Friday, April 12, 2019

The Case for Hunting and Gathering (And Trapping and Fishing)

I strongly believe that humans are hardwired to be hunter gatherers. Whether you believe we evolved on the African savanna or were created in the garden of eden people were designed to acquire their sustenance from nature's abundance.

In ancient times the majority of people's lives revolved around acquiring food. Yes we still needed to build shelters and find water but these were relatively simple and straightforward tasks that didn't require too much time or effort. Hunting on the other hand led us to create the first tools, spears and knives to take down and process game. It also gave us an important reason to speak so that we could coordinate a hunt and express a strategy to take down large and dangerous game like mammoths. Watch any documentary about modern hunter gatherers and you'll realize that most of what they talk about is food.

In modern times even people in industrialized countries show signs of being hunter gatherers. Look at the concept of shopping. People go to grocery stores and malls to “forage” for food and goods and many find this a very pleasurable experience even to the point where they would call it a hobby. For many people this is the closest thing we have to actually foraging in the wild for our food. Then there are people who like to go hiking and exploring the backcountry, which helps fill this need to see new territory and find out what's over the next ridge. In ancient times this wanderlust helped us scout for game and find new hunting territory as well as productive fruit and nut areas to forage.

Then there are people who just love to hunt like myself. There is a huge industry around hunting in America today.  It makes you wonder why would people want to spend so much time, money and effort wanting to go out and kill something, drag it out of the woods and butcher it themselves when they could much more easily just go buy meat at the store? I think the answer is that there is something innate in people that gives them an immense amount of pleasure for pursuing and harvesting wild game. I believe it's just what we're meant to do. This feeling is somewhat hard to explain to somebody who's never hunted before, but it is commonly expressed by first time hunters how they feel this deep connection with the hunt that they never realized they could experience before.

Like hunting, practically everyone who has ever gone out and picked wild berries would describe it as an all around great experience. You get to be out in nature and there are these sweet little treats just growing wild without any human intervention. It's hard not to smile when picking an eating wild berries. Even people who plant berry bushes or an apple tree in their yard will tell you how cool and fun it is to get food right off the branch. It's just an experience we are designed to enjoy because for centuries it helped keep us alive.

Another huge reason I advocate harvesting wild foods is because they are simply healthier than modern foods. Wild foods generally have much higher nutrient contents than their domestic counterparts. For plants a big part of this is because in nature there are no pesticides or fertilizers applied to them so they are forced to create their own in the plants themselves. Also the fact they generally grow in healthier undisturbed soils with all the soil organisms that help distribute nutrients throughout the entire plant. Then you have the wild game that is generally eating mostly wild foods unlike many domestic animals which eat mostly processed feed. Since the wild game are eating mostly a variety of nutrient dense wild plants then their meat becomes more nutrient dense as well.

Many now argue that the modern diet is so deficient in nutrients that it is actually a huge reason why things like cancer, heart disease and many other ailments are becoming so common. People are essentially becoming malnourished because the foods they eat are so nutrient poor causing our bodies to become weaker and less resilient. To me this makes sense and I believe if everyone ate wild food then at the very least many of the common diseases we see today would be less prevalent.  

Another huge reason I advocate hunting and gathering is because it helps us place a real value on nature. There is this common mindset today that is shared by people who claim to be environmentalists that we should completely leave nature alone and just take ourselves out of the picture. They might advocate that hunting and fishing and any kind of human development be banned in our wild spaces because they think that it is better for nature if humans are completely out of the picture. I think this is hugely misguided. While I do agree that human activity has done some major harm to the natural world, that doesn't mean humans are fundamentally bad for nature. In fact it is hunters and other outdoorsman that help fund the vast majority of wildlife conservation. That is because we are able to place an actual value on nature because it is able to produce things for us that we need and want. Hunters give money to fund wildlife conservation because they actually will get a return on their investment by having a better hunting experience with more plentiful game. If we get to the point where we ban hunting then we will have no real reason to value nature. Yeah it will be pretty to look at and the fresh air is always nice, but it doesn't have any real tangible benefit for people and  nobody will really see value in conserving it.

The reality of the situation is that people are meant to interact with and be a part of nature, not to look at it like this foreign separate thing. It's true we have degraded lots of ecosystems, cut down vast forests and desertified once fertile areas, but I believe we have the ability to heal the land as well by working with nature to make it possibly even more productive than it had been previous to human intervention. By using techniques like permaculture we can establish healthy and productive ecosystems in areas that were once barren and lacked hardly any wildlife. And if we did this to the world's degraded lands then we could once again rely on nature to help us meet our needs especially when it comes to getting healthy nutritious food and we would have a better reason to then preserve it's bounty.

Some people say we cannot feed the world on a diet of wild foods, because these wild ecosystems are just not productive enough. I think this is true for now, but if we started turning places like the midwest back into fertile prairie and savanna, instead of the industrialized monocultures of corn, soybeans and wheat, then we could turn them into productive hunting and foraging meccas that could potentially feed even more people than what is currently produced there. I'd advocate planting fruit trees, berry bushes, edible meadow plants, and nut trees. I'd bring back the elk and the bison and encourage current populations of deer, bears and turkeys to expand. I'd create ponds, swamps and wetlands to create habitat for fish and waterfowl. It would become a paradise for us to feed ourselves from the land and it would be more productive, sustainable and resilient than any kind of modern agriculture going on right now. At least that is my vision. So if we were able to create a paradise like this then yes I believe we would be able to feed the world off wild foods.

So that is my case for hunting and gathering (and trapping and fishing). To me, almost any way you look it, it seems like it would be a better way for people to feed themselves. It would be better for us, better for the environment and more productive and sustainable.  I'm not saying we'd have to live primitively like ancient hunter gatherers, on the contrary I think we still could benefit from all our modern technology and economy, but the main difference is we would be healthier, happier and just better off just because that's what harvesting and eating wild foods can do for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment