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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Living Off the Land

How many acres does it take to support a chimpanzee in the wild? How many does a human need if living a traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle? One study shows that for a group of ten humans living as hunter gatherers, the range is 5.6 square kilometers. As population increases, though, they are able to live more densely, so that a group of fifty humans only needs 18.8 square kilometers and a group of one hundred can live off a mere 31.6 square kilometers.

But can you imagine what it would take for a family of ten to own 5.6 square kilometers? One square kilometer is 247.105 acres. So a group of ten humans would need to "own" 1383.79 acres in order to live as hunter gatherers. The problem is that in order to own that acreage as against all comers, you would need an army to defend it. And that kind of acreage can't support an army. At least not a modern army.

As long as a group of aborigines live undiscovered in  a remote region, they can live in peace in the traditional way. As soon as a modern group of humans discovers them, they end up under the jurisdiction of a modern state, and to the modern humans allowing the aborigines to have exclusive usage of such a large plot of land seems "wasteful" and only a really wealthy group of ten humans could ever own that much land.

Humanity has been playing this game for a long time. Every time a new method for cultivating the land is invented, less land is available to ordinary people, and more and more people are forced to live in the cities, away from the source of their food. Today, even the self-sustaining family farm is under siege. People have to actually work at other jobs to help support their farming lifestyle.

The irony of this is that in order to live a simple lifestyle, you have to be rich. If you are not, you are required to assimilate to a technologically advanced lifestyle and to give up living off the land.

In sanctuaries in the United States, even where there are three acre islands available to some groups of chimpanzees, the chimpanzees do not live off the land. That's simply not enough land to live off, chimpanzee style. So then it turns out that to care for a chimpanzee in a sanctuary you have to pay a whole group of humans to do his laundry, prepare his food, and in all other ways provide for him. On the one hand, the chimpanzees are prisoners that do not have direct contact with the humans who care for them. On the other hand, they are waited upon by an army of cooks, bottle washers and laundresses. They are idle rich and prisoners at the same time and are trapped in the welfare state, just like many a human prisoner.

On my property there are wooded areas where the wind whips through the trees.

I have a tiny orchard where cherries and peaches and pears grow.

unripe cherries
unripe pears
unripe peaches

As the fruit ripens, birds take an interest in it and often are the first to enjoy of the harvest.

Eventually, we do get a few of the ripe fruits to ourselves.

There are also areas where all unbidden fruit trees and bushes have sprung up by themselves. This mulberry tree  grew in a ditch on the side of my private road. It is now giving fruit.

I have a five acre pasture turned savannah where blackberry bushes grow all on their own.

Bow can't go out there to pick the fruit, because he cannot obey orders and will not stop at the property line. He himself knows that it would be dangerous for him to leave the confines of his safe enclosure, so he is content to stay in the pens.

When we are not out interacting with the dogs, we sometimes have quiet moments of mutual grooming and contemplation.

Is the way we are living on a ten acre hobby farm unnatural? Sure it is. It's as unnatural for me not to have a thousand acres to roam in with a family of ten  as it is for Bow, but we have adapted to this unnatural lifestyle and are fairly content. We just need to add a few more members to our family to make our circle complete.

In an institution like a sanctuary, it takes at least  $15,000.00 per chimpanzee per year to keep everybody fed, clothed and housed. But in a home, it costs much less. Maybe someday the sanctuaries will start sending their "excess population" to be housed in private homes. I'd be willing to give them a discount!


  1. Maybe Bow will soon have a companion.

    1. Thanks, Julia. That would be nice.

  2. Such a great post and a good read. I agree with J Hanna, Bow sounds like he needs a good companion. They're just as interacting-oriented as humans, so why not?

    1. Thanks, Keith. I certainly hope that all the obstacles both legal and financial are cleared soon and that Bow can have a companion of his own kind, in addition to the other non-chimpanzee friends and family that he already has.