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Posts Tagged ‘Rewilding’

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It seems necessary as of late to define some of the terms I use often on my blog. Although the definitions below may sound judgemental, I have been a member of all of these communities at one time or another. As I teenager, I was drawn to survival skills because I loved the outdoors. At the same time I was into gear intensive sports such as backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.

As a college student at The University of Vermont I studied with world-renown ecological design pioneer John Todd, sold desktop “living machines”, and designed fancy strawbale houses at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. I also took a course in permaculture, and helped plant a fruit trees as part of a permaculture system at a local community garden.

After leaving UVM I attended green anarchy gatherings, read Species Traitor magazine, and  wore a black T-shirt with the words “Against Civilization” on it. Later I read all of Tom Brown Jr.’s books and attended the Tracker School. And just before joining the rewild forum, and moving to Portland, one of the  few cities in the US to have what might be called a “rewilding community”, I dated a How to Build Your Own Bazooka reading gun nut!

Although it may be considered the father of rewildingGreen anarchy/ anarcho-primitivism seems to be a more politically loaded term. While I do not mind being called a green anarchist as I essentially agree with the philosophy, the word calls to mind a certain type of militancy and idealism. Green anarchists are mostly likely to openly advocate fucking shit up, burning shit down, and unfortunately practice what I call “reverse snobbery” for example attacking someone for watching television, dressing fashionably or writing a blog. To be blatantly stereotypical, they may also practice security culture, quote Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan, wear a lot of black and appear to be what is known as a “crust punk”.

Green Anarchy Magazine

The terms Primitive skills, primitive technology, and wilderness skills on the other hand carry few political connotations. Some people practice these skills as a form of experiential archaeology (see Society for Primitive Technology). Others simply do it for fun, for example as an adjunct to general outdoor recreation such as hiking and camping. Gatherings such as Rabbit Stick and wilderness schools generally fall under this category. However, graduates of Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School (Brownies) do tend to carry some underlying moralistic-survivalist philosophy. Brown writes that if we do not change our destructive ways, “…only the children of the Earth will survive”.

Permaculture, as I hinted in my last post, is limited by its agricultural origins. Although the world permaculture can be and sometimes is used on a broader scope,  to describe a “permanent culture”, the fact remains that at this point in time it most commonly refers to a system of gardening. If you were to sign up for a permaculture course at your local college you would expect to learn first and foremost about bioswales and rain catchement systems, not about the practice of animism, indigenous language, or other contributors to cultural sustainability. “Permies” also tend to be into natural building, such as cob, and ecovillages or intentional communities. Many peak oil proponents see permaculture as possible solution.

Permies love rocket stoves!

Sustainability, associated with the environmental or “green” movement, is a fine word. Sustainability is really what we are all looking for.  Unfortunately sustainability is used by corporations to describe many practices which are most likely not sustainable, such as the importation of bottled water. Most Green technologies still require a global industrial economy to operate. For example the manufacture of photovoltaic panels and the batteries used to store the energy they produce is hardly a DIY project. Also regardless of source, electricity brings its own problems such as light pollution and electro-magnetic field disturbance which can have severe effects on human and animal health.

Survivalists. Then you have your classic libertarian, gun-nut, cache-hiding, government-distrusting, paramilitary survivalist types. These types are somewhat concerned with wilderness skills but mainly in the context of preparing to defend their home territory and/or run and hide in a hostile situation (See Paladin Press). There are also survivalists such as Survivor Man who are concerned with skills and equipment that allow an individual to live long enough in an emergency to get rescued or make their way back to civilization, but do not particularly advocate living off the land long-term.

Ted Nugent–  Straight-edge, Detroit rock star known for conservative political views and feverish promotion of conservation and hunting, esp. bowhunting. Defies categorization.

Ted Nugent

All of this brings me to my favorite word: rewilding. There will be those that disagree, but to me rewilding encompasses all of the above viewpoints and more. While the ultimate goal of rewilding can be described as the return to a hunter-gatherer way of life, or going beyond domestication, as some might say, since we can never truly go back, and the term is somewhat political in that it is implied that this way of life is better for humans and non-humans alike than what we have now, rewilding embraces movement toward a “more wild” way of living.

