Social Media Campaign Provides Tools to Untangle the Mess of Power Cords Strangling Consumer Electronics; Complements New ‘One Plug, One Planet’ Blog

SAN RAMON, Calif. (December 2008) – Tired of wrestling with that rat’s nest of power cords enveloping your electronics gear? Green Plug’s got just the site for you -- – and it launched on December 16.

Green Plug, the first developer of digital technology enabling real-time collaboration between electronics devices and their power sources, has organized I Want My Green Plug (IWMGP), an online movement with a clear goal: to let consumer electronics companies hear the voice of the people. At the site, consumers can select the CE product they’d most like to “Green Plug-enable” – and, collectively, let manufacturers know that they’re at the ready, eager to buy compliant brands that deliver convenience and eco-friendliness.

Green Plug is the first green technology company to apply two-way digital communication to convert a universal power source to a device’s specific power requirements. Highly efficient, stylish DC power hubs enabled with Green Plug’s Greentalk™ digital protocol are able to simultaneously power multiple devices, each with its own specific voltage and power requirements. Green Plug technology minimizes solid waste by enabling consumers to keep their chargers for use with future devices after their current devices have become obsolete.

“By submitting their ‘vote’ with one click, people across the web are sending a powerful, positive message to the consumer electronics industry — they’re saying, ’I’m ready to buy products that are green and hassle-free,’” said Frank Paniagua, Jr. CEO and founder, Green Plug. “They’re voting for an end to power cord chaos, for open standards and for practical solutions that eliminate the need for multiple power adapters for consumer electronic devices. At the same time, they’re voting against waste -- and taking concrete action to help the environment.”

Beyond the ability to vote, includes social tools for sharing with friends, embedding a widget on a blog or web site, bookmarking it on social sites, joining IWMGP groups on social networks, and following the Green Plug blog for updates and news announcements.

“Whether your device has a battery or not, if it uses external DC power adapters -- like notebook PCs, cordless phones, digital picture frames, wireless routers, cordless power tools, cell phones, remote control toys, printers and even portable electric razors -- the ‘I Want My Green Plug’ campaign is your way of letting CE companies know that you care,” Paniagua said. “The time for this common sense solution is now.” In the United States alone, nearly 1 billion power adapters end up in landfills every year.

"Everyone agrees the power model is broken and this is the most positive, constructive way to fix it,” he said. “We’re calling on consumers to unite around the emerging Green Plug standard, enabling a single external power supply to power any DC-powered product, a move that is as vital for manufacturers and utilities as it is for consumers -- and for the planet.”

Green Plug is the first developer of digital technology enabling real‐time collaboration between electronic devices and their power sources, allowing manufacturers to standardize on one universal power connector and eliminate environmental waste. Consumer electronics, residential and commercial builders, power tools and power supply manufacturers license Green Plug’s embeddable power supply technology to provide universal and safe connections, promote environmentally friendly reuse, make their products more affordable, and generate customer loyalty. For the company’s thoughts on universal power for consumer electronics, please visit

Green Plug, headquartered in San Ramon, Calif., is privately held.

Source: Edge Communications, Inc.

The paperless office

“The what?”, I hear you say. Yeah, exactly!

by Michael Smith

With the advent of the computer, the PC in offices and then in homes, we were told that the paperless office was nigh. Well, I don't know where it has ended up then for I have not seen it, as yet. Must be taking the scenic route.

Instead of less paper we seem to be using more paper and generating ever more printed materials. Because now we can print out any little document, any book, anything we want. We can even bind the books with the right little, and not so little, tools and gadgets. Which is all nice and fine but more paper.

Oh, and we were also going to have so much free and spare time once the computers were everywhere. Yeah, right! Pardon! Now people send you emails and it arrived at 10am and by 2pm they are already at you asking whether you have gotten their email. Yes, so... It takes sometimes a while to compose a proper reply, does it not.

So, instead of having made everything easier I personally think it has made things somewhat more complicated and stressful. But that was not what we were really talking about here. So, let's get back to the non-existent paperless office.

The problem that I find, and that is why I have to admit that I am one of those who prints out quite a lot of emails, is that reading an email that requires detailed and in depth reply on screen and then replying to it straight away that way if not all that easy. Unless you have one pane to read it and another to reply in, and that, in my opinion, is rather a pain. And that pun was intended.

Hence I admit that I print out a lot of emails in oder to be able to read the text properly while working on a reply and I am sure that I am not the only one who does just that.

I also still find it a lot easier to draft an email by hand – yes, pen & paper – before I then type it and send it. Old-fashioned me, I know.

So, the paperless office, I am afraid to say, is either something that is never going to be coming or it is still a very long way off.

To be very honest, in the way I do like to read, for instance, books and such, in printed form, on paper, I also must say that I rather do not have paper disappear. I also, as said, use paper to a great degree, and especially for note taking and I know that I am not the only one and hence paper must and will remain.

One things also has to be said and that is that paper and pen(cil) are reliable, don't require batteries,, it does not matter too much whether they get wet or whatever. The data remains and you can write with a pen and paper in so many different conditions where even Netbooks and hand-held computers cannot be used.

I can, therefore, not see the entirely paperless office. A lot of the storage, however could be done on computers and also many daily, weekly, monthly and other periodicals could and should, maybe, be produced paperless.

I would rather get magazines in PDF format via email or downloadable from sites than having to buy them in glossy paper. That certainly would be and is the way to go. Books too can be published that way, especially, books that are not the kind you normally would like to curl up with somewhere, e.g. those that are not novels. They too could be done in the electronic format of PDF and PDF is, in my opinion the best way for e-books. Other formats require special readers and hence make is all a farce and negate any savings.

As far as the paperless office is concerned, the only thing we can wish, really, and hope for, is an office that uses less paper. Paper will remain something that we will have to have and use and hence it cannot be totally eliminated in offices, in publishing and elsewhere. Not everything can not should it be done electronically.

Personally, and I have said this before, I am still a “paper merchant” and also a “pen & paper merchant” in that I still use that very frequently, as I have never trusted a hand-held computer or PDA, for instance, ever since I had a Palm go haywire on me and no one from the company wanted to know. Customer service was non existent. It is then that I went to the “hipster PDA” and notelets that are printable from the likes of iScrybe application and such online.

It is my view that pen and paper or even better still pencil and paper are much more reliable than any electronic device for note taking and such, simply for the fact that pen and paper won't break down for lack of battery or for the fact that it has been dropped. I have recently washed a Prodir pen and it neither leaked and it worked again straight out of the washing machine.

So, as I said before, an office that uses less paper – and not just offices – if what we can aim for. Totally paperless is firstly a more or less impossibility and secondly probably also something we cannot do anyway and also may not want to do. There is going to be always a place for paper. We can make it last so much longer, however, as well if we but reuse all of that which is only printed on one side for various things; making small notebooks is but one answer.

Years ago many businesses, those that had access to their own printing especially, used one side printed paper for the making of telephone message pads, notepads, etc. Today we all have that facility with the printers that are attached to our computers. So there is no reason for not reusing paper that has only been printed on one side.

Thick paper from advertising, press releases, and such like, whether glossy or not, can be printed with business cards on the other side via the Avery programs, for instance, and then maybe laminated so they last longer and then cut. I do this all the time, nearly. Other paper can be used to print drafts of from the computer or can be made into a variety of note pages and such like. And, once that is all done, then, finally, the paper can be sent too recycling or b e composted.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

2009 State of Green Business Forum

by Michael Smith

On February 2, 2009 the 2009 State of Green Business Forum will take place at the PG&E Auditorium in San Francisco, California.

The Forum will coincide with the release of’s State of Green Business 2009,’s highly-acclaimed annual report on the status of corporate environmental trends and progress.

The Forum, which will be hosted by Joel Makower, Executive Editor of, and be featuring more than a dozen industry experts and thought leaders, is going to bring the report to life.

Attendees will participate in sessions comprised of compelling speakers and panel discussions, all focused on key business trends and issues, from minimizing the risks of water scarcity to maximizing the value of green innovations.

Seating for the State of Green Business Forum is limited, therefore you are advised to register early.

Additional information on agendas and speakers will be announced shortly, and regular updates will be announced in GREENBUZZ and on the 2009 State of Green Business Forum page on

Register before January 9th to receive a special registration rate of $119, a $30 savings. To register, click on the registration button below.

The date for the event is Feb. 2, 2009 from 9:30a.m. - 3:30p.m. at the PG&E Auditorium. The address for the PG&E Auditorium is 245 Market Street, San Francisco, California. The entrance to Auditorium in on Beale Street.

To register, click here.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Britain's holiday waste smashes all records

Christmas packaging, millions of trees and up to a billion cards are heading to landfill – even though much of it could be recycled

by Michael Smith

Despite, it would appear, the credit crunch and probable very hard times ahead the Brits have been spending on Christmas on a huge scale.

As millions of households now wade through crumpled wrapping, plastic ties and discarded boxes, the sheer weight of refuse in coming days is expected to smash all records. Much of this waste is, obviously, from packaging in which all those toys came that were found under the tree, often very expensive presents. This is yet another sign that proves that this season has become nothing but one of shopping frenzy because the “little darlings” want all those things and we dare not disappoint them. The gods help us when the credit crunch turns into a depression, as it would appear that it just might.

