Nick Clegg calls for new garden cities and suburbs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has made a call for a new generation of garden cities that has been cheered by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Clegg also said that the UK has the smallest new homes in Western Europe and that in the future housebuilders should create light and spacious, flexible homes with lots of private and open spaces.

However, and one can but agree with them, the CPRE say what about building on brownfield land and improving the existing towns and cities.

We do not need Eco-Towns, as were proposed by the previous Labor government, nor do we need these so-called garden cities and suburbs. There are existing towns and cities and homes within them that need improving and greening and there is enough brownfield land in towns and cities that could become parks and gardens.

But, as we can see, it is a case of jobs for the boys, in this case the architects and building companies, such as Wimpy and Barrats, and the like.

The same people who lost out when the Eco-Towns fell by the wayside are now to be getting a little boost, it would appear.

There is no need for any of this building and there is not even any need to build new homes as there are enough empty homes in Britain to house the homeless population of this country several times over, including social housing stock that has been removed even from the empty housing register, such as the Ocean Estate in Stepney.

The destruction of the Robin Hood Estate in Poplar also is not necessary as the people would really love to remain living there, though they might like having the places done up a little.

However, seeing where those housing estates are the land is far too valuable for housing the poorer in society. There is lots of money to be made from the land if can but be sold to developers, which is exactly the fate earmarked for the Robin Hood Estate.

The British government establishment has no interest in the people, and it does not matter which party is “in charge” but only in money that they can get, by way of backhanders, from the people they favor.

RIBA and other groups only think of profit also and talk about of getting the country building again. Refurbishing is also part of building but we toss away homes in the same way that we toss away a supposedly obsolete cell phone or PC.

The throwaway society has even arrived in the housing sector, it would appear, and I have seen several examples of such stupidity over the years now. Such as when in Hackney, some decades past, a large estate of pre-World War Two homes, several thousand of them, and in place of which was built a housing area with just under five hundred homes. No wonder we have a homelessness crisis.

We need no new garden cities and suburbs, we need to green our existing towns and cities.

© 2012

Kerosene lanterns may be an overlooked source of Climate Change pollution

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kerosene_lamp_view_B.jpg10c4831f-9c85-45e3-b81d-10851dd97d3fLargeConsidering that oil lamps, or better kerosene lamps and lanterns, are the primary source of lighting in the third world it is a source of climate change pollution that has been overlooked for many decades.

A new study by researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois has shown that this significant source of black carbon pollution, that from Kerosene lanterns, used as a primary light source for millions of people worldwide, has been widely overlooked.

It turns out that the black carbon soot from kerosene lanterns is twenty times higher than is currently assumed when factoring in this light source into calculations of total black carbon emissions.

The researchers have found that 7-9% of the kerosene ends up in the atmosphere as black carbon.

Black carbon, which to all intents and purposed is but a fancy name for the pollution we all know from coal fires and the burning of kerosene, namely soot, is increasingly being cited as a significant factor in global warming, as well as in glacier melting.

Rather than being a greenhouse gas, like CO2 or methane, black carbon is particulate air pollution. It increases warming, but once the source of the pollution is removed the warming it causes drops rapidly, unlike greenhouse gases. It is this brown carbon and black carbon, that is to say soot, that is, primarily, responsible for the glacier melts in the Himalayas.

This means that if we can phase out or at least significantly reduce the sources of this pollution―open cookstoves used by millions of people in poor nations, older diesel engines, as well as kerosene lanterns―we can reduce warming with a much quicker timescale to see results than in reducing carbon emissions, even though doing the latter is hugely important, as well.

While I am the first to admit that I am not a climate scientist I would like to suggest that more warming and thus resulting climate change is being caused, in fact, by air pollution than by the always quoted gases. The Hippies of the 1960s and 1970s were already ringing the alarm bells as to pollution of our air (and the environment per se) in those days but the powers that be chose to ignore this warning.

Study co-author Kirk Smith, from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health said: “There are no magic bullets that will solve all of our greenhouse gas problems, but replacing kerosene lamps is low-hanging fruit. There are many inexpensive, cleaner alternatives to kerosene lamps that are available now, and few if any barriers to switching to them.”

“That is, few barriers except perhaps resistance to changing habitats and family priorities, such as been experienced with efforts to replace older cookstoves with cleaner-burning alternatives in Bangladesh.”

“What are the cleaner alternatives? Pretty much any light source powered by electricity generated from solar power, either from solar panels, or from cookstoves that produce electricity, as well as cook food.”

The study authors rightly point out there's another big benefit of switching to cleaner forms of lighting that kerosene lanterns: Reducing indoor air pollution.

Similarly to older cookstoves, the fumes and smoke from kerosene lanterns significantly contribute to seriously health problems in people, disproportionately women and children, resulting from exposure to the fumes. In fact, 1.9 million people die annually from bad indoor air quality, according to UN stats.

Burning kerosene, which is, after all the same as JP4 (aviation fuel), is not a great idea and while this may be fine – sort of – as emergency lighting in the long run, aside from being a source atmospheric soot (black carbon) is also, as stated, a source of serious illnesses.

While the solutions, e.g. solar-powered lanterns, which must, by virtue, contain rechargeable batteries, which also, every now and then require replacing, are not cheap, they can save lives and, maybe, just maybe, reduce climate change.

© 2012

Prediction of Apocalypses and other scare stories

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the main those stories are being perpetuated by one particular groups of people, namely those that can make money from them.

First there was Y2K and the claim that all computers would fail and thus it would be the end of the world as we know it (and Y2K probably was not the first of those incidents) and the latest now was the End of the World according to the Mayan Calendar.

In all those cases the survival equipment dealers, the writers of books, and others, had a field day and still do as they keep perpetuating scaremongering.

Other scare stories are those of FEMA concentration camps, of chem trails that are aimed to poison us in order to reduce world population, especially in the USA, and many more.

All of those stories are used by people to further an agenda and especially their businesses and that of their advertisers. But thousands upon thousands of people are buying into this scam.

Yes, prepping for the eventuality of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, and such like, is a good idea, no doubt, but when someone is trying to sell anyone all this special kits and all that jazz under the pretense of needing it in case of the end of the world, etc., the I would suggest that we all take a deep breath and a do a double take.

While predictions of apocalypses have are almost as old as the dawn of time the racket that goes with it of scaring people into buying survival supplies is a relative new one.

If the world ends it ends. You are not going to be one of x-many survivors. Thus any supplies are a waste of money. However, when it comes to disaster preparedness and being set for an economic collapse then it is not so much what you have but what you know that counts.

A good number of handbooks may be something to aim for but the real and foremost important thing is personal skills and knowledge. You don't learn from a book in the time of crisis; you must acquire and hone your skills before.

When, not if, the economy heads down the tube the skills that we will need are those of our ancestors, to a great degree; of making do and mending, and much more. High tech solutions may no longer function too well and buying everything that you want and need more than likely also not.

What you need are not fancy guns and knives and survival kits in such situation, but good old-fashioned hand tools with which you can make the goods for your daily needs and goods to barter for things you cannot – possibly – make. Good solid tools and a solid knowledge of how to is the answer and not how many cans of freeze-dried food you have in your bunker.

Knowledge and honed skills are the answer and not spending thousands to have the latest freeze-dried food and all those gadgets and what have you. The only people who win in that case are the merchants.

Also do not fall for the gold and silver coins that people claim will be the trading rounds of the time after the collapse. They are not going to be of any use whatsoever. Nice to look at but not much use for anything else. Skills and the ability to make things for trade is what counts.

Let the scaremongers continue with their business but do not fall for their tales. Always consider the question of “Quo Bono”, the “who benefits” and the only one that do are those that make money from goods and services they sell to those that they have managed to scare.

© 2012

Designed Obsolescence

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Instead of being repairable and upgradable most products today are designed – yes, designed – with a maximum lifespan and then to be tossed out. In most cases this lifespan is a maximum of three years.

Software “manufacturers” and those of computer hardware seem to work hand-in-glove when it comes to this and almost every time that Microsoft releases a new version the Windows operating system one needs a new PC; if one uses MS Windows that is.

Other software and hardware also no longer works, more often than not, on older PCs and on older versions of the operating system and often old software and hardware are also no longer compatible with the new versions of MS Windows. Often one finds that printers, scanners, etc., are suddenly no longer supported.

This means that you not only may have to buy a new PC but also have to toss those items out and get new ones. Nice little earner for them all but not very sustainable.

However, as far as computers are concerned, and as far as they can be upgraded in respect of memory (RAM), and desktop and towers are much better in this respect as are laptops and let alone netbooks, they can still perform perfectly well, and even better, if the Open Source operating system Linux, in one of the other distros, is employed.

In fact, in 90% of cases Linux is far superior to Microsoft Windows and its footprint is much, much smaller and that in more than one way.

The entire operating system of Linux Ubuntu, for instance, still sits on one single ordinary CD, which means that it is 700MB or less, and that also includes an office suite, a Photoshop equivalent, and much, much more.

And this is just one example of how we can make things last well past the planned deaths.

However, we must demand that this designed- and factored-in obsolescence be done away with and that products are designed and made again in such a way that they can, easily, be upgraded and repaired, ideally by using (simple) DIY.

We owe it to ourselves, to our children and the Planet. Also, unless something can be repaired, ideally by ourselves or in small repair-shops, as used to be the case, we never ever really own that product.

© 2012

Reduce demand, not boost demand

We must reduce demand and not boost it for the sake of the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Governments and the International Labor Organizations are saying that we must boost demand to stimulate and grow the economy. That, however, is not sustainable.

The Planet is finite, and this is a fact that everyone has to come to realize and understand and it cannot grow. Thus we must create a constant economy and not a constantly growing economy. It is as simple as that.

Governments and economists of the “growth school” do not seem to understand and appreciate, and neither, it would appear, do most ordinary people, that constant growth cannot be sustained and that it will destroy the environment upon which we depend and thus us.

It is important for survival that we get away from a demand-based and -lead economy and adopt a resource-based economy.

The demand-based economy is no longer sustainable, not that it ever really has been, and we must replace it, forthwith, with a resource-based system.

The problem is, though, that the “market” and the people, does not and do not understand this kind of system and people have, over the decades, been so conditioned into consumerism and consumption that the transition to such a resource-based system will be a difficult undertaking for many of them. But it is a journey that we all must make and we better start on it now.

We cannot, however, continue on the path of continual economic growth considering, as already indicated, that the Planet and the non-renewable resources are all finite. Neither the Planet nor they can grow and reproduce.

We cannot grow a larger Planet nor can we grow any more oil, gas or coal and the same goes for minerals, rare earths and such like.

Therefore we must reduce demand and live within the means of the Planet and, in a way, within our own means. At the same time we must demand that the products that we buy are created sustainably in the way that they are also repairable and upgradeable, ideally by DIY. And, at the same time, we must learn to be contend with what we have rather than being conned by advertising into believing that new is always better.

We owe this to ourselves, our children and the Planet. We need a new system, economic, as well as political, and the economy must be based on the resources to hand and not on created demand.

© 2012

Manual Address Book

Part of the series (S)Low Tech vs. High Tech

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In today's digital world we all – well not all of us really but a great many of us – rely and depend on our contacts list via computers or cell phones, whether stored on the device or online, and often this address book is only backed up digitally as well, if at all.

Consider, however, for a moment, the loss of your cell phone, a crash of your computer or its hard drive, or loss of access, for whatever reason, to your digital address book. If those contact details, those named and addresses, etc., are not “backed up”, other than digitally, it could mean that you lose them.

Many people seemingly have come to believe that digital, and thus paperless, is superior, but is that really so?

When technology fails, and it is bound to do at some stage, it is then that Low Tech shows its superiority. A paper-based address book of sorts should always be in existence for if and when technology throws a fit.

Sure, my address book is also on the PC, as far as email addresses are concerned but I also maintain a manual back up in the form of paper-based records.

The good old-fashioned Filofax kind of address book and the humble index cards in a box (you can even make your own cards; I do) all still are the most reliable form of maintaining contact records, as the the address book with the tabbed alphabetical index that you can buy most places, often for little money.

Many people nowadays believe that paper records of all kinds, including manual address book and such, are outdated and the purveyors of digital products and services most definitely want us to believe that.

However, in many instances (S)Low Tech will beat High Tech and it is always good to have and maintain paper records and drafts of articles on paper too. Says he who has, for the second time, when transferring a document from one hard drive to another, lost 80% of an article. How? Beats me!

Proof, however, that it is good to have back up and duplicates and also and especially paper records.

© 2012

Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less)
by Angela England
432 pages paperback, 9 x 7.3 x 0.9 inches
Published by ALPHA (Living Free Guides) on December 4, 2012
ISBN 978-1615642144

backyard-farming-cover2Plan and plant a successful and sustainable backyard farm – from a quarter acre to a full acre and beyond – right in your own backyard. By raising and harvesting their own fruits, vegetables, chickens, bees, milk-bearing animals, and more, people are growing locally, sustainably, and at a fraction of the cost.

Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) is written by someone who has planned and run a successful small-scale farm. Angela England guides you through the essentials of planning a small farm – deciding what should be grown or raised, implementing proven, sustainable techniques, and maximizing yield and harvest.

At about the middle of December 2012 I finally was able to hold the hard copy – paperback – of Angela England's book in my hands.

Angela had sent me a press restricted PDF copy just before the official publication date of the book as, so it would appear, the publishers had not gotten the copies into the mail on time.

Alas, while I do like PDFs in general I still like to print out such documents to read on paper. With a book of more than a hundred pages this is not a very good idea and option. But, I just do not get on well with reading a large document on screen.

OK, having gotten this off my chest let's look at the book...

Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) belongs into the library of anyone intending to or attempting to live a more self-reliant life and lifestyle, together with John Seymour's “The Complete Book of Self-sufficiency”.

The book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less), covers about every possible eventuality as far as backyard farming is concerned, including crafting from the backyard farm, with the exception of growing and using your own small coppice woodland (and yes, you can do that too in a small space).

Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) is well written and makes for easy reading and the author has done her research well, but not only that, she lives it too with her family. Very much unlike other writers and producers of videos I have encountered Angela write from experience and not from something gleaned from others. One cannot teach others something that one has not – as yet – mastered but there are many who do just that.

Angela England is a freelance writer who, along with her husband and four children, cultivates a 1/2-acre farm in their backyard, where they raise dairy and meat goats, keep free-range chickens, and maintain a productive garden of fruits and vegetables. They started with a small garden and took on chickens, goats, bees, and fruit trees over time, eventually managing a larger plot while shedding the conveniences of urban life. Angela is the Founder of Untrained Housewife (, which guides others in the arts of rural living. She also manages and maintains the Blissfully Domestic web community and contributes to other sites and forums.

In summing up let me say that this is a most valuable resource for anyone who wishes to get more self-reliant in growing the food for himself and his family and it can be done in a rather small space; if not all then at least a great amount of it.

© 2012

The love of possessions

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sitting Bull said in his time that the love of possessions is a disease with them, meaning the Americans.

And he continued in the same speech: “They take tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away. If America had been twice the size it is, there still would not have been enough”.

And the truth that he was right and that was how long ago? It is still the same problem and nowadays it has been exasperated many hundred or even thousand times over from when Sitting Bull said this.

It is, however, not just thus in America, in the USA, for the same attitude can be found almost everywhere in the so-called developed world. I say so-called developed world for at times I am sure we have not developed, meaning progressed, but gone backwards.

“Possessions possess the possessor” is a saying that I have heard many a times from my Elders and, alas, it is true and I am certainly not someone who can part too easily with mine. Having grown up with little to nothing this may be understandable to some extent but with some it is a serious obsession.

And we are being told, encouraged and even bullied by our governments to spend, spend, spend (to get the economy growing) to accumulate even more possessions. At the same time the also sing the song of sustainability and, apparently, they don't seem to understand that even if a product is recyclable it still means if we want new all the time, because they brainwash us into it, then sustainability does not work.

We cannot grow the economy any more on a finite Planet with finite non-renewable resources that are, more often than not, are required to make all those products that are to be the object of our unending desires.

It is time to say enough is enough...

© 2012

The hunt for happiness

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In today's world we are being told – brainwashed into believing actually – that material things will bring us happiness. Whoa! How wrong.

We are told that if we just work hard enough, get the right job, and earn more money we will be able to buy all those things that bring us happiness.

When we have bought the first things and that happiness is still alluding us we are told that we just need to buy more things and happiness will come from those things we are being told, by advertising (and our governments) that we need to make us happy, we will be happy.

The harder we work, the more we earn and the more we buy happiness is still always, so we are told, just around the corner if we fail, as most do, to obtain it by those means.

A bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger TV, a better PC, a new kitchen, vacationing abroad in exotic places, etc. All of those, supposedly make us happy. Does it?

Buying happiness, obtaining happiness, by means of ever more things and through work that does not make us happy just so we can buy all those things is an illusion. The problem is though that most people do not realize it.

More, more and yet still more is the name of the game of the rat race but happiness it brings not and happy it makes us not.

If we look at people who have very little they are often happier than we, in the developed world, are until such a time that they, unfortunately, also fall prey to the advertising hype.

Happiness eludes most people who try to pursue it by way of the rat race and more and more consumption. Most, if not indeed, all of the rich people are not happy at all. They still want more and more regardless that they already have more than enough.

This is also from whence comes a great deal of the woe that the world is experiencing. They want more and more, those rich, and not just the rich and those that cannot afford to buy themselves the happiness they are told is found in possessions go and commit crimes to satisfy the craving.

My greatest joy, personally, comes from making things for myself from trash or from natural materials; rebuilding bicycles from old, abandoned ones, and such like and from finding useful things that others have thrown away (or lost and cannot be bothered to retrieve). Not from craving more and more expensive things; toys basically. And it comes from trying to live with spending as little as possible.

I do not need this or that new gadget or whatever to be happy. However, this is possibly due to the fact that I grew up poor but being taught from an early age that money and possessions not for happiness make. And true this is a hundredfold.

We need to set out upon a different road to find fulfillment and happiness and one that, at the same time, reduces our impact on the Planet.

The pursuit of happiness by consumption is not sustainable and is destroying the very Planet that we depend upon and will not make us happy anyway. Time for a serious rethink and a new course of action.

© 2012

Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

After the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, USA om December 14, 2012, calls for a total ban on gun ownership can be heard again. However, had someone at that school, such as a teacher or security guard, been armed the shooter would not have gotten very far, despite the fact that he was wearing a bullet proof vest. Best to always assume that someone is wearing body armor nowadays and shoot for head, arms or legs.

Every time something really bad, such as this, happens, people cry out for (more) safety, and the government answers by taking the rights away from good people.

Every body ends up talking about guns and that guns kill people but this is not the case. Guns are inanimate objects and do not kill people. It is deranged people using guns that kill people. And the majority, if not indeed all, of the shooters in recent history in the USA who have committed acts such as this shooting have been on prescription drugs, namely psychotropic medication, medications with warnings of adverse side effects.

The shooters at Columbine High School were on Ritalin, the side effects of which include uncontrollable anger.

Gun prohibition does not work

All the schools where shootings with mass killings occurred already had a anti-gun law in place and had banned guns from the schools, including guns carried by security personnel.

What no one mentions are the shootings that have been prevented by teachers, students, janitors and security carrying and using firearms in the defense of the school and its students. Those incidents are being – deliberately – kept quiet and out of the media.

In addition to this, if schools are not safe and a target for deranged individuals then there is an answer to this and that is homeschooling.

It is not the prohibition of guns that will prevent shootings, whether at schools, malls or wherever, from occurring. However, the permitted carry of handguns by civilians, especially the concealed carry, including on school premises, can stop such things in their tracks as long as the people carrying such guns apply proper gun control.

Proper gun control is, in this case, a steady hand, and the ability to shoot at the right places in order to incapacitate an assailant even if he or she happens to wear body armor. In addition to that it requires the capacity no just to shoot straight but to be prepared to use the gun that one carries.

What really concerns me is that, in recent days and weeks, the USA has had a number of high profile shooting incidents and that at about the same time when the President may be prepared to sign a UN charter to take firearms out of the hands of civilians.

Proper use of firearms by civilians, and it has been proven, can prevent many a shooting and many a crime, and there are enough studies that have been conducted, including by the Federal Bureau, that make it clear that in areas where concealed carry is permitted the rate of crime drops significantly to almost nil. Not that the media will ever report such stories. Not enough mileage in them.

© 2012

The British authorities have pulled a new Sodastream advert for 'denigration of the bottled drinks market'

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sorry, mind running this by me again...

A Sodastream advert which pointed out the waste caused by disposable plastic bottles gets banned in UK (by Clearcast).

481034_10151260258987509_1352827725_nSodastream's new ad was yanked from UK airwaves for 'denigration of the bottled drinks market.' You can watch the ad here:

"It's absurd," CEO Daniel Birnbaum of Sodastream said. "To be banned in the 21st century with advertising that actually tells an environmental story. I thought the Berlin Wall went down in '89. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? I'm shocked that we got banned in a modern democratic society."

Unfortunately, Mr. Birnbaum's assessment seems to be very correct. The powers that be, being in the pockets of various industries, including that of the plastic bottle one and the beverage companies, such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, and the bottled water industry.

The above ad has been yanked from UK airwaves by Clearcast, the approval body for UK broadcast TV advertising. It has already debuted in the United States, Sweden and Australia, according to Sodastream. Clearcast pulled approval for the ad just prior to its November 22 UK debut during “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.”

According to Sodastream, Clearcast wrote the following with regards to its decision: “The majority decided that the ad could be seen to tell people not to go to supermarkets and buy soft drinks, instead help to save the environment by buying a SodaStream. We thought it was denigration of the bottled drinks market.”

In fact, there is not much change in the statement to the original letter by Clearcast which is: “SodaStream submitted a finished filmed ad to us for approval on Tuesday 20th November without a pre-production script. On Thursday 22nd November we had been able to review it against the BCAP code and concluded we were unable to approve it. In our view, its visual treatment denigrated other soft drinks which put it in breach of the BCAP code (Rule 3.42).”

Birnbaum further suggested that the environmental and health harm that big soda has caused makes it worthy of its own advertising ban, comparing it to the cigarette industry.

It would appear that it is not liked – or should we say illegal, according to Clearcast – to actually tell people not to buy drinks in cans or plastic bottles. Will we be getting the same attitude soon as regards to reusable water bottles vs. bottled water in (plastic) bottles? It would not surprise me.

This, I have to say, is absolutely ludicrous and the government and its agencies should rater promote the use of refillable bottles and tap water and the use of anything but bottled drinks but it would appear that it is the piper who pays who dictates the tune.

© 2012

No income tax in America before 1913

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Up until the year 1913 Americans kept all their earnings and were not forced to pay tithes to the government.

Despite of this fact of no part of the people's incomes going to the state and federal government there still were roads, schools, colleges, vast railroads, streets, subways, the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps, who, surprisingly, without such funding, went on to win eight wars.

So why precisely then is (federal) income tax necessary? It is not needed to fund any of those projects. They existed before and worked.

If you just remotely know your American history then you will also know what happened in 1913. It was the year when the Federal Reserve was established with is neither federal and has but dubious reserves.

It was that year when the United States and all its citizens became slaves to a Bank which is wholly owned by a group of people that have a certain ethnicity in common and it was the same people to which the British crown became a debtor.

However, according to the US laws, in theory, the majority of Americans are not obliged to pay the IRS anything. The Federal Income Tax is, to all intents and purposes, only applicable to those who live in the corporation that is the District of Columbia (it is not a federal state) and employees of the US government, including military personnel.

However, while that may be the theory the practice is a different one for anyone who dares to withhold the tithes from the IRS will soon have government agents outside the door and be arrested.

So, once again it is more than obvious that the laws, as they stand, apparently can be interpreted in any way that the government(s) wish to. Without having announced it they seem to have suspended the Constitution of the USA and also the rights of people in most of our so-called free and democratic countries.

© 2012

Blind upon the right eye

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The German security apparatus is not simply incompetent when it comes to Neo-Nazis such as the National Socialist Underground and even the NPD, but blind upon the right eye.

This is to say that many law enfarcement agencies of the country actively allow the Nazis to get away, literally, with murder. Murders which are then blamed on other groups and ethnicities.

German police and security agencies seem to, despite their denial, operate hand-in-glove with those Neo-Nazi groups.

But then again this is not surprising considering that the agencies were founded with (former) Nazis at their head and in their ranks. In fact, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German Secret Service, is the successor of the Gehlen Organization, created by the American and British in post-WWII Germany against the Soviet Zone.

The Gehlen Organization, which was to become the BND, was, however, not the only security apparatus of West Germany that was full of former Nazis. The police forces in most areas were too, including the federal CID at Karlsruhe.

To this very day most agencies of the German security apparatus are still blind upon the right eye and they actively aid and abet Neo-Nazi groups, especially if they can be seen as useful to them.

The Constitution is always pushed forward as the reason that the government and the agencies are unable to act against those groups, especially the so-called political parties but, when it comes to organizations from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) they were quite able to ban them, such as the Young Pioneers, the Free German Youth and others.

The right eye definitely is blind in German politics and not just in politics. While many people do not want to have that to be the truth a great many Germans, if not openly then in secret, still are Nazis at heart and that includes not just the old and the young.

There may be something – dare I say this – in the psyche of the great majority of Germans that causes this to be the case and one can but wonder in which way the doctrines of Hitler and the Nazi party can have survived till this very day and apparently are getting stronger again.

It is also strange that a great number – the majority to some extent – of Neo-Nazi extremists appear to be from what was socialist East Germany, where they grew up with many of the reminders of what the Nazis caused.

On the other hand the fake socialism that was created under Honecker was so close to the things that were done in Nazi Germany that it may have been a trigger.

On the other hand it is not just Germany that suffers this affliction of the visual organs. Many other European Union member states also seems to be afflicted in this way, and here also and especially many of the countries that once were in the Soviet sphere of influence, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia (former CSSR), Hungary and others.

We must be watchful at all times to combat the rising menace of Fascism in Europe again.

© 2012


One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, 'How was the trip?'

'It was great, Dad.'

'Did you see how poor people live?' the father asked.

'Oh yeah,' said the son.

'So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?' asked the father.

The son answered:

'I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.'

The boy's father was speechless.

Then his son added, 'Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.'

Isn't perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don't have.

Appreciate every single thing you have, especially your friends!

Author unknown. Found on Facebook.

Germany and Britain about to destroy Gypsy scrap metal businesses

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Germany and Britain are about to destroy the businesses of the Gypsy scrap metal collectors and dealers.

Gypsy scrap metal collector_GermanyTo all intents and purposes, so it would appear, it will soon be illegal to go calling for scrap metal at homes and businesses and this will mean the end of many, if not indeed all, Sinti, Roma and Yenish scrappers.

They will, so rumors have it, have their businesses seized and will be forced to give up that kind of activity. This will also mean that they and their families will become dependent on state handouts or be forced to take up employment in the labor market where it will be hardly possible for any of them, many of who are illiterate, to find work.

The scrappers, once called rag and bone men in England, calling at homes and businesses for scrap metal and “recyclables” were the very people who kept the country clean and kept those things out of the landfills.

A new measure is also being introduced in Britain that also could spell the end of the rag and bone man in that country. This is an amendment, it would appear, to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 and reads about as follows:

The requirement to purchase scrap metal without cash will apply to all scrap metal dealers as defined by the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964

The only exemption from this measure is for some itinerant collectors; itinerant collectors are defined in section 9 of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. For an exemption, collectors must both:

• be registered with their local authority under section 1 of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964; and

• have obtained a separate order under section 3(1) of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 which exempts them from certain record keeping requirements. Local authorities must consult with the Chief Officer of the local police force prior to issuing every order.

Should an itinerant collector not fulfill either of these requirements they will not be exempted and cannot purchase scrap metal for cash.

In other words, any Gypsy rag and bone man going door to door calling for scrap can no longer do so unless he is registered and if that registration is similar to the one for the Hawker's License then many will have to give up their trade.

That means that the state will have to foot the bill or they will be forced into criminal activities to feed themselves and their families.

It would appear that this law in the UK and in Germany are based on the wish of the state to get more deeply involved in making money from the collection of scrap metal and other recyclables.

Obviously, how could the government pass up such a lucrative trade...

© 2012

Capacity Development Key to Stopping Illegal Trade in Hazardous and Electronic Waste

Washington, D.C. – Building capacity among environmental and customs officials for detecting illegal transboundary shipments of hazardous and electronic wastes was the focus of the Second International Hazardous Waste Inspection Project. 11 countries participated in the Project, which was convened by the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN).

A synthesis report, which was released today, discusses the results and recommendations from the Project, which promoted international good practice for environmental inspections at seaports. The Project engaged officials with responsibilities at seaports from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Mexico, The Netherlands, Scotland, Singapore, and the United States of America.

The Project resulted in increased cooperation between environmental and customs officials, an improved understanding of the challenges faced in combating illegal trade in hazardous and electronic wastes, and new information on the international flows of wastes and common modus operandi. Common techniques used for smuggling illegal hazardous and electronic waste include: description of the waste as a similar legal material, deliberate concealment within secondhand vehicles or behind false walls of a container, description of the waste as useable when in fact it is not, and listing the address of intermediary rather than final destination.

More than 1,000 containers were inspected during the Project, with specific consideration to potential illegal waste shipments. Illegalities and violations were reported in 11% of containers. Countries reported using national level (interagency) cooperation in 95% of inspections that took place during the Project and intelligence-led enforcement and/or risk-based profiling was commonly utilized.

"New possibilities emerge when international, regional, and interagency cooperation is a priority," said Durwood Zaelke, Director of the INECE Secretariat. "The personal connections built through this Project, coupled with effective training efforts, can shift the equation towards better detection and stronger controls of illegal waste shipments.”

As part of the preparatory work for the Project, 86 officials underwent capacity building on intelligence-led enforcement, waste takeback, and interagency cooperation during workshops in Cambodia and Thailand, which were jointly hosted by the Asian Network for Prevention of Illegal Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, respectively.

The recommendations emerging from the project underscore the need for continued capacity development on the basic principles of inspection methodologies, the need for incorporating capacity building into existing institutional structures to ensure sustainability, and the need to develop good practices for implementing and monitoring national and international cooperation.

The report is available on the INECE website at

About the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement: The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) is an informal network of participants from governments, civil society, and academia, working at all levels – local, national, regional, and global – to improve environmental compliance and enforcement. INECE is the only global organization focused exclusively on the role of enforcement and compliance in environmental protection. For more information, see

About the Seaport Environmental Security Network: The INECE Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN) is an operational network of professionals involved in the inspection and monitoring of transboundary movements of hazardous waste through seaports. SESN participants work together to build capacity, raise awareness, and facilitate enforcement collaboration on ways to detect and control illegal and dangerous transboundary shipments of environmentally-regulated goods through seaports. For more information, see

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The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) welcomes recommendations made by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee urging the government to reconsider dropping the ‘environmental equality’ Sustainable Development Indicator (SDI).

In evidence submitted to the Committee, CIWEM voiced concerns over the removal of the previous indicator number 60: environmental equality, which CIWEM believes to be a fundamental social element of sustainable development. The Committee supported this recommendation in the report ‘Measuring well-being and sustainable development: Sustainable Development Indicators,’ published 29 November 2012.

Environmental equality measures populations living in areas with, in relative terms, the least favourable environmental conditions. CIWEM argued that the removal of this indicator is short sighted and undermines the social element of sustainable development fundamentally.

CIWEM Executive Director Nick Reeves, OBE said: “Environmental equality is fundamental to sustainable development and resilient communities. Communities, especially those most deprived, need basic environmental qualities around them. We integrate, grow and thrive through connecting to nature, sometimes through the presence of the tiniest green space nearby. With this mind, CIWEM applauds the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendation to retain this vital indicator. We hope the government understand the significance of environmental equality to sustainable development, and takes these recommendations on board.”

  1. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world

  2. CIWEM evidence submitted to the Environmental Audit Committee in October 2012 can be found at:

  3. Environmental Audit Committee Report ‘Measuring well-being and sustainable development: Sustainable Development Indicators’ can be found at:

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 End of Cash

No, not Johnny... He has been dead a while...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

NoMoreCashIn late autumn of 2012 the German Federal Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank) in Frankfurt/Main held a Cash Symposium in which high-ranking representatives of the Federal Bank met with colleagues from the banking services sector and from the public sector on federal, state and municipal level. The general media, however, kept this very quiet indeed.

This symposium was a very important one and had, to sum it up, but one single agenda and that agenda is to end the use of cash in monetary transactions.

In a strange alliance practically all participants of this symposium spoke first and foremost about the disadvantages, that is to say, costs (to them in banking and finance) caused by the circulation of cash in the economy. Costs, so they stated, which the customer is unaware of.

This will have been the sound of music in the ears of the representatives of the government bodies for it must have become obvious to all but the blindest that the governments would love to be able to end all cash transactions and, no doubt, they are just waiting to find a way to make cash illegal. Just a plausible explanation they need to find with which to bamboozle the public and to have them go along with this.

The main reasons for wishing to end cash transactions will always claim to be the need to stop money laundering and the various mafias. But what they really want is one, in the financial field, entirely transparent citizen.

He who will be forced to make each and every transactions by “electronic money”, whether credit or debit card, leaves inevitably a data trail which will leave everything that we have had before as far as government surveillance goes appear like amateur snooping.

In some countries are cash transactions above a certain limit already illegal, such as in the UK, and efforts are being made to reduce this limit further and further.

However, at the switching center of the central committee of the European Union they don't even consider such crude methods. They are playing with the idea of a transaction tax which means that each and every time a customer takes out cash from his or her account, whether at the bank or at an ATM he or she will be levied a certain amount.

And this amount will continue to rise until such a time when customers will, voluntarily, give up using cash as it will be too expensive for them to do so.

The first EU country to be chosen for this experiment is going to be Hungary and to begin with, beginning from 2013, each and every cash withdrawal from one's account, whether at the bank till or via an ATM, a tax of 0.3% will be levied. This means that a Hungarian withdrawing 1,000 Euro from his or her account will have to pay 3 Euro in tax.

This tax rate is going to be increased to 1% within a year or so and then to 5% in the next couple of years. And I am sure that a 5% levy will soon – nay even a 1% levy – have people abandon cash altogether.

We can be certain that, in the not so distant future, other EU member countries will also be forced to introduce this very tax until such a time that no cash transactions are conducted any longer in the EU.

That way the great leaders of the central committee of the European Union, who were never elected nor appear to be answerable to any ordinary person in the EU, will also know what each and every citizen buys and where he shops, and much more.

Small traders, such as those on markets, and others, will suffer and will have to close. So much for sustainable commerce and all that jazz.

The European Union is a fascist state. It may be presently still in disguise but the layers are peeling and are beginning, more and more, to reveal the true nature of the beast.

© 2012

We need a new way

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Governments excel at some things, mainly things we wish they weren't so adept at, namely at collecting taxes, which is, basically stealing property; in incarcerating (kidnapping) its citizens and locking them in cages and in the USA, under the NDAA legislation this can be done for an indefinite period and that totally without trial; killing human beings of different nationalities; and denying natural-born rights to its citizens.

On the other hand, governments fail at many, many things, mainly things we wish they didn't have their noses in, such as the educating our children; providing for the downtrodden; keeping our currency viable; and ensuring the safety of our food supply.

It is time to end the failed experiment of government. We need a new way.

And when we say that all too many people think that we are talking about needing a new government but that is just replacing one ruler with another, and even in so-called democracy.

It is true and also shocking that to this very day there is no consensus in politics as to what constitutes the public good. We must also come to understand that most politicians appear to have no interest in serving the people. They seem to be interested in gaining power and then being able to lord it over the populous.

When we say that we need a new system people who do not understand anything but being government pipe up with “but what would happen in the case of criminal activity if society did not have rules and someone to enforce them?” And they think it's unrealistic to expect that everyone will be 'good' if there is no one to keep order. The fact is that there are other ways to deal with crime that may occur. And they also ask as to how we would defend a country if threatened by outside forces. The answer to the latter is by means of a militia and the former by means of a sheriff's posse.

None of our governments and with it the military has any business in other countries, be this Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. The brief for most military forces if “defense of the realm” (or some words similar) and the realm, as far as, for instance, the UK is concerned, ends at the borders of the territorial waters of the country and those of its dependencies. Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, etc., are not part of the realm.

When it comes to collecting of taxes the fact is that most governments don't so much collect the taxes but have brainwashed people so nicely that the latter send them in. On, when it comes to income tax of employees in, say the UK, the PAYE system (pay-as-you-earn) has the employer deducting the taxes straight from employees wages and salaries. The worker has no control as to how much tax he or she pays and, unlike many other countries, tax rebates are not to be had either.

When it comes to crime fighting government is, actually, not all that good. Most people who commit crime (real or fake) are not imprisoned. Many are never even caught.

Government is only effective as a means of controlling others and putting the costs off to other people. The only thing that governments really have succeeded at is convincing people that they are legitimate and need to be obeyed.

Is the “free market” the answer here? I doubt it as well.

We need to create a new system where people count, and that goes for both the political system as well as the economic system.

© 2012

"Buy local" programs coming to communities throughout B.C.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

VICTORIA – B.C., Canada : Government funding is now available to support local food producers by encouraging British Columbians to shop for food produced in their own communities.

The “Buy Local Program” will offer applicants matching funds from $5,000 to $100,000 to launch or expand local food marketing campaigns. Eligible organizations include associations, co-operatives, marketing boards, Aboriginal groups, companies and non-profit organizations.

The campaigns can promote B.C. food, seafood, agricultural products, agritourism, and include in-store promotions, social media or web campaigns, traditional advertising and on-product labeling. All applicants must have a head office or be registered in B.C.

Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications will be reviewed by an Industry Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from farming, manufacturing, seafood, restaurant and the retail sectors.

Building the local market for B.C. foods is a key commitment of government's Agrifoods Strategy, a component of the B.C. Jobs Plan, to lead the agrifoods sector growth into a $14-billion-a-year industry by 2017.

Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick said: “Since being appointed minister, I have been meeting with farmers and food processors in communities right across our province, and I have been hearing some great ideas on how we can promote our diverse British Columbian food products. Now is the time to turn those ideas into new dollars for local food producers. I encourage those eligible and interested in promoting local products to apply for the funding that is available.”

$2 million are made available to support "buy local" programs in B.C.

$1.5 million will be administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation for the marketing campaigns through the Buy Local Program. Eligible products include:

  • Any food, seafood or beverage product made with a minimum of 85 per cent of B.C. ingredients. In addition, all processing and packaging must be done in B.C.

  • Products made with less than 85 per cent B.C. ingredients are also eligible for funding, provided the processing company partners with a local farm or producer. All processing and packaging must be done entirely in B.C. and use B.C. ingredients when available.
  • Agriculture products such as pet food, floriculture and nursery products that are not consumed by people.

The complete application criteria and program information including application forms are available through:

The British Columbia Agriculture Council will administer $500,000 to promote the wide variety of benefits provided by a vibrant B.C. farm community, and is working to develop a program that will help build consumer awareness of locally produced foods.

While this is a great step in the right direction an extension of “buy local” should considered to include not just agricultural products but also other goods produced locally, from local products, and here the forestry industry also is one sector that should be included.

© 2012

How Germany is preparing to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

solar-panels-in-bernal-340In Germany there is no debate on climate change and whether it is real or not. The temperature for the past 10 months has been three degrees above average and Germany is again on course for the warmest year on record. There is also no dispute among Germans as to whether this change is man-made, or that we contribute to it and that we need to stop accelerating the process. It is being taken as read.

Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement, of the Energiewende, which translates to “energy change” of “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.

Germans are baffled that the United States and the UK have not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.

It is very much considered in Germany to be an American idea and considered to have been inspired by President Carter. However, the GOP is doing all it can to prevent such implementation in the US. And the same is true in Britain where the government is retreating on promises to be the “greenest government ever”.

Germany adopted and continued Carter’s push for energy conservation while the U.S. abandoned further efforts. The death of an American Energiewende solidified when President Ronald Reagan ripped down the solar panels atop the White House that Carter had installed.

The steps taken by President Obama and the First Lady with regards to creating an organic garden at the White House are small fries. So far the solar panels that Carter stood for in regards to renewable energy have remained off the roof of the White House.

Ever since the time of Carter, Germany has created strong incentives for the public to invest in renewable energy and it pays people to generate electricity from solar panels on their houses and by other means. The effort to turn more consumers into producers is accelerated through generous feed-in tariffs, which are 20-year contracts that ensure a fixed price the government will pay. However, Germany has begun to lower the price yearly now, though still pays a much better rate than does the UK government and the UK feed-in tariff is not protected by long term contracts as is the German one.

The money the government uses to pay producers comes from a monthly surcharge on utility bills that everyone pays, similar to a rebate. Ratepayers pay an additional cost for the renewable energy fund and then get that money back from the government, at a profit, if they are producing their own energy and thus, in the end, ratepayers control the program, not the government.

This adds consistency. If the government itself paid, as in the UK and in the US, then it would be easy for a new finance minister to cut the program upon taking office. In Germany this funding is not at the whim of politicians and therefore a much greater participation is being ensured.

Everyone has a stake in this and the movement is decentralized and democratized, and that is why it works. Anybody in Germany can be a utility and many have worked out that it is most beneficial for them.

But even in Germany the future has not as yet been envisaged properly, I would say, for we are still playing with the high-voltage of 220V AC. The panels and wind turbines, however, create DC and that predominately in the 12V range. This energy must then be sent through an inverter to be converted to 220V AC and loss occurs.

We need to, everywhere, change the way we consume electricity and the voltage of it.

There is no needs for 220V AC (or higher) in our homes and even offices bar for the big equipment. All computers and lighting, etc., can run on 12V DC and thus the energy produced by panels and small wind should be used directly as it comes. Only for the larger appliances should it be necessary to use an inverter to create the higher voltage in AC.

We need to follow the lead set by Germany and get away from fossil fuel powered electricity generating plants as well as nuclear power. But, as we all know, our politicians can't get brown envelopes from the renewable energy lobby and therefore in the US and the UK renewable energy is still the Kellerkind, the unloved orphan.

© 2012

21% of British households in fuel poverty

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

To all intents and purposes two-fifths of families in Britain are either living in “fuel poverty” or in danger of tipping over the edge, research found.

MP_s_weekly_grocery_allowanceSome 21% of households who took part in Legal & General’s MoneyMood survey said they are spending more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity bills, meaning they are classed as being in fuel poverty.

Meanwhile, a further 19% of those surveyed said they are almost paying this proportion of their income, suggesting a small hike in costs is likely to send many more homes into fuel poverty this winter.

The findings come after a string of energy companies recently unveiled price increases amid concerns that a confusing array of tariffs is causing many families to pay hundreds of pounds a year more than is necessary.

The Government has announced proposals to require energy firms to provide just four tariffs for each fuel and to place all customers on the cheapest price available for their chosen tariff.

But critics have warned that the plans could see an end to cheap deals, reduce competition and push up bills in the long run.

Mark Gregory, Legal & General executive director, savings, said: “Any rise in the amount spent on fuel is likely to have a significant impact on how the less well-off households cope with paying bills.”

Wales and London had the highest shares of households saying they are already living in fuel poverty at 31% and 29% respectively.

Households living in the South West and the East Midlands were the most likely to say they are almost living in fuel poverty, with a quarter (25%) of people saying this.

The study also found that there has been no significant improvement in the strength of household finances since this time last year, with an estimated 2.5 million homes still struggling to make ends meet.

The biggest problem is that many homes in the UK simply are leaky (no, not as regards to rain though that may also be the case) and lose heat through single-glazed windows, badly fitted windows, lack of insulation (whether cavity and/or loft), etc., and while the government, yet again, seems to be looking at building new towns, retrofitting homes does not really seem to be on the agenda.

Many a local authority owned home, and those that were formerly council homes and are now operated by the so-called housing associations, are still very much in need of having at least double glazing fitted and insulation of different kinds.

Those are the homes that families who can least afford to pay through their noses for fuel are forced to live in and who have no other choice but then to fall into this poverty trap.

However, the only thing that our politicians are interested in is how much more grocery allowance they can get, which currently stands at £160 per week, while the poor probably get that, or not even that, as weekly income.

© 2012

New research proves it really is the giving that counts this Christmas

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It’s the buying and giving of presents that is officially the moment we look forward to the most at Christmas, according to new research from Sainsbury’s which has revealed that for 54% of Brits gift buying and wrapping is the best bit about Christmas.

merry_little_christmas_smallThe study by YouGov, commissioned by Sainsbury’s, found that despite recent straightened times, Brits have shifted their spending to ensure they can still celebrate the magic of Christmas. The average spend per child is set to be £104, while one in five parents plan on spending more than £200 on each child. This equates to a total spend of almost £1.4bn on kids’ presents across Britain.

However, it’s not just kids that will be celebrating on Christmas morning; we are all set to do well in the gifting department this year as the survey also revealed that:

  • 43% of Brits will spend a minimum of £75 on their partner

  • Mums will do better than dads this year, with the average Brit spending £5 more on Mum’s Christmas present
  • Pets are set to be pampered with pet owners spending an average of £8.21 on each household pet.

Further evidence to prove we are getting into the true spirit of Christmas is the fact that 37% of adults polled admitted that they will be buying gifts for people even if they know they won’t receive one in return.

Aside from giving gifts the research revealed the other moments that will give Brits a truly memorable Christmas this year. For 62% spending quality time with friends and family is what gets them most excited. For a quarter of Brits, going for drinks with friends on Christmas Eve is one of their top three favourite moments, and for 30% of Brits’ playing family games came out on top. Furthermore, for 18%, putting the angel on the Christmas tree topped their favourite festive moments.

Sarah Warby, Marketing Director at Sainsbury’s said: "Christmas is a really special time for our customers. This research shows that although pressures on household budgets continue, customers are still able to enjoy moments of indulgence and treat their friends and family.

“We also know that Christmas isn’t just about one day, but a series of moments that are celebrated throughout the festive season. Whether that be giving and receiving gifts, spending time with friends and family or putting the angel on top of the tree, we want our customers to celebrate the rituals that make the build up to Christmas special for them.”

While not wishing to be a spoil sport in any way I must say that I find the amount that is being spent rather excessive and while giving is great the value of the gift should not, in my opinion, be measured in monetary terms.

The truth is still, as was said before, that handmade gift are those that really are valued more than those that are bought from the stores. And while today's kids, in the main, have been brainwashed into consumerism and the must have the latest gadget, it is a case of upbringing that creates such expectations.

OK, the handmade appreciation may not, necessarily, extend to the multicolored sweater knitted by Aunt Marilyn (or whatever her name may be) and which is far too large. In general, however, this appreciation does still surpass the appreciation of bought gifts.

If we must celebrate Christmas with giving of gifts then, maybe, we should reconsider what and how we give.

© 2012

U.S. Composting Council Commends Waste Expo for Adding Organics Recycling Content

BETHESDA, MD, December 2012 : The U.S. Composting Council (USCC), the largest association in North America representing the composting industry, is pleased to receive news that Waste Expo will be enhancing its content to cover organics recycling and composting issues.

COMPOSTING_LOGO_200 (2)The USCC Board of Directors are also pleased that Waste Expo has hired Dr. Stu Buckner, long time Executive Director and previous USCC Board Member to help guide these efforts. Dr. Buckner's extensive experience in the organics industry will no doubt be of great value to Waste Expo attendees and exhibitors.

The USCC recognizes the need for greater access to the organics industry by Waste Expo attendees. All across North America, jurisdictions and their hauler partners are recognizing the value of recovering organics from the solid waste stream, whether it be yard trimmings, food scraps, and food soiled paper or non-hazardous liquid wastes, increasingly these materials are being segregated from the municipal waste stream and composted to produce soil amendments.

Established in 1990, the U.S. Composting Council (USCC) is the only national organization in the United States dedicated to the development, expansion and promotion of the composting industry.

The USCC achieves this mission by encouraging, supporting and performing compost related research, promoting best management practices, establishing standards, educating professionals and the public about the benefits of composting and compost utilization, enhancing compost product quality, and developing training materials for composters and markets for compost products. USCC members include compost producers, marketers, equipment manufacturers, product suppliers, academic institutions, public agencies, nonprofit groups and consulting/engineering firms.

The USCC is a non-profit 501(c) (6) organization that also directs the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF), a 501(c) (3) charitable foundation, which administers public and private research and education activities.

For more information, go to 

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--- More than a million homes fit insulation in last 12 months ---

--- Almost half still have under-insulated lofts ---

--- 25% have un-insulated cavity walls ---

Chilly UK homeowners are taking action after a string of harsh winters – with more than a million fitting extra insulation to their property in the last year, new research from the Energy Saving Trust has found.

The latest statistics show an incredible HALF of British homes (13 million) still have under-insulated lofts and 25 per cent (6.5 million) have un-insulated cavity walls – with millions of UK households still eligible for free or discounted help to solve their heat-loss problems.

Through the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT) scheme, around four million homes in the UK have taken up grants and offers to pay for cavity wall or loft insulation since April 2008. Thousands more could yet take advantage before the CERT scheme ends on December 31. It will be superseded by Green Deal, a financing mechanism which lets householders pay for energy-efficiency improvements using savings they will make on their energy bills.

Around a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home goes through the walls, with another quarter lost through the roof. Lofts can be insulated with simple mineral wool, while walls can have existing cavities filled, or have solid insulation fitted to them.

The Energy Saving Trust survey also found more than a fifth (21 per cent) of people are “very interested” in fitting insulation to their home.

An average household could save £175 a year by fitting 270mm of new insulation to their uninsulated loft – as well as preventing 720kg of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Cavity wall insulation can save up to £135 and 550kg of carbon dioxide a year.

Stephen Passmore, a housing expert at the Energy Saving Trust, said: “It’s clear that more and more people are taking insulation seriously – after all, it can literally stop your money going up in smoke.

“We’re encouraged that so many homeowners have fitted insulation in the last 12 months, and further heartened that 21 per cent are very interested in following their example.

“Green Deal lets householders pay back the cost of energy-saving improvements over time through their energy bill. Anyone performing Green Deal work must be certified – and the Energy Saving Trust is one organisation making sure that only trusted tradesmen can operate under the scheme.”

Green Deal enables private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses with no upfront payments. Costs are recouped – as savings accrue – through a charge in instalments on their energy bills, with money passed on direct to Green Deal providers by energy companies.

Homeowners wanting more information on insulating their home can visit or call the Energy Saving Trust’s helpline on 0300 123 1234.

Installers interested in working with the Energy Saving Trust should visit the website at or contact .

Energy Saving Trust (EST) gives impartial, accurate and independent advice to communities and households on how to reduce carbon emissions, how to use water more sustainably and how to save money on energy bills.

