Sustainable forests can cut global emissions by half

Exkursion Toftaholm Lena EkPoliticians should place greater emphasis on the forest as a means of tackling the climate challenges. According to a study conducted by Södra, the sustainable management of the world's production forests could yield a reduction in global emissions of up to 50 percent.

We need to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid potentially irreversible effects on our planet that could put the very existence of our society at risk.

"Many people are unaware of the role the forest plays in the context of climate change. In the forest industry, we have fallen short when it comes to explaining the correlation between the two. Growing, well-managed forest binds carbon dioxide, thus preventing it from entering the atmosphere," says Lena Ek, Chairman of Södra Skogsägarna.

The world's forests contain more than 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - more than all of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, since deforestation is greater than afforestation, the more recent statistics show that approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is lost annually. A study conducted by Södra Skogsägarna shows that if effective forest management practices were adopted in the world's production forests, it would be possible to bind a further 9-17 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This corresponds to 30-50 percent of global emissions.

"We must work together to highlight the potential of the forest to lead society towards a fossil-free future with renewable products that are also reused and recycled," says Lena Ek.

The forest and forest products play a key role in achieving our goal of a fossil-free society. The main advantage is the potential to replace products made from fossil materials with products made from wood. This reduces the emissions from finite materials, at the same time as we manufacture renewable wood products that continue to store carbon dioxide throughout their lifetime. An increasing demand for forests to make renewable products will also result in more growing forest that also absorbs and binds carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Source: Södra Pressroom

N.B. This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

Wood at Architect@Work London 2016

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This year's London ARCHITECT@WORK had chosen wood as its theme. To honor this beautiful material, London's SCIN GALLERY, Materials Library and Resource, presented a collection of wood curiosities called Growth Rings.

The exhibition examined the species of trees that give us the wood we use in architecture, it looked at the DNA of wood and its physiology.

Curator Annabelle Filer said, “We are delighted to have been asked to examine wood in this way. As a natural material it has so much depth to its uses and is so versatile. Our exhibition aims to explore this in an architectural context.”

Another exhibition was ROTUNDA SEROTINA

RotSerotNewThe American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) partnered with designers Kolman Boye and furniture-makers Benchmark to create a towering structure of food plates in a commission for Wallpaper* Handmade 2015 called the Rotunda Serotina.

ARCHITECT@WORK was the UK debut of the three-storey 'general store' and it played very much to the wood theme for this edition. The Danish/Swedish architects Kolman Boye were invited by Wallpaper* to design a candy-store concept piece for serving food during Wallpaper* Handmade in Milan.

Wallpaper* teamed up the designers with Benchmark, a company which has almost unparalleled knowledge of wood, to build the structure in collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council. The Rotunda is constructed of American cherry and maple.

The vast columns of shelves are arranged in a cylindrical shape so that a single ladder can slide around inside the structure to scale every shelf. Each shelf in the Rotunda holds rows of cherry- wood snack trays that visitors can take home as limited-edition samples from the exhibit.

For visitors not used to seeing the striking pale-pinkish red timber, the emergence of the Rotunda Serotina will be a revelation. Gone are the traditional reddish, highly lacquered connotations of cherry. The contemporary porous appearance of the wood fits in beautifully with the current vogue for raw, rugged timber.

As a forester, and as a journalists, I have somewhat a problem with the statement on their literature which said that the wood used in the structure and for the plates did take just 40 seconds to grow. While this is to indicate that the American forests grow in those 40 seconds that among of the wood the particular wood used would have taken a great deal longer, many decades in fact, to grow. Statements that could be misleading should vest be avoided when trying to teach the public about wood (or anything for that matter).

On the other hand the structure, and the food plates, were rather interesting and the structure very much due to its construction, with wooden pegs, apparently, used.

