalists acquire these skills versus how
the hunter-gatherers of the Northwest Coast acquired them.

Every barrier falls under one of two categories: violence (aka “the
law”) or scarcity. Under the barrier of violence, civilization will
exert physical force on you for breaking their laws. Think of how the
mafia makes businesses pay them for “protection,” which really means
they won’t steal from the business. In the same way, we pay the
government for the same kind of “protection.” We call this payment
“taxes.” If we don’t pay them, or behave the way they tell us to, they
will send the cops to shut us down or throw us in prison. Tell me how
that differs from the mob. Under the barrier of scarcity, the lives
(such as salmon) that we eat in order to live sustainably now have
dwindling populations thanks to civilization’s various forms of violence
to the planet (in the case of salmon, actual concrete barriers called



If rewilding simply meant “survival,” as so many people think, I could
build a small debris shelter. But where will my family sleep? Where will
my culture sleep? A debris shelter works great for a lone scout who
needs to stay on the move. But for a larger culture of people, who plan
to hang out longer than a few days, we need something more substantial
and homey. Most Northwest Coast Indians slept in thatched huts during
the summer months, but in the winter they lived comfortably in
longhouses made of western red cedar planks that they could remove from
old-growth trees without killing them. This process requires a team of
people, a whole set of primitive tools, including wedges, hammers, and
ladders, and lots of local old-growth cedars. In order to live in
shelters like the natives did here, we would need all of those things.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an old-growth cedar large
enough to get even one good plank out of, let alone enough to construct
an entire longhouse. The temperate rainforest of the Northwest rots most
natural materials rather quickly. Cedar lasts because of the antifungal
tannins in the wood.

The precivilized, undomesticated, sustainable economy no longer exists
and will take a long time (at least a few hundred years for cedar trees
to become old enough for sustainable harvesting) to return, if ever. So
much material already exists now; it seems like most houses have one
person living in them. Think of all the wasted space! We don’t have a
rewilding economy, but we do have what we already have here in
civilization. We don’t need to create more industrial products; we can
use the ones already created to hold us over as the economy changes back
to a wild one.


Civilization will not let you set up a shelter just anywhere. You need
to first have land or property, which means you have to pay money for
it. Then you must get a building permit in order to construct your
shelter. If you don’t go through these avenues, civilization feels it
has the right to (and probably will) kick you out of wherever and tear
down your shelter. Most camping laws prohibit people from setting up a
camp for any period of time more than a few weeks, and in some cities,
like Portland, you can’t camp at all. This means you have to stay on the
move, which means you need some form of transportation for your shelter,
unless you plan to build a new one at each site, which again would most
likely break the law of energy conservation.

Storage and Security

Something a survival shelter has little to nothing of. These longhouses
also stored much food, clothing, and other supplies and (most
importantly in the Northwest) kept them dry and rot-free. Oftentimes the
survivalist concept doesn’t include security of possessions (except for
maybe securing minimal food from bears or other animals). Security and
storage of your “stuff” becomes an increasing concern when living in
more densely populated areas, and even more so the smaller the number of
people in your group. For example, if someone always sits watch over the
stuff, you’ve got pretty good security. But if you have to leave items
unwatched in a densely populated area, you may not see those items
again. Usually we don’t think about this because all of our items have
twenty-four-hour security locked away in our homes. But if you don’t
have a home, or you don’t have a lock, security becomes a major issue.
Especially as the more set up you get in terms of tools, dried foods,
and other supplies for an authentic hunter-gatherer culture (and not
some week-long excursion in survival), then you end up acquiring a lot
more stuff to account for. You need the right tool for the right job,
and sustainable hunting/gathering/horticulture, depending on bioregion,
can require lots of different tools. Don’t believe me? Just read Hilary
Stewart’s books Cedar, Indian Fishing, and Stone, Bone, Antler
and Shell
. You don’t want to spend hours and hours grinding down a
stone wedge only to have it disappear!



Before civilization brought its pestilence of domestication to the
Americas, indigenous peoples could drink water right from streams and
rivers. These days, bacteria live in almost all water sources. Once you
take a drink, it will cause you some serious indigestion, and if
untreated, the water can kill you. Unless you drink from a spring, you
need to boil your water. Boiling, however, does not remove Prozac,
dioxin, estrogen, and the numerous other industrial-made toxic compounds
now found in most water sources. Even the safest water, tap water, often
contains chlorine, fluoride, and/or arsenic. If you live in an urban
environment it makes much more sense to drink tap water due to fire laws
and fuel scarcity, as well as all the other chemicals in the ground in
urban places you can’t boil out. This generally means you have to pay
for water or steal it. Some can find free water in local fountains, but
it limits your ability to move freely as you have to stay in close
proximity to your water source unless you find a way to contain it. I
have, however, also heard of police harassing homeless people for
filling containers with water from public drinking fountains. So the
threat of violence increases by stealing water or drinking from public


If you must boil water every time you need to drink it, that means
you’ll not only need fuel for a fire, and a fireproof container to boil
the water in, but also a fire-starting device. This means you’ll need a
system where you have multiple fire-making sets and fireproof containers
at various water sources. This increases your security problems as
someone such as a cop, other vagrant, or garbage clean-up crew might
steal, break, or throw away your tools while you’re away. If you decide
to carry your water with you, you’ll need a container like a water
bladder. This goes for all of your tools. Will you carry them with you
to every location? Or will you spend the time making and hiding new ones
for each location?



In the woods this issue doesn’t come up as much, but it can. In the city
organic debris such as branches and twigs that fall to the ground
usually get shipped out and composted somewhere far off. I have tried to
gather all my own firewood for cooking, water purification, and heat,
and it proved very difficult. Unless you want to spend all your time
searching for firewood, which you can’t, you won’t have enough to
sustain yourself in an urban environment. This means you have to use
industrial machines, which means you have to use gas or electricity.


In the woods, again, this issue doesn’t really matter unless a fire ban
exists. But in the city you can’t just start a fire anywhere. If the law
allows you to do it in a park, you usually need a fire pan that sits at
least six inches above the ground. This means another piece of
industrialization you have to carry around. I know some people who have
dug a hole in their backyard, but I don’t know the legality of that.
Even then, if you use a backyard, that means someone pays rent or a
mortgage or property taxes, which means you still support the industrial


Fire makes you high-profile. During the day the sight and smell of
smoke, and during the night the light from the fire, can arise
suspicions from people who will contact “the authorities.” Anything that
attracts more attention to your way of life could mean more interactions
with the authorities, and we don’t want that!

Flora food


Many plant foods and medicines contain toxic amounts of metals,
especially those that reside near the roadside or railroad tracks. Many
people use pesticides or chemical fertilizers in their yards, so eating
plants from that source will make you sick.


Many wild edibles do not suffice for plant subsistence; you can’t thrive
eating only dandelion greens. The soil in many areas has so many toxins
and so few nutrients that the plants themselves may not have much. The
native cultures in the Portland area survived mainly off of the wapato
tuber through the wintertime. The wapato used to thrive along the
Willamette River. When the valley’s Indian populations declined almost
90% in the 1830s due to disease, with no one to tend to them and with
the introduction of agriculture and invasive species, the wapato nearly
died out. It still lives in a few places along the river. This story
illustrates that returning to a diet of native plant foods, or even
trying to subsist from wild plant food sources on a cultural scale,
would prove difficult at this time. Anyone interested in this lifestyle
needs to focus on habitat restoration.

Fauna food


Toxins, stored in fat, move up the food chain. Animals store more toxins
than plants.


As with our plant brothers and sisters, the main animal eaten here in
the Northwest by native peoples, the salmon, lies on the verge of


In order to hunt and trap most animals, you need to purchase permits.
You also cannot use primitive methods, which means you must buy
industrial-made traps, guns, or arrowheads.

We haven’t even covered more advanced, long-term necessities such as
health and hygiene. Where do you shit? What about medicine? What about
bathing? The myth that hunter-gatherers didn’t have a complex economic
system stands as the main barrier here. When you actually sit down and
visualize a complex primitive culture, as opposed to a survival
scenario, you begin to recognize the near impossibility and
undesirability of attempting to live this way under the thumb of
civilization, with the constant threat of violence and painful
exhaustion from expending too much energy to gather what you need in a
100% primitive, truly “off-the-grid” kind of way. At this point it would
not reflect the authentic hunter-gatherer lifestyle we’ve seen, but
rather the suffering lifestyle of the survivalist. We need to look for
ways of leveraging the current civilized economic system against itself,
towards a hunter-gatherer one. We need to invent an entire rewilding
economic system. It really does take a village to rewild! This shows how
concepts like permaculture and the Transition Town movement can really
help us start building rewilding cultures.

Permaculture vs. Rewilding

I know a lot of “permaculturalists.” I’ve seen many “permaculture”
gardens. I have my permaculture design certificate. The problem with my
perception of permaculture stems, I think, from the urbanization of
permaculture and the terminology used in the books. When I open the
books and read phrases like “sustainable agriculture,” I shut the books.
Because in my experience it doesn’t matter how much you teach people
about subsistence practices if you don’t articulate the problems of
civilization simultaneously. Author Toby Hemenway has written the only
permaculture texts I’ve seen that include a critique of civilization.
(More probably exist, but not popularly.)

Most commonly when I see people practicing permaculture in the city I
see people clinging to the false hope that their garden will save
civilization. It’s not that I lack knowledge of permaculture or need to
read more. The language in the reading says volumes.

In permaculture, sectors refers to external influences on your
permaculture land. This includes weather, topography, and cultural
systems such as laws. Because most permaculturalists do not understand
or articulate the sectors of civilization, hierarchy, class, wealth,
race, and empire, they don’t understand what prevents people from using
permaculture to “save humanity.”

If, by itself, permaculture examined the unspoken assumptions and
unarticulated toxic mythology of civilization, pro-civilization
permaculturalists would not exist. Rewilding differs from permaculture
in that it refers to a context of ecological principles that challenge
the mythology of civilization. Without that context of ecological
principles, the skills take on the dominant culture’s mythological
context and therefore have little to do with rewilding. And if the
skills have little to do with undoing domestication, they have
everything to do with continuing domestication.

Permaculture works great for a rewilder. Someone can use permaculture as
a tool for rewilding, but permaculture itself doesn’t reach outside the
framework of civilization. If it did, all permaculturalists would
understand how civilization controls us. Because most permacultural
texts and culture have more to do with design and lack the articulation
of how and why civilization kills the planet, civilized people easily
miss the implications.

I have had a hard time understanding what permaculture aims to do
because of the terminology used in the books and the actions of the
people within the subculture. The words used to describe permaculture
often obfuscate its real intentions, and further confuse the civilized
and rewilders alike. Aside from the general
pro-civilization/pro-agriculture language, the subculture of urban
permaculturalists has also given rise to my own misinterpretation. At
the permaculture events I have attended in the metropolis where I live,
I have seen little discussion of walking away from or tearing down
civilization and much discussion about how permaculture can save
civilization (for example, the widely known and cherished City Repair
Project, which bills itself as “Permaculture for Urban Spaces”).

If people say that you can have permaculture in urban spaces, either
permaculture doesn’t mean what I think it does, or those people don’t
understand permaculture. If we could see permaculture as a design
science for creating horticultural villages, we would know you cannot
permaculture cities. Cities have a fundamentally unsustainable quality:
nothing will make cities sustainable. If permaculture means to render
the land sustainable, how would anyone get the idea that you can
permaculture a city? Probably because of quotes from local Portland
papers like this one:

A reformed Nordstrom addict, Van Dyke, 56, now teaches
“permaculture”—which, practically speaking, means forgoing the lawn in
favor of a big, messy garden.

Willamette Week, August 13, 2008

A couple of fruit trees in your yard and a small garden of self-seeding
annuals will not feed you and your hungry neighbors (though it will
soften the crash of civilization slightly). The population density of a
city far exceeds its carrying capacity, even if every yard has a messy
garden instead of a lawn. While you can use the design principles of
permaculture to plan your urban garden, this misses the point and
obscures the intentions of permaculture (if the intention means to
create a horticultural-hunter-gatherer culture). If you can’t fully feed
yourself with your urban permaculture garden, you still require the
importation of resources from the countryside. If every farm became a
permaculture farm, we could not sustain the populations in the city
because permaculture doesn’t create excess (grain) food production that
makes cities possible. This means that cities would collapse. If
everyone took permaculture to its intention
, civilization would

Civilized people have lived for thousands of years, forced by a military
to farm monocropped grains. Those in power will not allow real
permaculture (meaning the full extent of permaculture’s intentions to
create horticultural-hunter-gatherer cultures) even though permaculture
does a great job of reframing indigenous horticulture and making it
appealing to the masses who still think hunter-gatherers spent their
lives hungry and in constant search for food. As long as civilization
holds a monopoly on violence, it owns you and your permaculture farm,
and requires the calories of grain production to keep its force. When
the time comes, that excess you had for trade will go to the military so
that they can kick your ass and hold you captive. I don’t see these
issues addressed by permaculturalists or in permaculture literature.

Some people say, “Don’t listen to what the books say. Look at what
people do.” But when I look at what the people who make permaculture
popular among urban people do, I see people clinging to civilization and
calling it permaculture. While I think permaculture design attempts to
abandon civilization as a subsistence strategy, without articulating in
its own literature the systems that keep us stuck here, permaculture
brings civilization along for the ride, and civilization kills the idea
before it has the chance to break free.

Rewilding refers to the process of undomesticating ourselves so that
ideas like permaculture can and will live up to their potential:
creating biologically diverse landbase, seasonally maintained by
horticultural-hunter-gatherers, free of civilization. Rewilding offers a
kind of sector analysis to describe the culture that understands the
power of unarticulated abuse and domination from civilization. It seeks
to understand these invisible and visible shackles outright. Once we
articulate the problems and control mechanisms of civilization,
permaculture becomes one of our strongest allies. But as long as
permaculture remains a design science without articulating civilization,
it will continue to lose meaning through the urban people who use it to
perpetuate false hopes.

Veganism vs. Rewilding

Most recently I’ve seen this notion that we can change the world by
changing our diet, specifically to a vegan diet. I have found that many
vegans throw their dietary ethics at others the way Christians throw
their spiritual ideology. If you want to eat only veggies, fine. But why
the attitude? Why the hate? If you think you have an ethically pure
diet, think again. In fact, your diet may worsen the environment.

Some vegans claim they like how they feel on the diet. Others simply say
they don’t like the taste of meat. But most vegans I know eat that way
because of ethics more than for health benefits or personal taste. For
this reason, veganism generally falls into an ideological “right” vs.
“wrong” category for living, causing most members of the vegan military
to demand that everyone else stop their “evil” ways and adopt vegan
values. But where do these values come from? And do these espoused
values actually make a change in the ways they intend?

Animist peoples experience plants as having feelings too. Just because
you don’t hear their screams, and can’t look into their eyes when you
cut them, doesn’t mean plants don’t feel pain and bleed in a way outside
of our perception. The idea that plants somehow have lesser value than
animals comes from a nonanimistic view of the world: a civilized,
hierarchical view. They don’t look like us, they don’t grow like us, and
therefore they get cast to the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy (at the
top of which sits the brains of white men).

I feel terrible for domesticated animals (pets included here). I feel
equally terrible for domesticated plants. I feel terrible for anything
domesticated (rocks, clouds, air, ideas, etc.). Domesticated crops
require domesticated bees for pollination. This implies that vegans
consider bugs lower on their spiritual hierarchy. Farmers routinely kill
animals like rabbits, crows, and coyotes who enter their fields. Crops
kill wild animals too, and force bees into domestication.

In response to this, many vegans might say, “Well, I have chosen
veganism to protest factory farming, which causes a lot more degradation
to the environment than growing crops. You don’t need meat to survive.”

It appears to me that population growth lies at the “root” of
environmental degradation. “Development” wouldn’t happen if we had fewer
people. The destructive scale of factory farming would not exist if our
population did not grow exponentially. So we need to look at what makes
our population grow.

As a teenager I worked at an organic food store and ate a vegan diet. I
remember seeing a vegan product that boasted, “Eating vegan helps save
food resources for seven people a day.” How they calculated that I’ll
never know, or believe. While most people would see that label and
believe their purchase helped the “fight against hunger,” I look at it
and see that they’ve only just made seven more hungry mouths to feed.

Domestication of both plants and animals requires deforestation. But the
population explosions that form civilizations come from the
domestication of grains, not livestock. The Incas had quinoa, the Aztecs
had amaranth, the Mayans had corn, the Chinese had rice, and Whitey had
wheat (and now soy). Grain-based diets cause exponential population
growth. Population growth increases the scale of everything, turning
small ranches into factory farms, turning the local market into a
McDonalds. Grain-based diets make factory farms possible. They make
“development” possible. They make civilization possible. If everyone
switched to a vegan diet, our population would grow that much faster,
the destruction that much worse. Vegans constantly say, “You don’t need
meat to survive.” I never hear them follow up with, “Only through
agricultural globalization does this become possible.”

If you live in North America (or anywhere outside of the jungle), you
need meat to survive outside of the grain-based diet of civilization.
And so what? Humans have eaten meat for a long time and found
sustainable ways to kill that honored the animals, the same as any other
predator. Along with sustainable ways to kill plants that honored their
lives. Along with sustainable ways to honor stones, weather, and all the
other elements of the community. I think the comment “You don’t need
meat to survive” includes both points I have made: civilization fuels
itself on wheat, not meat, and (most) vegans perceive animals as higher
on a spiritual hierarchy of suffering.

Want a diet based on anti-civilization ethics? Want to stop supporting
the destructive culture? Want to stop population growth? Stop buying
processed food at the supermarket. Hunt, gather, garden, buy or trade
locally. Give back to the land and quit eating the very thing that makes
all of this possible: grains.

Personally I eat mostly “paleo,” and I don’t care if you or anyone else
does. My diet works for me, but I don’t think that I have found the “one
right diet” for all to eat. Though I perceive them, I haven’t chosen my
diet for ethical reasons. I’ve chosen it because I feel good eating this
way. I understand that just because I feel good eating this way, not
everyone else will, as each of us has a particular body with particular
needs. If veganism makes you feel good, by all means. But please stop
promoting veganism based on false ethics of ceasing the destruction
inherent in grain-based diets. I bought into it in my teens (I ate a
vegan diet for two years) and won’t fall for the mythology again.

As you may imagine, I received many e-mails from pissed-off vegans after
posting “Civilization Found in Vegan Ethics.” One person just couldn’t
understand the fundamental connection between grain diets and population
growth. Others, like the ones I responded to here, live in denial that
plants have feelings too. I would like to say that some very nice
nonfundamentalist vegans and I had a good dialogue, too—thank you, guys!

Dear Scout,

How can plants feel pain? They have no nervous system. The reason that
you can’t hear their screams is because they have no mouths, vocal
cords, etc. For me, I place bugs lower on my hierarchy because they have
many less neural connections than, say, a chicken or pig. So, I would
think that there is less “substance” to them. I mean, come on man, what
kind of thinking is it to think that an oak tree can feel pain? I’m all
for stopping industrial civilization, as I believe you are, but to
advocate a philosophy such as animism is as foolish as believing that
some guy named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago is going to take you to
some fairy land called heaven. You also said, “crops kill wild animals
too.” If you cared about wild animals why would anyone eat raised
animals? The amount of grain, mostly corn, to feed them causes more land
to be plowed (thereby causing more deaths of wild animals) than if you
just ate lower on the food chain. Just to make it clear, I do think that
the Paleolithic diet is a good thing, relative to most diets. I know and
realize that veganism is part of the industrial food system. That is why
I try to dumpster dive as much of my food as possible thereby giving
less $ to the industrial food suppliers.

And this one:

Dear Scout,

I’m glad you have empathy for plants. But here’s the difference between
plants and animals: plants are cut down, and we eat them. Now here’s the
thing: whether it’s because god made them that way, or evolution has
created it, or whatever you believe: when you cut a plant down, it does
not struggle. It falls, and you eat it. That’s the difference. When you
kill an animal, it fights for its life. It defends its existence. That’s
the difference.

You know, the BBC reported a few years back that fish can actually (oh
my god, get ready) feel pain. Listen to this:

The first conclusive evidence of pain perception in fish is said to have
been found by UK scientists. This complements earlier findings that both
birds and mammals can feel pain, and challenges assertions that fish are
impervious to it. The scientists found sites in the heads of rainbow
trout that responded to damaging stimuli. They also found the fish
showed marked reactions when exposed to harmful substances. The argument
over whether fish feel pain has long been a subject of dispute between
anglers and animal rights activists.

This, of course, makes no fucking sense. Anyone who has ever gone
fishing can see the fear in the fish’s eyes and notice that it wriggles
uncomfortably, in obvious physical pain as it dangles from a hook. Did
we really need to have scientists cut up fish and test them with
machines to know they feel pain? Does anyone else see the insanity? We
can’t trust our bodies, only machines made by our brains. Or more
specifically machines made by the brains of white men.

Some of us don’t need scientific instruments to understand and feel
empathy towards fish and, further, plants. If you can tune in with your
sense of empathy, you can “hear” the screams of plants and feel their
kind of pain. Furthermore you can do this with rocks, wind, clouds,
mountains, the moon, etc.

It all comes down to observation and empathy (the sixth sense we must
dull to live in civilization). Animism does not refer to something you
“believe” in that you cannot experience or see directly. It refers to
observations made using all of your senses (including the sense of
empathy) while living in an animate world, about an animate world. It
works as a way of perceiving the world based on direct experiences with
it. I cannot observe Jesus, his teachings, or a heaven, but I can
observe the world around me and its happenings. My perception of animate
plants does not come from faith but from direct sensory experience. I’ll
give you one example:

I sat in my backyard for one hour a day for several months, in the same
spot under the dogwood tree with the robin’s nest. Every day I would sit
and practice a sensory meditation, clear my thoughts and relax and watch
the natural world of an urban yard unfold before me. Much like watching
television, I merely observed and did not interact, though I had a deep
sense of wanting to belong. After several months of this I began to
wonder if I would ever feel like I belonged. Then one day I sat down and
began to enter into the mental space of the sensory meditation.
Immediately I felt different. I could sense something completely new. I
can’t tell you which sense experienced this feeling, but it felt like I
had finally become part of the family. I could feel the plants. I could
feel the water pulsing up their stalks, and I could feel the energy
feeding them from the sun. It felt like they had put their arms around
me. I hate using the term oneness to describe anything, but it really
did feel as though they had let me in on a secret. It felt more like

The next moment I began to feel afraid. I could feel they felt scared
too. Then the neighbor came outside. Somehow I just knew what would
happen next. I wanted to run. But I heard something say, “We can’t run!”
At that point I knew they wanted me to stay. So I stayed there with them
as my neighbor weed-whacked his yard, and I cried. Imagine your legs
buried in cement and someone begins to cut them off. You can’t run, you
can’t do anything but watch. Imagine your family members stand next to
you, and you can do nothing for them. At least animals can run and
fight. Actually some plants can too. Thorns, anyone? Poison? But even
then, so what if one can run and one can’t. I don’t discriminate against
one more than the other because one has legs and one has roots.

That experience only speaks to me, since I experienced it alone. I trust
this experience because nature has no agenda. Of course, my own cultural
views can get in the way, but even then I think some sensory experiences
can break through cultural worldviews. I know many people who have
shared similar experiences with plants (and rocks and trees and wind and
everything else). Why then do scientists spend so much time cutting up
and torturing fish, and cutting up and torturing plants, looking for
hard-core factual, measurable data proving that these things experience
pain, when our own bodies, if listened to, can actually communicate with
these other-than-humans?

I don’t believe in animism, I experience it, and share my
experiences in hopes of inspiring others to seek out similar
experiences. We must make animism sound childish in order to see the
world as dead.

As for the other comments:

You also said, “crops kill wild animals too.” If you cared about wild
animals why would anyone eat raised animals? The amount of grain, mostly
corn, to feed them causes more land to be plowed (thereby causing more
deaths of wild animals) than if you just ate lower on the food chain.

Again, if the corn, soy, and other grains that currently feed cattle
turned into fields for human consumption, that would provide more food
in the food supply for humans, which means more humans. Which means
they would bulldoze even more wild lands for grains and houses, cars,
oil, and so forth.

I don’t claim an ethically pure diet here. I buy most of my food from
the store. When I can afford it, I buy local, grass-fed, free-range,
hormone-free, etc. Portland has many of those stores, so I don’t find
that difficult. In order to escape civilization and rewild, we need to
figure out how to “unlock the food” from civilization. I want to hunt
and gather and garden all my own food. I can’t, because I don’t know
how, and it feels extra hard because no one else does either (at least
in this country). Not to mention that civilization has destroyed much of
the wild food! No one lives a 100% primitive, wild lifestyle anymore.

