Good Life Centre's Repair Cafe becomes regular FREE event in London, SE1

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

CloudLogoThickLine_smlThe Goodlife Centre has announced that after the success of the pilot Repair Café, which was held in July, the project is going to become a regular community event at its Waterloo based workspace. The next date will be Saturday, November 3, 2012.

Repair Café is a community project first developed in Holland, which encourages people to repair, reuse and recycle their possessions to reduce waste and reverse the rise of a disposable culture.


Londoners came from all over the capital to bring their household items in for repair and a new lease of life.

Londoners are encouraged to bring-in transportable broken household items to Repair Café for assessment, and if deemed repairable by the organizers, can start making their repairs in the Repair Café. DIY, carpentry and electrical experts from The Goodlife Centre will be on stand-by to advise and a selection of tools and materials will be made available for use.

The Goodlife Centre is an independent learning space in Waterloo that offers daytime, evening and weekend courses in DIY, Upholstery, Decorating, Woodwork, Furniture Restoration and Crafts.

The next Repair Café will take place at The Goodlife Centre on Saturday, November 3, from 2pm – 5pm. Check their website for further information. The Goodlife Centre is just ten minutes from Waterloo, Borough and Southwark tube stations.

Go to The Goodlife Centre’s website at to learn more about the upcoming event in December. For full details of the Repair Café concept that originated in Holland go to

© 2012

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Do not educate your child to be rich but the value of things

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Do not educate your child to be rich. Instead educate your child to be happy, so, when when he or she grows up, he or she will know the value of things, NOT the price.

Spending time with your child is more important than spending money on them.

This is, however, something that many parents do not seem to understand and they buy them things to make up for the lack of time that they spend with their children.

Buying children presents and everything that they desire and showering them with allowances of tens of dollars a day does not make up for time spent with then and love given to them.

I remember the words of someone who wrote: “Every birthday my Dad bought me some new fishing kit but I would rather had him go fishing with me”.

And this is just it... It is not the things but the time that you spend with your child or children and the attention that you give them that they will value more than anything.

Take your children hiking, fishing, garden with them, read with them, make things with them. They will value that time that you spend with them above anything you can buy them.

On the other hand if you just hand them things and “spoil” them in that way they will never value things and know the value of things.

I grew up rather poor but it has not hurt me as the family and clan surrounded me with love and affection and gave their time to be with me and teach me things.

Money was always in short supply but that did not matter for we made our own things and our own entertainment. There were very few bought toys and those that were there were mended time and again rather than new ones being bought and, in fact, we rather had it that way for we were fond of those few toys. Thus repair was more preferable than new ones that were not the ones we loved.

We learned to value things and the value of things and this has put me in good stead, I believe, for life proper. We learned to make things, often from what others would have considered waste and this ethos is still with me today in that I look at every item of what would be considered trash with a view of its reuse possibilities and ways to repurpose and upcycle it.

The upbringing that I received taught me to value money and things and to get the most out of everything that I have but is also has turned me somewhat, since I am settled, into a pack rat in that I hat to throw anything away that may just be remotely reusable. But that is just a minor inconvenience, I think.

© 2012

Save the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How are we going to save the Planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves. We have not learned how to care for one another. So, please someone explain how we, WE, are going to save the Planet?

There is little to nothing wrong with the Planet. She is – aside from the climate being wobbly – doing fine. It is the people that are the problem (I would have loved to use an expletive but do not dare to do so, so insert your own) and it is we that need to be saved, from ourselves. But no, Jesus ain't going to be the answer.

Compared with the people the Planet is doing fine. The Earth has been around for a few billion years and She is not going to go anywhere. It is us, the human race, who will, and that for ever, unless we can change ourselves and the system.

This means not just changing our government(s) but changing the political systems and the economic system. Capitalism is the main problem and that on, basically, all levels.

It is because of the idea that someone has to have more than someone else; that someone has to be “in charge”, has to be king, emperor, president, or whatever he (or she) may be called, that we have poor and dispossessed and super-rich and very little in the middle.

It is also that attitude of greed and wanting more than others, more power, more wealth, more possessions, that we have ravaged the Planet and brought mankind to the brink of extinction. We have succeeded to kill of many other species already and we are one of the next ones, if we are not going to do a serious about turn and change our ways.

In order to look after the Planet we need to learn to look after one another first, however, for in looking after our neighbor we will help the Planet too. For everyone to be looked after right does, however, mean that we have to change the system of exploitation and create real true equality.

From everyone according to his (or her) ability, to everyone according to his (or her) need must be the way of the new system. There is enough work to be done despite the fact that jobs seem sparse, for it is the system that creates a dearth of jobs while there is work that does not get done.

Repeat after me “The Planet is fine, it's the people that aren't” and maybe then the message gets home that we must save ourselves from ourselves while ensuring to care for the Earth too. Simple, actually...

© 2012

Refurbish before replace

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Older tools especially, and here especially hand tools, non-electric kitchen appliances and -tools, etc. lend themselves particularly well to being refurbished by means of, often simple, doing it yourself steps.

They are thus always, in my opinion, worth rescuing whenever they are encountered, and especially if they are being thrown out and are free. This also goes for many an old item of furniture.

All too often people throw things out into the trash, with their ultimate final destination being the landfill (that of the things not of the people), that would continue to perform well for many years and even decades and more to come.

Refurbishing before replacing even can be applied to old(er) computers and the refurbishment in this case more often than not does not even involve the need for any technical knowledge and skills and work at all. All that is required often is changing from Microsoft Windows to the free open source operating software called Linux.

Often it does not take much work and time at all to turn something that someone has regarded as obsolete back into a fully working “tool” and the old ROLCUT anvil secateurs of mine, found thrown away and refurbished in about 10 to 15 minutes, are a great example. Such refurbishment may, however, require a few DIY skills.

The skills that may be needed depend very much on what is to be given the refurbishment treatment and refurbishing a bicycle is different to refurbishing a pair of secateurs, giving new life to an old knife, or breathing new life into an old(er) PC, to mention but a few.

However, with a bit of common sense and a little aptitude much can be achieved and man a thing rescued from death on the refuse tip.

Instead of thinking of buying new all the time reusing old, and where necessary refurbishing the old things, should be the order of the day. It will do our wallets good and also and especially the Planet as less things going to the landfill also means less new things being bought and fewer resources and energy needed.

© 2012

Is plastic all bad?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Often in the green movement all plastic is being demonized as being bad and evil and more. However, aside from the fact that there is plastic and then there is plastic there are times when the only real choice today is plastic. But it also does not have to be derived from oil. But that is another story.

The problem with plastic is, greatly, what we do with the products when they end up in the trash or in fact when we do not bother to dispose of plastic products properly and create the likes of the great plastic patches in the world's oceans.

Scientists have now found, though this study has not, as yet, been verified by others, an average of between a one and almost fifty thousand small plastic particles in the waters around Antarctica per square kilometer and the fear is that those minute plastic particles are taken up by marine life and, in the end, end up in the food chain.

So, what is the answer as regards to plastic and our use of it?

There are people who would like to advocate that we get away from plastic completely and use metal, wood, etc., but this is not always possible, as I have indicated earlier.

When it comes to transporting electricity, of whatever voltage, the wires will need insulation and plastic materials are the only possible answer in this case. And this is but one example.

Some of those plastic particles found were also from man-made fibers and that means that they have gotten into the Oceans from our washing machines. The answer to the problem here must be that we either have to abandon fibers derived from oil and such, for there are man-made fibers and then there are man-made fibers, or we must improve the filters in washing machines.

There are many people, myself included, who cannot wear wool and have, in fact, a serious allergy to processed wool when it comes into contact with the skin and even with an undershirt, etc., it still causes grief. Thus as far as pullovers and other warm clothes are concerned acrylic and PET derived fleeces are the only (unless someone has another suggestion) answers.

There are plastics and then there are plastics and not all plastics, and man-made fibers, are equal but whatever the case we must simply reconsider not so much the use of it, though that also, but how we dispose of our plastic products at the end of their lives.

Plastic grocery bags should become a thing of the past, for sure, and should PET bottles, whether from naphthalene or plant-based. Both were a bad idea for starters and as far as bottles are concerned reusable with a deposit should be brought back and as far as grocery shopping is concerned it must be a return to bring your own bags.

We have been there before in the past and thus it is not rocket science and, in general, maybe we should reduce plastics as and where we can.

That might mean that your cell phone becomes a little heavier and such, your laptop a thing of the past and we have to return to the desktop with separate monitor, as far as computing and communicating on the move is concerned, with cases made of metal and wood in the latter case, and probably heavier plant-based plastic or metal in the former.

The changes would be strange to many of us today but, maybe, just maybe, it might be the way to go. Think about it...

© 2012

Easy to grow edible flowers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Depending where you live you may have seen those small packages of colorful, edible flowers in your grocery store or specialty food market. If you have then you know that they can mere than just be a bit pricey. But there is a solution. It is called “grow your own”.

Growing edible flowers is relatively easy if you follow this advice; full (or at least partial) sun and no chemicals. They can be grown from seed or transplant, in containers or in the ground. Not all flowers are edible, however. Some are, in fact poisonous.

What differentiates edible from poisonous?

According to Malcolm Campbell, an associate professor of cell and system biology in the University of Toronto's botany department, petals often contain poisonous chemicals to deter animals (and people) from eating them, a survival mechanism so that flowers can be pollinated by insects, thus perpetuating the species.

Therefore, it is best to grow your own edible flowers. But before you do learn what part of the flower and/or plant actually is edible and when. The same goes for edible weeds. We have talked about that before.

There are some flowers where the flowers are proper edible in their entirety while with others it is just the petals. Know before you plant and use.

Nasturtiums are some of the best known edible flowers and they are used to brighten up salads, and that is aside from the fact that they have also nutritional value.

The flowers of the dandelion, but then again that is a plant that is considered a weed, are also edible in their entirety. The dandelion is, in fact, one of the, if not indeed the, only milky sap plant that is edible, and not just the flowers.

Read the appropriate entries in journals, in books and online, and chose which flowers you may wish to grow for their edibility and learn how to use them and then, enjoy...

© 2012

You Know You’re Addicted to Gardening When…

Your neighbors recognize you in your pajamas, rubber clogs and a cup of coffee
You grab other people’s banana peels, coffee grinds, apple cores, etc. for your compost pile.
You have to wash your hair to get your fingernails clean.
All your neighbors come and ask you questions.
You know the temperature of your compost every day.
You buy a bigger truck so that you can haul more mulch.
You enjoy crushing Japanese beetles because you like the sound that it makes.
Your boss makes “taking care of the office plants” an official part of your job description.
Everything you touch turns to “fertilizer”.
Your non-gardening spouse becomes conversant in botanical names
You find yourself feeling leaves, flowers and trunks of trees wherever you go, even at funerals
You dumpster-dive for discarded bulbs after commercial landscapers remove them to plant annuals
You plan vacation trips around the locations of botanical gardens, arboreta, historic gardens, etc.
You sneak home a 7 foot Japanese Maple and wonder if your spouse will notice
When considering your budget, plants are more important than groceries
You always carry a shovel, bottled water and a plastic bag in your trunk as emergency tools
You appreciate your Master Gardener badge more than your jewelry
You talk “dirt” at baseball practice.
You spend more time chopping your kitchen greens for the compost pile than for cooking
You like the smell of horse manure better than Estee Lauder
You rejoice in rain…even after 10 straight days of it.
You have pride in how bad your hands look.
You have a decorative compost container on your kitchen counter.
You can give away plants easily, but compost is another thing.
Soil test results actually mean something.
You understand what IPM means and are happy about it
You’d rather go to a nursery to shop than a clothes store.
You know that Sevin is not a number
You take every single person who enters your house on a “garden tour”
You look at your child’s sandbox and see a raised bed.
You ask for tools for Christmas, Mother/Father’s day, your Birthday and any other occasion you can think of.
You can’t bear to thin seedlings and throw them away.
You scold total strangers who don’t take care of their potted plants.
You know how many bags of fertilizer/potting soil,/mulch your car will hold.
You drive around the neighborhood hoping to score extra bags of leaves for your compost pile
Your preferred reading matter is seed catalogs
And last but not least:
You know that the four seasons are:
Planning the Garden
Preparing the Garden
Preparing and Planning for the next Garden

-Author Unknown

Ohyo, the Collapsabottle – Product Review

Stretches to hold 500ml, squished to fit in a pocket

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ohyoThe Ohyo Collapsabottle is, basically, the Aquatina 2.0 as it has been developed out of it. In fact, it is the Aquatina with a new name and a new lid, and the latter the real novel part as the foldable spout in the lid should prevent spillage during drinking.

The Aquatina was the invention that the Dragons of the BBC's Dragons' Den rejected and ridiculed, when the inventor presented it to them, and which, ever since, has been making quite some waves.

The new version, so to speak, under the name Ohyo, with the sippy spout should be a great bottle for inclusion in children's lunch boxes for school, filled with tap water.

It is also high time that schools provided (again), as they used to, drinking water fountains and ideally those where the kids then can fill up refillable bottles, such as the Ohyo.

I really love the idea of the sippy spout as it does away with having to unscrew the cap for drinking. However, I have found that drinking water from the spout, because air is also extracted, causes the bottle to do a bit of a deflating dance, which could be somewhat disconcerting to the uninitiated.

All in all this is a great concept, the bottle itself and now the new lid with the sippy spout, which makes it more child-friendly still.

If space in a child's bag and especially the lunch box is at a premium this bottle is a must and it is also an ideal companion, with spout or old style lid, for anyone out and about, and as more and more places now offer free tap water refill this is even more so the case.

© 2012

Turn up the heat with a wood burning stove

The benefits of installing a wood burning stove as secondary heating

When faced with a myriad of heating options for the typical British home, choosing the most environmentally friendly and financially viable is a quandary for many homeowners. However, when the outside temperatures don’t justify the use of central heating, a secondary heating system can provide a reliable and efficient source of warmth.

Until now, the most popular forms of secondary heating have been open or gas effect fires – however neither heating method is particularly efficient. And in the face of rising energy prices and a greater focus on carbon reduction, consumers are recognising the benefits of wood burning stoves as a secondary heating system. Phil Wood, Stove Industry Alliance Chairman, explains:

Although the regulations do not require secondary heating to be specified, many people choose to have a room heater to provide heating when the central heating system isn’t required or to create a focal point in a living space.

And across the country, there has been a sharp rise in the number of homeowners choosing wood burning stoves as both a practical way to cut fuel bills and an environmentally-friendly answer to heating their homes. When compared with alternative fuels, wood offers significantly reduced costs – a wood burning stove is 25% cheaper per kWh to run than a gas effect fire, 43% cheaper than an oil fire, and an impressive 76% cheaper than an electric fire.

WOOD FUEL GRAPHIC 1The benefits of installing a wood burning stove in an existing house are considerable. Statistics from Kiwa GASTEC at CRE, the energy management and low carbon consultancy, training and product testing facility, confirm that replacing a decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove will reduce the carbon footprint of the house by 22%, a figure that rises to 36% when replacing an LPG decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove. The reduction in carbon, when replacing an open fire is 14%.

An electric fire is the most carbon intensive option. Nearly 200kg of carbon can be saved per year simply by switching from an electric fire to a wood burning stove.

The increased efficiency of a wood burning stove with 70% efficiency (and more efficient models achieving 80%) compared to an open fire at 32%, and a room open gas effect fire ranging from 20 to 55% efficiency will make a noticeable difference to fuel economy and warmth in the house.

Existing properties with chimneys can benefit from the reduction in the air loss rate, by reducing the chimney diameter from 200mm to a flue of 150mm internal diameter suitable for most stoves. This will also eliminate the drafts caused by an open fire drawing air from the room.

Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly fuels that can be used. It is a renewable energy and virtually carbon neutral. The natural cycle of planting and harvesting trees has created a sustainable process that will provide carbon neutral fuel into the future. CO₂ is taken out of the atmosphere by growing trees at the same time as it is released by the combustion of the previous harvest.

To reflect this closed loop CO2 cycle, the carbon factor for wood logs has been significantly reduced in the latest measurement of energy efficiency to 0.008kg of carbon per kWatt compared with 0.198kg for gas, 0.274kg for oil and 0.517kg for electricity.

Interestingly the amount of carbon released by burning a log is less than the carbon that would be released if it were left to decompose on the forest floor.

What’s more Defra has exempted clean burning stoves for use in smoke control areas. Most urban areas in the UK are in smoke control areas. This means that a Defra exempt stove can be used in an urban house and not affect air quality.

An efficient wood burning stove can provide both economic and environmental advantages for homeowners. So for those looking to boost their green credentials, and enjoy the advantages of an efficient secondary heating source, a wood burning stove could be the answer.

What is wood biomass and how does it differ from fossil fuel?

The vital difference is one of timescale.

Wood is a carbon based biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. In the context of wood biomass for fuel this is often used to mean plant based material such as trees or crops. Wood biomass can be harvested on a sustainable basis as part of a constantly replenished crop; CO₂ is taken out of the atmosphere at the same time as it is released by combustion of the previous harvest. This process is often referred to as being CO₂ Neutral – it maintains a closed CO₂ cycle with no net increase in atmospheric CO₂ levels.

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are also derived from biological material, but material that absorbed CO₂ from the atmosphere millions of years ago. As fuels they offer high energy density, but making use of that energy involves releasing CO₂ during the burn period, resulting in increased atmospheric concentrations.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

The care of the Earth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” – Wendell Berry (Farmer, Writer, Academic)

There is little else, theoretically, that could be said here and one could leave it simply at that. However, it takes all of us to make the little extra effort and care for our Mother, our Earth, and to help Her to heal.

This cannot and will not work, however, by government decree, as is being tried all over the place as it cannot work under the current economic system and political systems, most of the latter being one form or the other of capitalism.

Truly we must cherish the Earth on which we stand, for all She provides for us, in so many ways we are nurtured by Her, forgiveness and giving is Her nature, it's ourselves we need to cherish, for we are the ones that will get destroyed first if we continue to exploit Her. In the end She will replenish herself but without us. The Earth does not need us but we need the Earth regardless of what Prof Hawkins in the UK says who advocates that we find another Planet where we can live. Or does he mean another Planet that we can ravish?

There is no other Earth, at least not of which we are aware and which we could even hope to reach and thus we must rethink and we must change the way that we live.

We must shift from living on the Earth to living with Her, as Tiokasin Ghosthorse said, and treat Her, and those are my words, like a Mother that she is.

She is, however, also Gaia, and also Kali, that is to say She who gives birth but she who also destroys and we better heed that message for She will destroy us before She will allow us to destroy Her and the rest of Creation.

We have a duty to care for our Mother, the Earth, and it is a duty that is even obligated to us in the Bible which both Christians and Jews claim. However, the term dominion over creation does not mean domination; it means to be a husbandman, a caretaker, of the environment, of Nature.

Very few of those that claim to follow that book have so far understood and followed it. Instead they seem to believe – nay they do believe – that they have a G-d given right to exploit the Earth and all its riches.

Man in his greed and pursuit of profit has ravaged the natural resources of the Planet and many of which can never be replenished, such as coal, oil, gas, and minerals. Even gold is, though it never was plentiful, hence its value, getting close to a peak, much like oil, which has gone well past peak already and the oil in Saudi Arabia is reckoned to fail (entirely) in the next couple of years.

We need to do a full 180degree turn, reverse gears, and learn to take care of the Earth, our Mother, for She will continue but we won't if we don't.

© 2012

Endless growth is a real danger

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

More than 150 years ago John Stuart Mills wrote this and he went on to say that in advanced capitalist countries it is necessary to establish, what he called, a stationary state of the economy in order to limit unnecessary growth.

And he gave three reasons for this. He said that this is to prevent excessive urbanization ands overcrowding, to stop the environment being damaged, and to avoid material prosperity being overvalued.

It is such a shame, I have to say, that no one listened to him and heeded his warnings. We could have saved ourselves and the Planet so much grief. But, greed got the better of most, it would appear, and it still has us in its grip.

The world has wasted more than a century and a half and the actions and greed of government and corporations have caused the destruction of much of Earth, the extinction of species and has brought us to the brink of an ecological catastrophe that is threatening all (human) life on this Planet.

Then, in the 1960s we got a similar message from E. F. Schumacher in his book “Small is beautiful: Economy as if people mattered”, and while people who understood heeded his message, governments and corporations, obviously neither understood nor heeded the message.

Now writers of even big newspapers in Britain are falling over themselves in saying how very right and farseeing Schumacher was.

Those who have heeded the message and others like it have been telling that everyone ever since but were written off as crackpots.

And, in all that wasted time people and the environment got exploited further for the profits of governments and especially corporations. And it is now about two minutes to twelve and still the powers that be talk but spin and how this or that will save us and allow us to continue with business as usual.

They are not listening and, unfortunately, neither are the masses who have been lulled to sleep believing everything that they are being told by the political class.

We must be seriously stupid to buy what they are selling. The truth, however much it might hurt, is that the way of life we have known ever since about the 1980s is coming to an end.

Cheap food and cheap products (Made in China) will soon be history and in the latter case that is sure going to be a good thing too as we then, maybe, get some things again that will be made in such a way (more or less locally) that last and – perish the thought – that can actually be repaired when something goes wrong with them.

This transition to a new system, which we must make, is going to be painful, especially for those who have never known another way. But we must do it. We don't need (yet another) new government; we need a new economic system and a new political one too.

© 2012

British grain stocks at twelve year low at end of 2011/12 cereal year

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

At 403,000t, on-farm stocks of wheat at the end of June were the lowest for 12 years and accounted for just 3% of the crop.

In addition to stocks held on farm, merchants, co-ops and ports held 561,000t of home-grown wheat, a decrease of 6% on June 2011. Imported wheat stocks at 117,000t were at similar levels to those of June 2011.

On-farm barley stocks at the end of the 2011/12 season were 63,000t, similar to the low stocks of 56,000t in June 2011 and representing 2% of production. For both years stocks were equivalent to 2% of production.

Merchants, co-ops and ports had 310,000t of barley compared with 250,000t reported for June 2011. Although an increase on June 2011, stocks were lower than in 2009 and 2010, said DEFRA.

And those figures will not get any better as to imports as countries such as the USA and Russia also had a problematic harvest and we may find that Russia is going to put up an export ban once again.

The agencies and the government are still in denial that this will have a real impact on food prices but it will, of that there is absolutely no doubt. And this proves, yet again, that we have but one choice when it comes to grain growing. We can either grow for food or fuel but we cannot do both and we better get our heads around that now.

Most of the US corn harvest (that's maize to the European) is in ruin and that means there will also be a lack of feed grain for livestock farming and this will make prices on all fronts, not just as regards to bread, etc., rise.

Should those freak weather conditions that we have seen all around the globe this are a result of climate change, and indicators speak for this, then we better reconsider our idea of bio-fuels and that rather fast.

This means we have to consider also very fast how we will like and travel in the future and neither bio-fuel not electric seem to be the answer here.

Food must also be the foremost thought when it comes to land use and not growing crops for bio-ethanol or bio-diesel.

Time to come to the realization, methinks, that the era of the personal motorcar – and may be even the motorcar period – is coming to an end and this requires adaptation of all of us and we best start now and not in some years down the road when we are forced to make the changes.

© 2012

US Composting Council Announces the 2013 International Compost Awareness Week Poster Contest

BETHESDA, MD : The US Composting Council (USCC), the national association that hosts International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), announced today the call for entries for its ICAW Poster Contest. The contest will run from September 20 until November 30, 2012 and is open to anyone who would like to help celebrate composting and promote the benefits of composting and compost use. The winning poster will serve as the 2013 International Compost Awareness Week promotional media piece.

COMPOSTING_COUNCIL_LOGO-300x106“The USCC International Compost Awareness Week poster contest has been active since 1999 and the excitement for the program continues to grow each year. The enthusiasm demonstrated by the creative posters submitted by young and old continues to inspire composters around the world. The USCC hosts the national competition —we’re part of an international network of composting associations that sponsor International Compost Awareness Week throughout the world,” said Michael Virga, Executive Director of the US Composting Council.

Compost is the recycling of organic materials to create a valuable soil amendment. Using it provides plants with essential nutrients, protects soil against the threat of erosion, and increases soil health without the use of chemicals and reduces water pollution.

This year's participants are encouraged to submit a design that reflects the theme “Compost: Nature’s Way to Grow." Posters must be submitted to the USCC by Friday, November 30, 2012 to be eligible. Online judging will take place in December. The ICAW Poster Contest winner will have his/her winning poster design reproduced and distributed nationwide as the official 2013 ICAW poster, and featured on the USCC website. The winner will receive a $500 prize. Other divisional winners will each receive a $100 prize. Contest divisions are grades 3-6, grades 7-12, and college/adult. All contest participants will receive an ICAW/USCC Certificate of Participation.

Previous winning posters, as well as this year's registration forms and rules can be viewed at Poster Rules and Application. For questions, please send an email to

The USCC would like to thank the 2012 ICAW sponsors for their generous support: A-1 Organics, BioCycle, Chick-Fil-A, GenPak, Ingeo, City of San Jose, Garick, WeCare Organics, Recology, Chamness Technologies, St. Louis Composting, Reotemp Instruments, Filtrexx International and MWV.

About the US Composting Council

US Composting Council is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the development and expansion of the composting industry in the U.S. For more information about the USCC, its membership and the composting industry, please visit Composting

International Compost Awareness Week Organizers include:
International Compost Awareness Week Organizers include:
US Composting Council - Composting
Composting Council of Canada -
Ireland Composting Association -
Compost Australia -
European Compost Network -

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Who are “they”, if we are “us”?

Real change comes from us all...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Ever since humans first created societies involving hierarchy and governed by rules, there has been an unspoken "social contract" binding them together. Sometimes this is a voluntary, even democratic, one while at other times the binding is done by physical force.

Underpinning each, however, have been other factors which have governed the acceptance of rulers by the ruled which, if they got sufficiently out of kilter, have led ultimately to social revolt – whether by the Bolsheviks against the then Russian bourgeoisie, before that at the Paris Commune, or by the anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square of 2011.

What are these rules and conventions? They may be explicitly set out in religious tracts or political ideology, or they may be much subtler, never set out clearly yet somehow understood and accepted (willingly or unwillingly).

Social convention may govern how we behave sexually or in our relations with people from different races or faiths; it may silently set the rules of acceptance about property ownership or appropriate behaviour in public – and in private; determine the role of gender and the contribution due from and respect to different age groups, and so on.

In contemporary society, it is generally accepted that millions of ordinary people feel powerless to change society or even have much control over their lives. Unlike at least some previous generations, however, the will to fight for change seems muted even although, superficially at least, there are greater freedoms in terms of speech and more ability to transmit ideas than ever before.

And yet, whether bought off by the bread and circuses of mass media and home entertainment or isolated and disempowered by job insecurity and a decline in community cohesion, many are deeply accepting of the status quo – the Queen, as in the UK, shall reign forevermore, or the system of the President, as in the US, shall remain for ever, while Capitalism is the inevitable, irreplaceable climax of history. "They" will always rule "us" and there is nothing we can do – nothing indeed we should even wish to do – to change this.

And that is exactly what I hear from so many people each and every time that I (or others) mention that we need to change the system; replace it with something new. Not with yet another new government but replace it entirely.

People are – in the main – totally lethargic and repeat the mantra that “you have to support the government regardless” or “you have to support your country”, and similar responses.

Most cannot or do not wish to see that change is possible and could make life for all better. As long as they are fine (more or less) they could care little about the homeless or the hungry in their own country. At the same time, however, they quite happily put their hand in their pocket and give to charities for the “poor starving kids in Africa”.

Capitalism is not the climax of history but true, repeat, true Communism is. However, what we saw after the death of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), concocted by Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili (Stalin) and exported throughout the world was not Communism; it was but a left-wing fascism and state capitalism.

Engels identified this mindset as one of "false consciousness":

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives. ...It is above all this appearance of an independent history of state constitutions, of systems of law, of ideological conceptions in every separate domain, which dazzles most people.

On this basis, the rulers maintain their authority: there is often an implicit threat of violence if there is a real challenge, but more often than not does not require deployment, because people succumb to conventions and myths that subconsciously compel them to comply whilst consciously believing they are in fact making an informed choice. So in a capitalist society the unhealthy concept of endless competition with others being at the root of all social interaction becomes accepted as a fundamental and inevitable component of human nature. It could be typified as almost the Stockholm Syndrome of the masses.

But history shows how this can unravel – in pain and tears as in the Russian Revolution and civil war, followed by the new oppression of Stalinism, which was but a repeat, and probably worse, of the worst excesses of the Tsarist secret police and all; or more hopefully in the rise of Chavez in Venezuela and Correa in Ecuador. A new consciousness can be born, usually, perhaps sadly, from adversity. The old decays and eventually a new paradigm arises, but how that is shaped is critical to the new order – whether mass consciousness awakens to shape change deliberately and equitably, or whether one set of "They" is replaced by another. Do we have an elite revolutionary vanguard, which history shows can be readily corrupted by the power it seeks to acquire in order to disperse (never quite getting round to the latter)? Or can change genuinely come from mass bodies, decentralized, open, democratic – as the original Soviets briefly were in the heady days of 1917?

Any elite revolutionary vanguard can be corrupted, as we have seen more than once, whether with regards to the leaders of the Commune de Paris, in the USSR or the GDR, and other places. It was not so much, on either of the latter occasions, a fact of the vanguard going wrong and being corrupted. Stalin was a warlord from the Caucasus as was his chief of secret police Beria and the two of them created a fiefdom out of the beginnings of the USSR.

It is more than a historical hypothetical – for never more in human history has there been a greater degree of false consciousness around acceptance of the free market and capitalism; yet never have there been greater dangers if this destructive force is not stopped, tamed and destroyed. For capitalism in its ever onward drive to commodify and consume is driving our world to exhaustion and our species to extinction.

Capitalism cares but for profit and ever more of it and cares nothing for people and Planet and if not stopped will destroy our very existence, the Earth.

Capitalism sees the Planet only – primarily – as resources to be exploited for profit and human beings are to the died in the wool capitalist nothing but a resource also, to be exploited as slaves, albeit given a little money in return. Bread a circuses, yet again. As long as the masses, it would appear, have the TV, some “food” in the form of Pizza Hut and McDonald's, etc., they stay quiet and even condemn those that try to fight for a better world, for a replacement to the system.

The banking and global financial crisis which started in about 2008 has, for the first time in maybe twenty or more years, led to people questioning the effectiveness and value of the so-called “free” market system.

The coming food crisis, which inevitably is going to occur with the weather as it is and the use of food crops for bio-fuels, may propel this forward as the corporate grip on global food supply and the speculation in hunger that is manifest in the obscene trading of "food futures" in stock markets are revealed as the drivers of inflation and starvation.

The concept of 1% versus the 99% favored by the Occupy Movement is technically wide of the mark and incorrect as there is a substantial degree of unjust inequality among the remaining 99% as well. Yet it does quite powerfully portray the amassing of wealth by a tiny elite – "them" – and could, finally and very consciously give the Left both the platform and the audience to show that in a socially just society, "They" can finally and irrevocably be replaced by "Us" – all of us.

