Keir Hardie and the Labour Party of today

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

James_Keir_Hardie_by_John_Furley_Lewis,_1902Keir Hardie was a socialist of the old school and founder of the Labour Party, however not of the kind that we know today and this can be seen from address of his below.

“I shall not weary you by repeating the tale of how public opinion has changed during those twenty-one years. But, as an example, I may recall the fact that in those days, and for many years thereafter, it was tenaciously upheld by the public authorities, here and elsewhere, that it was an offense against laws of nature and ruinous to the State for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool.

These cruel, heartless dogmas, backed up by quotations from Jeremy Bentham, Malthus, and Herbert Spencer, and by a bogus interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, were accepted as part of the unalterable laws of nature, sacred and inviolable, and were maintained by statesmen, town councilors, ministers of the Gospel, and, strangest of all, by the bulk of Trade Union leaders. That was the political, social and religious element in which our Party saw the light. There was much bitter fighting in those days. Even municipal contests evoked the wildest passions. And if today there is a kindlier social atmosphere it is mainly because of twenty-one years’ work of the ILP.

Scientists are constantly revealing the hidden powers of nature. By the aid of the X-rays we can now see through rocks and stones; the discovery of radium has revealed a great force which is already healing disease and will one day drive machinery; Marconi, with his wireless system of telegraphy and now of telephony, enables us to speak and send messages for thousands of miles through space.

Another discoverer, through means of the same invisible medium, can blow up ships, arsenals, and forts at a distance of eight miles.

But though these powers and forces are only now being revealed, they have existed since before the foundation of the world. The scientists, by sympathetic study and laborious toil, have brought them within our ken. And so, in like manner, our Socialist propaganda is revealing hidden and hitherto undreamed of powers and forces in human nature.

Think of the thousands of men and women who, during the past twenty-one years, have toiled unceasingly for the good of the race. The results are already being seen on every hand, alike in legislation and administration. And who shall estimate or put a limit to the forces and powers which yet lie concealed in human nature?

Frozen and hemmed in by a cold, callous greed, the warming influence of Socialism is beginning to liberate them. We see it in the growing altruism of Trade Unionism. We see it, perhaps, most of all in the awakening of women. Who that has ever known woman as mother or wife has not felt the dormant powers which, under the emotions of life, or at the stern call of duty are even now momentarily revealed? And who is there who can even dimly forecast the powers that lie latent in the patient drudging woman, which a freer life would bring forth? Woman, even more than the working class, is the great unknown quantity of the race.

Already we see how their emergence into politics is affecting the prospects of men. Their agitation has produced a state of affairs in which even Radicals are afraid to give more votes to men, since they cannot do so without also enfranchising women. Henceforward we must march forward as comrades in the great struggle for human freedom.

The Independent Labour Party has pioneered progress in this country, is breaking down sex barriers and class barriers, is giving a lead to the great women’s movement as well as to the great working-class movement. We are here beginning the twenty-second year of our existence. The past twenty-one years have been years of continuous progress, but we are only at the beginning. The emancipation of the worker has still to be achieved and just as the ILP in the past has given a good, straight lead, so shall the ILP in the future, through good report and through ill, pursue the even tenor of its way, until the sunshine of Socialism and human freedom break forth upon our land”.

Keir Hardie was first elected to Parliament in 1895 and was integral to the founding of the Labour Representation Committee (later the Labour Party) in 1900, becoming its first leader in 1906. On April 11th 1914 – just a little over one hundred years ago – Hardie attended the twenty-first anniversary of the formation of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford where he gave the address above.

Despite the fact that the present-day Labour Party is about as far removed from socialism and Hardie's ideas and ideals they will always claim that they are his children, basically. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

The Labour Party of today and the majority of its (leading) members would not know socialism if it bit them in the proverbial butt and those of the ordinary membership who claim that their Labour representatives do also must examine as to whether they have the lightest idea of what socialism truly is and is all about.

It is not only about free health care but a great deal more. In fact those socialists that went before understood it even better, such as Owen, and those who stood for the Co-operative Commonwealth.

While there are flaws in many of the programs of those old socialists and those that followed it is possible by combining the good from all programs and by thinking up our own ways to create true socialism where everyone gets a fair chance and where everyone is – yes – equal. Where everyone has a home, has work, or is free to pursue his or her own calling as to making a living, but where everyone works in one way or the other; where work is seen as a duty and as a honor. Where health care is first of all true health care and not a business with sickness and where everyone has a right to treatment as and when needed free. Where man and Nature are at the center and not corporation, economy and profit. Where there are no more masters and slaves. It can be done but not with the system we have at present and that includes that of political parties.

© 2014

Jimmy Carter entrusts secrets to snail mail: NSA might monitor his email

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

letter1Former American president is aware his emails could be monitored by US intelligence agencies excessively “liberalized” under President Obama so he prefers to send letters via ‘snail mail’ to ensure the privacy of correspondence.

In an interview with the NBC TV channel Jimmy Carter said he does not trust electronic communications because they could be monitored.

“When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately,” Carter said, “I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it”. And I think that we all can take a leaf out of President Carter's book here.

It has become obvious that the emails of all of us, not just elder statesmen and such, are being monitored by the NSA, the CIA, GCHQ, and others and that, therefore, out email (and cell phone) communications are far from secure.

Not that long ago, in the light of the Snowden revelations, the Russian intelligence community decided to return to the use of typewriters and paper for their confidential and secret communications and files. Each and every typewriter has a so-called “fingerprint” and thus a document that has gone into the wrong hands can be traced back to an individual machine.

While email is a great tool for speedy communications the fact that more than likely every one's emails are being scrutinized by the intelligence services of the US and the UK (and that of other countries, such as Australia), as they are all in this together, especially the Five Eyes, this medium cannot be considered safe and secure. Even encrypted emails can and will be read and as no warrant is required to do this, unlike the opening and reading of postal mail, the answer to a more secure means of communication is the old one... the letter, in an envelope and entrusted to the postie or to a personal courier. And, the old method of the spies also might be of use, that of the dead letter box.

When thinking secure communications do not think encrypted email and such but think the old methods that we have been using for many centuries, even before we had the Royal Mail and other such postal services.

When former presidents and the security services no longer trust – or never trusted in the first place – computers and email then, maybe, it is time that the mere ordinary mortals took notice. And storing data “in the cloud” really is not sensible at all.

As far as letters, in envelope with stamp, are concerned the cost factor is a consideration, and not just for overseas mail but the security factor outweighs that hundred times.

Email has its place for “ordinary” communications, personal and business, but the letter, by post, courier or other ways delivered, is the only secure way for sensitive communications.

© 2014

deliberateLIFE Magazine Issue #5 – Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

deliberateLIFE 5deliberateLIFE Magazine is now one year old – so let's say Happy Birthday – and issue #5 has just hit the iPad screens and others, so to speak, and this is yet another great issue.

The reader will, once again, find well written articles on living more deliberately, especially in the city, and how to reduce his or her environmental footprint, and much more.

My favorite pieces in this issue are “Tips to conserve water” on page 12; “The L.A. Kitchen” on page 21; the ones in the section entitle “Work” and “Venture into slow living” and “The drive to drive less” on page 39 and 42 respectively.

deliberateLIFE is the brainchild of Fay Johnson Fay Johnson. She is the Founder & Chief Deliberator at deliberateLIFE Magazine.

Fay is a social entrepreneur and has worked with influencers, businesses, governments, and non-profits to leverage their resources effectively to create change. Prior to moving back to California, Fay lived and worked in Washington, DC, where she served as the Co-Director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and as a key staff member on the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. After leaving Capitol Hill, Fay served as a Policy Advisor at Oxfam America, leading the organization's advocacy and campaigning efforts during the 2008 drought in Ethiopia.

Seeing the need for a more multi-disciplinary approach to today's pressing social issues, Fay formed a new type of consultancy, Red Balloon Ideas. Her consultancy combines behavior change communication, strategic planning and cultural anthropology to develop effective change strategies for non-profits, governments, and businesses interested in tackling social issues. Fay holds a B.A. from UCLA in International Development and a Master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.

A global citizen, Fay was born in South Africa and emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area at a young age. The daughter of two social entrepreneurs, she spent much of her childhood traveling, visiting over 26 countries before she graduated from high school. These experiences embedded the deep belief that we are all part of one large global village. Fay has lived and worked in Hungary, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, the United States and South Africa.

Prior to her work on poverty and social justice issues, Fay ran her own business as a professional organizer, helping clients create order in their homes. Her favorite projects involved organizing closets, a skill she hopes to pass along to readers. Her second company was a photo preservation and scrapbooking business which allowed her to hone her design skills. Fay currently lives in Oakland, California.

