Primitive Living Skills

In our society it has become hip to be "green." Unfortunately, the mainstream "green" movement is not much more than big business creatively marketing their products to a yuppie generation who thinks that global problems can be solved by pressing a button while continuing to party on. "Dude! Where is my remote?"

This is not to say that there are no people with good intentions in the "green" movement. However, I have found the usual approach to sustainability to seriously lack true appeal and to generate more philosophical conflicts than actual solutions. Mostly, this is due to the fact that people generally start from our present status quo, realize that it is unsustainable, and then wonder what kinds of things they can deprive themselves of in order to reach "zero impact" or "zero emissions." The problem with this is that it generates
1) feelings of guilt about not wanting to give up a standard of living we have become addicted to, 2) a fear of not being able to cope with a perceived lower standard of living, 3) an overemphasis on using unsustainable technologies to create "sustainable products," 4) a general feeling of going backward in time instead of moving forward, 5) endless discussions about whether a certain technology or product we don't want to give up could ever be sustainable, and 6) the crazy belief that you can actually live without making any impact.

Speaking from experience, this approach just doesn't lead anywhere unless we're happy to pat ourselves on the back for being so conscious and enlightened about all these issues. And so I decided to try another approach. Instead of starting in the mess we're already in and diving into the gloomy abyss of giving up my stuff, I wondered whether it wouldn't be more effective to start from a point where sustainable living is already a reality and, then, moving forward from there.

That point wasn't very hard to find. For 99% of our history as humans on this planet we have lived sustainably. For tens of thousands of years our ancestors lived in balance with all the other creatures and the systems that sustain life on Earth. At the Stone Age level, everything comes directly from the Earth and returns directly to the Earth. The circle remains unbroken.

Of course, after many white settlers of the American continent preferred living in the wild with the Natives instead of tilling the fields of western civilization, our cultural propaganda was quick to paint grotesque pictures of primitive life in order to dissuade any more desertion. Our cultural mind now conjures up primitive people as dragging their wife out their caves and banging each other on the head with a large wooden club, perpetually at the edge of starvation but too dumb to do anything about it.

Thankfully, modern anthropology is correcting this picture and is recognizing more and more that we've only barely scratched the surface of the knowledge and wisdom indigenous people actually had. Indeed, it is now obvious that Native people were masters at interacting with their environment so that plenty of food and other culturally important items were available for the present as well as future generations.

Therefore, starting our journey toward sustainability should indeed start with the technologies, methods, and items tested and approved by millions of individuals over tens of thousands of years spent at the Stone Age level.

The advantages to this approach are that 1) we already start where we want to be instead of sustainability being something we just might be able to achieve in some unknown time frame, 2)
we are empowered by the knowledge we have to take care of our basic needs, 3) we can confidently move forward with a solid understanding and practice of the skills we already possess, 4) we can feel good about what we're doing right now while still being aware of the areas we need to improve on, and 5) we realize that all the basic chores required by a simple lifestyle are amazingly more rewarding than pushing a button or paying someone else to take care of them.

Thus, we are proud and happy to collect wild foods, make our own clothes out of skins we tan ourselves, make our own medicines from our plant allies, and practice other such skills that enrich our lives.