Biofuels Caused Food Prices to Soar 75% World Bank says

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

According to a report by the World Bank the run for biofuels in the developed world has caused food prices to increase by 75% worldwide.

Anyone who had the idea that biofuels, like ethanol or bio-diesel, made from corn, soy, or rapeseed are going to solve our energy problems, better think again.

Even if biofuels alleviate the energy headaches of the West, at the moment their cultivation has left populations around the globe starving.

The Guardian newspaper of Britain got hold of a secret World Bank report that found the U.S. and the EU are directly responsible for the current critical shortage of rice and other grains around the world, forcing food prices up by 75 percent by diverting grain away from food cultivation and into biofuels.

The Bush administration had the World Bank report suppressed and, no doubt, neither the British government not the European Union are going to be very happy about the fact that it is now in the public domain.

Already food riots have broken out this year in Mexico, Indonesia, Morocco, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Yeman, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, India, and Somalia.

To recap let's put the food/fuel issue in perspective – it takes more than the amount of maize that is required to feed the average African FOR A YEAR to make enough fuel to fill ONE SINGLE AMERICAN MOTOR VEHICLE TANK JUST ONE TIME.

This is not something that can be called sustainable but sustainable they want to call it. This is greenwashing at its highest. We must not and cannot look to those fuels to “save” us. We must get away from the use of the infernal combustion engine, once and for all.

The EU and the UK government must get away from their silly notion of a sustainable fuel policy using biofuels. It does not work and is not sustainable.

While the use of wood for electricity generating plants is one thing that must be considered biofuels, whether ethanol or biodiel, unless the latter is from waste cooking oils or other such waste oils, should be abandoned now, once and for all. In the countries of South-East Asia the cultivation of palm oil for biodiesel is destroying valuable habitat and making the Orangutan homeless and by doing so in fact killing the species in the wild. All this just so that some in the developed world can continue their love affair with the gas guzzling motor cars and trucks. We must rethink and reevaluate our ways and our impact on the environment and also our impact on others that share this planet with us, whether other human beings or animals, fish, birds and plants.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Industry to be asked for its views on oil reuse

by Michael Smith

New guidance is being developed on turning used lubricating oils into a cheaper alternative to virgin fossil fuels – and industry, apparently, is going to be asked for its views.

Oh my God! What, really? If the UK government continues this way it may just about turn into a democracy. Not that the views of those being asked will ever betaken note of when it comes to the bottom line.

The Environment Agency and the Waste & Resources Action Programme have launched a consultation in a bid to clarify guidance for industry on reusing the oil.

The consultation forms part of the Defra-funded Waste Protocols Project to encourage business resources to be used more efficiently.

Recovered fuel oil varies in quality and is currently classified as waste, meaning that businesses using it have to meet emissions standards set out in the Waste Incineration Directive.

The guidance, entitled “Quality Protocol for the Production and Use of Processed Fuel Oil from Waste Lubricating Oil” (oh, my, what a mouthful), sets out standards that processed lubricating oils must comply with to avoid being classed as waste.

Martin Brocklehurst, head of environment protection external programmes at the Environment Agency, said that they have worked with industry, government departments and the Energy Institute to develop this Quality Protocol and that compliance with the protocol should ensure the continued protection of the environment while clarifying the regulations for businesses that process waste lubricating oil.

Processed fuel oil users, he said further, will be given the confidence that the new product derived from waste materials conforms to agreed quality standards and that the agency is keen to hear the views of other stakeholders and hope to engage with a wide range of consultees.

While this is all fine and good, that is to say, asking for input from the users of such oils, how long will it take before we, in fact, are seeing proper recycling of such oils into clean lubrication oils.

For fuel we must get away from oils and oil based polluting fuels. Not only as regards to “greenhouse gases” and such like but simply for the fact that the constant pollution of the environment by use of mineral-based oils burned in the internal combustion engine and power stations is not sustainable, not that it ever has been. While there is a little problem with the burning of wood, as the only amount of carbon released is that which the trees have taken up in their lifetime, we must get away, as a nation and in general, from burning fossil fuels, especially oils.

We should recycle used oils back, wherever possible, into lubricants rather than burning them. Obviously, where it is not possible to recycle such oils for reuse as lubricants then using such oils in power plants and such is, probably, better than just disposing of them in one way or the other without having any benefit from it.

However, the fact remains, and not just because we may be running out of the liquid black gold, that we must get away from using oils for burning. Rather than spending lost of money on researching how we can continue to use oils and oil-based fuels – and not just mineral oil based – in the internal, which some people are also calling the infernal, combustion engine, we should be concentrating on alternatives to oil-based fuels, whether mineral oil or plant oil.

Food for thought, as long as it is not food grains that are used for the fuel either...

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008


- Tap into the growing trend of re-usable bottles to save money and the environment -

A new ethical enterprise called Tap has entered the world of bottled water, with a sole mission of getting Brits to re-think bottled water and turn to tap.

Despite having some of the highest quality tap water in the world, Britain spends £1.5billion per year on designer label water, discarding over 3 million empties. Not only is this impacting on the environment, but it’s costing the nation too, with bottled water up to 10,000 times more expensive than tap.

We Want Tap has really launched the real alternative to bottled water, namely what we already have and that is mains water, that is to say, TAP.

In a bid to break the habit, Tap has launched its very own re-usable water bottles. Think of them as flasks for water. Set to become the ‘must-have’ item of the summer, the bottles are stylish and sustainable, and available in two sizes, making them the perfect fit for your handbag, gym bag or fridge.

More importantly, they are made from a new generation of Tritan plastic which is 100% recyclable and free from the polycarbonate chemicals, such as being absolutely 100% free of Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, found in most other re-usable plastic bottles. What’s more 70% of profits from each Tap bottle sold will go to water and sanitation projects in the developing world.

Bisphenol A (BPA), as most of us know by now, I am sure, has had some rather bad press as it is related to hormonal changes in humans and can affect children's hormonal development badly. Hence Canada has banned all BPA products, which meant 1,000s of baby feeding bottles had to be withdrawn and also Nalgene had to remove its old version bottled from the shelves.

Guaranteed to last a lifetime, Tap’s new re-usable bottles offer a practical alternative to unsustainable bottle water. Priced at just £6 for a 400ml bottle and £8.50 for a litre version, it’s a small price to pay to help save the environment, and people’s wallets in the long run. They can be purchased online at

Tap's founder, Joshua Blackburn, said: "Bottled water is simply a marketing invention, a brand – and one that is costing our nation both financially and environmentally. In a country where high quality water is literally on tap, we should be re-thinking the amount we spend as a nation on designer water.

"Tap water challenges undertaken across the country have repeatedly shown that tap is top. To encourage people to love their tap, we’ve engineered the ultimate re-usable bottle which can be used over and over again – designer water is set to become a thing of the past."

As Tap is also a consumer campaign, a range of stickers can also be purchased on the website to stick over existing empty bottles of bottled water – refilled with tap water - and raise awareness of Tap. Stickers cost £4 for a pack of 30 stickers – five large bottle labels, five small bottle labels and 20 fun size bonus stickers. It is advisable that ordinary water bottles are refilled only 10 times as most contain polycarbonate chemicals, such as BPA, to some extent. A Tap bottle, on the other hand, can be used for life.

The Tap enterprise has been launched by Provokateur, the ethical communications agency, in association with Belu, the carbon neutral water company.

The Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action is responsible for the distribution of Tap profits to charity.

Log onto for more information

by Michael Smith, August 2008

The Drinking Water of 41 Million Americans Contaminated with Pharmaceuticals

An investigative study by the Associated Press (AP) has revealed that the drinking water of at least 41 million people in the United States is contaminated with pharmaceutical drugs.

It has long been known that drugs are not wholly absorbed or broken down by the human body. Significant amounts of any medication taken eventually pass out of the body, primarily through the urine.

"People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," EPA scientist Christian Daughton said.

While sewage is treated before being released back into the environment, and water from reservoirs or rivers is also treated before being funneled back into the drinking water supply, these treatments are not able to remove all traces of medications. And so far, the EPA has not regulated the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, meaning that there are no laws in existence today that protect consumers from this increasingly dangerous chemical contaminant of the water supply.

Medications for animals also contaminating the water supply

Drugs given to animals are also entering the water supply. One study found that 10 percent of the steroids given to cattle pass directly through their bodies, while another study found that steroid concentrations in the water downstream of a Nebraska feedlot were four times as high as the water upstream. Male fish downstream of the feedlot were found to have depressed levels of testosterone and smaller than normal heads, most likely due to the pharmaceutical contamination in their water.

