Terms of Subsistence

I recently joked with Penny Scout about how the term, “scavenger hunt,” sounds like an oxymoron; a scavenger doesn’t hunt… they scavenge. This joke inspired me to write a little about the terms of subsistence strategies.

Years ago on ishcon.org I remember Jason Godesky encouraging people to differentiate between agriculture and horticulture. He explained that though they both involve growing crops, the strategies interact with an ecosystem differently enough that anthropologists made note of it. Though I can’t say for sure how Daniel Quinn defined agriculture (I haven’t touched the books in years) I do know that I left the reading with the impression that agriculture referred to any form of planting food for human consumption. This impression led me to believe that any planting of food would lead to civilization, and therefore I thought it better to avoid altogether.

Recently Jason wrote an article on the subject, and now I completely understand Jasons frustration with the impressions about agriculture left on me after reading Quinns books. By believing any form of planting means, “agriculture,” you eliminate a form of subsistence that humans have enacted, along with hunting and gathering, for thousands of years without destroying their landbase; horticulture.

Similarly, while reading The Art of Tracking: The Origin of Science, Louis Liebenberg differentiates the strategies of hunting and gathering that most people overlook, or use hunting as a blanket term for. For example, many people use foraging and gathering interchangeably, however foraging and gathering differ enough to make a note of it. More for my own ease of mind than for yours, I decided to write out the definitions for these strategies.

Flora Subsistence Strategies

Foraging refers to the searching for and eating of plant foods as they are found while on the move. Foraging does not require transportation, processing or sharing of food in any organized way.

In contrast to foraging, gathering refers to the searching for and transporting of plant foods to a home base or midday-rest location, for processing and sharing with other members of the band.

Cultivation refers to any animals conscious effort to promote the growth of particular plant species.

Horticulture (AKA Perma-Culture)
Horticulture refers to cultivation by means of succession (i.e. fallowing).

Agriculture refers to cultivation by means of catastrophe (i.e. burning, flooding, tilling).

Fauna Subsistence Strategies

Collecting refers to the acquisition of animal protein in the form of small, relatively immobile animals; insects, turtles, frogs, eggs, nestlings, crabs, etc.

Predation refers to the killing of highly mobile prey without the use of weapons or other cultural means such as trapping, vehicles or domesticated animals. To overcome its prey the predator relies solely on the biologically adapted abilities of stealth, speed, endurance, strength or superior numbers.

Scavenging refers to the obtaining of meat from carcasses of animals killed by other species, or of animals that died of non-predatory causes.

Meat-robbing refers to the act of driving a predator away from its kill.

Hunting refers to the killing of highly mobile prey with the use of weapons or domesticated animals. In contrast with predation, hunting involves cultural adaptations that give the hunters an advantage over their prey.

Trapping refers to the killing of highly mobile prey with the use of traps.

Domestication refers to the taming of (an animal), esp. by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a food or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.

By defining these terms it opens up a world of possibility. Many strategies to choose from and experiment with in our own particular bioregions. Obviously, each of these subsistence strategies have their own particular subset of strategies for how to go about it, which I will also look into and post here as well.

**I wrote this blog in pearly white e-prime.**

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