Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Energy, Ecology, Equality
Herbert Girardet & Miguel Mendonça
£14.95 - $27.95
Published 2009 by Green Books
ISBN 978-1-900322-49-2
260 pages paperback
In the USA this book is distributed by Chelsea Green

A Renewable World shows how the quadruple crises facing humanity – of climate, energy, finance and poverty – can instead be regarded as a unique opportunity for building a new, global green economy. It is a book for those who want to influence the decisions on how we can turn visions into practicality, and the steps that are needed to achieve this outcome.

Specifically, it deals with accelerating the renewable energy revolution, creating green jobs and renewing local economies, renewing human settlements in an urbanizing world, biosphere protection and renewal, renewing the world’s agricultural soils, and renewing and invigorating international cooperation.

The current multi-faceted global crisis is about the ‘insecuritisation’ of much of humanity because of short-term, unregulated speculation. Now, particularly in the face of the global financial crisis, as well as the crisis of climate change, the need for long-term thinking is becoming too compelling to ignore. It is becoming clear that we need to learn to live off the earth’s renewable energy resources whilst simultaneously restoring its living natural capital.

A Renewable World is all about the key steps needed to make a global green recovery happen.

Recent climate research indicates that, after decades of inaction, the challenge now facing us is not just to reduce annual global emissions of greenhouse gases, but to reduce their actual concentrations in the atmosphere. The book outlines this can be achieved whilst simultaneously enhancing the livelihoods of billions of people. It shows how best policies and best practices can, if amplified by international cooperation, bring about a green recovery.

This full color illustrated book draws on the expertise on global issues being developed by the World Future Council and other leading thinkers and practitioners. It deals with the urgent issues listed here in a holistic and comprehensive way. We can all help to influence and accelerate the measures that are needed. A Renewable World seeks to show how.

Prof. Herbert Girardet is an author, consultant and filmmaker. He is co-founder and Program Director of the World Future Council, an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA), a patron of the Soil Association, and a recipient of a UN Global 500 Award ‘for outstanding environmental achievements’.

Miguel Mendonça is Research Manager for the World Future Council. He works in both research and advocacy, focusing on renewable energy policy, and is a member of the steering committee of the Alliance for Renewable Energy.

Those of us who have been involved in the green movement for years, as I have, know of Herbert Girardet and know his books. The Gaia Atlas on sustainable cities is one that has remained firmly in mind.

The authors highlight the need for new forests and for the proper management of existing forests for bio-sequestration of carbon and is that not the most natural and sensible way to go.

Nature, in the form of greenery, but especially tress, has always been able to absorb the CO2 created. The problem, however, is that ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have we not just burned fossil fuels, then initially in the form of coal and later oil, at a rate of knots; we also have destroyed forests and woodlands wholesale, at home and abroad.

Those two things combined have lead us to the catastrophic events of today and while there are some who are making good money out of the other ideas of carbon sequestration that talk against new forest plantation saying that young trees are unable to absorb enough carbon we must try this natural way.

The way I, and the authors, see it is that all the carbon sequestration and storage technology is unproven while forests and soils are a proven and natural way of capturing carbon.

Let's get this mess sorted out without further delay and dallying. If not then we are but Lemmings, knowing we are headed for the cliffs but still go on refusing to believe it.

This book should be read by all, experts and lay people alike.

© 2009


Online game tries to promote Yorkshire Dales and aims to tackle climate change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

An online game that is promoting the Yorkshire Dales National Park and raising awareness of the effects of climate change has been launched.

The game, created by Sense Internet, supports schools teaching key stage two and three, but is also fun for other users.

The game which can be found here works on a snakes and ladders style with environmental questions to test players.

Sense Internet's managing director, Aidan Cook, said that they saw an interactive game as the most cost efficient way to engage web users of all ages and help them think about the effects of climate change.

The outcome of the game depends partly on a throw of the online dice, echoing the real-world situation of the risky economic and environmental climate that we are living in at this moment in time.

The game furthermore also addresses related issues such as litter and recycling, all of which, alongside predicted higher temperatures, can impact on the Dales and on all our lives.

It is not, and we shall come to that at another stage, a matter so much of “survival of the environment” but our own survival as the human race.

I have tried out the game and found it rather fun and also think that it could become addictive, in a positive way.

© 2009


TerraCycle Circuit Board Coasters – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Circuit Board Coasters

Price: $12.99

TerraCycle's upcycled Circuit Board Coasters are environmentally responsible because they are made from actual circuit boards that would have otherwise ended up in landfills.

Every year millions of tons of e-waste are created and only a minuscule portion is recycled. Continuing the Upcycling Revolution, TerraCycle has begun reusing circuit boards to create new products.

As circuit boards contain various dangerous substances burying them in landfill is not, and really never has been, an option.

Still, every year millions of those do end up in landfill sites and nowadays more often than not in holes in the ground in some Third World country where the developed countries so conveniently though illegally ship this kind of waste.

Even the small amount of those circuit boards that are thus kept out of landfill by turning them into coasters such as these really does make a difference and the more of those that can be made and subsequently sold the more are yet kept out of landfills.

Each coaster is totally unique and made from sections of circuit board after components, so I assume, have been unsoldered from those boards.

The surface of the coasters is sealed with a plastic and the rim has a rubber edge.

The pack contains six coaster, all of a different pattern due to the nature of the material making them a great conversation piece at dinner parties and such like.

I understand that TerraCycle is also upcycling circuit boards into some other objects, such as photo frames and clocks. The more the better.

OK, I know, you could make your own unique coasters by using old CDs and DVDs, such as those that are given away at trade fairs with press info and such like or – though I don't know whether they still come that way – the “free” software CDs/DVDs that come as cover mounts with some computer magazines.

However, on the other hand you could – nay should – go and buy some of those made for TerraCycle and while the manufacturing is done in China the important thing to remember is that the waste material is kept out of landfills and such.

© 2009


Half the US population infected with swine flu?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While this scenario sounds rather unreal, this is what the US Government believes could happen and is trying to prepare for.

This possibility has federal officials leaning on drug makers to somehow make it available as early as September 2009.

The only problem that I can see is that we are going to get a vaccine that is untested and maybe dangerous, more dangerous than the flu itself.

Let's face it; so far the illnesses have been rather mild with a only a relatively small number of deaths.

The US authorities, however, believe that 60-120 million Americans could get sick from the swine flu this fall and winter with another 30 million being infected but not showing any symptoms.

They reckon that as many as 1.8 million Americans could be hospitalized and as man as 90,000 could die and, according to the authorities that would be more than twice the deaths of a normal flu season.

I find the latter statement hard to believe as, if I understand it correctly, about 100,000+ die each year in Britain alone from seasonal flu. Who is telling porkies here?

US Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that this is not the kind of flu that we are used to in that the pattern of infections is unusual in that it has not, as yet, infected the seniors for instance but rather goes for children and young adults instead.

This makes it a very stranger influenza and something, in my opinion, as I have said before, that we should be very concerned about this flu not being a natural one, but rather one that was concocted in a bio-warfare lab somewhere and which has gotten out, either on purpose or by accident.

I would appear from laboratory tests that this virus is spread by direct contact more than through the air and in schools and such this would mean an ideal ground for it spreading.

When the vaccine is available it will be two shots, separated by three weeks, and it will not until after the second shot that a person is protected. This also make the virus appear rather strange, as with all other kinds of flu vaccines only one shot is required.

Come on folks! The odor of this is worse than that of Billigsgate Fishmarket in London on a very hot summer's day. In other words; something stinks here to high heaven.

© 2009


Scotch tape teams with TerraCycle on dispenser reuse program

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Scotch Brand transparent tape, has teamed up with TerraCycle, Inc., the upcycling company, and have created a program to recover and reuse clear plastic tape dispensers and cores. The test program will begin later in 2009 and will involve the collection of more than 25,000 dispensers through 1,000 TerraCycle collection programs, called "Brigades."

The Scotch Tape Brigades will collect empty clear plastic tape dispensers and cores and pay two cents per dispenser to a charity of the collector's choice. The Scotch Brand will then take the items and reuse them for their original purpose.

"We are thrilled to be working with a company such as 3M and their Scotch Brand," said TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky. "Traditionally, we have taken packaging and turned it into other products, so to take the original product and continue its traditional life cycle is an exciting new opportunity for us and them."

TerraCycle's Brigades divert packaging waste from landfills and help raise consumer awareness about reducing, reusing and recycling. By encouraging people to rethink 'what is waste,' TerraCycle is making it simple for consumers to have a positive impact on the environment.

I must say that to me it has never made sense that Scotch tape came in those “one time use” dispensers and now it is good too see that, together with TerraCycle, those dispensers will be collected, as well as the cores, and put back to use.

Being from old Gypsy stock the mindset of waste management has been with me since childhood and we have been recycling and upcycling before either word was invented.

The cores of such sticky tapes, whether Scotch 3M or Cellotape or Tesa, always were something that I looked at as to how they could be reused but often never found an answer to that.

The best way is the way that Scotch 3M is now going in conjunction with TerraCycle by bringing the dispensers and cores back into use for the very purpose they were initially intended. It can't get much better.

© 2009


Bissel Rubber-bladed Sweeper from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I must admit that I love the green power of human-powered devices such as this one.

Bissell® Rubber Bladed Sweeper
Electrostatic rubber bladed sweeper
112cm (44") high
Lakeland Ref 21240

I have read a somewhat negative customer review of this device on Lakeland's website but must say that my take on this sweeper is entirely different.