Another of the exhibitors that caught my attention was Mehling & Wiesmann GmbH from Germany who are making beautiful veneer from spalted, sometimes also called spalded, Beech. This they call Trüffelbuche or Truffle Beech. Spalting, which is the more common spelling, is caused by fungi and thus is a use of almost dead wood, wood that more often than not would, if not left in the forest, where dead wood, or deadwood, has its uses for wildlife, no doubt, be burned on other occasions. A way to realy use most if not all of the wood that comes our way.

Considering, however, that wood, and I would have guessed natural wood, was the theme of this show having only around, as far as I could see, six or, maybe seven, exhibitors out of ninety that actually dealt with this to say that it was slightly misleading would be, in my view, an understatement.

© 2016

The Enemy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Towards_the_Dawn1Workers, your enemy is not the worker from Poland, from Lithuania or Romania; your enemy is global and national capitalism.

Not only is the capitalist, is capitalism, your enemy; he and it is also the enemy of the other workers and, worst of all, he and it is the very enemy of peace.

Capitalism carries war within itself like the clouds carry the rain. The capitalist system is incapable of functioning without perpetual war, in one form or the other; war against the working class at home and abroad, and war against other nations and people in the pursuit of sources of raw material or markets or what the Nazis called “Lebensraum” and the main engine of the capitalist economy is the military-industrial complex.

The great majority of the working class, however, allows itself to be brainwashed to believing, and this is not a new phenomenon for already Robert Tressell in “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” explained this, that the foreigners, workers from other countries, or traders, are not the enemy of the working class at home, as was believed and vehemently asserted by others.

The enemy of the worker and the working class is and remains capital, capitalism and the capitalists and not the workers from other lands. Just because they are prepared to, unfortunately, often work for lower wages than is the norm, as to them that money appears to be a great deal more than what they could earn at home, does not make them our enemy. Alas, that is the way they are perceived by the working class of our country (and here the word country can as well refer too the USA or Germany as to the UK) bue to the brainwashing by the wrong kind of media, the media which is not on the side of the workers but on that of the exploiters. This is, alas, the great majority of the media in our respective countries, despite the amount of different titles only owned by a little more than a handful of people worldwide, who are but fascists at heart.

They are the enemy of the working class and not workers from other parts of the world, and also our own governments are our enemy. They, who cut the public services to the bone and further, especially in Britain in the second decade of the 21st century, pushing everything towards privatization, hospitals, street care, parks, etc. and selling off the family silver to destroy everything that once was gained through hard battles fought.

© 2016

Co-op truck drivers considering strike action

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Co-op truckA thousand Co-operative Group distribution drivers are in talks to take strike action following an announcement that some drivers will be transferred to Eddie Stobart.

The board of the Co-operative Group made the decision in the week beginning January 25, and 85 staff at the Coventry national distribution center were told on on the 28th that they could be moved to the private haulier Stobart in April. The 310,000 sq. ft. Coventry warehouse deals with ambient goods and delivers to a dozen regional distribution hubs.

Unite, the trade union representing the workers, said it had “serious concerns” about the impact for other drivers across the business because it believes the Group could outsource its entire haulage operation. It is consulting with all members about going on strike.

Adrian Jones, Unite's national officer for retail distribution, said: “The Co-op has already intimated that it does not see itself as a haulier. It is our belief that with four sites already outsourced in Andover, Avonmouth, Cambridgeshire and the north west, the plans to outsource Coventry are the thin end of the wedge.

“That's why we are holding this consultative ballot for these 1,000 driver members because if they are outsourced it is highly likely that their pay, and terms and conditions will be seriously eroded; even their jobs could be under threat.

“Our members' job security across the national transport network is being put at risk by the Co-op's action. We are taking the temperature for industrial action and expect to then move to a full industrial action ballot.”

A spokesman for the Group said: “We have entered into consultation with affected colleagues regarding some of our logistics operations. The consultation is with colleagues about the proposed changes and how they are potentially impacted.

“We are still in the early stages of consultation, but all staff will be offered roles with the new employers under TUPE regulations, which has the potential to involve 85 drivers.”

