Environmental Pollution, National Seed Laboratory, and Whale Killers

This short series of reports includes news on environmental problems with street runoff, the National Seed Laboratory, and who kills the most whales in the world.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
November/December 1975
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News about the world, health of the planet and the environment, including suburban water pollution in America.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ANTIKSU


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This short series of reports covers news, including environmental problems with water from cities, the National Seed Laboratory, and animal endangerment. 

A BOOKLET ENTITLED OREGONS BOTTLE BILL — TWO YEARS LATER reports that the state's ban on non-returnable bottles has reduced beer and soft drink beverage-container litter by a whopping 83%. Filled with facts, figures, charts, tables, and other analytical data, the booklet — available for $2.50 from the Oregon Environmental Council, Portland, Oregon — should provide valuable "ammunition" for folks fighting to establish bottle bills in their own litter-strewn states.

THE WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY reports that street runoff from rains in large American cities washes massive amounts of toxic metals — all of which are brought to you by your friendly neighborhood industries and your own pollution-belching car — into the nation's vital surface waters. As an example, the council notes, a single town the size of Washington D.C. flushes more than 300,000 pounds of lead . . . 425,590 pounds of zinc . . . 120,450 pounds of copper . . . 12,848 pounds of mercury . . . and "quantities of other metals" into lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs every year.

WOULD-BE ENTREPRENEURS SERIOUSLY SEEKING THEIR FORTUNES might well want to get in on the ground floor of what's being called "the next century's most promising and important industry": recycling commercial wastes. Several companies specializing in finding new uses for corporate "trash" — everything from Saran Wrap to zirconium to old printed circuit boards — are now springing up across the country and enjoying a highly profitable demand for their services . . . and the field, as they say, is wide open.

THE IDEAS IN MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 34`S "HOW TO SAVE YOUR OWN GARDEN SEED" article are followed on a grand scale at the National Seed Laboratory on the campus of Colorado State University ... but for different and somewhat more ominous reasons. Since 1958, the government has stored more than 90,000 different samples of seeds from around the world in special air-conditioned vaults — maintained at a constant 40 degrees Fahrenheit with a 32 percent relative humidity — "to help ensure the future of food plants" against possible famine, war, and "political disturbances". How much seed did you say you have stored?

EENIE, MEENIE, MINEY, MOE.. . WHICH WAY WILL THE WEATHER GO? Well, while some scientists predict the coming of a new "mini-ice age", others-including Dr. Wallace Broecker, a Columbia University professor-fear a "several-decades-long period of rapid warming". According to Broecker, the planet's current cooling trend is already bottoming out, so that a natural warming tendency — combined with the "greenhouse effect" created by ever-increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere — may soon result in "global temperatures warmer than any in the last 1,000 years". So take your choice, folks . . . apparently your guess is as good as anybody's.

REMEMBER THE JOKE ABOUT THE GUY WHO KEPT ELEPHANTS away by continuously standing on his head? ("But there are no elephants around here," said the psychiatrist. "See," answered the wit, "it works!") Well, a Purdue University study shows that Corn Belt farmers are doing much the same thing. According to the report, 90 percent of the fields tested in seven Indiana counties over the past three years have been sprayed by farmers — using millions of dollars' worth of chemicals — for insects they didn't even have.

IS YOUR TOWN LOOKING FOR A NEW WATER SUPPLY? Then consider the story of New Sharon, Maine, which recently ended a long, desperate search for the life-lending liquid: After spending $180,000 in federal funds to retain the technological "expertise" of two specialty engineering firms — neither of which had produced anything but dozens of dry holes over a five-year period — the town contacted Peter Harmon, an old-fashioned "water witcher", and asked him to give it a try. In one day — and for the relatively miniscule fee of $500 — Harmon located water at five different sites. Well, well, well, well, well.

WORLDWIDE POLLUTION COULD QUADRUPLE BY THE YEAR 2000 according to preliminary results of a United Nations-sponsored study on "Environmental Impacts on Growth and Structure of the World Economy". The report observes that pollutant generation among formerly "innocent" countries (such as those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America) will soon increase eight- to ten-fold . . . and that — unless necessary anti-pollution efforts are made now — unabated environmental damage may "reach levels that endanger worldwide economic growth and development".

WHO'S THE WORLD'S LEADING WHALE KILLER? RUSSIA? JAPAN? Well, if you count all members of the cetacean family (whales, porpoises, dolphins), the number one culprit is the United States . . . thanks to the American tuna industry's widespread practice of "fishing on porpoise": dropping nets over large schools of the creatures in order to trap the yellowfin tuna which almost always swims directly below. Hundreds of thousands of the lovable mammals are needlessly killed and mutilated every year as a result. Don't buy yellowfin (packed in cans marked "light") . . . other varieties, including bonito, are OK, and are labeled as "white" or "dark" tuna. So says General Whale, Oakland, California.

YOU CAN'T TELL THE PLAYERS WITHOUT A PROGRAM, folks, so — before you cast your ballots in next year's elections — you'd do well to order up two charts now being offered (for $2.00 apiece) by the League of Conservation Voters. The charts — one on the 1974 House and the other on the 1973-74 Senate — list how each Congressman voted on key environmental issues and rate each state, district, and committee according to its performance on conservation legislation. Write the League of Conservation Voters, Washington, D.C.


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