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Man and man's best friend have both been experiencing declines in sperm quality (cbc.ca)
232 points by pseudolus 74 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



I am kind of upset there is no commercial way to test your blood or urine for endocrine disruptors. You can test your hormones for $100-300 depending on how comprehensive you want, and you can test sperm quality directly for another $100-200. Still, this is a pretty penny for most people. Why is this so expensive?


I used to work on an endocrine disruptor (EDC) testing program (https://wwww.silentspring.org/detoxmeactionkit/). Analytical laboratories won't deal with individual samples from consumers, so our approach was to collect batches that we sent to the lab all at once. The cost adds up quickly because (1) the analytical chemistry done for the testing requires a mass spectrometer, which need constant expert attention and expensive reference standards, (2) urine needs to be mailed frozen, which requires overnight shipping. The program I worked on didn't test for phthalates because IIRC that would require sending the samples through the mass spec a second time, which substantially increases the price.

I think it would be possible to bring the price down if you had your own dedicated mass spec and high volume, but it's never going to be cheap. Unfortunately the usefulness of this kind of testing increases the more you can get tested, e.g. before and after a dietary intervention. I think the market for this kind of testing could be large if there was a way to bring the price down, but that probably requires the development of new analytical chemistry techniques.


Not only expensive, but I recently wanted to get a sperm quality test done and the labs I called flat out refused to do it without a referral. Even though I was willing to pay cash and forgo all of the insurance nonsense. It is apparently impossible to just get a test done because you want to unless you pay a doctor to refer you.


yospermtest.com sells an at home test that is basically a magnifying lens and collection tray that attaches to your phone, and an app to analyze the sample.

edit: Yes, the referral thing is absurd. People answering the phones at medical offices when I've called trying to give them money will act confused or even offended if you ask how much things cost. Thankfully there are some new businesses like this chipping away at the edges.


Sperm count is only one aspect of it I don’t think that their app can measure sperm vitality and other factors that are just as important.


Many blood tests can be bought on lifeextension.com. The actual bloodwork will be done by Labcorp or similar.

I've tried it a couple times and it went fine. Once was for my minor daughter and it was a hassle getting the guardian authorization form into LabCorp's system because lifeextension.com is a bit sucky at anything outside the norm.

Don't know if they cover these particular tests, but probably.


Hack it with a microscope and a lot of reading.


Because you're probably writing this from US.


In my country (Estern Europe) sperm qulity test cost around 5-15$.


Also MRI is $100 and that's without insurance. While the cheapest MRI I could find in the US, with an individual insurance plan, is $500 out of pocket.


Multiple Problems

* Which endocrine disruptors? Many are known, even more are unknown

* Timing of exposure matters more than amount. Tiny doses of substances which are safe for adults will damage you if you are an embryo at the right phase.

* What can you do with this information once you have it?


Most emerging contaminants have no clinical reference levels for safe vs. unsafe exposure, so often the best you can do is compare your exposure level to a reference distribution to see if you have relatively high levels.

The CDC tests thousands of people in the U.S. every two years for a panel of chemicals (including endocrine disruptors) via NHANES, so at very least you can compare your results to that to see if you are unusual relative to a nationally representative sample of Americans.


nothing in your reply addresses anything the OP asked.


Not sure why you say that. If somebody was to market a test for endocrine disruptors and persistent organic pollutants they would have to specify what you are testing for, what thresholds to use, etc.


They were asking about any test at all. The answer kind of muddies the problem by implying it is harder than it seems, except the current situation is nothing exists at all. The stated problem was not at all that it wasn't qualitatively adequate.


Because it's healthcare-related and hence heavily regulated? Lab certification is $1000 a year or so, and then all the equipment has to be certified "medical grade" and so it is marked up 100x.


> Lab certification is $1000 a year or so, and then all the equipment has to be certified "medical grade" and so it is marked up 100x.

having actually been involved in the operation of a CLIA lab, i can safely say the above is nonsense.

$1000/yr fee would not meaningfully affect the profits of any operating lab. the flat fees aren't $1000, and they're not annual. and the prep time for the inspection of any legitimate lab will cost way more than that.

there's no "medical grade" certification for your instrumentation.

if you're at all accustomed to dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork, being a CLIA lab just isn't very challenging. (which is what makes it so hilarious that Theranos couldn't manage it.)


I was going off this spreadsheet (linked from https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/laboratory-certificat...): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1idB9BoHmA-nROLUtPyem... For in-state the minimum charge seems to be $350 + $300 + $150 + travel costs = roughly $1000.

But it's true, my research for this comment was inadequate.


That's a reason to break the health insurance system.

I have a bodily basic human right to know if my environment is poisoning me.


