When was the last time you thought about the quality of the source of your water?
For a lot of the health nuts out there it’s easy to obsess about nutrition, but how many people are really paying attention to what’s in the water they drink?
Returning to the show today is one of my favorite guests, a wild man himself, Mr. Arthur Haines.
Arthur has an extremely unique and informed perspective on all of this. He’s a forager, ancestral skills mentor, author, public speaker, and botanical researcher. He’s also one of my mom’s heroes (she’s an herbalist and holistic Nurse Practitioner).
Arthur’s the real deal. He actually had to cancel the first interview we had scheduled for this show, because he had to go bear hunting. That was the best excuse ever for cancelling a podcast interview, and fortunately we were able to have Arthur back on the show.
On this show with Arthur, you’re about to learn:
- The critical differences between creators and consumers
- How food can be medicine, especially if you’re growing or foraging it for yourself
- The risks and dangers of drinking tap water
- And tons more.
Let’s go hang out with Arthur.
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Arthur Haines: Bear Hunting, Foraging & Water
Abel: Thank you so much for coming on the show again, Arthur.
Abel, thanks so much for having me. I’d love to let everybody know that I had to reschedule a couple of times because of various things, and you guys kept being super polite, and saying, “Oh yah, no problem.”
And I just really appreciate your willingness to work with this natural schedule up here that doesn’t go by our weekly work schedule sometimes. I appreciate that.
Abel: Well, I appreciate your work. You’re worth it. And you had the best excuse I think I’ve ever heard for canceling an interview on the show.
I’ll just tell you folks who are listening, he went bear hunting with Daniel Vitalis, no less. It’s funny to think about the difference between those two days and the way that you could have spent them. So tell us how that went.
Oh, ya. Bear hunting is one of those things that conjures up a lot of emotions for people.
Just to back up, only about 7% of the bear that are taken in the state of Maine are actually taken just observing a bear by happenstance, and shooting it with some method, whether that be bow, rifle or whatever.
So bears are weary and hard to come by, despite the fact that they’re not rare on our landscape at all. People use methods like baiting and trapping to essentially access these animals for food. And baiting has all kinds of issues because it habituates them to human food.
They’re often using rancid vegetable oil and pastries, and things that they can get in abundance.
Trapping has its own issues that I don’t like. Lethal traps that kill immediately are different to me, but those that just hold an animal for some period of time, I have no interest in.
And then there’s hounding, where the dogs are trained to pick up the scent of the animal and allow humans to follow that scent because we can’t envision what we’re smelling in the way these dogs can. It’s absolutely amazing.
So that’s what was used on this particular hunt.
And that’s something that Daniel helped connect me to, with some folks that were visiting from Wisconsin.
Abel: Wow, and so before we started recording this interview, you mentioned that the first feeling was grief.
Oh, absolutely. I actually put out a little post on social media about this.
What we often see when a hunter takes an animal—and that’s frequently things like deer, wild turkey, or moose—we see a hunter who’s standing over the animal with this giant smile on their face, sometimes with the weapon they used with this dead animal. And I totally understand that.
There is a level of excitement that comes with this feeling of accomplishment, because in some cases, you may have been tracking an animal for a long while to find out where its habits are.
You’ve potentially set up a tree stand or you have some place that is a natural hide and it may have taken two weeks for this animal to finally walk by. It is a sense of accomplishment.
What I personally have a hard time with is there only seems to be the excitement and there’s none of the grief that comes with the fact that this beautiful animal will never walk this earth again, at least not in that form.
Of course, there is this kind of sense of reincarnation, because this animal that becomes our food, becomes our body tissues. It simply has a changed form, if you will.
And it’s one of the reasons why I like hunting and foraging, and even securing my own spring water, because I want to have a personal relationship as best as possible with these things that sustain me.
I don’t want industry doing that to any degree, if I can help it, but like all people, we have some connection to industrial foods.
I don’t want to make like we’re hunter-gatherers living on 100% wild diet, but we do get to eat a lot of wild food and it’s what feels really special to us. Much in the way that people who grow their own food feel that really awesome connection to those plants because they developed a relationship.
And so the first few days, I experienced grief which eventually becomes a gratitude for the animal and some excitement as well, too.
I just never post pictures of me glooming over the animal. For me, and I’m not talking for anybody else, I’m not judging, but for me, it feels disrespectful.
Abel: Well, if you contrast posting a picture of the corpse of an animal you just killed on social media, for example, if you contrast that to what our ancestors may have done, how does that look to you? What’s the difference?
It’s so completely different.
And of course, this varies for every hunter-gatherer group that we could discuss, but in some cases when a hunter came back with a kill, you had mock-shaming to prevent an ego inflation.
“That animal is really small. It’s not going to feed anybody.”
Even though, of course, underlying this everyone was extremely happy. You had in some groups, the females disperse the meat, so that the hunters who were frequently male had no say in who got what, as a kind of gender equality, to make sure that it’s not one successful hunter feeding their friends the biggest portions of meat.
In the Ju/Wasi you have this great example where it was the owner of the arrow who dispersed the meat, and the hunter’s quiver may be filled with any number of people’s arrows.
Not just in theory but in actuality, a crippled person, who is incapable of hunting, could still manufacture arrows and could be responsible for distributing the meat.
So you had all of these things in place that were to calm that ego within a hunter-gatherer community.
Social Media, Technology, & Returning to Health
Abel: How does social media combat ego? That’s not a very good question, but I want to hear your response anyway.
I mostly only see inflation.
And ego is important today, because whether we want to admit it or not, we are competing.
We’re competing with people who live in our own town for limited resources, we’re competing to let people know that we have something to offer, and this is the system that’s been set up.
And I’m not claiming that individuals operating within it are doing anything wrong. What else are you supposed to do?
But yah, we have a very different system set up, and it has some cool strengths and it has some pretty serious drawbacks. And I just wish we had a way to get mostly the cool strengths.
Abel: I do, too. And perhaps, we will see something happen in the next few years as virtual reality and some of these more advanced technologies are hitting, especially for the younger generations. That’s a whole other can of worms.
My theory is that it’s so important that we revisit the knowledge and intelligence, and intuition of our ancestors in a time when we’re being taught that this is progress, that technology is helping us and supporting us.
If we just take a little step back and look at the difference once again, between where we’re at now or certainly where we’re going, and our ancestors.
Our ancestors didn’t need flying cars. Did they?
Right. It’s definitely really interesting when you think about the whole suite of issues.
Homosapien has always been a tool user, it’s part of our biological norm, it’s who we are.
But the first tools, and this is something that Stephen Jenkinson has said, the first tools and even the many later tools during hunter-gatherer lives, were essentially just extensions of our body.
But our modern tool sets, the machines, the automation, the vehicles, they’re extensions of our will.
And when our wills are not connected to the ecology of the places we live, we unfortunately end up seeing, eco side, we see a decline in the health of people. And I think yourself and many other folks would like to see that improvement, and physical health is maybe a starting place.
I don’t want to speak for you, but I just see personal health as really important, because if you don’t fix your own health, you can’t possibly have the wherewithal, the energy, the awareness to be worrying about anybody else’s health in your family, your community, on your landscape.
And so yah, to me it’s really important.
We’re in this day and age where we believe we can transcend our biology.
We really believe that when it comes to animals, take the moose for example, here is a species that lives in this really water-rich environment. No one would ever consider moving it to the desert. It just could not adapted to that climate. It would last days and die.
But yet, we somehow feel that we can always adjust to what we drink, what we eat, the type of personal interactions that we have, without any consequences. And fortunately, there are folks like you who know that there are consequences when we change too much too fast.
Abel: Yes. And to your point, when you lack health or when you are ill, it’s not just that, it really starts cascading to other parts of your life or relationships around you. And so, I don’t think health should be treated as much as the vanity thing as it seems to be.
Instead, perhaps it should be thought of as you described in your books, self-reliance, having your health is a responsibility. Isn’t it?
It is. It might be one of the most important things you can do, because through being healthy, you’re also protecting your genome, something that you pass on to the next generation.
We’re always thinking of the condition of the land that we pass on. But when you pass on poor epigenetic function, you’re setting the next generation up for poor health.
And we know that one of the ways that we preserve this healthy genetic expression, is through our diet, our movement, our lifestyles, the people that we surround ourselves with, time outdoors, and so on.
We’re not just passing on a land, but we’re passing on a condition of DNA expression. That is really important to consider when we’re eating junk food, or sitting down to a whole food diet.
