Domestication Vs. Rewilding

How can we define wild? Now understanding that hunter-gatherers greatly manipulated the environment, than where do we draw the line between wild and domestic? If rewilding means the process of un-doing domestication than we must examine and look at the words; wild, natural, unnatural and domestication as we have come to know them and their context in civilization.

The word domestic comes from the Latin word “domesticus,” meaning “belonging to the household.” Domesticates belong to the household. We could interpret this in many ways, depending on our own personal perception of “the household.” If we perceive the whole world as a house that we all (humans and other-than-humans) belong to, than I see no problem with the term domestic. Culturally however, we know that civilization does not see the term in that manner, but in terms of belonging to the house of humans. After all, the word has an uncle, “dominion,” which god told us in Genesis we have over all things natural. Dominion comes from the Latin “dominionem,” which means “ownership.” Let’s not forget dominions nephew domination, which means “to rule of have dominion over.” Or if we think back to the terms of a “house,” it means “lord, master of the house.” Domestic refers to all the things that we (civilization) master over.

The term master, as oppose to say, collaborator, shows us the basic differences of a wild and domestic relationship; control. The difference between a wild and free commensal symbiotic relationship and a domestic parasitic one involves the commitment to control or the will to have power-over rather than have power-with.

In the book The Culture of Make Believe Derrick Jensen defines natural as:

…any ritual, artifact, process, action is natural to the degree that it reinforces our understanding of our embeddedness in the natural world, and any ritual, artifact, process, action is unnatural to the degree that it does not.

If every living creature has a connection to those whom it eats and those whom eat it, than the genetics of both have an effect on both as well. Domestication differs in that it takes out all over variables over the life/genetic changes of an organism. When we do not allow other animals to eat plants (through fences, “pest” control, etc), we take out a variable of genetic strength. When we breed animals & plants for genetic traits based on living in an entirely human-manipulated environment, we take out the variables of dynamic-environments and they lose genetic strength in the real world. Over time, this makes them dependent on human culture (specifically agriculture, factory farming and civilization) to tend them. It also feels like a lot of work for the controller (constant weeding, tilling, fertilizing, genetic engineering, etc). Increased dependency leads to further domestication, which at some point we can see genetic signs that we use to determine whether a species of plant has become domestic. Domestication ignores our embeddedness in the natural world and seeks to control over it. Using this definition of natural and unnatural, domestication, without a doubt, falls under unnatural.

Controller or controlled, both species breed weakness into their genes and in our case, culture. Put a civilized human in the “wild” (which to domestic peoples means anywhere outside of their control) and they will have a very difficult time meeting their needs. We have become so dependent on domesticated species that we have domesticated ourselves. We have become genetically and culturally weak.

A wild, natural relationship breeds mutually beneficial relationships build strength in a given and changing environment with variables outside of human control. As greater environments change through shifts in climate and other environmental factors, these relationships maintain a fluctuating baseline. Civilized people believe that in nature you must eat or find your self eaten. Yet the reality of nature suggests that you must care-take the things you eat, or you will die. If 5 species eat salmon, than all 5 of those species must care-take the salmon. If one species care-takes wheat (and prevents anyone else from care-taking it) the web of support breaks and both wheat and the wheat-eater become weak. Rather, with many lifeforms tending each other, if a species-chain breaks the other species will not feel as stressed, since many others tend to them.

Rewilding, or reversing domestication, means increasing our commensal symbiotic relationships with humans and other-than-humans. This doesn’t mean we just “let things grow.” That doesn’t imply maintenance. “Commensal symbiotic relationships” do not mean “hands off!” It means we learn to tend and those whose lives we depend of to eat so that they keep living and so do we.

12 Comments on “Domestication Vs. Rewilding”

  1. did you see that video put out by national geographic? it was on myspace top videos last week. it made a projection of what would happen over the next thousand years if people suddenly all dissapeared one day. it wasn’t nessessarily good either.

  2. I didn’t see it but I read part of the book. Yeah, I wouldn’t want people to disappear over night. Changing our way of life entirely overnight would rock, though impossible.

    And if civilization continues as planned, it most assured won’t look good for the planet.

  3. The point of man on the earth is to keep balance dont get me wrong were doing a shity job but if we werent here it would be much worse .
    BY the way ther are pepole out there tryng to make a change pepole for the earth need to unite

  4. Things would be worse if people weren’t here? So, than I can guess that things were fucking terrible before people showed up… though, since we are only 3 million years old (which is extremely young for a species) I can guess that things weren’t “much worse” before we showed up.

    Your opinion completely side-tracks the conversation anyway. I never said humans are fucking up the planet, I said Civilization. Don’t conflate the two. Civilization is an unsustainable way of life: read Agriculture Vs. Civilization.

    There are people trying to make a change… The ones that focus on tearing down civilization in order to build something new. If you’re not working on that, you’re part of the problem.

  5. Another brilliant piece, Scout–Defining and redefining and discarding poorly defined reality / ies for us all. Nice new look to your blog, too! (And I’m soooo glad there’s a big diff. between civilization and humans!! 😉

  6. Let’s not bother with tearing down civilization, eh? Wouldn’t that be co-opting the destructive control methods of civilization (weeding, hoeing, clear-cutting, demolition, fencing, claiming of ownership, claiming that there is “one right way to live” and disallowing all else)?

