by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel is a deciduous shrub with multiple stems, and it can grow to six meters, that is to say about twenty foot, tall.

It has a smooth, brown-grey bark that splits and flakes with age and turns browner. The leaves are distinctive round, slightly hairy, pointed-tipped and the tree bears yellow catkins (male flowers) in early spring, while the female flowers look more like leaf buds with red styles protruding from the tip.

The edible nuts, held in green, leafy cups, turn brown when ripe though more often than not you will not get a looking in on the nuts as the Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), that woodland pest, will have harvested those nuts well before they ever turn brown.

Hazel is found throughout the British Isles in woodland, scrub and hedgerows and is also a common tree in the woods on the European mainland.

Hazel was grown in the UK for large- scale nut production until the early 1900s and it is an important food source for the hazel dormouse, which eats the caterpillars it finds on the leaves and the nuts to fatten up for winter. The flowers are a vital source of early nectar for bumblebees.

The nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and other native mammals such as the red squirrel,

wood mouse, yellow-necked mouse and bank vole. But unfortunately also by that imported vermin called the gray squirrel and he seems to get there before anyone else.

Hazel has symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships with a number of fungi including the fiery milkcap (Lactarius pyrogalus), which appears in autumn and Hazel gloves, Hypocreopsis rhododendri, is a rare fungus that grows only with hazel in Britain.

Hazel forms pure woods on the west coast of the UK that are home to rare lichens.

It is the stick of choice for water diviners and in Scotland, hazel nuts were processed on a large scale in Mesolithic times – evidence of this was found in a midden pit during an archaeological dig.

Hazel is used for making hurdles, and wattle and daub walls and it was once used for making tally sticks to record payments to the Exchequer. Sticks from the hazel are also a choice for many a stick maker and they also make great cudgels and other tools.

In fact Hazel is one of the real versatile trees of the woodlands of this country especially when managed by means of coppicing as it has such a variety of uses, depending of the size of sticks harvested.

Coppiced hazel stick are also – or they used to – be the choice of the gardener and grower for use as bean poles, pea sticks and others plant supports. Alas today most of our plant supports are from bamboo coming from China and the claims for and of sustainability as to those over wooden poles do not hold up at all.

Native beats imports any day in the sustainability scale and hazel, coppiced hazel, is at the very top of that scale.

© 2013

Goldman Sachs bankers get rich betting on food prices while millions starve

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Goldman Sachs has made more than a quarter of a billion pounds in 2012 by speculating on food staples, reigniting the controversy over banks profiting from the global food crisis. The problem is that food is now traded as a commodity and also in “futures”.

The investment bank made about $400m (£251m) in 2012 from investing its clients' money in a range of “soft commodities”, from wheat and maize to coffee and sugar, according to an analysis for The Independent by the World Development Movement (WDM).

This contributed to the 68 per cent jump in profits for 2012 Goldman Sachs announced in the middle of January 2013, allowing it to push up the average pay and bonus package of its bankers to £250,000.

We can, however, be sure that it is not just Goldman Sachs who have profited in this way from trading in foods, to the detriment of the people, especially the millions that are starving.

This boils down to what we have said time and again that we do not need a new government, wherever we are, but a new system, political as much as economic.

© 2013

Bicycles are the key to better cities

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When it comes to bicycles and cities we all know the talking points as to the benefits of using a bike as they have been tirelessly elaborated upon.

Bicycles improve health, ease congestion, save money, use less space, and provide efficient transportation with zero fuel consumption and zero carbon emissions and the culmination of a population on two wheels can have a drastic impact on the overall well-being of a city.

But, none of these aspects come close to the most meaningful aspect of cycling, which is a factor that simply cannot be quantified but has endless value to those fighting to improve their communities.

The most vital element for the future of our cities is that the bicycle is an instrument of experiential understanding.

On a bicycle, one experiences one's town or city with deep intimacy and in a totally different light and setting.

For a motorist using a car the world is reduced to mere equation as to the fastest route from A to B and that means that the driver will simply chose the shortest route, via the freeway and the, what is called a bypass (no heart surgery involved here) in the UK.

On a bicycle, however, one cannot turn a blind eye and the cyclist must acknowledge everything around him or her and herein lies the secret of urban renaissance via the bicycle.

The bicycle doesn’t need to be sold. It’s economical, it’s fun, it’s sexy, and just about everyone already has one hiding somewhere in their garage. The bicycle runs on fat not oil and unlike the car helps you lose weight rather than gain it. It is a total win-win situation.

Having said that, however, most towns, cities and even suburban areas – especially in the UK and the US, simply do not have cycling infrastructure. This means that those wishing to use a bike often take their lives into their hand, almost literally.

On the other hand, though, bicycles will make a city livable and what I, and most cyclists, like, I am sure, is the fact that you can stop for a a coffee at any cafe without having to look for a parking space and, more often than not, having to pay money for parking.

Neither does any kind of congestion charge affect the cyclist and, as said, a bike can be parked almost anywhere without any problems (though some people have signs up that locking a bike to this or that railing will result in the bike being removed, blah, blah).

Bicycles matter, in cities as well as elsewhere, because they are a catalyst of understanding – become hooked on the thrill of cycling, and this understanding soon follows.

I assume that being a cyclist is also the reason why the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, understands the need for continental style cycle lanes that are physically separated from the motor traffic and it would be good if others too would get on their bikes and experience the world from the view of a cyclist.

Personally, obviously, I am biased as to cycling being a non-driver and thus someone who relies on his bicycles – yes, plural, but I only use one at a time – honest, to get around and if it is not possible to cycle then it is on foot. Also a nice way.

It is a shame though that even cyclists and walkers in our towns and cities do not seems to have time. They all head off in a hurry, whether on a bicycle or on foot, heads down and rushing. What's the hurry?

Let's get more bicycles onto the roads our towns, cities and countryside and slow down life a little.

© 2013

The greenest government ever; methinks not

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Con-Dem coalition of Cameron and Clegg claimed that it was (going to be) the greenest British government ever, but nothing could be further from the truth than that.

Let's have a look at the sorry tale of the 'greenest' government to-date:

1. They tried to flog off our woodlands, or let's put it properly into perspective, some tracts of Forestry Commission lands – only stopped by the unexpected massive public outcry.

The fact is, and we do must consider that that (1) the Forestry Commission was not set up to protect our woodlands but to create forests that was producing timber for special purposes in the beginning and (2) it does also not the greatest of jobs to manage our woods. In fact, in the main, it does a very bad job and most woods are, in fact, not owned by the Commission nor managed by it. They are, in fact, in private hands.

2. It Planned a badger cull despite lack of any scientific evidence for its effectiveness – postponed it when they realized that they had underestimated the number of badgers and realized that they couldn't kill enough of them quickly enough.

Also, when it comes to bovine TB let's look at why it is called bovine TB and not melis melis TB. It is a cattle disease and the poor ol' badger catches it, carries it and spreads it, and then dies of it.

3. This greenest British government ever is pushing through the new high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, which is completely non-needed, destroying hundreds of acres of countryside, including ancient woodland.

We definitely do not need this high-speed rail service. What we need is a reliable, affordable, railroad service as the cost of a normal return ticket between London and Birmingham is over £200 in peak time (at least that's what I was quoted a while back) and flying was much cheaper, as in £64 return first class.

Most business travelers who would be using this services themselves say that they are against the high-speed rail link and are just asking for a reliable, affordable railroad service in this country.

4. This government which claims to be the greenest ever is also determined, or should I call it hell-bent, to relax the planning laws governing development of the Green Belt with dire consequences for the countryside and subsequently trying to bully local authorities into complying.

5. It is also proposing to merger Natural England with the Environment Agency, thereby removing the strongest opponent to development in the Green Belt.

6. It further more has proposed the removal of funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the only organization looking at co-coordinating the investigation of wildlife crime across the country.

And furthermore it has created the loophole which states that development outweighs all other considerations if the economic benefit is greater than the potential loss (i.e. development will always be given a higher priority as the countryside is impossible to value).

In addition to that, I would say, that the countryside simply is not putting brown envelopes into the hands of our honest politicians – yes I am being sarcastic with the “honest” bit about politicians.

It is the same with the recurrent theme of home building that is required, so we are told. The building of NEW homes in NEW (eco) towns while we have hundreds of thousands of empty homes that need just a little refurbishment. Enough homes to house all the British homeless and those wanting homes and all the homeless of the Republic of Ireland with room to spare.

With current planned legislation having a potentially devastating and irreversible impact upon vast tracts of the British countryside and the wildlife it contains and with local government funding cuts adversely impacting the management of the countryside closest to us to the detriment of our own well-being, I can only draw one conclusion and that is that the (current) British government is an enemy of the countryside.

But, it is not only the Con-Dem coalition that has this attitude. The previous so-called Labor (and the true Labor founders would turn in their graves if they but knew what the likes of Blair, Brown and Miliband have made out of the party that was established with the blood of martyrs).

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

© 2013

Governments claiming to go green by eliminating paper use

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Local and central governments are claiming that they are going green and thus are moving away from paper forms, records, etc., and are going digital.

The truth of this, however, has nothing whatsoever with sustainability and going green and concern for the environment but everything with savings in that paper has not be bought in.

The entire issue and claim, as I keep repeating, of paper being bad for the environment is nothing but a lie and a ruse. And when the governments keep talking about it it has nothing whatsoever to do with environmental issues but all with costs.