But, that much for theory as to the Left in the above paragraph. In fact we do not need a political party or group to lead us; we all are leaders and we all have a part to play, our own part, in changing the system. In replacing the broken system of politics and economics with a new one. One that regards people and Planet and one where the means of production are truly in the hands of the workers on a local – not national – level.

We do not want to have another state capitalism like the USSR after World War Two and the GDR, etc., but every factory, every workshop, every community, in the hands of the people who work and live there.

Utopian? Yes, it is if we look at it through the curtain of, as Engels called it, “false consciousness”, and with the spectacles of capitalism, whether private or state, and the systems that we have seen. But, if we are prepared to look at a new possibility and a new dawn then this “small is beautiful” approach can and will work.

We do not need a new government, we need a new system altogether.

© 2012



Independent ethical tinned tuna brand, The Reel Fish Company, has been making air-waves on the telly, with the launch of its first fishy TV ad campaign, piloted on Yorkshire Tyne Tees and Meridian South television. Since its TV debut just two weeks ago, the company say sales of its products have surged upwards by up to 50% in certain places within catchment of the two broadcasting regions.

For those who haven’t caught it on the telly – check it out on You Tube -

As co-founder Bryn Scadeng, comments: "It's great to know that shoppers have responded so positively to our advert. We know that people are concerned about the way food is farmed and produced, but our increased sales tell us that people across the UK are really prepared to put their money where their mouth is."

The Cheshire-based sustainable tinned tuna company has created a quirky animated 30 second advert to promote its delicious100% sustainable tuna products, fished exclusively by pole and line in the Maldives. Its message to viewers is simple: "never from nets" – because commercial net-fishing (by far the most common method used by suppliers) destroys lots of other marine life in the process. Despite this, the vast majority of tinned tuna available on supermarket shelves is sourced from nets.

This young Brit brand is a mere minnow compared to corporate whales like Princes and John West Foods, but The Reel Fish Company is making waves in the industry with its non-compromising approach to using sustainably sourced tuna. Created less than three years ago in a modest home-office outside Chester, its small but perfectly formed range of tinned tuna products are now stocked at all the major supermarkets nation-wide.

The cult of Reel Fish is growing rapidly, with supermarket sales on the up, and a recent endorsement from celebrity chef, Gino de Campo, who was broadcast using Reel Fish Tuna chunks on his show "Let’s Do Lunch with Gino and Mel."
The Story of The Reel Fish Company

Its tinned tuna range is now available at all the major supermarkets nationwide, so it’s hard to believe that The Reel Fish Company was dreamt up less than three years ago. Despite the deepening recession, and to the amazement of friends and family, founders, Bryn Scadeng and Angela Fitzpatrick, left their jobs at a leading branded UK canned fish company, to strike out on their own.

As Angela, explains, "Of course, we enjoyed the regular income, the company pension and occasional corporate perks, but we were very uncomfortable with the chief method by which our employer was catching its tuna - its biggest-selling product. They catch fish using huge nets (aka ‘purse seining’) – by far the most common commercial tuna fishing method in the world.

"The problem with net fishing is that it endangers marine life by catching other fish and marine animals like turtles and sharks," explains Bryn. "It’s a totally non-discriminatory method. You just chuck a massive net out to sea and scoop up whatever’s there on the day. You sift through it all to get to the tuna and discard the rest."

"After years working in the industry and constantly pressing (unsuccessfully) for a green alternative, we both decided enough was enough, and err…jumped ship. I think most people thought we were slightly mad giving up our jobs," continues Angela. "But sometimes you have to go with your gut instincts and put your money where your mouth is, so to speak."

Both Angela and Bryn felt their industry was hiding from the realities of intensive purse seine fishing and continuing to ignore the fact that more responsible methods exist, such as pole and line, the way in which all of their own Reel Fish tuna is now caught.

That’s why, in 2009 over a bowl of moules et frites in Chester - 'The Reel Fish Company' was spawned. Bryn and Angela set up their small office at Bryn’s home, and basically started calling the UK supermarkets, hooking up (the fishing puns end here folks) with their old contacts in the industry to drum up interest.

"The supermarkets totally got the idea of a tuna brand which would be pole & line fished, and never from nets," says Angela, "and they hadn't even seen a single can at this point. So we just thought: go for it!

"We also pledged only to source skip-jack tuna, a breed which grows quickly and is not under threat through being over-fished such as albacore and bluefin tuna".

Then came the challenge of catching some, canning it and bringing it into the UK. Searching for a credible fishery to provide traceable pole and line fish proved very difficult for Bryn and Angela at first. There are plenty of countries around the globe claiming to fish by pole and line but the Maldives is the only one which doesn't allow purse seiners into its waters.

This got them thinking about the whole value chain with tuna and they quickly realised that the benefits of Maldivian fish were not only to the eco-system but to the fishermen, families and local processors. It was literally better for everyone!

The good news for consumers here in the UK is that buying great quality, sustainable tuna comes at no extra cost. Reel Fish tinned tuna is comparable in price to other net caught canned fish brands, a fact which surprises many people who assume that "green" equals "expensive".

Bryn and Angela may be two very small fish in a big sea, but that doesn’t stop them having big ideas!

"We’ve sold nearly half a million cans to date and plan to take 8% of the UK tuna market in the next 3 years".

Not content with just selling their own Reel Fish products, they would love to see the industry stop fishing tuna with nets altogether. Their experience and uncompromising business ethic has gained them respect throughout the supply chain – from the fisherman whose livelihoods are improved by investment in their industry, to the supermarkets who choose to sell their products.

Reel Fish Company tinned tuna is available in sunflower oil, brine or water. Now available at selected branches of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Nisa, Co-operative, Morrisons and Booths. For more information about The Reel Fish Company visit

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Wood biomass – the heat source of the future

There are many good reasons for choosing wood biomass as the heat source of the future.

If the UK continues on its current course, it will be dependent on imports for 80% of its natural gas requirement by 2020. Renewable heat means greater energy security. The UK’s Renewable Energy Strategy, covering heat, electricity and transport is estimated to reduce fossil gas imports by 20-30% by 2020 and biomass will play a major role in this reduction.

Across the industry, there has already been a sharp rise in the number of homeowners choosing wood burning stoves as both a practical way to cut fuel bills and an environmentally-friendly answer to heating their homes. It’s estimated that around 180,000 stoves were fitted last year alone.

However, many homeowners are unaware of the linked systems and new technologies available to provide all their hot water and central heating needs using logs as fuel.

Log burning stoves for hot water and central heating

Most often wood burning stoves are used to heat a room when the central heating is not in use but wood burning stoves can also be used for water heating and to run the central heating system, dramatically reducing the home’s carbon footprint.

A stove with a boiler can be used to entirely run your central heating and hot water or supplement your existing heating system when used in combination with a primary boiler system. Linking a wood burning stove with a gas condensing boiler, an oil burner or a heat pump to share the heating of the house will reduce the carbon output by 11-12% when the stove is responsible for heating 20% of the house and 23-24% when the stove heats 40% of the house.

The fact that wood logs are virtually carbon neutral means that using an efficient wood burning stove for water and space heating can reduce the house’s carbon foot print by more than 80% compared with gas, oil, LPG or heat pumps. In the case of heat pumps and gas, the reduction is eighty-four per cent and for oil it is 84%.

It’s the ideal supplement for resource-saving while at the same time warming your room and creating a cozy focal point.

Modern heating and installation practice can incorporate advanced energy saving system controls to reduce fuel consumption and the regularity of fuelling a water heating wood stove. Today’s system designs can allow for heated water to be stored for use later when the stove is not operating.

The future of biomass

There are many good reasons for choosing wood burning stoves as the heat source of the future.

Renewable heat avoids the emissions of heat energy from fossil fuels. When burned, high-quality wood emits less CO2 than it does with natural decay, and used with a correctly installed stove, approved for burning in smoke controlled areas, it provides both economic and environmental advantages for homeowners.

