Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another TV Program Review: "The Disappearing Male"

When the CBC gets depressed (for example, when there is no hockey...) they present some rather excellent documentaries. One of these is shown as a regular program, the Doc Zone. We recently viddied an excellent episode, "The Disappearing Male". This episode scared the fertilizer out of us - figuratively. Warning: CBC Television gets very "European" at times. During this episode, you will viddy several infant male genitalia and non-human (alligator) genitalia. But, this is done in an expository, scientific and responsible way. The CBC does not even warn you that you might find some of their televised content objectionable. Please get parental or guardian permission (if you are 18 or under) if you choose to viddy any of The Doc Zone programs, excellent though they are. That said, this episode is not to be missed.

The title is a perfect match for the main theme(s) of the episode. Males, human and non-human, appear to be shrinking in genitalia, sexual features and, as a consequence, populations. Take the case of the little town of Aamjiwnaang near Sarnia, Canada and across the river border from Marysville, Michigan. The local population there has difficulty producing male (human) offspring. Girls are almost exclusively produced. The parents and populace are very concerned, as they want, of course, some male children. They and the episode producers pointed out that they are virtually next door to a giant petrochemical plant complex - unnamed in the episode.

The main product or products of this complex appears to be bisphenol A and phthalate plasticizers, or so we are led to believe. According to the testimony given in many of the scientist interviews, BPA and phthalates are becoming present in the environment in sufficient quantities to interfere with normal biological reproduction. That is, these good people are making scientific connections between the presence of these things in the environment and the degradation of reproductive health. It seems that these things are affecting adult male productivity and is appearing as a cause of diminised male births and male genitalia - perhaps in all species. The town of Aamjiwnaang recently hosted a scientific conference on the subject. At least some of the scientists viewed what is happening there as "the first sign of extinction". Specifically, extinction of Homo sapiens. (Warning: the Wikipedia has posted the depiction of two nude humans from the Pioneer Plaque - OK, so we might be getting a little carried away).

The biologist interviewed in Florida is investigating the reproductive health and apparatus of (male - we assume he is by nature studying females as well) of the alligator. The size of the male genitalia was shown (like we said...) to be reduced in size. And to the scientists, yes, size does matter. It matters in the reproductive process. The alligators are not going to be able to reproduce if the genitalia size keeps reducing... Translation: potential extinction.

Parents of mostly female children were interviewed. One of the male parents was embarrassed to report that his sperm count is low and so is the motility. Translation: heterosexual couples with this medical/biological condition may not be able to produce male offspring. No sons. No males. No reproduction. You can see where this is going.

Further, the scientists report that the standard for sperm counts has been reduced. It used to be that the average human male had about 60 million per milliliter (or some such amount, we're going from memory here). The current and reduced standard is something like 10 million. We were told that whatever the reduced standard is now, it is a potential threat to human reproduction.

Not to dispute the findings reported, Wolfram Alpha calculated the human population for 3084 to be around 20 to 21 trillion. We wish the producers had thrown in some rough calculations for the population explosion or implosion, whichever the case might be... Is Malthus wrong?

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