hunter-gatherers

On the Hadza and Human Metabolism - Herman Pontzer

Photo credit: Herman Pontzer,  Human Evolution and Energetics Lab  at Duke University

Photo credit: Herman Pontzer, Human Evolution and Energetics Lab at Duke University

The world today is this weird zoo that we’ve built for ourselves. It’s completely divorced from the way that we evolved, and from the lifestyles that our bodies are built for.
— Herman Pontzer

I am so excited to bring you this interview with one of my favorite guests to date: Herman Pontzer, a biological anthropologist at Duke University whose paleontological and biological field work across Eurasia and Africa have upended much of what we in the modern world thought we knew about diet, exercise, metabolism and human health.

Here, Herman reveals what it’s like to live and work with the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, the paradox of calorie expenditure (hint: you can’t burn off that Shake Shack), and why we as humans must move to survive. (Don’t miss his brilliantly written recent feature for Scientific American, along with this episode!)

here’s the run-down:

  • Growing up in the woods of Pennsylvania and finding his evolutionary calling in college

  • A day in the life of a Hadza hunter-gatherer

  • Why everything we thought we knew about human energy expenditure is wrong

  • The connection between sedentary lifestyles, inflammation and our modern-day epidemic of chronic disease

  • Misinterpretation of scientific studies in the media

  • How humans evolved to require high levels of physical activity

  • Evolutionary mismatch

  • What does the future hold for the human species?

  • How to live a more evolutionarily aligned life

Check out Herman’s work at his Human Evolution and Energetics Lab at Duke University. Read more of his writing in Scientific American and The New York Times. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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.

RESOURCES

360 Live: Herman Pontzer Ends Up in the Hot Seat

Emulating Our Wild Progenitors: A New Path - Arthur Haines

Arthur Haines Uncivilize.jpg
What are our evolutionary patterns versus how we are living now? Once you really start diving into that question, you learn that virtually everything we do stands in contradiction to what our bodies need for health. And not just our bodies…our emotion, our spirits…everything.
— Arthur Haines

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!

Re-creating the Village - Rachel Natland and Chris Morasky

Top: Photos of Chris Morasky, Rachel Natland via  Wisdom Keepers . Bottom photo:  Elements Gathering .

Top: Photos of Chris Morasky, Rachel Natland via Wisdom Keepers. Bottom photo: Elements Gathering.

I had to go way off into the wilderness for a long time and really live apart from people before I realized that I actually do like people, and that I actually really love people—and that what I really don’t like is the way that people often treat each other. And that it’s because we have been born into a society which is so very strange and so very different from what is normal for our species, if we look at the long history of humanity.
— Chris Morasky
A lot of the things that happened to me as a child would not have happened to me if I was in a community that could have caught me.
— Rachel Natland

For 99 percent of our human history, we lived in small, likely egalitarian societies—tight-knit hunter-gatherer bands of a couple dozen people deeply reliant on their community and on the surrounding environment, for their survival. So where does that leave we present-day humans, now navigating an increasingly virtualized and individualized world amidst the dizzying urban constructs (not to mention vast social inequality) we call modern civilization? In a word: searching, to return to the fold of community and nature in which our species evolved for hundreds of thousands of years. 

My guests today, Chris Morasky and Rachel Natland, know that search well, and for decades pursued it on disparate paths: Chris, as a wildlife biologist who lived for more than 20 years in the wilderness and became one of the foremost Stone Age skills experts in North America; and Rachel, as a single mother who overcame her own inner-city childhood of abuse and addiction to become a spiritual mentor. Four years ago the rugged survivalist and the urban community-builder met, and the rest is history—and the future: Now a pair and living in Portland, they are restoring ancient egalitarian wisdom to the 21st century via their Wisdom Keepers school in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest. Hear their incredible life stories that brought them to this remarkable moment in time, their poignant vision for the future, and how they're re-creating the village with their don't-miss Elements Gathering in the ancient sequoias. Hope to see you there!

Here's the run-down of our conversation:

  • Planning their upcoming Elements Gathering: A week-long village experience in the ancient sequoias

  • How Rachel brought herself up out of the inner city and broke the cycle of abuse and addiction

  • Chris: “I believe that children choose their parents”

  • The disparate paths that brought Rachel and Chris to the world of rewilding

  • The epiphany moment that sent Chris on a 20+-year-long journey living in the wilderness and small communities of British Columbia, Idaho and Utah

  • How Chris navigates life intuitively, and tapping into “our instinctual connection to the perfect system of nature”

  • Why Chris left the wilderness for Los Angeles

  • Overcoming the illness of modern society, and how to get the most out of our lives

  • Rachel’s calling to the West, single motherhood, and classism

  • How Chris and Rachel met

  • Community, autonomy and rugged individualism

  • Why they left LA for Portland, and what comes next

  • Our egalitarian history, technology and exponential growth

  • Wisdom Keepers

  • Rewilding, space exploration, and Chris and Rachel’s thoughts on the future

You can learn more about Chris and Rachel, along with their current class and workshop offerings on the Wisdom Keepers website, as well as on Facebook. Want to go to Elements Gathering this year? Don't wait, tickets are going fast! (You can also check out the event virtually via the Elements Facebook page.) 

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!