The Declining Bat Population, Chemical Additives in Our Food and More Surprising Facts

Learn about the declining bat population of the Carlsbad Caverns, The United State's increased defense spending, the chemical additives found in our food and more.
by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1979
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The chemical DDT kills not only insects but also the animals that feed on insects such as bats and birds. 
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/R-O-X-O-R


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"MICROBIOLOGICAL DETOXIFICATION OF CHEMICAL WASTE" is the subject of experiments being conducted by Oregon environmentalist George Ward. When "farmed" bacteria are fed toxic chemicals at a controlled rate, some of the microscopic "guinea pigs" die . . . but most "get addicted to the stuff and multiply like crazy". Once the noxious waste has been digested by the micro-organisms, it — and the bacteria — become harmless.

THOSE WHO LIVE BY POISON ... ! A two-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reaffirmed earlier findings that toxaphene — one of North America's most widely used pesticides — causes cancer in laboratory animals. An FDA study has also found "steadily rising" levels of toxaphene residues in food and feed over the past five years. (Since the publication of this article in 1979, toxaphene has sine been banned in the United States.)

PERENNIAL CORN? It may be possible to crossbreed corn with a wild perennial, teosinte, from the southwestern mountains of Mexico. The south-of-the-border plant is believed either to be an ancestor of corn or to have developed from one of the forebears of our modern ''maize". Scientists expect the hybrid to be more immune to disease . . . and to provide a means of reducing the cost of this major food crop by eliminating the necessity for seasonal plowing and planting.

GREAT NEWS, I GUESS: It appears that DDT will completely disappear from the flesh of fish in the Great Lakes —and become permanently trapped in lake-bottom sediments — within 28 years. It had been previously supposed that natural detoxification would take at least a century.

CARLSBAD CAVERNS' BAT POPULATION declined from an estimated 8.7 million in 1936 to 200,000 in 1973, and now we know why: Ironically, bats — which are among the most effective natural insect controls in existence — are being poisoned by the DDT in pesticide-immune bugs. And the bats continue to die, since they migrate to Mexico where the toxic chemical is still used. (Since the publication of this article DDT has been outlawed in Mexico.) 

DO YOU FEEL ANY SAFER? The United States has spent almost $2 trillion on its military establishment since 1945, and President Carter has called for an annual increase in "defense" appropriations of about 3 percent above the inflation rate. This means that — in the next decade — American taxpayers will spend about $1.8 trillion on preparations for war.

MOON BIKES: If David Gordon Wilson of MIT has his way, future moon explorations may very well take place on two-man, four-wheeled bicycles which would weigh less than 75 pounds on earth (about 1 / 100 as much as our present powered lunar vehicles). Even on uncompacted moon soil and with only one astronaut peddling, Wilson says, the speed of such a bike would be about 18 MPH over level ground.

MEALS OF CHEMICAL ADDITIVES, meat substitutes, protein made from wastes, and irradiated potatoes will be routine for Americans by the time present first graders finish college . . . according to a report from Congress's Office of Technology. (Much of this sort of "food" is already on the market, and we can expect more of it by 2000 ... when our population reaches 260 million.)

DAM IT, NO! Fifty farmers in Minot, North Dakota may have stopped a $100-million federal dam project by subdividing one crucial acre into 4,840 one-square-yard parcels and selling the mini-plots for $20 apiece! So far, over 1,000 "lots" have been sold ... and the government must locate all of the owners — and buy every square yard — before construction of the dam can start.

THE DEAD LAKES OF THE NORTHEAST: If acid rain (the result of burning fossil fuels) continues to fall over the northeastern U.S. and Canada, fish — and, later, plant life — may be irreversibly destroyed. A 1976 survey of 217 Adirondack Mountain lakes — bodies of water which teemed with fish 20 or 30 years ago — found that 90 percent were barren. In Ontario, Canada 48,000 lakes are dying ... 140 are already dead ... and the acid has raised the amount of heavy metals to such permanently toxic levels that several of the nation's inland "seas" have been written off  forever.

A "CHAMBER OF HORRORS" is the description investigators give to Hooker's chemical dump at Niagara Falls' Love Canal, which has forced 239 families to leave their homes (and possibly contributed to area residents' abnormally high rates of birth defects, miscarriages, and liver disorders). Now, one of the deadly chemicals — dioxin — is leaching into the ground water. (One ounce of the substance — in a city's drinking water supply — can kill millions of people ... and more than 2,000 pounds of dioxin are now locked in the western New York dump.)

HIGH ON CRIME: A 12-month study by the West German Criminal Investigation Department concluded that the crime rate in neighborhoods of flats with 13 or more stories was between three and seven times higher than that in areas with houses of two to three stories, even when the inhabitants had similar backgrounds 

ADDITIONAL BITS  

The taste of tin from food containers has become so identified with the flavor of tomato juice that aluminum companies want to add the tin "essence" to juice packed in their cans.

It's said that if you give a taste panel five different lemonades, they'll never pick the truly natural one, but will vote for an artificial lemonade designed to "taste natural".

The Harvard Medical School reports that one in ten cancer patients actually dies from malnutrition, rather than from the disease itself .

Since June, the U.S. military dining rooms have served a product that contains 20 percent soy in ground beef dishes such as spaghetti sauce. This practice is expected to chop the Defense Department's food bill by $6.2 million a year.


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