Abel: It seems like things are changing even faster.
I remember when I started this show in like 2010-2011, it seemed like things were getting better.
I don’t know if that was an illusion, but in the year since it does seem that the message has been perverted or distorted once again. And a lot of people have almost given up again. Is that something that you’re feeling as well?
I don’t know if it’s an artifact of the circles I hang out with, I have no idea, but we see these pendulum swings in everything. It can be politics, it can be identity politics, it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about.
And it did seem that there was a hoist of people who were like, “I really want to try to focus on organically raised foods, or trying to get plastic packaging out of my diet,” and then you start running into that.
It doesn’t seem to matter what we do. There’s all this bad stuff, “I’m just going to give up.” I really feel, obviously, that we don’t ever give up. It’s how we demonstrate one of our core values is how resilient we are against these health threats that industry poses.
And there’s a lot at stake, and that includes the next generation, but also us and how much we can enjoy our lives.
So, I’m totally with you. I have seen that, and I don’t know if that’s what everyone’s witnessing, but I definitely have seen it.
Creator vs. Consumer
Abel: Well, it just highlights the point that we do need to, I don’t want to say go back to basics, because there’s really nothing basic about what you do, and not to say that it’s complicated either, but it’s just a whole different way of thinking about a lifestyle.
Like one thing that you touched upon in your book is the idea of creator versus consumer.
And I think that’s one thing that we have seen change, and even the years that I’ve been talking about, as Apple takes away the headphone jacks and all these other companies start taking away all the jacks, you can’t create on these devices, these tools anymore.
You can consume, you could take selfies, but it’s much more difficult to create something of lasting value.
Whereas, how many different things, for example, would our ancestors have been creating, whittling, just making out in the field?
I remember you describing in the book, I think it’s basically someone from Western culture, all of the crap that they have to bring into the backcountry, with their backpacks, and their tools, and their what have you. Whereas indigenous people just kind of go out there and make what they need.
Yah, they had that autonomy, that complete sovereignty. And it often gets defined, and I really love describing it in this way, as an original affluence.
You had all of your needs, not necessarily all of your wants, but all of your needs met by you or somebody that you have known your entire life.
These really tight-knit networks of people who understood the ecology of their place, they could feed themselves, heal themselves, and let’s not pretend that it was idyllic. I just feel like we need to get this out there.
They had extreme weather. It wasn’t that there were never droughts and things to be concerned with. Large mammals that could harm them.
And we could go on further, but at the same time, let’s keep in mind that we saw a near zero incidence of chronic disease in long-lived hunter-gatherer culture, so they were doing something right. Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, suicide, again, in intact cultures, living with their communities intact, their wild food systems intact.
We saw near zero incidents of these types of afflictions that are so fabulously common today, with some people experiencing two or more chronic diseases with this really high proportion of folks in the United States. What is it?
One in two adults have some form of chronic disease going on now. Click To Tweet
But it’s become the norm, so we simply don’t question it. Whereas our biological norm is high resilience to these things.
But yah, I can only imagine what that must have felt like as someone who’s been studying for a long time how to feed myself and make things from the landscape. I’m not there.
We purchase most of our clothing, we purchase a fair amount of food. I mean, yah, we make some items, but we’re still trying to get there.
And every increment feels so great, but I can only imagine what it’s like when you could be responsible for everything in your life.
Again, no judgment against purchasing things. We all need to do it. But there comes a point when you’re literally trying to purchase your health, which puts you at the whims of the people who essentially are able to create these products for “health.”
It’s a pretty distorted situation we find ourselves in.
Abel: It is. And that might be using the term “health” generously in a lot of cases, especially when we’re talking about products.
Because most of the people who make products, it seems, are making products. They’re not trying to manufacture health for the people who are taking their products.
They’re trying to manufacture products and make as much money as possible, because that’s just kind of the system that we live in.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, I do want to touch on something that I think it’s nasty, brutish, and short—the way that Western civilization describes indigenous civilizations.
Described as primitive civilization. Or, not even civilization, because they don’t see them as civilized. But how much of that is just marketing from the conquerors themselves, such that we all just kind of live in this world without questioning it?
I think it’s a really huge part. We have to establish a whole suite of myths to make sure that people, in any given time, always feel that this is the best time in human history, and that you couldn’t possibly do anything better.