© 2014

HAVE YOUR FLOWER GARDEN ... AND EAT IT

edibleflowers1For Rachael Voaden - founder of The Edible Flower Shop - choosing beautiful flowers that were also edible became a lifestyle necessity. The idyllic thatched cottage in rural mid-Devon that she still resides in today - along with her husband and two young boys – has everything one aspires to owning in the countryside. That is, except a large garden.

For someone like Rachael, clearly passionate about self-sufficiency and cultivation, she was not going to allow limited exterior space to become an obstruction, in fact the very opposite. What started as a personal solution then grew in to an online shop success story. With national and global interest and a flurry of regular customers, The Edible Flower Shop has fast become a sustainable and flourishing internet business.

"I want everyone to know how great edible flowers are, and to look at their gardens differently, particularly if they have restricted space," explains Rachael. "Besides providing the right seeds to plant, I supply growing guides for each flower and recipe suggestions post harvest. Any sized growing space is ideal for my products. They suit window boxes, courtyard gardens, roof terraces, allotments, even large country estates."

Edible flowers can create a stunning and colourful backdrop for any exterior. But whilst looking good, they also taste great. Delicious floral salads, cake decoration, home-made food colouring, quirky ice-cubes, calming tea and scented sugars are just some of the recipes that can be made from the flowers. And it's all become possible thanks to Rachael's creative and resourceful idea.

Currently selling 54 varieties, The Edible Flower Shop aims to bring its products to the everyday person. "There is a misconception that edible flowers only suit Michelin-star type cooking or Foraging Restaurants. What is actually true is that everyone with access to outside areas has the potential to grow and eat them," says Rachael. "I have also given a lot of thought about how I can help the bees, so I decided to highlight all the flowers on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list."

Rachael concludes: "Flowers have been eaten for centuries, but fell out of favour in recent decades, so living in a society where growing space comes at a premium, isn't it time we made the most of what we've got?"

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Edible Perennial Gardening – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Edible Perennial Gardening
Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces
by Anni Kelsey 
Published by Permanent Publications March 2014
176 pages, paperback, 240 x 170mm
Illustrated with colour photographs throughout
ISBN: 978 1 85623 149 7
Price: £14.95

edible-perennial-gardeningForeword by Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, co-author of Edible Forest Gardens.

Do you dream of a low maintenance perennial garden that is full to the brim of perennial vegetables that you don't have to keep replanting, but only have a small space? Do you want a garden that doesn't take much of your time and that needs little attention to control the pests and diseases that eat your crops? Do you want to grow unusual vegetable varieties? You can have all of this with Edible Perennial Gardening.

Anni Kelsey has meticulously researched the little known subject of edible perennials and selected her favourite, tasty varieties. She explains how to source and propagate different vegetables, which plants work well together in polycultures, and what you can plant in small, shady or semi-shady beds as well as in sunny areas. It includes:

  • Getting started and basic principles

  • Permaculture, forest gardening and natural farming

  • Growing in polycultures

  • How to chose suitable leafy greens, alliums, roots, tubers and herbs

  • Site selection and preparation

  • Building fertility

  • Low maintenance management strategies

If you long for a forest garden but simply don't have the space for tree crops, or want to grow a low maintenance edible polyculture, this book will explain everything you need to know to get started on a new gardening adventure that will provide you with beauty, food for your household and save you money.

Anni Kelsey graduated with a first class degree in geography from Aberystwyth University in 1990. She has worked as a research officer for a council's Economic Development Department and on various Urban Regeneration projects. She is passionate about permaculture, forest gardening and the Transition Movement.

There have been books on this subject, certainly, written by other authors but geared, predominately at US or Australian growing areas and conditions. Thanks to Anni Kelsey we now have a book on this matter written with the British and (Northern) European gardener in mind, finally.

Polyculture, for the uninitiated, is agriculture, or horticulture, in this case food gardening, using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. It is one of the principles of permaculture.

Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture namely that the diversity of crops avoids the susceptibility of monocultures to disease.

A study in China, for example, reported in “Nature” showed that planting several varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely because of a dramatic (94%) decrease in the incidence of disease, which made pesticides redundant.

The greater variety of crops also provides habitat for more species, increasing local biodiversity. This is one example of reconciliation ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes. It is also a function of a biological pest control program.