Do we even know which things are endocrine disruptors, rather than guesses?

Even most phthalates are at best mildly associated... I suppose just testing for heavy metals would find most clear cut cases.


Don't forget obesity as a major contributing factor. Pollutants are no doubt to blame in large part, but it's very well established that obesity results in lower testosterone, and I would not at all be surprised if it also resulted in lower sperm quality. Fat cells literally produce estrogen.


Good point. Is there also an obesity epidemic in "man's best friend"?


You're right that obesity causes low testosterone, but low testosterone also causes obesity (plus factors that lead to obesity, like lethargy). Chicken/egg problem?


For a vast majority of people, obesity is a problem of eating too many kcal. There is no chicken/egg problem for them. The remainder might have some sort of metabolic problem which they should go to the doctor for. There is still no chicken/egg problem there.

Am I missing a group of people who eat exactly the kcal they require, get the nutrients they need and don't have a metabolic problem, but still materialise fat for some reason?


The chicken/egg problem is satiety, not weight. Being fat messes up many small feedback loops, some of which are related to satiety, energy expended, exercise, inflammation or mood.

Breaking those circles is not easy at all. It's closer to rehabilitation and a long process.

Of course reducing intake is a main goal, but then keeping it low is as important.


I doubt it's a chicken/egg problem.

There's too much evidence that our obesity problem is caused by excess caloric intake.


And excess calorie intake is caused by what? What makes one want to eat more than they need?


That's a good question without a simple answer. Here are some of the contributing factors.

One factor is processed foods. They often either have lower satiety/calorie ratios, and refined sugars with no accompanying fiber has actually been shown to decrease satiety and make a person hungrier.

Another factor is sedentary lifestyle. Peoples' appetites tend to be somewhat fixed, and if you used to burn 2100 calories a day on a 2100 calorie diet, but now you burn 2000 calories, that adds up. It doesn't seem like much, but that's 1 pound every 35 days, or 10.42 pounds every year.

Another factor is just evolutionary. In human history, broadly, it makes sense to eat at a surplus whenever possible, because except for very very recently, food surpluses were rare occurrences, and having that extra fat storage on your body could mean the difference between starving and living through a famine.


In 2008, CBC put out a 45-minute documentary, The Disappearing Male, about this topic. If you do a simple Google search, you can find it easily online.

Previous HN discussion (with a comment from pg): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=375127


Our generation is exposed to a lot of things that no other generations have experienced over extended periods of times like food preservatives, continuous wifi exposure, sunscreen chemicals that daily gets into the bloodstream, high blue light exposure, plastic water bottles, pollution... Our generation will probably be known as The Great Guineapig.


Given the point made by other commenters w.r.t. sperm quality not really being a very serious concern for either dogs or humans as species, are there other health concerns linked with DEHP?

The article mentions PCB 153 "causing a variety of health problems", and being banned as a result. What's the status of DEHP in this context?


It too is associated with a variety of health problems and has been recently phased out in the European Union:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bis(2-ethylhexyl)_phthalate#Ef...

https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=...

It is only moderately regulated in the United States.


Also affecting fertility rates at the moment: low counts

> The analysis found an overall 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in the total sperm count over the 39-year period.

https://www.npr.org/2017/07/31/539517210/sperm-counts-plumme...


The current thinking is that it is oestrogen in the water that is killing the sperm count. It is tempting to think this comes from 'the pill' but water treatment plants do remove it and the amount of women on the pill plus the amount of oestrogen pollution does not add up to cause a problem.

What is apparently going on is intensive farming, so manure:

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/presspacs/2011/...

So the new research that suggests that the swimmers don't swim as they should means there is a double whammy for the humble sperm.

I imagine that if you are breeding dogs, cows, horses or any animal of value this is a serious threat to revenue. We won't necessarily do whatever is needed to fix our own fertility but if there are profits being affected in the world of pedigree pets then something might be done.


BPA mimics estrogen, and it's everywhere: packaged food and drink, receipts, toiletries - really virtually anywhere you can find plastic, especially heated plastic


And yet the effects of BPA have actually been studied, and it should not pose such a wide health hazard. But, due to the public outcry over potential dangers, the industry has been moving on to other bisphenol compounds that are less well understood. I think there could be a whole host of synthetics that contribute to the problem.


The solution probably wasn't to just sidestep to other bisphenol compounds. I'd say it was to stop selling products that depend on them, and let the world adapt.

I'd also be curious to know, have the effects of BPA been sufficiently studied? Have results been replicated? Do the studies at least sometimes have a funding source not interested in a certain outcome?


Yeah, BPS is the popular alternative to BPA, which has its own set of problems.


And the proudly BPA-free products using substitutes were shown to be just as bad.


Hand sanitizer speeds the absorption of BPA from thermal receipt paper FYI.


That's not the current thinking. A 2010 study showed that the amount of estrogens in water is 730 - 480,000 times lower than what occurs naturally in cow milk.


Are there residential filtrations systems able to filter it out? I wonder if the effects are reversible


Is low quality sperm permanent, or does the quality increase after the behaviors are stopped?


little bit of both.

hormone disruption during the formative years has lifelong consequence


I would guess that depends on the cause of the issue.


Wouldn't be surprised if it's more widespread and attributed to pesticides


How do we even detect these bloody endocrine disruptors? I have no idea which things in my environment are leaking this stuff. Perhaps pie in the sky, but it would be awesome to have something like a geiger counter for endocrine disruptors.


TLDR: DEHP disrupts testosterone leading to lower sperm quality.

DEHP can be found in carpets, plastic toys for children, and dog toys. Humans are also exposed by eating microwaved food stored in plastic containers.

Stay away from microwaved food. Keep dogs away from plastic toys.


Good luck avoiding it. Even IF you don't prepare your own food with plastics there's a very good chance that the food you're eating came into contact with plasticizers during its cultivation, preparation, or packaging process.

There was a woman a while back to went to extreme measures to avoid plastics. After 1 year of doing everything she could to avoid plastics, they STILL found plasticizers in her blood. Wish I could find the article...


Yup conveyor belts in food processing factories have paper lining containing phthalates and other nasty compounds that the food is moved around on throughout the food processing machines. This stuff is not even on the radar of most people, I only found out from reading a book on how processed food is made.


Many of these compounds are fat soluble and bioaccumulate inside the body's fat reserves, so even after terminating exposure you will slowly leach it out of reserves into the bloodstream and urine.


In parallel to these (ineffective) steps,

1) Write your politicians about plastic overuse; 2) Vote based on whether they reply and how; 3) Tell your friends how you will vote and why

Without some form of action in support of changing our approach to plastics, you'll continue being exposed to plastics and any potential effects thereof, no matter what steps you try to take to avoid them personally.


Yep. Microplastics are now being found even in well water, in low but increasing amounts. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896971...


How does eating healthy food, exercise and not sitting on your ass all day compare to this? I suspect healthy food and exercise would provide significantly more benefit than stressing over your contact with plastics especially when most people don't eat very healthy and don't exercise much.


Considering one of the chemicals is identified as an endocrine disruptor the chemicals may have a significant impact whether or not you are otherwise healthy.


Amend that to stay away from plastics for food storage.

Food microwaved in borosilicate glass food containers is unlikely to pick up plasticizers.

The challenge increases when you realize that a lot of canned foods have a plastic coating inside, to protect the can metal from corrosion by the canning liquid, particularly when that liquid is acidic, as with tomatoes or carbonated beverages.


>Food microwaved in borosilicate glass food containers is unlikely to pick up plasticizers.

Just make sure you don't use Pyrex if you want to use borosilicate glass. Unless it's decades old, Pyrex isn't borosilicate any more, even though they charge prices as if they were. It's a total rip-off. To get borosilicate these days, it seems you have to buy it from China.


How do you minimize exposure to nasty compounds in canned or packaged foods from typical convenient shopping stores like Costco, trader Joe's, etc other than growing everything yourself?


Yes, an excellent question.

I suppose you have to lobby your legislators to pass food safety laws that prohibit polymers and epoxies based on bisphenol-A to be in contact with foods or beverages, specifically, and generally any other substances proven to leach endocrine disruptors into food or beverage under typical handling and storage conditions.

Some food and beverage companies have identified this as a problem and are attempting to fix it in their own supply, but the majority of canned foods still have BPA-epoxy can linings, and most foods with a cardboard outer packaging also have a plastic inner packaging. Then there are the foods directly packaged in plastic containers. PET (1), HDPE (2), LDPE (4), and PP (5) are probably safe over the timespan you will be using them, but PVC (3), PC (7), and PS (6) may leach plasticizers into your consumables that mimic or interfere with the natural signaling chemicals in your body. The recycling symbol is no guarantee. Organic chemistry can produce a lot of different chemicals in very common environmental conditions; that's why life is based on it in the first place. You can still do things to a "safe" plastic to produce unwanted reaction products.

If you buy foods in glass, silicone (polysiloxane), or stainless steel, you're probably okay. Ceramics and stoneware might leach heavy metal ions, but you're probably safe from any unwanted organic molecules.

