Quicker Picker from Nether Wallop Trading – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


The Quicker Picker from Nether Wallop Trading speeds up the picking of your apples and pears no end. Very much like the apple pickers of old but with a lower price tag and no sharp edges.

You can reach those out-of-the-way apples, pears, plums, etc. without the need for a ladder. Ladders are dangerous in the wrong hands, as are chainsaws, and with many trees, like mine, for instance, a ladder could not even be used. Nowhere to lean it on to. Thus a picker such as this is the right thing to have, and just in time to get the apples off the tree.

It's made from galvanised steel and has a cotton bag large enough to hold about a kilo of fruit (that's a bit over two pounds for those that work in old money) and soft enough to prevent bruising. One quick twist of the wrist and the fruit is in the bag!

The only comment that I think I must make and problem that I have found is that the hooks holding the cotton bag, at least with the sample for test, were not put on properly. The information has been passed to the company and they will ensure that each and every picker is checked before dispatch.

Easy-to-use on its own, the Quicker Picker can be fixed to a standard (2.5cm/1") broom handle or to a telescopic handle (not supplied) for extra length. Frame diameter: 10cm/4” and the bag is 22cm x 23.2cm (about 5”).

I found that the thick plastic “launch tubes” of fireworks rockets make a good, sturdy and light handle.

The Quicker Picker is available from Nether Wallop Trading Co. Ltd.

RRP £12.50

A great tool at what I think is a good price.

© 2010

10:10:10 Global Day of Doing fast approaching

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Epsom, UK, 09/29: 10:10:10, that is to say October 10, 2010, 10:10's Global Day of Doing fast approaching. At the time of writing it is less than a fortnight before it will be upon us. Are you ready?

10:10 has joined forces with international campaign group 350.org to coordinate 10:10:10, the biggest-ever day of positive action on climate change, on Sunday 10 October, 2010. From sumo wrestlers cycling to training in Japan to 10,000 schools planting trees in Croatia and Russia. From a carbon-cutting telethon on national TV in the Netherlands, to the president of the Maldives installing solar panels on his roof, events are already planned in over 140 countries.

What are you doing?

Across the world, thousands of people will take simple steps to reduce their emissions, cutting carbon and sending a powerful message to world leaders that people everywhere are ready to tackle climate change. You could mark 10:10:10 with a low-carbon Sunday lunch, make your home or workplace more efficient, or maybe try something extra-ambitious.

Go on. It is good for you and the Planet.

Cycling to work could also be an option and to walk the kids to school or use bicycles for that trip instead of overloading the roads with traffic by talking them that short distance by SUV, more often than not.

Use the bicycle to go to the stores instead of the car. Replace the light bulbs in your home, the old incandescent ones, with CFLs or even LEDs. Make your home or office a slow home or office.

Let's all make 10:10:10 a success.

© 2010

10:10:10 A GLOBAL DAY OF DOING from 10:10 on Vimeo.

Using salvaged materials in your garden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Architectural salvage yards can be a great source of inspiration and materials to create a unique garden style, whether it's decorative elements like birdhouses or sundials or structural such as a trellis or pergola.

However, you often do not have to go to such places even, and in some ways I would even advise against spending your hard earned money at the architectural salvage yards. Much of what you can use in the way of salvaged materials can be found deposited all around the place, whether parks and open spaces or the wider countryside.

In a way, I guess, I am lucky that in my day-job I come across all manner of things abandoned and fly tipped that can be upcycled for use in the garden as planters and other uses.

My primary object in my garden is the growing of food, with next year adding also some cut flowers to the story, and I am looking at growing everything as much as possible above grounds, as tending such growing areas is easier. I am not getting any younger, you know.

As my gardening is for food growing primarily, bar the outside area of the house where I like to have some decorative planters, of sorts, which even include wheelbarrows, for plants and flowers to make the place look somewhat nice, I look for what can be used as planters, from bathtubs and old sinks, over builder's bags to old car tires.

The latter if they are tubeless radial tires should never be used for planters for the growing of food of any kind. Steel belted radial tires contain cadmium which is a heavy metal and will be taken up by the food crops and thus by you eating those crops. It is an accumulative poison to the human system.


Urns, old stone watering troughs, terracotta pipes, and chimney flues (some of the old ones are really spectacular in design) make ideal planters and some can be used to make container water gardens. Old claw foot bathtubs and even the modern fiberglass ones can be transformed into planters and, if you wanted, into miniature ponds and water gardens, for decorative and wildlife purposes.

Builder's bags, those one ton bags (and also half-ton and smaller still), made from woven polypropylene are very strong (they are made to hold heavy weights) and nowadays are no longer taken back by the suppliers. Thus they are destined for the landfill and you can do yourself and the environment a good turn by rescuing and repurposing then into planters.

I find the best way top deal with those bags is to fold the sides down too half-height and then fill with soil. The latter, should it ever compact a little too much, is easy to loosen up again and with a little addition of soil enhancer, whether charcoal- or bracken-based, they will grow anything.

Abandoned shopping carts, whether metal or plastic, as many are by now in the USA, make great movable garden planters. Line bottom and sides with rubble sacks or such like and then fill with soil and – bingo – a great planter that can be moved about if you need it to get more sun or less or have to clean underneath, etc.

The shopping cart idea is not one of my original ones; I saw it at some of the community garden projects in the USA with vegetables growing in great abundance in them.

In my day-job I keep finding such shopping carts abandoned at a more or less regular basis and up until the time that I took pity on them and began converting them into movable garden planters the council had to pay for having them removed. So now there is no need to trash them and I get a nice number of planters. The more the merrier.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list as to what you could all use for platers. Some folks are using old white goods, washing machines, etc.


A number of plants in your garden, both food and ornamental ones, like to grow on trellises, whether beans, squash, cucumbers, peas, or gourds, or ornamental plants, such as sweet peas, honeysuckle, etc.

A trellis can be made from just about anything that vines can climb on. Decorative wrought iron gates and fence panels, orchard and library ladders, window frames, and old lampposts are just a few ideas.

If you can happen to come across abandoned bicycles there too is trellis material there and all the frames that are no good that I have found – some bikes have been or are being rebuilt – and from which everything salvageable has been removed, will be thus employed.

Being able to weld both steel and aluminum might be a handy skill to have and having the welder would be good too but there are other ways of making trellises and such out of old bicycle frames and wheels.

Cold Frames

Make a cold frame out of old windows. Not that difficult to build with a little thought and planning. Plans and ideas can be found all over the Internet for such small greenhouses. Bigger ones can also be built using old windows. For ideas look at the catalogs of some of the suppliers of such greenhouses. The small upright ones that look a little like a cupboard can certainly be recreated from windows.


Having mentioned tires earlier I shall revisit them here as a separate entity.

Tires, whether car, van, truck or tractor, can all find uses in the garden though ideally not where they would come into contact with growing produce.

However, they can be used to create a variety of landscapes, can be used as retaining walls for flower growing areas and so one.

In addition to that they can even be made into interesting water features if one has the intent of doing so. Three slightly different sized tires, fixed together and sealed so as to avoid the water running inside, and then with a pipe in the center bringing up the water.

We are here, primarily, talking about the bubbling brook kind of fountain rather than the geyser kind.

I saw this done recently on the Saltex Exhibition though it was done to show the permeability of a road surfacing product rather than the water features themselves but... a very nice idea nevertheless.

I am sure you can find many more used of salvaged materials in your garden if you but put your thinking cap on.

© 2010

Delaware Valley College Hosts Sustainability Symposium

DOYLESTOWN, PA, September 2010 : Delaware Valley College will bring nationally known speakers and authors to campus when it hosts its 3-day symposium, Oct. 7-9, on issues around climate change, sustainability and our food systems.

Called “The Precarious Alliance,” the symposium will explore ways to reduce and reverse environmental degradation, economic instability and social inequities.

It begins off-campus Thursday evening, Oct. 7, with a screening of the film “Food Inc.” at the County Theater in Doylestown. Director and Producer Robert Kenner will be there to lead a discussion.

Back on the Doylestown campus Friday and Saturday, the symposium will feature such experts as Michael Mandelbaum, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University and author of “The Ideas that Conquered the World.” His session is on how climate change is affecting our economy and the challenges of going green.

Other speakers include Marion Nestle, Ph.D., New York University and author of “The Food Politics,” who will talk about our failing food system, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Noble Peace Prize nominee who will address the topic of how to achieve a more sustainable world.

Delaware Valley College is a private, multi-disciplinary college on 571 acres in Doylestown, Pa. Founded in 1896, it features individualized attention, small class sizes and an applied as well as a theoretical approach to learning. The college specializes in the life sciences and offers 27 undergraduate majors, two master’s
programs and a wide variety of continuing education courses.

For more information and to register for the symposium go to http://www.precariousalliance.org/.

Wind power breezes through 5GW mark

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

· 5 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in the UK

· UK wind energy now providing enough electricity for close to 3 million homes

· Delivery accelerates – 5th GW installed in less than 12 months

The wind energy industry in the UK has recently been celebrating a milestone of 5GW of installed wind energy capacity, which is enough to supply close to 3 million homes with electricity on an annual basis.

The 5GW landmark has been achieved by the commissioning of two major wind farm developments in September – Vattenfall’s 300 megawatt (MW) Thanet offshore wind farm, the world’s biggest, which comes on-stream today and the expansion of Fred.Olsen Renewables’ Crystal Rig 200MW onshore wind farm in the Scottish Borders in early September.

RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery MBE, said: “Five gigawatts is an important milestone for two reasons: it takes us within reach of our 2010 targets on renewable electricity, while proving that each successive gigawatt takes less and less time to deploy. Renewable energy generally and wind energy in particular is not alternative energy any longer - it is absolutely mainstream.”

Øystein Løseth, President and CEO of Vattenfall, said: “Today we are proud to launch Thanet offshore wind farm, the world’s largest operating offshore wind farm. We are pleased that our investment is making a substantial contribution to the delivery of UK renewable energy objectives and to the Isle of Thanet economy. Vattenfall is working hard to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from its operations, and projects like Thanet Offshore Wind Farm are a cornerstone of delivery.”

Nick Emery, UK Managing Director for Fred.Olsen Renewables, said: “The opening of Crystal Rig II demonstrates that onshore projects can, and must, continue to make a major contribution in helping the UK meet its renewable energy targets. While Scottish and UK governments have provided the policy to facilitate development, Crystal Rig II demonstrates that large-scale projects onshore are only achievable through appropriate site selection and a robust consultation, project management and planning process. We are delighted that the opening of our flagship project helps the UK renewable energy sector mark this significant milestone.”

The UK currently has nearly 18GW of wind capacity either consented, in construction or in the planning system in addition to 5GW in operation.

Christoph Ehlers, Managing Director of Siemens Wind Power UK, who manufacture many of the turbines for the UK market said: "Reaching the 5GW milestone is a great achievement for the UK wind industry. Siemens is proud to have played a major part in this. The latest wind turbine installation at Crystal Rig II in Scotland brings our total capacity to well over the 2GW mark. We have helped lay the foundation for further contribution to the achievement of the UK's 2020 carbon reduction and energy security targets. We are very positive about the prospects for the industry."

Maria McCaffery added: “Today’s developments are of tremendous significance for meeting our long term renewable energy targets. In 2002 the UK was generating around 2% of all electricity from renewables. We are now on the threshold of 10%, having increased outputs five fold. This demonstrates that, considering the current pipeline of projects, 2020 targets are realistic and achievable, provided the policies are in place.”

In the Renewable Energy Strategy published in 2009, the Government outlined a scenario for the UK to reach around 30% of electricity from wind by 2020 in order to meet EU targets on reducing carbon emissions.

The issue, as far as I am concerned. Is that we are still thinking gigantic wind farms rather than small wind which can be generated on every roof in the country the power of which will be in direct current and in the 12volts range which could then used to charge large lead-acid batteries to store the power for use later, so to speak.

Wind farms of the current size and type create high voltage electricity which must be used immediately and when the wind is not blowing there is no production and no electricity.

Small is beautiful should be the watchword here as well and our energy security, especially for a world after cheap oil, depends on wind and solar on every roof and small CHP plants on every city block.

So far, however, neither the wind power folks nor the powers that be get the idea and the message as to how we need to do things in order for us to have an energy future. When the cheap oil is gone and renewables have to bring in every bit of electricity we will be in deep trouble if we do not have ways and means of storing the power for use when the wind does not blow or the sun has gone to bed.

While it is admirable that the UK is more or less becoming a world leader in wind power generation from the huge turbines we must become the leader in small wind on every roof if we want to be able to make it.

© 2010

World's largest wind farm opens off UK coast

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

LONDON – The world's largest offshore wind farm opened off the southeast coast of England on Thursday, as part of the British government's push to boost renewable energy.

Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which constructed the wind farm, said the 100 turbines off the coast of Thanet could, at their peak, produce enough electricity a year to power the equivalent of more than 200,000 homes.

The huge site on the North Sea, built seven miles off the coast, will boost the renewable energy now generated by the onshore and offshore wind turbines around the U.K.

With the opening of the Thanet wind farm, Britain now has the capacity to produce 5 gigawatts of wind-powered energy – roughly the amount of energy needed to power all the homes in Scotland, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said.

Britain currently gets only 3% of its energy from renewable sources but is aiming for a target of 15% by 2020

"We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum," Huhne said at a ceremony at sea as he officially opened the Thanet wind farm.

Each Thanet turbine is up to 380 feet (115 meters) tall and the site is as large as 4,000 football fields. Vattenfall said its new farm could generate 300 megawatts of energy at full capacity, although critics note that wind power output can be intermittent and variable. The company said the farm is expected to operate for at least 25 years.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth said Britain's record on renewable energy is still dismal and urged more investment in green energy projects.

The group wants the British government to guarantee funding of at least £2 billion ($3.1 billion) a year for the Green Investment Bank, which aims to boost private-sector spending on low-carbon technology.

The aim for 15% by 2020 of renewable power being used in the UK is all fine and good but the problem that I am foreseeing, and I am not alone there for the Industry Task Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security, headed amongst other by Richard Branson of Virgin, that we may be out of cheap oil by earlier than that date.

This means that we MUST have a much higher target and one that is achievable not with the large turbines. Small wind and solar on every roof is a must.

© 2010

Expectations Scaled Back for Cancún Climate Summit

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

WASHINGTON, DC: When, following months of hype, ministers and negotiating teams arrived in Copenhagen last December for a summit on climate change, the expectations for what could be accomplished were unrealistic, say some, and made the successes that did occur seem less important than they were, says the climate chief of Mexico, which will host this year’s successor to the Copenhagen summit.

The expectations, however, had been raised by a great many of the government representatives attending Copenhagen in claiming what they were all prepared to do. In the end the, basically, did nada.

Luis Alfonso de Alba says that he is doing what he can to ensure that the summit, starting in late November in Cancún, will avoid those expectation traps and instead focus on specific goals that can be accomplished and which can lay the groundwork for a more ambitious, legally binding treaty several years down the line. This might, in fact, be a good idea.

"Before Copenhagen, most negotiators were aware that we were far from what was still being considered the goal – a legally binding outcome…but we still went to Copenhagen with the expectation of having that single treaty," de Alba told reporters Thursday in Washington. From the start, the Cancún process has been different, he said.

How long before that legally binding treaty becomes a possibility?

"Some countries are setting their sights on South Africa next year. Our view is that it will take longer than that," said Eliot Diringer, vice president for international strategies at the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, which hosted de Alba’s briefing. "Generally I think we're seeing a greater sense of pragmatism within the negotiations and a recognition that we won't have a binding outcome this year."

It is hoped that this more deliberative, pragmatic negotiation process will lead to decisions that can lay the institutional infrastructure for that global climate treaty somewhere in the future.

"Waiting until after South Africa doesn’t mean there won’t be action," noted de Alba, saying he sees a number of concrete decisions that can be taken in Cancún that won’t be affected by a lack of a legally binding treaty.

Hold a moment, folks! We do not have time to have another load of gabfests where a lot of hot air is being produced but nothing decided. And what even if something is decided? It then takes years and decades to implement that. Time is running out. Which part of “we have no time left” do they not understand?

On the other hand, the end of cheap oil and the recently predicted end of cheap coal may just help us all and especially the Planet.

Concrete goals

The areas that de Alba is trying to emphasize as he leads Mexico’s preparations for hosting the summit are finance and transparency.

"We’ve tried to bring down the general goals and then identify chapter by chapter what can be done," he said.

Within that approach, he is defining success at Cancún as an agreement that confirms the commitments made in Copenhagen and allows negotiators to go home with specific action that can get done immediately. He emphasized that dealing with climate change requires steps and a time-line.

One of those steps would be to ensure that the financial commitments of industrialized countries are fulfilled. To that end, the Dutch government, with assistance from Mexico and international organizations, has set up a website to track whether those countries are providing the money they said they would and where that money is going.

The non-binding Copenhagen accord that came out of last year’s summit promised 30 billion dollars in so-called fast start financing to be provided to developing countries by richer countries between 2010 and 2012. This money would be both for mitigation – moving away from reliance on fossil fuels – and to assist with damage caused by climate-related disasters.

A long-term financing mechanism is still needed, however, as well as the institutional framework that would be able to decide which projects in which countries that financing goes to.

Even without a binding treaty, the "infrastructure" of a global climate system could be built up and countries could begin to get comfortable within that infrastructure, explained Diringer.

"For us, a set of decisions in Cancún that begins to fill out the architecture would in fact be a significant success," he said, citing finance and transparency as the key issues. "If we can achieve agreement on them we can also make progress across the full suite of issues."

Taking the reverse approach

The move toward greater transparency, it is hoped, will increase the trust between countries and allow for stronger commitments and consensus at Cancún and future conferences.

There has already been some progress in advancing this trust.

De Alba cites Copenhagen’s success in fostering for the first time the recognition that everyone – even developing countries – shares responsibility for fighting climate change.

But the fact that the only outcome was a non-binding agreement hashed out behind closed doors by a select few countries – and which then failed to be fully approved – means "the priority task is rebuilding trust and confidence", he said.

With that in mind, he has, since Copenhagen, participated in consultations around the world in countries that felt their concerns were not necessarily taken into account in the Copenhagen accord.

"The main focus of these consultations was rebuilding trust and creating a very inclusive process of negotiations and consultations that would be fully in line with the best practices of the U.N. and the multilateral system," de Alba explained.

He says this approach could be seen as the reverse of that taken in the run-up to Copenhagen.

"Before Copenhagen, the concentration was very much on the major emitters, and what we have been doing since January is going to the bottom and going from the bottom to the top – particularly to those countries that were not satisfied with the results of Copenhagen, that complained of not having been involved to the full extent in the process."

Chief among those critics was Bolivia, which hosted its own World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April. The meeting drew some 35,000 environmental activists from 125 nations, who called for the creation of a climate justice tribunal, with powers to prosecute persons or companies responsible for pollution, and for a thorough reform of the U.N. to allow countries that fail to live up to their greenhouse gas reduction commitments to be put on trial.

"May the next meeting in Mexico not be in vain; may decisions be taken for the benefit of all people," Bolivian President Evo Morales said at the close of that summit.

However, are the governments really serious of achieving anything? In all honesty, personally, I do not think so. They want to maintain the status quo and the business as usual model of the economy, etc. This is, though, not an option.

The way things are going events more than likely will overtake the proceedings of all those gabfests that create more CO2 than some countries and thus force us all, individuals, families, and nations, to make the needed changes. The only problem is that it might come at a price, the price of hunger and darkness for some years. Look at what happened when Cuba faced it's own Peak Oil.

Maybe that is the only way we will ever learn to do things. As far as I can I am preparing for the time after cheap oil and the best things there is already that I am not a car owner and -driver but just use my feet and a bicycle.

© 2010

London Mayor announces London Green Fund

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, not to be confused with the Lord Mayor, recently announced proposals for a multi-million pound "London Green Fund" to boost London's low carbon economy, create jobs and tackle climate change. The fund is expected to progress energy efficiency measures to cut carbon across London, unlock savings on fuel bills. The resulting revenue will then pay off the loans to be ploughed back into the green fund.

The fund aims to leverage millions of pounds of private investment, bolster energy and new waste technology initiatives and enable the development of carbon cutting infrastructure, at the scale required to meet the Mayor's 60 per cent carbon reduction target by 2025.

Committed to provide an initial £4 million to develop and kick-start the fund, the Mayor intends to attract co-investment from a range of bodies, such as the EU, philanthropic funds, climate charities and the private sector. London Thames Gateway companies are likely to benefit from a whole host of new opportunities that will arise from the fund. Those operating in the retrofit market may also experience a significant boost if local public sector organisations such as NHS Trusts, universities and borough councils are allowed to use the fund to have their large building estates retrofitted.

The London Development Agency (LDA) is currently developing a simple framework for organisations to replicate the energy efficiency programme that is currently being implemented in 100 Greater London Authority group buildings.

The Mayor's green fund plans are contained in "Leading to a Greener London", detailing his environment and climate change priorities for London. The Mayor wants to improve Londoners' quality of life through an ambitious series of environmental improvements – tackling climate change, reducing pollution/improving air quality, consuming fewer resources and using resources more effectively – which also exploit the new opportunities coming from developing a low carbon economy.

It is about time that we got things rolling but as to whether this is going to be any better than the Boris bikes is certainly a question. Far too much playing around is happening and half measures rather than tackling issues face on.

While cycle hire schemes are a nice idea so far not a single one, whether in London or other cities around the globe, seems to have been a success.

What we need really, instead of such schemes, is proper cycle paths in every part of our towns and cities and across most of the country in the way as they exist in many parts of the European mainland, with the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany in the lead.

London's cycle super highway is also one of those half-baked ideas that seems to have been badly thought out for instead of separating the cyclists from the danger of the cars cyclists still have to negotiate serious traffic issues on those routes.

One wanted to have a headline grabbing idea and gave birth to that baby, as so often, rather prematurely before the idea had been properly matured and researched.

Yes, creating proper separated cycle lanes will cost money but it will prevent accidents and it will get many more people to cycle and thus reducing the amount of car journeys.

© 2010

Energy Infrastructure Tops Bill at European Future Energy Forum this October

World-class business leaders will be gathering for three days of intense discussions on the future of energy at the European Future Energy Forum in London, October 19-21, 2010. Top of the agenda will be European energy infrastructure and the changes we are going to see in the future to drastically cut emissions.

Leading the discussion will be Philip Lowe, Director-General Energy, European Commission, Nick Winser, Executive Director, National Grid, Dr Chuan Zhang, Programme Manager, The Crown Estate and Fintan Slye, Operations Director, EirGrid all of whom are planning to deliver expert insight on infrastructure developments now and for the future. Ulrik Stridbæk, Manager of Regulatory Affairs, DONG Energy and Guy Nicholson, Head of Grid and Regulation, renewableUK are also expected to give their views on policy decisions that are needed to effect change in how we consume energy in Europe.

