Laryngitis joins list of ailments that are blamed on pollution

Industrial pollution may be a cause of laryngitis

by Michael Smith

Pollution, allergens and passive smoking could be to blame for long-lasting and recurrent cases of laryngitis, say American doctors.

Airborne toxic gases and fine soot - particulate matter - can be the root cause of all manner of ailments from heart disease to asthma.

Now research from the American Academy of Otolaryngology, or head and neck surgery, have published research suggesting that many cases of laryngitis can be put down to poor environmental conditions rather than the usual list of suspects for the ailment.

Laryngitis symptoms include hoarseness of the voice, cough, and chronic clearing of the throat which researchers and doctors generally attribute to a viral infection and overuse of the voice.

Other factors, including consistent exposure to second-hand smoke, have also been cited as a trigger.

Researchers have now found through animal experiments that exposure to different environmental pollutants, including dust mites and everyday air pollution, can cause what they term "environmental laryngitis."

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the findings are significant, given recent reports on diminishing air quality and increased unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution, especially in emerging economies like China, which could lead to more cases of laryngitis and chronic laryngitis in particular.

But not just laryngitis appears to be caused in this way too but also ailments that appear to be a kind of chest infection and also some kinds of asthma. As stated in earlier in this article already airborne toxic gases and fine soot, so-called particulate matter, can be the root to all manner of ailments that often appear to doctors to have a different source or one that cannot be explained.

Therefore, whether or not “Climate Change” may be the result of CO2 and/or other such emission, we must curb any such emissions possible, as well as reduce the impact that we have on the environment and Nature in general in order for us, as the human race, so to speak, to survive at all.

Whether climate change is something that we have control over or not is not the issue in this case. We must get to grips with the emissions of all kinds or else we will be history before even the seas may rise and flood some areas.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

London to showcase green roofs

by Michael Smith

London's best way to demonstrate visibly its commitment to the environment when the world looks its way in the run up to the 2012 Olympics would be, according to the opinion of Richard Blakeway, a sea of green roofs.

Richard Blakeway, environmental advisor to Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, suggested this when he spoke at the World Green Roofs Congress in the capital on Wednesday.

He spoke of the projected growth of London in the next years and its need to provide homes for a million more inhabitants by 2018.

Mr. Blakeway said that the authorities have got to ensure is that as many as possible of these new buildings have green roofs.

According to him the Mayor has very much put green roofs at the centre of his climate change adaptation policy and his policy to greening the city.

London would and could learn from other cities, he added, where incentives are put in place to encourage green roofs, whether these be carrot, stick or a combination of both.

To this one can but only say that we use too much of the stick with regards to green ventures in this country; we need more of the carrot, much more in fact.

Outlining the many advantages of green roofs the Mayor's advisor said they would reduce the urban heat island effect, encourage biodiversity, control flooding and urban drainage, provide a valuable public green spaces in an ever-more-densely populated city and even save money.

As energy prices continue to skyrocket, he said, the added insulation from green roofs can help keep bills down.

A green roof scheme in Canary Wharf saves the building's owners over £5,000 a year, he said, while Toronto reports annual savings of up to $22m from its green roofs and the figure in Chicago, a city which has embraced the idea, are around £100m.

He said City Hall was currently working on planning guidance that would make green roofs more attractive to developers, and argued that they could be affordable on everything from social housing to riverside penthouses.

The concept of pushing green roofs is in keeping with the emerging flavour of Mr Johnson's environmental policy, which favours promoting improvements to the capitals open spaces and tree planting over technical carbon-based fixes that the public can sometimes struggle to understand.

While green roofs do all of that what the advisor to the Mayor of London said, e.g. that they would reduce the urban heat island effect, encourage biodiversity, control flooding and urban drainage, provide a valuable public green spaces in an ever-more-densely populated city and even save money, in order to really improve the drainage situation, however, in town and countryside, to fight flash floods and such, we must put a stop to the concreting over of all the front yards and such.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Working with the Inevitable

Planning to live with Climate Change

by Michael Smith

Climate change is something that we have to think about int terms of working with it and learning to live with it...

Over the past few years river delta flooding has been a major issue in the United States. Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Ike has caused serious trauma throughout coastal Texas, and many other delta lowlands have undergone damaging flood periods in recent history, such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta.

Climate change will effect sea levels and global weather patterns meaning more frequent and severe flooding of these areas.

While there are many who believe that Climate Change is entirely man-made the problem is what if it is not and we have none or very little impact on changing anything regardless of how much we reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere and all those other so-called greenhouse gases. Then, unless we make provision for this, we will all be up the proverbial creek without the necessary paddles and such devices.

While I am in agreement that we must reduce the impact of al those gases, but not so much as regards to stopping and reversing Climate Change, as I do not believe that (1) mankind and our emissions are the cause of the “global warming” and climate change but that that is a recurring phenomenon of the Earth herself and (2) that whatever we do we cannot stop or reverse anything, but simply because all those gases in combination seem to harm human health particular and pollution of all those gases and particles seem to be the main cause of many respiratory ailments and even heart problems of our modern age.

Humankind must learn to live with the changing climate as humankind has always had to when the Earth has thrown her wobblies before and went from cold to hot and then back to cold only to go back to hot. One only needs to look at the last two or three millennia see this pattern. About ever thousand years the Earth seems to be hitting one of the high notes, throws a wobbly of warm and cool for a while before dropping back into a mini ice age.

We are, presently, in one of the high notes, it would appear and, according to some findings, the temperatures have leveled out and have been steady for the last six or so years without any further sign of rising. The Old Farmer's Almanac has stuck its neck out and predicted that the world is going to enter a period of cooling, a mini ice age of sorts. This could be feasible. But, due to the warming that has occurred the ice in the arctic and antarctic is melting and this could and will cause a rise in sea levels. Combined with the increased weather activities of rains and hurricanes and such like, more flooding would be likely. Rising sea levels will also, obviously, impact on river delta systems and tidal rivers themselves.

Hence we must abandon the stupidity of building in floodplains or we must follow the examples of our very old ancestors and build on stilts.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) is creating a land modeling plan to efficiently and economically handle the populations and infrastructure suffering from the impact of climate change. The long and short of it is…the next time these areas are destroyed, don’t rebuild them.

The study conducted by the PPIC focused on policy issues pertaining to certain tracts of land in freshwater parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta. Since rescue and rehabilitation of these areas is quite costly, the driving force behind the policy decisions is saving taxpayer money. “In 2004, when a delta levee unexpectedly collapsed, the state and federal governments rushed in to repair it, spending more than $75 million. However, the effort protected land worth only $22 million.” Experts from an array of fields, including civil engineering, climate science, economics, hydrology, and biology were consulted to formulate the plan of action for at risk lands.

Although it may seem like peoples lives and homes are being abandoned to save a dollar, overall everyone is losing by dumping money and resources into saving certain delta areas. The idea of “adjusting to new ecology” will save state taxpayers money, in the future will save people who would have inhabited these areas from great loss, and allows mother nature to reclaim wetlands that humans are struggling to keep as freshwater areas when the natural state is a mixture of fresh and salt waters.

The belief has been that we’re defending the environment by maintaining the freshwater system, but that is actually incompatible with giving the Delta’s native species and ecosystem a fighting chance to survive and prosper.

In the Britain in early 2008 certain areas of the Marshes of Essex had their sea defenses broken on purpose in order to allow the sea reclaim land to reestablish the former saltwater marshes in that area.

Whether abandoning areas that have been wrest from the sea at often great costs is the right course to go is a good question, especially in a relatively small country such as the United Kingdom which is getting slowly but surely rather overcrowded for sure. The Dutch more then likely would not go that way, considering what it has cost them to create the Polder lands and what it cost to defend them from the sea.

On the other hand, do we really have to live, as I said, in floodplains? The answer is more than likely a no. But if we insist to do so then we better do as the ancient ones did and build our homes on stilts.

Then again, we could, once again build up rather than out and I am sure we could accommodate a lot more people in a smaller area and keep the green areas for farming, forestry and wildlife.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008


Global Retailer Makes Commitment at Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

NEW YORK, N.Y., September 2008: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will serve as Wal-Mart’s environmental partner in the Global Plastic Shopping Bag Waste Reduction Commitment that the retailer announced today at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. EDF will help Wal-Mart develop reduction, reuse and recycling strategies as well as monitor efforts to reduce plastic shopping bag waste by an average of one-third per store from 2008 levels by 2013.

