My Personal Rewilding Story
By Peter Michael Bauer
I believe that civilization fundamentally destroys biodiversity and is in the process of an extended collapse. In response I have decided to dedicate my life to walking away from this culture, and to create a new culture based on ancestral hunter-gatherers. In short, I live as a “hunter-gatherer wannabe” in search of meaning and community in the time of ecological and cultural collapse. As a multi-disciplinary artist I feel I have a duty to mythologize this process to inspire others to join the rewilding renaissance. I write stuff, make videos, take pictures, make designs, teach classes and use the urbanscout blog as an educational public exhibition space.
At 16 I began to independently study the structure, history, and future of our civilization after reading Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael.” This book inspired me to become an anthropological auto-didact. I came to the conclusion that civilization will not, cannot, reach a point of sustainability, but come crashing to the ground. If I wanted to survive through this collapse, I needed to learn how to hunt and gather and live with the earth. This became more than simply an idea; it became more like a religion. I dropped out of high school and ran away from home to begin learning how to live in an indigenous way. Since the late 90’s I have learned, practiced, and instructed people in these ancient skills through various organizations. Even though I teach these skills, I will always feel vastly ignorant of what even a young child in a hunter-gatherer culture would know and sense of their own environment. I do not consider myself an “expert,” but rather, a catalyst of rewilding. Meaning, my life’s work is to be a catalyst for the rewilding renaissance. Not a guru, just a match lighter. I decided to undo the process of my domestication yet remain within the largely domesticated urban environment of my hometown Portland, Oregon and the more rural and wild areas surrounding it.
As you may imagine, many physical, emotional, social, philosophical and existential difficulties arise as I attempt to rewild myself from a total city slicker born and raised to work as a wage slave in a coffee shop, into the lifestyle of an indigenous hunter-gatherer living off the land in a sustainable way. Indigenous children had the abilities to survive in the wilderness without their culture for several weeks at the age of around 9 to 12 years old. Unlike those kids, I don’t have the luxury of a million year old sustainable culture to immerse myself in for 9-12 years to prepare myself for such a rite of passage. Basically I work towards making an immersion “curriculum” for myself, imitating what I know of hunter-gatherer cultures. What I figure out, I teach to others. I do not believe a person can take a few lectures on survival or primitive living and then go do it. I believe it takes years of practice, generations of committed cultures in fact. I have created as close as I can the safety and security children in primitive cultures had while slowly, carefully and respectfully learning to survive without those comforts.
I do not intend to replicate the kid from the book Into the Wild or the guy in the documentary Grizzly Man or the TV show Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild. Cheating death, extreme situations, running away to live alone in the woods or “making it back out alive” stem from a civilized fear of nature and lack of community. I understand the elements can kill and I will not let myself freeze, starve, get eaten, die from sickness, etc. I take baby steps toward a primitive lifestyle; slowly but surely leaving civilization behind . Therefore my health and hygiene, like that of the wild animal, lie at the top of my priorities.
You might think that leaving civilization behind implies leaving the city. However, I cannot run away to the wilderness because my family and friends cannot join me out there, and I cannot live without them. Humans, I believe, have evolved over time as socially organized animals. A lone human, hell even a dozen humans in the woods don’t come close to our socially designed way of living. A lone bee cannot live without its hive. Humans can function, but not truly live, without their tribe. My “tribe” (for lack of a better word) lives in Portland and the surrounding area. Therefore when I say I have left civilization behind , I speak of course, about the culture or economy of civilization, not the physical space in which civilization resides (the urban jungle). Though I do spend lots of time in the country and wilderness as well.
I built the website www.urbanscout.org to catalog my urban-hunter-gatherer-grower adventure. Enjoy.