While it is true that a handle does tend to “fall apart” when each section if not connected home properly once that has been firmly done there is no further problem there.

The sweeper picks up well, on carpet as well as bare floor, and does not have a spillage problem, which also had been indicated by the same customer review.

However, one simply has to watch the window of the sweeper and, having used similar sweepers before, it is a well known factor that they need frequent emptying – unlike a vacuum cleaner with its large reservoir.

When it comes to picking up, in my opinion, this human-powered sweeper from Bissel is superior to many an ordinary vacuum cleaner, which tend to have problems with some stuffs, such as sewing fluff and pet hairs.

Usually, I must admit, I left it for a number of days before I would succumb and put the Hoover together to get the rugs and carpets swept for I tend to bring in a lot of “dust” from the outside what with living surrounded by woods and having livestock too and a garden.

So, the Bissel sweeper is something that lives in the downstairs area now and is in daily use, keeping carpets, rugs and floors somewhat clean.

In my opinion, a great green product. Green as far as it is not powered by electricity or any such but entirely by human energy and mechanics.

At the cost of just under £30 it is not expensive either and can be but recommended.

© 2009


Mother Earth “Guide To” Bookazines – A Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ogden, the publishers of Mother Earth News recently – or not so recently, as the case may be – brought out four “Guide To” Bookazines and each of them is packed full of information on the subject it covers.

Instead of having to dig through thick manuals or through back issues of magazines such as the Mother Earth News as to how to grow food, etc., here there are well written articles all under one rook in magazine style small tomes.

While readers of the four Bookazines may find that some pieces are duplicated in one or the other of the guides this is due to the overlap of some of the subjects from one book to the other, and even across a number of them.

I had the good fortune to have been sent all four of these guides when I had asked as to whether Ogden's might be interested in sending me a copy of the “Guide To Country Skills” for review.

The other volumes are “Guide To Living on Less and Loving It”, “Guide To Growing Your Own Food” and “Guide To Home Energy Savings”.

Each guide in in standard magazine format, as far as size is concerned and is around a 100 pages thick, and also contain, like any magazine, some adverts.

These four guide would make a great addition to the library of anyone wishing to live a more self-reliant life.

Also, remembering the holiday season is upon us soon again; they also make great gifts too, either individually or as a set.

© 2009


Sustrans’ strategy to deliver on the Mayor’s cycling revolution

Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, has published its new strategy for London , which complements the Mayor’s “cycling revolution” by focusing on specific ways to get more people on bikes. The Sustrans London Strategy, which is launched to co-incide with the draft Mayor’s Transport

Strategy, covers the years 2009 – 2013. It sets out projects to help new people to get into cycling, especially those from currently under-represented groups such as women and young people.

Sustrans’ London Regional Director, Carl Pittam, says: “ London has seen considerable success over recent years in increasing commuter cycling in central and Inner London. However 84 percent of Londoners never cycle, and certain groups are missing out especially - women make roughly half as many cycle trips as men, and journeys by children and young people have actually declined recently.

“We are glad to see that the draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy includes proposals to deliver safe cycle routes, to support school cycle training, and to influence

travel choices through ‘smarter travel’ initiatives. Our Strategy for London complements these goals. It comprises a range of programmes that we know are

effective in getting more people cycling, from more traffic-free Greenways to targeted work with young people in schools.”

In order for the Mayor’s cycling revolution to be realised, much more must be done to tempt more of the vast majority of Londoners who currently do not cycle onto their bikes.

The Sustrans London Strategy aims to deliver London ’s cycling revolution by putting forward a range of programmes to broaden the take up of cycling in the capital. Key ones include:


Sustrans proposes an expansion of London ’s greenways programme. Greenways – quiet routes to and between green spaces, which link to other networks - are known to get new people on bikes. Recent UK-wide research on the National Cycle Network showed that a fifth of women on the network are new or returning to cycling, and that among young people (16-24 years) women outnumber men.

School cycling

Bike It is Sustrans’ groundbreaking project which works with school children and achieves at least a doubling of cycling to school levels within the first year.

Sustrans intends to expand Bike It in London to make it available to all London boroughs by 2013.

Support for households

Sustrans’ TravelSmart programme works with households offering tailor-made information to help people walk, cycle or use public transport more.

TravelSmart is at the leading edge of the ‘Smarter Choices’ movement and is the most widely applied form of personal travel planning in the UK.

Sustrans work in delivering the DfT Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns (STDTs) has shown that a sustained period of Smarter Choices measures, including Sustrans TravelSmart can achieve increases in cycling trips of up to 113 percent. Sustrans strategy sets out the intention to bring TravelSmart to the capital by 2011.


It's not Monopoly Money, Prime Minister

It is not monopoly money, Gordon, and it is NOT yours to give away

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Hard on the heels of throwing taxpayer money away at the banks, which then did not do as they were requested in return for the money, the current British Labor government – or should I better call it “regime” - has now given away more of the British taxpayers' money.

This time it has been given to the European Union (EU) and official figures show that our share of the EU budget is to soar by almost 60 per cent to £6.4billion.

According to a Treasury document that was very quietly and almost secretly released by the Government some weeks ago the nett effect of the concessions is that every household in Britain will have to cough up another £92 per year, making our overall contribution equivalent to £257 per household.

I wonder how many British subjects understand the benefits of membership of the Union

Would you vote to become a member of an association with a membership fee this size without checking out the benefits of membership? Would you call the Euro and the Common Agricultural Policy membership benefits – we do not partake of one and the other is "a hole in my pocket".

The EU contributions rebate was won in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher to compensate the UK for the massive costs of the Common Agricultural Policy, which benefits Britain much less than other countries because of its relatively small farming sector. British contributions will continue to rise as the impact of the government concessions increases in coming years.

The latest increase is the largest year-on-year rise since 2003. The loss of the rebate makes Britain the second highest contributing member of the EU behind Germany.

Not that this is very surprising from the clique around Gordon Brown that they have now, in the name of the British people, basically given away the EU contributions rebate won by the now Lady Thatcher, in the same way that they refuse to let the British people have a say as to whether or not we do want to be part of the Lisbon Treaty.

We have just seen the farce that the EU is claiming to be democratic but when a referendum result does not suit them they basically tell the government concerned where the people have rejected something to keep voting till the desired result is achieved, as just now in Eire.

How can anyone believe that unelected entity situated in Brussels and Strasbourg stands for liberty and democracy. It does not, that much is becoming more and more evident.

Despite their big talk Gypsy People in Hungary, Italy, the former Czechoslovakia, and other countries in the European Union are being persecuted, often by government decree, as in the case of Italy, with the EU bodies standing by. Ethnic cleansing by proxy, methinks.

We have nothing to hope for from the EU but everything to fear, namely and especially our personal freedoms, despite assurances to the contrary, and if the recent new laws in Germany are anything to go by then all one can say is “welcome to the Fourth Reich”, courtesy of the EU.

The only way for Britain, and other countries of Europe, to go if the people value their freedoms is to stay out of the EU or, if they are in, to get out, and that presto.

© 2009


Bento Box from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bento Lunch Box
made by Aladdin
Lakeland Ref: 14302_13403

“Bring your own lunch” (BYOL) in the same way are BYOB (Bring your own bags) sure is a green way to go and neither of them are new. People used to bring their own shopping bags to trips to the stores before the advent of the paper or plastic carrier bag. The same was the case with lunch.

However, in the case of lunch this would mean a cold lunch consisting of a sandwich or two and anything else cold. Or it was soup in a thermos flask. In India lunch pails have been in use for a very long time, made of stainless steel (nowadays) that have different sections for the likes of Dahl, and other such foods as are the staple foods in India; the only disadvantage being that, if you want your lunch hot, and you do not have a wife to bring it out to your place of work for you, as is the case in India, you need a way of heating up the lunch.

So, are you fed up with sandwiches or want something more substantial now autumn is drawing in? Then let us introduce you to the Bento Box. Be it chilli and rice or chunky home-made soup, you can transport your lunch to work and it will stay lovely and hot for up to five hours. And if your lunch-hour is later than that, you can even pop it straight in the microwave for a quick heat up.

Aladdin has combined the principle of the Indian lunch pail with a means of keeping the food hot for about five hours in the Bento Lunch Box and made it into a very pleasing package.

With two separate sections and double-wall insulation, the Bento Boxes will also keep contents cold for up to four hours.

15cm (6") Dia. x 19cm (7½") H.

Another great products via the people in the English Lake District.

© 2009


Cooking with the Crock Pot

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The crock pot, aka slow cooker, is the ideal cooking pot for those that have electricity of mains voltage and who would like to save energy costs and, at the same time, obviously, emissions.

The power consumption of most crock pots is said to be extremely low and is often reckoned to me no more than that of a 40-60W light bulb (of the incandescent kind) on low and that of a 100W one, if that much, on high.

This makes a slow cooker extremely efficient and the beauty is that you can start it in the morning and by time dinner time arrives at, say, 6pm, it is all done and absolutely delicious.

Having seen some of the official ratings of most I am not all that sure about those statements. However, still a very efficient and green way of cooking.

It is not, really, necessary to get hold of special recipes for use with such a crock pot, but it is, obviously, a cooking pot that is ideally suited for the one-pot meals such as stews, hotpots and such like.

However, using it just for roasting meat also works well and makes for some of the tastiest and tenderest pieces of meat that one can but imagine.

A slow cooker will, obviously, work equally well with vegetables and they too become absolutely delicious in this process though for vegetables, often, I might prefer the use of a steamer.

A slow cooker, a crock pot, is the ideal cooking pot for the single person household as, turned on in the morning, one can happily go out to work, when using the low setting, and return in the evening to a ready home-cooked meal. It can also, though, be used in a multi-person household and this, I should have thought, goes without saying.

There is no danger, though many people think that there might and would be, of the food burning as the juices are recycled in that they drip from the lid.

I personally know of people who have been using such pot for ages and never have burned food on in them as yet.

The lovely thing, aside from the fact that you can come home after work to a ready home-cooked meal even if you are on your own and have been out all day, is the fact that a slow cooker has such a low energy consumption.

Only, probably, a microwave oven might be a little more efficient but, well, you can't do everything in a microwave.

While I do have a microwave the only time I ever use it is for heating up something in rather a hurry, reheat something, and especially for the making of jacket potatoes.

Otherwise, however, I rather cook in a normal way on the stove top when the job calls for skillet or such, such as for steak and burgers – and in that case it is black cast iron that is then in use – or in the crock pot.

It has taken me a while to discover the joys of crock pot cooking having had the pot, given to me some years ago by a colleague, sitting at home unused, but I certainly can now understand why people praise those pots so highly.

If you consider getting a crock pot, a slow cooker, ensure that the crock can be removed and is not solidly part of the device. Cleaning of a crock pot of the former kind is extremely easy and you will rarely find that you will have to use any force in cleaning.

I am sure that, should you decide to get such a pot you will not regret it. It is definitely an investment worth each and every penny.

Sausage Hot Pot with apple (for the crock pot)

2 good pork sausages (Bratwurst also works great) per person
1/2 an eating apple per person (cut into wedges)
2 potatoes – maybe 3 (depending on size) – per person (cut into wedges)
2-3 onions (ideally sweet one) (cut into wedges)
a pinch or two of salt
course ground pepper
a couple of sprigs of Rosemary (optional)
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
if you want to be “decadent” then 1 glass of red wine (everything tastes better with the addition of some read wine
some dried wild mushrooms.

Put all the ingredients into the crock, add the salt and pepper (do not use too much salt) and toss with wooden spoon. Then pour over the Olive oil and toss again. Then turn on crock on low if you have around eight hours or more time, otherwise use the hot setting.

For even better results add a small glass of red wine – this can me cheap stuff – and you can also add tomatoes, courgettes, and beans, for instance, to this.

While it can be served, when ready, as is with just the juices I would recommend to add a little bit of beef stock, such as OXO. This will make this dish irresistible to most.

Bon Appetit! Enjoy!

© 2009


10 percent by 2010?

Not for Parliament though.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, October 21, 2009: In a vote in the Houses of Parliament this evening the motion for parliament to sign up to the 10:10 campaign was defeated by 297 to 226.

This shows, once again, and it also became obvious from contacting some Members of Parliament, as to how far removed and remote those there in those Ivory Towers of Westminster are from their constituents.

Tens of thousands of people of this country emailed and otherwise contacted their respective MP to ask them to vote for this cause but, as one can see, they have a different agenda and could not care what their residents are concerned about. Or should one check were some of their funds are coming from?

While I hope and trust that British politicians are less tainted than their North American cousins, the latter who, because of whence their funding comes from, are so opposed to any changes in the heath care provisions in the USA, there might also here, in this case, be some lobbying funds that may have been a influencing vote changer.

Maybe we the people let our representatives know that they are just thus, namely our representatives and they are there to do our bidding. Time a number of them learned that fact.

© 2009


Consequences-Of-Global-Warming – Website Review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There are a number of issues with this website and that is aside from the layout and the fact that there is very little information that people can really get their teeth into.

The author of the site talks of “Global Warming” and of global warming consequences.

However, the term “global warming” is no longer used by the scientific community in the first place and he then goes on to say that – and I quote: “The public believes that there is still debate as to whether or not global warming is man-made. That is wholly and utterly false. The scientific community has not only come to a consensus on the fact that global warming is man-made but that we need to act fast.”

The truth is that the scientific community is not in agreement; far from it. NASA scientists are talking about a global cooling – even a mini-ice ages – being upon us in the next couple of years, based on the solar cycle.

Other eminent environmental scientists, such as Prof. David Bellamy in the UK, for example, also are NOT in agreement with the notion of “Global Warming”, now called “Climate Change”, being man-made or caused by human activities.

Climate Change is also not the greatest threat that humanity is facing but other environmental problems are even more important, such as the loss of potable water, the depletion of soils, and such.

What would it help if we would manage to stop, not that we could, climate change and would end up with a planet that would have no water, forests, soil that no longer is able to support food growing, and such?

What the author of the website and also others do not wish to mention when they claim that the temperatures are rising is the findings of Australian scientists that since about 2002 the temperatures have not risen, not even by a fraction, but plateaued out, and that NASA, based on the solar cycles, predict a global cooling period coming upon us.

While we are, I am sure, all in agreement, that Climate Change is real that it is caused by human activity is not necessarily a proven factor.

Sure, the burning of fossil fuels has caused pollution and it is that what needs to be stopped, and ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution our clear cutting of forests and scrub land has destroyed the plant cover that absorbs the CO2 that is released, and not just by burning fossil fuels.

So-called global warming in Mexico referred to by the website author could also, and more precisely, be linked to El Niño and La Niña and not necessarily to Climate Change per se.

The Earth's climate has been changing from cold to hot and back at a more or less regular basis. That is why grapes could be grown all the way to Hadrian's Wall almost in the British Isles during the Roman occupation and that is why Greenland was named thus by the Vikings and Newfoundland Vinland.

The current melt of the glaciers on Greenland proves that that island was around the 10th century when the Vikings settled there forested and covered also in meadows suitable for cattle grazing.

It is not difficult for anyone to put together a collection of scientific papers in support of the “Climate change is man-made” agenda. Much harder this is as regards top the counter-arguments of which there are many but most of them never see the light of day in publications as they are not allowed to be published.

Many of the scientists that have opposing views to those in support of the agenda have been silenced by threats that if they did not shut up they would no longer be published or allowed to be on broadcasts, etc., as happened to Prof. Bellamy.

As said before, Climate Change is happening and our destruction of the forests has had and is having the greatest impact here, and emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is another factor, but climate change is also a natural phenomenon and cycle of our Planet.

About every thousand or so years, give or take a few decades or such, Mother Earth tends too throw a wobbly; sometimes small, sometimes large,

The biggest fallacy is the belief that we – we mere humans – who are partly responsible, maybe – can stop this from happening.

Also, the natural changes to the climate in previous decades and millennia have, at times, been rather swift, or how else can one explain why Greenland was abandoned and grapes have ceased too grow in Vinland?

Also it is said that the mammoths found frozen in the Siberian permafrost where found with food in their mouths.. They froze too death instantly. Much in the way that the fuel froze in the helicopters in the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”.

The warming in some of the cases was very gradual and took a while to come to a head but it got colder then rather rapidly.

Unless those climatic conditions were also caused by human activities and other CO2 causes – I guess the mammoths and their belching caused a lot of the problems /sarcasm off – then we must come to understand that our Planet goes through such changes and cycles every so often and has gone through them since time immemorial.

Rather than spending all our efforts on “combating global warming/climate change” we must look at getting the other bits sorted out, such as water and soil and we must find ways of learning to overcome the effects of a changing climate and live with it. We must work with Nature and nor against Her.

While there is a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere nowadays and this has risen ever since the Industrial Revolution the fact that we have destroyed forests and woods and scrub lands which used to absorb the CO2 before is probably a much greater reason for the concentrations in air than any emissions. Which means we must plant trees and that pronto.

The fact that the curve of CO2 has been going up rather at a rate of knots after about 1955 can be directly attributed to our loss of green spaces and forests.

In Britain that was the time when the urban sprawl began and when the cities began to encroach further and further into the countryside and destroyed more and more woods, forests and scrub lands.

While it is true that industrial output and the car use also increased I am convinced that all of it has much more to do with the urbanization and the suburbs springing up all over the place and the so-called “new towns”.

I also very much believe that we are between the rock and a hard place as the changing climate is a natural cycle that may have been accelerated – though the timing is about right – through the fact that the CO2 levels have risen to a dangerous level.

In that way, in the way that we have destroyed the carbon sequesters, in the form of trees and other vegetation, such as the great grasslands that we put under the plow and should never have been, such as the great plains, the Prairies, we, the human race, especially the White Man, the colonialists, are responsible for some of the aspects of Climate Change.

The other factors, such as El Nino and La Nina, which also are natural phenomena, seem to always been, conveniently, forgotten by those that wish to hoist the “man-made global warming” agenda onto everyone.

The climate is changing, so much is a fact but the causes of which certainly are not clear cut. All computer models depend on the GIGO principle, namely that of “garbage in, garbage out”, and therefore cannot be relied upon in either direction and discounting findings that point to temperatures leveling off and plateauing and even burying such findings dos not help the cause either.

I say it again: the climate is changing but whether we can do anything about it is an other question and, the climate change agenda is suppressing other, equally important issues, namely those of water, soil and habitat loss and loss of species, etc.

Please also note that the environment is going to survive and it has nothing too do with the survival, as it is often said, of the environment but everything to do with our survival.

The Earth will continue too exist, as will the environment, but in which way and will it be able to support life, that is another question.

The way things are going at the moment, climate change or none, the Earth is already very sick due to man's wholesale exploitation of resources.

At this current moment we, who live on this Earth, are using the resources of three planets. This is were we must change, for we have but one Planet, and we must reign in our exploitation and abuse of the Earth and Her resources.

If we do not then it does not matter what we do, whether we can stop climate change or not, for we will be doomed anyway.

What would it profit us if we managed to stop the climate change only to have no living soil and no drinkable water left; just as an example? And, to be perfectly frank and honest, the way we are going this soon could be the case.

Time for a total U-turn and that rather rapido and a total rethink of how we live on this Planet.

We must learn from the Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines and also the true Romani People as to how to treat the Earth, our Mother, and how to live in harmony with Her and not fighting Her.

Fritz Schumacher said: “Modern man does not experience himself as a part of but as an outside force destined to dominate and conquer it. He even talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.”

So, let us rethink our relationship with Mother.

© 2009


Suicide bomber with explosive device inside body

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is being claimed that the suicide bomber who tried to take out the Saudi prince in charge of Anti-Terrorism had the device concealed within his body and that the bomb was remotely detonated by cell phone.

We are, therefore, now being told by security experts that, as such bombs “cannot be detected by the metal detectors at airports” – one of the experts' words – checks at airports and main railway terminals will have to be stricter and more rigorous still. I must say that I was not aware that the metal detectors at airports and such can even detect any IEDs. They sure could not until recently when I looked last.

This need for even stricter controls, so we are told, will mean that travelers will have to get tot he airports and even railway terminals well before departure and in the case or air travels, more than likely three or more instead of the current two hours before their flight will depart to check in and go through the security checks.

I may be paranoid but the “threat of terrorism” combined with the “combating of climate change” is beginning to look to me like an all too convenient way of people control.

If you cannot persuade ordinary people to stop flying – abroad and internally – by scaring them with CO2 emissions heating up the planet then make it as difficult as possible in the hope that they then won't want to fly.

But then this may just be the way it begins to appear to me.

While I have no problem with climate change being real and happening, for happening it indeed it, and certainly am no friend of flying or the motorcar, I have serious problems with it being (entirely) cause by human activities and cow farts. Human activities certainly may have sped things up but...

Pollution, on the other hand, is cause by man, as is soil depletion, overuse of water, overfishing of seas and other bodies of water, etc. and this is causing really havoc and could lead to the survival of the human race being seriously threatened.

Remember: The environment will survive but will we.

Or, if we, the human race that is, do survive will the Earth be one that we would want to live upon and even one we actually still can live upon proper.

The more likely scenario would be that we could no longer live on this Planet as there would be no longer enough if any potable water, there could be a soil that is totally depleted of goodness and no more game and fish for food to be had either.

The biggest challenge faced by mankind today is not climate change, especially not if we cannot influence the outcome, as I believe that we cannot, but the way we destroy, yes, destroy, the Planet by our actions, be this by pollution, by over-pumping of aquifers, overfishing the waters (oceans and others) and the destruction of forests, habitat and soil.

We must reverse that and do that now!

The CO2 reduction issue may or may not stop the changing climate but we can do a lot more by treading more lightly, much more lightly, on the Planet and reducing pollution to a level like some centuries back by reverting back to some old and tested methods.

But, I once again digressed somewhat.

We were talking about government people control and the question is as to whether those efforts of people control really come from our (elected) governments or, in fact, something unseen behind them.

Who are the powers behind the throne, the real powers-that-be, that is the question.

I do know that some of my writings and musings must sound like conspiracy theories to many and I also know that they go against the grain of the accepted line but I like to make people think and to think for themselves rather than regurgitating, for lack of a better word to hand, the lines and lies fed to them by the media, politicians and (religious) leaders.

It is rather sad to see that some folks do not seem to be able to think for themselves, and this is equally true when it comes to the climate change agenda, the war on terror or religious subjects. But, I better stop here before I get carried away on the religious bit.

So, please, dear readers, think for yourselves for once and look at the facts, from all sides.

© 2009


Waste Coffee Grounds ...and what to do with them

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

First of all DO NOT THROW THEM in the waste.

Coffee grounds have many better uses than going to waste and ending up in landfill.

You can put them in you compost bin or -heap. It makes a great addition to the material.

Your plants will also benefit from the direct application of coffee grounds to the soil around them.

Coffee grounds also make for great body scrubs and energizing exfoliant. They are also brilliant for getting things like onion smells and also grease, as in motor grease, from your hands.

Never ever put coffee grounds in garbage disposal.

© 2009


Austerity Cookbook – Book Recommendation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


by Bridget Ardley

First published by Latimer New Dimensions in 1975

Published in paperback by Arrow Books Ltd., an imprint of the Hutchinson Publishing Group, in 1977. Then priced £1.75

192 pages

This cookbook is certainly not a new one. It has been around for many years and the recipes are older still. However, it is a very timely book to mention in this current situation and also as regards to using leftovers, for instance.

In the current climate of an economic downturn, despite the fact that some agencies are trying to con us into believing it is all over and we can go back to normal, as well as in general, this book should be much more used.

Whether this book is still in print is difficult to ascertain and it would appear that the last reprint may have been in 1986. However, in today's times where we are being told to reuse our leftovers and to learn to, once again, make use of those cuts of meats that are often wasted because no one – presently – wants them, this book should certainly be reprinted as soon as possible.

If you can find this book in any kind of secondhand bookshop or the book section of a Charity Shop – that's where my copy came from – then grab it, and do so fast, for it might be going fast otherwise.

The Austerity Cookbook is definitely one of those reference books for the kitchen that the green cook and the one trying to make something with little should not be without.

© 2009


Unemployment up in seaside resorts despite era of the “staycation”

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

England's most traditional seaside resorts have seen unemployment rates increase in the last 12 months in spite of the resurgence of the 'staycation', TUC analysis of official statistics has revealed.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that five million Brits have abandoned their annual foreign holiday due to the credit crunch, choosing instead to holiday in the UK. However, some of England's best-loved seaside destinations have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and are suffering from above average unemployment rates despite the 'staycation' trend.

In Bournemouth claimant unemployment levels have grown by 130 per cent since July 2008 - well above the national average percentage increase of 81 per cent. Weston-Super-Mare has seen its claimant unemployment level jump by 122 per cent, and claimant unemployment in South Dorset (covering Weymouth and Swanage) has gone up by 113 per cent.

Other seaside resorts have experienced lower percentage increases in claimant levels, but now have claimant unemployment rates much higher than the national average. These include Southend where the claimant unemployment rate is 5.9 per cent (up 2.6 percentage points on the year), Harwich (which includes Clacton-on-Sea) where the claimant unemployment rate is 5.3 per cent (up 2.3 percentage points on the year), and North Thanet (which includes Margate and Herne Bay) where the claimant unemployment rate is 5.2 per cent (up 2.1 percentage points).

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Millions of people are opting to save money during the downturn and have rediscovered what great holidays you can have in the UK.

'However, in spite of this welcome boost to the UK's seaside resorts and tourist industry, unemployment is at crisis level in many of our best-loved traditional English holiday destinations.

'Many seaside towns have made impressive and imaginative efforts to regenerate themselves - and deserve real praise - but even the most ambitious scheme cannot buck the effects of such a deep recession. Just as in the rest of the country, a whole generation of young people in seaside towns are finding it almost impossible to make the right start to their working lives.

'We should welcome any signs of economic recovery, but they are very shallow. The economy remains in deep trouble with unemployment still set to carry on rising all through next year.

'Unemployment remains a national emergency. Fighting it, particularly among young people, should be number one priority. Public spending cuts are the last thing we need, and run the risk of sending the economy into an even more serious decline."

The fact seems to be that the “staycations” people are having and have been having were true “staycations” in that they not only stayed in Britain; they in fact stayed at home and holidayed in their own homes and the local parks.

Local parks and open spaces definitely have seen an increase in visitor numbers and judging from the litter that has been collected in many parks they definitely had a great time. Shame though that they do not know to not have a picnic and leave everything behind when they leave. But such seems to be the nature of the British public nowadays in that they do not seem to care what they do in parks and open spaces.

“Staycations” have been certainly the norm for many families and individuals in Britain this year and I should think that “staycations” are here to – pardon the pun – stay and this is not a bad thing.

© 2009


Green Thing Calling all Single Gloves

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Glove Love, Green Thing's latest thing, is the stylish and sustainable union of the country's single gloves. Trouble is, our Glove Love pairs are selling out fast so we need more single gloves. If you have one or have seen one then please don't waste it. - grab it, send it to Green Thing and help make Glove Love.

While I must say that picking up and reusing single gloves in this way is, certainly, not new and this writer has also talked and written about it and is also doing it, and that is what counts, it is, definitely, a great idea.

In most cases, unless someone is willing to match up, in some way, single gloves - not so good with single socks now - into a new pair they will just end up on the waste stream and, more often than not, ultimately, in the landfill sites.

So, either, if you don't want to try and mix and match some single gloves yourself send them off to the Green Thing so they can keep them, by matching them and selling them on, out of the waste stream. Personally, I will keep collecting and matching up myself.

© 2009


Self-Sufficiency: is it possible?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If we mean with self-sufficiency total self-sufficiency of a household or a homestead then the answer is and must be for reasons of honesty a definite NO!

We had farming communities in the days of old and big farming estates in Europe that were, largely, self-sufficient, but to a degree only for still there were things that could not be made by the craftsmen on the estate and which, therefore, had to come in from the outside, so to speak.

The iron and steel the village blacksmith used for knives, sickles, scythes, plowshares, horseshoes, and other ironwork, did not come out of the village or from the estate; it came as bar stock or such from the steel mills and before that from the smelters. So, therefore, total self-sufficiency is an unattainable goal.

Self-reliance, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish, as they would say, and can be achieved. Though, yet again, total and utter self-reliance also might be a different and difficult story as it too may not be completely achievable.

However, it is possible, by various means, to become as self-reliant, bordering on self-sufficient, as possible, while being prepared to always acknowledge that there are and always will be things that we, you and I, just cannot do ourselves or make for ourselves, at least not entirely from scratch.

So, like in the title of the book “The Self-Sufficientish Bible” we may just be able to become self-reliantish. But that is better than not being and trying to strive for more.

© 2009


An Overdue Ban On A Dangerous Sweetener

Aspartame in the bad books, finally...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The artificial sweetener aspartame has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats, and should be banned for human consumption, warns the Cancer Prevention Coalition.

Despite the fact that it is a known cancer causing agent so far the governments have not acted and done anything to stop the use of aspartame.

Under the explicit provisions of the 1958 Delaney Law, which requires an automatic ban on carcinogenic food additives, the Coalition is calling on Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the newly appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and public health advocate, to promptly ban the continued use of aspartame.

First discovered in 1965 by the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle, aspartame is an artificial sweetener marketed by Ajinomoto Sweeteners under trademark names including Nutrasweet, Equal and Canderel.

Aspartame is the second most widely used artificial sweetener in the world. It is found in more than 6,000 products including carbonated and powdered soft drinks, hot chocolate, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, and tabletop sweeteners, as well as some pharmaceutical products like vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. More than 200 million people worldwide consume it.

The sweetener has been used for more than 30 years, having first been approved by the FDA in 1974.

After saccharin, aspartame is the commonest sweetener, consumed by over 200 million people worldwide, and represents about 60% of the artificial sweetener market.

Aspartame provides food, soft drinks, candy and chewing gum manufacturers with substantial cost savings compared to sugar, which is 200 times less sweet. Aspartame is a sweetener without calories, which helps people control their weight.

Studies of the carcinogenicity of aspartame performed by producers of the sweetener have been negative.

But Cancer Prevention Coalition Chairman Samuel S. Epstein, MD warns that the use of aspartame in foods, vitamins and pharmaceuticals is based on false safety information and political maneuvering going back more than 30 years.

In January 1976, then Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Alexander M. Schmidt, MD testified before Congress that Hazleton Laboratories, under contract to Searle, had been charged with falsifying toxicological data on aspartame.

The FDA convened a Public Board of Inquiry to review concerns about the sweetener’s carcinogenic effects in experimental animals. In 1980, the Board concluded that aspartame could “contribute to the development brain tumors.”

Dr. Epstein points out that FDA then recommended that, pending confirmation of these findings, the sweetener should no longer be used.

However, then Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld, later Secretary of Defense in the Bush Administration, vowed to "call in his markers," to get the sweetener approved.

On January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan's inauguration, Searle re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame as a food sweetener, and Reagan's new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the Board of Inquiry's decision.

It soon became clear that the panel would uphold the ban by a 3-2 decision, but Hull then installed a sixth member on the commission, and the vote became deadlocked. He then personally broke the tie in aspartame's favor.

Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, then took a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for Searle and for Monsanto, which purchased Searle in 1985.

Dr. Epstein is not alone among doctors in his concern about the sweetener.

In a July 25, 2009 letter to the new FDA commissioner, H.J. Roberts, M.D., a Florida internist and diabetes expert, drew her attention to the dangerous health effects of aspartame in foods and other products.

"My own data base encompasses over 1400 individuals who have suffered major disorders that could be directly ascribed to the use of these products, including gum," wrote Dr. Roberts, who authored the books "Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic," and "Aspartame Disease: an FDA Approved Epidemic."

There have been other calls to ban the sweetener, including one in the UK earlier this year, when Member of Parliament Roger Williams cited "compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market altogether."

Dr. Epstein says the evidence on the carcinogenicity of aspartame was strongly reinforced in a unique feeding test conducted on rats in an Italian laboratory.

In 2005, based on highly sensitive and life-long feeding tests in groups of about 200 rats and at doses less than usual human dietary levels, the prestigious Italian Ramazzini Foundation confirmed that aspartame is unequivocally carcinogenic. A high incidence of cancers was induced in multiple organs of the lab rats fed the sweetener, including lymph glands, brain and kidney.

Dr. Epstein says rats were fed aspartame beginning in the early fetal stage of life, resulting in their lifelong exposure to aspartame.

"This resulted in a still higher increase in the incidence of cancers at sites, including those previously reported," he says.

The Ramazzini study was reported in the November 2005 issue of "Environmental Health Perspectives," the peer-reviewed journal of the United States' National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"Our study has shown that aspartame is a multi-potential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are also evident at a daily dose of 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg), notably less than the current acceptable daily intake for humans," the Ramazzini authors wrote.

Currently, the acceptable daily intake for humans is set at 50 mg/kg in the United States and 40 mg/kg in Europe.

In April 2007, the results of this study were presented by Ramazzini scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

ot surprisingly, says Dr. Epstein, these findings have been sharply challenged by the sweetener industry, major sweetener users, such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Monsanto, and also by the industry-oriented scientific journal "Critical Reviews in Toxicology."

In view of the new scientific evidence of aspartame's carcinogenicity and the political gamesmanship that led to its original approval by the FDA, Dr. Epstein is urging the new FDA Commissioner, Dr. Hamburg, to impose an immediate ban on the use of aspartame for human consumption.

The greatest problem is that the agency in the US supposed to be protecting the public, the FDA, is entirely in the hands of the industries and while this could, probably, not so much be said as to the agencies in Britain, for instance, the situation is the same as far as aspartame is concerned and the way it is used and even hailed as such a wonderful substitute for sugar.

Some studies have also claimed aspartame to be a neural pathway agent – in the same way as fluoride, and one can but wonder as to whether there are similar reasons for not banning aspartame as there is for the fluoridation of the drinking water. Just a thought though.

© 2009


Climate talks must also consider water and not just carbon

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The COP-5 climate talks that are set to take place in December must include water as a key component of the negotiation process, if they are to be successful and are to have any real meaning.

This was the core message to come from water experts meeting in Stockholm for World Water Week. Carbon alone will not do it.

The Stockholm Statement that articulated the delegates' concerns was unanimously supported during the plenary session on the final day of the gathering.

Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, which hosted the talks, said: "Water is a fundamental element in economies, communities, and public health. We know that it is the medium through which climate change manifests its most serious effects.

"To be effective, climate negotiations must factor in the impact and importance of water for the world and, indeed, human well-being."

The statement says that adaptation to unavoidable climate change must be part of any global climate change package, and that will include securing reliable water resources.

It also calls for knowledge sharing, better access to technology for developing countries and finance that will allow them to deliver sanitation and clean water for their people.

Without water there is no life and it has to be clean, uncontaminated water, as far as human life is concerned. Some dirt and mud in water used for irrigation is no problem, as we all know. But for humans and animal health the water has to be clean and pure.

The absolute abuse of water in the developed world, from household usage up to and especially including industries, is not just a disgrace. It endangers life on the planet.

We have to find other ways of, for instance, flushing toilets and such like and we must utilize gray-water as medium for irrigating plants. Every time that a toilet is being flushed in the world somewhere in the region of 2-3 gallons of perfectly good drinking water is poured, literally, down the drain, serving no purpose other than flushing waste matter away.

In the booklet that accompanied the “DIY Planet Repair Kit” that was produced by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and his team, the slogan was “don't rush to flush if it is only a pee” and that is what we must consider.

The cycle of water that people used to be taught in school no longer works for we use and abuse way too much water and send it to the sea. Most of that water does not return in the form of rain to us but is, in fact, lost and raises the sea levels.

That waste water that we pump into rivers and the sea may be more the culprit for sea level rises than any melting glaciers and ice sheets.

© 2009


Cycle Show 2009 – A Visit Report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cycle Show 2009 at Earls Court, London from October 8-11, 2009

While there was not all that much new with the big makers and suppliers some new innovations and arrivals, as least as far as the Cycle Show in London is concerned, were to be seen.

Dutch ID (cargo) bikes was definitely one new one on the show; at least I am sure that I have not seen them before here, and those bicycles really got me interested.

Bicgfish Folding Bike was represented again and, so I understand, is going from strength to strength and also Pashley Bicycles report good sales.

It would appear that bicycles are beginning to make a comeback in Britain, and elsewhere, and also especially for commuting to work, going to the shops and more.

German bicycle makers Tout Terrain also showcased some great and well designed and -constructed urban and country touring bikes.

What makes those bikes rather special is the fact that the luggage rack on the back is an integral part of the frame and not, as with other bikes, a bolted on thing. This not only makes for a more rigid carrier but also is adding to the strength of the frame itself.

Nowadays it needs the Germans, the Dutch and the Danes, it would seem, to show us in Britain (and elsewhere) how to make good and proper bicycles for the everyday tasks.

Paper Bike from the UK though is also very interesting and was on the show last year already. The bikes are extremely sturdy steel constructions, simple in design, and, so I believe, made in Britain.

On the other hand, however, the rest of the stuff was not all that relevant, as far as I am concerned, such as a “gold” bike and a sparkling low rider. Gimmicks those are and expensive ones at that. People who want real bikes and for whom cycling is a means of transportation, by choice, and not a plaything certainly did not even give those a second look.

While the golden bike was a folding one and one might not have to worry too much as to someone vandalizing it or steeling it if chained up outside, for that would not come into the equation here, with some of the other bicycles in the several thousand pound bracket that would be a serious concern though to me and I am sure also to others.

At the same time that there were many vendors of cycle accessories (lights, clothing, bags, etc.) present at the Cycle Show 2009 the makers of such products, in the main, were rather conspicuous by their absence.

This is rather always rather a shame for writers on the lookout for new products to report on. Vendors rarely have interest in having anyone review the products.

What was good to learn from the visit to the show though is that cycle sales, according to the makers that I spoke to, are up and that despite the recession – or maybe because of the recession - and also bike repair shops and cycle re-builders are doing good business.

From where I am standing in this I can say that I but hope that this is a sign that people are beginning to think about alternative transport to the car and are seeing the bicycle as a viable alternative, especially for shorter journeys.

I tend to find it rather silly – and I use that word for lack of a better one – when I see people going a mile or two (even less at times) to get a newspaper or a pint of milk getting the car out and driving there.

© 2009


Keep Cup – A new alternative to the paper cup

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Only recently arrived from Australia in Britain the “Keep Cup” is the alternative to the paper cup or the polystyrene cup for takeaway coffee.

“Keep Cup”, made from polypropylene is a far better alternative to the paper- or the polystyrene cup than the “I Am No Paper Cup” ceramic offering.

Who in their right mind would want to cart a ceramic “take out” cup with them?

Aside from the fact that ceramic is breakable it is heavy and hence the “Keep Cup” may just be the answer to the non-recyclable paper or polystyrene cups.

Previously you have had only the option of the paper or polystyrene or a travel mug which – one – is costly and – two – there are no “controlled” sizes of them. This means that a barista normally does not know what to do with it in way of size that will fit into cup. Also, most of those mugs do not fit under the machines.

The “Keep Cup” on the other hand do. They have been developed by coffeehouse owners & operators in conjunction with a plastics designer.

Made from polypropylene the “Keep Cup” is very light and, most importantly, they are recyclable at the end of their life.

The lifespan given for the cup is four years but, I must say, it beats me why that limit. I am sure that it could last much, much longer than that.

The key features of the “Keep Cup” a pleasing surface from which to drink, a lid that pops on and off, and they look and handle good.

From an environmental standpoint, while still oil dependent, the cup has a low energy embodiment, is reusable, unbreakable and, as the end of its life, recyclable.

The “Keep Cup” is designed and manufactured in Australia and made from polypropylene and is BPA free. The latter is another great plus and much more than what can be guaranteed as to the liners of the travel mugs of the various types and sizes.

What's wrong with disposable cups, some may ask, especially the paper cups. What paper cups?

Disposable paper cups are not recyclable.

The paper cup is made from a composite of materials: kraft bleached paper sprayed with a polyethylene coating. Paper cups are often impregnated with toxic dyes which make them difficult to recycle. The plastic lining in disposable paper cups means they are not recyclable.

In arid regions like Australia, “bio-degradation” of a paper cup can take 50 years or more.

And even when the cup “biodegrades” it still leaves the plastic as every smaller particles and we do, therefore, not know what long-term damage this plastic may eventually do.

It is not just the cup and lid that go into landfill. On average, each disposable cup contains 5% of the raw materials involved in the process of making and delivering it.

It is a choice. We can destroy fewer trees and reduce landfill, CO2 and energy output.

Small acts can make a big difference – for better and for worse. The environmental impact of all single use items is great. Through good design and a little effort we can easily incorporate reuse into our daily routine.

Check out our research and the links to other websites we believe take a great position on environmental issues.

You can have a closer look by visiting their website at: www.keepcup.com

© 2009


Lakeland Christmas 09 Catalog – Preview

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The latest catalog from the great people up there in the English Lake District landed on my doorstep and it is, once again, jam-packed full of great ideas for the home, including the for us important “green” and “greenish” ones.

Aside from those green and greenish ideas there are many other great ones, especially in the storage front and the organizing and cleaning your home. Many of those cleaners and such, yet again, of an environmentally friendly nature.

There is “Oven Mate, on page 8, which is said to be an environmentally friendly yet powerful oven cleaner and knowing the state of my oven it would have to be very powerful indeed.

This is followed on page 11 by “Lap It Up”, an absorbent substance intended to suck up oils in pans so that they can be disposed off easily. Also useful for spillages of different kinds. This product too is said to be kind on the environment.

If you want to clean your oven, tiles, etc, without using chemicals at all then that can be sorted too as there are two what look to be powerful steam cleaners to be found on page 13 of the catalog.

On page 39 are then found some energy savings solutions in the form of the new Ecozone energy efficient CFLs which replicate daylight, so making it not just a good light but one kind to your eyes and good for your moods.

Also on this page there are the Standby Saver TV/Audio strip to be found and two kinds of energy efficient fan heaters.

On the left-hand side top of the same page you can also find some great little draft excluders that you can buy in order to keep drafts from coming through underneath of the gaps of doors. Those can also help to reduce your home heating bills.

If you want to do your thing for the environment as regards to recycling all your paper from home and office but are concerned as regards too identity theft then the Hide ID stamp is the answer. This stamp is found on page 45 of the catalog and anyone would have to be a genius to decipher any information after that stamp has been applied.

Mind you, I deal with that different. I shred all my documents and then put them into the compost bin. I challenge anyone to be able to get any data from that stuff after a few months, not that anyone in their right mind would want to go through my compost bin anyway, I am sure.

Further on in the catalog on page 52 we then come to the BYOB area where we find a number of different reusable shopping bags, some of which roll up small enough to fit into purse (as long as it is not a micro-sized one) , handbag or briefcase. Yes, gents, you too can carry a bag like that in case you want to pick something up on the way home from the office. Saves you ending up having to take – and soon having to pay for – a plastic carrier bag. Ii always have a cotton tote on me.

What pleases me, as a advocate of had-powered/human-powered tools very much is the fact that Lakeland also sells two manual carpet sweepers, one from Bissell and the other by Ewbank. A manual sweeper often, so is my experience, works better than many a vacuum cleaner.

Another great product we find on page 68 and 69 in the same catalog and that is the E-cloth. This cloth, though I have not tested it as yet and cannot comment from personal use, cleans with just using water, and there are a great number of different packs for different uses.

At the end of the catalog we end up – pardon the pun – the laundry section and here we have airers and drying racks and also environmentally friendly washing agents and dryer balls.

So, I am sure everyone will find something of interest in the pages of this latest catalog from Lakeland and it is well worth a look when it drops onto your doormat in the next week or two.

© 2009


How Pure Is Bottled Water?

Not very, could be the quick and short answer.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Crystal-clear, pure, and pristine, or so it would seem. And most people believe just that image. The image of pure spring water, uncontaminated by chemicals of any kind and much better for us than tap.

The truth is a different one, however.

Is bottled water really that clean?

Labels do not mention contamination, and are also not required, so far, to do so and for bottled water the testing standards are way less rigorous than they are for tap water.

Do you think the bottled water companies test their water eight to ten times a day for all possible contamination? No, but in most case your municipal water companies are required by law to do so. Bottled water does not need to be tested more than a few times a month.

Bottled water needs better regulation.

Bottled what precisely?

On the US national level, the FDA is solely responsible for bottled water purity and safety, but the FDA's rules exempt waters that are packaged and sold within the same state, which account for between 60 and 70 percent of all bottled water sold in the U.S.

The FDA permits bottlers to label their product "spring water" even though it may be brought to the surface using a pumped well and may have been treated with chemicals and other bottles waters refuse to give their sources, despite the fact that they are known to come from “public sources”. At least that means that they are probably safer than those from “springs”.

Contrary to tap water rules, the FDA does not require bottled water to be disinfected or tested for parasites such as cryptosporidium or giardia. The bottled water industry is not required to disclose any of its contaminant testing results, increasing the possibility of health risks to infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

And still most of us believe bottled water to be safer than tap water. How bizarre.

In a four-year study, the National Resource Defense Council tested the purity and safety of 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water. They concluded that about one-third of the bottles contained contamination, including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.

In the case of Evian, from, supposedly, the Alps in France – and yes, there is a town in the French Alps, just across from Geneva in Switzerland, by that name where it may come from, was found to be contaminated some years back as was Perrier. In both instances it was, amongst other things, Radon.

Let's stop believing the hype and trust our public sources. In most places they are safe and if you do not like the taste then – for heaven's sake – get a filter but not bottled water.

In addition to that bottled water also is not good for the water table of the planet and hence we should avoid it.

Many people think that when I speak out against bottled water I am concerned – and others – with the plastic bottle but that is only a small part of it. Although the bottles are a pain the fact that the amount of water taken from natural sources for bottling is causing problems to the world as a whole. Time for a change.

© 2009


Lakeland Slow Cooker – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Lakeland Slow Cooker
Lakeland Ref 12921

If the thought of coming home at the end of the day to a tasty casserole of tender meat, wholesome beans or flavorsome vegetables has already got your taste buds tingling, then slow cooking is for you.

Creating beautiful home-cooked meals from scratch with the minimum of effort, it will make rushed ready-meals a thing of the past and that is both good fore you and the environment.

This slow cooker which is exclusive to Lakeland and produced for and imported by Lakeland – made in the PRC – is simple to operate with three heat settings:

  • LOW for simmering and slow cooking
  • HIGH for faster cooking and
  • AUTO which keeps food at serving temperature.

The cooker has an oval brushed chrome body with cool touch handles that houses an element that encircles the crock for even cooking.

The pot is a 3.5 liter earthenware crock with a glass lid, so you can see what's going on with the meal during the cooking without having to lift the lid all the time and letting out the heat. The crock can be removed to take to the table and for cleaning.

The small manual that comes with the crock pot (slow cooker) included four recipes to get you started.

Slow cookers can also be used to slow cook a joint of meat for instance and I have found meat cooked in that way to be very delicious indeed.

The only one single negative comment that I could make about this slow cooker – and this could probably apply to most, if not indeed all, modern ones – and that is that the outer body is metal and is connected to the inside “element” and hence the outside gets rather hot.

Crock pots of the older generation had different outsides, some earthenware themselves, just like the inside crock, others had plastics that remained cool to the touch.

Other than that this crock pot that is exclusive to Lakeland is a great slow cooker and does what it says on the box, so to speak, and will grace any kitchen and table, as you can, as previously mentioned, take the pot to the table for serving.

© 2009


Red diesel prices slowly rising higher

Yet another problem hitting our farmers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Red diesel prices are starting to edge upwards more and more, according to results from the Inputs Price Monitor by Farmer's Weekly and the NFU, suggesting farmers should be thinking about making their winter purchases sooner, rather than later, such as NOW.

Red diesel, for readers outside the United Kingdom, is agricultural diesel which attracts lower taxes in order to help the farming industry. However, we are seeing this ring-fenced system coming under attack more and more and the tax regime changing on it.

The data, collected from about 150 farmers who took part a survey in August 2009, shows that the average cost of red diesel across the country came to 42.91p/liter. This was up 2p/liter on the previous month's figure.

To some extent, the rise reflects the fact that harvest has been squeezed into a short window in many parts of the country, exaggerating short-term demand, and this has fed through to prices.

"Some farmers have also brought forward deliveries of red diesel, to preempt fuel duty increases, which came into force on 1 September," said NFU farm inputs adviser Hannah Moule. Red diesel duty went up 0.38p/liter recently, while road fuel duty was raised by 2p/liter.

More generally, there is continuing upward pressure on crude oil prices globally. "The $80/barrel mark is already being talked about by some energy market analysts, given that oil prices are seen as a barometer for the global economic recovery," said Miss Moule.

"As heavy industry around the world ramps up production, energy demand will rise and UK diesel prices are likely to reflect this trend in the coming months. Farmers would do well to negotiate with their suppliers now."

Apart from red diesel, the other main change in August was for a fall in the price of glyphosate, which dropped about 50p/liter to £4.31p/liter. "In sharp contrast to last year, global supplies are better matched with demand and the price trend seen in global markets is being mirrored in the UK," said Miss Moule.

In the fertilizer market, however, there has been a £2/tonne increase in the price of domestic ammonium nitrate to average £179/t, reflecting the monthly increment as set out by GrowHow at the start of the season.

The situation with the red diesel which we may find sooner or later is going to be seen by the EU as something that we have to change in the UK is just one more problem that is being thrown at the farmers in this country.

It may be time to reconsider our farming practices and the use of those huge diesel guzzling tractors and other machines and look at other ways again.

The Amish in America may be able to give us a few hints there, I should think, seeing that they, basically, are nearly the only farmers that actually make profit from their farms in comparison with the huge agri-industrial places that mostly just about break even.

All this dependence on petroleum-based products, from fuel to fertilizer and everything else in between in squeezing farmer's and farming and while the production cost, for the ordinary commercial farms, rise they prices they get for their products from the supermarkets are the same as they have been or the retailers are even pushing the prices down further. Not that the retailers pass this on to the consumer, though.

While milk is about 70-something pence retail a liter the farmer gets less than a third of that and somewhere in the region of 15-17pence a liter. Now somewhere along the line this does not compute.

The problem, however, for the modern commercial farms that work with modern methods and machinery is that the overheads are far, far too high. Fuel costs, fertilizer, heating, purchase or lease cost of vehicles and machinery, insurance, etc., etc. and many farms can hardly break even. Profits is something they often can but dream of.

More and more farmers in Britain are quitting the industry and the country, the government, is doing little about it and the public do not seem to care either. But the nation's food security is dependent on home farms. Imports cannot guarantee that.

Instead of quitting maybe a change in practices is what farmers should be looking at. Practices that could an d would reduce their overheads and also their environmental footprint. Generate your own power and heat and go back to some more animal and human power on the farms rather than ever bigger and more powerful tractors and such.

Could this be done? I think so.

© 2009


The Carbon Show exceeds expectations on launch

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Carbon Show launched on 29 and 30 September at ExCeL London and brought together 74 exhibitors, 140 speakers and over 2,000 visitors from leading organizations from across the carbon management and trading communities.

The exhibition attracted visitors from across the UK and Europe, Canada, South Africa and Asia, and provided all attendees with the opportunity to hear from industry experts, network with professionals from across the sector and create new business leads.

The Carbon Show is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK, and the popularity of the exhibition highlights the importance that businesses must place on developing methods to make the transition to a low carbon economy.

Among the organizations present at the exhibition were Carbon Trust, AEA, Environment Agency, Transport for London and Fortis Bank.

Dr Jez Richardson is Technical Director of Climate Change and Policy at Scott Wilson, an exhibitor at The Carbon Show. He commented: "It is significant that we now have an event dedicated to the carbon industry, reflecting the urgency of the climate change agenda. I was very impressed with the range of organizations that exhibited, which allowed us to showcase the full variety of solutions and services we offer. Scott Wilson found The Carbon Show an excellent opportunity to meet, network and discuss the issues we are all facing."

Key topics discussed in seminars and plenary sessions across the two days included the forthcoming Copenhagen summit, the government’s recently revealed Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, and the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which comes into effect for many businesses across the UK next year.

Highlights included the launch of the Carbon Yearbook 2009/10, which is produced by ENDS.

The publication is the annual review of business and climate change, and was launched at an evening drinks reception on 29 September. Editor-in-chief Nick Rowcliffe said of the event: "The Carbon Show provided a fantastic launch for the first ENDS Carbon Yearbook, as it brought together professionals from across the carbon industry. One of the largest crowds of the day gathered to hear Henry Derwent, president of the International Emission Trading Association, explain how all professionals involved in carbon could learn something from the publication.”

Two reports were also launched at the exhibition, revealing the steps the world’s largest organisations are taking to combat climate change. The Global 500 Report by the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the Carbon Offsetting trends report announced by EcoSecurities, both provoked in-depth discussions at The Carbon Show’s popular feature, the Carbon Corner.

Simon Daukes, Group Managing Director for Haymarket Exhibitions, commented on the success of this year’s Carbon Show: “Despite the current economic climate we have exceeded our expectations in both visitor and exhibitor numbers. The success of this year’s event highlights the continuing importance of the environmental sector, and the potential for development in years to come.”

The Carbon Show will return to ExCeL London on 6-7 October 2010, and this is, more than likely, good news.

What I saw on my visit I must say that, for the size of the exhibition, it was very busy and the publisher present at the show made a roaring trade.

I did not, alas, have the time, even though, so I understand, my press pass would have given me access to the conference sessions, to take in any of them. Maybe next year?

© 2009


Sustrans shares expertise to change Nottingham students’ travel habits

Students and staff at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University will be encouraged to walk and cycle to and from campus in an investment project worth well over £3million over the next two years.

Working with Nottingham City Council, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans will lend its expertise to an innovative new scheme to promote healthy, sustainable travel at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

New cycle routes and other facilities will be provided alongside investment in new services such as bike hire and cycle training. The project will also offer tailor-made information on cycling to thousands of students and staff, together with financial incentives including discounts at cycle stores.

Sustrans Regional Director Yvonne Gilligan said: “There is an enormous potential to improve the health of staff and students – and reduce traffic congestion around universities – by encouraging them to walk or cycle more of their everyday trips.

“Students in Nottingham, as in most university towns and cities, live in close proximity to where they study so there is usually no need to rely on cars to get about. Nottingham is also fortunate to have forward thinking councils, universities and a hospital trust within the strongly supportive Greater Nottingham Transport Partnership plus a good deal of cycle infrastructure already in place.”

Phillip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England, said: “At Cycling England we are always exploring new ways of getting more people cycling, more safely, more often. This initiative is a great example of how we can help people overcome the barriers to getting on their bikes, as well as creating innovative solutions to encourage existing cyclists to use two wheels as often as possible.

“We hope this programme will be replicated and rolled out in other towns and cities - there are many would-be cyclists out there and by identifying and utilising hubs, such as universities and hospitals, we can reach them and give them the training and encouragement they need to make cycling part of their daily lives.”

Transport and Neighbourhoods Portfolio holder at the City Council Jane Urquhart said: “Adults often don’t see cycling as an option but by setting up bike hire schemes, cycle training and other initiatives you can dispel some of the myths and help people realise the various benefits. People can say to themselves ‘This is something I can do today to help the environment, my own health and my bank balance – and have fun at the same time.”

Cycling England will contribute £1 million with local partners Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham contributing over £2 million on new infrastructure around and in the city campuses.

Sustrans research and monitoring team will also measure the project’s impact with pedestrian and cycle counts, and surveys of staff and students.


Plan B 4.0 – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
by Lester R. Brown
Published for the Earth Policy Institute
by W.W. Norton & Company

This book is available free to download from the Earth Policy Institute website or can be bought as a bound paperback from booksellers but both the paperback version, and also a hardback version, can be bought from the Earth Policy Institute website as well.


Lester R. Brown certainly thinks so and he may just be right.

“In early 2008, Saudi Arabia announced that, after being self-sufficient in wheat for over 20 years, the non-replenishable aquifer it had been pumping for irrigation was largely depleted,” writes Lester R. Brown in his new book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (W.W. Norton & Company).

“In response, officials said they would reduce their wheat harvest by one eighth each year until production would cease entirely in 2016. The Saudis then plan to use their oil wealth to import virtually all the grain consumed by their Canada-sized population of nearly 30 million people,” notes Brown, President and Founder of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based independent environmental research organization.

“The Saudis are unique in being so wholly dependent on irrigation,” says Brown in Plan B 4.0. But other, far larger, grain producers such as India and China are facing irrigation water losses and could face grain production declines.

A World Bank study of India’s water balance notes that 15 percent of its grain harvest is produced by overpumping. In human terms, 175 million Indians are being fed with grain produced from wells that will be going dry. The comparable number for China is 130 million. Among the many other countries facing harvest reductions from groundwater depletion are Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen.

“The tripling of world wheat, rice, and corn prices between mid-2006 and mid-2008 signaled our growing vulnerability to food shortages,” says Brown. “It took the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression to lower grain prices.”

“Past decades have witnessed world grain price surges, but they were event-driven—a drought in the former Soviet Union, a monsoon failure in India, or a crop-withering heat wave in the U.S. Corn Belt. This most recent price surge was trend-driven, the result of our failure to reverse the environmental trends that are undermining world food production.”

These trends include—in addition to falling water tables—eroding soils and rising temperatures from increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rising temperatures bring crop-shrinking heat waves, melting ice sheets, rising sea level, and shrinking mountain glaciers.

With both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melting at an accelerating pace, sea level could rise by up to six feet during this century. Brown notes, “Such a rise would inundate much of the Mekong Delta, which produces half of the rice in Viet Nam, the world’s second-ranking rice exporter. Even a three-foot rise in sea level would cover half the riceland in Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people. And these are only two of Asia’s many rice-growing river deltas.”

“The world’s mountain glaciers have shrunk for 18 consecutive years. Many smaller glaciers have disappeared. Nowhere is the melting more alarming than in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau where the ice melt from glaciers sustains not only the dry-season flow of the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers but also the irrigation systems that depend on them. Without these glaciers, many Asian rivers would cease to flow during the dry season.”

The wheat and rice harvests of China and India would be directly affected. China is the world’s leading wheat producer. India is second. (The United States is third.) With rice, China and India totally dominate the world harvest. The projected melting of these glaciers if we stay with business as usual poses the most massive threat to food security the world has ever faced.

The number of hungry people, which was declining for several decades, bottomed out in the mid-1990s at 825 million. It then climbed to 915 million in 2008 and jumped to over 1 billion in 2009. With world food prices projected to continue rising, so too will the number of hungry people, leaving millions of families trying to survive on one meal per day.

“We know from studying earlier civilizations such as the Sumerians, Mayans, and many others,” says Brown, “that more often than not it was food shortages that led to their demise. It now appears that food may be the weak link in our early twenty-first century civilization as well.

“The world is entering a new food era, one marked by rising food prices, growing numbers of hungry people, and an emerging politics of food scarcity. As grain-exporting countries restrict or even ban exports to keep domestic food prices from spiraling out of control, importing countries are losing confidence in the market’s ability to supply their needs. In response, the more affluent ones such as Saudi Arabia, China, and South Korea are leasing and buying large tracts of land in developing countries on which to grow food for themselves.”

Among the countries in which large tracts of land are being acquired are Ethiopia and Sudan, both already heavily dependent on World Food Programme lifelines to stave off famine. In effect, the competition for land and water, in the form of land acquisitions, has crossed national boundaries, opening a new chapter in the history of food security.

Our early twenty-first century civilization is showing signs of stress as individual countries compete not only for scarce food but also for the land and water to produce it. People expect their governments to provide food security. Indeed, the inability to do so is one of the hallmarks of a failing state. Each year the list of failing states grows longer, leaving us with a disturbing question: How many failing states before our global civilization begins to unravel?

“Will we follow in the footsteps of the Sumerians and the Mayans or can we change course—and do it before time runs out?” asks Brown. “Can we move onto an economic path that is environmentally sustainable? We think we can. That is what Plan B 4.0 is about.”

Plan B aims to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty, and restore the economy’s natural support systems. It prescribes a worldwide cut in net carbon emissions of 80 percent by 2020, thus keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations from exceeding 400 parts per million. “In setting this goal,” says Brown, “my colleagues and I did not ask what would be politically popular but rather what would it take to have a decent shot at saving the Greenland ice sheet and at least the larger glaciers in the mountains of Asia.”

Cutting carbon emissions will require both a worldwide revolution in energy efficiency and a shift from oil, coal, and gas to wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The energy efficiency revolution will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescents to compact fluorescent bulbs can reduce electricity use for lighting by 75 percent. But shifting from incandescents to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs) combined with light sensors can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent.

At least one of the new plug-in gas electric hybrids coming to market can get over 200 miles per gallon of gasoline. In the Plan B energy economy of 2020, most of the fleet will be plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, and they will be running largely on wind-generated electricity for the gasoline equivalent of less than $1 per gallon.

The shift to renewable sources of energy is moving at a pace and on a scale we could not imagine even two years ago. Consider the state of Texas. The enormous number of wind projects under development, on top of the 9,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity in operation and under construction, will bring Texas to over 50,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity (think 50 coal-fired power plants) when all these wind farms are completed. This will more than satisfy the needs of the state’s 24 million residents.

Nationwide, new wind generating capacity in 2008 totaled 8,400 megawatts while new coal plants totaled only 1,400 megawatts. The annual growth in solar generating capacity will also soon overtake that of coal. The energy transition is under way.

The United States has led the world in each of the last four years in new wind generating capacity, having overtaken Germany in 2005. But this lead will be short-lived as China appears set to blow by the United States in new wind capacity added in 2009.

China, with its Wind Base program, is working on six wind farm mega-complexes with generating capacities that range from 10,000 to 30,000 megawatts, for a total of 105,000 megawatts. This is in addition to the hundreds of smaller wind farms built or planned.

Wind is not the only option. In July 2009, a consortium of European corporations led by Munich Re, and including Deutsche Bank, Siemens, and ABB plus an Algerian firm, announced a proposal to tap the massive solar thermal generating capacity in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. A German firm calculates that solar thermal power plants in North Africa could economically supply half of Europe’s electricity. Algeria, which has already completed its first solar thermal plant, has signed an agreement to supply Germany with solar-generated electricity. The Algerians note that they have enough harnessable solar energy in their desert to power the world economy. (No, this is not an error.)

“The soaring investment in wind, solar, and geothermal energy is being driven by the exciting realization that these renewables can last as long as the earth itself,” says Brown. “In contrast to investing in new oil fields where well yields begin to decline in a matter of decades, or in coal mines where the seams run out, these new energy sources can last forever.”

The combination of efficiency advances, the wholesale shift to renewable energy, and expansion of the earth’s tree cover outlined in Plan B would allow the world to cut net global carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. In contrast to today’s global electricity sector, where coal supplies 40 percent of electricity, Plan B sees wind emerging as the centerpiece in the 2020 energy economy, supplying 40 percent of all electricity.

We are in a race between political tipping points and natural tipping points. Can we cut carbon emissions fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid the resulting rise in sea level? Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save at least the larger glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau? Can we stabilize population by lowering birth rates before nature takes over and halts population growth by raising death rates?

“Yes,” affirms Brown. “But it will take something close to a wartime mobilization, one similar to that of the United States in 1942 as it restructured its industrial economy in a matter of months. We used to talk about saving the planet, but it is civilization itself that is now at risk.

“Saving civilization is not a spectator sport. Each of us must push for rapid change. And we must be armed with a plan outlining the changes needed.

“It is decision time,” says Brown. “Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we have to make a choice. We can stay with business as usual and watch our economy decline and our civilization unravel, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that mobilizes to save civilization. Our generation will make the decision, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.”

In the book the author likens the global economy to a giant ponzi scheme and I believe that this is a very apt description and analogy and one that I have used before myself.

The way we are using and abusing resources, especially but not only finite ones, is unsustainable and cannot continue and must be stopped.

In order for civilization and human life in general to survive on this Planet we must change and we must change now. We simply cannot use up the resources of three or more planets seeing that we have only one.

Modern man, as in the people of the twentieth and twenty-first century are the only ones that have lived beyond their means, and that in more aspect than one, and removed and isolated from nature.

Let us hope that some information and knowledge that can be gleaned from this book and others of this genre will filter through to the people who then demand that actions will be taken or, better still, who take actions themselves and hold governments and capital to account as to how they treat the Planet and the resources.

© 2009