Just to make it clear, I do think that the Paleolithic diet is a good
thing, relative to most diets. I know and realize that veganism is part
of the industrial food system. That is why I try to dumpster dive as
much of my food as possible thereby giving less $ to the industrial food

As far as dumpster diving goes, I don’t really do much of that either. I
dumpster fruit and that’s about it. Most of the food I find contains
wheat and sugar, which poison my body. I don’t eat grains, not because I
want to protest the civilized economy but because they totally fuck up
my body and make me feel like shit. I don’t think of the paleo diet as
good, I think of it as the most nourishing food I can put in my body.
Other people may experience a different feeling.

A while back a friend of mine came across an article about Natalie
Portman, the greenie of the moment. According to the article, Portman
enjoys traveling the world and spreading goodness on the off-season,
wishes she could ride a bike everywhere, and eats a vegetarian diet.
This doesn’t sound that strange or new to me. The insanity begins in
that every article in every kind of publication lately seems to focus
around “green” issues and “green” celebrities. You can’t look anywhere
without seeing the green bullshit.

One morning I sat down for breakfast and started reading one of the
local papers, Willamette Week. The feature article that week focused
on the ten-year anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol and how, geez, the
U.S. sure acts crazy not signing it, you know?! (Snoooore.) Anyway, the
article quotes a local vegan storeowner who said:

I think that people are aware [that veganism is touted as a solution to
global warming]. That’s not my motivating factor for being a vegan, but
a lot of big groups are using that as an emphasis point right now, when
people are giving a shit about their carbon footprint and all that.
“Look, it’s not just a bunch of animal-rights people! It’s the U.N.!” I
think for the most part, it’s not the people I know’s main reason for
doing it. It’s just kind of an added bonus.

I got angry, shut the paper, sat there seething in animosity, sipping my
Earl Grey tea and thinking, “We are totally and completely fucked.” Then
a young woman sat down at the table next to me. A waitress came up and
took her order. The waitress asked her, “Are you a vegan? Because our
pesto has dairy in it.” “Um. Yeah, I’m vegan,” replied the girl,
proudly and smugly, as though the waitress had just asked if she starred
in the summer blockbuster or played in some famous band. “Yeah. I have a
band. I’m cool. “Yeah. I’m vegan. I’m doing my part to stop
global warming.”

The rage I feel at a “solution” that looks worse than the current system
suffocates me. I feel like bursting into tears, and I do, but the rage
often feels too strong. As I said in “Agriculture vs. Rewilding,”
grain-based diets stimulate a population growth feedback loop. That
should look like enough proof that a vegan diet supports population
explosion, deforestation, desertification, and overall ecological
collapse. The second largest reason the Amazon rainforest experiences
clear-cuts involves the growing of soybeans, a vegan staple. Trees,
specifically old-growth forests, act as the largest carbon-sink in the
world. The Amazon rainforest itself does more to prevent climate change
than anything people can do.

Now some vegans argue that those soybeans actually feed cattle and not
humans. What do you think McDonalds would do if everyone turned vegan?
Do you think they’d call it quits? Fuck no. Instead of feeding soy to
bovine cattle for Big Macs, they’d make a McNasty Soy Burger for human
cattle. Veganism as a solution to global warming looks as insane to me
as corn ethanol does for a solution to peak oil. These do not work as
solutions. They work like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
Agriculture has caused all of our problems. So what do we come up with
as a solution? More agriculture! Fucking genius. Veganism just cuts out
the middleman of meat. Why feed grain directly to cows when you could
feed it directly to an ever-growing population of humans? Yes, factory
farms fuck shit up. But agricultural farms fuck shit up more and form
the foundations for factory farms.

My friend showed me a different article in the same local paper where
they interview a vegan “animal rights activist.” I couldn’t believe it
when I read the following line of questioning:

WW: While hunting may seem cruel in America, because it’s not
necessary for most people’s survival, what happens in a culture where
people must hunt to survive? Do animals still have the same rights?

Vegan: Animals are not on this planet for us to use. There needs to
be respect for the fact that they are individual living beings. If
people can live without using animals, they should do that.

What about plants? Plants live as individual beings. Do they not deserve
respect? How about having respect for the land and not clear-cutting the
Amazon to grow your soy or corn monocrop? People can only live without
eating animals within the agricultural economy. If people can live
without plants or animals or water or air, they should to that too. That
sounds like a complete lack of understanding of how whole systems work
together. If that sounds dissociative enough, then she drops this bomb:

WW: What about the Inuit in Canada, who help support themselves by

Vegan: I’m not an expert on the Inuit. But if they can mine and sell
gas, diamonds, gold, and heavy metals, they can certainly ship in some
tofu. If everyone had as much respect for animals and the sacrifice they
make for humans as [they do] for native cultures, this world would be a
much better place.

“Ship in some tofu?” Okay, okay…I may not have some fancy-shmancy
“environmental studies” degree like she does, but I can smell bullshit.
Her comment sounds completely racist, because she puts the blame of
animal torture on native peoples and their way of life. Let me translate
her comment: “If they can have their entire culture destroyed by
civilization, then have their landbase destroyed at the hands of the
gas, diamonds, gold, and heavy metals corporations, they can certainly
eat something that has nothing to do with their lives whatsoever.”

Native cultures don’t “ship in” food because they live as natives.
Native meaning “belonging to a particular landbase.” We call them
natives precisely because they don’t ship in food from other lands.
Native hunting and gathering cultures did not create factory farming,
animal testing, or domesticated animals. These cultures do not “use”
animals, they eat them. After living sustainably in this way for
thousands of years and then having their culture and land destroyed by
civilization in a few hundred, now here comes a vegan missionary from
civilization telling them they need to stop living from their own
landbase and eat tofu made from soy, grown by civilizationists in the
deforested region of the Amazon basin, no doubt. All in the name of
animal rights? Someone needs to get their priorities straight.

Her comment demonstrates no understanding of indigenous philosophy or
compassion for their broken and destroyed cultures. That she would even
suggest that they import food shows she has no understanding of how
their cultures interact with the planet in a sustainable and ethical
way. That she would say that indigenous cultures receive more respect
than animals sounds just as insane. If you respected indigenous
cultures, you would not insult them by telling them they should live the
way you do. That sounds like cultural genocide, something they have
experienced the world over. Vegetarian and vegan mythology has no real
connection to place, nor an understanding of ecological principles of
food subsistence and sustainability. Here’s another great example:

The day before I last brought author Derrick Jensen to Portland, I got a
phone call. It went something like this:

Lady: Hi. I’m calling because I have some questions about the
Derrick Jensen talk tomorrow.

Scout: Okay, great. How can I help you?

L: Well, I’m trying to decide if I should go or not. I’m just
curious if Derrick Jensen is vegan or has ever mentioned veganism.

S: No. I know he is not a vegan, and I think he has written a little
bit about that. I’m sure he’d answer your questions about it if you came

L: Well, I don’t know if I would have time to say everything now.
You see, global warming is a serious problem, and it’s caused by factory
farming. If everyone turned to a vegan diet, we would—

S: I’m sorry, I disagree with you. But I am not Derrick. If you’d
like to ask him about it, I’m sure you can do that tomorrow at the talk.

L: Well, I’m curious what part you disagree with.

(I hesitate, but feel a little vivacious, so I bite.)

S: Well, civilization is fueled through grain-based diets. I am
totally against factory farming, but civilization is only possible
through the domestication of grains, not animals. If everyone turned
vegan it would only fuel more desertification and population growth,
which means more consumption of everything.

L: But don’t you think that…

(The conversation goes on for about twenty minutes. I tell her that I
support animal rights but have nothing against killing animals. She says
she doesn’t have a problem with people killing animals either, but keeps
arguing that somehow veganism will help, even though I’ve described how
it can’t. Then she says something about meat being poison, and I say…)

S: Humans have been eating meat for three million years.

L: Well, they’ve also had slavery for three million years, so just

S: That’s not true. Slavery only exists within civilizations.

L: Well, just because something has been happening for a long time
doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change it. Women weren’t allowed to vote at
one time, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t just because they

S: That has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. You just
said that meat is poison. We’re talking about evolution. Humans have
evolved to eat meat.

L: Then I guess you have never read the blah blah blah about how
meat does blah blah blah and is poison!

S: Actually, I have read a bunch of that, and it doesn’t make any
difference, because if it were poison I wouldn’t be talking to you right
now because we wouldn’t have lived for three million years eating it.
But that’s all beside the point anyway. The point is that humans have
eaten meat for three million years and lived in a sustainable, ethical
way (outside of civilization).

L: Well, humans have also lived as vegans for three million years!

S: No, they haven’t.

L: Yes, yes they have! In a parallel dimension.

S: ?!?


S: This conversation…is over.


I seriously couldn’t make this shit up. Even if a vegan dimension exists
(giving her the benefit of the doubt here), what the fuck does that have
to do with this dimension? I don’t think she came to the Q and A. I
made up my own little Q and A for your entertainment, though. It goes
like this:

Q: What do you get when you remove people from their connection to
their landbase, make them practice agricultural subsistence, put them in
a hierarchical social structure, and wait 10,000 years?

A: Racist vegans from Dimension X.

I support animal rights activism insofar as it recognizes the rest of
the world too. I support animist rights activism. I think all things,
humans and other-than-humans, deserve lives free of torture and
exploitation: animals, plants, insects, rocks, water, wind, and stars.
Of course, activism only becomes necessary when you have a culture that
does not recognize that those other-than-humans require respect.
“Rights” only become an issue when someone fucks you over and you can do
little about it.

Dieting vs. Rewilding

Most of us rewilding people do not yet have the skills or the land to
hunt and gather or practice horticulture fulltime, or the culture to
help us out. And yet undomesticating the food we eat seems at the very
heart of rewilding, since the very heart of domestication involves
growing our food: the domestication of food spawned the domestication of
everything. Converting to a domestic-free diet may prove difficult for
many, especially overnight. Lucky for us, ways exist to limit the amount
of domestication and the terms of the domestication of the food that we
eat without us having to hunt and gather or grow it all ourselves right
away. Hunter-gatherer-gardeners eat very different diets than those who
practice agriculture. Though diets vary drastically from bioregion to
bioregion, basic principles exist to put them into different categories.

Eating a wild diet reduces population growth factors and deforestation

Our modern diets come from practicing agriculture as a means for
subsistence. Agriculture refers to a method of growing food that
requires simulated catastrophe to inspire first-phase succession plants,
specifically grasses like wheat and corn but also other grains, legumes,
and some starchy tubers. You cannot grow grasses and grains inside a
forest, so people must create a catastrophe (fires, floods, clear-cuts)
to clear the forest to plant grass. Without human hands the area would
naturally recover over time. This requires constant catastrophe to keep
the field from turning back into a forest. When you change the land to
grow a monocrop of grains for human consumption, you increase the food
capacity of that land for human growth. This in turn causes the
population of humans to artificially inflate beyond what the forest
would support.

Monocropping creates all kinds of problems. Aside from the extraneous
amount of work (constant tilling) it takes to keep the land from turning
into a forest, monocropping depletes nutrients in soils and provides the
perfect environment for “pests” and disease. Because monocropping has
such fragility, people who use this method of cultivation must devise
solutions to live through poor yields. Enter the food surplus.

In order to combat the ills of agriculture, people invent prolonged food
storage, which leads to rampant population growth, which leads to more
cutting of forests to grow more grains for food storage, which leads to
more population growth, which leads to civili-fucking-zation. A
positive feedback loop of grain fetishization and baby booming.

Not all food planted in the ground can provide people with the protein
that causes population growth. You cannot feed a large population with
leafy greens. By choosing not to eat grains, you make the choice to stop
supporting the plants that make population explosion and deforestation
happen. Notably, a lot of deforestation these days involves cutting
forests down to graze cattle. However, cattle themselves take up land
that could otherwise feed more people if they grew grains on the land
instead, not to mention the grains they must feed the cattle themselves.
Animal domestication does not inspire population growth. Even the vegans
say that (vegan.org):

In a time when population pressures have become an increasing stress on
the environment, there are additional arguments for a vegan diet. The
United Nations has reported that a vegan diet can feed many more people
than an animal-based diet. For instance, projections have estimated that
the 1992 food supply could have fed about 6.3 billion people on a purely
vegetarian diet, 4.2 billion people on an 85% vegetarian diet, or 3.2
billion people on a 75% vegetarian diet.

Whoever wrote this does not understand the connection between population
growth and grain production. Veganism, while addressing many of the
terrible problems with animal cruelty and polluting factory farms, does
not address the larger force that drives population growth. In fact the
diet simply adds more fuel to the population growth diet. By taking
grains out of your diet you support another way of food subsistence and
limit population growth. I don’t want anyone to think that eating
differently will “save the world” or “bring down civilization.” Changing
your diet alone will not help that. It may simply lessen the destruction
you contribute as an individual person in civilization, and perhaps make
you feel better and healthier when the collapse does occur and most
people suffer grain withdrawal.

Eating a wild diet decreases waste products

By eating wild you reduce packaging and plastics. Produce and meat don’t
generally have a lot of wrappers, and wild foods have none at all.
“Yeah, I’ve got a landfill in my backyard: my compost pile, bitch.”

Eating a wild diet probably reduces carbon emissions (buzzword of the year!)

By buying locally you reduce the distance that the food needs to travel.
By buying produce and meat (wrapped in paper) you reduce the plastics
and energy used to package and preserve foods. Also, wild plant foods
rarely need cooking, so you save some energy there too. “I don’t do no
good at the math.” But I can make an educated guess here, no?

Eating a wild diet increases your health?

Let’s put our anti-civ ethics aside and just talk about our selfish
desire to feel great. Don’t get me wrong. I love pizza, cake, and ice
cream as much as the next kid. But I also have a wheat allergy (who
doesn’t, really?) and a lactose intolerance (again, who doesn’t?). I
love the taste of pizza and the satisfaction of eating it very much, so
much that I don’t mind the sloppy diarrhea that keeps me up half the
night when I eat it. I love it so much I don’t mind the constant sinus
infections and immune disorder. I don’t mind the sore knee joints and
itchy skin and swollen lymph nodes and stinky armpits and stomach
cramps…“Hmm. Can you put extra whipped cream on my 16 oz bacon and
peanut butter milkshake?”

Eating a wild diet makes you…wild!

Eating a wild diet frees you from the civilized economy and reconnects
you to your landbase.

And other dietary babble…

Some people theorize that agriculture came about as humans became
addicts to the doping effects of grains. Civilization, a culture of drug
addicts? Others theorize that the pathogenic, grain-loving microflora
that live in our bodies made us crave the grains, which made us practice
agriculture. So maybe the microflora controls us. Aaaaaah!

Raw foodists argue that meat also contains poisons that our bodies do
not digest well. I don’t necessarily disagree with them, so much
that…Who fucking cares? The bottom line here does not look like toxins
but ecological implications. Humans evolved to digest meat more smoothly
long ago. They also evolved to live in “equilibrium” with their
particular bioregions that require meat as a protein source…without
destroying their ecosystem. So eating meat, toxin or no, has no ill
effect on ecosystems. Some people have also developed less sensitivity
to grains. However, grain-based cultures must use agriculture to grow
those grains, and agriculture causes desertification of the planet.
Soooooo what does that tell us?

We should not confuse foods with their production methods. You can grow
a few grains in your horticulture garden and eat them occasionally, but
when you cut down the whole forest to grow your monocrop of corn, you
will begin to experience serious problems.

Your diet will not stop civilization

While we can all dream that simply changing our diet will solve all of
the problems we created, unfortunately it won’t.

Money vs. Rewilding

I don’t consider money the root of all evil, but I fucking hate it. Not
because I don’t have it, but because people fear living without it.
People don’t know how to live without it. People don’t know what living
looks like without it. People feel afraid of losing it. They would
rather have money than a community. They would rather live alone and
rich than hungry and surrounded by friends. Why?

The million-dollar question: What replaces money in rewilding? Money
works as a medium of exchange. Dictionary.com tells us that an
exchange means “to give up something for something else; part with for
some equivalence; change for another.” Money symbolizes this exchange.
It works as a stored exchange.

What do you need in order to eat in civilization? Money. What do you
need to clothe and shelter yourself in civilization? Money. What do you
need to entertain yourself in civilization? Money. What do you need to
get this money? If you don’t have independent wealth, you need a job. In
civilization, money equals support.

What does an exchange look like? Giving someone something for something
else. Giving something and getting something in return. A trade. Trade
seems like a funny word. It means both an exchange and what you do for
your livelihood. What do we do for money but trade our bodies and
services? To make my money I chop vegetables for other people to eat. I
then use the money to pay other people to chop vegetables for me to eat.
And why do I buy food at the grocery store? Because I don’t know how to
get it for myself. We trade our lives for services we cannot provide for

An exchange can’t happen without people providing a service or a product
(which really just means the service of making the product). What does
this service represent, really, but the actual person who performs it?
Without that person there, you have no service. The person exchanges
their time and skills. They exchange hours of their life that they will
never see again, to give something of themselves for something in
return. The exchange happens not for the product but for the person who
made it. An exchange involves people giving support to one another for
support they cannot receive by themselves. Neither the product nor the
services have any real value. The real value lies in the person who
provides the product or service.

This describes the essence of the tribal system that Daniel Quinn
articulates in his books: give support, get support. In tribal
cultures people relied on each other for the basic necessities of life.
Each person contributed their time, and in return found all of their
needs met. This may reveal why indigenous cultures found wealth in their
people, not in the material items they produced.

Money works as a symbolic representation of people, of tribe. We even
put pictures of people on our money. In civilization, people do not give
you support: money does. That demonstrates how money, although a
symbolic representation of people, holds more value than the people
making it. It reveals to us why people of our culture seek money more
adamantly than they seek actual friendships, and feel more willing to
abandon a friendship if it means getting more money. Psychologically,
money means friendship.

If money serves as the foundation of your support, you will do whatever
you can to keep that money or get more. People fear living without it,
so they fight to keep it. I have participated in many tribal ventures
that have failed. I believe they failed because we could not see the
value of people over money. You can take the human out of civilization,
but you can’t take the civilization out of the human. None of these
tribal ventures attempted to operate without money; all of them existed
in fear of not making enough. When people feel afraid of not getting
enough money, they try to control the money. At that point the
hierarchical tendencies of civilized people infiltrate and destroy the

I don’t mean to say that you can’t have a tribe and participate in the
monetary economy. If you look to people for support, or geese or salal
berries, you will do whatever you can to maintain those relationships
and create more. Gypsies use money, but I don’t think they value the
money they use more than their band. They do not feel afraid of going
hungry together, and from what I have read they have no social pressure
to become billionaires.

I believe that part of rewilding involves abandoning the value of money
over relationships. What do you replace money with? I think the more
appropriate question looks like this: what did people have before money?
They had a tribe. Money feels like a poor, unfulfilling replacement
for real people and real relationships. I want to live without money not
because I consider myself a “primitivist” but because I would rather
have a tribe. Plus, if we can prove to other people that we can do it,
hopefully their fear of living without money will dissipate and we will
have even more friends to hunt and gather with.

Video Games vs. Rewilding

While cleaning out his room, my buddy Willem found an old USB universal
game controller. Basically it looks and works like a PlayStation
controller but plugs into your computer. He said it used to belong to
his brother and asked if I wanted it. God help me, I said yes.

As a kid I played video games quite often. I did other things too. I
wouldn’t describe myself as your classic video game nerd or anything,
just a nerd who played video games. People have always known me to binge
on things. When I drink, I can’t have just one. I’ll drink until I pass
out, piss on someone’s couch, or convince someone to punch me in the
face (this describes why I no longer drink much at all!). Video games
have felt no different. I used to binge on one game and play it for
hours. The list, I think, goes like this: Super Mario Bros., The
Legend of Zelda
, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Zelda:
A Link to the Past, Civilization, King’s Quest (one through five),
Space Quest (one through five), Final Fantasy 2, Secret of Mana,
Chrono Trigger, Duke Nukem 3D, Diablo, Final Fantasy 7, and a
few others. I didn’t play a shitload of games, just a small amount very
often. At some point I decided it would work best if I just didn’t play
video games at all, just as I most recently decided that drinking and
smoking don’t work for me either.

A few years back when I began to formulate my understanding of the power
of mythology and story, I often conversed on the Joseph Campbell
Foundation forum. One day someone brought up video games as a newer
medium for mythology. A man argued heavily against this, saying, “Video
games are nothing but pure escapism. Something such as entertainment
that allows one to escape from their ordinary or unpleasant reality for
a time.”

The existence of the word escapism indicates another symptom of a
culture that does not meet our needs: escapism, the need to escape,
requires that one experiences reality as undesirable or unpleasant. No
wonder civilized people came up with the term. According to the mythos
of civilization, the world lies dead and we as farmers must suffer in
this life to go to heaven in the next. Who wouldn’t want to escape the
abuse this culture tells us we must experience?

This brings to mind the great, lengthy stories told by indigenous
peoples around the world, the stories that often take several weeks to
tell. Do these stories represent escapism or something else? Does a
difference exist between listening to a nine-day-long indigenous myth
and watching a twenty-four-hour marathon of X-Files episodes? I would
argue that they have a similar function—to spread and maintain a
culture’s myths (or memes)—but differ in their opposing value systems.
Indigenous stories connect people to physical reality, enriching the
physical world around them, while civilization’s stories continue to
take people further away from physical reality. X-Files taught me
nothing about the physical land I live on, nor how to live on it in a
sustainable way. Rather the show focuses on characters and places
“alien” to the planet. And while X-Files may have actually had
aliens as characters, you could say the same thing about religious
myths that put stock in a heaven and a god as alien to the earth as the
“grays.” Contrast this with the songlines of the Australian indigenous
peoples, which taught them how to move about real places in their land,
honor the gods of those places, and participate in a sustainable way
with the other-than-human “characters” they met on their travels.

I initially disagreed with the notion that video games work as pure
escapism, but the more I think about civilization’s mythology, the more
I realize how most of it involves escaping our perceived reality.
Whether you call yourself a scientist working to find another planet to
live on after we trash this one, a Christian who follows the Ten
Commandments and goes to church every Sunday in hopes of someday
escaping to heaven, or a World of Warcraft addict who spends your life
in a manmade virtual world, you spend your life trying to escape the
physical reality that indigenous peoples and nonhumans seem to love so
much. Entertainment works hard at escapism, in addition to drugs,
science, and religion. Video games merely act as the newest spokesman
for civilization’s escapist mythology.

Some civilized people attempt to destroy the myth that this world hates
us and that we must suffer in it. Old animist myths sometimes grow above
the invasive blackberry thicket of civilization’s religions, reminding
us the world has a life, a heart that cares and longs for us to remember
it back into existence. Ironically, much of the animist mythology that
came to me as a child came in the form of video games. Animism still has
a presence in modern Japanese culture, and Japanese culture produces a
large amount of games. While the physical act of playing video games may
take us out of physical reality, some games actually can and do teach or
inspire us to connect with the land and defend it against civilization.
Therefore, though video games come from civilization (which aims to
escape or dominate what it perceives as a cruel and wild world), not all
of the video games we play propagate those lies.

This does not negate that civilization created video games, and that it
takes an inherently unsustainable, industrial economy to make them.
Still, when I look back on my formative years I find that video games
had a much deeper impact on the foundations of the choices I make now
than I formerly realized.

Merry Christmas Mario

At the age of five I received a Nintendo Entertainment System on the
celebration of the Christ’s birth. On that day I witnessed the birth of
a newer, cooler spiritual leader who came with many faces: Super Mario,
Zelda, Donkey Kong. When I turned eleven I received another gift: the
life-changing myth they call Final Fantasy 2.

Final Fantasy 2 (American Release)

FF2 begins with you (or your character) getting exiled for questioning
your king’s motives for invading a neighboring community. You thereby
lose your rank as the leader of the army. The king gives the task of
delivering a small package to a nearby village of summoners (those with
the ability to summon earthly creatures). Upon arrival, the package
(rigged with a spell) explodes in flame and destroys the entire village.
During the fires you only have the ability to help one survivor, a
little girl who has just witnessed her whole family and village
destroyed by the demons in the package, delivered by you, by order of
the king. At this time you realize the king has gone mad and must die.
Rydia, the young “caller,” joins your newly formed resistance group for
the next big chunk of the game. Just when you think everything has
worked out, your boat sinks and everyone on your team drowns, including
the little girl. You wake up alone, stranded on a distant island.

They called her Rydia, my first love, and when she died I mourned for
her. For some reason I sympathized with her so much. Maybe because I
felt responsible for killing all her people. Maybe because I related to
feeling alone in the world. Maybe because she had cool green hair. Maybe
because she befriended the gods. When I lost her, I cried, heartbroken.
People say that this “is just a game.” I disagree. How do you perceive
games? Why do we tell stories? If mythology works as vehicles for
understanding spiritual archetypes, certainly games can have much more
power than people give them credit for. Rydia felt alive and real, the
innocence of the green flowering earth, who summons the elements and
converses with gods, and whose people (friends of gods) died by a
murderous holocaust that I unknowingly brought upon them by simply doing
what those in power told me to. I can’t think of a greater metaphor for
my role in civilization.

