‘Put our safety first!’

British women and Sustrans in an urgent safety plea to governments

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Women don’t believe that British roads are safe enough for them to cycle on and the truth is that they are not.

That is the clear message from a poll of British women by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, in which concerns for their own safety emerged as the most common reason why women do not cycle at all.

Governments have yet to take the problem seriously, but, women who are no longer prepared to feel prevented from cycling by an unsafe environment can now make their feelings known.

From Tuesday 1 September to the end of November they will be visiting www.bikebelles.org.uk to support ‘Motion for Women’, Sustrans’ urgent plea to governments to make cycling in Britain safer for women. The petition is already being backed by organisations including Mind, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and the Townswomen’s Guilds.

Melissa Henry, Sustrans’ Communications Director, said: ‘Women are telling us in no uncertain terms that they don’t feel the roads are safe enough for them to cycle on. Their response so far to the woefully inadequate provisions for cyclists in Britain has been simple; they don’t cycle. In fact, 79 per cent of women do not cycle at all.’

‘But, women are also telling us that they desperately want that situation to change. The desire to cycle, and to enjoy all the benefits that cycling brings, is becoming a priority for women. We need to make it a priority for governments too and push for real changes in the way our villages, towns and cities are planned. Now women have 90 days to register their support so we can ensure their voices are heard across Britain .’

Some of the vital changes that women believe are necessary include the creation of more cycle lanes that are separated from all other vehicles - 67 per cent of women in the Sustrans poll believe this would encourage more women to travel by bike.

But, let's face facts: it is not only women that have this problem. Our roads are no safe for male cyclists either. Too many motorist do not like sharing the road with cyclists and treat cyclists people who should not be on the road.

Personally I have heard the comment many a times – from a passing car – that cyclists have no right on the road as they don't pay road tax, etc.

It is about high time that the driving public be educated that the cyclists were here before the motorcar and will be here still after the car.

Sustrans’ ‘Motion for Women’ petition will be open for 90 days from 1 September. Every voice will count, as all signatures will be presented to Government in December. Women are asked to add their support at www.bikebelles.org.uk then circulate to all the women in their lives who deserve a safer space for cycling.

Sustrans is already leading the way for positive change as part of its year of activities to encourage more women into the saddle. The experiences of women when shopping for bikes and accessories, gathered via the bike belles website, is currently being used to inform parts of Britain’s bike industry to help them better cater for needs of women.

© 2009



by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, August 2009: John Lewis is publishing a modern reworking of the classic war-time pamphlet, “Make Do and Mend”, with all tips provided by its own employees. Partners past and present have collaborated on the booklet, which is packed with money-saving advice.

The booklet will be available in all stores from the beginning of September.

The guide is being launched as households continue to think about consumption in a new way.

The original “Make Do & Mend” was a pamphlet that first published in 1943, when food and clothes were rationed in the Second World War.

The new version of Make Do and Mend has been brought firmly into the 21st century, incorporating advice on the maintenance and use of gadgets and appliances alongside more traditional household hints and tips and money-saving advice for the home.

Many of the tips are geared towards prolonging the life of furniture, electrical equipment and clothes.

The “Make Do & Mend” booklet by the John Lewis Partnership is the culmination of a six-month consultation involving all 28,000 Partners as well as retirees, some of whom were working in John Lewis stores at the time that the original pamphlet was issued.

John Lewis Managing Director Andy Street said: “We have for now become a nation doing our best to weave thrift with quality on a daily basis, and this guide is designed to help households to get the very best out of what they have.

Our lives are far more complicated than they were in the 1940s and we’ve forgotten some of the basic principles that can save a lot of time and unnecessary expense”.

He added: “We’re witnessing a reawakening of interest in traditional skills, including creating and maintaining things, and this is best evidenced in the strong performance in our haberdashery departments. Whatever the timing of the recovery, we believe that there has been a sea change in our attitudes towards possessions and for that reason this updated booklet is perfectly timed.”

When John Lewis' Managing Director Andy Street said that “our lives are far more complicated than they were in the 1940s and we’ve forgotten some of the basic principles that can save a lot of time and unnecessary expense” he is so correct and that is just the problem, also with out throwaway society as it is.

Year on year haberdashery sales are up 17% at John Lewis, with fabric sales having their strongest year in five years. Yarns are up 9%, wool up 9%, craft materials up 36%, buttons up 37% and sewing machines up 30%, with John Lewis own brand sewing machines up 75%. Sewing box sales are up 75% year on year and sewing kits are up 25%.

The new guide is divided into seven sections: Home Truths; Energy Efficient Know-how; Fashion Fixes; Laundry Day; Rescue, Repair and Reinvent and Pins and Needles. Many unexpected miracle products emerge in the new pamphlet, including toothpaste, egg shells, banana skins, WD40, rice, glycerine, potatoes, bicarbonate of soda, baby oil and fabric dye.

WD40 has many more uses, some of which the pamphlet mentions, and others are those of cleaning glass jars (and other surfaces) of the glue residue resultant from the labels.

Isobel McKenzie-Price, Editor, Ideal Home, said: "John Lewis Partners have unlocked a treasure-trove of wisdom from generations of resourceful Brits.

We’ve always known how to find clever ways of solving life’s little dilemmas, and this booklet celebrates our ingenuity, resourcefulness and downright common sense.

The ideas inside are as relevant today as they were when our grandmothers had to make do and mend, back in the days of rationing and digging for victory."

Christine Kasoulis, Head of Product Development at John Lewis said: “It has been a fascinating exercise sifting through the advice that we have received from partners and putting it to the test in our product testing lab. The booklet that we are publishing only really scratches - or should I say polishes - the surface.”

She added: “We’ve breathed new life into the original version to create a modern guide full of money-saving and sometimes counter-intuitive tips. How many people, for instance, know how to correctly match the size of their TV to their sitting room, that toothpaste is great for cleaning jewelery or that a couple of grains of rice in a salt cellar will keep the salt flowing smoothly? Being creative and careful is great fun and delivers a real sense of achievement.”

To support the revival of the make do and mend mindset, John Lewis is also offering a range of Make Do and Mend classes in its stores nationwide. Subjects include dressmaking, bag making, knitting and sewing and details on courses can be found on the John Lewis website.

All proceeds from the sale of Make Do and Mend 2009 will go to the John Lewis Foundation. The Foundation has been set up to fund charitable acts designed to benefit those communities, both in the UK and overseas, that create products supplied to John Lewis stores.

Limited quantities of the publication will be available at all John Lewis stores from September 1st, 2009.

Fittingly, content from this 21st century version will also be available for download from www.johnlewis.co.uk and via a free subscription to a dedicated Twitter feed, www.twitter.com/MakeDoMend2009, which will deliver regular bursts of advice condensed to 140 characters.

A suggestion might be to make the entire booklet available for download from the John Lewis website, for instance. This way the book could be greener still.

A selection of tips from the guide

  • Shine up shoes with the inside of a banana skin, allow to dry and then buff off with a soft cloth.

  • A plastic bag melted onto the side of a hot toaster or hob can be cleaned off with nail-polish remover. Make sure the appliance is switched off and has cooled down. Not suitable for use on plastic appliances.

  • Make sure the cooling elements on the back of your fridge are free of dust; it prevents them from releasing heat properly.

  • Give faded jeans a new lease of life with a denim-blue dye made for use in the washing machine (also works on black jeans). To remove residual dye from your washing machine run a hot cycle with a cup of bleach.

  • The trend for big TVs ignores the fact that room size and screen size work together to create optimum viewing conditions; save resources and money with the following guide:

  • Get into the habit of doing a nightly charger check; unplug them from the wall after use or they’ll keep drawing electricity, regardless of whether your gadget is attached or not.

  • Reinvigorate badly scuffed leather shoes by rubbing with half a raw potato. Then wipe clean and polish as usual.

  • Don't try to rub away lily pollen if it brushes onto clothing; instead, dab very gently with Sellotape to lift the powder away, then position it in direct sunlight for a few hours; more often than not, the pollen stain will completely disappear.

The John Lewis Partnership - The John Lewis Partnership operates 27 department stores across the UK, johnlewis.com, 213 Waitrose supermarkets and Greenbee.com, a direct services company. The business has an annual turnover of over £6.9bn. It is the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership where all 69,000 staff are Partners in the business.

© 2009


Turning waste into a resource

Meet the EcoComplex Project

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Why not have businesses and other groups make use of the garbage and sewage that was piling up every day in Catawba County’s landfills instead of letting it go to waste, was the seemingly simple idea of Barry Edwards.

He had heard of plans like this being successfully implemented in other communities and countries, and hence he knew that such a project would help save costs and create new jobs and resources, through recycling, that would benefit the county’s residents and the environment.

Thus was born the Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility at Catawba’s Blackburn Landfill.

Though it is still in its early stages, the complex has already helped move Catawba County up to third place from fifth in North Carolina in per capita recycling and has boosted the county’s revenues by $500,000 a year thanks to a new methane-to-energy project. “Every tie you see there has a benefit,” said Edwards, Catawba’s utilities and engineering director. “We didn’t just pad these people’s wallets. We get something from it.”

Edwards and his colleagues are already hard at work finding other innovative ways to convert the county’s waste into commodities and are encouraging businesses to relocate next to the landfills to take advantage of the project:

• An Appalachian State University research facility will use the grasses planted on the fields of buried trash to make/study biodiesel.

• A brick-making company is negotiating with the county to build a plant next to the landfill to use the heat from the methane-to-energy project to dry bricks.

• A vegetable greenhouse operation will use the carbon dioxide emitted by burning landfill gases to spur the growth of plants.

• A new sewage sludge composting facility will use the gas it produces to make more energy.

This is not rocket science but the powers that be tend to treat it like that and more often than not they cannot come up a with and implement an idea until they have spent often millions of studies the outcome of which the like of the Neanderthals could have told them, such as when the British government announced – via a press release – that via a GBP five million study they had 'discovered' (parenthesis mine) that waste wood can be burned. It can?

Such projects as the one above more often than not show the way what can be done with, as in this case, use of methane from landfill sites and sewage sludge but when this is attempted to be placed beyond the research stage into the wider world problems are being encountered.

Who or what is behind such problems I leave the reader to conclude though suffice to say that there are industries that would loose out if methane use would become widespread. Need I say more?

It is one thing to make the likes of landfill gases, e.g. methane, into a commodity it is not something that should be done with other recyclables though, For, as soon as that is being done the ethics goo out of the window and, when the values of the recyclables are down, such as happened at the beginning of the 2008/2009 recession, the materials are stored or, in many cases, were dumped in landfills. This is not the way it is meant to work.

Also, we may have to and should look at other ways of working with recyclables, such as proper upcycling in the way of TerraCycle, still to this day the only company properly devoted to doing that on a big scale and getting bigger every time.

The problem is that recycling is too often seen as something that must create a commodity and generate one. It should be something that helps all of us and not just some people trying to make money. Who pays you to sort out all the recyclables and then put them neatly at the curbside? Instead councils want to punish you if you do not do it.

On the other hand it is true that waste is a resource but it should not be seen too much as a commodity to be traded, which seem to be the case with, say, PET bottles and such, and this is not a good way to doing things.

A new way and a new approach are needed and it is not rocket science either.

© 2009

Did Greenpeace cave in to Kimberly-Clark?

It would appear that the answer is a probable yes...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In many other instance they go over the top, and not Greenpeace alone, and give the green movement a bad press and here they seem to have entirely caved in to the paper industry.

When it comes to any sort of environmental initiative, it is usually Greenpeace that is complaining that the effort is just not enough. They are more often than not the purists, demanding more than people are willing to give, out of a noble sense of urgency and responsibility. But after they suspended a recent campaign to stop Canada’s ancient boreal forests from being cut down for toilet paper, one ecologist says Greenpeace gave in too easily.

Dr. Glen Barry, environmental sustainability policy expert and founder of Ecological Internet, sent out a press release entitled ‘Greenpeace Wipes It’s Soft, Virgin Butt with Canada’s Ancient Boreal Forests’:

Greenpeace’s long-standing campaign against “ancient forest crimes” by Kimberly-Clark was suspended on the basis of promises that 40% of its North American tissue fiber will be either recycled or FSC certified by 2011. The company traditionally has used 3 million tones of virgin fiber a year, which will fall to 2.4 million tons if they are successful. This atrociously weak target will legitimize continued destruction of Canada’s ancient forest ecosystems for throw away paper products for decades.

Sorry, erm, how little? Just 40%... What is actually wrong with making toilet paper and paper towels from recycled paper? Does toilet paper really have to look snow white?

“In a world well past its carrying capacity, facing abrupt climate change and species and ecosystem collapse, we call upon Greenpeace to immediately disclose the ecological science that suggests primary and old growth forests can and should continue to be clearcut to wipe our asses,” questions Dr. Glen Barry. “It is just like Greenpeace to half carry out a campaign, achieve partial success, claim victory and move onto a more telegenic protest opportunity to fill their coffers.”

We also must call upon Greenpeace to embrace substance over style (for a change) and immediately disassociate itself from the Forest Stewardship Council’s ongoing certification of first time industrial logging of primary forests as being “well-managed” while implying sustainability.

The Forest Stewardship Council and its certifications have, in rencet times, show itself to be more then worthless and things are not as they should bere there.

“No one including Greenpeace can tell us how many tens of millions of hectares of primeval forest ecosystems are being destroyed under FSC’s certification label for, amongst other things, toilet paper and lawn furniture. Until Greenpeace and friends stop greenwashing FSC ancient forest logging, we call upon committed forest protectors to resign their membership from Greenpeace and other ancient forest logging apologists, and to stop using virgin toilet paper, no matter how sensitive their behinds,” explains Dr. Barry.

Wow. It is not often that Greenpeace is accused of not being tough enough on environmentally irresponsible companies. They are known for being among the biggest hard asses in the world of environmental activism, yelling “bigger, faster, more” like a drill sergeant when companies take baby steps toward better practices.

But Dr. Barry has one-upped them, saying “There is no such thing as ecologically sustainable or even mildly beneficial first time industrial primary forest logging, and Greenpeace should be ashamed of itself for legitimizing the trade. If you support Greenpeace, you support ancient forest logging that endangers our shared being.”

The greatest disaster as to destruction can be seen in the tar sands area of Alberta where it is said that Kimberly-Clark was the benefactor of the clear cutting of the forests there. Guess that has all gone the toilet.

There is, in my opinion, no need to use virgin forest for toilet paper (or anything else for that matter) and it would appear that the FSC label is not worth the paper it is printed on. In fact, in my view, the paper it is printed on is more valuable than the label.

Methinks a boycott is called for of Kimberly-Clark, the FSC and Greenpeace until all three clean up their acts.

© 2009

Government shouldn't steal from you says President Obama

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

President Obama, speaking in Cairo, Egypt, on June 4, 2009 described his ideal government:

"But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

While this statement made by President Obama sounds very good to everyone, I am sure, the question is as to when precisely the US government, his government, will start implementing the “don't steal from the people” rule.

However, it can but be assumed that that speech and the statements contained therein were just intended for consumption by the countries of the Muslim world and in Africa and thereabouts and will not, ever, become reality (in the USA).

Taxes are, in fact, theft by government decree and it does not matter what kind of taxes they are and how they are levied.

When you force people to pay something and threaten them that if they do not pay this they go to jail then this is not just theft; it is in fact extortion.

While extortion, aka blackmail, is outlawed and rightly so government can do so with impunity. This just cannot be right, of that I am sure.

While it can be accepted that, in order to have certain services, provided to the people by the state revenues have to be raised and people – the users of such services, whether this be refuse collection, street maintenance, parks or medical care – will have to contribute. The question is though; how much of our taxes really goes to under the name of which they are raised.

In short; in the main government is stealing from the people and that not just in corrupt nations of the third world but in the developed world too and especially in the old countries, such as Britain, France, etc. in Europe and the USA and Canada in the Americas.

What is especially not right in this revenue raising lark called taxation is that, for instance, tax monies go to bail out banks and big motor companies, and particularly as no one asked the people as to whether they would like their taxes spent in this way.

From the reaction of the people everywhere this was not the way they wanted the monies spent and their supposed representative misused, in my opinion, the monies that were entrusted to the Treasuries for other services.

Time for a rethink methinks...

© 2009

Imported food could be greener than local, says DEFRA

And pigs fly, says me...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One can but wonder as to whether those in government departments and parliament actually live in the same universe than do we. It has been obvious for a very long time that they are not on the same planet as us mere mortals.

Imported food from Brazil and New Zealand, a new a DEFRA-funded study has claimed, could have less impact on the environment than food produced in the UK.

Yeah, right! And rain flows upwards to the sky. I guess you can make anything fit.

Researchers from the Cranfield University claim they found that Spanish strawberries and tomatoes and lamb from New Zealand could be more environmentally-friendly than the same food produced in Britain.

The £161,000, two-year Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Food Commodities report suggests the "food miles" argument, which advocated locally-produced food over produce transported over great distances, is often flawed.

The study compared factors such as energy use, global warming potential, pesticides use and land requirement of seven foods, including potatoes, beef, lamb and strawberries.

