It seems that publications from Christian organisations, even based on scientific figures, have a disturbing, and even quietening effect on those who have a vested interest in crying wolf about the various atrocities taking place against nature.
A Catholic paper links environmental problems with use of the contraceptive pill, and there is a cry of ‘foul’, yet there may be some substance to the claims, as an interesting article by Angela Shanahan, in The Australian, points out:
According to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, an alarming rise in male infertility in developed nations is possibly caused by the quantities of synthetic female hormones, particularly estrogen, in the food chain and water. These quantities are directly attributable to increased use of the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy.
The original report published in German has been widely publicised but mysteriously, the only response to this terrible scenario, which seems to be with us just as surely as global warming, were a couple of letters in this publication and in The Sydney Morning Herald that could have come straight from a 19th-century Old Bigot’s handbook of insults. They hysterically decried the whole thing as a Vatican misogynistic plot. Never mind that it didn’t come from the Vatican. But apparently, in some people’s minds, any taint of Catholicism is enough to justify screaming “ignorant, stupid, unscientific” and of course predictably “misogyny”.
Strange then that in 1998 women’s groups and environmentalists formed an alliance in Japan against the legalisation of the contraceptive pill. Apparently some Japanese women and environmentalists, including the Women’s Network for Ecology, were worried enough about the effect of introducing synthetic hormones in a country that relies on very intensive agriculture and aquaculture to campaign against its legalisation. That is aside from widespread suspicion among Japanese women that there is a definite link between the use of the pill and breast cancer in their Western sisters.
The evidence that synthetic hormones can have grotesque environmental effects has actually been around for a long time and it is mounting. As long ago as the 1980s, studies were done in the US which showed the effects of estrogen pollution on wildlife, famously alligators in Florida with deformed genitals. But more recently, in February 2008, the University of Cardiff published a study that claimed a link between sexual deformities in birds around sewerage outlets of large British cities and the increased amount of estrogen finding its way into rivers and estuaries.
Recently during research for a story on the viability of using recycled water in Canberra, I came across several papers that pointed to the problem of estrogen in recycled water. Indeed, according to Canberra Hospital professor Peter Collignon, an opponent of recycling sewage water into the potable supply, estrogen can be more of a problem in recycled water than microbes because it cannot be filtered out and we simply do not know how well it breaks down. Just as the Romans drinking from lead cups unwittingly caused infertility in themselves, perhaps we are seeing after 30 years of contraceptive pill use the long-term effects of introducing artificial estrogen into our wider environment. So you see this is not just a preoccupation of the misogynistic old Vatican.
It is worth reading the entire opinion piece to get the full gist of what Shanahan is saying, in part, that the risk to our environment comes as much from scientific advancements and supposed enhancements as from irresponsible use of land, sea and air through industry, horticulture and agriculture; also, that it is unwise to ignore every voice which is giving a clarion warning simply because we don’t agree with all they say or believe, or because they are a religious group!
Christian agencies need to continue to publicise injustices and human errors which affect the population, and the environment, and not be put off blowing the trumpet because of an unbelieving world, including in the areas of politics.