I will this time temporarily deviate from the usual style and subject of Volcanocafé. The reason I am doing that is due to the grave importance about which I am writing. But rest assured that there will be a sideshow of volcanism, and even some geology.
For those who do not wish to have their sunny happy day imposed upon, I suggest not reading further.
We live in a world filled with artificial and natural chemicals. On any given year the amount of new man-made chemicals is roughly 10 000. Very few of these are tested if they have an impact on humans. The exceptions are medications and food additives. The rest are untested.
Most of these chemical compounds are helpful and benign to humans, at least used as intended and in moderation. But, some are outright dangerous to human life.
We now live in a geological epoch called Anthropocene, it is an age defined by the layer of human produced ash and chemicals that is now covering the surface of planet Earth. In this layer an increasing amount of harmful chemicals reside.
To date humanity has banned 1 chemical on a global scale, and that is Freon. PCBs and phthalates are banned in many countries, but not all. And there are others that are banned at a per country basis.
So, to sum it up: on any given year we are introducing hundreds of chemical compounds with unknown properties on human life expectancy.
I could of course make a never-ending list of chemicals that are known to be harmful, but the effects are more interesting. Below I will concentrate on a single effect just to make a point.
Every sperm is sacred
In the early seventies humanity reached peak sperm. Never before had we had so many healthy swimming sperms as we did then. The reason for this is simple, nutrition and healthcare. At that time the average man produced a whopping 380 million nicely swimming sperms per ejaculation.
For some time, we have known that both the number and quality of them has declined. There has though not been a reliable aggregate study around to tell us exactly how much of it has disappeared.
Now we have that data thanks to a study that aggregated 185 research studies into one massive dataset. And the news is literally life changing.
In the last 40 years 52.4 percent of all human sperm has disappeared. The numbers vary a bit on a global scale, but even the super-sperm of Finland has started to go extinct. It was previously believed that Finnish sperm was impervious to the phenomenon, but now even those numbers have started to drop. Still it seems like Finland will be the last naturally fertile country on the planet.
These figures are of course an average. It means that more men are infertile, or have fewer healthy swimming sperm, or a lowered sperm production rate. At the same time there are still men out there happily producing north of 380 million happy campers.
The problem is that if the trend is linear, we the humans will be on average infertile in 38 years. Those few who can still produce healthy swimmers will by then have a quite comfortable lifestyle producing swimmers for an ever increasing amount of artificial inseminations. The other option is that it is not linear, and that we will reach Spermageddon quite a bit sooner.
The lack of sperm will not be the end of humanity. For quite some time we will be able to rely on stoic Finns producing for the human survival, or for that matter artificial sperm. The big problem is that the cost of artificial insemination is to large for a big part of humanity. Then we have a majority that can perhaps scrounge up enough money for one child.
In the western world we will probably just continue to produce children as there was no tomorrow, problem is just that we do not produce a lot of them. The western birth-rate has been dwindling for quite some time as we try to juggle life, work, education and so on.
Based on the impending Spermageddon we would quite simply reach peak-humanity in a decade or two, and then we would diminish to about a billion humans. And that would be good news, that is a number that the world can comfortably sustain and nourish if we act responsibly for a change.
Problem is that we do not have a good grip on why this is happening. All that we know is that it is happening to all mammals and reptiles. If we had lived in a world that was sane this is the time that governments would pour billions into research, but that is not likely in our current times.
There are though suspects to be found. One group is the common hormone contraceptives. Unlike human produced hormones they have a far longer duration, so we can find them in trace amounts in all water on the planet.
Another suspect is hormone-derived pesticides. Also a few plastics are suspected. The big problem here is that we do not know for sure, all we know is that something is affecting all animal life on the planet in a very negative way.
If it was only the sperm, we would solve the problem and humanity would end up blissfully diminished in amount to perhaps one billion. Problem is that we are talking about just one problem. There are others out there that will further gnaw on that number, and if we are unlucky that number will drop down to zero (together with pretty much all other life on the planet).
And remember that every day that doomsday mountain of new untested chemicals is increasing. What we need is regulation on introduction of new chemicals stating that it must be trialled before being introduced on the market. And we need to trial all previously introduced chemicals. There is just no room for any cheating if we wish to survive as a species.
Where is that volcano?
In the end there are just 3 scenarios available to humanity, and these 3 scenarios are viable for all of our problems ranging from raw materials shortage via global warming to us poisoning ourselves.
The first should be that we the humans get our shit together and start to clean up our own garbage pile. This would take global cooperation on a scale hitherto unseen. If we were truly an intelligent species that is exactly what we would do, but now we are the average garden stupid humanity, so we will not.
Next alternative is to wait until we have started to die off in such a big rate that even the dimmest of humans will get the message, and then we clean our shit up. At this point all the solutions would be quite draconian.
The third option is a bit more surprising. And that is that we suffer from either a Chicxulub event or a super volcanic eruption. And the super volcanic option is better.
The first benefit would be that a large portion of humanity would die in a short timespan. This would dramatically reduce the human induced pollution. I know that this sounds incredibly grim, but it is nonetheless a reality.
The second advantage would be that the ash would help to cover up the toxic layer that we humans have produced. And the third is that the massive amount of sulphates would produce acid rains that would help to either destroy, or leach, most of the chemicals.
This all sounds grim, and it is, because we are talking about the potential end of humanity. Even at best we are talking about quite a bit of hardship and misery for us who are living now and the next couple of generations.
There is though a sunny side to it all, and I am a great optimist. If our great grandchildren are just a modicum more intelligent than we are they will live in a true golden age of humanity. They will truly live in a land of plenty as long as they are careful and do not over-populate the world again.
I do though wish that we will instead choose the first option and that we quickly will start to clean up our act. That way we can control the rate of our diminishment and safeguard our future with far less misery and hardship. I really think this is what is going to happen, I am ever the happy camper even as I venture out into the dark and cold night of reality.
I promise to get back to a more directly volcano related article next time. This was just something that I felt that I had to write about due to the severity of the issue.