We have met the enemy... and he is us!

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

PlanetWithDent When it comes to the Planet, Mother Nature, then the enemy certainly is us and we are on the best way of destroying ourselves because we are in the process of destroying the Planet upon which we depend.

There is only one Earth but we are behaving as if there were thousands of those planets about and as if we could just use and abuse at will without any consequences.

The Native American, and that also though some bad experiences, has learned much earlier than have we that we must create a symbiosis with Mother Earth in order for us to be able to thrive on this Planet.

The original philosophy of the Romani, the Gypsy people, also has been to take only as much as we need for whatever, whether food or craft, so that there is something there for others coming after us.

The “White Man”, however, does not seem to understand this profound truth and by purposely mistranslating and misinterpreting his “Holy Scriptures” he tries top justify his actions.

Christianity especially likes to use the phrase “and G-d gave man dominion over all Creation” to claim a G-d-given right to use, as he pleases and wants, all of Creation in a way as if there is no tomorrow. In fact, if we continue on this path there will be no tomorrow, for the future looks very bleak indeed.

We are the enemy for sure... and now that we have realized that it is up to us to do something about it.

© 2011

Gypsies targeted in west German arson attack

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

An apartment block housing Sinti and Roma families was the target of an apparent racial arson attack in the west German city of Leverkusen in the last week of July 2011 and prosecutors have, in fact, put a 5,000 Euro bounty on any information leading to apprehension and conviction of perpetrator(s).

Unknown assailants threw several Molotov cocktails into the ground floor apartment of the building, where a well-known Gypsy family of Leverkusen had their home. Luckily the occupants managed to escape unharmed.

Witnesses have spoken of four perpetrators who drove off in a car and minibus.

Police do 'not rule out a radical right-wing background' in the fire-bombing of the four-storey building.

Read more here

Sustainable picnics

Sustainable picnics in parks, open spaces and forests

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We all – well most of us – love a picnic in the open, in a park, open space or forest land and those that work in the parks and forestry services really do want you to have a good time, but that does not mean that everything has to be left behind.

Far too many people, however, do not consider what happens after they leave and how their rubbish is going to be disposed off or before anyone gets to it how it affects wildlife.

Time and again the next day after picnics staff at parks and forestry encounter the disaster that are the leftovers from such events, with ripped black bin liners and content spilled over, at times, literally miles.

You rubbish from a picnic can have a serious impact on wildlife and the countryside.

Until everything is picked up it all looks very untidy and this could be for some time depending where this picnic has happened and, in addition to that, any remains attract wildlife which could also be harmed by what may be left in the bags or just strewn around.

Large scale organized picnics at open air concerts and other events also present a challenge when participants are on the inconsiderate side and assume that the rubbish can just be left by the side of overflowing bins or even simply left, even though maybe tied up in bin liners of what have you, in the location where the event took place.

We must look at sustainability in everything that we do, whether at home or in the outdoors and a couple of considerations will go a long way towards sustainable picnics and events.

  1. Do not use disposables. No paper plates, cups or napkins. Bring real stuff and take it home again with you. The same goes for cutlery (flatware to you American cousins). Bring real metal cutlery or wood or bamboo. The latter will happily decay in the great outdoors or the compost heap. Best advise for sustainability: bring stuff you take home again, that is to say picnic plates of plastic or metal and real cutlery.

  1. Don't leave your rubbish behind. You carried it all to the location therefore you should be able to take it home with you as well. At least dispose of it properly in the proper locations. Don't just leave it behind.

It is amazing though even with people who bring real plates (plastic, metal, china) and real flatware how many of them still throw everything into the rubbish bins (or leave it besides the bins because their bags are too big to fit) including the flatware and plates they brought.

Not very sustainable and we must rethink our ways in the case of picnics like in so many other issues.

It is not sustainable to waste food and neither is it sustainable to waste cutlery and plates, etc.

Plastic cutlery is not sustainable and neither are polystyrene plates and cups. Nor, however, is using real cutlery and real plates and glasses and leaving them behind after a day in the parks or forests.

We really need to rethink how things are being done.

© 2011

Record-breaking green spaces

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

logo-greenflag On July 25, 2011, a record-breaking 1,288 parks and green spaces throughout the UK have been receiving the Green Flag Award or Community Award. This is a certain sign that even in these challenging times, the value of green space is widely acknowledged as vital to our communities.

The record number of sites that have been receiving an award this year ensures that even more of us now have access to well-managed, high-quality green spaces. Many of those award-winning sites will have been raising their flags throughout Love Parks Week, which ran from the 23rd to the 31st July.

In recent years, research has proved that quality parks and green spaces play a vital role within local communities. They are assets contributing to the local environment, the local economy, individual’s health and well-being, and in bringing the community together.

This year alone has seen even more value placed on our green spaces. A major new study by The UK National Ecosystems Assessment (NEA) shows that the health benefits of living with a view of green space are worth up to £300 per person per year, though as a parks professional I would actually consider the price to be higher still.

The Natural Environment White Paper published by the government in 2011, highlights further the importance of our green spaces and the benefits our natural environment has to us all – strengthening the significance of the part we all have to play in developing and protecting it.

Investment in parks and green spaces has the potential to impact on many aspects of the local environment. The increase in the number of Green Flag Award and Community Award sites this year is testament to the value and significance local authorities and the community as a whole are placing on their green spaces.

Communities and Local Government Minister, Andrew Stunell said: “This year, a record of number of parks and green spaces across the country have been awarded a Green Flag – a testament to all the hard work that local authorities and communities put in to maintaining them. The announcement of this year’s winners also acts as a timely reminder to communities everywhere that there are hundreds of top-quality parks out there to enjoy.

“Given the important role parks and green spaces play in all our lives, I would like to thank all this year’s volunteer judges for their efforts. I share the joy of communities that, through the scheme, see their local areas flourish.”

Green Flag Plus Partnership chairman Phil Barton said: “The importance of good-quality green spaces cannot be overestimated. They are central to the growth of our communities, both socially and economically.

“The Green Flag Award Scheme, and its growth, is essential in driving up the standards of our parks and green spaces. Access to quality green space is something we all desire and the scheme plays a key role in providing it.

“In these challenging financial times it is heartening that the number of Green Flag and Community Awards continues to grow. As the value of green space and the role it plays in our communities strengthens, we must ensure these high standards remain.”

But, many parks and open spaces do face serious problems due to government cutbacks that seriously affect service delivery on a local level. Park staff everywhere, and the management teams, will do their very best do keep the standards up as far as possible with the every dwindling resources.

Looking after your local parks and open spaces may be something where the Big Society could come into its own as well with volunteer groups assisting the park keepers and grounds maintenance teams everywhere.

© 2011

Canada clamps down on criticism of Israel

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Canada, in an affront to free speech, government committee declares that criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitic.

090211-canada-israel Thus Canada is taking it further even than the way things are done in the USA when it comes to criticism of the Zionist State in Palestine, called Israel, where, basically, any such criticism is suppressed, unless it is published in Blogs and such. In the land of the maple leaf the mere criticism of the Zionist State might be regarded soon as anti-Semitic hate crime.

It seems that in both North American countries, Canada and the USA, nowadays one may not say anything at all against the Zionist entity that occupies Palestine if one does not wish to be hauled before a judge.

Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report on July 7, 2011 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.

While the CPCCA's final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called "new anti-Semitism": criticism of Israel.

