14 10 2007



In the movie Children of Men, we visit a near future world in which women had stopped having children almost twenty years previously, a world coming unglued as various, unspecified tragedies have destroyed the social fabric of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, leaving only England keeping a tight, dictatorial grip on order. I hate to be the one to break the story to you, but something similar seems to be afoot.


Inuit mothers are having a hard time making boy babies, with two girls born for every boy—hey, sounds like a pop song, doesn’t it? But the boys who are born are often underweight and sickly. Two girls for every nerd? Naah…..bad taste, Holsinger. Some villages are reporting that no male children have been born in the last several years. Scientists have investigated this phenomenon and found a culprit—actually, several. DDT, PCB, and the supposedly less-toxic substitutes for PCB that have come into widespread use since it was banned are turning up in incredibly high quantities in the bodies of Inuit who follow their traditional, mostly-wild meat diet. PCB and DDT were banned because they don’t break down, so the gotta accumulate somewhere. The Foreign Minister of Greenland, Aleqa Hammond, jokes about this, saying, “If you ate me, you would die,” but it’s no laughing matter. We’ve been discovering sexual anomalies caused by pollution in other species, but this is the first report we have of it cropping up in humans. As I understand the hormonal changes these chemicals cause in unborn babies, even babies conceived with a Y chromosome will come out looking female. I’m surprised they haven’t done this leg of the research.


Furthermore, this problem is not completely confined to the Inuit. Statistical research on the whole Northern Hemisphere reveals that there have been a quarter million fewer male babies born in the last few years than would be expected by the ratio that was prevalent through 1970. Is this a minor anomaly, or will it prove to be a growing phenomenon? Will the human race commit suicide by ending its ability to breed? Certainly sperm banks could provide a mid-term answer, and there may be scientific breakthroughs in the realm of parthenogenesis, but we’re not going to ban PCB substitutes. It would be too disastrous to the sacred economy, dontcha know?


I have often said that, if the human race expires and there is an autopsy, the verdict will likely be, “testosterone poisoning.” Maybe some kind of cosmic justice is afoot.


While we’e in the realm of possible human futures, I want to congratulate Doris Lessing on her Nobel Prize. I first encountered her work nearly twenty years ago, and her acute vision, lively style, and imagination have never disappointed me. From the wry realism of The Golden Notebooks to the eerily prescient science fiction of Canopus In Argos to the lucid , visionary psychology of Briefing for a Descent into Hell, she has not wasted a word, let alone a page. If you have never read her, go find some of her work and start in. You will be amply rewarded. And don’t wait for movie versions. She refuses to water her work down for film, and she’s right. Her stories are too rich to be crammed in to two hours of dialogue and moving pictures—but she helped Philip Glass make operas out of The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five and The Making of the Representative for Planet Eight. She’s got class.


I’m going to leave you with a couple of quotes from recent interviews with her. In The Washington Post, she said


“When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s,” she recalls. “What I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire _ nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?” ….

“Quite a few people think it wouldn’t take very much to return to a few warrior bands, with a few breeding women. Our society is dependent on some precarious mechanisms, and they are very dicey. They can easily collapse.”


and she told The Weekly Standard

“I keep trying to persuade myself that it’s unimportant, the fact that this culture is coming to an end, or probably is. So what? But when I think of the sheer pleasure of it – that hurts too.


music: Incredible String Band, October Song




One response

10 11 2007

I’ve thought for a few years that the people around me are having considerably more girls than boys. I have no scientific studies to confirm that–only what I see. But something seems out of whack to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: