Thursday, July 12, 2007

Swishy Fishies and the Hypocrisy of Environmentalism

The following story (which has been known for years) is excerpted from the National Catholic Register.

When EPA-funded scientists at the University of Colorado studied fish in a pristine mountain stream known as Boulder Creek two years ago, they were shocked. Randomly netting 123 trout and other fish downstream from the city’s sewer plant, they found that 101 were female, 12 were male and 10 were strange “intersex” fish with male and female features.

It’s “the first thing that I’ve seen as a scientist that really scared me,” said then 59-year-old University of Colorado biologist John Woodling, speaking to the Denver Post in 2005.

They studied the fish and decided the main culprits were estrogens and other steroid hormones from birth-control pills and patches, excreted in urine into the city’s sewage system and then into the creek.

[...] Since their findings, stories have been emerging everywhere. Scientists in western Washington found that synthetic estrogen – a common ingredient in oral contraceptives – drastically reduces the fertility of male rainbow trout.

[…] What the Boulder scientists discovered, however, is that few people care.
Or, if they’re worried, they’re in denial.

“Nobody is getting passionately concerned about it,” Norris said. “It makes no sense to me at all that people aren’t more concerned.”

When the story of his finding hit Denver and Boulder newspapers, Norris anticipated an immediate response from environmentalists, who define the politics of Boulder and are known to picket in the streets demanding ends to questionable farming practices, global warming and pesticide treatments.

To the professor’s surprise, however, the hormone story was mostly ignored.

[…] Dave Georgis, who directs the Colorado Genetic Engineering Action Network, took to the streets of Boulder on several occasions to hold signs demanding that Boulder County regulate genetically modified crops from existence.

When asked about the genetically modified fish and the contaminated drinking water, however, he said: “It just has so much competition out there for stuff to work on.”

He told the Boulder Weekly that nobody needed to consider curtailing use of artificial contraceptives out of concern for the creek.

“You can’t have a zero impact, and this is one of the many, many impacts we have on the environment in everyday life,” Georgis said. “Nobody is to blame for this, and I don’t have a solution.”

[…] Catholics shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for environmentalists to advocate a boycott of contraceptives, said George Harden, a board member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, based in Steubenville, Ohio.

“If you’re killing mosquitoes to save people from the West Nile virus, you can count on secular environmentalists to lay down in front of the vapor truck, claiming some potential side effect that might result from the spray,” Harden said. “But if birth control deforms fish – backed by the proof of an EPA study – and threatens the drinking supply, mum will be the word.”

[…] “It’s going to start looking funny,” Harden said. “The radical environmentalists won’t eat a corn chip if the corn contacted a pesticide. But they view it a sacred right and obligation to consume synthetic chemicals that alter a woman’s natural biological functions, even if this practice threatens innocent aquatic life downstream.”

Despite growing and nationwide knowledge of birth-control pollution in rivers and streams, leading environmentalists remain unfazed – even in Boulder, where it’s been known about for years.

Curt Cunningham, water-quality-issues chairman for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Sierra Club International, worked tirelessly last year on a ballot measure that would force the City of Boulder to remove fluoride from drinking water, because some believe it has negative effects on health and the environment that outweigh its benefits. But Cunningham said he would never consider asking women to curtail use of birth-control pills and patches – despite what effect these synthetics have on rivers, streams and drinking water.

“I suspect people would not take kindly to that,” Cunningham said. “For many people it’s an economic necessity. It’s also a personal freedom issue.”

Therein lies the real issue. It's one thing to force other people not to eat a genetically engineered tomato that actually tastes like a tomato instead carboard. It's another thing entirely to be faced with a need to alter your own carefully engineered life to include children. The hypocrisy is thick enough to be cut with a knife.

I don't know how many people have had their lives shortened because of fluoride in the drinking water; I suspect the number is nonnegative and less than 1. But protesting it allows me to act like I'm saving the earth while doing nothing whatsoever to inconvenience myself. It is fine to ban SUVs as long as I wasn't intending to buy one in the first place. It's fine to ban genetically modified crops when I can buy all the produce I want in the grocery store; starvation in the Third World can be safely blamed on the Bush Administration (for one more year, at least). It's fine to abn nuclear power, as long as my lights go on when I flip the switch. But if something important to my gloriously autonomous lifestyle is really impacting the environment, well, “You can’t have a zero impact..."

If the choice is between Earth and Ego, guess who wins. I think this particular form of insanity should be named BSS - Barbara Streisand Syndrome, after the singer/actress who wanted everyone to dry their clothes on the line to save energy - herself excepted.