Out of Civilitopia


gathering

Women gathering murnong and other food,
as sketched by squatter Henry Godfrey, on November 1, 1843.
Drawing from the artist’s sketchbook,
La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The nutshell story of civilization begins with an evolutionary adaptation based on humans’ advanced intelligence setting them apart from other animals. Civilized humans see, experience and understand the world objectively, rationally, as it really is. Their advanced technological abilities make them the most adaptable, prolific, thriving species. All this combined with humankind’s ethics gives them the intrinsic right to assume the role as stewards of all others (who are rightfully used to support and progress the advancement of civilization).

This fascinating tale has now culminated into life worldwide writhing in dystopic drumbeats of civilization-initiated environmental collapses. A growing lot of dissenting humans are rumbling, freeing themselves by reading between the lines that this Civilitopia they were fed is a storyline birthed, owned and shape-shifted by rulers who enforce its following to the detriment of all. Just decades ago civilization’s patriarchal elite propagated the hype: Humans are hunters by nature, and that is what accounts for their success as a species. Why was caveman hunting selected for the podium, and not murder or rape or infanticide or cannibalism or causing species extinctions when there was also evidence of those in pre-history humans? When evidence of some hunting was found, why did that result in the practice of eating animals being applied to all humans going back to origins? Did the machismo leaders cherry pick a more alluring ‘killer ape’ early ancestry to justify current carnistic practices? Was it strategic that this lie also boosted the noxious ego to fuel the march toward the magical kingdom of Civilitopia? (For fun, google images of the word ‘caveman’, then ‘cavewoman’ to visualize the propaganda.) The mass of followers didn’t ask to be born into this shameful story, ensnared in a social structure where children with instincts to forage are systematically trained to proudly bear the blood placed on their hands. No life, wild or domesticated, want to live in a land scarred with ghosts of living nature communities replaced by rows of monocrops and caged bred animals to feed the story for it thrive. In these times, human senses and gut intuitions are awakening, recognizing the horrific realities as the official narrative’s foundation cracks.

Thorns of truth are stinging through sciences, like paleoanthropology. Evidence left behind is reinterpreted and new evidence is concluding that early humans were more prey than predator, that Neanderthals adapted their foodways to the local environment to the extent that some subsisted on a vegan diet, that the advent of organized hunting resulted in mass extinctions and rigid sex roles, that women largely provided the staple subsidence through gathering, and that the impetus for certain rituals and myths was to overcome the innate aversion humans feel to harming animals. Tough truths are hitting soft and hard sciences alike, such as: humans are biological herbivores with some behaving as omnivores either by privileged choice or due to decreased nature foraging opportunities brought on by civilization’s destruction of humans’ indigenous habitat and overpopulation. Some out of bounds truths merge with others filling in the picture of a wholly different human story, like the previous example combined with this: humans eating a plant diet have the healthiest bodies, with raw vegan being the healthiest, and conversely the more animal products a human consumes the worse his health, even amongst indigenous ‘hunter-gatherers’ eating wild animals. Truth bombs such as ‘humans are folio-frugivore by nature’ are resulting in furious fights by those desperately clenching the old storyline, or parts of it, as it crumbles.

If the human story is to be rewritten in a way that recognizes the inevitable doom of civilization and places humans back into nature, perhaps it will go something like this: Humans came down from the trees walking two-legged foraging for plants. There were many food and shelter opportunities along the sunny forest edge. As prey, they were constantly vigilant to signs of danger. For a while they took solace returning to trees by day to forage and by night to sleep. A quick environmental change left them moving on to other lands where they adapted their lifeways. Dire hunger drove them to scavenge off the remains of other animals’ kills. When plentiful plant food opportunities returned, they continued scavenging as supplement sporadically. They invented stone tools first to mash fibrous plant foods such as tubers, then to break open scavenged bones for marrow.