For us to pretend that we want to get up every day and have to drive to work, and perhaps, manufacture some little trinket that gets exported some place, or work in an office cubicle, and be at the whims of our supervisors and tax collectors, this just keeps going. And never question what it would be like to live by your own means, yah, you have to develop these myths.
And one of those myths is: At least we live longer today.
And while this is a little bit true—we have extended our lifespans by a small amount—what has been happening is life expectancy was conflated with lifespan.
We do know that there were a lot more deaths, particularly in the early years of hunter-gatherer lives. When your landscapes have not been expunged of large predators, for example, some died to these animals that you shared your landscape with. And as a result, life expectancy, 35, maybe late 30s, this kind of thing, but that wasn’t the lifespan.
We saw people living late 60s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s, were not uncommon within hunter-gatherer groups.
Abel: Without disease.
That’s right, without disease. Even in the advanced elderly, we still had health mobility, because remember, most hunter-gatherer groups were nomadic, some covering massive distances, two to 80 moves a year is kind of this range that we typically saw.
And at the point that somebody couldn’t move, unfortunately it became the end of their existence in this physical life. And so still agile and capable, even in advanced age, and that’s important.
We could discuss many other myths that again bolster our feelings of how amazing it is, but really the only thing to me, we’ve gained this phenomenal scientific understanding of the universe, but we’ve used it in ways that have not necessarily benefited humanity.
If we look at chronic disease rates, and depression rates, and suicide rates, we’re clearly not helping everything.
But along with this scientific understanding, which is just wonderful, we’ve created these really lopsided inequalities, this wealth disparity that didn’t exist.
And I think if somebody takes a very fair look at what’s happened, what we’ve really done is we’ve increased phenomenally comfort and convenience for people living in financially affluent countries, at the expense of many other things.
Comfort and convenience. To the point now that we have a hard time living without it, because you become accustomed to it.
The range of physical extremes that you can tolerate sort of narrows down without that hormesis, without the exposure to the elements. And yah, just comfort and convenience will be the death of us in some ways, it seems.
Abel: It will, especially if you consider, and I try not to talk about topical things, but I feel comfortable enough to bring up the recent hurricanes that will be a problem and seem to have gotten worse.
They’ve affected me personally, in Texas. They’ve affected my family in Florida.
Pretty much anywhere you look now, we are being forced to become nomadic, whether we like it or not. I lost everything in an apartment fire about 10 years ago, and I can say I was not expecting that.
I was feeling relatively comfortable, and life was relatively convenient before that. It was not after. It was not for years after. I fell apart after, because I was not self-reliant.
I was not prepared to exist in the world that I was confronted with, without a place to live even. Especially folks who are feeling comfortable and like their lives are convenient, I don’t think most people realize how close they might be in fact to being the opposite of that. Could you comment on that at all?
Well, yah, and especially without those really tight-knit communities.
We’ve sort of gone from… Of course, there were nuclear families, but the nuclear families were embedded within a community. And if something befell you, your home, such as it was, and in a more, I’ll use primitive time, only to denote a time period, but not an actual complexity of knowledge of the world, you were simply protected.
You had others that were going to share their belongings, their food, their space with you.
Now, we have a system where we sort of force you to depart your community and you have to go someplace, you have to get an education, such that you can compete, or some type of marketable skill, if it’s not a college education, it’s a vocational, whatever the case might be.
You may be states away from where you grew up, where you’re surrounded by loved ones and friends that you’ve known for many years, you lose your apartment to a fire.
And I don’t know your situation, but you could have been completely surrounded by strangers, at that time. And what a scary feeling.
I fortunately have never had to survive a house fire and I could only imagine how terrifying that’d be with no like, “Oh come in here, you can stay here as long as you need.”
That kind of caring community is something that we don’t have and social media doesn’t make up for it.
And when you, at one time, were able to create everything that you needed, anything that you lost, for any reason, could be replicated.
Our problem is, this computer that we’re using to have this conversation, if it breaks, I need to take it some place to get it repaired, or I need to buy a new one. I am completely dependent on other people for this, and it really stinks, because I feel so much of this stuff.
I don’t want to pretend this is a big conspiracy theory, but they’re not designed to last. It’s not necessarily planned obsolescence, but I’m not passing this computer onto my grandchild.
