Weed and wildlife

By Josh Bowman
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Cannabis and seafood might seem unrelated, however, the two might share an ancient historical past. In his book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan stipulates how marijuana could have been used as a tool by hunter-gatherer societies to assist them while hunting.

In western societies, food and people often have a disconnected relationship. Food comes from a grocery store, a restaurant or at best, a fruit stand, but rarely do the end consumers actually know how their food got to the shelf. In hunter-gatherer societies, the opposite was true.

Hunter-gatherers were nomadic and lived off land while maintaining it wherever they went. They had an intrinsic knowledge of the natural world due to their intimate relationship with nature and saw themselves as part of the ecosystems in which they lived. Because they relied on nature to survive, they had to develop in depth knowledge of the natural world if they wanted to eat – their lives depended on it.

Research suggests hunter-gathering tribes actually worked less hours throughout the day, were in better physical health and had more variety in their diets than people in western society today.

Once an essential aspect of survival, hunting and fishing are seen primarily as leisure activities, done for the sake of the activity itself and not as a serious means of acquiring food. The subsistence strategies of the modern West revolve almost completely around working excruciatingly long hours to afford trips to the grocery store. The people who have time to set aside to cast out a line or chase wildlife in the forest with a gun are an exception. Most folks either don’t have the time or don’t see the practical side of investing time, effort and money into a task that can be accomplished by going to Safeway, Trader Joe’s or Grocery Outlet.

Sports hunters and fishers see things differently. For them, hunting and fishing can be a way to escape a suffocating modern lifestyle and reconnect with the natural world. The focus and attention required to be successful at either hunting or fishing brings a person fully into the present moment. They pay close attention to the rhythms in nature and tap into a primordial state of mind.

Pollan suggested the psychoactive effects of marijuana amplified the mental processes people rely on when they enter the food chain. Sensations of a person who is high on THC can result in increased sensory perception, resulting in an increased awareness of the surroundings and focus in the moment. Colors appear more vividly, which could have aided in spotting edible plants and the increases in appetite that many are familiar with would have increased a hunter’s incentive to find food.

It would never be recommended for someone to get high and operate a firearm or fiddle around with sharp hooks and lines on a rocky stretch of coastline, but analyzing the relationship between humans, the natural world and marijuana can be food for thought. A lot can be learned by rethinking the relationships people have with their food today and how the disconnection from food mirrors a greater disconnection from the natural world.

In historical colonial narratives, natives were depicted as primitive because they never developed industrialized civilization. Colonial colonies felt bad for native peoples, not because they stole their land and killed many of them, but because they were, in colonial eyes, less developed and in need of modern technology.

By now, much of the colonial narrative has been re-evaluated and dismissed, due to a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of what it means to be developed. Hunter-gathering natives successfully survived for thousands of years, not because they lacked modern developments, but because they did not pretend they were apart from nature. They understood that what they were as humans and the natural world around them was part of the same thing. The tools we have for supplying food today look very different from the ones used when natives walked this same land, as has the land itself and the animals and plants who live on it, even marijuana has changed.

The next time munchies strike, think about how food choices reflect your relationship with nature and remember – in a world whose natural systems are suffering from neglect, it is equally as important to feed the mind as it is the stomach.

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