COUNT DOWN How Our Modern World Is Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, Threatening Sperm Counts, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race
By Shanna H. Swan with Stacey Colino
If you’ve smugly enjoyed the dystopian worlds of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (where infertility is triggered in part by environmental pollutants) or “Children of Men” (where humanity is on the precipice of extinction) — and believed that these stories were rooted firmly in fantasy — Shanna Swan’s “Count Down” will serve as an awakening.
“Count Down,” which Swan wrote with the health and science journalist Stacey Colino, chronicles rising human infertility and warns of dire consequences for our species if this trend doesn’t slow. The reason, Swan explains, may be growing exposure to “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that are found in everything from plastics, flame retardants, electronics, food packaging and pesticides to personal care products and cosmetics.
She outlines the danger. These substances interfere with normal hormonal function, including testosterone and estrogen. Even in small doses, they pose particular danger to unborn babies and young children whose bodies are growing rapidly. These hormone-warping chemicals, which can enter even the placenta, have the ability to alter the anatomical development of girls and boys, change brain function and impair the immune system.
Swan is a noted environmental and reproductive epidemiologist who has studied this subject for more than two decades. Her work on falling sperm counts garnered worldwide attention in 2017. Media coverage focused on her central finding: From 1973 to 2011, the total sperm count of men in Western countries dropped by 59 percent. The quality also nose-dived, with more odd-shaped sperm and fewer strong swimmers capable of fertilizing an egg. Perhaps most important, the DNA they carried was also more damaged.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
What a disturbing and serious piece of reporting. Thank you Bijal P. Trivedi. This makes me want to protect myself, my family, my country and the world, but is there a silver lining? With 7.6 billion people now overpopulating the world, we are the new asteroid, causing the 6th extinction of species. Maybe our growing infertility is what saves us from destroying ourselves and our environment, stops us in our trajectory of being like another green algae bloom.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.
“Democrats seem ready to enact major economic relief legislation. The package will be big, with a price tag probably close to the Biden administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion. But the bulk of this spending will clearly be temporary. Americans won’t be getting $1,400 checks every year, unemployment benefits won’t always be this generous, we won’t constantly be mobilizing for emergency vaccination programs (or at least we hope not).
There is, however, one piece of the package many progressives hope will become permanent: enhanced aid to families with children. Indeed, there’s an overwhelming economic and social case for providing such aid, in addition to the moral case.
Yet most conservatives seem to be opposed, even though they’re having a notably hard time explaining why. And the fact that they’re against helping children despite their lack of good arguments tells you a lot about why they really oppose aid to those in need.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
It all sounds good, but will it incentivize having more and more children? What the country and world need is zero, or even better, negative population growth. So I would like to know how this will effect the choice of the number of children American people will have. It might be good for the environment to put a cap on the credit/income payment for just two children, and not some unlimited number. We are living during the 6th extinction in the Anthropocene, which means that non human species are going extinct at an unusual and unsustainable rate, perhaps hundreds a week. We lost the Great White African Rhinoceros this winter. Just one of probably thousands of species lost. Someday, it would be useful if politically possible, to have the credit/subsidy for the first two children, and universal and subsidized family planning as part of health care.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.
“The day Sudan died, everything felt both monumental and ordinary. It was a Monday. Gray sky, light rain. On the horizon, the sun was struggling to make itself seen over the sharp double peaks of Mount Kenya. Little black-faced monkeys came skittering in over the fence to try to steal the morning carrots. Metal gates creaked and clanked. Men spoke in quiet Swahili. Sudan lay still in the dirt, thick legs folded under him, huge head tilted like a capsizing ship. His big front horn was blunt, scarred, worn. His breathing was harsh and ragged. All around him, for miles in every direction, the savannah teemed with life: warthogs, zebras, elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, baboons — creatures doing what they had been doing for eons, hunting and feeding and scavenging, breathing and going and being. Until recently, Sudan had been a part of this pulse. But now he could hardly move. He was a giant stillness at the center of all the motion.
Sudan was the last male northern white rhinoceros on earth — the end of an evolutionary rope that stretched back millions of years. Although his death was a disaster, it was not a surprise. It was the grim climax of a conservation crisis that had been accelerating, for many decades, toward precisely this moment. Every desperate measure — legal, political, scientific — had already been exhausted.”
