A Breakwater Made of Old Tires, Why Nuns Have the Finest Skin, How Fresh Water Is Being Produced From the Sea and More

Learn about the Onges tribe's diet, the "working wounded," what fire ants eat and other short news bits.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1979
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San Francisco protects pier 39 with a breakwater made from recycled tires. By using recycled materials for the breakwater, the city only had to pay $500,000 for the project (that's one quarter the normal cost of building a breakwater in 1979).

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NUNS HAVE THE FINEST SKIN, according to the Cosmetic, Toiletries and Fragrance Association (CTFA) . . . a trade group of about 250 manufacturers and 20 testing firms which has lined up some convent sisters to test skin products. What's the nuns' beauty secret? How do they get such youthful skin? "They normally don't use cosmetics," a spokesman explained. 

OUR FRIEND, THE FIRE ANT. Though his bite has been described as "somewhere between that of the yellow jacket and the man-eating shark", the notorious fire ant – it was recently discovered – just loves to eat cotton bollworm eggs, weevil larvae, and even young boll weevil beetles . . . pests that have become immune to most pesticides and which were thought to have no natural enemies. On top of that, fire ants also dote on sugar cane borers, ticks, horn flies, and soybean caterpillars. 

MILLIONS OF POUNDS OF HERBICIDE DRIFT FLOAT DOWN FROM SOUTHEASTERN SKIES, and the Federal environmental officers are worried. These herbicides — 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T — are the same chemicals once used by the U.S. Military to defoliate jungles in Vietnam (until it was discovered they cause birth defects in mice and rats). Now, the same defoliants are sprayed – in huge quantities – on farm crops throughout the southeastern states . . . with virtually no safeguards. Any licensed pilot can spray the chemicals, and no federal or state permits are needed. Says one EPA official, "There's no telling what impact this stuff is having." 

THE "WORKING WOUNDED" is the name HEW Secretary Joseph Califano, Jr. gave to the millions of Americans doomed to die of cancer "wounds" suffered at their place of work. A new government report says that 40% of cancers are probably related to risks on the job. 

FOOD JUST LIKE MOM USED TO TAKE OUT is the latest hot news in "home cooking". One company cashing in on this trend is Atlas Food Systems and Services of Greenville, South Carolina, which already has frozen cheeseburgers and hot dogs on the market, and has recently come out with "Breakfast on a Bun". Other food companies are expected to follow suit. 

ARMADILLOS AGAINST LEPROSY The hopes of 15 million leprosy sufferers are now pinned on a small colony of armadillos in England's West Country. Their low body temperature, which suits the leprosy organism, has enabled researchers to develop the mycobacterium needed for a live vaccine. The humble armadillo has also given the world a skin test for potential leprosy victims that works in much the same way as skin tests for tuberculosis. 

IF LOCUSTS EAT YOUR CROPS EAT THE LOCUSTS is the suggestion offered by South African scientists, who point out that a swarm carries about one ton of locusts per hectare, and that a recent swarm covered 1,300 hectares. Since each locust contains 53% crude protein, one such swarm could produce 65 million kilograms of airborne food. 

THE COUNTY CORK? Workmen in Retford, England were dredging a 200-year-old canal when they inadvertently snagged a heavy iron chain. Pulling it up, they found – to their surprise – that it was attached to a giant, wooden plug . . . and they were even more startled when the canal's water emptied into a nearby river! 

"EATING THEIR WAY INTO EXTINCTION" was the verdict on the eating habits of the Onges tribe, who live in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The tribe's diet is based upon tuberous plants which contain one of the compounds used in the manufacture of steroids for oral contraceptives, These eating habits have produced such a low fertility rate that the Onges now number only a few hundred people. 

SOMEBODY UP THERE'S WORRIED about the impact that antinuclear protests are having on the nuclear industry. Georgia Power admitted last September that it operates an intelligence program with an annual budget of $750,000 and nine full-time investigators, while California's Pacific Gas and Electric employs two private intelligence agencies to check up on their "no nukes" activists. 

A BREAKWATER MADE OF OLD TIRES will protect San Francisco's Pier 39 from waves generated by wind and passing vessels, and its $500,000 cost is only one quarter of that of a normally built breakwater . . . Someone figured out that the proposed NEW NINE-DIGIT ZIP CODES will provide exactly one billion different number possibilities, or roughly 4.5 zip codes for each man, woman, and child in the country . . . Someone else figured out that a typical American throws out 600 TIMES HIS/HER WEIGHT IN GARBAGE in a lifetime . . . It's said that 96% of the NATION'S HEALTH CARE COST is spent in attempts to cure and control illnesses, while only 3% is devoted to prevention and only 1% to health education . . . The New Age Foundation, Inc., a group of flying-saucer devotees, recently dedicated a SPACECRAFT PROTECTIVE LANDING AREA FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE AND HUMANITIES (SPLAASH) on a 14-acre clearing near Mt. Rainier, where they hope their sign, "Neutral Landing Zone", will convince extraterrestrials that they can visit without hassles . . . FRESH WATER FROM THE SEA is being produced at the rate of 5,000 gallons a day by the Du Pont Company's reverse-osmosis "Permasep" permeators, which use hollow-fiber membranes to remove 98.5% of the ocean salts . . . Recent reports suggest that the ASPIRIN SUBSTITUTE acetaminophen (found in Tylenol, Datril, etc) can damage the liver at normal doses, and even patients who have taken less than normal doses over long periods have developed hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. 

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