Unite said all of its members were at risk of future outsourcing and it will be holding a consultative ballot of its 1,000 Co-op driver members who are based at Birtley, Newcastle; Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland; Castlewood, north

Derbyshire; Coventry; Newhouse, Lanarkshire; Plymouth and Thurrock in Essex.

The Group currently operates around 3,000 vehicles and trailers from 13 distribution centers.

Unite also raised concerns about the proposal, because of its past relations with Eddie Stobart. In 2012, Unite was involved in a long-running dispute when Tesco in Doncaster transferred 184 workers the haulage firm. It said drivers were then issued with a termination of employment notice with no prospect of re-employment.

Eddie Stobart “has proved to be ruthless in its treatment of such workers, as its behaviour at Doncaster proves only too clearly”, said Mr Jones.

He added: “Eddie Stobart's approach to industrial relations compared to the ethos of the co-operative movement is like 'chalk-and-cheese'.

“The Co-op Group has been through some difficult times recently during which Unite was extremely supportive. We are, therefore, very disappointed by this announcement.

“The Co-op's Christmas retail figures were encouraging, but we see this decision as a big retrograde step.

“All Unite is asking is that we have more time to investigate the viability of the comprehensive list of suggestions put forward by our shop stewards at Coventry to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

“But the management has declined to give us that opportunity, which is a great shame given the long-standing ethical values of the Co-op.”

It's a shame the Co-op Group so often doesn't seem to 'get' the wider co-operative movement. This could be a wonderful opportunity to help the drivers set up an independent workers co-op. With a bit of funding in place of redundancy payouts it certainly could be done. Instead the Co-operative Group just outsources things a non-democratic and anti-union company.

Having said that the unions are no better wither as setting up workers co-ops is not in their interest, as the need for a union is significantly reduced. A workers co-op, being in itself a democratic and co-operative company has no need, to all intents and purposes, for a union and therefore the unions are, in fact, not very positively inclined towards workers co-ops. Not that one can blame them really as it would reduce their funding.

One can also but say that it would appear are the Co-op Group has very much lost its way and definitely any connection to the roots whence it comes. It might be high time that Co-op members told the board exactly where to go and which direction.

© 2016

Aldi asks suppliers to stop using bee-killing pesticides

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Aldi-sued1German discounter Aldi has asked its German and Dutch fruit and vegetable suppliers to stop using eight pesticides that were found hazardous to bees. According to a press release from Greenpeace, Aldi Süd has asked the suppliers to bring this to effect at the earliest. These eight pesticides include, thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fipronil, imidacloprid and sulfoxaflor.

Aldi is the first large European retailer to put a stop on the use of these pesticides, which is found hazardous to the bees. The Dutch and German growers, who supply fruits and vegetables to Aldi Süd, now will have to adapt their cultivation to suit the new requirement from Aldi. According to Greenpeace, this would not be a huge problem. More and more farmers and growers succeed in cultivating food without using these pesticides, Greenpeace said in the news release.

Nefyto, the trade association of the agrochemical industry in the Netherlands, considers the requirement of Aldi Süd undesirable and inappropriate. All I can say to that is that he and his association obviously would consider this step undesirable and inappropriate.

The British government, after the EU banned certain pesticides and chemicals harmful to bees, entirely disregarded this ban and actually more or less promoted the use of so-called neonicotinoids, upon lobbying by the NFU and other farming bodies who claim that without those pesticides they cannot grow their crops. Let's put it bluntly: without bees we won't have crops.

Aldi Süd's move can only be applauded and it can only be hoped that the other Aldi part, as they are actually two discounters with the same name – long story but that's how it is – also will go down the same route.

© 2016

Transformable water bottle Dopper supports clean drinking water projects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dopper-purple© Dopper

Meet Dopper!