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" said EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson.

While the concentration of drugs in drinking water tends to be low, some medications, such as hormones, are able to operate potently even at concentrations of one part per billion. To make matters worse, there is evidence that the chlorine commonly used to treat drinking water may make some pharmaceutical chemicals more toxic. Thus, the typical claim that "pharmaceuticals are only present in very low concentrations, and therefore could not be dangerous" holds no water (pardon the pun). Not only are some chemicals potentiated (made more toxic) by other chemicals in the water, but to date, there have been absolutely no studies looking at the increased danger posed by combinations of pharmaceuticals now being found.

In other words, nobody knows the level of risk that may be associated with the chemical cocktail of pharmaceuticals now being found in the water supply. No one can say with any degree of honesty that the drug contamination is safe, meaning that the real risks to human remain entirely unknown.

56 different drug chemicals in the drinking water

To determine the extent of drinking water contamination, an Associated Press investigative team surveyed the water providers of the 50 largest cities in the United States and 52 smaller communities, analyzed federal databases and scientific reports, and interviewed government and corporate officials.

The investigation found widespread evidence of drinking water contaminated with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including painkillers, hormones, antibiotics, anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, and drugs for cancer or heart disease. Of the 28 major cities that tested their water supplies for pharmaceuticals, only two said those tests showed no pharmaceutical contamination. In Philadelphia, 56 different drugs and drug byproducts were found in treated drinking water, and 63 were found in the city's watershed.

Of the 35 watersheds that had been tested, 28 were found to be contaminated. Deep-water aquifers near landfills, feedlots and other contaminant sources in 24 states were also found to contain pharmaceuticals. This means that even in rural areas where people get their water from wells, drinking water might still contain drugs.

According to researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe of the Stroud Water Research Center, watersheds in rural areas can be contaminated when people's septic tanks malfunction. "Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail," he said.

Cities do not test the water for pharmaceutical pollution

Even these numbers do not give the full scale of the problem, the AP suggests, because many water providers simply do not test for this kind of contamination, which is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of the 52 small water providers surveyed by AP, only one screened its water for pharmaceuticals.

Other providers do screen, but they conceal the results from the public. According to a group that represents California water providers, the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" from such tests and therefore does not need to hear it! Even companies that test and report their data often screen for only a few chemicals, creating a skewed impression of how contaminated the water actually is.

Water bottling companies also do not screen for pharmaceutical contamination in their water products. It is highly likely, at the same time, that soft drink bottling companies using local tap water supplies to make their beverages are potentially using pharmaceutical-contaminated water.

The EPA sticks its head in the ground over pharmaceutical pollution

According to Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, researchers looking into the extent of water contamination are avoiding the important questions.

"I think it's a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health," Snyder said. "They need to just accept that these things are everywhere; every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It's time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental."

A total of over 100 pharmaceutical products have been detected in water supplies in North America, Europe and Asia, including remote regions such as Swiss lakes and the North Sea. And bottled or filtered water, the AP report notes, is not necessarily safer, as the filters used in homes or bottling plants are rarely designed to remove pharmaceutical residue.

Drug companies, for their part, have done nothing to accept responsibility for the environmental health impact of their polluting chemicals. In fact, Big Pharma hasn't even yet acknowledged the fact that their products are "pollutants" in any way. Like most pharmaceutical consumers, the drug companies hope to just flush this issue down the toilet and pretend it never existed.

The health impact of pharmaceutical contaminants in water

Very little research has been conducted on the specific effects of trace drugs in drinking water, but what evidence is there gives cause for alarm. Contamination of environmental water sources has caused male fish to exhibit female traits and led to damaging effects on other wildlife species. Laboratory research indicates that small levels of drugs can cause cancer cells to proliferate faster, slow kidney cell growth and cause inflammation in blood cells. At a time when the American population is suffering from skyrocketing infertility and hormone imbalances, it seems outrageous that health authorities would not be looking more closely at this issue and working on ways to protect the public from pharmaceutical pollution.

Because water is consumed regularly in large quantities over a lifetime, and because humans are exposed to many combinations of dozens of different drugs, the effects on the human body may be significantly greater than those seen in the lab. And unlike most pollutants, drugs are specifically designed to cause changes in the human body, thus they are far less likely to be "inert" than other chemicals that might be found in the water supply.

"These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations," said zoologist John Sumpter of London's Brunel University. "That's what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects."

Source: Organic Consumers Association



New Web site shows drivers how to save gas and cut greenhouse gas emissions

NADA MCLEAN, VA - High gas prices have just about everyone searching for ways to save on gas and improve fuel economy. To help motorists save money at the gas pump and at the same time cut greenhouse gas emissions through proper vehicle maintenance, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has created a check list of Green Maintenance Tips, which can be found at a new Web site for consumers,

NADA is urging its members to offer free Green Checkups, which focus on the things that have the most effect on fuel economy, such as oil and air filters, engine performance, tire pressure and emission controls.

Dealers in 40 states already have signed up to become Green Checkup dealers, bringing the total number to 220 since the Green Checkup campaign was officially announced at a news conference in Denver on Monday, August 18.

“I'ts encouraging to see so many NADA members sign up to become Green Checkup dealers at such a fast pace,” said Annette Sykora, NADA chairman. “Dealers are responding with enthusiasm,” she added.

In her remarks at the news conference, Sykora emphasized that the goal of the Green Checkup campaign is to highlight simple steps that car owners can take to maintain their vehicles in top running condition.

“With high fuel prices and greenhouse gas emissions on the minds of many Americans, the incentive has never been greater for motorists to invest in the kind of maintenance that improves fuel economy,” Sykora said.

September is being promoted as Green Checkup Month, but dealers can offer Green Checkups as part of their routine service year-round. Dealerships are located in every major community in the country which means we are ideally positioned to be at the forefront of a national consumer awareness campaign, said Sykora, owner of two dealerships in Texas.

This is one example of how dealers are becoming more energy conscious. A trend toward green dealerships is another.

“Dealers around the country have invested close to a billion dollars on facility upgrades and new construction over the past few years to reduce energy consumption at their dealerships,” Sykora said.

NADA Partners with EPA to Create “Green Dealerships”

NADA joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR Challenge in December 2006, and soon after launched an Energy Stewardship Initiative. Many dealerships are investing in cutting-edge heating and cooling methods and more efficient lighting, as well as wind and solar power. Today, several dealerships are LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Through NADA's Energy Stewardship Initiative in partnership with the EPA, more than 750 dealers (to date) have taken the first step by committing to reduce their energy use by 10 percent or more annually. In 2007, NADA was recognized by EPA as the first trade group representing a national network of retailers to enter into a comprehensive partnership with the ENERGY STAR program.

If all U.S. dealerships reduced their energy consumption by just 10 percent, they would save about $200 million in energy costs and prevent more than one million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

To support the Energy Stewardship Initiative, NADA created a brochure, A Dealer Guide to Energy Star: Putting Energy into Profits, which provides dealers with the tools to create cost-effective, retrofit and new construction projects for energy-efficient lighting, climate control and building design. For more information, visit

“With the growing number of green dealerships and the Green Checkup campaign, we are sending a clear signal that when it comes to climate change, Americas new car dealers are part of the solution,” Sykora said.

Contact your local dealership to find out if a Green Checkup is being offered in your community and schedule an appointment. For more information about NADAs Green Maintenance Tips, visit

USA TODAY and NADA Recognize Dealers for Energy Conservation

Jim Hand, owner of Hand Motors in Manchester Center, Vt., was presented with the USA TODAY Dealer Innovation Award in March 2008. Energy conservation was the theme of this years award.

He was selected from four finalists as the winner of the national award. Hand Motors expects to save about $30,000 a year in energy costs through its “reduce, recycle and carbon-offset” program. The dealership heats its 11,200 sq. ft. service shop with 100 percent waste motor oil and vegetable oil at no cost to the dealership. In fact, the dealership saves more than $15,000 a year by not having to buy standard heating oil.

Consumers can save money and energy and wear and tear on their vehicles with proper care and maintenance. For NADAs 10-Point Green Checkup list, visit

NADA, founded in 1917 and based in McLean, Va., represents about 20,000 new-car and -truck dealers with 43,000 franchises, both domestic and import.


