Back to nature goes viral

A young Australian becomes an internet sensation by reminding us of the beauty of human ingenuity in sync with nature

His YouTube handle is Primitive Technology. His hobby is to use what he finds in a forest to make tools, build huts, start fires, and make poisonous berries edible. He makes videos of all this—edited brilliantly, by the way—without words or music. We hear only the sounds of his bare feet on leaves, his ax felling trees, and the calls of the wild. These videos have mesmerized millions, which tells us something. Actually, a few things.

We’ve made our world complicated and we don’t want it that way. As Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si', human ingenuity can save lives and keep us safe, warm, and surrounded by beauty. But side effects of lazy and greedy applications of technology are eating away at ecosystems and souring our peace of mind.

And so the work of a bare-chested young man picking up rocks, wood, and mud to fashion protection from the elements reminds us of the promise of technology when used on human scales. His work echoes with the peace that comes when human labor goes about its business earnestly and with simple purpose.

Likewise, these videos remind us that it’s okay to use the gifts of nature. Within limits.

There is, of course, divine precedent for such use. Watching bowls, walls, and chimneys being fashioned from mud calls to mind the second creation account of the Book of Genesis, when God molds the first man out of earth.

Clearly the people whose oral traditions gave us Genesis made homes and tools much the way our modern instructor shows us in his videos. Adam, which means literally “of the soil,” is intimately connected to the natural world. Thus so are we.

That connection—expressed in sacred scripture and confirmed by science—is, I think, one reason why these videos resonate so deeply with millions.

It’s as if a buried, shared memory wakens.

I’ll be posting this week about much that is happening outside Primitive Technology's Australian rainforest—all the political and academic activities and the great momentum building as the world wrestles with eco-issues that need addressing now because we’ve forgotten the beauty of living in accord with nature.

That amnesia is, I suggest, a big part of why these videos are so popular. And why they're so necessary—especially for those of us entering the wild of politics and social media to urge the world to live with nature in mind.

Certainly I'm not suggesting abandoning everything that modern technologies offer. Still, what this young man shows us (without speaking a word or sharing his name) is not only that the human person has a vocation to work within the natural world, but that we can do so without spoiling the garden that was given to us for life.

For more, visit the Primitive Technology blog at WordPress.

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.