Dopper is a Cradle-to-Cradle water bottle company that is bringing clean water to Nepal. Yes, the bottle is plastic but it will still replace thousands of plastic water bottles that an individual would otherwise use. And we also have to learn and understand that not all plastic is bad.

Replacing single-use drink containers with a reusable bottle, even if that one happen to be a plastic one, like the Dopper, not only cuts down on trash and problems like plastic pollution in the ocean, but it also reduces the amount of new resources and energy needed for the manufacturing process. It also cuts down on the unnecessary abstraction of water as, it has to be said, much of the bottled water is nothing more than glorified tap water. Dopper water bottles are designed and manufactured in the Netherlands.

The water bottle company Dopper it taking that concept a step further, with their Cradle to Cradle certified water bottle. The concept of Cradle to Cradle is not only that a product can be recycled, but that it is designed from the beginning to ensure that the materials can be made back into the same product – not downcycled. So, Dopper will take your water bottle back at the end of its life (or pieces of the bottle should it break) to make more bottles. Or you can put in municipal plastics recycling.

That said, the bottle is designed to last a long time, and it can be transformed for different occasions. If you want a wineglass on your picnic, you can unscrew the top third and have a cup. If you just want to take it on a run, there is now a sport cap available. And the wide mouth of the regular top makes it easy to fill up the bottle from the tap. Even easier you unscrew the “wine glass” and fill the bottle.

The Cradle to Cradle certification also means that the materials used and the manufacturing process are non-toxic and conserve water and, according to Dopper's website, the manufacturing process is “climate neutral.”

Dopper water bottles are designed to encourage people to drink tap water instead of buying plastic bottled water, but many people around the world don't have access to this source of potable water. That is why the company also started the charitable Dopper Foundation, which is helping set up safe drinking water and sanitation systems in remote regions of Nepal wit 5% of net profits from Dopper water bottles donated to the foundation.

Before closing let me reiterate once again that not all plastics, despite of what we are often told, are bad. There are plastic products without which many things today just could not be done. A water bottle may not, necessarily, be one of those but as far as this bottle is concerned it is a great piece of kit and I like especially the way it can be used.

P.S. Even if you do not need another water bottle but still want to support this kind of work, you can donate directly the to the Dopper foundation.

© 2016

Six Steps Back to the Land – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Six Steps Back to the Land
by Colin Tudge
Published by Green Books 19th January 2016
224 pages Hardcover
Price £17.99
ISBN: 978 0 85784 300 5 (hardback)

six_steps_back_to_the_land_cover“This book is an eye opener as to the realities lying behind high-level exhortations about 'feeding the world' and reveals how the path we are on is more about the interests of powerful elites, rather than the people eating the food.” – Tony Juniper, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, author of What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?

Farming could and should once again be seen as a desirable, enviable pursuit – assuming its rightful place at the center of human affairs, says Colin Tudge. With this change we could:

  • regain control over our food supply, reducing food waste

  • make our farms more resilient to extreme weather, pests, and disease

  • provide employment for huge numbers of skilled workers

  • ensure that our land is managed sustainably and left in good condition for future generations

  • help combat climate change

  • improve animal welfare

The new dogma is that farms cannot make money unless they are huge. The truth, in fact, is the opposite: Fatma Gül Ünal’s study in Turkey in 2005 showed that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times more productive than farms of 10 hectares or more. Despite this, we continue to push our farmers towards mega- farms despite the outcry against the inhumane treatment of animals, concerns about chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or the worry that single-crop arable farms will destroy the diversity of ecosystems.

The time has come for a renaissance in farming, says the author of this book, Colin Tudge, and the way to do that is through Enlightened Agriculture, a term he coined to describe agriculture that is “expressly designed to provide everyone, everywhere, with food of the highest standard, nutritionally and gastronomically, without wrecking the rest of the world”. With a solid grounding in science he explains how we can achieve that, and have truly sustainable, resilient and productive farms, taking us through: why we need to rethink our approach to farming; how we can move to low-input mixed farms; how tightly-integrated farms employ many skilled people; dealing with the practicalities of this form of farming in today's world; and how we can get involved.