It would appear, indeed, to all intents and purposes, that the real purpose of the CPCCA committee is to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA's findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.

Simple being critical of Israel and it actions in the country and the occupied territories already is being considered as anti-Semitic by especially the B'nai Brith, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and similar entities.

Being anti-Semitic once meant being against the Jewish Religion and ethnic group called Jews – Jews are NOT a Race to be precise – it now seems to be translated to mean that someone is anti-Semitic if he or she does not agree with the that Zionist entity – called Israel – in Palestine. I have problems with Israel for sure but none with individual Jews or Jews per se. But I do have problems with them when they make claims on their ethnicity and claims to rights as Jews to simply steel the land of another People.

It is entirely stupid and against all traditions of freedom of speech – and it is not just thus in Canada and the USA – to make criticism of the Zionist entity in occupied Palestine, called Israel, into Anti-Semitism.

Criticism on Israel has nothing to do with Anti-Semitism in the same way as criticism on, say , an African country, has nothing to do with racism. It is criticism on the action of a country, a state, and in the case of Israel one that was born out of terrorism and the dispossession of other people.

So, let's get real and not drift into the realm of absolute stupidity.

© 2011

Is email dead?

Personally I do not think so in the same way as the letter has not died as yet and hopefully never will

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

emailIconRIP The announcement of the death of email, I think, is very premature indeed for who, in their right mind, wants to use the likes of LinkedIn, Ning, etc., as sole means of communication.

Recently the Net was awash with claims that email – direct proper email – was about to meet its demise and was going to be replaced entirely by communications via social media and social networking sites. I must say that I very much doubt it.

Email could do with improvement and the style should be brought back of a proper letter for a great many emails. The way some people clobber together emails and reply to them just is very much without style and it would be very sad if we lose the style of letter through email.

An email is an electronic letter and, in my view, should be laid out and styled in the same way as would be a letter, and the style, obviously, differs from whether it is a private or a business electronic letter (email) but both should keep to the style that a letter would also be, unless it is just an SMS kind of quick message being sent for this or that reason.

Communicating via social media in any serious way I cannot imagine ever to really take off and that very simply for the fact that you do not have a way of keeping such messages for “posterity”, so to speak, in the same way as you can emails.

While I do like a proper letter and proper letter style for sure email, in the proper form, as far as I am concerned, has become, as far as possible, my favorite choice of communication, and that simply for its speed.

Sending a letter of even three of four pages with attached pictures and documents, half way across the world in seconds beats the postal service for sure and with an exchange of read receipt you also know, almost instantly, that your letter has been received on the other end.

While I do use Twitter and Facebook (and also forums) as for discussions with friends and acquaintances, etc., I cannot see such forums and applications replacing emails (and proper letters), and that simply for the fact that you don't have a way of keeping a record properly of the conversations.

Social media has its place and it will go forward, of that I am sure, by leaps and bounds and while there is hardly going to be anything new coming up as far as email is concerned email is here to stay and may even become more important in time to come.

For business and private use social media just does not have the security of the email either and thus, I am sure, very much like the desktop PC, it is here to stay and rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

© 2011

US cutting military aid to Pakistan

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

pakistan_map Ever since the US military action that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden and which was done without the knowledge of the country of Pakistan in that country relations between the USA and Pakistan are more than strained.

The United States have accused the Pakistani secret service to have been in the know as to where Bin Laden was hiding and, in fact, protecting him. This may not be all that far fetched for it is somewhat unbelievable that he was living so plainly in Pakistan without the knowledge of someone high up in the Secret Intelligence Service of Pakistan.

In addition to that Pakistan recently threw out US military and is, as far as the USA are concerned, a little on the recalcitrant side at present.

If this act of cutting military aid, though most likely very much welcomed by the ordinary American, could make relations between the USA and Pakistan worse what then? Take out Pakistan?

This may not be all that far fetched, dear readers.

The way some American officials seems to be talking that is exactly what they consider to do. The Af-Pak war and an occupation of Pakistan would have Iran fully in a pincer. Is that the aim? It would appear so.

We must note that the Afghan conflict became, in the last year or so, the Af-Pak war, or conflict. However, since when is there anything happening in Pakistan, other than the Taliban having bases there and the US attacking them, illegally, with drones.

However, and I am sticking my neck out here somewhat and playing the devil's advocate and some might say that I have been reading too many wrong books.

Looking at the area of the former Ariania – of which Iran retains part of the name – then the only thing needed in order to get Iran (Persia) into a pincer proper, as we already have the -stans above, is full and unhindered access and operational permission in Pakistan, especially in the province(s) that border Iran.

If that can be achieved then Iran is surrounded by American and “allied” forces and can then put pressure on Iran to change its political structure so as for the US and others to get their hands on the oil.

And oil is the only reason any and all of those “wars” are being fought, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan – bugger “Enduring Freedom” and human rights, etc. – and latest Libya. If it would really be the rights of the people we would be interested in, our governments that is, then we would be in Syria right now and would have been in Rhodesia a long time ago.

Far from bringing any enduring freedom to Afghanistan, or to Iraq, or to Libya, the aim is to “liberate” the oil supplies of Iraq, Libya, and via a pincer attack from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and the -stans of the former USSR, Iran.

That black sticky stuff makes people do awful things and often under the guise of humanitarian action.

© 2011

Japanese Prime Minister calls for nuclear-free future

Naoto Kan says Fukushima crisis has convinced him to aim for a society not dependent on nuclear power

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

0607-Fukushima-nuclear-terror.JPG_full_380Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan said on Wednesday, July 13, 2011, that the Fukushima nuclear crisis had convinced him that Japan should aim at a society that does not depend on nuclear energy and eventually has no atomic plants.

The unpopular leader denied he was considering calling a snap election over energy policy and sidestepped a question on when he would keep a promise to step down, saying he wanted to do his best to work on nuclear policy and rebuild the country from the devastating 11 March earthquake and tsunami that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

“Given the enormity of the risks associated with nuclear power generation, I have realised nuclear technology is not something that can be managed by conventional safety measures alone,” Kan told a news conference.

“I believe”, he said, “we should aim for a society that is not dependent on nuclear power generation."

Though he did say that it was premature to set a time frame for achieving that goal.

Kan also said Japan would be able to avoid summer and winter power shortages because of energy conservation efforts and companies' in-house power supplies, despite the large number of reactors now off-line for inspections or other work.

The unpopular Prime Minister has become increasingly sensitive to growing public concern about nuclear power, but whether he oversees an overhaul of energy policy is in doubt since he has promised to resign, although he has not said when.

Nuclear energy accounted for about 30% of Japan's power supply before the 11 March disasters crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant 240km (150 miles) north of the capital and that ratio slipped to 18% in June.

Although he is being referred to again and again as an unpopular Prime Minister, which he, n o doubt, is, he seems to be one of the few leaders in the developed world who has understood the dangers of nuclear power and the fact that we cannot afford the stuff.

I am old enough to remember – I was a child back then – when in Britain the claim as to nuclear power was made that it would produce energy too cheap to meter and that is also the very reason that in the 1960s homes, whether houses or flats, were built all electric and were then, later, refitted with gas heating, and gas for cooking, as electric turned out to be too expensive.

The “too cheap to meter” never materialized. In fact nuclear power is the most expensive form of energy in Britain today. Still the government is going to be building (or more precise “bringing on stream”) some eight new atomic power plants with all the risks and problems associated with them.

The British government seem to be very firmly, regardless of which party, in the pockets of the nuclear power industry. Time the people reacted and told the powers-that-be where to get off.

© 2011

Grow Your Own at RHS Flower Shows

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Grow Your Own is more and more in evidence at the various RHS shows and not just this year.

While Grow You Own (GYO), in “speed mode”, has been around for some time now, it is getting more and more main stage at the shows now. This was certainly not the case some years back

That GYO is reaching the main stage of the shows could very much be seen by the RHS Edible Garden at the 2011 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show as well as by a similar RHS show garden at the show last year.

GYO is, we all know, not new at all but the interest and the phenomenon os how it is taking off nowadays certainly is.

Allotment gardens have been around for now some time and the Diggers were the first who were trying to archive the GYO already centuries ago.

Seed merchants, gardening equipment manufacturers and supplies, etc., all are gearing up more and more to this market, including the many books on the subject now being produced. Even gardening suppliers, such as Haxnicks and seed companies such as Marchalls have brought out “grow your own vegetables” guide books.

As said, the grow your own vegetable “movement” is not a new one. During the two world wars there were the “Dig for Victory” campaigns and many of those images are being used by seed companies and others to promote the growing of your own vegetables. The Mr. DIGWELL Seeds are but one example of using this kind of retro as regards of grow your own veg. It must be welcomed, however, as this is the way things should be, in order to also ensure some kind of food security for the nation as a whole.

© 2011

Is kerbside recycling of glass just for show?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

<Samsung L74, Samsung VLUU L74> Time and again kerbside recycling vehicles, and those collecting glass from bottle banks, can be observed dumping mixed bottles and jars – white, brown, green, etc. – into the same bays on the vehicle without any separation of colors.

How can this then be recycled into new glass?

Such mixed glass cannot be recycled into new bottles and such like and thus, I would suggest, this glass is then just being ground up to be turned into aggregate or for products where the coloring does not matter.

Instead of kerbside recycling of glass we need to get back to deposits and returns on glass bottles and, ideally, also include glass jars in the same schemes and systems. It can be done; it was done before and is still being done in other countries.

It can be guaranteed that if one would put, say, 10pence deposit on a small glass bottle and small glass jars and maybe 20pence on large bottles and jars, none of those would be wasted but would all be brought back. If not by the original owner and user by children and other people who will pick them up to claim the deposit. This is not rocket science so, maybe, government could stop behaving as if it is.

While it may be true that recycling glass into new only takes a fraction of the energy to making bottles from scratch, a lot more energy and resources would be saved if we simply reused bottles and jars by cleaning and refilling them. As said, it used to be done with bottles and also can work with jars.

© 2011

Baby KeepCup has been born

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

smlKeepCup Thursday July 21 2011 saw the celebration of the birth – that is to say the official launch – of the newest member of the KeepCup family, the 4oz baby one, known as the Extra Small, or XS for short.

This is the KeepCup for lovers of the brief version of a coffee, and especially a proper lovely Espresso shot.

The birth celebration, the launch, took place at Prufrock Cofee, at 23-25 Leather Lane, London, EC1 and it was a really good evening despite the initial torrential downpour when some of us arrived at the location.

Food and drink were brilliant and company was great, as was the music by the band.

This little cup, in my opinion, is also an ideal cup for baby, and especially for toddlers and children. Aside from the fact it can come in a lovely combination of colors, in the same way as, obviously, its bigger brothers and sisters.

The little device that closes the sipping port has seen some improvement since I last reviewed one of the KeepCup family and it is a lot more positive as to preventing the contents from spilling.

© 2011

Nuclear power loses its luster in a sustainable energy future

Fukushima incident has sustainability experts rethink place nuclear in the low-carbon energy future

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

No More Nukes_sml In the wake and aftermath of the Fukushima incident and fallout, in more than one sense of the word, a majority of sustainability experts around the world now say that nuclear power is not at all essential to a low-carbon energy future.

However, the British government keeps telling the British public that we need nuclear to be able to have energy, as, as they claim, renewables cannot do it. Which is bullshit and they know it.

Early indications are that the market may well share such sentiments:

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced that Japan is rethinking its stance on nuclear power and that renewable energy will become a cornerstone for his country's energy policy.

Japan's international credit rating was downgraded by Fitch last week in view of the risk the disaster poses to the country's economic growth and the anticipated costs of cleanup.

Only recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel, once a nuclear advocate, said all 17 of country's nuclear plants will close by 2022 and that there will be no new ones being built.

Italy's Prime Minister Berlusconi, who wanted to reinstate nuclear in Italy after the shutdown following Fukushima has been defeated in a national referendum in which in well over 90 percent of all Italians eligible to vote told the government “no more nukes” and the government of the country will have to listen to this. The peoiple have spoken.

The sustainability experts who made their views known on nuclear power were surveyed by research firm GlobeScan Incorporated and SustainAbility Ltd., a think tank and strategy consultancy. The two firms periodically query a pool of sustainability professionals in business, government, nongovernmental organizations, academia, research and consulting and other service fields on issues affecting their work. The findings released today represent the opinions of 551 people from 67 countries; 58 percent of the respondents have worked in sustainability for more than 10 years, 32 percent have five to 10 years of experience, and the remainder have spent three to just under five years in the business.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed on "The Future of Energy" contend that "society can achieve a sustainable, low-carbon energy future without nuclear power." In contrast, 33 percent said nuclear power is "an essential component" to a low-carbon energy future, as the chart to the right shows:

"It was a bit of a surprise to me that only a third of experts think nuclear power is an essential component ... I didn't expect such low numbers," said Jeff Erikson, a senior vice president for SustainAbility in Washington, D.C. "If the survey were taken a year ago, before Fukushima, the numbers would have been a lot higher."

The survey, part of ongoing research by SustainAbility and GlobeScan, was conducted online May 6 through 20, roughly two months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that knocked out the cooling systems at the Fukushima plant -- and almost two weeks before the Fitch's rating and Merkel's decision made headlines.

Perhaps not surprisingly, sustainability experts from the corporate sector were nearly five times as likely as those from NGOs to say that a sustainable energy future must include nuclear power.

Yet, the survey also found that among corporate respondents:

* Less than half, 47 percent, believe nuclear power is essential for sustainable energy scenario.

* 38 percent believe the opposite.

* 15 percent don't subscribe to either view.

At the other end of the spectrum:

* 10 percent of NGO respondents feel nuclear power is essential.

* 75 percent disagree.

* 15 percent say neither sentiment reflects their views.

Should government subsidize renewables, nukes, oil and coal?

The survey also asked sustainability experts whether they think government should subsidize energy options ranging from renewables to oil and coal -- and what they think will actually happen.

Although continued subsidies and incentives for renewables are at issue in the U.S. and abroad, the group is somewhat optimistic that government will still subsidize solar and wind power with slightly more than half saying so, as shown in the chart below:

Click on image to view full-size chart.

Less than a third said they believe government will subsidize hydro power, nuclear energy, natural gas, oil or coal in the future.

And a majority said they think government will let the market decide what should be done with coal and oil.

The survey found a big gap between what experts believe will happen and what they think government should do:

* 83 percent of the respondents said the government should continue to subsidize energy efficiency initiatives and solar power.

* 74 believe the same should be done for wind power.

* About a third said government should phase out use of nuclear power.