“Cutting bag waste is a common-sense solution to an environmental problem that we all see every day,” said Gwen Ruta, vice president for Corporate Partnerships at Environmental Defense Fund. “This initiative will help take 9 billion bags out of the environment each year.”

Total global consumption of plastic bags is estimated at 4 trillion per year, at the expense of the world’s marine life - as sea turtles, fish, mammals and birds eat or become entangled in bags - and at a cost of millions of dollars to municipalities, which must collect and dispose of bags. The Wal-Mart bag waste reduction pledge has the potential to eliminate approximately 9 billion plastic shopping bags per year from its existing stores by 2013.

“Environmental Defense Fund has provided valuable contributions in Wal-Mart’s effort to operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner, which includes helping the environment while building a stronger business,” said Matt Kistler, senior vice president for sustainability of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “EDF has helped us assess the full scope of environmental challenges and benefits of reducing Wal-Mart’s global plastic bag waste.”

EDF and Wal-Mart anticipate that the bag waste reduction initiative will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 290,000 metric tons and reduce energy consumption equivalent to 678,000 barrels of oil per year.

Working with Wal-Mart, EDF will:

  • Provide scientific advice on the environmental impacts of plastic bag waste and quantify the carbon footprint of alternative bags and packaging;
  • Assist in developing educational materials for Wal-Mart customers;
  • Evaluate Wal-Mart projections for environmental benefits of the project; and
  • Monitor progress and assess program results.
Collaboration to reduce bag waste is just one aspect of EDF’s work since 2005 to inform and influence Wal-Mart’s sustainability goals and motivate change in the company, its supply chain and its customers to measurably reduce environmental impacts. EDF focuses on issues central to its mission and germane to Wal-Mart operations, including global warming, seafood, packaging, toxic materials and environmental performance of Wal-Mart suppliers worldwide.

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

Wood – A professional in the Kitchen

by Michael Smith, RFA

Cooking is on the up. Kitchens and utensils made from wood are easy to care for and are antibacterial.

Cooking is everywhere. On the TV and in the home. Cooking has become a pastime rather than just a means of creating a meal for the family. It has become a lifestyle and a creative expression and also an expression of creativity.

For this very reason the kitchen has now become functional workplace and an object for design at the same time. In the kitchen of today there is not just roasting a frying and generally cooking being done. This is where one meets, sits together and talks over a glass of wine. A bit of trip back-to-the-future for we have been here once before, in the days when out kitchen were large and useful, and where the family gathered, while the parlour, the room that we refer to today as “living room”, was used only on very special days and occasions. It was the kitchen were everyone gathered and listened to the radio and talked about the day. The kitchen table served as a desk for the children's homework in the same way as it was used for the eating of meals, or the mending of clothes.

Because of the fact that kitchens are, once again, more living space than just the area where the food is being cooked, the designers of kitchen furniture are once again reverting to the age-old material of wood. Wood is natural and warm and a great material.

Wooden kitchens with properly sealed surfaces are easy to clean and as wood has antibacterial quality they are much more hygienic than other materials, even stainless steel. But, I guess, I would say that as someone deeply rooted in commercial forestry.

In addition to the furniture in the kitchen being of wood again wooden kitchen utensils too are making a genuine comeback. Wooden spoons, spatulas, cutting- and chopping boards, and such, all once again are seen in kitchens. Wooden utensils are taste neutral and are easy to care for. They also do not absorb any foreign tastes. As they are wood we have the same antibacterial properties and hence they are much more hygienic than other materials and one can but wonder if we should not carry, once again, a wooden eating spoon, as people did in ages past, instead of relying on throwaway flatware.

As wood, as said, has antibacterial properties it is enough to wipe a chopping board clean between uses. This also satisfies hygiene because even salmonella has little survival chance on wood. This was proven already in 1993 by the University of Wisconsin. Especially pine, larch and oak have some of the best antibacterial and virus killing properties.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Social and psychological impact of floods 'should be planned for'

Drying out and renovating homes was the most stressful phase for flood victims, researchers said

by Michael Smith

Major flooding not only destroys homes and vital infrastructure - it has a devastating effect on the physical and mental health of those that are caught up the catastrophe.

A new study of the 2005 Carlisle floods has shown that alongside the obvious potential for death, injury and health risks from contaminated water, flood victims can also suffer lasting psychological problems caused by loss of homes and personal possessions. For some this can have a profound and long lasting effect, one that some may never ever come to terms with. The loss of valued possessions, especially mementoes and such like that are irreplaceable, can be a trauma from which some may never recover.

Three people died and about 6,000 Carlisle residents were hit by flood waters when 200mm of rain fell in 48 hours. About 60,000 homes in the area were also left without power.

Writing in the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management's new Journal of Flood Risk Management, researchers have described how the trauma of the flood still remained with Carlisle residents nearly a year and a half later.

Their study found that the most stressful phase was spending months drying out and renovating their homes - a situation made worse by problems with insurers, builders and decorators.

The authors of the study, Dr Ian Convery, from the University of Cumbria and Cathy Bailey from the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, recommended that these issues should be included in funding for flood alleviation schemes.

They have said that agencies should work together to train highly-skilled support centre personnel with local knowledge of the community affected to help victims; centres that can provide one point of contact for potentially multiple emotional and practical problems.

"Crucially, we suggest that these centres require both strong multi-partnership and multi-agency working and highly skilled support centre personnel who have local knowledge and understanding of the affected community.

"In this way, post-disaster local needs may be contextualized and responded to in a way that both draws on existing local knowledge and expertise and further strengthens long-term community-based support."

The journal's publication has come just days after large swathes of the UK, particularly north east England, was hit by flash floods leaving six dead in weather-related incidents.

You'd think we would get used to rain in this country and would have a proper system of dealing with such rainfall for, despite what some in government and the agencies claim, we have had weather like that before in years and decade and even centuries past, without such great problems.

While I am fully aware that in those times past the country, Britain, was not as densely populated as now, the main reasons though why the waters did not affect people as much are – one – the fact that we then were not as stupid as have homes in the flood plains, bar one or two exceptions, and – two – we did not have everywhere concreted and tarmacked over.

When I walk to the railroad station, for instance, through the relatively wealthy middle-class areas here all I see is front yards that are hard standing areas for cars and also many of the back gardens have been turned into patios and such like with just a pocket handkerchief size patch of grass left. In other words, there just is not enough earth left around for the water to soak away into. So it just runs off the front yards and the back yards and the streets into the gutters and – bingo – flash floods as drains and river courses can not cope.

We must be mad to have built like that.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

The future of cycling all under one roof in London!

It’s all about the bike in 2008 – and Cycle 08 brings the biggest and best consumer cycle show in the UK to Earls Court London from 9-12 October 2008.

Cycling is enjoying a renaissance in the UK for many different reasons, it’s cheap, clean, makes you healthy and most importantly, it’s fun! So whether you’re already riding or just thinking about throwing your leg over the saddle, this is a great time to book your ticket to this autumn’s Cycle 08 at Earls Court, the biggest and best consumer cycle show in the UK with all the very latest bikes, clothing and accessories for cyclists of all shapes, sizes and abilities.

Names like Specialized show, along with Shimano, Campagnolo, Mavic and SRAM plus hundreds more will be exhibiting their 2009 ranges for the very first time in the UK.

Cycle 08 is one of the biggest and certainly the most diverse exhibition of bikes and accessories in the UK showcasing everything from the latest road and mountain bikes right through to childrens bikes, classic commuter bikes, touring bikes, BMX and even electrically assisted bikes for those who need that extra push!

As well as offering the chance to see, Cycle 08 also offers visitors a unique opportunity to try out the latest equipment. The return for 2008 of the Mountain Bike Test Track, sponsored by Volvo and Tirol as well as the Commuter Test Track means that visitors will have every opportunity to try before they buy.

For those who can’t wait to get back to their local bike shop to make a purchase, Cycle 08 will once again feature The Retail Zone sponsored by Condor with clothing from all the leading manufacturers at the show in the latest styles and colours as well as glasses, helmets, bags and shoes to help the fashion conscious cyclist stay one step ahead of the pack!

Finally, after a summer that has provided so much entertainment for fans of the sport of cycling, Cycle 08 will have its own arena space for the first time this year, bringing together some of the stars of the sport for interviews, Q&As and more in a packed programme of events. The area now includes an amazing new BMX/Trials street course which will keep Earls Court buzzing throughout the three consumer days of the show.

Summing up this years event, Cycle 08 Director Andrew Brabazon said: “We’ve got more than ever before at this year’s show, with even more top brands, innovative products, interactive features and an action packed programme of entertainment. Cycle continues to offer great value for money particularly if you pre-book your ticket, so make a date in your diary now and head to the website!”

Whatever your reason for getting on a bike, Cycle 08 has something to offer and to entertain you this year, book your ticket now and receive a £3 discount against the on-the-door price of £14. Head to now to find out more. Adult ticket prices are £11 in advance and £14 on the door.

Source: Cycle 2008

Viner Bikes return to the Cycle show with an exciting new range of products for 2009

Viner offer a wide range of high quality bikes in a range of materials including carbon, steel, stainless steel, titanium and alloy. We will be exhibiting our new X Plus and Magnifica Plus bikes for the sportive and new to racing riders. These bikes exhibit the quality and flair of Italian engineering and design with the Viner styling and paint finishes.

Also on show will be our new range of custom built bikes for 2009 from retro steel frames to the Maxima which was rated by Marcel Wust in Pro Cycling as the 'best bike I've ever tested'.

We will also be showing the new range of Viner wheels from clincher to carbon tubs which feature the latest in easy maintenance technology.

Viner will also be displaying the brand new concept SSB fitting and power testing system. Bookings for this will be taken on the stand.

Source: Viner UK Ltd

2x2 to relaunch Shogun bikes

2x2 are delighted to announce our new and exclusive distribution agreement as the Shogun distributor for the UK and Eire.

Shogun is a well established international brand with UK product distribution stretching back to the late 1980’s.

The Shogun brand was looking for an appropriate partner in the UK to not only distribute a product range but to redesign and relaunch the brand bringing it up to the international standards already established around the world.

Scott Hillyard, Sales Director for 2x2 Ltd said: “We are delighted to be making this announcement today, the Shogun brand has been a long term player in the UK and we intend to relaunch it into 2009 with a brand new contemporary look and feel. In a specification rich market we have transformed Shogun into a brand that connects closely with its customers needs whilst keeping core 2x2 values such as quality, innovation and relevance.

The UK market is unique and Shogun needed a full R&D job from the ground upwards; the required creativity in the development process of the all new 2009 Shogun product is testament to our ability to innovate, which coupled with our professional desire to deliver to customers a higher quality user experience, should prove to be a very productive and exciting time for the Shogun brand in the UK. ”

“Shogun fits perfectly into our portfolio, differentiating itself with DJ, BMX and MTB product - a little less formal, a lot more lively and aimed at a specific demographic; a nod to the future.

I envisage the Shogun brand becoming one of our most prized assets here at 2x2, the value it will bring to our business will be immeasurable.”

“We will be officially unveiling the new 2009 Shogun product range at the upcoming Cycle show at Earls Court – this is an event that is growing by the year and we have been keen to lend our support, stand D1F is where it all starts.”

Source: 2x2 Ltd.

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Environmental Advocates Say Research Strengthens Longstanding Commitment to Creating Healthy Fisheries

WASHINGTON D.C., September 2008: New research published in the journal Science provides a clear road map for federal and regional fisheries managers to reverse years of declining fish stocks by implementing catch shares, according to a leading national environmental group.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the new study, Can Catch Shares Prevent Fisheries Collapse?, authored by scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Hawaii.

“This study shows that the next President can fix the overfishing problem by implementing catch shares,” said David Festa, vice president and director of the oceans program at EDF. “We can turn a dire situation into an enormous opportunity to promote better food security, create jobs and revive ecosystems.”

Catch share programs replace complex rules dictating how fishing will be practiced, with a method to hold fishermen directly accountable for meeting a vital conservation target: scientifically determined catch limits. Fishermen, individually or in cooperatives, are granted a percentage share of the total allowable catch. They can also be granted exclusive access to particular fishing zones. (This system is commonly referred to as territorial use rights for fishing.) As long as fishermen do not exceed their share, they have greater flexibility to fish when weather and market conditions are best. Their shares grow in value as the overall fishery improves, providing them a greater financial stake in sound resource management.

"The trend around the world has been to fish the oceans until the fish are gone,” continued Festa. “The scientific data presented today shows we can turn this pattern on its head. Anyone who cares about saving fisheries and fishing jobs will find this study highly motivating.”

EDF scientists, economists and fishery experts are deployed in over a dozen of the most iconic fisheries around the country. EDF has projects with five universities and EDF staff members have published articles and reports on catch share design and implementation. EDF helps managers and fishermen design catch share systems that save fisheries and meet the needs of their communities.

Currently there are multiple proposals to implement catch share systems around the country for both federal and state fisheries, including Pacific groundfish and grouper in the Gulf of Mexico.

The most recent success was EDF’s work with fishermen and managers to design a catch share system for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, which went into effect in January of 2007. With the new management effort, the 2007 commercial snapper season was open year-round for the first time since 1990. Fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico now earn 25 percent more for their fish and wasteful bycatch has dropped at least 70 percent.

A comprehensive EDF report released last year illustrated that catch share systems dramatically increase safety for fishermen, increase revenues per boat and significantly improve the results of conservation efforts such as bycatch reduction.

Global fisheries peaked in 1988 and have been steadily declining ever since. An estimated one billion people worldwide rely on the ocean for at least part of their essential food needs. Ocean fishing and its related industries also employ 200 million people.

A leading national nonprofit organization, Environmental Defense Fund represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit

For more information on catch shares go to

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

Live Earth show to help advance solar energy

by Michael Smith

India will host the next Live Earth concert in order to raise funds for lighting homes with solar energy in places where people do not have access to electricity, the organizers stated.

The event in December will see rocker Jon Bon Jovi share the stage with Bollywood's biggest superstar, Amitabh Bachchan, and is described by the organizers as one of the biggest events held in India.

The concert will be held in India's financial capital Mumbai on December 7, so Kevin Wall, the founder of Live Earth said in Mumbai.

Jon Bon Jovi is just one name and Mr Bachchan is just one name, but there will be a lot of international artists on stage at this event, so it has been said.

Wall, who organized a series of concerts last year with the former vice-president Al Gore, said the event in India would be telecast live in more than 100 countries.

Gore, who spoke via satellite this week during a news conference held in Mumbai said that India could provide the leadership required to bring about changes in world policies on climate change.

The proceeds from the concert will go to the "Light A Billion Lives campaign," supported by Nobel Prize-winner Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the United Nation's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

At least 1.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity, Pachauri said, adding that the campaign would target villages in countries like India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Malawi.

Organizers said they would set up giant screens and distribute televisions in remote villagers for the concert.

But, erm, there remains but one question, or may be two. The first one is how are the TVs that will be distributed to the remote villagers are powered and two what about the carbon footprint of such an event.

What would be a much better ideas would be to create a virtual stage, with every artist being in his or her country and studio and being linked via a network in such a manner that they all could work as if they would be in one location.

While I must say that those events, those concerts and such, all sound great especially in that they are supposed to benefit all those poor people without electricity or food or whatever, there remains but the problem of the high costs of logistics for such an event and especially the environments and carbon footprint of such events.

This seems to be the one thing that appears to overlooked and forgotten when it comes to such events, in the same way when there is one conference after the other on Climate Change and such, whether organized by the UN or other bodies to which scientists and other travel from all over the world.

Maybe following what one preaches would be nice.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

East Tennesseeans switching to firewood to save money

In order to save money this winter, some residents of East Tennessee are switching to firewood for their heating

by Michael Smith

One resident of the State who decided last year to switch solely to firewood instead of using propane gas to heat his home says that it cost him about $350 for the wood to warm his three-bedroom, two-bath house and with energy prices even higher this year, it is something he certainly will continue. He reckons that with the rate then it has saved him $600 and with the ever increasing prices it will be even more so. Others are looking into the old-world energy source as well.

Aside from the fact that it is, more than likely and especially if one has access to a cheap source of wood, a cheaper way to heat a home (and whatever else) than using gas or oil and even coal, it is also much more environmentally friendly. Burning wood is, basically, carbon neutral for the only carbon released is that that the wood used in order to grow and mature.

Many, like the Tennessee resident mentioned, in that State and elsewhere, and not in the USA alone, made and are making the switch to heating and even cooking with wood because of the
skyrocketing prices for gas and other sources of heat and cooking source.

Having said before that the saving that was made by this particular resident was $600 and that with the increasing costs of gas and oil it may be even more in the future we can, though, of that I am sure, be certain that the price of firewood is going to go us as well as demand increases.

Soaring energy costs and threatened scarcity of some fuels like home heating oil this year have led more homeowners to seek alternative sources for heat, and as a result, both seasoned firewood and some supplies of wood-burning stoves are expected to be in short supply.

The demand for wood-and-pellet burning stoves has caused local sales to increase this year, and already firewood sales have taken off about a month early.

The owner of Ben's Firewood in Knoxville said that while they normally start the winter season around October this year it has already started. People are apparently so worried that things are going to get worse, so they are lining up before it gets too bad.

The push for alternative home heat has largely been driven by the Northeast, where the price of heating oil, still the primary method for home heating, has soared. The average household is projected to spend more than $2,500 this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration, a 30 percent increase from last year. And even with crude oil prices - which factor largely into the price of heating oil - falling to a six-month low recently, the price of heating oil was still just under $3 a gallon, its lowest price since early March. Prices once were projected to hit as high as $4 a gallon.

The Knoxville wood- and coal-burning cook stove company already is backlogged on its most popular item, the Torridaire coal heater, a stove that requires no electricity. Stove sales are typically higher after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and when economic times are a little rough.

Sales also are up for many firewood dealers - business is up 40 percent in many cases - and the true firewood season has not even begun yet.

But the seasoned wood, or wood that has been dried naturally for about eight or nine months, is quickly becoming in short supply, since it has to be cut around March in order to be ready for winter months.

Kiln wood, or wood that is accelerated through the drying process by sitting four or five days in a 190-degree oven, also is limited based on how much that kiln can produce.

There are, on the other hand, woods that can also be burned green and some burn better and hotter green than seasoned and those are beech and birch. Where they are in ample supply things should not be too bad.

A full cord of seasoned wood will replace about 300 gallons of diesel fuel for heating a home while green wood would only replace about 225 gallons. The difference is water content - the more water that's in the wood, the more water you have to burn off before you get any heat. But even burning green wood is still cheaper than any other energy source.

The most important part in all of this is, however, and this must be observed, that the wood comes from well managed and renewable sources and that it is replanted.

In the UK, if would go back to firewood, and in many places we certainly could and even should, nay, let me rephrase that, must, the coppice woodlands could, once again, come into their own and new ones can and must be planted.

Coppicing, I am certain, could also be done in other countries and environments, such as in the United States.

Wood shortages will, no doubt, occur, especially in the places where it is more used such as in the rural areas of the USA and elsewhere, especially shortages of seasoned wood. Another source of firewood that should not and must not be overlooked for those that need to watch pennies is waste lumber from building sites. The only worrying aspect here could be the release of certain chemicals that were used in the wood, as some building lumber, even if only used for shoring up, is treated.

There is a lot to consider when deciding to switch to alternative heating, such as buying a wood- or coal-burning stove, but many of them do burn more efficiently and cleanly than they did in the 1980s. While there will be more cost up front for a stove, most mid- to lower-level priced stoves should pay for themselves in about two or two and a half years.

As for firewood, it is recommended buyers check references of dealers and be sure to have their chimneys swept at least once a year.

If you have got any amount of land or access to land, and a chain saw, you have basically an inexpensive fuel. A lot less expensive than fuel or gas or electricity.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Cycling Oils the wheels of the UK Economy

At a time when the rest of the economy seems to be slowing down, there’s one section of the economy which is racing ahead of the pack, the cycle industry. A study conducted by The Cycle Show has revealed some interesting figures…

Cyclist spending over £1,000 each year:

According to figures released by the Cycle Show, cyclists in London are spending more than ever on their bikes with an average spend of over £1,000 in the last financial year, nearly double the amount on the year before.

Andrew Brabazon, show director of Cycle Show which takes place at Earls Court this October said:

“Where other sectors of the economy are slowing down, the cycle trade has found an extra gear as people get on their bikes to work”

Boy’s toys drive the market:

Furthermore, it seems that the biggest spenders on cycling are men, with the figures revealing a gender gap in spending of over £250. Furthermore with accessories and clothing the leading items purchased it seems that perhaps, amongst cyclists at least, it’s time to re-evaluate the old stereotypes about men having an aversion to clothes shopping!

Source: Cycle2008


Startech Hydrogen From Processing Waste Can Produce Stationary Carbonless Electrical Power

WILTON, CT., September 2008: Startech Environmental Corp., a fully reporting, internationally recognized Award-winning Environment and Energy company, announced today that its hydrogen-fueled engine producing electricity is operational and available for demonstrations at Startech’s Tech Center in Bristol, Connecticut.

Joseph F. Longo, Startech’s president, said, “The line-up has started for demonstrations for our Customers, Distributors, Sales Representatives and also for the media. They’re going to like what they see.

“The Company plans to produce and market its Carbonless Power System for ‘Green Electricity’ in stationary facilities. We think it is important to appreciate the fact that the Hydrogen-engine is a combination of the engine and the electric generator in one modular-package. It’s not a fuel cell; it is a robust internal-combustion reciprocal-engine very much like the well-proven engine in your vehicle.

“Startech Hydrogen, derived by our StarCell™ system from processing a wide variety of wastes in the Startech Plasma Converter™, is an excellent, pristine fuel to power the Hydrogen-engine for electricity. Even ordinary household waste, the most ubiquitous of all, is an excellent source of Startech Hydrogen.

“While developments of hydrogen-powered vehicles are still progressing and talked about, there is a compelling need and desire from our customers for a parallel initiative to bring clean, hydrogen-fueled, stationary-electrical-power to the market.

“Paradoxically, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it is not readily available on earth, and has to be produced by chemical-industry manufacturing systems. Hydrogen is a very important ingredient in many commercial and industrial products. Our Plasma Converter System (PCS)™, in processing most wastes, produces a synthesis gas that we named Plasma Converted Gas (PCG)™. With many wastes, the hydrogen in the PCG, can be separated as a pristine fuel within our Carbonless Power System. This Startech Hydrogen can fuel engine-generators to produce ‘Green Electricity.’

“From wastes used as feed-stocks, the Plasma Converter can actually be the source of Startech Hydrogen on-site and in-house for our customers.

“When hydrogen, as a fuel, combines with air, the principal resulting product is H2O, water. No carbon dioxide (CO2) results in the combustion process since there are no carbons in hydrogen. With its roots in the Kyoto Protocol, the burgeoning Carbon-Credit market and its focus on ‘low-carbon-footprints,’ means that this ‘green’ stationary electrical power will not be merely a ‘low-carbon-footprint;’ it will be a ‘No-Carbon-Footprint.’

“Last year, the Company successfully completed a three-year contract for the US Department of Enengy, in its Hydrogen Initiative Program, in a comprehensive program demonstrating the production of hydrogen from processing wastes in the Plasma Converter followed by our StarCell system. StarCell is the Company’s proprietary membrane-technology system that separates the hydrogen from the PCG synthesis gas produced by the Plasma Converter System.

“Energy crisis or not, waste has been and always will be with us.”

Startech is the internationally recognized, Award-winning Environment and Energy Industry Company engaged in the production and sale of its innovative, proprietary plasma processing equipment known as the Plasma Converter System™.

The Plasma Converter System safely and economically destroys wastes, no matter how hazardous or lethal, and turns most into useful and valuable products. In doing so, the System protects the environment and helps to improve the Public Health and Safety. The System achieves closed-loop elemental recycling to safely and irreversibly destroy Municipal Solid Waste, organics and inorganics, solids, liquids and gases, hazardous and non-hazardous waste, industrial by-products and also items such as "e-waste," medical waste, chemical industry waste and other specialty wastes, while converting many of them into useful commodity products that can include metals and a synthesis-gas called Plasma Converted Gas (PCG) ™.

Among the many commercial uses for PCG, is its use to produce "Carbonless Power,” Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) fuels such as ethanol, synthetic diesel fuel and other higher alcohol “alternative” fuels. Hydrogen, for use and sale, can also be separated and recovered from the PCG synthesis gas mixture.

The Startech Plasma Converter is essentially a manufacturing system producing valuable commodity products from feedstock-materials that were previously regarded as wastes.

Startech regards all wastes, hazardous and non-hazardous, as valuable renewable resources and as feedstocks.

Source: Startech


GenGreen, LLC and Co-op America are partnering together to bring more awareness to pre-screened environmentally and socially conscious businesses through their online networks

FORT COLLINS, CO., September 23, 2008: GenGreen, LLC, based in Colorado, and Co-op America, based in Washington, DC, today announced the beginning of their partnership that will change the way consumers shop online for eco products and services. Users within now have the ability to see which companies have been approved by Co-op America, which screens all members of their Green Business Network for social and environmental responsibility.