A dedicated energy infrastructure conference stream will run on both day 2 and day 3 of the forum, October 20 and 21. The stream will look at smart grids, super grids, the challenges of integrating renewables in the grid, carbon capture storage and energy storage. Exciting speakers who will be presenting showcases include Kasper Lou, Senior Manager, Analysis and Regulatory Affairs, DONG Energy, Simon Bennett, CCS Project Network Manager, European Commission and Stephen Clarke, CEO, Applied Intellectual Capital.

When asked about the smart grid, another high-anticipated speaker, Philippe Delorme, Strategy & Innovation Executive VP, Schneider Electric said: "The deployment of the smart grid and intelligent electrical distribution network should be done quickly, not only to respond to the demands of the new technology for network managers and operators but above all to take into account the expectations of the consumer as well as the new uses for energy that they are developing."

Carbon Capture and Storage is viewed as an essential technology in the drive to reduce global carbon emissions, whilst maintaining the security of energy supply. This session brings together leading speakers to discuss the status of CCS as well as the progress on various industrial scale projects, while highlighting the current challenges and drivers for the industry.

The CCS session will be chaired by Ed Crooks, Energy Editor, Financial Times and will include contributions from Prof Jim Skea OBE, Research Director, UK Energy Research Centre, Jeff Chapman, Chief Executive, UK Carbon Capture and Storage Association and Sam Nader, Director, Masdar Carbon.

A session on the challenge of integrating renewables into the grid will offer expert insight into one of the leading issues facing renewable energy deployment. The session will look at the energy supply chain, the issue of intermittency and smart grids and interconnectors. Colin Henry, Business Development Manager – Smart Grid, Siemens Energy says: “The world is facing one of the biggest challenges it has ever faced with escalating climate change and the need to develop new low carbon energy supplies to replace fossil fuels. Smart Grid offers a long term sustainable solution to this challenge by creating the infrastructure to integrate and optimise our energy resources from distributed sources. It will enable us to meet the pressures placed on our rapidly expanding cities and ensure that we have reliable and sustainable sources of energy.”

Energy storage will wind up the infrastructure stream of the European Future Energy Forum, looking at batteries, large-scale storage and super capacitors for heat, electricity and vehicles. Speakers include Andrew Haslett, Director Strategy Development, Energy Technologies Institute and Phil Barker, Chief Engineer, Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, Lotus Engineering and Garry Staunton, Technology Director, Carbon Trust Innovations.

The European Future Energy Forum will cover all elements of future energy solutions including the highest level of decision making and investment and funding solutions to really make a difference. Other conference streams include renewable energy, eco-transport, future energy finance, green buildings and green cities. Plenary sessions on October 19 involve a world future energy leaders panel discussion on ‘Bridging the gap between developed and developing nations’ and a future energy movers and shakers panel discussion on ‘Where is the money coming from to fund the new energy revolution?’

Alongside the conference, EFEF 2010 will feature a prestigious exhibition that will accommodate thousands of visitors and offer up to 200 of the region’s leading renewable energy suppliers, space to demonstrate solutions and business opportunities for the environmental technology market.

The exhibition hall is also the meeting place for round table sessions, networking lunches, refreshment breaks and private business meetings. There are limited stands still available. See www.EuropeanFutureEnergyForum.com for further details and the full conference programme or contact the team on info@EuropeanFutureEnergyForum.com

The European Future Energy Forum is an initiative developed with Masdar (Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar investment in the development and commercialisation of innovative technologies in renewable, alternative and sustainable energies) and part of the Future Energy Event series of events that includes the World Future Energy Summit held annually in Abu Dhabi.

The first European Future Energy Forum was launched with great success in 2009 in Bilbao, Spain and saw 3,638 attendees from 43 countries worldwide attend. The format of the event is based on creating a vibrant environment where high-level debate can take place on through a large conference platform, as well as knowledge exchanging workshops, small round table discussions and international networking and business meetings.

The content of EFEF2010 will cover:

  • European Policy

  • Investment and funding

  • Green buildings

  • Clean transport

  • Solar photovoltaic

  • Solar thermal

  • Wind

  • Biofuels

  • Ocean power

  • Geothermal

  • Waste to energy

  • Fuel cells

  • Carbon management

  • Environment strategy

  • Nuclear

  • Hydroelectric Power

This event brings together businesses and organisations that have solutions and opportunities for the global renewable energy and environmental technology market with large international investors and government decision makers. For further information see www.EuropeanFutureEnergyForum.com

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the government organisation that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. UKTI offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. We provide companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage.

For more information visit: www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk





The Masdar Initiative is Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar investment in the development and commercialisation of innovative technologies in renewable, alternative and sustainable energies as well as sustainable design.

Masdar is driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (ADFEC), a wholly owned company of the government of Abu Dhabi through the Mubadala Development Company. In January 2008, Abu Dhabi announced it will invest $15 billion in Masdar, the largest single government investment of its kind.

For more information about the Masdar Initiative, please visit www.masdaruae.com

The European Future Energy Forum is a joint venture between Turret Middle East and Bilbao Exhibition Centre. Turret Middle East a leading organiser of events and foundation partner of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, launched the World Future Energy Summit and series of events with Masdar in 2007, before selling a share of the portfolio to Reed Exhibitions. For more information see www.turretme.com

Bilbao Exhibition Centre was host to the first European Future Energy Forum and continues to be a major stakeholder in the organisation of the event. As well as being one of the most modern trade fair and congress venues in Europe, they also organise a number of leading events of international profile in various sectors. For more information see www.bec.eu

Source: European Future Energy Forum

Global warming heats up a renaissance of nuclear energy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Global warming and the BP oil spill have helped rehabilitate nuclear energy in the eyes of the public – and even in the eyes of a fair number of environmentalists.

Sorry, who, what? Environmentalist on the nuclear bandwagon? Apparently so. They even do not seem to realize that we cannot afford nuclear... However, they keep harping on, nowadays, about that nuclear-power does not give off CO2 and such emissions. Are they mad?

Fine, so we have no CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases but the radioactive waste is going to kill us and everything else. Great idea – NOT.

In Germany the nuclear power stations have been given and extension of their lifetime by the government and you can bet your bottom dollar, aside from the power of the nuclear-power lobby, this is all to do with Peak Oil and the governments knowing more than they are prepared to tell the people.

In the USA Dominion Energy Inc. is one of more than a dozen companies nationwide seeking licenses from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build and operate 22 new reactors. And it could just be that they are going to get those licenses too.

The governments are scared out of their pants over the prospects of oil, and especially the cheap oil everything has been built upon, running out and are fighting for survival of the status quo.

Dominion, and the industry as a whole, seem to be enjoying a nuclear renaissance in the minds of many, including, unfortunately, even supposed environmentalists. Global warming has energized the quest for clean, carbon-free energy that won't add to the greenhouse effect; and the BP oil spill has added to the distaste for fossil-fuel dependence. But we cannot, let me stress that again, afford nuclear-power and that for a number of reasons.

They governments and the powers that be are all looking only to nuclear, it would seem. Why? Why not going hell for leather into renewable energy? The technologies are there. They all need only a little help here and there but the help is rather given to oil, coal and nuclear.

More than likely the reason that they are in bed with the fossil fuel and nuclear industries is the fact that that is where much of the campaigning monies come from and much of the monies to run their political parties.

Public and political acceptance of nuclear power as a logical large-scale alternative to fossil fuel is higher than it has been in a generation. Once mainly associated with mishaps like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl – not to mention bumbling nuclear plant worker Homer Simpson – the energy source now has support from 62 percent of Americans, a Gallup Poll found in March. That's the highest since Gallup began asking about the topic in 1994.

Even former foes like Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and an alternative-energy crusader, and Mark Udall, a member of the Udall family Democratic political dynasty that has stewarded natural resources, are rethinking the nuclear energy option. They're influenced more by the immediately tangible environmental consequences of greenhouse gases than by possible radiation disasters.