* Almost half said the same about coal, as the chart to the right shows:

Finally, the experts were asked to rank five things that businesses and institutional users can do to advance toward a sustainable energy future. The actions named were: investing in energy efficient technology, developing products and services that are less energy intensive, increasing renewable power purchases, lobbying for public policy and increasing employee engagement in energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Given a choice of designating the actions as a major focus, a secondary focus, not a focus at all or not applicable, a majority said each tactic would fall in the "major focus" category, as the chart below indicates:

The responses show "the experts strongly recommend that companies follow a diverse, strategic energy plan," said Erikson of SustainAbility.

That preference for a multifaceted course of action echoes findings from a SustainAbility / GlobeScan survey in April in which experts gave Unilever the top spot in a list of global corporate sustainability leaders. The respondents had named "commitment to sustainability values" as the key differentiator among high-performing companies, and the choice of Unilever illustrated the importance experts place on integrating those values throughout business operations, GlobeScan Senior Vice President Chris Coulter said at the time.

More information about the latest joint survey by SustainAbility and GlobeScan is available at www.GlobeScan.com. SustainAbility posts the survey results on its online library at www.sustainability.com/library/the-future-of-energy.

Renewables can very well supply all energy needs as long and especially if we change the way that we use and waste electricity and also and especially through changing the voltage and the current type of the power used.

It will take some time still, I should think, before the message will finally sink in, especially at business level, that the high-voltage alternate current electricity that we are using at present, regardless of what voltage is not one that can be sustained, and that alone for the loss in power transmission.

We need to come to the point where every roof, every pylon, every bridge, etc., is a power plant generating electricity for use in the house and to feed into a local low-voltage direct current grid.

© 2011

Consumerism: the scourge and disease of today

Consumerism must truly be the scourge and disease of modern times

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

reduced “We've all got this weird mental illness called consumerism” declares a new movie called 'Consumed: Inside the belly of the beast'.

And is it not true? We are constantly being told that our happiness depends on what we own and how much we spend and whether we have the newest and latests and best model.

But that is just not the case because for all our consuming we are no better off in terms of happiness and we are a lot worse off in terms of negative physical and psychological impacts. And also in financial terms more often than not.

The sub-prime lending issue is a prime example here in that people believed that they have to own a home rather than rent and even though they hardly could afford to they, nevertheless, followed the addiction and now many of those have lost their homes.

And a great majority falls prey to this illness of wanting more and more and new and new all the time. It is a disease that is killing the Earth.

Studies have shown that lottery winners are no happier than the rest of us, which really does makes you think, doesn't it. You would have thought that all that money would make them happy.

When our minds are in a constant state of want they will never be satisfied and marketing and government sees to that that our mind is constantly in that state.

Marketing and advertising is a big business aimed to subtly convince us that what we want is what we need and advertising is destroying society.

This movie questions how we operate in our age of high mass consumption and how it really isn't all that it is cracked up to be and we must ask ourselves those questions too.

From just the trailer it promises to be a thought provoking narrative of our gluttonous purchasing lifestyle and how it is leading us down the path of destruction, not just for the planet but also for society.

The problem, a little like with “Age of Stupid”, is going to be, no doubt, that the majority of those that go and watch this movie will be members of the choir and the bible study groups. The main congregation will not watch this in the same way as they did not watch “Age of Stupid” and other such thought provoking movies that they need to watch to understand as to what is going on.

We have gotten to a point now where the world, as a whole, though predominately in the developed countries and in places such as India and China, is now consuming as if we had the resources of three planets to extract from. This is quite ludicrous because, as I am sure you have noticed as well, we in fact have just the one lovely Planet to care for. And its resources are limited.

Oil is already well on the way out, as are coal, as are metals and other materials. This will mean that we need to reevaluate our ways and reconsider our demand for always new and better.

Products must be made again to last and to be repairable, and they will have to. That will mean keeping things for as long as possible for goods will also be more expensive.

Buying green has become yet another version of consumerism and I have termed it “greensumption”. This green version of consumerism is equally dangerous as is consumption and consumerism in general.

We must get away from this “I want”, perceived as “I need”, and look at our lives and our needs from an entirely new perspective. Buying a green product instead of a non-green one, if you don't have to buy new, is no less consumption. If you really have to buy something than try, if possible, to buy secondhand, old. That is more green than a new green product, often Made in China.

So take a step back from consuming and I promise you will not regret it and instead of buying think about how you can get by without or how you can repair what you have already got. We will have to do this anyway, I am sure, in the not so distant future. So, we best transition over to it now.

© 2011

Britons catch cycling bug from Tour de France, says Halfords

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I would suggest it has more to do with the gasoline prices in the UK than with the Tour

Bicycle2 Bicycles are equalling the number of cars on the road in rush hour in major cities around the UK, as commuters switch from four wheels to two, and in some parts of London, such as in the financial district, it would appear that they outnumber cars.

Trips made by bikes in the capital shot up by 15% last year, according to Transport for London, a 150% increase since 2000, and this is indeed good news, for the cycle trades as well as the Planet.

In parts of Bristol, which was designated a “cycling city” by the Government in 2008, more than one in four people cycle to work and in York the number of cyclists has grown by 20% while in Cambridge a fifth of the population regularly travel by bike.

Official figures show that the number of commuter journeys taken by cyclists on the UK Cycle Network, which includes long distance and tourist routes, has risen by 16m to 73m trips a year.

The latest statistics showing the rise in the popularity of cycling come as the Tour de France gives cycling another boost in popularity, with sales of premium models set to soar.

Halfords, the UK’s leading seller of cycles, said the three week event, which features 190 riders covering 3600km, always lead to a rise in demand from customers keen to emulate their heroes.

Last year its limited edition Carrera TDF bike, featuring a lightweight compact aluminum frame and 16 gears, sold out during the Tour De France tournament.

This year sales of premium bikes are already up. Halfords recently launched a brand new range of Carrera road bikes, in line with the start of the TDF. And earlier this year it unveiled the new 2011 Boardman range.

Audiences for the ITV 4 coverage, which is sponsored by Boardman, the company run by former Tour de France and Olympic hero Chris Boardman, are nightly topping 1m as Britons tune in.

Hopes are high for British success with Mark Cavendish pressing for the coveted green jersey and Geraint Thomas and David Millar in the top teams. Unfortunately Bradley Wiggins crashed out with a broken collarbone.

The London figures for cycling show that on key bridges across the Thames, bicycles make up 27.7% of traffic crossing into the centre of the City between 7am and 10am, compared with 28.2% of private cars. Four years ago cars outnumbered bikes by two to one. In parts of the City of London bikes are outnumbering cars.

The surge in cycling in cities has been encouraged by the Government’s cycle2work scheme, which gives generous tax breaks for commuters buying bikes through their employer.

Halfords said its cycle sales in London are rising and it had opened two new stores in Wimbledon and Kilburn to cater for the urban cyclist.

Halfords Cycling Expert Paul Tomlinson said: “Britain is becoming a far more cycling friendly country and initiatives such as the cycle to work schemes, which offer tax incentives to buy a bike, are helping people to afford the type of bicycle they want and encouraging them to use it regularly.

”At this time of the year the Tour de France means a lot more people catch the cycling bug and we’re helping increasing numbers who want to get on a bike to commute, for sport or leisure.”

As I have, however, said already, I believe that the new uptake in cycling, and we are here talking more of commuting and other journeys, is more down to the increase in the cost of running a car, especially as regards to fuel costs, than to the fact that we have a few Brits in good positions in the Tour de France.