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Heart breaking. Thank you Sam Anderson. I some times wonder if things could be different. If Bill and Melinda Gates had decided to work for wildlife protection, instead of alleviating the poverty of the poor humans around the world. Or are they right, that taking care of all 7.7 billion humans might be the key to reducing the destruction of mass extinctions. Some scientist think we need to reduce the human population to 4 billion, to save most other species. Is it a silver lining, that if we humans keep multiplying, while we take out most other species, we most likely will not survive. A new age will then evolve, without the scourge of the humans, who propagated like green algae, until they died.
SAMBAVA, Madagascar — Madagascar has always been one of the best places on Earth to study the natural world. Seventy percent of its species are found nowhere else — the largest concentration of endemic wildlife anywhere. In the last 10 years alone, scientists have discovered 40 new mammals, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 42 invertebrates and 385 plants in the country. Its parks are ecotourism destinations and points of national pride.
With the world’s largest concentration of endangered species, Madagascar is also a leading place to study extinction. Last year the country lost the greatest percentage of primary forest, making it one of the most deforested places on Earth. Since 2012 the International Union for Conservation of Nature has named lemurs, which are found only in Madagascar, as the world’s most endangered group of animals, with 95 percent either threatened or endangered.
Poaching, farming, charcoal cultivation and illegal logging have placed enormous pressure on the country’s wildlife. The next looming danger is climate change; in Madagascar and across the world, warming temperatures threaten to push wildlife out of the conservation areas created to protect it. The land that was set aside yesterday might not be right for tomorrow, requiring scientists to think outside traditional park borders.
“Parks and large tracts of land are the core of how we save stuff,” said Timothy Male, the executive director of a Washington, D.C., think tank called the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. But, he added, small, local parks “tend to be where a lot of dynamism happens.”
“NASHVILLE — I was writing a love letter to autumn and its perfect miracle of timing — the way berries ripen just as songbirds migrate through berry-filled forests — when the songbirds suddenly began to die. With no warning at all, thousands and thousands of birds, possibly millions of birds, were simply falling out of the sky.
It’s not yet clear why the birds were dying — smoke from the wildfires on the West Coast? an unseasonable cold snap? the prolonged drought? — but whatever its immediate reason, the die-off was almost certainly related to climate change or some other human-wrought hazard. Every possible explanation for the birds’ deaths leads back to our own choices.
We think of songbirds as indicator species — so sensitive to environmental disruptions that they serve as an early warning of trouble. But the fact that the environment has become increasingly inhospitable to songbirds — and to human beings — is only one measure of a planet under life-threatening stress.
None of this is new. We’ve seen it all happening, worsening with every passing year, for decades now. Any chance of reversing climate change is long since gone, and the climate will inevitably continue to warm. The question now is only how much it will warm, how terrible we will let it become.
There are days when I lose all hope, when it feels as if the only thing left to do is to sit quietly and bear witness to all that will soon be gone: the rain forests and the tidal estuaries, the redwood forests and the Arctic sea ice, the grasslands and the coral reefs. Every wild place and every living thing that wild places harbor, all gone. I held my father’s hand as he died, and I held my mother’s hand as she died, and now it feels as though I am watching my planet die, too.
But that isn’t how I feel most days. On most days I am still fighting as hard as I can possibly fight, living as lightly on the earth as I can manage. The only other option is surrender.
But personal responsibility isn’t going to save the planet by itself. Saving the earth at this late date will also require us to reform the entire global economy. It will require government regulation. It will require industry innovation. It will require companies to invest in the very planet they have been profiting from.
Every single issue that matters to me — education, social justice, women’s rights, affordable health care, criminal justice reform, gun control, immigration policy etc. — won’t mean a single thing if the planet becomes uninhabitable. The same is true for my brothers and sisters across the political aisle: If they care about the right to life, as they say they do, if they care about the economy, about freedom, about national security, as they say they do, then they have no choice in this election but to vote for candidates who are committed to halting the rate at which the planet is heating up.
For now and for the foreseeable future, there is only one issue, and in this election there is only one choice. Because there is only one planet we can call home.” -30-
“Two major reports released this month paint a grim portrait of the future for our planet’s wildlife. First, the Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), published last week, found that in half a century, human activity has decimated global wildlife populations by an average of 68 percent.
The study analyzed population sizes of 4,392 monitored species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians from 1970 to 2016, reports Karin Brulliard for the Washington Post. It found that populations in Latin America and the Caribbean fared the worst, with a staggering 94 percent decline in population. All told, the drastic species decline tracked in this study “signal a fundamentally broken relationship between humans and the natural world,” the WWF notes in a release.
“Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday.
Nearly all of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, from the Beaufort Sea off Alaska to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because the loss of sea ice would force the animals onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods, the researchers said. Prolonged fasting, and reduced nursing of cubs by mothers, would lead to rapid declines in reproduction and survival.
“There is very little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere in the world, except perhaps in the very high Arctic in one small subpopulation” if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at so-called business-as-usual levels, said Peter K. Molnar, a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Even if emissions were reduced to more moderate levels, “we still are unfortunately going to lose some, especially some of the southernmost populations, to sea-ice loss,” Dr. Molnar said.”
“Sarah May, watching, marveled at its glossy coat and the smoothness of its movement. It was like a Slinky, she said: “It almost poured over the ground.” The platypus reached the still pond, slid in, and was gone. Dr. May had been anticipating this moment for months, but now that it had arrived, she found herself surprised at just how deeply moved she felt.
The glossy platypus, along with two others, arrived at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a 45-minute drive from the Australian capital of Canberra, on April 30. They had been away for four months, sheltering at a zoo in Sydney. The cold, wet and windy day of their release could not have been more different from the day in late December when they had left the reserve.
Back then, Tidbinbilla was parched from extreme heat and drought and menaced by an approaching bush fire. Dr. May, the wildlife team leader for the reserve, and her crew were working long hours in thick smoke, trying to protect their lungs with face masks, their eyes red and burning. It was a grim and apocalyptic-feeling time, she said: “Fires had taken over everybody’s psyche.” But the team worried most about their animal charges, the rare, endangered and iconic wildlife that make the reserve their home.”
The eastern swallowtail butterfly that the author’s 91-year-old father-in-law found on the sidewalk.Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times
“NASHVILLE — One day last fall, deep in the middle of a devastating drought, I was walking the dog when a van bearing the logo of a mosquito-control company blew past me and parked in front of a neighbor’s house. The whole vehicle stank of chemicals, even going 40 miles an hour.
The man who emerged from the truck donned a massive backpack carrying a tank full of insecticide and proceeded to spray every bush and plant in the yard. Then he got in his truck, drove two doors down, and sprayed that yard, too, before continuing his route all around the block.
Here’s the most heartbreaking thing about the whole episode: He was spraying for mosquitoes that didn’t even exist: Last year’s extreme drought ended mosquito-breeding season long before the first freeze. Nevertheless, the mosquito vans arrived every three weeks, right on schedule, drenching the yards with poison for no reason but the schedule itself.
And spraying for mosquitoes isn’t the half of it, as any walk through the lawn-care department of a big-box store will attest. People want the outdoors to work like an extension of their homes — fashionable, tidy, predictable. Above all, comfortable. So weedy yards filled with tiny wildflowers get bulldozed end to end and replaced with sod cared for by homeowners spraying from a bottle marked “backyard bug control” or by lawn services that leave behind tiny signs warning, “Lawn care application; keep off the grass.” “
Not mowing in May results in more flowers and nectar all summer long for struggling pollinators. Wildlife organization urges us to leave lawnmowers locked up until June.
April showers bring May flowers, and if you like food, you should leave those flowers alone.
Not mowing in May results in a greater diversity and number of flowers throughout the summer, a British wildlife organization called Plantlife claims.
The organization conducted an experiment in last year in which hundreds of homeowners agreed not to mow their lawns until June. Participants’ lawns produced a much wider variety of flower species and enough nectar to feed 10 times as many bees as normal lawns.
The longer your grass grows, the greater the diversity of flower species you get, Plantlife found.
Because of this, the organization recommends mowing only once a month at most all summer.
If you can’t wait that long – maybe you want a place to tan or for the kids to play – mow in sections or chunks. Make a cool pattern if you wish. Plantlife suggests a mohawk! Just leave plenty of long patches for the pollinators.”