Was just reading an article about plummeting fertility rates in Europe. Seems like no-one wants kids any more. Just too expensive or too much trouble.
But there’s another totally different possibility that almost no-one seems to have considered. What if women in developed countries actually really want more babies but they can’t? Because their significant others literally don’t have it in them to make babies out of.
As in rapidly falling sperm counts in men throughout the developed world. Sperm counts in men now seem to be about half what they were 10 years ago. Is this is what is causing declining populations, not ornery women who just want time to watch TV instead of rearing bambinos?
There is some legitimate criticism of the ways the research has been done, but the phenomenon nevertheless seems to be real. And actually this is hardly the first time a similar issue has been discussed. In her iconic work “Silent Spring” published in 1962, Rachel Carson pointed to uptake of agricultural pesticides into the food chain and its momentous deleterious impact on animal reproduction.
If chemicals can impact animal fertility, wouldn’t that happen too with humans? Last time I looked even humans are animals. So why has the issue taken so long to be picked up for we humans, and not just “dumb” animals?
But so far declining population growth rates in the developed world have been treated as a behavioral and not as a biological issue. But the potentially alarming findings about the reduction in human sperm counts raise some big issues.
How far will sperm counts actually fall? If they have halved in a period as short as 10 years, will they continue to decline as precipitously? Could they decline so much that natural reproduction for humans is no longer possible, say in 30 years or even less?
What is causing this decline? So far chemicals in the food chain such as endocrine disruptors have been fingered as the culprit. But of course it could be any number of things. Wearing tight underpants and skinny jeans could well be involved. Sitting all day at work could be another. Rising weight, obesity and lack of exercise could be yet another. At this stage we simply don’t know. That’s kind of scary.
If indeed falling sperm counts are resulting in declining rates of population growth, is there any point in trying to stimulate populations by paying people to have babies, as in happening in countries as diverse as France and Russia?
Are we facing a future where the only way of reproducing is by artificial means? What impact would that have on human health? How about on the quality of our DNA?
And what about the social impact? Will a woman need to check a potential partner’s sperm count before signing marriage papers? Will 3 parent-babies become the norm to have a baby? How about 3 people marriages? Might they become the only way you can be sure you can have a baby?
After all, if you can have gay marriages, transgender marriage, what’s so special about a 3-person marriage? If that’s what it takes to have a baby naturally, why would there be any resistance to it? Could it become the only practical way to have a baby short of “artificial” means such as IVF or some of the other modern new variants thereof?
It seems to me that if indeed the falling sperm count issue is real, it’s going to spawn (pun intended) momentous impacts on society and ethics. It’s going to impact the institutions of marriage, child-rearing, and hence things like family finances and the law.
And by the bye, this is all happening as quickly, if not more so than climate change. What should we be worried about more, the Earth heating up in the next 50 years or not being able to have babies naturally in 30?
Human fertility is a crucial topic. It joins existential issues such as climate change, nuclear war, Islamic terrorism, air pollution and water shortages. No wonder Stephen Hawking gives humanity less than 100 years to survival before it all ends.