We want to believe that we are living at the pinnacle of human existence; that since hominins first walked on two legs, man has been marching toward our vision of modern civilization. But what if despite humanity's vast achievements, we left behind a way of life that not only served our species better, but actually defined us as a species? So posits my guest today, Arthur Haines, the author of the transformative new book A New Path: To Transcend the Great Forgetting Through Incorporating Ancestral Practices Into Contemporary Living. The book, and today's conversation, is centered around a remarkable premise (first conceived with Daniel Vitalis): that modern-day humans have become a domesticated sub-species of Homo sapiens, our once-wild progenitors. Our divergence from our biologically normal way of life has not only de-evolved us, it is at the root of our current epidemic of ill health and environmental degradation.
But given that we can’t turn back the clock to live as indigenous hunter-gatherers, where do we go from here? Arthur has spent a lifetime ruminating on that question, as a botanist, taxonomist, forager and ancestral skills mentor who runs the Delta Institute of Natural History in Canton, ME. In A New Path, he offers revolutionary answers. Here, we talk about the book that's being called "the bible of the rewilding movement," and putting theory into practice with Wilder Waters, the neo-aboriginal community Arthur and his family are creating on 150 acres of protected forest in the woods of central Maine.
Here’s the rundown of our conversation:
The encyclopedic effort of A New Path
The lack of cancer in hunter-gatherer societies (i.e., intact lifeways)
Arthur’s childhood of fishing, hunting, tracking and mountaineering in Western Maine
Les Eastmen and the chance meeting that set Arthur on the path toward botany and taxonomy
Daniel Vitalis and the theory of modern humans as a domesticated subspecies
The bias against hunter-gatherers: “These were people who needed to be saved”
The myth of Steven Pinker’s myth of violence
The health of ancestral peoples vs. the health of people today
“We have bred the medicine out of food”: wild plants and phytochemicals
Raw water, hormesis, community, and a sneak peek at the book
“Our genes are still wild animals seeking immersion in nature”
Why it’s so hard to emulate historical community in the modern world
Learning an Eastern Abenaki language with his 4-year-old daughter
Wilder Waters – a neo-aboriginal community on 150 acres of forest in central Maine
Shared childcare and the challenges of learning how to live in an egalitarian community
What’s next for Arthur and Wilder Waters
Learn more about Arthur, his work and upcoming class offerings on his website, where you can order A New Path. (It's also available from you know where, but the previous link best supports Arthur's work.) Wilder Waters also has a website, along with a must-follow Instagram and Facebook page. Arthur's own Facebook page is here. And be sure to check out Wilder Waters' upcoming Dawnland Gathering, a 3-day/3-night primitive skills gathering in Turner, Maine.
If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!