Brands that find this to be important will probably advertise as "BPA-free". Just don't touch that receipt printed at the point-of-sale terminal. Brands that sell directly to consumers are more likely to go BPA-free than those who supply food-service companies like Sysco or Aramark. So buying from the grocery store is more predictable than eating at a contractor-run eatery.

It's way too much cognitive overhead for a typical person, though. This is a job for a cartel enforcer. So either a privately-run food-safety testing union that controls an independent trademark, licensed to those who pass the tests--like UL is for electrified appliances--or the heavy hand of government.


Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Regarding "BPA free" products, aren't they using some other synthetic BPA chemicals that have unstudied health risks, simply to be able to claim they are "BPA free"?


For those unfamiliar, DEHP = phthalates.


And for those unfamiliar, "phthalates"?


Phthalates are plasticisers added to plastic to make them flexible, less brittle etc. Be extremely careful with plastic and children chewing on them.


> Stay away from microwaved food.

Stay away from food microwaved in plastic containers?


So stay away from home cooked lunch brought to work?


I switched away from plastic containers to glassware. They're reasonably cheap and I don't worry about microwaving plastic with my food anymore.

Note that I still have a plastic top on the container but:

A: You don't have to microwave with that top, you could use some other cover.

B: I am less concerned (possibly incorrectly) with microwaving plastics if they're not in contact with my food.

Can anyone comment on B? Is it safe to microwave plastics if they're not touching food?


> Can anyone comment on B? Is it safe to microwave plastics if they're not touching food?

Depends how things leach out of the plastics. Is it outgassing?


Yes, B makes sense.

Contact will cause much more absorption.

For the same reasons, heating soup will absorb a lot more than a salad without dressing.

Glass also won’t absorb some of your foods. Happens a lot with tomato sauces and plastic.

On the positive side, reused plastic is probably safer than fresh plastic, since more of the easily liberated fragments will have already broken free.


> Happens a lot with tomato sauces and plastic

leave a plastic lid infused with tomato sauce for at least 4 hours in the mid-day sun and it can get rid of the stain


How about using a silicone bag instead of plastic for heating food, any nasty compounds lurking in there?


Just put it on a plate


There are plastics made without plasticizes. Polyethylene most commonly (what soda bottles are made of). Also polypropylene.


Use something like glass lock and reheat without the lid?


> There was a decline in motility by 30 per cent [in dogs], and what's interesting is it parallels similar observations carried out on human sperm

30 percent is a lot for such low levels of the chemicals.


Many endocrine disruptors have U shaped 'potency' curves. In practice this means that in very small amounts the body treats it as a hormone signal, in medium amounts there is almost no response, and in high amounts it will be toxic. This U shaped curve is what makes the small amounts that leech from everywhere very serious. The bodily response is much more complex than "more is worse"


I'm particularly puzzled by why so many electric kettles are made of plastic.

Unfortunately, the non-plastic one I bought two years ago has already died, so maybe there's something to the casing.


Corrosion and scale.

Plastic takes a long time to visibly degrade and is pretty smooth using cheap processes.


I've got a glass kettle with a steel(?) base element (not coil) and it's worked fine for years. There is some black rust but I'm pretty sure that's harmless, and the water tastes clean. Much better than when I travel, I swear I can taste the plastic in the water in hotel kettles.

So maybe it's just the brand. I did pay about $50 which is a little expensive but not extremely, and it's lasted over 10 years already.


I always wondered what crap chemicals is leeching into my coffee using my plastic electric kettle for my plastic aeropress or plastic Keurig machine using plastic disposable pods.

Anyone have a safer method of brewing coffee? Like boil water in a glass Pyrex beaker and some sort of glass French press/glass aeropress?


One of these? http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hoi46KPfaMk/Uu6k-6CP5lI/AAAAAAAAC8...

The coffee tastes good, they are cheap (assuming you get a cheap one, which works just as well as an expensive one), they last for a long time and you can find them everywhere


I've used one of these until the metal started flaking off the bottom, which is concerning to say the least...


If you're only brewing for yourself, and you like your coffee strong, I'd suggest trying a moka pot. They have no plastic except on the exterior, and have been shown to extract the highest levels of antioxidants compared to other common brewing methods.


1/4 coffee grind to 3/4 cold water, stick it in the fridge for 24 hours. Dilute with 1/4 coffee to 3/4 boiling water (it will be less bitter than brewed coffee). Now you just need to find something to boil water that isn't made of plastic.


Awesome will try this out!


I have a stainless steel french press. Love it, super simple to use and keep clean.


Most of these kinds of products are built to fail so that you'll pay for a new one soon.


Does it matter if something is in your carpet?


If you’re bare-foot, you can absorb some hydrophobic substances through contact.