The increasing demand for sustainable wood fuel will also provide an incentive for active investment and management of UK woodlands, allowing for greater biodiversity. Ambient technologies like solar thermal are already popular and make up the great majority of micro renewable installations in the UK today, and integrate easily into biomass systems.

What is wood biomass and how does it differ from fossil fuel?

The vital difference is one of timescale.

Wood is a carbon based biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. In the context of wood biomass for fuel this is often used to mean plant based material such as trees or crops. Wood biomass can be harvested on a sustainable basis as part of a constantly replenished crop; CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere at the same time as it is released by combustion of the previous harvest. This process is often referred to as being CO₂ Neutral – it maintains a closed CO2 cycle with no net increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are also derived from biological material, but material that absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere millions of years ago. As fuels they offer high energy density, but making use of that energy involves releasing CO₂ during the burn period, resulting in increased atmospheric concentrations.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Self-driving cars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It has recently been reported that California is one step closer to self-driving cars and it would appear that quite a few people like the idea of cars that “drive themselves” but as yourself as to who is in control of that drive. It is NOT you who sits behind the wheel in the car but a control room.

This may sound a great idea, e.g. you tell the car that you want to go to work and press “go” and off it goes, avoiding maybe even traffic jams and other problems, while at the same time you get on with some work during the journey or just with some relaxing and drinking of coffee.

But now I would like to ask you to imagine the scenario of you wanting to get away from a possible lock-down of your area because of an emergency with your loved ones in the car but the control center realizes that and remotely takes control of your car and drives you to somewhere you don't want to go. Now the self-drive car no longer looks that good, does it.

The idea has already been played with to fix all new cars (and who knows as to whether that is not being done already) with an immobilizer that can be controlled by law enforcement and such like.

Who is, therefore, to say that those self-driving cars will not be fitted with an override that can take control of your vehicle even when you have not put the “autopilot” on.

This is just my concern on this issue, I know, and, like with so many other technological “miracle”, I am sure, there are many who will wish for this self-drive car to come along sooner rather than later.

It all sounds great and all the benefits of it that are being touted about such as increased safety, maybe, and all that will make people really believe in it. In the same way as so many people are all for the CCTV cameras that watch our every move and the scatter radar applications in many cities now to scan for people carrying weapons (at least in the UK).

But, you have to decide for yourself. As a non-driver and a cyclist and pedestrian I know that the self-driving car is not something that will affect my privacy. Mind you, here in the UK we have enough to worry about in that department even if one does not drive.

© 2012

Summer of 2012 was the wettest for a century

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The summer of 2012 has been the wettest for 100 years, according to Met Office data.

And, according to the government it was also the wettest drought in history. Talk about spin.

Figures from the Met Office show an average of 366.8mm of rain fell across the UK over the three months – June, July and August. That compares with a normal average UK rainfall of 241mm.

The worst hit regions have been the north west of England and north Wales with 475mm of rain, representing 171% above the seasonal norm. The West Country has also suffered badly, recording rainfall at 450mm or 184% above average summer figures.

In percentage terms the south east did not fare much better with 180% more rain than usual but its overall figure of 290mm, reflecting the relative dryness of the region, is much lower than areas further north and west.

The Environment Agency has issued more than 1,000 river flood alerts and warnings between 1 June and 15 July, the highest number in five years.

Summer 2012 is also likely to be one of the dullest summers on record, with just 399 hours of sunshine up to 28 August. It is the dullest summer since 1980, when the UK saw only 396 hours of sunshine. The only region to have escaped the deluge is the far north of Scotland which recorded just 85% of its summer rainfall.

The wet weather has hit harvest efforts and that equally so for farmers as vegetable gardeners at home and on allotments.

Everyone has been fighting a battle with slugs and to begin wish many plants just dampened off as seedlings. When they then, finally, got under way the slugs and other pests had a field day.

Slugs, pigeons and the rest have been taking what the weather did not and yields are very low.

In addition to that most fruit trees did not set fruit because the weather was too bad for pollinators, such as bees, to fly and it was also too wet for wind pollination for those plants that are pollinated in that way.

This all will have a serious impact on food prices and people better get prepared now for the fact that many products will be very expensive indeed and maybe it would be a good idea for many to realize how many weeds are actually edible and supplement their diet in that way. Weeds we certainly have and had in abundance.

© 2012

Recycling is dead!

Reuse is king and we must change our ways to rethink how we act and interact

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The mantras and mindsets of the past have become obsolete. We must now throw them out and create space to develop new ones which will guide us into the future as well as in the future.

It is no longer enough to simply REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE the damage we do to the world we live in.

Instead we must RETHINK the very systems in which we function (do we really function in it) today which allow such damage to occur in the first place.

We must create new systems which allow us to REIMAGINE a world in which we are not separate from our environment but a vital, meaningful and integral part of it.

In this new world we will not only renew ourselves but also REGENERATE Mother Nature so that she may provide for not simply a few but indeed for all.

This means that first and foremost we must get away from consumerism and that includes greensumption.

Going Green is not about buying a bunch of new organic and recycled stuff and then feeling good and smug in the belief that you've done your bit. It is about reducing the amount that we buy and choosing to reuse. We must reuse because the Planet cannot be recycled but all too many think that if they but buy new recycled stuff they are really, really green. Well, they are not.

It is amazing how many people in the Green Movement even do not seem to be able to think past recycling, especially when considering that they are repeating the Three R mantra all the time.

There is, however, no need to reinvent the wheel. Reuse is almost as old as the hills and we need but look at the way our grandparents and their parents did things in the reuse department and then apply our mind to the new materials that they did not know.

We must also bring back the systems of reusing glass bottles and glass jars) as was in the past by using the incentives of then too; namely refundable deposits on the containers. It is hardly rocket science now, is it?

However, we are being conditioned and have been conditioned – brainwashed almost – into believing that recycling can save most of our problems.

As long as a product can be recycled at the end of its life we have been fed, for lack of a better word, it is OK to toss it and buy new when we desire a new version of the product. After all, we have to stimulate the economy; an economy that is based on ever more growth, which means the need for ever more consumption. This does not compute considering that the Planet is finite; it cannot grow.

Our economic system, as it stands today, is broken and we need to change it. That means replacing it and not repairing it or tinkering with it.

While I am always for repairing as far as things are concerned this system cannot be repaired and that also goes for our political systems; but that is a different story.

We cannot continue to consume at the rate that we do at present and it is not a case of “it's the economy, stupid” but “it's the stupid economy”.

Non-renewable resources of this Planet and even renewable resources are being depleted at a rate of knots and we have come to a point now where the global annual consumption of oil is 40% greater than the rate of production. One does not have to be an economist or mathematical genius to realize that that does not add up. Even the least brightest person will recognize that if you use more than you produce it is not sustainable, not even in the short run, let alone the long one.

This operation is only possible by using so-called strategic reserves and those reserves are going to run out in the not so distant future.

It can safely be assumed that the powers that be feed the reserves into the market in order to massage and manipulate the fuel prices at the pumps at a level so that people are not going to revolt and all that in the hope that more cheap oil can be found. That, however, is highly unlikely and that means that the shortage is only being delayed. But, oops, I digressed again.

Resource, especially non-renewable ones, be this oil, gas, minerals, etc., are getting short in supply and wars are already being fought about then and conflicts. Only a reduction in consumption is going to being sanity back and products that are made to last.

© 2012

Many parents ‘can't afford to fed their children’

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Poverty has been known in Britain before in decades and centuries past but we seem to be seeing a return to some of the conditions of those years nowadays.

Save The Children has launched the first-ever appeal for British children over child poverty to help British children escape poverty. The accompanying report says that poor children in the UK are missing out on warm coats, new shoes and hot meals at home.

The charity says that there are 350,000 children living in real poverty in the UK, with 50 per cent of low-income families short of money every week according to its report “It Shouldn't Happen Here”.

