Saturday, March 25, 2006
I don't remember where I originally heard that Tasmanian Aborigines, in pre-European times, wore relatively little clothing for people living in a climate somewhat like Chicago. In the cool or cold days, if they weren't by a fire, they were running. If they stopped running for some reason, no matter if it were 5 minutes, they'd build a small fire. I don't know if that's true (i.e. no cite to follow up on), but if the first is true (the alleged low level of clothing in said climate) then the second follows (if you don't stay warm, you die).
I was out running tonight, and I underdressed and didn't warm up enough before going. I started out just walking really fast instead of running because the sidewalks and streets are icy or puddled (there's not enough time to react to slipping if you're approaching the unknown ice surface at a run). However, I got damn cold, and it got to the point where my body just flat out made me run faster to generate more heat to stay warm. Those Tasmanians must have had some awesome runner stamina.
I have the option of dressing warmer. Those brothers from other mothers ran to keep warm instead. They had fire, I have a home with commoditized energy (with many market choices) piped in. Mine is natural gas and electricity, either of which I can use to warm my home.
As I walked in the -5 Celcius evening weather wearing a light nylon jacket and pants while wondering why the hell I was so off on my thinking how cold it was, some part of my spinal cord kicked in and clearly demonstrated that it didn't need my 1337 conscious permission to get me to start running to warm my body up. As sure as your nervous system yanks your arm away when you burn your hand, so to did mine make me run when I got too cold. It was cold enough out that if you laid down and went to sleep dressed like that, you could die. During the cold times, those tasmanians weren't just running to feel comfortable away from a fire, they were bloody well running from death! That's pretty sobering! "Why are you running?" "I run because Death chases me." There's probably something to learn from that.
This niche also demonstrates that fire was the tool that allowed them to live in the region during the cold times, as without it they couldn't stay warm without running, and people still need to sleep. I suspect populations would quickly get deselected by regions that could kill us in our sleep, so those Tasmanians did all right for themselves IMHO. I tip my toque.
I'm glad I have a wall mains and a gas line. I think I'll go turn up the heat.
Burton MacKenzie www.burtonmackenzie.com