Bitter pill for environmentalists to swallow…

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.


5 thoughts on “Bitter pill for environmentalists to swallow…

  1. ‘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.’

    That’s an interesting comment. You’d think that most Christians would agree with that, given that the Bible teaches that we are stewards of the earth. Still, I remember on the subject of global warming, a church leader saying that the issue was irrelevant since God was in charge and we ought therefore not feel a need to put much effort into the issue.

    Also, I wonder how many churches that build big buildings etc are ‘green’ in their approach? Should it be the responsibility of any Christian builder (of churches, houses etc) to build in the most responsible manner possible using recycled or environmentally sustainable materials and practices – usually very expensive or else cheap but less attractive – to truly attempt to steward the earth and its resources? It could be argued that using existing houses/buildings might have a smaller green footprint.

    There was a Christian Greenpeace activist interviewed by Andrew Denton the other year who’d broken some laws when protesting against some environmental travesty, and Denton seemed to have a difficult time reconciling the activist’s approach with his claims to faith. Yet clearly the activist felt he was doing what he was called to do, despite the disapproval.

    So the Christian response that I see to the environment runs the full gamut, from sticking heads in the sand, to activist activity breaking the laws of the land in defence of the earth.

    I think anyone, Christian or not, would do well to consider the merits of a stance regardless of who the proponent is, but if one is putting an argument forward, in this day and age, suspicion is not enough, and statistics and investigation need to be reputable.

    It is important to understand moral hazard but yes, that doesn’t mean the person’s views should be dismissed without further investigation.

    I’ve seen a few churches dismiss the views of ‘malcontents’ without investigation. It’s not exactly a Christian vs the World thing – its human nature when people don’t like something they hear.

  2. I have made many posts on this subject. And been unaware of others to do so. My posts were somewhat ad hoc, as I made discoveries, and therefore not one post is comprehensive.

    The sad reality is that this knowledge is now used by special interest groups, Gays, and anyone wishing to undermine society, or seeking personal retribution.

    Estrogen makes a man’s breasts grow. Spiking will work, I suspect the birth pills thrmselves contain ennough to do it.

    Of course I could be wrong, and I add that sentence to dispell being labeled as a crackpot. But I believe it is all true and amazing that it is not a major scandal in todays society.

    You mention infertility, but homosexuality is also possible.

    http://morris108.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/is-the-contraceptive-pill-creating-homesexuality-part-2/

  3. Thanks morris for letting us know your concerns. This was fairly new news to me, so I was immediately interested.

    Science is often touted as the answer to all things, yet it also produces some read headaches for mankind, the environment and future generations.

    RP,
    I think we should all care for the environment the best we can, whether we accept the prognosis of doom-sayers or not. I’m still reserving judgement on the causes of climate change until there’s a more evidence one way or the other, but it’s often better not to sit one the fence over such issues, and to an extent preferable even to be overcautious about our planet, even if climate change prophets are wrong, rather than irresponsible, even though I am a strong believer that Jesus could come any day!

    After all God has not changed his mind about us multiplying, whilst subduing and replenishing the earth. We have stewardship of this part of his creation!

  4. “…but it’s often better not to sit one the fence over such issues, and to an extent preferable even to be overcautious about our planet, even if climate change prophets are wrong, rather than irresponsible, even though I am a strong believer that Jesus could come any day!…”

    I’m with you on this, FL. Particularly since as you point out, God gave us stewardship right from the beginning. We haven’t done a very good job of it. I am starting to think about these things as a part of my Christian walk more these days, when years ago I really didn’t correlate the two. Our whole lives are a matter of stewardship really. The environment is no different from every other area.

  5. “Estrogen makes a man’s breasts grow. Spiking will work, I suspect the birth pills thrmselves contain ennough to do it.”

    It’s amazing how estrogen a man needs to actually be a man. Quantum on ABC showed interesting insight on this subject where scientists experiments on rats. The one’s pumped mainly with testosterone and had their estrogen extracted became more weaker and feminine. The male needed a bit of balance between the two to sustain healthy and stable growth.

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