Banstead Countryside Day 08

Roll up, roll up! - No, not for the Circus... however, the Banstead Countryside Day 08, organized by the Downlands Projects should be well worth visiting instead. In addition to good stuff it is FREE, though programs will cost you a quid.

Click on the picture for a bigger view of the poster.

For further information, contact the Downlands Project on 01737-737700

Plant Minder - Product Review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Clay Pot Irrigation, also known as olla irrigation, is used in many regions of the world including Asia and Latin America, and only more recently in the US in places like New Mexico.

Clay pot irrigation is an effective and low cost and minimum effort method of watering plants, whether in containers of in beds, and the technique is simple as well.

In principle all you do is to take an unglazed clay vessel and bury it in the ground up to the rim. Pour water into the pot and let osmosis do its thing. OK, maybe it is not that simple, but that is how it, basically, works.

There are a few factors to take into account such as the porosity of the clay pot or olla and the surrounding soil as well. The porosity of the vessel depends on the type of clay used, but unless you specifically purchase an olla or make your own clay pots, this factor might be out of your hands. In other words, it may probably not be advisable to use any old unglazed clay pot. In addition, the soil should ideally be well drained. Add compost or organic matter, or sand if needed. Ensure that it is enough to allow water to percolate from the clay pot to the soil and then to the plant root zones.

If you are planning on irrigating a vegetable garden, place each clay pot or olla about 3 feet apart and plant your crops around each olla. Fill the olla with water every week or so, depending on rainfall.

With the Plant Minder from Feed N Leave Ltd. in the UK, on the other hand, you don't have to worry as to whether you top up the container often enough. Checking whether there is still water in the green (blue in the diagram) “bubble” will do the trick.

Plant Minder is the modern way of clay pot irrigation and the principle is the same but it takes it a little bit further in that you fill a green plastic “bubble” - for lack of a better word - with water, turn it upside down into the clay “pot” rather than just fill up the pot with water. This prevents evaporation and also any debris falling into the pot and the water in it. Works brilliant.

A variety of different porosities are available, including for those kind of plants that are rather thirsty, such as tomatoes.

Plant Minder are entirely UK made with the clay pots made in the old pottery areas of Staffordshire.

I have a review sample of the Plant Minder installed in a pot with a newly planted lemon balm plant and I have got it in the pot for the last month or so and, while the plant is growing extremely well, the water i still half full in the green “bubble” which means that very little water, has so far been used from the clay pot. This may also be due to the fact that we have a rather wet summer this year – yet again, much like last year – but the pot does not really get that much rain water.

All I can say is that this system is a real great idea and invention and I can but recommend it to anyone, especially those of us who garden in containers, whether fruit and vegetables or just flowers.

Depending on condition and such it is reckoned that Plant Minder only will need refilling once every six weeks. That does not mean that you do not have to check on it as to whether it may need filling. As long, however, there is water showing in the green plastic globe then you still have more that enough water in the clay pot to water the plant or plants.

Plant Minder is available from in the UK and from a variety of garden centers and other such outlets.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Major car makers not cutting emissions fast enough to meet climate targets


London, 26 August 2008
- Top car manufacturers selling vehicles in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are not cutting carbon dioxide emissions from their vehicles fast enough to meet proposed EU targets, Friends of the Earth said today.

New research published today revealing average emissions from new cars sold in the EU in 2007 shows that many of the top names are still dragging their feet on fuel efficiency.

BMW - which manufactures Mini in the UK - performed best out of the 14 car manufacturers researched, with a drop of 7.3 per cent in its average vehicle emissions between 2006 and 2007. But of other UK-based manufacturers, Toyota's emissions fell by only 2.4 per cent, General Motors (which includes Vauxhall) by 0.6 percent, Nissan by 0.5 per cent and Ford (which at the time included Jaguar and Land Rover) by 0.2%. Honda ranked bottom of the table with a 1.1 per cent rise in emissions that year.

Average emissions from new cars sold in the UK decreased slightly from 167grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km)/km in 2006 to 164g/km in 2007 - but this was still well above the EU average which fell from 160 g/km in 2006 to 158g/km in 2007.

Friends of the Earth says the results show the urgent need to introduce tough EU carbon dioxide targets for new cars - and is calling on MEPs to vote for these in the European Parliament in the next fortnight.

Friends of the Earth's Senior Transport Campaigner Tony Bosworth said:

"Cutting emissions from new cars will cut road transport's contribution to climate change - and slash fuel bills for drivers who are feeling the pain from petrol price rises.

"BMW's progress in cutting emissions proves that even premium car makers can become greener.

"The car industry as a whole must make much faster progress in designing and building smarter cars that use less fuel for the sake of both drivers and the environment.

"MEPs must stand firm against the self-interested lobbying of the car industry and vote for tough new standards to cut emissions from cars."

Source: Friends of the Earth

German pressure group sues Bayer over pesticide honey bee deaths

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Freiburg, Germany - The German organization “Coalition against Bayer Dangers” has brought legal action against Werner Wenning, the chairman of the Bayer AG Board of Management, by filing a charge against him with the public prosecutor in Freiburg on August 25, 2008.

The group accuses Bayer CropScience of "marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world."

The coalition filed the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who claim they lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the Bayer pesticide clothianidin in May.

Bayer has, since 1991, been producing the insecticide imidacloprid, which is one of the best selling insecticides in the world, often used as seed-dressing for maize, sunflower, and rape. Bayer exports imidacloprid to more than 120 countries and the substance is Bayer's best-selling pesticide.

Since patent protection for imidacloprid has expired in most countries, Bayer in 2003 brought a similarly functioning successor product, clothianidin, onto the market, the coalition alleges.

Both these substances are systemic chemicals which means that they work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances get into the pollen and the nectar and can, and it would appear will, damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The coalition alleges that the start of sales of imidacloprid and clothianidin coincided with the occurrence of large scale bee deaths, so-called “colony collapse disorder”, in many countries of Europe and the Americas.

Up to 70 percent of all hives have been affected. In France, approximately 90 billion bees have died over the past 10 years, reducing honey production by up to 60 percent.

Attorney Harro Schultze, who represents the “Coalition against Bayer Dangers” said, "The public prosecutor needs to clarify which efforts Bayer undertook to prevent a ban of imidacloprid and clothianidin after sales of both substances were stopped in France. We're suspecting that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants."

In France, imidacloprid has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers since 1999 and in 2003 was also banned as a sweet corn treatment.

Convened by the French government, in 2003 the Comité Scientifique et Technique declared that the treatment of seeds with imidacloprid leads to significant risks for bees. Bayer's application for approval of clothianidin was also rejected by French authorities.

Clothianidin and imidacloprid are two of a relatively new class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids that impact the central nervous system of insects.

"Bayer's Board of Management has to be called to account since the risks of neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid and clothianidin have now been known for more than 10 years," says Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the Coalition Against Bayer-Dangers.

The coalition is demanding that Bayer withdraw all neonicotinoids from the market worldwide.

"With an annual turnover of nearly 800 million Euro, neonicotinoids are among Bayer's most important products," said Mimkes. "This is the reason why Bayer, despite serious environmental damage, is fighting against any application prohibitions."

Whatever, it would appear, Bayer may with to claim, studies in many countries have shown that clothianidin may pose a risk to honey bees and other pollinators, if exposure occurs via pollen and nectar of crop plants grown from treated seeds. The company still denies this though.

It should also be noted that clothianidin is very persistent in soil, with high carry-over of residues to the next growing season and clothianidin is also mobile in soil.

Germany banned neonicotinoids for seed treatment in May 2008, due to negative affects on bee colonies. Beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg region suffered a severe decline linked to the use of clothianidin.

The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products on maize and rapeseed, including clothianidin and imidacloprid.

Bayer says the pesticide entered the environment because farmers failed to apply an adhesive agent that affixes the compound to the seed coats. Without the fixative agent, Bayer says, the compound drifted into the environment from sown rapeseed and sweet corn and then affected the honeybees.

"Seed treatments are one of the most targeted and environmentally friendly forms to apply crop protection products. We regret the recent bee losses and the situation they have created for the beekeepers in Baden-Württemberg," said Dr. Hans-Josef Diehl, head of development and registration at Bayer CropScience Deutschland GmbH during an expert hearing on bee losses in Karlsruhe, Germany in June 2008.

Dr. Richard Schmuck, an ecologist at Bayer CropScience, said in June, "All studies available to us confirm that our product is safe to bees if the recommended dressing quality is maintained. This is also shown by the product safety assessments which we have submitted to the registration authorities."

