Bits and Pieces: Pesticides, Fresh Water, Vegetable Gardening and More

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DBJ65
In the summer of 1976, more than half of US households had some type of vegetable plot.

Aerial spraying of the pesticide Endrin against cutworms in
south-central Kansas has resulted in illness among some
local residents, and the deaths of cattle, horses, dogs,
and more than two million fish in area lakes, ponds, and
streams. Failure to turn spray machines off at critical
times–and “drift” of the compound due to application
on windy days–were cited as “probable causes”. One
dairy farmer in the region was forced to dump his herd’s
milk production for five consecutive days due to
contamination, and others are now concerned that pasture
and forage may be tainted by the man-made poison,

Did you know that a nationwide returnable-bottle system would save 115,000 barrels of oil a day … that 73% of the
people in this country favor such a plan … and that as
much as 56% of what you pay when you buy a beer or soft
drink is for the container? These facts and more on energy,
solid waste, materials, litter, employment, and consumer
issues related to the throwaway-bottle controversy are
presented in Bottles and Sense, a 20-page
publication by the Environmental Action Foundation. Copies
are available from EAF (724 Dupont Circle Building,
Washington, D.C. 20036) for $1.00 each.

The U.S. government has hidden four billion dollars in new
currency in a vault inside Pony Mountain near Culpeper,
Virginia, The seven-million-dollar facility–which is
also designed to accommodate 400 people, and costs
approximately $1.8 million a year to guard and
maintain–holds the “cache of cash” as a hedge against
any nuclear attack that might wipe out the nation’s money
supply. But, as Senator William Proxmire has wryly pointed
out, a more probable end to the doomsday plan might be that
“we would have money and no people except for a few lonely
radioactive government officials”.

Federal Trade Commission administrative judge Lewis Parker
has ruled that Seattle-area manufacturers do not have to
label the “native” Alaskan curios they sell as “machine
made in Seattle”. According to that city’s
Post-Intelligencer , the judge commented that
“many products which the consumer purchases are not what
they appear to be” and that ‘revealing the whole truth
would do away with unfounded assumptions which consumers
might have”.

Dubious honor of becoming first two insects listed as
“threatened” under the Endangered Species Act has been
bestowed upon two varieties of butterflies: the Schaus
swallowtail and Bahama swallowtail. Keith M. Schreiner,
Associate Director of the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service says the event is “particularly
disturbing because the real name of the game in endangered
species is the conservation of ecosystems, and some of the
best indicators of the health of an ecosystem are insects”.

$250 cash reward goes to any gardener who can somehow
manage to top one of the following current world’s records
for largest vegetables: tomato (4 lb., 4 oz.), watermelon
(197 lb.), squash (378 lb.), and sunflower (21′, 5-1/2″).
Prize money is offered by Grace’s Gardens (Autumn Lane,
Hackettstown, N.J. 07840), which specializes in selling
seed for rare and gigantic garden crops, and calls its
catalog (available for 25¢ ) “the world’s most
unusual”. After reading the brochure’s 16 pages full of
such items as yard-long beans, 12-foot-high corn, and
65-inch-long banana squash, we can only agree.

Nation’s capital facing yet another critical problem as
demand for fresh water–which was estimated at 381
million gallons a day in 1970–increases steadily, and
is expected to rise to 600 million gallons a day by 1980.
The city’s only source of supply, the Potomac River,
sometimes flows at a rate of just 400 million gallons per
24 hours during annual dry spells … and strip mining
operations are poisoning stretches of the river upstream
with acid wastes. Meanwhile, effluents from the metropolis
itself continue to cause severe pollution south of the
city, where the Potomac empties into Chesapeake Bay,

This year, for the first time since World War II, more than
half of all U.S. households (as many as 100 million
people!) will tend some kind of vegetable plot. And an even
more encouraging indication of the country’s burgeoning
grow-it-yourself movement is the dramatic increase in
community gardens. Two years ago, there were only 500 such
facilities … and today, the number of large tracts of
land portioned off and shared by “backyard sodbusters” is
conservatively estimated at 5,000!

You can turn your backyard into a miniature wildlife refuge –and get public recognition for doing so by
participating in a program sponsored by the National
Wildlife Federation to encourage widespread conservation.
If you’re 13 years of age or older–and live on
property (three acres or less) which meets the NWF’s
requirements for animal habitat–the organization will
“certify” your land as a wildlife refuge and send a press
release to local newspapers announcing their official
appreciation of your ecological efforts. For more
information, write the Federation at 1412 16th St. N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20036.

“Work Technique for the Occasional Chain Saw User”–a
sixteen-page color booklet described as a “mini-course in
woodcutting”–includes instructions for handling,
servicing, and using the machines to fell, limb, and buck
nearly any size tree. The publication is available for the
asking from Husqvarna, Inc., 151 New World Way, South
Plainfield, N.J. 07080.

The World Health Organization estimates that 75% to 85% of all cancer in humans is caused by man made substances
introduced into our environment … and, according to Dr.
Sheldon Margen -professor of human nutrition at the
University of California at Berkeley–much of that
percentage can be attributed to food additives. The good
doctor says that more than 3,000 chemicals are now used in
this country as artificial flavorings, and of that number
“less than 1% have been examined for toxicity”.