Walking along carpet dusts up whatever is in the carpet with every step.


If your baby is crawling on it.


>Keep dogs away from plastic toys.

Why? If your dog is a pet, it should be neutered. Sperm quality shouldn't be an issue.


> Stay away from microwaved food. Keep dogs away from plastic toys

Unless you're not a sperm producer, then you can eat all the plastic you want.


Is this true in dogs that have always lived in the wild too?

Is it possible to run a controlled experiment on dogs, i.e a controlled wild food only diet vs. normal pet dog diet?


I googled for a few minutes, and found this likely unrelated blurb, but I thought it was interesting...

"domesticated animals are more likely to: be smaller or larger than their wild counterparts; undergo multiple periods of fertility within the span of one year (a trait referred to as being polyestrous), unlike wild animals, which often mate seasonally" [1]

If you're only mating annually, I'd guess natural for higher sperm count would be more of a factor. If you're a perpetual, opportustic mater, I'd think it be more about selecting for the number of times you could mate.

[1] http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/asked-pets-different-...


Wild dogs are also domesticated; the "wild counterpart" in that quote refers to wolves.


I just fell in love with cooking meat in a sous vide machine that was gifted to me. Boiling meat in plastic bags concerned me to no end so after much research, I opted to use reusable silicone bags for cooking the meat in.

Does anyone with more insight on the matter know if there are any nasty compounds I'm exposing myself to using a silicone bag in a sous vide water bath or even microwaving in a silicone bag as opposed up plastic?

Thanks!


I dunno about silicone, but with plastic you want to avoid plastic softeners. That's the real nasty stuff. Pure nylon oven bags are suitable. Keep in mind supermarket oven bags likely won't be pure nylon. I use the nylon bag material made for Volcano vaporizers by storz & bickel, because I know it has no plastic softeners.


Will check it out thanks for the recommendation!


spurious?


[flagged]


Actually we are hurting for more humans depending on what you want. For example social programs are built with very generous population growth predictions. Social security is solvent to 2035 according to our own government estimates:

> Currently, the Social Security Board of Trustees projects program cost to rise by 2035 so that taxes will be enough to pay for only 75 percent of scheduled benefits. This increase in cost results from population aging, not because we are living longer, but because birth rates dropped from three to two children per woman.[1]

At the rate our population is declining we as a country and society will need to rethink such basic social programs such as Medicare and social security.

1. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v70n3/v70n3p111.html


No, we don't need more humans. We need a transition to social and economic systems that are not dependent on everlasting unsustainable growth.


Exactly. The only way a pyramid-shaped population chart "works" is if people die soon after (or before) they reach the top of the pyramid.

In the long run, the only stable population shape ultimately is a column that is thicker at the base.


Or simply invest in automation that can care for the elderly and relieve the strain and workload on existing services. Of course also get people to live a healthy lifestyle so they don't need to depend on those services as much in their old age.


We certainly need to keep our birth rates stable, though, to make up for those that die for whatever unfortunate reasons.


100% this, invest in families if you want to have better birth rates.


What system would do that best?


Adam's Smith invisible hand. It's already taken effect in de facto ZPG countries of north/west Europe and Japan.


I don't know why you're downvoted.

AFAIK you are correct.


There is no great replacement for infinite growth Capitalism. Whatever alternatives you choose you will have to give up lots of things that you take for granted. Humans beings at the current time are like drug addicts addicted to heroin and though its killing them and their environment, they are too pleased with the benefits to consider the costs.

Let me elaborate on this. Infinite growth Capitalism combined with technological development leads to a civilization whose citizens are constantly concerned with more, a nicer way to say this is growth. This in essence means greater and greater levels of consumption. Their entire existence, their brains, are wired for this hit from growth and progress. Buying a new phone, a new car, new clothes, promotions, salary increases, bigger houses, longer vacations, more sexual partners, etc. They are looking to constantly grow. Without that hit, they would very quickly become dejected and depressed.

But this all comes at a great cost. For one thing, people living for that hit don't live in the present, they are always oriented in the future giving up their entire present for a promise of a greater future which never comes, all they get is a hit along the way to that future and anticipation of next hit motivates them. And it's possible to have a psychology that is not set up to constantly seek this sort of hit. Therefore, for a person living with infinite growth capitalism, the transition is probably highly undesirable.


I agree with your take on human psychology, but I don’t think you’re right about it requiring infinite growth. If I get a new phone every year, that’s not actually growth. That contributes the same amount of GDP each year. People can get change without growth.


All money is debt which is to be repaid with interest. Therefore, in order to do business you must experience growth else you can't pay the interest on your debt. New technology and research and development depends on promises of greater fortunes in the future therefore you invest a significant amount with a certain amount of risk to get a certain return in the future. If things were constant but risk still existed, you would lose money each time you took on any risk. Therefore, progress would no longer happen.