 

They discovered how to control fire, leading not just increased calorie intake of new-fangled cooked meat and vegetable foods, but to many social changes such as specialization, hierarchal roles, and organized hunting. They began thinking symbolically, expressing their thoughts through art and language. Many species of humans moved across lands. Some groups met and interacted. Some died out. One species of humans outlived the others and spread across all lands, increasingly impacting and shaping plant and animal communities. Most large mammals survived in Africa because they gradually co-adapted with humans, learning to fear and avoid the inventive ape. As they spread out of Africa, Homo sapiens wiped out swaths of megafauna within a short time. They planned into the future, honed technologies, and progressively intensified control of life and death of themselves and others.

 

To control their food supply, they began storing food, settling into lifeways based on herding and breeding more docile animals into submission on swaths of wild animals’ habitats. They soon settled even more firmly with food storing cultures based on agriculture, breeding plants into monocrops and animals into pens, encroaching farther still into free animals’ homes. Through this process they domesticated themselves. They developed a sense of ownership of land, plants, animals, and each other. Settled human populations living in escalating stratified power structures with one another and collectively as colonizers of all others slowly swelled in population. Industrialization sped the pace advancing both civilizing customs and impact on free living communities. Humans’ waning connection with wild places did not quash their longing for a life simpler, more mutualistic, more homeostatic with other life… more primal. With overpopulated humans living in structures of civilization dominating everywhere, the last of the hominids faced the choice before their evolutionary dead end, to continue heedlessly participating in civilization’s death march, or to begin the great return.

The return has a myriad of old ways with new actions based on in-between storylines. For example, being that humans have shown their ability to shift diets with environmental conditions, and that humans eating animals is distinctively devastating Earth’s living communities, will humans use their civilized intelligence to shift their diet back the one of their deep origins, taking a huge step out of civilization’s path of destruction? Will they hear and heed their primitive instincts as they were before technologies, colonization and bloodlust led them astray, catalyst by catalyst, toward the deadly dream of Civilitopia?

 

Readings:

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism and Global Conflict, David Nibert

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Richard Wrangham

The Caveman Mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the Debates Over Sex, Violence, and Science, Martha McCaughey

Children’s Literature, Domestication, and Social Foundation: Narratives of Civilization and Wilderness, Layla AbdelRahim

Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets, Yi-Fu Tuan

In a Few Centuries, Cows Could Be the Largest Land Animals Left: Throughout our entire history, humans and other hominins have selectively killed off the largest mammals. Ed Yong https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/in-a-few-centuries-cows-could-be-the-largest-land-animals-left/558323/

Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, Donna Hart and Robert Sussman

Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus, Laura S. Weyrich, Sebastian Duchene, Alan Cooper. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21674

A Northwoodsman’s Guide to Everyday Compassion, Kenneth Damro

On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, Lee Hall

Rogue Primate: Exploration of Human Domestication, John A. Livingston

An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature, Jim Mason

A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History, Matt Cartmill

Ria

ecofeminist@riseup.net

 

 

 

 

View story at Medium.com

 

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A Note on #CowAppreciationDay