    Isn’t the ground already fertile for rewilding humankind & thus all species, even amidst civilization?

    I mean, yer already doing it in the raddest way possible through TrackersNW & yer Sunday School ish. The Adult Immersion deal is the best rewilding/reculturing of modern humans program ever. Yer teaching new skills for a wild life, instead of deriding/attempting to break down/making people forget old skills.

    From reading this entry and a few others, I’m curious about what your vision for a rewilded Cascadia looks like… I’d really like to share my vision as well, :1, and hash out something excellent, heh.

  7. I think saying “let’s not bother taking down civilization” and than promoting rewilding in the same breath sounds rather like saying, “Let’s walk out of prison without any confrontation with the guards.” It makes about as much sense. Rewilding means taking down civilization.

    Taking down civilization has nothing to do with the One Right Way meme. We need things like clean water and air and soil and a biodiverse world. Indigenous peoples fought to the death to prevent civilization from killing their worlds. Now dead, who is left to stop civilization from doing this? Saying that bringing down civilization stems from the One Right Way meme sounds like not stopping a murderer from poisoning you and your family to death, but on a larger scale. While civilization has a One Right Way meme that has to do with an artificial right and wrong, not the realistic needs of the planet and people. Disallowing an insane person (or culture) from killing the planet does not reflect a One Right Way, but pure sanity and survival.

    If you plant to rewild, to undo domestication, than whether you like it or not you will inevitably come into conflict with the machine that domesticates everything. How do you plan to meet it? If you want to escape the prison, and the prison now encompasses the whole world, you have to destroy the prison. Civilization has the power to kill the whole planet, and in various ways. Should I stand by and watch from the hills with a finger up my nose?

    If you have a problem with using violence, (which it sounds like maybe you do?) you’ll probably choose a different role in the battle. Just because civilization has a monopoly on using violence doesn’t make violence “bad.” Living has violence in it. You kill things to eat them. Violence forms a major part in living, obviously. You can disconnect yourself from it and pretend it doesn’t exist, or you can embrace it and choose your terms. Civilizations destructive nature has nothing to do with their use of violence, it has to do with ignoring the rest of the living things on the planet; using violence without respect for the rest of living world (killing and not giving back). Using violence to take down civilization would look like a very respectful thing to the natural world.

    I personally do not engage in violence against civilization and I will readily admit I choose not to out of total fear for my life. I have to say that I see this choice as rather selfish, since the whole world faces extinction. To curb the guilt I write about these things and know that regardless of my perspective on violence that a day will come when civilization will no longer have the resources to maintain a monopoly on violence, and that the lower classes will destroy civilization. I know this because we have seen it with many other civilizations. They have shown us the ecological/cultural progression of civilizations. So I can choose to hide right now, and hope that civilization doesn’t kill everything before it reaches the point of diminishing returns, and know that someday I will see lots of violence as civilization goes out with a fight and will kill anyone it feels threatens it. (which will only make it spiral further out of control and power)


    Resistance Vs. Rewilding

  8. -The following taken from an off site discussion regarding this page…

    Although I agree, I think the writer is too forthright and doesn’t back up his claims with evidence: “If every living creature has a connection to those whom it eats and those whom eat it, than the genetics of both have an effect on both as well”. I think he needs to give scientific examples (via a web link or two) of how diet can affect the genetic make up of animals. It’s an interesting concept; wearing Convo Allstars with a loincloth NO! I mean diet and genetics

  9. Hi-

    You repeatedly use “than” in place of “then” in your writing, and it’s extremely distracting.

    For example from your first sentence of this post:

    “How can we define wild? Now understanding that hunter-gatherers greatly manipulated the environment, THAN where do we draw the line between wild and domestic?”

    The first two posts I looked at both have this error, in addition to many other typos.

    I really appreciate the points you’re trying to make, but the muddled language is getting in the way. Not trying to be a jerk, just saying…

  10. duuuuuude. I know! These are the unedited blogs I wrote a long time ago, and both of the editors of my books have hounded me for the “than” and “then” errors… I haven’t corrected the blog posts because I’m planning on deleting them once my book is for sale. I’ll have a cheap PDF and an actual book so the blogs won’t be necessary.

    I wish I could blame my grammatical errors on my educational history (I’m a drop out) but I bet that my writing skillz could destroy most high school and even college grads. I just have a few common errors that repeat quite a bit. If I had more time in my life to spend writing and proofreading, I would. But I don’t think most people are sticklers for grammar, so as much as I agree with you that I need to fix it, I also don’t think it matters all that much.

  11. I just Googled Civilization vs. Domestication and came up with this page. Interesting discussion. My question is…are civilization and domestication mutually dependant?

    I love many of the products of civilization…the books, the ideas, art, and especially computers and robotics. These are great tools, and I have a hard time seeing them occur without civilization. But I HATE being domesticated, and I’m so domesticated. It’s pervasive and pernicious…the patterns of thought that are common to the domesticated. And it’s not easy becoming properly un-domesticated.

    Hopefully information technology and small scale industry can weather the collapse of the existing shit-show. I would be in heaven to live in the country w/ satellite internet, a forge and a cnc machine. Energy and tools wouldn’t be such a problem…no need for a grid.

    I think some kind of stage of enlightenment is coming. Expediency, in the face of a universe that doesn’t care why we fucked up, will likely force us to modify our ways of thinking, and it will likely be a big relief for the whole planet.