In this short grass prairie region of eastern Montana, the paleo lifestyle is more than eating and working out. For us the paleo lifestyle includes our environment, and how we live within it. The paleo lifestyle is a form of biomimetics — where our paleo nature serves as model.
Anne and I have been following a diet based on pre-agricutural food choices. Being hunters, and loving to eat meats and saturated fat, it suits us perfectly. We grow our own vegetables, eat wild fish from Fish Fry Lake and avoid processed foods, especially sugar and sodas. I call it “Renaissance paleo” to suggest an “enlightened” form of pre-agricultural lifestyle — the version that includes wine and chocolate and hot baths!
As we get more into it, we’ve begun to relate what we are doing with our diet and lifestyle to how we steward land and water. We are passionate about both, and the Shepherd Research Center reflects our biases.
Wisdom, creativity, and joy are rarely stated as goals today.
What we see in our water today is an aquatic version of obesity: too many nutrients left over from our attempts to grow more and more food for human consumption. Ironically this is the very food that leads to human obesity. There is a connection and it’s a vicious cycle. So we ask, can we get back to a more primal kind of stewardship and what might it look like? That’s what I am reflecting on here and I’ll ask you to join me.
Every visitor Anne and I have had at our place has contributed to the thinking, the testing, the prototyping and ultimately the vetting of ideas. Not just around the health of water, but also mind, body and spirit, the land, the atmosphere, wildlife, fisheries, and more. But certainly our focus has been around water, the environment, and our personal commitment to mind and body.
Here is some of what we’ve learned, and concluded:
1. Our paleo ancestors vectored with shoreline, especially along ocean edge. Today 90% of humans live within 100 miles of an ocean. In the past, this number was even greater due to the biocomplexity and verdancy associated with such “edge.”
2. Technology advances of the last 200 years are a hiccup. They have camouflaged many truly worthy human goals. For example, wisdom, creativity, and joy are rarely even stated as goals today. And as environmental health diminishes, such goals become even more distant.
3. A paleo model for water and environmental health is not just achievable…but fundamental.
Here at Shepherd we’ve designed and managed for harvest of wild game and heirloom fruits and vegetables. We also harvest some wild plant material. Initially, the bounty of fish, venison, upland birds like pheasant and grouse, and waterfowl and fruit and vegetables would make up perhaps twenty percent of our diet. As a private pond in Montana our harvest of fish is not restricted. Wild game however does fall within bag and possession limit regulations. Even so, today our entire dietary requirements are met by fish, game, vegetables and fruit garnered from the property.
The exceptions to this within our diet are those times we choose to dine elsewhere. A key point here is that this property was “conventional” when we started. Today it is not conventional. Today it is a test site where an experiment in paleo lifestyle is unfolding.
Our paleo ancestors lived primarily along seashores. Those that lived inland, invariably were associated with waterways. A delightful/thoughtful book called The Living Shore by Rowan Jacobsen tracks how North America was likely initially colonized by humans migrating down the Pacific rim from Alaska. Not fighting and competing with massive predators and herd beasts of the inner continent, but instead stewarding the most delectable of oysters, collecting marine vegetables and fish, thriving on the verdancy of riparian edge.
Today as humans fight to understand how to fix their predilection towards over population, and its impact on quality of water and life, that Paleo model is before us.
Maybe it’s the lack of marine derived iodine, and its connection with cranial development that’s kept us from seeing this interconnectedness earlier. But it isn’t too late. Let’s apply Paleometrics to our lifestyle, and watch what comes of it. Perhaps movement towards a paleo lifestyle, with its countless personal benefits, can inspire a modern renaissance. It’s apparent that humanity is in transition. So is the planet.
A lead article in the June, 2013 edition of Scientific American, “Tiny Plants that Once Ruled the Seas,” describes how the planet’s food web base is shifting from diatoms to green algae….after 250 million years. The article also associates diatoms with remarkable biodiversity, and raises the question of “what’s next?”, as excess nitrogen biases in favor of green algae. A challenge for paleo practitioners…not that any of us really need more challenges!…is how do we relate to such a phenomenon? One answer is that we can at least have our paleo water back. But abiding with the status quo does not get us there. I don’t have a formula. But we do have a model here.
Fish Fry Lake and the Shepherd Research Center is an ongoing experiment.
What do you think are the most interesting elements of a paleo lifestyle? Are you embracing a paleo diet because you want to be fit or you want humans to fit in better with the ecology of this planet?