"When used correctly," he said, "this crop protection product is safe for operators, consumers and the environment and fulfills the international criteria with regard to ecological systems."

“When used correctly” is always the great get out attempt by all of those that create such disaster substances.

Farmers failed to apply an adhesive agent that affixes the compound to the seed coats, say Bayer in its defense. So it is the farmers that are to blame, according to this chemical company rather than the product simply being dangerous.

While Bayer keeps harping on about the safety of the product IF the recommended dressing quality is maintained it still does not away with the fact that, simply, the product is dangerous to bees and pollinators, period.

“Colony collapse disorder” has claimed more than one-third of honey bees in the United States since it was first identified in 2006 and it has claimed probably the same amount in other countries.

Let's hope those responsible, in this case Bayer Crop Science, are brought to book. Shame that none of that will restore those bees to us and the honey production lost and the loss of pollination to crops and the subsequent produce lost.

But it we were told it was safe, is always the claim, same as no one had a clue that Cyclon B was used to gas Gypsies and later Jews under the Nazis; a product that was produced by a company similar to Bayer.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Staff of London's City Hall told to roll up their sleeves for the environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London City hall staff are being urged to spend more time out of the office helping to "green and clean" the Capital.

The volunteering scheme aims set an example to other Londoners and to encourage them to spend at least one day a year doing their bit for organisations that try to protect and enhance the capital's environment.

Mayor Boris Johnson also pledged that he and his senior advisers will roll up their own sleeves and volunteer.

The Environment Trust, the London Wildlife Trust and Spitalfields City Farm are among a list of organisations that staff are being encouraged to sign up for.

"There are an army of marvellous people that are doing a fantastic job to make our local neighbourhoods and green spaces cleaner and more pleasant," Mr Johnson said.

"I want to see even more Londoners getting involved in those organisations helping to make their environment better,” he said, “and it is only right that me and my senior staff lead by example."

The London Mayor is rather correct that there are many deserving environmental causes in and around the capital that all could do with some help from volunteers, I am sure. I am also sure than any and all of such help will be greatly appreciated, whether it comes from staff of the Greater London Authority, from staff of other borough councils or generally from other people per se.

The Environment Trust, which works on social and environmental projects across London, welcomed the announcement, and Jon Aldenton, its chief executive, said that the Trust does welcome all types of active citizenship and that therefore the announcement by the Mayor is great news.

The Environment Trust's chief executive further said that it is good to hear that the trust's efforts will be aided by this push for even more volunteers. “We have a wide range of exciting hands-on activities for Londoners to get involved with,” he concluded.

Greater London Authority staff - which does not include those working Transport for London and the London Development Agency - can request up to three days annually to undertake work for voluntary and charitable schemes under an existing scheme.

If I would not know better and be definitely certain that Mr. Johnson is of the Conservative Party, the Tories, one might think him to be a very left wing politician, as this is nigh on a idea for what was once called “Subtonik”. “Subotnik” was the kind of unpaid community labor that all Soviet citizens were required to perform. Having said that, however, I agree that this is a great idea.

I am just wondering as to the three days annually that members of staff of the Greater London Authority can claim for doing work for voluntary and charitable schemes. Are we here talking about three days of additional leave so they can do that voluntary work? That is not really volunteering then, is it now?

However, let's get down to doing things and toll up them sleeves...

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Cultivating the Web to Debut at Slow Food Nation

21st Century technology is reviving a centuries-old relationship between people and food. Cultivating the Web (download here), a new publication from Eat Well Guide, shows how digital tools are being used to do everything from support local farmers to lobby giant players in the food industry, as virtual communities reject virtual food. (Click on the link above to view or download the book).

Cultivating the Web was created by the folks at Eat Well Guide (EWG), North America's premier free online directory for finding local, sustainable food. EWG will distribute 20,000 copies of Cultivating the Web at Slow Food Nation, the four-day gathering planned for Labor Day weekend in San Francisco where tens of thousands of citizens will come together to set a national agenda for a secure, sustainable food future.

With a forward by Slow Food Nation's Anya Fernald, Cultivating the Web is both a collection of success stories and a how-to for time-pressed non-techies who want to harness the power of digital marketing and organizing. One passage details how web-based activism led corporate giants including Starbucks, Kroger, Publix and Wal-Mart to reject the longstanding dairy industry practice of selling milk laden with hormones that are routinely fed to cows to increase production. Another outlines this year's unprecedented level of citizen lobbying on the federal farm bill, which led to a five-fold increase in funds for research and education on organic farming, expansion of funds for low income seniors to purchase food at farmers markets, and a regulatory change that enables small farmers to market their meat across state lines.

“Cultivating the Web” highlights an initiative to turn the nation's front stoop - the Whitehouse Lawn - into an organic garden - an idea thats enjoying a virtual tsunami of support on the Internet. The book also illustrates how farm-themed social networking sites are promoting sustainable farming as a career, and helping farmers who want to learn from each others' experience with organic growing practices, local marketing, and more.

As Eat Well Guide director Destin Layne put it, “Although it may seem the most unlikely of catalysts, digital technology is jogging our memories of real food and agrarian culture. We may be going back to the land, but lots of us are bringing our smart phones and laptops along.”

In Cultivating the Web, leading environmentalist and prize winning author Bill McKibben (The End of Nature, Deep Economy) notes, “It is undeniably odd and lovely that among the most important parts of our food system - a little behind rain and sun and seed - are the new digital tools that allow us to bypass the big advertisers, the mega-chains, the junk peddlers, and instead find all the other people growing, processing, cooking and eating actual, delicious food.”

Illustrating the very digital virtues it documents, Cultivating the Web will live on the Eat Well Guide website (, where it will be maintained as an up-to-date resource for everyone working to promote a future of good, local, sustainable food for all.

Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of thousands of family farms, restaurants, markets and other outlets of fresh, locally-grown food throughout the United States and Canada. Visitors simply enter a zip or postal code to find good food and create free printable booklets. Many listings are also accompanied by water conscious ratings.

Source: Eat Well Guide

Re-manufacturing has role in the war on waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Squeezed in somewhere between reuse and recycling, re-manufacturing sits most uncomfortably in the standard waste hierarchy.

The process, however, which essentially boils down to reusing the parts of a product which weather well and replacing those that wear out faster, can trace its roots back centuries to when repairing - rather than replacing - was the norm. And it was the norm until not all that long ago. So where did we go wrong?

Reworking too, falls, to some degree into this category, making things, such, as an example, usable knives from old knives – a trade that has been practiced by some Romani clans for generations, for instance. Other rework is possible with other things when those may not, in fact, be the same article and use but still.

Though the drivers behind the process were originally purely economic - it's cheaper to re-manufacture than build from scratch - the idea has a major environmental role to play in both cutting carbon emissions and reducing waste.

The UK re-manufacturing industry, according to its advocates, employs more than 50,000 people and contributes in the region of five billion Pound Sterling to the national economy, covering everything from printer cartridges to rugged industrial machinery.

The re-manufacturing sector has, nevertheless and unfortunately, been nigh on invisible, despite being on a par with the entire UK recycling industry.

One of the main hurdles today, however, is persuading both consumers and industry that re-manufactured products really are as good as new while clearing up confusion over what exactly the term means.

When it comes to repair, as mentioned above, though, the problem is that today we do live in a throw-away society where it is cheaper, I am afraid to say, to by new than to repair. It makes no sense when an ink jet printer costs less than £30 to buy and when it went wrong – and I am speaking from experience – after six month because of the high volume of print that was put through it (so Epson informed me) it would have cost 4x as much to repair it than what if cost to buy in the first place. Reply from company representative was “well, then you better buy a new one then and dump the old one.” This should not be thus, however, if we are serious about the environment and all that.

Ben Walsh, technical consultant at the government-sponsored Centre for Re-manufacturing and Reuse, acknowledged the problem in that he said that this is one of the big obstacles that they have as there is an issue that second hand is perceived by the consumers as second best.

The website of the Centre for Re-manufacturing and Reuse,, explains what re-manufacturing is, who is doing it and with what products. It also provides a wealth of advice for businesses wanting to save money while at the same time helping the environment.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Carshalton Environmental Fair

Late August Bank Holiday 2008 (28-08-2008): Carshalton Park, Ruskin Road, London Borough of Sutton.

