This installment of an ongoing feature includes news items surveying public attitudes towards nuclear disarmament and the cost of environmental cleanup.
Last summer 300 independent video producers interviewed over 3,000 people at public places and events and recorded a 60-second-or-less statement on disarmament from each. The 30-plus hours of these tapes — filmed at locations varying from Chicago to Sao Paulo — have been shown on TV marathons, at the Kennedy Center, and in bus terminals. A half-hour version of the survey (showing a variety of opinions) is available for $40 (covering transfer and stock) from Downtown Community Television.
In a survey recently conducted by Continental Group, Inc. (a forest products company whose enterprise is regulated by environmental laws), 60% of the 1,300 respondents indicated that they would pay more for products and services in order to clean up the environment. Furthermore, in that same nationwide study, two-thirds of the 263 business executives polled said that they want the environment protected — even if doing so results in a slowdown in economic growth.
Two NASA scientists are suggesting that in the future, huge solar mirrors (launched by space shuttles and then locked into orbit around the earth) could actually illuminate our nighttime skies — thereby conserving energy and aiding cities stricken with blackouts. According to the proposal, the light from 16 half-mile-wide mirrors would be controlled by computers. However, the effects of such a system on animals and plants have been questioned, and a study has been recommended.
The table saw holds the dubious honor of being the most dangerous tool a woodworker is likely to have in his or her shop. Preliminary results of a survey by Fine Woodworking magazine show that 44% of all severe hand injuries reported by the woodcrafters occurred at the table saw. Haste, fatigue, and inexperience were the reasons given for most of the mishaps, but a number of the survey's respondents did admit to being injured while trying to get away with what they knew to be hazardous operating techniques.
Back in 1977, when two California biologists reported that unusual mating practices had been observed among western seagulls on Santa Barbara Island, the phenomenon was attributed to a shortage of male gulls. Now, it appears the birds' behavior may be one more example of man's fumbling hands upsetting the delicate balance of nature. Reports from the University of California show that the pesticide DDT produces "estrogen-like residues," which have rendered some male western gulls incapable of breeding, in turn causing females to sit on unfertilized eggs.
To qualify for lower electric rates, some farmers have fitted their irrigation systems with automatic cutoff switches that stop the water flow when a signal indicates a local power demand peak. USDA scientists have now developed a program that will allow a computer to intercept that signal, determine which fields can best go without the water, and then send the cutoff cue accordingly. In addition, the computer automatically receives a report on weather conditions from each field every 15 minutes. Finally, the system includes a manual override just in case a farmer decides to irrigate a crop other than the one the computer picks.
Bolivian Indians have long used the very painful sting of a local ant to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. Now, researchers at the University of Miami who have been injecting the insect's venom into patients report that two- to three-year remissions can result. The medicine is currently awaiting approval from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.
If your weekly grocery bill has you upset, you may get downright angry when you see how little of that money actually goes toward edibles. In the U.S., an enormously high proportion of "food" costs really pays for packaging. In 1977, for instance, the packaging for distilled spirits and canned fruits and vegetables totaled 101% of the food ingredient costs. For cookies and crackers it was 86%, and for flavorings it was 74%. Of course, these are only averages, and some items have containers that cost five times as much as does the food that's in them.
A report by the International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation shows a dramatic decline in the number of large oil spills between 1979 and 1982. In 1979 there were 37 spills of more than 5,000 gallons each; in 1980 that number dropped to 12; and in 1981, only 4 large oil spills occurred. It's believed that the reduction in the volume of oil transported during this period, and stricter antipollution laws, contributed to the decline.