This column features ecology and homestead news, this issue covers the threat of forest destruction, the decline of farmers and farms and pesticides and coffee.
This short series of reports includes news on the threat of forest destruction, declining numbers of farms and pesticides and coffee.
Issue # 47 — September/October 1977
The Atmosphere and the Threat of Forest Destruction Until recently, scientists had attributed the alarming rise in atmospheric C02 levels over the past century to the increased burning of fossil fuels. New evidence, however, suggests that the worldwide destruction of forests may actually be to blame. (One expert estimates that a net annual loss of just 1% of the planet's forests to fire and/or decay would increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 8 billion tons . . . more than the total amount contributed by fossil fuels.) What makes the problem especially grave is that trees are normally responsible for removing from the air the very pollutants that have been accumulating in the atmosphere at an ever-greater rate since 1860.
Fewer Americans are Farming Than Ever Before. In 1976, only 8.3 million Americans (less than 4% of the general population) lived on farms . . . a net loss of 1.5 million farm dwellers since 1970 alone. According to USDA and Census Bureau statistics, the number of farms in the U.S. dropped from 6.8 million in 1935 to 2.8 million in 1976 . . . and the trend shows no sign of reversing.
Auto Deaths Vs. The News. University of California sociologist David P. Phillips has found that during the week following front-page newspaper coverage of a suicide, traffic fatalities in California rise an average of 9% above "normal" levels. Phillips — writing in the June 24 Science — says road fatalities not only increase after a well-publicized suicide, but do so in a manner that reflects the amount and prominence of newspaper coverage. He concludes that noteworthy suicides trigger "a wave of imitative suicides . . . some of [which] are disguised and recorded as motor vehicle accidents".
Pesticides and Coffee: Albert Donadio — secretary of the Colombian Committee for Environmental Information — admits that the deadly pesticides Aldrin, Dieldrin, Chlordane, and Heptachlor (all of which were banned in the U.S. in 1975) are regularly and heavily used on Colombian coffee plants, and have been for 20 years. To date, however, U.S. researchers have been unable to detect pesticide residues on imported coffee beans (although the chemicals in question have reportedly contaminated the Colombian food chain).
The National Center for Appropriate Technology is interested in funding groups and individuals who want to develop, evaluate, or disseminate "soft" technologies for the production of food or energy, the recycling of wastes, etc. Most NCAT grants are expected to be under $10,000, although some may be larger. For more information, contact James F. Schmidt, Executive Coordinator, NCAT, P.O. Box 3838, Butte, Montana 59701, and ask for the Center's "Program Announcement" of March 30.
German Measles on the Rise. Some 10,500 cases of rubella (German measles) were recorded by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta during the first four months of 1977 . . . a sharp increase over the 6,205 cases reported during the same period last year. Perhaps coincidentally (perhaps not), the CDC reports that vaccination against rubella dropped below 1975 levels last year, and is still low. (An estimated 7.5 million youngsters are presently unprotected.)
Materialism is Not Popular Among the American People according to a recent Harris survey. By a margin of 79% to 17%, poll respondents said they'd place more emphasis on "how to live more with basic essentials" than on "reaching higher standards of living" . . . and by a healthy 76% to 17% edge, the same people chose "learning to get pleasure out of non-material experiences" over "satisfying our needs for more goods and services". Madison Avenue, take note.
The So-Called "Green Revolution" HAS FAILED to reduce malnutrition and hunger in Third World countries, a study by the multinational Asian Development Bank finds. The 490-page report says that Asians are eating the same kinds of foods in the same amounts as they did ten years ago, and that the introduction of mechanized farm equipment hasn't significantly boosted crop yields . . . although it has thrown many farm laborers out of work.
The last of the WIDELY USED "HARD" PESTICIDES — toxaphene — has been declared carcinogenic by the National Cancer Institute. Accordingly, the EPA is expected to ban the substance soon . . . . University of California scientists have succeeded in growing barley in DUNE SAND IRRIGATED WITH UNDILUTED OCEAN WATER, according to a report in the July 15 Science. What the researchers don't explain is what happens to all the sea salt they're dumping into the ground . . . . The latest National Research Council Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that MORE AMERICAN WOMEN ARE EARNING PH.D. DEGREES THAN EVER BEFORE. Fully 23% of all doctorates awarded in 1976 went to women, compared with just 10.8% in 1965 . . . . The Oregon State Legislature is reportedly considering a proposal to put a $100 REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT ON ALL NEW AUTOS sold in the state. Not a bad idea, considering that Americans discard 17,800 cars (representing 44 million pounds of steel) every day . . . . Two marine fisheries experts are warning Seattle residents NOT TO EAT BOTTOM FISH CAUGHT IN THE DUWAMISH RIVER: An alarmingly high percentage of the fish have liver tumors. By coincidence, more than 100 gallons of highly toxic PCB's were spilled into the Duwamish in 1974 . . . . NATURAL LIFE — the monthly back-to-basics magazine edited by and (to a large extent) for Canadians-will increase its subscription prices from $6.00/yr. Canada and $8.00/yr. U.S. to $10/ 12 issues (anywhere in North America) effective November 1, 1977. Write: Natural Life, 49 Peel St., Box 640, Jarvis, Ontario, Canada NOA 1J0.