A report and review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While it was very good to have a free buses to and from the fair, the very first drawback, on arrival was that, unbeknown to me, and many others, I think, there was an entry fee of £3 being levied for all adults (with some concessions) and even yours truly's press credentials, which normally get free entry everywhere, did not do that here.

Why there was a charge in the first place beats me as other Green Fairs, such as the Camden one at Regents Park, is free for all and hence has got a great amount of visitors coming from all over London and not just the local area.

I very much doubt that the entry fee was needed in the first place as the stallholders, I am sure, were paying quite a substantial sum for the privilege of being there. Most of those stall were trade stalls, some selling goods that originate in India and are sold, in general, to market traders via wholesalers such as Cha Cha Dum Dum in North London.

In addition to this the entire fair would have been better – maybe – called a vegetarian/vegan event as no meat products were even permitted to be served, so I understand from those that had food stalls, and at ever corner one was being accosted by someone with a vegetarian or vegan agenda trying to push his or her view on the visitors. Not a good move.

Let me tell the vegetarians and vegans something. What do you think would happen to all the chickens, sheep and cattle you want to save from being killed for food if everyone would stop tomorrow eating meat? I tell you what. They would all be killed and destroyed as there would be no reason left for their existence bar, maybe, chickens for egg production. The problem is that the majority of vegetarians and vegans is not living in the real world but in a molly coddled idea of lovely furry animals and all that. Please people, including organizers of such fairs, wake up to reality. The only reasons for sheep, for instance, to exist, bar for their wool, is for meat. And this is even more so true for poultry and for beef cattle; dairy cattle exempt here, for the moment. Should, as I said, everyone become a vegetarian tomorrow those animals would be destroyed and, without a market, burned.

But back to the theme in hand, the Carshalton Environmental Fair per se, as I, as seems to be my habit, digressed again.

Despite the dark clouds looming always overhead and the occasional spot of rain – hardly noticeable – the event was very well attended but I doubt that the numbers quoted to stallholders that were expected to be there would have been met even to a quarter.

It is a shame that, despite the half-hourly free bus services with three separate routes, some people still had to come by car and, as one should assume, not from all that far away.

While it is understandable that stall holder would have to come by motor vehicle – as horse and wagon are, not as yet, again an accepted mode – it is not so as regards to local residents that live but a few roads away from the park, for instance.

In order to be fair, however, a lot of people came in on foot and others on their bicycles, and both is good to see, from a green perspective.

The only, in my opinion, stand worth a mention, and worth a real mention it indeed is, was the one of “Lilly's Bags for Life”. This is a young lady who uses material discarded by manufacturers of curtains and such like and from those she makes “bags for life” shopping bags/totes. Every thing else was but organizations, some with a green theme, many not; crafty people such as potters and such; many of which had absolutely nothing to do with green issues and the environment. Maybe one other stall could be mentioned in the green theme and that was the one by the couple from the narrow boat that make jewelry from recycled silver and other metals. Another one definitely worth a mentioned was the stall by the lady who sold crocheted rugs bags and baskets, etc. that she makes from old plastic carrier bags. Unfortunately, while I have her photo I have not got her details.

However, in the main all we were seeing was vegetarian and vegan propaganda, as I have mentioned already, and vegetarian and vegan food stands.

In addition to that there were groups there represented that have absolutely nothing to do with environment and green issues, though some would fall under the ethical living and that should be fine too. Other, though, were “Guide Dogs for the Blind”, certain hospices, hospitals, Amnesty International, free thinkers, religious groups, most not environmentally linked at all. While we all, I am sure, would be happy to support them in the right setting, they were taking up space that should have been filled by recycling craft ventures and such like. Many stalls were nothing but retail outfits selling goods that can be had at any wholesaler for market traders and such like. The person doing the painted wooden and other articles, for instance, had not made any of them, of that I am sure and I can nigh on guarantee that, but had just painted up some blanks bought wherever it may have been from. One could there, for instance, question as to how ethically the goods had been produced but, alas, it would appear that the organizers never even as much as checked into that. I guess someone saw £-signs in front of their eyes.

The stewards, I am afraid to say, had little idea as to what was happening where and especially as to where one would go to pick up up the free bus services again to get home. “I guess it is here on the road outside”, I was told when enquiring at the “main gate”. Training of stewards might be an idea for next time. I doubt that the Green (Living) review will be bothering to visit the fair next year though.

While the idea of the free bus service can but be applauded it would have been a very good idea to actually have marked out where the routes would start from outside the main gate. Yes, they indeed picked up outside the main gate but we all just did this by guessing.

Overall I am sure they could have done a lot better and my recommendations would be to first of all either let people know you are charging an entry fee and then allow members of the press free access – gets you much better coverage for sure – though my recommendation would be to follow the Camden lead and make it a free event. Sponsors can, I am sure, be found. Then train stewards so they 100% know where is what. Also do not enforce vegetarian and vegan food policy only. All of those, as it was, were turn offs for people, for I have heard the moans and took them on board.

While my criticism as a journalist may sound harsh all I am trying to do is give some advice and constructive critique of how to improve on the event and get a bigger footfall into the fair, regardless of how many years it has been operating.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

At least half of all food produced worldwide is wasted

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Huge amounts of food are wasted after production. It is being discarded in processing, destroyed and hence discarded during transport, at supermarkets and in restaurant and domestic kitchens. This wasted food is, obviously, also wasted water as finds a policy brief released on August 22, 2008 at World Water Week in Stockholm.

The brief written and compiled by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Water Management Institute shows that the current food crisis is less a crisis of production than a crisis of waste. Tossing food away is like leaving the tap running, the authors say.

"More than enough food is produced to feed a healthy global population. Distribution and access to food is a problem - many are hungry, while at the same time many overeat," the brief states. But, it says, "we are providing food to take care of not only our necessary consumption but also our wasteful habits."

What we must not forget also is that there is, I am sure, still the old food mountain and the stupidity, though no longer as publicly reported as it once was, of actually forcing farmers to dump food stuffs during either a glut or also because it is not the right shape and size or has blemishes.

"As much as half of the water used to grow food globally may be lost or wasted," says Dr. Charlotte de Fraiture, a researcher at IWMI. "Curbing these losses and improving water productivity provides win-win opportunities for farmers, business, ecosystems, and the global hungry."

"An effective water-saving strategy requires that minimizing food wastage is firmly placed on the political agenda," she said.

In the United States, for instance, as much as 30 percent of food, worth some US$48.3 billion, is thrown away. "That's like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion liters of water into the garbage can - enough water to meet the household needs of 500 million people," says the report.

The policy brief, "Saving Water: From Field to Fork - Curbing Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain," calls on governments to reduce by half, by 2025, the amount of food that is wasted after it is grown and outlines attainable steps for this be achieved.

"Unless we change our practices, water will be a key constraint to food production in the future," said Dr. Pasquale Steduto of FAO.

Water losses accumulate as food is wasted before and after it reaches the consumer.

In poorer countries, so the research found, a majority of uneaten food is lost before it even has a chance to be consumed. Depending on the crop, an estimated 15 to 35 percent of food may be lost in the field, while another 10 to15 percent is discarded during processing, transport and storage.

In richer countries, while production may be more efficient waste is by far greater, so states the report. "People toss the food they buy and all the resources used to grow, ship and produce the food along with it."

As this wasted food rots in landfills it generates methane, a gas that causes climate change and is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

With proper municipal composting facilities, however, this food waste would not even need to go into landfill and if we would permit the use of swill again, properly controlled and monitored, for the feeding of pigs then most of that food waste would be turned into calories and protein.

World Water Week was hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, a policy institute that contributes to international efforts to combat the world's escalating water crisis.

We must consider the one fact too in this wasted food, as it has been stated, and that is the wasted water, in the form of irrigation (and others), and this when water resources are getting – or could be getting – scarcer due to changes in climate and in rainfall patters.

As someone once said: the next war(s) will not be fought over territory but over access to water resources; a case that always was thus in countries such as Arabia, and such.

Water wars and skirmishes have been about in those places, as well as in other countries, throughout the ages. In future, however, it may actually not be a case of just a clan against another or a rancher against another one; it could indeed be one country against another over the perceived interference with water supply and such.

Whether or not any difference can be made by us in the realm of water resource management by not wasting food, with the exception of the fact that the less food is wastes the less there has to be grown and hence less water being used for watering the plants, does not matter too much either; not wasting food on its own should be enough incentive.

