Why Learn Ancient Living and Survival Skills?

Why Learn Ancient Living and Survival Skills? -

I will break the reasons into two groups, as listed below. I have written this page with the more confronting, or as some would call them, "doom and gloom" reasons first, so as to end the page with a positive frame of mind. If you would rather begin reading with the positive reasons, click here.

Healing the Negative Aspects of Life

A great many people today, even those who do not openly acknowledge it, have a feeling that our world is—in some sense—dying.

What depresses men and women most today is the unconscious realisation that the many false ideals they have held so close to their hearts, through fear and inherent laziness, must now be replaced by a sane and responsible approach, if global disaster is to be avoided. People's sense of depression also arises because they feel that they do not know which way to turn, or what to think. Men and women everywhere are quietly beginning to fear the worst imaginable nightmares, whilst their world and beliefs continue to crumble..... Humanity now has its back firmly up against the wall—it is now or never.

It is precisely within this grim state of affairs that lies man's hope for a bright new world—a world in which peace and abundance will once again be the common heritage of all life upon this planet. However, this bright new world is not about to appear out of the mist. Such a world will have to be planned and worked for. Therefore action is the order of the day.

Theun Mares, Cry of the Eagle, p16-17.

The End Of The World As We Know It

There is a lot of evidence which strongly suggests that existing modern systems of food production (and so on) will be unable to cope with the turnaround of global and local economic growth that is ahead of us. If people are motivated to learn some useful skills, then no matter what happens, there will be a lot more options open than if everyone is 100% dependent on the supermarkets, on the oil supply, and on economic growth.

We may be living in an "information age" with "information overload", in some sense. But when it comes to what actually gets into people's heads, we're instead living in an age of "knowledge scarcity".

People no longer know information that's vital to sustain life—how to grow their own food, how to find drinkable water, what's in their food, how to build a fire and keep warm, how to survive in the natural environment, what the sky means and how to read it, when the growing seasons begin and end, what plants in the forest and fields are edible, how to track and kill and dress and eat and store game, how to farm without (or even with) chemicals and tractors, how to treat broken bones and other common medical emergencies, or how to deliver a baby, among other things.

Because of this "information deficit", we are out of touch with reality and are also standing on a dangerous shelf of oil-dependent, corporate-induced information starvation. In the 1930s during the Great Depression, far more people lived in rural areas than in the cities. The information about how to grow and preserve food, how to survive during difficult times, and how to make do with less was general knowledge. Today we know the names of the latest movie stars and how much their movies grossed, or what level the Dow Jones Industrial Average is at, but few of us could survive two months if suddenly the supermarkets closed.

For those of us (including myself) who can find this topic depressing, note that the rest of this page is positive. And that there is also an inspirational section of this website.

Adding to the Positive Aspects of Life

The more I read about cultures that lived what we call a "simple" lifestyle, the more it seems that people in those cultures really were more happy, much more happy, than almost everyone who lives in the modern world. So adopting some of the qualities of these lifestyles into our own lives could very well lead to a much happier and healthier way to live.

For one example of this kind of life, click here.

Busting the myth that ancient people had to work much harder than us

When many of us in modern society think of "ancient" people, we think along the lines of "all those starving people in Africa", or something like that. Those are not the kind of people I am talking about in this website. What is generally not at all well understood by modern people is the difference between ancient people living in their natural setting, and those who have been disturbed (invaded, colonised, enslaved, abandoned,......) by a large, aggressive, dominating culture such as our own.

The fact is that there are (or at least were) a great many cultures, that we would think of as "primitive", whose members had access to far more of the basic essentials of what makes life worth living than almost anyone in modern society. It is also true that shortly after these cultures come into contact with a large, aggressive, dominating culture (e.g. Western civilisation), their quality of life is in general completely destroyed. This in itself is one major reason why most of us in the West think of ancient people as living miserable, desperate lives—because those cultures undisturbed by us are therefore not known to us.

But of course there have been some cases where Westerners have been able to observe "uncivilised" peoples in their own unspoiled, original, pre-civilised setting. And as I have discovered, reading about these indigenous cultures brings to light a completely different picture:

The solutions I'm proposing in this book are neither new nor radical in the total history of the human race. In fact, they represent a way of viewing the world that has sustained and nurtured humanity for tens to hundreds of thousands of years. The indigenous tribes of South America, North America, Africa, Australia, and early Asia did not overpopulate or destroy their world, even though in most cases they had access to far more resources then they used. Neither does the fossil and historical record show that they led rude and desperate lives, as is so often depicted in the media and in the mind of the average person. They lived a sustainable way of life, seeing the sacredness of the world and the presence of the Creator and divinity in all things, and generally led fulfilling lives with far more leisure time than the working-class citizens of the industrialised world will ever enjoy.

Remarkably, Ladahkis only work, really work, for four months of the year [the short Himalayan growing season]. In the eight winter months, they must cook, feed the animals, and carry water, but work is minimal. Most of the winter is spent at festivals and parties. Even during summer, hardly a week passes without a major festival or celebration of one sort or another, while in winter the celebration is almost nonstop.
Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures, p35-36.

The Shoshone require the same average 2000 calories of food energy per day as do any other humans. However they expended on average only two hours per day to acquire it. Toronto University's Professor Richard Lee found that a similarly structured tribal group, !Kung of the Kalahari Desert in Africa, spent less than 15 hours a week (about 2 hours a day) attending to gathering food and other necessities of life. The rest of the time, he said, they played, told stories, and made music. John Yellen of the National Science Foundation found the same to be true of the Hottentots.

Some anthropologists believe the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was mankind's apotheosis—the original affluent society free of worries and wants. As testimony they point to the Kung Bushmen, modern-day foragers who thrive in Botswana's harshest desert. The Kung expend only 12-19 hours a week in search of food, and they suffer less during droughts than their farmer neighbours, for the desert is rich in untapped foods.

Tim Low, Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand, p4.

There was another, really good quote, that I can't remember the source from, so I can't quote it properly. It was about the Native American "Indians", pointing out how different the land was before white settlement, and how so many more resources were available. Aboriginal people are generally masters of resource management, having learned over many hundreds, or thousands, of years how to tailor their activities to the most efficient possible lifestyle. Modern people see the land as it is now, despoiled and relatively barren, and wonder how people could have lived with such meagre resources available. People do not realise how different the land was. The quote described how there once used to be flocks of pidgeons so numerous that the whole sky would turn dark, as in an eclipse of the sun. There were so many fish in the rivers that at times the whole river would be a single shimmering liquid mass of silver. And so many buffalo on the plains as to make the entire grassland look black stretching all the way to the far horizon.

Murnong tubers were favourite staple foods of Victorian Aborigines, gathered by the basketful from meadows and woods. According to one early report (E.M. Curr, 1886) the tubers “were so abundant and so easily procured, that one might have collected in an hour, with a pointed stick, as many as would have served a family for the day”.

Not only did they have access to far more resources than they used, but their way of life was—completely unlike our own—designed from the ground up (literally) to not only conserve, but to actively increase the availability of those resources.

Thus in the lapse of only two hours, having walked leisurely about a couple of miles, I saw them collect opossums, kangaroo-rats, a bandicoot, grubs, ant's eggs, and honey, without much trouble and exertion; and, they not only excited my surprise by their activity, but afforded me great amusement, by the droll and humorous way they have when engaged in any employment.

From the Journals of William Govett, 1836-1837, about Australian Aborigines in the Blue Mountains, as quoted in "Blue Mountains Dreaming", ed. by Eugene Stockton, p92.

How to Get Started

Cover image by Shutterstock

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