For some people this might include purchasing solar equipment and getting off the grid (green technology).  They may not envision a glorious solar powered future, but are simply making a compromise between living a life closer to nature and temporarily leveraging the power of electricity to say, stay connected to other rewilders on the internet.  For other’s rewilding might include preventing the construction of condos in a natural area (green anarchy), learning how to weave a willow basket (primitive skills), planting an herb spiral (permaculture), or purchasing a gun (survivalism). No one person is capable of doing everything at once.

While pure wilderness survival may come in handy, rewilding recognizes that even after a monumental disaster, artifacts of civilization such as knives, clothing, cooking vessels, and shelter would be around for a long time and might as well be made useful (see Afterculture). In addition to classic “hard” primitive skills such as flintknapping, braintanning,  and bowmaking, rewilding takes into account the “soft skills” of our ancestors, skills such as story-telling, community ritual,  and child rearing. It is my belief that almost any aspect of civilized life from food to music to fashion to medicine can be rewilded. Where is your passion?

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Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind

When I first became the way I am, that is essentially a primitivist, one of the main influences on my developing philosophy was a college course in the field of ecopsychology. Ecopsychology begs the question: How can anyone be truly sane if the way we treat our planet is fundamentally insane? How does our environment affect our psychological well-being and how does our psychological well-being affect our environment?

Up until that point I had recognized that technology and civilization had terrible consequences for human physical health in the form of toxins, diet, and a sedentary lifestyle,  but I had not taken into account the fact that our minds too were evolved for a certain way of living involving exposure to greenery, deep attachment to specific places,  and a close-knit community lifestyle.

Ecotherapy is applied ecopsychology. Ecotherapy does not just see nature as a tool for human healing, but attempts to address and restore relationships between humans and the non-human world, bringing healing to both simultaneously. Whereas mainstream therapy treats the patient as if in a vacuum, or at most explores family dynamics, ecotherapy takes into account the state of the entire world.

This is becoming increasingly pertinent as more and more people wake up to the environmental devastation that is being wrought and are subsequently overcome by overwhelming anxiety, grief, anger, or depression. One basic tenent of ecotherapy is that in the absence of an animistic or ensouled view of the world, we experience a loneliness that leads to consumerism, addiction, and a wide range of psychological disorders

The book Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind is an anthology that brings together diverse aspects of ecotherapy, many more than can be covered here. A few examples:

  • Craig Chalquist reviews ecotherapy research which indicates, for example, that walking in nature has proven as effective as taken antidepressants and describes his pioneering work in terrapsychology, that suggests, “living in accord with the movements, features, and “style” of a place replaces alienation with a mode of relating in which we learn what a place needs from us–as when a nightmare of mood shift suggests a source of toxicity in the local environment.”
  • Lauren Z. Schneider, Meredith Sabini and Stephen Aizenstat all explore dream imagery in the context of societal rather than personal messages and warnings.
  • G.A. Bradshaw  recounts startlingly human-like responses to trauma by animals in his essay on trans-species psychology and suggests that human healing takes place as a side-effect when people engage in service at sanctuaries for abused animals. Neda Demayo describes the healing effects of encounters with (re)wild(ed) horses at her California ranch.
  • Landscape architect Elizabeth R. Messer Diehl and Vietman vetran Shepard Bliss expound on the profound healing effects of gardens and gardening.

While this book will be of most interest to those in healing professions, it is an easy read and very relevant to rewilding in general, especially in terms of introducing the necessity of rewilding to the mainstream public. In fact, as an outgrowth of Richard Louv’s work, Last Child in the Woods, the word “rewild” is even being used in psychology circles, albeit in a more simplistic, less radical way,  to describe the push towards increasing the frequency of childhood experiences in nature.

