Thursday, September 07, 2006

Weird Science: Not just a fish story

There is a story in today's Chicago Sun Times about the discovery in the Potomac river system of smallmouth bass with both sex organs. The most likely culprit for this natural oddity are manmade contaminants that have been dumped into the water. Scientists have made similar discoveries before, and the careless production and disposal of chemicals without consideration for their impact on the environment is one of our society's worst legacies. How the inundation of our water supply with these pollutants will affect the health of future generations is an unknown. The Bush administration likes to use that uncertainty to its advantage, arguing that the "science" isn't yet in on these issues, but do we really want to gamble with our children's well-being that way?

The Christian right likes to complain about the ways in which science can "play God," especially as it relates to Stem Cell Research and end-of-life decisions, but you rarely hear them question such environmental issues as these. That silence speaks volumes as to their real agenda, which is political and not moral. What could be more god-like than altering the genetic make up of animal species? The chemicals in question are often rushed to market without proper research as to possible environmental and health affects. The fact that the damage wrought is an unforseen consequence of for-profit science makes it no less criminal.

Fish that are both male and female discovered in Potomac

WASHINGTON -- Scientists say abnormal "intersex" fish, with both male and female characteristics, have been discovered in the Potomac River and its tributaries across the Capitol Region, raising questions about how contaminants are affecting millions of people who drink tap water there.

"I don't know, and I don't think anybody knows, the answer to that question right now: Is the effect in the fish transferable to humans?" said Thomas Jacobus, general manager of the Washington Aqueduct, which filters river water for residents to drink in the District of Columbia, Arlington, Va., and Falls Church, Va. ...

In the past 10 years, pollutants mimicking hormones have raised alarms around the world as alligators, frogs, polar bears and other animals have developed abnormalities.

Scientists have identified a large number of pollutants that could be to blame -- including human estrogen from processed sewage, animal estrogen from farm manure, certain pesticides and soap additives.

Here's another related article I found on the Web:

It's Not Easy Being Green: Are weed-killers turning frogs into hermaphrodites?
by William Souder, Harpers

And that article brought to mind a book by Tom Robbins -- Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas -- in which one of the motifs is the dissapearance of the Earth's frogs. Here's an interesting quote from that book that I think speaks well to the issue at hand:

Nature has always set limits on growth: limits on the physical size of individual species, limits on the size of populations. Did we really believe capitalism was exempt from the laws of nature? Did we really confuse endless consumption with endless progress?
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