Waste watchdogs warned that rubbish from the estimated 100 million toys unwrapped on Christmas is likely to burn big holes in the ozone layer as well as in parents' pockets.

The Waste and Resources Action Program (Wrap) said toy manufacturers are not putting enough information about recycling on their packaging and, as a result, most of it will be sent needlessly to landfill. Over Christmas 2008 alone, this will lead to more than 400 extra tonnes of harmful C02. The news is a blow to the Government's 2007 Waste Strategy, which aims to see 40 per cent of all household waste recycled by 2010.

The fact is that much of this waste could be recycled and much more of the packaging, if properly designed, could even be reused.

A survey by Recycle Now has shown that while 89 per cent of British parents with children under the age of 12 would like to recycle toy packaging, 53 per cent found it difficult to know what was suitable for recycling.

"A large proportion of the packaging material from toys is actually recyclable because it is made from paper or cardboard," said Andy Dawe, Wrap's head of retail. "It is helpful for consumers to have labeling on the types of material that make up the packaging and which of these can be recycled. It also makes a real difference if different materials can be separated. For example, where a box includes cardboard with a plastic window, it should be made as simple as possible to remove the window."

While that may be so and also quite easy as far as the little or not so little “cellophane” - for it is not real cellophane now it it – to remove it, many of the toys seem to, nowadays, also come in those “lovely” blister packs which are a combination of card and plastic, often laminated together. Great for recycling – NOT!

The government-funded agency is now calling on toy manufacturers to improve recycling instructions on their products, and on consumers to redouble their recycling efforts.

The truth is that it is often not possible to recycle certain materials, whatever the claim may be. They are laminated together and are hard or impossible to separate and I know that councils and recycling centers do not want to know that kind of material.

We need to get back to the simple cardboard box, please, and ideally on that is designed to be another product by means of a little DIY. It can be done for it has been done before.

Let me call, yet again, on the design community to get their thinking caps on and do something on this level. It is hardly rocket science. A child can do it.

Now, coming to think of it... children indeed could do it and they might come up with better ideas than many of the experts who have tunnel vision.

The British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA) said through their spokesperson Natasha Crookes that it is for manufacturers, government-led organizations and consumers themselves to do this as, as she said, 70% of toy packaging is now recyclable. So, she said, it is really about getting people to recycle, especially at Christmas when everyone is busy unwrapping their presents.”

Industry and industry associations must get away from always putting the emphasis on the consumer and everyone else bar the industry. Packaging manufactures especially must do their part here as far as toy and other packaging is concerned. Designers can help by designing packaging to be reusable and re-purposable, as this is way more important and far better than recycling in the first place. But before all there must be a reduction in packaging.

In 2007, the UK recycled 9.7 million tonnes of household waste, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. However, some fear that the current economic downturn may lead to companies prioritizing profits over their environmental obligations.

"It is vitally important that we carry on recycling," Andy Dawe said. "If we stop, all materials will go to landfill – and that is the worst possible outcome."

While, however, everyone talks recycling, recycling and recycling, and while a few retailers and outlets, such as Boots and have already begun reducing packaging, it is that that is most important. The first “R” needs to be considered before the last of the three, namely “recycling”. After reducing it must be reusing and here, as said, the challenge is also on the designers and the manufacturers of packaging.

Honestly, we are not talking rocket science here now, are we.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

N-Power finally fallen foul of law

The energy company N-Power had finally been brought to book for mis-selling contracts.

by Michael Smith

This is not surprising this writer at all as I have personally encountered that company's sales people who have especially this knack, for lack of a better word, of misrepresenting N-Power as a very green company and a wholly British owned one, which it is not, not even by a long shot.

The company is wholly owned by RWE – Rheinisch-Westfaehlishe Energie – a German energy giant and one that has both dirty coal and nuclear power in its generating portfolio. So much for green, alternative energy, and all that.

Mis-selling is how that company works and always has worked and it is not a few rogue salesmen and -women, as they claim. It would appear to be the way those agents are supposed to work; or at least so it would appear to those that have been on the receiving end of those agents' modus operandi.

While RWE's portfolio does not, necessarily, worry me even though I, like I am sure many of the readers, would rather be able to buy entirely green energy from a supplier that just does alternative energy and at a good price, it is the way its British arm works and twists people's arms top go with them, and here especially the false claims of being a wholly owned British company unlike EDF, for instance, as was mentioned to me.

“Oh”, said the agent, “you know who EDF are and what its letters stand for.” To which I told him “yes” and quoted the company's full title, namely “Energie de Francé” and it was then that this individual claimed to me that N-Power be a wholly owned British company and he did not like me commenting that they were not.

I also encountered another of their agents on yet another trade fair that I had reason to attend under a press pass and that person also tried to tell me that N-Power be a wholly British owned outfit. This one, however, was very taken aback when I told him that the company is owned lock, stock and barrel by RWE, a German energy giant. He, apparently, did not know this.

This leads me to believe that it is company policy to have their agents deceive the unsuspecting public and the fine is rightly deserved and – in my opinion – far too low.

Ever since the deregulation of the British energy sector and the privatization of it we seem to have been going down a slippery slope and this is also true with other sectors of the once state-owned businesses, whether in the field of telecommunication, postal service or whatever. But, I digress here.

One can but wonder how many more you know whats are going to be in this particular woodpile and how many more energy companies in this country – and elsewhere – use similar mis-selling tactics, especially claiming the green label. Let the buyer beware and research before he commits him- or herself to anything.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

A step closer to Sale's dedicated walking and cycling network

It's one year since Sustrans' Connect2 won the TV vote to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to 79 communities across the UK to create networks for everyday journeys for people travelling by foot or bike.

On Wednesday, December 17, 2008, the project to connect the communities of Sale and Stretford along the Bridgewater canal came a step closer as sustainable transport charity Sustrans and its Connect2 partners at Trafford Council and Peel Holdings sign the paperwork that will guide the development for the coming years.

This agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding, confirms the partners' continued commitment to the project and pledges £250,000 from Sustrans' Connect2 lottery award to improve the towpath for cyclists and walkers and provide a series of links into the community.

This network will provide a pleasant environment for walkers and cyclists - along the canal towpath to pass over the River Mersey and under the motorway, connecting with the Transpennine Trail - enabling people to get to work, to school, or the shops under their own steam.

Work will begin in 2009 on the Sale to Stretford Section of the Bridgewater Way, and will enable more than 120,000 people living within a mile of the scheme to walk or cycle more for daily journeys to the benefit of both their
health and the environment. It is anticipated that the entire length of the Bridgewater Way will be complete by 2011.

Sustrans' Regional Director, Peter Foster says: "We're delighted to be making this significant step towards connecting communities on either side of the motorway through this valuable network of walking and cycling paths. In this era of concerns about the health of individuals and our environment, enabling more journeys to be made by foot and bike can only benefit our community."

Louise Morrissey, Director of Land and Planning at Peel Holdings says: "We are extremely pleased that the funding for the scheme has now been secured. Connect 2 is a fantastic project allowing not just our community, but 78 others to benefit from funding for well deserving schemes. The funding given for the Sale to Stretford section of the Bridgewater Way will be a real benefit to the area allowing people to access the canalside more readily".

Cllr Ken Weston, Chairman of the Bridgewater Way Steering Group, and representing Trafford Council, said: "I am delighted that we have secured the funding for this important project, which will give a real boost to this section of the Bridgewater Canal. The project will provide an essential link for local walkers and cyclists, as well as giving more opportunity for visitors to Trafford to enjoy our borough."

This scheme has been made possible through the enormous popular support for Sustrans' Connect2 - as voted for by the public in the UK's largest lottery competition last December.

The anticipated cost of the Sale and Stretford scheme is £730,000, with £250,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2.

The lottery award will be added to locally sourced match-funding to transform local travel in 79 communities throughout the UK - changing the lives of six million people who live within a mile of a scheme. Over the next five years, nearly £30 million will be invested annually to create these local walking and cycling networks from Devon to Perthshire.

Source: Sustrans

Connect Bristol 2 Nailsea and beyond - walking and cycling network a step closer

It's one year since Sustrans' Connect2 won the TV vote to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to 79 communities across the UK to create networks for everyday journeys for people travelling by foot or bike.

On December 11, 2008, the £1.5million pound project to connect walkers and cyclists from the centre of Bristol to Nailsea and beyond is a step closer as sustainable transport charity Sustrans and its Connect2 partners at Bristol City and North Somerset Councils sign the paperwork that will guide the development for the coming years.

This agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding, confirms partners' continued commitment to the project and pledges £600,000 from Sustrans' Connect2 lottery award to complete the network of traffic-free paths, bridge refurbishments and links through quiet roads which will connect people from the city to the heart of Ashton Court and onto neighbouring towns and villages.

At the Bristol end of the walking and cycling network, there will be a 3metre wide shared use crossing over refurbished lock-gates in the Floating Harbour; a new path will take walkers and cyclists safely under the flyover and beside Bedminster cricket club onto a new crossing over the busy A369 (Clanage Road) to the lower entrance of Ashton Court and UWE's Art Faculty.

At Ashton Court, a new path will run around the bottom of the hill, inside the estate and below the manor house to the original main entrance, where a link will be provided onto Long Ashton, to Nailsea and beyond.

Cllr Terry Cook, Bristol Council's Cycling Champion says: "We are really excited about this new route out of Bristol and beyond. Since the public vote last year, the council have been working behind the scenes to make this route the best it can be.

"A new crossing will soon run across the top of the existing lock gates in Bristol Floating Harbour, offering walkers and cyclists a 3-meter wide path as a quick and convenient crossing through the harbour. The route will pass beside Brunel's 'forgotten bridge', which will not be forgotten again, as it will form a unique attraction on the route, and will become a focal point, providing a convenient spot and resting place with a bench bearing Brunel's iconic image."

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans' CEO says: "We are delighted about this new route running through Ashton Court. It will connect Bristolians to this fantastic green asset on their doorstep without having to get in their car. This largely traffic-free network will enable families, school children, students and commuters to make daily journeys in ways that benefit their health and the environment."

Cllr Ap Rees, executive member responsible for transport for North Somerset Council says: "Last summer, The Flax Bourton Greenway was opened to tremendous success and it has been much used by commuters and leisure cyclists, as well as providing a vital safe route to school. The Connect2 scheme will provide a wonderful route for people to be able to safely walk or cycle away from busy main roads."

Feasibility and topographical work is already underway and it is anticipated that construction work will begin in late May 2009 and the entire network will be finished by 2013.

This scheme has been made possible through the enormous popular support for Sustrans' Connect2 - as voted for by the public in the UK's largest lottery competition last December.

Building on this public enthusiasm the scheme's Steering Group meets regularly, and enables members of the community to interact with council decision makers to develop and guide the scheme.

The anticipated cost of the Bristol to Nailsea scheme is in excess of £1.5million, with £600,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2.

The lottery award will join locally sourced match-funding to transform local travel in 79 communities throughout the UK - changing the lives of six million people who live within a mile of a scheme. Over the next five years, nearly £30 million a year will be invested in creating these local walking and cycling networks from Devon to Perthshire.

Source: Sustrans

One year on and a step ahead for Shoreham's walking and cycling network

It's nearly one year since Sustrans' Connect2 won the TV vote to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to 79 communities across the UK to create networks for everyday journeys for people travelling by foot or bike.

Earlier in December 2008, the multi-million pound project to replace and widen the Shoreham Harbour footbridge to provide a quick and convenient crossing for walkers and cyclists into a new network of paths, came now a step closer as sustainable transport charity Sustrans and its Connect2 partners at West Sussex District Council prepare to sign the paperwork that will guide the development of the scheme for the coming years.

This Memorandum of Understanding will confirm partners' continued commitment to the project and pledges £770,000 from Sustrans' Connect2 lottery grant to the scheme which will pedestrianise part of the town centre and complete a promenade from the railway station down to the sea front.

Since the vote, a project manager has been appointed by West Sussex County Council to ensure the smooth delivery of the scheme over the coming years. A steering committee, with representatives from the council's engineering teams, Cllr Clive Williams and Sustrans' regional director, will meet regularly to guide the scheme's development over the coming years.

Over the next few years the new bridge will be designed and built as well as the work to improve the walking and cycling path from Shoreham Beach through the town centre to Shoreham by Sea railway station. The new bridge is expected to be completed in 2012.

Sustrans' Regional Director, Simon Pratt says: "Shoreham's community came out in force in all their 20s outfits last December to support the proposals to re-establish the footbridge in the harbour and its series of links across the town. I am delighted that the plans for the route are progressing, and the community's support means that when it is opened, it will be well used and appreciated by all."

Derek Whittington, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport said: "I hope we can continue to work in partnership to make significant progress on this exciting and ambitious project which will be such an important part of NCN2, the South Coast Cycle route. The County Council is fully committed to making the scheme a reality."

This scheme has been made possible through the enormous popular support for Sustrans' Connect2 - as voted for by the public in the UK's largest lottery competition last December.
The anticipated cost of the Shoreham scheme is in excess of £4million, with £770,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2.

The lottery award will be added to locally sourced match-funding to transform local travel in 79 communities throughout the UK - changing the lives of six million people who live within a mile of a scheme. Over the next five years, nearly £30 million will be invested annually in creating these local walking and cycling networks from Devon to Perthshire.

Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK's transport challenges.
§ Sustrans' flagship project, the National Cycle Network, is now around 12,000 miles and runs within one mile of 55 per cent of the UK population. During 2007 over 354 million trips were made on the Network. There are around 2,500 rangers helping to look after the National Cycle Network.
Sustrans' Connect2 is a UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities by creating new bridges and crossings to overcome busy roads, rivers and railways, and linking these to networks of walking and cycling routes. As a result millions of people will be able to walk and cycle more for everyday journeys.
Sustrans' Connect2 won £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund's Living Landmarks: The People's Millions as a result of a public vote televised on ITV1 in December 2007.
Connect2 is a £142 million scheme - £50 million from the largest ever single lottery grant - and the remaining millions in match funding for individual projects.
The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.

Source: Sustrans

Americans sell possessions and buy used to cut costs

Good for the environment but a bad sign as to any economic recovery

by Michael Smith

More and more Americans, to it would appear, are selling possessions in order to make ends meet, even selling used children's toys to secondhand dealers, the same as with other items, including family heirlooms.

When it comes to buying things they now, more often than not, look at choosing used rather than new. Amazing what a downturn can do, even as regards to suddenly looking at used again. Also very green for any item that is thus brought back into circulation does not end up in the landfills.

While the fact that folks buy used, secondhand, rather than new may be very good for the environment but it is a bad sign as far as the economy is concerned. It means that people do not believe the talk of the politicians as to this crisis being of short duration only.

The feeling that I, and especially many analyst, have as regards the current economic situation, the credit crunch and the business closures is that it is not going to get better quickly; definitely not in the time frame that the governments, in the USA, Britain and elsewhere, try to tell the people.

Some analyst said that from where he is standing and from what he is seeing that this could be as bad if not even worse than the crisis of the 1930s. If that be so then the gods help us for most people are today in no position to overcome this.

First of all the communities that once existed and that helped one another are gone and secondly most of them are so deep in dept that they do not stand a chance.

In the 1930s as well as before and even after until well into the 60s and 70s people did not live on credit then - in the main – and only lived within their means, as far as the majority was concerned. Purchases were made mainly in cash back then and you saved up for expensive items and did not go out to get it because the Joneses had one or the Millers. You looked at whether you needed it and whether you could afford it.

Enter the era of easy loans and everyone went out with credit cards and such on a spending spree and most people began to live well beyond their means. It had to be the latest TV, the latest HiFi, the latest sofa and such, often just because the neighbors got a new one, regardless whether the old one was bad or not and from what I have seen when growing up even already doing the rounds collecting all those items that people put out at the curb for the special collections to take most of it was in good order.

It was only a matter of time until this bubble burst and it finally has done, in the US as well as elsewhere.

I am more than convinced that there is no quick fix to this and that we will be going through an number of years if not even a decade of very bad economics but, in many instances this may not be a bad thing at all. We may in fact get back to proper communities of people, in the real world as well as the virtual world, that will work together for the common good and support each other and we may also, finally, because of costs, get back the local firms making things. This would be good for our communities and the planet.

The horrible greed that has caused all this may, hopefully, be overcome and maybe we could even get a banking system that does not charge usury, like the Muslim banks. Chance would be a fine thing, I know.

Our countries, whether Britain or America, claim to be based on Christian principles but if that is so then I must say that I think that the Christian faith has absolutely nothing to offer the world. I am serious here. In fact, personally, I do not think that it has anyway. Please no one tell me that those people are just an exception, etc.

Capitalism has not worked and neither has socialism, I am aware of the latter fact as well. Is there a system that we could find so that good could come out of evil in this case?

Maybe out of this collapse or nigh collapse, if we work carefully on it, something good may come. But only if we, the people, actually work on it and ensure that the greedy bankers and politicians do not get to spoil and ruin it again.

It was greed that got us into this mess, total greed. Greed by bankers as much as greed by those who took out the loans.

Many British municipalities and charities are in dire straights because they have lost lots of money in the collapse of the Islandic banks. I feel so sorry for them, NOT. They invested in those unprotected banks of that foreign country for what reason? For the very reason of greed. Island's banks were offering high interest rates, rumored in the region of 15%-25% on high value investments and those institutions and councils thought they could make great profits this way. Now, as far as the councils are concerned it is the local taxpayers, that is to say, the residents, that have to pick up the bill or they will have to face loss of services. No council official, however, seems to be held accountable for those actions of having invested abroad.

Let us hope that good will come out of this and that we will have a new system, one that will be by the people for the people, and maybe we could even have new governments in that same vein. I know, chance would be a fine things, but... the truth is that it is now up to us what we make out of this crisis.

If we, the people, be willing and are prepared to have real solidarity and community then maybe, just maybe, a new society can rise from the ashes. We can but hope (and pray).

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Audubon announces TogetherGreen Fellowships

by Michael Smith

Audubon announced that the new TogetherGreen Fellowships that have recently been awarded to forty of the nation’s most promising conservationists.