Written from experience rather that simply from what has been researched by means of what others have written and done this book – by way of a personal story and account – tells of the pitfalls as much as of the successes of edible perennial gardening and polyculture, this is the book for anyone of us interested in trying this kind of food gardening and I, certainly, shall have a closer look at doing it. I am already growing “edible weeds”, such as dandelion, sorrel and others and all I now need are some “nice” perennial vegetables together with annuals, left as perennials, maybe.

A real great book from once again from Permanent Publications and another one that I am happy to endorse.

© 2014

The story of Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library

4577618734_5e093c6cdc_mLong before seed catalogs were available, farmers and gardeners saved seed from one year to the next.

The commercialization of the seed trade in the 19th century unfortunately brought with it corruption amongst unscrupulous seed companies.

To prevent such abuses the European legislation was eventually introduced, making it illegal to commercially market seeds of varieties not included on either the UK National List, or in the European Common Catalog. Listed varieties had to go through rigorous two-year trials in order to establish their distinctiveness, uniformity and stability (DUS testing) and many smaller seed companies found the costs involved prohibitive amongst other pressures. In addition, synonymy tests effectively reduced the number of varieties available to both commercial and amateur growers. Hence, many were lost.

The late Lawrence Hills, founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA, now Garden Organic), realized that the new laws would limit the gardeners' choice. He wanted to do something to

conserve genetic diversity in vegetable varieties associated with the UK and Europe, to counteract this loss.

Initially, he helped to establish the national gene bank at Horticulture Research International, Wellesborne, Warwickshire; now part of Warwick University. Creation of the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) followed; born out of Lawrence's foresight and enthusiasm. It started life as the Genetic Resources Unit, a tiny collection of

varieties grown to raise public awareness and to provide seed for re-sowing. In 1992 Garden Organic formally recognized the importance of the collection and HSL was conceived.

The HSL collection holds 19th and 20th century commercial varieties that have fallen from favor and are no longer maintained by seed companies; historic cultivators that pre-date seed catalogers and cultivars; local varieties which have been grown in a specific location for many years and heirloom varieties that have been

handed down through families for generations and never been available commercially.

There are currently around 800 accessions in the HSL collection, with around 200 awaiting trial and assessment. All are open pollinated varieties, which potentially contain a wealth of genetic material, and because of this are often used in the breeding of modern hybrids. Once this has disappeared we will lose a

valuable genetic resource that may be useful for the future. Unlike F1 hybrids, seeds collected from open pollinated varieties will also produce plants that are 'true to type', providing that they have not cross-pollinated. This means that there is no need to purchase new seeds each year.

More than 100 varieties are grown at Garden Organic headquarters, near Coventry, each year. This annual harvest helps to conserve the collection, but could never meet HSL members' requirements. In excess of 40,000 packets of seeds are filled, sealed and mailed by hand, by just two full time, two part time and one temporary staff member each year, plus a team of fantastic volunteers. We are also sent a number of varieties that are new to HSL. These are trialled to assess their suitability for the collection, and characterized using a system derived from IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute) standards.

These trials occupy a certain amount of our growing area, reducing the space that we can dedicate to bulking up stock for supplying HSL members each year. This is where the volunteer Seed Guardians, HSL members who have decided to go that extra inch, really come into their own. Each Seed Guardian is responsible for growing allocated varieties specifically to return seed to HSL.

Each consignment we receive is cleaned, weighed and assigned a traceable batch number, before being stored. Guardians are expected to ensure that their allocated HSL varieties remain pure, and report on the varieties they grow, providing us with information regarding the performance of the crop during that season. New Guardians select their varieties from our 'orphans list' distributed each March. Our Seed Guardians are the stalwarts of HSL, without their dedication the diverse range of cultivars offered in the catalog would significantly diminish.

Our work is supported and funded by generous donors and HSL members who, for an annual subscription, (currently £20, £ 15 for existing Garden Organic members) receive two editions of the Garden Organic magazine, The Organic Way, and are entitled to select six packets of seed from around 150 listed in the most recent HSL catalog. Our members have access to our Seed Saving Guidelines and other resources via the Garden Organic website, and are free to contact us directly at any time with their questions and queries regarding their HSL varieties.

We believe that keeping vegetable varieties growing and saving seed each year is the best way to ensure that it is preserved.

