WHAT: Human Rewilding
Apart from being slightly smarter than the average monkey, our pre-agricultural ancestors were as “wild” as the animals they stalked or the berries they picked. Fast forward a few millennia. Nowadays, only a fraction of their domesticated descendants know what it’s like to forage for edible plants or kill their own meat. Let alone how to prepare or cook it. Everything we need is a mere screen click away.
The modern human software runs on a climate-controlled input of processed meals, consumed watching survival reality shows in prefab houses under light-polluted skies. In our unrelenting search for order, we created chaos. In taming the world around us, we tamed ourselves. Yet, buried in our conscious, the hunter-gatherer hardcode etched into our DNA from a long-forgotten world of fire and fangs remains alive and kicking. Awakening these dormant instincts is precisely what the human rewilding movement hopes to bring about.
Thankfully, human rewilding doesn’t call for complete renunciation of modern culture or a total return to an off-grid, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It doesn’t demand you trade your house for a cave or your parka for a raccoon pelt. It might require practice and even the occasional discomfort. But if you’re cool with that, then becoming a modern hunter-gatherer and reinvigorating our long-lost connection with nature is easily accessible to all.
The human rewilding movement manifesto may read like a confused mash-up of survivalist, hippy, eco-activist, and doomsday prepper philosophies. But it’s actually pretty simple. And so are the practices it advocates.
Be your own alarm
It’s been a little more than a century since the lightbulb replaced the sun as governor of our waking and sleeping hours. Have we become more productive? Sure. But at what cost? ‘Circadian rhythm disruption‘ symptoms include difficulty falling and staying asleep, daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and impaired cognitive functioning.
Locked-in nine to fivers may find the idea of intermittent power naps difficult to apply. Nevertheless, a raft of studies confirms that if you want to be brighter, healthier, and more focused, then do as the cavemen did. Human rewilding involves losing the alarm clock and letting your body sleep when it wants, for as long as it wants.
The fast track
Nowadays, ‘Intermittent fasting’ is a buzz phrase bandied around the wellness industry to describe periodic cycles of voluntary famine and feast. Essentially, the eating patterns our ancestors lived by for millions of years. Peer-reviewed research has proved that eating when your body tells you to instead of at set meal times or just stuffing yourself on a whim reaps enormous benefits for the brain, heart, and gut.
Archeologists tell us the first shoes were worn around 40,000 years ago, which correlated with a marked decrease in human foot strength. Science has also proven that the human foot is an electron sponge. When connected directly to the ground, it absorbs massive amounts of the earth’s electrical charges. Going barefoot reduces inflammation and excess cortisol, boosts our red blood cell count, and helps us to de-stress and balance the nervous system.
Stone age man was able to endure crippling cold with only an animal skin and wood fire to keep him cozy. And if modern research is correct, then far from sitting around shuddering in a state of freezing misery, this periodic exposure to frost resulted in enhanced moods and boosted immune, lymphatic and cardiovascular systems. Training your mind and your body to endure cold provides endless health benefits. Cold showers or even ice baths are a staple activity not just for committed rewilders, but also top-level athletes looking to better their game.
Urban foraging doesn’t require you to go dumpster diving for expired yogurts or melted frozen meals. The human rewilding movement places a huge emphasis on wild, local food. With practice and healthy caution, in no time, you’ll be able to identify all manner of wild edibles. These include wild fennel, pine nuts, conifer needles, dandelions, cattails, acorns, nettles, loquats, juniper berries, seaweed, wild onions, dandelions, mushrooms, and more. All of which are safe, healthy, and packed with nutrients. As a modern hunter-gatherer, you may even decide to abandon your grocery store. Instead, you’ll be taking your food from parks, hillsides, and urban foraging green spaces around your home.
Urban foraging isn’t just about food. It’s also about medicine. Aspirin comes from the bark of a willow tree. Penicillin comes from moldy fungus, while most painkillers come from poppies. The list goes on. In many cases, pharmaceutical companies only learned of certain plants healing properties by taking cues from hunter-gatherer societies. In time, it’s easy to learn the curative properties of the leaves, flowers, herbs, and roots which grow around us.
Human rewilding skills can be learned by anyone with the time, discipline, desire, and right books. Feel like taking your rewilding experience to the next level? If so, there’s a range of well-established schools hosting “survivacations” that specialize in the primitive arts. These include making friction fires, trapping, tracking, urban foraging, hunting and preparing animals, skinning, and hide-tanning. You’ll also learn how to make tools such as pots, knives, spears, and archery equipment.
- Choosing your next meal on a hunch is something you may get away with a few times. Eventually, it won’t end well. Learn how to differentiate between the plants you can eat and their look-alikes. If it tastes bitter, then stay away.
- If you hunt, know which animals are protected by law. Remember that even the hunting of non-protected species could land you in strife, particularly if you’re chasing them in public spaces in plain sight of horrified children.
Human rewilding decreases our dependence upon modern society. Learning to forage for food and medicine helps forge intimate relationships with the locations and species that nourish us. Committed rewilders claim the practice provides a stark reminder of how we fit into the natural world. This understanding, say rewilders, quickly becomes a spiritual connection with the local ecosystem and its inhabitants.