auroch
One of the most haunting statements I’ve heard about race-based oppression was uttered by Randall Robinson, repeated by Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary: “The worst thing you can do to a people is to rob them of the memory of themselves.”
It bears restatement: Human liberation movements and animal liberation involve different oppressions, and the way to unravel them involves different social mechanisms. Yet there is, it seems to me, something in Robinson’s message that can inform the theory of animal liberation.
Humans have robbed our domesticated animals of their ancestors’ evolution. The free-living ancestors of today’s cows are the aurochs, now extinct. Aurochs were not particularly friendly to our ancestors; but then, they had no such interest or obligation. A group of aurochs could trample a village. We, ever the clever primates, figured out how to trap them and breed smaller, more docile animals from them, so that instead of preparing hunting parties to stalk them, we could make them accessible and push them around.
To this day, cows trample a few dozen humans to death each year—I’ve found myself chased by cows in Wales; I’ll never forget my surprise and panic—but they’ve lost their ancestral stature and relationships forever. The vegan principle does not challenge us to integrate them into pleasant scenery or human friendships; it challenges us to stop breeding them into a dependent existence. To liberate our advocacy, we need to foster in ourselves an awareness, a recognition, that other animals are not our babies, not our housemates or helpmates; that domesticated or trained animals are limited, not perfected; that the freedom of living beings in habitat, without any need to seek human rescue or shelter or companionship, is a healthy thing to want; and that the lack of it is not.
Domestication, captivity, and caregiving are often taken for symbiosis. But these actions don’t bring us into harmony with the rest of living world. We can only hope to correct (or at least stop perpetuating) what we can perceive as domination. Images of animals doing things that impress or amuse us in controlled circumstances should, instead of being classified as cute, jar our senses. They should remind us of the evolution and history they could have had, had we let them be.
Adapted from On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, by Lee Hall

Why Grandmothers May Hold The Key To

 

Grandmothers and mothers were keeping the kids fed, not man the hunter.

Fabio Consoli for NPR

A hunter with bow and arrow, in a steamy sub-Saharan savanna, stalks a big, exotic animal. After killing and butchering it, he and his hunt-mates bring it back to their families and celebrate.

About ‘How To Raise A Human’

Does raising kids have to be stressful? Is it really dangerous for babies to sleep with mom? Do chores have to be a fight? Over the next month, NPR travels around the world for ideas to make parenting easier. Sign up for NPR Health’s newsletter to get the stories delivered to your inbox.

This enduring scenario is probably what many of us have stuck in our heads about how early humans lived. It’s an image with drama and danger. And it happens to coincide with Western ideas about the division of labor and the nuclear family that were prevalent in the 1960s when this so-called “Man the Hunter” theory first emerged.

A newer body of research and theory, much of it created by women, has conjured a very different scenario. It probably looks a little more like a quirky indie film than a Hollywood blockbuster. The star of this new film? Grandma.

Kristen Hawkes is an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She tries to figure out our past by studying modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, who likely have lived in the area that is now northern Tanzania for thousands of years. Groups like this are about as close as we can get to seeing how our early human ancestors might have lived.

A Hadza hunter in Tanzania. Researchers have looked at the hunting success of the Hadza and found that they bagged an animal on 3.4 percent of their excursions.

Nigel Pavitt/Getty Images/AWL Images

Over many extended field visits, Hawkes and her colleagues kept track of how much food a wide sample of Hadza community members were bringing home. She says that when they tracked the success rates of individual men, “they almost always failed to get a big animal.” They found that the average hunter went out pretty much every day and was successful on exactly 3.4 percent of those excursions. That meant that, in this society at least, the hunting hypothesis seemed way off the mark. If people here were depending on wild meat to survive, they would starve.

 

So if dad wasn’t bringing home the bacon, who was? After spending a lot of time with the women on their daily foraging trips, the researchers were surprised to discover that the women, both young and old, were providing the majority of calories to their families and group-mates.

Mostly, they were digging tubers, which are deeply buried and hard to extract. The success of a mother at gathering these tubers correlated with the growth of her child. But something else surprising happened once mom had a second baby: That original relationship went away and a new correlation emerged with the amount of food their grandmother was gathering.

A Hadza woman digs for tubers with a digging stick.

Nigel Pavitt/Getty Images/AWL Images

She describes this finding as “mind-blowing.” In this foraging society, it turns out, grandmothers were more important to child survival than fathers. Mom and grandma were keeping the kids fed. Not Man the Hunter.

This finding led Hawkes to completely re-evaluate what she thought she knew about human evolution. Grandmothers were crucial in this environment to childhood survival. So maybe it wasn’t an accident that humans are the only great ape species in which women live so long past reproductive age. If having a helpful grandmother increased a kid’s chances of survival, natural selection may well have started selecting for older and older women. (This endowment would have passed also to human men.)