Although not by intention but by my relation to a diseased and jealous
king, I still understood it my moral obligation to look after her in an
attempt to undue, at the very least, a fraction of the injustice that I,
and my culture of kings, had done to her. I didn’t cry because a bunch
of pixels stopped appearing on the TV screen. I cried because my own
spirit died at the hands of my own culture, because I did what those in
power told me to do. The loss of her and what she represents in us all:
that part of us that still remembers the secret language of the gods. I
cried also because the story does not end there. Always we have more
story to uncover, more life to live. The world does not die with her but
weepily continues. We still have time to save what little life we have
left in the world from the greedy evil empire of civilization. I still
remember that on my eleventh birthday I saved the world from those who
wished to destroy it.

Sid Meier’s Civilization

I first played Civilization over at the Johnsons’ house. The Johnsons’
house always had wonderful clutter, with all kinds of interesting toys
and gismos and contained many distinct aromas that I have never smelled
anywhere else. The father carved wood into salmon, and up from the
basement always wafted the sweet smell of cedar filling the kitchen
where the computer sat. During summer, no matter the time or day of the
week, the computer had six or seven neighborhood kids surrounding it,
all engaged in feeding our young, curious intellects. Of all the games
we played in that house, I remember Civilization the most, because it
gave me a fundamental understanding of how civilization works: one wins
the game by either becoming the first civilization to colonize Alpha
Centauri (the closest solar system) or by destroying every other culture
on the planet. Your choice: colonization or genocide (two prongs on the
same pitchfork). While the game never said anything that goes against
civilization, it brought the unspoken premises of our culture to light
early on. This created the perfect primer for perspectives I later
discovered in reading Daniel Quinn, Derrick Jensen, Martín Prechtel, and


At fourteen I went to a local store, picked this game off the shelf, and
walked out the front door. The buzzers even went off. I kept walking,
expecting middle-aged rent-a-cops to bury me in a pig pile any second. I
took the long, scenic way home in case someone followed me. A strange
form of thievery paranoia I had never felt before came over me, even
though I had shoplifted many times before. It felt as though someone (or
something) had come with me from the store. I cradled the box
to my chest and hurried on, winding this way and that through the
neighborhood streets. When I got home I closed the blinds and watched
out the window for hours, unable to shake the feeling that something
watched me. A feeling that didn’t stop me from sitting down at my
computer and installing the game…

Six months later I sat in front of my computer and opened my eyes. I had
sacrificed much for this game: what little social life I had, beautiful
sunny afternoons spent inside. I suffered as an addict (or escapist).
You know that old saying, “You don’t smoke cigarettes, cigarettes smoke
you.” Well, Diablo definitely smoked me. At the time I didn’t think
about the mythic proportions of devils stalking and possessing me. I
felt weak from atrophied muscles, looked pale from lack of sunlight, and
felt depressed from not having real, physical friends. Then something
happened. Maybe I’d had enough, or maybe an angel came to rescue me from
the devil. As I fought in a battle deep within the fifteenth level of
hell, my left hand lifted from the keyboard and down to the eject button
on the CD-ROM. The CD tray slid out in slow motion, like the stone
monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I lifted the CD from its shrine
and bent the dense plastic until it snapped into two pieces, one in each
hand. I felt something warm trickle down my arm. I had sliced my hand
open, and now fresh blood flowed down my left arm onto the CD shard that
had given me the wound. I understood what had happened immediately: “If
I can’t have you, no one can.” The last lunge of a dying beast. The
ritual scarification of sacrifice. I squeezed my hand and ceremonially
bled on the now inanimate, unusable, transformed blades in my hands.
“You have no power over me,” I whispered, quoting Jennifer Connelly in
Labyrinth. I had, for the first time, fought back against one of my
masters, albeit a mythological master comprised of ones and zeroes.

Final Fantasy 7

After Diablo I swore off video games. But then Final Fantasy 7 came
out, and maybe the memories of Rydia told me to break my rule to play
this one. Just this one. Derrick Jensen mentioned a movie coming out in
which anarchists poison the world’s water supply and the government must
stop them. He said it would look more realistic if in the movie
corporations poisoned the world’s water (a common practice) and a
group of anarchists had to stop them. This would threaten
civilization’s mythological system, however, so games, movies, and other
media with those stories rarely make it past the drawing board.

Somehow Final Fantasy 7 slipped through the cracks. The quest begins
with Cloud (the character you play), hired as a mercenary to help a
terrorist group blow up a reactor. This reactor (an obvious metaphor for
a nuclear reactor) steals the earth’s life force (called Mako) for the
purpose of powering industrial civilization. After the corporations kill
innocent people (and blame the terrorists), your character becomes
morally involved with the terrorist group. The rest of the game includes
a number of great anti-civilization bits, like courting and befriending
indigenous people and rescuing an endangered species from an animal
testing lab. Squaresoft created this game before the term eco-terrorist
became popular. Years before the Green Scare. When I finished the game I
had logged over 100 hours working to take down this make-believe
civilization. At fifteen I saved the world all over again, from another
civilization. But after the credits rolled, the world I live in still
sat waiting for someone to rise up and save it. After having taken down
several civilizations, psychologically, perhaps that prepared me to do
it for real.

At nineteen I swore off video games (again!) after playing a game called
Hitman. My brother had it on his computer, and I only played it once
for about three hours. During the first three levels, you kill Asian
mobsters. When I say “Asian” I don’t really mean Asian, but iconic
representations of “Asian” facial features. You have to sneak up behind
them and kill them. The computer has artificial intelligence that makes
them look over their shoulders for you. I spent three adrenaline-fueled
hours as the main character, who looks like a white male with a shaved
head, killing computer-generated Asians. The next day as I walked in
downtown Portland, the crosswalk turned red before I got there. As I
approached the corner a man stood waiting. He happened to look over his
shoulder at me in a way very similar to the computer-generated
characters in the game. He looked Asian. I felt my hand reflexively
reaching for a gun to kill him with.

What. The. Fuck!? Anyone who plays down the brain-programming of video
games has no idea. Of course the military knows this; you can download a
similar game from goarmy.com.

So when Willem gave me the video game controller, I thought it may lead
to my end. But for the last several days I have played The Secret of
, a game similar in plot to Final Fantasy 7, and have felt
disinterested. I asked myself why I didn’t enjoy playing games so much
anymore, and I realize I no longer feel the need to escape reality. I
love this reality, this planet. Nothing artificial or manmade could
rival the beauty of the real world. I enact a real story that happens
right here, right now, in this place.

I no longer play a hero. I live as one.

Robots vs. Rewilding

Everyone knows that I hate robots. I have hated them for as long as I
can remember. They give me the chills and cause me to go into fits of
anger. I never really understood it. I guess I just chalked it up to
them representing everything I hate about civilization: technology,
control over life, consumerism, hipster-novelty…on and on.

At the Daft Punk Alive 2007 tour, standing in a crowd of people, facing
a stage where two men danced in robot suits, in the middle of a giant
pyramid, I realized just why I hate robots so much: they symbolize the
future. I mean, obviously not the actual future, but civilization’s
mythological future. Etymonline.com describes the origin of robot:

1923, from English translation of 1920 play “R.U.R.” (“Rossum’s
Universal Robots”), by Karel Čapek (1890–1938), from Czech robotnik
“slave,” from robota “forced labor, drudgery,” from robotiti “to work,
drudge,” from an Old Czech source akin to Old Church Slavonic rabota
“servitude,” from rabu “slave” (see orphan), from a Slavic stem related
to German Arbeit “work” (Old High German arabeit)

Robot means slave. Slaves occupy the bottom of a class system. A
class system means hierarchy. Here we have Daft Punk, two guys dressed
as robots standing inside a giant pyramid. Two symbols of hierarchy with
tens of thousands of worshippers. Perhaps two wrongs make a right?

One classic motif of robot mythology that I find fascinating involves a
robot seeking to feel human emotion. I can think of several examples:
Terminator 2 (“I know now why you cry”), Short Circuit (“Johnny-5
Alive!”), Star Trek: The Next Generation (Data’s constant quest),
the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (Cylons have feelings too), and
Electroma, written and directed by Daft Punk about Daft Punk robots
trying to become human. We can trace all of these back to Pinocchio, the
marionette who wanted to live as a real boy. Perhaps the robot quest
alludes to animist mythology, that even inanimate objects can have
feelings. Or maybe the robot quest symbolizes the slave class of
civilization trying to reclaim their humanity. But I have another

The real myth of any robot quest looks like this: in the future robots
will have feelings too. I identify several premises here. First, the
future will have robots. Second, robots do not currently have feelings.
This reflects two fundamental myths of civilization: that civilization
will go on despite its inherent environmental destruction, and that
other-than-humans (whether rocks, animals, plants, or wind) do not have
feelings, do not have life, but like the robots we build, exist solely
for our exploitation.

Now you might ask, “Why the hell would you, Urban Scout, go to a Daft
Punk show?!? You hate robots! They give you the chills!” Well, you got
me there. Despite their robot costumes and pyramids, I love their music
and my friend got me in for free. Oh, the hypocrisy! I know. What can I
say? I made the trip to Seattle from Portland to see these robots
perform live, and what a show. I felt blown away by the amazing light
show they put on.

In an interview called “Pyramid Schemers,” Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter

It’s definitely fun to invent characters and to play around with them.
It’s almost this older concept of superheroes in comic books, where you
have a line between fiction and reality, or between a regular and an
animus character, and some kind of frantic image of another
alter-ego—which are those robots.

I think a lot of the things we’ve been doing since we evolved into
robots is really the concept of technology versus humanity. The science
fiction is fun and entertaining, but in a very humble way this whole
robot thing is only a metaphor for technology and its place today in the
world, and in music. That’s the whole idea behind the show.

In a funny way, the Daft Punk robots symbolize the exact opposite of
what I do. They dress up like their vision of the future (the
technological complexity of robots), and I dress up like my vision of
the future (the technological simplicity and elegance of the
hunter-gatherer). In my mind their future projection has no legs in the
real world. It takes an industrial economy to build machines. It takes a
civilization to have an industrial economy, and it takes agricultural
practices to build a civilization. Since we know that agriculture
destroys biodiversity, any sustainable future necessarily excludes

I only hope that as time goes on, my work will inspire 10,000 people to
come together to rewild and walk away from robots, pyramids, and

Superheroes vs. Rewilding

I often find myself rooting for the villains in the movies I watch these
days. Most of civilization’s superheroes act as police officers with
special powers. Take Spider-Man: a cop who can climb buildings.
Superman: a cop who can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes. The Jedi:
cops with glowing swords who can move things with their minds (no, they
fight the Evil Empire, right? right?!). Batman: the vigilante guardian
of civilization. They all succeed where the cops fail.

None of these heroes ever attack those who do the real damage:
polluters, dictators, death squad soldiers, logging companies, dam
builders, and a million other groups fucking up the planet. Okay, maybe
Captain Planet. But how long did that lame show last? Who attacks those
things in civilized mythology? The villains. Sometimes the villains just
act as people even more power-hungry than those in power. These villains
who want to “take over the world” only become villains because they have
challenged the unspoken power relationship in civilization. You cannot
do harm to those above you on the hierarchy. Even if you simply wish to
climb the hierarchy. You must do it the way the state approves: through
slave labor. Exploitation proves the only way to move up the pyramid, as
moving up implies you stand above others.

The hero serves an important role in mythology. Our heroes show us how
to behave. In civilized context, they show us “right” and “wrong” with
their actions. They teach us to protect and serve civilization,
specifically the rich and powerful. So what does a rewilding,
anti-civilization hero look like?

I like the villains who just want to tear the whole system down. Like
Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker. And of course, no other historical or
mythological figure makes guerrilla warfare look cooler than Robin Hood.
Living in the wild and stealing from the rich to give to the poor? If
only Robin Hood and the Joker could join forces!

A rewilding hero would stand as a “bioregional patriot.” They would move
us from the paradigm of identification with a nation, with civilization,
to identification with the land. People who protect and serve the land
they live on, outside of civilization’s control. Living in and with the
wilds, pushing the rewild frontier in on civilization. While those in
urban environments experience the worst of a collapsing monolith, those
out in the wild will live freer lives, just as Robin Hood did. For
rewilding to catch on, we need role models. We need heroes. Real or
imagined. And we need them now.

Ageism vs. Rewilding

In our culture, the young and the elderly receive the worst prejudice
and abuse. We force children into schooling where the system coerces
them to do what those in power tell them. Then when people reach a
certain age they get dumped into nursing homes and forgotten. Oppression
of the young and old happens so consistently it looks normal to us, and
most people don’t see it as oppression. In fact most people don’t see it
at all. As you age you see a positive progression up the hierarchy. As
an adult you forget the oppression suffered as a child while accepting
the benefits that come with growing older. Once you reach a certain age,
people no longer perceive you as “productive” or “useful,” and once
again you plummet to the bottom of the pyramid.

Civilizationists like to project hierarchy onto nonhierarchical
structures. This happens when we look at an indigenous culture’s system
of information dispersal and transformation. One of the elements of
culture commonly discussed in rewilding involves the notion of “elders,”
specifically their purpose in an indigenous context. The concept of
elders has not evaded civilized cultures entirely, although civilized
“elders” transmit a very different structure than those of indigenous

In indigenous cultures, elders help keep their communities intact by
teaching the young about the ways of nature. We know that a tactic of
white civilizationists, used to assimilate Native Americans, involved
estranging the young from their elders. An elder from a native’s
perspective does not look like someone with generic “wisdom” but someone
with a special kind of wisdom that relates to living closely with their
particular landbase.

To call an elder simply an old person with wisdom does little
justice to the wisdom traditional elders actually hold about their
place. “Wisdom” varies from worldview to worldview. In a world based on
direct experiences in a particular landbase, elders would have logged
the most time observing that land. It makes sense that they would hold
the key to cultural transmission. Elders occur more organically in that
kind of system. They do not force their knowledge or perception of the
land on younger people. The younger people recognize that these older
people can give them insights into how to live on that particular piece
of land, in that particular way. In a culture that continually destroys
its landbase, we can rest assured that our “elders” have no land-based
wisdom. Noticing that the elderly people in civilization do not have
special, landbase-wise qualities, and do not act as keepers of a
sustainable culture, some people have made the distinction between these
civilized olders and native elders.

I find it funny when older people use the phrase, “You act childish.”
Children have a nature of their own, for sure, but mostly they mimic the
adults and culture around them. So they act out how they see their
parents act. They reenact their parents. Therefore children don’t act
childish, they act adultish. And as American children have proven time
and time again, most adults act like crazy, controlling assholes.

I have seen many wilderness-style programs mistakenly refer to elders as
“the over fifty crowd,” as though the age of fifty signifies something.
Perhaps in real, intact indigenous cultures the elders have aged over
fifty years, but this distinction does not apply to civilization’s
olders. What happens when you take a bunch of crazy, controlling,
asshole-ish olders and tell them they need to live as elders? All hell
breaks loose. I have noticed that within a culture based on domination
it seems all too easy to simply project domination onto an egalitarian
system and call it egalitarian. This methodology has spawned many
vampiric olders who seek nothing but a power-over relationship with
youth, which I have experienced firsthand. Without fully articulating an
elder’s social position, we see a bunch of olders who now think of
themselves as elders. I only know one word to describe such a person:

It seems many older people feel entitled to praise and respect from
youth, despite their potential lack of experience or wisdom. I see
olders adultishly attempt to assert themselves as elders the way nerdy
children in middle school flounder while trying to act “cool” (myself
included there). Rather than have comfort with themselves, olders want
to have something they don’t. They can fake it for a while, but
eventually the younger people expose the deception by the olders and
take their friendship away. Rich, childless olders seem the most common.
They can’t even hold a conversation with a younger person without
pointing out their age. To olders, people within a domination-based
civilization, an elder looks like someone in a position of power. Power
the older never had. And when young people buy into that…disaster

We define both olders and elders by age and yet age does not indicate
experience. Experience indicates experience. Age relates to experience
because the more you age, the more experience you have. However, the
kinds of experiences you have determine what you know, how you know, and
what you have learned from your experience. A particular set of
experiences gives someone a particular kind of wisdom.

Experience forms the foundation of wisdom, and indigenous cultures
worked well at regulating experiences through yearly rituals. It makes
sense that they would have a group of people who had reached a certain
age and gone through all the same rituals and rites and shared similar
experiences that the youth had yet to go through. The group we refer to
as elders became members of that group not because they aged, but
because they went through similar rituals together on a particular piece
of land and undertook the facilitation of those rituals on behalf of
younger people.

If we understand that an elder means someone who has gone through many
rites and rituals, it makes sense that they would know and feel things
beyond our recognition. Civilization breeds experiences that destroy our
relationship to the land. While a high school diploma may serve as a
rite to many of us, how many high school graduates know how to live
sustainably? How many indigenous eighteen-year-olds do? Civilization’s
elders, or olders, carry the wisdom of denial, distraction, and

If we see how age creates an elder in this kind of indigenous culture,
and how age relates to power within civilization, we can easily see how
a civilized person would project their worldview onto another. The term
elder does not allude to an unarticulated hierarchical structure, at
the top of which elders sit. If elders get some sort of special
treatment, it involves their dependency on the younger. I don’t get an
elder a plate of food because they have a special status in a hierarchy
but because they have trouble walking. It almost seems as if their
powerlessness in physicality has given them power in sociality or
spirituality. This leads to another quality of an elder: humility. It
seems that elders carry humility, not only because of years of learning
from nature but also because, like children, they require help from
people stronger and healthier than they.

If elder refers to someone with humility who has gone through
experiences I want to go through, who has rewilded in my particular
bioregion and has wisdom of living with it over a long period of time,
well…none exist. Not within my culture anyway. Bits and pieces of wisdom
exist here and there in different native people and in books. I use
those to cobble together my future. This shows another example the
importance of honoring living native communities and allying with them.
Perhaps someday we’ll have elders again, but it will probably happen
without anyone noticing the change. The key to having a successful
culture does not involve mimicking what we see natives doing, but truly
understanding how their cultures function. A highly functional culture
produces elders who teach the young how to have a highly functional
culture. In a culture without elders, rewilding humans need not try to
act like them. We need to learn how to live with the land. Those who
experiment in living with the land, regardless of their age, reveal the
people that I have something to learn from. And when these people have
aged with the land and gained much knowledge and experience, young
people will naturally want to know how to follow in their footsteps.

School vs. Rewilding

Indigenous cultures do not have schools. In fact in three million years
of human history, we’ve only had schools for a few hundred. What does
that tell you? People did fine without schools, lived sustainably
without schools. In spite of all its rhetoric of education, civilization
continues to destroy the planet at an accelerating rate. Not only did we
do fine without schools, we did better.

I always hated school. No wait, I mean, I always fucking hated school.
In fact I dropped out five times from four schools. Four of the programs
I actually chose to go into myself. The fifth, compulsory schooling, no
one ever gave me a choice. As soon as I realized I had a choice, I left.

Even those who claim to have loved school can’t possibly honestly mean
it. My friend Willem loves it when people say, “I liked school.” He
simply replies, “So you stayed inside and cried during all of your snow
days?” Unless they liked school in the Stockholm syndrome sense (also
called trauma-bonding), in which people become sympathetic and loyal to
their captors or abusers.

Schooling not only destroys our passion for life, it also never allows
us to know it exists. As children we have no choice but to place trust
in our culture to meet our needs. We do what it dictates, expecting to
learn how to live in the world. Placed in school, with a
one-size-fits-all curriculum, we do not learn to follow the things in
life that interest us and give us power as individuals. The hierarchy of
school falls into place quite easily because some kids do really well in
school. This puts all the kids who don’t do well lower on the pyramid.
Of course the ones who do well in school enjoy it because they reap the
benefits of sitting higher on the hierarchy. Those who do what teachers
ask of them (homework, raising their hand to speak, asking to use the
restroom), those who have no difficulty tossing out their
individuality—their soul—reap the benefits: pizza parties, good grades,
honor role, the elitism and pride that come from thinking you have more
smarts than your fellow classmates.

I hated school. But that doesn’t mean that I hated all of my teachers.
On the contrary, I think that teachers themselves simply serve as
captives of a larger system. I had some really great teachers who shaped
my life, and some real assholes too. Most teachers don’t realize this
and think they can change the system or work the system. Unfortunately
the system itself does the teaching, and you cannot change a flawed
system. It doesn’t matter what subjects you learn or teach, the system
(or structure) teaches you the real lessons: watch the clock, follow
instructions, fear those in power and your peers, and understand that
those in power determine your intelligence and self-worth.

In elementary school my teachers loved me. They raved to my parents
about my creativity and imagination. They placed me in the TAG (Talented
and Gifted) program in kindergarten. I believed I had more smarts than
those not in the program because I had more “talent” and more “gifts,”
which led to an elitist attitude. Conversely, those who didn’t go to TAG
felt like they did not have the same intelligence, which filled them
with self-loathing.

In my first year of middle school I attended Outdoor School, a public
school program for children to learn about nature. By the time I went to
Outdoor School I had participated in Boy Scouts for about one year. At
my Boy Scout camps I could wander off for hours into the woods as long
as I had a buddy, a watch, a compass, and told people which direction I
started in and when I planned to arrive back in camp. This allowed all
the freedom a young child could ask to explore the beauty of nature
without interference. We could simply experience nature without any
civilized agenda. This made me hate Outdoor School. We couldn’t leave
the sight of an adult and had to constantly take notes in a mindless,
boring way with industrial-made instruments. How do you make the natural
world totally fucking boring and alienating? Projectile vomit the
compulsory schooling structure onto it, and voila: Outdoor School. Of
course, the only way you could get funding to put school kids outside at
all would involve tainting the experience through the same old schooling

All week the counselors spoke of a “Plant Village” that we would
experience on Thursday. They really built it up. All week we heard the
hype. I remember thinking at twelve years old, “Hell, with all this
hype, at least Plant Village will be pretty cool.” On the
long-anticipated morning of Plant Village, we met in a large circle. It
went something like this:

Counselor: All right, now the moment you’ve waited all week for…
Does everyone feel ready for PLANT VILLAGE?!?


Counselor: Awesome! You won’t believe your eyes when you see it!


Counselor: But! Before we go to plant village we’ve selected a
special group of kids who get to go on a special, super cool hike to
an old growth forest… instead!

(Pause… all the kids look around confused. I think to myself, “Why the
hell would anyone want to go to an old growth forest after all this hype
over plant village?”)

Counselor: Okay, if I read out your name come stand over here.

The counselor began to call out names. The first three names called
belonged to the three loudest African American kids in my class, and
it became painfully obvious what the teachers had done (not to mention
the unarticulated connection between class and race and hierarchy). They
dreamed up this bullshit hike in order to get the “troublemakers” as far
away from Plant Village as possible so that it would run smoothly. Then
they called a few other names of some obnoxious white kids, and it
confirmed my theory. I felt so embarrassed for those kids. Then the most
shocking, transformative, eye-opening thing happened to me: they called
my fucking name!

The psychological pain felt intense. This story still makes me tear up
with rage as I recall it. I couldn’t quite talk at first. I felt winded.
Am I a troublemaker?” I thought in B-English. “They think I am a
troublemaker?” This confused me all to hell. Just a year before, my
teachers thought of me as the clever, creative genius. I remember
thinking, “Oh. You think I belong with the troublemakers? Okay. Fine.
I’ll give you what you want. I’ll make some fucking trouble.” I looked
at Marcus, someone who acted like such an asshole to me (threatening me
with a knife several times that year), and for the first time I felt
such sympathy towards him and all the others in this group. I got it. If
they had mislabeled me, they had mislabeled all of us, and in doing so
gave us permission to make trouble. If those in power tell you what you
“are,” then you must give them what they want. At that point I stopped
doing homework and completely lost interest in school. I didn’t really
do much “troublemaking” because I didn’t have the energy for it. I fell
into a suicidal depression that year that lasted until I transferred to
an alternative arts high school for my sophomore year (which I later
dropped out of).

I never fucking asked about Plant Village, but it probably sucked balls.

Because of my decline in interest, my freshman year of high school the
counselors placed me in “intermediate math,” aka math for allegedly
not-so-smart kids. I had the wits to read through the lines and see the
hierarchy of “intelligence”: Advanced Math (smart kids), Algebra 1
(normal kids), and Intermediate Math (dumb kids). Of course, none of the
kids in any of those classes had more smarts than anyone else; these
classes merely reflected the arbitrary one-size-fits-all curriculum. I
demanded my counselor change me to normal math. But the time I spent in
intermediate math made me realize that those kids had about as much
interest in school as I did, and it had nothing to do with their actual

By experiencing the full spectrum of the intellectual hierarchy, from
smart TAG kid to stupid math kid, I understood the hierarchy in a way
none of my peers did. Especially because I fell down the ladder of
hierarchy rather than climbing it. I lost benefits and saw the results
instead of gaining benefits and losing sight of previous psychological
abuse. Those who do well all through school or those who do better later
do not see or forget what it feels like to sit at the bottom. While
those who suffer at the bottom, like cattle raised in cages for meat,
never get a taste of the benefits; they don’t know anything better.

