I first heard the word rewilding mentioned in a book that discussed the importance of free play in childhood. I skimmed by, not because I disagree, but raising my furbabies requires a different type of parenting. The second time I heard it was in a facebook group and someone was asking how to preserve (or maybe cure?) tendons from a recently hunted deer. Also, not my scene.
But, the word provoked my curiosity. What, exactly, was rewilding?
What is Rewilding?
I did some researching, pouring into the tomes of the internet. Rewilding was originally a term used for conservation, meaning the efforts to return a place back to its natural state. Often used to describe large-scale projects, it aims at creating a self-sustaining ecosystem, with pre-human levels of biodiversity. It usually included things like creating large wilderness areas and corridors to connect them, and the reintroduction of apex species, such as wolves or bisons.
But more recently, being used in the form I’ve been seeing, rewilding has been used to describe a lifestyle shift in humans and society- a human rewilding. Rewild.com describes it as:
“Rewilding means restoring ancestral ways of living that create greater health and well-being for humans and the ecosystems that we belong to… It means returning to our senses, returning to ourselves, and coming home to the world we never stopped belonging to.
A lot of words to basically sum up returning to a way of living that was a pre- Agriculture era; one where people were from the wild- meaning not tamed or domesticated.
This was a new idea to me. I wasn’t sure I bought it, but I love the idea of restoring ancestoral ways, and I’m always interested in adopting a lifestyle that channels a “simpler” time, so I looked into it more.
Have humans been domesticated?
Rewilding fans consider modern humans to be the production of hundreds of years of domestication. We are no longer homo sapiens, we are homo sapiens domesticus– the tamed human. While it may sound far-fetched at first, it has a convincing argument.
Domestication of cats and dogs, pigs and cows, and all the other animals that have been bred for generations to become docile creatures with valuable qualities, were brought into being by humans and are dependent on humans for survival. While I think my cat Gaia could easily revert to a feral state and survive on her own (she’s a mad mouser and scavenger), I know Stella would quickly freeze and my dumb-as-mud Bacon would be fast to go.
Wild animals are responsible for all aspects of their life- food, warmth, taking care of their young, etc. Domestic species require outside forces (ie, humans, or more recently, corporations) for survival. It’s argued that domestic humans are the same; we are no longer in control of many of the aspects of our lives.
It sounds far-fetched, I agree, but actually, I can see some major truth. We no longer hold the power to take care of ourselves, but instead, depend on corporations and restaurants to feed us. We depend on government systems for education and protection. We depend on doctors or the medical institution for health care.
As a result, rewilding fans think this domestication has started to degrade us, both physically and mentally. Scientific research backs up the theory- us “modern” humans are less healthy than our pre-agricultural ancestors.
So what does it mean to be rewilded?
Daniel Vitalis, in his online magazine “RewildYourself”, presents an imaginative idea. Pretend you are creating a personal zoo, and setting up the habitat for a chimpanzee. You have two options on the type of surroundings you can put your new chimp in.
Option one is most similar to its natural African habitat. There are streams running providing fresh water. There are tall trees for it to perch in, sleep and also use as a platform for moving about the area. Windows open to allow fresh air. It eats a diet of tropical fruit, just like it’s ancestors have for generations. Skylights allow the natural patterns of light and dark dictate the daily routines.
Or, option two is a room in a house, similar to one we have. Instead of a freshwater stream, chlorinated water comes out of a tap. Instead of a fresh breeze, there is recirculated air and layers of disinfections sprayed over all surfaces. Instead of organic fruit, the chimp eats highly-processed and genetically modified foods. The sun is replaced by artificial lamps to light the way and an alarm clock jolt the chimp awake in the morning.
He then asks, which environment would produce a happier, healthier chimp? The answer is obvious, and meant to make us question- are we any different than the chimp?
For best health, we should live like our ancestors did
Advocates for rewilding claim that we are no different genetically than our wild, human ancestors.
For eons, our bodies learned how to adapt to the conditions our plant has presented, but suddenly, we have put ourselves in a virtual world that has little resemblance to one of our ancestors, and we aren’t fit for it.
The main rewilding focus is on achieving the healthiest way to live. If you follow the popular Paleo diet, you have already experimented with ways of rewilding. In order to rewild yourself, you make shifts in your behaviors and lifestyles to best nurture your Neo-Paleolithic self.
I don’t think caves or wearing skins are necessary for Rewilding
I don’t think we need to channel our inner hunter-gatherer in order to achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Personally, I’m straight up Northern European mutt. You have to go back farther than the written language to reach those of my ancestors who hailed from a pre-agricultural society. I may have the genetics of a preNeolitic human, but I have no cellular memory of a life that’s one other than being home-based, or, as rewilders would call it- tamed.
I don’t think agriculture is the enemy- at least, not small-scale, organic growing of food. I love to garden and I don’t think there is a problem with living in a house with a nice comfy bed instead of sleeping on skins in a shelter made from sticks.
Rewilding isn’t about going back into the past. It’s not necessary to go live in a cave, drink from springs, and only eat hunted or foraged foods. Plus, there aren’t enough resources for all our population to live that way.
I’m not about to go hunting or even pretend I want to go sleep in the woods full time, with only a blanket of woven grass. But, the rewilding movement has urged me to consider taking a step backward, and it does help put our modern day lives into perspective. I don’t resonate with the pre-neolithic focus of rewilding, but I do connect with a simpler, less consumer-driven time. Perhaps, a pre-Industrial-Era?
Interested in Rewilding Your Own Life? Here are 9 easy ways to start:
Learn a new skill that allows you to take control of something in your life. My goal for this coming year is to master soap making and bread making.
Stand more and sit less. I do agree that our bodies were not designed to sit at a desk all day. On days when I’m working on the computer, I need to make more effort to use my standing desk or remember to get up frequently.
Wear less restrictive clothing. Natural fibers allow your skin to breath, and looser styles and sizes allow for freer movements. I think I might finally say goodbye to the skinny jeans I bought, simply because they were trendy, but I secretly hate to wear.
Learn about wild edibles in your area and forage for them. Blackberries and walnuts are always a favorite of mine, but I really hope to start collecting nettles and more natural dye plants!
Use herbs for wellness. While there is no denying the benefits of most medical discoveries, there are many things that can be prevented or cured at home using herbs. Before reaching for an artificial remedy, why not try an herbal one, like a peppermint tea for indigestion.
Give in to the natural rhythms of the seasons. How many times have we stayed up on dark winter days simply because we told ourselves “it’s way to early to go to bed”? I would like to try shutting off artificial lights earlier in the night to help gradually get ready for sleep, and I’m committing to going to bed whenever I start feeling tired.
Embrace your wild women. Don’t suppress your sensitivities, emotions, empathies, and intuitions just to fit into the practical society box determining what a woman should be or how we should act.