A Gainesville, Florida woman is the recipient of a new national fellowship designed to advance the work of individuals with outstanding potential to help shape a brighter environmental future.

Jennifer Seitz, who has been involved in conservation efforts for over a decade, is one of only 40 people selected from competitors nationwide for the TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Program, part of a new conservation initiative of the National Audubon Society with support from Toyota.

Fellows receive specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow will also receive $10,000 towards a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.

Seitz will focus her efforts on working with community members in a predominantly black Gainesville neighborhood that enjoys significantly fewer green spaces and tree cover than the rest of the city. Through her project, she’ll talk with residents to find out what kinds of green spaces they’d like to have and then work with them to determine how best to create and maintain them. Seitz feels passionately that all Gainesville residents should be able to enjoy the benefits of tree cover and vegetation in their neighborhoods – shade, air purification, beauty, and more.

The efforts of the Fellows will aid people and wildlife around 39 cities in 24 different states – a full list can be found at

May we but hope that the work of the fellows will be appreciated by those in whose neighborhood they work and that their work will encourage others to join them in their work or to work on projects of their own to aid people and the environment.

Together we can make a difference but so can an individual. Each and every one of us, in his or her corner, can make a difference; more so though combined with others of like mind.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Greener Gadgets Conference

The 2009 Greener Gadgets Conference is well on the way to its second successful year. The organizers just cannot wait to show everyone what they have in store.

On February 27, 2009 innovators, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and eco-designers will return to New York City to discuss the future of sustainability for the consumer electronics industry.

This year’s conference will feature engaging discussion on:

  • Emerging energy technology
  • Real solutions for e-waste recycling
  • New inventions in energy generation and efficiency
  • Future forward recyclable gadgetry
  • The business case for going green
The organizers of the Green Gadgets Conference, obviously, hope that you, the readers of this here journal, are gearing up and counting down to this great show as well.

Just as a little thank you gift they are offering readers of the Green (Living) Review a special discounted rate when registering for the conference. Please enter the code GGBLOG when registering too cash in this special promotion. But hurry, as this may not last for ever.

So, scoot over to their website and see what the conference has to offer and then, if you want, obviously, you can register, using the special code GGBLOG, as already stated above, for a discounted rate, as valued reader of this her Blog.

Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Derry~Londonderry's dedicated walking and cycling network receives £1.2million

It's almost one year since the largest gathering of Santa Clauses turned out in Derry~Londonderry to show their support for Sustrans' Connect2 winning bid to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to 79 communities across the UK to create networks for everyday journeys for people travelling by foot or bike.

On Friday, December 12, 2008, the multi-million pound project to connect communities in the east and west of the city to the new Ilex foot and cycle bridge is a step closer as sustainable transport charity Sustrans and its Connect2 partners at Derry City Council sign the paperwork that will guide the development for the coming years.

This Letter of Offer confirms partners continued commitment to the project and pledges £1.2million from Sustrans' Connect2 lottery award to complete the Riverside Greenway which will connect people to the iconic - soon to be built - foot and cycle bridge and the existing Foyle bridge.

To ensure that it becomes a living, breathing asset to the city, the walking and cycling greenway will link communities from either side of the river over the new bridge to the bus station, the city centre and the regeneration spaces at Ebrington and St Columb's Park in a way which is tranquil, direct and convenient. It is anticipated that work will begin in 2009 and the completed greenway will open in 2011.

The Mayor, Cllr Gerard Diver says: "I am delighted that we have now secured the funding for this very important project to complete a traffic-free route from bridge to bridge on either side of the river. This will provide an essential link for walkers and cyclists alike, and will provide an attractive and tranquil riverside route for everyday journeys to work, to school or the shops."

Sustrans' Area Manager for Derry/Londonderry and the North West, Ross McGill, says: "Last December, the people of the city voted for a riverside greenway to open up the city for everyday journeys by foot and by bike as part of Sustrans' Connect2 lottery bid. Today, we're delighted that our partners at Derry City Council have officially accepted the offer of funding, and we look forward to creating a better environment for people to walk and cycle more frequently, to the benefit of both their health and the environment."

This scheme has been made possible through the enormous popular support for Sustrans' Connect2 - as voted for by the public in the UK's largest lottery competition last December.

The anticipated cost of the Derry~Londonderry scheme is in excess of £2.1million, with £1.2million coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2. The scheme is one of six in Northern Ireland to receive such funding, with Ballymoney, Dungannon, Newtownabbey, Omagh and Strabane all expected to sign their letters of offer shortly.

The lottery award will be added to locally sourced match-funding to transform local travel in 79 communities throughout the UK - changing the lives of six million people who live within a mile of a scheme. Over the next five years, nearly £30 million will be invested annually to create these local walking and cycling networks from Devon to Perthshire.

Sustrans is the UK's leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK's transport challenges.
§ Sustrans' flagship project, the National Cycle Network, is now around 12,000 miles and runs within one mile of 55 per cent of the UK population. During 2007 over 354 million trips were made on the Network. There are around 2,500 rangers helping to look after the National Cycle Network.

Sustrans' Connect2 is a UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities by creating new bridges and crossings to overcome busy roads, rivers and railways, and linking these to networks of walking and cycling routes. As a result millions of people will be able to walk and cycle more for everyday journeys.

Sustrans' Connect2 won £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund's Living Landmarks: The People's Millions as a result of a public vote televised on ITV1 in December 2007.

Connect2 is a £142 million scheme - £50 million from the largest ever single lottery grant - and the remaining millions in match funding for individual projects.

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.

Source: Sustrans

One year on and a step closer for Newton Abbot's walking and cycling network

It's one year since Sustrans' Connect2 won the TV vote to bring £50million from the Big Lottery Fund to 79 communities across the UK to create networks for everyday journeys for people travelling by foot or bike.

Today, the multi-million pound project, including a spectacular route spanning the River Teign to connect Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton is a step closer as sustainable transport charity Sustrans and its Connect2 partners at Devon County Council prepare to sign the paperwork that will guide the development of the schemes for the coming years.

This agreement will confirm the partners' continued commitment to the project and will pledge £500,000 from Sustrans' Connect2 lottery funds to create two miles of walking and cycling path away from the main road linking Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton, enabling people in those communities to bypass the bypass by path.

Over the coming months partners will work with the local communities to ensure the routes are the best they can be - enabling people to get to work, to school or the shops in ways which are beneficial to their health and the environment.

With the majority of funding now in place, the county have appointed engineers to draw up detailed designs for the new bridge and its network of paths.

Over the next few years works will begin on the paths and crossings, with the brand new foot and cycle bridge over the river, scheduled to be completed by 2013.

Works will begin in Kingsteignton later next year to refurbish existing paths and create a high quality and convenient road crossing. New links to Newton Abbot's railway station will provide better access for walkers and cyclists from nearby communities and the riverside through a series of road improvements, and a new bridge and other linked routes are due to be built by 2013 - providing a quick and convenient river crossing for everyday journeys.

Councillor Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council Executive Member for Environment, said: "The County Council is committed to improving sustainable transport right across Devon and this scheme is a perfect example of what can be achieved. We're keen to see this route completed to help make Devon even greener and it will bring huge benefits to people in Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton, where this link has been desperately needed for some time to create a better and safer route for people. It's encouraging that it's moving towards reality."

Sustrans' Area Manager, Peter Grainger says: "I'm absolutely delighted that Devon County Council is making this significant step towards completing the Connect2 scheme to enable local people to walk and cycle more. What is even more encouraging is the potential for this network to expand in the years ahead to reach into even more communities, to make it easier for them to get around in a way which is good for them and the environment."

This scheme has been made possible through the enormous popular support for Sustrans' Connect2 - as voted for by the public in the UK's largest lottery competition last December.
The anticipated cost of the Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton scheme is £3million, with £500,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund as part of Sustrans Connect2.

The lottery award will be added to locally sourced match-funding to transform local travel in 79 communities throughout the UK - changing the lives of six million people who live within a mile of a scheme. Over the next five years, an average of £30 million will be invested annually to create these local walking and cycling networks from Devon to Perthshire.

Source: Sustrans

10 liters down the drain – every time

by Michael Smith

Each and every time that you flush your WC in the UK – and I assume that this is not much different in the USA and Canada, for instance – you flush about ten liters of good clean drinking water down the drain.

The advice that was given last year or so by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, or let's better say, by his office, of “don't rush to flush if it's only a pee” is something that we should take to heart.

Water, water to drink, is going to become more and more precious and rare if we do not stop flushing it down the drain and ultimately into the sea when it not all comes back to us as water, in the form of rain. In fact much of it is lost to us.

This is why we must make an effort to stop the wastage of water, and the flushing of the WC each and every time that we go for a pee, for instance, may be something that we must curb.

If we do not make every effort to reduce our wastage of water we will be facing a problem in the future.

Those 10 liters mentioned here is the amount of water that every flush of the lavatory sends down towards the sewerage works and then the sea, most of it never ever to be seen again on dry land. In addition to that there is the water that is wasted by taps left running while brushing teeth. It always beats me why people insist on having the tap running while they brush. It is just as easy to turn the taps off. Also, what is wrong for rinsing to use a beaker instead?

The way we treat water is as if it is just simply there. We have this “who cares” attitude about it, as if we are thinking that it will be there for ever. It may not the way we carry on.