Further savings in the water department could be made if the developed world at least – for I know that the quality of the municipal water and other supplies in some countries out of that realm are dubious – would stop the wasteful practice of drinking bottled water. While a number of that stuff is tap water, which may or not have been filtered and such, there are still many brands that use well and spring water, and such extraction has a bad effect on the water table and the general natural water supply.

So, time we stopped wasting food and water...

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

BOGO LIGHT - Advertisement

Fly tipping on the rise

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Fly tipping of rubbish seems to be on the increase everywhere

Ever since the changes in refuse collection in many many local authorities those with connections to parks, open spaces and countryside and their management see and report more and more incidents of fly tipping.

While it used to be that fly tipping would be an occasional occurrence and it would generally be building refuse or tree clipping that a “tree surgeon” dumped now it is household rubbish of all kinds and green waste.

This is, however, hardly surprising seeing that so many local authorities have gone over to a fortnightly refuse collection and/or charge so much per bin liner per week and/or will not permit more than one bin bag put out per week and also charge horrendous annual fees for small little bags for removing garden rubbish (green waste) that once would be collected free.

The biggest problem in the UK is that the governments, local and central alike, seem to like to fine and charge people rather than to give them (financial) incentives to go recycling, and such.

While the amount of waste collected from the kerbside may be going down and hence the waste going into landfill via standard refuse collection trucks the amount of fly tipped rubbish, on the other hand, in parks, open spaces and countryside, as also back alleys in towns and cities, is on the increase; in some case the increase has been 100% plus.

The entire idea of fortnightly rubbish collections and the fines and charges and all that are rather a shot in the foot as the cleaning up of the dumped rubbish costs time and money – more than that what is being saved. Only, often it comes from different budgets and hence no one seems to notice the link and it goes through different sets of statistics. While there are savings on one side no one notices the increase in costs for cleaning up fly tipped rubbish on the other side and no one of those that sit in ivory towers seem to see the link between the two factors, namely the reduction of waste collection, e.g. from weekly down to fortnightly; the silly ideas of just one bin liner per household or otherwise extra charge; and all that, and the increase in fly tipped refuse. It would appear that only the guys on the ground, namely park staff and countryside management staff seem to – at least some of them – make the connection between the two, as do many ordinary residents of areas where this is happening.

While in the statistics the fact that there is less rubbish from the standard household and trade waste collections going into landfills is being highlighted it seems to be forgotten that somewhere along the line the fly tipped rubbish also will go into landfill. It is therefore a rather doubtful set of statistics that state that there is less going into landfill.

Maybe the departments need to compare data and then, and only then, will we get a true picture and maybe, just maybe, the authorities will figure out that there may be a better way than charging and fining people into becoming “green”, as that does not work.

In order to stop our parks, open spaces, countryside and back alleys of villages, towns and cities from drowning in fly tipped rubbish we must find another way. That way can only be to encourage people – by incentives, whether financial – though best – or other wise – to bring their refuse for recycling. It works in the USA for instance with recycling centers paying good money for aluminium drinks cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, etc., with people making a living from going around and picking up such cans, bottles, and such like from the countryside and also even from out of the municipal litter bins in towns and parks, and elsewhere.

It is a proven fact that most offenders in the realm of fly tipping are never ever caught or brought before the courts and, therefore, people will continue to dispose of their rubbish elsewhere if the keep being charged more and more for the municipal rubbish collections, and when they have to pay at the centers for the disposal of their refuse, or face additional charges and fines for putting out a rubbish bin at the wrong day and such.

Where does that leave parks and open spaces? The short answer to this is “covered in trash”.

So, what can be done about it?

Fines only work as a deterrent if people are actually caught fly tipping and are convicted. The chances of this happening are, however, relatively low. Out of a 1000 people who commit such acts of fly tipping probably less than 990 are being caught and convicted; hence there is no deterrent. And education is also, more likely a lost cause.

The only feasible way to go is that of financial incentives to get recyclables to the recycling centers, whether those are operated by the municipalities or the private sector, like in the USA, and to stop the stupidity as to waste collection regulations as they stand at present, e.g. the fines for bins out at the wrong day; refusal to empty bins where there is a little more rubbish in them than there, maybe, should be in there, and all that. If we do not get sensible now we will see an ever increasing amount of fly tipping and of rubbish littering our open spaces.

Time for a real good rethink at government level, local and central.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Biofuels fail to meet standards

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Environmental groups have called for the targets for biofuels to be scrapped after data published by the Renewable Fuels Agency showed that less than twenty percent of all biofuels that are currently on sale in the Britain are meeting environmental standards.

The British Government's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) aims to increase biofuels to five percent of all fuel sold by 2010-11, while the EU is expected to agree a target of ten percent by 2020.

The Renewable Fuels Agency's first monthly report, published recently, and which covers the first month of the RTFO from April 15 to May 14, showed that just nineteen percent of biofuels have met environmental standards, compared to a thirty percent target for the year.

The market was dominated by imports, but retailers had no idea of the country of origin or of the feedstock used for nearly half of the fuels they sold.

All one can say to that is “what a shambles”.

Friends of the Earth's biofuels campaigner, Asad Rehman, said: "The shocking admission that we are unable to identify the origin of nearly half the biofuels used in the UK means that the Government cannot assure the British people that the biofuels in their petrol tanks have not destroyed rainforests.

"That less than a fifth of the biofuels used fail to meet even minimal environmental standards adds further weight to Friends of the Earth's view that they are a phoney solution to climate change.

"The Government must put the RTFO on hold and vote against EU biofuels targets."

To this one can but add that this is not a sustainable way and we, therefore, must get away from such biofuels, especially as it has been shown that the use of agrofuels is causing the current food crisis and will but make matters worse if we continue down that road.

Last month, the Renewable Fuels Agency's review of biofuels, led by Professor Ed Gallagher, concluded that biofuels could harm biodiversity, cause greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to rising food prices, if not more safeguards be put in place.

As stated above, I think that we must stop playing with agrofuels and look for better alternatives.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Skippy to the rescue!

Farming kangaroos would cut greenhouse gases: study

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Farming kangaroos instead of sheep and cattle in Australia could cut by almost a quarter the greenhouse gases produced by grazing livestock, which account for 11 percent of the nation's annual emissions, a new study by University of New South Wales states.

According to this study removing seven million cattle and 36 million sheep by 2020 and replacing them with 175 million kangaroos, to produce the same amount of meat, could lower national greenhouse gases by 3 percent a year.

Methane from the foregut of cattle and sheep constitutes 11 percent of Australia's total greenhouse emissions, but kangaroos produce negligible amounts of methane, the study says.

According to the study methane is a principal concern in climate change because more than 500 million metric tons of the gas entered the atmosphere annually, which exceeds the amount that can be naturally removed.

But, I thought it was CO2 – at least so we are being told. In fact maybe cutting down on the hot air produced by many of the experts and the conferences they attend, as well as on the hot air generated by our respective parliaments might help also in cooling the planet.

Let's be serious again, however.

The Aborigines, I believe, have hunted and eaten kangaroo for ever and a day prior to the arrival of the Europeans with their cattle, sheep and rabbits. Now that was a stupid idea, the rabbits, I mean, and it has been show already that roos can be farmed, same as emus, the latter which also provide very good meat indeed.

The study said farmers had few options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions other than changing feed stock, reducing livestock numbers or changing species. The study cited the growth of wildlife industries such as springbok farming in South Africa, red deer in Britain and bison in the United States.

"Using kangaroos to produce low-emission meat is an option for the Australian rangelands...and could even have global application," said the study.

The other alternative would, as many vegetarians and vegans would advocate now, I know that, to go entirely over to vegetables. However, it is a known fact – and no, folks, don't shout at me, it is a fact – that we could not feed the entire world with just fruit and vegetables.

So, if we really have a problem with those gases, which as far as CO2 is concerned for me the jury is still out and also when we consider that a study from an Australian University has also found that the warming of the planet has in fact plateaued out and the temperature have not rise, not even by a fraction, for the last six to seven years, then we must change our livestock farming practices.

Farmed wild animals, of which ever kind, seem to be better adjusted to make use of the range conditions that there are and therefore should be able to produce a better produce on less input than do cattle or sheep.

OK, so what do we do for wool then? No wool on roos. Mind you, I can do without sheep wool, as I am allergic to it.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008


New research from Legal & General reveals that more than eight in ten Brits, 82%, are annoyed by government and business initiatives that are forcing green values on them.

With climate change minister, Joan Ruddock proposing plans to implement a 10p “throwaway tax” on plastic carrier bags, one green initiative that is disliked by nearly one in four people is having to pay for plastic bags at shops and supermarkets, 23%. Other green initiatives that are disliked include being charged for waste removal, 54%, and half are unhappy with the reduction in waste collections.

With 98% of Brits saying that they are taking steps to make their home more environmentally friendly, the new findings suggest Brits want to make their own decisions and choices on how green to be.

The findings are part of Legal & General’s Changing Face of British Homes research, which surveyed a GB representative sample of over 4,000 adults. The following table highlights what is annoying Brits the most when it comes to enforced environmental measures:

54% of Brits find charging for waste removal the most annoying Government and business green initiatives, while 50% find that the reduced waste collections are one of the most annoying things. Energy ratings as part of Home Information Packs comes in at 27%, Paying for plastic carrier bags at 23% and water meters at 23%.

While it was found that both men and women are similarly annoyed, British men are more irritated, 84%, than women, 80% and older householders are coping less well with green initiatives - 85% of those aged 55 or over admitted to being annoyed by the implementation of green measures compared to only 74% of 18 to 24 year olds.

Despite Brits’ frustrations at being forced to go green, many are keen to play their part at being environmentally friendly and voluntarily already take green steps in their homes.

83% of British in this study said that they recycle rubbish, 82% that they ensure that lights are turned off in empty rooms, 72% use low energy light bulbs. Of those surveyed 71% said that they use reusable shopping bags, 64% that they do not leave TVs, computers or other electrical items on standby. Furthermore 37% replied they they have double glazing or draft proofing, 27% share bath water, 25% said that they had installed or are installing extra loft insulation and 23% that they recycle rain water.

Ruth Wilkins, Head of communications at Legal & General’s general insurance business commented: “While people are annoyed by the implementation of green initiatives the efforts being made to force residents to recycle more of their rubbish are beginning to pay off, with recycling rates jumping from 7% to 33% in the past ten years. Legal & General’s recent research would support these findings as the Changing Face of British Homes research shows that a large number of us are taking steps to become greener. Brits simply want to make their own decisions regarding how and when to be green.

Legal & General understands that the look and feel of our homes is changing and that people are looking at ways to improve their carbon footprint. Legal & General has responded to this change by automatically including cover for solar panels, wind turbines and ground source heating pumps under the buildings section of their household insurance policy. We would advise anyone considering making any major green improvements to their home to check their insurance cover to make sure they are covered under the terms of their policy.”
This research is part of Legal & General’s Changing Face of British Homes ongoing research revealing how British homes are changing in line with our changing lifestyles.

Further details are available at

Legal & General’s Changing Face of British Homes research was conducted by YouGov, among a GB representative sample of 4,461adults between 14 and 19 May 2008, and is an ongoing research by Legal & General’s general insurance business to understand how people from different demographic groups use and relate to their homes. The study will take a look at the home lives of people across the UK in order to understand their changing needs and tastes.

The annoyance felt by the more than eight in ten Brits by government and business initiatives forcing green values on them can only be too well understood for it is the forcing bit that always gets people's backs up. What is needed, and I will say this, yet again, is an incentive scheme, as in so many other countries, rather than punishments and fines left, right and center, as proposed by the current UK government.

All that seems to be in the government's idea cupboard is how to fine people for this infringement as to refuse collections and that infringement as to not recycling, etc. Fining people for putting out their bins at the “wrong” day certainly does not make for people happy to go and recycle and become “green”. What is makes is for disgruntled people who go into the local parks and open spaces and fly tip their rubbish there instead. Something that certainly more than defeats the object but the truth of which cannot be seen by whose that sit in ivory towers with blinkers on.

Legal & General with additional comments by Michael Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Legal & General material via: FD Consumer Dynamics


Compartes Chocolatier has joined with Relief Beads for Darfur to raise money and awareness for Relief International’s philanthropic programs in Darfur.

Trend-setting Compartes Chocolatier has created an African Collection with African-inspired flavors.

The five truffles, each imprinted with a different colored African continent are: Cardamom + Coconut, Grains of Paradise + African Mango, Caramelized Plantain, African Cacao Bean, and Organic Red Rooibus Tea.

Every purchase provides 2 months education for a child or feeds a malnourished child for over 1 week.

The African Collection, complimented with a Relief Beads bracelet, comes in a 5 piece ($20) and a ten piece ($30). Relief Beads are also available individually ($8). Funds raised from this collaboration will directly fund a women’s center and malnourished children in Darfur. Chocolates for a Cause: Compartes Chocolatier + Relief Beads for Darfur are available at and Compartes Boutique in Los Angeles.

Relief Beads bracelets are handmade from sand in Africa. Each bracelet is made individually, so no two bracelets look alike. The funds raised are donated to Relief International, a leading agency providing assistance in Darfur. Relief International’s programs are extensive and critical: they operate the second largest refugee camp, administer medical care at their many clinics, provide life-saving therapeutic care to malnourished children, and fund educational costs for thousands of students. To learn more about Relief International visit

Relief Beads began one year ago and quickly became fashionably popular. Thousands of people have ordered Relief Beads and tens of thousands of dollars have been raised. Many celebrities have also endorsed Relief Beads, including Marcia Cross, Jessica Biel, and Mandy Moore. For more info visit or

Source: Relief Beads & Relief International

What IS stopping us recycling?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A lack of storage space or access to recycling sites, confusion over collection days and skepticism about the environmental benefits are just some of the obstacles stopping people recycling more.

And I would say that the access to recycling sites and the lack of them in fact is the greatest problem here, In addition to that recycling would increase most remarkably, as has been proven elsewhere, when financial incentives are given for recycling, e.g. by being paid for collected drinks cans brought to the recycling centers.

The government-funded Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP) has carried out research investigating the barriers preventing a further rise in household recycling rates – and offering local authorities advice on overcoming them.

According to WRAP, these barriers can be broken down into four distinct areas, and those are: physical, behavioural, lack of knowledge and attitudes and perceptions.

On the physical front, people struggle when containers for collecting recycling are unsuitable or there is no space for storage, when collections are unreliable and when they have no way of getting to recycling sites. The latter, in my experience, is one of the greatest inhibitors for people's recycling abilities.

In addition to that, in the area where I have experience with personally, it takes ages of waiting in line with vehicles to get stuff dropped off at the recycling centers, which are few and far between, and often not easy to get to either. The getting to is even worse when one does not have a motor vehicle at one's disposal and one lives where the curbside recycling units refuse to go.

Behavioural obstacles, so the study found, include people being too busy, having difficulty with establishing a routine for sorting out recycling or simply if they forgetting to put it out at the right time.

In many cases people also lack the knowledge of how their scheme, if there is any, works or what materials can be recycled.

There is often also great confusion, it must be said, at the local authority recycling management level as to what plastics, for instance, are recyclable. I have been told at more than one instance that certain plastic packaging was not recyclable when the manufacturer assures that the packaging is PET.

Attitudes and perceptions throws up a mixed bag of barriers. There are some people that simply doubt the environmental benefits of recycling, and then there are others who feel that they are not adequately rewarded for doing the right thing and then again others are feel that sorting through waste is dirty.

Those that feel that they are not adequately rewarded for recycling are, I think, on to a very valid point, and as I mentioned already, in countries where payment is given for material brought in the recycling rates are much higher and there are even people who literally live off gathering up the waste that other people drop, for sale.

Phillip Ward, Director of Local Government Services at WRAP, said: "Only by addressing these barriers will we get people to recycle more things more often.

"Good communication about their recycling service is vital but it will not persuade people to use services which are unreliable or too complicated.

"We believe this research will help local authorities boost their own recycling rates and to build on their existing successes. WRAP will continue to support local authorities in achieving this."

To the comments of the WRAP representative could be added that, and yes, I do keep on about it, a proper nationwide scheme of rewarding people for bringing in recyclables would make even more of a difference.

But, while this works in so many other countries, I am sure that we will be told that it just cannot work in Britain, as with so many other good ideas, on the environmental front. Britain, so we are told again and again, is different and while things may work in Germany, the Netherlands or the USA, they could never work here.

Time to think and rethink, methinks...

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Households are catching on when it comes to recycling, but only slowly

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The amount of refuse that local authorities have to collect and send to landfill dropped slightly during the year 2007.

The figures published by Defra recently show that municipal waste has fallen from 29.1m to 28.8m tonnes by the end of last year and the amount being landfilled had fallen from 16.9 to 15.8 tonnes.

