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3.   22.4.13

 The parts that others dare not reach

Does the internet stretch boundaries too far? Do human beings need barriers and if so who should set them?

Never before has it been possible to be so outspoken, never before has it been possible to reach so many other minds in so little time. The internet reaches into parts that other beers fear to tread. 

Is the internet an invasion? Is it a needed invasion? There is no doubt it is changing the face of our earth and the old guard hang on by the skin of their teeth.
It is because of this we have the great divide as never before. There are those in power who were not on the cusp of the internet, those who technology has left behind.

 Today young children in Primary Schools are capable of teaching older people how to operate and engage in computers. As with every age the young take up the baton and the old wolves retire to the back of the pack and take the crumbs from the table. 

I wondered today about Margaret Thatcher, one of the old guard if ever there was one. I wonder did she use a computer, I have my doubts. We see the old guard flocking to her defence even in death. 

In the early days of the internet I attended an online wedding and an online funeral. Yes it is possible and they were more emotional to me at that time than a traditional wedding or funeral. It proved to me that it is possible to channel your emotions through a machine and still be a human being. It is possible to stay human and use the internet. Yet at the moment, to those who have not entered the realms of that other cyber world, it is as alien to them as the concept of flying once was to many people. It was often said, a hundred years ago, if we were meant to fly we would have been given wings.  

Charles Arthur of the Guardian Newspaper speaks of the power of the internet in this piece :- 

“Traditional top-down journalism – proprietors, editors, and journalists commissioning, writing, and editing stories under the newsroom’s fluorescent lights with no input from the public – has been seriously disrupted. The public wants in – and now has the means of playing a part in challenging journalists and those in power. In fact, we’re slowly seeing the emergence of a new nexus between media, citizens, and their potential impact on events.”

So the internet is breaking new ground but is it the cause of so many changes which have come about in the way people socialize and with whom? 

We spoke of how the drink driving laws changed peoples behavior and how the smoking ban has added to those changes in behavioral patterns; so is the internet also contributing to this change and is that all there is? 

Perhaps not, perhaps the internet is, as many people state, nothing but a facilitator, a vehicle for major changes that are taking place. 

One question that has been bandied about for a long time  is "Were there so many gay people prior to the  internet?" "Were they all hidden until homosexuality was legalized, or has the internet been the cause of many people becoming gay?"

My research into this question shocked me to the core. 

There are far more people on this planet than when I was a child and while it is easier to communicate and reach those people, the increasing population brings more pollution. The industrial revolution brought heavy industry to this country whose scars it still bears. Iron, steel, coal and copper production left pollution in its wake. 

I did not think that the aftermath of this industry could be having an effect  far beyond the scars you can see. 

One of the pollutants of heavy industry is mercury. Come to think of it the new low energy use light bulbs we have all been forced to switch to have mercury in them. We know mercury is a poison but did you know this :- 

"A new study on white ibis breeding has discovered that mercury pollution is resulting in males of the species mating with each other."

Dr. Peter Frederick of the University of Florida embarked on the five-year research to determine what was significantly impacting the reproduction of the birds, but even he was stunned by the findings. "We knew mercury could depress their testosterone levels but we didn't expect this," Frederick told the Telegraph. 

According to Nature.com, coal-fired plants and gold mining are the main sources of global mercury pollution, though the burning of medical and municipal waste is likely the prime culprit in Florida, ingested by the wetlands birds through their food sources. 

The study used 160 young ibises split into 4 groups that were provided a diet with varying levels of mercury. 55 percent of the males given a high-mercury diet ended up nesting with other males, and the degree of homosexual pairing increased with all groups as mercury exposure likewise increased. Male birds exposed to mercury also displayed less courtship behaviors, and were less likely to be approached by females. 

In a UF press release, Frederick claims that he has spent thousands of hours in the field documenting ibis mating behavior in areas with no mercury contamination, and never once witnessed males pairing with other males." 


It appears we have problems in Wales also :-

"WELSH scientists have uncovered a worrying trend of shrinking male sex organs in otters - in what experts warn is also becoming a human problem.

The research raises the possibility that modern chemicals may be to blame for the alarming phenomenon.

A report co-authored by the Cardiff University Otter Project indicated the animal, one of the country's best-loved predator species, may not be in the rudest reproductive health.

Analysis of several indicators of health in male otters found signs of changes that gave "cause for concern".

The new report raises the question as to whether endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) - also known as hormone disrupters - could be to blame for the shrivelling tackle.

And the study points in the same direction as research in humans - with increased numbers of baby boys born with undescended testicles, sex organ malformation and reduced sperm counts. 

A Cardiff University Otter Project researcher told Wales on Sunday they weren't certain of exactly what was causing the problem and they couldn't predict a decrease in the otter population because of it.