Sarah Hrdy is a primatologist at U.C. Davis who also studies connections between child-rearing and human evolution. She has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about a related topic. She says, “An ape that produced such costly, costly slow-maturing offspring as we have could not have evolved unless mothers had a lot of help.” First among these helpers, she thinks, would have been grandma – likely joined eventually by many other new helpers, who could have included fathers, aunts, uncles and siblings.

If young kids were being fed by people besides mom, she thinks that over evolutionary time, this could have led humans to develop the deep social orientation that characterizes our species – to care so much about the thoughts and intentions of other people. She says, “People often try to explain the fact that humans are so good at cooperating by saying, well, we needed to cooperate in order to succeed at big game hunting, or so that men in one group could bond with other men to go wipe out the neighboring group. What that doesn’t do is explain why these traits emerge so early.”

A Tanzanian Hadza grandmother sits in the shade with her grandchild during the 1995 dry season.

James O’Connell

She’s talking about babies and the advanced social traits that we can see even before they begin walking – like pointing, sharing and paying attention to social cues like smiling and frowning. From the standpoint of a human baby, this caregiving situation is very different than for any other species of great ape child. Baby chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas are all cared for exclusively by mom. And these primate moms are extremely protective of their babies — sometimes not even letting another ape touch the baby for months after birth.

For human babies though, other human adults are usually present right at, or shortly after, birth — first helping the mother and then later helping and feeding the baby. We are the only great ape species that does this. Human babies, Hrdy argues, have an incentive to care about what other people are doing and thinking and feeling in a way that other apes don’t. Knowing who might help and who might hurt, and learning how to appeal to the former, might be the difference between eating well or going hungry – maybe even the difference between life and death in some cases.

Michael Tomasello is a developmental psychologist at Duke University and the Max Planck Institute. After a career of comparing cognitive differences between babies and apes, he has found that other apes don’t show anywhere near the level of interest in the sharing and cooperative behaviors that emerge so early in humans: “Humans as individuals aren’t that much cleverer than other apes. It’s the fact that we can put our heads together with others and communicate and collaborate and learn from others and teach others. Human children are adapted for cooperation and shared intentionality in ways that apes aren’t.”

Tomasello originally assumed that the pro-social traits seen in human babies were preparing kids for skills they’d need as adults, in line with the Man the Hunter hypothesis. Now he thinks that Hrdy’s proposal – that human babies are so socially oriented as a result of shared child care and feeding – is a more compelling theory. The traits appear so early in a human’s life that it makes better sense that they were adapted to early childhood situations rather than adult hunting behaviors.

It’s this ability to “put our heads together,” as Tomasello puts it, that may have allowed humans to survive, thrive and spread across the globe. While the men were out hunting, grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships. In a nutshell, humanity’s success may all be dependent on the unique way our ancestors raised their kids. Thanks, Grandma.

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/07/617097908/why-grandmothers-may-hold-the-key-to-human-evolution

a people’s history of civilization

Feminist Primitivism

jzThe American anarchist, primitivist philosopher, and author John Zerzan critiques agriculture-based civilization as inherently oppressive and advocates drawing upon the life of hunter-gatherers as an inspiration for what free society should look like. Subjects of his criticism include domestication, language, symbolic thought, and the concept of time.

This book includes sixteen essays ranging from the beginning of civilization to today’s general crisis. Zerzan provides a critical perspective about civilization.

A People’s History of Civilization includes chapters about:
Patriarchy
The City and its Inmates
War Enters the Picture
The Bronze Age
The Axial Age
The Crisis of Late Antiquity
Revolt and Heresy
Modernity Takes Charge
Who Killed Ned Ludd
Cultural Luddism
Industrialism and Resistance
Decadence
WWI
Civilization’s Pathological Endgame

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Carnist logic is oft applied with bias.

For example, it screeches how ethical consumer veganism is a self-deceptive construct of civilization.

