"Change will come when the white men in this society realize the chemicals in the environment are causing their testicles to shrink. Then the money's going to flow like water to the environmental movement." Native American author and activist Winona LaDuke, quoting Indigenous Environmental Network founder Tom Goldtooth.
A certain frog maniac friend recently sent me an e-mail about the year 2008 being the Year of the Frog. I would recommend taking a look at this site to become informed about what is happening worldwide to, and the importance of, these little amphibians. What I found particularly telling was this information about amphibians as environmental health indicators:
Amphibians’ thin skins help them drink and breathe, but also make them susceptible to environmental contaminants, particularly agricultural, industrial, and pharmaceutical chemicals. For example, atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in the US with an estimated 61 to 73 million pounds used per year during the 1990s. Scientific studies have found that atrazine may cause a variety of cancers and act as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the feminizing hormone estrogen and harming human and animal reproductive and hormone systems. Atrazine is generally applied in spring and can accumulate in amphibian breeding pools.
According to this fact sheet from the Natural Resources Defense Council, it’s not only frogs that are showing alarming signs of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Fish in the Great Lakes, which are contaminated with PCBs and other human-made chemicals, have numerous reproductive problems as well as abnormal swelling of the thyroid glands. Fish-eating birds in the Great Lakes area, such as eagles, terns, and gulls, have shown similar dysfunctions. And since all vertebrates, including humans, are fundamentally similar during early embryonic development they (we) are similarly susceptible to chemically-altering changes that occur.
How fitting it is that amphibians, whose thin skins and weighty little bodies make them so testicle-like, are serving as indicators for changes in the environment that are known to affect reproductive health. And that is the somewhat known part of the equation. Who knows what else is linked to the pervasive use of chemicals that are manufactured and applied and disposed that invariably end up in the environment and bioaccumulate in our bodies? We can imagine the impact of these renegade chemicals and we know it isn't pretty.
It’s the year of the frog. Perhaps, for many, it is a stretch to feel a connection to this strange-looking species that span this planet. So here's a little spring peeper to put some perspective on this issue and why you should care. All you men out there, just think of your testes as your own thin-skinned, bulbous and weighty frog that you keep warm and carry with you everywhere. Women, we are all mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to someone who carries a life-giving frog.
Clearly the money is not flowing like water to the environmental movement yet, so the message hasn’t gotten out to the white men and everybody else about those shrinking testicles. Major changes still need to happen, at many different levels. To some extent I know I’m preaching to the choir here about supporting the work that is being done and reducing your own chemical load, because you know what to do. But we can all do a little bit more, try a little harder. Listen to what the messengers are telling and do your part to protect those frogs.