If you would like more information regarding the work of HSL, or Seed Guardianship, we can be contacted at hsl@gardenorganic.org.uk or by telephone on 024 7630 8232. HSL membership information can be found on the Garden Organic website at www.gardenorganic.org.uk, or by contacting our membership department directly on 024 7630 8210.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Free thinking now considered a mental illness?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

FreeThinking1Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the latest edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is.

The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder”, or ODD, which is being defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” the symptoms of which are said to include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.

DSM-5_JustPub_250x250The DSM is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and, with each new edition, there are scores of new mental illnesses. Are we becoming sicker? Is it getting harder to be mentally healthy? Authors of the DSM say that it’s because they’re better able to identify these illnesses today. Critics charge that it’s because they have too much time on their hands.

I would like to add here as to the “free thinking” part, the new mental illness of ODD, that the system has become aware of the fact that all over the world people are beginning to question what they are being told by their governments and the media and the system now is finding a way to cure those who think differently, those dissidents, of their tendencies and make then “normal” like everyone else.

Other new mental illnesses identified by the DSM include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocial behavior. In the past, these were called “personality traits,” but now they’re diseases. And, obviously, there are treatments available.

All of this is a symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM has gone from 130 to 357 mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children.

Although the manual maybe an important diagnostic tool for psychiatric medicine, or should we say the psychiatric industry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise in ADHD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largely because of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. A Washington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, he would be diagnosed with ADHD and “medicated into barren normality.”

According to the DSM, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry. Obviously, the system has to catch them early before they become adults and can become dangerous to the powers-that-be.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, and Stalinism was not defeated and dead after Stalin died – far from it – new “mental illnesses” were used for political repression. People who did not accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They were regarded to be suffering from the delusion of believing communism was wrong or, if not communism, for many did believe communism itself to be right, then the Party and the Party was never wrong. They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bring them back to sanity.

When the last edition of the DSM was published, identifying the symptoms of various mental illnesses in children, there was a jump in the diagnosis and medication of children. Some US federal states, and also other countries, have laws that allow protective agencies to forcibly medicate, and even make it a punishable crime to withhold medication. This paints a chilling picture for those of us who are nonconformists.

Although the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives but simply better diagnostic practices, the labeling of freethinking and nonconformity as mental illnesses has a lot of potential for abuse. It can easily become a weapon in the arsenal of a repressive state.

The system is in its last death throes and is fighting tooth and nail to keep alive. And, while the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives, as said, I don't completely buy that story. And even if they are innocent of ulterior motives this manual can easily, nay will very easily, become a weapon of repression by the state and the powers-that-be above the states.

It would appear more and more that governments all across the world have misunderstood that “1984” was intended as a warning and not as a handbook. It is a shame that the general public who may have read the book did not see the warnings on the horizon and allowed the governments to get such power which is not due to them. They are meant to be answerable to the people but that all is smoke and mirrors and nothing more.

Seeing that I am rather a nonconformist and a freethinker it is obvious, according to the symptoms, that I must be seriously ill. Well, I don't think so. But then I might be delusional as well.

© 2014

I make no apologies for advocating paper

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

paper products in the officeUsing paper is an anathema for many in the green environmental movement but there is nothing wrong with paper, nothing whatsoever. Not even with paper made from wood pulp.

There is nothing wrong with paper for books or with using it for communications whether as letter or memo. In the same way as there is nothing wrong with wood in the form of products whatsoever. Better than using plastic by a long shot. Wooden kitchen utensils are way more hygienic than are plastic ones as the woods used for making them contain high amounts of antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties.

When it comes to paper we are all being lied to left, right and center by people who either do not know what they are talking about and thus know no better or who have some other vested interest. Paper is not made from (tropical) rainforest trees. They are hardwood and the hardness of the wood simply makes them unsuitable for paper pulp, period!

Most paper is produced from spruce and other conifers specifically grown for this purpose and which are replanted after each felling and thus the entire operation is sustainable. And that ad infinitum. Most of those forests are owned by the paper industry and would not exist were it not for us using paper.

In fact, reducing the use of paper or doing without it all together would mean that the industry would no longer have any use for those forests and they would, in the end, be clear cut and turned over to some other use. And the size of those forests going in the hundreds of thousands of hectares if not more and they would be lost as forests without paper being produced and used. In addition to that millions of jobs would also be put in jeopardy if the industry would cease to exist or even would have to scale down significantly.