EST provides impartial advice to fleets to help them reduce fuel use and improve efficiency with benefits to both fleet finances and the environment. Many of the Energy Saving Trust’s transport advice services are subsidised by the Department for Transport.

EST works in partnership with government, local authorities, third sector organisations and businesses. EST’s activities include:

· delivering or managing government programmes

· testing low-carbon technology

· certification and assurance for businesses and consumer goods

· developing models and tools

The Energy Saving Trust is a social enterprise with charitable status.

The Energy Saving Trust was formed in 1992.

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 Guardian Sustainable Business Awards launch for 2013

The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards for 2013 have been launched. Nominations are invited from all UK businesses who can demonstrate an innovative approach to addressing sustainability issues and are at the forefront of instigating change in their sector.

Now in its third year, these are the only national newspaper awards that focus on recognising the innovation and impact in communicating sustainability, engaging with employees to make sustainability relevant for them and the wider society. The awards also champion an organisation’s commitment to the fundamental issues relating to sustainability - the environment, energy, recycling and the industrial supply chain - and, for the first time this year, they recognise the achievements of consultants.

John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace, said: “Running a business that doesn’t harm wildlife, injure or maim people and can still make a profit shouldn’t be that difficult. But it does require businesses to look at more than short-term profit and loss accounts.

gWinners of the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards are challenging and changing the business model in the light of climate change and wider environmental stress. And recognition of their success is key.

“These awards are an important way of showing that even when the going gets tough, there are businesses out there that don’t abandon their values.”

Jo Confino, executive editor at the Guardian and chair of the Guardian Sustainable Business, said: "The Guardian Sustainable Business Awards are a fantastic opportunity for businesses - big or small - to show how they are transitioning to more sustainable models. For the 2013 awards, we want to see entries from organisations that demonstrate innovation and impact, going beyond what is standard practice to showing the way business of the future should be done."

Past winners of the awards have included leisurewear brand Puma who last year won the biodiversity category and the overall prize for their Environmental Profit & Loss Account initiative. The Co-operative Group won the communicating sustainability category for their Join The Revolution campaign and sustainable carpet tile manufacturer Interface for their Go Beyond project.

All winners and shortlisted entries will be published on the Guardian Sustainable Business network in the Best Practice Exchange as a resource of leading practice in business sustainability. They will also be collated in the Guardian Sustainable Business ebook – Inspiring Progress in Sustainable Business - which will be a collection of cutting edge initiatives from leaders in corporate sustainability. The ebook is available to members of the network as well as all entrants of the awards.

The categories for 2013 awards are:

Communicating sustainability (sponsored by Getty Images)

This is an award for consumer facing businesses. Highlighting cross-platform campaigns that have made an impact, campaigns that have taken sustainability to the masses, secured strong response and made a big difference.

Engaging employees

This award is for projects that seek to embed sustainable thinking into company culture and recognises initiatives that have demonstrably enabled the people who don't have 'sustainability' in their job title to buy-in and act.


This award will go to a business that delivers products and services in ways that take full account of their responsibility to the communities they touch.


Fostering health, happiness and a positive working environment is part of being a responsible business. This award will go to an organisation that goes beyond standard benefits to support employees and ensure their health and happiness.


In the long-term there is a clear link between protecting biodiversity and business success. This award is for business initiatives that take the long view on ecosystem services.

Supply chain

This award is for initiatives that seek to embed a respect for human, economic and environmental rights across a business or product's supply chain.


Reducing carbon intensity is vital and this award is for corporate initiatives that take a holistic approach to measuring, managing and reducing scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.


This award will got to a project that breaks down traditional barriers and sees several partners working together towards a goal that delivers truly sustainable outcomes.

Waste and recycling

Shifting how business thinks about waste is vital. This award is for projects or products that are at the leading-edge of approaches to waste.


An award for pioneering projects that demonstrate a dedicated approach to water stewardship and holistic management of corporate water risk.


Projects that lead the way in corporate energy management, going beyond standard practice to radically reduce consumption and stimulate energy independence.

Built environment (sponsored by AECOM)

This award is for innovative projects that adopt a sensitive approach to the impact buildings have on people and the environment.

Consultancy of the year

Judges will reward a consultancy that has delivered multiple outstanding projects that have enabled clients to drive innovation and impact in their sustainability initiatives.

Sustainable business leader of the year (sponsored by URS)

An award voted for by Guardian Sustainable Business readers to reward a business leader who has shown dedication and bravery in progressing the sustainable business agenda, both within their own organisation and in the sector as a whole.

The deadline for entries is Friday 8 February 2013. To enter the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards visit:

The principal partner for the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards is URS. To find out about them visit: .

The Guardian Sustainable Business Network is a community-focused site, that brings together leading-edge comment, analysis and insight on the role business plays in society. It collates expert opinion, features blogs from leading sustainability experts and showcases best practice in corporate sustainability.

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.


For secure and affordable energy, the government should take a more long-term view and invest in a genuine low carbon economy, says the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). Investment in gas should not come at the expense of renewable investment nor sideline the nation’s climate commitments.

Published today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Gas Generation Strategy outlines the government’s plans for meeting domestic energy demands. The strategy sets out plans for up to 37 gigawatts of new capacity by 2030 and sets to expand the shale gas industry by introducing the new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil as a one-stop shop for shale gas regulation and investment.

With the extent of shale gas reserves in the United Kingdom unknown, CIWEM finds such heavy investment in gas to be short-sighted and environmentally risky. Whilst there will be a medium-term need for some generating capacity from gas as part of the transition to a low-carbon economy, CIWEM is concerned that the Treasury is driving the UK away from its commitments on climate change. By including provision for up to 37 gigawatts of gas capacity in the Strategy, the Treasury’s proposals would add almost 50% to the 26 gigawatts of capacity advised by DECC and in the process shatter the UK’s very responsible carbon budgets.

In addition, proposals for gas to play a more extensive role in the nation’s energy strategy could lock the nation into expensive fossil fuels if cheap shale gas fails to yield as hoped. Investment in gas infrastructure must not detract from energy efficiency, local combined heat and power and clean renewable energy investment in sources such as solar, wind, biomass, wave and tidal power. To achieve secure and affordable energy long-term, the nation needs greater investment in renewables.

In its ‘dash for gas,’ the government must ensure that climate change commitments are not lost amidst its new developments. It is well known that methane can be emitted from unconventional gas extraction during several steps of the gas production process. Fugitive emissions of methane are a concern in fracking fields; natural gas is predominantly methane, which has a very high global warming potential.

Robust regulation of fracking in the United Kingdom is essential. With the strategy forecasting commencement of shale gas production within the second half of this decade, CIWEM urges the government to proceed with caution until there is more evidence that fracking operations can be delivered safely, that environmental impacts are acceptable and that monitoring, reporting and mitigation requirements are comprehensive and effective.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “We have long called for a renewed and long-term commitment to a renewable-centered energy mix. Regrettably, the government has now made gas central to its energy policies, rather than prioritising renewables, which will jeopardise our commitments to halting climate change. This is another example of the Treasury’s short-termist approach to grow the economy. This investment in gas could be better spent developing renewable energy infrastructure to secure more sustainable and affordable energy in the future.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world .

CIWEM’s recently published Policy Position Statement ‘Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of Shale in the UK’ is available from:

The Gas Generation Strategy, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, can be found here:

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.