The author is not naïve enough to think that it is a simple solution, or that it will be a magic fix. But it is an achievable way to make a difference, securing our food sovereignty and supporting local economies while combating climate change.

Colin Tudge is a biologist, science writer and author. He has been on the staff of Farmers' Weekly, New Scientist, and BBC Radio 3. He has a passion for food and agriculture. He is closely involved in The Campaign for Real Farming and the Funding Enlightened Agriculture network which support SMEs in the sustainable food and farming sector.

When reviewing a book, and as I do not like writing in the margins, many a book ends up having almost as many post-it notes stuck in it as pages (I use such sticky notes for reference purposes). Many sticky notes means either the book is bad I use those to refer back to in order to make comments or the book is very good and the notes are there to underline the extremely important passages which, at some stage, I may use as quotes in articles, and such. This book is once again one of those full of sticky notes and falls into the second category; in fact of extremely good.

This is definitely a book and author that, with the exception as regards to general capitalism, I can totally and wholeheartedly agree with in every point, well almost. The need for a proper land reform, or we might even want to call it agrarian reform, that the author also is advocating is something that I have, personally, been talking about for a log time also. But this reform needs to take a much more radical route than the one that is being advocated.

Everyone who is interested in farming, in food, whether as a private individual or and especially decision makers on a local and central government level, and even further afield should read this book. It will be an eye opener also to them. It should be on every politician's bookshelf but not just sitting there idly doing nothing but it should be read and acted upon.

Rating: Well, I would love to be able to give a ten out of five but as that just does not compute it will just have to be five out of five.

© 2016


bei Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Unverpackt Trier LogoUnverpackt wurde frueher fast alles verkauft in den Laeden und auf den Maerkten. Selbst Milch und Butter wurden “lose” verkauft und fuer Milch nahm man seine eigene Milchkanne mit zum Laden wo die Milch dann aus der grossen Milchkanne mit eine Kelle ausgegeben wurde. Butter wurde vom grossen Steuck abgeschnitten, in Pergamentpapier gewickelt und abgewogen. Kaese genauso, und auch Quark, Wurst und Schinken. Krank geworden und gestorben ist keiner davon.

Obst und Genuese kam alles lose und war nicht doppelt und dreifach in Plastik oder so verpackt und gar verschweisst. Und das gleiche ging fuer Kaffee (der ungemahlen war), Reis, Mehl, und fast alles andere.

Auch Werzeuge waren nicht in Plastik eingeschweisst, in Verpackungen fuer die man erst ein Werkzeug braucht um an den Inhalt heranzukommen, und selbiges war auch der Fall fuer so fast alles andere. Warum, dann, ist heute alles in solchen dummen Verpackungen die uns einen Haufen von Muell bescheren? Meist aus Vermarktungsgruenden damit die Verpackungen die Menschen anlocken und damit alles aufgehaengt werden kann und so.

Das Konzept des Unverpackten ist daher natuerlich nicht neu und auch Laeden dieser Art in der Neuzeit sind seit Mitte von 1970 immer wieder mal auf der Bildflaeche erschienen.

Einer der esten war Neal's Yard in Soho (London) gefolgt nach langer Zeit von zwei Marktstaenden die dann zu einem Laden wurden (auch in London). In Germany followed Original Unverpackt dann in 2014, oft in ihren Ansagen mit der fast-Behauptung das sie das erste Geschaeft dieser Art in der Welt seien, was natuerlich ueberhaupt nicht zutrifft.