And because of that, we’re just stuck filling up landfills with stuff that’s going to come back to haunt somebody, when all of these endocrine-disrupting materials break down and go out into the soil, the ground, water, the air.
I’m probably way past where you wanted to go with that. But again, I see consequences when we depart from our biological norms, and our biological norm was a small band of people being able to live in complete dependence on their landscape, but not on people who live continents away, who supplied them with food and goods they need for living.
And yah, we’re in this really hard position. It’s not necessarily going to be easy for people to correct that overnight, but I promise anyone who’s listening to this interview, every step you make toward being able to retake skill sets that were possessed even by people just 50 years ago, it a pretty amazing feeling.
Abel: Well, you get a lot more confidence and momentum in your own life, I think.
Like something as silly as I did not like chopping wood when I was growing up, but now I do. There’s something funny about that.
I do, but there aren’t many people, especially in adulthood, who question anymore whether they should be doing things like chopping wood. Because why would you chop wood when you can buy chopped wood?
Unfortunately, it’s become this, the sign of making it, you’re successful when you not only pay other people to do work for you, but you forget how to do that work that you’re paying people to do.
And so, we have this really bizarre measure of success in that you can do next to none of the things that you need to be able to do anymore.
Abel: And be the most powerful at the same time.
I want that original affluence as much as I can. Click To Tweet
And what we do here is we focus on food, because what we do is we strategize, what are the things that we have to go to industry the most for?
And when I say industry, I’m not putting in any small local family owned farm. That’s not what I’m talking about, because those are very valuable for communities around the country to have near them.
But I’m talking about the supermarket where there’s a big producer, who’s just not necessarily giving you real deep nutrition anymore, and taking your money for it.
We know that we have to go to food the most, we go a little bit for medicine, we go for clothes, occasionally, but there are some things that we almost never go to industry for. You buy a home and you can live in it forever.
Your whole life, if you wanted to. And so we focus a lot less on building shelters all over the landscape and getting really good with that, and focus more on acquiring food, because it’s what we need industry for every single day at least three times a day, in most cases.
And so for us, that’s what we want to do. And that whole thing about why do you want to do this? Well, there’s sovereignty in it. We’re detached from industry.
We can’t have people telling us what to do and how we should be doing it. We get to do what works for this place, which is really different for your place. We’re in this time where we want homogenized solutions.
And historically every single group of traditional people around the world, they ate differently, they dressed differently, they had different creation stories, because it’s what worked for their landscape.
And I don’t just want the nutrient density of the food, but I want to be out moving my limbs for the benefit of my immune system. I want conscientious sun exposure. I want access to the bright blue light of the day which wakes me up so that I can sleep better at night, all of these things that people don’t necessarily think about.
So, going back to your question, why do I want to chop my wood? Because I want that diversity of movement. I want to make sure I’m raising my arms above my head that day, and I want that physical workout.
Sure, I don’t want to split wood eight hours a day, five days a week, I’ll admit it. But I do want to do it some of the time in my life.
Abel: And you don’t want to forget how to do it
There is actually technique to splitting wood, it isn’t just launching an axe into it.
I recently had a student who was trying to split some wood, and I said, “Would you like just a couple of pointers?”
And it had to do with lining the axe up on the grains, and the way the rays of the wood grow out from where the core is.
And it was like, “Oh my god, I had no idea, I just thought you swung an axe.”
The Risks in Drinking Water
Abel: I can’t believe it, but we are coming up on time.
I wanted to make sure that we talk about water a bit, because I think that’s a big blind spot for a lot of people. And it can manifest in disease pretty quickly and prickly pretty easily, certainly over time.
Can you talk maybe first about some of the risks inherent in drinking the water that most people drink, just from the tap city water?
I do think it’s a bit of a blind spot because we get accustomed to just doing what everyone else does, becoming essentially passive participants in an industrial society, and we don’t question things.
We put chlorine in our water to kill pathogens, and we think that’s the end of the story. But no one’s discussing the fact that you have an elevated cancer risk.
In fact, when you look at people who live in a chlorinated water supply versus those who don’t, on average it’s a 97% increase in cancer rates.
Abel: Wow, now that’s something you would think you’d hear about.