It claims that British-grown strawberries and tomatoes are worse for the environment than are Spanish varieties because so much energy is needed to heat greenhouses here that there is a trade-off between the amount of energy needed to transport them to the UK.

While the production systems used by Brazilian and British poultry farmers were largely similar, the report says 25% less energy was used in producing Brazilian poultry meat.

“A main feed, soya, has much lower transport burdens in Brazil, Brazilian poultry houses are essentially naturally ventilated and structures are simpler so that the housing burdens are smaller,” it says.

So, do we have to feed them on soya? No, should the answer be here. And why does poutlry have to be in sheds? Time to rethink things, methinks.

The study, which was published last year but not made public by DEFRA, also says that lamb from New Zealand was more sustainable than British-produced lamb if transport was taken out of the equation.

Please note: it says... IF TRANSPORT WAS TAKEN OUT OF THE EQUATION. But transport from New Zealand to Britain often is by air and that is costly and must be part of the equation. Even frozen transport by sea has a huge environmental footprint.

“The global-warming potential arising from production of tomatoes and strawberries in Spain, poultry in Brazil and lamb in New Zealand remained less than from those foods produced in the UK, despite the greenhouse gas emissions that took place during transport,” the report says.

Unless consumers radically changed their lifestyles by becoming vegan or eating more seasonal foods, it may be better to import staple foods and avoid the emissions caused by refrigerating British produce for long periods, it adds.

Patrick Holden, Soil Association director, urged consumers not to let the report put them off from buying locally-produced food.

“People shouldn’t conclude that the food miles or distance food travels isn't an issue,” he said. “Consumers need to recognize it makes sense to buy staple foods which are in season and from as close as possible to where they live.

“We can’t eliminate international trade and nor would we want to, but let’s not use one or two examples to jettison the proximity principle.

“'Food miles’ was a shorthand to explain the need to localize our food sourcing and this report shouldn’t be used to undermine the need to re-localize our food systems.”

I can but agree with Patrick Holden of the Soil Association in his assessment above and we must come to understand too, as consumers, that we should concentrate on food in season and out of season use canned, whether bought canned in stores or canned at home in jars.

As said previously, statements like this in reports commissioned by British government agencies and then kept secret can but make one wonder where those people actually live.

How many strawberries in Britain are, in fact, grown in greenhouses? If they are and a lot of energy is being used for heating them then maybe the greenhouses need redesigning to use mostly the heat of the sun – yes, even in colder times – instead of artificial heat. In addition to that it is time that we came to understand that we cannot, as consumers, expect fresh fruit when it is out of season, such as fresh strawberries in, say, February.

Local food is better than imported food and I stand by that statement for it makes sense. Also, other countries have far less strict a regime when it comes to what is being fed to animals or what is being sprayed onto crops.

American beef, for instance, is mostly full of hormones and antibiotics and the animals stand often knee deep in their own filth in those feed lots. Not from whence I would want my steak. Thanks.

Reading between the lines of the comments from this report one can but wonder which food company has been paying backhanders to the researchers for it sure would appear as if they are in someone's pocket.

Buy local, eat local, and especially eat in season.

© 2009

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide
by Scott Kellogg & Stacy Pettigrew
with illustrations by Juan Martinez
242 pages paperback
Published by South End Press – September 2008
ISBN: 978-0-89608-780-4
Size 20.1 x 19.8 x 1.8 cm
Price US $16

The tools you need to create self-sufficient, ecologically sustainable cities says the main caption on the back of the book and while too some degree this may be aiming rather high as total self-sufficiency is something that is more than hard to achieve trying to be self-sufficient and self-reliant to some degree is nevertheless something that we must get down to.

Therefore this book is a useful little toolbox, in combination with another one or two good ones in this genre, is basically what we need in order to get some way towards that goal.

For those who are bored stiff of green lifestyle books that only seem to offer fluffy solutions indicating which product to buy, then Toolbox for Sustainable City Living book may be your new best friend in, as I have said, conjunction probably two other books in the same genre.

Written with urban-dwellers in mind, Toolbox is a guide that covers a broad spectrum of do-it-yourself topics, from vermicomposting to rainwater collection, to planting edible food forests to chicken-raising and making your own biogas digester.

Plus, authors Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew have definitely walked the talk: as members of the Austin-based Rhizome Collective, they helped transform a vacant warehouse into an experimental urban sustainability training center in 2000 and “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living” is the end result of nearly a decade of trials, brownfield remediation, community outreach and a $200,000 grant from the EPA.

The illustrations are somewhat hilarious and make the book extremely entertaining to read as well, which is always a plus with green instruction books of any kind.

In the small bit about pheasants the authors failed to mention one extremely important things and that is that pheasants must never be kept in the same housing as chickens. This is because chickens will get a certain virus which to them would be no more than a very mild cold but is fatal to pheasants. This just as a little advice to anyone thinking of raising pheasants as a fowl of sort for the table. Also, as the authors state, once they reach the age to properly fly the more than likely will take off for pastures new.

The book starts by basically serving up some real serious food for thought by raising some interesting questions such as:

  • Will cities still be capable of supporting their populations when big trucks are no longer delivering food?
  • What will happen when it becomes too costly to heat buildings?
  • Will basic sanitation collapse as water becomes scarcer and more expensive to pump?
  • What will happen to society?
While all these questions may appear somewhat alarmist to some, they are nevertheless reasonable questions in the context of a society and an economy that is largely based on non-renewable resources. Once those resources run out and if there are no serious replacements to hand the proverbial stuff will certainly hit the fan.

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living promotes what the authos call “radical sustainability", while at the same time questioning “green consumerism”, which for them…encourages consumption of a different variety. It does nothing to challenge the patterns of over-consumption and excess that have created the environmental crisis, and this is rather so true.

Now, instead or “ordinary” consumerism we are “blessed” with the green version and people spend, spend, spend on green goods. And while buying green, obviously, is better than buying non-green, so to speak, consumerism of any shade if not good for the environmental and society, especially as it also created waste.

This is one of those books that should definitely be on anyone's bookshelf who wants to learn to live a more sustainable life in city and countryside alike even though this book is – primarily – aimed at the city dweller.

© 2009


Avery is giving you the once in a lifetime opportunity to ship yourself off to Kenya and go on an amazing Eco-Safari holiday.

With ‘Shipping Out with BlockOut’, every time you purchase an Avery BlockOut Label product you’ll be given a unique in-pack code. Simply log on to www.blockout.co.uk to redeem this code and enter the prize draw to win the holiday.

The grand prize is a trip to Kenya where you’ll also get to see some of the trees being planted as part of the Avery ‘Help Plant a 100,000 New Trees’ campaign. On safari, you’ll have the chance to visit a variety of stunning national parks and game reserves. What’s more, while you wait to see if you’re the lucky winner, there are lots of other monthly prizes to be won too – ranging from Eco Breaks at Countryside Manors and Farm Houses to Eco Activities such as rock climbing lessons, kayaking, bungee jumping and lots more besides.

Avery BlockOut Labels are the new environmentally-friendly labels designed to enable you to re-use large envelopes, parcel packaging or mailing tubes without compromising on a truly professional image. The labels’ unique material works to ensure that everything underneath remains completely hidden whilst their ‘Bright White’ feature ensures a truly professional result every time. Also, the labels are recyclable as part of paper waste and are FSC-certified, made with paper from well-managed forests. And, of course, re-using packaging not only benefits the environment but will save you money too!

With different sizes and a wide range of labels designed to work on a variety of packaging types, there’s a solution to suit you, whatever your shipping requirements.

So reward yourself for helping the environment and get ‘Shipping Out with BlockOut.’

For more information, log on to www.avery.eu


Afghan elections 2009 – Fraud and intimidation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What else would anyone expect from the likes of Hamid Karzai and his ilk. He is going to try everything to stay in power. We are not talking democracy in a country like Afghanistan. It is not a place where democracy will ever work.

Afghanistan has always been a problem, if we want to put it that way, and is a very fractured place due to the varying tribes and groups of peoples with the Pashtuns, aka the Pathans, having been, due to their warrior nature, being more often than not he dominant group and been running the country.

In a society where tribal links and such count more than anything democracy, as perceived by the West, will never ever work.

Afghanistan is a feudal society and will remain such for many years and more than likely decades to come.

While many observers have great doubts about the 2009 elections in Afghanistan those from the United States and Britain and the European Union are willing to declare Hamid Karzai as the victor, in spite of the many irregularities that have been observed.

Not that that comes as a surprise to this writer for it has been obvious now for months already that the only government the Western powers that have invaded Afghanistan just after 9/11 would entertain is that of Hamid Karzai, who is nothing but a stooge of the Western allies.

Let no one believe any different.

