Bits and Pieces: Pesticides, Fresh Water, Vegetable Gardening and More

Short summaries of environmental, lifestyle and economic news.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1976
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In the summer of 1976, more than half of US households had some type of vegetable plot.

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Aerial spraying of the pesticide Endrin against cutworms in south-central Kansas has resulted in illness among some local residents, and the deaths of cattle, horses, dogs, and more than two million fish in area lakes, ponds, and streams. Failure to turn spray machines off at critical times—and "drift" of the compound due to application on windy days—were cited as "probable causes". One dairy farmer in the region was forced to dump his herd's milk production for five consecutive days due to contamination, and others are now concerned that pasture and forage may be tainted by the man-made poison,

Did you know that a nationwide returnable-bottle system would save 115,000 barrels of oil a day ... that 73% of the people in this country favor such a plan ... and that as much as 56% of what you pay when you buy a beer or soft drink is for the container? These facts and more on energy, solid waste, materials, litter, employment, and consumer issues related to the throwaway-bottle controversy are presented in Bottles and Sense, a 20-page publication by the Environmental Action Foundation. Copies are available from EAF (724 Dupont Circle Building, Washington, D.C. 20036) for $1.00 each.

The U.S. government has hidden four billion dollars in new currency in a vault inside Pony Mountain near Culpeper, Virginia, The seven-million-dollar facility—which is also designed to accommodate 400 people, and costs approximately $1.8 million a year to guard and maintain—holds the "cache of cash" as a hedge against any nuclear attack that might wipe out the nation's money supply. But, as Senator William Proxmire has wryly pointed out, a more probable end to the doomsday plan might be that "we would have money and no people except for a few lonely radioactive government officials".

Federal Trade Commission administrative judge Lewis Parker has ruled that Seattle-area manufacturers do not have to label the "native" Alaskan curios they sell as "machine made in Seattle". According to that city's Post-Intelligencer , the judge commented that "many products which the consumer purchases are not what they appear to be" and that 'revealing the whole truth would do away with unfounded assumptions which consumers might have".

Dubious honor of becoming first two insects listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act has been bestowed upon two varieties of butterflies: the Schaus swallowtail and Bahama swallowtail. Keith M. Schreiner, Associate Director of the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the event is "particularly disturbing because the real name of the game in endangered species is the conservation of ecosystems, and some of the best indicators of the health of an ecosystem are insects".

$250 cash reward goes to any gardener who can somehow manage to top one of the following current world's records for largest vegetables: tomato (4 lb., 4 oz.), watermelon (197 lb.), squash (378 lb.), and sunflower (21', 5-1/2"). Prize money is offered by Grace's Gardens (Autumn Lane, Hackettstown, N.J. 07840), which specializes in selling seed for rare and gigantic garden crops, and calls its catalog (available for 25¢ ) "the world's most unusual". After reading the brochure's 16 pages full of such items as yard-long beans, 12-foot-high corn, and 65-inch-long banana squash, we can only agree.

Nation's capital facing yet another critical problem as demand for fresh water—which was estimated at 381 million gallons a day in 1970—increases steadily, and is expected to rise to 600 million gallons a day by 1980. The city's only source of supply, the Potomac River, sometimes flows at a rate of just 400 million gallons per 24 hours during annual dry spells ... and strip mining operations are poisoning stretches of the river upstream with acid wastes. Meanwhile, effluents from the metropolis itself continue to cause severe pollution south of the city, where the Potomac empties into Chesapeake Bay,

This year, for the first time since World War II, more than half of all U.S. households (as many as 100 million people!) will tend some kind of vegetable plot. And an even more encouraging indication of the country's burgeoning grow-it-yourself movement is the dramatic increase in community gardens. Two years ago, there were only 500 such facilities ... and today, the number of large tracts of land portioned off and shared by "backyard sodbusters" is conservatively estimated at 5,000!

You can turn your backyard into a miniature wildlife refuge —and get public recognition for doing so by participating in a program sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation to encourage widespread conservation. If you're 13 years of age or older—and live on property (three acres or less) which meets the NWF's requirements for animal habitat—the organization will "certify" your land as a wildlife refuge and send a press release to local newspapers announcing their official appreciation of your ecological efforts. For more information, write the Federation at 1412 16th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

"Work Technique for the Occasional Chain Saw User"—a sixteen-page color booklet described as a "mini-course in woodcutting"—includes instructions for handling, servicing, and using the machines to fell, limb, and buck nearly any size tree. The publication is available for the asking from Husqvarna, Inc., 151 New World Way, South Plainfield, N.J. 07080.

The World Health Organization estimates that 75% to 85% of all cancer in humans is caused by man made substances introduced into our environment ... and, according to Dr. Sheldon Margen -professor of human nutrition at the University of California at Berkeley—much of that percentage can be attributed to food additives. The good doctor says that more than 3,000 chemicals are now used in this country as artificial flavorings, and of that number "less than 1% have been examined for toxicity".

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