The pill – you know the one – may be better at preventing conception in fish than in people. What’s more, the fish don’t need a prescription. They get the pill’s synthetic estrogen from sewage that municipalities discharge into rivers and lakes. By feminizing males, the synthetic hormone can limit fish reproduction to the point of collapse.
Now that’s performance. It vastly outperforms the results in people, who require widespread abortion to counteract contraceptive failure. But fish aren’t the only ones pill takers invade with their excretions. As most of us get our drinking water from rivers and lakes, municipalities include second hand estrogen as an unadvertised special. Maybe this explains what seems like an increase in the feminization of men, among other sex-related surprises.
I learned about the pill’s contraceptive success in fish from research at an experimental lake in northwestern Ontario. Biologists discovered that after introducing synthetic estrogen at levels found in municipal waste, fathead minnows became nearly extinct due mainly to male infertility.
Well, you might say, it’s because they were fatheads and too stupid to get out of the way. But other researchers have found that similarly exposed rainbow trout also developed sex-related abnormalities. So did sheep that grazed on land fertilized with estrogen contaminated sewage sludge.
If threats to humanity concern you, add falling fertility from estrogen footprints to rising temperatures from carbon footprints. The threats are not equally credible, however. The biologists measure falling fertility directly under experimental conditions. The climatologists estimate rising temperatures indirectly with computer models, which are less reliable. In fact, more than 95 percent of them over estimate actually observed warming, according to some climatologists.
Although not qualified to referee competing climate scientists, I can read geological history. It tells me that the earth experienced both high temperatures and an ice age when carbon dioxide emissions, the alleged main cause of man-made global warming, were ten times greater than they are today.
This doesn’t seem to bother environmentalists, though. They tend to treat man-made global warming as settled science and woman-made estrogen pollution with settled silence.
For global warming, the generally proposed remedy is preventive: reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For estrogen pollution, it’s curative: neutralize sewage. I guess our protectors think it’s easier to substitute wind and solar power for fossil fuels than other methods of family planning for contraceptive drugs. As they virtually worship nature, I thought our environmental role models would champion natural family planning. Oh, well, I suppose there are exceptions to every role.
Nevertheless, natural family planning is as effective as the pill, but without estrogen pollution and pharmaceutical side effects. As they say, you can look it up.
Surprisingly, the lead author of the Ontario fathead research doesn’t appear to have looked it up. She reportedly said that the answer to estrogen pollution is not to reduce the use of birth control pills but to make sure waste waters are treated effectively
In 2012, the European Union considered mandating estrogen removal from wastewater, but deferred action for a decade. Not only did the water and pharmaceutical industries dispute the science supporting the mandate. They argued that the cost of implementing it would be prohibitive. In England and Wales alone, the estimate was some $40 billion to upgrade more than 1,300 wastewater treatment plants.
Of course, if women embraced natural family planning, it would cost nothing and harm no one. As they show no signs of embracing it en masse, maybe we should invoke the principle that polluters pay for the cleanup. That’s what we do with oil spills and hazardous waste sites.
If moral suasion fails to stop pill takers from harming the environment and themselves, economic pressure might help them repent. Some observers have suggested that we levy an estrogen tax on contraceptive pills and use the proceeds to upgrade, maintain and operate wastewater treatment plants. Knowing governments, I suspect that the money would end up in general revenue, as it does with the gasoline tax. If so, we could risk shortchanging water treatment as we do road building and maintenance.
I rather fancy something like the cap and trade systems that some authorities have set up to discourage greenhouse gas emissions. Natural family planners would earn credits for abstaining from estrogen pollution. Pill takers would buy credits to engage in it. But I’m not a detail person. I leave it to others more qualified than I to fine-tune the financial and moral instrumentalities.
For added pressure, we might consider shaming pill takers as we do tobacco smokers. Maybe environmental activists could advise us. They’re good at shaming.