[flagged]


Above poster never said anything about freezing the population. Instead, they talked about removing the _requirement_ for unsustainable growth. Heck, even if we're 10 generations away from some "exactly correct number of humans", that still doesn't mean infinite growth is economically sustainable. Kicking that can on that does no good for our descendants.

And even if infinite growth IS sustainable, that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to have a system that requires it. There will be bumps and variations - one generation shouldn't suffer because next generation (be it by choice, environment, or war) has fewer members.


Implying that the parent should kill themselves for pointing out the very real truth that humanity is far, far overpopulating this planet is not exactly civil.

I happen to agree with the parent, not because "got mine", and it's not a "culling of people" but forgetting about social issues the world would be better off with less humans.

That will never happen though, because no nation wants to be disadvantaged when it comes to population sizes and many people take it as a god given right that their genes be the ones to proliferate.

But what's the point in having more of yourself if there's no planet left in 10 generations?


The belief that the Earth is overpopulated isn't universally accepted.


I think we have to give up on anything being _universally_ accepted.

Even climate change isn't universally accepted, but it's an unfortunate fact and arguing about the semantics of it for another couple of decades isn't going to help anyone.

If 9/10 scientists agree, then I'm likely to side with them.

And in the case of overpopulation, 9/10 scientists agree.

https://earther.gizmodo.com/is-the-world-really-overpopulate...


Did you actually read the article that you linked to, because 9/10 of them do not say that the Earth is overpopulated. There's a lot of talk about sustainability and climate change (which are real concerns), but none of them say the earth is overpopulated, and instead focus on the overproduction of CO2 by a relatively small percentage of the population.


So what is a real-world implementation of this notion?


From real life: China's one child policy.

From fiction: Dissuading the birth of more than one child, by curbing any benefits heavily (such as maternity leave) or increasing taxes on family homes with more than 3 occupants etc;

there are many ways to dissuade people from having children, and we /do/ have declining birth rates in most of the developed world because of that.

But, if you listen to my nationalistic friends/family, they believe that "[they] shouldn't have to give up having so many children unless $_country also does"

So anything like that needs to be a bit more global, otherwise we have overpopulation in some areas which could lead to a requirement to spread and consume resources from less populated areas, which would potentially have the effect of wiping out nationalities. (hypothetically)


So what would a realistic implementation be? This isn't realistic for most of the developing world, which is growing faster than anywhere else. Who is going to tell subsistence farmers that they can't have bigger families to help them work and stay alive?


This feels like you're suggesting that infinite growth is sustainable.

I mean, surely it's fundamentally understood that we cannot have infinite growth with finite resources. We're already causing mass extinctions.

I sound like a hippie, all I really expect from humanity is a little compassion for the people who we bore. It's an infinitely dull planet we leave behind if we continue this trend, and one that's increasingly hostile to our descendents.


> all I really expect from humanity is a little compassion for the people who we bore

That compassion should extend to not interfering with people's right to reproduce. "We're saving you by not allowing you to have children" sounds incredibly hostile.


Peoples right to reproduce is constrained by all sorts of things already.


I understand you, and agree with you. I'm just searching for a realistic, implementable solution and nobody seems to be able to elaborate.


It's not possible without impeding peoples reproductive autonomy, it can only be slowed or discouraged, and it needs global buy-in.

Similar to how we tax things which we want to curtail use of, some countries might not tax the same thing and it causes an imbalance.

I'm not a politician, I'm an engineer and thus lack a lot of foresight and compassion that might be needed to understand this properly, but if I were responsible I'd probably approach it like this:

Step one: Identify the problem on a global scale, broach the idea with partner countries to enter an introductory treaty to at least acknowledge that we need to slow/reverse human population growth. Make objectives that ensure that our economies do not rely on population growth.

Step two: use the treaty to gain leverage over non-parner countries. Same rules, just acknowledge the problem and set some objectives to ensure that economies aren't tied to growth.

Step three, amend the treaties to slow the increase of the human race, ensure that partner countries bestow penalties on households with more than 2 children. (Additionally: Ensure that single parent households are only having one child, this could cause turmoil otherwise)

Step four, push for the reduction (or removal) of any benefits related to a second child birth, remove any/all income benefits for a second child, increase the benefits for a first child (must be a first child for both parents)

Step five, attempt to promote having a second child in media as a "very selfish" thing to do.

Step six, apply heavy taxes on dwellings more suited to 4 people families, attempt to reduce creation of such dwellings though tax incentives.

