Sun | Apr 23, 2017

Earth Day here and there and in Liberland

Published:Sunday | April 26, 2015 | 4:00 AMMartin Henry

Human sperm count has been dropping precipitously over the last several years.

Our beloved ganja, now decriminalised here for up to 2oz and legalised in a couple of US states, is supposed to be not only reducing sperm count, but also the quantity of seminal fluid.

It is also turning out that ganja is a heavy drinker. NBC ran a story July last year, 'Water-guzzling pot plants draining drought-wracked California'. We will see how things turn out in Xaymaca, the land of wood and water, with ganja-growing for certain purposes now legit. We could get some good early data, though, out of the Black River wetlands, which are an important centre of cultivation, although we didn't do well with rice there with all that water. Water is one of the huge environmental issues of the present and the future.

Not everywhere bun weed like we do, so, obviously, the universal drop in sperm count must be happening for other reasons. What should scare us into needing Viagra is the projection that the benchmark infertility count level could be reached early in this century. Not for a man or two, here and there, but for the human race everywhere.

An Internet Journal of Urology has said, "Assuming this data is correct, then the cause (or causes) must lie with changes in our environment or lifestyle over the past few years. We have released endocrine disruptors to our environment over time, especially in Western industrialised countries, where these horrific changes are most pronounced.

"If the decrease in sperm counts were to continue at the rate that it is, the journal cautioned, "then in a few years, we will witness widespread male infertility. To date, it remains unknown why this is happening, and the available preventative measures, which can be taken to avoid a continuation of this trend, are not common knowledge."

But "if the sperm count decrease is to stop, ultimately, the causative agent/agents must be found or reduced. This is difficult because of the wide use of these chemicals worldwide. Another factor to consider is that the effects of these chemicals is additive, i.e., not one agent is to blame. Thus, the situation is complicated, and there are no quick and easy solutions. The scale of the problem is overwhelming as a substantial amount of the global economy relies on these chemicals, which are widely used in modern, everyday life."

On the occasion of Earth Day 2015, which was last Wednesday, I have just picked on one piece of data that hits us below the belt exactly where it hurts most to emphasise the point that we are in a gigantic global environmental pickle.

Recovering from smoke invasion from the 2015 Riverton dump fire around the capital city, delivering benzene, etc, into our systems, we, of course, have to do our bit to "nuh dutty up Jamaica", to conserve our island environment, including the Negril beach, over which there is a major fuss about how best to do it. But these are the small problems in a small place despite our big-headedness. Globally, we are confronted with climate change. For the first time, we even have a ministry named specifically to deal with climate change.

The international scientific establishment is strongly committed to the doctrine of global warming from human action, especially the burning of fossil fuels, on which modern civilisation is absolutely dependent for its massive energy needs. And they have captured the political establishment. There are substantial challenges to the doctrine accumulating that just can't be ignored, ridiculed or shouted down.

What seems to be more the point of fact is that the planet is blowing hot and cold all at once, delivering more and bigger floods and droughts, hurricanes and blizzards. So, right in the middle of a report out of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that March 2015 was the hottest March on record, there was a note that there were chunks of the globe that had been cooler to much cooler than average at the same time.

Just like the cause of human sperm count reduction, we may not at the moment know as much as we'd like to and need to about climate change. If fossil fuels are, indeed, a significant cause, we are in even bigger trouble than the authorities are letting on. The carbon dioxide is already up there in trillions of tons, and there is no prospect whatsoever of dramatically cutting fossil fuel, despite the many international conferences and protocols.

There are really only two alternatives to the world's dependence on oil, gas and coal. Those alternatives are nuclear and the broad category of renewables. The world is running scared of nuclear power, and there is the huge problem of radioactive waste disposal.

Renewables may reduce dependence but cannot seriously replace the abundant and cheaply available fossil fuels neither in quantity nor reliability. And more and more countries are discovering that the input energy costs of extracting energy from renewables makes them more expensive, with a poor cost-benefit analysis.

In the glow of Earth Day, we should be devoting more intellectual energy and more public policy resources to adapting to climate change, which should, until we know better, be regarded as an inevitability rather than trying to fight it in ways clearly damaging to current economic activity. In any case, rising male infertility, coupled with rising non-reproductive sexuality, will adjust the human population downwards.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in its last Geo Report, Geo-5, in 2012, warned that the 'World Remains on Unsustainable Track Despite Hundreds of Internationally Agreed Goals and Objectives'.

"The world," UNEP cautioned, "continues to speed down an unsustainable path despite over 500 internationally agreed goals and objectives to support the sustainable management of the environment and improve human well-being." Geo-5 assessed 90 of the most-important environmental goals and objectives and found that significant progress had only been made in four.

The report cautions that if humanity does not urgently change its ways, several critical thresholds may be exceeded, beyond which abrupt and generally irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet could occur.

Commenting on the overall state of the global environment, Geo-5 said scientific evidence shows that Earth systems are being pushed towards their biophysical limits, with evidence that these limits are close and have, in some cases, been exceeded.

What do you do with a three-square-mile patch of earth that no state wants? Capture it, as we do with unoccupied land in Jamaica, and establish a new state, as we have attempted to do in places like Tivoli Gardens. That's what Vit Jedlicka, a 31-year-old Czech politician from the liberal right-wing Free Citizens Party, has done with a bit of land on the Danube River stuck between Croatia and Serbia - one of the perpetual war zones of this world - and which neither country claims.

The new state, Liberland, which is more than 17 times the size of the Vatican state (0.17 square mile), will be green. Solar panels will ensure energy self-sufficiency, though "it would be nice to have cross-border electrical wires," President Jedlicka says.

Liberland will be a "constitutional republic with direct democracy features".

Interest in citizenship is strong. In four days, there have been 250,000 applications. Anyone wanting to acquire Liberland citizenship must respect other people and their views, respect private property, have no criminal record, and have no record as communists, Nazis or other extremists. But surely, Liberland will have to establish other boundaries to acceptable views as every other viable state has had to do. But another interesting experiment in establishing a utopian state with the added advantage of doing so from scratch. We have a good idea from history of the out-turn of these experiments.

President Jedlicka will have to wrestle not only with human nature, but with an increasingly hostile environment like the rest of the world. Last year saw record flooding in the Danube River basin from the heaviest precipitation in the region in recorded history. Extreme weather has been frequent in the region. The 2011-2012 winter was very cold and harsh, while the following summer was extremely hot and dry, with record droughts.

And the citizens of tiny Liberland will have to wrestle with the problem of forming a government and preventing Vit Jedlicka from wanting to be president for life as founder of the state. He has numerous antecedents.

- Martin Henry is a university administrator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and medhen@gmail.com.