The latest updates on the environment, science, health and politics.
1,700 Different Kinds of Plants from 46 States —about 8% of all the seed plants and ferns native to this country—will become the first botanic varieties to be officially listed as "endangered" under a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Most people write off plants when they think of endangered species," commented Keith Schreiner, Associate Director of the USFWS, "yet there are many rare insects, snails, and birds which have species-dependent relationships with plants. If the plant goes, so does the animal, and the ultimate effect could be severe."
The Fall '76 Edition of Consumer Information —a catalog of free or low-cost government publications on health, safety, education, housing, food, auto care, gardening, financial management, and a wide range of other subjects—is now available for the asking from Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.
Ah, Get a Load of that Country Air (Cough). Four scientists recently took off from St. Louis, Missouri in a balloon to see exactly where that city's air pollution—which had been intensified by a three-day period of atmospheric inversion—would eventually end up. Twenty—four hours later, they landed in a wheat field 150 miles from the starting point ... and reported seeing "essentially the same concentrations of pollutants" as in the metropolitan area they had left.
Those Who Predict the Conversion of Deserts into Mechanized Gardens of Eden now have more land to work with than ever before. The Worldwatch Institute reports that Earth's and wastelands are actually expanding as a result of erosion caused by overgrazing and increased cultivation in areas surrounding such regions. Over the past half century, for instance, the Sahara has swallowed up an estimated 250,000 square miles to the south ... and its northern fringe is advancing at a rate of more than 200,000 acres per year.
According to a Recent Study by the Library of Congress, nearly half the U.S. Senate's 138 subcommittees met less than four times last year. In fact, observes the report, 28 of the groups never held a meeting at all ... but they did somehow manage to employ a total of at least 25 full-time staff members, and had budgets totaling approximately $750,000.
You Can Adopt a Wild Horse! There are now over 50,000 federally protected free-roaming mustangs in the West, and the number is expected to increase by 10,000 every single year. In an effort to help alleviate the resulting pressure on grazing lands needed for commercial livestock, the U.S. Interior Department is offering the animals at no cost (except for freight charges) to folks who can provide a good home and loving care. For more information on application procedures, write Adopt A Wild Horse, Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240 ... or Wild Horse Organized Assistance, P.O. Box 555, Reno, Nev. 89504.
More than 100 Million Tons of Sulfur Dioxide are released into the atmosphere over Europe and North America every year by industry, according to a report by the Economic Commission for Europe. The result? Widespread "acid rainfall", which in some areas approaches the pH value of vinegar. In Norway, the tainted precipitation has caused a severe depletion of fish in lakes and rivers ... and the country's timber yields are expected to drop by fifty percent within thirty years if the S02 pollution continues at its present rate.
If You're Looking for a Good Little Home Business that will earn you a comfortable income—and at the same time allow you to stick to and promote your own beliefs about "the good life—you might do well to follow the example of Allen and Janet Powell of Athens, Maine. The Powells have converted a small truck into a fully equipped mobile kitchen, and now run a highly popular natural foods catering service that offers such delicacies as whole wheat lasagna. tabouli salad, carob cake, and lemon mint tea.
Eat Psophocarpus Tetragonolobus for Health... that, in essence, is what many researchers are now saying about a little known variety of legume, "discovered" during a 1974 National Academy of Sciences study of under-exploited tropical plants. Called "the winged bean" for its large, distinctively shaped pods, Psophocarpus boasts an exceptionally high vegetable protein content comparable to the soybean. Scientists suspect that—with proper development—the nutritious native species (and perhaps others yet to be uncovered) may someday serve as an important supplement to the daily diets of Third World citizens.
It Takes a Lot of Crust to Lose Weight, according to Dr. Olaf Mickelsen, professor of food science and human nutrition at Michigan State University. The scientist conducted an experiment in which sixteen men (divided into two groups) each consumed twelve slices of bread a day—and anything else desired—for 8 weeks in a row. At the end of the two months, individuals in one half (who had been fed store-bought bread) had lost an average of 13.7 pounds ... and the others (who'd eaten a special low-fat, high-cellulose variety) had shed an average of 19.4 pounds. None of the volunteers experienced the fatigue, hunger pangs, nausea, and headaches often associated with other weight-loss regimens . . . and, says the professor, the diet caused a reduction in the participants' serum cholesterol levels.
English Scientists have Produced a Half-Animal, Half-Plant organism called a "heterokaryon": the result of merging a fungus cell normally used in brewing beer with a red corpuscle from hens' blood. Researchers say the accomplishment is the first time the "kingdom barrier" has been broken, and that subsequent experiments could lead to such things as vegetables with the taste, feel, and nutritional qualities of beef. Aside from the questionable merits of such a feat, we wonder if perhaps they've missed their mark and are instead headed toward creating a bird that tastes like Budweiser....