It said poverty was 'tearing families apart' with 12% of the poorest children not having at least one hot meal a day, excluding school dinners and 25% of parents have deliberately skipped a meal so their children can eat instead.

Some 20% of mothers and fathers from households with incomes of less than £17,000 a year say their children go without new shoes, while 17% cannot afford new clothes. About 20% of children in poverty are not able to go on school trips and 14% have to do without a warm coat in winter.

One low-income parent admitted that they literally had to reply on any money we raised at car boot sales to pay for food for the week.

As I said above, poverty is not new to Britain and neither to the USA, and other developed nations, including Germany. However, this level of poverty should have been dealt with a long time a go. Our very welfare system was established to eliminate such kinds of poverty.

It is true that there are families that just cannot manage their finances and where the root cause is a different one than just low income.

One of the biggest problems, in my opinion, is that too many people still think that they have to keep up with the Joneses next door or down the street. Only problem is that the Joneses are a two-earner household with each of them brining in over £30,000 say.

There are essentials and there are things that too many think to be needs and essentials when they are not. And no, I am not trying to shift the blame but...

What is to blame for this situation is our economic and political system and the culture of more, more, more, and new all the time, and it is obvious that the poor families also would like to have some of those new shiny things.

In addition to that most things that we do have cannot, because the economic system has it decreed thus, no longer be repaired, as was the case with goods in years gone by, and therefore, when something breaks, it needs replacing.

Household payments, such as rents, utilities and such, keep going up and when then, in addition to that, food gets more expensive on a daily basis, as it would seem, what chance do those in the lower income bracket stand? Very little to none.

We do not need a new government; we need a new system. A new political as well a new economic system. A system where people and Planet come before profit and greed.

© 2012

Scientists warn that food shortages could force world into vegetarianism

Water scarcity's effect on food production means radical steps will be needed to feed a population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, warns Stockholm International Water Institute

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists.

According to the scientists there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations.

There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a … reliable system of food trade, say the scientists.

My comment to that must also be, I should think, that also the production of vegetables takes a great amount of water as does, and especially, the production of crops for bio-fuels and for crops such as cotton.

Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world's arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals. Other options to feed people include eliminating waste and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in deficit.

However, if we are really that concerned about the water and the possible food shortages then we must get away from the notion and idea of growing crops for fuel production and reduce our motor vehicle use. But the powers that be in government and industry have no intention of doing and promoting that.

Vegetarianism is being tauted again and again as the savior of mankind but is it really? The answer is no. Humans do need, and yes, it is need, some animal materials and especially animal fats. The latter can be gotten from dairy products such as butter, of that I am aware, but there are also some vitamins and trace elements needed for proper development that can predominately only be found in animal products.

However, when I was growing up meat was reserved for, maybe, Sundays, if the money was there for it to be bought or if we had gotten hold of a rabbit or a pheasant or such. Otherwise it was very much reserved, as far as roast was concerned, as sausages and rashers of bacon came more often, for high holy days, and vegetables were the general order of the day.

People were healthier and fitter then but then again most people also did not have a television and McDonald's has not, as yet, arrived in England. Not all that many people did have cars then either and the bicycle was king as was walking (and buses and trains). Children played outside and did not sit in front of a TV, a computer or X-box, or such. But the diet too played a great part here, and much of it was vegetables but we were not, and that goes for most people, vegetarians.

It is also not agriculture that is the greatest, not even animal husbandry, user of water. It is us with our flush toilets and it is industry. Time to look at those issues a little closer.

© 2012

If lost in the Wilderness what is the first thing you should do?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Which should it be?

  1. Find food

  2. Find water

  3. Find shelter

  4. Make a signal fire

  5. Take a moment to relax, accept that you are lost and go from there

The vast majority of people would either answer 2,1,3 or 2,3,1 in that order and some would even consider shelter or food the first priority. The truth, however, is another one.

The answer should and must be 5: Take a moment to relax, accept that you are lost and go from there. This one is also referred to as “taking stock”.

It is no good running about like a headless chicken looking for water or food or for materials for a shelter. First sit down quietly, control your emotions and with a more or less cool head take stock of your situation.

Check as to what you have got with you, try to remember how you got here, and such. If you are expected to be back at a certain time somewhere and people are aware approximately as to where you are or should be then stay put where you are, if possible.

Why? Because trying to retrace your steps or, even with a compass and a map, setting out into an unknown direction, could simply get you into deeper trouble and that is what we do want to avoid.

Hug a tree is a system by the RCMP called for children who have gotten lost in the Canadian bush. This is also a good advice for any of those of use who are expected back at a certain location and therefore we can be certain that someone will come looking for us if we are not back.

The situation is, obviously, somewhat a different one if there is no one expecting us at a certain location but the #1 step remains the #5 on the list. Sit down and quietly take stock and decide, calmly, without panic, the next move.

As long as you are not injured and are not losing blood and you are just simply lost then there is no need for urgency. But even if injured panicking is the last thing that you need.

If you are deciding to stay put until someone might search for you then the second priority after taking stock is the construction of a shelter and, about as important, finding potable water. Then, depending on the time of year and as to whether you need to keep wild dangerous animals at bay a fire. Food is the least of your priority. You can go for about 30 days without food, if need be.

© 2012

Why reuse a cup?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many people think that carrying and using a reusable coffee mug or cup won't matter. But the truth is rather staggering for it does.

keepcupAmericans use 25 billion, that's 25 with an awful lot of zeros behind and I don't even know how many, paper cups each year and that adds up to 363 million pounds of waste and the “loss” of more than 9 million trees. And that is just Americans. Add to that Brits, Germans, Australians, etc., and you really come up with an even more staggering sum.

Yes, I do put the word loss in inverted commas and that simply because loss, in this instance, is a disputable term as most trees that are grown for paper production are, well, grown for that purpose and would not be grown were it not for the paper use.

However, those “paper” cups are not all paper and thus are, in fact, non recyclable and here is where the bigger problem lies.

The fact that those cups are, whatever we are often being told, non- recyclable is the biggest problem for they then end up in landfill and with over 360 million pounds of that waste alone in the USA it makes for a huge heap.

Now add to that the non-paper cups, whether plastic or expanded Polystyrene and you have a problem that is potentially even much bigger.

The bottom line, thus, is that every little cup adds up. Do your part to reduce pollution and minimize waste by bringing using reusable mug – and, while you are at it, also don't forget your reusable water bottle.

When it comes to reusable mugs (and water bottles) there are good ones, not so good ones and outright stupid ones. The biggest problem is that many reusable mugs do not fit under the coffee bar machines and thus you still end up with waste as the barista will, generally, first put the coffee into a throwaway cup and then into your mug. Which means that we still end up with the same problem regarding waste as if you would actually take the disposable cup in the first place.

Chose carefully when you look for a reusable cup. There are only a few that, in fact, fit under the machines (and not, I am not getting paid for this) KeepCup is the best, in my opinion, option here.

© 2012

Fair promotes green lifestyle

The name may have changed, but the goal remains the same

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The UB Sustainable Living Fair – formerly known as Green Shade of Blue & You Day – encourages members of the UB community to practice sustainability at home, as well as on campus.

The university’s fourth annual environmental expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Student Union, North Campus. It is sponsored by the UB Office of Sustainability, the Professional Staff Senate and Campus Dining and Shops.

So, why the change of name?

“Greener Shade of Blue & You Day was a riff off of a focused semester on sustainability in 2007 that saw leaders like Al Gore and the late Wangari Maathai visiting and speaking on campus,” says event co-chair Jim Simon, sustainability engagement coordinator with the Office of Sustainability. “Since then, our take on sustainability has expanded to include not only the environment, but people and economic efficiency.

“We look at all of this through the lens of teaching sustainability through our curriculum, discovering the next big idea through our research, reducing our environmental footprint in our own operations and reaching others far and wide through community engagement,” Simon explains. “Changing the name to the UB Sustainable Living Fair helps capture this focus and also makes it clear what we are actually doing on Sept. 18.”

