Tracking the Vanishing Frogs
- Supplement
Our Stolen Future

Our Stolen Future

Book assignments may be done individually or in groups of no more than three people. If working in a group, all of you should read the book, and have thought about the answers before you meet and finalize the answers. All group assignments must be signed by hand by each of the members of the group. The signatures denote the agreement of the group that all members participated in the preparation of the answers. All group members receive the same grade.

Do this assignment after you complete reading the book.

  1. Explain the term hormone. How do hormones work in general? Why are hormones important in the proper functioning of our body?

    Using the diagram on page 33 of Stolen Future, and the accompanying text as well as the enclosed table (from the book, Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts et al. ), arrange the following information in a table similar to the one shown. You may have to refer to other sources on endocrinology.

    Gland or tissue

    Hormones secreted
    Function of hormones

  2. Each of the following quotations is from the page indicated. For each sentence, underline the main phrases. Describe the context and significance of each in a paragraph or so, explaining the main points. Be specific (with examples, etc.).

    1. Each incident was a clear sign that something was seriously wrong, but for years no one recognized that these disparate phenomena were all connected. (page 10)

      This is a summing up of Chapter I. The authors describe a number of events that occurred in various parts of the earth from 1950 to 1992. These events were:

      - decreased mating in the Florida eagle population and a scientist's conclusion in 1952 that 80% of Florida's eagles had become sterile;

      - disappearance of otters in England in the late 1950s, suspected to be due to pesticides, especially dieldrin;

      - sterility in minks on ranches in Michigan in the mid-1960s, eventually linked to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);

      - d
      evelopmental abnormalities in herring gull chicks and eggs in Lake Ontario, suspected as due to dioxin contamination of water (1970)

      - s
      ame-sex nesting behavior in…

      - (complete the list in class)

      All these seemingly different but serious incidents have to do with disruption of the way the reproductive hormone system works. They are disparate as they happened in different parts of the world over a several decades. The serious consequence is unhealthy, declining populations and evolutionary consequences. That no one recognized the common points is an illustration of how environmental phenomena often manifest broadly and gradually, and the usual way in which science is done, it is hard to see the commonalities and get to the root cause. Systemic thinking as discussed in the midterm examination is vital to comprehending environmental problems.

      The ethos of science requires absolute and reproducible proof before a result is acknowledged as a definitive fact. Early results in environmental observations are usually vague because of confounding from influences other than the agent under scrutiny. These facts lead to a number of years having to pass before scientists agree that an agent is harmful in small quantities in the environment. In addition, this honest disagreement is used by vested interests to obtain the influence of some scientists and the media to dispute or underplay the harm.

    2. Plants containing estrogen mimics produce them according to a seasonal pattern that fits perfectly with this strategy. (p. 78)

    3. These man-made estrogen mimics differ in fundamental ways from plant estrogen. (p. 81)

    4. ... contrary to what many had thought, its greatest threat was not cancer. The newly emerging hazard was its power to disrupt hormones. (p. 117)

    5. Given this exquisite sensitivity, even small amounts of a weak estrogen mimic… may nevertheless spell big trouble. (p. 141)

    6. This issue is here to stay, and it is important to the human prospect. (p. 258)

  3. Chapter 10, "Altered Destinies" is the central chapter of the book, laying out all the dimensions of the problem. In 2-3 pages list the main points of the chapter as your carry-away message about endocrine disruption and the difficulties of our being able to address the problem appropriately. How might the EPA set up a monitoring scheme for the endocrine disruptor problems?

  4. A statement by many industries in the 1960s and '70's when faced with the problem of environmental releases by factories was "Dilution is the solution to pollution." In view of what you know what endocrine disruptors, and using systemic thinking, in a paragraph or so, argue clearly why "dilution" is not a good environmental strategy.
  ©Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 9653194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.