If it would be sports cycling on a serious increase I would concur with the Tour de France suggestion but as it is business travel and leisure travel that has moved from the car to the bicycle I would suggest that other factors play a much bigger role.

In all honesty we do not have much of a choice as oil is going up and up and in the long run will become unaffordable to the ordinary mortal. Thus the bicycle will become, once again, the mode of transportation of choice for many, including, I should think or local deliveries of the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker, etc. and, as far as I cam concerned a good thing that is going to be too.

© 2011

Do we need a postman?

With Canada Post on strike residents are asking themselves if they really need a postman

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

mailbox Like postal services around the world, Canada Post has seen a rapid decline in first-class mail. It tried to adjust by cutting wages, prompting a strike that's lasted more than three weeks so far.

When Canadian letter carriers went on strike they hoped to force the national postal service, Canada Post, to back down from a cost-cutting proposal to dramatically reduce wages.

Three weeks later, lawmakers are preparing to legislate them back to work, but Canadians are asking just how much a modern cyber-connected society needs the post office anyway.

“If I get my mail, I get my mail, but if I really have to do something I go on the Internet,” is the attitude of a great many of people, especially those that have taken to the Internet well and that are connected.

True, some businesses say they have had to scramble to try to fill orders and receive payments that would usually be sent by mail, and some charities say that they are missing out on donations. Observers, however, say that by going on strike, Canadian postal workers have likely sealed their own fate by proving it's possible to function without daily mail delivery.

“Many find mail in paper form to be quaint; it no longer plays a central role in society,” an editorial in The Globe and Mail daily newspaper concluded. “The strike will only accelerate that trend by making online converts of those who have hitherto been reluctant.”

A worldwide trend toward e-mail, online banking, electronic bill payments, and communication through social media is causing a dramatic drop in revenue for the postal services around the world.

Canada Post has seen a rapid decline in first-class mail. It says the organization delivered 17 percent fewer letters last year than five years ago – the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) says it has dropped by just 6 percent – and anticipates a further 30 percent drop over the next five years. At the same time, it has to deliver to more homes as Canada’s population grows.

The volume of first-class mail has also dropped dramatically in the United States. The US Postal Service is set up to deliver 300 billion pieces of mail a year, but currently handles just 170 billion pieces and predicts that will fall to 150 billion by 2020. The USPS is looking to make reforms such as cutting back to five-day-a-week delivery and closing some of its post offices.

In Britain the cutbacks were made already years ago from a twice daily delivery, one guaranteed before 8am, and the second by 11am, to one delivery a day with not guarantee as to when the mail gets to you, if ever. The latter is especially true if you happen to live in a strange locations, as do I, and a new postman (they seem to change far too often) has no idea where the house is. Quite frequently mail goes missing and no one can explain why it either does not get here at all or seems to take a week or two when it should be here next day.

Personally, I must say, I have not sent a letter by mail for ages now, though I have sent the occasional package and card, as in greetings card. My written communications are, predominately, emails.

Affordability of the postal service is another thing also, with the postage in Britain rising far too often and now an ordinary first class letter costing the best part of 70cents US and for that they won't even guarantee – as they used to – that the letter will be at its destination the next day. Sending a letter to the US, for instance, is more than US$2 for an ordinary very light airmail letter. Is it a wonder that people switch to email?

Struggling to adapt in a new online environment

Canada Post has been struggling for several years to adapt to the new online environment, and Canada Post, I am sure, is not alone in this. While the letter carrying may be, slowly, becoming a thing of the past for postal services all over, they should improve their parcel delivery services, especially to rural areas, have post office counters open outside business hours and have decent post office banking services that could appeal to people who still do not trust the Internet enough to do their banking online.

Instead they keep putting up rates and their workers go on strike and thus give the customer no other choice but to look for alternatives. And then the postal service stands wondering why the amount of letters and parcels they handle have gone down and have gone to the competition, the private carriers.

When faced with the challenge of the Internet and email instead of finding ways of enticing people to send real letters – I still love to receive a real letter and so do many people, I am sure – they increase the postage with the comments that due to the fact that the usage has gone done they need to recoup losses.

© 2011

Is the Prime Minister's position still tenable?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While we all may fall victim to bad judgment every now and then the Coulson affair is beginning to become a serious problem.

Andy Coulson, the prime minister's former director of communications, is being investigated by police for allegedly committing perjury while working for David Cameron in Downing Street.

Coulson, former editor of the now defunct News of the World and later spin doctor at No.10 is becoming more and more and embarrassment to the PM and more.

The development renews pressure on the prime minister over his judgment in hiring the former News of the World editor and in retaining him only until not so long ago.

It also renews the question as to whether David Cameron is a suitable person to lead this country, that is to say, Britain, and whether his position as Prime Minister has not, indeed, become untenable.

I am not a Labor man, as my readers will have noticed from my writings during the Labor years; far from it. But I am not a Tory man either, and neither a Lib-Dem one and thus, I believe, I am places well enough to ask the question as to whether it is not time that we looked at the Con-Dem regime in Britain, or at least at the Prime Minister and his position.

David Cameron has gotten serious egg on his face with his support for Andy Coulson even when it became evident that Mr. Coulson was rather economical with the truth.

Friendship and loyalty to a friend are great attributes but... there comes indeed a time, especially when one is in such high office, to cut all ties and set someone e like Coulson adrift. The problem is that the Prime Minister did not do that soon enough. This has seriously dented and tainted his image.

In addition to Andy Coulson there is his friendship with Rebecca Brooks, another former editor of the paper in question and until recently CEO of Murdoch's empire's UK arm.

It is serious time that David Cameron reconsidered the way he does things and maybe even his position as Prime Minister and whether it would not be for the better of his party, the coalition government and the country if he stepped down as Prime Minister, leader of the Conservative Party and, ideally, even as a Member of Parliament.

How say you, Mr. Cameron? Would you not say that you have been compromised and probably beyond repair?

© 2011

Has technology and education killed off common sense?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The more and more I see the use of technology over common sense the more I must conclude that technology has indeed killed off common sense to a great degree.

When it comes to satellite navigation systems, of whichever make, the common excuse for going down the wrong route, such as a private road, when challenged,m is “but the sat nav told me to go this way and I was following that thing and did not look out for any signs.”

In the similar way when they get themselves into trouble by driving into a river – yes, it has indeed happened – with the same excuse of “the sat nav told me to go this way and through the ford.” Fine if and when the river is not running high water but not when it is in flood.

The use or misuse of satellite navigation systems is but one of those examples where it would appear that technology, or better our misuse of it, is supplanting common sense and its use.

Methinks we have gone stupid, at least a great majority of us, for simply relying on technology.

Even worse cases could be mentioned as regards to the inability nowadays of military operations being carried out properly when the GPS systems are down and sat comms are not working properly. It would appear that most soldiers, today, no longer have much of an idea as to how to make use a compass and read a map. Oops, I see trouble ahead.

Ships nowadays, merchant vessels especially, rely entirely for their communications on satellite systems for everything from calling home and base to calling for help. Shortwave radio and with it the maritime radio stations and services disappeared almost altogether.

Morse code went out even before the end of radio telephony for (merchant) ships and it is this that makes me worry about maritime safety and again the lack of common sense.

Any radio operator worth his or her salt does know about the Moebel-Dellinger Effect which can silence radio bands or made voice communications impossible. It is then when code is the only way.

