- reversing the process of domestication.
- restoring ancestral ways of living that create greater health and well-being for humans and the ecosystems that we belong to.
- mastering skills that will give us greater autonomy and deeper community.
How we understand our past shapes how we understand our present, which in turn shapes what we expect from our future. Most of us understand our past as Thomas Hobbes did: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” We have progressed over the millennia, always improving, and before too long we will settle the stars themselves.
In the past half century, though, anthropologists and archaeologists have begun to reveal a different past, one in which humans evolved for a million years in abundant, egalitarian communities and lived long, healthy lives. War, famine, pestilence and death — literally the horsemen of the apocalypse — did not always terrorize us. In fact, we now struggle to find much evidence of them at all before the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago — a blip in terms of the sweeping timeline of human evolution.
From this understanding of our past, one might see the present in a different light. One might see modern humans as domesticated, and see the need to rewild — to break free of that domestication and reclaim that more ancient birthright. This includes relearning the skills that gave our hunter-gatherer ancestors such freedom, autonomy, leisure, and abundance, but it also means exploring new ways of relating to one another and to our more-than-human world. Raised as domesticated animals, going feral requires a creative new synthesis inspired by ancient ways of living, relating, and knowing.
The Fifth World envisions a future that rewilding could lead to. Modern society finds its faith in the old vision of the future — of continual colonialism even across interstellar space — beginning to fail. In its place, dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction proliferates. The old optimism has become outlandish, but we have nothing else to take its place. Perhaps with our new understanding of our past, and the new understanding of our present that rewilding draws from it, The Fifth World can paint a new picture of our future.
Nothing was born to live in captivity, to be tamed, subdued and made submissive, and nothing accepts such a role without being forced.
Miles Olsen, Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive