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Q: Human alienation from the natural world. Addiction. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Human alienation from the natural world. Addiction.
Category: Science
Asked by: ryoyu-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 17 May 2005 06:25 PDT
Expires: 16 Jun 2005 06:25 PDT
Question ID: 522571
For a book I am writing on the primal roots of addiction, I need both
narrative and statistical data on the ongoing degradation of our
natural environment; and the effect on the human psyche. I am
particularly interested on speculation as to when this "civilized"
alienation from the Earth began, it's escalation and empirical data:
i.e. "in the year 1900, toxins in the environment were XXX PPM and by
200, they were OOO PPM. I need lots of data. Both timelines and
narrative would be useful.  I am setting an initial price of $100
dollars but am hqppy to increase it for the wealth of information that
I need.  Marion Woodman said: "As a culture, we are moving into the
new millennium shadowed by a specter of addiction. It is a common
response by many to a growing sense of despair and alienation. We fear
a black void at the center of our lives, buried deep somewhere inside
us. This image can ring true for any of us, for we are all touched by
the emptiness of the soul that underlies addiction." That is my
thesis: that alienation and despair are not the result of addiction;
they are the cause!

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 18 May 2005 15:05 PDT

As an ecologist, I have to take issue with the idea that environmental
degradation is anything new, or has escalated over time.

The only thing that clearly HAS escalated is the number of human
beings on the planet...we are so pervasive as a species that out
environmental impacts now are regional and global in scope, rather
than fairly local.

But as for severity...that's debatable.  London of the 1800's - with
its coal-fired house heat and factories -- was probably a lot dirtier
than modern-day London.  Entire societies from millennia or centuries
past -- in the Fertile Crescent, Greece, Rome, Cambodia, Easter
Island, and some native American cultures in N and S America -- have
disappeared, largely from environmental catastrophes.

Some pollutants have undoubtedly increased -- like carbon dioxide from
all our fossil fuel burning, or human-made chemicals (e.g. PCBs) that
didn't exist in earlier times -- and these increases can be quantified
with trends data.

But a lot of pollution -- especially in the most industrialized
countries -- has been eased by modern pollution controls.

Take a look at this article on the fate of Easter Island in the 1600's:

and then let me know how you think we can best proceed to answer your
question about modern-day environmental problems.

Thanks...and best of luck with your book.


Clarification of Question by ryoyu-ga on 18 May 2005 17:54 PDT
Dear Pafalafa-ga,

Thank you for your response.  I think you clarified the question for
me and I appreciate it.  I also think my original question was
long-winded. I apologize.

I also think that you answered the question, in large part,  with the
Easter Island story.

From my point of view, admittedly biased, I would say that the causes
of this degradation, ancient and modern, are greed, solipsism, and
ignorance; problems that certainly did not arise after, say, the
Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Diamond points out that, unlike these ancient cultures, we have a
record from the past to look at and to learn from.  I think we also
now have the means to see, in the present global culture, effects more
subtle than the horrors of starvation.

I think any information you can provide on the "trends data" you
mentioned would flesh out the answer in very useful ways.

If you wish to go beyond the "trends data" please feel free to do so. 

Thanks.  Ryoyu-ga

Request for Question Clarification by czh-ga on 18 May 2005 20:01 PDT
Hello ryoyu-ga,

I also have been working on your question. Your clarification to
pafalafa-ga was helpful, but it also raised additional questions for
me. Let me recap your thesis and the research you need.

THESIS: Alienation and despair cause addiction.

ASSERTION: Environmental degradation causes alienation and despair. 

ASSERTION: Greed, solipsism and ignorance cause environmental degredation.

 -- Confirm the effect of environmental degradation on human psyche. 
 -- Confirm the claimed causes of environmental degradation.
 -- Confirm that environmental degradation leads to despair and alienation.
 -- Confirm that despair and alienation lead to addiction.

I would like to know if you?re interested in research results that
might disprove or contest any of these claims.

I?m also confused by an item in your clarification to pafalafa-ga.
What do you mean when you claim, ?I would say that the causes of this
degradation, ancient and modern, are greed solipsism, and ignorance,
problems that certainly did not arise after, say, the Chicago
Exposition of 1893.?

Are you saying that ?greed solipsism, and ignorance? are problems that
only existed before 1893? Or, are you saying that ?greed solipsism,
and ignorance? were not triggered by the Chicago Exposition? I?m not
clear on the point you?re making here. Please explain further.

I look forward to your clarification.

~ czh ~

Clarification of Question by ryoyu-ga on 19 May 2005 03:40 PDT
Dear czh,

The Chicago Exposition comment was meant as a joke.  There is no need
to respond one way or another.

It is my claim that the causes of degradation are based in what the
Buddha called "the three poisons" of the mind.  I substituted
solipsism for "anger" or "aversion".

