About Jennifer and uncivilize
Hi! My name is Jennifer Grayson and I’ve spent this past decade as a Los Angeles-based journalist and author obsessed with the many ways we modern humans have managed to disconnect ourselves from the natural world. Anyone who lives in a city today or is reading this on an iPhone anywhere must sense, deep inside, what I am talking about, or why are so many urban dwellers (myself included) escaping to mountain hiking trails on weekends, taking forest baths, and “vacationing” with kids in yurts in the woods? The truth is, our urbanized souls are calling us to de-program and get back to the authentically human human beings we once were. Though we may not have recognized it until recently, masses of us are now longing to “uncivilize” decades, if not millennia, of over-civilizing our species.
My own fascination with our most human roots came from a happy place: a love of wilderness imbued during my (pre-internet) childhood, growing up in small-town, woodsy New England. As I grew, I developed an insatiable curiosity for ancient cultures and our prehistoric past, and loved to hide under my bedcover “tent” at night with a flashlight and stacks of books on mythology and human survival.
Yet I didn’t grow up to forge a homestead in the wilderness, or become an anthropologist embedded with a hunter-gatherer tribe (that would have been a cool career choice). Instead, I headed off to college in Philadelphia and then to Boston, later moved to New York City to find employment, and now work and raise my young family in LA—the most densely populated urban area in the contiguous United States.
Like me, you may live in a megalopolis. Or, you may call suburbia (or even a cabin with an internet connection) home. No matter where in the modern-day world you live, you can feel it: the chaos of nonstop digital communication and endless news cycles, the incessant dietary and lifestyle advertising, the pervasive social-media bombardment, not to mention globally linked political instability. Genetic engineering, 3D food printing, self-driving cars, microchip implants, virtual reality and sentient robots were once sci-fi to us; now they’re all real.
And with mankind’s “progress,” the natural world around us has become sicker than at any other point in our existence. Human actions have triggered the sixth major mass species extinction in the earth’s history. Our planet is so polluted that smog is now visible from space. And in America, one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, while once-rare afflictions like childhood obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and autism have become epidemic.
In urban areas especially—where three-quarters of the world’s population will be living in the coming decades—we are at the tipping point of completely disconnecting from the life our human ancestors lived for 99.9% of their existence on earth. The way we live in New York, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Des Moines (or even Opelousas, Louisiana) bears little resemblance to the existence our species has evolved for.
Obviously, we can’t go backward in time. But we don’t have to pack it all up and live off the grid either. “Uncivilizing” is about being willing to question our cultural norms and rethink an increasingly automated existence, in order to build a fulfilling (even fun!), more natural and, ultimately, more authentically human life.
This is a path I have pursued for three decades (if you count my earliest flashlight-in-tent studies of natural history). I went on to found a blog about political action on the environment. I penned two long-running columns for a global news site: one on sustainable lifestyle choices and another on clean-tech innovation. I have worked with a nonprofit to reimagine Los Angeles in the face of climate change. And I have spent three years tracing human history and global cultures, past and present, to author a book on our modern-day disconnection from our inherent biology.
I’ve done it all as I've strived and yes, often struggled—on a personal level—to carve out a more sustainable and connected life for my family and myself. I am endlessly researching and experimenting with all sorts of approaches, both innovative and ancient. But along the way, I have discovered a growing universe of like-minded people: pioneers in the journey toward an urbanized future that is reconnected with the human beings we have been for millions of years.
So, join us! Tune in to fascinating discussions on uncivilizing that will make you rethink everything you think you know about the modern human existence. Find out how you, too, can create life as it could be and should be, wherever you live.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a big fan of tech minimalism, so I promise to only email once a month!
Jennifer Grayson is an award-winning journalist and author focused on the environment, human evolution and social change. Her incisive investigative reporting coupled with her deeply personal writing has been lauded by such luminaries as Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Michael Moss, renowned food activist Marion Nestle, and Oscar-winning actress and UN Women ambassador Anne Hathaway. Her book, UNLATCHED: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy (HarperCollins), was the winner of the 2017 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award and the recipient of a 2016 Nautilus Book Award. Jennifer is also the creator of Uncivilize, a podcast about reconciling the urban existence with the human need for the natural world.
Her other writings have appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Huffington Post, where she penned the long-running popular Innovation Earth and Eco Etiquette columns for the Green section. Her commentary has graced the pages and airwaves of Slate, Discovery, Entrepreneur, MSNBC, WGN and NPR, among many others. She also serves as a board member of Climate Resolve, a high-profile organization connecting California leaders and policymakers to prepare for the challenges of climate change.
Jennifer started out her career like most journalists: As a classically trained soprano with a degree from the renowned New England Conservatory of Music, after attending The University of Pennsylvania. The daughter of a journalist and editor—and a bibliophile since childhood—it is not surprising her life has come full-circle.
Jennifer’s lifelong commitment to restoring our time’s vanishing connection to the natural world led directly to her research for Uncivilize and Unlatched. She lives in Los Angeles with her screenwriter husband and two young daughters—her most important life’s work.