Reading Frenzy ~ An Independent Press Emporium

Urban Scout Reading Tonight, Sept. 15th

September 15, 2010:

Join us tonight at Reading Frenzy to hear excerpts from Urban Scout's new book Rewild or Die: Revolution and Renaissance at the End of Civilization. Along with a reading, Urban Scout will give short tutorials on some of his most beloved workshops. In anticipation of his appearance at Reading Frenzy, I caught up with him to discuss the new book, possible film projects, and the end of civilization.

Anika Sabin

I'm interested in how you began your journey into being Urban Scout, was there a specific moment that changed your perspective on the world?

Well, Urban Scout originally was just a character in a short film that I shot with a friend. The biggest moment that changed the project from movie character to alter-ego was when I was walking around one day as Urban Scout in my loin cloth and everything, and some guy sees me and pulls off the road to come talk to me. I was in character so I pretended that I actually did hunt and gather for all my food and live in debris hut, etc. He was so blown away that someone could do this and he wanted to learn how. He left with a giant grin on his face. I think it was a grin of hope. In that moment I realized that I was pretending to live the way I actually wanted to. So that began my journey to actually become the character as much as I could in my real life.

Has there been a moment, in learning or practicing primitivist skills where you've felt over your head? What's been the hardest challenge for you in developing your scout skills?

The hardest parts are realizing that everything you thought you knew about "primitive" skills are wrong. Once I tried to actually live as close as I could to Urban Scout, the film character, I realized that his lifestyle in the film was not actually possible and that hunter-gatherers had larger communities and economies that worked together and managed the land on a huge scale. Originally the Urban Scout character is more like a civilized survivalist than an intact indigenous person. This greatly changed my progress towards becoming Urban Scout when I realized I had to reinvent him outside of the context of the movie and into a more accurate attempt. Since I still don't quite understand what a hunter-gatherer culture might look like, I have settled on calling myself a "Hunter-Gatherer Wannabe". Even though currently I've found that "Trapper-Gardener" is a more accurate description of that lifestyle... but it's not as sexy as Hunter-Gatherer.

As of August you started a business for teaching rewilding, holding workshops on everything from animal tracking to archery, are there workshops you are developing for the future? What do you hope to master next?

I've been at this stuff for over a decade now. I wouldn't call myself a master of anything really. The thing is, I might not be a master, but I'm a great teacher. What good is a master if they can't teach? This is a problem in a lot of these skills is that someone knows them, but doesn't know how to unload them onto people. My best skill is pulling this knowledge out of people and books and coming up with a simple curriculum that can make people learn it way faster than trying to learn from someone who can't teach. I have an obsession with figuring out ways of teaching that make people fluent as fast as possible. Right now I'm obsessed with Basketry. It's something that I neglected for a while and now I think it might be the one skill I choose to really master. I can tan hides, start fires with sticks, track animals, etc. and I can teach how to do all those things. But I feel like at some point one must choose one skill to focus on to really master and I think mine is basketry.

What's the most important skill to have in a post-apocalyptic community?

Having a sense of humor. I used to say, "social skills" but I think that's too broad. Most of the people I know who have a sense of humor, even in dire situations, *especially in dire situations*, have amazing social skills. People always ask me what they should stock-pile and I always say the same thing: relationships.

You began the summer camps some years ago. How have they evolved, and have your ideas on the disintegration of civilization changed in the last few years?

My ideas about civilization and all of its workings are continuously evolving as I study more of the history of it and watch the way it behaves in the present. When I was younger I thought that civilization was going to collapse "tomorrow". I still have a sense of urgency, but now I understand that collapse occurs much more slowly than I would like. There are certain events that can speed it up (a giant Earthquake in the Northwest, for one an economic meltdown for 2), but overall I think it's going to be a longer process than waking up to a new era of peace and sustainability.

Rewild or Die sounds urgent, how long do we have?

I might die in a car crash tomorrow and not make it to see the complete end of civilization. I don't know if it will completely dissipate in my entire lifetime (however long that may be). There is no way to predict the future. I have no idea how long we have. Collapse has already begun, and as time goes by it intensifies. We grew at an exponential rate, and collapse accelerates in the same way. The more systems collapse, the more everything else false apart. It's one long chain and when it breaks, there is really no fixing it. I'd like for collapse to be over with in 20 years tops, with a nice soft crash. In reality? I think it will drag out and destroy most of the life on this planet. This is why I do what I do, and this is why I have a sense of urgency. The sooner civ collapses, the better for all over lifeforms currently, and the better for the future generations of humans.

In the past, you've dropped hints of a possible film in the works, can you speak to this?

Haha, yeah I've always got a bunch of film ideas in the works. Will I ever get around to making them? I don't know. I feel my best work at this point is to teach people. I have a feature length script that is a longer version of the 30 minute "Adventures of Urban Scout" film that started all of this. I also have a script half done that is more sort of self-referential and Charlie Kaufmanesque in that it's part fiction and part biography of what actually happened to create the Urban Scout that exists now, and not the one I dreamed up years ago. But really, film-making, especially narrative film-making, takes so much time and energy that I don't really think the pay off is worth it. I might do a documentary on rewilding because it would be easier and perhaps more compelling to show real people struggling to break away from civilization and their personal lives. I'm actually currently waiting to see if I got a grant from RACC for that project.

The photo above originally appeared on