Then, when using paper as opposed to computer and the cloud there is the added security factor that, as long as the document is in your possession, in your filing cabinet or safe, or whatever, it is secure. The same cannot be said when held on a computer and especially not when held “in the cloud”.

It is for that reason that the Russian intelligence community is returning to the use of typewriters and paper for sensitive documents and a paper-based circulation list.

It is true that paper can be made from pulp other than wood pulp, such as from hemp – it used to be made from this plant until the early part of the 20th century, as well as from rags, as long as those are from natural fibers. In fact the Chinese, who invented paper, did make that paper from just that stuff, that is to say from rags. And that was all the while the Europeans still used vellum made from animal skins.

However, today most paper is being made from wood-pulp, predominately from coniferous trees such as spruce and fir with the occasional deciduous ones in the form of poplar and birch. Most other deciduous and even coniferous woods are too hard for the creation of pulp for the making of paper.

It is true, however, that acre for acre hemp is much more productive for fiber for the making of paper as is wood but, alas, the growing of hemp (Canabis sativa) is outlawed in most places, or strictly controlled because of the hallucinogenic properties of hemp due to its contents of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In times past, however, it was compulsory – yes, compulsory – for farmers to give over part of the farm to the growing of hemp for making of sails and other canvas products as well as and especially for the making of paper.

The New York Times in 2012 had a great article entitled “In Defense of the Power of Paper” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/jobs/pen-and-paper-still-practical-in-the-office-workstation.htmwhere even Joel Makover of the Green Business Group says that while he uses paper not that much he still prints out reports for proofreading as he finds it easier to read things on paper than on the screen and this, in fact, goes for many people.

© 2014

New study presents compelling case for GPs to put food growing ‘on prescription’

GrowingHealthA new study has shown that community food growing can improve people’s overall fitness and healthy eating, alleviate the symptoms of mental illness, and help cancer sufferers cope with the distressing effects of their treatment. The authors undertook a review of international scientific research demonstrating the benefits of gardening and community food growing for physical and mental wellbeing. They are now calling on health professionals to put community food growing ‘on prescription’, for the many health benefits this would achieve.

GrowingHealth_BenefitsReportEntitled ‘The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing’, the study has been launched at a conference for health professionals and food growing project organizers, that took place 2nd April 2014 in London. The conference was organized by Growing Health, a charitable initiative helping community food growing projects to demonstrate their benefits and persuade GPs and local health services to invest in the support and services they can provide.

For the large number of people in our society – children and adults – who live with challenging physical or mental health problems, gardening and community food growing can be especially beneficial,” said Professor Tim Lang, chair of the Growing Health conference.

Such activities can relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses, prevent the development of some serious conditions, reduce stress and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their own well-being in the longer term.”

The Growing Health organizers have reviewed many working examples of GPs and health professionals already using community food growing to treat physical and mental health conditions. One example, whose organizers will share their experiences at the conference, is Sydenham Gardens in South London, founded by local residents and a local GP to provide gardening, nature conservation and creative opportunities for local people. Patients are referred to the project through their GP or key worker.

This important new study of the evidence for the benefits of gardening and community food growing is a call to action for health professionals,” said Maria Devereaux, Growing Health project officer. “Pioneering action, already piloted by local GPs and health authorities, to put gardening and food growing ‘on prescription’ should now be recognised and replicated throughout the NHS, and local authority planners should protect and create food growing spaces, for the benefit of everyone.”

The Growing Health conference will feature inspiring case studies of food growing ‘on prescription’, and a presentation from Joe Sempik of the University of Nottingham – a leading authority on social and therapeutic horticulture – on how food growing projects can measure their benefits to prove their worth to the health service.

The full study ‘The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing’, is available at www.growinghealth.info

Growing Health is a national project run by the charities Garden Organic (www.gardenorganic.org.uk) and Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming (www.sustainweb.org), and funded by the Tudor Trust charitable foundation. The project aims to see how community food growing can be routinely used by the health and social care services as a way of promoting health and wellbeing for a range of individuals and population groups. See: www.growinghealth.info

Tim Lang is professor of food policy at the Centre for Food Policy at City University London. He is also a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health, President of the charity Garden Organic, and a keen vegetable grower. See: www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/timothy-lang

Several case studies of GPs and health professionals using gardening and food growing to treat health conditions are published at: www.sustainweb.org/growinghealth/case_studies/ and The Sydenham Gardens case study is downloadable at: www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/reports/GH_SydenhamCaseStudy.pdf

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service, company or organization mentioned.

