Archive for December, 2010

The End Of Oil


THE END OF OIL, AND THE RISE OF DENIAL (6/3/06, rev. 9/10/11)

Ken Fischman,Ph.D.,  Lanie Johnson, M.A.,  and the Ancient Pathways Players

Climbing Hubbert’s Peak

Back in 1956, an oil geologist, by the name of L. King Hubbert, published an article in which he predicted that oil production in the U.S would reach its peak between 1970 and 1972, and from then on would decrease every year.
Despite the fact that Hubbert was a respected scientist and that he presented solid evidence for his conclusions, he was derided, laughed at, or ignored by almost everyone in the oil industry.
In 1972, oil production in the U.S. peaked, and since then it has declined every year. That, and not oil industry greed, China’s new energy appetite, or rebellions in Libya, is the main reason why you are paying over $3.00/gallon for gasoline and our country is dependent on foreign oil.
By the way, my bill for heating and cooking with Propane went up 28% last winter. Did you know that natural gas production in the U.S. peaked way back in 1956, and has gone down every year since then?
Other scientists have improved L. King Hubbert’s fact gathering, formulas, and calculations, and have extended the methodology he successfully used to predict Peak Oil in the U.S. to computer simulations of world oil production.

They have concluded that world oil production will peak within a few years, or has already peaked. Kenneth Deffeyes is a Geologist from Princeton University, and is one of the leaders of the Peak Oil movement. He has calculated that world oil production reached its highest level in November, 2005. It is in the nature of the oil industry that we only learn about such events after they have happened.
Deffeyes, Colin Campbell, who is a Scottish geophysicist, energy investment banker Matthew Simmons, along with Roscoe Bartlett, who is a former engineer, and presently a Republican Congressman from Maryland, have been sounding the alarm. They have been derided, laughed at, or just plain ignored. It is only now, with the price of energy sky-rocketing, that they are getting any public attention at all.
If you remember your history, the Greek seer, Cassandra, made dire predictions about the fate of Greece. She was laughed at too. But, she had the last laugh. Classical Greece is gone. You can visit the ruins of the Acropolis in Athens, if you buy your airline tickets now while you can still afford them.

The End of Cheap Oil

Now, you may wonder, why am I talking about oil at a workshop on ancient skills and beliefs? It is because the impending loss of cheap oil is going to profoundly affect the way we and our children lead our lives.

[enter stage L -- a fairy, dressed in pink tutu, with a diamond tiara, and a wand with a star at its end – “she” is flippant and bubbly, and speaks in falsetto, kind of like Glenda the Good, from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz]

“Hi, I’m the Tooth Fairy (TF) and I’ve come to tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of oil left. All you have to do is look for it under your pillow!”

[KF] Hey, wait a minute! You’re interrupting a serious discussion. And you look ridiculous in that tutu. These people are here to learn important things that will affect their lives. Please do not interrupt us. [TF glares at K, petulantly, hands on hips ]

[KF] Now, where was I? Oh yes, even the phrase “oil production,” is misleading. Human beings have never produced even one drop of oil. It was all produced by Nature some 600 million years ago. More properly, we ought to call it “oil extraction.” The amount of oil available is, for all intents and purposes, finite (unless you want to wait around another 600 million years.) When it’s gone, it’s gone, and all the wishful thinking in the world won’t bring back a drop of it.
The fact is, that the world is rapidly running out of conventional oil, and this fact is absolutely critical because our contemporary, technological civilization is organized around and totally dependant on cheap oil. This situation is being compounded because every year America’s appetite for oil is increasing. China and India’s economies are growing at 10%/year and are they running around the world, trying to lock up all the existing and potential oil and natural gas sources they can get their hands on. When demand increases and supply goes down, the law of economics tells us that the price will increase. My truck camper makes about 9 miles/gal of gas. I ‘m thinking of trading it in for a Prius.

[TF] Oh, yoo–hoo! I have an easy solution. You know, when children lose a tooth, all they have to do is put it under the pillow, and the tooth fairy (that’s me!) will come in the middle of the night and replace it with a dollar bill. Now, all you have to do is place your empty gas tank under your pillow and the Tooth Fairy will fill it up with oil made from Canadian tar sands, or Pennsylvania coal, or Ethanol from corn – better yet, we can fill it with Abiotic oils from the bottom of the sea of which there’s an endless supply! Of (course) no one’s ever seen it, but I am sure it’s there because we need it!

[KF] Now look here, you demented elf! You are interrupting a serious discourse and making a farce out of this. Leave this room right now, or I’ll Canadian tar-sand and feather you! [TF exits in a huff, stage Rt.]

Say Goodbye To Cheap Oil

Thank goodness were rid of that ridiculous person. Magical thinking will not help us. This is a rational society. Only a few years ago, the price of oil was 35$ per gallon. Now it is over $80. I predict that the price of oil next summer will be over $100 per gallon, and that the price will go up every year from now on.
The high price of energy will profoundly change our lifestyles. The Global Economy, which is based on the ability to cheaply transport goods from one part of the world to another, will inevitably collapse. Economies will, of necessity, become localized, and we will have to depend on local food supplies.
Everyone knows. . .

[Oil Fairy] Hi there. I’m the Oil Fairy and I’ve come to tell you that there’s plenty of oil around the Caspian Sea. And, we know there’s lots of oil under the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge without having even drilled test wells there, or ……

[KF] Great! Another idiot! Look here! If they started exploring ANWAR tomorrow and found oil, which is not certain, it would take at least 10 years to locate, drill, and build a pipeline to carry the oil down to us. Furthermore, even the most optimistic estimate of how much oil there is under those herds of Caribou, would supply U.S. needs for only 3 to 6 months. But, it sure would make a lot of money for Exxon, BP, etc. And maybe they can get Halliburton to build the pipeline.

[OF] But all I have to do is wave my magic wand and. . .

[KF] There is no such thing as magic! You can’t make something from nothing. Why don’t you go away and stop bothering us with your wishful thinking? [TF stands petulantly, hands on hips, & glares at KF]
They have looked everywhere, and there are no hidden sources of oil. Not only that, but there is no adequate substitute for oil. You can’t stick a nuclear energy plant in your car and make it run, or put one in a Boeing 747 and make it fly either. Too heavy. You can convert coal to gas, but the more coal you dig, the more expensive it will be to get to, and how are you going to transport that heavy stuff from Pennsylvania to Florida? And up and up will go the costs.
As for corn-derived Ethanol, it is the latest fad of the technofixers. At least two studies have shown that more energy has to be put into the process than can be gotten out of it. Corn is a very energy- demanding crop. It will make a lot of money for agribusiness, but it is not the answer to our energy problems. Not only that, but every acre put into production of corn for Ethanol, is an acre taken out of the production of food in a country where the number of food-producing farms is shrinking every year. If our government is so worried out our dependency on foreign oil, how vulnerable will we feel when we become dependant on foreign-grown food?

What Is Oil Good For?

The first thing people think about when you mention oil is fuel – energy – energy to drive your car to work, to fly by plane to the West Coast in order to spend Thanksgiving with your far-flung family, energy to push that diesel locomotive up the track, bringing cheap stuff to Wal-Mart.
But energy needs are just the tip of the iceberg. Where do you think your anti-allergy pills come from? Your antibiotics? Most medications are synthesized from oil. By the way, what do you think is the most expensive kind of building to construct and maintain? (pause) Anyone?  No, it’s not the Pentagon. It’s your local hospital. By the square foot, by the little white pill, by the 2 million dollar MRI they just installed. A single Cancer treatment costs almost 10 thousand dollars. . . . . It is by far the most expensive structure around. What do you think will happen to your medical bills when oil hits $100/barrel? $200/barrel?

By the way, what do you think plastic is made from? Take a wild guess. …. Hey, Oil Fairy, do you know how much plastic there is in your house? your refrigerator? your automobile? I’ll bet even your magic wand is plastic.
Another question for you fairy! Do you like bananas in your cereal for breakfast? Now, don’t tell me you just wave your wand and make them appear! Do you know
where that banana came from?

[OF] Timorously – Ecuador?

[KF] How many bananas are you going to eat when the cost of transporting them from Ecuador doubles? triples? How much of the food that you buy in Safeway is grown within 100 miles of here? Very little, but food distribution patterns are going to have to change or we will not be able to feed over 320 million Americans. Bioregionalism anyone?

[OF} I think I’ll leave . The batteries in my magic wand seem to have run down. I wonder what batteries are made of? Goodbye.

[KF]  Good riddance! Whew! We are finally rid of her! Now, where was I? Oh yes,
Let’s talk more about food. After all, it is your ultimate energy supply. Is your food cheap? plentiful?. . . What is the fertilizer that makes that food grow made from? Anyone?….  How about the pesticides and herbicides that they use on farms? What are they made from? …. How much oil did they expend to manufacture that tractor, and the other mechanized equipment found on most farms today? And, how much energy is used to run them? How much fuel was expended to transport food from Imperial Valley, California to your dining room table last night?
How much plastic is there in your computer? And how much oil did they use to dig up, refine, and transport all those rare materials that give your hard disk that prodigious amount of memory the computer companies boast of?

The Technofixers

And that’s just the beginning. What about – - – - – - – - – - -

[Big rumpus –Technology Fairy enters – stage L]

[TF] Hi – I’m the Technology Fairy, and I’ve come to save you! Not to worry! I’ve got a technological fix for everything! Just look under your pillow!

(someone in audience shouts – “Hey “Techy,” you’re cute”)

[TF] I’m not only cute, I’m clever. Hey, do you know what we can do to squeeze more out of an oil field? I can drill on a slant to get oil from under nearby mountains or drill down a mile with offshore drilling rigs that are already a mile below the ocean surface.

[KF] (exasperatedly) It’s already been done, and you know what happened. Remember BP and the Gulf oil spill?

[TF] Oh – well, I can pump water into the wells to push up more oil.

[KF] Been there – done that. Do you wonder why the Saudis are doing it now? Can it be that their oil fields are drying up? It adds to the cost, and eventually it messes up the entire oil field.

[TF] Oh – well, I can explore other parts of the world, using high-tech equipment, and find loads of oil.

[KF] Until 2006 oil companies had been spending less money every year on oil exploration. Only now, with the price of oil soaring, has it become worthwhile for them to put money into exploration. The reason for that is that they have almost certainly already found all the great oil fields on Earth. There is no other place to look for large amounts of oil except the Arctic Ocean and the South China Sea, and that’s why China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam have recently been threatening each other over that area. I don’t think that superpowers fighting an oil war is going to help lower the cost of oil.

[TF, getting surly] Yeah, well how about all those hydrogen-driven cars? – clean, no pollution, free energy. yippee!

[KF] You know, it’s a funny thing. Nobody talks about where they’re going to get all those H2 atoms. You see, they’re going to pull them off of – guess what? ….  oil and natural gas. That’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You see, H2 cars are not energy sources. They are really just big batteries, and where is all that infrastructure to transport the H2 atoms to where they can be pumped into cars? It’s non-existent.

[TF] Boy, what a spoil-sport you are! Hey – they can get the H2s from water. Any school kid knows that! We’ve got plenty of water. All you have to do is stick a positive electrode in one end of a water tank and a negative one at the other – voila – (that’s a French word, you know!) you’ve got all the H2 atoms you want – just like we did in high school science class!

[KF] You forgot one little thing – the electric current to do the job. You will use more energy to liberate those H2 atoms than they will generate. That’s a good way to go broke -– energy-wise.

[TF] Well, what about all that Liquefied Natural Gas from Africa?

[KF] Listen, speaking of energy, you re wasting ours. What’s next? Are you going to invent a perpetual-motion machine? Get lost, will you! – First, they must transport the LNG at -260° F in tankers. Then, what do you do with it? They will need to build special ports to receive LNG, and special facilities to store and transport it throughout the United States. They will have to build an entirely new infrastructure throughout the country, and where will the trillions of dollars come from to build this in a country that is already in over $3 Trillion in debt? Do me a favor Technology Fairy. Get lost! Put an egg in your shoe and beat it!

[TF] Well, if that’s the way you feel about it, go drown in your misery. What a grouch! I have a million ideas of how to get more oil. What about all those Tar Sands in Canada? Maybe there’s some on Mars. There’ll always be a technological fix right around the corner. Off I go to find one. Don’t worry – be happy. La De Dah De Dah – – – – – – – – [exit stage R]

[KF] Well, I sure hope we’ve seen the last Fairy.

[voice from audience –“Don’t you bet on it”!]

[KF] The end of cheap oil will obviously have profound effects on our lives, both upon our economy and our social structure.

The Great Denial

There are two other things I would like you to think about coming out of this discussion – myths and psychology.
Most people do not think that our modern, technological, rational culture has any myths. Myths are for ancient Greeks with their Olympian Gods and for African witch doctors, and Siberian Shamans.
How many of you think that our culture has any myths? – – – – -
Good. We just talked extensively about two of them. Can you name them for me?
…. 1. The resources of the Universe are inexhaustible. i.e. the Horn of Plenty myth
2. There is a Technological Fix for everything.


Hunter Gatherers – Brutish Or Brilliant?




Neanderthals played music


by Ken Fischman, Ph.D. and Lanie Johnson, M.A.


(PF)  1. MUSIC (Bayaka track 1, women gathering mushrooms)


(K)    3.  THE END OF OIL

Q         Russia and the Ukraine have been in the news lately.  Can anyone tell me what it’s about?  (Discussion).  The first shot has been fired in what I call the Resource Wars.  Essentially, Russia turned off the spigot on the Natural Gas it pipes into the Ukraine, which is needed to heat homes during the Winter. You see, Russia wants to increase the cost by 400%.  Not nice.

         You may be wondering what this has to do with HGs.  A  lot.  You see, the world is running out of oil and Natural Gas, and this will change our economy and culture drastically.  We will be forced to reinvent a sustainable society.  Once upon a time, we did have a sustainable society.

         The present situation requires a little explanation.  Back in 1956, an oil Geologist by the name of L. King Hubbert published a paper in which he calculated that oil production in the US would peak in about 1972, and would drop every year thereafter. A lot of smart people derided Hubbert. After all, at the time, the US was the world’s leading producer of oil. 

         1972 was the year in which they stopped laughing at Hubbert.  US oil production did indeed peak in 1972, and it has dropped every year since then.  That year became famous in some circles as “Hubbert’s Peak.”

