Resistance in Rewilding
When I think of “resistance movements” I envision a small group of people resisting against a much larger and all-powerful militarized machine. To think of civilization as an all-powerful death machine, the idea of resisting makes me feel small and paralyzed. But when viewed through the eyes of rewilding, resistance looks and feels very different.
Civilization works as way of life that attempts to domesticate, to tame, to make dependent (read: enslave) the whole world. Most basically it fuels its population growth through the domestication of plants. It cannot exist without domestication. It also must work constantly to make its domesticated members so; brain washing people through television and schooling, genetically engineering plants, growing meat in petri dishes, etc. Civilization does so much work to keep the world domesticated because domestication works as a form of resistance against the natural flow of the world, which always wants to rewild.
When a tree’s roots slowly tear up concrete, the tree does not resist the concrete, the concrete resists the tree. The tree just lives its life the way all wild things do. Plants do what they can with their resources to keep the world wild. Dams resist the natural flow of a river. Over many thousands of years, if left alone, the water would whittle the dam down to nothing. The water never resisted the dam. It only did what water does to keep the world wild.
Populations of wild plants and animals that wild humans could eat for food have nearly disappeared through civilization’s domestication. Wild humans, as elements integral to the landscape, require an undomesticated land in order to live. If we mean to rewild, it implies that like the water and trees doing what they can to rewild the planet, rewilding humans need to use the our unique, in-born tools to rewild the world.
For example; civilization has domesticated the Columbia River and all her tributaries killing nearly all of the wild salmon who once lived there. If Cascadians want to live as wild humans, they will need to rewild the Columbia River. Of course, the river itself works as fast as its water can to break away the dam. Unfortunately for the fish and other members of Cascadia, the water alone cannot work fast enough to rewild the river. But rewilding humans, whose ability to make tools comes as naturally as a trees ability to grow roots, can work much faster to undomesticate that river.
Rewilding an entire river may seem out of the ordinary for indigenous cultures. That involves the scale to which civilization has brought us. In Daniel Quinn’s The Tales of Adam, he uses a metaphor about a wounded lion. If a lion starts killing more than it needs, Adam says he would hunt down the lion and kill it because, â€œthat is a lion gone mad.â€ Worried the lion would wreak havoc on the ecosystem, he would hunt it and kill it so as to prevent that from happening. I doubt that hunting lions felt like a favorable task that any ordinary person would partake inâ€¦ especially lions gone mad as they no doubt have less predictability than sane lions. A task such as that would definitely not look as the tribesman going about his daily business, but it would fit in with the daily business of maintaining and care-taking the land.
Like the wounded lion who takes at random and more than he needs, civilization works as a culture that has â€œgone mad.â€ Like the hunter who has the balls (or ovals) and the skills to hunt down and kill that lion, those rewilding humans with the balls (or ovals) and the skills to remove a dam it would not look like your ordinary day of pruning your premaculture garden or checking your trap-lines, but still it would fit in with the daily business of maintaining and caretaking the land. Hunting down a lion did not require a big military operation (though to smaller scale indigenous peoples it may have felt like such). But removing a dam may require something of a more grand scale as well.
I think such actions will be dictated by whether a band of rewilding humans stands at the front lines of civilizations boundary or the further reaches already out of civilization control, as well as how far civilizations domestication reaches, with technology, into others landbases. For example, though someone may live in the Canadian Rockies, far from militarized civilization, as long as those dams on the Columbia River stay in tact, they prevent salmon from getting to the rockies. This means that the rockies still fall in the map. If the natives of old had dammed the river and disallowed other natives upriver from receiving fish, you can bet some shit went down. Similarly, if humans plan to rewild in the rockies, theyâ€™ll need to think about how civilization can keep them domesticated from afar. Of course, if we take into consideration the civilization enduced climate crisis, we see that civilization will try to keep us domesticated no matter where we rewild…
Many argue over whether or not actions like blowing up a dam will bring civilization down or merely strengthen it. To wild humans, an argument like that makes no sense. Like arguing over whether or not the tree whose roots tear up the sidewalk will bring down civilization or strengthen it. Yes, the tree may get cut down and the street repaved. But civilization will never have the power to cut them all down, to repave all of those streets. A dandelion growing in a suburban lawn, a tree ripping apart the street, an earthquake tearing down buildings, and rewilding humans dismantling logging equipment seems as natural a process as taking out the trash feels to the civilized. I don’t see a rewilding human blowing up a dam as resistance, but as the natural world going about its daily routines… with a little tenacity.
Many of the proponents who argue against such actions say that “civilization will just rebuild.” The idea that civilization will go on resisting the roots of a tree, cut it down and pave another road, does not stop the tree from growing roots. Similarly, whether or not civilization will continue to resist the flow of water and build another dam does not stop the actions of rewilding humans. The forces of nature at work, whether we mean trees growing roots, water rushing to the ocean or wild humans caretaking the land, will continue to undomesticate the world regardless of civilization’s growing or diminishing resistance to them.
The mythologists of civilization use the actions of rewilding humans to further their own destruction and may hunt down and kill rewilding humans, but they will never kill them all. Deep down we all have the genetic code to live wild lives, despite the external memetic system of domestication that most of us currently subscribe to. As civilization collapses more people will realize the need to rewild and will have more and more success rewilding body, mind, river, country, forest, farm and city.
Of course, you donâ€™t need to necessarily blow it up. As long as you remove it and rewild the river. I think it comes down to scale, bioregion and particular rewilding groups discussions. Do Cascadians need to rewild the Columbia to have a softer crash here in Cascadia? If so, how does one rewild the river? Bombs could work, what else? etc. etc.
Resistance or Rewilding? Same actions, different perspectives. Some may argue that this merely sounds like semantics and that may prove true. Some people may feel empowered by the resistance paradigm, and others may not. I see it as a paradigm shift due to the different emotional responses I personally experience with these words. When I turn the resistance paradigm on its head and see civilization working as a small resistance movement against the much larger and more powerful natural world, I feel empowered; civilization does not have the power to resist the flow of the wild world.
When we join up with the wild forces of the world, when we rewild, we become unstoppable.
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