issue 161 - July 1986
The new smoking epidemic
Smoking commercials fill 20 per cent of advertising time on Argentinian television. In The Gambia a cigarette box top will give a smoker a chance of winning a new car. Seventy-five per cent of the retail price of cigarettes goes to the government in Brazil. Zimbabwe's largest cash crop is tobacco. And China was five billion dollars richer last year as a result of its state-owned tobacco industry. The examples go on endlessly - the nicotine habit is taking a firm grip on Third World markets. So what does the tobacco industry have to say about this state of affairs? The World Development Education News Service quotes one of the industry's spokesmen as follows: 'People in the developing countries don't have a long enough life expectancy to worry about smoking-related problems.'
'We are creating a new generation of illiterates,' so began a recent article in Time magazine. The publication was commenting on a new US Census Bureau literacy test of 3,400 Americans aged 20 or over. Thirteen per cent failed the test, answering correctly 20 or less of the 26 multiple-choice questions. (Sample: Don't allow your medical identification card to a) be used b) have destroy c) go lose d) get expired by any other person.) It was a pretty simple test.
Added to this failure rate, an additional 20 per cent refused to take the test, most it was conjectured, for fear of revealing their illiteracy. From these results it's estimated that 17-21 million US adults cannot read.
And the problem is getting worse: 44 per cent of all illiterates are in the 20-39 age group.
The costs of such illiteracy can't be measured. But reports tell of an industrial worker killed because he could not read a warning, a sick child given a pink detergent instead of medicine by a confused mother, and another parent who endorsed what was thought to be a routine permission form for a school trip - only to discover their daughter had been committed to a home for the retarded.
As a commentator maintained: 'the future belongs to the thinkers and people who will be able to master the expanding technologies'. Just where does that leave those in the brave new world without reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic?
From Time magazine, May 18, 1986
Chernobyl - Sri Lankan style
In the first week of December 1985, over 100,000 kilos of the pesticide malathion stored in suburban Colombo, caught fire. For over a week a heavy smell enveloped the capital city. Smoke and toxic fumes forced hundreds of people onto the streets with nausea, vomiting and headaches. Fire fighters were unable to handle the blaze which raged for three days. When the flames were doused with water it was discovered that this only aggravated the malathion fire. Finally the smouldering heap was covered in sand.
There were no fatalities from the blaze. Used to control mosquitoes, malathion is considered one of the safer insecticides. It degrades quickly and doesn't stay long in the environment. Nevertheless there are still lots of problems handling such artificial chemicals. Imagine the difficulties of dealing with plutonium and radiation leaks.
Recently the troubled island put off a decision to develop nuclear energy. There but for the grace of God...
From Earthscan Bulletin, Vok9 No:1 1986
Secret of longevity
Vegetarians spend less than a quarter of the time in hospitals that meat-eaters do, according to an independent clinical survey in Britain. The average life-long vegetarian costs the National Health Service $19,000 (£12,340) in hospital treatment compared with the avenge meat-eater who costs $90,000 (£58,062). Now what price for your roast beef for Sunday dinner?
Information but not opinion from Agscene, Newsletter of Compassion in World Farming, No.83 1986
Because of the enormous energy consumption involved in making aluminium from bauxite, and tough domestic environmental regulations, Japan now only uses recycled aluminium. By buying used aluminium from elsewhere the Japanese leave to more reckless countries the bill for high-energy costs of bauxite smelting, and the high pollution costs that accompany this.
From Consumer Currents, No. 85 1986
Flying squads investigate
Soviet and American cardiologists who won a $228,000 Nobel Peace Prize as cofounders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, will use the money to dispatch three 'flying squads' of doctors. One will tour the world to promote a nuclear test ban; one will visit the Middle East to study what they call the world's 'tinder box' and a joint American and Russian mission will 'collect evidence of the effects of hunger and disease' on Africa's poor.
From The Observer, London, 1986
The military cock-up
Few would have thought five years ago that South America would enter the second half of the 1980s with 94 per cent of its population living under civilian, constitutional regimes. It's probably because the boys from the barracks made such a cock-up of running their countries in the 1970s. The legacy of economic distress left by the soldiers and to be fair by the world recession has been:
· Per capita income for all of Latin America down by 9 per cent since 1980.
· Unemployment higher than ever (50 per cent in some regions).
· Inflation rampant (150 per cent for the region as a whole).
· Commodity prices lower in real terms now than at any time since the 1930s.
· Nearly 40 per cent of all export earnings going to the West to service loans.
In human terms this translates into hunger, infant deaths, homeless children, refugees, bread riots, mounting street crime (including internal drug traffic) - and increasing public impatience. 'Without a turn-round,' writes Professor Abraham F Lowenthal, 'our neighbours in the hemisphere could all too easily become our antagonists. Prolonged stagnation could push them into a national populism that would put the blame on the banks, the International Monetary Fund and the United States.' Well, who'd have guessed it?
Information but not opinion from Foreign Affairs. 1986
A rising number of under-25s are vegetarian, according to a 'Here's Health' survey conducted by MIL Research Ltd in Britain. The Vegetarian Society receives 1,200 enquiries a week, and reckons that if the present trend continues, half the population could become vegetarian by the end of the century.
From Agscene, Newsletter of Compassion in World Farming, No.83, 1986
The wheel's hub holds thirty spokes
Utility depends on the hole through the hub
The potter's clay forms a vessel
It is the space within that serves
A house is built with Solid walls
The nothingness of window and door alone renders it usable
That which exists may be transformed
What is nonexistent has boundless uses.