rewilding author, teacher, & catalyst

Cities Vs. Rewilding

I can’t help but feel like many people still have purist values when it comes down to understanding rewilding. I often hear people say “if you want to rewild, shouldn’t you go live out in the wilderness!?” Rewilding means un-doing domestication. Cities mark the most domesticated places in the world. Rewilding in the city has no contradictory values; it just means more work in some ways, less in others.

Cities represent the apex of civilization, they give civilization its name. Everything in the city comes from the country and wilderness. The majority of pollution and disease exists in densely population areas like cities. Un-domesticating yourself in a city feels like taking a walk on the interstate; it goes against the break-neck speed and momentum of civilization. That doesn’t mean it has no merit, it means it will prove extremely difficult. If we think in terms of the collapse, cities look like the last places to open up for rewilding, the last places to un-domesticate.

As much as I believe the notion of “wilderness” as an untouched place does not accurately represent reality, I still see a large division between wilderness (a more wild place) and urban (a nearly completely domesticated place). Civilization has tainted every place on this earth, and yet some much, much more than others. Let’s face it; the more wild places have a larger opportunity for rewilding. They make rewilding richer, easier and more fun. This leads to a deeper connection to place than I have experienced in quite some time.

Waging a war against civilization while living in a city doesn’t look like the smartest strategy for those who wish to survive through collapse. Trouble lies around every corner. Whether you call it a mugger, a rapist, a cop, a car, a drunk, your boss, toxified air… blah blah blah. I don’t mean to say that those dangers don’t exist out in the country, but they exist less. Civilization X 10 = Cities. Country = Civilization รƒยท 10. You see less people out here, you have less civilized problems. We all have heard the statistics that your chances of attack while wandering alone in the wilderness have no comparison to wandering alone in the city. Predators don’t go to the middle of nowhere to find prey, the go to where they will have an easy time catching them.

A cities greatest weakness (population density requiring the importation of resources) can also work as its greatest strength to people who rewild; cities work as large social networks. Most people in cities have much higher education than those in rural areas. Cultural change happens in cities and filters out. This comes from the sharing of culture and ideas. Contrary to the country where neighbors used to get the news from word of mouth and not FoxNews via satellite TV. This may change as more people & media finds their way onto the internet, but having a solar-powered satellite internet hook-up out in the boonies doesn’t look sustainable either. Face to face social networking & information exchange may prove the most valuable resource a city can provide to those who rewild.

If we see the city as a resource for social networking, we can use it to our advantage, leveraging social connections to build rewilding cultures outside of the city. For example, we can use the larger market of Portland to market classes in order to make more money and reach more people, than hold classes where the wild things live and eventually buy land out there. In a funny way, rewilding does the opposite of a city; it exports people & social “resources” out of the city and into the wild.

This doesn’t make the country infallible. In the city, we consume the resources brought from the country. In the country I watch the extraction of resources, the devouring of life; the countless clear-cuts, imprisoned and tortured animals, poisoned crops burning through the soil. This feels like the worst part of living in the country. In the city, you can buy your meat without notice of how it lived, the wood that makes your house doesn’t look like a logging truck carrying the corpses of freshly murdered forests. You can’t have the satisfaction of disassociation in the country the way you can in the city. This makes it harder psychologically (in some ways) to live in the country, but at least you can see where the “resources” come from. Out here, I see exactly what the city does to the land. And what the city offers up as a resource; diversity of people and perspectives, the country lacks. FoxNews plays on every bars television screen. I see Jesus Saves & American Pride bumper stickers every where I turn. But in the end, at this point in time, the pros and cons don’t match up. The payoff feels worth it.

Over the past month and a half I have experienced city withdrawal. I have experienced nostalgia for the years I spent drinking and sleeping around and experiencing the “night life” culture of the city, even though I hated those years while living them. I have felt completely uncomfortable and felt “bearing-less,” without a 3D neurological map corresponding to the physical places in my life. I have felt afraid of not looking “right” (or “too gay”) to prejudice country folk and getting beat up. I have argued with Penny Scout over our decision to move out here. The painful withdrawal reached its climax last week when I found out that most fruit you buy at the store came from the same “mother tree” that we have cloned over and over again for hundreds of years through a perverse method called “grafting.” (more on that later) The same shocking feeling I experienced at 5 when I found out that my burger came from a cow.

Four key elements have aloud me to make it through city-withdrawal; 1) my family lives here now, 2) I have a girlfriend who lives with me and rewilds with me, 3) I have a large yard to learn gardening and permaculture 4) I have a job at an awesome company that does its best (in civilized terms). I have family support, love, land and an income.

My addiction finally broke this week when my buddy Billy came out and we tromped through the foothills of the Cascades and didn’t do anything special other than express our natural curiosity for living wild, and had a grand adventure I will never forget. We tracked bobcat, raccoon, aplodontia, foraged fresh greens, met never-before-seen plants, had secret waterfalls reveal themselves, all without any more effort than simply rolling out of bed. Out here in the woods, I don’t need to make up an adventure, an adventure will find me. In ten minutes I can drive to one of the largest wild places in Oregon. I could ride my bike there in 45 minutes. In 30 minutes I can drive where no one will ever find me. I could ride my bike there in a few hours. In the country, I can spend tons of time alone, learning the plants, breathing fresh air and avoiding cops, robbers and hippies. This week I finally feel comfortable, at home, in Molalla. Now that I have settled in out here, I do not feel alone. I do not crave the city, nor its neon-bright addictive culture. I have a foothold and now I can start importing my friends from the city. Who will come with me? Show me the money!

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3 Comments on “Cities Vs. Rewilding

  1. there is a greater density of opossum,raccoon, and skunks in the city than there ever was in the wilderness.