I like Ray Mears, or to be more accurate, I enjoyed the TV series he and prof Gordon Hillman made for the Beeb back in 2007. This is probably the one set of programs, other than the Simpsons, that I've watched in the last five years.
Their struggle to find, and then render edible, any sort of bulk carbohydrate in a temperate climate was amusing, especially when they offered the camera crew a taste of one of the less edible concoctions they had produced! The fish and the venison looked good.
The camera crew are very important. Whenever I see advertising for a jungle survival documentary I always think first of the poor camera crews in deepest Borneo or wherever, lugging all their food around as well as their film gear. It must be hard filming someone living off the land while subsisting on baked beans, but then television is a hard calling. Happily Survivorman is self filmed, which limits the suffering of film crews.
The post by Dr Davis had me thinking about evolution and survival, especially these lines:
"The Survivorman show documents the (self-filmed) 7-day adventures of Les Stroud, who is dropped into various remote corners of the world to survive on little but ingenuity and will to live. Starting without food or water, the Survivorman scrapes and scrambles in the wilderness for essentials to survive in habitats as far ranging as the Ecuadorian rainforest to sub-arctic Labrador"
Looking at this sort of TV entertainment (which is probably very good TV, I'd probably enjoy it) as a lead to how humans ate before civilisation strikes me as a bit flawed. There are actually a few places on Earth which are fundamentally uninhabitable, but then no one lives in them. If there is food and an even remotely hospitable environment, we seem to have moved in there long ago, before eventually being wiped out by the forefathers of TV crews.
But we weren't hungry, at least not for most of the time. Population size is controlled by food supply, humans live in tribes of between about 20 and 80 individuals and a tribe will have a territory of a size appropriate to support itself. The members of the tribe will be highly adept at obtaining adequate food supplies from that area. If this is impossible then the tribe would either be smaller or it would be somewhere else. Or dead.
Everyone alive today comes from a very, very long line of successful hunter gatherers. The only reason we are here is because what our distant ancestors did was highly successful. Anyone who's great great great great (X100)th's grandmother died of starvation before having any children is not here today. We are the product of success.
That is tribalism as it has always been. All tribal humans are fully equipped with absolutely everything they need in terms of utensils and knowledge to survive in reasonable comfort where they live. If the comfort is too great, humans will breed to use up the extra food supply. Tight times may be intermittent, but they function to reduce the population slightly and maintain the balance. Tribalism got us here and the phenomenon of a solitary struggle to survive in extreme conditions is a product of Civilisation. The struggle often comes from the ignorance of tribal survival knowledge. Even a group of 100 individuals do not make a tribe. Look what happens when you put over a hundred Royal Navy explorers on to the Arctic ice in 1845 without tribal knowledge or behaviour. Probably with complete disdain for the natives.
This is the unsuccessful Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin, when all 120+ men perished. The accounts are quite depressing but what is most interesting is that in this extreme, lethal environment where explorers (at the then cutting edge of British naval ability) were starving to death, over 100 native Eskimo were living. Living as they always had, men and women, making babies and looking after toddlers, routine tribal stuff. To the Inuit, fully educated in tribal life of the area, Franklin's expedition died of starvation in a food aisle of Sainsburys. A good speculative account, such as could be made out in the 1930s, comes from Stefansson's "Unsolved Mysteries of the Arctic", cheap on Amazon and far more detailed than anything on Wikepedia, though it lacks some of the modern forensic evidence.
The follow-on from this is the complete lack of respect for the early explorers amongst the Inuit.
The Inuit were there in the Arctic, which was an extreme environment to the Victorians, because there was enough food, shelter and warmth for them to live family lives there. It may not always have been comfortable, but it was successful. They certainly were not struggling to survive. A man alone with a camera is not where they were ever at.
My favourite source of thought on human evolution is, as always, Daniel Quinn.