The fair, he points out, is a “snapshot of the work that the campus and the community is doing to reduce our footprint on the future.”

“Coming together every fall for this event is always inspiring,” he says.

The environmental fair will feature demonstrations, door prizes and nearly 20 local and national business and nonprofit organizations offering information about maintaining a sustainable home and reducing one’s environmental footprint.

Attendees will be able to recycle alkaline batteries and Goodwill will have a truck at the event to collect donated items.

In conjunction with the fair, Campus Dining and Shops again will host the Pride of New York Showcase featuring organic and local produce, dairy products and fresh baked goods from Western New York farms, fields and kitchens. The showcase, on the special events field across Putnam Way from the Student Union, will spotlight many vendors that partner with UB.

It would be great to see more such fairs across the US, and not just on university and college campuses, and also in other countries, such as the UK.

While there are a number of such fairs around in Britain, and a fair number of them in and around London, some of them have problems putting on the events due to the fact that some councils charge enormous sums for the “hire” of a park, such as is the case in Brixton, with Brockwell Park, and because of that fact the 2012 Urban Green Fair had to be canceled.

Rather than charging such events should be co-organized with the councils as they bring awareness of the green issues and can also be used to promote awareness of issues in parks.

One can but hope that this sense will be understood by all...

© 2012

Original Löwe 8.104 Anvil Secateurs – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

8_104_Aktion_1The Original Löwe 8.104 anvil pruning shears feature the ‘best of both worlds’, utilizing anvil technology with bypass geometry. The slimness and curve of a bypass cutting head, makes selective pruning of intensive crops (fruit, flowers, etc.) easy, while the anvil blade allows easy cutting and less impact during use.
Designed for use in horticulture, fruit growing, forestry, and viticulture; these pruners can be used left or right handed, for cutting any kind of wood with plastic grips and easily adjustable handles to suit any hand size.

It was the Löwe 1 which made the Original Löwe brand and the anvil principle (a drawing cut against a fixed base plate) world famous. Original Löwe pruners are designed, produced and assembled in Germany to the highest standards with a unique hardening process giving the blades an unrivaled hardness and the latest CNC grinding machines, ensuring an outstanding sharp cutting edge.

Length: 21cm

Weight: 230g

Cutting Capacity: 25mm (1")

While it is often claimed, especially by manufacturers of bypass secateurs that anvil secateurs (pruners) should be used for dead wood only and that only bypass secateurs should ever be used on green wood this is a fallacy. But then again not all anvil secateurs and pruners are equal. Some do not cut clean enough.

Many an older groundsman or gardener will remember, fondly I should think, a brand called ROLCUT which were, in fact, Original Löwe anvil pruners, made under license in Britain and I still have a small old one of that brand and have refurbished it, in fact, after seeing Original Löwe at the recent IOG Saltex 2012.

Original Löwe tools are 100% “Made in Germany” and not a single part is outsourced abroad; not even the steel for the blades. The steel is made for Original Löwe in Germany and the products are then made, in their entirety, in their factory in Kiel.

The review sample was supplied by Dominic Elson of Quality Garden Tools, the sole distributor in the UK for Original Löwe, during my visit to IOG Saltex 2012.

All parts of the Original Löwe secateurs are replaceable and the blades can be changed for replacement with just a spanner in a few seconds, literally.

This is a very sturdy, as all of them appear to be, pair of secateurs that feels good in the hand simply because of its weight which speaks of being a solid product and outperforms the competition by miles.

The Original Löwe 8.104 looks to all intents and purposes like a pair of bypass secateurs but does, in fact, have an anvil. The blade, however, has the curvature of the bypass.

There are many who prefer to use bypass secateurs when pruning trees and such as they have the habit of cutting a branch flush with the trunk. This, however, is very bad practice and should not be done, except, may be, in viticulture.

I have put this pair of secateurs now through its paces and aside from the fact that they have a very reassuring weight speaking of strength and quality of workmanship they work a treat indeed with everything that I have thrown at it, from cutting very thin stems in harvesting beans to about 1inch thick branches of apple. The trees of mine are in need of a haircut.

The lock is the most positive kind of lock imaginable of one that is intended to be opened one-handed and when the lock, though a simple one, is in place you know that your secateurs are securely locked and should not open accidentally in your pocket or holster. And this lock can also be adjusted should you wish to do so.

Despite the fact that the majority of Original Löwe secateurs use the old style caterpillar spring, which many manufacturers have now dropped as they tend to drop out it would appear that this is not going to be the case here. Also, a little TLC on the side of the user can, in fact, prevent the spring from coming out (even if it is gay) and a little oil goes a very long way.

Being someone who appreciates good tools and someone who was very partial to the old ROLCUT brand I may be a little predisposed towards the products by the company which is, after all, ROLCUT's parent but I think most of my readers will know that I call a spade a spade and would mention if there was something that I did not like to well.

Those secateurs are a real serious piece of kit and made with the professional in mind and at around £46 retail in the UK certainly come cheaper than does the nearest competition.

I would definitely rate the Original Löwe 8.104 secateurs with a six out of five, if that would be possible and thus, I guess, we will have to settle for five stars.

© 2012

Religion, organized religion, is the opium of the people

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When Marx made the statement about religion being the opium of the people he was very right indeed.

The reason people believe, and are taught to believe, in a beautiful afterlife (I am referring here predominately to the so-called Christian churches) is so that they do not fight against the awful situation on Earth.

The leaders see religion, especially the Christian one, as a nice way of keeping the common people quiet and controlled and they have always used it to that effect.

Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said: “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

The powers that be used to – and in many cases still do to this very day – hand in glove with the church, or the other way round, in order to keep the common people controlled and in their place.

When we look at the schools of Britain in the Victoria era we can see this in its entirety where children were punished if they had ambitions “beyond their station”, as it was called, like when, say, the son of a farm laborer aspired to become a doctor or a lawyer.

The child would then, as said, often be punished by the teacher and be told that he should not try to become anything like his betters and that his station in life was to be a servant. But that, if he would be a good Christian, his reward he would receive in heaven.

Children were condition by state and church schools and the clergy to accept their lot in life and that they were actually bucking against God's order if they aspired to be something else than what their parents and grandparents were.

This was the same in Britain, as in Germany, France, or Russia and everywhere in between and both church and state or state and church connived together to keep it thus and for that very reason the church was – and still is – against the Left and especially against Communism. Socialism and Communism threatens the power of the church and its influence over the people.

This was also very much in evident during the last decades of the last century when the Church of Rome, for instance, reprimanded clergy, including bishops, in Central and South America, Africa and Asia as to “liberation theology” which many, especially Jesuits and Dominican priests, practised; being on the side of the people and the revolutions.

Standing up for the people's struggle for freedom and justice was not, according to the Vatican, what the clergy and religious were supposed to be engaging in, especially not socialist and communist activities. They were to be concerned only with the souls of the people and to ensure that they did as they were told by the rulers.

Religion is used to oppress the people by lulling them into a state of oblivion to accept their lot because there is a reward waiting for them in Heaven and they they must not upset the system that God has ordained on Earth.

Sorry, run that past me again: God, who is this supposed loving God who is interested in each of us personally has it so ordained that there are people who die of hunger in some of the richest countries of the world even, who are homeless, etc. Then, I am sorry, that is not a God that I would want to have anything to do with.

In South Africa the Calvinists even rewrote the Bible to prove that God made the Black Man to be inferior to the White Man and that the White Man, thus, was supposed to be ruling the Blacks like they were children.

The worst aspect of (organized) religion is, however, as indicated, that through the indoctrination of the clergy the people are taught to accept their lot, not to buck the trend and system, and not to interfere with God's ordained order, for their rewards be in Heaven and the more they suffer now the greater their rewards. And a great many actually believe this claptrap.

No God will help us to overcome poverty and oppression. We have to do that ourselves and fight for our rights. The rights as free people. We are neither slaves to men, nor governments, nor of any God.

Sin Fein... Ourselves Alone! Only we can free ourselves...

© 2012