“…Humanity alone cannot engender children — instead it is the entire living environment which produces the child and keeps it alive — the air, soil, plants and animals of its immediate environment. We are the children of our particular place on earth. This is why the land is sacred and sex is sacred and eating is sacred; because they are all parts of the same energy flow…”

– Dolores LaChapelle, Sacred land, Sacred Sex. In Deep Ecology, edited by Michael Tobias. 1985. Avant Books.



These days, many people live in mostly artificial environments, with all their needs and wants piped into their boxes (cages?). We have forgotten most of the memories of our species, which were once the key to our success. For an ephemeral time we’ve been released from our need to understand and live with nature since we get most our energy nowadays from fossil fuels.

One day we will have to go back to ways of living directly with nature or we will go extinct. We all have the instincts to be curious about the natural world around us, to try and understand it, but most people have stifled these instincts.

Humans are still part of nature, and to recognize that is the first step in repairing our relationship with mother earth and sustaining her resources for future generations. In my work as a student, various roles as a teacher, and communication with friends and family, I’ve found the best way to re-connect people with nature is to show them its many uses. Once someone finds out a plant is edible, or can be made into medicine, one cares about protecting the plant and its environment. Otherwise it may just be a nuisance weed on wasted land.

To this end of making people care about their surrounding communities of species and the rocks, earth, water, and air making up their environment, I established Ancestral Arts and my career on teaching and publicizing ethnobiology: the study of the human-nature relationship.



I created this blog to enhance public awareness of my favorite subject: ethnobiology. (The blog started as ringtailcats.wordpress.com in 2013, but as it developed, I changed to ancestralarts.net.)

I was trained as an ecologist (B.S. Biology UT Austin), and am continuing this training (towards a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley). But I find most of my inspiration and knowledge coming directly from nature or being handed down through millennia of trial and error and human experimentation. Our ancestors and the earlier inhabitants of earth knew much, much more about these subjects than people do today. Since I was a child I have ravenously learned anything and everything I could about the way American Indians and other hunter-gatherer  / aboriginal cultures around the world lived in harmony with nature.

I’ve lived most my life just outside or in Austin, Texas. I’ve traveled throughout Central America, the Peruvian Amazon, the US Southwest, and California. I moved to California in 2011 for grad school at UC Berkeley’s dept of Integrative Biology. I live with my fiance Emily Moskal, a biologist, journalist, photographer, and rockhound (her blog: http://petroform.wordpress.com/), our cats Sage and Falcon, dogs Kitsune and Neptune, a few plants, and a host of ectoparasites and microbes.

California is blessed with an incredible natural environment of astounding diversity and heterogeneity of ecosystems. Except perhaps Alaska, no other state can boast such a thorough and extensive recorded knowledge of the lives of the indigenous native inhabitants. Alaska is too cold, so currently California is an excellent home-base for my work!

It makes me sad when people can’t identify the commonest of trees or a single edible wild-growing plant. But it makes me very happy to teach people who care about these things! I hope to convince the world that the only future of humanity is returning to our place as stewards and caretakers of the forests, grasslands, tundra, deserts, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Because (in the words of Eric Pianka), “There is no planet B.”

– Cyrus Harp

My curriculum vitae: C.Harp_CV_June.2014



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