“We are excited to be working with Co-op America and we think this agreement represents a great opportunity to benefit our users and grow the number of businesses getting screened,” said Charisse McAuliffe, founder and CEO of GenGreen. “Cooperation and collaboration is so important, and it is just what we need to keep the momentum behind the environmental movement growing and strong,” said McAuliffe.

It is important to GenGreen that their businesses listed within their directory are truly green. This is now accomplished with the help of Co-op America’s screening process. In order for businesses to get the seal of approval, they must demonstrate that they:

  • Focus on using business as a tool for positive social change.
  • Are "values-driven,” as well as profit-driven.
  • Are socially and environmentally responsible in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their offices and factories.
  • Are committed to and employ extraordinary and innovative practices that benefit: 1) workers, 2) communities, 3) customers, and 4) the environment.
Businesses that have the seal of approval are automatically pushed to the top of the search results within This is done to give the consumer the screened company first before the other listings. If a business is listed on the site and does not have a Co-op America seal of approval, they are encouraged to apply for it.

“We’re excited by this opportunity to work with GenGreen since it provides us the ability to educate consumers about businesses that are the best of best regarding their treatment of people and the planet,” said Denise Hamler, Director of Co-op America’s Green Business Network. “We’re also excited to offer our screening process to GenGreen businesses that are not yet screened, and for those businesses that pass our rigorous screens, to offer them the opportunity to receive a prime listing on GenGreen.”

Transparency is a key component to the environmental industry, and GenGreen suggests all of their businesses listed within their site be as transparent as possible. “Consumers do their research, ask questions, and make sure they are shopping from a socially and environmentally responsible company. If they can’t find how the company is who they say they are, they will buy from someone else,” Charisse McAuliffe, founder and CEO of GenGreen.

This collaboration was designed in hopes of reducing green washing, which is a term used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Now, users can see for themselves which companies have been proven to be socially and environmentally responsible.

The goal of GenGreen is to be the most comprehensive and diverse resource available for people looking to live a locally-focused, environmentally conscious lifestyle. This is accomplished through their network where they have over 25,000 listings to help consumers live their green life easier.

To find environmentally and socially responsible companies, visit

Co-op America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Its mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Co-op America is the producer of National Green Pages and Green Festivals (with Global Exchange.)

The Co-op America Green Business Network is the original and most diverse association of over 5,000 responsible companies. Co-op America is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1982.

Source: GenGreen, LLC

Global cooling predicted Old Farmer's Almanac

by Michael Smith

According to the venerable “Old Farmer's Almanac”, which was first published in 1792 and is the oldest continuously published periodical in the United States, the world is set for a "big chill," possibly a mini-ice age.

The 2009 edition, published earlier this month, predicts that the Earth already has entered a sustained period of global cooling.

If the finding from Australia are correct an the temperatures did indeed plateau out as they said in about 2001 then it could be a fact that “global cooling” is about to begin and if the previous periods of climate change of the Earth are anything to go by this cooling could be rather rapidly, much faster than the warming ever was. Going out from that we could see the Thames frozen to its full depth again in a couple of centuries – not that either of us are going to see it.

True to form, the almanac also includes tips on gardening and how to stay warm all winter with just one log, the latter piece is somewhat tongue in cheek though as it recommends the use of the log in this way: “Toss the log out of an upstairs window, run downstairs and outside to retrieve it, run back upstairs, then fling it out of the window again. Pretty soon you're going to be very hot and you don't need to turn the heat on.”

"The next 20 years, it's going to be colder," said Sarah Perreault, assistant editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac. "We do recognize that (global cooling) could be offset by greenhouse gasses and other human effects on the earth, but we're trending toward the cool period now."

The almanac is predicting a period of global cooling partly due to the lack of sunspots, a situation which some scientists believe causes cooling on the sun and, subsequently, the earth.

Perreault said the staff still uses the weather prediction method devised by almanac founder Robert B. Thomas, using a combination of solar sciences, meteorology and climatology.

"Obviously we have more technology now," she said. "We have the benefit of having more information than he had, but it's basically the same."

She said the method is not exact. Since the almanac is published so far in advance, it cannot take into account the most up-to-date information on Pacific Ocean oscillations El Nino or La Nina, for instance.

Still, the almanac has an 80 percent success rate for its weather predictions, Perreault said.

In its early years, the almanac was one of the chief sources for weather forecasts for farmers and other businessmen.

In addition to weather predictions for each day of the year, the Old Farmer's Almanac also includes gardening tips about such things as planting milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies.

The forecast cool period of the next 20 years, as predicted by the Old Farmer's Almanac might then just be the precursor, with hot spells in between, as it used to be in the previous cycles of climate changes, to a real mini-ice age that could, as I said before, lead, once again, to the freezing of the Thames, a tidal river, and to the coats of this country having its waters partly frozen. Something that none of us have seen thus far, I am sure.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Bake Bread – save the planet!

Support Resurgence Slow Sunday

by Michael Smith

Local environmental campaigners, from all around the UK and from around the world, are supporting Resurgence Slow Sunday on September 28th where they will be baking bread as an act of defiance against commercial bread. Why not join in?

Resurgence Slow Sunday ( is a campaign from readers and supporters of the international environmental magazine Resurgence, edited by Satish Kumar. The aim is to encourage people to take part in small acts of defiance for the environment within their own communities.

In our recent past, Sunday was a day of rest – a day of reflection. With the Slow Sunday approach it is aimed to make Sunday a day where we consume less, reduce our food miles and our carbon footprint and also make it a day when we engage with our family, friends and local community. This is where small, simple actions, like baking bread, can make a significant difference to our immediate environment and the planet as a whole. It is about acting locally but thinking globally.

Bake locally – think globally

Baking bread is not as difficult as many people think. If you can boil an egg, you can bake bread. It may be a small action but it’s also a simple way of making an environmental statement and taking a stand. The power of local action – many small actions at a local level – can bring about big change at a global level.

But what has baking bread got to do with saving the planet?

The Resurgence Slow Sunday is inspired by two of the most profound philosophies of our time – Schumacher’s ‘Small is beautiful’ and Gandhi’s ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Big change is possible though small, meaningful actions at a local level. It is only by changing our immediate environment that we can pave the way for change on a larger scale. In other words, we can make the world a better place, but it will only happen when large numbers of people join together and practice what they believe in. And, in the same way that Gandhi made spinning an act of defiance against oppressive colonialism, for Resurgence Slow Sunday on September 28th, the organizers are asking consumers to make good, healthy home-baked bread a symbol of environmentalism.

Three reasons why baking bread is a seemingly small step, with potentially enormous environmental consequences:

  • Only 4% of bread is baked in small, neighbourhood bakeries. And almost 90% of bread is mass-produced in factory conditions. Thirteen big manufacturers control bread market in the UK which accounts for £3 billion a year. Nearly ten million loaves of bread are sold in the UK every day; their daily delivery clocking up an enormous carbon footprint. This is bread is full of enzyme-based ‘processing aids’ that by law don’t have to appear on the label.
  • In addition it has to be said that most, if not indeed all, of the bread “baked”, or should we better say, manufactured, by those mass-production system is tasteless for sure.
  • Bread diversity is a symbol of cultural diversity. Regional varieties represented grain diversity as well as diversity of style. At one time, this bread was available on your doorstep from your local baker.
  • Baking bread is an act of meditation. Through this simple action we are able to slow down, pay attention and reconnect with tradition. It is something to share and to celebrate.
While it may be true, as some cynics reading this might say, that the simple act of baking bread is not, even if done by millions on Resurgence Slow Sunday, going to change the world, at least not instantly, it can, nevertheless bring us all together into a more cohesive force to bring about the necessary change.

For more simple recipes and further information on Resurgence Slow Sunday go to

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

BOGO LIGHT - Advertisement

Phase out coal and burn trees instead, a leading scientist urges

by Michael Smith

Now, what a good idea. This could put forestry really back on the map.

The world and the human race, in short all of us, must urgently embark on a massive program to power civilization from wood to stave off catastrophic climate change, one of the world's top scientists said recently.

Twenty years ago, Professor James Hansen was the first leading scientist to announce that global warming was taking place. Now he has issued a warning that a back-to-the-future return to one of the oldest fuels is imperative because the world has exceeded the danger level for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Current targets on emissions are 'a recipe for global disaster, not salvation' he said.