Looking back now, I can’t imagine a better way of killing the souls of
children and preparing them for slavery. It looks rather genius and
sinister, and it should. The same great minds who facilitated the Great
Depression and the creation of the Federal Reserve—J. P. Morgan,
Rockefeller, Woodrow Wilson, and others—brought us compulsory schooling
because, as Woodrow Wilson said, “We want one class to have a liberal
education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity,
to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to
perform specific difficult manual tasks.” The first class, who would
receive “a liberal education,” obviously included the rich, those who at
the time attended private colleges (before they came up with the genius
idea of trapping poor people in debt by enticing them to pay for this
“liberal education”).

By dropping out of high school (to teach myself wilderness survival), I
faced the wrath of mythology pertaining to “drop-outs”: having to flip
burgers and pump gas for the rest of my life. Funny, in the real world
you realize just how much a high school diploma, and yes, even a college
degree, will get you: not a damn thing but thousands of dollars in debt.
From age sixteen to nineteen, I worked at coffee shops as the youngest
employee with no “education.” I made the same amount and performed the
same tasks as the twenty- to thirty-somethings who all held not just
high school diplomas but college degrees as well.

In a hierarchical economy, only a few people actually work the job they
wanted, and only a few get paid to do what they went to school for. But
more importantly, to work at the bottom of the pyramid, you don’t have
to have shit for a degree, and since most people get degrees these days
(or try) it means a whole lot of slaves in a whole lot of debt, just to
have a piece of paper that they didn’t need to work the job they do. The
only perk the piece of paper has amounts to the feeling of
self-satisfaction for having attained the paper. Anyway, if you think
you need a degree to get a job, you can always just lie. I’ve never
heard of anyone actually checking.

The smugness with which many high school and college grads refer to
their “education” makes me want to vomit. Most people get what they call
an education, and yet they don’t even know anything about reality. I
mean, about the physical reality of this planet and its workings and its
other-than-human community. For example, how many people, specifically
urban people, know five native plants? Their medicinal uses? How to
process them to make them most effective? We have no knowledge of
self-sufficiency outside of civilization’s economy. We do not know how
to get food, except from the handouts of our masters as we perform
physical and psychological slavery while exploiting the planet for them.
If forced schooling didn’t fuck you up enough, how about making you pay
to have your mind inculcated into a civilized paradigm, then believing
it made you all the better?

College strengthens our resolve in hierarchical structures by making us
invest finances in civilized mythology. As children we never really had
a choice: our parents made us go to school. Later in life they made us
choose (and pay) to go, further solidifying our belief in these systems.
This only deepens the denial of college grads; if we spent all that time
and money for nothing, we would have to face the reality of our way of
life and admit that civilization duped us.

You only need a resume for one reason: to work for someone you don’t
know. All my life in school we learn that we need to have a diploma so
that we can write it on our resume. But why do we need a resume? What
does a degree really mean? If you have a large social network, you don’t
need a resume because people know you and they know what qualifies you
to have a particular job. You don’t need a resume to start your own
business. You don’t need degrees to start your own business. A resume
stands in for lack of relationships with people. A degree says, you
don’t know this person, but they have had this particular training that
you believe qualifies them for this job. Again, you can always lie.
I—and nearly everyone I have spoken to—have lied plenty of times! To
live as an entrepreneur, you simply need street cred. We all know that
most of the things we learn in school we won’t use or we forget after
the test. This means that if you actually have earned street cred, you
did so through using information (meaning you won’t forget it because it
has a purpose beyond an arbitrary test) and doing things you’ll continue
to do.

Just because the system of schooling further ingrains our dependency on
the hierarchy doesn’t mean you can’t derive value from schooling; it
just comes at the cost of training your brain in a systemic way. We need
a new system of education that works against hierarchy, against creating
slaves dependent on the system to provide their needs in exchange for
painfully laborious, soul-sucking work.

We need to rewild the way we see education. School ≠ education. I can
hear you say, but what about schools that teach rewilding skills? If I
want to live as a hunter-gather and have no need for money, then
spending time running classes to get money looks hypocritical. What if I
spent that time hunting and gathering with friends instead? Then I
wouldn’t need money. It works as a paradox. Of course, we all have to
start somewhere, and the schools that teach rewilding skills work as a
great place to meet people interested in rewilding. This paradox can do
more harm than good if you get caught in its pitfalls.

I have noticed that many students of these programs (myself included at
one time) become dependent on them. Rather than seeking out
relationships with people who practice rewilding near our homes, we pay
people money to teach us, without having to build a relationship with
them. It doesn’t help you build a relationship that will last. These
schools don’t build friendships, or culture, which works as the real
teacher. You still pay the person money to hang out with them.

I often justify teaching rewilding skills for money as a means of
escaping wage slavery. And yet I have come across many rewilding
programs that can never make that much money, so you spend so much time
trying to get students and marketing your classes that you don’t have
much time for hunting and gathering. Again, it becomes a paradox.

Not everyone wants a community. Some people want to learn these skills
and take them back to their community, and that works well for people
like me who love to teach but feel a little guilty and lame for not
spending more time working on building my own community. If I can help
individual communities by exchanging my skills for some cash, I feel no
guilt. This shows the real value in schools. A community with no skills
sends a member to go learn them at a school and return to share them.

At a seven-day primitive skills school I went to, the celebrity teacher
told everyone that if they couldn’t survive it meant their “skills
sucked.” That kind of attitude can make you feel guilty about not living
100% wild. Fuck that. We don’t have a wild culture to provide for us for
twelve years while we learn to rewild, and we don’t have time to feel
guilty about it. But we do have modern technology and resources that we
can leverage to our benefit. We can use them to replicate the support of
the culture we don’t have, while we build it.

This school also claimed that you would have all the skills to “survive
lavishly” by the end of the week. A nice fantasy, but in reality you
cannot learn to rewild in seven days. I find it funny when I ask Joe
Blow if he thinks he could survive the collapse of civilization and he
says, “No problem.” Of all the time I have spent rewilding, I would
never make such a claim. At this point I don’t really concern myself
with surviving the collapse as much as I feel concerned with breaking
out of the prison of civilization. Indigenous peoples don’t “survive in
the woods.” They practice ancient, streamlined, seasonal routines that
provided comfort, enjoyment, and sustainability. Because of their
routines they live(d) in an environment teeming with wild foods now
decimated by civilization. So tell me, if civilization collapsed
tonight, could you live that way tomorrow? The next day? Six months from
now? Five years from now? Five hundred years from now? How long does it
take to build that kind of culture? How long did it take to build the
Amazon? How long does it take to die of thirst or hypothermia or the flu
(without antibiotics)? How many people could our ravaged lands support?
Would you still answer, “No problem?”

I appreciate these programs, workshops, and schools for what they teach,
but I believe you can’t really learn or truly know something by reading
about it in a book or listening about it at a lecture at a school. I
like to use the example of learning foreign languages. You can learn it
in a class or you can immerse yourself in a place where you can only
speak the one language. I can take classes or read books about
participating in nature, or I can go out and immerse myself in a
primitive lifestyle. Similarly, most Americans learn Spanish with the
intent to visit Mexico, but how many of them learn Spanish so they can
move to Mexico? I believe rewilding means moving to Mexico, so to
speak. We need to create rewilding cultures immersion-style.

By using these civilized forms of information hoarding, rewilding skills
remain under lock and key by forcing people to participate in the
economy of civilization for access to the information, while continuing
to spread the alienation and lack of culture that promotes this way of
life. As long as this remains true, we will never have what it takes to
form these rewilding cultures. I do not mean to devalue schools that
teach rewilding skills, I only point out that if you use money in place
of real relationships, civilization owns you. Schools that teach
rewilding can work as a great first step, but if we yearn to move beyond
civilization and truly rewild, if we wish to get the knowledge that will
allow us to unlock the food, we must work to unlock the knowledge and
skills of rewilding. We need to change our strategies for sharing this

Current strategies

The field guide, web information

Books cost money. Some may perceive this as trading and not as hoarding:
exchanging money for information. Information stored in books generally
remains under lock and key. In a field guide, the knowledge of skills
remains locked in a book. Copyright laws prohibit an individual from
dispersing the information. Also, books seal information in a fixed
state; once written down, the information cannot change. This makes
books themselves a kind of false guide, as rewilding bases itself on an
ever-changing landscape.

Primitive skills schools

By their nature, schools form hierarchical relationships. Information
flows one way, from the minority (of instructors) to the majority (of
students). By paying an “expert” to teach you about skills, or as an
instructor, you become obligated to give the students their “money’s
worth.” Information at primitive schools remains under lock and key. In
order for primitive skills schools to stay in business, free access to
primitive skills information and communities must not exist. The schools
themselves represent the lock and money represents the key to this
knowledge. Ideologically those who start wilderness schools generally
don’t have the intention of training people to rewild.

Primitive skills rendezvous

The rendezvous represents the closest format of information sharing to
Open Space Technology. You must pay money to attend, and you must seek
the approval of the organizers in order to hold a class. Some rendezvous
do not cost money and some do.

Emphasis on artifacts

Most of these sources emphasize physical skills and crafts such as
flint-knapping, basketry, and hide tanning. How many “primitive skills”
books, schools, and rendezvous teach invisible social technologies such
as childrearing, storytelling, clear communication, group meetings, oral
ecology, hunter-gatherer land management practices, etc.? Not many.

Unlocking rewilding knowledge

Community-building skill-shares

By running a public skill-share (such as a rewild camp) you can attract
more people to rewilding and promote awareness for it while learning
skills from others in the community. You can also run a private
skill-share for family and friends. The purpose of the skill-share comes
back to the idea of building relationships and forming real cultures
that hunt and gather together. I believe in exchanges and trading, and
the skill-share does exactly that. You share your skills and learn from
others who share theirs. You exchange your talents and knowledge instead
of money.

If we wish to unlock the food, but in order to do that we must first
have the knowledge of how to procure food, it follows that we must
unlock this information. Rewild.info and community-building skill-shares
attempt to make the primitive skills school, field guide, and old-school
rendezvous nearly obsolete (in terms of function). I believe it would
behoove us to borrow the hacker philosophy of freedom of information and
start spreading it as fast as we can.

Voting vs. Rewilding

Voting—the last bastion of mind control that civilization holds over
many of us anti-civilizationists. I mean, why not vote? Just scribble in
a few bubbles and drop the paper in a box. Voting can’t hurt, right?

We all know, even those of us who continue to vote, that voting does not
change anything. It merely absorbs your energy and keeps you
psychologically invested in the outcome of a broken system that your
vote cannot fix. Voting works as another form of denial: believing that
we can have a quick fix. Denial that if we just change people, not the
system itself, things will work out. Even though we all know things
won’t change much.

Now, you may say, “If it doesn’t really matter, who cares if I vote or

Like telling Canadians to vote in the American election, rewilding
involves the creation of a new system. We don’t want to change the
leaders of our culture, we want to create a new culture altogether. By
voting you only prove that you still have a psychological investment in
denial. The idea that it doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean, “So do it
anyway.” It takes time to think about who to vote for, what laws to vote
for, and then the disappointment and heartache you feel the day of the
election when even though the dipshit you voted for wins the popular
vote, some other asshole steals the election anyway. WTF? Voting takes a
lot more energy and investment than filling out a sheet of paper and
dropping it in a slot. That investment of your energy goes right to the
evildoers of civilization. “Ha ha! We got them to vote another time!”

“I’ll stop voting when I have a feral culture to join.” This argument
for voting makes more sense to me. And yet, to that I would respond:
only one way exists to create a feral culture, and that involves walking
away from civilization. We can have a foot in both worlds, sure, but
voting doesn’t show your active involvement in lessening damage (voting
for the lesser of two evils), it merely shows you still want to remain
in denial. Walk away. Walk away. Let it go.

Of course, we also hear that real change doesn’t happen with voting in
politics but when we “vote with our dollars.” Fuck that. “Voting with
dollars” means the same thing as voting: investing in civilization.
Whether physically with money or psychologically with a ballot. Buying
“green” light bulbs will not save the planet, and the more time we spend
believing that technology will save us rather than learning to abandon
those technologies, the more time we commit to destroying the planet.

One may argue that one leader will do “less damage” than another, but it
comes back to your investment of energy. When you vote, you feed the
system. Deciding who to vote for, reading up on issues, and all that
crap takes time away from rewilding and programs your brain to actually
care about the outcome. When the bigger asshole wins (or more accurately
steals) the election, you find yourself caring a lot. And for what?

Now I like the idea of the slogan “Vote with bullets, not ballots,”
because it brings more attention to how real change could come about: by
eliminating the state’s monopoly on violence and allowing people, local
communities to choose how to behave. Though I still think “Vote with
bullets, not ballots” implies revolution within the hierarchy, not the
dismantling of it, because hey, if you still think in terms of voting,
you still think in terms of changing the system. Whether you vote with
ballots or bullets, the system remains.

Now I could say, “Vote with your feet and walk away,” but by using the
term vote, we still operate on the language (and therefore culture) of
the abuser. I think saying, “Don’t vote, walk away,” sounds more like a
cowardly hunger strike. “I’ll walk away until you decide to change your
ways!” It makes no sense either. Don’t vote at all.

Now comes the part where I tell you that I actually do vote, and no, not
just in Dancing with the Stars and myspace polls, but yes, I admit
that despite everything I just said, I vote in politics too! Well, sort
of. I vote for local issues that will protect wild areas. I vote for
schools to receive less money (fuck ’em). I vote for the lesser of two
evils because I know that a third party will not change the system any
more than my lesser evil, but at least we can do lesser evil, while in
the meantime we continue to dismantle civilization and rewild.

I guess it comes down to knowing that investing your time and energy in
voting means remaining in denial that voting doesn’t matter, and
thinking that civilization will change. It doesn’t look like denial as
long as you know that voting may (but most likely will not) protect the
environment for a bit longer and that we need to spend more time
dismantling civilization than volunteering for a political campaign
(NADER 2000, yo!).

Bureaucracy vs. Rewilding

Federal officials have called for killing about 30 sea lions near
Bonneville Dam each year to keep them from gobbling a rising share of
Northwest salmon that the government spends millions of dollars to

The Oregonian, January 18, 2008

Dear salmon. I have a confession to make. While working as a production
assistant for television commercials, a friend called me for a job…on a
political campaign advertisement.

The conversation went like this:

“Hey, Peter. I’ve got a job for you if you want it.”

“Yeah, sure. I need some work right now.”

“Great. Well, how do you feel about political ads?”

I think for a second and ask, “Does the person belong to the Democratic
or Republican party?”

He pauses. “Does it matter?”

I laugh. “…Nope.”

“Let’s just say the guy doesn’t look pretty.”

The job felt about as horrible as you might imagine. We drove around the
state for two days shooting the local political candidate (some
billionaire business tycoon) “talk” with “people” about issues. Of
course, he didn’t really talk about anything because the footage would
serve as B-roll for the voiceover and text that would narrate the
commercial. We drove to Molalla where he had some farmer buddies to show
him talking with farmers. We went to a shipping room for one of his
business clients to show that he cares about businesses (that business
happened to have all kinds of plaques on the wall in honor of their
donations to anti-abortion organizations).

At lunch the topic of politics came up. Some people agreed that Al Gore
lost the election because his posture felt too stiff. I wanted to say,
“Actually, he won the election. Bush stole it, remember?” But then I
remembered that I didn’t give a shit who “won” or stole anything. It all
looks like a sham to me anyway (I voted for Nader, ha!). I had worked on
many commercials at this point. Never had the crew eaten in complete
silence like this, with only an occasional glance of recognition between
us to acknowledge that the people talking sounded insane.

As the tension built on that shoot, things just grew more and more
sinister. We traveled to the political candidate’s mansion for the last
location for the shoot. His backyard had a vineyard that ended at his
own personal dock on the Willamette River in yuppieville Lake Oswego.
When we got to the house he said, “I really only intended it to reach
4,000 square feet, but I just couldn’t stop building! (Yuck yuck!) All
together now I think it stands at 11,000 square feet.”

Out back we set up some gear for the shoot on his dock. Two of his
fishing buddies showed up for part of the video of him talking with
fishermen. The producer felt like they needed a third person, so he
hired an old Asian man with a long white beard who had coincidentally
come to the house to clean the guy’s pool.

Down on the dock, tensions grew. Not just because the sun would soon set
and we raced the daylight, but because of all the bullshit we had seen
and experienced in the previous hours. They began shooting B-roll of the
political candidate talking to the fishermen. The director suggested the
man talk about fishing policy, even though they wouldn’t actually record
it, just to “set the mood.” So off he went. He began by saying that the
endangered sea lions who hunt the salmon held the responsibility for the
depleted runs of salmon. He suggested killing sea lions, endangered sea
, as a solution to declining salmon populations. He argued that
environmentalists, by protecting sea lions, indirectly held
responsibility for declining salmon populations.

Wait a minute. We all know that dams kill salmon by not letting salmon
return to their spawning grounds. A few years (depending on the life
span of the particular salmon) without a fish ladder and you have no
more salmon runs upriver from the dam. Dams killed the salmon. We all
know that logging killed the eggs of those salmon who did make it past
the dams by silt run-off from clear-cuts burying the eggs and by
removing trees that shaded the river, making it hotter than the
temperature that salmon eggs need to mature. We know that those salmon
who survived to make it back out to the ocean died in fishing nets from
commercial fishing companies.

At that point I turned away from the crew and started to cry. I thought
about a discussion I had with Derrick Jensen. He said that when you kill
something you make an agreement that you will take responsibility for
the continuation of that species. This political commercial paid me $200
a day for two days, a grand total of $400. During the Nuremberg trials,
they sentenced Julius Streicher, editor of the weekly Nazi newspaper, to
death. What about the writers of the paper? What about the paper boys
(and girls)? They all played a part as good Germans. I stood on that
dock, keeping my mouth shut and playing the part of the good civilian.

I couldn’t escape the fact that in some way, my work contributed to the
success of bullshit politicians and the continuation of a civilized
system of programmed environmental devastation. Whether Republican or
Democrat, whether the guy won the election or not. The simple fact that
two years later “federal officials” have called for the death of sea
lions shows that it doesn’t matter which person takes office: the
momentum of civilization’s destruction always wins out.

I knelt down and looked into the murky waters of the Willamette, wiping
the tears from my eyes. I began speaking to the salmon. “I promise you,
I will do whatever I can, use the tools I have, to help your species
survive. Please hold on. Please.”

A few weeks earlier another article came out about the death of salmon
at the hands of the good citizens.

Salmon survived massive dams and fishing fleets, but now they’re feeling
the heat of global warming—and it’s likely to hammer them as hard as
anything they’ve faced.

The Oregonian, January 6, 2008

Salmon did not survive the dams and fishing fleets, as the moronic
Oregonian notes. An endangered species looks more like someone who has
cancer: you don’t know if they will survive or not. The salmon
populations would not have declined to near extinction without the
logging and dams and overfishing.

I have a genius idea. Let’s pour thousands of tons of concrete across a
river and stop the fish who spawn in it from having the ability to come
back next year. After a few years, most will no longer live. Dams (a
product of civilization) decimated the salmon. Logging (a product of
civilization) kicked them while they lay on the ground. And now,
mysterious global warming (influenced heavily by civilization) lifts a
club to the sky threatening the final blow and taking credit away from
civilized dams and logging. How convenient for the hydro-timber
industries. Then when fishermen complain, we blame the deaths of the
salmon on the endangered sea lions (who became endangered when the dams
killed their main food supply, the salmon) and kill them. Who fucking
came up with this idea? No, seriously. Who fucking came up with this

Humans lived in the northwest coast of this continent for (at least)
8,000 years in a sustainable manner as
hunter-gatherer-horticulturalists. Civilization has occupied (after
stealing) this land for a mere 200 years. How many more do you think it
will take to destroy every life here? How long do you think before
civilization puts humans on the endangered species list? Do you honestly
think corporations will allow the government (with all its bullshit laws
and loopholes) to dismantle the dams?

How long before the rest of the oceans have no more life in them? Oh
yeah…forty years.

Unless humans act now, seafood may disappear by 2048, concludes the lead
author of a new study that paints a grim picture for ocean and human

National Geographic, November 2,

I saw a wanted poster with a fish on it on a paper in a rack at my
favorite taco joint and had to pick it up. It made me so fucking angry,
as papers do (which shows you why I don’t read them), that I had to
rewrite the article here for you to see, along with my commentary. The
title of the article? “Wanted Dead or Alive: The Pikeminnow.”

Ravenous trash fish prey on baby salmon. Traps don’t work. Poison
doesn’t work. It’s up to the Bounty Hunters.

Okay, you had me at “ravenous trash fish,” hook, line, and sinker.

On a recent cloudy Friday, perched in a black low-slung fishing boat
stained by guts and bait, Nikolay Zaremskiy pulled a steady stream of
money from the Columbia River in the form of muscular, slimy bills.

These wriggling prizes are not the usual stuff of anglers’
daydreams—rainbow trout or glittering steelhead. Far from it. These are
northern pikeminnows, ravenous predators that prey on helpless young
salmon smolt as they migrate downstream from their spawning grounds to
the Pacific.

“Ravenous predators.” Right off the bat we have this statement made
twice already. Maybe if the writer says it over and over again it will
make it true. They don’t even try to hide their propaganda anymore.
Well, shit. They don’t even have to. Most of the stupid fucks out there
read that and think, “Those fucking ravenous fish! Let’s fucking kill
them all!”

Pikeminnows devour millions of salmon and steelhead every year. So
voracious is their appetite, in fact, that experts think they kill as
many as all the Columbia River’s massive hydroelectric dams combined.

What the fuck. Read that a few times. Can you see the irony there? The
dams kill millions of salmon every year. They said it, not me. And yet,
who takes the wrap? First the sea lions, now the pikeminnow!?! Anyone
but us! I love how “experts” think that. What experts? Who “thinks”
that? I “think” a lot of things. Not all of them stand true. Okay, but
get this:

Pikeminnows thrive in reservoirs, so the construction of hydroelectric
dams on the Columbia River triggered a massive increase in population.

So you admit the pikeminnow “problem” wouldn’t exist if the dams didn’t
exist? So not only do the dams themselves kill “millions of salmon,” but
their mere existence creates habitat for one of the salmon’s natural
predators to kill “millions” more. And as a response, civ blames the
fish?…Uh, cool. Oh snap, check out this editorial response from the
Pikeminnows Weekly:

Civilizationists devour millions of salmon and steelhead every year. So
voracious is their appetite, in fact, that expert pikeminnows think they
kill as many as all we pikeminnows eat! Yeah, and they call us ravenous
predators! Ha! They brought the salmon populations down to only 1% from
where they stood 100 years ago, and created the perfect habitat for our
species…And now they want to call us ravenous predators?!! FUCK YOU,
CIVILIZATIONISTS! You made us! Your dams killed the salmon! You did
this! YOU!!!!

Yeah. I totally agree with that pikeminnow. Fuck you guys. Back to the
terrible article:

In an effort to put a lid on this relentless slaughter, the Pacific
States Marine Fisheries Commission has tried methods from trapping to
netting—and even considered poison. None of it seemed like a good fix.

“Relentless slaughter.” I seriously didn’t make this up. These people
are fucking insane. Just fucking insane. Just. Remove. The. Fucking.

In the end, the agency settled on a time-tested approach from the outlaw
days of the Old West. Declaring the species a menace to society it put a
bounty on the fish’s head, attracting a small but ruthless armada of
anglers like Zaremskiy who share a single passion—preying on the
predator at eight bucks a pop.

I declare that this civilization stands as a menace to all species. In
response I say we hire Nature’s Bounty Hunters, those who work for the
bounty of nature itself to do some real work around here. According to
the rest of this fish-hate piece of propaganda, this guy has made
$50,000 so far this season and “will single-handedly save at least
160,000 salmon from being swallowed into oblivion.”

In order for the salmon to survive they need to make it to the ocean,
and back up the river to spawn when they mature. The dams need to go. In
order for salmon to spawn they need cool and silt-free places to do so.
Logging needs to stop. In order for the mature salmon to make it back to
the ocean, we need commercial fishing to stop. The amount of paperwork
and lobbying and funding and time needed to do that adds up to an
impossibility. It feels hard enough just to get a couple of friends to
agree on what movie to go see. Bureaucratic means will not save the
salmon. They take too long and the salmon don’t have the time. A marine
biologist in The Oregonian actually gave the best (and possibly only)
way to save the salmon:

“We want to be very careful to be very sure we are removing the right
animals,” said Garth Griffin, a marine biologist with the fisheries
service in Portland.