There is no need to comment on that, but you may if you wish.

To clarify the thesis: Alienation from the earth itself, from
wildness, creates the ground for addiction. (by addiction I mean any
habitual action, usually beneath consciousness, that has negative life

Your thesis and two assertions are correct, although I would word them

As to "research needed".  I would welcome any comments pro or con, but
at this point I am most interested in what the other researcher called
"trends data" a propos of the modern age and global effects.

You can take a look at the book Wild Hunger by Bruce Wilshire if any
of that is available on line, to see the source of my thesis.  I also
admit to quite a few arguments with Dr. Wilshire.

A final comment: I am well aware of all the theories as to the
aetiology of addiction, including brain science, and I have problems
with them all, after long investigation.

Thank you for your interest.


Clarification of Question by ryoyu-ga on 19 May 2005 09:27 PDT
I just checked my log and saw that this question is still "open".
I am completely satisfied with the answer.  Nothing further is necessary.
Subject: Re: Human alienation from the natural world. Addiction.
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 19 May 2005 17:57 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thanks for your latest note.  I was very glad to hear that the
information provided thus far was right on target for what you needed.

But I didn't want to leave without at least a bit more information on
the "trends" issue, so here are a few references that I think you'll
find interesting.

The first is the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
largely as the result of our increased use of fossil fuels:

The graph of CO2 concentrations at an observatory in Hawaii is rather
famous, and helped launch a good deal of modern research into global
climate change.


Even longer term trends can be seen in this table of atmospheric
gases, with data extending back to 1800 -- data such as these are
often based on air samples trapped in arctic ice, and recovered by
drilling ice cores:

In addition to carbon dioxide, the table also shows increasing values
of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which are naturally occuring
compounds, but are also produced by industrial and agricultural
processes in large amounts.  Also shown are CFC's
(chlorofluorocarbons), which are synthetic aeresol propellants, which
are not found in nature, but which show up in air samples beginning
around 1960's, when they first came into use.  CFCs are the chemicals
largely responsible for creating the infamous ozone hole:

A bit more than half-way done the page is another trends graph -- this
time of the disappearing ozone!


Dioxins are another notorious class of modern pollutants, and some
dioxins (there are many) are considered among the most most toxic
substances known.  Dioxin can occur naturally in extremely minute
quantities, but it took the modern chemical industry to really crank
it out in quantity:

Near the bottom of this page is a graph showing dioxin concentrations
in lake sediments (another way to 'look back' in time).  Dixoins are
virtually non-existent in the 1800's, show up in the 1920's, and peak
around 1965, before modern pllution controls begin to kick in and
lower the dioxin discharges.


Lastly, figures 3 and 4 in this report:

tell two different tales about long-term trends in metal pollution.  

Lead has a long and ancient history -- some people think lead
poisoning contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire -- and its
increasing environmental presence is documented in Figure 3.  Lead
increases dramatically until the 1960's, and then begins to fall off
after that due to pollution controls and (eventually) to the phase out
of the use of lead in gasoline (one of the great modern environmental
and public health success stories).

A different trend shows up for silver (a surprisingly nasty
pollutant), which has seen steadily increasing use, largely due to its
role in photography, as well as the sizable jewelry industry that grew
up in the region where this study took place.

I trust this information fully answers your very interesting question.
 However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need.  If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.

All the best,


search strategy:  largely used existing knowledge and bookmarked sites

Request for Answer Clarification by ryoyu-ga on 19 May 2005 19:04 PDT

the comments about being satisfied referred to two previous questions.
Obviously I need to pay attention to what I'm doing!  I am delighted
that you didn't just sign off when you saw that.  I'll need some time
to look at your answers, but I am certain they are quite good.  I have
learned a lot from this collolquy.  I'll respond more fully tomorrow. 
This letter is just to say thanks for your persistence and patience!,

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 19 May 2005 19:11 PDT

Please do look it over at your leisure.  After doing so, if there's
anything else I can do for you, just let me know with (yet another!)
clarification note, and I'll certainly be more than happy to assist
you however I can.


ryoyu-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $25.00
Pafalafa-ga was persistent in both research and clarification of my
original and rather muddy question.  I got the information I
needed...and more. I was delighted!

Subject: Re: Human alienation from the natural world. Addiction.
From: pafalafa-ga on 20 May 2005 05:25 PDT
Thanks so much, both for your generousity and for your willingness to
hang in with the process, while I got a bit clearer on what you were

Hope to see you back here again soon...

Subject: Re: Human alienation from the natural world. Addiction.
From: ryoyu-ga on 20 May 2005 06:17 PDT
My pleasure.

I posted a new question this morning and unfortunately didn't know how
to get it directly go you.  It's under "science" and is about the
effect of television viewing on the human body/mind.

Let me know how to get these questions directly to you and I will do so.

I hope you can hunt that one down!

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