Nevertheless, many environmentalists disagree, and are disappointed at having to reopen a battle they thought was won long ago. They still have concerns about nuclear-power safety, but also have advanced another: The plants take too long to build (up to a decade) and are too costly ($14 billion for two proposed Georgia plants) to make much difference in the next two decades, when they contend it is most crucial to combat global warming.

Environment America, a federation of green groups, stated in a recent report that energy efficiency and renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal can do the job faster and cheaper. The report estimates that building 100 new reactors would require a $600 billion investment – but that same amount invested in other carbon-free technologies could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030.

No new nuclear plants have been constructed in the United States in the past three decades. The expense of building them drove some utilities into bankruptcy in the 1970s and '80s, causing Wall Street to become wary about lending start-up capital for new ones.

As an alternative to building such behemoths, some in the industry have been investigating the concept of smaller nuclear plants, dubbed "backyard nukes." The modular plants – some as small as a refrigerator – would be buried underground and could generate more than 25 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 20,000 homes.

I would suggest that we listen to Environment America and others who know that nuclear is not – let me repeat that NOT – an option, not even for a decade. It is not only the danger from accidents but the serious ongoing danger of radiation from the nuclear waste.

Nuclear is NOT the option, regardless what the general public is being made to believe and regardless also whether or not some misguided “environmentalists” are now, suddenly, pro-nuclear. Who paid them?

© 2010

Greensumption going mad

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It just is not stopping, the total madness of greensumption, the replacement of ordinary consumption.

Time and again we have bamboo advertised by green vendors as “green”, “environmentally friendly”, etc., when it is neither and we still have the totally useless “Eco-Button” being sold at around $18. Folks, that thing does what your PC's sleep function does, no more.

And these are but a few of the things that are going on and I don't know whether I should scream or just shoot a few merchants (no, I am not actually contemplating that as I am rather short of ammo).

I have yet to find a green trader who is not on the same bandwagon as all stores; that of trying to get people to spend, spend, and spend even more, though in this case on “green” products.

It does seem to matter not as to who the merchant is, they are all up to the same; namely that of screwing the green consumer.

The mindset of the high street has also filtered through, lock, stock and barrel, to the green corridor, and the same tactics are being employed.

I could name trader after vendor and online store but won't do that, for the moment at least. It could come to that at some other time though for we are getting too far down the road by now.

Had we not wanted to do away with that kind of consumerism and the economy of more, more and more when the green movement started?

As far as I can remember, and I think I can remember further, it would seem, than many of the greenies in the movement now, that is what our aim was. Shame it all went down the tube.

We must get back on track and sort the green movement out and smother greensumption now before it gets completely out of control and becomes but a green version of consumption and consumerism.

Or is it too late already?

Personally I am rather concerned, nay scared, that in fact it may be, as the green consumerism seems to be rolling along like an avalanche with no one being able to stop it.

Don't get me wrong. I do like all the efforts of recycling this and that and even to such an extent that they are salable products but there are so many products that are given green credentials which they do not deserve, and bamboo, whether flooring or clothing, is one of them.

Also I have a problem with the likes of the “beltlace” (recycled product), which is little more than a piece of old rope and a few offcuts of wood, painted, selling for £75 and the “recycled bottle vase”, which is no more than a simple wine bottle wrapped with colored cotton string (something Hippie kids did in the early 70's), selling for £35. And this is but a small collection where greensumption is going stupid. Then again should greensumption have ever started?

© 2010

World Habitat Day October 4, 2010

The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as annual World Habitat Day.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On October 4, 2010, in recognition of World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity will try to raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and will highlight Habitat’s priorities: the worldwide connection between human health and housing, and, in the United States, neighborhood revitalization. These themes echo the United Nations’ chosen theme for 2010 for events in the host city of Shanghai, China and the rest of the world: “Better City, Better Life.”

Every week, more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world. As a result, the urban population of developing countries will double from 2 billion to 4 billion in the next 30 years. (Kissick, et al: 2006)

It can be estimated that, due to Peak Oil and other issues, in the future even more people will be moving into towns and cities simply because living in the sprawling suburbs and commuting to work miles and miles will no longer be feasible.

By the year 2030, an additional 3 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 96,150 new affordable units every day and 4,000 every hour. (UN-HABITAT: 2005)

Habitat for Humanity hopes that by raising awareness and advocating for universal decent housing we can dismantle and alter the systems that allow for poverty housing and make an affordable, decent place to live a reality for all.

Habitat for Humanity World Habitat Day events

Around the world, many Habitat for Humanity local offices have organized World Habitat Day events.

Habitat for Humanity’s 27th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is a World Habitat Day event this year. It will be held on October 4 – 8 in six cities in the United States.

Held in a different location each year, Habitat’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is an annual, internationally-recognized week of building that brings attention to the need for simple, decent and affordable housing.

This year, the Carters will work alongside volunteers in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore and Annapolis, Md.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Birmingham, Ala. to build, rehabilitate and improve 86 homes.

Health and housing

Habitat’s World Habitat Day efforts will focus on the link between housing and health, for example, through the release of the 2011 Shelter Report, which focuses on the need for more research on the connections between healthy homes and healthy families around the world.

Housing, according to many studies, improves health

  • The number of low-income families who lack safe and affordable housing is related to the number of children who suffer from asthma, viral infections, anemia, stunted growth and other health problems. About 21,000 children have stunted growth attributable to the lack of stable housing; 10,000 children between the ages of 4 and 9 are hospitalized for asthma attacks each year because of cockroach infestation at home; and more than 180 children die each year in house fires attributable to faulty heating and electrical equipment. (Sandel, et al: 1999)

  • Children younger than 5 living in Habitat for Humanity houses in Malawi showed a 44 percent reduction in malaria, respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases compared with children living in traditional houses.

  • Children in poor housing have increased risk of viral or bacterial infections and a greater chance of suffering mental health and behavioral problems. (Harker: 2006)

  • Housing deprivation leads to an average of 25 percent greater risk of disability or severe ill health across a person’s life span. Those who suffer housing deprivation as children are more likely to suffer ill health in adulthood, even if they live in non-deprived conditions later in life. (Marsh, et al.: 2000)

Housing has a positive impact on children

  • Children of homeowners are more likely to stay in school (by 7 to 9 percent), and daughters of homeowners are less likely to have children by age 18 (by 2 to 4 percent). (Green and White: 1996)

  • Owning a home leads to a higher-quality home environment, improved test scores in children (9 percent in math and 7 percent in reading), and reduced behavioral problems (by 3 percent). (Haurin, Parcel, and Haurin: 2002)

  • Children who live in poor housing have lower educational attainment and a greater likelihood of being impoverished and unemployed as adults. (Harker: 2006)

Neighborhood revitalization

In the United States, Habitat for Humanity will also focus on neighborhood revitalization. In a broad effort to help communities fulfill their aspirations, Habitat will expand its housing programs to include repairing more homes, rehabbing more vacant homes, and improving the energy-efficiency of homes. Habitat will work with partners to provide holistic improvements in a community.

Housing strengthens communities, and this is a number of ways:

  • Homeowners are more likely to know their U.S. representative (by 10 percent) and school board head by name (by 9 percent), and are more likely to vote in local elections (by 15 percent) and work to solve local problems (by 6 percent). (DiPasquale and Glaeser: 1998)

  • Homeowners are more likely to be satisfied with their homes and neighborhoods, and are more likely to volunteer in civic and political activities. (Rohe, Van Zandt, and McCarthy: 2000)

  • Resident ownership is strongly related to better building security and quality, and to lower levels of crime. (Saegert and Winkel: 1998)

It must be said that home-ownership, in my experience, is not always the necessary thing for the above; just having an affordable home in itself does all those things. This can be seen from places where more people rent than own homes and still are all happy and well, in a way.

Home-ownership is not the key but, as I said, access to safe and affordable homes, whether rented or owned. The individual house in the suburbs is not sustainable and never really has been if commuting to work over long distance is part of the equation as well.

