issue 215 - January 1991
Going, going, gone
The rate of tropical deforestation has increased by 90 per cent during the 1980s, according to a Friends of the Earth report. In 1989 alone, an estimated 142,000 square kilometres was lost worldwide. The annual rate of deforestation in Cote d'Ivoire is more than 15 per cent. The country faces complete deforestation within eight years if present trends continue.
The resulting increased release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from forest burning will contribute about 18 per cent to the total global warming.
The shifting cultivator, the small farmer who ekes out a living on the forest margins is described in the report as 'the number one question in the future of the tropical forests - a question that is rarely raised, let alone answered.' Numbering between 300 and 500 million, small farmers now account for more than half the number of trees that are felled or burnt.
So ending the forest massacre has to begin by tackling the big issues of pervasive poverty, landlessness and population growth.
From Deforestation Rates in Tropical Forests and their Climatic Implications - A Friends of the Earth report by Norman Myers.
Each American already spends nearly twice as much per head on their health as the French or Germans, and three times as much as the British. The absurd imbalance threatens to become worse as Upjohn, Pfizer, Bristol Myers and others are lobbying in the US to push the benefits of their brand name drugs in newspaper, magazine and TV adverts.
Until now advertising for prescription drugs has been in specialised medical journals. Doctors are uneasy at the possibility of new mass-market promotion; they say a demand is being created from patients who have insufficient pharmaceutical knowledge.
From The Economist, June 9, 1990
TV, a downer
Viewers feel worse after watching TV; that's official. A 13-year study by the Universities of Chicago and Rutgers found that two-thirds of American sets were switched on for eight hours a day. The conclusion - based on a prolonged sampling of 1200 people - was: 'The longer a person watches TV, the more drowsy, bored, sad, lonely and hostile the viewer becomes. Although many viewers watched TV to relax, the survey found people were more relaxed before they switched on the set.
From Consuming Interest, Australia August 1990
Farmers in the US Midwest are reducing their use of chemical fertilizers, weed-killers and insecticides. 'I've been here 18 years and I am amazed at how many more conservation concerns there are today,' said an Iowa agriculture official. 'These people have to make a living off the land and they have to drink the water that's under it. They don't want to louse it up anymore. According to an Iowa State College survey, 78 per cent of the state's farmers say that modern farming is too dependent on herbicides and insecticides, Many farmers are rediscovering the largely abandoned practises of crop rotation and manure spreading. Despite corn acreage increasing by ten per cent last year, nitrogen fertiliser sales dropped by more than ten per cent.
International Herald Tribune, 28.5.90
Swords to ploughshares
More than 11 tons of scrap metal from guns and other military hardware used by Nicaraguan Contra rebels is to be converted into artificial limbs for war victims.
The weapons, all supplied by the US in their destabilisation programme against Nicaragua over the last ten years, were handed over to the UN Observer Group in Honduras when the Contras were disarmed in April 1990. The artificial limbs coming from the scrapped guns will be for children disabled during the Nicaraguan civil war who live in refugee camps along the Honduran border.
One unwelcome peace dividend from the East-West thaw is a shipment of 100,000 nerve-gas missiles from West Germany for incineration on the tiny Johnston atoll in the South Pacific. Member nations of the South Pacific Forum grudgingly approved the shipment but they were worried that the move might 'set a precedent for the use of the Pacific as a toxic-waste dump'.
The Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke urged the small Pacific nations to accept the chemical weapons for disposal - rather ironic given Mr Hawke's repeated warnings about environmental threats like the greenhouse effect to the South Pacific.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Wisdom of Africa
Traditional cooking methods appear to be far safer than modern methods which health workers have been trying to persuade African women to adopt. Scientists, comparing differences in bacteria levels between traditionally stored and fermented food and freshly prepared food, found fresh food far more dangerous.
Bacteria levels were checked in samples of dough prepared from maize that had been fermented for between one and three days in the traditional manner, and freshly prepared dough. In areas with contaminated water supplies less than half the samples of fermented maize dough contained bacteria, while almost all the samples of fresh dough did.
Yet health workers had been advising women to switch to fresh dough, especially for weaning babies - believing that diarrhoea-causing bacteria would be less of a threat to the infant. Obviously it is time for a rethink.
From The Lancet, 21 July 1990
The enemy of my enemy...
Bangladesh has accepted a Pakistani offer to give it about 50 Chinese-built and locally modified F6 fighter-bombers. Earlier, Pakistan's military dictator, the late Zia-ul Haq, gave Bangladesh 16 of these aircraft. The latest batch will be transferred over the next few months when second-hand Mirage III fighter-bombers Pakistan recently bought from Australia are due to arrive.
Presumably such generosity might be because Bangladesh shares a long border with Pakistan's arch enemy, India.
From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 150, No. 42
Snap, crackle and pop
Cereal giant Kellogg's is swimming against the tide of green awareness. Until 1983 Kellogg's used recycled board for their breakfast cereal packaging. Now the packaging is in 100 per cent virgin pulp folding boxboard. Kellogg's blame the change on the lack of sufficient waste paper to produce recycled board.
From The Food Magazine, Issue II, Vol. 2 1990
Rags make Paper
Paper makes Money
Money makes Banks
Banks make Loans
Loans make Beggars
Beggars make Rags
Anon. 18th century.