Forward: Hadza 2.0

An Old New Way

| July-August 2009

Earlier this year I spent time in Tanzania, hanging out with the Hadza, one of several African tribes to which all human beings trace their genetic lineage. The Hadza, known to some as the “original people,” are hunter-gatherers who live on the eastern shores of Lake Eyasi in northeast Tanzania, just as they have for at least 30,000 years.

When I left the United States for Africa the Dow Jones Industrial Average had descended to 6,500. As I write, the market is hovering around 8,500. Still, many friends remain convinced that the financial turmoil is far from over, prologue to a cataclysmic economic and environmental meltdown. They’re storing food, buying guns, and otherwise trying to prepare for total systems collapse.

Their actions beg the question: How on earth are we going to survive?

I don’t know the answer. I am convinced, though, that if humans are around in 500 years, it will be because we’ve learned to think in new ways, harking back to old ways of thinking: Hadza-like thinking, updated for the exigencies of our times.

Like the monks of Lindesfarne who preserved ancient scriptures in their cloisters during the Dark Ages, the Hadza and other indigenous people preserve and pass down wisdom regarding how to live in sustainable communities, the role of elders, the use of plant medicines, and the art of consensus decision-making, among other things.

I went to Hadzaland with a group of eight men, led by Daudi Peterson of Dorobo Safaris and Richard Leider of Inventure Expeditions, to spend time learning from the Hadza. We hiked together through their homelands; hunted gazelles, warthogs, and guinea fowl with bows and arrows (without success); dug tubers and roots; picked baobab fruit; made fire (and blisters) by twirling fire sticks; harvested wild honey (with the help of honeyguide birds); and exchanged stories and songs around the night fire.