ethnobotany feralculture permaculture tending the wild


Feralculture is the culture of feral. That is, a culture that is stepping away from the domestication of this collapsing civilization and moving toward Right Relationship. The direction of this movement is toward the “wild”, engaged human consciousness and ecological affect of our anscestors. We can no longer live like indigenous peoples, but we must become re-indigenous to the places we inhabit. And we can no longer live as this current unsustainable civilization. The process of rewilding, often associated with bioregionalism, takes us to what has been called Afterculture, or new tribalism. This new attempt at reconnection, return to Right Relationship, and rewilding is creating what I call feralculture.

“Culture”, though, has many different meanings. There are yeast cultures, sourdough cultures, horticultures, and subcultures. In many tribes, the fermented culture (like Kim Chi or beer) is synomous with the human culture. You are what you eat and the uniqueness of the your yeast or bacterial culture reflects the uniqueness of your people. This is the way it has been on one level for most of human history. Feralculture means this as well: a wild yeast culture, unsterilized substrates, new sourdough starters, — could all be considered feralcultures. Many “off” flavors described by eaters of wild food or beer brewers who don’t practice total sterilization I describe as “feral” flavors. I dream of feral flavor becoming a gourmet taste to a feral culture.

Feralculture also means way of interacting with the land. I have called it wildmanaging in the past, some call it permaculture. The phrase “tending the wild” inspired by Kat Anderson’s phenomenal work also has been used to describe this way of land management. Essentially, it is engaging the land with respect, so that you increase abundance and diversity at the same time you gain your needs to exist and thrive. You design, feed, and interact with wildlands. This is an art and a science (although I must admit, I really think we need to stop using the word “science”, it’s too loaded). Few people and institutions in the world have any grasp on it at all. For one, it only achieves success if you are a forager (read hunter-gatherer who manages the “wild”lands). Feralcultural landscapes aren’t appreciated by people that don’t possess the mind of a forager. Most likely somewhere on the planet, a small group of people are practicing wildculture, the ancient predecessor of feralculture. And although we can learn a tremendous deal from them, we cannot just return to wildculture. Go out and look around you. There’s a post-apocalyptic ecology out there. “Invasive” species, pollution, erosion, overpopulation, soil depletion, large landscape changes, extinctions. All because we have not been practing wildculture for a very long time. We are starting in many ways, from scratch. We have to reinvent connections and relationships to new ecological assemblages and situations.

We have long lost our wild heritage in most cases, and we cannot stay in the unsustainable nightmare of this global civilization. Feral is our best hope as far as I can see.