The Fifth World

Hunting and Gathering

For the vast majority of human history, people survived by hunting and gathering. Rather than cultivating crops, they hunted, fished, picked berries and nuts, and dug up naturally-growing tubers for their meals. The collapse of civilization returned many to this subsistence strategy.

All communities in the Fifth World hunt and gather at least some of their food. Those who rely on it more heavily must lead a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle ranging over a broad territory. They typically live in peaceful, egalitarian bands. Because they do not store or preserve food, they share everything they gather equally, thereby “storing” the food in each other so their family members can one day return the favor.

Hunting and violence

Hunter-gatherers don’t consider hunting a violent act, but a willing sacrifice on the animal’s part. This might seem ludicrous to someone who has never hunted in the traditional way, but when a hunter must get as close to an animal as a hunter with a simple bow must, something strange happens. The prey notices the hunter. She has the chance to run — but doesn’t. She acknowledges the hunter and gives her her shot. Typically, a hunter understands that she would likely never have even seen the animal if she had not chosen to reveal herself.

Animist hunter-gatherer societies will typically have one of two common metaphors for hunting: hunting as gift or hunting as seduction. In the former case, they view the land as akin to a parent, taking care of her children by sending them what they need to survive. In the latter, they view the animals they hunt as akin to lovers they must seduce to come to them.

Insects

While most people today think of hunter-gatherers primarily as big game hunters, the Fifth World has far fewer large mammals. Due to climate change, warm-blooded mammals have gotten smaller while cold-blooded animals (insects especially) have gotten much larger. Large insects constitute a greater proportion of a Fifth Worlder’s diet than you might expect.

One particular insect — the bee — produces honey, which all families treasure. People can’t find sweet things very easily, so they value honey more highly than meat. Because bees have gotten bigger, so have their hives. Gathering honey requires bravely looting hives as big as houses, and building smoky bonfires to calm fist-sized bees. Some bees build hives near meadows of hallucinogenic flowers, which makes their honey hallucinogenic as well. People gather this honey for use in religious ceremonies.