Lessons Learned from the Discovery Channel’s I, Caveman

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my family’s diet.  My husband and I both follow a low-carb eating plan, but we hadn’t really been doing anything with the kids’ food.  As I started looking in a slightly different direction for my own eating, I ran across Robb Wolf’s blog, The Paleo Solution.  I listened to one of his podcasts where he talked about his experience filming I, Caveman, and I decided I wanted to watch the program.

I had company visiting the night that the show premiered, so I recorded the program for later viewing.  I finally got around to watching it last night, and I took a few valuable pieces of information away from the show.

First, I think we all know that using primitive skills to live off the land is HARD work! The things that we take for granted today like tools, shelter, food, water, and clothing are energy-intensive to manufacture or gather.  Also, we’re used to certain standards for these items — water that’s clean, food that tastes like what we’re used to, and clothing that keeps us warm and dry — so folks don’t tend to be comfortable without these modern comforts.

I didn’t necessarily learn much from the program, but it did get me thinking.  From the perspective of a modern-day prepper, life will be much less stressful in tough times if I don’t have to fight for the basics.  Sure, I know that if I ran out of water, I could get some from my pond (assuming it wasn’t empty at the time), filter it through some coals, sand, and grass, and boil it to make it safe, OR I could just pull out some of my water that’s stored here at home.  If I ran out of food, I know that I could go get some rosehips, dandelion greens, black walnuts, or other edibles that happen to be on my property right now, OR I could pull some home-canned chili off a shelf and enjoy it without feeling deprived.

I, Caveman lacked in another crucial area too.  I think the folks who participated in the “experiment” suffered needlessly because of their lack of skills.  I realize that the “experiment” was to see if modern people could live like Paleolithic Man, but to be honest, we can never approximate that because so much of their knowledge and skills simply weren’t handed down.  They didn’t have to be handed down after a certain period of time because we learned to do things better and more efficiently.  For instance, we don’t need to know how to make an atlatl today because we learned how to make better tools.  If I had nothing but my environment and my knowledge to sustain me, I certainly wouldn’t be thinking about getting elk with a dart and atlatl.  I’d be thinking about how to fashion a point and an efficient bow.

One aspect of the show that I really did appreciate though was the emotional response that some of the participants had to the process of killing an elk for food.  The were all moved by it, and that’s the kind of experience that I think we should all have, to be quite honest.  I liked the fact that my 9-year-old came in to watch with me as they killed and field-dressed the elk.  She wasn’t expecting it to be as bloody as it was, but she understood why it had to be done and why the participants were so emotional.  She also understood what an experience like that teaches us — the value of a life, the respect that we should have for that animal who gave its life so we can live another day, and the idea that killing and then wasting is NEVER acceptable.  I wish there were more adults in our lives who understand those concepts as thoroughly as my 9-year-old understands them.

After watching the program, my feelings about why we prepare, why we learn new skills and practice old skills, and why we teach our children the way we do couldn’t be stronger.  Remember, I’m not preparing for some big apocalypse.  I’m just trying to improve my life now even if nothing ever goes “wrong”.

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