Self-extinction: Male fertility, pesticides and the end of the human project

November 19, 2023

It is a common meme these days that humans are busy bringing about their own extinction. This is usually imagined to take the form of mass death resulting from the effects of climate change including food shortages, and/or from the rapid decline in the availability of fossil fuels, and/or from a worldwide pandemic caused by a microbe as lethal as the Ebola virus.

But what if our path to extinction is really taking the form of damage to human fertility of the type described by a new report that links the dramatic decline in male sperm count directly to pesticides? What if human society collapses for lack of new humans? The plants and animals might rejoice if they can do such a thing. But the human project would come to an end.

And that speaks to the central issue for humankind. Is the human project worth saving? And, if it is, are we as a global society willing to do what it takes to save it? On current form one would expect that the answer is no. But in order to change the answer to yes, the “yes” forces would have to proffer some very compelling arguments to get the world’s chemical companies to give up on synthetic pesticides. I can imagine arguments that include reference to the literary, musical, architectural, artistic, philosophical and scientific achievements of humans. But these would likely fall on deaf ears unless the scientific achievements are allowed to include the continued dispersal of pesticides into the air, water and soil across the globe.

I am reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon with the following caption: “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.” That, dear readers, summarizes why a scenario out of the film “Children of Men”—which seemed so far-fetched when it was released in  2006—is coming soon to a planet near you. It’s worth noting that the film purports to take place in 2027.

I have previously written about the dramatic collapse of sperm counts across the world. If current trends continue, sperm counts will reach zero by 2045. (That’s NOT a typo.) Are those trends continuing? The answer is no, they are getting even worse! That means sperm counts worldwide may reach the zero mark even earlier.

Of course, all of this is being completely ignored by governments and major institutions because it is far too inconvenient if true. That seems to be the modus operandi of the ruling elites. Where there is some effort to address critical environmental and public health problems, they are almost all focused on technical fixes rather than the wholesale reorganization of human society on a sustainable basis.

The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up this week in the United States. It is customary for people to say what it is that they are thankful for. I think parents may want to consider giving thanks for their children before the ability to become parents is extinguished by the chemical industry and other malefactors who are busy creating “shareholder value.”

Kurt Cobb

Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, Oilprice.com, OilVoice, TalkMarkets, Investing.com, Business Insider and many other places. He is the author of an oil-themed novel entitled Prelude and has a widely followed blog called Resource Insights. He is currently a fellow of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions.

Tags: population decline, sperm count