Community at the heart of the rewilding approach
For me it’s the climbing community which lies at the heart of what makes this sport so special. It’s the the fact that I have not yet known another group of people like it. As an anthropology graduate, understanding human culture and behaviour has always fuelled my thoughts and I have been lucky enough to always have had other climbers right there to analyse and study, including myself. Understanding what it means to be a climber as well as the strong sense of relatability I have always shared with others in the sport, wherever I have climbed, has always fascinated me. Within the rewilding approach, the idea of community and knowledge of just how important it is that different communities exist all around the world, supporting us as individuals, is paramount.
Arthur Haines, who is a leading proponent of Rewilding in North America also realises the fundamental importance of community and has even come up with 12 “guiding principles” of how to create a sustainable rewilded community. Going through these principles was very interesting as I came to realise just how naturally close the climbing community is to ticking a lot of them off. For example, within the 12 principles I identified the following as being the most relevant: egalitarianism, consensual decision making, reciprocal gift economy, personal work, ceremony, shared goals and fate, small population, and self-reliance. As I am not about to go into detail about each one here, it is safe to say that there are many parallels between the way the climbing community works and the ideal principles a community needs to be founded on in order to exist in harmony.
A community built on trust
Inherent to being a climber is the need for a climbing partner. The most common form of climbing is with ropes (and some other gear), where two climbers climb together, alternating who is climbing and who is belaying (the belayer is the one at the bottom of the climb ‘holding’ the rope whilst the other climbs). In this system both climbers not only completely depend upon each other, but need each other mutually in order to keep safe and not die. That might sound dramatic, but the belayer literally has the climber’s life on the line, at the end of the rope. The climber therefore has to trust that the belayer knows what they’re doing and won’t make any major mistakes. This might sound like a big deal (and of course it is), but it is simply a norm within the climbing community. It is a norm founded on complete and utter trust of the other. To me it is obvious that this level of value and trust in other climbers is the incredible tie that brings us all together and is unique to the sport. Trust within one’s community is also an important factor within rewilding.
The drive to self development through rock climbing
Coming back briefly to Arthur Haines’ 12 principles, I think it is important to mention the idea of personal development as well as shared goals within rewilding. Arthur explains that in order for a community to work, each individual must undergo personal work and development. One of the aims of this work is to strip the individual of the unavoidable baggage they carry from the domestic society they come from. Whilst personal work is a personal choice that must be made with positive intent, each human should be fully supported by their community by providing a safe space and emotional support and guidance.
In my eyes this is exactly what the climbing community provides. Each person has the same goal of wanting to climb better and stronger relative to their own level. We also know how hard it is to reach those goals. For me, climbing is an extremely humbling sport which has taught me how to fail over and over in the most productive healthy way. Learning where my limits are and how to slowly work on them and push them to new higher limits is extremely empowering and transformative. However, it would not be so easy unless I had the incredible support of my community. Learning how to fail and not be frustrated at failure but rather see it as an opportunity for growth has the amazing side effect of placing one’s ego just where it should be. Having a community of like-minded individuals who have all been learning through the same process is extremely powerful and important.
It is quite easy to see how many parallels lie between the worlds of the climber and the modern rewilded human, from learning how to rewild the body, mind and soul, to embracing nature in all its glory, and naturally falling in line with the adventurous and nomadic lifestyle. Being a climber not only comes with the opportunity for self-development and growth, but also comes with many of the beautiful and all important traits of a true community. One of the aims of the human rewilding project is to promote the health of the modern human by becoming aware of our domesticated lifestyles, to learn how to un-domesticate ourselves bit by bit, and to therefore influence the health of the planet we call our home. It is exciting to think there is a whole group of monkey-like individuals out there who may not even realise it but who are already well on their own rewilding journey.
Continue to here to Part 1: mind, body & soul
Continue here to Part 2: nomads in nature
Arthur Haines “12 Guiding Principles of Community”: http://www.arthurhaines.com/guiding-principles