That will mean that we need new different homes in towns and cities, whether owned by the occupants or rented at a fair and affordable rate, so that people can, as they will have to, be able to live in walking or cycling distance from their places of work.

It would be good if Habitat for Humanity could also look at this and how this need can be fulfilled.

© 2010

Consumerism, a Serious Addiction

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Over the last half a century and a little more we, in the developed world, have fallen prey to a serious addiction, aside from that to oil, the addiction to consumerism, of always wanting more, more and still more.

In America this started, more or less, in the years immediately after World War Two, and really took hold in the 1950s and Western Europe began to follow this trend – for we started to copy everything American to our detriment by that time whether this be consumerism or McDonald's fast “food” restaurants – in the later 1960s to mid-1970s and we all became hooked and especially here the governments, to the growth model.

Economic growth and “Spend, Baby, spend!” became the mantra and it is still the same today; even worse maybe. It is an attitude that we cannot continue to support as it is simply unsustainable but then again it has been thus from the very beginning.

Frugality seems to have gone out of the window and when people try to be frugal and live more or less outside the consumer culture they are being likened by governments to terrorists because they do not do their bit to get the economy growing. This is total and utter madness.

We must get some sense back into our lives, as individuals, families and nations, and fight against this addiction which we have been drawn into by advertising and our governments even.

Consumerism is more dangerous to the Planet than any amount of so-called overpopulation.

While the population bomb is not healthy either our constant pursuit of more and more and yet still more seriously put everything in danger of collapse.

More and more energy has to be used to bring to the majority of the developed world – and to some extent now also of the emerging countries – the dream, for that is all that it is, of prosperity by having more than the neighbor, and much of it on credit.

We exploit the Earth in order to have more gadgets, more this and more that, and all of those things only last a few years when we need new ones because they are broken or obsolete and that if they even make is thus far and we do not want new ones already six month to a year down the road. This is just an unsustainable way of living and doing things.

Things and the amount of them do not provide happiness, and this is a proven fact and despite the fact that many of the plain people knew that already the governments had to conduct an expensive study to find this out. Not that they are going to tell the world now, for they want us to continue to buy more, and more and still more in order to “stimulate the economy”. Maybe the economy needs a good strong coffee. I find coffee stimulating.

The economy worked well in the old days when goods were made to last and often items, in fact more often than not, were passed on as heirlooms to other people, such as children and grandchildren, and this time is not really all that long ago. No one then seemed to be concerned about the growth of the economy and told people to spend, spend and spend to buy more, and more and still more.

In fact savings were encouraged, as putting money by for a rainy day and to save for things that people wanted. No one – or rarely – ever thought of buying anything on credit in whichever way. People saved for something that they wanted and then went and paid the entire sum, in cash.

What has happened to us?

© 2010

Afghanistan Elections 2010

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Election day 2010 in Afghanistan was dominated by spotty turnout, fake voter cards, and some feisty voters.

Afghanistan's election 2010 yielded reports of intimidation in unstable regions. In Kabul, some voters aimed to oust incumbents, while others appeared to want to cast ballots more than once.

Already in the first hour of voting the observers from the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan reported 224 "serious acts of intimidation" and this continued throughout the day.

The spotty turnout, especially in the rural districts, is due to the Taliban threatening those that vote – and the indelible ink on their fingers marks them out – with having their fingers hands cut off, and even with death.

So, what has the NATO presence if Afghanistan archived? Precious little. Western-style democrazy – oops, sorry, erm, democracy – will never ever work in the likes of Afghanistan and similar places.

Why not? Because the structures there are so very different to other countries and we cannot, nor should we, try to impose our ways upon them. It will not work and brings nothing but hostility against us.

The extent of actual voting will not be fully understood until ballots boxes are inspected and tallies are analyzed for patterns of fraud, a process that could take weeks, maybe even months. The verdict on how fair the election will hinge on how diligently dirty votes are tossed out in the days ahead. But the question of how free the election was may remain.

In the safer cities of Afghanistan, voters turned out to cast ballots for Parliament, while spot reports from unstable regions suggest intimidation and disillusionment kept many Afghans at home.

In Kandahar city, the center of the Pashtun heartland, few people turned out to vote following notices from the Taliban threatening to kill those who voted. Adding to the unease, three explosions rocked the city in the morning of the election day, including one that unsuccessfully targeted the governor of the province, ensuring that people were too frightened to go out and vote. In the rural districts, as said, things were even worse.

In some rural districts there were almost no voters and in one polling center, local militia arrested poll workers who were busy stuffing ballot boxes after locking out the lone observer. At least they were arrested. How many other ballot boxes will have been stuffed with no one having taken note?

The only answer to the West's involvement in Afghanistan is to get out and to get out now. Afghanistan cannot be tamed nor can it be held. The British Army had its butt kicked several times in the past in that country, as did the Russians and later the USSR. Does anyone think the situation is any different now? It is not and especially not as they majority of the people, in the same way as in Iraq, see the US and allied forces as what they really are, namely an occupying army.

Time we pulled out. It would also save us tons of money.

© 2010

Decentralization Minister meets Big Society pioneers at Balsall Heath

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Birmingham, 09/21/2010: The network of local volunteers who transformed Balsall Heath in Birmingham are a national example of people power putting the Big Society into action, said Decentralization Minister Greg Clark on a visit to the area on September 21, 2010.

Mr Clark praised Balsall Heath's Neighborhood Forum after hearing how local people had reclaimed their streets after being unhappy with the way the area had declined.

The Minister visited the Forum based in what once was once a patch of unkempt council land and is now an award-winning community garden center. Meeting local residents who grow plants at the center to place around the community, Mr Clark helped out with preparations for autumn planting.

Residents were told about the Government's new 'barrier busting team' whose sole purpose will be to help community groups like theirs get the backing they need when they encounter bureaucratic obstacles to local objectives.

Greg Clark said: "Local people everywhere know the frustration of watching their town centre decline, their library shut or local crime rising. Here in Balsall Heath a network of local volunteers took the initiative and reclaimed their streets by thinking 'we can do better'.

"I was delighted to meet the pioneering residents of Balsall Heath today and see real proof of the value of community participation. With over a thousand members their Neighbourhood Forum really represents local voices who have reshaped their community and made it a better place to live. They are the Big Society in action and other community groups can look to them as a perfect example of people power.

"This Government is giving local people more power than ever to shape their neighbourhoods - from taking over the running of parks, libraries and post offices, to more powers to plan and shape housing developments. A new "barrier-busting" team will to help community groups like Balsall Heath get the backing they need when they encounter bureaucratic obstacles to their local objectives so volunteering communities can turn their ideas into action."

Twenty-five years ago Balsall Heath was the center of Birmingham's red-light district. Crime rates were high and the local police station was forced to close to the public, being turned into an operations base for the vice squad.

Residents, unhappy with the decline of their local area and lack of services, resolved to work together to reclaim their streets and return a sense of community and pride establishing the neighborhood forum that is still going strong today.

As crime fell the vice squad is now disbanded and in June 2010 residents joined together to reopen and staff the police station's front desk for five days a week and raised the funds to place 15 CCTV cameras in key locations in their community and monitor them from within the police station.

This shows what can be cone if people become community and work together for the common good to improve the area they life in and ultimately their lives. This is something that we all will have to be doing and not just because government does not have the funds. We should be doing it because we can and we should no always stand there and demand that government do this or that whether government be the local council or central government at Whitehall.

Now let's get together and do something...

© 2010

Save Your Energy (Redux)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ROCHESTER, MI, September 20, 2010: The September 2010 issue of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report is out, featuring ways to easily save $1000 annually by reducing energy consumption around the home. According to Editor Bob Lilienfeld, “In 1994, we wrote that energy consumption would become a major economic and environmental issue in the Twenty First Century. Unfortunately, we were right, and the problem is even bigger than we

The way we consume energy, and not just electricity, in our homes, in our businesses and government departments has, basically, reached more or less unsustainable levels and simply turning off things that are not in use could go some way towards alleviating things a little bit.

We must do more though and really get down to looking at our energy consumption seriously with the view of reducing it.

The September issue also looks at some of the ironies associated with developing more sustainable packaging. Both demographics and consumer psychology are brought into the fray.

The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report http://www.use-less-stuff.com/ is published monthly, and its website is rated #1 by Google, Yahoo! and MSN for searches relating to waste prevention and source reduction.

Editor Bob Lilienfeld <http://www.use-less-stuff.com/about.htm> also hosts the monthly TV segment Use Less Stuff on Fox http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/foxe_reports/how-to-improve-energy-efficiency-20100915-dk.

The current ULS newsletter is
at http://www.use-less-stuff.com/Archive/ULS-Report-V10N5.pdf.

The ULS newsletter is 2 pages, so you don't have to spend several days reading it and it is well worth downloading, reading and keeping for reference. It might even be an idea to pass it on to family, friends and colleagues.

© 2010

Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The week of September 19 – 25 is Petfinder.com's Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week. It is a week dedicated to spotlighting those pets that are most often overlooked in shelters and it is all about getting people to take a second glance – and give a second chance – to those pets whose only crime is being a little older, the "wrong" color, or otherwise "less adoptable" – but who have just as much love to give.

So who are these "less adoptable" pets? According to a survey of Petfinder member shelters and rescues the hardest to adopt out pets are senior or older pets, those with health problems (even minor ones), victims of breed prejudice (like Pit Bulls), shy pets, and those that need to be only pets. But that's not all! A lot of people overlook black and brindle dogs and cats as well. (Not convinced? Check Why Less Adoptable Pets Rule.)

So next time you or a friend are looking to adopt a pet, give these pets a second chance, a little more time and you never know, a less adoptable pet might just be the purrr-fect pet adoption for you!

Just looking at the gallery and reading the stories of how those animals ended up in the shelters and why they maybe a little difficult tugs on one's heartstrings and maybe the same will happen to you.

Go on, have a look...

© 2010

Rainwater versus tap water in gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The summer of 2010 was a very dry one here in the South-East of the United Kingdom with nigh on no rain to speak of for about two months.

This gave me a great opportunity to observe the impact on watering versus rain (rainwater) on plants and it is rather amazing.

When using tap water, aside from the fact that the chlorine can cause the leaves to burn when the sun gets to work, it is a case of, so it would appear, one just about can keep the plants alive.

Vegetables and also flowers do not do much in the way of growth or production of produce or flowers. It is a case, virtually, of the plants thanking you for keeping it alive, but that is about it.

As soon as some rain, often not even all that much, hit the plants and the surrounding soil the suddenly take off as to growth and also producing of fruit or flowers.

While I am neither a soil scientist nor one for rainwater it would appear to me that there is more to rain than it just being water, per se.

It would appear – though I could be wrong – that the water picks up nutrients on the way down from the clouds to the Earth and also, may, become ionized with a variety of particles.

Thus, as soon as the plants take up that water – which is probably nutrient rich – they thrive while they barely survive when watered from the water mains.

I am no scientist, but this is how it looks to me as a gardener who still has to improve of his green thumbs.

© 2010

Methane production and power stations

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The first of our gas we produced – no, not that gas! – was derived from coal and was rather poisonous and methane is explosive (but then so it natural gas and was coal gas) if handled incorrectly. However, methane might just be one serious answer to the problems that are headed our way.

We must also remember that methane was the gas for which the for electricity generating plants were designed and to all intents and purposes me might be able to produce this gas ad infinitum. It is, after all, sewage gas and is produced by a natural process.

Every farm, every sewage plant, and others to boot, could, essentially, be a gasworks and could produce this gas for cooking and heating but, primarily, for use in generating electricity.

Each and every landfill site, all of which produce and leak methane, could be tapped for that gas; the very stuff that either, presently, is flared off or just simply vented off. A great waste of a resource in both cases and venting releases methane gas, which is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere, thus endangering the Planet.

Methane is reckoned to be a greenhouse gas that is somewhere in the region of forty times more dangerous to the Earth than is CO2 but still at the great majority of landfill sites all over the globe this gas is just vented off, straight into the atmosphere. Clever, eh? Not very, to be honest.

Capturing and using the methane, on the other hand, now that could be a real good and clever idea.

Producing methane – on purpose – could give us fuel for power stations, especially remembering that the very first electricity generating plants were in fact designed to burn methane gas.

As methane is somewhat more volatile than is natural gas burning it in such controlled environments such as power stations, and better still local CHP plants, might be better than it being used as a gas for cooking and heating homes and such.

On the other hand, it should be possibly adding something to the gas itself in order to make it less volatile/explosive. But, that is something for the experts in the fields, of which I am not one.

All I know is that methane is a gas that we should make use of as it, basically, produces itself.

© 2010


FIND YOUR POWER – A Toolkit for Resilience & Positive Change

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A Toolkit for Resilience & Positive Change

by Dr Chris Johnstone
Foreword by Rob Hopkins, co-founder of The Transition Movement
Permanent Publications 18th May 2010
ISBN: 13 978-1856230506
205mm x 160mm Paperback 312pp
B&W illustrations UK: £12.95

“Find Your Power” is a great book which is fun and encouraging as well as being full of good tips and activities. It brings the complex notion of personal power to life, offers insight into ourselves as a species and invites a sense of soul and purpose to our journey.

Drawing on insights from addictions recovery, positive psychology, storytelling and holistic science, “Find Your Power” describes how you can strengthen your ability to bring about positive change, and are proven strategies for improving mood, building strengths and increasing effectiveness.

The tools described can be used for any kind of change, from tackling depression and improving your life through to addressing world issues like peak oil and climate change. This new, improved second edition has a foreword by Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition movement.

The first part of the book introduces motivational enhancement tools that help you become clearer about your direction and more inspired to move that way while the second offers tools for getting through blocks by looking at creative problem solving strategies, ways of dealing with fear and methods for transforming crisis or failure into turning points.

The third part of the book then explores how to keep yourself going in the marathon of longer term change by strengthening support around you, tapping into purposes bigger than yourself and making what you do more enjoyable.

With a background in medicine, psychology and groupwork the author, Dr. Chris Johnstone, is a specialist in the psychology of positive change. After working for many years as an addictions specialist in the UK health service, he now focuses on teaching, training and writing.

Chris has been active in the Transition movement, contributing to a chapter on the psychology of change in “The Transition Handbook” by Rob Hopkins. He has pioneered the application of the positive psychology approach in healthcare, within organizations and in adult education. He edits the online newsletter “The Great Turning Times.”

I sincerily hope to be able to implement a great number of the lessons from this book im my life, personal and professional.

© 2010

Israeli General Ashkenazi says more force should have been used

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Israeli General Ashkenazi says more force should have been used on the raid on the aid flotilla.

The Israeli General commented at the "inquiry" into the raid onto the Gaza relief flotilla where nine people were murdered on the Mavi Marmara.

He says that the military should have arranged for sterile conditions on the decks of the ships.

Now "sterile conditions" is military jargon for firing on anything at the target area – in this case the decks of the ships – before sending in the troops. Now we know what the military of the Zionists state thinks...They seem to have read the SS training manuals.

“Sterile conditions” would have probably meant that we would have not nine but who knows how many dead and seriously wounded people but that seems to be fine with the Zionist military leaders.

How can the so-called free world, and especially the likes of the USA, Britain and Germany, continue to lend support to a regime such as this? Is this just because they assume that the Jews had so much suffering under that Nazis and thus can do what they want or is it to do with the fact that most of those countries are deeply indebted to Jewish owned banks and other lending institutions?

I leave the reader to judge...

© 2010

U.S. Public is Clueless On Best Ways to Save Energy, Study Says

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many Americans believe they can conserve energy by taking relatively inconsequential steps, such as turning off lights, while ignoring far more important measures, according to a new survey.

The survey of residents in 34 states, conducted by researchers at Columbia University's Earth Institute, said that only 2 to 3 percent of Americans cited major energy-saving steps – such as purchasing energy-efficient cars and appliances, and weatherizing homes – as being important in cutting energy consumption.

Yet nearly 20 percent of Americans cited turning off lights as the best approach to conserving energy – an action that, claim some, saves very little electricity.

I must say that I do no stand with that claim for if we all but turned off lights not in use and replaced all those that are used a lot with CFLs things would be a little better already in the energy savings department.

Researchers said most Americans focus on what they can do that is cheap and easy at the moment, and do not think about the importance of taking basic steps, such as buying high-mileage vehicles.

My advice here would be not to think about buying a new car at all but simply using the old one less, much less, and switch to walking, cycling and public transportation.

Another problem, researchers said, is that the public suffers from a "single-action bias," meaning that after doing one or two things to save small amounts of energy, people feel they have done enough.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the survey results show that environmental groups, scientists, and government officials have failed to effectively communicate the relatively painless steps people can take to slash their energy consumption.

When it comes to cluelessness with regards to the great American public I very much doubt that it is only about energy-efficiency and such. The same cluelessness extends to the reduce, reuse and recycle, especially as far as reusing is concerned.

Then again, the American public is not alone there either. The Brits are just as bad in that area.

Weatherizing our homes is one of the most important step as regards to reduction in energy consumption that we can make but not everyone can do so. Renters, for instance, cannot, legally often, take such step in their homes and neither do they want to, even when the homes are owned by the local municipality, for they do not own those homes.

The property where I live, for instance, is owned by the local council and nothing is being done to weatherize it. Drafts are cumming through everywhere and even though theoretically the municipality is supposedly duty bound to reduce heat loss and such from their properties they seem to be able to cite “lack of funds” for not doing it.

I also would love to have solar and wind but again that is not possible at present as the councils still object to such installations, even if I would pay for it and do it myself.

We still have a long way to go and thus, maybe, it is not surprising that many people questioned in the survey did not have much of an idea.

It also points to the fact that we, in the green media, have to do a lot more education so that people come to understand what really needs to be done and the general media has an even greater role to play there, methinks.

© 2010

Leading UK police officer tells government to protect of police from government cuts

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The president of the Police Superintendents' Association is to tell Home Secretary Theresa May that a confident police force will be required to tackle any disorder professionally and that the police, therefore should and needs to be protected from the worst of the government's cuts because of the risk that social and industrial tensions could fuel civil unrest, one of Britain's leading officers is to warn.

Only such a police force that has the funds to do what is needed will have the means at its disposal to combat any civil and industrial unrest as a result of government cuts.

What is he not telling us? Namely that (1) they are expecting a lot of trouble on the streets as a result of government cuts and (2) that he and his police forces are prepared to battle against any protests.

Under the last government, the one run by Labour, it was basically becoming a terrorism offense to be protesting peacefully and peaceful protesters were baton charged. How much more will happen when the protesters are not all that peaceful because they are angry at the loss of jobs and ever increasing costs?

Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett will also say that the public have a right to know the extent of likely cuts in policing, adding that those who dismissed the Police Federation's weekend claim that up to 40,000 frontline police jobs are at risk as "scaremongering" were being disingenuous.

"In an environment of cuts across the wider public sector, we face a period where disaffection, social and industrial tensions may well rise," says Barnett in his draft speech to the annual police superintendents' conference, which takes place in Cheshire.

"We will require a strong, confident, properly trained and equipped police service, one in which morale is high and one that believes it is valued by the government and public."

Chief Superintendent's speech does underline the point that the coalition government has not given the police the kind of special protection afforded them by Margaret Thatcher, which enabled her to rely on them during the 1980s inner city riots and the miners' strike that followed.

"From the massacre in 1819, that took place not so many miles away from here, to the current day alcohol-related disorder, history teaches us that there will always be widespread threats to the public peace," the chief superintendent warns.

"When, as history shows us it is inevitable, not because of this particular government, but at some stage, there is widespread disorder on our streets, it will not be police community support officers, or special constables or non-warranted police staff, journalists or politicians [who will be needed] to restore order on our streets. It will be our police officers and we must be sufficiently resilient to enable us to respond properly, professionally and safely with the minimum of force," Barnett will say.

While not wishing to put anything into the Chief Superintendent's mouth it would appear that what he is saying and envisaging is (1), as said already, that the proposed public sector spending cuts will directly lead to disorder on the streets and (2) that the police will take all measure to suppress any such demonstrations.

Law and order must be upheld, for sure, but the police would do good to concentrate on fighting real crime and not perceived threats from possible demonstrations and anger at government spending cuts. Or is there something they are preparing for that no one is willing to talk about as yet?

The year 2013 is not far away, the year that many are predicting when gasoline costs will go through the roof and may hit 15 to 20GBP per Imperial gallon. I can see a lot of trouble arising from such an event; more so than from the issue of the spending cuts in the public sector and in government in general. I do think that most people understand well enough the legacy that the previous government left the coalition with, namely empty coffers.

When it comes to saving money from the government purse, however, we should look at two areas where a great deal of savings can be made. So much in fact that no cuts whatsoever would even need to be contemplated.

The first one would be to scrap the proposed Trident missile replacement and the second to bring all our troops, and I mean ALL, home from Iraq and Afghanistan and let them concentrate on what their real brief is – that of the defense of the realm and the real does not include Iraq nor Afghanistan; period.

The savings that could be made with abandoning the Trident replacement alone would be enough to completely balance the books with one stroke of the pen and to leave funds over even and bringing home our troops, aside from the fact that we also would no longer lose troops over there, would additionally free a great many of resources.

There would be no need for any government spending cuts and cuts to public sector funding if but those and a few other things would be considered.

We must, however, watch what the powers that be are up to. The words of that senior police officer gives me the shudders.

© 2010

Target-driven Public Service

It does not work...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The target-driven culture that has developed over the last decades and was started, if I am not mistaken, under Margaret Thatcher, has not and is not improving real service by a single iota, despite of all the claims.

Most of the quality of the general work is deteriorating, such as in municipal parks and open spaces, where target have to be dealt with which, more often then not, are not linked to the performance of the job, per se, but are extra things to do.

Thus the normal routine tasks and quality of that work suffers because of the targets that are set and the achieving of which and excelling in the completion of them takes priority as the only way to progress in the job and to get to a higher pay grade is linked to those targets and how they are achieved. This is all entirely wrong!

It is also proven that the entire target driven culture in public service in Britain has brought productivity of central and local government down to a very low level, and not just in the perception of people.

In real terms the quality of the work has gone down because meeting and excelling in their given targets decides as to whether or not the employees can progress in their role and climb up the pay scale ladder.

The only way that public service workers will ever get back to really doing the work that they are supposed to be doing to the highest standard if they get measured with reference to their day to day jobs that they are meant to perform.

In Parks and Open Spaces this could be measured on how well kept and maintained the grounds are and not on which little project that someone had thought out has been fulfilled properly and in time and been exceeded.

When it comes to refuse collecting it should not be how fast the operators can run to get the bins and empty them (and then leave half the rubbish flying all over the street) but on how they can do that efficiently without leaving a mess and causing a nuisance.

And this list could go on and on but we shall just keep this as a small example of the absolute stupidity that is going on.

You do not enhance productivity by having people do some project that is not – really – connected to their daily routine work or by having them try to do it faster and faster and leaving a mess behind for other, eventually, to clean up.

Time for a serious rethink methinks...

© 2010