In another way we have also gone daft and no longer use common sense is the way we deal with and believe in everything that is in the “newspapers” (in parenthesis because some do not deserve the “news” part) or in the media, including the Internet. We no longer seem to have any kind of discernment.

Just because it is in the papers or, worse still, on the Internet, on dubious websites, does not make it true.

The adage that common sense is not all that common is becoming more and more true and the word is becoming a bit of a misnomer and one could come to the conclusion that, aside from technology, our education system also has a great to answer for here.

It seems that, because it is not a degree subject at university, common sense is not very common anymore and some people really are being educated beyond their very capacity.

And when it comes to education, in Britain especially, everything is geared to academic achievements, something some people are not actually interested in, and any youngster having different ideas, such as leaving school at sixteen (it was fourteen and before that twelve) and go into training for a trade or such is being discouraged.

It is much for that reason that we have “disaffected” youth who loiter about the streets with nothing to do bar causing havoc.

We must recapture common sense and then we may recapture sanity.

© 2011

Street verges: Whose responsibility?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

street_verge Whose responsibilities should they be, the street verges and the keeping of same: That of the local authority or that of the residents?

In many countries of Europe (and elsewhere) it is the residents' responsibility, legally enforceable, to maintain everything right up to the kerb in good order. This means to sweep the sidewalk and keep it clear of litter and in winter of snow and ice, and to mow any grass verges.
Why not in Britain? Here we hear many at times that it is the council's responsibility as they, the residents, do pay council tax and all that.

Hmm... but people in other countries too pay local taxes which are for refuse collections, maintenance of parks and public woodlands, open spaces, etc., roads and streets and the cleaning of same, including the removal of litter in public areas. And no one moans about “having to do it”.

street_verge_garden In some areas residents, individuals, as well as small groups, do like they do in other European countries and keep and maintain nice clean verge areas themselves, and those must be applauded and lauded, and that is on a voluntary basis.

However, in general, when it comes to such kind of actions the British seem to be lacking any kind of public spirit, especially now in the modern austerity age, where they know full well that the councils do not have the funds and resources available.

Still, instead of cutting the little bit of grass that forms the verges in front of their houses when they do their own lawn, they make phone calls, and send letters and emails to the council complaining that it has not been done.

It really does not take much to cut a few feet of grass or to pick up that can or two that have been dropped just in front of the house on the sidewalk. That, however, seems to be far too much to ask of the people. “That's what we pay our taxes for”, they say time and again.

With a little more of public engagement we could all be a community again proper and our villages, towns and cities could be real livable areas, free of littler and, maybe, even vandalism.

© 2011

Autumn and harvest are certainly coming; according to Lakeland

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Autumn and harvest are certainly on their way; the Lakeland “in the kitchen” autumn catalog will be quicker though and not as much hard work.

The catalog is jam packed with everything that you will need to process the harvest from your grow your own patches and for baking, cooking, and everything in between.

They also have a great range of steamers, remembering that steaming food is probably the best and healthiest way of cooking.

The catalog should have arrived with most customers by now and it is worth a serious perusal for sure.

Also check out for the Lakeland stores near you, as there are a fair number of them now dotted around the UK by now.

© 2011

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s victory in ethical fishing fight

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Fishermen will be banned, under new rules and guidelines, to become legislation, of the EU, from throwing dead catch back into the sea in the most radical reform of their industry in 40 years.

The shake-up completes a victory for campaigning TV chefs and their 700,000 supporters who signed a petition demanding seafood is produced more ethically and it will end a practice which sees 4 million tonnes of edible fish, including threatened species such as cod and haddock, being thrown back every year because of quota rules.

TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said he was delighted that the European Commission was implementing changes and said: “The current system is bankrupt, as the compulsory discarding of millions of tonnes of fish every year demonstrates.”

Fishermen throw back up to 80 per cent of their catch because the fish are the wrong size or because of rules on quotas, sending stocks in the North Sea plunging to less than ten per cent of post-war levels.

In addition to that there are the kind of fish that are being thrown back that are not, generally, on the menu because people do not know and understand those fish. Pollock is one of those and, as far as I am concerned, I prefer Pollock to Cod.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, the EC has been outlining reforms to its common fisheries policy to limit catches to sustainable levels by 2015.

It admits some fishermen will lose their jobs but says that without action to protect stocks, the losses will be even worse.

The proposals will include providing support for fishermen to retire and a more scientific approach to managing stocks.

MEPs have 12 months to consult on the plans before they are made law next year.

Liberal Democrat MEP and founder of the Fish For The Future group Chris Davies said: “Our waters are capable of supporting many times more fish than now exist. It is not too late for the situation to be reversed, but we have now reached a crisis point.”

And, we must not forget that, if the public can be educated to eating other, equally good edible fish, such as the afore-mentioned Pollock, we can reverse things. The stocks of threatened fish can be permitted to recover while the consumer eats the fish of which there still is an abundance.

Like in other aspects management is the key, and this is true for fishing grounds as it is for farms and game estates.

However, man has gone around catching fish and killing deer and other animals as if there was a supply that would go on ad infinitum. When someone then points out that this is not the case counterclaims are made stating that the stocks of fish (or whatever) are not actually low or threatened.

No one wanted to believe that the Grand Banks fishing grounds off Labrador were under threat until, suddenly, there were no longer any cod to be had there. This is now a couple of decades past and still the stocks are nigh non existent.

Nature is not something that we can go on exploiting without impunity.

© 2011

British Columbia man faces six months in jail for growing food

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What on earth is happening with councils and such like, wishing to sue people for growing food? Has the world gone mad?

Lantzville-farm-before-and-after Lantzville farm before and after image - Image: Dirk Becker

Only recently we heard about the story of a woman in Michigan who is facing jail time for planting a garden and, many of us, I am sure, may have thought that that was just an exception. Alas this does not appear to be the case.

Sadly, this type of heavy-handed by-the-letter enforcement of bylaws exists at the same time as people embrace urban agriculture as a viable source of high quality nutrition.

A man in Lanztville, British Columbia is facing a similar battle with the local government after converting his 2.5 acre "residential" lot from a gravel pit into a thriving organic farm. His refusal to "cease all agricultural activity" could land him six months in jail. And this is total and utter idiocy. But, then again, many local authorities seem to act in such a stupid manner.

Acting on a single complaint from a disgruntled neighbor the regional district sent a letter to Dirk Becker giving him 14 days to "remove the piles of soil and manure from the property." The quoted bylaw states that property owners will ensure their property doesn't become or remain "unsightly". Specifically this refers to "the accumulation of filth, discarded materials or rubbish, which includes unused or stripped automobiles, trucks, trailers, boats, vessels, machinery, mechanical or metal parts." Admittedly, it can be argued that, to some a manure pile could be considered "filth". But, considering how Becker regenerated his 2.5 acres this characterization is an insult.

From these matters that have come to light recently the world seem to be going mad and that at a time when we need more people – in fact everyone of us – growing as much food as possible for personal use and even for passing on to others, by barter or sale.

Food security is what is at stake but our governments do not seem to understand this.

© 2011

Timber harvesters & sustainability or better the lack of it

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TJ_harvesteri Timber harvesters are not sustainable in their use and the question arises as to FSC certification as to sustainability as well here when we consider this practice.

I am no Luddite but harvesters and even chainsaws in forestry are not sustainable; definitely not in the long run.

Harvesters also cause serious damage to the forest environment through their activities.

