Waiting on a Train – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Waiting on a Train
The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service
A Year Spent Riding Across America
by James McCommons
304 pages paperback 6” x 9”
ISBN: 9781603580649
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing October 20, 2009
Price: $17.95

The book “Waiting on a Train” is the story of a passenger rail journey by the author across the United States via the Amtrak long-distance passenger rail service during an entire year, and the author's observations and also the various talks he has had with people involved with the railroads.

From reading this book it becomes rather evident that Britain made the same mistakes as regards to the railroad system the USA did, though some years later under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,

The only difference between the USA and Britain is that the UK destroyed a relatively well working and affordable passenger rail system and created a “private” one via franchises, none of which, bar one or two, run well, on time, and with value for money.

“Waiting on a Train” is a well written book in which the author, James McCommons, makes the valid call for the resurrecting the nearly dead long-distance passenger rail service in America and also for better goods trains.

Being a non-car driver and -owner I am a great lover and advocate of trains, passenger and good, and this book speaks to my innermost being.

The only way passenger rail services work and will work properly ever at a decent cost to the traveling public, that is to say, fares that the ordinary person can afford if they are in public ownership. Yes, we are talking here about the “N” word, the word called “nationalization”.

Only a proper nationalized public passenger rail service that can offer low fares – even if this be supported by taxes – will ever encourage people to leave their cars at home and use the train, for commuting and, especially, for long-distance travel, or to entice them to desert the plane for the train. For me there would never be a contest; I prefer the train to the plane any time.

The old, the nationalized British railroad service, British Rail, worked just on principle similar to that when it came to passenger transportation at least. That was until British Rail (BR) was destroyed by the government of Margaret Thatcher.

Are the railways the answer to our transportation needs?

The answer, short and sweet, to this, is “yes”, but to all intents and purposes, so it least it would seem, only a nationalized system of sorts will make this possible.

The entire railways system – in the UK and elsewhere – should be in public ownership and have no private shareholders of any kind. Private shareholders, in the main, when it comes to passenger rail systems, utilities, and whatever else, put profit before anything else, and that almost always.

Trains are green and outperform cars and planes alike.

I have greatly enjoyed this book and can all but agree with the “findings” of the author as far as the need for a nationalized railway system in the USA (and elsewhere) and the sooner this is understood by the powers-that-be and citizens alike the better for all of us and especially the environment.

Well run trains at affordable fares will be a way that people can be enticed out of the cars and even out of planes and the environmental footprint of an individual's rail journey as compared to the same journey by car would be that much smaller.

Now let's hear it for the train.

© 2009


Solar cell phone chargers and others

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

So far it would appear that there is a lot of talk and hype about such gadgets but not much substance to them. I have yet to see one of those chargers that, in our latitudes, actually does its job properly.

I have seen a number of those devices so far though have yet to get my hands on one of those for a proper test and review.

What I have seen so far, however, is definitely nothing to write home about, as none of those, especially not, as I said, our latitudes, where the sun is normally not high enough in the sky for most of the time and also not reliable enough.

All those solar chargers can do in places such as the UK, etc. is to give a small boost to a cell phone's battery and that is it.

While those chargers may work inf the sunny places in the south, such as the Mediterranean , the Middle East, Africa, Australia and such, in most of Europe and North America they are all but useless.

The same is also true, as I have found, with solar charged flashlights of all kinds.

While they charge well enough in summer in Britain, as long as the sun is in the sky long enough, come Fall, Winter and in Spring, however, and the solar panel just cannot produce enough energy to charge the batteries which may, or may not, be removable.

The same problem also exists with solar, aka photo-voltaic, cells (solar panels) on roofs here in the northern latitudes in those months.

Wind and water is a much more reliable source and that is why small wind is going to be very important in Britain, I should think, in the future. However, one cannot use wind and water with cell phone chargers of a portable nature really.

Having said that, there are some small wind-powered charges for cell phones on the market nowadays but, as far as I am concerned, they are only gimmicks really and of no real use. I mean, seriously, how long do you want to hold your arm up into the wind with one of those devices?

The truth is that very few of such things, aside from human-powered devices, are of use in places such as Britain and North America. Maybe someone could design one on the principle of the pedal-powered ones for the military radio communication, but small and the pedals be turned by hand, How about it, designers?

Time, methinks, to reevaluate those “green” gadgets.

© 2009


Help – I cannot stop upcycling!

Do I have a problem?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

From early childhood that what we now call “upcycling” and recycling has been part of my life.

Reusing items that others would regards as rubbish, as trash, as waste, and reworking those was the usual thing for us in our family and I must say that I have, to this day, retained this “trait”, for lack of a better word.

To be perfectly honest it has so much become part of my life and my fabric that I look at every, or at least nearly every, item that would fall under the term trash and should go into the garbage can or one of the recycling bins with the questions “can I use this for something” or what can I make with this/out of this” always in my mind.

Some people, in fact, might regards me as having become obsessive in this way and department and this has not just come about with the talk about climate change and having to conserve resources. It has been with me for a very long time, as said; the obsession too.

We have had, in our family, and I do not think this was just because we were Gypsy, the “waste not, want not” philosophy and also the attitude that one person's rubbish may be the resource for us to make to make some money.

Personally, I try not to put anything into the trash or the recycling bins that might be reusable or re-workable, that is to say, upcyclable. The major problem with this attitude, though, is that one needs a rather large barn where to store all those things that could be reused and re-worked and those that just might come in handy some day to make something with or from.

So, do I have a problem?

I have now also – and in fact that is not entirely new with me either – taken to make my own notebooks and a writer can never be without one, from scrap paper, that is to say, from single-side printed pages, whether press releases or letters or whatever. I am also making my own business- and calling cards from various kinds of card stock, such as cereal packs, and similar, and then use an IDEAL 200 stamp to print the details upon the cut up cards.

Glass jars, cookie tins (metal and plastic), and others, are all kept for storage purposes and many times tin cans too get re-purposed and upcycled, like into pencil bins (for the desk) and such like.

I just loathe to see anything that may have a use, however remotely, as it is, or with a little re-working, to get thrown into the trash or even the recycling bins and I also find myself rescuing things that other people have thrown out or lost.

As I said before, it probably has become an obsession but it also means that there are quite a few things that I do not have to send money on as I make them myself by upcycling and if I had the time I guess I would do more of that even.

While it can become an obsession that could last for the rest of one's life it is great fun, I think, and useful fun at that.

So, what's the diagnosis? Do I have a problem?

© 2009

Has Global Warming hijacked the environmental agenda?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“Global Warming”, now renamed, more appropriate, into “Climate Change”, is important but it would appear though that we are concentrating far too much on that one aspect and not enough of other environmental issues, be they deforestation and general loss of habitat; air pollution from vehicles, factories, etc.; species loss; and many more.

We are on about recycling and such all the time, and rightly so, for we are running out of holes in the ground where to dump all the trash and waste that we produce, but too many times with reference to CO2 emissions and such and not with regards to the environmental impact that our wasteful lives have.

It is not just the trash; it is the consumption to which we are even encouraged by the governments in order to stimulate the economy in times of economic problems.

When people suggested that the 2008/2009 financial and economic crisis would be an idea to scale back consumption the governments nigh on labeled all those that were not going out to spend the way our of the crisis as “terrorists”.

However, in general, the Climate Change agenda definitely is becoming detrimental to the rest of the environment and the movement.

What good is it if we save the Planet, so to speak, if at all we can, from warming up, because this could be a natural cycle and we do not even know how a changed climate will or will not impact on human life and life in general, when the biodiversity is destroyed because we were not watching that.

While we scream about the destruction of tropical rainforests, many, presently, so we can get bio-diesel from palm oil, the boreal forests are left to be exploited and destroyed by the the likes of Kimberly-Clark in Canada. We do not even want to talk about the Alberta tar sands now where a huge area of boreal forest was destroyed in order to get to this source of oil.

Climate Change and fight against it – which may be futile if it is, as I, and also eminent scientists, believe a natural cycle of the Planet, one that Earth follows every now and then on a more or less regular basis.

As they say “Man proposes but G-d disposes” and whether you believe in a G-d, like the Abrahamic one or a multiple of g-ds does not matter here, I think. The point is that if it is a natural cycle of Mother Earth than we have no chance to “stop” it. We then must adapt to it or, well, die.

On the other hand, there are ways we can live much lighter on the Earth and we must do that for Climate Change – and yes, the climate definitely does seem to be in turmoil all over the globe – is but one thing.

Much of the destruction of the Planet's biospheres and habitats has nothing to do with a changing climate but everything with what man has been doing and is doing.

Climate Change or Global Warming is not destroying the rainforests; loggers are and ranchers. The boreal forests are not destroyed by the climate but by greed of man, yet again, for paper, mostly toilet tissue and paper towels. Is this necessary.