         Oil is a finite resource.  They aren’t making it any more.

         Hubbert’s students and followers have refined his methods and used them to predict when World Oil production will peak. Most of them say between 2008 and 2012.  A few say that we have already passed it.

         You may have noticed that the wholesale price of oil hit almost $70/barrel  a few days ago.  Some experts say that it is just a spike due to temporary conditions.  Don’t be fooled.  These are the same kind of guys who laughed at Hubbert in ‘56.  Some facts are simply too ugly to face, especially when your whole lifestyle is at risk.

         Try to imagine automobile gas at $10-20/gallon.  Our whole culture is built on cheap energy.  Autos and trucks, home heating, industry, medicine, food.  Agriculture runs on oil and NG – fertilizer, pesticides, transport to market, etc.

                   What will happen? Will we go back to the stone age?  I doubt it.  We                    will probably go back to the 1890s instead, and those days weren’t so bad.                     Small towns, local economies, extended families.  Are there ways to live a                  good life without buying lots of “stuff” and flying to Mexico every winter?                       You bet. 

Tonight we will look at a culture that did not depend on oil.  We can’t go back to the woods again, all 9.2 billion of us, but perhaps we can learn some lessons and extract some principles from these people that will be helpful to us.



•         “Primitive People were wild animals . . . (they) were not pleasant people. They were fearful and cruel creatures, who beat and killed and robbed whenever they had a chance.

         They did not have names like you and me. They had names like Umfa Umfa and Itchy Scratchy.

         Their only rule of life was hurt and kill what you can, and run from what you can’t. This is what we call the first law of nature—every man for himself. They knew if they didn’t kill they would be killed, for there were no laws nor police to protect them.”        

         –V. M. Hillyer, Headmaster of Calvert School; author of A Child’s History of the World


•          (in a state of Nature): “No arts, no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

         -Thomas Hobbes, 17th century


•         The South American Campa Tribe, “degraded and ignorant beings, they lead a life exotic, purely animal, savage, in which are eclipsed the faint glimmerings of their reason, in which are drowned the weak pangs of their conscience, and all the instincts and lusts of animal existence alone float and are reflected.”

         -Manuel Navarro, La Tribu Campa, quoted in Gerald Weiss, American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers


•         “Through 97 percent of history, man lived by hunting and nomadic pasturage. During those 975,000 years his basic character was formed – to greedy acquisitiveness, violent pugnacity and lawless sexuality.”

-Will Durant, “A Last Testament to Youth,” Columbia Dispatch Mag


•         ancient people. . . “were not conscious. They were what we would call signal-bound, that is, responding each minute to cues in a stimulus-response manner, and controlled by those cues.”

         -Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind


•regarding the Noble Savage (from poem by John Dryden, 17th century):

         “nothing can be more gentle than he in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the pernicious good sense of civilized man.”

         -Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 18th century

•         “The Sng’oi (Malaysian hunter-gatherers) had all the time in the world . . . They did not slave in gardens; they did not work to get ahead; they were not stressed by keeping office hours or schedules.  There was nothing they had to do.  They enjoyed living; they smiled a great deal, and laughed, and made jokes.”

         – Robert Wolff, Psychologist and author of Original Wisdom

                                                            -            -            -

(about the Bushmen) “. . . there is no evidence for exploitation on the basis of sex or age. . . (but) a continuous struggle against one’s own selfish, arrogant, and antisocial impulses. . . A sharing way of life is not only possible but has actually existed in many parts of the world and over long periods of time.”

         -Richard Lee, The !Kung San


•         “Among those relict tribal peoples who seem to live at peace with their world, who feel themselves to be guests rather than masters. . .(is a way of life to which our development) was fitted by natural selection, fostering a calendar of mental growth, cooperation, leadership, and the study of a mysterious and beautiful world where the clues to the meaning of life were embodied in natural things”

         -Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness


•          The Ituri pygmies, who all show “humor, gaiety, reflectiveness. . .  contradict the conventional image of preliterate peoples as divested of ego and personality.”

         -Murray Bookchin, The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship


         Now that we have that straight – – let me tell you about our plan for this presentation. We first got interested in HGs around 20 years ago. In Tom Brown’s week-long wilderness survival classes in the woods, we practiced what he called “the old ways.” – like shelter & friction-fire making (skills we’ll be teaching at the workshop in June). We realized that instead of just practicing skills; we were actually following the lifestyle of ancient people. We began reading about these ancient ancestors. As we took more classes and read more books – we were hooked!

         Tonight we’re going to follow the ancient tradition of making winter the time for stories & discussion. We’ll share with you what we found out about what HGs were really like.

         We found neither Rousseau’s Noble Savage nor Hobbes’ Nasty Brute, but real, science-based descriptions. This has been a fascinating and often surprising exploration for us and we think it will be the same for you – – about what we can learn from HGs in addition to wilderness survival skills.


         (subject is Social Interaction – no images)

         You have heard conflicting opinions from eminent writers, historians, and scientists.  Tonight, you will get the chance to look at the evidence and decide for yourself.  Let me introduce you to the subject of our presentation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the BRUTES!                                                   (A100 Forest Pygmy dance of joy with Bayaka track 3, Boyobi – 40 sec.)

         Who are these people, and what are they doing?  These are the Efe Pygmies of the Zaire Rain Forest.  They have just completed a successful hunt, and are dancing for joy.

         The Pygmies are formidable hunters.  They can even bring down Forest Elephants, but most often they hunt with nets.  Each family within the group is in charge of making and repairing one segment of the net. They start from scratch, making the cordage from plant fibers.  (Those of you who take our Field Class will have the opportunity to make cordage just as these people do).  The net is about the height of a volleyball net but much longer – about 50 yards.  The men string it up on trees and bushes and connect all the nets to form a horseshoe-shaped trap about a quarter of a mile long.  The women, children, and elders drive the animals into the open end of the net by shouting and making noise.

         You see, hunting is a family and group affair with Pygmies and perfectly fits their socially cooperative lifestyle.

         You have been hearing their music as recorded by musicologist Louis Sarno.  From time to time we will play more of their music.  It is in a pentatonic scale.  Keep that in mind.  It will turn out to be important for you to know.


B100 Cartoon-ABO Job Application

         There is some confusion about the difference between Hunter-Gatherers, Indigenous people, Primitive or Tribal people, and so on.  People like the Massai and Bantu of Africa, and most east coast American Indians, are not Hunter-Gatherers.  They are or were horticulturalists, that is, people who till small gardens, or agriculturalists who farm, or pastoralists who herd animals.

         The Hunter-Gatherers are none of these.  They pursue an ancient lifestyle, which goes back to the very beginnings of Mankind. 

         As their name implies, they hunt animals and gather wild plants they find around them.  They live in small groups or bands of 10-30 related  persons, who are usually an extended family.  They usually marry outside their band to others from related bands, who are in contact with them.

         They have no hereditary or elected leaders. They make decisions by consensus and have a cooperative, sharing society. Of course, this doesn’t mean they never get angry, jealous, or mean.  However, they have created a culture in which such behavior is minimalized.

         Most of their possessions are communal.  They are Renaissance men and women.  Everyone in the group above the age of 12-13 has all the skills necessary to live their life style, and if they should get separated from the group they could get on just fine.  Contrast this with the average High School graduate in the US.  Plunk them down in the middle of the Zaire rain forest or for that matter the middle of New York City and see how long they could survive without all their support systems.

         Who are these people and do they still exist?  Yes, they do, mostly tucked away in inhospitable corners of the world.


(C 200 cartoon ABO horoscope)

         INTRO: most history books dismiss ancient HGs in just a few

paragraphs as “prehistory” if they mention them at all.  You get the idea that real, important history begins 7 – 10,000 years ago, with the invention of agriculture, the written word and walled cities. In fact, civilization is usually defined in this way, including monumental architecture, hierarchical social orders, & wars.

         Keep in mind, however, that HGs of one kind or another have existed for a lot longer than our culture has. In fact, we have been HGs for 99% of the time that humans have walked the Earth.

         In the course of this evening, you will discover what sort of beings HGs were & still are, because they are among us even now. Were they brutal, savage scavengers like Umfa Umfa & Itchy Scratchy, or were they something entirely different?

         I believe that they are worthy of our scrutiny because of our relationship to them. After all, in both a figurative and a real sense, they are our great, great, great grandfathers.

         (L)  (1)  Art           notes:(Kristofer  Y. on Didge during Australian Abo                                     images)

                                    (Kristofer Y, on Flute during flute images)

                  (K) talk about PENTATONIC SCALE while Kris plays flute

                  (C113 -114)

                  (C101 Aust ABO Land Forms) this slide takes us to the desert of Australia. You can see the shimmering horizon in the distance; in the foreground are mountains that the Aborigines see as female bodies. The ABOs have lived in this environment for at least 40,000 years. They are such skilled trackers that today, the Australian police have them on staff to track criminals across the desert sands. This Saturday, we will be tracking in snow, which is a lot easier than sand! (C102, 103, 104)

                  (C105 – 112A)

ART II         (C117 -120)

         (K)  (2)  Skills and (3) Antiquity/evolution

         (C201, 202, 204, 205 bushman 1)

         (C207 pygmy with net)

         (C208, 209 Tasaday)

         (C211 – C301)

1. The Schoningen Spears (C302 Schoningen spear)

         Of all the recent discoveries that are changing our minds about ancient man, the Schoningen Spears top my list. 

         Archaeologist Helmut Thieme was digging in a peat bog, near the Harz mountains in southern Germany.  He was in a hurry. An open-pit coal mine was set to expand into that area in a matter of weeks and that peat bog would be history.  Instead, it became a startling piece of Prehistory.

         He was working at a 50-foot depth when his assistant called him over.  The assistant had found a piece of wood.  That was exciting enough.  Wood and other organic material are rare finds in archaeological excavations.  They usually disappear quickly, victims of microbial and insect activity, leaving only hard evidence like fossilized bones and chipped flints.

         But, peat bogs are different.  They lack oxygen, and this condition preserves organic material.  Thieme and his assistant carefully uncovered the wood.  It was 6 feet long and narrow.  Then they got to the tip.  It had been sharpened to a point!  What they had was a spear!  When they got to the other end, another surprise awaited them.  It too narrowed to a point.  It was not only a spear, but it was a throwing spear, a javelin.  All this in a layer of the bog that was known to be 400,000 years old.  It was not Homo sapiens, but Homo erectus, an ancestral species who made this spear.

         More surprises awaited them when they analyzed their find back at the laboratory.  The spear was made from the trunk of a 30-year-old spruce tree with its anterior end toward the base of the trunk.  That meant that it contained heartwood, the hardest part of the tree, where the tree rings are closest together.  Furthermore, it was carved in such a way that half of its weight was in the forward third of the spear, which gave it perfect aerodynamics.  That is the way an Olympic javelin is designed. .  This was no accidentally sharpened piece of wood.

         Back at the peat bog, they found 6 other such Javelins.         Thieme’s report sent a shock wave through the Paleontological world.  This fellow Homo erectus, was a lot smarter than they had thought.  The spears’ manufacture took planning and forethought.  Its existence also meant that Homo erectus was no Hyena-like scavenger, but a hunter.  And, hunting implied cooperation and cleverness, perhaps even language needed to coordinate the strategy of the hunters.  After all they were after large mobile game such as horses, and as thousands of butchered bones at the site testify, they were often successful. And the use of a javelin meant that the hunters did not have to get up close and personal with a quick and potentially dangerous prey animal.  They could kill or wound it from afar.  Next best thing to a 30-30 with telescopic sight.

         Of course there were a few nay-sayers.  It wouldn’t be science if there weren’t.  One of them doubted that it was a javelin. He said that he had looked through many weighty anthropological texts and found that only 1/96 contemporary HG cultures used spears for throwing and not for thrusting. It sounded impressive.

         Anthropologists love controversy.  They can then speculate endlessly.  Well, as the Irishman asked when he entered a bar in which a brawl was going on, “ Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in”?

         I joined in by asking what’s the point of having a thrusting spear sharpened at both ends? (Please excuse the pun).   Furthermore, how would that critic explain this [show Bushman throwing spear image – C203]         I rest my case.

2.  The Bilzingsleben Bones (C303 – 307)

Homo floriensis and Homo sapiens

"Hobbit" skull compared with that of a modern human

         Most archaeological digs of ancient man are bleak places.  A few trenches and some wooden stakes connected by strings, are all you can see. They give you no idea about how our ancestors lived. 

         Bilzingsleben in the former East Germany is different.  It is a site on a wind-swept moor, along a small stream that leads into a nearby lake.  It looks like a scene out of Wuthering Heights.

         It clearly was a hunting camp.

           Scientists have uncovered 3 small round or oval dwellings, whose foundations were made of rocks and animal bones.  This immediately brought to my mind arctic river trips I have read about in which the authors found rings of rocks and bones where the Inuit Eskimos had their dwellings.  Those of you who attended our first workshop may remember one of the main rules of survival – use what is handy.

         The next part described brought back other memories.  It was a pit, on the periphery of the camp, and far away from the other structures. It was filled with flint fragments and had anvil stones around it.  I flashed back to the Rabbitstick primitive skills rendezvous that Lanie & I like to attend.  There is an area set aside, far from the other busy camp activities.  It consists of a pit with a few logs around it where the flint-nappers work.  Flint, chert, and obsidian have the sharpest edges in the world, and they would not want the many children that frequent the camp, or anyone else for that matter, to blunder in there with bare feet.  The inhabitants of the Bilzingsleben camp had obviously taken similar precautions. 

         There was another area away from the dwellings that was a refuse site.  I guess they didn’t like the idea of someone walking through the camp and carelessly throwing away banana peels or whatever.  Again, we had a similar place at Rabbitsick, but I doubt that the Bilzinglebeners had garbage cans.

         There were also signs of hearths.

         Archaeologists also found 4 intentionally-marked elephant bones.  The bones had many parallel lines, all engraved by the same instrument, and one had a zig zag, made without lifting the engraving tool.  When archaeologists find such bones they assume that they are counters of some sort – perhaps calendars.

         Well, of course I have been keeping you in suspense about who did all these things. Now it’s time to “fess” up.  The Archaelogists also found molar teeth and skull fragments, which they identified as belonging to our old friend, Homo erectus. The erectus bones were dated at 300-350 thousand years old. 

