Bits and Pieces: Synthetic Ivory and Other News

Briefs on environmental topics, such as an increased push for pesticide awareness and new techniques being used to harvest rubber.


| January/February 1986



Elephant Tusks

A Texas chemist discovered a way to make virtually indistinguishable synthetic ivory, which is good news for elephants.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DUNCAN NOAKES

Here's a quick round-up of the latest environmental news...

Synthetic Ivory Means Good News for Elephants

Texas chemist Orlando Battista has discovered a way to make synthetic ivory. By mixing microcrystalline cellulose, calcium phosphate, and a special gelatin and then letting the concoction dry at room temperature for 10 weeks, the scientist produces a material that he claims is virtually indistinguishable from real ivory and "has essentially the same chemical composition as elephant tusk." (No word yet on whether Battista has any tower-building plans.)

The Pesticide Action Network Seeks Awareness

Each year 750,000 people are poisoned by pesticides. Of these, 14,000 die. Studies indicate that the rate of poisonings in the Third World is 13 times as great as in the U.S.

Following the dictum "think globally, act locally," the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is coordinating local organizing efforts around the world to try to limit the unnecessary spread of these dangerous chemicals. One of the primary goals of the group is to "end the double standard in the worldwide pesticide trade which allows pesticides that are banned in developed countries (because of their documented health hazards) to be routinely exported to the Third World."

PAN's international "Dirty Dozen" campaign seeks to end the use of 12 extremely hazardous pesticides wherever their safe use cannot be ensured. The organization is using techniques tailored to each individual country's culture to spread the message. In Indonesia, farmers are traveling from hamlet to hamlet to tell others about natural methods of pest control. Brazilian groups have staged street theater, dressing up as the offensive pesticides to warn local farmers about the lethal potential of the poisons. And in Britain, posters and billboards proclaim, "These days there are enough pesticides in vegetables to turn you into one!"

Sheep Help With Malaysian Rubber Crops

Sheep may be the solution to the Malaysian rubber industry's weed woes. More than half of the country's cultivated land is planted in rubber trees, and the current cost of controlling the weeds that grow beneath those trees is between $100 and $150 million a year, with a large portion of that going for chemical herbicides. But Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) sends the encouraging news that, in an ongoing experiment, sheep — kept under the trees with solar-powered electric fences — have been doing a commendable job of devouring the high-protein weeds and saving the rubber-growers money, too.





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