Posts Tagged ‘Rewilding’

Our Hyper-visual World

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The Exuberant Animal author Frank Forencich argues that we live in a hyper-visual world in which our other senses are deprived, especially touch.  When young children don’t have physical contact with caretakers they wither and die.  Although the effects for adults are less severe, by wearing clothes and shoes, and being inside in a comfortable plastic world all day, our health suffers.  We simply don’t feel the sand, brush, and stones anymore.  He argues that touch maintains a sense of direct contact with the physical world around us, and positive and negative tactile sensations stimulate movement, and are health promoting.  His advice is that we should engage in tactile intensive activities, such as backpacking, gardening, and home remodeling.  He also thinks that experiencing the smells and tastes of nature improve our health.   

We certainly don’t use our other senses to the extent we’re capable.  I previously blogged about safe-cracking, and here’s an example of a man who has developed a remarkable sense of touch for opening safes. (How to Crack a Safe: World Safecracking Champion Takes Down Bank Vault in 5 Minutes 19 Seconds (video)) 

Blind people can use echolocation to navigate.  This is when people use sound as sonar to interpret the nature and distance of objects around them.  Ben Underwood was a blind 14 year old who could use echolocation to play basketball, run, and skateboard.  Dr. Lawrence Scadden could use it to ride a bicycle in traffic.

Besides sound and touch, it turns out that people can follow sent trails across a field like a dog.  (Unleash your inner bloodhound – start sniffing)

Wound Licking and Zoopharmacognosy

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Wound licking is instinctively practiced by many animals and humans.  It seems likely that saliva retards infection and promotes healing, since it contains antibacterials, antivirals, and growth factors.  Also such an evolved behavioral trait would have long ago been selected out if it were overall highly unhealthful.  A number of societies have even institutionalized the practice, for example in ancient Greece at the shrine of Aesculapius dogs were trained to lick patient’s wounds.  

Wound licking is an example of natural self doctoring by animals, a practice which is called Zoopharmacognosy.  Probable examples of this include placenta eating, eating clay and charcoal, applying honey to wounds, and eating toxic plants.  (See Really Wild Remedies)  Another example was discovered when Capuchin monkeys in Venezuela were observed rubbing millipedes over their fur.  It turned out that they were using the arthropod’s defensive secretions as an insect repellent.     


Move Natural Exercise

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The MovNat group teaches that humans were meant to be strong, healthy, happy, and free.   Today we live in a “human zoo” which has made us overweight, weak, sick, and depressed.  In short, we suffer from a “nature deficit disorder.” Drawing on La Methode Naturalle they seek to get back to the way humans originally got their exercise, with activities in natural settings involving walking, running, jumping, balancing, moving on all fours, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming, and defending.  The benchmark for fitness is that people should be athletically capable of handling practical real world situations (bottom of the page).  An example of such a situation might arise if your house were on fire.  The idea is that if you had to you could climb a tree, crawl in a window, put someone over your shoulder in a fireman’s carry, and then climb back down to the ground.

The Umami Hypothesis

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Seth Roberts has proposed an interesting hypothesis, that humans like complex tastes (umami) because we evolved to like the taste of bacteria in food.  He believes that bacteria from natural pickling is harmless, and actually improves our immune function.  As reported in Conditioning Research, Roberts points out that explorer Vihjalmur Stefansson reported that Eskimos ate lots of bacteria fermented fish, which he also grew to enjoy.  Supporting this theory, Conditioning Research also tells of University of Michigan paleontologist, Dan Fisher, who butchered a draft horse and cached the meat in a stock pond.  The lactobacilli in the water pickled the meat, which it emitted a slightly sour odor that put off scavengers when it floated to the surface.  Fisher cut and ate the meat from February until midsummer to prove its safety, showing how hunter gatherers might have once stored their large animal kills.  As I blogged in an earlier post, fermented foods also are known to be good sources of vitamin K2.

Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Here is a study from Pubmed which found that a 2-3 minute cold shower of 20 degrees C (preceded by a 5 minute adaptation to reduce shock) performed once or twice daily, over several weeks to months was effective at relieving depression.  It also had an analgesic effect, and didn’t have noticeable side effects or create addiction.  The study was small, statistically insignificant, and needs to be replicated.  They speculate that several mechanisms might be involved, such as activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of noradrenaline, and the level of peripheral nervous system signals to the brain.  The idea is that our ancestors would have been subject to these sorts of environmental stressors, and the lack of them in the modern world might help explain some cases of improper brain functioning.

“Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing” by Robert Wolff

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Here is several snips from a review of Original Wisdom by Thom Hartmann:

“After I grew to know the Sng’oi, the People, and when I knew they accepted me, I apologized for having spoken of them as slaves before I knew what they called themselves. …(snip)

“This time, again, one person answered. He – a rather adventuresome young man, I was told later – spoke slowly, simply, for my benefit perhaps. “No,” he said, “we do not mind when others call us Sakai. We look at the people down below – they have to get up at a certain time in the morning, they have to pay for everything with money, which they have to earn doing things for other people. They are constantly told what they can and cannot do.’ He paused, and then added, ‘No, we do not mind when they call us slaves.”…(snip)

“Similarly, many of the Europeans wanted to become “savages” and live among the Indians:”

“Over the next hundred years, as more and more Whites encountered Native Americans, the incidence of Whites joining Indian tribes dramatically increased. Derisively termed “White Indians” by the colonists, thousands of European immigrants to the Americas simply walked away from the emerging American society to join various Indian tribes. Ethnohistorian James Axtell wrote that these early settlers joined the Indians because “they found Indian life to possess a strong sense of community, abundant love, and uncommon integrity�” Axtell quoted two White Indians who wrote to the people they�d left behind that they�d found, “the most perfect freedom, the ease of living, the absence of those cares and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us.”

In 1747, Reverend Cadwallader Colden wrote of the growing exodus of Whites for Indian life: “No Arguments, no Intreaties, nor Tears of their Friends and relations, could persuade many of them to leave their new Indian Friends and Acquaintance; several of them that were by the Caressings of their Relations persuaded to come Home, in a little Time grew tired of our Manner of living, and ran away again to the Indians, and ended their Days with them.”

While most people in the modern world think of contemporary tribal people as hungry to join our civilized world, wolff found the Sng�oi just as happy with their own democratic culture as Colden found Native Americans in the 1700s.

Similarly, Colden wrote: “�Indian Children have been carefully educated among the English, cloathed and taught, yet, I think, there is not one Instance, that any of these, after they had Liberty to go among their own People, and were come to Age, would remain with the English, but returned to their own Nations, and became as fond of the Indian Manner as those that knew nothing of a civilized Manner of living.”

Not being fettered to eight or more hours of work a day to enrich some person or corporation at the top of an economic food chain, people in democratic indigenous cultures spend much of their time interacting with their children. James Bricknell, who was captured by the Delaware in the early 1800s and lived among them for several years before returning to his family, wrote in 1842: “The Delawares are the best people to train up children I ever was with� Their leisure hours are, in a great measure, spent in training up their children to observe what they believe to be right� They certainly follow what they are taught to believe right more closely, and I might say more honestly, in general, than we Christians� I know I am influenced to good, even at this day, more from what I learned among them, than what I learned among people of my own color.”

The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race by Jared Diamond

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

In this article Jared Diamond points out what a disaster the transition from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural one was for most of humanity.  When that transition occurred about 10,000 years ago skeletal remains show that people shrank in stature.   People’s diet was much less varied, and enamel defects give good evidence of malnutrition.  Life expectancy went down, and class and gender inequality came about.