Step seven, finally, if everything fails, tax the families of those with more than a single child born after the date where this law is ratified.


None of this seems necessary, because every western nation is undergoing native population decline.

If you really want to help, all you have to do is lobby to support economic development of the places that are the feedstock of western country population sustainment.


Aren't the consequences of China's one child policy a ticking time bomb though? Having significantly more young men than young women and thus many young men unable to start a family sounds like it would lead to political instability.


From what I've read, increased abortion and infanticide rates for females due to a cultural preference for males was the primary cause of the gender imbalance, not the one-child policy. However,the one-child policy may have other negative consequences.


I thought this just caused any young women to be undocumented rather than what is assumed from the statement "one child policy" (i.e. pregnancy termination)


Western countries don't have the incentive to select for men to such a perilous degree. Chinese society is structured so that children take care of their parents in their old age, and men have more earning power to do so. Men have higher-earning careers over here, but the parent's aren't quite so dependent on that.

There's a very strong personal liberty counterargument, but then again overpopulation is dire and density itself also puts pressure on personal liberty.


Become a developed nation and make children a cost vs an economic benefit. You don't even need to be a developed nation, look at Iran if you want an example of how to do it.

A combo of education, women working in the workforce and easily available birth control and birth rates drop below replacement rate naturally, no special laws required.

After learning this, I'm really not worried about overpopulation as an environmental problem. The solutions are relatively easy to achieve compared to something like global warming.


>Actually we are hurting for more humans depending on what you want. For example social programs are built with very generous population growth predictions. Social security is solvent to 2035 according to our own government estimates:

It doesn't seem as cut and dry as just number of people when the the tax has a cap. The flat cap placed on taxable income seems a bit insane when the wealthiest people have seen exponential growth for decades. While at the same time, we have a shrinking middle class with wages that have failed to match inflation.

Essentially so much of the money in the economy is earned above the taxable level that it's not surprising we cannot sustain social programs.


The cap doesn't really matter. What matters is the shape of the population pyramid that social programs require. You will need to have more younger people than older people and the population growth in the developed world simply isn't enough. Removing the caps simply kicks the can down the road. European countries have the same issue and that's why many of them have been increasing the retirement age but also removing some benefits from future generations (eg Italy).


>What matters is the shape of the population pyramid that social programs require. You will need to have more younger people than older people and the population growth in the developed world simply isn't enough.

All of that is riding on the fact that there will be jobs for these people. As more and more jobs get pushed overseas or are automated away that doesn't seem realistic. So how can they contribute to the system?

> Removing the caps simply kicks the can down the road. European countries have the same issue and that's why many of them have been increasing the retirement age but also removing some benefits from future generations (eg Italy).

Great, so people will have to pay their fair share and we get more time to solve for the long term. There is no downside to force the extremely wealth to pay their fair share.


>As more and more jobs get pushed overseas

You can't look at this as a local problem. It's a problem that's going to affect every country in the world, because eventually all of them are going to have a stagnating population.

Automation is actually the one thing that could solve this issue. If we can make things cheap enough then maybe government programs can cover it, but that's a big if in the long term. It's more likely that some generation is going to get the short end of the stick - they'll have to pay for the benefits of the older generation, but they themselves won't get those benefits.

>Great, so people will have to pay their fair share and we get more time to solve for the long term. There is no downside to force the extremely wealth to pay their fair share.

You can think of it like that, but then you have to explain the taxes. Initially, payroll taxes for healthcare and pensions are there to cover the individual that's paying it. That is the fair share. If you remove the caps then this logic doesn't work anymore and it will be yet another tax where the government breaks their promise. I personally don't care if there are caps or not since it will never affect me.


I appreciate the civil discourse you and I are having!

>You can't look at this as a local problem. It's a problem that's going to affect every country in the world, because eventually all of them are going to have a stagnating population.

Yes, it is a global issue. But, unfortunately, I am less confident we can solve for issues that affect the global population. Maybe we will learn from our climate change issue that preventative measures must be taken. Reactionary responses will be too late.

>Automation is actually the one thing that could solve this issue. If we can make things cheap enough then maybe government programs can cover it, but that's a big if in the long term. It's more likely that some generation is going to get the short end of the stick - they'll have to pay for the benefits of the older generation, but they themselves won't get those benefits.

And while I agree some level of automation will help. What you describe in your last sentence is already happening in the US, and we are making no attempt to accommodate our tax structure to these changes. The bleed

>Initially, payroll taxes for healthcare and pensions are there to cover the individual that's paying it. That is the fair share.