The Oregonian, January 18, 2008

Don’t you find it funny that I actually agree with this biologist!? I
think we need to think very carefully and make sure we remove the right
animals. If by removing the “right” animals they mean removing those
animals who destroy the most salmon and by removing them we will see the
most impact on improving the restoration of salmon populations.
Following this line of thinking…sea lions don’t come to my mind when I
think about the “right” animals to remove.

I have a better idea. How about people dismantle thirty of the real
salmon gobblers, the dams, logging and fishing industries, every year?
Thirty of those salmon gobblers a year. Of course, this may prove
difficult to use bureaucratic means…We’ll have to think up some new
ideas, outside of civilization’s box…if you know what I mean. I wonder
how many more salmon you could save by taking that fifty grand and
investing it in a few well-placed explosives?

Say it with me:



Ethics vs. Rewilding

Since its inception, civilization has created a value system of good vs.
evil. The concept of good and evil (or the more scientific “right” and
“wrong”) seems to permeate much of our thought and actions, and we have
projected this concept onto indigenous mythologies as well. “Surely the
notion of good and evil comes from human nature, not culture!” But if we
look deeper, we see that this notion lives and dies with a culture of

Some people think the Pope creates good. Some people think the Pope
creates evil. Good and evil exist as subjective, cultural perspectives.
Some believe that clear-cutting forests creates good by providing people
with jobs and lumber. Others say that clear-cutting forests creates evil
by destroying a landbase. Good and evil, a dichotomy different from
night and day—night and day may change slightly depending on longitude
but do not exist as a cultural meme that can morph within a people.
Night and day exist outside our control, as do hot and cold (to the
extent that we cannot alter them indefinitely). But we can control our
perception of good and evil quite easily, and that makes for a very
dangerous cultural meme.

It should not surprise anyone that the notion of good in civilization
generally equates to an action based on an individual’s ability to do
extra work. “Do a good turn daily,” says the Boy Scout motto. “Do unto
others…” Helping an old lady across the street, volunteering for a
cause, giving away your hard-earned money: all involve going out of your
way. It makes perfect sense, then, that the noble savage myth came
about. Civilized people could not understand how indigenous peoples
experienced such ease with activities like sharing. They must have
better qualities than us
, reasoned our civilized ancestors.

The best example of this I find in modern culture involves the nonprofit
sector of environmental education, a mass of organizations struggling to
make ends meet in order to teach children about nature. Most employees
work forty- to eighty-hour weeks and receive very little money for this
work. It makes me cry just thinking about it. These people feel the
destruction so deeply that they sacrifice themselves to keep alive a
spark of love for the landbase. To people living close to the land, the
idea of a nature camp would seem ludicrous. Teaching children about
ecology simply works as part of their culture, not as an extra element
that parents pay for. And what do these camps do but keep a spark alive?
They don’t change civilization; they merely work to keep children
inspired to do something. What that something involves, who knows? I
haven’t seen any results even remotely close to what the planet needs to
survive at this point.

Rewilding usurps the notion of good and evil, right and wrong, by
eliminating the cultural variable and thinking in terms of environmental
systems, of the physical world. If you do damage to the environment, you
will experience the consequences. Right and wrong, good and evil
have little bearing on that.

Indigenous cultures do not separate their religion from the land they
live on. This means their religion comes from their relationship to the
land, not from the “spirit,” unless they mean the same thing. At Art of
Mentoring gatherings, Jon Young tells how one of his Lakota mentors
explained that the word people have commonly translated as sacred
actually means “inspired by or promoting life.” What our English
translators have taken to mean “holy” or “revered for its spiritual
significance” actually means something much more. It seems a lot less
“wu-wu” when the word has real world application and not just some
mystical quality. A “sacred” ceremony or ritual creates more life, and
not just human life but other-than-human life as well. As my good friend
Willem puts it, “Sacred means survival.”

An interesting perspective on the Mayans comes from Martín Prechtel, who
lived with Mayans (500 years post-collapse) for fifteen years. He speaks
of the Mayan spiritual concept of original debt:

In the Mayan worldview, we are all born owing a spiritual debt to the
other world for having created us, for having sung us into existence. It
must be fed; otherwise, it’s going to take its payment out of our
lives…You have to give a gift to that which gives you life. It’s an
actual payment in kind. That’s the spiritual economy of a village.

A knife, for instance, is a very minimal, almost primitive tool to
people in a modern industrial society…But for the Mayan people, the
spiritual debt that must be paid for the creation of such a tool is
great…So, just to get the iron, the shaman has to pay for the ore, the
fire, the wind, and so on—not in dollars and cents, but in ritual
activity equal to what’s been given…All of those ritual gifts make the
knife enormously “expensive,” and make the process quite involved and
time-consuming. The need for ritual makes some things too spiritually
expensive to bother with…That’s why the Mayans didn’t invent space
shuttles or shopping malls or backhoes.

Civilization would feel too spiritually expensive in this paradigm, a
paradigm that came about after the culture collapsed and yet that
reflects many of the spiritual beliefs of never-approaching-civilization
cultures that practiced intensification of food production. The more
anthropologists discover about indigenous intensification of food
production, the more they come to the conclusion that it does not
reflect a one-way path to agriculture and civilization, but that
indigenous peoples can exist in larger densities without exploiting the
land and becoming agriculturalists. Values and ethics largely shape a
culture’s decision-making and practices.

Rewilding our ethics looks like working to make the web of life tighter.
Rather than promoting ungrounded, changeable ideas of good and evil, it
stems from cause and reaction in the real world: if you do damage to the
environment, you do damage to your culture; if you strengthen the
environment, you strengthen your culture. Let’s get rid of the right and
wrong, good and evil dichotomy and ask ourselves: Will it kill us? Does
it meet the needs of the environment? Will it meet the needs of future
generations? We need a healthy physical world to continue living.
Indigenous ethics base themselves on the needs of the physical world,
whereas civilization has become so far removed it doesn’t even recognize
a physical world. Rewilding buries right and wrong back in the land
where they belong.

Religion vs. Rewilding

Do hunter-gatherers have religion? That question makes about as much
sense as asking if hunter-gatherers have language, science, or art. Of
course they do. But their religions look vastly different from the
religions (and science and art) we find in civilization.

Like any cultural descriptor, the word religion evokes all kinds of
emotions and images. When I think of religion I see a cross, cathedrals,
a man with a long white beard sitting on a throne in the clouds, looking
down with a scrutinizing eye. I remember going to church as a child and
never really understanding just what the fuck people did there. I hated
singing the songs in church because I couldn’t read them out of the
hymnal because I couldn’t read. So I would rock back and forth in the
pews and move around like a lion in a cage until my mom would ask me to
sit still. The words the preacher said made no sense and sounded totally
boring. Not to mention the stink of the mold in the old churches.
Eventually I would get a headache and begin to hate my life. I never
believed in god.

As with everything civilization creates, the more recent the creation,
the more destructive. Science, the latest, greatest religion, follows
this thread. Science claims to distinguish itself from religion by
basing itself on observation of the natural world rather than mythology.
I loved science. In school I always did well in science. I didn’t learn
until later that the institution of science also bases itself in the
same mythological roots as any other civilized religion. Sciences that
actually project a more accurate perception of reality (the ones that
articulate a living world) get put in a box called “quantum physics” or
“pseudoscience” and find themselves placed high on a shelf where we can
forget about them.

Funding for science (which really means investing in building more
machines that can measure things we don’t trust our own senses to
measure, on account of their inherent subjectivity) only goes to
projects that further the civilizational paradigm. Though science
masquerades as “objective inquiry,” you can only fund scientific
projects that somehow further the progression of civilization, and
therefore the extraction of more “resources” and more interesting ways
of killing people. Science refers to the funded exploration of the
world through the belief that the world has no life, that everything
exists for our exploitation.

A few sciences, like quantum physics, reveal some of the gaps in
previous scientific thought. We can use these gaps to change the minds
of those who believe the mythology of science. Similarly, I’ll bet we
could find verses in the Bible to support rewilding and the dismantling
of civilization, as opposed to using the Bible to justify devouring the
earth, as mainstream Christians do. (After all, the very first chapter
describes humans as superior to other animals and the earth—a myth
mainstream scientists use, too, to torture monkeys and build atom
bombs.) Trying to rewild the institution of organized religion proves
just as difficult as trying to rewild the institution of science, since
both came about through civilization. We cannot rewild civilization
since it never had wildness to begin with. We use the words religion
and science to describe phenomena that civilization has twisted for
its own purposes. We can rewild these things.

In order to rewild religion we have to see what myths civilization uses
to domesticate it members. Salvation and sky-based god(s) only exist in
civilized cultures, or in cultures already assimilated into
civilization. Civilized religions demand that we struggle in this life
so that god will reward us with eternal bliss in the afterlife. I can’t
think of a better way of stopping a slave class from revolting.
(Um…aside from convincing people that a slave class no longer exists.)

Animism refers to the religions of indigenous peoples around the
world. In a general sense it refers to all religions which believe that
everything (even inanimate objects) has a spirit. Using a blanket term
to describe thousands of religions sounds rather obnoxious to me, though
it does say something about the evolutionary value of religion. It would
make sense that in order to survive in the long run, people must treat
everything in the world as sacred. What more sacred way of living in the
world than “seeing” spirit in everything? If you don’t value life, or
what we commonly refer to as “inanimate” objects, you will generally
consume rather than respect it.

From an animist perspective, gods live among us, not above us. They live
as our parents, not hierarchical rulers. They make up an extension of
our family. Some gods live as parents (Father Sun), others as siblings
(Sister Corn). Living in this world, in this time, experiencing this
place, not disassociating from it or anticipating an afterlife.

The literalism with which modern civilized people experience mythology
astounds me. Most Christians actually believe that Adam and Eve lived as
real people. In the same way, scientists can worship “facts” (or even
perceive theories as laws). This probably stems from speaking English
for a thousand years, a language with no built-in metaphor, layering of
archetypes, or fluidity.

I generally refer to these two perceptions as animist religions and
civilized religions. But civilized religions does little to explain
just how religion and science share the same mythology. We need a
blanket term for religions that see things as inanimate. A word like
inanimism. If animism refers to the belief that all things have a
spirit, inanimism refers to the belief that only humans have a spirit.

Many people conflate the institution of science with the inquiry called
science. I generally use the term tracking (linking tracks and sign)
to refer to an animist form of inquiry. I hardly think of animism as a
religion in the institutional way we typically think of religions. I
define it more as a way of perceiving the world: “spiritual, not
religious.” Tracking connects you to spirit, whereas civilized science
dissociates people from spirit and offers the world of “meatspace.” The
civilized have an easier time devouring the world when they can convince
themselves it never had its own life. This shows us why a subjective
science (one that does not see inanimate objects but living spirits)
came about through millions of years of human evolution.

I have heard many people refer to the physical world as “meatspace,” as
though you can split reality into two parts, a physical one and a
spiritual one. I can only see one point in doing this, and that involves
objectifying something in the physical world. If I can take the spirit
out of something, it doesn’t feel as bad when I objectify it. I feel
highly offended when I hear the term “meatspace.” I never really put my
finger on it until my friend Willem said that it reminded him of the
objectifying slang term “meat curtains” (referring to a woman’s vagina).

Meat, a piece of flesh that no longer resembles the animal it came from,
quite literally has no more spirit, because the animal that it came from
no longer lives. From an animist’s perspective, flesh and spirit do not
exist as a duality but as one. Meat still holds the spirit of the animal
and becomes part of your spirit when you eat it, just as the flesh
becomes part of your flesh.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has offered a
one-million-dollar reward for the first scientist who can clone meat.
Apparently meat grown in a petri dish has no nerve endings and no way to
scream (and obviously in PETA’s eyes no soul), and therefore growing
meat in a petri dish and eating meat from a petri dish does not violate
animal ethics. Though the petri-meat may carry the label “cruelty free,”
the worldview and culture that would even consider inventing such a
thing cannot and will not stop abusing the planet. The complete
disconnection from reality, the complete disconnection from taking
responsibility for and honoring the beings who die so that we may live,
looks completely and utterly insane. I wish I could offer a
one-million-dollar reward for the first person to bring me the head of
the first scientist who clones meat.

How long before some perverted scientist clones a vagina in order to
have sex with it? Does it count as rape if the vagina has no connection
to a brain or mouth and cannot scream? If we say that cloned meat has no
life, do we define having sex with a cloned vagina as necrophilia? Does
a cloned vagina count as dead, or something else? This example shows
exactly the kind of psychotic disassociation from reality that feeds
science and projects the duality of flesh and spirit. You don’t learn to
live in the world through objectifying it; you learn by subjecting
yourself to its terms.

Furthermore, I don’t define science as “objective inquiry” because no
such thing exists
. If you remove variables, you get false information:
beings do not have isolated essences but define themselves through their
environment and interactions. Even if people could remove their own
perceptions (which frame all inquiries and make them subjective) we
would still receive false information because our perceptions define how
we interact with the environment, which defines us. Even if we built a
robot with no heart, it would still give us false information because
the framing of its heartlessness still has subjectivity of
heartlessness. Entities without hearts (or people who shield their own
so that they feel nothing when building nukes or torturing lab rats)
subjectively perceive the world in a false light, or at least in a light
that does not serve life. Objectivity involves seeing things as
inanimate, apart from what gives them life.

If we remove our senses, experiences, and perceptions as humans shaped
by the environment
, we remove the very things that make us human. We
amputate our humanity, rendering useless all information pertaining to
the experience of living as humans. When we no longer trust our own
bodies, senses, and experiences as a measure for what we perceive as
“real,” we have nothing “real” at all.

For some people (myself included), rewilding religion may look like
walking away from any and all inanimist religions and starting over with
animism. Since I have never participated in a culture of civilized
religion or science, I find it easier to build something new than fix
something old and falling apart that I don’t understand. For those who
do have deep cultural ties to civilized, inanimist religions,
rewilding those religions will look like rewilding the English language:
it will happen very slowly over time…and those who don’t change their
perception will die. Animism shows us religions that stand the test of
evolution. Civilization’s religions will die along with civilization
unless they fundamentally change through re-animating. You will need to
act as a “re-animator” (just like the movie!).

Religions (whether science, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism,
Scientology, inanimism, or animism) dictate our choices as a culture.
These religions give us justification for the way we interact with the
world. Civilization uses the perception of the world as a dead thing to
justify its destruction. Animism sees the world as alive and treats it
accordingly. Whether or not you personally believe in spirits, in order
to create a new way of life that does not destroy the planet, we need to
at least pretend, with sincerity, as though everything has a spirit.

Cities vs. Rewilding

I can’t help but feel like many people still hold purist values when it
comes time to understand rewilding. I often hear people say, “If you
want to rewild, shouldn’t you go live out in the wilderness?” Rewilding
means undoing domestication. Cities mark the most domesticated places in
the world. Rewilding in the city has no contradictory values; it just
means more work in some ways, less in others.

Cities represent the apex of civilization; they give civilization its
name. Everything in the city comes from the country and wilderness. Most
pollution and disease exists in these densely populated areas.
Undomesticating yourself in a city looks at times like taking a walk on
the interstate: defying the break-neck speed and momentum of the
culture. Thinking in terms of collapse, cities will not open up for
rewilding quickly, and may mark the last places we will undomesticate.

The notion of wilderness as an untouched place does not accurately
represent reality. I still see a large division between what we commonly
call wilderness (a more wild place) and urban space (a nearly completely
domesticated place). But we must acknowledge that civilization has
tainted every place on this earth, some places much more than others.
“Wild” places have a larger opportunity for rewilding because they sit
the farthest from the centers of civilization.

Waging a war against civilization while living in a city doesn’t look
like the smartest strategy for those who wish to survive collapse.
Trouble lies around every corner, whether you call trouble a mugger, a
rapist, a cop, a car, a drunk, your boss, or toxic air. I don’t mean to
say that those dangers don’t exist in the country, just that they exist
less. Civilization × 10 = cities.
Country = civilization ÷ 10. Less-civilized people,
less-civilized problems. We’ve all heard the statistics that your
chances of attack while wandering alone in the wilderness have no
comparison to wandering alone in the city. Predators don’t go to the
middle of nowhere to find prey, they go to where they will have an easy
time catching them: densely populated areas.

A city’s greatest weakness—population density, which requires the
importation of resources—can also work as its greatest strength to those
who rewild. Cities work as large social networks. Most people in cities
have much more open “education” than those in rural areas. Large-scale
cultural change happens in cities and filters out. This contrasts with
the country, where neighbors who used to get the news from word of mouth
now get it from Fox News via satellite TV. This may change as more
people and media find their way onto the Internet, but having a
solar-powered satellite Internet hook-up out in the boonies doesn’t look
sustainable either. Face-to-face social networking and information
exchange may prove the most valuable resource a city can provide to
those who rewild.

If we see the city as a resource for social networking, we can use it to
our advantage, leveraging social connections to build rewilding cultures
outside the city. For example, we can use the larger market of Portland
to promote Rewild Camps in order to reach more people, then hold classes
where the wild things live and eventually buy land out there. In a funny
way, rewilding functions the opposite way a city does: it exports people
and social “resources” out of the city and into the wild.

In the city we consume the resources brought from the country. In the
country we watch the extraction of resources, the devouring of life:
countless clear-cuts, imprisoned and tortured animals, poisoned crops
burning through the soil. This feels to me like the worst part of living
in the country. In the city, you can buy meat without noticing how the
animal suffered, and the wood used to build your house doesn’t look like
a logging truck carrying the corpses of freshly murdered forests. You
can’t have the satisfaction of disassociation in the country. This makes
it harder psychologically (in some ways) to live in the country, though
at least you can see where the “resources” come from and bear witness to
the destruction. When I spend time living in the country, I see exactly
what the city does to the land. And what the city offers up as a
resource—diversity of people and perspectives—the country lacks. Fox
News plays on every bar television screen. I see “Jesus Saves” and
“American Pride” bumper stickers everywhere I turn. But in the end, at
this point, the pros outweigh the cons.

My early times in Molalla

Over the past month and a half I have experienced city withdrawal. I
have experienced nostalgia for the years I spent drinking and sleeping
around and experiencing the “night life” of the city, even though I
hated those years while I lived them. I have felt completely
uncomfortable and felt “bearingless,” without a 3D neurological map
corresponding to the physical places in my life. I have felt afraid of
not looking “right” (or “too gay”) to prejudiced country folk and
getting beat up. I have argued with Penny Scout over our decision to
move out here. The painful withdrawal reached its climax last week when
I found out that most fruit you buy at the store comes from the same
“mother tree” that we have cloned over and over again for hundreds of
years through a perverse method called grafting. The same shocking
feeling came to me that I experienced at five when I found out my burger
came from a cow.

Four key elements have allowed me to make it through city withdrawal: 1)
My family lives here now. 2) I have a girlfriend who lives and rewilds
with me. 3) I have a large yard to learn gardening and permaculture. 4)
I have a job at an awesome company that does its best to promote food
self-sufficiency (in civilized terms).

My addiction finally broke this week when my buddy Billy came out and we
tromped through the foothills of the Cascades. We didn’t do anything
special other than express our natural curiosity for living wild, and
had a grand adventure I will never forget. We tracked bobcat, raccoon,
and aplodontia, foraged fresh greens, met never-before-seen plants and
secret waterfalls, all without any more effort than simply rolling out
of bed and taking a walk. Out here in the woods I don’t need to make up
an adventure: adventure finds me. In ten minutes I can drive to one of
the largest wild places in Oregon. I can ride my bike there in
forty-five minutes. In thirty minutes I can drive where no one will ever
find me. I can ride my bike there in a few hours. In the country I can
spend tons of time alone, learning plants, breathing fresh air, and
avoiding cops, robbers, and hippies. This week I finally feel
comfortable, at home in Molalla. Now that I have settled in here, I do
not feel alone. I do not crave the city nor its neon-bright addictive
culture. I have a foothold and can start importing my friends from the
city. Who will come with me? Show me the money!

“Green” vs. Rewilding

I recently saw a comic (thanks, Anthropik!) that inspired me to
articulate some things about the notion of greenwashing, and other
terms floating around in Mother Culture’s myth-space or meme-pool. The
cartoon showed a logger using an electric chainsaw.

At the illustrator’s site, this comment ran alongside his drawing:

This cartoon idea sprang fully formed from a New York Times piece on
the ridiculous lengths that some brands are going to be considered for
the Home Depot Eco Options promotion (including, yes, a brand of
electric chainsaw). It’s a good example of some of the outlandish
greenwashing we’re all starting to see. And, how the issue is not as
white and black as the old treehugger/lumberjack dynamic.

I thought about this for several minutes and posted this response:

This cartoon feels very funny and also very sad…To think that destroying
more habitat (aka biodiversity) and the very life forms that filter the
carbon out of the air appears “okay” simply because the technology we
use to do it…functions differently. It still took an oil economy and oil
energy to build the chainsaw, and it still damages the environment by
cutting down the trees and destroying more habitat for civilization’s
expansion. It still looks just as cut and dry to me, only it may feel
harder to see that with all the mythology out there.

I didn’t feel satisfied with this response, though. I thought about not
just the concept of greenwashing but the actual meaning of the term
green in this context. We hear “green this” and “eco that” or
“environmentally friendly” and “sustainable” and treat them as synonyms.

If the true meaning of sustainability involves giving back more than you
take from the land, then nothing that takes more from the land than it
returns can define itself as sustainable. “Less destructive” does not
mean “more sustainable.” I think “more sustainable” would mean giving
even more back and not simply taking less.

If green does not include the real definition of sustainability but
just means “less destructive,” then it must mean the same thing as
greenwashing. In order to use the phrase “more sustainable” you have
to have sustainability to begin with. To say that hybrid cars have more
sustainability than Hummers makes no sense. They cause less destruction
(in theory). You want to know the real meaning of “environmentally
friendly,” “green,” and “eco?” It means that civilization leaves its
rape victim alive when it finishes taking what it wants, rather than
outright murdering her.

As I stood pissing in the bathroom of a movie theater, I read a small
plaque above the urinal that said something like, “This urinal does not
use water; you just helped conserve 40,000 gallons of water a year.” I
couldn’t help but think, “You mean I just allocated 40,000 more gallons
of water for corporations to use at their will.” We live in a culture
and economy of constant growth. Conservation either means saving for
later consumption, as with national forests, or redistributing to other
(most likely industrial) consumers. I mentioned this also in my chapter
about how the vegan diet actually does more damage, as it allocates more
land for grains, which produce more people than cattle, adding to the
overall population growth problem and therefore more deforestation.
Conservation does not amount to cultural vision change. As long as
civilization continues to grow, conservation does not really exist. That
doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to conserve what we have left of the
environment, but we must also see through the bullshit mythology.
Conservation does nothing if civilization continues to grow and exploit
every last “resource” it can as it collapses.

I find myself becoming angry at these words and concepts, as
civilization appropriates our words and ideals before we even have the
chance to articulate them. “Finally people will know the truth about
global warming. Finally they will know we must abandon ship…Wait, what
did you say? Um…Buy light bulbs?” I mean, sure, buy less destructive
stuff, but know that it continues to destroy us.

To frame our unsustainable civilization in terms of its “sustainability”
creates false hope for those just discovering the problems we face, or
acts as a form of denial for those who simply can’t imagine a world
without civilization. Eco chainsaws do not exist. Green energy does not
exist. Get it through your fucking heads. We’ve reached the end of the

Engineered Crisis vs. Rewilding

I keep hearing people say we’ve got an energy crisis. This carries a few
bullshit premises. The most obvious premise here: that we need “energy.”
Why do we need energy? What does it do that’s so fucking important?
Humans lived for millions of years without electricity. Indigenous
hunter-gatherers had no need to create it. It requires an entire
industrial economy that inherently destroys the land in order to create
it. It does not make humans’ lives easier; it simply gives the rich more
power and more destructive tools. How many people in the world even have
electricity? We don’t need energy. At least not in the way they mean it.
The energy crisis, as well as the economic crisis, really means that
rich people continue to lose power, and they have so brainwashed us that
we believe we need to do our part to keep the pyramid strong, maintain
our slavery. Civilization uses energy to take even more than we could
without it. The less energy civilization has, the more limits it has to
grow. That seems pretty fucking fantastic to me.

Nature provides all the energy we need in a sustainable way, as proven
by three million years of human hunter-gatherers living on this planet
without fucking it up. Think about the energy hunter-gatherers use: seal
blubber candle vs. light bulbs, wood cooking fire vs. gas stove. Not
only do hunter-gatherers have smaller-scale societies (because they
don’t have agriculture-induced population growth problems) but their
energy usage comes from “renewable” sources. They use the sun to dry
food and wood to generate heat in the cold. This burning helps to break
down the nutrients and minerals in the wood and make them readily
available to fungi and bacteria. It also prevents the insanely
destructive, large-scale forest fires we see so often today.

