rewilding

The Birth of an Explorer - Alegra Ally

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Women at the End of the Land ” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Women at the End of the Land” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

I would sit in a classroom and I would daydream about me just going and disappearing in a jungle and living with a tribe....These are the most memorable moments of my childhood.
— Alegra Ally

This week, I bring you this much anticipated conversation with ethnographer and award-winning photographer and explorer Alegra Ally. Via her Wild Born Project, Alegra has traveled to the far-flung corners of the globe to document the traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous motherhood—from pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding to rite-of-passage rituals for young girls.

This year, Alegra became a new mother herself. She spoke to me from her native Israel, where she and her husband (free diver and photographer Erez Beatus) were enjoying time with family before embarking with their baby son on their next adventure. For Alegra, the drive to explore seems inborn; here, she shares the remarkable story of her first solo expedition to Papua New Guinea at the age of 17, the near improbable logistics of photographing remote tribal birth, and the “superhuman” power she’s found in the wake of new motherhood.

Here’s the run-down:

  • Traveling to Tonga as a new mother

  • Alegra’s own experience of birth

  • Working as a diving instructor, early travels and how she met Erez

  • Her childhood in Israel, and “planning” her first expedition at age 11

  • Her first solo expedition to Papua New Guinea at age 17

  • The spiritual and intuitive search that led her to Wild Born

  • How she documents indigenous motherhood: the logistics

  • Her forthcoming book, her new nonprofit, and what’s next for Alegra and Wild Born

Photo:  Alegra Ally

Learn more about Alegra (and see her amazing photographs) on her personal and Wild Born Project websites. And don’t miss her must-follow Instagram accounts: @alegraally and @wildbornproject.

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Women at the End of the Land ” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Women at the End of the Land” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Walking with the Himba ” expedition to Namibia.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Walking with the Himba” expedition to Namibia.

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.

A Year of Autonomous Eating - Rob Greenfield

Photo: Rob Greenfield via  RobGreenfield.tv

Photo: Rob Greenfield via RobGreenfield.tv

People have a hard time wrapping their head around the idea of growing and foraging 100 percent of my food…There are zero exceptions: my salt; my oil; no grocery stores; no restaurants; no taking a nibble at a party; no gifts of food from others; no going to someone else’s garden and eating from their garden; literally growing and foraging 100 percent of the food.
— Rob Greenfield

This week’s guest is adventurer and environmental activist Rob Greenfield, whose societal-boundary-pushing projects have ranged from biking across the United States on a bamboo bicycle for sustainability (three times); to dumpster diving in thousands of grocery store dumpsters to raise awareness about food waste and hunger; to wearing 30 days’ of trash to create a visual of how much trash one American creates. Here, we focus on Rob’s latest extreme endeavor: Growing and foraging 100 percent of his food for One. Entire. Year.

From his 100-square-foot tiny home in Orlando, Florida (hand-built from 99 percent salvaged materials, natch), Rob shares the eating hows and whats of his aptly named Food Freedom project (think harvested salt and golf-course-foraged giant yams; oh, he also grows his own toilet paper). But with no shortage of self-reflection, Rob also digs deeper: into his own impoverished upbringing, the unintended consequences of living with no car or bank account or bills, and finding his true purpose in a life both inside and outside industrial capitalist society. 

Some of what we talk about:

  • What’s behind all the 1s: The launch of Food Freedom on 11/11 and Rob’s 111 possessions

  • The plan to grow and forage 100 percent of his food for one year; building his 100-square-foot tiny house in Orlando (and why Orlando?)

  • Staple crops, salt from scratch and the 160-pound yam 

  • How to make coconut oil; North America’s yerba mate

  • The 11 months of prep that went into the project 

  • Rob’s philosophy on foraging and pesticides

  • A sampling of the 300-500 foods Rob will be eating for the next 12 months 

  • Taking inspiration from subsistence cultures  

  • The paradox of Rob’s impoverished childhood: “We were consumers. My mom was a consumer; I was a consumer.” 

