I hope little men with big wallets can be happy with pharmaceutical solutions to their problems.
So it turns out that the various pharmaceutical tools for curing erectile dysfunction have an environmental side-effect: their growing popularity in China is reducing the use of endangered species as cures for impotence. The Times of India reports on research by William von Hippel, a psychologist from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and his brother Frank von Hippel, a biologist from the University of Alaska in Anchorage, on whether patients return to the use of traditional treatments — medicines made from seal penises and reindeer antler velvet — once they’ve tried a Western medical treatment. In the group studied, none of those who had tried traditional treatments before went back to them. This matches up with controversial 2002 research from the same scientists showing that the trade in traditional impotence medicines was declining.
There’s much to be skeptical about with this research, of course: it was funded by Pfizer; the size of the studied group is fairly small; and impotence medicines are just one of many uses of animal parts in Chinese traditional medicine, so the overall impact on endangered animals is likely to be relatively low. That said, if true, it’s an example of the sometimes unexpected sources of environmental progress.