Since 2013, I have committed my life to the study of Dirtbagology, a new and obscure science that lies somewhere near the fringe of accepted fact. Whilst it takes cues from both anthropology and zoology, it is in fact neither of these disciplines. As a fledgling study struggling for acceptance in a field of entrenched scientific juggernauts, there currently exists a state of flux within Dirtbagology. With new methodology being constantly created, both suited to its specific purpose and in keeping with established scientific techniques, it is an exciting time to be a Dirtbagologist.
Today, we’ll take a look at the evolution of the Dirtbag and describe his lineage from pre-history to modern times.
Early man was, of course, the genesis for all subsequent sub-orders of humanity. The modern Dirtbag is no different.
The most widely accepted theory is human life began in Africa and migration from the continent occurred some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. This characteristic for exploration and discovery would be a recurring theme in the evolution of the Dirtbag. Humans would eventually spread to every continent (save Antarctica), often by virtue of land bridges that existed when global ocean levels were lower.
Apart from wanderlust, ancient and modern Dirtbags share other traits and cultural similarities. We know little about the exact habits of pre-historical man, but we can make assumptions based on prevalent facts and archaeological evidence. Some of these similarities include:
- A penchant for tools. As a stone axe is to a caveman, so an ice axe is to a mountaineer.
- Questionable personal hygiene. We can assume that ancient man had standards of hygiene that fall short of modern times. Namely, they had limited ability for bathing, changes in clothing and grooming. This is apparent in modern climbers.
- An omnivorous, opportunistic diet. Both modern and ancient Dirtbag took sustenance whenever they could and by any means possible. The caveman, however, was unlikely to have access to cheesy pasta.
- Linguistic diversity. Disparate groups of ancient humans are likely to have formed communicative methods that, while perhaps not forming the equivalent of language as we know it, varied greatly by region. Each subset of the modern Dirtbag (for example, boulderers, surfers and skiers) have vastly different languages comprised of unique terminology.
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond offers a comprehensive study of the course of human societal formations within the last 13,000 years. Around the beginning of this time period, it is surmised that the idea and practice of civilisation began, owing to the need to organise and disperse the gains of agricultural progress.
History has given birth to civilisations and nation states, though they commonly begin with a tribal structure based on nomadic life. Nomadic peoples were often hunter-gatherers who made use of seasonal fluctuations in various areas to obtain sustenance. Some engaged in small scale agriculture (notably the native peoples of North America), but not in a manner which necessitated a sedentary lifestyle.
Many studies have identified a mutation within the DRD4 gene responsible in part for the control of dopamine, a chemical which is associated with reward. This mutation, labelled DRD4-7R (or 7R for short) is found within approximately 20% of humans and is commonly linked with curiosity and restlessness. Essentially, 7R brings with it a propensity to move and to experience new things. Not only does it encourage movement, it inhibits stability.
According to a 2008 study of Ariaal Tribesman, “those who carry 7R tend to be stronger and better fed than their non-7R peers if they live in nomadic tribes, possibly reflecting better fitness for a nomadic life and perhaps higher status as well. However, 7R carriers tend to be less well-nourished if they live as settled villagers. The variant’s value, then, like that of many genes and traits, may depend on the surroundings. A restless person may thrive in a changeable environment but wither in a stable one.”
This mutation is likely to have had a direct causative effect on the evolution of the Dirtbag.
Dirtbag evolution stagnated until the post industrial revolution period. Until this point, there had not been a substantial change in living conditions for human societies. With the widespread availability of material goods and the existence of a food surplus, many people found themselves seeking higher levels of purpose and questioning the meaning of existence. These needs are ably described by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The 1950’s saw a cultural upheaval particularly centered in the United States of America. This movement, now known as the Beat generation, was documented in a fashion by Jack Kerouac in books such as The Dharma Bums and his seminal work, On the Road.
Central elements of “Beat” culture are: rejection of standard narrative values, the spiritual quest, exploration of American and Eastern religions, rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration (Wikipedia.org)
From Kerouac himself: “We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time, move.”
Something of a divergent stream in the Dirtbag evolutionary process, the Hippies of the mid to late 1960’s were a continuation of the themes derived by the Beat generation. The term Hippie derives from the alternate nomenclature for Beatniks, that is to say Hipsters. Please note that the term “Hipster” here does not refer to the bastardised, subjugated term as applied to a sub-culture which became prominent in the early 2010’s. Like every other element of their image and culture, modern Hipsters have shamelessly re-appropriated an element from a previously existing culture without any form of innovation. Please see the text “Dads are the Original Hipsters” for further information on this topic.
Hippies took disregard for personal hygiene to new, unprecedented levels which likely outstripped the efforts of their ancient forebears. They espoused freedom of the consciousness and sexuality and independence from conventional societal norms. Similarities between Hippies and modern Dirtbags include an affinity with nature and the wilderness and a tendency to travel in vans rather than remain in a fixed abode.
Hippies are largely remembered for the consumption of psychedelic drugs and their active protests in objection to the Vietnam War.
Please see Appendix 1 for a disambiguation of the variant evolutionary paths.
The modern Dirtbag came into being and is best exemplified by the archetypal example of Yosemite climbers in the 1970’s. These Dirtbags would spend months on end at Camp 4, eschewing the comforts of civilisation in the dedicated pursuit of climbing.
Dirtbags are an enigmatic species. They are characterized by their migratory habits and have a range that spans the globe. They are loathe to part with currency for travel, being typically poor and destitute creatures and rely heavily upon hitchhiking as a means of transport. They have very few personal possessions apart from a large backpack and a plethora of outdoor equipment.
Dirtbags have interesting social habits. They are typically solitary creatures who have difficulty finding and keeping potential mates due to their sporadic lifestyle. They are however known to band together in small groups to achieve mutual goals such as travel or outdoor pursuits such as climbing, hiking, skiing or kayaking.
The Dirtbags diet is wide and varied and they are able to subsist on nearly anything, though their principal forms of nutrition tend to be Lentils and Rice or Cheesy Pasta. They will scavenge if necessary and will never turn down a free meal regardless of quality, size or concerns of hygiene.
The future of Dirtbag Evolution
With modernisation, the habits of Dirtbags are changing. For example, many dumpsters are locked these days and the ability to find day-old bread is diminishing. Camping at Yosemite is now limited to 7 nights, meaning the days of setting up shop at Camp 4 for months at a time are over.
It is widely theorised that the sub-species of Dirtbags will continue to diverge until the point at which they are no longer able to communicate or interbreed. Already, the linguistic gulf between the sub-species continues to broaden. Here is an incomplete list of the developing sub-species:
- Mountaineers (Dirtbaggus ascensus mons)
- Rock Climbers (Dirtbaggus ascensus petram)
- Skiiers (Dirtbaggus biparitus)
- Snowboarders (Dirtbaggus singulus)
- Hikers (Dirtbaggus ambulans)
- Paddlers (Dirtbaggus remus)
- Mountain Bikers (Dirtbaggus duae rotae)
I hope you’ve learned something today about the noble Dirtbag, a creature which requires further study. Should you wish to fund future research, please consult me at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to make a grant, donation or to bequeath part of your estate in your will.
Dr Ryan Siacci, PhD DrtBg*
Originally published in August 2015
*Not a real doctor