Therefore the preemptive, basically, declaration by the likes of the EU mission and others, of the elections having been basically free and fair so that the status quo can be maintained.

So, British and American soldiers, and some from other countries, are dying for what in that country?

They are there and are dying there because of the ambitions that certain Western governments and government groups have in that country.

Let's face it. Afghanistan is bordering which country to the West? Yes, Iran, and between Iraq and Afghanistan, with the use of some the the -stans that once were part of the Soviet empire those powers basically have Iran surrounded.

Now the question: “when will we see a reason created for an attack on Iran?”

And with this question I shall leave the reader for the moment.

© 2009

The Other Climate Changers: Why Black Carbon and Ozone Also Matter

Washington , D.C., August 2009 – According to an essay published in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs, reducing emissions of black carbon soot and ground-level ozone would quickly make a considerable dent in the climate change problem and would also contribute to public health and protect crop yields. “The Other Climate Changers: Why Black Carbon and Ozone Also Matter,” is authored by Jessica Seddon Wallack, Director of the Center for Development Finance at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, in Chennai, India and Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a scientist and Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California , San Diego.

“Right now the world is looking at well over a 2 degree rise in temperatures from the pre-industrial age” said Ramanathan. “To avoid the severe consequences associated with such a dramatic change, we need to look at other feasible complementary measures, in addition to reducing CO2 emissions, that will provide near-term mitigation.”

Black carbon and ground level ozone are ideal pollutants to target to avoid passing climate tipping points: they are short-lived in the atmosphere (weeks to a few months), meaning that the benefits of reducing them could be felt almost immediately.

“Cutting CO2 is key for the long-term battle, but even the most aggressive reductions won’t save us from abrupt climate changes that may be triggered within decades,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The fact that reducing black carbon and ozone by 50 percent could offset the warming effect of up to three decades worth of CO2 emissions makes this a critical strategy to pursue.” Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a black carbon bill earlier this year, as did Congressmen Jay Inslee (D-WA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Mike Honda (D-CA). A provision on black carbon is also included in the Waxman-Markey climate bill.

Black carbon is produced largely by diesel vehicles and the burning of biomass, including in cookstoves in developing countries like China and India. It contributes to 7 percent of child deaths worldwide that result from fatal respiratory infections. Black carbon is also responsible for almost 50 percent of warming in the Arctic as well as extensive snow and ice melt in the Himalayas . Available technology such as diesel particulate filters for vehicles and cleaner-burning biomass and solar cookstoves can significantly reduce black carbon emissions.

Ground level or tropospheric ozone (different than the stratospheric ozone that blocks the sun’s UV rays) is formed by “ozone precursor” gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, and other hydrocarbons. Improving the efficiency of industrial combustion processes can reduce these gases. Besides a danger to breathe, ozone lowers crop yields. A recent study reported that ozone’s damage to crop yields in 2000 resulted in an economic loss of $14-26 billion annually.

“Tackling these two air pollutants and contributors to climate change will yield regional as well as global benefits. The health and agricultural co-benefits for the areas that do reduce emissions are especially compelling,” said author Jessica Seddon Wallack. “We hope that this article will raise awareness of the opportunity and accelerate local and regional emission reduction initiatives that contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change.”

Addressing the many dispersed sources of black carbon and ozone precursors will be an implementation challenge, but the fact that there are many co-benefits of taking action may mean addressing these substances is more politically feasible than tackling other emissions.

“Political feasibility is a key factor to consider with any kind of climate mitigation measure,” said James F. Hoge, Jr., Editor of Foreign Affairs. “The fewer parties that need to come to an agreement, the greater chance of success; with all of the co-benefits associated with reducing black carbon and ozone, it really presents an ideal situation for policymakers.”


Quality tools for the allotment gardener

Good tools are a must for the allotment and the vegetable garden at home

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you are growing food for whatever reason for you and your family at an allotment or a vegetable garden at home good quality tools that will stand up to the rigors of work are a must.

There is a lot of cheap tools about nowadays that look good with the price tag but in the long run they are nothing but a waste of time – in the main. I say “in the main” because you will always find an exception here or there but... in general you get what you pay for. Good tools can be, as suggested, expensive but, in the main, they are well worth the investment as they will last for generations.

When looking for good tools the first thing is to look at the materials and also the name. You can generally assume that those made by Bulldog Rollins, or Spear & Jackson, or Wilkinson Sword, are good quality and they do come with a guarantee – often a lifetime one.

Aside from the above there are also other makers whose products look extremely well made, whether they be Dewit in the Netherlands or this or that maker in the USA.

I do hope to be able to obtain samples of some of the tools of the not so well known makers for review and to let the reader know as to how those tools perform and how they handle.

The truth is that, as said before, in generally, good tools for the allotment and the vegetable garden/smallholding a an investment that will hold its value for more than one generation often.

In addition to boughten tools and such there are many instances where you can and will make your own that may be better than any that you can buy. Many tools have, indeed, started out life in that way. And you can, very often, recycle this or that thing into such a new tool.

A good book or two on old tools and on making your own gardening tools and equipment also is a good investment. In the same way as books on how to as regards to gardening is a good investment, and, in a way, books are tools too in this scenario. It is, however, tools of another kind that we are talking about here really.

Eliot Coleman basically said in his writing that if you cannot find the right tool that you want you should make your own and at times that is just the way to go.

Only recently, being also a professional groundsman in a municipal park, I made my own copy, sort of, of the Cobrahead Long Handle Tool, despite the fact that I have got one of them at home – and which I have reviewed.

The local council was not about to invest, I am afraid to say, despite the fact that the Cobrahed tool is brilliant tool, in those for the grounds staff of their parks and open spaces so I just made my own from an old issued drag hoe. It works; though in no way as good as the Cobrahead proper, but... as said, it works.

There are also other times when adapting a tool to suit you, such as changing a builder's trowel into a plant transplanting one, as described by Eliot Coleman in “The Winter Harvest Handbook” published by Chelsea Green Publishing. Often such adaption is the only way and at times leads to more that just that one tool or that one occasion.

There are, however, general good tools out there that can be bought and that fit the bill – in more than one way – and in most cases it is a a matter of “you get what you pay for” as far as quality is concerned.

One of the good manufacturers who gives good value for money – the tools don't cost the earth – is Bulldog Rollins and they have a variety of ranges or a variety of pockets. Most of the tools are still British made at their forges at Wiggan.

Then there are also a number of other makers such as Spear & Jackson and Wilkinson Sword in Britain, and many of their tools too are made in the country.

For serious gardening I would suggest that one avoids the cheap Chinese made tools as most of them just do not stand up to the rigors of allotment gardening and similar such work.

Good quality tools do not come cheap – in general – but in the main they will last for a long time if cared for.

© 2009

No targets for walking or cycling to London 2012 Olympics

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has admitted the Government has no targets for the amount of people who will walk or use cycles to get to 2012 venues.

The Government has poured millions of pounds into improving transport in and around the capital as part of the long-term legacy of the games.

But, with events due to be staged at venues all over the capital the opportunity to encourage millions of Londoners to walk or cycle is not being exploited.

Nor, so it would appear are there any provisions being made as regards to good and proper cycling and walking routes to the Olympic venues.

Speaking at the Foreign Policy Center's 'Access and Inclusion... Delivering the Green Games' Mrs Jowell admitted no targets were in place, making it impossible to commit to other infrastructure such as cycle racks.

She said: "As to targets for cycling and walking ... we're not setting specific targets."

With the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, committed to plans originally announced by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, to place 6,000 free rental bikes across London's nine inner boroughs Mrs Jowell seems to be ignoring the benefits of cycling for the games.

Mr Johnson's director of transport policy, Kulveer Ranger, at the same event commented on the lack of a sustainable travel plan.

He said: "It's not there as a fully fledged policy and it needs to be."

It sure does need to be there as a policy but as a writer based in the UK and just south of London I must say that I am not surprised as regards this attitude from the government at all.

As per usual London and Britain miss an opportunity to show the way in green innovation. Then again, the way are as regards to cycling, they could not lead if they tried for the will too create what is being asked for again and again they are not willing to provide.

As I have said previously Britain only makes half-hearted attempts and talks a lot but that about is it when it comes to cycling provisions.

The same is true as to public transit, e.g. buses, trains, etc. where fares are permitted to rise and rise in such a way that using public transport is not really financially viable over the use of the motorcar and hence no real uptake of the services and people remain in their cars for every conceivable trip. Public transport is, simply, too expensive.

But, we were talking about cycling and walking to the Olympics in 2012...

Cities who host the Olympics often have a rare opportunity to improve their infrastructure in a major way. London will host the games in 2012, and it is probably doing a lot of things right, but it seems like it could do more to make the city friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians. One of the weaknesses of the city's bid to the International Olympic Committee was public transportation and it still is, especially the cost of it. The decisions London makes now will have an impact for decades to come, so it is worth doing it right, but, alas,the entire thing is going well over budget and they will claim that they cannot make those provisions.

As already mentioned the British Olympics minister (a special minister just for this), Tessa Jowell, has admitted that she has no targets for the amount of people who will walk or bike to go see the games.

And we can be certain that without specific targets, set by her and her department, it will be most surprising if much emphasis is going to put on the greenest forms of transportation, namely cycling and walking, and that will be a great shame.

One can but hope, but I will not gold my breath, that they will reconsider and set some ambitious – but realistic – targets for walking and cycling to the games, and do their best to provide the infrastructure and incentives to make it happen.

Providing the infrastructure, however, is going to be the moot point in that they will claim that there are no finances for that. It would need paths planned and built for this and that would

What London needs is more bike lanes (especially physically separated ones) and maybe even some pedestrian-only streets.

London will live with the legacy of the 2012 Olympics for a long time. So let us seize the moment and make London a more bike and pedestrian-friendly city.

Let's start with London and then with rest to follow and that pronto! The entire country needs to take a new a different look at cycling (and walking) and with the proper infrastructure I am sure the take up of cycling and walking, to the Olympics and especially afterwards for shopping, commuting, school run and leisure, will follow.

At present the roads are just too dangerous for the cyclist as motorists are more or less prepared to mow down the cyclist without any hesitation should a cyclist come into their way. The attitude of most drivers is that cyclists have no right to be on the road and hence...

© 2009

Green DIY

Making things from trash

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Making your own things from scratch and especially from what others regard as trash, as waste, is one of he greenest ways to go about.

When the right mindset is being employed, as was done, say, by the Bushmen of the Australian Outback it is amazing what can be fashioned from what, theoretically, is waste and would generally be something to get rid off.

Prior to the Australian Bushman the Gypsy already employed this mindset and not just for making items and tools for his personal use but even making good for sale on markets.

There are many items of so-called waste that do never need to enter the waste stream as they can be fashioned into usable and salable goods.

To be honest most of us today do not think of making our own things from scratch and especially scrap; often they can be gotten from stores far too easily and cheaply.

We have lost the mindset of the make do and mend and of making our own things from this or that, ideally, item of waste rather than buying them. It is too convenient to buy cheap Chinese products in stores than to make things for ourselves.

In the time of our parents and grandparents shoe boxes, for instance, at least in the not so affluent households, were never thrown out. Rather they were employed as storage containers for all manner of things. No one would have ever thought of throwing one away unless it was damaged beyond use. Today, however, most of those end up in the trash and the selfsame people who throw show boxes away then go out an pay good money for basically the same thing in a store as a storage box.

This wastage is going on with so many other things too. Things that would not in the old days and also should not today even end up in the trash and more often than not, ultimately, in some hole in the ground called landfill.

There are many ideas out there on the Internet alone – for anyone who has not enough imagination of his- or her own as to what to turn this or that item of waste into.

And many of those ideas, and those from the books about the Australian Bushmen too, can be adapted for many items of waste.

Many good things get thrown out into the trash simply because they are packaging, such as, say, feedbags, of the burlap or plastic weave kind but which could be transformed to a variety of different kinds of bags and such.

There are many more examples that could be mentioned and many more upcycling ideas that could be put forward here but that, in fact, shall be the subject of a book currently in work and hence I will not devote too much time here on ideas and such.

Just to conclude I would like say that with enough imagination on our side there would be about 90% of all items currently thrown in the trash that could be given another life.

Let's go and do it!

© 2009

Grow Organic – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Start living the good life with this complete guide to natural, organic and chemical-free gardening

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781405330916
Size: 195 x 235mm 352 pages
Published April 1, 2008 by Dorling Kindersley
in association with “Garden Organic”

“Grow Organic” is a DK “Made with Care” book is created using the best ethical and environmental practices possible. The back cover shows you how DK have made this book differently and gives the book's environmental footprint. DK take great care to source local printers, FSC paper (Forest Stewardship Council) and to use only non-hazardous vegetable inks. Plus they only use printers who look after their workers.

From storing winter vegetables to making your own compost, discover how to plan, design and maintain your own organic garden with this comprehensive guide.

Pick up tips on a range of organic practices: from advice on how to grow delicious fruit and vegetables, to a troubleshooting section for common plant problems. Covers just about every size of garden with suggestions on how to make just a 4ft square plot productive.

Whether you're a novice or an experienced gardener – get outside and discover how to have a beautiful garden while respecting the needs of the environment.

This is another book that is very timely considering the situation that we all wind ourselves in in those economic and environmental times with the government suggesting people eat a more WWII diet again and grow their own food.

This book certainly can help there and while the book is entitled “Grow Organic” and, therefore, obviously, advocates organic methods through and through even if you decide to use chemicals to rid yourself of pests this book is still for you.

Local and homegrown is still better than store bought and hence thins book really is for anyone wishing to grown their own. And while “Grow Organic” not only deals with growing food but about the garden in general, including flowers and lawns, the self-sufficientish reader who wants to know about fruit and vegetables primarily will get much out of of as food growing is its prime subject matter.

Another great book from DK and here the new “Made with Care” range of books of this publisher.

© 2009

Now we will never be told the truth

Pan Am Flight 103... Who did the job?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

After Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi dropped his second appeal against his conviction for bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, and his subsequent release on “compassionate” grounds by the devolved government of Scotland we will never be told the real truth as to who and why Flight 103 was blown up.

In order for Mr. Al-Megrahi to be able to be released no criminal proceedings were allowed to be pending and hece his legal team had to abandon the attempt for a second appeal.

According to beliefs this appeal would have brought to light new evidence as to what really happened and it would appear that some powers – obviously – did not wish this truth to come to light.

Despite the fact that many of the Red Tops, like the Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Express, try to rile the people against the release of Mr. Al-Megrahi the truth is that a great many British people do not believe that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi had anything to do with the Lockerbie bomb.

It is about time that we came all to the realization that not only was the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, even though he may have been a Libyan security service officer, a miscarriage of justice, it was a travesty of justice.

The bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 has about the same smell to it as the crash of the Chinook helicopter, with the x-number of Northern Irish intelligence service officers on board, on the Mull of Kintyre.

There were – it is claimed four or maybe five – US intelligence officers on Flight 103 and conspiracy theories have it that they were targeted and that was the reason for the bomb. A bomb planted by who? The Libyans? Let's not be stupid.

Other sources mention a much greater number of intelligence officers, in fact an entire US intelligence operation in a country of the Middle East that had its cover blown and that were supposed to be resettled under new IDs and such in the US. Those sources claimed that the flight was blow up because of them and the finger has been pointing ever since, fairly ans squarely, at the company.

But, now we will never, ever, know, and that is exactly what the powers-that-be have intended and have designed it to end.

But, you say, our governments are democratic and benign. I tell you what; they are neither. Do you really think you have any influence in what the powers-that-be want to have done. If you do think thus then think again.

The release on “compassionate” grounds of Mr. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from Greenock Jail has nothing to do with compassion but everything to do with total and utter cover up. They do not want the public, in the UK, the USA, and the rest of the world, to know what really happened.

What a stick up.

© 2009

Germany braces for second wave of credit crunch

Germany's economics ministry is drawing up a raft of special measures with the Bundesbank to head off a fresh financial crisis, fearing that a loan squeeze by struggling banks will set off a serious credit crunch early next year.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

So! Right when the IMF and the British government are trying to tell us, a short while after Germany announced that they are coming out of the recession together with France, the Bundesbank, and they know what they are talking about, puts a rather big damper on things by announcing that things are going south again, more than likely.

That, I think, should have been obvious and the fact that we are not out of the woods as yet and may not be for a very long time to come unless we change our ways.

"The most difficult phase for financing is going to be in the first and second quarter of 2010," said Hartmut Schauerte, the economic state secretary.

"We are working as a government to create instruments that can offset a feared credit crunch or any credit squeeze in sectors of the economy," he said.

Mr Schauerte said firms with weak balance sheets may struggle to roll over loans as they come due in coming months. Negotiations with banks could prove "very difficult".

And this after they have just claimed that they are on the up. Maybe someone should get their act together and maybe the right hand should get to know the left hand.

State support is likely to be concentrated on boosting the capital base of German firms and providing credit insurance for exporters, perhaps to the tune of €250bn to €300bn. "If this service fails, we are going to see dozens of credit collapses," he said.

Axel Weber, Bundesbank chief and a key figure at the European Central Bank, said recently that the economy remained fragile fundamental problems in the credit system had not been resolved.

"I must warn that it is too early to talk about the end of the financial crisis. Unemployment is going to rise as 'Kurzarbeit' expires, and that could hurt consumption," he said, referring to the state scheme that subsidizes firms to keep idle workers on their books.

German politicians have tended to blame the credit crisis on excesses in the US, which exported toxic debt to incompetent Landesbanken through collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other exotica of the sub-prime era. But Mr Weber said German has a home-grown problem of its own that has yet to manifest itself.

"The first round of disruption in the bank balance sheets from structured credit products is behind us. Now we are threatened by stress from our domestic credit industry through the rise in the insolvency of firms and households," he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung

"All the banks, even the biggest, must strengthen their defenses. They need higher capital buffers, greater liquidity cushions, and better risk management."

While Mr Weber said Germany was resilient enough to withstand another shock, his comments are a surprise. The Bundesbank has in the past played down suggestions of an incipient credit crunch, despite warnings from the German banking association and the Mittelstand core of engineering and exporting companies.

The revelation that key government agencies are drawing up relief plans overshadowed news that the ZEW index of financial confidence has soared to the highest level in three years.

The headline index jumped from +39.5 to +56.1, although it is unclear whether this gauge tells us anything that cannot be gleaned from the ups and downs of the DAX index of Frankfurt stocks. The ZEW jumped the gun by signaling recovery much too early during the dot-com bust in 2002.

The latest surge reflects the general mood of optimism in the markets and the rebound in industrial production. The problem for Germany is that car scrappage schemes and pent-up orders for German goods built up during the freeze in global trade finance over the Winter may have disguised the underlying weakness of the economy. Unemployment is expected to rise by another million to 4.5m by late next year.

Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas, said the credit contraction was eclipsing recovery in Europe's bond market. "At the end of the day, there is not going to be any durable recovery until we see a revival in credit," he said.

And that is not going to happen, I am sure, for a very long time to come. The way things look the recession is going to be a double dip and the latter one is probably going to be a very deep dip. And it could be a very long time before we will come out of the dip and back to normal, if the latter will ever happen.

What we really need to do, I am sure, is to prepare for a new way. We need a new economy and a new system and no, I am not talking about communism or such like.

Personally, I do not think that we will ever get back to how we were and nor do I think that we should try to get back to such a position. A new way is called for an the current situation could be used to lay the foundation for such a new one. Time for a serious change and a return to old values.

© 2009


Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

by Andy & Dave Hamilton
Published August 6, 2009 (as paperback)
Hodder & Stoughton Trade Paperback
Price: GBP 20

This is the paperback edition of this book that was – originally – published in hardback in 2008 and at a whacking size of 400 pages in 7 ¾ x 10 ½ inches this book weighs in heavily even as a paperback.

If you are a fan of growing your own – and we all should become this more and more, and even the government is telling us that – of making do and mending, of finding ever new uses for this and that item of “waste”, but have limited time and outdoor space, you will love the practical nature of “The Self-Sufficientish Bible.”

You do not have to give up your urban lifestyle in order to live a greener lifestyle. You can do it right from the city, basically.

“The Self-Sufficientish Bible” is a going to be an invaluable guide, a call to arms and also a timely kick up the backside, and should be on every 21st century bookshelf in this country and, hopefully, also elsewhere.

The authors offer a huge range of advice on how to overhaul every aspect of your life from child-rearing to funeral arrangements and everything in between.
These include:

Step-by-step instructions on making plant pots out of newspapers and office equipment out of worn-out trousers.
Recipes for budget chutneys, nettle beer and dandelion wine, and many others, including recipes for seasonal foods.
How to establish allotment plots and the making of cold frames, compost heaps from pallets, cloches from empty soda bottles, etc.
Balanced, commonsense advice on loft-insulation, ethical banking, alternative energy, alternative travel, such as cycling, and others.

Alongside the retro joys of experimental home-brewing and wine-making there is a lot of serious, well-researched information. All the tips and recipes are tried and tested, either by the twins themselves or b y other members of their cult online community: www.selfsufficientish.com.

“The Self-Sufficientish Bible” is very much a British version of “Storey's Basic Country Skills” though more aimed at the urban dweller rather, though even much of the latter book can be applied to an urban setting with an allotment, and such.

“The Self-Sufficientish Bible” will definitely be a book that I shall read cover to cover over the next weeks or so and I shall make use of some of the instructions in the book, such as the making of a cold frame.

If you only buy one green advice book “The Self-Sufficientish Bible” has to be it. It is probably the most comprehensive, up-to-date and thoroughly enjoyable guide around.

Aside from me going to read it through thoroughly “The Self-Sufficientish Bible” will also become, of that I am sure, reference book for me as regards to my own food growing and other aspects.

A very good, timely and relevant book.

© 2009

Germany & France claim recession over, for them

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The German and French governments have both announced that the recession is basically over for their respective countries.

However, this is not the case for Britain and nor, so it would seem, for the United States.

While the growth in both Germany and France are but modest and some idiots keep claiming that Britain is out of the recession as well this is no way the truth.

France and Germany coming out of the recession now because they did not have the same problems with the housing market and the financial sector. While at the hight of the housing bubble one house in London would buy you five in Berlin. No wonder the British economy fell that deep.

Also, Britain basically destroyed all manufacturing industry, the mining industry and such and dedicated the economy to service sector and especially banking. Hence the big problems that we are encountering in Britain as far as the recession goes.

Banking fell on its face, in its various forms and everything else is suffering as no one can get any loans for business setup and other purposes and venture capital has all but dried up, as far as banks are concerned, as has private lending for whatever.

Having said that too many people have been and are still living well beyond their means and still pile up more and more dept onto their credit cards. We cannot continue, as individuals, as well as as countries, go living well beyond our means.

One day the loans will become due and the the *&^% will hit the proverbial air moving device. But this seems to be something that neither individuals not governments seem to understand.

Bankruptcy of individual people and companies in one thing but what happens when a country goes bankrupt? I dread to think...

© 2009

Industry responds to Government Strategic Defense Review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) gave a cautious welcome to the Government’s announcement of the intended Strategic Defense Review (SDR) for the next parliament, and encourages the review to seek input from industry.

Anyone can, obviously, imagine what kind of input the defense industry is going to make to such a review. They will be pushing for the renewal of the Trident nuclear program – an approach that is totally outdated in the modern climate of conflicts and wars – and for the huge aircraft carriers that are equally as unnecessary and useless, though will bring in much money for the industry.

In addition to the critical factors of security for the nation, SBAC is keen to ensure that the SDR will recognize that the UK defense industry, by the Government’s own criteria, is one of the top three sectors for re-balancing the UK economy towards hi-tech, hi-value industries.

Ian Godden, SBAC Chief Executive, said: “We welcome the Government’s recognition of the urgent need for an SDR, which SBAC has been calling for quite some time now, and encourage the Government to seek the input and expertise of our native defense industry in the formulation of this review. Employing 305,000 people and with an annual turnover of over GBP35 billion the defense industry is a UK manufacturing success story.

“Contra y to popular belief, the UK defense industry’s potential for investment will accelerate the UK economy, not drain it. It provides a tremendous return on the nation’s investment, with productivity 15 per cent higher than the UK manufacturing average and Gross Value Added shown to be significantly higher than the national average for manufacturing.

“With UK defense R&D investment being at 15 per cent of national spend at GBP3.4 billion, the UK, according to a soon-to-be-published report from Oxford Economics, can see a multiplier of roughly 2.3, meaning that a notional Government investment of GBP100 million would create GBP227 million of value elsewhere in the economy. We are an industry
providing security for the nation, the economy and the future.”

Not that we have any other manufacturing industries left in Britain, seeing the government has done everything it could, and not just the current Labor regime of Blair/Brown but the previous Tory administration too, to destroy the manufacturing base in this country and have Britain become a service and finance industry country. We have now seen where that leads us.

Today we have the greatest opportunity ever to cerate a new kind of manufacturing industry even in this country, a green one, one that reworks waste, as an example.

Then there are the other green industries that Britain could be leader in, such as in alternative energy, etc. But the country rather plays about with expensive military projects because the military-industrial complex is such a powerful lobby here and in the USA as well.

In today's war and conflict theaters nuclear weapons and giant aircraft carriers are about as useful as, as they say, tits on a hog. What is needed is the proper equipment so that the “boots on the ground” can operate with the maximum protection possible and Trident missiles and huge floating airfields are not very useful there.

Let's face it, a Trident submarine is not of much use to the battles that are going on in Helmand, Afghanistan and aircraft carriers too are not very helpful there, but still, no doubt, pressured by the military-industrial complex in the UK, the government will press ahead with those prestige projects that will swallow billions of pounds of tax money rather than equip the fighting men and women on the ground with the best available kit.

Proper personal individual body armor is too expensive and so are properly armored vehicles, we are told, but they seem to somewhere have the money allocated already for those prestige projects of a replacement of the aging Trident subs and for new giant aircraft carriers. This does not make sense.

© 2009

Website login with Biometric Identity Card

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Germany, Summer 2009: According to information moves are afoot for German computer users, and I doubt it will remain German ones only if the EU has any say in that, to having to use their biometric personal identity cards – such ID cards are compulsory in Germany – for logging in at Internet sites, such as Ebay, and others.

No longer will pseudonyms be permitted and neither made up personal information. Instead the ID card's details will be used to create accounts and used for logins. Aside from the simple issues of data security – well, not so simple really – there are issues here of privacy and such.

Big Brother definitely is taking over, as far as I can see, and biometric IDs and token RFID logins on PCs can easily be combined and thus track, basically, our every moves now on the computer; at least as regards to those sites where login is required.

While to begin with it is said that this will be for the online auction and other trade sites as well as for online shopping accounts only, it has already been muted that this system is going to be extended to all social networking sites as well, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

Noooo good at all. This is a privacy and ID theft disaster waiting to happen. Help!

Aside, as said, from the fact that this may be an ID nightmare waiting to happen it also means that any kind of anonymity and thereby personal privacy on the Internet will be gone.

Big Brother will then know precisely, through the use of the ID card, as to where you spend your time online and, probably, even what you “say” online, what you buy in an auction or in an e-store; you name it it will rack it.

Now someone tell me again that we are not headed for a total “Big Brother” world, with the powers that be trying to control every individual and his or her actions and lives.

Food for thought! And a call for action, perhaps?

© 2009

Low-carbon Farming

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the Low Carbon Transition Policy announced by the British government on St. Swithun's Day 2009 it has been announced that farming must become a low-carbon industry.

Now what precisely is that to mean.

As far as can be ascertained one of the aims is at reduction of fertilizer of the chemical kind and its overuse and overuse it most certainly is.

Then there is also the talk about encouraging farmers to take up anaerobic digestion for biogas. This is about time too and we should look at that possibility also in other applications.

If we really want to get to an agriculture that uses less carbon, as they put it, then a move forward into the past is required.

This will mean once again running livestock on arable farms in order to have this animal manure available as fertilizer and the growing of fertilizer crops, such as Alfalfa, as well as and especially the use of horses and even oxen once again instead of tractors and other fossil-fuel powered machinery.

We also must once again work with the seasons and the moon and with Nature rather than against it and against the seasons.

Presently many farmers – especially the managers of the agri-industry complexes – seem to battle Nature all the way and the seasons whether this is in market garden operations, the chicken shed or elsewhere. All of this puts an immense strain on the environment and on resources, especially as regards to energy.

At the present rate most of the agriculture in the countries of the developed world and also in some of the more advanced developing nations is NOT sustainable, not even at the greatest stretch of one's imaginations. Only very few operations in the countries such as the USA and Britain, for instance are, and in the USA they include especially the farms of the older order Amish, and those kinds of people in general, as they still use a way of farming that is close to the soil and Nature.

Taking a leaf or two out of the book of the Amish as regards to farming and actually implementing those lessons would be a good way to start on the route of a more sustainable farming and agriculture and learning those lessons and learning them well could leas us forward to a real good new way of faming.

Nitrate fertilizer use on farms, the more or less indiscriminate one, and its runoff is one of the main sources of water pollution in the countryside and the runoff from slurry and manure also is part of this and must also be controlled.

The concern as to the carbon footprint of farming is an overstated issue; the pollution and heavy fuel and chemical use one is of much greater importance.

With everything presently way too much emphasis is put on carbon/CO2 while there are other pollutants much more harmful and detrimental to our survival.

What good a planet that may or may not have a proper CO2 balance and a nice climate while it has been destroyed and poisoned in other ways.

Farming's environmental footprint is rather large, much larger than any “carbon footprint” of it ever would be. In the environmental footprint calculation everything is taken into consideration, including the water that is extracted for irrigation, whether from the water mains, rivers, lakes or boreholes; the runoff of nitrates and other potentially harmful substances into watercourses; the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, etc., as it must.

Farming must take a couple of leaves out of the books of farming in the past in order to, once again, become and be sustainable. Presently it is not and especially not so in North America and farming in the UK is not far behind there either.

Agriculture must be brought back down to a human scale and we must get away from the large agro-industrial complexes that do not produce healthy food and neither produce a healthy environment.

While the UK may not have the likes of the beef feedlots as they can be found in the States where the most unhealthy beef imaginable is being created in Britain much of the large scale farming is equally unsustainable.

Many people have come to the conclusion themselves and it is for that reasons that the demand for allotments is well outstripping supply. They want food that they know where and how it has been produced.

Farming can get back to that scale and many more people would take up farming if it would just be possible, that is to say of the land would be available for them to do just that.

Too often the authorities are also not playing ball to make that possible though in that they refuse to allow people to set up smallholdings with dwellings on land that the people have bought on the countryside. A lot must change before faming in Britain will be sustainable (once again) but it can be done. The political will is required though to make provisions for new ways.

© 2009

Planto Harvesting Bag – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It's Harvest Time! Time for the Planto Harvesting Bag!

Harvest time is often the time when you need and wish you had at least three hands, especially when picking apples and pears and such while up a ladder.

You need to hold the b ranch, grab the fruit, hold on for dear life onto the ladder and even may have to try and hold a bucket. A bit of a difficult feat.

The Harvesting Bag from Planto available in Britain from Wellington and Barrow does away with the problem of holding the receptacle.

The Planto Harvesting Bag is a super-light, sturdy mesh container which can be carried conventionally by the handles or worn as a belt around the shoulder or hip leaving hands free for holding onto the ladder and picking the fruit. Fruit can be washed in the bag to avoid unneccessary handling and will dry off quickly in the mesh bag. It can then be stored or used straight from the bag.

The Planto Harvesting Bag is a really practical harvesting bag which can be carried in three different ways. It can be safely belted around the waist or hung over the shoulder leaving both hands free for holding onto the ladder and picking the fruit. Once safely back on the ground it can be carried more conventionally by the two comfortable sturdy handles.

The ultra light, yet strong, mesh bag has the added advantage that the collected fruit can be washed and left to dry naturally whilst still in the bag.

The size oof the bag is approx 24 x 40cm with a weight – empty, obviously – of approx. 210g. The material is a green mesh fabric which appears to be rubberrized nylon with the handles being a cordura type material. Full instructions for use of the harvesting bag are included with the bag. The price GBP 15.61 each.

While the item price for the Planto Harvesting Bag is certainly not cheap compared to an ordinary bucket or such it is a great “tool” for harvesting that should be equally at home at the allotment or in the back garden as well as on commerciall fruit farms and the health and safety guys should love it.

© 2009

Cast Iron Divided Griddle from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cast Iron Divided Griddle
Lakeland Ref 13329
Price: GBP 27.99

I must first of all admit that I am an absolute lover of cast iron cookware and cooking with cast iron, at least as far as griddles and such are concerned. I have yet to get a Dutch Oven or other for review to see how they work in a non-campfire environment.

My primary reason for love of cast iron is that once your frying pans of that material are properly seasoned they are absolutely non-stick and this without any coating whatsoever, and especially no Teflon, the material that, if it flakes off can be dangerous and probably not just when it flakes off. The text in the catalog is, therefore, more than a little misleading which “black enamel” because the pan is not enameled and the black is just the way old-fashioned cast iron comes.

It is true, however, that properly cared for, this pan should last for years. In fact cast iron cookware of the old school, such as Wagner 1894 and other good makes not only last for years but for generations in fact.

Using cast iron griddles for frying eggs, steaks, and such like, you also use very little if any fat and using a pan with a ridged internal bottom you drain away the fat that the meat itself has also from the steak or such itself.

Seasoning of the pan on the stove top was rather easy and took no more than an hour and the first trial of the pan was most successful with a great steak and fried potatoes produced.

The user instructions on the bottom of the box are somewhat strange and wrong even in that there is no need to avoid the use of metal tools, such as, say, metal egg slice with cast iron pans. There is no coating that can be damaged. In fact, cast iron and other uncoated pans are the only ones that are safe with metal utensils, though I would refrain from using metal utensils on copper, for instance, as it scratches the surface.

In fact nylon ones, as advised in those instructions, might get damaged in use on cast iron griddles as they are very not; hotter it would seem that what many nylon tools can withstand.

The best tools to use, as in cooking in general, however are wooden ones or those made from bamboo.

From the green point though wood is more sustainable than bamboo and I am primarily here referring to utensils made locally from local (hard)woods which did not have to travel long distances.

It is also totally safe to use a metal “wire wool” scouring pads, the ones without soap, to clean the pan. I do this with all my cast iron pans and griddles without any problem.

The cooking experience with the divided cast iron griddle from Lakeland was extremely good and there was no sticking, even though the pan was not seasoned in the oven, as normally is the advice as regards to seasoning of cast iron cookware of this kind but was done, as per instructions on the bottom of the box, on the stove top – in this case an electric stove.

Please remember not to immerse the pan in soapy water or use soapy water again to clean it (unless absolutely necessary) for you will have to re-season the pan afterwards again before it will be non-stick again.

Also, never, immerse the pan in water, regardless whether hot or cold, immediately after cooking, as can be safely done with stainless steel or spun steel, for instance, but let it cool naturally and completely before washing it. Hot cast iron will crack if immersed in water.

Remember that prior to each and every use before heating up the pan it should be given a thin coating of oil wiping it all around the pan.

Also, never heat up the pan to full heat and then add oil, as is commonly done with other kinds of frying pans. Not that it will harm the pan but for a gooey black mess that was the oil.

When pan is coated with oil then heat the pan until it is sizzling hot – the oil will begin to smoke slightly – before adding the food. That way nothing will stick.

My rating for this pan? 10 out of 10, I should say. This is a quality pan nearly in the league of Wagners and others of the old school. This pan should give years of service and generations of service even if cared for well.

© 2009

One Hundred-Day Countdown to WILD9

Latest in World’s Longest Running Public Environmental Forum

9th World Wilderness Congress
November 6–13, 2009 in Mérida, Mexico

Organizers say planning is intense during the final 100 days leading up to the 9th World Wilderness Congress, WILD9 the high-profile global forum of debate, agenda-setting and action on wilderness-related environmental issues. Committees representing a diverse range of interests and perspectives are finalizing objectives and targets aimed at protecting wild nature – wilderness, wetlands, wildlife, and the oceans – and the benefits they provide to ensure a clean and healthy planet and human well-being.

Launched in 1977 by The WILD Foundation, the World Wilderness Congress (WWC) brings together senior-level participants from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, native peoples, academia and the arts, and is unique in its longevity, conservation achievements, and encouragement of public participation in a week of learning, discussion, cultural programs and eco-tourism opportunities.

WILD9’s central theme, Wilderness and Climate Change, underscores the critical role of wilderness as carbon sinks absorbing CO2 emissions, and as a key component of global strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Other topics include freshwater, biodiversity, wildfires, trans-boundary conservation and corridors, conservation economics, marine ecosystems, and traditional peoples’ connection to nature. These themes will guide plenary sessions, break out sessions, workshops, local excursions, and cultural events and celebrations.

WILD9’s array of notable speakers and session leaders include:

  • Leaders from 15 traditional native communities;
  • World renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall;
  • Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier;
  • Mexico’s Environment Minister Juan Elvira;
  • NOAA Chief Science Advisor Steve Murawski;
  • Dr José Saruhkán, head researcher of the Ecology Institute of Universidad Autonoma Nacional de México and national coordinator of CONABIO (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity of Mexico);
  • Father Theodore Hesburgh, University of Notre Dame president emeritus;
  • Pavan Sukhdev, head of Deutsche Bank's Global Market Business;
  • Nature photographers Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe and Michael “Nick” Nichols;
  • Grupo Bimbo’s CEO Daniel Servitje;
  • Senior leadership from National Geographic
  • and numerous other international politicians, scientists, business leaders and artists.
For the first time, the WWC will be held in Latin America, in the culturally rich, colonial city of Merida, capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state. “Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s commitment to the environment, eagerness to host the Congress, and his country’s rich biodiversity and ecologically significant land and marine scapes, drove the decision to hold WILD9 in Mexico,” said Vance G. Martin, president of The WILD Foundation. “Merida is an ideal host city, being safe, charming and friendly, and in the heart of the Yucatan where the great Mayan civilization flourished until its collapse widely attributed to poor management of natural resources,” he added. WILD9 is a collaborative program of The WILD Foundation and Unidos para la Conservación, and relies on the support and participation of many partner organizations.

Convening every three to four years, the WWC has been held 8 times in 5 continents: South Africa (1977, 2001), Australia (1980), Scotland (1983), USA (1987, 2005), Norway (1993), and India (1998).

In addition to setting future wilderness conservation targets, WWC participants announce and report on accomplishments and results of initiatives launched at prior congresses, which have included:
  • Developing the concept of a "World Conservation Bank," leading directly to the creation of the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which has provided $12 billion for biodiversity and sustainability;
  • Prompting the first private sector wilderness area in Africa and first wilderness designation in Latin America (northern Mexico);
  • Conducting the first global inventory of wilderness and wild rivers;
  • Including “wilderness” as a distinct classification of international protected areas under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) framework; and,
  • Establishing the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).“We have been working on WILD9 for over two years and, now in the final 100 days of planning, are proud and excited by the strength of the program, quality speakers, concrete conservation targets and great fun in store for those joining us in Merida in November,” said Patricio Robles Gil, president of Unidos para la Conservación.
Registration is now open! Partial scholarships are available for media and public delegates, on a needs-determined basis.

The WILD Foundation (www.wild.org) Founded in 1974, WILD is the only international organization dedicated entirely and explicitly to wilderness protection around the world. WILD works to protect the planet's last wild places and the wildlife and people who depend upon them, because wilderness areas provide essential social, spiritual, biological and economic benefits. We believe that intact wilderness areas are an essential core element of a healthy modern society.

Unidos para la Conservación (www.unidosparalaconservacion.org) Founded in 1992, Unidos is a nonprofit Mexican conservation organization that has actively promoted the concept of wilderness conservation in Mexico. Its working strategy combines the establishment of alliances with government, non-profit and corporate partners with the promotion of a conservation culture through publications and films in a search of conservation solutions through specific action.

Source: Mad-Promotions



by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

30% renewable electricity target by 2020, now it is time to back strategy and build UK supply chain, with wind, wave and tidal expected to deliver bulk of targets.

The UK ’s wind, wave and tidal industry endorsed the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy ( RES ) as a clear, detailed roadmap on how the country will reach its target of generating 15% of energy consumption from renewables.

Maria McCaffery MBE, Chief Executive of BWEA, the UK ’s leading renewable energy trade association, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to delivering on the 2020 targets. They have rightly ignored the siren calls to abandon wind as the driving force for reaching the targets. The RES provides a clear routemap for the growth of a new £60bn industry and the creation of 60,000 UK jobs. However, industry is now looking for a cross party consensus on the detail of delivery. This will help convince investors that the country is serious about fighting climate change and developing domestic, renewable sources of energy.”

The RES recommits the Government to a massive increase in renewables generation going up from 5% today to 30% by 2020. Based on the figures in last year’s draft strategy this implies 22% of all electricity will come from offshore and onshore wind and another 2% from marine technologies. However, today’s strategy does not contain a detailed breakdown of the expected contribution from different technologies. Overall, although the strategy places a strong emphasis on wind to deliver the bulk of the targets, BWEA is surprised that the Government has not taken the opportunity to give confidence to investors by clearly stating its ambition for the size of the sector, especially offshore.

The RES is set to deliver a host of other incentives encouraging deployment of small wind systems and setting clear expectations at local level on progress towards targets. It will also launch a proposal for Feed-in Tariff rates, while reiterating commitment to the Renewable Obligation until 2037. The Feed-in Tariff will enable organisations and individuals installing renewable energy devices to sell surplus electricity units for a fixed amount set by Government in advance, from April of 2010. The measure is expected to encourage deployment of renewable energy at grassroots level.

While welcoming the RES BWEA also argued that the Government needs to take stronger measures to encourage local authority planners to approve wind energy schemes and to deliver the strategic grid network expansion vital to developing our renewables resources.

Maria McCaffery concluded: “We are at a point where industry, Government and the people of this country have a converging interest in protecting the UK ’s environment, while ensuring our long term energy security. We know that our 2020 targets can be met: UK is currently world leader in offshore wind, in wave and tidal energy, and in small systems. We are on the threshold of a new energy era and need just one more decisive push over the next ten year to deliver on our targets, and move to a low carbon economy. The RES is the roadmap we have been waiting for, and we now need to set our sights squarely on implementation.”

If, however, we the people are really interested in this and wish to have clean green energy then we must ensure that our representative – now there is an oxymoron for there are neither ours nor our representatives – do as we want them to do and hold government accountable as to the green energy commitments and “clean coal” - another oxymoron – is certainly not the answer as is neither nuclear fision.

© 2009