The current crisis of the modern world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

capitalistcrisisAt the time of writing in the first decades of the 21st century the world is in a serious crisis far bigger than “just” an economic one. The crisis is consistent of – one – and economic one based on an unsustainable perpetual growth and – two – the fact that the system is collapsing and – three – the climate is changing and means that we all have to change and make changes.

There are many changes that we have to make and we must take many small and large steps – aside from throwing the bankers from their ivory towers, though not necessarily literally – to change the way we live, the way we work and everything else, including the way the world operates. Please note that I did not say “the way we are governed” because if we are free people than government has no place.

As far as the changing climate is concerned it is probably 90% man-made and 10% natural and the former we can do something about the latter I doubt that we can. And because we can do something about the former, that is the man-made part of climate change we must do something about it and it starts with each and everyone of us. But that is but one, though large, part of the crisis.

Our current and ongoing economic crisis – and let no one deceive us that it is over or is about to end – and the climate crisis is a greater threat to security than terrorism.

The so-called economic recovery that is being banded about is but an illusion as it is not founded on more or renewed buying power in the average person's hand and cannot be sustained. And then again we must get away from notion and concept of perpetual growth in the economy anyway as it simply is not sustainable in any way or shape.

The current economic model, however, with overproduction leading to unemployment leading to a lack of purchasing power, leading to overproduction leading to unemployment... you get the picture, I am sure, was designed this way, unfortunately, and no mere tinkering around with it will ever make it any less susceptible to a boom and bust cycle.

The modern industrialization with mechanized production and ever more mechanization today leads to a system that exploits the workers, at home and abroad, and the environment.

Where, in the pre-industrial age our needs were met by the (local) producers and craftsmen who could only make one item at a time and then, predominately, from more or less local materials, today goods, the “need” for which is often created artificially through advertising, are made from materials that come from all around the globe and the good are often made in low wage countries and then shipped around the globe to the consumer.

Mechanized factory production led also to the pool of a permanent unemployed workforce, to overproduction and to the destruction of the environment.

The wage economy was the best that ever happened to the capitalist. He no longer had to feed, house and clothe his slaves in his workshops and on hi plantations. He gave them the freedom to work for money, thus making them wage slaves, where he could then get them to pay him rent for housing and also have them buy the things they needed in the stores owned by him at inflated prices. And while this may not entirely be true anymore today, as to the rents and the stores, as most capitalist employers no longer hold the housing stock and have stores where the workers are forced to buy the wage slavery still persists.

We must reign in our wants, masquerading as needs, and look once again to having our real needs met locally and also to making (again) many more of those things that we need (and want) ourselves.

This is not something that the powers that be will wish to hear and even less see as that interferes totally with their programs. However, we must do it for our own good and especially for the good of the Planet and thus for our ultimate survival as individuals and as a species.

Living within our means

Living within our means does not just mean living with in our financial means but also and especially on an economic level and that is to say that we must change the way we make things, have products once again made so that they can be prepared and made more or less locally.

We live on a finite Planet with finite non-renewable resources – the renewable ones are a little bit a different kettle of fish – but we behave as if the Planet and those resources can grow according to our demands.

The perpetual growth economy is not sustainable on a Planet that cannot grown and whose non-renewable resources are already almost used up. Thus we must reduce our consumption and learn to make do with less and to demand products that do not have obsolescence designed in but which can be fixed when something breaks.

It once was that way and that was even still not so long ago and, for example, old wireless sets (radio receivers) that ran with valves (tubes to our American cousins) still often work to this very day and, as long as spare valves are available, can be kept running almost for ever.

They were designed to be repairable and many person acquired the DIY skills to replace valves, do a bit of necessary soldering here and there, and such, to keep them going and they did. They were a bit like the old VW Beetle in the old ad that said “it runs, and runs and runs” and, once again, it did for, once again, it could be fixed and kept running, often by the driver with a little knowledge only. And the many old East German cars of the Wartburg and Trabant models, being two-stroke engines even, that still run today, lovingly cared for and repaired by their owners also speak volumes of what can be done if industry has the right attitude and not one where not new inventions are used to sell new products but a simple trick of built-in obsolescence.