In Trier wird jetzt eine neue Version erstehen unter dem Namen “Unverpackt Trier” und die Begruender moechten auch gerne eine Vernetzung von anderen solcher Laeden sehen, und man kann nur hoffen das sowas auch geschehen kann und wird. Leider, jedoch, scheinen einige diesser Geschaefte total gegen eine solche Vernetzung zu sein. Sie scheinen Angst haben ihnen koennten die Felle wegschwimmen wenn sie sowas machen wuerden. Auch scheint es das Anliegen einiger zu sein eine Kette von Lizenzbetrieben, sogenannten Franchisen, aufzubauen anstelle unabhaengige Laeden dieser Art ueberall zu sehen.

Um das Unternehmen jetzt richtig auf die Beine zu bringen hat “Unverpackt Trier” eine Crowdfunding Kampagne gestartet und Details dazu kann man hier finden.

Bei Unverpackt Laeden kauft man nur soviel wie man benoetigt und man bring – meist – seine eigenen Behaelter mit um die Waren dort hineinzupacken. Das spart an Verpackung und verringert den Verpackungsmuell, und es begrenzt die Verschwendung, denn der groesste Teil von Lebensmitteln die halt verschwendet werden laesst sich darauf zurueck fuehren das halt zu viel in der Verpackung war; mehr als man brauchte.

Der groesste Teil des Muells den wir taeglich produzieren zu Hause ist Verpackungsmuell, gefolgt von Nahrungsmittel die entweder tatsaechlich verdorben sind oder bei denen wir, wegen der Verfalldaten, die oft sehr verwirrend sind, das sie das sind.

Wenn wir unverpackt einkaufen (koennen) koennen wir erst einmal nur die Menge kaufen die wir brauchen – daher weniger Abfall in dem Bereich – und haben keine Verpackungsabfaelle die entsorgt werden muessen. Das verringert Abfall und daher Muell und es spart auch Geld wenn wir halt nicht ueberschuessige und verdorbene Lebensmittel wegwerfen.

Natuerlich ist das Problem mit Verpackungen und Verpackungsmuell nicht auf Lebensmittel begrenzt und beschraenkt und es waere gut wenn wir auch andere Gueter wieder einmal lose kaufen koennten.

Bei Unverpackt Trier wird man auch andere Waren lose einkaufen koennen wie z.B. Geschirrspuelmittel, uvm.

Da wir noch viel mehr von diesee Art Laeden benoetigen, und das ueberall, sollte diese Projekt unsere volle Untersteutzung geniessen.

© 2016

Deklaration: Weder GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW noch der Autor dieses Artikels wurden fuer diese bezahlt, weder von Unverpackt Trier noch von einer anderen Seite.

What is handwriting good for?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What is handwriting good for, in the Cyber Age? How can a pen or pencil, the latter which is, basically, a pointed stick, with a graphite core (no, it has not been lead for a long time), wielded in prescribed sequences of motions, compete with the simple tap-tap-tap of a keyboard? How could twenty-first-century cutting-edge creative multitasking and knowledge workers even bother with anything so archaic? It is a bit like NASA spending millions to develop a pen that would be capable to write in zero gravity while the Soviet Union used what already existed and work in space, the pencil.

The answer as to why you may want to grab a pen or pencil is just in for computer interface researchers have been studying what happens to work speed for everyday data entry and content creation tasks (called “walking while working” tasks) as workers use various forms of input: keyboard input (on the screen of a tablet or a hardware keyboard) versus handwritten input (handwriting on the screen of a tablet or on paper).

In comparative speed tests involving such everyday workplace tasks – where workers must read and think and write (and, often, walk and talk) all at the same time – the speed of accurate work when workers used onscreen handwriting averaged 33 accurate words per minute (wpm), with individual performance ranging from a low of 24 wpm to a high of 35 wpm. When workers used a tablet's onscreen keyboard instead, speed for completion of accurate work plummeted to 14 wpm, with a range from 10 to 24 wpm.

Tests were also carried out on other kind of devices and methods, such as “swipe”-style keyboarding: tablet software to speed work by letting fingers remain onscreen between letters. Gains were unimpressive – “swiping” workers averaged 19 wpm, with a range from 10 wpm (again) to 29 wpm.