  • His awakening to “not living a delusional life”

  • What it’s like to live with no credit cards, no bank account, no driver’s license, no car, no bills and no taxes 

  • Consumerism and mortality 

  • Rob’s vision for the future 

You can follow Rob’s year of Food Freedom on his website, along with on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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 from the show:

Orlando Permaculture
Berkey water filter
Rob’s post: On Health Insurance, Age and Death
Rob’s post: My Net Worth Is
Rob’s TED talk: Be the Change in a Messed Up World

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!

Aboriginal Skills and the Path to Undistractable Attention - Jim Robertson

I always go back to square one: Where am I coming from? What is my intention here? My intention is to come from the best place possible, which is coming from my heart, from that pure place; that place that as I choose to see it, we all have.... And the choice, the big choice in life, is: Do we want to listen to this, do we want to pay attention to this, do we want to feed this, do we want to nurture this? Or do we want to ignore it?
— Jim Robertson

In our world of endless consumerist and technological distraction, “undistractable attention” is about more than just shutting off the social media; it’s about tuning into the guiding voice that’s inside each and every one of us. One pathway to that voice may be meditation or yoga, but our most fundamental route—as I learned in this life-changing conversation with Jim Robertson, an aboriginal skills instructor and naturalist based in Santa Monica, California, who coined that term—is via our eons-old home in the natural world. As Jim explains here, the absence of that connection in our modern-day lives has led to an epidemic of physical and mental illness, and left us struggling to fill that void with one mind-numbing addiction after another.

Jim has worked as a naturalist for the Santa Monica Mountains and taught aboriginal skills and wilderness survival training to nature-bereft urbanites for over a decade. But remarkably, Jim didn’t come to the world of aboriginal skills until he was well into his fifties. It isn’t often in our modern world and culture that we have the opportunity to sit and absorb the wisdom of our elders, and Jim, 78 years young, held me rapt as he unfolded his captivating life history over the course of this conversation, including a moving look at his struggles with physical and emotional pain that brought him to his current path. Whether you want to learn more about plants and the fun of primitive campouts, seek inspiration on how to live more deeply and fully every day, or simply want to be enthralled by the wisdom of one of the most delightful human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing, check out this episode! 

Here’s the path of our conversation:

  • Innate “primitive skills” and Jim’s childhood spent outdoors in 1940s California

  • How Jim discovered aboriginal skills in his fifties

  • The health challenge (and the psychic!) that led Jim to become a naturalist for the Santa Monica Mountains

  • Immersion in the outdoors as the ultimate medicine

  • Jim’s earlier decade-long struggle with profound emotional and physical pain, and how he ultimately came to the other side

  • The practice of what Jim calls “undistractable attention” (or "indistractable [sic] attention," as we refer to it a few times in the episode!)

  • Gail Sheehy’s book Passages

  • “I don’t think there’s anything better than being as sensitive as we can possibly be; because we want to feel deeply, we want to see deeply, we want to hear deeply, we want to live deeply and more fully”

  • The Shawshank Redemption and the place within that cannot be harmed

  • Playing pre-professional baseball, surfing and spearfishing at the beach as a teenager in 1950s Santa Monica

  • Discovering yoga while working in insurance in the late 1960s: “Here I was a business guy, with my styled hair [and] a tie”

  • Personal transformation in a time of monumental social upheaval (both then and now)

  • Trump

  • The necessary role of aboriginal and indigenous skills in the age of materialism

  • What it means to co-create with Mother Nature: Plant identifying, basket making, bow and arrow making, fire making

  • Jim’s aboriginal skills classes

  • “Full primitive” camping

  • Shooting a bison with a handmade bow and arrow (and “making everything imaginable” from that bison -- “from the hair to the bones to the intestines”) at Utah’s Boulder Outdoor Survival School

  • Jim’s thoughts on hunting and his day-to-day diet

  • The acronym Jim lives by (in the wilderness and everywhere)

  • A recent campout gone awry in the eastern Sierras

  • The deficit of nature in modern life and its connection to our epidemic of addiction

  • How to tap in to undistractable attention in your everyday life

You can learn more about Jim and his classes via his website, Meetup group, and on Facebook. Have a question for Jim? Reach out to him directly: jimrobertson[at]aboriginalskills[dot]com.

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!

Learn more:

Naturalist Training in the Santa Monica Mountains
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Boulder Outdoor Survival School