Does the paper industry really have too use wood from often virgin forests for making toilet paper? I do not think so. Here 100% recycled could, in fact, be used very well and the same as regards too paper towels.

When it comes to paper for writing and printing then there would also be other fiber options, such as hemp and nettle. However, a great amount of wood for paper pulp is, in fact, grown in commercially managed forests and those would, often, not even exist were it not for the industry.

We bemoan the huge garbage patch in the Pacific ocean that is full of plastic. That also has nothing to do with Climate Change and will not affect the climate of the world either. It is, however, a danger to sea creatures and hence something should be done about it and it should be cleared. All efforts are, however, directed to “fighting” Climate Change. Helloooo!!! Someone out there???

Even if we can stop the change in the climate what will it benefit us if we have lost the Earth as we knew it?

The best thing would be we went and had a close look at the way the likes of the Native Americans and also the Romani-Gypsy of old lived – in harmony with Mother Earth.

It was the Gypsy who was the first recycler, proper, before we even ever had coined the word. The Gypsy was also the first upcycler, for profit, in that he would take items that were regarded as waste and fashion salable goods from those.

Old broken knives were reworked and then, fitted with sheaths from waste leather goods or leather offcuts from industry, sold on markets. Tin cans made into this and that. From bits of wood offcuts toys were made and old leather was made into items for the market too. Willow and hazel rods were made into clothes pegs, pegs which outperform any modern spring ones by decades and decades.

When the Gypsy used natural wild materials to make things with, be this hazel or will for the making of clothes pegs, or oak and elm for the making of tent pegs, or elder for the making of wooden flowers, he would never take more than he needed and never from one area more than once in a year.

Modern man, on the other hand, exploits Nature and this is the same when it comes to farming as to mining and other activities.

The reason we have a carbon problem, aside from the wholesale deforestation that has been going on ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, is the destruction of the soil.

The soil is one of the greatest sequesters of carbon, but only healthy soil. Throwing chemical fertilizers at it may help crops to grow, to a fashion, but does nothing to the heath of the soil.

These and many more are all aspects of environmental problems the tackling of which is being forgotten because all the energy is being directed to “combating” Climate Change.

I think it is time that we stopped worrying the Climate Change bone and looked at other, equally important, environmental issues, and that now.

© 2009


Bike-riding Rabbis will promote green living

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Nine Rabbis are preparing to take part in a bike ride starting in Edgware to promote green living, on Sunday, December 6, 2009.

JewCycle is being led by Rabbis of the United Synagogue to highlight the need for sustainable living in the community, a day before the Copenhagen Climate Conference next.

The event has been organized by Rabbi Natan Levy of the Shenley synagogue. The even will start at the Edgware synagogue in Watford Way and will be taking a leisurely nine mile route to the Radlett synagogue.

Raymond Raven, who is supplying electric bikes to some of the Rabbis to help them complete the course, said: “They really want to show just how easy it is for people to help the environment.”

The ride is open to the community and anyone interested in attending can contact Rabbi Levy on nzlevy@gmail.com. Spare bikes are available on a first come first served basis.

But why would you require one of those. Sure everyone has a bicycle of their own? No? Why not?

We need to get much more serious, all of us, Jews and Gentiles alike, as regards to sustainable transport and there is nothing as sustainable as cycling and walking.

This is not just because the change in climate may, to some degree, have something to do with the crap that we are chucking into the air; getting out of the car and walking and cycling also is good for our health in that it makes and keeps us fit and it cleans the air in town and country from exhaust pollution.

Eight! So, get you bike out and join the Rabbis and show that you care.

© 2009


Christmas Baubles from SUCK UK – Product Review


A Dead Thoughtful Product

6 Grenade Christmas Tree Decorations
Price: £20.00 for a set

Chestnuts are roasting and the halls are decked, oh ‘tis the season to be jolly… Unless, perhaps, you are one of the millions who exist silently in an often forgotten reality. In a bid to encourage people to think further than just tinsel, Turkey and Christmas cake, youth initiative Ctrl.Alt.Shift has developed a unique seasonal tree decoration: delicate glass baubles, which are actually replica hand grenades.

Designed by Dorothy for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, and produced by Suck UK, the 'Christmas Declarations' will add sparkle to any branch, whilst offering a reminder that the time of year does not bring cheer to all.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift is an experimental initiative politicizing a new generation of activists for social justice and global change. Using creativity, photography, film, stories, illustrations and music, it aims to give a voice to the silent majority.

Those Christmas Grenades are a poignant reminder to all that live in relatively peaceful lands that not everywhere in the world there is peace and goodwill towards men during this season, not even in the so-called Holy Land.

Packaged in sets of six, the limited edition decorations are available from stores worldwide.

While they look to all intents and purposes like the glass pine cones that used to decorate Christmas trees often the grenades are, in fact, made of chromed plastic. Therefore, a little warning note here: DO NOT GET THEM NEAR REAL CANDLES. I know that some people still use real trees and real candles and hence please place those Christmas Grenades not anywhere close candles.

I must say that I think those Christmas grenades to be great thought provoking decorations for the tree and I wonder whether we could come up with something similar as to other pressing issues.

While they are not cheap at £20 for a set of six they are worth it, I think,as they will act as a reminder to everyone who sees them as to the real life beyond our comfortable existence in the developed world and to the fact that while we celebrate other people, many of them children, are dying in conflicts and wars. Also, with each pack purchased you will be making a contribution to Ctrl.Alt.Shift's fight against global conflict.

© 2009



by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Whilst the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) applauds the Government’s commitment to combat climate change and to ensure energy security, the Institution believes that Britain can meet its targets without building new nuclear power stations. And although the aim for no new coal-fired power stations to be built without carbon capture and storage (CCS) is well intentioned, very significant questions remain unanswered regarding its ability to help reduce our carbon emissions.

Because of concerns over the disposal of radioactive waste, the wider carbon emissions of uranium extraction and processing, and a lack of clarity regarding the availability of economically extractable uranium reserves, the CIWEM does not support Ed Miliband's statement that nuclear power is a “proven, reliable source of low carbon energy.” And the Government’s belief in clean coal technology may be misguided as it is still not known if it is possible to convert unproven CCS technology into an affordable reality that can work on the scale required to make a difference in tackling climate change.

As an environmental journalist I also have to say that in my view nuclear is not an option and a route that Britain – nor other countries – should take as especially the storage of spent fuels is on of the greatest concerns, to me, as well as to most of the population.

“Clean” coal – and now there is a misnomer – also is, in my opinion, not a route that we should be going as the capture and storage of the carbon is an unproved technology and one that could easily backfire should there be the slightest flaw in it.

Instead, the CIWEM believes that we need a radical increase in our supply of renewable energy, with electricity generation virtually de-carbonised by 2030, and increased investment in energy efficiency measures. In the CIWEM’s recently published Manifesto, the Institution calls for the fast-tracking of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy production, with work to deliver a renewables-friendly grid being a strong priority for the next Government.

De-carbonising electricity generation is a relatively low-cost option and would make a major contribution to targets. An evolving energy mix is required, with an increasing proportion of low-carbon and renewable fuels and methods of generation. Offshore wind, wave and tidal technologies are existing or emerging technologies which can harness some of the UK’s most abundant renewable energy sources on a large scale, ensuring greater security of supply. Renewable energy derived from the nation’s waste and using advanced technologies must also be promoted.

Nick Reeves, Executive Director of CIWEM says: “We need a new approach to energy use that is rooted in environmental sustainability. The UK’s accessible offshore wind resource is potentially among the greatest in the world, and with a large tidal range and wide ocean swell window, we also has very significant tidal and wave resources.”

“Like a craven alchemist, Ed Miliband promises a new era of energy from coal without any idea of whether it is possible, and nuclear is based on a finite resource that pollutes and perpetuates the current inefficient pattern of electricity generation. As it stands, the Government’s proposal would deflect scarce resources and attention away from the real solutions: renewables and energy efficiency. Many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be diverted to developing uncertain technologies that could be better and more productively invested in technologies that actually work and provide a genuinely clean and sustainable source of energy.”

Renewable energy, and here, in the UK, wind would be one of the primary candidates as we do have our fair share of wind – most of the time. Other options too could be utilized, including methane from landfill sites and sewage works and also, and especially, micro-generation of electricity by the latter means and also the former, on farms, smallholdings and such like. Small wind also would work well on apartment blocks.

If Spain can manage to have 50% of all its energy needs met by just wind then I am sure that the same could be achieved in the UK. The political will does seems to be lacking, however.

Having said that, though, we must change the way that we generate electricity and we much change the voltage in use and bring power generation (once again) closer to the consumer, thus removing the need for the high voltages in which we currently produce electricity.

