Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Note: This program first aired December 13, 2014.
The more I read and the more I see, the more I’ve been feeling lately, that my life is increasingly irrelevant in this world. Or better put, the way I live is increasingly irrelevant. I feel that the world has rushed by eastern Maine, or hurtled past, perhaps when I had my head down weeding carrots in the garden, or while I was in the wood shed stacking firewood, and I am just now noticing, feeling the pull of the vortex created when all that energy and technology blew by.

Currently more than half of the people in the world live in cities, and that trend is expected to continue, by 2050, more than 66 % of people world wide will be living in urban areas. In North America alone 82% of people live in cities, the highest percentage in the world, which is probably why I feel this irrelevancy so acutely. I feel like I live in the land time forgot. Just to be clear, I know that by global standards, eastern Maine is not the land time forgot. We have power and plumbing and the interweb and all that, but by America standards we are a quiet and aging back water in a country that worships youth and speed and technology.

I feel irrelevant when I hear yet another story on the radio about how awesome Copenhagen is, with its high standard of living, its elevated bike paths, or its green roofs. Or how Helsinki is getting rid of cars, or about the latest apps for ordering pizza to be delivered at the push of a button and the calendar that learns your daily routine and suggests ways to save time during the day. When I go into a city I feel overwhelmed, astonished to be reminded just how many people there are on this planet, how many lives are being lived simultaneously. I wonder where the food comes from, where the heat comes from, where the water goes.

And at the same time I am feeling irrelevant, another feeling rises up in me, one that says that not only I am not irrelevant, but that my way of life is exactly the opposite, it’s the most relevant thing you can be doing right now.  When I get home from work, my house is cold. To get it warm, I have to start a fire. To start a fire, I have to bring in wood. Wood from trees my husband cut down around our house and our neighborhood. Much of the food I eat grew in earth I have nurtured. I fed and watered the chickens and ducks and pig that fill my freezer. I can see the path my survival takes from earth to warmth and fullness, and I play an integral role in it. To me this seems perfectly relevant, this life filled with details of natural rhythms and sunset, moonrise, snow fall.

In having this feeling rising inside me I am not alone. There’s a movement out there, gaining steam, changing lives. Its called Rewilding, a term borrowed from conservation biology. In its original context it referred to restoring chopped up urban and suburban landscapes and connecting those landscapes on large scale levels, to ensure that high trophic level predators would have enough connected habitat to survive and thrive. In the human context it means taking actions to connect your self back to the natural world and your own survival. It includes hard core survivalists preparing for the zombie apocalypse, primitive skills aficionados, herbalists, botanists and edible landscape enthusiasts, and soccer dads making tea from the flowers in the back yard. Every action counts, this is a big tent kind of a thing.

Some will critique this as a first world issue, though the most rapid 21rst century urbanization will be taking place in the global south, and it isn’t clear exactly what economic opportunities that rapid urban migration will yield, as most of that expansion will come in the form of urban slums with no services. Others may say that I am speaking from a place of privilege, and it is true, on a global scale, I am incredibly privileged, and I am using that privilege as a soap box to stand on to call it like I see it. Any actions you can take to be connected to or aware of natural rhythms and the unbreakable laws of nature will improve your life in ways you may not understand at first. You can do this in a city, you can do this in the country. Here in the land time forgot, rewilding is sort of a no brainer. Its not even re-wilding, many of us never got that domesticated to begin with.

The UN World Urbanization Prospects 2014

A sample of the human rewilding movement popping up in this country:

The calendar that “learns how you do thing and suggests ways to make you better”