Without cheap oil or coal to generate electricity and machinery, the
industrial economy cannot exist. They call it “industrial” because
machines (slaves, drones, robots) make it up, not people. Before
industrial machinery, those in power used people. But it takes a slave
with a stick a lot more time and energy to till a field than a farmer on
his tractor. This excess of energy created the urban class of people, to
manage the wealth (for the wealthy) created by these new machines. Real
renewable energy does not mean a solar-powered industrial economy. It
means small-scale societies using handmade tools (crafted from
nonindustrial materials) to encourage more biodiversity.

I don’t mean to say that everyone “should” stop using electricity and
gas and everything—as long as you recognize you won’t have it forever,
and as long as you use that excess energy to bring down civilization and
promote cultures of rewilding. I use a computer, cell phone, car, and
all sorts of technology to educate people on how to live without them,
and encourage people to stop these systems from destroying the planet.
Remember, green technology doesn’t mean “more sustainable” but “less
destructive.” And more often it really means “We’ve reframed our
marketing to pull the focus away from what we destroy, to point out what
we don’t destroy, so that you’ll forget that we continue to fuck shit

People have barked up my tree over this whole economic crisis as well.
You know what? I don’t give a shit! We’ve seen economic collapses
before. In fact they work as a normal function of civilization; and like
clockwork, they merely end with the creation of a worse slave system
than before. One world currency, one world culture. America has amassed
a lot of fake wealth, weapons, and technology. But why go to the third
world for labor when you can bring the third world to you? I don’t see
economic collapse as the end of civilization but as a reorganization of
wealth that will end with a stronger pyramid: more people on the bottom
and fewer people on top. Like the climate and energy crises, the
economic collapse has not triggered anyone to actually stop
civilization, walk away, or rewild. It appears that it will simply mean
more people working longer hours for less money in shittier jobs than

I refer to these crises that we really have going on as the “bullshit
crisis.” Everyone listens to this civilized bullshit and takes it in
without question, and the world continues to suffer. That looks like the
real fucking crisis to me. The ecological crisis. This crisis only
exists because we have an “economy” and “energy.” The economic crisis
means the end of growth, which means the end of excessive consumption,
which means the beginning of the end of the ecological crisis. Fuck
industrial energy, fuck the hierarchical economy, fuck this bullshit.

Guilt vs. Rewilding

Guilt refers to the feeling we have when we make decisions that go
against personal, cultural, and mythological pressures. It feels like
not doing what you “should” do. It works as one of the most powerful
tools of social and cultural maintenance. I do not think of guilt as a
“bad” thing. I see it as a tool we need to understand. Rewilding goes
against all of our lifelong civilized programming. Anything we do to
rewild could make us feel guilty. Of course, the culture of rewilding
creates a new paradigm in which continuing to live in civilization would
make us feel guilty since we know that civilization destroys
biodiversity. In a sense, rewilding involves crossing a threshold into
two worlds. This creates a split cultural psyche, leaving us with weird
schizophrenic emotions: feeling guilty for leaving civilization as well
as for not having left enough. For example, one might experience guilt
for not going to college and simultaneously for using gasoline.

It works like this. We learn that civilization destroys the planet, our
senses, and a million other things. We learn that indigenous peoples had
their needs met without destroying the planet. This gets most people
thinking that all humans should abandon the nonworking model of
civilization and live sustainably like the indigenous peoples we read
about—that we have to, or we will die! Though urgent and emotionally
true, to think that we can merely abandon civilization and build a
sustainable culture with this awareness ignores the context in which
these cultures formed: via the needs of a hunter-gatherer culture. The
culture of civilization, in which we all live as captives, makes it
extremely difficult to exist with even a shred of freedom.

In rewilding, these indigenous cultures represent human potential. They
remind us that life doesn’t have to feel like slavery. And yet we can’t
just throw on buckskin clothes, make a bow and arrow, and live as they
did. Without a physical, cultural, social, and emotional need for
creating a rewilding culture, it exists only as something we can try to
live up to. Our cultural momentum carries us towards domestication. Why
learn to hunt and gather when you can just get a job and buy food at the
store? You don’t need to know much more than how to use a cash register
and how to microwave your Cup-a-Soup to get by. Yet we know we must defy
civilization and its economy of death if we wish to save the world. This
leaves us with one foot shackled to civilization as the other foot gains
footing in the wild.

Rewilding creates two opposing systems of perception in our heads and
hearts. One says we need to buy flat-screen TVs to see the quality of
HDTV; the other says we need to sit in a forest for an hour each day to
connect more with nature. One of these systems kills the planet. We
can’t simply reprogram our brains. Every day the brain rewires itself.
Every cultural element tells us what to think (or continue thinking),
from our newspaper to our TV shows, to whatever we hear while
eavesdropping on the bus, and even to the buildings that surround us.
Our minds reflect our environment, and vice versa. We can’t just read a
book on rewilding and change how we see the world. We need to change
everything about our world.

Guilt only works to make the journey from civilized to wild harder. My
strongest experience with this guilt came from trying to replicate an
indigenous cultural ritual known as the sit spot. I had trouble making
this routine for two main reasons. First, sitting in the woods may have
given hunter-gatherers skills and awareness essential to their survival,
but it does not relate to subsistence within a civilizational context.
Your secret spot does not give you an edge if you work in a coffee shop.
Generally speaking, having a sit spot will not make you more money, the
way it would yield better food results for hunter-gatherers.

As civilization destroys more and more of the wild environment, we have
seen our internal environments, those of the mind and heart, suffer as
well. Some people may have trouble functioning psychologically and need
a more natural setting to calm their minds. Unfortunately, seeking the
wilderness seems to appear as taboo, and the vast majority of people
(behaving the way the culture of civilization designed us to behave)
choose an easier way to alleviate their minds with the use of drugs, TV,
video games, and everything else.

It takes will power to go against the grain and choose the harder path
to sanity, especially when sanity doesn’t show up on the list of
requirements to live and work in civilization. In fact, I would say that
insanity seems like a requirement for those who continue to destroy the
land from which they live. Therefore indigenous practices like the sit
spot become a ritual for the pure, which can feel more difficult to
choose than the available alternatives. If having a sit spot gives you
more empathy towards the earth, which it did for me, it may in fact have
the reverse effect of subsistence within civilization, where you have to
shut off connection to nature in order to function in the city. In
short, it may make you hate your job, hate your current life, and in
turn lead to you making less money.

Because rewilding works against subsistence in a civilizational context,
and takes more effort than simply taking drugs (Prozac, cigarettes,
television, video games, etc.), it will always fall into the category of
self-help. This means that during any kind of increase in level of
stress, routines unnecessary to subsistence will get placed on the back
burner. For example, if you need to work more hours at your job, that
means less time rewilding. This shows how trapped we become in
civilization. This feeling of entrapment feels even worse once
compounded with guilt.

The guilt one feels at “choosing the easy way out” appears the worst
part of the self-help category. Although choosing the easy way out or
the path of least resistance feels like a normal human response, we feel
a kind of failure when we make this “choice.” Because we want awareness
and the gifts that come with it, because of the mythology that surrounds
this awareness and lifestyle (that it represents our birth right, that
it reveals how the gods meant us to live, and so forth), when we follow
our instincts that say “Follow the path of least resistance,” we feel a
kind of guilt similar to what I imagine Christians must feel when they
commit a sin.

This guilt made me hate the sit spot routine and rewilding in general.
For several years the books, journals, and field guides filling up a
large bookshelf in the center of my room collected dust. I wanted the
awareness and knowledge, but I, like most people, had no cultural
context for rewilding. I blamed myself for following what civilization
programmed me to do. Every time I looked at the books I felt guilty. I
had built a shrine of guilt in the center of my own room. “Why don’t I
like rewilding anymore?” I would ask myself.

One day during a moment of clarity and transition in my life, I burned
my sit spot journals and sold my entire field guide library to a local
bookstore. It felt like taking a huge dump after being constipated for
years; I felt a release and a great weight lifted. When I arrived home
on that clear winter evening, the sun had just begun to set and the sky
looked a beautiful reddish-purple hue. I felt so light and happy that I
actually wanted to go to my sit spot: the burden of becoming a
super-indigenous, hyper-aware human had gone. When I finished I looked
again to the sky. At that moment a red-tailed hawk gracefully and
quietly snatched a pigeon out of the air, not five feet above my head.
The hawk landed in my neighbor’s yard and began to tear the pigeon to
pieces. I watched in total awe. I think of it as nature’s gift to a
guilt-free heart.

I have always loved this quote by Joseph Campbell:

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has
been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought
to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are
following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life
within you, all the time.

What makes suffering different from torture? Even when suffering you
still have that refreshment Campbell speaks of to keep you going. In
fact, sometimes that feeling of passion feels strongest during more
difficult moments. But if you have no passion, suffering becomes
torture. Torture looks like suffering for the sake of suffering, without
any of the “refreshment” Campbell speaks of. I remember another quote in
the same vein from Martín Prechtel:

There are two kinds of suffering, one that creates beauty and one that
creates more suffering.

Guilt, in the context of rewilding, only creates more suffering by
distracting people from the important things. Who cares if I watch
Battlestar Galactica instead of gathering wapato? Obviously I don’t do
that every day, but everyone needs a break (or two or three) from
“saving the world.” I do not believe in purity and therefore feel no
guilt from indulging in civilization every once in a while. (I would
like to add, though, that addiction works differently from indulgence
and needs a different kind of attention.)

I still experience this schizophrenic guilt every day. Right now, even
as I type this, I feel guilty for not going outside. As long as we feel
guilty for not having the tools or culture to break the shackles that
chain us here, we strengthen civilization’s hold on us.

Science vs. Rewilding

I remember feeling ill at the thought of libraries (full of books
containing knowledge gained through science) burning down during the
collapse of civilization. All that knowledge—lost forever. I used to
believe that, despite all the terrible things civilization has created.
Science felt worth saving. For some reason I saw science as something
“pure” that even civilization’s mythology could not ruin. I don’t feel
that way anymore. These days a wry smile forms on my face, and my eyes
begin to sparkle when I envision a world without science.

Did science exist before civilization? Well, that depends on your
definition of science. According to the American Heritage Science
, the word science means:

The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical
explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such
investigation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which
includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation
of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the
hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies
the hypothesis

We know now that the modern human has not evolved substantially in at
least 100,000 years. Our modern brains have no significant difference
from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But our lineage of hunting goes much
further than that. Evolution occurs mostly through the methods animals
use to acquire food, water, and shelter: natural selection. Hunting and
gathering has long had an impact on hominid evolution. Since animal
tracking forms the critical aspect of hunting, the ability to track
animals most likely shaped the modern mind.

According to Louis Liebenberg, author of The Art of Tracking: The
Origin of Science

Speculative tracking involves the creation of a working hypothesis on
the basis of initial interpretation of signs, a knowledge of animal
behavior and a knowledge of the terrain. Having built a hypothetical
reconstruction of the animal’s activities in their mind, the trackers
then look for signs where they expect to find them.

In contrast to simple and systematic tracking (following clear prints,
such as in sand or snow), speculative tracking is based on
hypothetico-deductive reasoning, and involves a fundamentally new way of

Liebenberg’s description of tracking falls quite nicely into the
definition of science we see above. The term tracking generally refers
to following animal tracks. But to most indigenous peoples I have
studied, the concept of tracking includes much more than following
animal prints. According to Tom Brown Jr., the Apache did not
differentiate between tracking and awareness. Martín Prechtel has
said that in his indigenous Guatemalan village they referred to their
shamans as trackers. In the film The Great Dance: A Hunter’s
, we learn that the Kalahari Bushmen’s word for tracking means the
same thing as dancing.

More Liebenberg:

I would argue that the differences between the art of tracking and
modern science are mainly technological and sociological. Fundamentally
they involve the same reasoning processes and require the same
intellectual abilities. The modern scientist may know much more than the
tracker, but he/she does not necessarily understand nature any better
than the intelligent hunter-gatherer. What the expert tracker lacks in
quantity of knowledge (compared to modern scientists), he/she may well
make up for in subtlety and refinement. The intelligent hunter-gatherer
may be just as rational in his/her understanding of nature as the
intelligent modern scientist. Conversely, the intelligent modern
scientist may be just as irrational as the intelligent hunter-gatherer.
One of the paradoxes of progress is that, contrary to expectation, the
growth of our knowledge about nature has not made it easier to reach
rational decisions.

Despite “progress” in science and technology, the people of civilization
have never slowed their destruction of the planet. That strikes me as a
very strange paradox indeed. For such a great culture of rationalists,
it seems extremely irrational to destroy the land on which we all depend
for survival. Why have hunter-gatherers thrived for hundreds of
thousands of years, while civilization has decimated the entire planet
after only ten thousand? It seems the “technological and sociological”
differences might have a much more fundamental weight than Liebenberg

By looking at the sociological differences between agricultural
subsistence versus hunter-gatherer subsistence we see just how different
science and tracking really manifest.

Hunting and gathering by its nature demands participation in the ebb and
flow of life. You have no more control over your food supply than any
other animal. That doesn’t mean that you do not encourage the
biodiversity of your area, it just means that you don’t spend all your
time tilling a monocropped field. Sometimes the gods grace you with
food, other times not. But rarely do you go hungry. Hunter-gatherers do
not have to work at having a deep relationship with nature; the
relationship simply shapes how they behave. Tracking shapes their
reality, deepening their connection to the land with every track they

The first track is the end of a string. At the far end, a being is
moving; a mystery, dropping a hint about itself every so many feet,
telling you more about itself until you can almost see it, even before
you come to it. The mystery reveals itself slowly, track by track,
giving its genealogy early to coax you in. Further on, it will tell you
the intimate details of its life and work, until you know the maker of
the track like a lifelong friend.

— Tom Brown Jr., The Tracker

Ultimately, tracking an animal makes us sensitive to it—a bond is
formed, an intimacy develops. We begin to realize that what is happening
to the animals and to the planet is actually happening to us. We are all
one. Tracking and reading sign help us to learn not only about the
animals that walk around in the forest—what they are doing and where
they are going—but also about ourselves. For me, this interconnection is
survival knowledge and the true value of tracking an animal.

— Paul Rezendes, Tracking and the
Art of Seeing

When you track an animal—you must become the animal. Tracking is like
dancing, because your body is happy—you can feel it in the dance and
then you know that the hunting will be good. When you are doing these
things you are talking with God.

— !Nqate Xqamxebe, The Great
: A Hunter’s Story

Tracking requires empathy for that which you track. Many anthropologists
like to use the word anthropomorphize. They say that trackers project
their own feelings onto the animals, thereby identifying with them both
psychologically and emotionally. This helps the tracker speculate the
animal’s next move. I reject the ideology that hunter-gatherer trackers
project their emotions onto animals. They open themselves to the
animal’s feelings, the same way one lets in the sounds of music.
Different kinds of music evoke different kinds of feelings in the
listener. You can’t say that I have projected my feelings onto a sensory
experience like hearing a sound. But rather I have ears that can
perceive sounds. Sounds enter my ears and teach me things about how I
feel. When you step on a dog’s foot and hear it whimper and then feel
bad for the dog, you have not projected feelings of pain onto the dog;
you have observed a dog in obvious pain and have opened your sense of
empathy for the dog’s feelings. Or maybe you don’t care. Maybe you cut
their vocal chords in preparation for a vivisection.

Tracking requires humility, not just toward the animals you track but
also toward the gods who provide you with food. Hunter-gatherers must
have humility. The word humble comes from humus, which means “close
to the earth.” Empathy helps you to realize we all live together in the
same space (plants, animals, rocks, clouds, etc.) as a big family. The
realization that we all live as a family gives us humility as a small
part of a large creation. You must have humility when your life rests in
the hands of this natural community.

Liebenberg wrote something else I thought sounded interesting:

Religious belief is so fundamental to the hunters’ way of thinking that
it cannot be separated from hunting itself. At the end of the day, if
they have had no luck in tracking down an animal, !XO hunters will say
that the greater god did not “give” them an animal that day. If, on the
other hand, they have had a successful hunt, they will say that the
greater god was good to them.

Agricultural societies (civilizations), on the other hand, attempt to
exert control over food supply by growing it themselves. While every
other living creature leaves their food supply in the hands of fate, or
the gods, or nature, agricultural people remove themselves from fate. A
separation from the community of life must happen so that farmers can
turn biodiverse forests into monocrop for human consumption. This
violates the fundamental law in nature that no living thing takes more
than it needs to survive. In order to maintain this kind of controlling
relationship to the land, agricultural people must separate themselves
from it psychologically and emotionally. Willem Larsen at The College of
Mythic Cartography also spoke of this in his essay Vivisecting ‘The
Flesh,’ and the Cult of Science

Our Science has propelled an immense productivity in scientific
knowledge precisely because it does not consider the universe alive; it
proceeds at a meteoric pace, because it need never ask permission of a
dead universe, it need never pause in its breakneck progress. Because of
this, it will also never know certain things, and actually will
perpetuate a blindness of other relationships. The Scientific process
actually acts as a ceremony that further inculcates the worldview of a
dead universe.

Control lies at the heart of civilization. Control over food supply
means control over the earth. This culture, by its very nature, lacks
humility towards the earth. You cannot show empathy towards those you

Let’s play with Liebenberg’s quote and flip it around on itself:

Religious belief is so fundamental to the scientists’
(civilizationists’) way of thinking that it cannot be separated from
science (civilization) itself.

At the end of the day, if the greater god has not “given” the
civilizationists food, they will ignore the god and “take” whatever they
want. I think this shows us what Liebenberg meant when he said modern
scientists could behave irrationally too. This means that information
gathered by scientists has lacked empathy and humility, two fundamental
aspects of our evolution as tracking hunter-gatherers. It also means
scientists will not use the information with empathy and humility. How
could they?

Tracking connects us to oneness and humility. Science separates us from
that which gives us life. Although the mechanics of tracking and science
seem similar, the cultural values behind the processes (humility vs.
control) create very different results.

What does this mean for those who rewild? It means that, most likely,
the knowledge forcefully stolen from nature by civilization’s scientists
will have little use, if any, to hunter-gatherer-horticulturalists. And
further, that information taken (not received) without humility and
empathy will in fact have deadly results in the real world.

It also means that gaining knowledge through tracking may work as one of
the most important adventures in rewilding.

Image vs. Rewilding

Most birds cannot “choose” a different plumage to attract a mate. But
not all birds. The bowerbird provides a rather interesting example of a
bird that has externalized its image as a way of attracting a mate. This
bird builds a bower with as many shiny blue things as he can find,
including manmade plastic and glass. He has such a particularity about
the aesthetic of his bower that he will restore the bower to his exact
specifications should it become disturbed. The female chooses whether to
mate with the male based on the aesthetic of the bower. The bower serves
no other purpose; they abandon it and move elsewhere to make their nest.

Other animals evolved an image that would detract predators: camouflage.
Brown birds have brown feathers because they live close to the ground.
Some birds, such as the red-winged blackbird, can hide their bright
plumage to appear more inconspicuous. They use their image to both hide
from predators and attract a mate. This shows us the purpose of image,
whether externalized or embedded: to attract or deter something.

Humans wear the clothes of a subculture to attract those of like mind
and turn away others. I get made fun of for looking like a hipster all
the time. I care a lot about my image, and I feel no guilt or lack of
purity for feeling that way. I take showers, I shave, I dress in clothes
that I think look cool and match the aesthetic I see as “hip.” Of
course, any group of culture or subculture has their specific way of
dressing that allows people to recognize which culture or subculture
they belong to. Each of these subcultures has their own “hip” as well.

I’ve noticed many people (including myself) become wrapped up in the
idea that because many indigenous cultures had sustainable subsistence
strategies that means all of their customs will work for everyone.
Though I’ve found it easy to jump to this conclusion as I rewild, I have
also found it more and more limiting: just because native cultures did
it, doesn’t mean it will work for people who rewild.

I can hear the conversation with my mom in my head. It goes like this:

“Peter, why do you wear that loin cloth? You just look ridiculous in

“Mooooom! I told you, when I wear the loin cloth call me Urban Scout!
You’ll embarrass me!”

“Oh, oh…Sorry, honey.”

“I wear it because primitive peoples do, and I want to live like them.”

“Okay, ‘Scout,’ and if primitive people jumped off a bridge…? I mean
what do you plan to practice next, cannibalism?!?”

“Of course not!” And then, under my breath, “I mean, not yet.”

“What did you say?”


“That last part. Did you say something else?”

“What? Oh, I just mean, yeah, totally. No, what?”

“Huh? Oh, not. Nothing. I thought you said something.”


“Okay, but do you see what I mean? Just because some primitive people
wore a loin cloth doesn’t mean you have to, too.”

But seriously, I see this everywhere. It seems many people have begun to
generalize indigenous customs (“Indigenous peoples did X”) to justify
their own level of hip. I even found this when I recently read the
Crimethinc Hunter-Gatherer zine. Don’t get me wrong: I love
Crimethinc, and I enjoyed most of the zine. But I couldn’t help but feel
irritated with the following text:

One Million Years of d.i.y. punk!

For over 50,000 years, our ancestors didn’t shave their legs or armpits
or wear deodorant. They scavenged food like modern trash-pickers do,
traveled like hitchhikers riding rivers and hopping ocean currents
around the world, celebrated life with folk music made by their friends,
passed down culture they devised. You bet some of them had dreadlocks,
some homemade tattoos and scarification, some patches proclaiming their
allegiances. There used to be as many humans as there are punk rockers,

“See how cool we…look. See our dreads? Smell our BO? See how we ‘forage’
in dumpsters? Don’t we just act sooo indigenous/primitive?”…Hey,
Crimethinc, you forgot to say 50,000 years of DIY man/boy love! Check
this out:

Gilbert Herdt (1981, 1984a, 1987, 1990) and other anthropologists have
reported on a pederastic puberty ritual shared by 30 to 50 Melanesian
and New Guinea cultures that may be historically related to similar
practices that developed among aboriginal Australians some 10,000 years
ago. The focus of intense speculation by anthropologists and fierce
opposition from Western governments and missionaries, these ritualized
homosexual relationships are a necessary part of the coming-of-age
training for boys. Their basis is the belief that boys do not produce
their own semen and must get it from older men by “drinking semen,”
i.e., playing the recipient role in oral-genital sex or anal sex before
puberty and during adolescence. This is the opposite of the traditional
Western view in which the recipient (insertee) of anal or oral sex is
robbed of his manhood.

Oh my god. NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Association) acts sooo much
more indigenous than punk rockers! Since the members of NAMBLA have
drank “man’s milk” and I have not (well, I did taste my own once), does
that mean they should have a blog about rewilding and I should shut up?
That makes no fucking sense at all. People all around the world,
civilized and not, practice a multitude of customs and dogmas.

Why does this paragraph from Crimethinc frustrate me so much? Two

The first statement, “For over 50,000 years, our ancestors didn’t shave
their legs or armpits or wear deodorant,” implies that no indigenous
cultures had beautification rituals involving hair removal and body
scenting. That doesn’t hold true at all. Many cultures, such as the
Iroquois, plucked all of their body hair using clamshells. And we know
that indigenous people scented themselves with things like lavender,
rosemary, and other herbs. I guess Crimethinc’s statement does hold true
in one sense: indigenous people didn’t use the industrially produced
Mach3 razor or Teen Spirit. But the passage I quoted makes it clear that
the author wants to justify why so many DIY punk kids smell like shit
and have scraggly hair all over their bodies.

You know the kids with the hippie “natural” look? In reality it has
nothing to do with looking natural, since we know that many “natural”
human cultures had highly maintained beautification. It really
translates to the no-maintenance look. They stink and have unkempt
beards or leg hair, shaggy, nappy hair, with raggedy clothes hanging off
their bodies by a thread. They might live on the anarcho-punk end of the
spectrum or the pacifist-hippie end; they may wear all black, with dirt
smears on their face and have steel-toed boots (how did they pay for
those?!?), or they may have patchy, colorful cords with overly large
tie-dye shirts and hemp sandals.

The funniest part to me about the no-maintenance look involves how much
maintenance it actually takes! Seriously, I know because I dressed that
way for a time. It takes a lot of work to look like you don’t care.
Looking like you don’t care exemplifies your own cultural hipness, and
you use an inaccurate perception of indigenous people to back it up.

The second reason I feel frustrated comes from this misinformation
presenting a superficial reason for rewilding. It distracts us from the
important reasons we yearn for the indigenous lifestyle: meeting the
needs of the environment, culture, and individual. What makes the
indigenous lifestyle attractive in the most general sense does not
involve particular rituals, style of dress, level of cleanliness, sexual
practices, or other customs. By contaminating the mythology and taking
us away from the subsistence strategies of indigenous people, to the
more superficial layer of image, we find ourselves never fully getting
what we need. No number of sweat lodges, dreadlocks, or homemade folk
songs will give us the subsistence strategy of hunting and gathering
that meets the needs of all three elements mentioned above. They may
keep those strategies alive once practiced, but they don’t act as the
strategies themselves.