The slowest onscreen handwriter finished work faster than the fastest onscreen keyboarder or onscreen “swiper” writer.

With hardware keyboards, the average speed of accurate work was 24 wpm, with a range from 20 wpm to 27 wpm, but even here the fastest keyboarder, using the fastest keyboard, still worked more slowly than the average person writing by hand.

Even more dramatic results appeared when the researchers had their subjects put down their tablets, put down their keyboards, and work on paper with pen or pencil. Handwritten work done on paper reached an average speed of 44 wpm for accurate work, with a range from 27 wpm to 55 wpm. In other words: Those who worked with paper and pen or pencil in hand completed work faster than those working in any other way.

The slowest person writing by hand, using paper and pen or pencil to take down data or ideas on the fly, worked as rapidly as the fastest keyboard user.

With handwriting on paper, average speed of data input tasks and creative work was significantly faster than with the next fastest input method which was handwriting onscreen.

Other research has also shown that students, for instance, who write by hand, using pen and paper (or even pencil and paper) take in more from a lesson that those who use a computer keyboard of whatever kind.

And still there are education authorities and entire countries even who want to do away with handwriting altogether, not just cursive writing, what is also sometimes called joint-up writing, and many try telling us that pen and paper or pencil and paper are dead in the age of the computer. I do not think so. And I believe that it to be foolhardy in the extreme to do away with teaching children to write by hand.

© 2016

Equality in the Countryside - a rural manifesto

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

rural-manifestoJanuary 6, 2016 saw the launch of two important documents at the Real Farming Conference in Oxford. The first one the latest book by Colin Tudge entitled “Six Steps Back to the Land” and published by Green Books (review of said book to follow in due course) and the second the manifesto “Equality in the Countryside”.

“Equality in the Countryside, A Rural Manifesto for the Parliamentary Opposition”, by Landworkers' Alliance (, The Land Magazine ( and the Family Farmers' Association, is a document to challenge, like the book by Colin Tudge, the way we look at farming and why things need to change. It is intended for the current parliamentary opposition to help them form their policies.

The manifesto is to be part of a campaign, according to Simon Fairlie of the Land Magazine), against a bogus countryside – one in which most people who live there don't work there. And he is right there.

It is sad but has to be acknowledged that most people who live in the countryside today work in towns, and people are being pushed off the land as farms get bigger and employ fewer people. Villages and the countryside has become no more, in many, if not most places, than dormitories for the city workers, who push the locals out because the locals cannot afford the house prices and social housing is (no longer) available in the villages.

The manifesto is aimed primarily at the progressive parliamentary opposition. Simon Fairlie of The Land magazine stated: “With a reinvigorated Labour opposition, and a body of Scottish Nationalists committed to land reform, we are now in a better position to challenge the orthodoxy that has held sway under the influence of the Country Land and Business Association, the National Farmers’ Union, and Scottish Land and Estates.”

The aim of the manifesto is to nudge policy towards equality and greater access to land and employment for people who live in the countryside and people who want to live in the countryside. There are 46 recommendations, although there could, and should, have been many more, possibly. Here are some highlights (the full manifesto can be downloaded as a PDF file from the website of the Landworkers' Alliance at

Here is a sample of recommendations for action from the Manifesto:

  • The Land Registry should not be privatized. The register of who owns which land should be completed, and made easily and freely accessible on line. A cadastral map for each municipality should be made publicly available at council offices, as it is in countries such as France and Spain.

  • The sell-off of county farms should be halted (except where county farmland can be sold for development and the proceeds used to acquire more or better land). Local authorities should be re-empowered to acquire land for rent to small-scale farmers and new entrants where there is a proven need.

  • Common Agricultural Policy direct subsidies should be capped at €150,000 per individual farmer, releasing an estimated £4million. The ceiling should be lowered progressively over time to a level that supports a wider range of thriving family farms.

