The Price Of Progress, Elephant Population Decline, and Other News Items

This installment of an ongoing shorts news items feature considers the price of progress in lost quality of life and the decline in world elephant populations, among other stories.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
September/October 1979
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The elephant population is declining both in India and in East Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
PHOTO: VARIJANTA/FOTOLIA


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The following news items were drawn from multiple sources. 


The Price of "Progress"

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that the Western world is getting noisier and dirtier ... agricultural land is decreasing ... wildlife species are dwindling ... and drinking water contains more chemicals than ever before.

Elephant Population Decline

A recent report to the World Wildlife Fund says that elephant populations in the world's two biggest pachyderm habitats—India and East Africa—are half as large as they were five years ago. The Asiatic beasts number between 27,000 and 40,000, while only 65,000 to 75,000 of the African species are known to exist. The trend is similar in the 30 other countries where the big mammals are found.

Newfoundland Homesteading

Newfoundland has a new settlement program under which people will be able to homestead. The province is the last area in Canada where such a thing is possible. Contact the Department of Natural Resources, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada for further information.

Vertical Casket

A patent for a "revolutionary" new casket, which allows for a vertical—as well as a horizontal—burial, was granted to VBCB, Inc. of Salem, Oregon. We can see this as another reflection of how crowded our planet has become.

Tax Racket

Common Cause points out that, in 1976, an average family of four was billed at least $2,021 in federal income taxes ... that's $2,021 more than Texas Gulf (which earned a mere $100 million that year) paid. In fact, U.S. Steel, Chase Manhattan, American Airlines, Pacific Gas & Electric, and 12 other top companies—through perfectly "legal" means—didn't pay a cent in income taxes that year!

Resperine Cancer Risk

The cure might kill you, if animal tests by the National Cancer Institute prove correct. They suggest that reserpine (a drug taken by at least a million people to control mild cases of high blood pressure) increases the risk of breast cancer by 50-100%.

Spare Tire Eliminated

General Motors will soon replace the spare tire on some of its X-body cars with a warning device to tell the driver when tire pressure is low. No one has yet said how the gadget will handle a blowout.

Arsenic Dumping

The Cousteau Society Reports: "Almost 40 years ago, 7,000 tons of arsenic were put into concrete containers and dumped into the Baltic Sea. If properly administered, this is reportedly enough poison to kill the population of the world three times over. Perhaps the killing has begun. The Baltic now has surprisingly high levels of this very toxic substance."

Subsidized Whaling

The Japanese commercial whaling industry is virtually bankrupt and only survives because it receives a government subsidy of some $10 million a year!

Pontoon Potty

This past summer, skiers and swimmers at California's Pyramid Lake found a couple of restrooms floating on the water. Their purpose: to shorten "down time" necessitated by trips back to shore. The facilities feature low-volume flush units, and 300-gallon holding tanks concealed in each "commode's" two pontoons.

Pesticide Failure

Despite the vastly increased use of synthetic pesticides over the past 30 years, annual crop losses  to all categories of pests appear not to have declined. Worldwide, more than 300 harmful insect species have already developed strains resistant to some of the toxic chemicals.

Map Questions

The U.S. Geological Survey wants your input if you have questions about their maps, problems in using them, or suggested changes.

Pig Sty Amenities

Dr. G. van Putten of the Netherlands Research Institute for Animal Husbandry finds that modern livestock operations offer very little opportunity for pigs to carry out their "very necessary comfort behavior." He recommends that every new pigpen provide showers for cooling and horizontal and vertical bristles to enable the animals to groom their own sides and backs.

In Brief

CITY SLICKERS GAIN HORSE SENSE: Back in 1977, a 79-year-old Chicago man—who was knocked down by a police horse during a demonstration—sued the city for $200,000 for a broken hip. When the case recently came to trial, his attorney insisted that the jurors (city dwellers who might not be familiar with the offender) ought to see just how big a horse is. The judge agreed, and a stallion was subpoenaed to appear. ON THAT SAME SUBJECT: A book, Animals and Their Legal Rights, is available for $2.00 a copy from the Animal Welfare Institute .... A Tulane Medical Center study found that people who live within a mile of large industrial chemical plants may be nearly 10 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP LUNG CANCER than those who live elsewhere .... FLORIDA'S RARE CHAPMAN RHODODENDRON—an evergreen shrub that blooms in March and April—has been added to the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants .... At the University of Illinois, one group of rats was fed exclusively on hens' eggs and the second on synthetic eggs (which are currently sold for human consumption and satisfy the present toxicological tests). After three weeks, all THE SYNTHETIC-FOOD-FED RODENTS WERE DEAD!


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