I am sure, however, that it can be done.

© 2009


Refineries Across U.S. Closing Due to Weak Fuel Demand

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

WILMINGTON, Delaware – Refineries from New Mexico to New Jersey are under severe economic pressure due to falling demand for fuel, with a number of facilities having shut down in recent months.

Valero Energy Corp., which temporarily shuttered a major refinery over the summer, said that it would permanently close its Delaware City oil refinery and lay off 550 workers.

That makes this the largest largest refinery in the United States to close this year.

Refineries in the Northeast are particularly vulnerable because many are older, operate less efficiently and must compete with gasoline imported from Europe.

The Delaware City refinery, where workers were notified of the closing on Friday, November 20, 2009, lost about $1 million every day this year, Bill Day, the spokesman for Valero said.

Demand for fuel has been falling for some time and the recession has made things worse, squeezing profit margins for refiners everywhere.

Refiners are pulling capacity offline and are now operating at levels more consistent with the aftermath of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

El Paso, Texas-based, Western Refining Inc. announced earlier this month that it would close its Bloomfield, N.M., facility, putting 100 people out of work.

Valero, based in San Antonio, said in September that it would idle two units in Delaware City, cutting about 150 jobs. Last month, the company said it would cut another 100 jobs at its Paulsboro, N.J. refinery by the end of the year.

The Paulsboro announcement came just days after Sunoco Inc. said it would indefinitely idle its Eagle Point facility, which employs about 400 workers in New Jersey.

In June Valero shut its refinery in Aruba, which had a capacity of about 275,000 barrels a day.

The Delaware City refinery had a capacity of 210,00 barrels a day.

Valero chairman and CEO Bill Klesse said the company had sought a buyer for the Delaware facility, but found no takers.

"At this point, we have exhausted all viable options," he said.

It is a tough market for any company attempting to unload a refinery.

Rising gasoline prices have already changed the driving habits of Americans and the recession has hastened that trend.

About 30 percent of gasoline demand is closely tied to employment, said Ann Kohler, an analyst with Caris & Co.

The nation's unemployment rate is hovering above 10 percent for the first time in 26 years.

"You've probably seen gasoline demand peak in this country," Kohler said.

Delaware is already wrestling with rising joblessness. The state's unemployment rate has jumped 2 percent this year to 8.7 percent.

"The company's decision to close the refinery leaves us with several problems to solve," said Gov. Jack Markell

Markell said the state needs to help displaced Valero workers while ensuring accountability for the environmental issues related to the refinery closing.

So, while we see refineries close in the United States there are off the British coast tens of oil tankers at anchor.

Those tankers will not be docking and discharging their load, we have been told, because the owners of the vessels, the oil companies, have told them to lay off shore until the prices have risen more.

This is a repetition, of sorts, of the oil crisis of the 1970s, the one that was man-made and never really was, and which was just an attempt to see what people's reactions would be to a lack of gasoline.

Then too fully laden tankers were anchored in the roadstead well off shore so that people would not realize that they were deep in the water and thus could be safely assumed to be fully laden, when the people were being told that no crude was coming through from the Gulf.

On the other hand, prices in the UK are very high, with over $1.50 per liter, making a US gallon about US$6, and people are still using their cars though.

Things are changing, it would seem and some people have changed their traveling habits with some cycling and other walking and other using public transit systems or a combination of all three. In some cases commuting no longer even happens as people are working from home.

No doubt that is refineries are being shut in the USA the same may soon happen in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe) too. Thus putting even more people out of work.

© 2009


Armed guards are ready to search people at Dungeness

by Michel Smith (Veshengro)

Armed “police” with Taser stun-guns, high-powered firearms, and powers to arrest and spy on protesters are patrolling, or should one say rather prowling, around Dungeness power station, it has been revealed.

The force, which has guards in place at reactors throughout the country, has been reported as being financed to the tune of £57 million by the nuclear industry.

Almost a fifth of this, according to the sources, is provided by British Energy, the operator of the Dungeness plant, which is owned by EDF (Energie de France), the company that took over much of the British electricity (and gas) network after the privatisation under Thatcher.

The site is being considered by the Government for one of the next generation of nuclear power plants.

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), the name given to the force, had spent £1.4m on weapons and ammunition in the past three years, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.


Its officers are equipped with high-powered guns and tasers and patrol up to a three-mile perimeter outside nuclear plants.

They have the same powers as other British police officers – such as arrest and stop-and-search – and also gather intelligence, based on preventing terrorism. However, they are NOT ordinary police officers but basically a para-military security force to protect power stations.

While they may have rather extraordinary powers and the title of a constabulary the question is to whom they are answerable and to all intents and purposes it would appear to no one else but the industry.

The “prevention of terrorism” is nothing but a ruse either in order to spy on ordinary environmental protesters and we also can bet where else those goons will turn up.

News of the force’s influence and surveillance activities has green campaigners worried, and that not without reason, I should think, who are expected to protest against the possibility of a new nuclear plant at the site.

Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear campaign, told media representatives: “There are very obvious worries about an armed police force that is accountable to an industry desperate to build nuclear reactors in the UK.

“This industry will probably be very keen for their police force to use all the powers available to them to prevent peaceful protests against nuclear power.”

A spokesman for the CNC said visitors should not be worried or concerned about the patrols: “Most of the facilities protected by the CNC are in areas which attract walkers, birdwatchers and many other visitors.

“There is no reason that people visiting Dungeness should alter their behaviour.” He also said that if a new nuclear reactor were built there the level of security would remain the same.

The Government is to publish a new nuclear policy statement next year with a shortlist of those sites judged to be suitable, which will then go out for consultation.

© 2009


Environmental impact of the smoking ban

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It has been a while now that the total ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and the work place has come into force and effect in Britain and it sure has made for better air in those places.

It is actually, aside from some of the people one encounters there, now a pleasure to go and visit a public house or a restaurant, as the air is now clean and there is no longer a need to bring an NBC mask or a machete with which to cut the air.

But, at the same time, it has gotten rather smoky just outside of such places, whether pubs, restaurants or work places, as people go there to indulge in their habit of smoking. In the work place many work hours are lost per week simply because people walk outside to smoke.

Also the areas where such smoking is taking place, at least some of them, have begun drowning in cigarette butts, as people do not even use the ashtrays provided but simply drop the ends as and where.

The latter was somewhat predictable as people – in the main – just do not care about what happens to those cigarette ends that they drop.

This has led to some city father and councilors asking for a total ban on smoking in public, including parks and open spaces.

While one can agree with the sentiments the enforcement of this, whether left to police, rangers and order authorities, will be a nightmare in more that one aspect and, personally, I think it cannot be done.

On the other hand some way people must be brought to their senses that they not only still harm themselves but others and the environment in the way they continue to indulge in their habit of smoking.

While the pubs, as said, may now be free of smoke from tobacco as soon as you step outside you get assailed by the smoke and the stench still and in addition to that you have to wade through the butts left about.

The problem is that people often are rather ignorant and insist on continuing with this dirty and unhealthy habit, that is costing the health service millions if not billions a year, regardless and to the point that some seem to want to make a statement by smoking immediately outside the venues by the very doors and by leaving the ends of their cigarettes and cigars about on the ground.

Will education work here?I doubt. In the same way that I doubt a total ban of smoking in pubic is enforceable. However, dropping butts should be an offense that should attract a nice hefty fine in the same way as smoking directly outside venues should. Maybe that way we can clean up the act here.

© 2009


Who runs the USA?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Stupid question, some people may want to scream at me right now, and wishing to add “the President and his team” but readers may be surprised to know that there are others that really pull the strings.

It used to be said that the oil business was in bed with the government of America but ever since the number of decades at the end of the twentieth century the fact is not just that the oil business is in bed with government; it in fact is the government of the Unites States.

That is the very reason that nothing significantly is being achieved as far as actions against climate change are concerned.

Another very strong lobby is the other fossil fuel industry, the one that deals with the rocky version of oil, namely coal.

The oil industry and to a degree the coal industry not only run the USA; the oil industry is also deeply involved in the running of other countries and in fueling wars all over the place.

It was Alan Greenspan who openly said sometime back what everyone but those too blind to see because the do not want to see already knew and that is that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with any WND but with the other three-letter word, namely OIL.

He war mongers who led the USA and the UK into this war are also the very same that became rich from this war; W Bush and Dick Cheyney. The former the then president and an oil magnate and the latter the vice-president and owner of KBR-Haliburton, who also are the power behind the mercenary outfits that ran riot in Iraq. Nice work if you can get it.

Is it therefore surprising that as far as climate change action is concerned absolutely nothing is happening and being done in the USA bar counter lobby after counter lobby funded by the oil industry and, to some extent, the coal one? The answer is a deep and resounding No.

Ands it is this lobby that is telling lies to the people as to, for instance, clean coal; a total oxymoron.

There is nothing ever clean about coal and even a child would known and understand that if he has ever seen and handles coal. Coal is dirty and stays that way and even more so when it is burned.

However, the people will not be told that because the lobby runs the country, in the same way as Americans are being denied decent universal health care by a similar lobby. Namely the health insurance one that is having so many senators and congressmen and -women in their pay.

Think you have a say in your country, Americans? Think again.

The current President, Barack Hussein Obama, who promised so much under the “yes, we can” slogan even does not consider the Copenhagen Climate Conference important enough for him to attend.

This is the same president who also has just given a load more permits for mountain top removal mining in the Appalachians in order to get to the coal.

The White House vegetable garden is not cutting it, Mr. President. A lot more action is needed; real action.

© 2009


A tale of two unmatched halves

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When “The Green Thing” started the “Glove Love” project – though I do not think that they should be able to claim that it is entirely their idea – matching orphaned single gloves with one another no one thought that this might go over to other items too.

The truth is that others have been doing this matching of orphaned single gloves before they ever existed, like yours truly, however not on a commercial basis.

Now “The Green Thing” is intending to take this matching of two unmatched halves further and ear rings are on the list now. This certainly is a cute idea and certainly those ear hangings will make conversation pieces in that they are not a pair.

I something like that myself, though not with ear rings; I don't tend to wear any, but with cuff links. I found two that are similar but not a proper pair and it is quite fun to wear them and to get into discussions with people about the fact that they are not a “proper” pair. As far as I am concerned, I do not care that they are not matched; and they cost me nothing.

Another suggestion of “The Green Thing”, was, I believe, matching up orphaned socks but that is where I would, personally, draw the line.

While I am happy to wear secondhand, more than happy in fact, this does not extent to underwear or socks. This was one issue that I had with military issue in the older days in that it was obvious that underwear and socks that were issues were not, always, new. A reason why many soldiers insisted in buying their own rather than accept those items on issue.

Orphaned socks, when washed, can make great cleaning rags for car and bicycle, and such, and also be used as dusters at home.

As to other unmatched halves; I am sure people will come up with uses.

© 2009


Recycled Bottle Vase - Autumn Colors

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This is another case of “money for old rope” with the only difference that this time, unlike the “belt lace” it is not actually old rope.

I came across this one on the website of Eco Emporia, which are based in the UK, where this recycled bottle vase is being sold for £32.00 – which equals around 45 USD, for those on the other side of the Pond.

The blurb on the site says: “Those with a nose for wine appreciation may also appreciate that a good way to recycle a wine bottle is to turn it into an attractive vase. Lengths of color coordinated cotton have been skilfully wrapped around and adhered to used wine and water glass bottles, to create delightful striped vases.”

I mean, serious?

The laugh is that it is but an old wine bottle that some “artist” has wrapped with different colored cords and while it looks quite nice is nothing that the average person could not make him- or herself, even a child, from an old bottle, any old bottle.

My favorite for such crafts, decorated or not, as the case may be, are glass bottles from tomato ketchup, for instance. They are a little sorter and stouter and have a somewhat larger opening, so you can get more than just one stem of flowers into it.

They make great vases and are cheap, as they come with the ketchup and would end up in the recycling bin afterwards or the landfill, depending where you are, and whether you have glass recycling or not. Yes, there are still places where it is not happening, would you believe.

It find it harder too believe though that there are people who will pay over forty dollars for such a simple recycled vase that anyone could make themselves. It just entirely beats me and while I wish the artists and craftsmen and -women who make such good all the luck in the world it still leaves me baffled.

Come on folks! This too is consumption and you can do your bit by making your own instead of buying, even though recycled in the way that it is. Would it not much better if you would make your own and could then be proud of it as your own work rather than buying someone else's “old rope”?

© 2009


Damage control running on “high”

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, UK, 11/25/2009: After the hack into the server of the Climatic Research Unit of the East Anglia University the damage control is running on an absolute “high”.

On a great number of deep green websites and Blogs, and especially those supported by big organizations, counter claims are being issues. This is aside even from the claims that the hackers, in a couple of hours from obtaining the docuents to releasing them, have manipulated those emails and other data.

Unless there were hundreds of them who all knew exactly how and in which way to manipulate such material then this is outright fiction.

Now articles like “50% more civil war in Africa in 2030... Thanks to Climate Change”, “New study sends European carbon sink down the drain”, “Dangerous, potentially-irreversible climate change happening faster than scientists thought”, are just a little taster of the titles that have been chosen and the subject matter in order to scare people into believing that the material “liberated” by the hacker or hackers has been manipulated and is therefore not true.

Climate change is happening, and that is something that I would not even think of disputing, but it never was – more than likely – reversible in any way, shape or form as it is not – primarily – man-made but a wobble that Mother Earth is throwing every now and then in more or less regular intervals.

While human activity may have contributed somewhat to the problems of the changing climate much of the loss of habitat and species is not due to climate change. It is due to what we, man, have done to the environment, to the Earth, to our Mother, in way of pollution, poisoning, over-fishing, hunting to extinction, etc.

Why are we trying to blame everything Global Warming and Climate Change and in turn blame that on human activity?

If that be the case of the warming and climate change being caused by human activities the somehow the ancients must have released a lot of “greenhouse gases”. Or how else could Greenland have been green and covered in huge forests?

During the 1960s and the 1070s, the era of the Hippies, the talk was about a new ice age to soon – meaning then – to be upon us and we were told that the desertification of the Sahel, and other savanna regions, were proof of this happening. Then, the same was cited as proof to the Global Warming.

That new ice age that was supposed to be upon us was said to be due to the pollution from industry and motorcars that were were releasing and by the g-ds we were and still are releasing that and are poisoning our Planet but... Man-made Climate Change and the agenda surrounding it has all but caused all the other environmental concerns and problems to be overshadowed and pushed into the far background.

Rivers, lakes, sea, air and soil are still being contaminated, polluted and poisoned at a rate of knots but... all that is being talked about is “combating climate change” and “CO2 reduction”. Occasionally, but only very occasionally, we still hear about the tropical rainforests and the way they are being destroyes but then that ends up being on the climate change concern ticket again and that is all.

What good would be to us a “cool” Planet if this Planet ends up poisoned and unable to support life, and definitely unable to support human life?

We must get back on track and deal with all issues of the environment, not just the changing climate against which we, more than likely, cannot do anything whatsoever. So, let's stop pretending that we can.

However, we can do a great deal about most, if not indeed all, the other issues, such as the pollution issues, the waste issue, the depletion fertility of the of soil and the depletion of water sources, etc.

So, let us get back on track and do what really needs to be done and where we really can do something. Let's clean up our act and the Planet.

© 2009



by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On every International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) calls for tougher international laws to protect the environment in times of conflict.

Nothing, unfortunately, is being done in this regard. The best way to protect the environment, obviously, from the ravages of war would be an end of all wars and armed conflicts but, that, alas, is but wishful thinking, as humans just do not appear to be capable of living without it.

Environmental damage to air, water and land continues to be caused by the unregulated exploitation of natural resources, land mines and unexploded munitions, movement of heavy artillery and troops, chemical and oil spills, fires, and displaced people.

Detrimental environmental consequences also occur through deliberate acts of sabotage, such as the torching of oilfields, pollution of water supplies and the widespread use of defoliants. The impact on environmental governance is significant, as war can weaken the institutions in charge of environmental management.

We saw this only too well – the deliberate acts of sabotage that endangered the environment – when during the First Gulf War the oil fields were set ablaze. We see similar issues in Nigeria where again and again the oil pipelines are being attacked – some would say for understandable reasons – resulting in untold environmental damage.

Protection of the environment and sustainable resource management are inevitably low priorities compared to accommodating refugees and establishing regional security. However, CIWEM believes that unless we protect the environment during and after war, the chances of returning stability and prosperity to that area are limited.

Since 2001, 6th November has been the “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict”. The United Nations (UN) considers that damage to the environment in times of war impairs ecosystems and natural resources long after the period of conflict is over, often extending beyond the limits of national territories and the present generation. The day highlights the importance of neither exploiting nor heedlessly damaging ecosystems in the pursuit of military objectives.

Nick Reeves, Executive Director of CIWEM, says: “Long term environmental damage is an inevitable consequence of war. The environment may seem a minor casualty but combined with the destruction of democratic informed decision-making, war prolongs human suffering and undermines the foundation for social progress and economic security. CIWEM demands a convention to examine the establishment of UN protocols for the protection of the environment. We also need to acknowledge that fighting occurs where resources are scarce due to over population, meaning we need sensible population policies. We must treat the environment and each other with more respect.”

Damage to the environment, in whichever way, prolongs the subsequent suffering of the people, displaced or not, as the damage may have impacted adversely on the ability of the land to produce food, for instance.

Another issue, compounding this, is the fact that many areas, and here especially fields and farmlands, often are littered with land mines and other unexploded ordnance and hence make work in the field impossible until such a time that such ordnance has been cleared from the lands. The latter, as we can see from places such Vietnam and Cambodia can take ages indeed and still to this day there are unexploded bits of ammunition, bomblets and such that pose a threat and still maim and kill.

© 2009


Crush-A-Can from Lakeland – Product Review

Brilliant can crushing device available from Lakeland in the UK

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Want to recycle cans, aluminum or steel, but have never enough for all of them in your can recycling bin? If so then the “Crush-A-Can” can crusher from Lakeland the answer.

Crush-A-Can can crusher
Lakeland Ref 3094
Size 10 x 8 x 33cm (4" x 3" x 13")
Price: £14.59

Crush-A-Can is a pedal-style can crusher, with non-slip feet and flattens bulky aluminum and steel cans of up to 475ml.

Show your support for the environment... by using your feet.

With the Crush-A-Can can crusher it is easy to flatten bulky aluminum and steel cans safely ready for recycling.

The Crush-A-Can can crusher is easy to operate and reduces the size of the cans to be recycled b y a large percentage and it only takes literally seconds to do so and flatten a can.

One little word of warning of sorts. Do not use your hand to try and flatten the cans with the Crush-A-Can. It can be painful. I tried, just too experiment, and regretted it.

While being simple to use and the operation is a matter of common sense the device, nevertheless, could have done with some little instructions, especially as to the reason and use of that bolt the position of which can be switched. That, however, is my only complaint, thus far.

© 2009


UK Climate Research Center hack and possible fallout

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is now being claimed by the Climate Change cum Global Warming lobby that the hackers have manipulated the emails and other data prior to putting them onto the Net.

Hang on a second here!

The hack was Thursday, November 19, 2009 and virtually a few hours later the material was made available by the hackers in .zip format online. Let's get serious here and back to reality. There was no time, unless there were hundreds of hackers, to manipulate any such data in any credible way in that short space of time.

It would appear from the material that some fraud as to global warming claims may be committed so that universities and scientists can get grants and other funding for their research.

Maybe the Australian university that stated that the temperatures have plateaued out about seven to eight years ago and have not risen by even the smallest fraction since that time may be right after all.

This could also very much mean that other findings and theories could be right and we could be headed now for some colder weather, a mini ice age, as some see it even. Just when the British vineyards thought that they would be able to produce Mediterranean quality wines.

While, as I keep saying, the climate may indeed be changing around the globe, it may not be anything that is entirely caused by human activity.

I am not saying that we do not have a lot to answer for. We have! We have done a great deal of damage to our Planet and, alas, are still doing it, and some of it may even be irreparable. Much of the damage, however, can be dealt with for we have the knowledge and the technology to do so. Just the will seems lacking.

So far all the “information” that we are working with as regards to Climate Change and rising global temperatures are nothing but predictions, more often than not from computer models which work on the GIGO system. GIGO, by the way, stands for “garbage in, garbage out”.

It is rather obvious that the temperatures in many places have rise. The ice in the northern polar region is melting as is some Antarctic ice. On other place, though, new ice is being formed and piled up at rather a rate of knots. The melt, where is it happening will continue even if, as the Australian university has claimed, the temperatures have plateaued out and have not risen since, as it is simply warmer than it was before.

October 2009, however, has in the USA been one of the coldest and wettest nigh on ever recorded. Denver ,CO was locked down with snow and ice more than once, for instance, during that month.

November 2009 brought devastating floods caused by heavy and continuous rain to parts of the UK.

Summer 2009 in the UK, far from the predicted – I guess by the same people who have had their emails and such pinched – annual increase in summer temperatures (and I am glad they have been wrong) was rather cool on the whole though dry, with only a day or two ever getting a little into the 30deg C range.

The 2009 summer in Britain was definitely a case that if you blinked you'd missed it.

But, claim the researchers (yes, the ones with the stolen emails), this is just one of the exceptions. Well, they also did forecast a barbecue summer.

Climate change models are just that, models; models created by computers on the GIGO system. The Earth does not work that way and every time that we think that we have worked finally Her out She does something totally unexpected. That's women for you!

Right, back to the hacked data and I have managed to have a look at some of the stuff thanks to the services that have made the materials available online.

For sure, it would appear, there have been a lot of shenanigans going and probably are still going on and some of the material does prove that climate and environmental scientists who publicly took a stand against the “global warming cause by man” agenda and mantra, like Prof. David Bellamy, although he is not, it seems, directly referred to in any of the documents, were effectively silenced and could no longer publish any of their works.

The question that we must, I think, ask is why an d what really is going on and also who is behind this all. What is driving the scientists to do what the did and do?

How far are governments and the United Nations and whatever kind of other entities behind some of those lies and falsehoods being perpetrated and perpetuated is also a question that we ask and to which we much get an answer.

I say again that, yes, the Planet's climate seems to be going through some major changes and while some of those may have been accelerated and made worse by human actions most may be something that Mother Nature does every now and then.

Greenland was once, as the name suggests, green and covered in trees. Then came the ice and now the melting glaciers lay bare the proof of the vast forests that once covered that island. It will take a long time before Greenland would ever look like that again and I doubt that it will happen this time round.

The fact remains that during the settlement of the island by the Vikings, a little over a thousand years ago, Greenland was, as the name given it, green, and there were sweet red grapes in Vinland, which is now Labrador/Newfoundland and part of Canada and has no sweet juicy grapes as it is too cold.

Within a century or so it all changed and ice began to cover Greenland, causing the Vikings to abandon their settlements and the island, retreating south.

Was that warm period before under which Greenland was green and the cold period after a result of human activities? I seriously doubt it.

However, human activities are to blame for much of the environmental devastation caused all around the globe, from the continuous encroachment of the deserts in Africa (and elsewhere) due to the deforestation, over-extraction of water from aquifers and in fact farming the wrong things in the wrong places, as well as overgrazing, to the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean and all things in between.

Those are things that we must concentrate on if we want to have and keep a Planet that can sustain life.

We have only one Earth but we behave as if we have many, many more that that one the way we consume and exploit Her resources and that must stop, and stop now.

The issue as to why we are being topld that Climate Change is primarily caused by human activity is a question that requires serious though and questioning of especially our politicians.

Instead of a police investigation being launched against and in order to find the hacker or hackers who managed to hack into the Climate Research Center's servers serious criminal investigations should be launched against those that seem to be falsifying data to make it fit their theories.

Yes, the Planet's climate seems to be a-changing but we have to begin to really consider who is telling us the truth as to what is causing it and why they might wish to lie to us.

© 2009


More that half of rubbish can be recycled

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Over fifty percent of all the waste produced in Britain can be recycled but very little in fact is.

The problem here is, I would suggest, more than one single one and it is more than one single factor that causes this recycling not to take place.

One of the greatest problems is people's apathy, regardless of what they say and how much they claim that they want to recycles, etc.

Then there is also the fact that we should be looking at pre-cycling before recycling and in all honesty also at upcycling well before recycling.

What do I mean with “pre-cycling”? Pre-cycling in this context is the fact of not even taking the packaging home, for instance, as can be done in many places on the European mainland, for instance. Overpackaging can be left at the store, for them to get rid off, at no cost to the consumer and this has made a lot of manufacturers rethink the way they package things. Let's face it; most of the waste that we generate is packaging, and often packaging that is unnecessary.

Another factor, and this has more impact than anything, is that many of the local authorities have the wrong attitude – and that aside from wishing to fine people who do not recycle properly. More often than not the recyclables are seen – and in a way that is fine – as commodities that need to be sold to the highest bidder instead of the councils investing in their own facilities where those materials are reworked themselves and value being added too it, again.

What we need is council facilities and those by contractors that convert the recyclables here and now into the new products rather than shipping the stuff as plastic bottles, squashed aluminum and steel cans and such, to places such as China where they may – or may not – be recycled. Some waste in fact is simply dumped into holes in the ground over there, so we understand.

Recycling as an industry proper must be brought back “in house” in the same way as we need to bring manufacturing back into our countries.

While it is understandable that we want cheap goods it often also means shoddy and in addition to that they are not cheap if we factor in the transportation costs, especially the environmental ones, into the products.

As far as recycling is concerned serious mistakes are being done in that waste is seen as a resource that must be shipped to some other place in order to be made into new products, and often those products only have a small amount of recycled contents as, for instance, there is no possibility to have 100% post-consumer recycled plastic goods. Most, if not indeed, all products that state “made from recycled plastic” are but made with recycled plastic and new polymers.

Our main aim must be to reduce and then to reuse and upcycle before we even touch the stuff as a resource to be broken down and rebuilt. But the latter is always the first thing that people and authorities seem to look at; recycling into new products. That is the complete wrong approach in way too many cases.

Glass bottles and glass jars are, for instance, one example here. Why should they end up in bins for recycling, go to the council depots and from there to recycling facilities where they get crushed and ground down and then be made again into bottles.

There was a time when we used to have deposit on bottles, soda bottles, beer bottles, the lot, and those bottles would go back to the bottling plants to be cleaned and then refilled. The same could be done with glass jars. Never should a bottle or jar be broken up and ground down in order to be remelted into glass with the exception when it is broken.

In addition to that we must reduce packaging and that must be done at the manufacturers' source.

Upcycling is the other logical answer for many products, including tin cans of the food tin can variety and much can be made from them that the upcyling craftsman or -woman (or even child) can make into resalable goods that people would want to buy. This would keep tons of those things out of the waste stream.

I have been doing it since childhood but then again, it was one of those things that we did. Tins cans, wire, and other things were the raw materials from which we made the goods for sale on markets and in door-to-door trading.

To this day I look at every item of waste with a view of “what can this be made into”. Often today no longer in order to make a lot of them for sale but in order to write about this as ideas for others to take up.

Many people go out and buy – for good money – glass storage jars for the kitchen, for instance, when they get them free (sort of) in fact when they buy goods in glass jars. But, instead of reusing those that they pay for, really, when they buy goods in glass jars, they send those to the recycling plant and go and pay good money for storage jars. That does not compute; at least not in my book.

If we all would look at such ways of reducing the waste we would really starve the bins, even the recycling ones, and we would benefit our own pocketbook as well.

© 2009


Anniversary of the Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji celebrated at the White House

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On Friday, November 20, 2009, the White House in the US Capital hosted a reception commemorating the 540th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first guru in Sikhism.

This was the first time that this holiday has ever been celebrated at the White House.

Members of the Sikh community from around the country were invited to celebrate the occasion with traditional hymns led by the Sikh Kirtani Chanters from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.

Several administration officials were in attendance, including Dr. John Holdren (Office of Science & Technology Policy), Tina Tchen (Office of Public Engagement), Michael Strautmanis (Chief of Staff to Valerie Jarrett), Adolfo Carrion (Urban Affairs), and Nancy Anne DeParle (Health Reform).

Representatives from the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, United Sikhs, and other grassroots leaders came together to recognize the important contributions of Sikhs to our national life.

The first Sikhs who came to the United States arrived as laborers in the western United States around 1899 and gradually moved around the country.

They went on to become owners of successful businesses, serve honorably in the U.S. military in both world wars and other conflicts, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and members of many other professions.

While I know that there are many that will rant and rave against any holiday other that Christian (and Jewish) ones being celebrated in and by the White House I must say that Ii think this is a great way incorporating all member of of all faiths and religions.

President Obama has started a trend that I hope will continue, during his tenure at the White House, and, hopefully, also, afterwards.

Celebrations like this one here, as well as Jewish and Muslim ones, have become common place at No.10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament and even the Palace in Britain.

© 2009


Human-powered Flashlights and Lanterns

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The range of those flashlights and lanterns that are charged by some human action, whether by turning handle, pulling a cord, or other, is getting larger and more varied by the day almost.

Many of them are found as “freebies” given away by companies at trade shows and such events nowadays and this is certainly a good way of getting such devices into circulation and adoption of use by the public.

I have been using a “wind-up” flashlight for a couple of years now and it works well. This one was purchased from a Lidl Store about two years ago or thereabouts and was but about £3 or such.

Most of the wind-up flashlights and those that are charged by shaking the light or, as in another version, squeezing a lever, much akin to the old “dynamo-flashlights” of old, seem to be utilizing quarter watt LEDs – either in multiples or, as in the case of the “Shake Light” single ones.

As the costs of those flashlights have become so low at times down to, as far as the end user is concerned, nothing if those are freebies those, to some degree, at least, can and should start to replace those run on the ordinary non-rechargeable battery kind, or those that run on rechargeable batteries that need a charger.

So far we have not come to a final conclusion, obviously, as to the long-term reliability of those wind-up and otherwise human-powered, for lack of a better word, flashlights and lanterns, as they are still too young to judge thus, therefore we must still wait here as to the final judgment.

Reliability of the devices will, probably, be a little less, I should think, compared to the ordinary dry cell flashlights, as there are “moving” parts that will,m eventually, wear or and break.

Some of the lights will be more reliable than others, due to the nature of their construction as well as do to the quality of workmanship.

While there might be some that would say that at the cost of a set or two of batteries for one of those wind-up flashlights, for instance, I still would hope for a much better reliability that just that. After all it is an electronic device that will then have to be specially disposed off due to the materials within in them.

On the other hand I am very much for such lights and I am sure that they will be having a firm place in the future of greening our world.

© 2009


With UK Climate Research Unit is hacked experts say great reason for secure collaborative working

61 million reasons for secure collaborative working as major UK Climate Research Unit is hacked

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

21st November 2009 - Reports are coming in that the one of the UK's major Climate Research Unit (CRU) computer systems have been hacked and, says Cyber-Ark, the secure collaborative data sharing specialist, this is a classic casestudy for the reason why secure collaborative working systems exist.

"Details on this breaking story are still sketchy, but from what we know, around 61 megabytes of sensitive data were downloaded from the University of East Anglia's CRU servers and published on an anonymous FTP server in Russia," said Mark Fullbrook, Cyber-Ark's UK and Ireland director.

"It appears that the data stolen includes more than 1,000 emails and 70-odd documents that are highly contentious as regards the issue of global warming - something that various groups have alleged the governments of the world have kept a lid on for years," he added.

According to Fullbrook, it remains to be seen how explosive the data that has been stolen is, but unconfirmed reports suggest that the information is potentially embarrassing to several of the leading academics in the field of climate research in the UK and US.

What's interesting about the story, Fullbrook went on to say, is that the FTP link (http://ftp.tomcity.ru/incoming/free/FOI2009.zip) is on a Russian server that the data thief has chosen carefully – apparently for fear that the data might be taken down, when the server owners realize the political dynamite it contains.

However, by lunchtime of Saturday, November 21, 2009 the link comes up with “Object not found” and servers such as Tiscali immediately redirect to their search page.

Regardless of what happens in the aftermath of the data breach, Fullbrook said it is a textbook case of why secure collaborative systems like Cyber-Ark''s Inter-Business Vault exist. The big question, the Cyber-Ark director noted, is why the University's CRU hadn't installed some form of security on the potentially explosive data held on its servers.

And, he explained, with references to the US government's apparently negative stance on climate warming - which former vice president Al Gore has been trying to publicise for years - the data leak could cause severe ructions on Capitol Hill.

"Once the political fall-out from this data breach incident has settled, questions will undoubtedly be asked by those in charge about why better IT security systems weren't installed on the University CRU's servers," he said.

"I find it astonishing that politically sensitive data like this wasn't kept under highly encrypted protection. This data leak has the potential to add weight to the climate change cause, as well as acting as a case study on the need for secure collaborative data working," he added.

For more on the University of East Anglia CRU data leak fiasco: http://preview.tinyurl.com/yhdua5w

Aside from the need for better security we are seeing here, however something much more important and that is that there are agencies out there, including so-called scientists, who will lie and cheat to get their way, whatever this may be in this case.

While there is a change in the climate and things are going haywire it would appear, however, from what the hackers have discovered, that a lot of the stuff we are being told, especially as to it all being man-made is in fact false.

If people were told the truth then we might be getting somewhere for we, the human race, has some impact on the changing climate and that through the destruction of the forests and not just the tropical rainforests.

The reason that we may have so much more CO2 on the atmosphere is not so much due to the burning of fossil fuel but of the fact that the forests, which absorb CO2, have been destroyed at a rate of knots ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

This hack came just in time, if one would like to be sarcastic, especially at this time when studies have found that more than half of the British people, for instance, do not believe that Climate Change is man-made.

Not surprising, in a way, seeing that one of our finest old environmental scientists, Professor David Bellamy, does not believe in it either in that way and has been, effectively, silenced by that conspiracy that just seems to have been unearthed by the hacker who cracked the server.

What are people to make of that?

© 2009


UK Climatic Research Unit’s e-mails hacked

The e-mail system of one of the world's leading climate research units has been breached by hackers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

E-mails reportedly from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), including personal exchanges, appeared on the internet on Thursday, November 19, 2009.

A spokesman for the University of East Anglia confirmed that the email system had been hacked and that information was taken and published without permission, and he added that an investigation was underway and the police had been informed.

"We are aware that information from a server used for research information in one area of the university has been made available on public websites," the spokesman stated.

"Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm that all of this material is genuine.

"This information has been obtained and published without our permission and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation.

"We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved the police in this inquiry."

Obviously he is not going to admit, at least not as yet, whether the information is genuine for there will be some heavy “damage control” put in operation and in the end, and one could bet one's life on that, I am nigh on certain, they will claim that the information distributed on certain, primarily Russian websites, is falsified and not genuine.

Researchers at CRU, one of the world's leading research bodies on natural and human-induced climate change, played a key role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, which is considered to be the most authoritative report of its kind.

'Inside information'

Graham Cluley, a computer security expert, suggested that December's key climate summit in Copenhagen, which has made headlines around the world, could have increased the university's profile as a possible target among hackers.

"There are passionate opinions on both sides of the climate debate and there will be people trying to knock down the other side," Mr Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said.

"If they feel that they can gather inside information on what the other side is up to, then they may feel that is ammunition for their counterargument."

Mr Cluley added that universities were vulnerable to attacks by hackers because so many people required access to IT systems.

"You do need proper security in place; you need to be careful regarding communications and make sure your systems are secure.

"I trust that they will now be looking at the systems, and investigating how this happened and ensuring that something like this does not happen again."

I must say that from what I have so far heard of this it proves what I have been saying for years now, namely that a conspiracy is afoot as to “Global Warming”, now renamed “Climate Change”, as they no longer could persuade people to believe the warming when in other places it is getting colder (and wetter), seeing that the likes of Prof Davis Bellamy had been silenced and that rather effectively.

While it is rather obvious from what is going on around the world that the world's climate is changing and that Mother Earth is throwing some kind of a wobbly and that, to some degree, human activity, in the form of deforestation and pollution is some way responsible, most of the changes in the climate do not seem to be attributable to human activity.

We must reduce our environmental footprint, that is sure, but we also must find ways to adjust to any such changes that are happening just in case, and I believe that to be the case, that we cannot stop Climate Change and that the changes in the world's climate are due mostly to what the Earth Herself is doing.

© 2009


Give Peas a Chance – Pulses offer improved sustainability in the field and on the plate

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada, November 2009 – The Canadian pulse industry has recently released a white paper on the benefits of using pulses – beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas – as a food ingredient that provides nutritional and health benefits and contributes to environmental sustainability. Give Peas a Chance – The case for more pulses in the field and on the plate shows how using pulses can improve the nutritional profile of food products and reduce the carbon footprint of the food produced.

“Food manufacturers and retailers are not only looking for healthy and nutritious products, they also wants to know the environmental story of the food they are producing and marketing,” says Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada. “Pulses have a great story to tell as they offer both sustainability in the field and positive nutritional results on the plate.”

The health benefits of pulses are plentiful. Higher in protein than most other crops, pulses are low in fat and they have a low glycemic index, which means their carbohydrates are mostly fibre and starch that prevent blood sugars from rising quickly after eating. Clinical trials have shown that eating pulses are not only nutritionally beneficial, they provide excellent health benefits and can even help combat chronic health concerns such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Pulses are also an environment-friendly crop. As a member of the ‘legume’ family, they have a symbiotic relationship with soil organisms, which allows them to make their own nitrogen fertilizer from the atmosphere. By producing their own fertilizer, this reduces the need for manufactured nitrogen made from fossil fuels.

With consumer demand for healthy and environmentally sustainable products increasing, the global food industry is looking for solutions. Pulses can be part of the solution with their combined health and environmental benefits. The pulse white paper, Give Peas a Chance – The case for more pulses in the field and on the plate, outlines the opportunities and is available online at www.pulsecanada.com/givepeasachance.

“The message is very simple,” says Bacon. “If more pulses are eaten, more will be grown and that’s great news for health and for the environment.”

Pulse Canada is the national association representing pulse growers, processors and traders. Direction and funding is provided by Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, the Ontario Bean Producers Marketing Board, Ontario Coloured Bean Growers and the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSCA). Over the last 20 years, Canada’s pulse industry has become a world leader in pulse production, research and exports. Today, Canada is the world’s largest exporter, selling to more than 150 countries around the globe, and one of the world’s largest pulse producers.

As we can see how the people of many countries in the world live well on primarily eating pulses, and many tribes of the Native Americans, had a primary diet of “The Three Sisters”, beans, squash and cord (maize), and apparently that kind of diet is one of the best possible ones.

Personally, I think that we should be eating more pulses rather than meat from which to get our protein – and no, I am not a vegetarian – as this is a much greener option.

For more information, visit www.pulsecanada.com. The website also has a collection of recipes of how to use pulses in your cooking and diet and how to cook and use pulses.

© 2009


As Climate Negotiations Slow, Forests Won't Wait

New York - Experts warn that any international climate treaty or national climate legislation that fails to address forest and land use issues thoroughly and without delay will not be effective. To drive that point home, representatives of the nonprofit sustainability group the Rainforest Alliance will attend the Copenhagen climate treaty conference December 7-18.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) were among the issues to be addressed this week in the US Senate committee's discussion of climate change legislation and in climate treaty talks in Barcelona, both marked by boycotts and walkouts. Amid slow progress and setbacks, British and EU diplomats now say they cannot reach a legally binding treaty at Copenhagen next month, and at best can hope for a political agreement this year. Progress on US climate legislation has also slowed. Prospects for pending agreements on REDD and LULUCF in Washington and Copenhagen are therefore uncertain, even as the case for them continues to build.

A spate of recent studies, including from the Rainforest Alliance, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution and the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests, underscores the central importance of forestry and land-use practices, particularly in tropical countries, to achieving effective climate policies. The studies show that sustainable land use and forestry can significantly cut carbon emissions while helping economies and balancing stakeholder interests, including those between developed and developing countries.

"Climate negotiators are downplaying expectations and talking about incremental steps, but meanwhile, we're continuing to lose tropical forests at an unacceptable rate," says Jeff Hayward, manager of the Rainforest Alliance's climate initiative, who is attending the Copenhagen meeting. "We need robust commitments from both developed and developing countries to finance and implement REDD now, in order to stop deforestation, help keep all parties at the negotiating table and to be effective at cutting emissions. That's the message we need to get through to climate policymakers."

Each day, over 80,000 acres (32,000 ha) of tropical rainforest are destroyed, and another 80,000 acres (32,000 ha) are significantly degraded. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says overall tropical deforestation rates this decade are 8.5 percent higher than during the 1990s. Researchers believe the loss of primary tropical rainforest has increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s.

The clearing of tropical forests accounts for 20 percent of carbon emissions worldwide. Deforestation negatively impacts climate in a number of ways. First, when trees are cut down, they stop sequestering carbon. Second, they release carbon as they decompose or burn, adding to greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. Even more carbon is emitted from agricultural activities on cleared forestlands. Combined emissions from land-use change and forestry represent a quarter of middle-income countries' GHG emissions and half of GHG emissions from low-income countries (those proportions are higher in tropical countries). Deforestation accounts for 18 percent of global GHG emissions -- more than all the world's cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined -- so preventing it is as indispensable as curbing tailpipe and smokestack emissions.

"The jury is in on the importance and urgency of getting forest and land-use issues right at Copenhagen," says Hayward. "Many studies and a range of informed opinions agree that REDD has to be a priority. The Rainforest Alliance has pioneered on-ground projects that demonstrate how it can work."

For example, at the recent World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, the Rainforest Alliance presented a new report on its REDD pilot project in the forests of the northern Peten region of Guatemala, known as GuateCarbon. Led by the Rainforest Alliance, with support from USAID and the InterAmerican Development Bank, GuateCarbon sets up payments to local communities to keep forests standing. The project is part of a larger program that includes Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for responsible forest management. GuateCarbon helps local communities maximize the value of the forests they manage by enabling them to market a newly-valued forest service - carbon sequestration - in the competitive international market.

The additional income that forest-dependent families will earn for forest conservation will make their livelihoods more sustainable, improve the local economy and counterbalance pressures that in the past have led to forest clear-cutting and burning. It is a cost-effective way to avoid emitting huge amounts of carbon. When GuateCarbon is fully implemented, it will include 1.2 million acres (470,000 ha) and the resulting avoided deforestation is expected to prevent an estimated 16 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere during the project's twenty-year lifetime.

Many millions more tons of atmospheric carbon savings, and a wealth of practical, on-ground experience on how to incentivize reduced carbon emissions through forestry and land use, are coming from a wide range of Rainforest Alliance programs. Covering 140 million acres (57 million ha) of forestlands in 70 countries and nearly 50,000 farms worldwide, the programs include responsible forest management, pilot projects for quantifying and verifying carbon stored on coffee farms in Latin America or in working forests in the southern US, independent verification and validation of forest offset projects around the world and implementing sustainability standards for biofuel crops.

Draft elements of the Copenhagen treaty and pending US climate legislation do envision major REDD and LULUCF provisions that provide for such mechanisms as forest carbon offsets, but given increasingly rocky negotiations, it's unclear how robust or effective the eventual agreements will be.

Compared to Waxman-Markey, the climate bill that passed the House, the Kerry-Boxer Senate proposal offers fewer international offsets and could reduce incentives to help tropical countries conserve forests and adopt sustainable land-use practices. Meanwhile, amid a Republican boycott of the Kerry-Boxer markup, separate-track negotiations on a more limited alternative Senate climate bill have begun.

A new study in Science magazine points out that both the Kyoto protocol and proposed US legislation use a carbon accounting system that ignores deforestation occurring in order to grow biofuels and the carbon emissions from burning them - a loophole that could provide a perverse incentive for developing biofuel plantations at the expense of rainforests. In Southeast Asia and the Congo Basin, palm oil plantations are a leading cause of deforestation.

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. For more information, visit www.rainforest-alliance.org.


Thriving on Less – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Thriving on Less
Simplifying in a tough economy
by Leo Babauta
E-Book 27 pages letter size
Price: Free downloadable PDF

Thriving on Less by Leo Babauta is the free E-book companion to the book “The Power of Less” by the same author.

This small volume should be a good introduction to living and thriving on less and thriving is the operative word.

Many people try to live and survive on less and are very miserable with it. The trick is to let go, and that trick is not all that easy, all too often.

Leo Babauta gives great guidance in this free E-book that should help anyone to thrive on less and the 10 short chapters into which the book is broken up make great and easy reading and should be a great entry level for anyone wishing to simplify his or her life while feeling good doing it.

Some of the steps that the author himself took in order to simplify his and his family's life and also in order to reduce debt and expenses I too can identify with.

I got rid of my TV a number of years ago and while it was not cable at a rate of $60 per month but just ordinary British TV I am saving about $200 per year on license fee. I also do not miss the TV at all and must say that I have not, really, ever. So a real good move.

I watch some TV online via a number of the TV companies that offer a watch again service on the day after and some, such as Germany's ZDF, also offer live stream.

Newspapers and such I read online for free – thank you very much – and I also have found a great way to keep in touch with friends and family scattered around the globe, aside from email, and that is by using computer based communications tools, such as Instant Messenger and Skype.

I use Skype for free calling computer to computer and also have a subscription with Skype Unlimited – a Skype Out service – for about $10 per month that allows me to call, at no extra charge, landlines in 40 countries across the globe, including the USA, Canada, etc.

The Skype service is also a useful tool for my writing business in that it enables me, at no extra cost, to make calls to publishers for books for review, and others businesses, and that at home and abroad.

Yes, there is a “Fair use Policy” in operation which means that, theoretically, the limit if 10,000 minutes of calls free on that service and there is also a daily call limit of, I believe, 50 calls. However, I think the service is worth it, especially as I do tend to spend about an hour or more almost daily talking to my adopted father in the USA.

There is furthermore great advice in the book “Thriving on Less” on how to get yourself free of debt and which steps to take in order to achieve this. The advice is very good and solid and should be something that most people could replicate in their lives.

Reducing your spending is the first way to do this and also loving your stuff rather than looking for and lusting after new stuff, new gadgets, new clothes, new shoes.

All in all a great little book and if this is an indication to the book to which this is but the small companion then that book will be a great one too.

© 2009


Are your details safe?

The insider threat

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Is your personal information and other data safe in the hands of your bank, your phone company, your Internet service provider? The answer probably will have be a no, not really.

After the fiasco of mid November 2009 with T-Mobile, a cell phone provider in Britain and elsewhere having customer data sold by members of their staff to outsiders and in this case especially competitors of T-Mobile, who can be trusted. We have known for a long time that the government in the UK cannot be trusted with data as they tend to lose it but this is beginning to take on a different cloak altogether.

While there is a the so-called Data Protection Act, a law that makes the passing on of information to unauthorized parties a criminal offense the law in reality has very little in the way of teeth and punishments.

A few thousand pounds fine is the worst that can happen to someone who may have made tens of thousands of pounds from the sale of such data and other, more often than not rather personal information of people.

I know personally of cases where people have had their debit cards (and credit cards) cloned because of data supplied to the criminals by employees of the particular banks and financial service providers concerned. In one case the fraud investigation team of the bank tranced the fraud down rather quickly to an employee of the bank, in other cases it has taken longer and some of the culprits have yet to be caught, it would appear.

You can rightly, therefore, wonder how much more of this is going on and as to whether you data in, in fact as safe as you are told that it is. I certainly do and am rather concerned.

I also remember the incidents with call centers in a certain Asian country where employees seem to be taking data home routinely, without anyone seeming to realize and/or care.

The laws that apply in the UK and other EU countries and also the the USA as to the protection of data do not seem to reach as far as India, for instance, and things seem to be treated differently there.

What we can do to protect ourselves against such practices?

© 2009


Lakeland Christmas 09 Practical Present Catalog – Preview

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The other day the press review copy of the latest catalog from the great people up there in the English Lake District dropped onto my doormat.

This one is jam packed with ideas for great gifts in all price ranges and for all ages.

Aside from other goodies this catalog has a number of great green and greenish products that we have reviewed not so long ago, such as the slow cooker on page 8 and the great little grain mill that we find on page 9 of this catalog.

On page 26 of this catalog there is the Ozone Dynamo Torch (in black); a product that has not, as yet, been featured by the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW and also one that appears to be new to the Lakeland catalogs – but then, I could be wrong in regards to the latter and have missed it before. A version of this torch for the ladies can be found on page 47. The color of that one is pink.

Page 28 of the Lakeland Christmas 09 Practical Present Catalog brings us gifts for the avid gardener, with one of my favorites, the Wildlife World Pollinating Bee Log.

You will also find gifts for the general outdoors enthusiast, such as on page 33 and 34 the outdoor survival kit (page 33) and the camping lantern and the walker's notebook (on page 34).

In addition to that, as said, the catalog is full of gift ideas for everyone and I am sure you will find something in there even for those people that it is difficult to buy a present for.

So, look out for the new catalog dropping into your letterbox in the next couple of days and have a good look through it.

© 2009



by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Living in poverty or in an unhealthy environment violates our human rights. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) wants the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17th October to not only to acknowledge the struggle of people living in poverty, but to highlight the connection to environmental degradation.

The world has made insufficient progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Whilst extreme poverty has declined significantly, regional progress has been uneven. Economic and social progress has lifted nearly 250,000,000 people out of poverty in Asia but poverty rates in Africa lag, with the region unlikely to meet the MDG of halving extreme poverty by 2015. Without real empowerment for the poor, progress towards the MDGs will continue to be slow.

Climate change will exacerbate the situation, violating the fundamental human right to a safe, secure and sustainable environment. And the effects are falling disproportionately onto the poor and most vulnerable in developing countries.

Climate change highlights the interaction between economic development, environmental degradation and social inequity. Industrialized countries are responsible for half of the global carbon dioxide emissions but only 15 percent of the population; 20 percent of the world’s population consumes over 80 percent of the Earth's natural resources; 1 billion people suffer from hunger and yet 1.2 billion suffer from obesity; and if all countries achieved UK levels of wealth, the global population would need the natural resources of four or more planets.

This inequality causes a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth, which is not a model of a sustainable world.

The CIWEM believes that the environment, economics and politics are inter-related through the way humans interact with their surroundings and with each other. Therefore, all key development figures, including governments, the private sector, civil society and people living in poverty, must undertake a truly collective effort that will lift living standards and alleviate human suffering.

Nick Reeves, CIWEM Executive Director, says: “Climate change is a human rights issue, which undermines the ability of developing countries to implement social reforms and damages the long term health and culture of entire societies. Clearly, more needs to be done to tackle poverty and underdevelopment. The overloaded phrase ‘sustainable development’ must recognize the interconnectedness between human beings and the environment if true environmental and social justice is to be obtained.”

In many cases living in poverty and in an unhealthy environment goes hand-in-hand, unfortunately, and not just in Third World countries – often called developing countries.

Even in our own midst in the affluent industrialized nations of the West we find thins and here most precisely where Romani-Gypsies are forced to live. Official caravan sites in Britain – and in Germany and France – more often than not are situated on old municipal refuse dumps, next to sewage works, next to cement factories, and other such unhealthy environments. No one says a thing there though, it would seem. Guess the majority of people regards that as OK as the people there are but “dirty Gyppos”.

© 2009