feralculture dietary principles synthesis: version α.0.1
The Paleo Diet® is comprised of almost 100% neolithic foods. The Wild Diet is based on ~90% domesticated foods. And the Bulletproof® Diet confers almost zero resistance to acute lead and/or copper trauma. The “just eat real food” (JERF) camp defines “real” as the foods they say humans should eat and “food” as things that are “real”. It seems we have an Orwellian doublespeak thing going on in the world of ancestral health. One notable exception would be the SAD [diet, if you’re not averse to redundancy], which probably does contribute significantly to depression.
Of course there are things to be learned from the “grocery store paleo diet” framework (one mustn’t say Paleo Diet, lest being sued is on the to-do list). I’ve learned a lot from the likes of Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Hamilton Stapell (he referenced me in one of his talks, so clearly he’s a genius), WAPF, and many others online and in-person at the Ancestral Health Symposium and Paleo(f)x. The paleo 2.0 concept articulated by Dr. Kurt Harris is worth a revisit. So… please don’t take any of this as bashing anyone so much as paying homage to good ideas that can be taken farther.
A paleolithic dietary framework
- Foods that drove human evolution (animal fats and proteins) and those that drove the evolution of pre-hominin ancestors (various plants) are both more likely to contribute to optimal health, and less likely for human bodies to react to them as toxins.
- Animals have the ability to fight physically and run away as defensive strategies. Plants (generally speaking) do not have these capabilities, and on average use chemical defense mechanisms to thwart predation more often and more acutely than animals. This principle may be used as a heuristic for deciding what is or is not “food” for humans.
- All things we may masticate and ingest exist on a spectrum from healthy to toxic along multivariate axes. There is no such thing as food.
- According to the work of geneticist Spencer Wells, the human genome that has undergone the highest level of selection in the last 10,000 years are the (several) genes relating to lactase persistence (ability for adults to digest lactose, a milk sugar). Rather than a hint at mysteries with the human genome, his work shows that this is a bracket within which genetic changes have occurred. Also of note is that the ability to metabolize lactose is persistent in all pre-adult humans, so this genetic change is a relatively simple issue of “flipping a genetic switch”. We can therefore be skeptical of claims that humans have evolved adaptations to food X or Y in the recent past.
- Archaeological evidence shows that humans in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) likely only consumed seeds from annual grasses (“grains”) infrequently.
- Wild humans and modern foragers all know that grains are generally extremely difficult to harvest and prepare to levels sufficient for human consumption. If other plant and animal sources of calories are available, grains are not part of an optimal foraging strategy for humans.
- Not only do humans benefit from evolutionarily appropriate diets, but other animals do as well. The paleo framework implies paleo², wherein humans benefit from (at least) 2 degrees of paleo analysis, what we eat, and what what we eat eats.
- Many modern farmed foods (eggs, honey, etc.) tend to be rare in wild ecosytems, and removing this natural limit may lead to negative health outcomes in grocery store culture.
A permaculture dietary framework
Dr. John Kitsteiner has posted some preliminary thoughts on what a permaculture diet might consider, primarily based on the ethical principles, and how that might relate to human health. After attending his talk at Permaculture Voices (PV1), I came away very much appreciating his thought process. This graphic is his summary, but I think we can intuit more about diet from permaculture than it illuminates:
As originally intended by Mollison and Homgren, the ethics of permaculture imply many things that aren’t explicitly stated. Perhaps we could tease out a few that relate to diet:
- In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find at grocery stores.
- In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find at farmer’s markets.
- In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find in most gardens.
- “Produce all your own food” says nothing about the content of a garden or what is or is not more or less “human food”.
- Toby Hemenway has moved toward interpreting permaculture as more akin to horticulture as traditionally practiced than agriculture or modern gardening in his conceptualization of “liberation permaculture” (audio).
- Following the principles and ethics of permaculture nudges us toward biodiversity, and particularly toward perennial polycultures and away from monocultures.
- Wild ecosystems include complex relationships of plants, animals, and other forms of life which convert sun, minerals, and one another into life. Things eat what nourishes their plant and animal bodies, not what an ideological system predicated upon reified thoughts and feelings of human whims, aka the anthropocentric notion of “morality”.
A feralculture dietary synthesis and extension
- Feralculture is, by our situation in a particular historical context, a rejection of the monocultural paradigm, and seeks to move everything toward wildness. This is not a new idea, and we follow a tradition of many individuals and groups who found societies based on agriculture lacking across millennia.
- The feralculture concept embraces the implied concept in the paleolithic dietary framework—that wild foods are closer to paleolithic foods than any domesticated plants or animals—and works to increase wild foods in our diets.
- Feralculture embraces the concept that the optimal implementation of permaculture principles includes designing ourselves out of systems, thereby decreasing their dependence on humans, and decreasing human dependence on other humans in turn.
- We recognize that wild ecosystems have been damaged by monoculture (including those labeled “organic” or “sustainable” agriculture).
Least Worstest (paleo-ish)DO
- Cook your own food
- Buy individual ingredients
- Eat plants, and limit seeds.
- Eat animals, including organs such as heart and liver.
- Focus on variety whether considering plants or animals. Wild humans generally eat hundreds of species of plants and animals. Most grocery stores are limited to dozens of domesticated species, and hundreds of chemicals.
- Eat processed or pre-prepared foods
- Mentally reduce animals to “meat”. Aside from ethical considerations, eating only muscle tissue limits the range of vitamins, minerals, etc. in animal products.
- Assume that having some adaptation to milk means that milk is necessarily healthy for adults. The picture is more complicated than: lactase persistence = yes/no.
- Get to know local farmers from which to purchase organically grown plants.
- Paleo². Source domesticated meats locally, and select those eating evolutionarily appropriate diets.
- Eat a dandelion if you see one, and it’s not been decorated by a canine, and it’s not been sprayed by Monsanto® Green Death Sauce™.
- Eat significant quantities of grains, if any.
- Eat factory farmed animals.
Better. (permaculture + paleo-ish)DO
- Start a garden and grow as much of your food as possible
- Plant trees all over the place. Black locust? Apple? Don’t ask me, I don’t know what you’re into.
- Integrate domestic animals into your the nutrient cycles of your garden and yourself.
- Be limited by the monocultural bias of the culture we’re immersed in.
- Let the ultra-domesticated ideology of veganism nor a culture that insists all land and life is a “resource” for human utilization override your potential as wild animal.
Best. (feralculture + wild)DO
- Increase hunting skills and opportunities
- Increase plant knowledge and foraging opportunities
- Use permaculture to instantiate regenerative systems that feed themselves, and not only humans
- Initiate a stepped plan to move away from monoculture and domestication, and toward the wild.
- Set artificial limits in your adventure toward wildness, and the wildness of other life.
This is by no means definitive. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions…