Nature’s Little Helper in Population Control

Instead of worrying about falling sperm counts, shouldn’t we see this as a blessing in disguise and be happy that nature seems to be giving us a hand tackling overpopulation just when we need it?

Epidemiologist Shanna Swan from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has warned us that sperm counts are falling. It is predicted that by 2045, for half of men in developed countries, sperm counts are set to be at zero.

Chemicals everywhere, pesticides, pollution in the air we breathe, micro-plastics in our food, over-processed food, lack of exercise, all contribute to a decline in our health, including our capacity for sexual reproduction.  Falling sperm counts are just one example among many of human interference with nature coming back to bite us. We are completely out of kilter with how the planet functions naturally. Our impacts on the natural world cover a spectrum from global events of melting the ice caps to tiny events like what is happening within a man’s testes. This isn’t a single anomaly, it is one of thousands in the accelerating disruption of the planet.  It is another example of nature telling us we’re not playing the game.

The Guardian and other sources are reporting this as ‘a threat to human survival’ and that falling sperm counts could be as big a threat as the climate crisis.  Is this true or is it just another piece of anthropocentric scare-mongering click-bait to worry their readers?

If it’s such a drastic threat perhaps we need drastic solutions. So what will we do about falling sperm counts? The techno-fix would be to find a solution to the problem without addressing the fundamental cause. There is one perfectly workable solution. So let’s fix it shall we? Just take an example from what we do with farmed animals every day. First find a healthy prime human male, as we would with a prize bull, and extract some healthy semen. One ejaculation can contain 300 million sperm, each one with the potential to create a new human, so one man’s daily ejaculation over a month could produce enough sperm to fertilise enough eggs to recreate the entire current human population. That should be enough… Simply follow the same impregnation procedure as with a herd of cattle and ‘human survival’ is solved.

If this answer isn’t too appealing, perhaps we should pursue the simpler alternative. Address the cause rather than the symptom. Address the chemicals, the food, the pollution. Stop using chemicals, grow food more organically, switch to eating food that hasn’t been pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. Only when we do this will these problems disappear.

Or perhaps falling sperm counts are nothing to be worried about at all? Perhaps they are a blessing in disguise. Looking at it from a different perspective, falling sperm counts are good news. Given that we’re massively overpopulated and at risk from multiple catastrophes heading our way, a drop in fertility rates is just what we need. And if our numbers are set to fall one way or another, wouldn’t the preferred option be through nature’s own created contraception?

Perhaps on this occasion we should be encouraging the use of shampoos, beauty products and plastic packaging rather than discouraging them on environmental grounds as they contain hidden long term contraceptives…

Human population has increased exponentially over the last century. If you’ve seen the hockey stick graph and can grasp the magnitude of that rise in such a short time, it’s a scary prospect. We’re facing multiple threats from plagues, climate disruption to melting icecaps, rising co2 and the 6th mass extinction of life on earth. We’re on the roller-coaster ride and have been climbing to the top for the last hundred years. We’re slowing down and haven’t quite reached the peak yet. But when we come down, it is likely that we will come down fast. Not fast to begin with, but a gradual acceleration. Before we know it we could be falling as fast as we rose. A billion every 12 years if we matched the speed of the rise. If you think about that, it’s scary. But possible.

And in nature the fall is entirely to be expected. Bacteria in a petri dish will reproduce exponentially and then die when all the food is gone. Are we doing the same on a planetary scale? One way or another, our population is going to head back down. How it comes down is to a large extent up to us. We can either let nature do it her way or we can help steer things in a direction causing the least distress. A managed decline.

So the question is – will we enjoy the ride? Will it be exhilarating or will the wheels come off and end in catastrophe?

The newspaper headlines say that declining fertility is ‘threatening human survival’. But really, is it threatening our survival, or is it actually enabling our survival? Is this such a bad way for the population to decline? There are many worse options and I know which one I’d prefer. Give me nature’s free contraception over collapsing ecosystems and a covid plague any day.

Our population will begin to come down at some point this coming century. The best way for this to happen is through contraception. Whether deliberate or accidental, it can only be a good thing for us and the rest of the living world.

Perhaps nature’s tinkering with the tiny tadpoles of the testes isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Jon Austen

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