Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/266

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

their assistants, and the students are familiarized with chemical manipulation, the determination of the different kinds of minerals and plants, draughting, land-surveying, the management of animals, agricultural machines, etc. The farm attached to the school comprises 300 hectares (about 750 acres).

 

Noxious Vapors and Health.—In the report of an English commission on noxious vapors given off in the course of various manufactures, a principle is laid down which, if accepted by courts, would afford a speedy remedy for many of the ills of modern life. What the report says with special reference to alkali and copper works may be applied to such nuisances as fat rendering and petroleum-refining establishments; also to such destroyers of quiet as elevated railroads. "To be free from bodily discomfort," says the report, quoting the words of Mr. Simon, "is a condition of health. If a man gets up with a headache, pro tanto he is not in good health; if a man gets up unable to eat his breakfast, pro tanto he is not in good health. When a man is living in an atmosphere which keeps him constantly below par, as many of those trade-nuisances do, all that is an injury to health." But it is more than doubtful whether the commission will be able to enforce any measures that will effectually abate these nuisances. It is admitted that, besides the direct injury to the public health, noxious factory gases are chargeable with doing serious damage to agriculture. Cattle die from grazing on poisoned herbage, farms become parched up, yellow, and cannot be tenanted; parks, woodlands, and hedges, are slowly annihilated. But the factories give employment to the population, and working people are content to labor even in an unwholesome atmosphere for their daily bread. To require the entire suppression of nuisances involves outlay of money, and, in the present depressed state of manufacturing industry in Britain, proprietors are unwilling to incur expense. They would close their establishments, so throwing people out of employment, rather than burden themselves with the cost of carrying out the provisions of such a law as the sanitarians demand. Said the President of the Salt Chamber of Commerce: "We are taking no steps whatever to consume our own black smoke. The local authority must fine me as long as they can; if they fine me to too great an extent I shall have to shut up. This will be the case with all of us, and the trade will be driven from the district."

 

A Defense of the Sparrows.—Dr. Elliott Coues's "railing accusations" against the English sparrow have called forth many a hot-tempered reply from the friends of that bird, some of whom are so unpatriotic as to prefer the foreign intruder to the feathered songsters of their native land. Among these partisans of the English sparrow must be numbered Mr. Robert B. Roosevelt, who, in a late number of Forest and Stream, scruples not to answer "railing with railing." Dr. Coues, it will be remembered, makes five distinct categories of the sparrow's friends; Mr. Roosevelt does not care to differentiate the bird's enemies, but lumps them in one class, the "sparrow-hawks." The sparrows are worthless idlers, say these sparrow-hawks; but what, asks Mr. Roosevelt, was the condition of our city parks and tree shaded streets before the advent of the sparrows? Were they not practically impassable from the numbers of disgusting measuring-worms which hung in festoons from the limbs of the trees? The parks were abandoned absolutely to the worms, which by June had stripped every leaf, often killing the trees, and making them as bare and denuded as in mid-winter. The sparrows came, and everything was changed. "But," say the sparrow-hawks, "our native birds might have done the same service." "Might have done!" exclaims Mr. Roosevelt, contemptuously; "they never did." On the other hand, the sparrows "did not pave the parks with good intentions, but set about their appointed work and did it. They did not idle on bush or limb to squeak a feeble attempt at harmony" (such is the fling the author makes at our native feathered songsters); "they did not slip off to steal fruit; they did not satisfy their minds and feel that they had performed the whole duty of birds by setting up their feathers and saying, 'How pretty I am!' They were expected to kill worms, and they killed them. Early and late, without folly or idleness or