When you consider the size of those machines, the weight and the amount of fuel they require sustainability certainly does not rank high. And the use of such machines also turns the lumber thus produced into a not very sustainable wood.

From an ethical standpoint the machine also is a questionable tools as it replaces many jobs and despite that timber products have not come down in price.

In many places even tractors for pulling out the felled trees are being replaced – once again – by (heavy) horses and in some instances even the felling is being done by old-fashioned methods, such as the two-man crosscut saw and the axe.

The truth is that, with petroleum-based fuels getting more and more expensive, the time may not be all that far off that we will need to be doing things like this “by hand” and with horses again, rather than by the heavy machines used today.

The certification of any wood product must also include in which way the timber was being felled and whether that was done in a sustainable way.

© 2011

The greenest government ever, Cameron said

What happened to it now?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

David-Cameron2 Every step we take the Con-Dem coalition – with the Tories in the very lead – is cutting about every green law that there is and was. Now yet another one is falling to the axe. We cannot carry on like this. We need more green laws rather than less in Britain. This definitely is not the greenest British government ever.

While it is true that the Con-Dem coalition government has inherited the biggest deficit in government finance ever, nigh on, from the previous Labor (and all the old Labor men and women are rotating in their graves) administration that ran Britain for well over ten years and ran everything into the ground.

However, the fact that there is no money in the coffers does not mean that the green laws should be abandoned. On the contrary rather and we should be pushing for eco-laws more and more. It does not seem to work any other way. But those laws also must be sensible ones and not the kind of trying to penalize householders for not recycling enough by putting cameras into wheelie bins.

We need positive green laws that will – properly – encourage people to go green and do the right thing but we do not need to spy in them and penalize them.

But there must also be green laws that put it on businesses to clean up their act and that also means that we need a law that will stop, finally, the export of waste to Third World countries such as West Africa where our E-waste ends up for recycling.

One green law after the other, especially the ones that would sort our businesses of all kinds and bring them in line to do the green thing, is being abandoned by this “greenest ever” government.

Instead of doing the right thing and green thing this “greenest ever” government is giving businesses permits to pollute; a blank check actually, permitting them to pollute often without the slightest bit of danger of being hit on the head for it.

In the same way the British Con-Dem coalition government under David Cameron is going down the nuclear route, a route that is fraught with many dangers and serious implications for future generations, instead of even considering – properly – the alternative renewable sources and especially a change in the way we produce and use electricity.

The greenest government ever certainly is doing little to nothing to live up to its name and claim and as long as certain vested interest lobby groups hold sway nothing will ever change, period.

© 2011

Charity begins at home

British overseas aid in an age of austerity

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

somalia_map_2007-worldfactbook To most people in Britain the government claim that giving lots of aid to various Third World countries, even while cuts are being made everywhere at home, protects our borders and keeps us save from terrorism at home certainly does not wash, and neither does it with me.

None of those places that we are pumping money into, which often disappears before it ever can do any good, will ever come to our aid is and when we need help. Charity begins at home and not in some far flung corner of the globe.

Libya is not our business and neither is Afghanistan and especially not drought and hunger in Africa, e.g. Somalia or wherever. There is hunger and poverty enough right here at home to get on with and keep busy for a very long time to come.

People in Britain certainly do not agree with the ring fencing of the Foreign Aid budget and the fact that we are sending funds abroad for often dubious development projects while people at home are losing their jobs and children live below the poverty line.

If individuals and companies wish to support good causes and charities working in development then that is up to them and that is charity proper but the country, the government, has no business in sending tax monies abroad as “development aid”.

Neither does the government have any business being involved in a conflict that we have created by invading the various countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no threat to the realm coming from those tinpot outfits over there and if then the defense of the realm begins in the territorial waters and not in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither are part of the realm and it is the British Army's brief to “defend the realm” and not to “go forth and conquer”.

We are not becoming safer on the street of Britain because of our military involvement in the various places, the opposite is rather the case. And development aid does not do anything either.

Our armed forces should be based in such as way as to be able to defend the real, as it should be, but not be dying for no good reason on some foreign field, in the “defense” of oil, for that is what it is all about.

Charity begins at home, as does the defense of the realm.

I rest my case, it is getting heavy...

© 2011

How celebrate Recycle Glass Month

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

recycle glass month September is Recycle Glass Month – in the United States ate least – and, at the time of writing in the middle of July, it is not far off now. But why have an entire month dedicated to recycling glass? What’s so great about glass recycling?

Lynn Bragg, President of the Glass Packaging Institute, has a few good reasons.

“Glass is 100 percent recyclable, and can be recycled endlessly with no loss in quality or purity. An estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles,” she says.

SO, you are still not convinced? Don’t worry, she has more reasons.

“Recycling glass containers provides for significant production efficiencies and environmental benefits,” she says. “For every six tons of recycled container glass used, a ton of carbon dioxide is reduced. Fewer raw materials are also consumed, and using recycled glass extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces.”

OK, now we have established that it is important to recycle glass, and you may have a bunch of glass containers laying around that house that you might not even think about. While wine bottles and peanut butter jars might quickly come to mind, all glass containers are recyclable, and many of the smaller and more difficult to think of ones more often than not wonder into the trash rather than the recycling bin.

Take for instance, glass containers for cosmetics and perfume; these are recyclable.

“Even glass containers that hold candles are recyclable,” Bragg says. “And don’t forget to recycle glass bottles and jars that hold soups, sauces, condiments and picnic favorites like pickles and olives.”

Speaking of condiments, Heinz recently re-released its ketchup in the iconic glass bottle, so now you can recycle that, too.

“Heinz ketchup was brought back in the 14-ounce glass bottle in response to consumer demand. We’re pleased to see major brands revisiting glass this summer as a way to appeal to their customers,” says Bragg. “Consumers obviously know the benefits of glass for maintaining the quality, purity and taste of products. We’re hopeful these companies will continue offering their products in glass for the foreseeable future.”

Bragg also offered some tips to make sure you’re recycling glass properly.

First of all, make sure you know your local recycling rules. If it’s required by your local recycling program, separate glass by color or from other recyclables.

Make sure you’re not contaminating the recycling stream. Keep out non-container glass, like light bulbs and mirrors, and other contaminants, like metal caps and neck rings, to ensure the glass you recycle can be used to make new glass bottles.

Remember that ceramics, porcelain, Pyrex and dishware are the most destructive contaminants for glass recycling and can damage recycling and manufacturing equipment. So, never place them in your recycling bins.

Now you are all set to recycle glass properly in celebration for Recycle Glass Month in September.

On the other hand, you could, before considering recycling for this or that class container, including bottles, to look for ways to reuse and upcycle them. Reuse and upcycling is better still than recycling, as it does not have to destroy the container in order to make a new one.

We should also pressure our politicians to rethink the way things are done and lobby for a return of deposits on glass containers so that they are brought back to the stores to the go back to be refilled.

In addition to that it would be good if we could get back to being able to get bottles refilled, whether with wine, or beer or even ketchup.

© 2011

Avoid disposable utensils and paper products

How to avoid disposable utensils and paper products

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

disposable-plates-cups-and-cutlery Summertime is the season when disposable products look tempting. Paper napkins, plastic cutlery and throw-away plates are tempting for backyard dinners and picnics – but they are not worth the waste nor the expense.

Do you ever think how much money you spend and how much waste you generate by using disposable products day in and day out.

