We came to Rob Dunn and his astounding book through Dr Al Kapuler’s (See BDNow! Podcast episode 3) enthusiastic recommendations. Dr Dunn makes it pretty clear that our bodies are ‘who we are’ and our minds are ‘who we think we are.’ While our minds have evolved to live in the 21st century, our bodies are pretty much stuck at the point they were in evolution before the neolithic, before civilization. Our mind’s recent requirement for ‘cleanliness’ is denying our old fashion bodies of many of the synergies we co-evolved with. Dr. Kapuler was very impressed by how Dr Dunn explains that our ancestors’ experiences with saber-toothed tigers still colors our psyche and explains much of our current foreign policy. Dr Dunn’s explanations on how a host of modern ailments, such as Chrone’s disease and many allergies, are probably due to the absence of parasites in our bowels. More to the point, he encourages us to “re-Wild” our insides for better health and performance here in the sterilized and monocropped 21st century.
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from the publisher:
A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.
We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while “clean living” has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.
Rob Dunn is an assistant professor in the department of zoology at the North Carolina State University, as well as an up-and-coming science popularizer. His work appears in Natural History, Scientific American, BBC Wildlife, and Seed magazines. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.