We have recently only made mention of this, that is to say, that the burning of wood is much better than the burning of anything else for heating and, so I am sure, powering electricity generation. Here especially via CHP plants.

Growing trees, which absorb the gas from the air as they grow, burning them instead of fossil fuels to generate electricity, and capturing and storing the carbon produced in the process is needed to get the greenhouse effect down to safe levels, he says.

The dear professor talks about storing the carbon produced from the burning. May I ask what for? If we grow trees for burning then all we release is the carbon that the trees absorbed over their lifetime and the carbon released will “feed” other trees which, in turn, will be going the same way, e.g. into the furnaces.

We must not, however, grow special woods for this but should and must use the wood from the current forests and woodlands that are being managed. No, dearest misguided eco warriors, we must not leave the woods and forests unmanaged. On the contrary, they will only thrive if they are managed and especially if they are managed as a means to reduce our impact on the global climate. Forests and woodlands, properly managed and cared for, are our best insurance policy.

We also must plant new forests and woodlands urgently, but those must, as I said before, made up of a mixture of woods and not be mono-cultures.

The level of carbon dioxide stands at 385 parts per million (ppm), about 100ppm above what it was at the start of the Industrial Revolution. It is rising by about 2ppm a year. The most ambitious international efforts focus on stabilizing it at 450 ppm, though few see this as achievable.

One can but wonder as to whether anybody has ever though of linking the fact that the carbon dioxide level has risen that much with the fact that ever since the Industrial Revolution we have been cutting down trees as if there is no tomorrow and where we do not cut them down now we let them rot. The process of wood rotting also releases carbon dioxide, namely that which the tree, over its lifetime, stored.

Aside from the fact that climate change is a natural cycle of the Earth, the increase in CO2 is more than likely due to the fact that the world's carbon sinks, the forests, have been shrinking ever since the Industrial Revolution because of our insatiable hunger for wood (later to a degree to be replaced by coal and then oil) and when it comes to the large forests in Canada that are cut down to be made into paper tissues and paper towels (whatever is wrong with a cloth handkerchief and a cloth towel?) by the likes of Kimberley Clark, the producers of Kleenex and other brands, and the wholesale slaughter of trees in the Rainforests of the world, now even in the pursuit of a green goal, that of bio-diesel, are still shrinking at an alarming rate today.

There is but one answer: stop cutting down all the forests willy-nilly and turn them into sustainable management, to be managed for all our needs, be this furniture and building wood, firewood and others products. We also must get away from the notion of the “habitat piles” of wood to be left rotting in the woodlands and forests. They release CO2 back into the atmosphere without benefiting anyone and in addition to that much of the wood that is left “as habitat”, which would years ago have gone to homes as firewood, is in fact creating a danger for the woods and forests, in the form of fire hazards as well as a haven for tree diseases.

But Professor Hansen says that he is convinced that 350 ppm is the absolute maximum that will avoid the loss of the polar ice sheets and other disasters. He says that all coal power stations must be phased out by 2030, unless they are equipped with special "carbon capture and storage" equipment that stops the gas escaping into the atmosphere. If that was done, the level could be stabilized at 400 ppm. After that, a vigorous program of planting trees to suck up carbon dioxide – coupled with the use of carbon capture equipment when the trees are burnt, and improvements in agricultural practices – could get levels down to 350 ppm "within a century".

As I stated above, there is no need to capture the carbon from the burning of the trees as the CO2 thus released will be absorbed again by the new trees that are being planted and those that are still growing normally. Carbon is the natural food of the trees and therefore there is no real need to use any carbon capture when wood is being burned.

However, we need more trees and more other green plants, plants which will absorb CO2 as food.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Wins 2008 Rubber Dodo Award

Palin has sought to remove Endangered Species Act Protection for the Polar Bear, suppressed and lied about State Global Warming studies, and denied that Global Warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions

TUCSON, Ariz.— The Center for Biological Diversity awarded Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the 2008 Rubber Dodo Award. Last year’s award, which inaugurated the prize, went to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for setting a new record in refusing to add imperiled plants and animals to the endangered species list. This year’s award goes to Governor Palin for fighting Kempthorne’s designation of the polar bear as a threatened species.

“Governor Palin has waged a deceptive, dangerous, and costly battle against the polar bear,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Her position on global warming is so extreme, she makes Dick Cheney look like an Al Gore devotee.”

Palin has waged a deceptive public relations campaign, asserting that the polar bear is increasing. But many populations (including Alaska’s southern Beaufort Sea) are in decline and two-thirds (including all Alaska bears) are projected to disappear by 2050 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Palin has repeatedly asserted that Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists found fatal flaws in the sea ice models used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the polar bear is threatened. When challenged, Palin refused to release the alleged state review. Independent scientists eventually obtained a summary through the federal Freedom of Information Act, revealing that Palin had lied: The state mammalogists concurred with the Fish and Wildlife Service determination that Arctic sea ice is melting at an extraordinary rate and threatens the polar bear with extinction.

“All global warming deniers are eventually forced to suppress scientific studies, and Palin is no different,” said Suckling. “To maintain her ludicrous opposition to protecting the polar bear in the face of massive scientific consensus, Palin stepped over the line to lie about and suppress government science.”

Palin has since filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Bush administration to have the threatened listing overturned. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey announced on September 16th that the 2008 summertime Arctic sea-ice melt was the second greatest on record, nearly matching the extraordinary melt of 2007.

“Palin’s insistence that Arctic melting is ‘uncertain’ is like someone debating the theory of gravity as they plunge off a cliff,” said Suckling. “It’s hopeless, reckless, and extremely cynical.”


In 1598, Dutch sailors landing on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius discovered a flightless, three-foot-tall, extraordinarily friendly bird. Its original scientific name was Didus ineptus. (Contemporary scientists use the less defamatory Raphus cucullatus.) To the rest of the world, it’s the dodo — the most famous extinct species on Earth. It evolved over millions of years with no natural predators and eventually lost the ability to fly, becoming a land-based consumer of fruits, nuts, and berries. Having never known predators, it showed no fear of humans or the menagerie of animals accompanying them to Mauritius.

Its trusting nature led to its rapid extinction. By 1681, the dodo was extinct, having been hunted and out-competed by humans, dogs, cats, rats, macaques, and pigs. Humans logged its forest cover and pigs uprooted and ate much of the understory vegetation.

The origin of the name dodo is unclear. It likely came from the Dutch word dodoor, meaning “sluggard,” the Portuguese word doudo, meaning “fool” or “crazy,” or the Dutch word dodaars meaning “plump-arse” (that nation’s name for the little grebe).

The dodo’s reputation as a foolish, ungainly bird derives in part from its friendly naivetĂ© and the very plump captives that were taken on tour across Europe. The animal’s reputation was cemented with the 1865 publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Based on skeleton reconstructions and the discovery of early drawings, scientists now believe that the dodo was a much sleeker animal than commonly portrayed. The rotund European exhibitions were accidentally produced by overfeeding captive birds.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Source: The Center for Biological Diversity

Letter from Alaskan Governor sparks fury

by Michael Smith

Clean air campaigners, and other environmentalists, are fuming after the revelation that the Governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has made an attempt to block a piece of legislation to cut air pollution.

A letter from Ms Palin, the Governor of Alaska, to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has surfaced in which she urges him not to sign the Ports Investment Bill.

It is a little beyond my understanding why the Governor of Alaska has to interfere with the affairs of another federal State of the Union?

The Ports Investment Bill would tax container ships arriving at Californian ports and would put the money thus raised towards projects to reduce congestion and air pollution in the state, including the toxic fumes produced by shipping.

Ms Palin, however, says that this move would damage the economy of her state, Alaska, and she argues that most goods arriving in Alaska come by container ship.

The letter, dated August 28, has been seized on by environmentalists and by Democrats. The latter because Governor Palin has been announced as John McCain's running partner in the Presidential elections.

She writes that for Alaskans, a very large percentage of goods (90% or more) shipped to Alaska arrive as marine cargo in a container.

"Many communities", she writes, "lack road access and depend entirely on the shipment of goods by container.

"Shipping costs have increased significantly with the rising price of fuel and these higher costs are quickly passed onto Alaskans. This tax makes the situation worse."

David Pettit, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Southern California Air Programme, said Governor Palin should be "ashamed" of the pollution her state causes in California.

"Right now, ships going to Alaska and Hawaii contribute to this pollution every time they leave California docks, and the citizens of Alaska and Hawaii are getting a free ride because they pay nothing for the California pollution that these ships cause," he said.