While picking trash carries the same spirit as indigenous foragers, it
does not serve the same function in terms of meeting the needs of the
environment: picking trash does not make the ecosystem healthier,
because the mechanisms that create the trash in the first place come
from the larger destructive culture. While it may feel better than
working as a slave in the pyramid, it does not help the ecosystem the
way a hunter-gatherer culture would.

Both of these misrepresentations of indigenous culture fuel a
radder-than-thou personification of those in the
anarcho-primitivist-punk scene. “We act sooo much more primitive than
you do, with your clean-shaven face, pressed slacks, and pop music
collection.” Basically it amounts to scenester trash. It only serves to
alienate other people to the true ideology of indigenous living because
of its falsified, superficial layer of image.

Wearing buckskin clothes or a loin cloth doesn’t make you a native.
Wearing all black and dreadlocks doesn’t make you more
anarcho-primitivist than wearing American Apparel. Rewilding refers to
an action like running or climbing, it does not have a specific image.
Anyone, from any subculture, can rewild. It works as a cross-cultural
activity, like reading, cooking, or talking. Therefore it may look
completely different to one culture or subculture to the next. Don’t get
lost in image. Keep your eye on the prize: living wild and free and
creating more biodiversity.

Hipsters vs. Rewilding

Can everyone shut the fuck up about hipsters already? I feel so fucking
sick of that word. The whole subject seriously bores the shit out of me,
and yet I constantly have to defend myself from people who call me that
as though it suddenly makes everything I have done to further rewilding
insincere or fake. I usually shrug it off, but I recently surfed to the
Adbusters website only to see an entire feature article from last summer
where they just talk all kinds of shit about hipsters, and now I feel I
need to say something.

I got called a hipster for the first time while walking into a burrito
place on Belmont Street. As I walked through the door this big
biker-looking dude ushered out his four-year-old son. He said to his son
with disgust, “Watch out for the hipster.” I remember feeling angry at
first, thinking, “I’m not a fucking hipster.” But of course I fit the
description. I had on a vintage Ferrari T-shirt, tight black polyester
Wranglers, black Ray-Ban sunglasses, black Converse, and I had a mullet.
This occurred in 2003.

While growing up I saw Portland as just another quiet, small, boring
city on the West Coast, always living in the shadow of Seattle and San
Francisco. Thanks to former mayor Vera Katz (who hated homeless people
and loved money), art galleries and fancy restaurants now litter the
city. Five years ago Portland suddenly became an up-and-coming arts
town, with super affordable rent, cheap beer, everyone under thirty
playing in a rock band…and no one had ever heard of myspace or youtube.

I dropped out of high school at sixteen to rewild. I took classes and
spent most of my time in the woods, the library, or at my wage-slave
job. I didn’t care much for the way I dressed. I wore mostly oversized
military surplus wool clothes. I didn’t really care much about aesthetic
at that point in my life because I had no culture. For the most part I
lived like a loner. I quit doing anything artistic (including
filmmaking) because I didn’t think that would help me learn to rewild. I
lived this way until I came across Joseph Campbell. Then I really began
to see a purpose in my passion for art and cultural creativity. He said:

The function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment.

I realized that my artistic talents in filmmaking and other mediums
could actually help create a cultural movement of rewilding by using art
to spread the mythology of it. Lonely at nineteen, with no culture of
rewilders, never having had a girlfriend before, I began to spend more
time with people. I realized if I wanted to create a culture of
rewilding, I would need to blend in with the other artists in town, and
subversively spread animism and rewilding from within the arts scene.

Luckily I had some really cool coworker friends at Coffee People to show
me the ropes. We went to the Goodwill bins and I got a new wardrobe in
two hours for $5. This happened back when the bins only charged 39¢ a
pound and before the overpriced “vintage” thrift stores began sending
their employees there to pick out all the good stuff so that they could
then up-sell it. I would dig through the troughs of clothes, hold up a
shirt for my friend Dave to see, and he would explain whether it would
work and why. It felt like taking a class on how to “see” cool. Dave
loves clothes, and talking about aesthetics and his excitement and
knowledge spilled over into me. With Dave’s wardrobe help, I found my
first girlfriend, a seamstress and clothing designer who took me a few
steps further, showing me how to dress for my particular body. Her
classic motto at the time: “It works if you work it.” With both of their
help, I became a hipster fashionista practically overnight.

I can hear you all saying, “What a poseur!” Let’s talk about that for a
second. In high school I remember this one time walking by the most
gothic kid in our school and overhearing him saying, “Then this guy was
like, ‘Get outta my way, you goth!’ and I was like…Oh my god! I’m not
gothic!” I remember thinking, “What the fuck is that guy talking about?
He is obviously gothic.” I knew immediately why he said it that way; it
doesn’t seem cool to “try” to look gothic. To label yourself as gothic
would mean you went out of your way to dress like that. For some reason
that breaks the rules of cool. Probably because it shows that you care,
and caring about things—showing any kind of sincerity—doesn’t mean cool
in our dead, heartless culture.

I recently pointed out to a green anarchist who claimed to dress however
he wanted that he wore all the right green anarchist scenester clothes
topped off with their iconic dreadlocks. By admitting that I choose to
dress this way—as a hipster—I no longer look cool because you don’t look
cool if you “follow the crowd.” If dressing punk or gothic or hipster or
anarchist supposedly means an attempt at rebelling against the
mainstream, then admitting the label of hipster implies that you follow
a fashion trend, which means you admit to not having your own creative
individuality. Let’s get real. No one dresses like an individual. No one
accidentally dresses like a gutter punk, hipster, hippie, yuppie, normal
core, or whatever. Everyone chooses their subcultural identity. You
cannot wear clothes (or not wear clothes) that will not lump you in with
some kind of crowd, because every way of dress implies a subculture.
Subcultures create aesthetics. Your individuality comes out of how you
express yourself in that particular subculture. If you dress like a
gutter punk, you’ll obviously have a studded jacket, but the placement
of studs or the words you write on the jacket will express your own
individuality within that culture.

In the years that followed I made a lot of friends, partied my ass off,
and forgot all about why I became part of that subculture. At the time
of this writing (2008), Portland feels like Seattle’s formerly cooler
punk rock cousin who finally had to get a job. In other words, the party
ended. Rent costs much more, beer costs much more, and barista jobs for
starving artists have disappeared. I’ve seen the small town turn into a
huge, strung-out city practically overnight. I’ve lived through,
identified with, and learned a tremendous amount about the rise of
hipster culture. I will risk my coolness and admit that I dress like a
hipster, whatever that even means.

I find it interesting that “critiques” of hipster culture never come
from the hipster community speaking for itself (of course it can’t if no
one admits to dressing as one!) but always from an outsider talking
about something they live apart from and don’t understand, because they
appear too old, jealous, or more self-conscious than the hipsters they
attack. I rarely hear the friends I would label as hipsters talking shit
about people for the way they dress or the music they listen to. I talk
more shit than anyone I know, hipster or not! I’ve probably heard a
dozen or more people who I don’t consider hipsters say, “Look at those
fucking hipsters over there. They think they’re so fucking cool.” You
know what? I bet those hipsters didn’t even notice you. Why the fuck do
you care? Why do you go out of your way to point them out?

Critics claim that hipsters steal symbols and styles from previous
cultures but without the authenticity or sincerity of those cultures.
Firstly, every new subculture steals from an older one and changes its
meaning. Old people say this every time a new subculture rises. “They’re
stealing from us!” Generally because the old people don’t feel
appreciated or acknowledged for “creating” (even though they stole it
from someone else!) that particular style. Secondly, in terms of lack of
authenticity or sincerity, every culture adapts and alters an old style
and gives it a new meaning. People complain about hipsters’ lack of
sincerity and meaning, but that just reflects our “new” twist.

Urban people’s lives have no point. We exist as the human waste product
of agriculture. We have no integrated purpose in the context of the
real, wild world. We have no relationship with our landbase except blind
exploitation. We exist only to serve coffee to those in power, to enter
data into spreadsheets for those in power, or to operate machinery for
those in power. We simply shift wealth around so that we feel like we
have some worth, even though we don’t. Though we drown ourselves in
culture, none of it has any meaning beyond its initial consumption.
We’ve made our entire culture disposable. We’ve made our lives

Some have made claims that we hipsters, unlike previous countercultures,
do not rebel against previous generations. This seems like a lazy
analysis to me. Hipsters have rebelled against previous generations;
we have rebelled against meaning. The people of my generation have all
seen what those in power do to people with feelings and ideas. We’ve
seen the gamut of “revolutions,” and we have seen that they mean nothing
in the end. Civilization continues to kill all life on this planet no
matter who sits in charge. No matter how much we protest, this culture
wins and the earth dies. No matter what we do, we live as slaves to it.
They’ve programmed us with pacifism from birth. Rather than look foolish
like our “revolutionary” predecessors, we just stopped caring and
accepted our slavery to find happiness in novelty, irony, drugs, sex,
and music. Hipsters do not look lame for acting apathetic: civilization
destroyed our lives, our hearts, and our landbase.

If meaninglessness looks cool now, it will not look cool tomorrow. I
want to break the shackles of this hierarchy and create a living world.
I feel determined to make rewilding more than just the next

Sarcasm vs. Rewilding

Humans have a long history of teaching social taboos through jokes,
irony, sarcasm, and mockery, showing us what we do not find as
acceptable behavior. Such comic geniuses as Jerry Seinfeld and Larry
David know this too well, their narcissistic characters always breaking
social taboos and looking like assholes. In Farley Mowat’s People of
the Deer
I recall a moment in which he drew a picture of a deer smoking
a pipe, and the Inuits laughed hysterically. I think this kind of
ridiculousness encapsulates the humor in irony, sarcasm, and mockery. It
has a kind of innocence to it; it looks silly for a deer to do human
things, just as it looks silly for a human to do deer things. We laugh
at the ridiculousness of the situation, whether we see a deer smoking a
pipe or Larry David not bringing a gift to Ben Stiller’s birthday party.

After several seasons of mimicking racist stereotypes under the guise of
bringing the idiocy of racism to light, Dave Chappelle changed his mind
about using this kind of humor. While shooting a sketch, he noticed a
white man laugh a little too hard at a racist joke, and it made him
uncomfortable. Dave could tell from the way he laughed that this white
guy did not get the joke. He told TIME magazine that he realized the
irony of his racism didn’t translate, so he quit the show and went on

It seems that the line between sarcasm and sincerity has a lot to do
with context. If I make a joke with my friends, from the perspective of
someone living a lifestyle I find abusive, they’ll laugh because they’ll
understand the sarcasm: I would never sincerely make those comments. But
if I make the same joke to people who actually have the perspective I
mock, they won’t get the sarcasm. Instead they will hear the joke as
reinforcement for the abusive perspective.

A few years ago I heard Janis Joplin’s ironic song “Mercedes Benz” in a
Mercedes Benz television commercial. Oh lord, won’t you buy me an AK47;
my friends all have sold out—I must make amends. I can feel Janis
rolling over in her grave: an anti-consumerist song used to sell
consumption. (Of course, she did drive a Porsche, so maybe not.) An
adbuster used as an advertisement. Ironic, don’t you think? Change or
remove the context of an adbuster, and it just looks like an

I watched Steve Colbert “roast” the President of the United States for
thirty minutes nonstop. Of course I laughed. But remember, the court
jester had permission to insult the king. You have to ask why? If
sarcasm and mockery really threatened those in power, would they allow
it? Do jokes motivate you to stop injustice? Does laughter make you want
to put an end to racism? Fascism? Civilization?

Most ironic and sarcastic jokes of this ilk appear to me as a kind of
psychological gallows humor. Gallows humor refers to ironic or
sarcastic jokes made by those who face the gallows in order to keep
their spirits up—people who have no more options to fight back. Gallows
humor works as a last resort to hold onto dignity in the face of abuse.
Our domestication causes us to see our fate as slaves to civilization as
something inevitable and inescapable, just as a death row inmate will
inevitably sit in the electric chair. The civilized have accepted this
programmed fate and do not fight it. “We can’t stop our destructive
culture from killing the planet, but we don’t have to let it kill our

While gallows humor can have a spiritually liberating quality, it
doesn’t physically liberate you from the noose. It merely makes living
with abuse more tolerable. The question becomes, does having a higher
level of morale motivate you to fight back or cause you to remain
apathetic and accept your fate?

Think back to the question, “Why did the king allow the jester to insult
him?” Sure, you can laugh all you want, vote all you want, petition all
you want, protest all you want (as long as you stay in the designated
protest area), blog all you want, and say all you want. You can even own
a gun or two or three. So long as you don’t actually do anything that
threatens those in power or the progress of civilization.

If gallows humor refers only to the abused, executioner’s humor
refers to ironic or sarcastic jokes made by those who run the gallows in
order to distance themselves from the guilt of murder. Executioner’s
humor says, “We refuse to change our cycle of abuse, and we will make
jokes to distance ourselves from the guilt we feel when we abuse you.” I
can make fun of how much gas my SUV consumes because it distances me
from feeling bad about it, and I don’t have to change my life. I can
joke about slavery in a foreign country because it makes me feel better
about buying clothes from the Gap. I can make a joke about staying
inside on a sunny day to watch TV because it will make me feel less

If no press equals bad press, then even making fun of abusive behaviors
promotes them regardless of context, whether gallows or executioner’s
humor. By joking about atrocities, we promote them. By having a serious
discussion about them, we allow them to continue. Perhaps we just
shouldn’t joke about some things. If gallows humor only works to
distance ourselves from pain, then sincerely examining our situation
moves us closer to the pain. Perhaps we need to acknowledge the pain in
order to truly figure out what to do next.

I can’t help but think of my generation of sarcastic cynics, mavens of
irony, and worshipers of novelty (I have a huge rare LP collection, I
can go on for hours about obscure B-movies from the sixties
, I have a
mullet and wear a trucker hat even though I don’t live in the country
After witnessing our parents’ generation become beaten, broken, and
manipulated after trying so desperately to change the world, it makes
perfect sense that my generation would end up broken and shattered and
distant from meaning. The far-out hippies of yore gave birth to the
cynical hipsters of today. When we can’t stop devouring the world, who
wants to look at the world we live in? Who wants to acknowledge the
pain? We have given up. We have no hope for change nor the urge to
create it. Why should we? Instead of tearing down civilization, we make
sarcastic jokes about our predicament, further inculcating our apathy.

Meaninglessness vs. Rewilding

My mom asked today if I always feel either up or down or if I ever feel
just a normal “humdrum.” I told her that I never feel good if I don’t
follow my heart, that when I have to do something boring that I hate,
over a long period of time, I always get depressed. Since I rarely have
the opportunity to follow my heart in that way, I almost always feel
depressed. She said that working a job she didn’t like felt humdrum to
her. I said it feels like terrible to me.

At the moment, I miss most of my friends in Portland. I miss drinking,
club-hopping, dressing up, bumping into friends at bars, dancing, and
feeling like part of something bigger. I wonder how much of all that
filled sincere social needs or just worked to distract me from my
deep-seated depression. The last time I felt this depressed, I ate a
healthy paleo diet, exercised a ton, and didn’t do any drugs. I did work
at a shitty coffee shop wage-slave job while working my ass off trying
to create a nonprofit that went nowhere.

I often have thoughts about suicide. It seems a lot easier than existing
sometimes. I probably would have done it at age eleven (thinking of all
those times I fell asleep with a knife at my wrist, eyes red and tired
from crying myself to sleep) if I didn’t feel a stronger need to save
the world. I hate this feeling of meaninglessness. Hopelessness.
Despair. The regular, all-too-familiar bouts of anxiety that feel like a
knife up under the sternum and lungs full of water, drowning in grief. I
think about all the factors: moving out of the inner city, losing
frequent contact with my best friends, working a wage-slave job that
doesn’t use my best talents (even though I respect the company and
support what they do), not speaking with my dad for seven months now.
Add to all of that the weight of the world and the grief gets too heavy
to carry. I slip and fall, and I have trouble standing back up.

I often say that I come to rewilding regardless of collapse, and I do. I
also come to it because I strongly believe that it works to stop
environmental destruction and restore it. I rewild because it works as a
means to an end, whether that end means surviving collapse or creating a
better way to live or both. But when I read about ice caps melting and
methane and positive feedback loops of climate change, and that we can’t
change things now—that it will all melt and release methane that will
heat up the planet and kill us all, wild or domestic—it makes me feel a
kind of hopelessness and despair that I can barely articulate. While I
no longer freak out about the apocalypse, I still have a ton of anxiety
about the future. You won’t find me screaming on the street corner, but
you’ll find me having trouble putting my clothes on in the morning. No
matter how good or complete my life gets, no matter how much fun I have
rewilding, I still struggle with a huge sense of impending doom and a
feeling of meaninglessness.

On a large enough timeline, everything happening in this moment has no
relevance to the whole of time. Some day the earth will merge with the
sun, and everything alive today will have died long before. Does that
make my life meaningless? If we look at life in a linear fashion, yes,
it looks rather meaningless. If the methane heat apocalypse happens in
twenty years, does that make this moment meaningless? In a linear sense,

Civilizationists find purpose in progress, which they see as endless
growth and expansion. We measure this progress with linear time, from
“stone age” to “space age.” I find meaning and purpose in maintaining
quality relationships with humans and other-than-humans. Ironically I
also perceive this purpose through linear time: from “domestic” to the
eventual “wild.” Most of the time rewilding still feels like a kind of
progress to me. When I hear that I may never live a wild life because
methane gas will make the planet so hot that we will all die, and that
any “progress” towards creating cultures of rewilding will come to
nothing, it feels meaningless.

Wild, animistic hunter-gatherers do not experience the maintaining of
quality relationships in a linear fashion but in a cyclical one. This
way of perceiving linear time vs. cyclical time feels to me like a
crucial part of rewilding. If I don’t see rewilding as a kind of
progress, but rather the making and maintaining of relationships, it
doesn’t matter whether everyone burns up. Of course, that would suck and
carries its own grief, but it doesn’t lead to meaninglessness because
life (depending on your definition of life), matter and energy, will
continue. It feels difficult to see rewilding as nonprogressive, since
we feel so strongly the chains of domestication, and moving away from
that feels like progress towards an end goal of living wild. I would say
that rewilding means maintenance and not progress. Even indigenous
peoples spent their lives “rewilding,” renewing their landscapes and

Animism, because it seeks to relate and converse with the world, rather
than to define and control it, always renews itself. It wakes up every
morning fresh and alive, and every evening it tucks itself to bed to
dream again for the very first time. Since animism involves a
relationship with the world, a living being that exists in the now, the
present moment, what more relevant perspective could you find?

— Willem Larsen, The College of
Mythic Cartography

These thoughts help me with meaninglessness as a concept, but they don’t
help me in the moment, because I still have to get up and carry the
grief of civilization’s devastation with me to my wage-slave job. I see
few mourning for the collapse of salmon populations, though I spend
hours sobbing over it, too sad or scared, frustrated, and hopeless to
take action, legal or otherwise. Honestly I don’t know how people make
it through this fucked-up culture. I just don’t. A best friend’s death I
can handle (for the most part). The death of the world? The threat of
the death of the world? I don’t think humans come into the world
equipped to handle this kind of grief. That any of us wake up and
continue to live should show us our beautiful inherent resilience (or
our great ability to deny reality!).

I wish I knew how to get over depression, how to process all this grief.
I wish sweat lodges, tinctures, Prozac, massages, acupuncture, alcohol,
video games, television dramas, diets, and blogging did more than
temporarily relieve me from the pain. I mean, I know that if I got paid
to rewild I wouldn’t feel as depressed. But I don’t know how to get paid
to rewild, aside from what I do now. Of course, not having to pay for
clean water, a place to live and store things, and all of my food would
kick ass too. I think this grief and depression will just exist until
civilization comes down and the stress of this system no longer locks us
into jobs we hate. I don’t know.

Denial vs. Rewilding

Who can live with a light heart while participating in a global
slaughter that makes the Nazi holocaust look like a limbering-up

— Daniel Quinn, Providence

The more time I spend at my job, the easier it becomes to ignore my
pain. I can shut it off and let my body function. I can remove all
external thought and simply become part of the machine, pushing a button
over and over and over again, lulling my heart back to sleep with
rhythmic clockwork.

I have heard that the key to meditation involves a repetitive motion,
word, or phrase. I wonder if they mean something like this catchy little
jingle from my early teens: “Hi, this is Peter with Moore Information, a
public opinion research company. Could you spend a few moments on the
phone with me to discuss some issues in your state?” Meditation helps
you “transcend” your body, senses, and emotions (meaning it removes your
humanity) so that you won’t rise up to crush the system crushing you.

After days, weeks, months of this, I can simply forget about Urban
Scout, collapse, and rewilding. I can bump my schedule up to five days a
week. I can find “comfort” and “relaxation” in television shows like
Dancing with the Stars, Battlestar Galactica, and cheap DVDs (four
for $20) at the local video store. I can even have a couple beers or
smoke a bowl. Then I can go to bed and get up the next morning and do it
all over again. Let myself slide a little more. Focus on pushing the
button, pulling the lever. Yes, sir. No, sir. Click, clack, click. If
all I have to do involves pushing this little button, and I learn to
focus on the button (a sort of meditation, if you will), then I can
ignore my own pain. I can bury it.

I can wake up every morning and read the paper and believe that
technology, the government, the scientists, or god will save us. I can
bury the feeling deep down that any of this Urban Scout stuff ever
happened. I could chalk it up to my more “radical” days as I sip on a
can of cheap beer around the summer barbecue with the guys. “Ha ha,
remember the ideological twenties?” On weekends I could work around the
house, go fishing, go on a hike. Take my girl to dinner, the movies, and
a bar. I could work on that novel, write some more music, play a few
hours of the latest Grand Theft Auto, and plan what colors to paint
the nursery. I could sell all those philosophical and anthropological
books and field guides and download pop music MP3s to fill their place.
I could forget their contents and fill the void with music loud enough
to drown out any reminder of life before. I could read my voter’s guide
thoroughly and happily send in my ballot and believe in this culture
again. I could make believe that things will work out. It wouldn’t
particularly feel that difficult…I’ve done this for most of my life. We
all have.

I could pretend again that civilization and humanity mean the same
thing. I could turn away from the horrors, slaves, and environmental
decimation. I could forget that all the beauty civilization creates
comes at the cost of destroying the world. I could forget about the
thousands of indigenous human cultures that created beauty, music, art,
and culture and lived sustainably.

If ignorance equals bliss, then denial means feigning ignorance in order
to feel blissful again.

I actually do watch Dancing with the Stars and Battlestar Galactica
religiously. I play video games from time to time, go to the movies,
take my girl out to dinner, and listen to punk rock at maximum volume. I
have my vices and use them to relax from time to time, to escape when
the pain feels beyond manageable. I also struggle with indulging the
vices too much. Everyone has limits; everyone has a different level of
support. I don’t judge those who remain in denial, or who lose
themselves in their addiction to civilization. I lose myself sometimes,
so how can I judge those who don’t have the support (we all need) to
rewild? I use the support that I have to help support others. If this
all works out, it will work because we have created a culture that
supports rewilding. I grieve for those who remain in denial, who do not
have the support to break the addiction, and I do my best to create a
more supportive culture for people to break free. I also recognize that
some people will die defending civilization. While I don’t judge them, I
still have no problem stopping them from destroying the planet.

But so too must we understand that the way of life that affords this
kind of denial has already begun to unravel. Soon I won’t have the
choice to deny what our culture has done to this planet. No one will.

Instead of remaining in denial, I can continue to recognize that the way
I live threatens every living thing on the planet, and the longer my
civilized lifestyle lasts, the worse time we will all have in the coming
years. I can acknowledge that civilization will not stop killing the
planet. Call it what you want to call it: extraction of resources,
progress, economic growth, manifest destiny, the holocaust, genocide. We
all know the end product looks like the desert wasteland of the
no-longer-fertile-crescent. I can allow myself to feel the pain rather
than repress it into cancers, random acts of violence, alcoholism, and
whatever else unmetabolized grief becomes.

You want the truth? I prefer grief to denial. At least grief
acknowledges the horrors. I would rather contemplate suicide than blow
away the truth in a hazy cloud of reefer smoke and video games. I don’t
see denial as the way out of grief. I don’t see suicide as the way out
of grief (though it seems easy when depressed). I live with depression
from time to time and move through it with honesty, clarity, and
solidarity with those who understand what civilization has done to us
and feel it too. I welcome the grief with open arms.

People say I should focus on the more beautiful things in the world in
order to feel better. But when I see a beautiful world, I also see our
civilization destroying it. I have a loyal, supportive family and group
of friends, and I also see civilization enslaving them. I have so many
things to live for and feel great about, and I feel great about those
things, and yet I also see the larger oppressive forces at work. None of
these beautiful, amazing things will rescue me, and the rest of the
world, from the clutches of civilization. When people in denial say
“Focus on beautiful things,” they really mean “Ignore the destruction.”
So while I have a lot to feel thankful for, I more often think about
stopping the destruction and escaping slavery.