You don’t. We need to kill the pathogens. I’m not claiming that chlorine is all bad.
But many people do have access to water sources where chlorine is not required, springs that come up out of the ground from clean sources.
We also put fluoride in our water, because we know that fluoride replaces calcium in our tissues, and fluoride creates a much harder surface, like the enamel of our teeth. And that gives us, we believe at least, resistance to dental carriers.
The problem is fluoride needs to contact your teeth. There is no advantage to imbibing it, actually drinking it, because it goes past your teeth, and then gets absorbed into your body. Absolutely no advantage.
Fluoride is not needed by any physiological process. And of course what they don’t mention is we’ve got increased rates of ADHD and decreased IQ points, small but a measurable difference in IQ scores of children who grow up in fluoridated, versus non-fluoridated waters.
We also have all kinds of various endocrine disrupting compounds that are leaching into our water supply. Bisphenol A, phthalates and a host of other things, maleates, fumarates and things. Some of these compounds are not even regulated by any U.S. agency.
And these endocrine disrupting compounds obviously create some pretty serious risk for both men and women. And not even just for humans, but we even see places where these are being dumped into rivers.
We see distorted gender ratios in fish upstream versus downstream of these discharges. We start seeing intersects fish, which are not known upstream of these mills.
And one of the other things that we never even consider when it comes to city water, especially where they’re having to essentially purify clean and recycle that water. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually get purified.
And so all of the trace drugs that are being urinated and defecated out of our bodies, because we don’t absorb everything that we take when we ingest a pill, is going into our water supply. So, trace mood enhancing, anti-fertility, and we get analgesic compounds a lot.
And we say “Well, they’re really trace, so we don’t have to worry about them.”
But no one has studied what subtherapeutic doses of drugs over our entire lifetime, what that actually does to us; not to mention the antibiotics that are also in the waters.
And let’s not forget, chlorine is there to kill organisms in the water, it also kills organisms inside us. And so it can be harming our probiotic floor, though I’ve not seen any research on that.
It seems to stand to reason that could be the case, and every few years I try to search for something on that. And if anybody knows, I want to see that research, because I think it’s a really serious risk that we should consider.
There’s all these things going on with our industrial water supply that we completely take for granted.
Water is a huge one. There are folks that have spoken on this a lot. Daniel Vitalis is an example of someone who sort of harped, and I mean this in a good way, on focusing on the quality of our water for a long time.
Here, we’re blessed. I’m in rural Maine and we have access to springs that have filtered through all of the sand and glacial deposit. And when they surface, they’re as clean as water that we can possibly access.
And we collect that in glass containers in an inert material, something that isn’t bioactive essentially, or at least chemically active, I guess I should say.
It becomes bioactive when we ingest those plastic compounds that have leached into it.
I’m glad you brought up water, because I think it’s one of those things that we really forget about.
We focus on a whole food diet, we focus on movement, and then we’ve got sports drinks out of plastic, and so on and so forth, without realizing over time we’re increasing the risk of chronic disease, including cancer as one of the really big risks that industrial water supplies to us.
Is BPA-Free Safer?
Abel: One thing that is worth pointing out is how quickly we jump to conclusions about: Oh, it’s BPA-free now, so this plastic is totally safe.
It’s like somehow everyone just decided that, without asking, “Well, what was it replaced with? Is this plastic thing?” Could you comment on that?
The BPA, the Bisphenol A, performed a function, and you can’t just take it out.
I like using the analogy that I’m going to take the yeast out of the bread. Well, the bread won’t rise. It doesn’t become bread anymore. You have to replace it with another leavening agent.
And these plasticizer compounds, you have to replace it with something. So, they replaced it with BPS and BPAF. These are similar class of compounds. And what we did is we just made some exchanges.
It turns out that their endocrine disrupting ability is just a little bit less. It’s still present, but it’s reduced a little bit. But they last much longer in the environment, so they can wreak their harm longer.
We didn’t really get an improvement, but the consumer said, “Oh, okay, we’re done.”
We launched headlong into this dependence on plastic before we ever even thought, “What are the ramifications of this?”
We do this as modern humans a lot with technology changing so fast.
You’re born into one technology, and it’s gone through several iterations in your lifetime, such that as an older person, you can’t possibly understand what the young people are doing. And we did this with plastic and it’s coming back to really haunt us.
