Many people have read the dire warnings about the health consequences of consuming fish and shellfish. These admonishments usually center on mercury contamination—most of which is produced by coal-fired facilities, chlorine production, and mining—which is converted to an organic form of mercury (methylmercury) by the action of various aquatic micro-organisms. This organic form of mercury comes to be located in marine animals and bioaccumulates as one ascends the trophic ladder as progressively larger animals consume smaller ones. Mercury is a real threat because it is linked to cognitive impacts in children (e.g., loss of IQ points, problems with attention, decreased memory function) and various health effects in adults (e.g., cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease). People are frequently told (through various media) to limit fish consumption to prevent mercury poisoning.
I lecture on wild food frequently, discussing various issues that concern this subject to a wide variety of people. For years, the information was received with interest and people appreciated learning about this part of our collective human history and what wild food can mean for human and ecosystem health. In the last year or so, there has been an increasing number of criticisms about the message of wild food. While these arguments center on important social issues, they are representative of a broader narrative that has become very pervasive and sometimes applied to topics that may not be core to the subject of privilege and power.
Many wild animals live longer in a captive setting. While there are some exceptions (such as elephants), most animals provided with shelter, a constant supply of food and nutritional supplements, and protection from the wild interactions that might wound, maim, or kill them experience increases in longevity. And despite the greater life expectancy and longer lifespan, most people understand that wild animals held in a zoo setting do not live the lives they were biologically intended to.
Many people have some level of awareness of the harm we are inflicting on this world. In theory, they realize that if we degrade our landscapes, we will have no way to safely produce the food and raw materials we need to survive. We employ modern fixes, such as green technologies, to both limit the ecological devastation and help us feel less depressed about humanity’s current situation. Unfortunately, using industrial technology to fix problems caused by industrial technology is an ineffectual system of reversing ecocide—it can only slow the injury (at best).
I recently read an excerpt from Derek Jensen’s book titled “Endgame” that listed ten (of the twenty) premises of industrial civilization and the inherent problems with this form of living. The writing, though perhaps considered extreme and alarmist by some, has correctly described the problem (in my opinion). I wanted to expand on these ten premises that Jensen has authored with my own take on what the opposite end of the spectrum looks like. I have chosen to present only the first ten premises to keep the writing relatively brief.
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is one of the most valuable wild plants for those following a rewilding path. It offers food, medicine, and relatively strong fibers for those that know how to identify and process this plant. One of its indigenous names is wiphunakson (pronounced weep-hoo-NAHK-sun), which means “feather-shoe” in Passamaquoddy, a very fitting name for this species’ fruit.
Asclepias syriaca is such a valuable wild food because it is available (in some form) for a large portion of the growing season. The spring shoots emerge in mid-May, and from then until at least mid-August (in my part of the world; western Maine) new foods continue to be produced by this plant, including tender leaves, flower buds, open flowers, immature fruits, and immature seeds. This time of year (Apsqewi-kisuhs, around August on the Gregorian Calendar), it is the fruits and immature seeds within those fruits that we consume as a food.
The number one concern in American politics today is the economy. Americans are convinced this is THE most important issue facing the nation. In fact, we are told by many politicians that any attempt to protect the environment in this critical time will result in lost jobs and set economic growth back.
Hunter-gatherers serve as wonderful models for examining the food habits of humans. Not only has hunting and gathering been practiced since long before anatomically modern humans appeared, but the people that practiced this method of food acquisition represented some of the healthiest people on the planet (those that were still consuming their traditional diet and had ample space to practice their diet and lifestyle).
Most everyone recognizes that there is truth to saying “you get what you pay for”. For the most part, cheaper products don’t function as well as higher priced goods. Further, products made with cheaper materials don’t last as long and are more likely to be defective and/or break sooner than the higher priced items.