The repairability of goods created a whole sector of work of its own with repair shops for this, that and the other, and entire business collectives even existed, such as in the German Democratic Republic, geared to keeping every item working for as long as at all possible, and all those repairs were 100times cheaper than replacing the products with new ones. And it was for that very reason that they were doing a roaring trade.

There were, however, many users everywhere who taught themselves the necessary skills in order to fix the things that they had themselves and things were made in such a way that fixing them was not rocket science anyway.

We must return to this sensible approach and ideally and as much as possible have products made to last at home, as close to home as at all feasible, much like it was in the age before mechanization of production.

Apply total localism (as far as possible)

When we speak here of localism, even total localism, it is something to be aimed for as, in reality, at present, for most products and goods it is not even remotely possible and even getting “Made in England” or “Made in USA”, or other home countries, is often rather difficult. But we must aim for this and not just “made in home country” but “made in home county”.

We need to return to some of the ways of old – most of them, actually – and that includes making many of the things that we need and want ourselves and also growing our own food.

While a garden with flowers and lots of lawn may look nice and provide food for the eye, the flowers especially, it does very little for us, for the wildlife and even less for the environment as a whole. Lawns, in fact, gobble up lots of water for nothing. They serve no purpose and a vegetable garden equally can look as good as does a formal garden with flowers.

Peas were not, originally and initially, grown as a food crop in Britain, for instance, but for their flowers and the fact that the, sort of, climbed and trailed. And the flowers of beans too look very gorgeous and they can create nice looking arbors that, at the same time, produce food.

In addition to that there are many flowers that are edible, either in part or in their entirety and they can be planted together with other crop plants, as many are valuable companion plants to those crops, keeping pests at bay naturally without the need for pesticides.

It is true that goods, made in local workshops, with more or less hand tools and not the large scale mechanization of factories are more expensive, take longer to make and are, in many cases, one off items in that they are not produced in production lines with templates and such like. On the other hand they are, in general, made to last, can be fixed easily, and, in addition to that, you know where the product comes from and even who made it and you are paying that worker and not some corporation.

When you buy from a (local) farmer direct – more or less – or from a (local) maker and workshop you help put food on the table for a family, and not create profit for some faceless corporation and its shareholders.

While it may be a little more expensive to buy from a local organic farmer or a maker who produces by hand and to order than food produced on a factory farm or something made in a factory, probably with slave or prison labor in China, you know what you are getting, by way of food and as far as your other items are concerned something that is made with love and something that is made to last.

The perpetual growth economy cannot continue

It just is not possible to keep growing the economy on a finite Planet whose resources are, bar the renewable ones, limited and most of them are already exhausted, at the brink of this status or not very far away from it. Thus we cannot continue with business as usual and at least we as people have to understand that even if our so-called leaders and governments do not want to.

Capitalism and the notion that the economy has to keep growing in order for people to have work and all that is a fallacy and the greatest enemy to the environment and ecosystem and human survival.

That is not too say that the way the so-called socialist and communist countries of the twentieth (and one or two of those still remain in the twenty-first century) have run their economies was any better. Those were but Stalinist state capitalist ones and many were also, instead of first and foremost producing for the domestic market, geared too export production, whether it was the USSR or the GRD or others. However, for some reason they managed to look after the people in general better.

For all of us to be able to live in harmony with each other and all other of Mother Earth's children we must change the way we live and “consume” and we will have to learn to make to do with less, but more importantly we must demand products – or make them ourselves – that last and that can be easily repaired, either by DIY or by repair shops and the latter brings about another, though not new, sector to the economy, the repair economy. We once had it and we must bring it back. In the German Democratic Republic, the so-called Communist East Germany, an entire sector of the economy was geared to repairing things and entire repair “factories” existed.

There was also a time when most people made as much as possible themselves and prided themselves of their skills of doing a great majority of things for themselves and their families (and communities). And this making things for yourself is also something that we will have to revive and not just while the crisis continues. It has to be something that remains and becomes part of our normal lives again, the way it was for the majority once upon a time.

The crisis is not just an economic one

The crisis is not just an economic one but it is a crisis also of the political system and sickness of society in general. And that means that we must change the entire system for a new one and not just replace one government for another.

In order to tackle the crisis proper the political part cannot be removed from the economic part and vice versa and both have to be considered together almost as a single entity.

The sickness of society also is part of the whole as the economic system of perpetual growth and the manufactured needs and wants and the political one is what has caused this sickness in society and has turned it into a rat race.

© 2014