1977 News Bits and Pieces

Learn more about renewable energy, nuclear proliferation, Concorde rental and biological control for fruit trees.
The MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1977
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Read about news headlines and happenings going on around the world in 1977.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DIMITAR BOSAKOV


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NEW CAR GASOLINE MILEAGE CONTINUES TO IMPROVE. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1977 model cars average 18.6 miles per gallon in combined highway and city driving ... an increase of 1 mpg over '76 models, 3 mpg over '75's, and nearly 5 mpg over 1974 models. Engine alterations and lighter vehicle weights are said to account for the improvement.

NUKE PROLIFERATION: A HOT ISSUE: In a recent study, the Brookings Institution of Washington, DC., concludes that international cooperation in the development of peaceful atomic energy would be more likely to slow the rate of weapons proliferation than embargo tactics. Harvard professor Michael Mandelbaum, however, feels just the opposite is true. Writing in the January '77 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Mandelbaum argues that a nuclear exporters' cartel (similar in concept to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) would "force a nation to make its intentions to fabricate a bomb clearer earlier [and thus] give the international community ... a greater chance to check potential proliferants."

TRANS-MEDITERRANEAN GAS PIPELINE UNDER CONSIDERATION. Spain, France, and Algeria have hired the Williams Pipeline Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma to study the feasibility of laying a pipeline across the floor of the Mediterranean Sea to carry natural gas from Algeria to Europe. The pipeline is planned to help meet increasing demand for natural gas in European countries.

RECOMBINANT DNA VS. THE TOXIC SUBSTANCES ACT. As Philip Reilly points out in a recent letter to Science magazine, genetic engineering experiments may fall under the purview of the new Toxic Substances Control Act. According to that Act, the administrator of the EPA can — if he finds that the manufacture of a chemical substance (such as DNA) poses an "unreasonable risk of injury to health or to the environment" — require that those who intend to make the substance provide evidence of the safety of their procedures. Environmentalists generally agree that genetic engineering techniques do pose an "unreasonable risk of injury to health or to the environment."

DO PAJAMAS CAUSE CANCER? In a recent report published in Science magazine, biochemists Arlene Blum and Bruce N. Ames of the University of California at Berkeley allege that tris-BP — the fire-retardant used in about 50 percemt of children's sleepwear — is a potent mutagen (that is, can cause genetic mutations) ... and may thus be carcinogenic. Garment manufacturers add tris-BP to the pajamas in order to comply with standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but — according to Drs. Blum and Ames — "the risk of [getting] cancer might be very much higher than the risk of being burned" under the present circumstances.

CAMPUS RADICALISM: ALMOST GONE. A recent survey of 50,000 students at 400 colleges shows a shift away from the liberal attitudes of the 60's on such issues as academic policy, race relations, the death penalty, and the use of violence to achieve political goals. Surprisingly, however, the study — conducted by the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education — found that faculty members are becoming more militant.

HOMESTEADING BOOKS AND MAGAZINES FOR RENT, with option to buy ... that's what Earthbooks Lending Library is all about. Here's how it works: After paying a lifetime membership fee of $5.00, Earthbooks member/customers may rent any of the hundreds of "how to" books and periodicals (including back issues of MOTHER) carried by the Library, for just 75 cents per book per month. Want to keep a particular volume? Just put it on your book-shelf and send Earthbooks a check for the amount of the book (which is always less than the cover price, since the books are considered "used") minus the rental fee.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL FOR FRUIT TREE DISEASE. An Australian researcher — Dr. Allen Kerr — has discovered a way to "immunize" young fruit trees against an economically important plant disease known as crown gall. His method involves nothing more than dipping the roots of young plants in a solution that contains a non-disease-forming strain of the same organism —  Agrobacterium tumefaciens — that normally causes the crown gall condition. University of California plant pathologists have recently verified Dr. Kerr's findings and shown that the Kerr method is actually more effective in preventing crown gall than chemical treatments.

SST FOR RENT: Air France is offering a unique service to customers who have a need to get somewhere fast. For just $16,000 an hour, the airline says, you can rent your own Concorde.

Representatives of Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia, and Jordan-meeting in Dakar — have agreed to form a PHOSPHATE EXPORTERS CARTEL. The participating nations account for around two-thirds of world phosphate rock exports and about four -fifths of known phosphate reserves. 

Seed companies report the BIGGEST BOOM IN VEGETABLE GARDENING SINCE WORLD WAR TWO, as evidenced by the fact that vegetable seeds are now outselling flower seeds by a ratio of 7 to 3. (Just six years ago, gardeners bought seven packets of flower seeds for every three of vegetables).

Energy Research and Development Administration assistant administrator Dr. Richard Roberts reportedly has said that NO STATE WILL BE REQUIRED TO HAVE A NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL SITE within its borders if-state officials object strenuously to such a site. ERDA plans to spend $1.2 billion to build six waste repositories in the U.S. over the next eight years, but-after months of searching — still hasn't found locations for them.

Archer, Florida peanut farmer Frank Batey has found a novel way to rid his crop of pests. He simply combines a few handfuls of whatever insect is damaging his plants with a cup or two of water, blends the combination in a kitchen blender, and SPRAYS BUG-WATER ON HIS CROP. Year before last, Frank got 5,300 pounds of peanuts to the acre using this pest-control method.
 


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