Interesting, I was not aware. But wouldn't this be true for other things the government provides? Such as public roads and the like? When we have Amazon paying $0 in federal tax, but shipping products using public roads...we subsidize them. Or when the richest folk do the same by storing trillions of dollars in tax havens...we subsidize them.

So maybe we should have this conversation again once we convince folks to pay their fair share. :)

Cheers!


On the other hand, full employment and high wages?


That’s called the lump-of-labor fallacy. And regardless, an economy where a vast majority of the population has low-to-zero productivity due to age isn’t going to be great.


If sperm count is hurting than it could be indicative of low testosterone which would cause a whole host of health issues including a shorter life span.


Testosterone levels have been steadily declining for some time now. The testing companies such as LabCorp have been lowering their measuring range of acceptable testosterone levels in men because the measure of population has been declining. For example, in 2017 LabCorp lowered their range from 348 – 1197 ng/dL to 264 – 916 ng/dL[1].

[1] https://www.labcorp.com/assets/11476


> Something to be aware of, but we definitely aren't hurting for dogs or more humans.

If someone is unsuccessfully trying to conceive then they most definitely are hurting. The decision to have offspring is a personal one and it's actually quite scary for people to extend their own decision to not reproduce to others.

If you don't want to have kids, great, more power to you. To say that other people should not be having children is authoritarian bordering on eugenics.


Technically you would call thid a divergence in the explosion in population despite the apparent decline in the fertility indicators. Perhaps there is an attempt at rebalance


Sperm quality effects far more than chance to conceive.


we definitely aren't hurting for dogs or more humans.

Especially not the one dog which bit me in the calf a couple of hours ago, or the idiot owner who was 10 yards away and did not even try to call it back, not before, not during, not after. I was the one being hurt :-) I don't know about their sperm quality, but I have seen zero progress amongst farmers, who 40 years ago when I was a back-country kid wouldn't train their dog the smallest bit, and 40 years later still don't do anything about it in the mountains where I live now. Even the most shitfaced gutter punk trains his dog more, cares for it more and cares for what it may do more than those guys.

Yeah, I know, that was off-topic, but I had to tell it ;-)


Beer doesn't have sperm count


I wonder if they've ever found plastic microbeads in anyone's sperm


Testosterone disruption also leads to more mellow behavior. May be violent crime going down is because of the phtalates, PCB and the likes around us.


It's because we fixed lead pollution. Adding more pollution isn't going to help.

https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposur...

That said, I can't think of an easier problem for evolution to solve than this. I'm sure we'll get kids immune to plastic in a few more generations.


>It's because we fixed lead pollution.

No, that's just a theory about why violent crime has gone down. No one really knows for sure. Someone noticed that crime rates have gone down, and that this correlates with reduced usage of leaded gasoline in North America.

Remember also that global warming has been going up over the past few centuries, and this has an inverse correlation with the number of pirates on the high seas. Back in the days of Blackbeard, we didn't have problems with global warming. Does this mean that greatly reducing piracy has caused global warming? Of course not. Correlation does not prove causation.

The banning of leaded gasoline might in fact have caused a reduction in violent crime, but it's not proven at this point.


> Someone noticed that crime rates have gone down, and that this correlates with reduced usage of leaded gasoline in North America.

…and the rest of the world… and it always happens after lead regulation… and there's a reasonable mechanism… did you read the article?

> Correlation does not prove causation.

This is a "middle-brow dismissal".

Anyway, here's an RCT on lead reduction in children: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/app.20160056


That's one of the theories. Roe v Wade is another.


The Roe v Wade theory fails to explain similar results internationally, even in areas without legal access to abortion.


Remember how, when a guy announced that his wife was pregnant, his buddies would say "Oh you dog you!" ?


Look no further than standard self-care products and receipts. Possibly Teflon:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/...


Dr. Mercola is a quack. While there may be something to the teflon thing, citing Mercola doesn't give it a whole lot of credibility. He's an anti-vaxxer, he claims microwaves alter food's chemistry, says AIDS is caused by stress, not HIV, and says sunscreen causes cancer. Meanwhile, he sells, directly from his website, products that conveniently solve all the quackery fear mongering he spews.

Please do not cite this clown.


>he claims microwaves alter food's chemistry

To be fair, doesn't all cooking alter food's chemistry? In fact, isn't that the whole point of cooking? Look at potatoes for example: humans can't digest raw potato, so we learned to cook it eons ago because that changes it into a form we can digest.

So unless I'm missing something related to terminology, he's right about microwaves altering food chemistry, but it's just scare-mongering because you frequently want to alter food chemistry.

The rest of those things you cite are, of course, total BS.


Aside from that, it's a very dangerous mindset to say "look no further". We should always be looking further, trying to disprove our theories. They may be based on falsehoods.




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