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.