Yet it promotes buying from small, local, humane farms, or modern humans doing gardening or permaculture or inventing food forests, with excusing regard for those schemes’ modern human impact. Some of these promotions rely on growing and harvesting human bred animals, while others involve using weapons to hunt animals modern humans have selected to remain in existence.

So which is it? Do anthropocentric schemes only not apply when they involve changing diet and ways of co-existence with other animals? Is consumerist reasoning only worth engaging in when it gives one an ethical excuse to eat birds, fish, and mammals?

No two ways about it.

oral traditions continue on: acorn

oak

Question to Tom:

do you leach acorns? round my parts indigenous folks stored acorns in hollowed out cedar trunks. kinda like a frig. but is there a natural way to leach tanins that is not as daunting as long ago?

Tom’s answer:

But understand—-different species need to be treated differently—- The tannin content varies. The Apache tribe depended on the gambel oak acorns for a staple. While they were considered a vicious people— They became VERY UPSET When they were pushed off their land into areas where the gambel oak did NOT grow. They feared starvation with the loss of their customary food. The Apache ladies would harvest the acorns and bury them in a creek—under sand and rocks. They would dig them up a year later when they buried the NEW crop. But the leaching need not be so tedious. I used canyon live oak acorns indigenous to the Sierra. I was doing a caretaking thing at the time and living in a dumpy trailer. I kept hearing thunk, thud, as the acorns landed on the metal trailer house roof. I did some research and was delighted that those acorns are quick and easy to leach. The harvest was EASY! I just scooped the acorns off’n the roof. I made crackers from the ground up leached out mast. WOW! The smell—the flavor—the CONCEPT—eating the fruits of the mighty oak! Better yet—-I had a generous stash of pinon nuts. So I made pinon nut butter. Let me tell ya—I was doing a forestry maint. trip in a sequoia preserve—-AND I have NEVER eaten a more substantial food than acorn crackers smeared with pinon butter. Just a few of them would get me through the day WITH ENERGY TO SPARE! I felt as strong as an oak tree, too! The garry oaks indigenous to the NW are supposedly NOT THE BEST choice of acorns?? Haven’t tried them yet. So brushy around here and they rot away so fast. There are other oaks in parks here—-I will have to bicycle around and see what I can come up with. Must be thousands of tons of neglected acorns! A major UNtapped food source!”…different species need to be treated differently—-

The tannin content varies.

The Apache tribe depended on the gambel oak acorns for a staple.

While they were considered a vicious people—

They became VERY UPSET

When they were pushed off their land into areas where the gambel oak did NOT grow.

They feared starvation with the loss of their customary food.

The Apache ladies would harvest the acorns and bury them in a creek—under sand and rocks. They would dig them up a year later when they buried the NEW crop.

But the leaching need not be so tedious. I used canyon live oak acorns indigenous to the Sierra. I was doing a caretaking thing at the time and living in a dumpy trailer.

I kept hearing thunk, thud, as the acorns landed on the metal trailer house roof. I did some research and was delighted that those acorns are quick and easy to leach. The harvest was EASY! I just scooped the acorns off’n the roof.

I made crackers from the ground up leached out mast. WOW! The smell—the flavor—the CONCEPT—eating the fruits of the mighty oak! Better yet—-I had a generous stash of pinon nuts. So I made pinon nut butter.

Let me tell ya—I was doing a forestry maint. trip in a sequoia preserve—-AND

I have NEVER eaten a more substantial food than acorn crackers smeared with pinon butter. Just a few of them would get me through the day WITH ENERGY TO SPARE!

I felt as strong as an oak tree, too!

The garry oaks indigenous to the NW are supposedly NOT THE BEST choice of acorns??

Haven’t tried them yet. So brushy around here and they rot away so fast. There are other oaks in parks here—-I will have to bicycle around and see what I can come up with.

Must be thousands of tons of neglected acorns! A major UNtapped food source!