The volume of household waste in collections also decreased from 25.8m to 25.6m tonnes, while residents boosted recycling from 30.9% to 33.9% between January and December.

The average amount of residual household waste per head in 2007 was 334kg compared to 353kg per head between April 2006 and March 2007.

Having, however, also seen the amount of household rubbish that is being fly tipped one does have to wonder how many people are really the good ones that do recycle and thereby keep stuff out of the landfills from household collections.

Has anyone, I wonder, checked on the amount of rubbish that is being landfilled that is being collected as fly tipped waste from parks and open spaces and the countryside?

According to minsters, the statistics, which still need to be finalised, are evidence that the efforts of local authorities and householders to cut waste are paying off.

Waste Minister Joan Ruddock said that her postbag is full of letters from people saying they want to recycle more.

"But”, the minister said, “unless they know their efforts are making a real difference, they won't keep trying. That's why statistics like these are so important.”

Statistics are only statistics. We need to have incentives to get people to recycle even more, and they will if they get paid in the end for their effort.

Such schemes in other countries, such as the Unites States, have shown that not only will this reduce the amount of waste that comes in from household collections, but that also there will be less litter in the municipal litter bins, as people will collect all those items that they can get money for at the reverse vending machines of the recycling centers, whether municipality run or private.

Obviously, there will always be the black sheep who will go and steal recyclables for resale but I think that such a minority should not stand in the way of having the same schemes put into operating in Britain.

Britain still is the dustbin of Europe and we put more waste into the ground than any other country in the European Union, and probably elsewhere.

And while this is costing the council taxpayer dearly in landfill taxes and councils dearly in fines it really is costing us all a lot more. Aside from the fact that we are rapidly running out of holes in the ground where to deposit all that waste.

Much of the non-recyclable and non-compostable waste that in the end has nowhere else to go could also, as it is done, per example, in Sweden, be burned in combined heat and power plants. Only problem there is that the NIMBYs arrive immediately, with the likes of the Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace in the forefront, says we must recycle, recycle, recycle.

Yes, indeed, we MUST recycle but... and the but is that not everything is recyclable. However, much of that which is not recyclable can be burned and heat and electricity be created from it. Why not?

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Love your planet, choose organic - choose Cafédirect

Cafédirect, the UK's leading 100% Fairtrade hot drinks company, is supporting the Soil Association's Organic Fortnight 2008 (6-21 September 2008).

The theme of this year's campaign is "love your planet, choose organic", aiming to raise awareness of the environmental, health, and social benefits of organic farming.

Cafédirect actively encourages and supports its growers to make the conversion from conventional to organic farming. It pays higher premiums for organic products, providing an incentive for farmers to make the switch. As Victorico Velasquez Morales, coffee grower, CESMACH Co-operative, Mexico explains, "Last year the extra premium we received from Cafédirect for our organic Palenque coffee was used to pay a better price to all our organic producers. This year the agreement is to do the same".

As well as paying an extra premium for organic and gourmet coffee beans, Cafédirect also reinvests, on average, 60% of its profits into its growers' businesses and communities. This support helps strengthen farmers' organisations, develop their knowledge and expertise and enables them to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.

Don Toño is a founding member of the Juan Sabines Gutierrez co-operative in Mexico. He is part of a pioneering wave of farmers that produce organic coffee for Cafédirect. "I am convinced that organic production creates a future for us. We need to conserve the land otherwise we wont be able to produce any coffee in the long-term. The problem is that to produce coffee organically, it takes a lot more effort and time. Through support from Cafédirect, we have been able to develop practical methods for organic farming."

An example of one of these methods is organic composting. Here Don Toño shares his secret organic compost recipe, all the way from Mexico. Why not try it in your garden at home?

Mix 50kg of cows manure with 2 litres of cows milk, 2 kg of brown sugar, 100g of oxygenated water and (the secret ingredient!) 5kg of ground chilli. "Chilli not only stops diseases from developing, but our coffee plants give much more fruit with this special organic mix", explains Don Toño.

Organic Fortnight gives everyone the perfect excuse to enjoy organic products like Cafédirect's range of delicious organic Fairtrade hot drinks. Choose from:

Cafédirect Organic Mount Elgon gourmet coffee beans
Organically grown on the lush slopes of Mount Elgon in Uganda, these hand-picked beans have a fresh citrus-sweet flavour and a full, well-rounded taste. RRP: £3.19 for a 227g pack. Available from Morrisons
Three star Gold winner in the 2008 Great Taste Awards

Cafédirect Organic Machu Picchu gourmet coffee beans and gourmet fresh ground coffee
Hand-picked Arabica beans, grown on the lush foothills of the Andes are expertly roasted to create a really full-bodied taste with a nutty flavour and dark chocolate overtones. RRP: £3.19 for a 227g pack. Available from most major supermarkets
One star Gold winners in the 2007 and 2008 Great Taste Awards

Cafédirect Organic Palenque gourmet fresh ground coffee
Grown on the misty highlands surrounding the ancient Mayan city of Palenque, Mexico, the aroma of this coffee combines two of nature's most heavenly flavours - chocolate and honey. RRP: £3.19 / most major supermarkets
One star Gold winner in the 2008 Great Taste Awards

Cafédirect Organic Medium Roast fresh ground coffee
Sourced from Cafédirect's growers in Africa and Latin America, it is a coffee full of bright clean flavours with the slightest hint of spice. RRP: £3.09 for a 227g pack. Available from the Co-op
One star Gold winner in the 2008 Great Taste Awards

Organic Decaffeinated freeze dried instant coffee
Made from 100% organic Arabica beans, gently decaffeinated with a natural process, this coffee is roasted for a medium-bodied, slightly nutty flavour that you'll enjoy all day long. RRP: £3.25 for a 100g jar. Available from most major supermarkets
One star Gold winner in the 2008 Great Taste Awards

To find out more about Cafédirect's work with its growers and its products visit


Are solid state hard drives an eco-friendly option?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Despite the amount of technological barriers still to overcome, leaps in reliability and battery life may make them a better environmental option for computer storage, if only slightly.

The question as to whether those drives are a more environmentally friendly option comes with the news that Dell is now offering such storage drives in their consumer level M1330 and M1530 laptops.

Solid-state drives, so-called “SSDs”, are an alternative to plate-spinning hard disk drives, aka “HDDs”. The latter are the part of your computer that you may want to throw out the window from a rather great height after it crashes and you lose all your life's work. SSDs are said to be more mechanically reliable – so the claim, which, personally, I still do not believer and the reason for that will become further down in this article – because there are fewer moving parts and also SSDs are more energy efficient, typically adding about 20 minutes more battery life to your laptop compared to HDDs. It is also reckoned that SSDs are generally speedier, though operating systems have yet to take full advantage of them.

The technology for the solid state hard drives is still very much in its infancy and would appear to be experiencing growing pains.

Price also is especially prohibitive.

Dell's new 128GB SSD upgrade will put you back $450, which is no small chunk of of money by any measure, meaning that it will double, in some cases the cost of the laptop to start with.

Drive capacity is another issue.

Dell's laptop hard disk options, presently, have a maximum of 320GB. Solid state drives, so far, only go up to 128GB, which may not be enough for some users.

Solid state drives have not as yet been touted as an environmentally friendly alternative and option to the traditional hard disk drives. There are many companies, however, that are already marketing the performance, efficiency, and reliability aspects of the solid state devices.

From the price point they still are rather out of the range of most budgets and whether or not they are the environmentally friendly option, realiability is being claime dto be higher but this this has to be proven to me. If USB flash drives are anything to go by then they are not. So far I have managed to completely and irretrievably crashed three ordinary USB drives within the last couple of months and furthermore had one hardware encrypted one go bad on me.

Not a very good result, methinks, and this certainly does not inspire much confidence in me as to solid-state hard drives for computers. One day, maybe, they will be ready but it does not seem to be the case as yet. As far as I am concerned manufacturers can claim all they want about reliability of solid state drives being better than those of the old kind of hard drive. When I can see one of those in action working for 5 to 10 years without problems then, and only then, will I believe that they are better than standard hard disk drives.

So, for the time being, as far as I am concerned, regardless of their possibility of drawing less power and such they are, in my opinion, not as yet ready to replace the normal HDDs. How many does one want to have replace in the lifetime of a PC or laptop?

As I said, one day, maybe, but not presently, and this is not just because of price. Reliability is the issue here.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008