         A lot of anthropologists had figured that Homo erectus was hardly smarter than a Chimpanzee because he had a similar brain capacity.

         Now lets see, these Homo erectus built dwellings, kept separate sanitary and tool building sites, perhaps knew fire, and kept records of something.  I don’t know if his references were Baboons, but I am impressed.

(L)    ANNOUNCEMENT: before we take a short 10-minute break, I’d like to tell you that there is still room the Sat. Field Class on (2/4) (2/11). You can see Joyce Jowdy about signing up. (Joyce, would you please stand up). We’ll start again at (0:00)

BREAK         (Joshua passes sign-up sheet & booklist just after break)


(K)  Anecdote: (Social Interaction)

A couple of years ago I heard a young  Peace Corps volunteer being interviewed on NPR about her experience in a remote mountain village in S. America.  She had gone there to teach the Indigenous people and help them build, modern hygienic facilities such as pit toilets. 

         She had been amazed to find how happy these people were despite their poverty and lack of modern sanitary facilities.  She could not understand at first, why they could be so happy despite endemic disease,  the dirt streets of the village, and the wretched huts of the people.  This was contrary to her understanding, as an American, that “stuff” brings happiness.  These people had hardly any “stuff,” but after a while she realized that that they did have things lacking in her home town, like extended families, community, and a cohesive culture,.  After a while, even she became happy there, and she longed to return to the village.”

         (L)  (1)  Diversity & Similarity

         As Ken said before, we’re not discussing tribal people (there were very few HGs in colonial times here in the US – – the Apache in the SW, Calusa in FL & Sheepeaters in ID) but HGs are to be found worldwide, both historical and contemporary (Australian Aborigines, Kalahari Bushmen, African Forest Pygmies). HGs had or have very different lifestyles – based on their environment – tools, diet, many different ways to make fire – BUT along with this diversity, there are consistent similarities: -

         (L)  (2)  Social Interaction –

                           D201 -215B Bushmen 2

slide show:         D216 – D221 Pygmies 2

         These images will give you an idea of social interaction among modern Bushmen and Pygmies.

         • These people are non-hierarchical and cooperative – as when some British people taught Australian ABOs to play soccer. The ABOs caught on quickly and played well, but surprised the Brits when they played until each team had made a goal, and then stopped.  They figured that was the object of the game.

         • What about us? In the US a recent research project was reported by the NYT in which MRIs were used to test subjects for cooperative behavior. They played a game in which people were paid differing amounts each time they chose to cooperate or not to cooperate with each other. Mutual cooperation was the most profitable overall, but there was a built-in risk that one player might choose non-cooperation for short-term gain. The researchers were surprised to find that most players chose cooperation and during cooperative choices, the MRI showed that the pleasure pathways in the brain were highly lit up. As one researcher said, “we’re wired to cooperate with each other.”

         (L)  (3) Economics

         Society and Economy are a chicken and egg situation, but now that you’ve seen a bit of the society, here is some information on their economy. As Ken described earlier, HGs were small, nomadic bands of extended family members – with no permanent dwelling, no private property, and no storage of food. They carried very little with them. If they needed a tool, it was easy to make quickly because raw materials were free and available to all (and of course they had the skills to make the tools). They had everything they needed because their needs were so simple. As Marshall Sahlins, author of Stone Age Economics, put it: “we are inclined to think of Hunters and Gatherers as poor because they don’t have anything; perhaps better to think of them for that reason as free. “  Free for what? to enjoy life!

         (L)  (4) Physical Health

         What about the health of HGs? Let me ask you for a couple of estimates: what would you say is the current world-wide average life expectancy? (67) What is average HG life expectancy? (I found a range of 54.1 – 67.1) One more question: what percentage of deaths in industrialized countries are caused by cancer, heart disease, diabetes, emphysema & cirrhosis of the liver? (more than 75%) These so-called diseases of civilization are close to non-existent in HG cultures.

         Now, here’s a little food for thought: from a rare study on HG diet and health. Back in the 1920s and 30s, Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist practicing in Cleveland, was concerned about the cause of increasing dental decay in his young patients. He traveled all over the world and visited primitive people who were totally isolated from modern civilization and lived exclusively on indigenous diets. He concluded that tooth decay and bodily disease were promoted by nutritional deficiencies. He also observed that whenever any members of these groups adopted modern, refined foods, there would be a consistent degeneration of their health followed by that of any babies born after the change in diet.

         Among the people he visited and examined were Eskimos of Alaska, South Pacific Islanders, Africans and Australian Aborigines. Although their diets varied widely, all of their diets provided fresh, whole natural materials for body building and repair, including minerals and vitamins necessary for mineral absorption. Some North Canadian Indians ate the organs of Caribou and fed the muscle meat to their dogs. Dr. Price analyzed 14 different diets that consistently provided almost complete immunity to dental decay along with high resistance to disease. Here is diversity and similarity again!

D401         / These Melanesian Island boys lived on shellfish, regular fish, fruits, greens, roots & coconuts. Although they seem to have a family resemblance, they were born on 4 different tropical islands. They are not brothers but healthy individuals expressing their hereditary racial characteristics.

D402         compare their diet with that of the Australian Aborigines who lived in the desert with little rain & infertile soil: wallaby, kangaroo and rodent – muscle & organ meat – plus insects, beetles, grubs, roots, stems, leaves, grass seed & berries. / One of these 4 women followed this diet; the other 3 exhibit the deformities & low immunity that Dr. Price found typical of those whose parents had adopted a modern diet: narrow face due to inadequate bone structure, pinched nostrils, narrow dental arches and therefore, crowded teeth. He found that traditional ABOs (many of whom never brushed their teeth at all) had no cavities, while those on a modern diet had 70.9% cavities.

D403         / Although deformities cannot be reversed, Dr. Price does indicate hope for people on our modern diet. Both of these girls are patients of his from an American family. The one on the left shows the narrow face and crowded teeth. Her birth required 53 hours of labor. Her mother subsequently changed her diet to include milk, green vegetables, sea foods, organ meats and high-vitamin butter & CLO. The younger sister on the right needed only 2 hours of labor and you can see the difference in the form of her face and teeth. 

         (K)  (5)  Psychological Health –

When did Empathy/Compassion arise?  Here is some evidence to consider in that regard:

           •“Nandy” of Shanidar Cave

          (a) An intentional burial of a 40 year-old Neanderthal, now nicknamed “Nandy” was found in the Shanidar Cave, in Iraq, and dated from 46 – 60 thousand years ago.  “Nandy’s most striking feature was that he had a withered right side, obviously a congenital defect.  His collar bone, shoulder bone and arm bone were all underdeveloped.  The arm bone had been deliberately amputated in later life, and the stump had had time to heal.  In addition he had worn-down teeth, healed head wounds, and was blind in his right eye.  He was a mess!

         The question is how did he survive all those years in such helpless condition if life then was “survival of the fittest,” and it was every man for himself?   Obviously, he had to have a great deal of continuing support.  I wonder what the author of “A Child’s History of the World” would say about “Nandy” and his buddies?  Does empathy appear even earlier in man’s history?  We shall see:

         (b)  The Flower Burial

         As though “Nandy” was not a startling enough discovery at Shanidar Cave, there was yet another surprise lying there.  Another adult male, 50-60 years old, was found buried, and he had at least 7 species of flowers or herbs sprinkled over him.  They were not just any old pretty flowers either.  Most of them, such as Yarrow and Ephedra, had obvious pharmacological properties, showing a knowledge of “folk” medicine, and perhaps the hope that he would eventually be healed, even after death.

         •  The Toothless Man of Dmanisi         D501

         My son, the journalist, traveled to the little town of Dmanisi, in the Georgia Republic a few months ago.  Besides a nice little vacation, he had another object.  He wanted to look at a skull recently dug up there.  It wasn’t the first skull found there.  There have been 7 others, all of them some form of H. erectus

         They are located on a plateau, high above the confluence of two streams, apparently an ideal place to corner food animals.  Dmanisi shows all the signs of having been a H. erectus hunting camp for thousands of years.  There are lots of animal bones lying around, and many of them show cuts indicating butchery.  There are also hand axes all over the place.

         So, what was so unusual about that skull that brought Josh thousands of mile to view it?  Just this, The skull is toothless, and it also shows regrowth of the jaw after the teeth fell out.  Same old question.  Who took care of this guy?  Did someone grind up his food so that he could swallow it?  And, most important, how could this have happened if H. erectus was such a thug?  Do thugs have compassion?  Oh, I forgot to tell you.  This skull is 1.8 million years old.

         One more thing –archaeologists have puzzled over all the rounded river stones found in the camp.  They had to be brought up from the streams below with considerable effort.  Obviously, the archaeologist’s knowledge of hunting and gathering is purely academic.  They must never attended primitive skills rendezvous.  If you come to our skills intensive in June, we will show you how to make a quicky discoidal knife from river stones.

K      (6) Parenting/Child Rearing         D502

Story:  A few weeks ago, I happened to be in Staples, when a woman came in wheeling a baby carriage.  At least I think it was a baby carriage, but it didn’t look like the one I pushed my kids in long ago.

         In fact, it looked more like an armored tank than a carriage.  It was made of some heavy-gauge, gray-colored plastic material, and had about as many wheels as an armoured personnel carrier.  However, the thing that startled me was the top.  It was also of the same gray plastic material and resembled the top of a tank, complete with turret.  It also had what looked like bullet-proof shielding on it that completely closed the inside of the turret to view.

         And, it was the inside that I wanted to look at because from the stygian depths of that armored vehicle came an incessant, though muffled wailing that never stopped, not even for 2 seconds.     

         The desperation of the occupant was obvious to me, but not apparently to the mother.  She appeared absolutely oblivious of the situation inside the perambulator/tank as she wheeled it up and down the aisles, picking up various items of merchandise, which she then piled on its top.  How convenient!

         This went on for a full 10 minutes until she arrived at the cash register, and had completely carried out her apparently complicated financial transaction.  It was then, and only then, that she opened the visor of the armored vehicle, reached in, and lifted out a tiny, dark-haired, infant who was obviously only a few weeks old.  She placed him/her/it against her shoulder, and the desperate wailing instantly stopped.  It was obvious now what that baby had wanted.

         I can only imagine the terror that child felt, swaddled in something resembling a sleeping bag, and trapped inside its dark, and probably almost airless and soundless “Black hole of Calcutta.”

Bushman and Pygmy Parenting

         Let us turn to a more pleasant subject, the parenting behavior of the savage iKung! or San Bushmen of the Kalahari desert.  Many anthropologists have studied them.  The situation reminds me of a story Joseph Campbell told about the interaction between the Navajo and anthropologists in the 1930s.  The typical Navajo family he said, consists of a mother, father, child and 2 anthropologists.  The point is, that Bushman parenting has been thoroughly documented.

         The Bushmen raise their children together, the babies are in constant contact with their mothers and are carried everywhere all the time.  San babies are never left alone.  Bushman mothers sleep in contact with them, and The babies breast-feed continuously.  Mothers respond to crying within 10 seconds, over 90% of the time.  Can’t you just see that anthropologist standing there with his stop watch?

         Bushman children control their own breast-feeding, which continues for the first 3-4 years of the child’s life.  By the way, continuous breast-feeding stops ovulation and of course prevents fertilization.  This is one of the Bushman’s main ways of population control, which has worked well in a area with limited biological carrying capacity for who knows how many hundreds or thousands of years. 

         Is this behavior an anomaly, or is it similar to that of other Hunter-Gatherers?  Let’s look at the Efe Pygmies of the Ituri rainforest. After all, it is very different environment from that of the Bushmen.  The Pygmies have a parenting strategy that differs in detail from that of the Bushman, but you will see that the basic principles are the same.

         Pygmies bond to many babies and child care is a group activity.  The babies are passed among group mothers, carried to foraging sites, and their care is shared.  Please note: this is also true for males.  All mothers respond to fussing, giving the breast even if it is not her baby.  This multiple caretaking model fits the way of life of a social, interacting band, in which communal connections are the basis of their economic pattern and the foundation of their social system.        

(L) We are very fortunate to have as our guest tonight, Dr. Jack Wright, whom some of you may know by his marital name, Oakwright. He has been a psychologist in Sandpoint since 1975 and is President-elect of the Idaho Psychological Association.

(JO)  Brain Development/Dr. Jack Wright


(K)             (1)  Physical Evidence         E101 – 103

         The Mind of Paleolithic man, The Hunter-Gatherer:

         How far back does Man’s intelligence and sense of aesthetics and beauty go?   Thirty thousand year old flutes, cunningly carved from the wing bones of Swans and Mammoth ivory, demonstrate planning, impressive craftsmanship, and love of music.  Four hundred thousand-year-old throwing spears (or Javelins) show that H. erectus was no unconscious thinking scavenger, but was capable of forethought, and able to learn skills handed down from others.  But, were these guys religious? 

         Deliberate Burials:

         So far, there are no hints of any religious thoughts on the part of H. erectus.  However, there were deliberate burials of Neanderthals.  Do they represent thoughts of an afterlife or a return from death?  The position of the buried person, often in a fetal position, and facing East toward the rising sun, indicate hope for renewal just as the Sun is reborn each day.  The inclusion of tools, weapons, and ornamentation shows the hope for a return in which the buried party will find all the possessions needed to carry on his/her life again.  Some burials also contained offerings of such things as deer antlers, boar jaws, flint tools, and Red Deer jaw bones.  There are other clues.

         Cave Bear Grottos:

          High up in the Alps grottos have been discovered in which many Cave Bear skulls have been carefully arranged.  Cave Bears are thought to represent the Animal Master, whose propitiation would hopefully insure the return the next year of Man’s principal food animals. 

         Religious thoughts:

         Cro-Magnon cave paintings in France and Spain, such as the “Sorcier des Trois Freres” may also represent Animal Masters or some kind of sympathetic magic, insuring the success of the The Great Hunt, which was surely early Man’s greatest occupation.  His view of the Earth as sacred is demonstrated in contemporary HGs like Australian Aborigines, who see animate forms in natural geography, like the “woman’s legs” in NW Australia.

(L)             (2)  Cosmology

         What about HG cosmology? that is, beliefs about the relationship between humans & Nature. One expression of their cosmology is in the games they play. The widespread incidence of games of chance (gambling, really) shows an underlying philosophy that life is a game of chance; in other words, acceptance of Nature and what it brings. On the other hand, games of strategy, which appeared later, among agriculturalists, indicate interest in control.