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Here is one my class projects:Career Counseling for the Apocalypse

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Some people fear that rewilding necessarily means allowing a thick luxurious forest of hair to grow upon their bodies. I am here to say that is not the case. There are tales of singeing, shaving with obsidian, and plucking with clam shells,  but my favored method for post-civilized hair removal, and the one I currently use, would have to be sugaring. Now, I understand that under collapse conditions sugar and all of its various forms: honey, maple syrup, cane juice, etc. would most likely be a valuable caloric resource not to be squandered on something as superficial as hair removal, but you never know. Indigenous people around the world are notable for putting a great deal of effort and resources into their appearance:

Heavily Adorned Indigenous Woman

Fancy Clothes on Indigenous Women

Tribal Women with Funny Nose Piercings

Perhaps the ability of a neo-tribal woman (or man) to remove body hair would be a sign of prosperity and abundance, and that’s super hot no matter where you are from. Maybe that’s why we do it in the first place.

You can start preparing for our razor-free future by getting a beehive. My original thought was that one could take the honey for eating and use the wax for waxing, but I have not experimented with pure wax for waxing. It seems like it would require an additive because when the stuff is liquid it burns the skin and by the time it is cool, it’s too hard. A quick Google search reveals that most homemade “wax” recipes are actually sugar recipes. So I’m sticking with sugar products for now, until I learn more.

Sidenote: In a modern context white sugar is so maligned, having been replaced by agave, stevia, and other new-age sweetners, that you should have no problem getting all that you need from the cupboards or friends who have kicked the habit, if they haven’t already thrown the vile stuff in the dumpster.

Sugaring is a form of hair removal that is very much like waxing. Sometimes it is done by cooking the sugar to a taffy-like consistency that can be smoothed onto a patch of hair, with the hands, peeled off, and the ball of hair-taffy folded in half and pressed onto a new area. This is repeated until the ball is too sticky or hairy to use. This method seems to require more careful cooking to get just the right consistency and I have not tried it successfully. I go with the technique that most closely resembles waxing, whereby the still -warm sugar mixture is spread onto the skin in the direction of hair growth, a strip of cloth is smoothed over top of it and then ripped off in the opposing direction.

Sugaring Solution For Hair Removal

Sugaring Solution For Hair Removal

I have tried this with both honey and white sugar. Most sugar recipes call for the addition of lemon juice to the mixture. I am not sure what chemical action this plays in the mix. I assumed it had something to do with the acidity and I have usually been able to scrounge up some lemon juice, or vinegar (something that can be  made post-apocalyptically via apple cider) to splash in there, but am not convinced it was necessary.

I believe what is most important is to understand the process of candy-making. There are several terms in candy-making that correlate the temperature of  the sugar with the consistency that it will be if you allow it to cool after heating it to that temperature. These terms were developed before candy thermometers existed and are very useful for us today because as you are heating a sugar solution you can drop a bit of the syrup into cold water, or on snow, ice, or a cold plate and see almost instantly what consistency it will be. They are :

Thread 230-235 degrees Farenheit

Soft Ball -235-240 degrees Farenheit

Firmball 245-250 degrees Farenheit

Hardball 250-265 degrees Farenheit

Soft Crack 270-270 degrees Farenheit

Hard-Crack 300-310 degrees Farenheit

Read more about the science of candy making.

The optimal stage for hair removal is somewhere around firm-ball  This means that when you drop a bit of the solution into cold water it will form a ball that is firm but malleable. A simple sugaring recipe found all over the web is:

  • 2 cups white cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water

Simmer this on a low temperature until it is a rich golden brown color and reacts as described above when chilled. Then let the solution cool before applying it to the skin. If it cools too much, it will be too thick to apply. Try re-warming the container in a bowl of hot water. I apply the sugar with a butter knife. Any old scrap of cloth will do to remove the hair. Smooth it down in the direction of growth while the applied sugar is still warm, then take a deep breath and yank! I cut up old shirts or towels. You can wash and reuse strips, but if fabric is not at a premium it is much easier to throw them away. (p.s. buckskin does work.)

Tips:

  • This is messy. Before you begin, spread out newspaper or a cloth to sit on.
  • Hot water will work to dissolve the sugar encrusted on your pots and utensils
  • For a fun feral femme experience, try this outdoors over a campfire. Placing it near the fire will keep your sugar solution warm, and friends can help you reach the difficult areas!
  • If you use honey or a different kind of sweetener, simply start with a liquid and follow the same candy stages as you would for white sugar.
  • Be patient when waiting for your sugar to cool. Don’t burn yourself.
  • Cook a big batch, and then store it in a plastic container for subsequent sugarings.

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