"It's just worrying that we don't know what that could lead to and we just need to do more research and hopefully find out what's causing these trends," she said.

"Because otters are a top predator and chemicals accumulate up the food chain - otters are right at the top - chemicals accumulate in their bodies.

"We don't know what's causing the reduction, it could be a chemical or could be something else, we just don't know. We need to broaden the chemicals we screen for to underpin what's causing this trend."

High levels of persistent organic pollutants were probably to blame for a crash in otter populations in the UK in the 1970s.

The Environment Agency funded post-mortem examinations of otters found dead in Wales and England since the 1990s revealing a gradual decline in pollutants over time, as otter populations have increased. But the new study co-authored by the Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring (CHEM) Trust suggests there are links between hormone disrupting chemicals and problems with male reproductive health.

Leading otter researcher Dr Eleanor Kean, of Cardiff University's School of Biosciences, helped write the study with Dr Elizabeth Chadwick.

She said: "The otter is an excellent indicator of the health of the UK environment, particularly aquatic systems.......................

Gwynne Lyons, director of the (CHEM) Trust, said the study showed it was time to end the complacency surrounding male reproductive health in humans as well as other species.......................

........... "These findings highlight that it is time to end the complacency about the effects of pollutants on male reproductive health, particularly as some of the effects reported in otters may be caused by the same EDCs that are suspected to contribute to the declining trends in men's reproductive health and cause testicular cancer, undescended testes and low sperm count."

She said it should act as a "warning flag" to health bigwigs but claimed instead regulation of chemicals had dropped off.......................

.............."How EDCs are managed in the EU is now up for grabs as discussions are now ongoing amongst EU experts. However, unfortunately the UK wants to limit the number of EDCs that are effectively regulated."


Byline: SIMON GASKELL simon.gaskell@walesonline.co.uk

and yet again :-

Nearly all male smallmouth bass in parts of the Potomac River basin have hermaphroditic characteristics......................... 

These findings, published in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health by researchers from the United States Geological Survey, are the starkest evidence yet of physiological malfunctions caused by human pollution. Even more worryingly, the same chemicals that likely turned the fish intersex are present in our own drinking water.....................................

....................But when fellow Wired Science contributor Alexis Madrigal asked if I’d seen the story, he pointed out the numbers: in heavily farmed and populated areas of the Potomac, up to three-quarters of all male bass have immature female eggs in their testes. In parts of the Shenandoah River, the proportion rises to a flat 100 percent. Those numbers don’t just represent a few reproductively tweaked individuals. We’re talking about entire populations — and if the plight of fishes doesn’t worry you too much, you might want to think about what that could mean for people................... 

........................Endocrine disruptors — chemicals that mimic human sex hormones — are almost certainly to blame. They’re used in heavy industry, agriculture and in assorted pharmaceutical and personal care products. They enter watersheds through waste and agricultural runoff, and eventually end up in our drinking supplies.
What are the human consequences? It’s hard to say; endocrine disruptors cause cancer and reproductive disorders in lab animals, but the epidemiology necessary to figure out their environmental effects on people is extraordinarily complicated, perhaps even impossible in practical terms. But some researchers say that endocrine disruptors are a cause of national rises in breast cancer and drops in sperm counts.
And when massive numbers of male fish start turning into females, it’s time to pay attention................................


 ..................Professor Sumpter became involved after the Department of the Environment asked him to investigate reports of fish found with both male and female sexual characteristics in the river Lee, a tributary of the Thames. The scientists have been told by the department, which funded the research, not to name the affected rivers for fear of causing public alarm....................... .  In every river where the fish survived - some 15 in all throughout mainland Britain - he has found that male trout make female yolk................................ 

Research in the US has shown that nonylphenol, which is found in plastic wrappings, furniture polishes, many toiletries, skin creams, herbicides and pesticides, could behave as an oestrogen. Further research has confirmed that nonylphenol can cause male trout to produce the female yolk protein. Unfortunately, this does not yet constitute proof that it is nonylphenol in the sewage effluent that causes hermaphrodite fish to develop - and it falls far short of proof that it can be responsible for falling sperm counts in humans..................................... 

The Drinking Water Inspectorate - the Government's watchdog on water quality - says that Professor Sumpter has no evidence that nonylphenols are present in drinking water. But the professor warned: 'What one's got is a potential problem that could be very serious. If there really are oestrogenic effects on male fertility then this is a major issue.' 


Is this combination of factors the reason for the ever increasing amount of homosexual behavior amongst people? Is the internet merely a vehicle to enable those men who are going the way of the fish and the otters to know they are not alone. Is this natures way of reducing the number of people on the planet.

I leave you to decide.

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