I think that we all can but echo the sentiments of the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Southern California Air Programme quoted above and Ms Palin should indeed be "ashamed" of her interference in the affairs of another state of the Union. If she has something to say on that issue she should have used a different and public forum rather than using a more or less personal letter to her opposite number in the State of California.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said urged Governor Schwarzenegger not to give into other states' fears and sign the Bill.

He added: "I am disappointed that Governor Sarah Palin has chosen to put private interests ahead of the people's interest."

While Governor Sarah Palin may not have, actually, for that would be going too far maybe, as insinuated by the Mayor of LA, chosen to put private interests before the interests of the people as she put the interests, so at least it would appear, of Alaskans, before that of the residents of other states and indeed the world. However, this still is not a way that business can be conducted. Also, she has put the interests of the shipping businesses before that of the people of California, the USA and even the world. Questions may have to be asked as to where he interests lie in this latter issue.

The Bill was approved by the Senate earlier this month and now requires Governor Schwarzenegger's signature to become law.

The Coalition for Clean Air - which is now running a campaign urging people to write to the Governor asking him to sign the Bill - described it is "the best funding option on the table to deal with the crises of port pollution and cargo congestion".

Why is the transportation of those goods to the states such as Alaska and Hawaii switched over to the same kind of ships that are now carrying wine from France to the Irish Republic, namely sailing vessels of the three or four mast variety? Thus there would be virtually no harmful emissions bar those from the diesel generators for electricity – unless one would want to rely on solar and wind power for the running of the communications equipment and such like.

The world as a whole, and especially when we are talking, basically, coastal shipping traffic, needs to go back-to-the-future in some aspects here and sailing vessels are the answer, as has been shown in the transportation of the wine previously mentioned.

While this takes a little longer and while containers probably cannot be carried on such sailing vessels of the clipper and other variety this is a way of shipping that will reduce harmful emission, whether we believe in global warming/climate change from CO2 or not, for the harmful emissions are not just CO2, and also will cut fuel costs.

Oh, but, alas, we no longer have trained seamen, have we now. All we nowadays have is just button operators of completely automated ships. Steering is done by hydraulics and by means of thrusters and the old wheel is gone altogether. Most of those so-called seamen of today would not know how to steer a ship manually by means of a wheel and especially not one that is powered by the wind by means of sails. I guess we need to get some training going again.

Back-to-the-future is, in many aspects, the only answer to the current problems as regards to the environment and our home planet – well, heck, we have got no other planet – and even our economy.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

From Mules to Biofuels

Farmers and policymakers are wrestling with two main concerns when it comes to ethanol production: the effect of ethanol demand on food prices, and changes in land use that are detrimental to the environment. While families were sharing corn at backyard barbecues this summer, both issues perked up ears across the globe.

The Environmental Protection Agency rejected Texas Governor Rick Perry's request for a waiver on the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline. He contended that the current standards would severely harm the economy through adverse effects on food and fuel prices. In upholding its Renewable Fuel Standard Program, the EPA requires that 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels be blended into the nation's gasoline supply this year. The standard for 2008 was raised in February to 7.76 percent from 4.66 percent, with the overall total increasing to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The EPA review of Gov. Perry's waiver request found that the use of corn-based fuel would "have no significant impact in the relevant time frame."

Grain farmers and the ethanol industry instead blame higher food prices on the spike in oil prices. The U.S. Department of Energy supported the EPA decision. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the country needs a "diverse array of cost competitive technologies and sources to overcome our addiction to oil in a time frame that is consequential, and biofuels constitute a prominent—but not an exclusive—promising pathway."

Some critics of this decision point out that approximately one-third of the U.S. corn crop will eventually go to produce ethanol.

"When you're diverting a third of the [corn] crop to ethanol it has a real impact on prices," said Republican Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire. "To produce a gallon of ethanol takes 1700 gallons of water. Thirty million acres of land, going to produce the corn for ethanol."

Gov. Perry argues that the decision "is a mistake that will only increase the already heavy financial burden on families while doing even more harm to the livestock industry. Any government mandate that artificially props up a single industry to the detriment of millions of Americans is bad public policy."

Others critics—mainly conservation groups—also criticized the decision, arguing that the research only considered the economic impacts of ethanol. The Environmental Working Group's director of government affairs, Sandra Schubert, called the mandate misguided and said it was "forcing farmers to plow up marginal land and wildlife habitat while increasing global warming and dumping toxic fertilizers and pesticides into our precious water sources."

"America should be focusing on viable clean energy solutions like conservation, solar, and wind," said Schubert.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California asked U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to investigate whether the U.S. ethanol import tariff violates the rules of the World Trade Organization. The tariff maintains an artificially high domestic price for imported sugarcane ethanol, which is more energy efficient and comes from countries like Brazil. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa strongly disagrees with Feinstein's position, arguing that the possibility of a Brazilian challenge at the WTO would cause the United States to take unilateral action to lower the tariff.

"I think it is clear it's within our international legal obligations," Grassley said. "The tariff was accepted by consensus, and I want to emphasize by consensus, by members of the WTO, including Brazil at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of WTO negotiations, going back at least 15 years."

After the United States, Brazil is the second biggest ethanol producer in the world. Brazil exported two-thirds of its sugar crop last year. Japan's Toyota Tsusho Corporation, the trading company of the Toyota Group that also includes Toyota Motor, is interested in tapping the Brazilian market. The group is conducting a study, with Brazilian state-run energy company Petrobras, to explore the possibility of building an ethanol plant in Brazil's west-central state of Goias. Petrobras and local cane producers would be partners in the new mill that would be built in the Itumbiara vicinity, one of Brazil's most fertile areas.

About 3,000 miles away, Cuba is facing a similar debate over ethanol production. The Caribbean island is modernizing its sugar industry, but its plans to increase ethanol production have been scaled back. Luis Galvez, director of the sugar ministry's Sugar Cane Derivatives Research Institute, said that sugar derivatives such as ethanol will increase along with the modernization but not at the expense of food.

Two years ago, Galvez's opinion of ethanol was quite different: "Our country has begun an accelerated drive to increase alcohol production, modernizing existing distilleries and installing new ones to increase by five times installed capacity." This change in opinion follows former Cuban President Fidel Castro's denunciation of the use of food for fuel. Castro charged that using food for fuel was a crime against humanity resulting in the starvation of billions.

Ethanol production from food crops may be a contributing factor in the recent food inflation, but according to Toni Nuernberg, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, it isn't the only one. She attributes partial causality to drought, population growth, growing protein demand in developing countries, war, transportation costs, crop acreage shifts, and other factors. "Ethanol does not take food from the mouths of starving people," she toldChristian Science Monitor.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva takes a similar stance, arguing that there is often a failure to distinguish between the different kinds of ethanol. The energy yield from Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production is approximately eight times as efficient, and it costs significantly less to produce, as compared to ethanol derived from temperate crops. In addition, the crop requires fewer fertilizers and pesticides, and Brazilian farmers who grow it do not receive government subsidies.

The issue facing Brazil, which plans to expand its ethanol production, is environmental degradation. Although the best environment for sugarcane is the more fertile center of the country, some critics argue that cattle farmers in the south and center of Brazil are selling their pastures to crop farmers and moving their herds north into the Amazon where land is cheap and deforestation is easy.

This phenomenon may be the exception rather than the rule. Alexandre Strapasson, director of the sugarcane and agroenergy department at Brazil's agriculture ministry, argues that Brazil has more than enough arable land available to keep planting sugarcane—more than 7 million hectares in production already and nearly 160 million hectares of arable land remaining to be sown.

In an effort to address concerns over food for fuel, British oil major BP has formed a partnership with Verenium Corporation to speed development and sales of alternative ethanol made from nonfood sources. Their $90 million partnership is intended to advance development of cellulosic ethanol made from corn crop waste, the tough woody bits of sugarcane, and hardy crops like switch grass. The alliance is one of the largest partnerships to be formed between a multinational oil company and a biofuels startup.

Critics of cellulosic ethanol point out the high production costs. Verenium Chief Executive Carlos Riva said the company intends to lower the cost of its cellulosic ethanol from the current price of $3 per gallon to about $2 per gallon in the near future. Cellulosic ethanol could be better than corn-based fuel because it produces greater yields, has less exposure to commodity price swings, and offers greenhouse gas emission reductions of 80 to 90 percent.

Another promising source of ethanol is algae. This alternative does not harm the environment, grows in wastewater, or seawater, and requires nothing more than sunlight and carbon dioxide. Theoretically, algae can produce 10,000 gallons of biofuel each year per acre, compared to 300 gallons from an acre of corn. The problem yet again is keeping costs down.

The future of ethanol is unknown. If costs are dramatically reduced, then the notion that we can drill our way to energy independence will become even more of a fossilized idea than it already is. Human society may one day look back at the irony of switching, over the course of a single century, from one form of biomass transportation to another—from horses and mules to advanced biofuels.

Source: Global Policy Innovations Program

European Climate Poll Shows 61 Percent Have Acted

by Michael Smith

Climate change is, after poverty, the most serious problem Europe faces according to a Eurobarometer survey presented in the European Parliament on September 11.

According to the poll 61 percent of respondents claim to have taken some personal action to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. A quarter of those said they had changed their buying habits and used the car less to help the environment.

At the same time, the poll found that a majority believe that the people, governments, industry or the European Union are not doing enough about the warming climate.

The survey of over 30,000 people in 30 European countries found that 31 percent had not taken any action to change their behavior on account of the climate. Of those, almost half said they believe that government and industry should take action, while just over a third did not know what they should do.

This shows, yet again, that the powers that be do not really inform the people and, let us face it, the truth is also not always in the information, the real and full truth. The truth, for instance, that Climate Change may not be man-made as such but a natural phenomenon of our Earth and that we may not be able to stop it after all. While this should not stop us taking concern for the environment and our planet finally serious and do the things we are urged to do, and more still, such as getting away from our unhealthy relationship with the ICE, the infernal combustion engine.

The survey was conducted in all 27 EU member states, as well as in the three candidate countries, that is to say, Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Those who have taken action said they believe it would make a difference, that they had a duty to protect the environment or were concerned about what they would leave for future generations.

Across Europe, 28 percent of respondents said they use greener transport and 27 percent buy seasonal and local products that reduce CO2 emissions.

The results were presented at a press conference in September 2008 in the European Parliament by Italian MEP Guido Sacconi, who chairs the parliament's Temporary Committee on Climate Change.

"The fact that many Europeans say that they do not have enough information, in particular on the actions that citizens could take, clearly indicates that we have to think about initiatives and measures to spread this knowledge more widely, especially among the most vulnerable groups of our population," said Sacconi. "The role of regional and local authorities in this task will be crucial."

To which one can but add that the information must be truthful and also look at the possibility that I have mentioned above, namely that this could all be something we cannot stop and that we must therefore also consider as to how we can live with it, while still, as I have also said, doing all the right things by the environment and our Planet.

Sacconi noted differences in attitudes in different countries, saying he thought the responses of those polled depended on whether or not the country had experienced an ecological disaster.

He cited forest fires and droughts in Greece and Cyprus as two examples of countries where people's ecological awareness had been raised by natural disasters.

Sweden is the country where most people have taken personal action to help reduce their C02 emissions, with 87 percent of respondents saying they have done something.

By comparison, 60 percent of people in Latvia and Lithuania said they have taken no action.

At the press conference, Europe's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas pointed to the stimulating effect that green industry could have on Europe's economy. He noted that 56 percent of those polled believe that climate change can help the economy.

"Saving energy means saving money, so there is a common logic that citizens consider it to be beneficial for economy," Dimas said.

He went on to say that "citizens have role to play both as consumers, by choosing to buy the right products, and as voters."

By the end of this year, Europe's Environment Ministers meeting in the Council along with elected MEPs should reach an agreement on a package of Europe-wide legislation that will help mitigate climate change.

Dimas called on MEPs and the Council of Ministers not to "dilute" the proposed measures.

Margot Wallstrom, vice-president of the European Commission and a former environment commissioner, said, "Surveys of this kind are important components in our policy-making. It is striking to see that European citizens take the issue of climate change so seriously and it confirms our belief that continued, coherent EU action in this area is imperative."

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Horse and Buggy plus Wind Turbine

Indiana Amish Begin Embracing Renewable Energy

by Michael Smith

The junction of spirituality and environmental awareness seems to be getting more crowded. Even the Amish are now – and this is not actually all that new, as some of the orders that are not so strict have been at this already for a while – getting in on the act.

It is not the electricity but connection to the grid that the Amish object to.

While the majority of people probably associate the Amish with living outside of modern life, without electricity and machinery this is not entirely correct and true. While initially (like in the 1920s...) there was hesitation to adopt electricity, it was not so much the electricity itself that was the issue but the connection to the grid and therefore the outside world. Low-voltage electricity is perfectly permissible and will rising diesel prices, the cost of fueling generators is causing some people to look to renewable energy to fulfill their needs.

When it comes to machinery there are many places where the lathes and such for the workshops are either powered by water or even by steam engines. Again it is not the power, and such, but the connection, via the grid, to the outside world, that the Amish have a problem with.

When it comes to electricity some are turning to solar power and others are turning to wind power. Wind turbines can now be seen in a fair number of Amish places as can photovolatic cells on roofs and elsewhere. In many places it is a combination of anything renewable they can find, including water.

In some instances renewable sources of electricity supplements other off-grid options such as diesel generators, with which to power lights, refrigerator, freezer and machinery.

Some businesses too are getting gin on the renewable act in Amish territory Brian Burkholder owns Solar Energy Systems in Nappanee, Indiana and probably 70% of his customers are Amish. This is probably not least partially because he himself is Amish.

Off-grid is good for the Amish directly as well as for their businesses, whether they sell the technology or whether they use it for whatever they produce.

The interesting thing in this is that at least in a certain part of Indiana, a group of people associated with largely eschewing the modern consumer world seem to be adopting renewable energy faster than the surrounding population. I doubt that that is a bad thing though.

Whether we agree or disagree with the Amish on a religious basis and also on the way some seem to live and raise their families and such, some of their ways could teach us a lot as to how we could take pack some of our peace in life and on the planet. Their system, in general, has a lot lower impact on the environment than our hectic modern life has.

When we see Amish embracing the Internet and technology, even though, probably, with filtering systems, and who could blame them for that, then I know that the time is right to take a few more leaves out of their books.

However, their rather lower impact life could be a guide to some of us ate least. While I am not sure how horse and buggy would go down on the streets of London, and even in my location just outside the British capital, it is, to some extent, doable and it does not have to be horse and buggy but just the humble iron horse, aka the bicycle, and trailer.

I always do, to some extent, admire the Amish not to have taken up, in general, the infernal combustion engine. Mind you, when Henry Ford invented it, it was never meant to run on gasoline. But gasoline became to cheap hence the use of gas as fuel and what have we done...

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008

Heat with wood for the common good and the good of the forest

by Michael Smith, RFA

High gas and heating oil prices are renewing the interest on firewood from local forests

The German NGO Wald in Not regards the use of wood as renewable energy source as an important contributor to the care and conservation of our local woodlands and forests.

Wood is “stored solar energy”. It is produced in our woodlands and forests by means of energy from the sun, carbon dioxide, water and the nutrients that are soluble in water and are carried in it.

Heating with wood means therefore heating with the cycle of nature. The carbon dioxide that is being released by the process of burning the wood is by means of the energy of the sun absorbed by the growing trees and returned into the growing wood. This wood is then once again available as new raw material. The CO2 that is being released by burning the wood would also be released if this wood would be allowed to rot and decay in the woods.

The wood used for firewood is that wood that has no other commercial value, in other words wood that is not suitable for building lumber or as timber for the making of furniture, for example. If it would not be burned for heat it would rot away in the woods. Firewood is also created as a byproduct, so to speak, in the production of high value timber in forests and hence is available in sufficient volume in properly manages forests and woodlands.

Wood as a fuel is extremely environmentally friendly:

  1. because its production is simple and uses little energy
  2. the transport distances for wood are generally short
  3. the storage of firewood does not endanger the environment
The use of wood for fuel, as firewood, from local forests and woodlands ensures the necessary care and conservation of the woodlands and forest through the forestry companies and the state or private forest estates, as it improves their economic situation.

The care and thinning of the forests and woodlands is an urgent and necessary preventitive measure against the changes in the environment and the climate. In order to counter those we must reconstruct and convert our woodlands and forests into stable mixed woodlands with a broad spectrum of trees that are right for the soil and area.

Modern wood heating system that are properly installed, managed and maintained retain in comparison with other energy systems a firm position and also fulfil the regulations for clean air.

In conjunction with solar-thermal installation for the production of hot water – solar collectors – modern wood burning furnaces constitutes the ideal combination for use of renewable energy sources to provide a good insulated so-called low energy home with heat.

© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008