         Ancient myths are often about animals as the first people – or older brothers – who are valued as teachers. HG religion is usually called Animism, or the belief that everything in the world is alive and has a spirit: people, animals, birds, trees, rocks, water, etc. It’s based on respect for the natural world and all its beings.  This is illustrated by an incident recorded in a book by an anthropologist who had lived with Efe Pygmies:

         “The moon was full, so the dancing had gone on for longer than usual.  Just before going to sleep I was standing before my hut when I heard a curious noise from the children’s nearby bopi (i.e. a play field).  This surprised me because at nighttime the pygmies generally never set a foot outside the main camp.  I wandered over to see what it was.

         There, in the tiny clearing, splashed with silver, was the sophisticated Kenge, clad in bark cloth, adorned with leaves, with a flower stuck in his hair.  He was all alone, dancing around and singing softly to himself as he gazed up to the treetops.

         … After watching for a while, I came into the clearing and asked jokingly, why he was dancing alone.  He stopped, turned slowly around and looked at me as though I was the biggest fool he had ever seen; and he was plainly surprised at my stupidity.

         “But I’m not dancing alone.” he said.  “I am dancing with the moon.”  Then, with utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life.”

                  -Dancing with the Moon, The Forest People, p272

         You are probably familiar with the following testament of Animist beliefs – it may not be exact, because it was written down about 40 years after it was spoken, but we’ve never found a more accurate, concise or poetic expression of Animist beliefs:

(K)             (3)  Chief Seattle’s Speech        

 “The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

         Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

         We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers.

         The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

         If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us,  that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life.

         Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

         This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

         As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God. No man, be he Red Man or White Man, can be apart. We are brothers after all.”


         Ken has shown that HGs, both ancient & contemporary, are just like us – physically & psychologically. Although their societies are very different from ours, we still have a lot in common:

(1) commonalities        

         • how many of you, when feeling weighed down by cares, go for a walk in the woods or a park to “de-stress”?

         • how many like to camp, hike, fish, hunt, travel, wander?

         • how many enjoy drumming, singing, dancing, storytelling (including ghost stories) around a fire circle?

         • how many have played games of chance or stalking games like “capture the flag”?

         • how many eat (or try to eat) a natural, whole-foods diet/organic foods?

         • how many are interested in animals – wildlife, bird watching, pets (echo of primal state)

         • how many interested in “Voluntary Simplicity”?

         • how many were NOT surprised at the results of the cooperativeness          experiment with MRI?

Those who raised their hands a lot are good H-G material!


 (2) Sustainability

we can’t go back to live as HGs did, BUT we can use some of their principles, e.g.:

wants vs. needs (as in wilderness survival)

living according to the carrying capacity of the land

connection and respect for Nature, other beings

role of elders as teachers & arbitrators

OTHERS? (ask audience)


(K) This is the time when Presenters usually sum up and offer their conclusions.  We thought that we would do it differently this time and ask you what your conclusions are.

         Do you have any conclusions?

         What have you gotten out of this presentation?

         Do you have questions?  

            H.  GOODBYES

(L)         We’d like to extend our special thanks to our sponsors, the Bonner County Library and PFOS, especially Paul Fosselman, Joyce Jowdy and Becky Kemery. Also to Dr. Jack Wright, Diana Scott for her Australian slides, (Lynx Vilden for her Kootenai River Project slides) (Kristofer Yamada) (Yontan Gompo) Joshua Walters (and Chris Anderson) for their help. We especially thank the Librarians, Gloria Ray and Sue Elsa, who dug up valuable material we could not find ourselves.

We’ll leave you with this Bushman poem:

A woman calls:                           Then a man replies:

                  Under the sun                                    Oh listen to the wind

                  the Earth is dry.                           You woman there;

                  By the fire,                                    The time is coming,

                  Alone I cry.                              The rain is near.

                  All day long                            Listen to your heart,

                  The Earth cries                            Your hunter is here.

                  For the rain to come.

                  All night my heart cries          -Bushman Rain Song,

                  For my hunter to come                  Heart of the Hunter, p234

                  And take me away

Wolves Don’t Belong On The Firing Line

Wolves Don’t Belong On The Firing Line

WRITERS ON THE RANGE - September 23, 2009By Ken Fischman

Signs of the times

 The day before the first-ever official wolf hunt started in Idaho on Sept. 1, I stood on the sidewalk outside the county courthouse in Sandpoint, watching cars stream into town. As demonstrators on the sidewalk waved placards protesting the hunt, people in those vehicles reacted, and I focused on their hands, counting waves and thumbs-up as being for the wolves, and middle fingers and thumbs-down as against. The results of my hour-long, admittedly crude poll were 128 for the wolves, 14 against. Surprisingly, truck drivers overwhelmingly sided with the demonstrators and against a hunt.

It occurred to me then that Idaho’s reputation as the most dependably conservative state might be based on a misunderstanding. But then again, where emotions are high, truth flies out the window. When you bring up the subject of wolves at a cafe or gas station in the nearby town of Clark Fork, you’re likely to hear people telling or accepting the most outlandish tales. For instance, many hunters insist that Idaho’s 846 wolves are devastating Idaho’s elk, even though the opposite is true. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization dedicated to hunters, reported in 2009 that although Idaho’s elk population fluctuates, it has risen above 100,000 animals for several years.

Many ranchers in Idaho believe that wolves are decimating livestock. But the Idaho Fish and Game Department found that wolves are responsible for only 1 to 2 percent of sheep depredation. In fact, feral dogs killed four times as many sheep in 2008 as did wolves.

Of all the questions surrounding wolves, the most crucial — and the one that has proved most intractable — is whether the population of wolves in the Northern Rockies has sufficiently recovered to warrant their being taken off the endangered species list. Looking for the right answer is like driving down a winding mountain road in the dark, without headlights.

When the federal government brought wolves back to the West in the mid-’90s, spending some $21 million in the effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the wolf population would be considered recovered when Idaho, Montana and Wyoming each had 100 wolves. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with that goal.

Common sense tells us that a few hundred wolves in each state can’t be defended as a biologically viable population, yet legislators and wildlife professionals keep trotting out these figures as though they were holy writ to justify their insistence that wolves must be hunted. The latest federal report says that there are 846 wolves in Idaho, 497 in Montana, and 302 in Wyoming. The best minds in conservation biology — the science that deals with the preservation of species — are in agreement that the full recovery of these three distinct populations requires not hundreds, but thousands of animals. 

That means that a hunt at this time is premature. Compare Idaho to Minnesota, where there are 3,000 wolves, almost four times the number in Idaho. The Minnesota wildlife agency will not even consider holding a hunt for five years after wolves are delisted there.
Let’s put the issue in perspective. There are four times as many human beings in the tiny town of Bonners Ferry, up the road from Sandpoint, than there are wolves in all of Idaho. If hunters kill as many wolves as they plan to in this hunt, it will leave small, disconnected populations of wolves genetically isolated from each other and in danger of becoming inbred.

A few months ago, a study by Rolf Peterson of the Michigan Technological Institute, revealed what can happen when wolf populations drop too low. Peterson looked at genetically isolated wolves on Isle Royale National Park, an island in Lake Superior off the coast of Minnesota. All the wolves there have deformities of their backbones, making it difficult and painful for them to run. This is due to inbreeding.
As for what happens now that hunting wolves has begun, the political battle continues. Federal Judge Donald Molloy recently rejected a request from 13 environmental groups that he block wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. Molloy said that the plan to kill 20 percent of the wolves does not put them in danger of extermination. He warned, however, that the federal government probably violated the Endangered Species Act by leaving Wyoming out of its plan, distinguishing a natural population of wolves “based on a political line, not the best available science.”  By definition, the judge added, that seems “arbitrary and capricious.”

Ken Fischman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He is a retired geneticist and member of the Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance. He lives in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Wolf Defender’s View Absent


Bonner Bee Nov 20, 2010

Wolf Defenders’ View Absent

Rich Landers in Sunday’s Spokesman (Aug. 30), quoted seven people, who were in favor of hunting wolves. It is not that dissenters are non-existent or hard to reach. He could have spoken with Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity or Carlos Carroll of the Klamath Center for Biological Research. Instead, he relied exclusively on people whose careers and livelihoods depend on agencies whose primary concern is “management” of wildlife. Is it possible that his choice of “experts” was a tad lopsided?
Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s wolf coordinator was quoted as saying that the Northern Rockies wolf population was “still growing at an annual rate of up to 20 percent.” The operative words here were “still” and “up to, ” neither of which is accurate.
In fact, Bangs’ own agency shows that wolf population in the Northern Rockies grew by 16.7 percent in 2007, and by only 8.7 percent in 2008. This downward trend shows up also in the statistics for Idaho. Wolf population increased there by 8.8 and 15.6 percent in 2007 and 2008 respectively. 
Wolves could soon reach the biological carrying capacity of their environment without much help from wildlife agencies.

Ken Fischman
Sandpoint, Idaho

Biogeographic And Genetic Factors In Northern Rockies Wolf Populations


       Biogeographic and Genetic Factors in Northern Rockies Wolf Populations

Ken Fischman, Ph.D.(Genetics)   April 9, 2008


         As we all know, Fish & Wildlife (USFW) has proposed delisting the wolf populations of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. They have recently estimated total wolf populations in these three states to be 1,242, with 92 breeding pairs.  Wolf population in Idaho is currently estimated at 672 ( Nadeau et al., 2007), with 42 breeding pairs (Bangs, Personal Communication, 3/8/07).

         Idaho Fish & Game proposes maintaining a minimum of 100 wolves in their state, with a minimum of 15 breeding pairs (IDFG, 10/07). 

         This paper examines these two population targets, some recent thinking about the genetics and biology of wild animal species, and finally the possible biogeographic and genetic consequences of the minimum number of wolves projected by the Idaho authorities.

          First, let’s look at the effects of population size on the viability of a species. The Hardy-Weinberg Principle states that allele frequencies (that is different forms of a gene) will not vary over time in a population. However, this principle only holds for a population sufficiently large to overcome the tendency for Genetic Drift to change gene frequencies. 

         Genetic Drift refers to the tendency for genes to become more common or more rare in successive generations.  It has no preferred direction, and it tends to sweep genetic variants out of the population with time.  It thus opposes Mutation, which introduces novel variants into the population, thus increasing species resiliency.  i.e. the ability to resist demographic shocks and adapt to changed conditions.

         Small populations often show a Founder Effect, in which one or more gene variants increasingly predominate as inbreeding increases. Inbreeding Depression, results from an increase in homozygosity. That is the state in which there are two identical copies of genes.  Homozygosity increases the possibility of recessive alleles expressing themselves. Some of these will turn out to be valuable, but most will be deleterious, thus weakening the genetic fitness of the population.

         Wolf packs, due to their size, and if they are effectively isolated from other wolf populations, also may show a Founder Effect, thus adversely effecting the long-term survival of the population. The increase in homozygosity would in turn be responsible for high frequencies inherited diseases.  This is something that wolf biologists should be on the watch for.

          What counts in small populations is not their census size, but the Effective Population size or number of breeding individuals in the population. The literature on wolves indicates that most packs have only two Effective Breeders.  However, the latest data on Yellowstone packs show multiple breeders within some packs (Smith, 2006).  I am curious as to whether this is also true for other northern Rockies wolf populations.  On the other hand, can this situation be attributed to something unique about Yellowstone wolves, such as access to large prey populations or lack of stress?  An answer to this question would be important for calculating viable population numbers.

         Let’s examine some of the other possible consequences of small population size.  Small populations in particular are prone to large fluctuations in size. Therefore, it is important to consider this in some detail.  Why does this occur?

           Inbreeding is one source of changes in population size.  The smaller the population, the more likely it is that related individuals will breed with each other, and their offspring will have a far higher number of homozygous genes.

         That is hard to detect, but its consequences, although sometimes subtle, can be severe.  Michael Soule showed that inbreeding of Poland Swine lead to deleterious effects in as soon as the second generation.  The inbreeding resulted in decrease in piglets/litter, decreased survival of newborns, and skewed sex ratios.  As we shall see, this last may be of particular importance for wolves.

         As I previously stated, inbreeding leads to lack of genetic diversity, which in turn may result in inability to adapt and evolve under changing conditions.

         There are also Demographic effects.  One such effect would be fluctuations in the size of small populations. Another is possibility of imbalance of sexes, and increasing chances of a same sex generation. For example, 3 offspring’s chance of being the same sex is 0.25 or 1/4.  If a population remains at a low level for several generations, then a same sex generation becomes almost inevitable.

         Here is an example of a problem resulting from such a situation. One of the last populations of Kakapo, an extremely rare, flightless parrot, was found on an island off the coast of New Zealand.  There were 18 of them. Unfortunately, they were all male.

         A small population is also susceptible to  Environmental effects, such as forest fires, disease, climate change, etc

         Anthropogenic effects loom large for small populations.  These are events such as: accidents, hunting, killing of so-called problem Wolves, and illegal takings. This last is of particular importance in Idaho.  Since wolf reintroduction, 59 cases of illegal hunting/killing have been documented by ID F&G.  Due to its furtive nature, this is probably only a portion of such deaths. 

         Also, last year, 45 Wolves were deliberately killed by ID F&G, USFW, and ranchers. These deaths add up to more than 6% of the Idaho Wolf population.

         All of these effects contribute to population decrease, both directly and indirectly by damaging the social structure of a pack.  Most anthropogenic effects are indiscriminate acts with unforeseen consequences.  For instance one of the pack members killed might be the Alpha female.

         There are of course important Genetic consequences, resulting from the decreases in population size brought about by these demographic, environmental, and anthropogenic effects. As previously stated, inbreeding and small population size will increase the degree of Homozygosity. Recessive genes only express themselves when there is a double dose of them. And, because most harmful genes are recessive, this will result in a larger number of unfit animals and a greater number of deaths.

         Homozygosity also results in an increase of Monomorphisms and an associated  decrease of Polymorphisms, which are multiple functional alleles in a population. This can be damaging, especially if genes effecting the Immune system are involved.  The situation can also lead to a continuous and therefore increasing fixation of deleterious genes. We give this the fanciful name of “Muller’s Ratchet,” which is the continual loss of individuals with the smallest number of deleterious genes because there are so few such individuals.  Due to the elimination of these individuals, generation by generation, the population’s genetic load of damaging genes increases, thus decreasing its adaptive fitness, and leading to its eventual extinction.

         As the expression of recessive alleles become more common due to increase in homozygosity, a species becomes less fit because they are less diverse and therefore more subject to mass die-offs due to disease, etc.  Heterozygosity, in contrast, is increased by outbreeding, leading to improved adaptive fitness of the animals.                

          I would like to put the 673 wolves in Idaho in demographic and geographical perspective.  The size of Idaho is 82,751 square miles. That works out as one wolf for every 123 square miles.  The Human population is more than 1,240,000, which means one wolf for every 1,842 people.

         The chief prey of Idaho wolves are Elk. Their 2006 numbers were estimated  by IDFG as 102,706. The Wolf population of Idaho is actually very small in comparison.  There are 153 Elk for every wolf. 

         Geneticists and Biogeographers find it useful to employ the term Minimum Viable Population or MVP.  This is defined as the smallest population size likely to persist indefinitely in a particular area.

         Here is a little history lesson.  Main and Yadov(1971) examined marsupial populations on several Australian offshore islands and came to the conclusion that a minimum of 200 – 300 animals was necessary to maintain those populations.  However, they also concluded that MVP differs from one species to another, and according to conditions.

          Conservation Geneticists usually consider that a population of less than 500 individuals is endangered, Keep in mind however, that what is important to species preservation is not total population, but the number of Effective Breeders, and many Conservation geneticists recommend a minimum of 50  breeder pairs.

          If we assume an average of ten wolves/pack, with one breeding pair, this would extrapolate to a population of 500 wolves.

         It is of course self-evident that larger populations are usually safer for the viability of a species or sub-population of a species. The key question remains as to what is the minimum number of individuals that would put a population at risk of extinction. 

         All of the factors I have previously mentioned are involved in such a determination, but perhaps another factor is more important in this situation. That is whether or not there is such a thing as a megapopulation of wolves in the northern Rockies.

         USFW speaks of a northern Rocky wolf megapopulation, connected by wolves dispersing from packs.  The megapopulation they describe extends from Canada, western Wyoming and Montana to central Idaho, and from there to northern Utah, a distance of approximately 800 miles.

         Such a connection is particularly problematical between central Idaho and Northern Utah, yet the US FW has conflated what appear to be two distinct areas. I do not know of any data that supports this idea. Lets examine the evidence for the existence of such corridors:

         Since wolf reintroduction, and through the winter of 2006, eight wolves traversed between northwest Montana and central Idaho. Of those, only three have successfully bred. Attempts made by wolves to move between the central Idaho and Yellowstone populations have fared even worse. Only one wolf completed the journey in eleven years since reintroduction (Robinson, 2006)

         These numbers of dispersing wolves are so small that they are likely to have little or no effect on gene flow between these populations.  Additionally, the fact that in such a long time, span, only three of the nine dispersing wolves bred, makes it likely that a larger number of wolves would be necessary if their movement between these regions could be successfully translated into significant gene pool effects.

         To settle the question as to whether these so-called corridors have a real effect, it would be best to do comparative genetics studies between populations rather than to continue to track lone wolves.        

         Much has been made of the rapid increase in wolf numbers since the initiation of wolf recovery in the 1990s. This increase has been cited by the USFW as a sufficient reason to remove them from the Endangered Species list.

         Is this population increase truly remarkable, or is it due to the rapid filling of an ecological niche for a keystone predator that had been nearly empty for well over a century?  Only time will tell, but I suspect that as these niches fill, rates of increase in wolf population will slow down. This is especially liable to occur because many of the conditions that led to wolf extinction in the lower 48 in the first place, are recurring. Hunting, culling of so-called problem wolves, and illegal takings may result in destruction of the intricate social fabric of wolf packs, putting them at an even greater risk of a second extinction.  Just the other day, someone in eastern Idaho shot two wolves because they “were near his ranch.”  (KPBX radio, 4/3/08).

         It is a frequent mistake to assume that current trends will persist indefinitely into the future.  To assume that wolf populations will continue to increase at present rates is as biologically naive as were the assumptions of homeowners and Wall Street investors who have lately discovered that ever-increasing housing values are an illusion.  No one escapes the laws of Nature indefinitely.

                  So we turn to the key question of what is the Minimum Viable Population for Canis lupis?  It is important to realize that MVP has two corollaries, having to do with population size and time: (1) The smaller the population, the more likely it will go extinct within a certain time period.  (2) The longer the time period, the more likely extinction is for a population of any size.

         Mark Shaffer, in his studies of Grizzly populations in national parks, suggested that a 95% chance of persistence for 100 years would be a reasonable goal.

         Conservation Geneticists have recently set more stringent parameters of a 99% chance of persistence for 1,000 years.

         In reality, viability is too complex an issue to be reduced to a single number.  A population of some specified size might be viable under one set of circumstances, but not under another set, or viable for one species, but not for another.

         Soule and Gilpin (1987) came to the conclusion that theoretical numbers cannot be relied on, only real data, analyzed in complex ways and checked against real-life situations can be relied upon.  They called this method Population Viability Analysis (PVA).

         So, how large a population is sufficient to insure viability?  Soule stated that arguing from theory, several lines of analysis produce estimates of several thousand or larger. He said “ I am assuming a 95% expectation of persistence, without loss of fitness, for several centuries.  My guess is that it would be in the low thousands.  …estimates below this range should be an automatic signal for scrutiny.” (Soule. 1987)

         However he leaves us with the following warning:  “…anyone who applies the few thousand estimate to a given species, citing this author as an authority, deserves all the contempt that will be heaped on him or her.”

Considering all the evidence accumulated, it is clear that the wolf management plans of the federal and state agencies are not based on sound scientific and genetic data or theory.  If they are carried out as presently planned, they will undoubtedly lead to genetic impoverishment and possibly to a second extinction of wolves in the Rocky Mountain region.

Remarks At Demonstration Against Wolf Hunt


Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

Sandpoint, ID 83864


Remarks at Sandpoint Public Demonstration Against the Upcoming Idaho Wolf Hunt, 8/31/09.

Good Signs of the timesmorning, ladies & gentlemen. I am Dr. Ken Fischman. I am a retired geneticist, living in Sandpoint, Idaho.

I would like to address some important questions of fact and Science today.

Many hunters believe that wolves are devastating Idaho’s elk.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation RMEF), an organization friendly to hunters, published a report in February of this year, showing that Idaho’s elk population fluctuates, but that it has been above 100,000 animals for several years now. The hunters’ perception that there are less elk is probably due to the wolves pushing elk off the valley floors and into the mountains, making the hunters work harder to find them

         RMEF also said that there are over one million elk in this country, most of them in the Northwest. Compare this with the tiny number of wolves. At the last official IDF&G count, in March of this year, there were 846 wolves in Idaho. Hundreds of thousands verses hundreds.

         If you say that it is unfair to compare predators with their prey, lets compare the wolves with other predators. According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, there are over 31,000 mountain lions in the Pacific Northwest alone.

• Many ranchers believe that wolves are decimating livestock in Idaho. Once again, this is far from the truth. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Statistics reports that coyotes are responsible for over 2/3 of livestock depredation in the US, and wolves are far down the list.

         The difference gets even more dramatic in Idaho.  ID F&G states that wolves are responsible for only 1 -2 % of sheep depredation in Idaho. Wild dogs killed over 4X as many sheep in Idaho than wolves do. Even eagles and other raptors carry off more lambs than wolves do.

         Yet, when a wolf killed 2 calves on a ranch in Eastern Idaho, it got front page headlines. Why? The answer lies in mythology and hysteria, not in fact.

Lastly, I would like to tackle the question of whether wolves are sufficiently biologically recovered in Idaho to justify their being hunted. Let’s put this in perspective. There are 4X as many human beings in the little town of Bonners Ferry, up the road from here, than there are wolves in all of Idaho. If this hunt goes through and they kill as many wolves as they plan to, they will leave small, disconnected populations of wolves, which will be genetically isolated from each other, and in danger of becoming inbred.

         When we asked for evidence of genetic connectivity, the USF&W gave a few anecdotal references to wandering wolves. That does not prove gene flow from one population to another.

         We no longer have to guess about the consequences of genetic isolation of wolves.  Just a few months ago a study was published on what has happened to the wolves on Isle Royale National Park. Isle Royale is an island in Lake Superior. All the wolves there have deformities of their backbones, making it painful and difficult for them to run. This is due to inbreeding.

         What will IDF&G do to prevent that from happening here? Will they fly wolves by UPS between Yellowstone and central Idaho like they now truck salmon around dams?

         The restoration of wolves has been a great success, but it is premature to hunt them now. The best minds in Conservation Biology talk in terms of several thousands of animals needed for recovery, not hundreds.

         Minnesota, where there are over 3,000 wolves, will not even consider holding a hunt for 5 years after wolves are delisted there.

         Minnesota has acted conservatively. Idaho should follow their lead and postpone its wolf hunt.

Delisting isn’t based on sound science


April 15, 2009

Idaho Statesman

Delisting isn’t based on sound science


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently ruled that wolves be removed from the Endangered Species Act protected list.

We do not understand how he could have given this complex issue the thorough review it deserved in six weeks. Sadly, we suspect that this is yet another in a long history of political decisions about wolves, and not the scientific one that we had hoped for from this new administration.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims that the wolves have made a significant comeback, and that a population of 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana will ensure their continued viability. Their number is not a biological reality, but a bureaucratic concept. In reality, there are three distinct populations, each numbering in the hundreds.

Ed Bangs, the wildlife service wolf coordinator, claimed that he had new evidence of genetic connection between distant wolf populations because, in 11 years, a few wolves have wandered between Yellowstone and Central Idaho. What counts biologically is not that a few lone wolves have made long journeys, but whether they have contributed genes to the other populations.

Bridgett vonHoldt from UCLA and her colleagues, in their recent study of the genetics of 500 wolves, has demonstrated that there is no gene flow between these three geographically distinct populations.

Scientists tell us that by 2050, from one third to one half of all species will go extinct due to climate change and habitat loss. Those already on the brink are likely to disappear first.

The low number of wolves living in the Rockies now leaves them vulnerable to inbreeding and environmental challenges.

With populations segregated, predicted habitat changes from warming temperatures are a further threat. We already are seeing habitat loss because of increased acreage burned in forest fires, increased tree mortality caused by disease and increased severe weather patterns.

The principles of conservation biology, the science that deals with extinction and viability of wild animals, also indicate that present numbers of wolves in the Rockies are too low. Michael Soule, the dean of conservation biology, has estimated that biologically viable populations would be “several thousand or larger.”

Our point is not that the wolves should never be delisted, but that doing so at this time would be premature. In a manner of speaking, the wolves are not yet out of the woods.

We do not have to guess at the consequences of premature delisting. In January, when the Bush administration attempted to delist wolves, they were left unprotected for three months until a federal judge issued an injunction. During that time, 132 wolves were killed. At that rate, the entire Northern Rockies wolf population could go extinct in three years.

The big, unanswered questions are what is the minimum biologically viable population for wolves, and how many wolves are necessary to ensure gene flow between the various populations and to avoid the consequences of inbreeding, such as loss of vigor, birth defects and decreased survivability of pups.

President Obama has been promising us a science-based approach to such issues. In fact, the president stated recently during his stem-cell research signing, “É We make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” This is what we would like to happen with respect to wolves.

We were signatories of a letter to Salazar from Northern Rockies groups urging him to convene an expert panel of non-governmental scientists, who would examine the wolf issues.

Wolves have been a matter of bitter contention in the West. Science-based conclusions of a panel of experts may offer a way out of this dilemma, if both sides could be persuaded to accept its conclusions. If the Salazar decision is left to stand, it is certain that these issues will be dragged into court again.

Ken Fischman is spokesman for the Northern Rockies Wolf Group and Nancy Gilliam is director, Model Forest Policy Program. Both are from Sandpoint.

Wolf Kill Compensation Bill


To The Editor                                            

Bonner County Daily Bee

         The March 31 issue of the Bee carried an article on the so-called “Wolf Kill Bill,” which provides money to ranchers to compensate them for livestock killed by wolves.

         Perceptive readers might have noticed that only one million dollars/year were provided for this purpose.  In these days of billion dollar bank bailouts, that is chump change, probably not enough to buy a Lake Ponderay McMansion.

         Little money was needed because wolves cause almost infinitesimal damage to livestock. You do not have to take my word for it, just read what the Agricultural Statistics Board of the USDA (2004) had to say.

“In any given year, coyotes kill far more sheep than wolves.”

         The numbers themselves reveal how wrong perceptions of wolf livestock predation are. According to Idaho Fish & Game’s (IDF&G) Wolf Population Management Plan (2008), there were 8,100 sheep killed by predators in Idaho in 2004. Coyotes killed 7,100 of them. Other predators combined, including mountain lions, bears, wolves, and raptors, accounted for 1,000 sheep.

IDF&G states that wolves killed 170 sheep in 2007. Because the wolf population was smaller four years earlier, I think it is safe to say that the wolf depredations back then were similar or smaller.

         In 2006, livestock depredation in our neighbor, Montana, was 12,000, out of which only 200 (1.6% of the total) were killed by wolves.

         The next time you hear some rancher carrying on about how wolves have devastated Idaho’s livestock, remember these numbers and the paltry amount put aside in the “Wolf Kill Bill” for compensation.

Sincerely yours,

Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

Sandpoint, ID 83864

Habitat and health, from the Primitive to the Contemporary

Society for Primitive Technology, Fall, 2010, # 40: 46 – 49

Habitat and Health, from the Primitive to the Contemporary

by Lanie Johnson

Unlikely Beginnings      

 I wasn’t particularly interested in health until 1973, when at the age of 35 I was shocked to suddenly come down with rheumatoid arthritis, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. The curse of pain and disability is a whole other story, but the blessing was that, through a long process, I discovered holistic health; instead of “learning to live with it,” as the conventional medical doctors had told me after their diagnosis, I became symptom-free in less than two years and have remained so for over 35 years.          

