Rewild, v; to return to a more wild or self-willed state; the process of undoing domestication. Synonyms: undomesticate, uncivilize.
My name is Peter Michael Bauer. I have been writing and teaching about rewilding, the reversal of human domestication, since 2006. I’m the author of the book Rewild or Die (2008), the creator of the international web forum for rewilding www.rewild.com, the founder of the local non-profit, Rewild Portland, and I teach a course called Rewilding 101. If you are unfamiliar with the subject of rewilding, read my “What is Rewilding” page.
I consider myself a multi-disciplinary artist and environmental educator. I’m a fourth generation Portlander. My first merit badge in the Boy Scouts was basketry. From there I went on to receive the Eagle Scout rank. It was during my years camping with the scouts that I began to yearn for a deeper connection to place. At the age of sixteen, inspired by Daniel Quinn’s book “Ishmael,” I dropped out of high school and ran away from home to travel across the United States and attend Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracking, Nature Observation and Wilderness Survival School in New Jersey. After that I went to Wilderness Awareness School in Washington state, where I attended several Art of Mentoring workshops led by Jon Young. Later I was heavily influenced by the works of Joseph Campbell, Derrick Jensen, Nancy Turner, Douglas Deur, M. Kat Anderson, Finisia Medrano, and Martin Prechtel. I began blogging about rewilding under the moniker “Urban Scout” in 2004. During this time as Urban Scout (2004 – 2008), I received local press in the The Oregonian, Portland Mercury, Willamette Week, national press in ReadyMade Magazine and international press in Positive Living Magazine (UK) and Chain Reaction (AU) for my efforts to create and promote the culture of rewilding. In 2007 I created www.rewild.com, an international online forum dedicated to discussions about rewilding. In 2008 I published a collection of my blogs into a book, Rewild or Die. In 2009, after dedicating so much time to writing and managing the rewild.com site, I founded Rewild Portland. Rewild Portland is non-profit organization with the mission of creating cultural and environmental resilience through the education of earth-based arts, traditions, and technologies. I love basketry, playing the banjo, and am a fluent speaker of Chinuk Wawa (AKA Chinook Jargon), the Native trade language of the Pacific Northwest and heritage language of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. During the summer of 2012 I attended Lynx Vilden’s Stone Age immersion program. I’ve been an environmental educator for over a decade, working with local organizations like Cascadia Wild, Friends of Tryon Creek, Audubon Society, Portland Waldorf, Shining Star Waldorf, Cleveland High School, and others. I currently serve on the board of the Columbia Basin Basketry Guild.
My Personal Rewilding Story
I believe that civilization fundamentally destroys biodiversity and is in the process of an extended collapse. In response I have decided to dedicate my life to walking away from this culture, and to create a new culture based on ancestral hunter-gatherers. In short, I live as a “hunter-gatherer wannabe” in search of meaning and community in the time of ecological and cultural collapse. As a multi-disciplinary artist I feel I have a duty to mythologize this process to inspire others to join the rewilding renaissance. I write stuff, make videos, take pictures, make designs, teach classes and use this blog as an educational public exhibition space.
At 16 I began to independently study the structure, history, and future of our civilization after reading Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael.” This book inspired me to become an anthropological auto-didact. I came to the conclusion that civilization will not, cannot, reach a point of sustainability, but come crashing to the ground. If I wanted to survive through this collapse, I needed to learn how to hunt and gather and live with the earth. This became more than simply an idea; it became more like a religion. I dropped out of high school and ran away from home to begin learning how to live in an indigenous way. Since the late 90’s I have learned, practiced, and instructed people in these ancient skills through various organizations. Even though I teach these skills, I will always feel vastly ignorant to what even a young child in a hunter-gatherer culture would know and sense of their own environment. I do not consider myself an “expert,” but rather, a catalyst of rewilding. Meaning, my life’s work is to be a catalyst for the rewilding renaissance. Not a guru, just a match lighter. I decided to undo the process of my domestication yet remain within the largely domesticated urban environment of my hometown Portland, Oregon and the more rural and wild areas surrounding it.
As you may imagine, many physical, emotional, social, philosophical and existential difficulties arise as I attempt to rewild myself from a total city slicker born and raised to work as a wage slave in a coffee shop, into the lifestyle of an indigenous hunter-gatherer living off the land in a sustainable way. Indigenous children had the abilities to survive in the wilderness without their culture for several weeks at the age of around 9 to 12 years old. Unlike those kids, I don’t have the luxury of a million year old sustainable culture to immerse myself in for 9-12 years to prepare myself for such a rite of passage. Basically I work towards making an immersion “curriculum” for myself, imitating what I know of hunter-gatherer cultures. What I figure out, I teach to others. I do not believe a person can take a few lectures on survival or primitive living and then go do it. I believe it takes years of practice, generations of committed cultures in fact. I have created as close as I can the safety and security children in primitive cultures had while slowly, carefully and respectfully learning to survive without those comforts.
I do not intend to replicate the kid from the book Into the Wild or the guy in the documentary Grizzly Man or the TV show Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild. Cheating death, extreme situations, running away to live alone in the woods or “making it back out alive” stem from a civilized fear of nature and lack of community. I understand the elements can kill and I will not let myself freeze, starve, get eaten, die from sickness, etc. I take baby steps toward a primitive lifestyle; slowly but surely leaving civilization behind . Therefore my health and hygiene, like that of the wild animal, lie at the top of my priorities.
You might think that leaving civilization behind implies leaving the city. However, I cannot run away to the wilderness because my family and friends cannot join me out there, and I cannot live without them. Humans, I believe, have evolved over time as socially organized animals. A lone human, hell even a dozen humans in the woods doesn’t come close to our socially designed way of living. A lone bee cannot live without its hive. Humans can function, but not truly live, without their tribe. My “tribe” (for lack of a better word) lives in Portland and the surrounding area. Therefore when I say I have left civilization behind , I speak of course, about the culture or economy of civilization, not the physical space in which civilization resides (the urban jungle). Though I do spend lots of time in the country and wilderness as well.
I built this website to catalog my urban-hunter-gatherer-grower adventure. Enjoy.