We’re now noticing micro-plastics in our oceans.
These microscopic particles fed on by the shellfish that used to be this amazing source of food, where we got selenium and DHA, and Zinc, and all of these things that men and women need for vital health. Except these tiny little plastic particles turn out to absorb many of these environmental toxins.
So, here, they’re going back into our food supply and we’re consuming them. We just thought they were going out into the ocean and we were good. And that’s not the case.
And you’re right, we never asked what did they replace the bisphenol compound with. It was just something else that’s pretty much just as bad.
Abel: Why is it so easy for us to say, “Ok, they solved this one, I don’t have to worry about it anymore?”
Well, we believe in the technological utopia.
We really do believe that technology is going to fix everything. It’s creepily similar to this religious figure that’s also going to come and save us.
We’ve replaced whatever gods that we used, or in the monotheistic religion, we replaced Jesus with technology.
We replaced Jesus with technology. Click To Tweet
Abel: The robots are going to save us. Watch Terminator again, everybody.
Yah, for real.
I really do think we firmly believe that technology will come and rescue us. And the reality is, every single technological fix that has ever been created had some consequences. You name it.
In some cases, you may not be willing to accept it, but we came up with the Haber Bosch method for producing nitrogen from natural gas.
Okay, well, now that’s all running off into the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River drainage, and we get these massive die-outs as a result.
Or we create life-saving medicine. What is the drawback to that? 7.3 billion people and rising.
We will, no matter what, hit a point where we have some type of catastrophic collapse.
I’m not a gloom and doom type person, I am very hopeful.
But when we just keep thinking, “Let’s party and let technology deal with this,” we’re heading for something really serious.
And anyone who is a parent or has young ones that they love, or a landscape that they’re deeply connected to, this is worth grieving for.
Because I want everyone to be able to experience the health, and the sights, and sounds and everything that we get to experience in the same or better shape.
And, yah, technology isn’t going to fix this. What it’s actually doing is just postponing the problem.
Abel: We don’t need to be saved as much as we need to take responsibility.
I couldn’t agree more, Abel. That’s a great way to put it.
Being One with Nature… and Each Other
Abel: And there’s so much that we could talk about. Maybe just one more thing.
The separation and dominion over nature, let’s just talk a little bit more about that, because that is in some ways unique to our culture, the western culture. It’s not pervasive forever through history at all.
Abel: Could you maybe describe what it’s like to not feel like that, divorced from nature?
Yah, maybe I’ll share a story.
We recently had a couple show up here at Wilder Waters Community, which is where I’m parked right now. And what we’re trying to do is to reestablish some sense of community.
I will tell you, it’s extremely difficult. Because in addition to, let’s say, forgetting how to identify wild plants for food, we have also forgotten how to live together, how to have a village mind and how to make sure that the ego doesn’t get in the way of the disputes which always arise in any community, no matter what.
And so we have a couple show up here, and they’re talking about permaculture and agriculture, and how these various authors have figured out ways that if we plant fruit trees through the forest and if we use these things in our streams and if we grow these things here, that we can now support over 20 billion people on the planet. What a wonderful thing that would be.
And it’s like the person is not even aware. You are simply wanting to force the world to produce for you, right?
You’re forcing it to do what you want, so there can simply be more people who want to force it to do what they want, and so on and so forth.
And the strong difference, when you look at true hunter-gatherers, those that had not either adopted or been forced into agriculture by nearby groups that had greater numbers than them, you saw a participation mindset.
It wasn’t about forcing the world to produce, it was about participating with the abundant food resources. And knowing how to, through a long time of living in that place, and making mistakes, but working out the kinks in their living system, being able to truly, sustainably live in that place.
Sustainable is one of those buzzwords now. Click To Tweet
People talk about, “This is sustainable.”
And I always want to ask, “What is it you’re sustaining? Are you continuing to sustain the world’s sixth major extinction event? That’s not really sustainable.” But you get my point.
And yah, it’s really different because when you go out and we’re going to roam the landscape today, looking for edible mushrooms, or we’re going to go as we do in September and harvest wild rice from these massive rice beds that occur here in Maine.
And while we do it, we’ll use methods that we spread the fertile grains around too, so that we propagate those rice beds.
It’s a really different feeling than forcing the world to make more food so that we can have more people. It’s something that almost needs to be experienced.
I’ll say, I wish I could articulate the vision better to you, because I feel like if I could do a better job here, people would understand what a comforting feeling it is to know virtually everything that you look at on your landscape.
We can all do that. We need lots of different expertises right now for sure, but that’s one of them, that we need to foster again if that makes sense.
Abel: I am certainly not even close to your level of walking in the woods and recognizing different plants, but I can speak to the fact that even if you only recognize a few, especially if they’re edible, there is a whole lot of satisfaction that you get from that.
And especially in that part of the world, growing up in New Hampshire, behind our house, especially as a kid we had wild cranberries, those tiny little strawberries, blueberries, huckleberries.
We had some pears, some apple trees, an old peach tree that fell down. It did not feel unusual at the time because that’s what being a kid was, and it was all I knew. But what a rare experience to imagine now, especially in other parts of the country and world.
Yah. And how important it was to you. I mean you still have those memories. Of all of the things that we forget growing up, those haven’t been forgotten.
And not to mention, especially when it comes to photochemistry and beneficial plant compounds, you’re talking about the best food in the world, that you were exposed to as a young person, even if it was only every once in a while. You still have that memory of how amazing that was.
We’re really lucky here in the Northeast. I think many states have their wonderful Edens.
There are places that have not been developed too much, and finding those places and finding someone that can help you safely interact with those places, and as importantly sustainably interact with those places so that we don’t just become another taker.
But we learn how to gather at a time that we can actually help spread as just a simple example of how we sustainably harvest.
As opposed to just being a taker. It’s not complicated, but there aren’t simple rules. You have to learn it for this plant and for this plant and for this one, independently, sometimes. But yah, I totally hear you.
Even though I was not born into a foraging family, all of those same species that you just mentioned were in my childhood.
“A New Path”
Abel: That’s so cool. Well, anyway, we’re out of time, but I would like to recommend your new book, A New Path, to everyone who’s watching and listening to this right now.
It is one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I think it’s very much needed. It’s a well balanced book.
Arthur, before we go, could you tell folks where to find you, where to find the book and a little bit more about what you cover in this particular book?
Thanks, yah. I’m easiest to find probably at just arthurhaines.com, my website, and obviously you have to be present on social media to some degree, although I’ll just warn people there are times of the year where our wild food harvest takes priorities, so sometimes I’m slow to respond on social media.
Abel: You gotta go bear hunting sometimes.
Yah. I’ll do my best to get back to people. But what I tried to make a case for in A New Path is that we need a new path, and one that doesn’t ignore our evolutionary history.
One that essentially says, “We’re mammals, we do have biological norms, and despite the fact we come from all over the world, we have remarkable similarities.”
Not necessarily in the amount of carbohydrates versus fat versus protein that we ate. There are differences in different places. But the fact is, is that we consumed all of them from omnivorous sources. It’s just one example.
This was a unifying biological norm that we have, and as I was mentioning before the interview started, it’s not. I don’t mean to make it comprehensive, but I was trying to make it more holistic, so instead of just discussing diet, or diet and movement, I wanted to discuss diet, movement, water, medicine, hormesis, community, nature exposure, primitive skills, and what we used to accomplish with those things, and so on, and so forth.
So it became a much, at least bigger expression of what humans need for health. There’s more chapters I would like to write particularly on ancestral childrearing and things like that, but that’s coming at a later day.
I really appreciate you giving me an opportunity to kind of present what A New Path is about. I don’t think there are many books like it.
But to be clear, I stand on the shoulders of anthropologists who did a lot of painstaking work, folks like Katy Bowman and others who are doing all this really wonderful work, looking at what our modern shoes do to our bodies and the lack of movement diversity, and so on.
So this is not all my original thought per se. I try to draw on that work and summarize it and then direct people to their work so they can get more detailed information if they want to.
I’m just trying to put a lot of information in one place for people, so they have a little bit more of a reference that they could go to.
Abel: If you want a human alternative that’s based in history that might make you feel a little bit more yourself and certainly help you question everything, then definitely check out Arthur’s new book, A New Path. I really enjoyed it.
Arthur, thank you so much for coming on the show, you’re welcome any time.
Hey, thanks, it was really great talking with you again, Abel.
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