The only way we get fresh water is through rain and that rain has to actually end up in the aquifers and not run out to sea, yet again.

However, due to the fact that we have so much of our ground concreted over and tarmacked over, the water, especially during heavy and prolonged periods of rain – if we have them – just runs into the rivers without going through the soil and ground first, causes flooding and then is off to the sea. Most of that water that thus heads that way is then lost to us for ever. The hydrological cycle that those of us that have gone to school have had explained does not actually work that way at all – at least not anymore. Hence we have to conserve water somewhat more, and this may and maybe should include rainwater harvesting.

For the use in the flushing of he lavatories gray water and harvested rainwater also could and should be used and many new housing developments in Britain, for instance, now have to have rainwater harvesting and gray water as standard, and a good idea this is, methinks.

There are, however, countries and areas where rainwater harvesting, even on a small rain barrel in he garden scale, is illegal, such as a number of States in the United States. There is it a felony to divert the rainwater away from its natural flow. Sorry, but methinks that is more that silly. In fact, I would say, it borders on the insane. Then again many statutes here and elsewhere appear to have been drafted and then passed by people who are, in fact, a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Ii honestly sometime wonder as to whether it is a requirement to be a politician to be stupid and and imbecile, for the more I see of them and the more I observe the mammals of the genus “politicus grandicus” the more I believe this to be thus.

While we must not waste water, the opposite in fact; that is to say we must conserve it as much as possible, we should and must be able to capture and use the water that comes from the roofs of our homes in order to conserve the tap water, in that we can use it in our gardens and to flush the lavatories and such.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Chico Bag Vita – Product Review

by Michael Smith

I recently had the opportunity to review the original Chico Bag, which was, as you may remember, from a different source than the manufacturers, Chico Bag, Inc., itself.

However, after having sent the good folks at Chico Bags, Inc. the link to the review on the journal here I have been asked whether I would like to also receive a sample of the Chico Bag Vita, the larger version, and larger it certainly is.

The Chico Bag Vita indeed is a large shopper and the nice thing is that its handles are so big that you can put it over your shoulder. This makes it a very useful bag indeed and, despite its size, the genie is easily put back into the bottle, so to speak.

I must say that Chico Bag – and no, no one is paying me for this (hint, hint) – seems too be the easiest one to get back into its carrier, in this case a small stuff sack.

Once again I thought that it might be a problem, especially seeing that the bag is rather quite a bit bigger but no, no problem; one just has to keep stuffing it in.

I must say that I am impressed with the ease that the Chico Bags can be put back into their little stuff sacks, and I would like to add here that I do not impress easily.

One thing I would like to say and that is that I would not want to try to carry the weight that is specified for the Chico Bag Vita in it, as that is just not something I would want to carry in one hand and not even on my shoulder. I often enough carry stuff that is about half of that weight in bags on my shoulder and it is no fund doing so.

Let's face it though. The Chico Bags, of whichever size, while they may be specified to be able to take the certain given weight it does not mean that you will have to put that much in them. The bags have been thought of as something that you have on you at all times so that you have a reusable shopping bag for as and when you decide to pay a quick visit to the shops; doing away with the need to taking a free plastic carrier or two from the shop.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Powers of RIPA legislation abused

Ex-Chief of MI5 'astonished'

by Michael Smith

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed in 2000 to regulate the way in which public bodies such as the police and the security services carry out surveillance.

To begin with originally only a small handful of authorities were able to use RIPA but its scope has, for some reason, been expanded enormously and now there are at least 792 organisations using it, including hundreds of local councils.

This has generated dozens of complaints about anti-terrorism legislation being used to spy on, for example, a nursery suspected of selling pot plants unlawfully, a family suspected of lying about living in a school catchment area, and paperboys suspected of not having the right paperwork.

Now those campaigning against the abuse of RIPA have got a new ally in the person Lady Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5. In a speech in the House of Lords recently, she said she was "astonished" when she found out how many organisations were getting access to RIPA powers.

Those that nowadays, more or less willy-nilly seem to be granted the right to carry our surveillance for this or that reason, should never, so it seems as far as the Security Services are and were concerned, be given those powers and rightly so.

While there may be reasons in fact for councils and others to, at times,m be granted powers under RIPA no council, per se, needs to carry our covert surveillance of dustbins for instance as to what people put into them. The same is true in respect to other uses that RIPA has been used for.

When RIPA was introduced the activities authorised by that legislation were meant be confined to the intelligence and security agencies, the police, and Customs and Excise.

The legislation was drafted at the urgent request of the intelligence and security community so that its techniques would be compatible with the Human Rights Act when it came into force in 2000.

Nowadays, however, for reasons unfathomable, every authority of whatever kind, from local councils and trading standards – and that latter one can still be understood – over the Milk Marketing Board equivalent and the one responsible for eggs and whatever else, aside from police, security services and HMRC, that is to say Customs and Excise, are given such covert surveillance powers.

Britain is the fast becoming, if it is not already, an all-pervasive surveillance society and British subjects are the most spied upon people on this planet, ahead even, so it would appear to citizens of Russian and even of Cuba.

On the principle governing the use of intrusive techniques which invade people's privacy, there must be total clarity in the law as to what is permitted and they should be used only in cases where the threat justifies them and their use is proportionate.

Presently, however, it would appear to be neither and as far as a great many people who are in the know amongst the general public are concerned this is very disconcerting and it is creating resentment amongst the people.

However, it seems that the current Labor administration in the United Kingdom could care less as to what the public thinks really. They have a majority in the House and hence do not care one iota about the people.

How can we expect to combat terrorism on our shores when we alienate the general law-abiding public who should be the eyes and ears of the authorities by using spy techniques and anti-terror legislation against them who have done nothing wrong.

The idea of the DNA and fingerprint database and the idea of monitoring all email and Internet traffic of every subject of Her Britannic Majesty is not going to bring the people onto the side of the government. Rather the opposite.

People who work in the field of security, I am sure, can see that but those that try to lord it over the people, whether central or local government do not care, it would seem. Councils up and down the country use RIPA powers against people that may or may not put the wrong stuff into their dustbins; who may put their dustbins out at the wrong day, and such like. As far as I, and Lady Manningham-Buller, see this is a total misuse of the powers of the act. Time some reigning on was done here.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Local Councils in England ask people re-reuse and recycle this festive season

No, not recycling the festive season itself...

by Michael Smith

Households in the county of Kent, the neighbor to my own county, produced 22,000 tonnes of waste over the Christmas and New Year period last year.

Now the Green Party in Kent, as well as Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, have issued the challenge to their respective residents urging them to have a greener and less wasteful festive season.

Dr Hazel Dawe, the party’s chair, said: “We want everyone to re-use packaging, re-heat appropriate foods, redistribute usable goods to charity shops or use them as presents.

‘Reclaim unwanted furniture for secondhand use, rot down all kitchen waste into compost, recycle what cannot be re-used and above all re-educate the whole household about redeeming the maximum benefit from the money we all spend at Christmas time.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has urged Londoners to make a concerted effort to recycle this Christmas, saying that "we need to stop thinking of rubbish as 'waste' - it is in fact a resource."

"This is a time when we produce acres of extra waste," the Mayor told the London Waste and Recycling Board.

Last year in the county of Kent only 23 per cent of the waste, 5,000 tonnes, produced in the county last Christmas and New Year was recycled – despite the fact that 80 per cent of household rubbish is recyclable. The rest ended up being sent to landfill.

Nationally, the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Management estimates that this Christmas the country will create three million tonnes of rubbish – enough to fill 400,000 double-decker buses.

Kent County Council is keen for people in the county to have a green Christmas and is launching a new campaign working with the national Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to encourage people to recycle small electrical items at their local recycling center rather than throwing them in their dustbins.

A spokesman said: “Radio adverts will start on Boxing Day in time for the sales. The main message is ‘Bring It, Don’t Bin It’.”

Computers 4 Africa, a charity based in Maidstone, takes people’s unwanted PCs and laptops and sends them to schoolchildren in Africa, which has the lowest ratio of computers to people in the world.

While this is a nice gesture I am sure there are also deserving children in this country that cpuld benefit from having such a PC or laptop given to him or her – especially with a safe operating system – and a free one to boot – installed upon the system, such as Linux Ubunbtu.

The wrapping paper used for the country’s gifts is equal to 50,000 trees, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and is enough to giftwrap the island of Guernsey.

Christmas trees can also be recycled alongside your festive greetings cards. The charity Action for Sustainable Living estimates that around six million Christmas trees are bought each year in the UK, but only 750,000 (12.5 per cent) of them are recycled.

The best idea is when it comes to a real Christmas tree is to buy one that is potted, use it for the festive season and then either plant it in the garden or have it planted in a wood or a park. Obviously, if you have a garden of your own you can plant it there and use it again next year. Beware, however, those things grow.

Dr Dawe had some wise words for this Christmas, which is set against the gloomy backdrop of the credit crunch.

She added: “The eight ‘Rs’ – re-use, re-heat, redistribute, reclaim, rot down, recycle, reeducate and redeem – will help to keep household debts under control at the most challenging time of year.

“By all means, have a happy Christmas and New Year – but remember, now is the season of waste, not just good cheer, and why waste money if a little thought will make it go further?”