Another problem, which Diamond doesn’t discuss, is that now “work” became necessary.  Animals tend to evolve to enjoy the things they have to normally do in their natural environment to stay alive.  This is because those animals which enjoy what they are doing will tend to do it better, and they will on average win the genetic competition.  In this regard people are no different since they are, of course, animals.  On average men especially liked hunting, and women especially liked gathering.  And, as a reminder of our hunter gatherer past, most people appreciate being out in nature.  After the transition people had to really “work” for a living, that is they had to spend much of their time doing such things as plowing fields, tasks they weren’t naturally wired to enjoy. 

It is said that play is the work of the child.  Some people I know have nostalgia for childhood as a wonderful time of such endless “work.”   As they grew up these people gradually transitioned into adulthood, where they have to work at jobs they often hate.  I think this sort of nostalgia is an artifact of civilization, and I’d predict that if you talked to a group of hunter gatherers they wouldn’t have such a depressing perspective, because the “work” they are doing as adults is just as enjoyable to them as play is to a child.  If this idea is correct, then in a sense many people know somewhat what a hunter gatherer life was like.  If you were raised in a setting that allowed you to play outside in nature, and had an otherwise normal childhood, all you have to do is to remember what it was like to be out of second grade for the summer playing with your friends in the woods.  I don’t want to paint a too idealistic picture because not everything was always going well for hunter gatherers, but then it isn’t always going well in childhood either.

Before the Fall Evidence for a Golden Age By Steve Taylor

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Steve Taylor’s points in his article, but these are spot on as far as I’m concerned:

…”Many of the world’s cultures have myths that refer to an earlier time when life was much easier, and human beings were less
materialistic and lived in harmony with nature and each other. In ancient Greece and Rome this was known as the Golden Age; in China it
was the Age of Perfect Virtue, in India it was the Krita Yuga (Perfect Age); while the Judeo-Christian tradition has the story of
the garden of Eden. These myths tell us that, either as a result of a long degeneration or a sudden and dramatic “Fall,” something “went
wrong.” Life became much more difficult and full of suffering, and human nature became more corrupt. In Taoist terms, whereas the
earliest human beings followed the Way of Heaven and were a part of the natural harmony of the Universe, later human beings became
separated from the Tao, and became selfish and calculating.  Many of these myths make clear references to the hunter-gatherer way
of life – for example, the Greek historian Hesiod states that during the Golden Age “the fruitful earth bore [human beings] abundant fruit
without stint,” while the early Indian text the Vaya Purana states that early human beings “frequented the mountains and seas, and did
not dwell in houses” (i.e. they lived a non-sedentary way of life).  The garden of Eden story suggests this too. Originally Adam and Eve
ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, until they were forced to leave the garden and forced to “work hard and sweat to make the soil
produce anything.” It appears that, at least in part, these myths are a kind of “folk memory” of the pre-agricultural way of life. The
agricultural peoples who worked harder and longer, had shorter life spans and suffered from a lot more health problems must have looked
at the old hunter-gatherer way of life as a kind of paradise.”…

Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends by Mary Ruebush

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Author Dr. Mary Ruebush is an expert in medical genetics, microbiology, and immunology.   On a radio call in show online she discusses the hygiene hypothesis, which is the theory that we need germs in order to be healthy.  With one caller she discussed the fact that researchers are experimenting with helminthic (worm) therapy.  

“the most delightful sights for a parent should be a young child covered in dirt from an active afternoon of outdoor play.” Her thesis, reiterated throughout, is that obsessive cleanliness is counterproductive: a “young, naïve immune system” needs exposure to germs “to build the ability to produce the right response quickly.” Arguing that evolution has conditioned us to coexist with the microscopic threats around us-a human body typically harbors “some 90 trillion microbes”

Placenta Eating to Avoid the Baby Blues

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Some groups, such as Placenta, strongly believe that new mothers should engage in placentophagy, or consuming the placenta.  They believe this is nature’s way of reducing post partum depression, lessening bleeding, increasing milk production, and helping the uterus to return to normal size after birth.  If placentophagy were widespread in humans during the Paleolithic, evolution might have selected for this as a natural healthful practice.  This wouldn’t be surprising since many animals do it.