Europeans have taken another step in their long quest for unity. It appears in the form of a common economic unit that is growing in popularity and usage. Introduced in 1979, the European Currency Unit (ECU) has become one of the most sought after mediums of borrowing and lending on the international financial market. The acronym ECU is reminiscent of the name of an old, widely circulated French coin, the ecu, dating from the 14th century. Common Market members have used the ECU as an accounting medium and as an aid in establishing relative fixed exchange rates among their currencies. Part of what has made the ECU so desirable is its stability. Since it is tied to the European monetary system, the ECU's exchange rates are not subject to fluctuations of other currencies such as the U.S. dollar. The ECU's growth in popularity has been dramatic. ECU Eurobond issues now rank third behind the U.S dollar and the West German mark. And while European consumers cannot yet use ECUs in place of marks, francs, guilders, pounds, krones, lire or drachmas, a prototype of an ECU coin has already been minted. This year, European banks will introduce traveler's checks denominated in ECUs. How much will the ECU eventually affect Europe? Robert Ball, writing in Fortune magazine, noted: "Though the EC bureaucrats in Brussels were astonished by the explosive growth of the ECU, they're hardly complaining. They see the ECU as the forerunner of a European currency that will help unite Europe politically."
Farmers Risk Chemical Poisoning
Health-conscious consumers have worried for years about the use of chemicals on farm produce. Some of the greatest risks in the use of herbicides and pesticides are suffered by the farmers themselves. According to the Australian Department of Health, some 10 percent of Australian farmers are poisoning themselves with farm chemicals each summer. Chemical blood poisoning affected 11.5 percent of orchardists in the Goulburn and Shepparton districts during spraying season, for example. In New South Wales, about 10 percent of graziers and 15 percent of horticulturists were found to have some degree of chemical blood poisoning. Although no deaths have resulted, some farmers experienced loss of strength and impaired breathing because of high levels of organophosphates in their blood. In the more severe cases, victims of chemical poisoning suffer from nausea, paralysis, headaches, blurred vision and excessive sweating. The problem has been attributed to the farmers' failure to wear protective clothing and to follow strict safety precautions. Most poisonings occur when chemicals are absorbed through the skin. Not all the poisonous symptoms and side effects of common farm chemicals have been firmly established. Pesticides containing organochlorines may be cancer causing. In 1983, the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania noted a high incidence of leukemia among apple growers using large quantities of insecticides.
India's Emerging Influence
India, now under the leadership of Rajio Gandhi, is the second most heavily populated country in the world, after its northern neighbor, China. One out of every six persons on the earth today lives in India, jammed into a peninsula less than one third the size of the United States. By the year 2000, India's population is expected to approach one thousand million people. Some 25 additional Indians are born each minute, which equals 36,000 more each day or some 13 million each year. This means that India is growing at a rate of nearly one Australia every year. Teeming Calcutta, with a population of nearly 10 million, and Bombay, with eight million, are India's largest cities. India's capital, New Delhi, has about 500,000 people. India is a land of great diversity, reflected in its varied geography, customs, costumes, religions and languages. Indians speak 15 main languages and nearly 800 other languages and dialects. The dominant language is Hindi. Practically all religions are represented in India. Four out of five Indians are Hindus, with Moslems constituting the biggest religious minority Sikhs represent 2 percent of India's population, concentrated mainly in Punjab state. The Hindu religion regards cattle as sacred and forbids the eating of beef. Cattle are milked but not slaughtered. India, with one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world, is young as a nation. Independence from British colonial rule came in 1947, at which time British India was partitioned into Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan. Given the enormous problems India has faced, her success has been remarkable. Food — grain output in India has more than doubled in the past two decades, and is now increasing at a rate greater than that of population growth. Though agriculture is still the occupation of seven out of every 10 Indians, India can lay claim to being the world's seventh-largest industrial economy, exporting a wide variety of machinery, machine tools, textiles, fertilizers and chemicals. Rich in natural resources, India is also a leading producer of coal, iron, electricity, forestry products and rubber. But India is still plagued by widespread poverty and malnutrition. In this land of contrasts, the problems are still massive. Half the population is chronically malnourished. Only one in four can read and write. Scenes of human misery are still all too common. Overall, progress has been painfully slow because of the population explosion.
