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Thursday, October 3. 2013
Basically, it cannot be done. You'll starve to death.
Somewhat related to that post is a film recommendation from my sis: Happy People. She wondered why they don't just go on the dole and drink like the Eskimos do.
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Although, as a gardener, I sometimes feel as if I've spent my life warring against varmint hordes and (sometimes) neighbors who filch tempting produce, agriculture is an incredibly easy way to produce food compared to foraging. Not to mention, no danger of eating poison berries or toadstools by mistake. Or being eaten by bears or others competing with one for the tasty wild tidbits. I am curious to know if that whole "rabbit starvation" theory is true ( about one not being able to survive on lean meat only) as there are areas where there is little edible for humans but a few scrawny critters one could shoot.
Whereas on a farm? Quite apart from the meat, milk, eggs, etc. Certain crops are incredibly dense calorifically and one has a surplus, which means one can do something else with one's life some of the time besides scavenge for food. How many bushmen have the time to write novels or get PhDs? They may be brilliant, but scraping out a hunter gatherer existence is so consuming and precarious. In addition, there are only a few parts of the world where there is abundant food to be foraged (probably one could map early humanoid settlements based on these zones). If I wre to try to exist on what I can forage in northern New England, for example, I would be a very lean and hungry dog very quickly.
None of this is to say that it isn't a VERY GOOD THING to know how to forage for food in the wild. when necessary Just that clearing a good plot of land is a more fruitful way to live. Or are we females just boring gardeners by temperament?
if your home range is the African savanna -- covered with hildabeests, zebras and other large game -- I'd guess meeting your calorie intake requirements isn't an enormous problem.
as Wm McNeill argues in Plagues and Peoples, the primitive agricultural lifestyle was more labor intensive than pastoral one, and brought with it new and chronic bacterial and parasitical infections, as well as laying the foundation for the division of labor that brought us civilisation and, ultimately, congress and the presidency.
I agree, and all the recent research on factory farms as reservoirs for potential pandemics corroborate it. Shepherds ate better than (and were healthier than) people growing lentils and barley. Better quality protein and more fat were probably a factor.
But I was thinking of how difficult it is to forage now that we humanoids are living in areas formerly inhospitable to our species. And now that pesky things like fences and property rights hinder our roaming.
ALso, I was thinking of the great skill it takes to be a hunter, for example, relative to what it takes to plant and tend a garden (it's so easy, a cavewoman could have done it, if they'd figured it out). One can deputize kids to weed, keep birds and rabbits away, dogs to guard, etc. Whereas it takes Eskimos years to develop the skill necessary to hunt well enough to feed a family.
Also, if one lives in an area where one isn't allowed to hunt (laws) and can't trespass to find morels and raspberries, it's at least feasible to grow butternut squash, potatoes, apples, beans and corn and assorted summertime delights like tomatoes and cucumbers and salad in the back yard. In my present neighborhood, such things lure enough squirrels and raccoons and rabbits and deer that one could balance out the meal quite handily if not for neighbors who would object to one hurting the Wild Kingdom off the deck.
A Russian family, the Lykovs, survived on their own for about 40 years...but the Mother died of starvation and they were reportedly all about to starve when found in 1978. The surviving daughter still lives in the wild, but does so by raising animals and farming. It's much more efficient than hunting/gathering.
3300 calories a day? Sounds a bit high to me. I rarely take in 1800 calories a day and can't lose weight. I exersize moderately and bicycle 30 to 45 miles a week.
Now add to that hiking 20 miles a day, climbing a few trees, running a few miles after that animal you shot but didn't kill instantly. Then running away from that bear that found your kill first.
And remember that if you're not in a heated home, your body spends a lot of energy just staying warm at night.
That said, the article is a bit ridiculous.
As stated in its comments, living off the land has been done and is being done routinely by people all over the world.
The secret is not to go it alone, but to combine your effort.
Where one person alone can't gather nearly enough food for himself in a day, half a dozen to a dozen (much more and it becomes impossible again) working together and living a semi-nomadic lifestyle can do so quite well (though not in the monoculture forests that we now call "nature" in much of north America and Europe, forests created for the sole purpose of providing a place for the elite to hold their trophy hunts and loggers to harvest nice straight trees to turn into timber and sides of wooden ships (yes, that's a main reason forests now look the way they look, the planting distances between trees being optimised to provide long straight trunks to turn into masts and timber for building ships). Those forests are rather devoid of any other life, especially compared to the natural forests they replaced.
Reminds me of the time I picked up an old geology text in the library. It had a whole section devoted to how to plan and equip an expedition into the wilderness. There were lists of how many barrels of flour, tubs of this and that, mules and horses, etc., would be needed. Quite an eye opener.
Greetings, B.D., and congratulations on finding a Netflix gem. May I also recommend Troll Hunter and Ballerina?
I second your sister's recommendation! It is a remarkable film.
I've read many accounts of expeditions 1700's - 1900's and although you would assume a person back then would have more wood survival ability in general than a person today, they always seemed to include a "skilled hunter(s) in their groups.
Thanks for tipping us off to that post. I read it and the linked post on Chris McCandless of Into the Wild fame. Fascinating stuff.
When you read about the likes of Eric Rudolph, and that guy recently caught in Idaho (?), they all survived by being on the edge of civilization and doing stuff like raiding dumpsters and people's homes.
The native Americans were very good at livng off the land. But they needed an entire vilage to accomplish this and dieoffs due to insufficient food supplies was common. Also for most native Americans their body was much smaller then people today. A typical Apache out huntng or raiding might weigh 120 lbs. Some tribes that lived n areas with more dependable food supplies might have higher average weight but in general primative people looked like skinny short teenagers. Their calorie requirements were smaler as well.
Also what living off the land means to you or I looks more like venison or roast duck but to the aboriginal people it looked like grubs, insects, worms and foul tasting roots. Just getting past the look and taste of the food they ate would be the biggest problem for modern man.