In the early 80’s I began reading about primitive skills and soon was taking courses in New Jersey with Tom Brown, Jr.; Barry Keegan and Tony Follari at Pathways; and in Utah with Mike and Carrie Ryan, and Rob Withrow at B.O.S.S . Soon the scope of my beloved holistic health paradigm began to seem quite limited. Although the concept of ”body, mind and spirit” is focused on the whole human being rather than just symptoms of disease, I began to think also about where and how we live; wouldn’t it also be important to live in harmony with one’s environment? Since the Earth provides materials for our shelter, water, energy and food, we not only need to know how to find these materials, we also need to maintain them, as in being careful not to pick all the Chickweed or Wild Ginger from one patch.  It was but a short step to the next question: Can we learn something about health from primitive people and their habitats?

Learning from Primitives         

During wilderness survival courses in New Jersey I enjoyed learning about wild edible, medicinal, and useful plants. Little did I know that when I signed up for the B.O.S.S. course in Utah, I would have to virtually start from scratch and learn new plants from a very different eco-system! This was my first lesson on habitat and survival: if you are to survive in a particular area it helps to be familiar with its plants and other features. An ancient Hunter-Gatherer tribe knew its habitat well (if nomadic, they knew several). Their knowledge of food collection and processing was passed down from generation to generation. How did their diet and way of life affect their health?       

 It took me many years to find the answer to this question. I learned that consistent diets of local natural foods make a tremendous difference. This answer came mostly from an amazing book, NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION (Weston A. Price, D.D.S., 1939.) A dentist? Yes, one whose extensive research and photographs of traditional people in the 1930’s has given us a clear understanding of information that is no longer available due to the expansion of civilization. Dr. Price studied the cultures of isolated primitives around the world, cultures which had not yet been exposed to civilization and its refined, nutrient-deficient foods.         

It all started when Dr. Price realized that his dental patients in Cleveland were generally in poor health. Many of the adults had rampant tooth decay plus arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and chronic fatigue. He became especially concerned about his younger patients, whose poor health he then worked to understand for 10 years. He saw crowded, crooked teeth become more and more common, along with narrow face, pinched nostrils, malocclusion, and poorly defined cheekbones. These young patients also suffered from frequent infections, allergies, anemia, asthma, poor vision, lack of coordination and behavior problems.         

Dr. Price spent his summers studying a wide spectrum of isolated primitives around the world. Some of the people and places he visited were:                  

remote Swiss villages                  

an island off the coast of Scotland                  

Inuit in the Arctic                 

 Indian tribes in Canada                 

 South Sea Islanders                  

Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maoris                 

Indians in Peru and the Amazon                  

African tribes in Kenya (Masai, Kikuya, Wakamba, Jalou)                  


In this very wide spectrum of habitat he found diets ranging from:   

• unpasteurized milk, rye bread, bone broth soup, vegetables, occasional meat   

• fish, fish eggs, seal meat, blubber, water plants, berries   

• sweet potatoes, beans, millet, goat, ant, locust   

• wallaby, kangaroo, rodents   

• meat, blood and milk    

His book contains over 150 photographs which show consistent anatomical and physiological similarities in the people who ingested these very different diets: dental cavities were usually less than 0.5%, there were straight teeth, normal facial and dental bone development with room for all 32 teeth, and almost complete lack of disease (even in harsh environments). In contrast to the previously noted behavior problems of his young dental patients, these people exhibited cooperative behavior; Dr. Price said he had never seen such happy people.

(photo 1) primitive Melanesian boys from 4 different islands

It seems that in place of a completely primitive way of life, many of us have begun a journey back to a more primitive state of health in relation to our habitat and so we can refer to ourselves as pursuing not only Holistic Health but also what I would call a state of “Harmonic Health.”              

He found that some isolated primitives lived near racially similar groups who, after contact with traders or missionaries, had changed their traditional diets to what was available in newly established stores: sugar, refined grains, canned food, pasteurized milk and processed vegetable oils. These people had rampant tooth decay, infectious illnesses and degenerative conditions. Their children, i.e., the next generation following the dietary change, had crowded, crooked teeth, narrow faces, deformities of bone structure and reduced immunity to disease, all of which served to confirm his observations.         

After taking home some native food samples to analyze, Dr. Price found that they contained at least four times the mineral content of his contemporary American diet and ten times the amount of Vitamins A and D.                                    

  (photo 2) modernized Tahitians                                   

  (photo 3) Australian Aborigines, primitive and modern

Where We Are Now         

Dr. Price’s isolated primitives had maintained good health and remained free of disease into the early 20th Century. However, as history shows us, that would remain true only as long as there was no human contact from outside their habitats. Just as modern white people brought their diet of un-natural food to remote areas, early European explorers brought their own diseases against which primitives had no immunity.         

A fascinating account of the history of disease, GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, (Jared Diamond, 1997) describes how Eurasians first contracted infectious diseases, such as smallpox, from domesticated livestock kept in close quarters, and how they subsequently developed immunity to these diseases. Diamond points out that cows and pigs, major disease sources in the Old World, were absent in the New World where very few animals had been domesticated and therefore no human immunity had developed against such Eurasian diseases.         

More natives of the New World were killed by white men’s germs than by their guns, as documented by Diamond: “When Hernando de Soto . . . [marched] through the southeastern United States, in 1540, he came across Indian town sites abandoned two years earlier because the inhabitants had died in epidemics. These epidemics had been transmitted from coastal Indians infected by Spaniards visiting the coast. The Spaniards’ microbes spread to the interior in advance of the Spaniards themselves. . . For the New World as a whole, the Indian population decline in the century or two following Columbus’s arrival is estimated to have been as large as 95 percent.”         

Robin C. Brown points out that “nowhere was the decimation more terrible than in Florida. In 1500 A.D. there may have been as many as 100,000 people living in what is today Florida. By 1800 A.D. all aboriginal Floridians were gone.” (Bulletin of Primitive Technology, Fall 2009, p. 10)         

By now, in the early 21st Century, most of the primitives visited by Dr. Price have become civilized so that practically the whole world has turned into the vast mono-habitat described in THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE (James Howard Kuntsler, 1993): “There is little sense of having arrived anywhere, because everyplace looks like noplace in particular”. And as Norm Kidder remarked, in his Fire Watchers essay (Bulletin of Primitive Technology, Fall 2009, p. 8), “Our goal it seems is to make everyplace not only feel, but be the same.” This trend is probably both cause and effect of the state of being disconnected from Nature which is so common these days.         

Corresponding to our modern habitat is a very widespread mono-diet composed of food that is easy to produce on a large scale and convenient to ship virtually anywhere: refined flour and sugar, polished rice, processed vegetable oils and canned goods; all grown on industrial farms with depleted soil. A clear result of the present habitat and diet is a steadily worsening state of health for many people.

Can We Go Back?         

Certainly, being in poor health and out of touch with Nature isn’t true of everyone today, but it is a major trend. What can we do? Can we go back to a primitive way of life?         

NATURE AND MADNESS (Paul Shepard, 1982) refers to constant maternal contact with babies as basic to their development. Baby rats deprived of maternal contact have less of the hormone oxytocin and develop into runts (K. Fischman, 2010).         

Shepard also describes “terrain symbiosis,” as another vital part of primitive child development in which babies lived and grew up outdoors with their clan or tribe, as if their habitat was part of the family. In this way they became bonded with Nature – what a contrast with nature-deficit disorder! However, most people would agree that going back is not an option due to the growing world population. What are some feasible options?         

In the last chapter of NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION, entitled “Practical Applications of Primitive Wisdom,” Dr. Price makes many instructive suggestions for improving the health of newborns. He points out that most primitives had behaviors that resulted in the spacing of childbirths from between 2-1/2 to 4 years, resulting in better health for both mother and child. He describes special traditional primitive diets for mothers-to-be which of course varied with habitat: fish eggs were important for people living by the sea as were high-quality dairy products for cattle-herding tribes in Africa and isolated Swiss in high alpine valleys.        

  For several months before Masai girls could be married, they had to use milk from cows grazing in the season of green grass. Price infers that a contemporary diet during pregnancy, based on the nutrition of various successful primitives, would include milk, butter, green vegetables, organ meats, sea foods, and cod liver oil.         

Dr. Price concludes his book with an exhortation that we return to the “use of natural foods which provide the entire assortment of body building and repairing food factors. . . all forms of animal life are the product of the food environments that have produced them. . . our modern process of robbing the natural foods for convenience or gain completely thwarts Nature’s inviolable program.”         

It has been over 70 years since Dr. Price’s book was first published and there is now a growing number of natural food movements such as organic farming, Permaculture, and “slow food.” PLENTY (Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, 2007) tells of a Canadian couple who decided to eat only locally grown/locally produced food for one year. They describe with sincerity and humor the wonders and difficulties of their adventure, which they began in Spring when the only fresh local vegetable was wild Dandelion greens! The idea of localization of our food supply is important in that eating locally and seasonally can re-connect us to our own habitat and help keep us in tune with Nature.         

Another valuable resource is NOURISHING TRADITIONS (Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, 2001), an encyclopedic treatise on cooking with whole, natural foods which includes methods of preparation that promote best digestion, many of which utilize ancient methods observed by Dr. Price, whose work was a major inspiration for this book.         

Indigenous peoples used locally grown and available products but food is just one thing that can promote harmony with habitat. Another is how we treat our place. Conservation and clean energy are important, of course.         

We can also buy products manufactured locally. Some manufacturers have started to manage the entire life cycle of their products and, to take it another step, they could align manufacturing with natural rhythms by refraining from making new products during winter and instead spend that dormant time preparing used materials for re-use in the next season’s manufacturing, e.g., a manufacturer who collects its customers’ discarded rugs and processes any reusable material in order to make new rugs. (Tom Brown, Jr., c. 1983).         

It seems that in place of a completely primitive way of life, many of us have begun a journey back to a more primitive state of health in relation to our habitat and so we can refer to ourselves as pursuing not only Holistic Health but also what I would call a state of “Harmonic Health.”      

Bibliography Brown, Robin C.. “Tropical Prehistoric Florida,” Bulletin of Primitive Technology, Fall 2009

Brown, Tom, Jr., personal communication, c. 1983

Diamond, Jared, 2005, GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, W.W. Norton & Co., New York

Fallon, Sally & M. Enig, 2001, NOURISHING TRADITIONS, New Trends Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C.

Fischman, Ken, Ph.D., personal communication,

2010 Kidder, Norm, “It All Depends – Being Where You Live,” Bulletin of Primitive Technology, Fall 2009

Kuntsler, James Howard, 1993, THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE, Simon & Schuster, New York

Price, Weston A., D.D. S., 1939; 2004, NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGEN-ERATION, The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa, CA

Shepard, Paul, 1982, NATURE AND MADNESS, The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA

Smith, Alisa & J. B. Mackinnon, 2007, PLENTY, Crown Publishing Group, NY

Chromosomes and Stress



 Harlow K. Fischman, Ph.D.

College of Physicians and Surgeons, Departments of Medical Genetics, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 722 West 168th Street, New York, N.Y. 10032, and Genetics and Development, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

Dennis D. Kelly, Departments of Behavioral Physiology, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

Correspondence to: Dr. Harlow K. Fischman, P.O. Box 6025, Englewood, CO – 80155-6095, Voice Mail (800) 228 – 8193, Mail Box #23422.

We thank Dr. Donald Ross for his statistical analyses and John D. Rainer of the New York State Psychiatric Institute for his helpful ideas and support.  We also thank Dr. Mohammed Osman for his cooperation and support; and Emilia Moralishvili, Dr. Osafradu Opam, and Dr. Ludmilla Skaredoff for their technical assistance. Correspondence should be addressed to H. K. Fischman. Dennis D. Kelly is deceased.

We have previously established that acute psychogenic stress in rats induces genetic damage on both the chromosomal and molecular levels (Fischman, Pero, and Kelly, 1996).  Rats subjected to stress showed increases in both the level of Sister Chromatid exchanges (SCEs) and chromosome aberrations (CAs) in bone marrow cells.  The increases, to differing degrees, in SCEs and CAs induced by the exposure of rats to a variety of stressors, such as cold and warm water swim, white noise, and continuous or intermittent foot-shock, demonstrated that this is a general phenomenon of stress.  These stressors differed from each other both quantitatively  and qualitatively.  The varying experimental paradigms followed, demonstrated that such damage can occur in as short a time as 2 hrs, and endure for at least 25 hrs following exposure to stress.  Furthermore, the detection of stress-induced damage by means of Unscheduled DNA Synthesis extended these observations to the molecular level and to yet another cell type, leucocytes (Fischman, et al., 1996).

A focus on the role of stress in disease has led to the development of the field of Psychoneuroimmunology.  Intensive research in this field in recent years has substantiated that there are physiological and molecular, as well as anatomical connections between the Central Nervous System (CNS), and the endocrine and immune systems (Kropiunigg, 1993; Maier, Watkins, & Fleshner, 1994).  For example, the classical experiments of Riley (1975), demonstrated that exposure to or protection from stress can respectively speed up or slow down development of mammary tumors in mice carrying the Bittner oncogenic virus.  Other research has demonstrated that psychological factors, such as stress, contribute to the predisposition, onset, and course of various illnesses, such as depression, infections, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary heart disease, and cancer in humans, and to herpes simplex, poliomyelitis, Coxsackie B, polyoma, and induction and growth of Walker carcinoma and Ehrlich ascites in animals (Dorian and Garfinkel, 1987; Eysenck, Grossarth-Maticek, and Everitt, 1991).  Our hypothesis is that a parallel or related situation exists with regard to stress and the Genetic system.  In the three experiments to be described in this paper, we continued, on the chromosomal level, a systematic exploration of some aspects of psychogenic stress which may effect this system.  We have developed an In Vivo bone marrow technique for examination of SCEs (Fischman, et al., 1996).  SCEs are microscopically detectable interchanges between the replicated chromatids of metaphase chromosomes that are associated with repair of damaged DNA (Latt, 1979).  Exposure to mutagen/carcinogens results in a dose-dependent elevation of SCEs, and when repair-deficient cells are treated with these agents, large increases in SCEs result (Latt, 1979; Perry and Evans, 1975).  Although the mechanism by which SCEs are produced has not yet been elucidated, detection of elevated SCEs has proved to be an exceptionally sensitive measure of the mutagenic potency of environmental agents in mammalian systems (Tucker and Preston, 1996; Wolff, Rodin, and Cleaver, 1977).