Hypertension and Your Heart
Your heart is your most important muscle. If it stops beating, you will die. If it becomes unhealthy, you can suffer from a frightening array of ailments that lead to death. That is exactly what happens in the case of hypertension. Your body, constantly bombarded by crises and excessive pressures, is weakened. Your resistance to illness is lowered. And your heart can be damaged by a variety of coronary diseases. If you are an average person, your heart beats about 70 times a minute. That's more than 100,000 times every day — more than 2.5 thousand million times in an average life span of 70 years. Your heart pumps about 1,800 gallons of blood a day — 46 million gallons in your life. Blood pressure is the force of the blood moving away from the heart, pushing against artery walls. Your blood pressure is constantly changing, but it increases when you're under stress. Drinking coffee or tea (mild stimulants), driving in heavy traffic, taking a test, asking your boss for time off or worrying about your bills increases your blood pressure temporarily. So do strong emotions such as anger, excitement or fear. Hypertension is when you're constantly under excessive stress. Your blood pressure goes up and stays up. According to life insurance companies, your blood pressure is the single best indicator of how long you will live. A 35-year-old man with a blood pressure of 150/100 will die 16 years sooner than a man with a "normal" blood pressure of 120/80. About 90 percent of hypertension is caused by life-style rather than physiological problems. Until now, most physicians have treated hypertension by prescribing drugs. And, while more and more authorities are realizing that changing one's way of living is a better solution to hypertension, it's still easier — and more profitable — to write a drug prescription than to tell an average patient to lose excess weight, stop smoking, quit worrying, exercise more and reduce intake of salt, cholesterol and heavily refined foods. The point is this: The health of your heart and other vital organs is a key to how long you will live and how much you can enjoy your life. Eliminating hypertension is vital. For a thorough discussion of stress and hypertension — complete with concrete solutions that can literally save your life — read the article entitled "Best Strategy for Beating Stress" in this issue.
Norwegians and the Bible
One in 20 Norwegians reads the Bible every day, according to a survey reported in the Norwegian daily Vaart Land The survey was conducted by the Institute for Marketing and Media. Gunnar Staalsett, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Bible Society, the organization that commissioned the study, noted that the results were not surprising. Five percent of Norwegians read the Bible daily and 10 percent of those surveyed said they read the Bible at least once a week. Twenty-eight percent said at least once a year and 52 percent reported that they never read the Bible. The results, according to the newspaper, also showed that those living on Norway's west coast, women, the elderly and those with lower incomes and education read the Bible most often. On the other hand, those living in Oslo, men, young people and those with higher incomes and education read the Bible the least.
The Silent Disaster
At the very time large crop Increases are needed to feed growing populations, massive soil losses over vast sections of the globe are severely undermining crop productivity. According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute, in many critical areas of the world humanity's most precious physical resource — fertile topsoil — is being eroded, or blown away and destroyed faster than it is being renewed. In some areas the decline in soil fertility is being temporarily masked by improved crop varieties and heavy use of chemical fertilizers. According to the report, 44 percent of U.S. cropland is losing topsoil in excess of its renewal rate. In India, another critical food-producing area, topsoil losses are even worse — 50 percent of cropland is eroding excessively. And the Soviet Union may be losing more topsoil than either of these countries. In some areas of West Africa, losses of several inches of topsoil through mismanagement have cut corn yields more than 50 percent, and certain leguminous crops by nearly 40 percent. Recent satellite photographs indicate large quantities of soil dust carried out of North Africa over the Atlantic. Under pressure to produce more to feed soaring populations or to make financial ends meet, many farmers of the world are abandoning terracing, crop rotation and fallowing, all of which conserve soil resources. Marginal lands and steep hillsides are being plowed up, overgrazed or stripped of timber and vegetation. These fragile lands quickly erode and lose fertility. The Worldwatch Institute report concludes: "Because of the shortsighted way one-third to one-half of the world's croplands are being managed, the soils on these lands have been converted from a renewable to a nonrenewable resource.... Soil erosion will eventually lead to higher food prices, hunger and, quite possibly, persistent pockets of famine." Be sure to read the full-length article "Famine on Our Doorstep?" in this issue. Shoplifting is driving consumer costs up significantly, according to British and American studies. And the typical shoplifter, contrary to popular perception, is employed and is as likely to be a man as a woman. Nearly half of all consumers, say the studies, would resent random spot checks by store security, but most don't mind being watched by cameras or plain-clothes detectives.