I am creating a culture that has the ability to change between 2 forms. One humanoid (the natal form) and one feral, animal form (you can consider this to be a werewolf). Due to this they evolved to have a cultural respect for all life. (You live through ending the lives of others so you shouldn't take more than you strictly need)
This mentality includes plants so I have a problem with how this people would evolve any kind of technology, even at a primitive level. They are only allowed to take dead wood to use for fire because it is considered a commodity as they can eat raw meat or vegetables.
So basically where is the limit of technological advancement a civilization can get to with a limited access to wood (fuel) and as such a limited access to fire? Are there alternatives to the fuel problem or other, maybe more modern way to generate heat?
Edit: To expand upon the world.
- It has "magic". All living creatures have something called an ember. This may be similar to how we percive the spirit or the soul. It exists in unison with the soul but the ember it has more fisical influence.(it's the catalist of the magic)
- The seting is similar to earth at the moment but further exploration in how the magic system may influence the evolution of life may change that.
Some more details on the culture:
(First a resume)
- They know how to make and use tools (at least stone) and they do activily but only inside the village.
- When hunting they only use the beast form, no tools, no protection of any kind. One on one with nature (even thought they would attack a same target in a group)
- They will cut/take down the ocasional tree if there is no dead wood to make fire in winter. But cutting down a tree to make fire to, let's say melt metal, it's more a comodity. (if you know a way around this I am happy to listen).
- They live in houses long ago carved in stone.
In this story there is a country and in one of its forests there is a group of statues. Those in this country can get the beast form by visiting the statues but only if they meet the requirements to get it. For some reason the members of this culture, who live in the forest surrounding the statues, always meet the requirements. They don't know that there are some requirements so they take the transformations as a kind of blessing.
They consider that this blessing has been given to them in order to compete with nature. To hunt they use their arms and claws as spears and their fangs as daggers. They know how to create tools and use tools within their village. (They also consider that attacking someone in their house / nest, is a kind of lack of honor but at the same time the honor is irrelevant when one finds no other source of food than what lies ahead.) So when they go out there, to hunt or collect fruits, vegetables, roots, they do it in the form of a beast and without anything else, it is what has been given to them. Using weapons and tools outside your home is unworthy and would be an offense.
They are not an apex predator, there are other dangerous predators out there and large prey remains a challenge. They believe in a circle of life where to continue living you feed on life. For you to live other creatures or plants have to die. (I do not know if I explain myself very well) You can hunt for food, you can dress the skins of your prey to protect yourself inside your village but having fire at night is a comfort. You can't kill a living being just to be more comfortable. (If I have not yet made it clear, consider plants at the same level of life as animals and humans). But they will not avoid stepping on the grass or plucking the branches of a tree if they run for their life.
As they see the world, the hunters could be bringing the food to the table one day and the next being them the food on the table of others.
Needless to say they have a high mortality rate but also a high new born rate. Even though they are teoreticaly human the new born grow to mature age twice as fast (it has to do with the magic system).