Does Pollution Make Us Drink?

Smog. Dirty water. Escalating cancer rates. Loss of wildlife habitat.

These are some of the problems that we typically associate with pollution. According to a paper presented at the Ontario Pollution Control Conference, we can also blame environmental degradation for increased alcohol consumption. 

Held December 4-6, 1967, at the Inn on the Park in Toronto, and funded by Ontario taxpayers, this conference brought together interested parties from agriculture, industry, and the various levels of government to discuss what could and should be done in regards to pollution. While there were many noteworthy presentations, it was Dr. Norman Pearson, head of the University of Guelph's Centre for Resource Development, that managed to grab my attention with his "pollution = boozin'" thesis.

Sure, the idea may sound far-fetched at first. Dr. Pearson, however, was able to view a direct relationship between the two. As he asked those in attendance: "Have not water pollution, soil pollution and air pollution played a key role in the decline of such Canadian sports as crosscountry skiing, enjoyment of the beaches and shores of the rivers, streams and lakes of the Southern party of Ontario?" Unable to pursue traditional avenues of enjoyment, more people, according to this theory, resorted to alcohol consumption. "Gin has always been the fastest way out of problems in urban areas," he noted. "Few would agree it is the best."

An interesting idea. However, I'm not so sure that I'm sold on it. Dr. Pearson suggested that sociologists and philosophers would do well to explore this question. I have no idea if anybody took him up on this.

On a side note, thus far I've been unable to locate the proceedings from this conference. If anybody happens to know their whereabouts, please feel free to let me know.