The Globalization of Addiction

Addiction is a hotly debated issue; is it a brain disease as some contend, or is it a collection of compulsive behaviours that arises from a psychological process, a forging of maladaptations to deal with emotional or psychological trauma. Others, like Canadian psychology professor Bruce K. Alexander, posit that the rise in addictions of all kinds (to drugs, alcohol, shopping, overeating, television, internet, gaming) are a response to the gradual erosion of belonging, of communal identity, brought out by modern society’s insistence on consumption, competition and individualism:

Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.

People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.

History shows that addiction can be rare in a society for many centuries, but can become nearly universal when circumstances change – for example, when a cohesive tribal culture is crushed or an advanced civilization collapses. Of course, this historical perspective does not deny that differences in vulnerability are built into each individual’s genes, individual experience, and personal character, but it removes individual differences from the foreground of attention, because societal determinants are so much more powerful. Addiction is much more a social problem than an individual disorder.

This perspective reminds me of Oberlin professor David Orr’s assertion that the current age’s rampant environmental degradation and disconnection from nature stems from our “dis-placement” — the loss of our ties to a particular place, or genus loci. Violence, destruction, the self-destruction of addictive behaviour, fill this emptiness and dislocative disconnection. Our collective dislocations allow for atrocities to occur: addictions to substances, harmful behaviours, addictions to oil and greed for money, a bottomless greed for more and more. It will never be enough, even as we annihilate ourselves. As eco-psychologists hypothesize, the way we treat our external environment is analogous to how we treat our inner landscapes, a reflection of our individual and collective psyches. Is there some kind of profound emptiness we are afraid to confront?

The “globalization of addiction” a fascinating hypothesis, speaking to the possible larger picture of what addiction — as an existential problem, a spiritual emptiness — could truly represent. More over at The Globalization of Addiction, and The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

Sprout Out Loud! ‘Zine Launch @ Drawn & Quarterly


Montréal artist-activist Emily Rose Michaud is launching the second edition of her ‘zine Pouvoir Aux Pousses! / Sprout Out Loud! tomorrow at local comics powerhouse Drawn & Quarterly. Emily established the Roerich Garden* in 2007, as part of the Sprout Out Loud! gardener’s collective.

The Roerich Garden is located on a plot of land formerly owned by a railway company, and is one of the last undeveloped green spaces in Montréal’s Mile End neighbourhood. This local community space is surprisingly biodiverse, and has been used by locals for various activities, and like other unofficial urban greenspaces on “vague terrains” worldwide, raises questions about citizen engagement, urban occupation and land use. Residents are now working with city officials to keep it as a open, green and communal space.

In the spirit of this collective guerrilla garden, I was honoured to contribute a drawing for Emily’s ‘zine; the event information is below.

*Roerich refers to Nicholas Roerich, early 20th century Russian painter, writer, philosopher and theosophist who worked to establish “pax cultura” (a culture of peace).

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Pouvoir Aux Pousses! / Sprout Out Loud! zine launch + presentation + planting

DRAWN & QUARTERLY in Montreal.

Wednesday, May 22, 5 to 7 PM.

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The Dreaming, Dream Law and Ecological Ethics (Part 3)

Video: This incredible example of storytelling comes from the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony showing the unity of Australia’s 250 aboriginal tribes.

Here follows Part 3 of a research paper that explores the connections between ecology, culture, science and the collective consciousness. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

The Dreaming, Dream Law and Ecological Ethics

But how do dreams connect with waking, material reality? What influence can dreams, myths and collective ritual have on the physical environment and how can these elements contribute to a universal environmental ethic? No culture proposes a more profound answer to this question than the aboriginals of Australia, whose complex conception of life sees creation as a transient, continuous ‘bringing forth,’ flowing from what they call Alcheringa or Dreamings.

As the world’s oldest, still-living culture at 40,000 years old, the aboriginal sense of ecological relationship stems from their understanding of creation as a reciprocal act. For them, the creation of the world began in a mythic time called the Dreamtime through the actions of the Sky Heroes, but it is only through the active participation of humans in Dreamings and ritual does the integrity of the earth remain intact.

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Permablitz This! Balcony Gardening Workshop


Turning a ho-hum balcony into a little oasis of blooming green (or at least starting to!) one July weekend in 2009. For this one-day workshop / permaculture blitz, we made self-watering containers, transplanted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, one banana and herbs, made a climbing wall, and started a rainwater collection system, made out of recycled election boards (before we got rained in.)

Check out this video of the rainwater harvester in action.

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