Monday, March 29, 2021

Three Strikes We're Out!: On pollution and penises

 What do I mean by three strikes and we’re out?  Does anybody besides me remember the California Three Strikes Law mandate back in 1994?  The state of California passed a crime bill proclaiming that any person convicted of a third crime would be automatically imprisoned. How did this work out?  Well, suffice to say, we don’t hear very much about it anymore.  This ruling took away the power of the judges to impose their own decisions, and too many of the judges protested the loss of their sentencing powers. But there is another Supreme Court judge who has ruled on a different three strike law matter that will not be abridged.  Her rulings stay true forever despite human attempts at interference. Her name is Mother Nature.


In my last post I wrote about the new findings by Italian scientists of microplastic in human placenta. What we still don’t know is the full extent of how the chemicals in the plastic partials will shape our brains, muscles, or nerves. I consider this finding as Mother Nature’s strike number one. However, I don’t expect this discovery and understanding of the consequences to immediately stop the production and distribution of products which are fuelled by corporate greed. The corporations involved will simply continue producing and selling the products.  At best most politicians will remain silent, and at worst remain complicit through lobbying and special interest funding. The mainstream media has long been neutered by Silicon Valley with the promises of biotechnology and a new future on Mars.  And the majority of us will sigh and continue to consume, because what else can we do?


This leads us to strike number Two. Mother Nature is expressing her deepening displeasure with her second strike. This concerns human penises.  Dr. Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and with 40 years of research experience, has just written a new book titled Count Down. In this book Swan maps how human penises are shrinking and becoming malformed due to environmental pollution – in particular phthalates, a chemical used when manufacturing plastics. It was Swan’s research on rats that turned her attention to phthalates.  She discovered that when rat fetuses were exposed to this chemical they were likely to be born with shrunken genitals. And guess what?  She discovered that male human babies who had been exposed to phthalates in the womb are also being born with a shorter anogenital distance, something that connected with penile volume.  In other words, their penises were abnormally small and malformed.


This has very serious implications for the human race. For Dr. Swan, this change is so critically important she calls it a “threat to human survival”. The 1% may believe they can isolate themselves from the ills that affect the working class, but in this instance they are in for a nasty surprise. We just cannot allow the human race to become so seriously depressed, so spiritually degraded, to agree to being held together only by the other-worldly hysteria of the stock markets and the empty promises of ‘next gen’ technology.  


I had planned to also discuss Mother Nature’s strike three that she has prepared for us, but that deserves its own post. So instead I am going to close by connecting this to working class mothers, and their role in cleaning up this mess. I believe in the working classes. I believe in working class mothers in particular.  Thinking about my own working class background and the women who held it all together makes me feel strong. Our entire Western society has been built on their backs. Yet working class mothers are the most overburdened and least likely to agitate for reform. However, their rage may be what is needed to give voice to Mother Nature’s rage. Working class mothers’ collective rage is the leadership we need to cease this unforgivable onslaught on Her most delicate works of many millions of years. Because this is not a game – strike three and we’re out. Next time.


Monday, March 08, 2021

An open letter to all mothers


Why am I addressing a letter to all mothers?  Because I think mothers of all ages need more attention and help than they are getting in our present times.  Older mothers usually have a daughter or two hanging about, and those who don’t will still have nieces, daughter’s-in-law or grand daughters. All should be interested in this post because it affects all mothers, mothers-to-be, and their female progeny.

There is a recent Italian study reporting that for the first time, microplastic particles have been found in the placenta of human fetuses.  Microplastics carry with them substances that can cause long-term negative effects on human health. However, in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was not enough evidence to say that mothers ingesting these particles was harmful to human health.  Will the WHO take this recent Italian study seriously? I doubt it. But we’ll see.

What does this mean specifically for Canadian mothers? In 2016 a federal Canadian study found that 29,000 tonnes of plastic garbage, the equivalent of about 2.3 billion single-use plastic water bottles, ended up in Canadian beaches, parks, lakes, and in the air. The Trudeau government has imposed a federal ban on single use plastic products, with regulations finalized by the end 2021.

So, we are becoming more aware of what mothers and babies are actually up against. But it’s more complicated than that, as current identity politics is challenging the language of motherhood so that the physiological challenges we are facing become even harder to address. I know that language is always changing, but changes have both intended and unintended consequences. Take for example a maternity ward in the UK has replaced the term ‘breastfeeding’ with ‘chestfeeding’.

Women are being told that their identity and experiences need to more gender ‘inclusive’, and to use gender ‘neutral’ language, because anything else is exclusionary. Yet these asks can be exclusionary to women – to their lived experience and identity. But in trying to have a genuine conversation about these issues quickly labels one transphobic, even for those of us who support trans rights.  

While gender identity and biological sex are not equivalent, the assertion that they have nothing to do with each other can distract from pressing biological reproduction issues, such as microplastics in the placenta. Or the fact that globally the sperm count has declined by 50%. Yes, you read that right.

We know that gender is not a neutral social construct that can be claimed by anyone. To pretend that it is, is at best short-sighted, and at worst purposefully harmful. Gender has a history and a weight to it. People can be different, and those differences celebrated, without erasing other peoples’ lived experiences and identities, and without distracting us from pressing issues within human reproduction. That’s the message we should be fighting for. Next time.