In the experiments to be described, we examined: the effect of  more prolonged periods of stress; the possible role of the endocrine system; and the relationship between stress and chemical mutagens.  (1)  Our original studies focused on very short periods of stress, ranging from 3 – 20 min, those usually considered “acute”.  We determined to expand our findings by examining the effects of more extended periods of stress.  If stress periods are lengthened, is damage continued, enhanced, or decreased? This experiment examines whether repeated exposures to the same stressor results in a gradual decline in the genotoxic properties of  stress, as do other bodily responses to stress, such as adrenal activation, which show adaptation( Bodner, Kelly, Brutus, & Glusman, 1978).  A comparison of the levels of SCEs and of CAs in groups of rats exposed to different durations of stress, also examines whether the genotoxic properties of stress display a different time course of adaptation to chronically stressful conditions than do many other bodily functions affected by stress.  We chose to scrutinize extended stress periods of 3 and 10 days.

(2)  The endocrine system plays an integral role in mediating the effects of the nervous and immune systems (Vollhardt, 1991). In order to explore whether it takes an analogous or identical part with respect to the nervous and genetic systems, we examined whether hormones secreted by glands in the  hypopothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis have an impact on stress-induced chromosome damage.  This was accomplished by an examination of the effects of foot-shock stress on SCE and CA levels in hypophysectomized(Hypox) rats.

(3)  Physical agents, such as UV and ionizing radiation, and many chemical agents, act as mutagens (Bloom, 1981).  Many mutagens increase SCE and CA levels(Tucker and Preston, 1996).  In light of our demonstration of the SCE- and CA-inducing actions of psychogenic stress, the ubiquity of physical and chemical mutagens in our environment (Bloom, 1981), and of stress in our society (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1987), it is appropriate to raise the question as to the possibility of interaction between stress and mutagens.  We examined this prospect by exposing rats to both a chemical mutagen, Mitomycin C (MMC), and foot-shock stress.


In all experiments, the subjects were male albino Sprague-Dawley rats.  They were individually housed with continuous access to food and water, and maintained on a 14 hr light/10 hr dark cycle, with the exception of the Prolonged Continuous Stress experiment.  Whenever the experimental design permitted, all stress sessions, as well as the time of sacrifice, occurred + or – 1 hr from the midpoint of the light cycle. Two hours following a single exposure, or immediately following the last of a series of stress sessions, each animal was lightly anaesthetized with ether, and a Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) pellet (250 mg/Kg B.W.) was implanted subcutaneously on the back of the neck.  Twenty-one hours after BrdU implantation, the rat was injected intraperitoneally with Colcemid (0.6 mg/Kg B.W., i.p.).  Two hours later the rats were sacrificed by guillotine, and hindbone bone marrow preparations were made for analysis of SCEs (Allen, Shuler, & Latt, 1978).  Slides were stained according to the method of Goto, Akematsu, Shimazu, & Sugiyama (1975), for permanent fluorescence plus Giemsa (FPG) SCE preparations.  Fifty well-spread and well-stained, apparently unbroken second division (after BrdU addition) metaphases from each rat were selected for SCE analysis.  Only cells with less than 39 chromosomes were excluded (2n = 42 in R. Rattus).  In experiments in which chromosome aberrations were also to be analyzed, 100 first division metaphases from the same slides were selected.  Slides were coded and scored blind.  SCEs were scored as the mean number of SCEs/cell and chromosome aberrations were scored as the mean number of cells with at least one chromosome break in 100 cells (Fischman, et al., 1996).

Prolonged, Continuous Stress  (PCS) 

Ten rats, 11-12 weeks of age, bred and maintained as previously described, and equated for weight, were assigned to three groups, which were subjected to respectively: No-Stress (NS), n = 4; 72-hr Stress (72S), n = 3; and 240-hr Stress (240S) n = 3.  Throughout the stress condition the subject was exposed to constant dim illumination in the test chamber.  Food and water remained freely available.  The stress paradigm consisted of  alternating 30 min sessions of white noise stress and Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) training.  The initial session was always white noise.  White noise was delivered by two independent audio noise generators over two loud speakers mounted 5-10 cm from the Plexiglas test cage in which the subject was housed.  In turn, this cage was enclosed within a larger ventilated, sound-insulated chamber so as minimize the influence of external stimuli and maximize the efficiency of the speaker system generating the white noise.  Combined white noise output was calibrated at 120 db.  Free field noise intensity measurements were made at the completion of each experiment.  CER sessions consisted of audio warning stimuli which were intermittently paired with brief inescapable footshocks according to the following schedule.  The onset of each minute in the CER session had a 50% probability of triggering a warning stimulus.  The duration of the pure tone warning stimulus was fixed at 40 secs.  The offset of each warning stimulus carried a 50% probability of causing a 500-msec shock (2 mA constant current) to be delivered through the grid floor of the test chamber.  The polarity of the grid bars were “scrambled” at a high speed to prevent intensity-attenuating escape responses within the 500-msec duration.  The long-term probabilities of the CER protocol were as follows:  On the average there were 15 warning stimuli per 30 in CER session.  Hence, at 40-s per stimulus, the average subject spent approximately 10 mins of each CER session in the presence of warning stimuli and 20 mins in safety.  With the probability of shock set at P = 0.5 per warning stimulus, the long-term expectancy of shock was 7.5 per 30-min CER session or 180 per 24 hrs.  Although the actual shock frequency was low, the threat of shock was constant and high, for the subject could not predict which minute would be associated with a warning stimulus, and which warning stimulus would be paired with a terminal shock, except in a probabilistic manner.  However, because no free shocks were programmed to occur unless proceeded by a warning tone, the latter was a predictor of shock and hence acquired the properties of a conditioned emotional stimulus.


Seventeen 58 day old rats were hypophysectomized or sham-operated 9 days prior to the start of the experiment. Their age at sacrifice was 67 days.  Animals were divided into 4 groups: Hypophysectomy-Stress (HS),  n = 5; Hypophysectomy-No Stress (HC), n = 4; Sham-operated-Stress (SS), n = 4; and Sham-operated-No Stress (SC), n = 4.  Stressed animals were subjected to 240 Intermittent Foot-Shocks (IFS).  These were administered  as 2.5 mA, 60 Hz constant current pulses of 1-s duration repeated every 5 s for 20 min.  The non-stressed groups (HC and SC) were handled for 3.5 min.  Slides were prepared and scored for SCEs and CAs in the same manner as in the prolonged continuous stress experiment.


Twenty rats, bred and maintained as previously described, and equated for weight, were assigned to five equal groups, which were subjected to respectively: No Stress (NS), No Stress plus Saline (NSS), No Stress plus Mitomycin-C (NSMC), Stress plus MMC (SMC), and Stress plus Saline (SS). All animals except the NS group were injected subcutaneously with either 10-8 M (f.c.) of MMC, an amount determined in preliminary experiments to approximately double the SCE level, or an equal volume of saline.  The SMC and SS groups were then subjected to IFS as previously described for the hypophysectomy experiment.  This intensity and duration of foot-shock has been shown to increase the SCE level in male rats (Fischman, et al., 1996).  Two hours after injection, or handling in the case of the NS rats, BrdU pellets were subcutaneously implanted.


Prolonged ,Continuous Stress

Both SCEs and chromosome aberrations were subjected to One-Way Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA).  For chromosome aberrations, P values were derived from one-tailed t Tests :  Overall ANOVA:  F = 15.2, df = 2,7, P<0.005.  For SCEs, P values were derived from two-tailed t Tests :  Overall ANOVA: F = 20.7, df = 2,7, P<0.005.  72 hr and 240 hr Stress groups showed significant and highly significant increases respectively in both SCEs and chromosome aberrations (see Table 1).

SCEs:   The level for the 72 hr Stress group was significantly higher than for the No-Stress group (P<0.05).  SCEs for the 240 hr Stress group were elevated in a highly significant manner over those of the No-Stress group (P<0.0005).  The level for the 240 hr Stress group was significantly higher than that of the 72 hr Stress group (P<0.01).

Chromosome aberrations:  The level for the 72 hr Stress group was significantly higher than for the No-Stress group (P<0.05).  Aberrations for the 240 hr Stress group were elevated in a highly significant manner over those of the No-Stress group (P<0.001).  The level for the 240 hr Stress group was significantly lower than that of the 72 hr Stress group (P<0.05).

SCEs/CAs:  The correlation was extremely weak ( R = 0.185).


Both SCEs and chromosome aberrations were subjected to One-way Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA).  P values were derived from two-tailed t Tests.  Overall ANOVA: F = 14.3. df = 3, 28, P<0.0005.

SCEs:   IFS elevated the level in both Stressed Sham-Operated  (P<0.0001) and Stressed Hypoxed rats (P<0.0005), compared with their No-Stress controls.  However, there was no significant difference between the No-Stress, Sham-operated and No Stress, Hypoxed groups (P<0.67) or between the Stressed, Sham-Operated and Stressed, Hypoxed (P<0.550 groups.  Overall, the elevation of SCEs in the combined Stressed groups was highly significant when compared with the combined No-Stress groups (P<0.0001).  There was no significant difference between the combined Sham-Operated groups  and the combined Hypoxed groups (P<0.91).  There was a significant difference between groups that differed in both respects, Hypox, No-Stress compared with Sham-Operated, Stress, (P<0.0005). (see Table 2)

Chromosome aberrations:   These results paralleled those found with respect to SCEs.  IFS elevated the level in both Stressed Sham-Operated (P<0.0001) and Stressed Hypoxed rats (P<0.0001) compared with their No-Stress controls.  There was however, no significant difference between the combined No-Stress, Sham-Operated and No-Stress, Hypoxed groups (P<0.62), or between the combined Stressed, Sham-Operated and Stressed, Hypoxed groups (P<0.054).  Overall, the elevation of chromosome aberrations in the combined Stressed groups was highly significant when compared with the combined No-Stress groups (P<0.0001).  Chromosome aberrations in the Hypoxed, Stressed group were elevated in a highly significant manner over the Sham-Operated, No-Stress group (P<0.0001).  There was no significant difference between the combined Sham-Operated groups and the combined Hypoxed groups (P<0.054).  There was a significant difference between groups that differed in both respects, Hypox, No-Stress compared with Sham-Operated, Stressed (P<0.0005). (see Table 2).


SCEs were subjected to One-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).  P values were derived from one-tailed t Tests.  Overall ANOVA:  F = 8.4, df = 4, 15, P<0.001.  There was no significant difference in SCE level between the Home Cage group (NS) and the No-Stress, Saline-injected group  (P<0.15).  There were significant differences between the Home Cage and both the Stress + Saline and No-Stress, MMC groups, which had higher SCE levels (P<0.01 and P<0.0001 respectively).  There was a highly significant difference between the Home Cage and Stress + MMC group, which had a higher SCE level (P<0.0005).  The Saline-injected group compared with the remainder of the groups, all of which had higher SCE levels, in the following manner:  vs Stress + MMC, a highly significant difference (P<0.005),  vs Stress + Saline and vs No Stress, MMC, no significant difference (both groups, P<0.5).  Stress + Saline was compared with No-Stress, MMC, which although it had a higher SCE level, showed no significant difference (P = 0.72).  The Stress + Saline group was significantly different from Stress + MMC, which had a higher SCE level (P<0.05), and Stress + MMC’s SCE level was significantly higher than that of No Stress, MMC (P<0.05) (see Table 3).


In many circumstances the physiological and behavioral effects of acute stress have been shown to have different and even paradoxical effects from those produced by prolonged or chronic stress. (Galinowski, 1993; MacLean, Walton, Wenneberg, Levitsky, Manderino, Waziri, Hillis, & Schneider, 1997 ).  In our original studies, subjects were exposed only to a brief, single occurrence of a stressful situation.  However, unlike initial exposure to stress, repeated exposure to the same stressor is known to result in a progressive decline in certain behavioral responses to stress, such as post-stress analgesia (Bodner, et al., 1980).  Stated alternatively, most stress-activated systems in the body eventually develop tolerance to those environmental demands or situations with which they have become familiar through experience.  Consequently, it would seem important to our line of research and to our cytogenetic system to compare the effects of acute and prolonged exposure to a known SCE-inducing stressor in order to determine whether stress-induced cytogenetic damage also shows adaptation.  A number of investigators have examined the effects of stress on tumor induction (Sklar and Anisman, 1981).  Although it is difficult to draw general conclusions from studies in this field because of the use of different systems, stressors, and measures of tumor growth, it nevertheless appears that acute stress enhances tumor growth while chronic stress inhibits it.  This differential response was observed using a wide variety of stressors, such as restraint, electroconvulsive shock, swimming, and noise.  To add to the complexity of this situation, it is even a matter of debate what constitutes chronic stress.  We extended our original observations to 3 and 10 day periods in order to cover periods of stress usually considered chronic in rats.

The data on SCEs comports well with our original findings.  SCE levels in unstressed animals in the PCS experiments, as well as in the Hypox and Mutagen/Stress

experiments, were consistent with those found over a number of years in our laboratory, and which have demonstrated a remarkable consistency.  In a total of 41 animals, the mean level has been 2.62 +/- 0.06 SEM SCEs/Metaphase.  The increase in SCE level in both the 72 and 240 hr PCS experiments demonstrates that the elevation observed during acute stress (Fischman, et al., 1996) also occurs during these longer stress periods.  In addition, the  SCE level was higher in 240 hr stress than in 72 hr stress, and thus may indicate either a dose response-type reaction, mediated by number of anticipated stresses, or an accumulation of SCEs over time.  SCE persistence depends on many factors: tissue type, nature of the inducing agent, number of times the animal was treated with the agent, duration of  exposure, what part of the cycle the cell was in during exposure, and how many times the cell divided prior to analysis (Tucker, Strout,

Christensen, & Carrano, 1986).  In absolute terms, the 240 hr SCE level of 5.01 SCEs/cell was in the same range as the highest obtained in our original experiments (6.36 SCEs/cell with long intermittent foot-shock).  In relative terms, the 240 hr SCE level was approximately double that of the controls compared with 2 1/2 X in the aforementioned foot-shock experiment. (Fischman, et al., 1996)  The situation with respect to CAs however, is different.  Although their level also increased in both 72- and 240-hr stress,  it was higher in the 72-hr experiment.  Thus, it would appear that adaptation occurred with respect to CAs but not with SCEs.  There is one report that indicates that adaptation to psychogenic stress may protect against the effects of a chemical mutagen.  Meerson and his co-workers adapted mice to moderate periodic hypoxia and repeated electric pain stresses of moderate intensity.  Treatment of unadapted animals with Dioxidine induced CAs in 11% of bone marrow cells, whereas adapted mice apparently had less than half this amount (Meerson, Kulakova, & Saltykova, 1993).  One possible explanation for the disparity between CAs and SCEs in the PCS experiment would be that the mechanisms for the induction of SCEs and CAs, in so far as they are presently understood, are different, especially those aspects which impact their accumulation and duration.  For example, researchers have reported the persistence of SCE levels, days and even weeks subsequent to a single exposure to a chemical mutagen(Tucker, et al., 1986).  The persistence of CAs in rat bone marrow cells may be of shorter duration.  If adaptation occurred sometime during the 240-hr stress, there may have been a loss or repair of chromosomes with breaks although during the same period SCEs persisted.