Alas, Dr Dawe forgot a couple of “Rs”, namely repurpose and rework. She also omitted the most important one of the “Rs” and that is “reduce”.

As Mayor Johnsaon said, waste is not something to be thrown away, it is a resource, and one for a variety of uses.

We have to come to look at so-called waste and rubbish or refuse in a new light, whether domestic or commercial. Much of it can be made into new of some sort or another and not just by commercial recycling. Craft recycling is a great way to go and much of the refuse that is about could find its way back to people to be used as something else, be this waste leather, waste wood, PET bottles, or whatever else.

If you are looking for recipes suggestions to try with your leftover turkey, stuffing and party food try the Love Food Hate Waste campaign’s website

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Staycations & Fakeaways

by Michael Smith

In this current economic downturn, or maybe we should really truthfully call the baby by its proper name even though the eggheads try too still deny it, namely recession come depression, in Britain and in other developing nations, “stay at home vacations”, that are even beginning to be called “staycations” and also “fakeaways” - in the USA one would probably call them “fakeouts” - the make at home version of the “takeout”, the “takeaway”, as it is called in Britain, are becoming somewhat the norm now, it would appear.

It started this summer where the beginnings of the credit crunch were becoming obvious and people realized that they needed to keep an eye, a very close one, on their finances and there were also some that did it in order to aid the environment, to do the “green” thing. It was then when at first the new trend of “staycations” was beginning,, for one reason or the other. We then saw it continue into the holiday season in the USA with Thanksgiving being very quiet at airports and on the roads. People stayed home, to a great degree, for the holidays rather than to travel hundreds of miles. An additional factor in that case was the high cost at that time of gasoline as well.

Home appears to be now a great new holiday destination and in the UK also vacations in the country were up by over 60% for the summer 2008 compared with previous years. Good for the holiday resorts in Britain, I am sure. It is also no bad thing at all. A lower environmental footprint for starters and no huge amounts of air miles accumulated.

It certainly will do the environment and our planet a world of good – pardon the pun – if people indeed spend their vacations at destinations within the country, or in the USA State or neighboring State and not further afield, or even right at home in their own home and in their own town and area.

Why fly down to Spain to Costa del England – as the Costa del Sol is often jokingly referred to – when one has not even seen the sights in one's own country, often not even in one's own county?

How many British families have been in the Tower of London and seen the Crown Jewels and such? How many have seen Stonehenge properly? No, but they have been to the Louvre in Paris, or the Pyramids in Egypt even.

While the working class that tend to travel on package holidays to the places in Spain and such that are nothing but an extension of England with their nightclubs, cheap booze, etc., etc., and may not have all that nice homes staying at home still would benefit them more than anything. They often take out loans to be able to do those vacations. Doh? Or the save all year for it. Why?

Why not stay home, especially if one has a nice enough home and parks and open spaces and woods and seaside one can go and visit as and when the weather permits? That is a much better choice, and it does the environment good as well.

The towns and cities of this country and also the countryside are full of history but people seem to rather want to experience foreign places at rip off rates. Mind you, then again, a visit to the Tower of London certainly is not cheap at £17 per adult and £10 per child. I assume that families could get a slightly reduced rate on a family ticket but still it will make a visit to London and the Tower a rather expensive trip. Something must be done to make such visits more affordable, especially for those of the lower income bracket.


With the costs rising left, right and center, whether utility bills, or fuel costs, people's habits are a-changing and the take out meals are replaced by the DIY Indian, Chinese or whatever meals at home.

While this may not be all that good for the restaurant industry it must be good for people's wallets and maybe even health. Do you really know how clean those kitchens of those places are? Do you really know what ingredients go into that curry? When you do your fakeaway Indian at home, however, you know where the ingredients have come from, who touched them – at least at your place that is – and how they were prepared and how clean the kitchen is.

Also, when you make your own exotic dishes, your takeout equivalent, at home the ingredients will be fresh and guaranteed cooked – probably – just that once and therefore any leftovers can be kept and used again the next day in one way or the other. Something that I would advise against if it is a take out meal proper, so to speak, as that food, more than likely was cooked and then reheated. In the case of rise, for instance, this can cause fatal botulism to develop. DIY and be safe and also green, though not as in color from food poisoning, but green as in environmentally friendly.

BYO Lunches

Another thing that the credit crunch has brought about, but also some of the “green” concerns, are the BYO Lunches. For many in offices both reasons, that of costs and that of being “green”, have lead to the renaissance in the bring-you-own lunch habit. For many manual workers it has always been the case that you made and brought along your own sandwiches and whatever and it used to also be the case for many office workers and even managers. Then came the sandwich bars and such and people began to buy their lunches out.

However, it would appear that we are headed back to the bringing your own lunch to work and elsewhere. The packed lunch is also there again for visits to parks and elsewhere where still a while ago people would have flocked for sandwiches and cakes and coffees or teas to the cafés. The only thing that people now, when visiting parks seem to purchase from the cafés seem to just be ice creams for the children.

Again, while this, unfortunately, may be impacting adversely on the catering industry, I would think that the environment, people's wallets and people's health will benefit here.

Firstly because sandwiches and other lunches that can be bought from those small and large places are certainly not cheap – far from it. Who, in their right mind, is going to pay £2 for a cheese sandwich? Well, some people seem to do in London's financial districts. Therefore it makes more than financial sense – strange the financial gurus don't seem to see that – to bring one's own lunch to the office or the workplace in general.

Secondly, as to health the story is the same as regards the take out places. You do not know how clean or not the food preparation areas are in those places and even if the lunches are bought pre-packed – and then comes the thing about the packaging too – from food factories and are just retailed by the stores one does not know as to how safe they are as regards to food poisoning bacteria and such like.

Make your own and take your own lunches to work and you save money and you also may just protect your body and your health as well.

Staycations and fakeaways are certainly the way to go, and that for both the environment and the wallet. In some instances also health. Both staycation and fakeaways also are a great idea and way to simplifying life.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Tough times put focus again on 'fixer-uppers', of the technology kind and other

by Michael Smith

The one thing that seems to happen when the economy takes a downturn or even worse is that it makes people accidentally “green”. This includes holiday tech gifting.

I have indicated that in the article about the DIY Christmas gifts and it holds true for other things too.

Apparently gadgets sales, in the US at least, have dropped for the first time this year during the after-Thanksgiving holiday rush. So what are people focusing on in the techy sector if not new devices?

They are focusing on adding to, improving or upgrading they old gadgets and such, and that's what it looks like for sure. Not a bad thing, I am sure.

Cheaper alternatives to a new desktop computer, including notebooks, also should do well, as heavy discounts have brought some laptop prices down to $500 or less. While those may not be the top of the range they are good enough for most users.

Another possible hot PC alternative is the NetBook, the small, lightweight laptop designed for e-mailing and Web surfing that tends to be slightly cheaper than a laptop, but just slightly.

I must admit that I have gone out this year twice now and actually spent money on new computer equipment; once for a new laptop and then, as a Christmas present to myself, I am afraid to say, to by an ASUS Eee PC NetBook.

A Netbook, however, is much more the ideal companion if the computer is to be used “on the road”, so to speak.

With some of them having rather big hard drives installed – but that makes them somewhat pricier – they can replace a standard laptop even.

The Eee PC that I got myself has a 16GB solid State hard drive – e.g. a flash drive – and, as far as I can see, that will be sufficient enough for my needs.

On the other hand, however, I very much believe in fixing up things and that is why my place is cluttered up with old(er) computers in the same way as the garage is full of abandoned and thus found bicycles. All to be fixed up at some stage, or broken down for spares, and in order to upgrade others.

Director of community at Retrevo, a search engine that focuses on consumer technology purchases, Adrew Eiser, says that it looks like consumers are focusing on adding to the devices they already own instead of making big purchases. Rather than new gaming consoles, for instance, they are buying just the games.

This year will be one of "technology as a fixer-upper," said Stacy DeBroff, the chief executive of Mom Central, a Web site for mothers.

"That's where you see, 'I won't get you the latest iPod, but I'll load up your iTunes,'" DeBroff said. "That's technology augmenting what exists, instead of making a big splurge for something that's new."

In addition to this there will be fixer uppers in other areas as well, as regards to presents, especially for children, of that I am sure. And there is certainly nothing wrong with it. The bicycle that someone else's child has grown out of and which is perfectly good in other ways but just needs to good thorough cleaning and such; the bike that is fixed up from another, or whatever, they are all, in my opinion, acceptable and the children should be happy with it and they will be if raised the proper way.

While it may be difficult for children – if they were not used to it – to understand this initially it will put them in good stead for life further down the road and I do not mean in case, which may still happen too, the economy dives even further.

While this is the present trend, so to speak, that it would appear that people are going for the fixing up rather than buying brand new this may still change if people, in light of the prices falling due to, such as in the UK, reduction in sales tax or just simply because there are closing down sales, as in the case of Woolworth. Folks then might decide to buy new things at a greatly reduced price but... to be honest, I cannot see people going out to spend lots that way especially not if they realize, which i am sure they will, the way we are headed, namely further down the drain.

In a way this is good green news.

What we’ll hopefully see is less new electronic hardware sold, a growing use of already owned gadgets, and a higher purchase rate for used electronics. If this is the case, like many industry analysts predict it will be, it’ll be a greener winter (and not in the global warming sense).

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

Boris ditches part of C-Charge zone

by Michael Smith

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, not to be confused with the Lord Mayor who is the Mayor for the City of London, the so-called Corporation, has announced that he is scrapping part of the capital's Congestion Charging zone in response to public demand.

Resultant from an in depth consultation with Londoners, the Mayor said he will take steps to remove the Western Extension, which includes the affluent areas of Kensington, Notting Hill, and Chelsea.

Some, I know, have said that he is pandering to the rich of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, especially the drivers of the Chelsea tractors, that is too say the large SUVs that never ever go off road.

Nearly 28,000 residents and businesses responded to a consultation on the future of the Western Extension earlier this year, with two-thirds of residents and 86% of businesses calling for it to be scrapped.

Businesses have been on about it for ever since the initial Congestion Charge was introduced under Boris Johnson's predecessor Ken Livingstone.

It comes just months after Boris Johnson scrapped another anti-congestion initiative launched by his predecessor Ken Livingstone which would have raised the daily charge for entering the Congestion Charging zone from £8 to £25 for the most polluting vehicles, in this case especially yet again the aforementioned Chelsea tractors.

"During the election I promised Londoners a genuine consultation on the future of the extension," Mr Johnson said.

"I promised that I would respect their opinions and I promised that if clear support for a particular way forward emerged then I would act on that opinion.

"Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that they would like the scheme scrapped."

He said Transport for London (TfL) was still working on a series of measures aimed at easing congestion in the capital, such as re-phasing traffic signals.

TfL estimates that traffic returning to the Western Extension will result in a small increase in emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, but said it is "unlikely to have any material effect on measured air quality" in the area or on its boundary.

But Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones said: "Scrapping the Western Extension will almost certainly lead to a sharp rise in traffic, more congestion, more air pollution and more climate change emissions."

She also raised concerns that the drop in income from Congestion Charge fares could lead to a rise in fares on public transport.

TfL will now begin the legal processes necessary to remove the Western Extension, but it is expected to remain until at least spring 2010.

While Mayor Johnson is correct in honoring his commitment to the London electorate the removal of the Western Extension will surely, as the Green Party member mentioned, lead to an increase in traffic, especially in those areas that have the charge removed.

The loss of revenue from not increasing the charge for the most pollution vehicles will also be sorely missed, I am sure, by TfL. In addition to that this fact also means that those vehicles will continue to travel into London and continue to pollute the air.

While one might not wish to impose and enforce certain restrictions on people as to which cars they may or may not buy, own and use, those highly pollution SUVs especially that have no other use than to make some people look big should, in my opinion, but this is my opinion, be banned from being sold bar to those that have a need for them, such as people who do actually live and work in the countryside and such like.

But, I know, I am skating on thin ice here as some people really will not like being told things like that and might be getting very angry with this. However, while I am at antagonizing people I might as well suggest, yet again, that the government must get its fingers out and create a public transport system that is reliable and affordable and then must encourage drivers off the road and into trains and buses.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008


National Park Trust Meets with Obama DOI Transition Team to Outline Priorities

ROCKVILLE, MD, December 2008: National Park Trust (NPT) applauds the announcement of the intention to nominate Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as president-elect Obama’s Interior Secretary. Senator Salazar supported NPT when he was a member of the Honorary Congressional Committee for National Park Trust’s 2008 Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award honoring Senator Harry Reid.

Board chair William Brownell states, “We at NPT are enthusiastic about his selection. Senator Salazar has substantial experience with parks and public lands and has shown a clear commitment throughout his career to reconnecting children and nature.”

Senator Salazar currently sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the subcommittee on National Parks. Prior to his senate career, he served as the director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and as the state’s attorney general.

Recently, a group of NPT representatives met with president-elect Obama’s Department of Interior Transition Team. The group discussed its priorities to achieve the organization’s vision that “everyone will have an American park experience”. Those priorities include creating a seamless national system of parks, adequate federal funding and matching opportunities for land acquisition, and expanding NPT’s Youth to Park Program - a national initiative aimed at reconnecting youth, especially underserved youth, to our nation’s parks.

NPT efforts complement and support the new administration’s interests in promoting the national parks through improved diversity, expanded youth programs, and the protection of strategic lands.

Brownell says, “NPT looks forward to working with the new Secretary and his team to strengthen the integrity of our nation’s parks and our children’s connection to them.”

NPT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust and the nation’s only organization dedicated to the completion, and full appreciation, of the American system of National and State Parks through the identification of key land acquisition needs and opportunities.

Source: National Park Trust

Do-it-yourself gifts for Christmas

by Michael Smith

No, I am not about to give you instructions as to how too make gifts for Christmas. Others are doing that enough, methinks, which is good, but...

It seems that everywhere you look in magazines and newspapers – yes, even newspapers – and in television programs, and in their counterparts, whether from the same paper or magazine or not, online, whether those are the counterparts of the magazines, papers or TV programs, the talk is about and there are instructions for do-it-yourself Christmas gifts. This is the same in the Times Newspaper and its counterpart, Times Online, as well as on the website of the US TV program “Inside Edition”, and others.

Everywhere we look it is about DIY/homemade presents for Christmas. There must definitely be something in the air.

This is, obvious, something that I entirely applaud and endorse, as it is also good for the environment. Currently this does have little to do, in most case with environmental consciousness or such but seems to me definitely a sign of the times that we are presently in. We did not see such instructions in the last years past, bar in some special magazines and online media, such as Treehugger and others.

What we are seeing here is what people want and need for they cannot afford too go out and buy all those expensive things that they might have wanted to get their loved on es and friends for Christmas. A definite sign of the times.

This does not, necessarily, mean that this is a bad thing. It may feel like that to those that look at saving their dollars and cents and rather make gifts – and especially to those that do not have the funds to buy presents. In fact this may be a blessing in disguise, for us and the environment.

It may, finally, get us back to the finer things in life and to actually giving and receiving from and with the heart. A gift, whether for Christmas or Hanukkah or a birthday or other occasion, made by the giver expresses so much more than a store bought gift or a gift card.

Also greeting cards made at home, whether “just” on the computers or more elaborate is hardly the matter. In general, I think, home-made cards, and gifts, are, by the people with the right mindset, much more appreciated than boughten ones.

It is time that we got back to the real value of things and a recession or depression, for methinks that we have entered the latter already and left the former a while back, often makes for a rethink and brings us back to what really matters.

As I said, I am not about to give you instructions as too what to make and how to make it. There are enough instructions about already. There are many things that you can make, depending on how good your with your hands, and I am talking here equally to the men and the women of the audience.

While I must say that I do not really have anyone to give presents to at Christmas but my cards are always home-made on the PC and on occasions I give other handmade gifts, such as knives that I make in the traditional way of my Romany People. I also make gifts from recycling old leather bags and such into the likes of business card/credit card wallets (not that there will be so many folks around anymore using such plastic in the future, maybe).. Business/visiting cards are, once again, back in fashion though. Other leather items I also make for people as gifts, including also scabbards for pocketknives, for iPods, general MP3 players, and other goods.

If you have a mind to think what the recipient of the gift might appreciate, as long as it is not – yet again – a sweater that is far too large, I am sure that you can find something that you can make for someone that will be lived and loved.

Maybe the current economic problems are not a bad thing when it comes to us getting back, as I said, to the real values.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

In hard economic times, toys of yesteryear strike a chord

by Michael Smith

In these days of recession and economic hard times may people have to count their dollars and even pennies this Christmas season and hence some clued-up parents are trying to avoid buying high-priced techno gadgets for their children.

Instead many are looking back to their own childhood and are buying for their children those ageless classics such as “Lincoln Logs” or other such toys, including the good old Daisy airguns.

Airguns are always a good bet for boys and girls alike and the use of a Daisy under supervision – at least for starters – will teach them to be responsible shooters and anyone, so I have found, who was taught how to shoot from an early age is very unlikely to ever commit a crime with a gun. The same is true for anyone who has used a knife from earliest childhood, especially if he or she comes from a true knife culture.

Having said this, a good pocketknife also is a time-honored gift and I sure remember how proud I was of the first folding knife that I was ever given, even though this was a used one. That made no difference to the appreciation of the present and I still have that knife to this very day.

Without an apparent definite “must-have” toy fad this season and with parents facing a deteriorating economy, tried-and-true toys are being embraced by parents and toy makers alike - what one analyst calls a "back to the toy box" approach.

I think that this is a step that has not come before time. It was about time we all woke up to the fact that the gadget toys that the advertising media tell us and especially our children that they MUST have are nothing that will last. It is just a fad and that's it. Period.

I remember the few toys – real toys – that I had but one thing there was that I loves, aside from the old wooden tractor and caravan it pulled (both of which were held together by more glue than anything else, I think) and that was the small Mecano set that I had and with which I build so many things.

Without a defnite, as I have said, "must-have" toy fad this holiday season, and with parents facing a deteriorating economy, tried-and-true toys are being embraced by parents and toy makers alike - what one analyst calls a "back to the toy box" approach.

