Worth a Closer Look

About ten years ago I had lunch in Santa Monica, CA with a friend of mine. It was a beautiful day and from where we were seated at the outdoor café, you could see the contrast of ocean serenity and urban commercialism.

As we ate we did what we usually do over lunch – we talked about family and current events. Just a few months earlier evangelical leaders had released a statement entitled: Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action. So eventually she asked my opinion on climate change and our responsibility to do something about it.

As I continue to mature in my faith I have learned to recognize that I am a steward of God’s countless blessings. I am a steward over my life – it is not my own – it belongs to God by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I, therefore, take care of my body knowing it is “loaned” to me and that it belongs to the Creator.

I emphasize that point to those who make health care decisions for others. We are stewards of those lives. Decisions, therefore, are not arrived at simply by stating opinions and measuring convenience. Rather, our first question is, “What would God have me to do?”

It was with that perspective in mind that I framed my answer to the environment question. The earth and all that is in it is a blessing given to us by God to manage and have dominion over (Genesis 1:26). Therefore, I care for God’s earth as something he “loans” to me. It deserves my courteous and active attention.

As I write this entry Al Gore’s second climate change installment, “Inconvenient Truth 2,” is in the theaters. Activists on both sides of the issue have made their views well-known – often in extreme rhetoric. It is challenging to wade through the vitriol to distill the facts. It is easy to just try to ignore the whole matter, but evidence suggests otherwise.

A July 25, 2017 study in Human Reproduction Update reports a startling 59.3% decline in sperm count among men of the western world from 1973 to 2011. That is astounding! It demands further attention.

Dr. Hagai Levine, the lead author of the report, said, “Given the importance of sperm counts for male fertility and human health, this study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count, with the goal of prevention.”

According to a July 25, 2017 press release on this study found on the science news website, EurekAlert, the following impact of environmental issues was observed:

While the current study did not examine causes of the observed declines, sperm count has previously been plausibly associated with environmental and lifestyle influences, including prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress and obesity. Therefore, sperm count may sensitively reflect the impact of the modern environment on male health across the lifespan and serve as a “canary in the coal mine” signaling broader risks to male health.

Time and time again, the issue has been raised about the role of increasing levels of synthetic estrogen that seeps into aquifers. In the comment section on the BioEdge reporting on sperm count decline, Richard Doerflinger of the National Catholic Conference of Bishops (NCCB) writes:

One possible factor not mentioned here is the amount of estrogen in our water supply due to the widespread use of hormonal birth control. These drugs end up in women’s urine and are flushed into rivers and streams, where they have been associated with reduced fertility and even ambiguous genitalia in fish, frogs, etc. Apparently, our current water treatment modalities do not screen out these hormones. Water safety experts have expressed serious concern about the possible human impact but it is far from being reliably assessed.

While the debate about the degree of human impact on the environment and the appropriate response will continue, I believe we cannot just look away. When one considers the fact that hormonal birth control is a Group 1 carcinogen and synthetic estrogen is often the culprit in complications with hormonal birth control, it is logical to assume that in sufficient concentration it can have a great and detrimental impact on the environment. An article on the Scientific American website observes the problem of estrogen in wastewater leeching into the aquifers as serious enough to warrant integrating some means of filtration of water before use.

Generally, my position has been that the environment is not as bad as the alarmists portray. I also believe it may not be as safe in the long term as deniers may claim. The evidence is mounting to minimally require us all to take a second look at what goes into the aquiver and what its long-range effects are on us and succeeding generations.

In an interview for the BBC Dr. Levine observed:

If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually, we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.

At some point, we need to face the facts and take a closer look. With a 59.3% decline in sperm count, I suggest the time is now.

~ Rev. Robert Fleischmann


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