The Threat of Forest Destruction, Less Farmers and Pesticides and Coffee

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.

| September/October 1977

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).

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