One of the easiest things to do is just stop using paper towels, whether to dry your hands or whatever else. On the other hand if you have to use paper in the kitchen then use toilet roll. It is as efficient and often much cheaper than paper kitchen towels.

For use in general create some reusable napkins by ripping up old towel or old sheets and, if you can sew, hem them and viola you are all set to go. Cloth napkins are a great alternative to paper napkins.

For dining outside get some plates from thrift stores, and other such places, and those can often be had for “pin money”. You may wish to have them in complimentary colors but not necessarily matching designs; then again, who cares about color and designs. Those can stay outside on the porch and can be used whenever you are eating outside. Seeing that those plates are acquired it does not matter if one gets broken; they can be easily and cheaply be replaced.

Do the same for flatware. Instead of getting plastic (or even wood or bamboo) buy knives, forks and spoons at thrift stores and charity shops, again they can often be had for pennies, and put them in a glass jar or a tin can and you can leave them outside on the porch in the same way as the plates ready for whenever you want to eat outside.

I even do this with my cutlery for general usage. It all has come to me in the main as individual pieces from charity and thrift shops for very little money and I have even found quite a fair number of spoons, forks and knives left behind in the park from picnics. Waste not want not is and has always been my motto.

Disposables are bad for your wallet and bad for the Planet; let's use reusables.

© 2011

Feed your tomatoes well

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Tomato_web Now, with the tomatoes growing – in most places bar my garden, it would seem – ensure you don't forget to feed your tomatoes well. We demand a lot from them and they need to thus be kept well fed too.

It also pays to remember potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes so you can always give your main crop a boost with a dose of tomato feed.

While this is a little late to mention, I know, but ideally you should not grow potatoes and tomatoes in too close a proximity, and that is despite and because they are related.

Both are prone to blight but it is, in my experience, tomatoes that catch it much easier that do potatoes but, once your tomatoes have got it and they are close enough to the potatoes they will pass it on to the latter and destroy the crop.

Another thing to remember with regards to potatoes and tomatoes is that the green “fruit” of potatoes are poisonous and are not (green) tomatoes.

Both are in the deadly nightshade family and the green fruit on the potatoes are actually the poisonous fruit of that plant. Tomatoes too, at times, has a green deadly nightshade fruit. It is for that reason that I do not recommend taking green tomatoes off a vine too early. A poisonous “apple” might creep in otherwise.

Talking of tomatoes, per se, considering the problems I am having this year with them, and the problems I have had in the last two years, I might consider giving up on them, unless a real good one comes along, and concentrate on other veg.

© 2011

Ten million tons of newspaper are still tossed into the landfills

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ten million (10,000,000) tons of newspapers are still tossed into landfills in the United States, according to reports, and I am certain that Britain and the rest of the European Union are not far behind that figure.

newspaper_clipart

That is an awful lot of paper, and thus tree matter, which could either be recycled, and if only for shredded paper as animal bedding, or which, better still, would not even be generated as waste.

Who really, in today's world, still needs to read newspapers on dead trees, that is to say, on paper printed? Still we do, I know.

In London we get a fair number of free – to the reader at least – newspapers such as the Metro, which is distributed as railways and underground stations, an FT Lite, and in the afternoon distributed on the streets, the Evening Standard.

If I am in London, I must say, I do often pick up a couple of them. They do often give me some food for an article or two, though I never seem to find the time and opportunity to read them properly on the train; I am too busy reading books for review.

But as to news, unless local, which again comes via (a) free (local) newspaper(s), I do not use paper versions of newspapers in any way, shape or form. I cannot see a reason for them and have no use for them, in this digital age.

It is, therefore, strange to see, to me at least, that still there are so many newspapers going out to the punters. How many, I wonder, do actually get read in any proper way?

With an RSS reader subscription – which cost nothing – most news is instantly available to read online or, with the right software, to turn into a storable document format for reading later, or even printing, if so desired, such as PDF.

The same is true for magazines. I don't subscribe to any of them anymore – bar the one that comes with my membership of the Forestry Society – as I can get most of the material that I would want to read a specialist magazine for online from a variety of sources.

Yes, true, some material is behind a “pay wall” but then, well, that does not bother me either for there is always somewhere else where the same information or news article is found for free.

Coming back to the issue of ten million tons of newspapers in landfills, however. Here we have a case in point where, as weaning people off the paper is not going to be that quick, recycling comes in and where the municipalities need to do more to recycle the papers, even if only for animal bedding.

© 2011

Global oil consumption hit record high in 2010

Demand is outpacing supply as demand increases drastically causing supply shortfall

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

oil drilling tower Some illuminating new stats on global oil production, consumption, and the shifting landscape of oil producing nations.

Reports show that global oil consumption was up in 2010, bucking the trend for the two previous years under the grips of the Great Recession, increasing 2.7 million barrels per day (mbd )to a new record high of 87.4 mbd. Increases in global oil production, however, fell short of that by 900,000 barrels per day.

In other words, rising supply in not at all keeping pace with rising demand and consumption, something which everyone from the US military, to the IEA, to oil industry execs, and plenty of doom and gloom peak oil researchers (who likely will be more accurate than the technology optimists out there) have been saying for some time.

Exemplifying that growing supply and demand gap, and the dwindling supply of easy to get oil accompanied by the rise of tar sands and other so-called unconventional sources of fossil fuels, is Norway.

Once in the top 10 oil producing nations of the world, and one of the few nations which managed to escape the resource curse of oil while also having solid green credentials, in 2010 Norway's oil output dropped more than any other nation, by 9.4% to roughly 2.1 million barrels per day. It now occupies the 13th position.

Something which obviously doesn't sit well with Statoil, which has just released a statement saying that it expects to raise production “to above 2.5 million barrels of oil equivalents per day by 2020” and is positioned for long term growth.

Britain's North Sea oil (and gas) fields are also coming to an end of their productive lives and new sources do not seem to be forthcoming, not in the North Sea nor elsewhere. The trip to the Islas Malvinas, the Falkland Islands, and the surrounding waters, also drew a blank.

The rejiggered oil production rankings now have Russia leading the world (10.27 mbd) and Saudi Arabia in second (10 mbd). The US produces 7.5 mpd (and consumes a bit under three times that). China is now in fifth place, seeing the largest increase in production, with a bit over 4 million barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia, according, to sources, is, however, on the brink of running dry as well and that does not bode well for a lot of things.

The entire problem is not being helped one bit now by the crisis in Libya meaning that things will get worse in time to come. Then again oil is the very reason that we, that is to to say the USA, the EU and NATO are involved in supporting the Libyan rebels.

The action in Libya has about as much to do with human rights as the war against Saddam Hussein had anything to do with weapons of mass destructions. If it was human rights we were concerned about why are we not intervening in the former Rhodesia, now referred to as Zimbabwe, or Syria or Bahrain. In two out of the tree mentioned there is no oil and Bahrain is needed as a base for the US and British war ships thus we could not possibly upset the ruling family there. But I digressed. It was oil we were talking about and the disparity between demand and consumption and supply.

In order to level things out, it would appear, the US has, at the end of June 2011, released stocks from their strategic reserves. This was also a move in order to bring down gas prices at home and quieten unrest amongst motorist.

The fact that such reserves had to be released also seems to point to the fact that – unless the oil producing countries are sitting on their stuff (aside from no oil coming out of Libya) – the demand cannot be met anymore by current level of production.

Is the “end of oil” upon us sooner rather than we had assumed? It might just be.

© 2011