There may be other factors besides the phenomenon of adaptation, that make PCS different from acute stress with respect to chromosome damage.  Laudenslager and his colleagues showed that Concanavalin A-induced lymphocyte proliferation in rats is suppressed by inescapable, but not escapable shock (Laudenslager, Ryan, Drugen, Hyson, & Maier, 1983). This suggests that the ability of an organism to exert at least partial control over a stressor may be an important parameter of the degree to which stress interacts with cellular processes.  This line of research might be fruitfully pursued in future investigations of the effects of stress on the genetic system by analyzing genotoxic endpoints, using the “learned helplessness” paradigm.

Two obvious differences from our original experiments on acute stress are that the number of stress events have increased and that the time during which the rats are actually being stressed and during which they are under threat of stress has also increased.  Experiments, in which these factors are varied, may further elucidate their roles. The shock intensity in the PCS experiment (2 mA) differed from that used in the Hypox and Mutagen/Stress experiments (2.5 mA).  Thus, the PCS experiment is not comparable to the Hypox and Mutagen/Stress experiments with respect to shock intensity, and we do not know if these two intensities differ in genotoxicity.  A 14 hour light and 10 hour dark cycle was routinely used in the Authors’ laboratory.  The sole exception was that of the PCS experiment, during which the shock chamber was continuously dimly lighted for the duration of the procedure.  It is not possible to definitively state that there was no stress associated with this schedule because the controls in the PCS experiment were not exposed to constant dim illumination.  However, the control animals were essentially comparable to the controls in all other stress experiments performed in our laboratory over a number of years.  This is demonstrated by the consistency of their SCE levels (2.75 SCEs/metaphase).   

            In the search for mechanisms by which psychogenic stress is converted into chromosome and DNA damage, the endocrine system is a prime candidate, mainly due to its role in mediating between the nervous and immune systems. The Hypothalamus (HT) is known to be involved in stress reactions.  Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (CRF), produced in the HT, stimulates the Anterior  Pituitary to produce ACTH, which, in turn, induces the Adrenal Cortex to produce glucocorticoids (GCC).   GCCs may be involved in genotoxic processes, although convincing evidence for this has yet to be elucidated.  In our Hypox experiment, the lack of difference, with respect to genotoxicity, between sham-operated rats and those which had their pituitaries removed, would seem to preclude a role for glucocorticoids in this process. Nevertheless, because there is a possibility that GCCs can be induced without the intervention of ACTH, we have examined the literature for evidence of genotoxicological effects of GCCs.

Veien and Wulf (1980), indicated that GCCs may play a role in chromosome loss in leucocyte cultures from Sarcoidosis patients. It seems at least equally likely that Sarcoidosis itself, a chronic progressive systemic granulomatous reticulosis of unknown etiology, may have brought about the loss.  Sinues et al., in 1992, reported on a prospective study on asthmatic patients receiving glucocorticoids in combination with Theophylline (TP) and beta-adrenergics.  An increase in SCEs was observed.   Most likely, this was caused by the TP for the following reasons: (1) There was no significant difference between the GCC-treated patients and other subgroups, and; (2)  Methylxanthines, the chemical class to which TP belongs, are known inducers of chromosome alterations.  Tedeschi and his colleagues (Tedeschi et al., 1993) showed that recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) raises the level of SCEs in Bleomycin-treated leucocyte cultures from otherwise normal children receiving therapy for short stature.  rhGH also induced chromosome rearrangements in these cells.  In an interesting paper, Joseph-Lerner et al. (1993), demonstrated that SCE frequency varied with menstrual cycle time, and had a positive correlation with human chorionic gonadotrophin, testosterone and FSH, and estradiol levels.  Finally, Dhillon and Dhillon (1996) showed that Norethisterone, a commonly used, long-acting, injectable oral contraceptive, induces SCEs and micronuclei in vivo in mice and in cultured human leucocytes.

The Autonomic Nervous system has been shown to modulate the effects of stress on the Immune System.  This is most likely accomplished through direct innervation of the major lymphoid organs and through catecholamine receptors on leucocytes, which produce functional changes in immunological cells (Dhillon and Dhillon (1996); Friedman and Irwin, 1997).  Stress-induced genotoxic damage may be brought about through similar or identical pathways.  Hypothalamic CRF, acts on the Sympathetic Nervous System as well as on the HPA axis.  This results in increased levels of corticosteroids, catecholamines, and certain opiates (Friedman and Irwin, 1997).

The results of our Hypox experiment were clarifying, but not definitive.  Both measures of chromosome damage, SCEs and CAs, were elevated by foot-shock stress, as had been observed in our original experiments. Although there was some difference in the level of CAs in hypoxed and sham-operated stressed animals, it did not reach the level of statistical significance.  We conclude therefore, that there was no difference between the Hypox and Sham-operated groups. However, it must be kept in mind that hypophysectomy is an area fraught with many conflicting results. For example, some aspects of stress-induced analgesia are attenuated by hypox while others are enhanced (Kelly, 1982).  The results in the present study do not eliminate the possibility that other parts of the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems may be involved.  Experiments, involving deficits in other hormones, would be appropriate avenues of  further inquiry.  If correlations between such deficits and stress-induced chromosome damage are found, it could be determined whether hormone replacement therapy restores the normal  situation.

In the mutagen/stress experiment, we showed that both foot-shock and MMC individually elevated SCEs. When animals were exposed during approximately the same time period to both the chemical mutagen and to psychogenic stress, the effect on SCE level was the sum of the individually-induced levels.  Thus, it appears that, at least with respect to this particular mutagen, neither interference nor synergism is involved, but instead there is an additive effect.  However, the effects of saline injection complicate the situation.  Although there was no statistically significant difference between the Home Cage controls and the Saline-injected groups, the SCE level induced by saline injection was sufficiently elevated so that there also was no significant difference between the No Stress, Saline and the No Stress, MMC groups or between the Stress, Saline and Stress, MMC groups.  We suspect that it is not the saline itself, but the handling and injection of the animals that acts as yet another genotoxic stress.  Indeed, it was similar observations, in a prior investigation by the senior author, which eventually stimulated this line of inquiry into the genotoxic properties of stress.  During an examination of the long-term effects of heroin on Rhesus monkeys, it was noticed that SCE levels in saline-injected controls, as well as in the heroin-exposed monkeys, had risen significantly (Fischman, Roizin, Moralishvili, Albu, Ross, & Rainer, 1983).  Unlike the heroin-habituated animals, these controls underwent a great deal of stress for 6 months, due to the necessity of restraining them for daily injections.

A logical step in further investigation of genotoxic stress would be to inquire in what ways stress acts like mutagens.  One obvious direction would be to see how much genetic damage stress can cause.  We have been able to induce SCE levels as high as 6.36/cell (Fischman, et al., 1996), an elevation equivalent to those induced in mice by 9.0 X 10-7M Mitomycin C (Allen and Latt, 1976).  The large body of epidemiological data collected on so-called stress-related disorders have indicated that stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of  many diseases.  The importance of such a role is, up to now, conjecture (Dorian & Garfinkel, 1987).  Finding the highest levels of chromosome damage that can be induced by stress in experimental animals would give an estimate of the mutagenic potential of stress, compared to that of known mutagens, and thus, would give a better idea of the relative effects of chemical mutagens and genotoxic stress.

In such an investigation, the question would arise, as to whether more than one aspect of stress plays a role in the damage.  Each putative stressor could be experimentally dissected to examine such aspects as intensity, duration, pattern, adaptation, inescapability, and unpredictability.  Further investigation should attempt to discern whether there are stress equivalents of the dose response effect of chemical mutagen concentration.  There may be a “dose”-related increase in SCE level as some parameters of stress increase.  If such exist, they might be useful in titrating the effects of various types of stressful situations.  Such a phenomenon could be useful in an experimental paradigm, and cellular mechanisms involved in stress-related disorders might be analyzed conveniently in a laboratory animal model.  Two methodological assumptions underlying this approach are: (1) that exposure of the organism to behavioral stress is analogous to the presence of chemical mutagens in terms of the nature of the genotoxic damage induced, although not necessarily in terms of a common mechanism, and (2) that it is appropriate to utilize SCE levels as a “biological dosimeter” of this damage.

There have been a few reports of genotoxic damage in stressed animals.  Bone marrow cells of rats subjected to long-term stress after exposure to Cyclophosphamide, were reported to show an increase in mutagenic effect, with a higher frequency of translocation-like chromosomal interchanges, but not chromosome fragments, in rats from lines with a “high level of excitability” compared with those with “low-excitability” (Bykovskaia, Diuzhikova, Vaydo, Lopatina, & Shvartsman, 1994).  The functional state of the nervous system was measured by the response of the tibial nerve to electrical stimulation, after 15 days of daily stress caused by randomly presented pairing of light and unavoidable electric shock. This is claimed to give a general indication of the level of excitability of other parts of the nervous system (Vaydo, Shiryaeva, and Lopatina, 1993).  In a more recent report, an increase is described in CA rate in “highly excitable” rats when subjected to short-term emotional and analgesic stress. This was described as “low mutagenic” (Diuzhikova, Bykovskaia, Vaydo, Shiriaeva, Lopatina, & Shvartsman,  1996).   Thus, acute and chronic stress would appear to have paradoxical effects in inducing chromosome damage in rats with different thresholds of nervous system excitability.  One is tempted to make an analogy with different human personality types, which have been implicated in disease etiology (Fox, 1988), but in the absence of more solid evidence, such a conclusion is highly problematic.  Another possible interpretation is that the 15 days of stress used in distinguishing types of nervous system excitability, may have adapted the animals  to induction of CAs by that type of stress, but not to their induction by the acute stress, which apparently was not only quantitatively, but qualitatively different.

There are, as yet, few studies directly or tangentially linking stress-induced cytogenetic damage observed in laboratory settings, with similar findings in humans .  There is one intriguing report of increased SCE levels in soldiers deployed to Kuwait during the Iraq war The authors attribute this increase to hydrocarbons produced in oil fires.  However, they also speculate about other causes, such as psychological stress associated with being in harm’s way during a war.  (McDiarmid, Jacobson-Kram, Koloder, Deeter, Lachiver, Scott, Petrucelli, Gustavison, & Putman, 1995).  The SCE increase might also be caused by some combination of stress and mutagen action, such as exposure to N-Mustard gas (New York Times, 1996), similar to the mutagen-stress experiment described in the present study.  Another study reported a significant SCE increase in five volunteers after sleep deprivation (Bamezai and Kumar, 1992).  Sleep deprivation could be a psychological stress.  Morimoto and his colleagues found a higher level of CAs and SCEs in blood cells of people with “poor lifestyles”.  Not having too much perceived stress was included among the criteria for “healthy lifestyles”.  They state that cell cultures from males who have “good lifestyles” do not show as much increase in SCEs when treated with MMC as do cultures from men with “poor lifestyles”.  They report similar results for cultures treated with Ara-C, an inhibitor of radiation damage repair (Morimoto, Takeshita, Take-uchi, Maruyama, Ezoe, Mure, & Inoue, 1993).  In 1996, Silva and his co-workers, reported on SCE analyses of various categories of workers exposed to noise and vibration.  Among the groups studied, were helicopter pilots, and these exhibited high SCE frequencies.  The authors speculated that these results may not have reflected direct action of physical agents on DNA, but rather stress-induced pathophysiological alterations (Silva, Carothers, Branco, Dias, & Boavida, 1996).

Another line of investigation might examine a possible connection between the genotoxic effects of behavioral stress and those of heat-shock, until recently regarded as a phenomenon acting primarily on the physical and chemical level.  Heat-shock and behavioral stress may have a final common path.  It has been well-established that Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) can be induced in bacteria and cultured mammalian cells subjected to toxic physical or chemical environments.  Psychogenic stresses in intact animals have also been found to induce HSPs in both brain and gut.  Restraint-water immersion stress of rats has been reported to have significantly increased the level of cerebral HSP70 mRNAs, perhaps indicating a protective role for families of HSPs in mammals under pychophysiological stress (Fukudo, Abe, Hongo, Utsumi, & Itoyama, 1995, Fukudo et al., 1997).  In addition, it has been reported that stressed rats which have been adapted, show a greater increase in HSPs than do stressed but unadapted animals (Meerson, Malyshev, and Zamotrinskii, 1993).  Meerson suggests that the antimutagenic effect of stress adaptation is likely to be accounted for by the stabilizing action of HSP (Meerson, Kulakova, & Saltykova, 1993).  However, Vamvacopoulos and his colleagues reported reduction of HSP90 in adapted rats (Vamvacopoulos, Fukuhara, Patchev, & Chrousos, 1993).  Spontaneously hypertensive rats and mice have abnormal HSP70, which is localized in the major histocompatability complex.  In contrast to adapted animals, these animals had low amounts of steady-state HSP70 (Hamet, 1992).  It is possible that the low concentration of HSP70 disposes them to be hypertensive.  Along this line of reasoning, it is interesting to note that CAs produced by 7, 12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) in the bone marrow cells of hypertensive rats were reported to be three times above that of control rats (Ueda & Kondo, 1984).  A similar situation had previously been described by Pero and his associates, in a study of hypertensive men.  They demonstrated that N-acetoxy-2-acetylaminofluorene (NA-AAF)-induced UDS in lymphocytes showed a linear increase with blood pressure.  Most interestingly, NA-AAF-induced CAs also increased linearly with blood pressure (Pero, Bryngelson, Mitelman, Thulin, & Norden, 1976).

Thus, there is now a line of evidence indicating that a low level, or abnormal type, of HSP makes some animals more vulnerable to genotoxic damage, and linking stress, HSPs, and DNA damage with at least one condition, hypertension.


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