‘Summer Praise for Peace’ plays as sperm count halves

A study shows that in just 50 years the sperm count dropped from 101 million per millilitre in 1973 to 49 million per millilitre in 2018.

A study shows that in just 50 years the sperm count dropped from 101 million per millilitre in 1973 to 49 million per millilitre in 2018.

Published Nov 20, 2022


Sam Nujoma, the former president of Namibia, once told Namibians on national television that children did not come from the internet and encouraged Namibians to follow the prescripts to multiply and fill the world.

After all Namibia’s almost 1 million population then, was and still remains far from filling Namibia’s vast lands even at more than a million today.

I was last in Namibia on the invitation of their Statistics Office and being a known quantity as a bean counter in the region, I often am asked the unfortunate question to which I have no answer, which is, “Why is our population so small?”

However, as a bean counter my job has only been to count the people and nothing more.

In their musical career Jeff Barry and The Archies released, “Summer Praise for Peace”, on the album “Sunshine” in 1970.

The song was about the world reaching 2 billion people 52 years ago and how its planetary limits would be affected and the prayer was for mitigation and adaptation.

A decade later hot on the heels of Jeff Barry and The Archies was “The Year 2000” by the O’Jays, released in 1980. It’s lyrics were about how old do you think you will be in the year 2000. In 1980 the year 2000 for a 20-year-old looked very far and it was just too hard to imagine it.

The UN just released a report on Tuesday that said the 8 billionth product of conception was expelled or extracted from its mother’s womb and it showed signs of life on that day. The world is now four times what it was 52 years ago.

Against this backdrop was COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, this week.

Our planet is burning.

While the question of climate change and the threat it poses to world peace has received decibels no ear can contain, another major threat was announced in a study released on October 11.

In a journal article by Hagai Levine et al titled, “Temporal Trends in Sperm Count: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis of samples collected globally in the 20th and 21st centuries”.

It never rains but it pours. They conclude that while the volume of semen remains the same, the sperm count is declining at an accelerated pace globally.

In about 50 years the sperm count dropped by half from 101 million per millilitre in 1973 to 49 million per millilitre in 2018. The rate of change is intensifying with a 2.64 deterioration rate per year in 2018 compared to the deterioration rate of 1.16 per year in 1972 globally.

The decline in sperm count combined with use of contraception may just imply that the decline in the rate of fertility is compounded by halving the chances of a successful contraception.

This fact places the former Namibian president's wish to grow the country’s population in jeopardy. So even if bedrooms in Namibia get warmed up, the bullets are too few to make it to the target.

The study unfortunately does not say nor even speculate on why volumes have declined. But the correlation between accelerated drop in sperm count and deterioration in planetary resources may just be a helpful ally should the study show causality. This is particularly if the count of essentials to life showed that it was caused by climate change.

Speedy changes in the behaviour of males towards mitigation and adaptation of climate change in order to immediately halt and reverse depleted volumes of essentials and preserve the human species from extinction by restoring sperm count to levels so required for populations to not only replenish itself but grow, may occur.

If you want change to occur, act on self-interest and perhaps Jeff Barry and The Archies’s “Summer Praise for Peace” and “The Year 2000” by the O’Jays may have a more receptive male audience and that will make Nujoma happy again about Namibian men.

Dr Pali Lehohla

Dr Pali Lehohla is the director of the Economic Modelling Academy, a Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, a research associate at Oxford University, a board member of Institute for Economic Justice at Wits and a distinguished alumni of the University of Ghana. He is the former statistician-general of South Africa.