This helps me remember that I live as a slave, which reminds me that I
don’t enjoy living as a slave, which makes me not really enjoy life all
that much in a general sense. I focus on the pain because you can only
stop it by looking at it and figuring out what causes it. You don’t fix
your car engine by disconnecting the check engine light. Pain exists in
order to motivate us to change our behavior, because the behavior
threatens our survival. We need to look deeper. We need to see the
beauty and recognize the destruction, simultaneously. Sometimes we need
to escape and only look at the beauty, and sometimes we need to feel,
full force, the horrors of civilization.

I feel like a pendulum, swinging back and forth from the horrors to the
beauty to the horrors to the beauty. I have moments of despair and
moments of escapism, and I try to strike enough balance to remove
civilization from this planet. Eventually the pendulum stops swinging,
becomes a balance beam—an edge.

Pessimism vs. Rewilding

For the most part I consider myself an optimist. I find it funny that a
lot of people label me a pessimist because I advocate for the collapse
of civilization. When I point out that civilization will collapse no
matter what we do, rather than see that as an opportunity for something
new, they file it away under doom and gloom. I think these people have
it all backwards.

I have spent hours in fear of the collapse and imagining all the horrors
of the apocalypse. But the more I study civilization, the more I realize
that as long as it continues to grow, it will continue to devour the
planet. As soon as it stops growing and begins to descend, life will
reclaim and rewild the planet. In fact I can’t think of a better set of
descriptive words to refer to civilization than doom and gloom. The
collapse signals the end of the doom and gloom caused by civilization
and the rebirth of something sustainable.

You want to know what the apocalypse looks like? Go outside and look
around. The apocalypse looks like alienation from your neighbors and
family. It looks like eating food sprayed with toxins and then shipped
3,000 miles to the store. It looks like slaving your life away for mere
pennies so you can afford another drink at the bar or puff on your pipe
to forget about your slaving. Oh god, let’s not put an end to any of

Martín Prechtel, a native who lived with post-civilization Mayans,
explained that in his indigenous Mayan village the elders understood
that the buildings in the village didn’t make the community, the need
for the buildings in the village created the community. For this reason,
every year they would take their village down; when you have nothing,
you need community. People helped each other rebuild their houses and in
doing so strengthened their communities. They didn’t build their houses
to last because then they would have no reason, no need for their
community. Martín saw his community shattered when the government forced
people to build houses that would last. Nomadic people constantly broke
down and dismantled their village and rebuilt it elsewhere. The end of
civilization, the collapse, means the end of alienation and the rebirth
of community. Geez, I feel like such a pessimist right now.

Fear of collapse works as a myth created by civilization in order to
allow people to remain in denial and cling to the system. Civilization
wants you to think you need structure, satellite TV, and loose-fit
jeans, and that any life where you actually have to participate in the
world will feel worse than the depression you currently struggle with.
You want doom and gloom? The apocalypse came a long time ago. It just
happened so slowly we didn’t even notice.

I’ve seen a bumper sticker around town that says “No Farms, No Food.”
This just goes to show how people in civilization perceive subsistence.
Without farming, you’ll starve! Actually…you’ll garden, hunt,
gather, share, and trade with your neighbors. It may feel like more work
than sitting at a laptop all day (like me right now), but it will feel
great because your body expects and can easily handle that work.

This doom-and-gloom existential perception of collapse really only takes
hold of people in “more developed” countries (meaning the countries that
steal from everyone else). Rich people will no longer have the ability
to steal from poor people. Doesn’t that make you feel sooo sorry for
those rich people?!? They won’t have cheap IKEA crap filling their
previously air-conditioned McMansion built by Mexicans. I can guarantee
you that people in third world countries do not fear the collapse of
civilization. Those at the bottom of the pyramid, the tortured slaves
who make our affluent, luxurious American life possible, will no longer
experience our oppression and will live more comfortable lives,
restoring their connection to their landbase.

The horrors of civilized devastation and oppression will immediately
lessen in most areas after the collapse. The rich will have the most
difficulty coping, as will those who live in densely populated areas.
Those in power, those used to living in McMansions and ordering take-out
on their cell phones—those who sit at the top of the pyramid have the
farthest to fall. They will feel discomfort as they adjust to a more
normal, less decadent, less luxurious (at least in the civilized sense)

Call me a dreamer, but believing we can encourage collapse and rewild a
dying planet feels like optimism to me.

Urban Scout vs. Rewilding

People have called me many names:

Self-serving new-age nihilistic
quack-opportunist poseur-hipster-douche-bag green-capitalist-bastard
egotistical-celebrity-anarchist tool that gives everyone douchechills
with a BS agenda, a trust fund from granny, and an obsession with

A poster of Meta-filter once asked, “Urban Scout, sincere crusader for
sustainability or poseur-hipster-douchebag?”

Much of what I do involves performance art, so you could label me a
poseur. I dress in (what I think look like) hip clothes, so you could
call me a hipster. I often make egotistical jokes about myself and
others, and I could see why someone would call me a douchebag. On top of
that I sincerely teach rewilding skills to people and educate people on
the ills of agriculture. My life revolves around teaching
sustainability. So you could call me a sincere crusader for
sustainability. Can’t I have all of these qualities simultaneously? This
“one or the other” mentality reflects back to Aristotle’s “is” of
identity; you can only “be” A or B, not both. So you can just go ahead
and call me a poseur-hipster-douchebag, sincerely crusading for

This question, though intellectually incoherent, haunts me because of
the sheer number of people who attack me using this Aristotelian logic.
Most often people say that I “talk” more than I “walk” without thinking
about the importance and need for talking about things. People need to
understand this stuff. I get off on thinking about this stuff and
writing about it. I don’t think of myself as a martyr sacrificing myself
for the greater good or carrying some burden. It really upsets me when
people don’t see the value of talking about things. I keep talking
because of the shit I see in the media projecting a fucked-up worldview.

George Bush Jr. said during his 2008 State of the Union Address:

America is leading the fight against global hunger. Today, more than
half the world’s food aid comes from the United States. And tonight, I
ask Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food
assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing
world, so we can build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of
(Audience applause.) [Emphasis added.]

If we really want to “fight” third world hunger we would leave them the
fuck alone, not teach/force them to practice the very pestilence that
brought their culture and landbase to its knees to begin with. If
Americans really wanted to stop population growth they would not provide
“food aid” but landbase rejuvenation. Not to mention that initiatives to
buy food from 3,000 miles away in third world countries make us more
dependent on foreign food sources. So much for the “locavore” movement!

I can’t help but think, doesn’t everyone know that agriculture causes
famine? As time passes and things get worse, I keep forgetting the
complete lack of even the simplest ecological understanding making its
way up the pyramid. This doesn’t look good for the planet…

The February 2008 National Geographic contains a cover story on the
“Black Pharaohs of Egypt.” Throughout the article we see the scary
desertscape of Egypt: sand without soil. Does anyone ever wonder why?
No, because we would rather talk about “Black Pharaohs” than ecological
genocide. Then we would have to face what we currently do to the planet.
Doesn’t discussing the race of past civilizations’ rulers sound so much
more interesting? I mean, imagine a ruler in your head. Now imagine they
have black skin. Crazy, right?!? Have I ever mentioned how much I hate
this culture?

On one page we see an advertisement for a special National Geographic
television program on “climate change.” The following page contains an
advertisement for chips. It depicts three rows of crops: potatoes, corn,
and wheat.

Next to eat crop we see a particular bag of chips made from the crop.
The tag line: “The best snacks on earth.” Do you see the irony here? An
advertisement for agricultural crops that cause deforestation and
desertification wedged between photographs of desert landscapes devoid
of life created by older civilizations and a special television program
on the problems we face because of climate change, which we contributed
to through deforesting the planet. No doubt many people sit in horror as
they watch the ice caps melt before their eyes and the last polar bear
drown on their televisions, all the while snacking on a bag of Sun

No one has any fucking idea why civilization causes a loss of
biodiversity, desertification, and climate change. They don’t even think
about food subsistence. They believe that humans practice agriculture
just like we breathe the air. We cannot question it because we can’t see
the link. Our ability to see through civilization’s agricultural
propaganda and rewild will determine whether we survive the collapse as
individuals, communities, and as a species.

What, no applause?

If we want to rewild the planet and create sustainable cultures, we need
people spreading the ideology of rewilding in order to offset the
effects of civilization. Marketing the sustainable worldview of
rewilding fills probably 95% of what I do. If rewilding meant running
away to the wilderness—which it doesn’t—it wouldn’t have much of an
impact on many people. The more people turned on to rewilding, the
softer the crash, because it means more people focused on dismantling
civilization and restoring the biodiversity of their bioregion.

Though marketing rewilding fills most of my time, this doesn’t mean I
don’t walk my talk, since cultures have many members who serve different
functions. Just because I don’t focus on medicinal plants doesn’t mean I
don’t walk my talk. Just because some people-who-rewild don’t care to
know how to tan hides or build bow-drill fires doesn’t mean they don’t
walk their talk. It takes a village. It takes people promoting and
tending to the culture. It takes people building the boat for the
rewilding culture to sail in. Whether you call it ideology, mythology,
propaganda, marketing, or worldview, those elements form the frame of
the cultural rewilding boat. Understanding ways of living that promote
biodiversity (and ways of living that don’t) forms the foundation of
rewilding cultures. You can’t build cultural foundations with your
hands; you build with your words, observations, and stories.

Some people work as frame builders for the boat; others learn to
navigate the oceans once in the boat. Most people focus on one thing but
do a little of everything. If you really understand how talking fits
into culture building, thinking of people as talkers and walkers makes
no sense: talkers and walkers do not exist. People serve different
functions, all talkers, all walkers.

We can’t have culture without stories. If we want a new culture, we need
lots of stories. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. We need to outcompete
civilization’s propaganda. When I see hundreds of thousands of people
rewilding, telling their own stories, I’ll know that I have done my job
well. When I have hundreds of friends rewilding in my bioregion, serving
their own roles in the culture, I’ll know that I have done my job well
and will feel happy that I have a culture to support me. Hopefully
they’ll recognize all of the foundational work that I have done to make
the culture happen.

Everything vs. Rewilding

Rewilding doesn’t refer to a way of dressing, or a cool new diet, or a
sustainable product you can use to fuel your car, or voting with
dollars, or any of that. It refers to a way of living that requires an
entirely new way of looking at the world. Before you can physically
rewild, you need to see the world through the eyes of the wild, which
means seeing it in contrast to that which domesticates: civilization.
When most people have no awareness of their own domestication, have
never viewed their civilized lives in relation to wild ones, they will
not understand rewilding and will simply replicate civilization with
more primitive tools than we use today.

Once we understand the fundamental picture of civilization, we can hold
up rewilding next to anything and see the civilization in it. Once we
see the civilization in something, we can rewild it. Civilization does
not have a monopoly on music, art, language, violence, or irony. We can
use those tools, too, through the lens of rewilding. My friend Chris
thought of a good metaphor for it:

There’s a Huge Pink Elephant in the room that no one seems to talk
about, and it’s (what’s the quote from Princess Mononoke?) a Big Huge
Slimy Life-Sucking Monster of Death called Civilization. I love
permaculture and regenerative design, and those are the folks I’ll talk
to when I want to figure out how to garden my yard, or how to inhabit my
land with my community more sustainably. But what about that little
problem of civilization? Seventy-five species a day—gone. Ninety
thousand acres of forest a day—gone. Thirteen and a half million tons of
CO2 a day into the atmosphere—fuck! That’s civilization. What
I hear Scout saying is simply, “But let’s talk about that too!” And
specifically—in what ways does not directly addressing that elephant’s
presence influence us when we get into our permaculture design, or
regenerative design, or ecovillage planning, or re-souling work, or
whatever? For me, it’s pretty significant to look around and think, “We
really can’t do this good stuff for real with all this here. With all of
us here. Only a small amount of what’s here now can be here and have
this work.” I would rather not notice that, and feel good about buying
my heritage seeds and my commercially produced organic compost. But the
more I take an interest in the long view—“How is this really going to
play out and work out?”—the more I see that elephant sitting there,
shitting on everything (no offense to elephants), and there’s just not
enough room. I like the “vs.” to the extent that it gets us to look up
from what we’re doing (regardless of how friendly that activity might be
to rewilding) and ask, “Yeah, and how exactly are we addressing the
elephant as we do this?”

Rewilding means much more than simply “undoing domestication.” But we
need to see how civilization domesticates us in order to rewild. We need
to see the elephant so that we can make sure to kill it. (Sorry, Dumbo.)
Rewilding begins with seeing the civilization, the empire, the systems
of domination in everything that we do, so that we can uncivilize it

Rewilding vs. Rewilding

I have to say that by now, after spending years philosophizing about the
word rewilding…I fucking hate it. I know that sounds ridiculous. I’ve
thought a lot about the errors in choosing the word to describe what I
do. Two things in particular come to mind:

  1. The misconception of wild. No matter how hard I try, it seems
    people just don’t understand that wild doesn’t mean “un-managed by
    humans.” This gives way to people using the term rewilding as a
    synonym for primitive skills, simple living, and all kinds of
    seventies hippie crap. No matter how many ways we define rewilding,
    the misconception of wild will always have its presence and always
    work as a barrier to quick understanding.

  2. The preexisting scientific definition. Scientists have their own
    kind of rewilding, Pleistocene rewilding, which involves habitat
    restoration and excludes humans. This also causes a lot of confusion
    when people think I mean to reintroduce elephants and other large
    mammals into North America. No…I don’t mean that.

From the beginning, rewilding already had several uses. Trying to get
people to rally behind a concept or idea using a preexisting term with
several definitions doesn’t make it easy to catch on and causes lots of
confusion along the way. Whoops!

Anytime you give an idea a name, you simultaneously give it power and
kill its ability to change. It becomes a term, set in stone. The term
itself can catch on, grow a bigger following. But the evolution of the
idea that created the term stops. Once you have a doctrine, a written
concept, it feels increasingly difficult to change. We see this with
languages. As soon as a language has a dictionary, it becomes set in
stone and ceases to have any fluidity. The book becomes the overall
authority on a subject instead of the people speaking the language. This
happened to rewilding the moment it became a word. Of course, to get
people up to speed, you must talk about it. Spread it. And thus the
power in giving it a name. Eventually it will become obsolete, and
someone else will give a name to what rises in its place. And so on.

For the last year I have debated with myself whether or not to publish
this work. For as soon as my current thoughts sit on this page, they
seem to represent a kind of permanence that I don’t feel I can shake.
Ten years from now I will not agree with a lot of the things I wrote
here. I know this. More experiences, deeper levels of connection, will
make me eat my own words. I know this, but does the reader know? The
reader may read this and see it as a representation of what I believe
currently, ten years after print, twenty years after print. Forty years
from now someone might say, “Urban Scout believes X,” when in fact I
don’t. Things change. I want to make it clear that everything in this
book I hold up in the air, in a space that I can change and probably
will in time.

Similarly, in the future I may not think of what I do as “rewilding” as
described in this book. Whatever I do, whether I call it rewilding now
and snugufunpoling in ten years, doesn’t matter. What I have hoped to
convey in this book doesn’t represent a word but a trajectory. So what
does that mean? It means…fuck rewilding. Fuck this book. Stay true to
the fluidity of the trajectory behind the word. If rewilding, the
word, changes to mean something other than this trajectory I have
described, then most certainly I would not identify with it. I identify
with the trajectory: a non-appropriated, authentic, regenerative,
indigenous life.

The Rewild Frontier

No one knows what the future will bring, but this we know: civilizations
destroy the land. Our civilization won’t last much longer. A movement
known as rewilding has started against civilization. This movement has a
frontier, and we live on it.

We generally refer to forces of nature as forces out of human control.
We cannot control which direction the wind blows, we cannot stop fields
from turning into forests, we cannot stop the earth from spinning around
the sun. I believe that culture functions in a homologous manner: a
force of nature out of our control.

Often we hear the debate over whether human behavior comes more from our
nature or our nurture. But I never hear people say that no difference
exists between the two. That these elements have separate names gives
rise to a meaningless discussion that only serves to keep us from
understanding how we can relate to the world. If we believe that
nurturing somehow exists separately from our nature, we believe that we
have some amount of control over our own nature. This means that the
term nurture describes the systems we have in place to control
behavior, where our nature looks like something outside our system of
control. I believe that these systems of control come from our nature.
If systems for controlling behavior come from our nature as socially
organized animals, our nature involves nurturing and our nurturing does
not separate itself from our nature. Our nature involves nurturing. Got

I don’t think many people (besides genetic engineers) would argue if I
said that our nature lies out of our hands. Humans have characteristics
brought about through evolution. Our behavior varies from strategy to
strategy of living with this nature. We could say that the culture (our
real “nurturer”) controls us, that myths or memes dictate how we behave
and what decisions we make. But above culture, above nurture, lies
nature, the environment, and the natural laws of the planet. Although
our nature involves nurturing, our strategies for how we nurture, how we
create cultural behavior, dictate themselves through the environment in
which we live. We have no control over the forces, or systems of nature,
only strategies for living with them. Those strategies shape themselves
according to environmental systems. Because we have no control over
environmental systems, in a sense we have no control over the cultural
systems that adapt to them. We only have the power to adapt to
environmental changes: the ability to change with the environment, not
change the environment to live with us. People must respond to
environmental changes or they will die.

I refer to this process as “the power of need.” Needs make the world go
round. People need food to live, so they hunt and gather. People need
sex to proliferate, create culture, and feel good, so they have sex.
Needs can feel physical, like the need to eat or sleep. Needs can feel
emotional, like the need to feel supported. Needs can feel mythological
or spiritual, like the need to go to heaven or the need to feel useful
to a greater group. None of these needs have the same immediacy as the
need for water. A friend of mine refers to this phenomenon (force of
nature) as “the brown water effect,” meaning people will not take up
arms until they have brown water pouring out their faucets. When the
culture cannot meet the direct survival needs of its people, you cannot
have a culture. We need clean water to live. Duh!

When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, she began a cultural movement
of environmentalists who foresaw the coming brown water. At this point
most people (in America at least) have clean tap water, aside from
chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, arsenic, etc. (uh, never mind…I guess
they have water that looks and tastes clean). Even though they have seen
the film An Inconvenient Truth and have an awareness of the “climate
crisis,” they still have clean tap water, air-conditioning, Internet
access, cell phones, SUVs, McDonalds, Saturday morning cartoons, happy
hour specials, and HBO. As long as this culture continues to provide
these privileged distractions, only a subculture of people with the wits
to see and the heart to feel will look for alternative strategies like

Rewilding doesn’t just mean learning about edible plants and how to make
buckskin. I can stand around here all I want and identify plants and
tell stories and have babies, and still the world will die at the hands
of the civilized. Still civilization will meet me with outward violence
as it collapses. As long as civilization holds its monopoly on violence
and control, as long as the wildfire has fuel to burn, abandoning the
system of civilization for something else remains a problem. Many laws
exist to prevent people from rewilding: hunting and gathering and
gardening fees, regulations, restrictions, and taxes that make
self-sufficiency through rewilding a hard game to play, especially for a
family. Breaking the law (civilization’s threat of violence) works as an
inevitable step in creating a rewilding culture and surviving the
collapse of civilization. Rewilding also means fighting back. With fuel
to burn, a wildfire will gain in momentum and appear unstoppable.
However, it becomes very easy to put out a wildfire after it passes the
point of diminishing returns. With no more fuel to burn, it begins to

In order to fight back against civilization, we need to have lives worth
fighting for. Indigenous peoples who fought against civilization had
something we civilized people don’t: a connection to land and family
worth fighting for, worth killing for. Hunter-gatherers fought for the
land and lifestyle and culture that they had for millions of years,
because it gave them life. They had a system that worked and that they
defended. They fought side by side with their brothers and sisters and
uncles and cousins and grandfathers and grandmothers, both humans and
other-than-human. We have nothing like that: no familial, supportive,
life-giving culture to fight for nor to care for us as we succeed in
bringing down civilization. Unless we simply feel suicidal, we need
lives worth fighting for. Rewilding means reclaiming a life worth living
and defending it against those who wish to domesticate it.

Often we hear lifeboat used to describe these plans for surviving
through collapse. I prefer not to use that word, as lifeboats merely
suggest a temporary safe place. We want to abandon the ship for a new
one, better than the one we left, not something small and temporary.
Noah didn’t build his ark as a lifeboat; he built it as a boat big
enough for every living thing in the world. Rewilding cultures should
have no less space.

In the story of rewilding we have three acts: early collapse, deep in
collapse, and after collapse. In the first act we need to develop an
escape plan from the barriers that hold us captive to civilization. The
second act involves living a life worth fighting for as we hold our
ground and encourage the collapse along. In the third act we will
celebrate the end of civilization and continue to rewild all of the
places that civilization has domesticated. I see a whole cast of
characters working here. I see people rewilding outside of
civilization’s control, holding their own. I see people on the borders
of the rewild frontier, pushing civilization into retreat where its weak
spots exist. I see people in the lion’s den, rewilding right in the
middle of civilization. I see an “underground rewild-road” of sorts,
helping those in civilization escape to wild areas.

Of course, rewilding doesn’t mean that you have to confront civilization
head on. Not everyone in a culture takes the role of the warrior. We
need nurturers and healers and mothers and fathers and everything else.
Just have clarity about whether you’ve chosen a different role based on
fear of living as a warrior, and don’t disguise that fear as pacifist
ideology or condemn those who have no fear and live as front-line
warriors. As a warrior, remember not to let the fight against
civilization get in the way of living—make it part of a whole life of
rewilding. What else do we have to fight for but our loved ones, human
and other-than-human? To fight back, I need a life worth living, and to
me that means having children and growing a family and learning to hunt
and gather and give back to the land and kicking civilization’s ass for
my family and rewilding cultures.

The rewild frontier looks similar to the civilized frontier, only
backward: we will see people stop tilling the soil, stop farming, and
start encouraging succession. We will see violence as the civilized try
to resist those-who-rewild. Rather than see the wild retreat from
civilization, we will see civilization retreat from the wild until one
day we will see civilization no more.

Go out there and start rewilding now. Plant an orchard. Protect wild
lands. Teach your children that “weeds” don’t exist. Talk with
other-than-humans. Talk with humans. Shut down the grid. Learn to hunt
and trap without modern tools. Take out roads. Make a family. Turn a
deerskin into buckskin. Hold your ground. Make friends. Discover
enemies. Reclaim land from civilization. Get really fucking angry.
Relax. Cry. Laugh. Follow your heart, follow your heart, follow your
heart, and live a life worth living, worth remembering, worth
mythologizing until the sun engulfs the planet.

You have a choice: rewild or die.


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About the Author

I consider myself a multi-disciplinary artist and environmental
educator. I’m a fourth-generation Portlander. My first merit badge in
the Boy Scouts was for basketry. From there I went on to receive the
esteemed rank of Eagle Scout. It was during my years camping with the
scouts that I began to yearn for a deeper connection to place. At the
age of sixteen, inspired by Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, I dropped out of
high school and ran away from home to travel across the United States
and attend Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracking, Nature Observation and Wilderness
Survival School in New Jersey. After that I went to Wilderness Awareness
School in Washington State, where I attended several Art of Mentoring
workshops led by Jon Young. I have been heavily influenced by the works
of Joseph Campbell, Derrick Jensen, Nancy Turner, Douglas Deur, M. Kat
Anderson, Finisia Medrano, and Martín Prechtel. I began blogging about
rewilding under the moniker Urban Scout in 2004. Between 2004 and 2008,
I received local press in The Oregonian, Portland Mercury, and
Willamette Week, national press in ReadyMade, and international
press in Positive Living (UK) and Chain Reaction (AU) for my
efforts to create and promote the culture of rewilding.

In 2007 I created rewild.com, an international online forum dedicated
to discussions about rewilding. In 2008 I published a collection of my
blogs in the first edition of Rewild or Die. In 2009, after dedicating
so much time to writing and managing rewild.com, I founded Rewild
Portland, a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating cultural
and environmental resilience through the education of earth-based arts,
traditions, and technologies. I love basketry, I play the banjo, and I
am a fluent speaker of Chinuk Wawa (aka Chinook Jargon), the Native
trade language of the Pacific Northwest and heritage language of the
Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. During the summer of 2012 I attended
Lynx Vilden’s Stone Age immersion program. I’ve been an environmental
educator since the early 2000s, working with local organizations like
Cascadia Wild, Friends of Tryon Creek, Audubon Society, Portland Waldorf
School, Shining Star Waldorf School, and Cleveland High School, and I
currently serve as executive director of Rewild Portland.

Source: Theanarchistlibrary.org