  • Much organically produced food and animal feed is not labelled as such because the costs of certification are too high for small-scale producers. The burden of labeling and certification should instead be borne by farmers who employ chemicals or other ecologically suspect practices, rather than by organic farmers. In other words, food products that have been produced using artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified materials should be clearly labelled as such.

  • Increase investment in council housing and social housing in villages.

  • Measures should be taken to ensure that recently introduced government support for self-build housing is focussed on affordable housing, and not luxury housing.

  • All rural local authorities to set targets within their area for the reduction of carbon emissions through renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and micro-hydro — especially community schemes; and through energy saving measures such as insulation of buildings.

  • Support should be provided for the creation of “village service stations” in rural settlements that combine retail provision of food and essential goods with post-office and banking services, car-hire and minibus services, etc

  • Include land management (horticulture, arable crops, animal husbandry, forestry etc) as a subject at secondary schools on a par with academic subjects.

  • Reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, a ratcheted annual increase of carbon tax on petrol and diesel, including red diesel, with the proceeds earmarked for public transport provision.

Now let's look at some of those points, though not all, listed above, through my lens:

Land: The Land Registry should remain public and a proper one; one that everyone has easy access to. There is not much more that can be said to that but, maybe, if one if so inclined “Amen!”

Housing: More council housing and more self-build, and while the Tories according to Simon Fairlie have done a great deal – I must have missed that somewhere – towards self-build we need more of the kind of self-build where people can build, more or less, the kind of home that they wish to build, whether in wood, straw, Earthships, or whatever. The problem is the price of development land – we need more affordable self-build. Here one might mention the work of the Ecological Land Co-op, who are all about providing affordable land for self-build for smallholders. In addition to that any smallholding should be permitted to have building, regardless as to whether the status is that of “agricultural ties” or what have you.

Energy: The countryside will be a big provider as oil runs out in the form water, wind, solar, biomass, but profits should be kept within communities rather than exported to shareholders. However, biomass must not come at the expense of food, a points that Colin Tudge makes so well in his book.

Transport: Reduce private vehicle transport, improve public transport, but also village hubs with shops, post office, pub, bus stop and car hire. For a village to be alive and vibrant it needs shops of all kinds, as well and especially a post office. If we wish to reduce private motor vehicle transport then proper public transport for the countryside is a must and it must be brought back and that includes local railroad connections.

Education: As far as education is concerned we need to bring back the agricultural extension system and include farming and food production in school curricula. But the current thinking of government is that such school subjects are not required, not good for league tables, and such, and that only academic subjects should be taught in schools and colleges. That must change once again, as there are all too many young people who are not necessarily academically minded and would love to train for career in horticulture, agriculture, woodland management and forestry.

Environment: More trees and fewer sheep for uplands; more agriculture in green belts, instead of 'horses grazing under pylons'. And what we need more than anything is smallholdings and small farms without any red tape to entangle people wishing to establish those. When it comes to trees we also need more woodlands, and to manage the existing woodlands in the country everywhere properly.

Rebecca Laughton of the Landworkers’ Alliance stated: “For decades, the number of farms and the number of farm workers have declined remorselessly, while the cost of rural housing has become increasingly unaffordable. It is time we reversed these trends, and it is not rocket science to do so.”

She also talked about the need to get more young people into agriculture, and to put feeding people and environmental protection above corporate profit and that definitely is a no-brainer.

One issue that, alas, that even in this manifesto, no one dares to tackle, it would appear, is the need for proper land reform. And with land reform, or agrarian reform, I do mean here, yes, I do, the redistribution of land to those who are willing to work it as small farms in the way of the Dachas in Russia. While Colin Tudge does advocate some kind of land reform though by means of purchasing land the road that needs to be traveled is a far more radical way if we truly want to succeed with and have the farmers and farms of the future, the ones that are not agri-industry giants but the ones that truly serve the community, the people, and the nation.

© 2016