"'Retro' or 'nostalgia' toys can be viewed as the 'comfort food' of the toy industry, and I do think folks naturally gravitate to what made them happy when they were young or what is familiar to them," said Anita Frazier, a toy analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm.

Ken Moe, general manager of, a Web site owned by Scholastic Corp. that offers classic toys like "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots," Slinky and Colorforms, said sales so far this season indicate a rising interest in old favorites.

Though most sales will occur over the next few weeks, Moe said Junior TinkerToys, Lincoln Logs and toy instruments have been among the big sellers in the past few months.

Parents are not the only ones looking again at classic toys. Toy makers also are turning to the old standbys as they face not only weakening toy sales but also steep prices for commodities like resin used to make many toys and tough competition from electronic gadgets.

Classic toys could fill the gap left by a lack of a "must have" toy, as toy makers stick to past hits and avoid taking risks, what Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan calls going "back to the toy box."

"Partly, its because they know 'this thing works,' " he says.

On the other hand it is toys that parents played with as children and they know that they will have appeal once presented to the child in the right manner.

Wooden building blocks, and their plastic counterparts such as Lego, have a timeless appeal and so have Meccano metal construction sets. Mind you, Meccano has grown up a lot since I was a child and now it has construction sets from age 2+ upwards.

Hasbro Inc. has found success this season by revitalizing names such as the 40-year-old Nerf brand and Transformers, which first hit the U.S. in the early '80s and are selling well again after last year's "Transformers" movie.

The company also debuted revamped versions of classic board games like Clue, Operation and Monopoly this year.

"One of our core tenets is to reinvent and reimagine a lot of our core brands," says John Frascotti, Hasbro's global chief of marketing, who is 47. "There's an emotional resonance that comes from the quality of the experience people in my or our generation had with the toys, and recognition that the same experience can now shared with entire family and children."

Hasbro plans to continue to update old brands and has a G.I. Joe revival - including toys related to a new live-action movie - set for 2009.

Jakks Pacific Inc. has brought back several classic brands this year, including a 25th anniversary Cabbage Patch Kid doll that is the replica of the original version and a new Smurfs plush toy and DVD.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

CFLs vs incandescent light bulb

by Michael Smith

While the latter, that is to say the old Edison light bulb, is less efficient as far as energy consumption if concerned, as it required a higher wattage in comparison to the CFLs to create the same amount of light, it is by far safer than the CFLs with their mercury and, I should assume, hence, in fact, by fare more environmentally friendly than the so much lauded CFLs.

CFLs cannot simply be disposed of willy-nilly, as theoretically, the Edison bulbs can as they just are glass and a bit of metal, because of the fact that they contain mercury - a toxin - and are also a danger to human health when broken accidentally. The advice is to leave the room where the break occurred and not re-enter within 15mins. In addition, in my opinion, there must also be an environmental impact in manufacture that would be by far greater than the impact from the manufacture of the standard and cheap incandescent light bulb, the Edison kind.

It is easy, in my view, to save energy with incandescent light bulbs... by simply using the switch to turn off those that are not needed. Simple, isn't it.

But, alas, there appears to be, yet another, hidden agenda as to light bulbs for why, otherwise, would anyone go as far as to actually physically banning them and making them illegal to be used. That is, at least, a rumor that I have heard, e.g. that in the next couple of years the very use of the ordinary light bulbs will become illegal.

So, who benefits from the new kind of light bulbs? Is it really the environment and the consumer or is it someone else? Methinks the case is the latter. Neither the environment nor the consumer are the true beneficiaries here; certain others, however, are.

We are being forced to accept something we may not need and which may not aid the environment at all – in fact it may cause harm to it – and this cannot be in either the interest of the environment not us, the people.

I believe we must first of all demand that we be told the real truth as to why the CFLs, which after all contain mercury and are hence not very environmentally friendly, are supposed to be forced upon us and the Edison bulb to be made illegal and secondly we must demand to be given the truth as to how much impact, truly, the use of CFLs would have compared to the Edison bulb, especially if people would heed the advice and turn off unnecessary lights. In other words, if we would turn off normal light bulbs which are so cheap to buy and hence, it would appear, also to produce in comparison to the CFLs, would it not be better for the environment after all, as there is no mercury to worry about at disposal of bulbs.

However, the way I see it, there are certain people's profits tied up in this CFL sale and the CFL recycling business. So, I am sure you can work out for yourself as to what is going on.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008

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Spending our way out of the downturn

by Michael Smith

For years and years, especially as regards to the environment and such, we have now been told to get away from being too much of a consumer and consumption society and now, with an economic crises at hand, for it no longer just looming, folks – it has well and truly arrived, we are encouraged by various government measures to go out and spend, spend, spend. Doh?

I personally cannot see how this spend, spend, spend, thing is, supposed, to help the economy and I also cannot see people doing it. What I can see people doing is in fact to hold on to their money in the hope that things are going to get cheaper still., and things will in the end. We are headed, in Britain at least, rapidly for deflation and this means that things will get cheaper and cheaper and people, and that is human nature, are NOT going to buy something now, this very moment when, more than likely, the same product if 20% cheaper by next week or so.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Finance, Alistair Darling, has decided that is exactly what they are trying to do, namely to get the public to go out and spend and spend. With this in mind he has reduced the VAT, the sales tax, by 2.5% from 17.5% to 15%, something which has caused nothing bu extra work and cost for retailers who had to adjust all their tills and all their prices. What he should have done instead, if he thinks that lower taxes will make people go out and spend their way out of a recession – not that that is going to work – is to lower the income tax, especially for the lower earners. But he did not do that.

Other governments in the developed world are implementing or are considering similar fiscal measures. The problem is that, so I see it, this is going to do absolutely nothing; nothing whatsoever, and we will be in a recession and deflationary depression faster than we can imagine by going down this route.

OK, I admit, I am no financial whizkid now expert or analyst but I can sure see the writing on the wall and I can see what people are going to do. They are going to say “thanks, Chancellor” and the money will stay in their accounts or pockets.

In times as uncertain as these no one in their right mind is going to go on a spending spree to help the general economy; they are going to tighten their purse strings for the “just in case”.

We are also currently in the, what could be called, “austerity chique” in which even the better off and those with a job are digging up their gardens, or quite a sizable chunk of it, in order to plant and grow vegetables for themselves and their families. Some do it for reasons of wanting some more organic vegetables and also wanting to know where the food actually comes from and what is it it, and others also may do it because it is at present the in thing to do.

This thing of “spend, spend, spend” is morally irresponsible and unsustainable as most of the people of this country and, I guess the same is also true in other countries, and the country itself are deep in debt, to banks and credit card companies. However, we do not seem to learn the moral lesson from this and the government is trying to simply get people to spend more and more. This is simply not sustainable and sustainability is not just something that we must look at as far as the environment is concerned. Our entire life must be, once again, sustainable but it is not – presently – and the government, as said, is not helping here by encouraging spending in order to, hopefully, revitalize the economy. Revitalize it in what way, that must be the question. For corporate greed to be able to continue as is?

The truth is, as said before, that the common punter is not going to go out and spend any money that they may b e “handed” by the government. The current huge amount of government borrowing by the British government as much as others, though the British seem to be one of those that really think that they can get out of problems by borrowing such humongous sums, is not sustainable and means that the public will be hit by tax hikes in the not so distant future. In view of the fact that such borrowings, as said, means more taxes to pay for this later, people are not going to go out onto the High Street and spend all this money that they are receiving by cuts in VAT and such. They are going to keep some of it if not indeed most of it back for the “in case”.

A “spend, spend, spend” approach that we are being encouraged to take up is a non-sustainable way to go and it much be discouraged rather than encouraged.

Are the government of this country, and others, really thinking that we can buy ourselves out of an economic downturn?

Apparently yes. Cloud Cuckoo Land comes to mind, does it not.

Instead of telling the people to take steps and protect themselves in this economic downturn and to make provisions they think that if people will go out with a little extra money and spend that in High Street shops and the department stores of this country. It is NOT going to make any difference and people are not going to go out and spend, spend, spend.

We are seeing already that they are not going to that. Instead they are holding back, though sales have not completely gone down the drain as yet on the High Street, but then it is the Christmas period and also stores are having pre-Christmas sales to lure the punters in.

People are going, and that is becoming slowly obvious, to hold back in general with spending, waiting for prices to fall further. This means that we are headed towards deflation in due course and instead of the economy picking up it will be doing the opposite. And as soon as this is going to become evident to people they will hold back even more when it comes to spending on the non-essentials.

Talks about prices going down does not seem to be working, as yet, at least not as far as food stuffs is concerned. Here prices seem to be still on the up in most places if not indeed all.

Oil prices, on the other hand, do seem to be falling, and not just in the global wholesale market. Even at the pumps we are seeing prices coming down. Whether that will also be seen as price reductions to the home energy consumer, as regards electricity and gas remains to be seen. The problem simply is that the energy companies are way too greedy, even those that claim to have ethics.

But whatever, we cannot spend ourselves out of an economic downturn that is about 2 seconds away from a recession and not all that far from a depression even. It is just the same madness as the way we have dealt with the natural resources. We have spent, spent, spent until now everything is polluted and nigh on gone.

There is only one way out; on both counts: Cutting back and living a simpler life. Period.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008