The less paper they have to buy and printing the more they can save and in the same way they force everyone to use their websites to fill in forms and all that, enabling them to collect all manner of data from us that they would not, otherwise, get.

Paper is not the enemy of the environment and, aside from the fact that it is recyclable, it is made from renewable resources and the great majority of forests the wood of which is made into paper pulp is owned by the paper companies and managed well.

The story that is being circulated time and again of the paper industry and paper users being responsible for the deforestation of the tropical rainforests is a load of, as our Australian cousins would call it, bull dust as the wood of the trees of those forests simply is not suitable for the making of paper.

However, many people fall for this lie and swallow it hook, line and sinker, including government agencies, etc.

On the other hand the fact that governments and businesses are going “digital” for forms and all that is not any environmental concern but monetary savings. Let them not persuade us otherwise.

© 2013

Recycling: The great get out

Recyclability is feeding consumption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The very fact that so many products can, now, be recycled is, paradoxically, feeding consumption.

Buying recyclable and recycled has become the “in thing” and is giving people a false sense of making a sustainable choice.

The truth, however, is that tossing a recyclable product out when replacing it with a new one is almost as unsustainable as the way it was before.

Now products may be recyclable, that is to say they can be broken up into their components and then the bits recycled, but they have a factored in obsolescence still of three years or less.

That factored in obsolescence, in itself, is causing our problems and recyclability is changing not one iota here.

Recyclability is, in fact, now fueling consumption as people think that it does not mater if they toss their laptop, smartphone, or what-have-you, out after less than a year because they want to upgrade. “What's the problem”, they say. “It can be recycled”.

This is not sustainable for for every new item more resources and energy must be used and expended and still more energy to recycle the old ones. Are we actually so stupid? I am afraid to say it would appear so.

We must return to the ways of old when products were made to last and then, if they did “break”, could be repaired by more or less simple means.

If we look at products such as, say radios, and such, which were made in the GDR (so-called Communist East Germany) before the Wall “fell”, or the Soviet Union, and which still work today then we must conclude that there was something that seems to have worked in the planned economy. Things were designed and made to last.

Our so-called free market economy nowadays is designed only to benefit and profit the producers and not the user and definitely not the Planet.

Recyclability, as can be seen, is not going to cut it in the sustainability scale; only a return to goods that are made to last and that are repairable will do that.

© 2013

Country weather folklore based upon trees coming into leaf

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This weather lore that is being referred to here is valid for England and – maybe – the northern half of the European mainland only and should not be translated for, say, the USA, and such.

ash-budThe saying goes “Oak before Ash, in for a splash; Ash before Oak, in for a soak.” Meaning that if the Oak comes into leaf before does the Ash then there will be but a little rain during the summer. When, however, the Ash comes into leaf before the Oak then, so it indicates, a wet summer is going to follow.

Many so-called educated people claim those weather signs to be nothing more than old wives tales and those of uneducated countrymen, but we must not forget that such kind of country lore has come about from very careful observation of Nature.

In Britain, at last in the South East where I live, last year the Ash did leaf before the Oak, in general, and we did rather have a soak. In fact we have had, according to the government, the wettest drought in history, as the declared a drought on April 1st and it began to rain about a week later and never really stopped.

I shall definitely keep a much closer eye on the lore based on Nature's signs from now on to see how accurate it is and maybe base my own preparations on it.

© 2013


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Today a dovecote is often thought of as nothing more than an over-sized birdhouse or perhaps even a decorative accessory in the garden, but throughout history, dovecotes have played an important role.

Dove_cotesAnd this is because dovecotes are structures used to house pigeons that were once a source of food for people, and for Colonial America, a source of fertilizer.

Made from stone or in some cases wood, early French and English dovecotes were quite large and housed as many as 5,000 birds, on the large estates, though much less on farms, where they were, generally, made of wood.

In Colonial America, dovecotes were much smaller, except perhaps in Louisiana where the French influence was more pronounced and dovecotes or pigeonniers, as the French called them, were seen as a status symbol for wealthy plantation owners. On most English plantations dovecote was typically no more than a nesting box set on a barn gable.

For the smallholder a dovecote, and thus pigeons, can still today be a good source of protein, in the form of meat, and fertilizer in the form of the droppings of the birds.

Together with some laying hens for egg, who also produce a great amount of manure, which is as good a fertilizer, a smallholding can be very self-reliant. And even more so if some rabbits are raised as well.

In fact, even in a garden a small dovecote, can be useful to aid somewhat to self-reliance and should not be overlooked.

© 2013

Germany now has 1.3 million solar energy systems

Germany now has 1.3 million solar energy systems which generated 28 billion kilowatt hours in 2012

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There are now some 1.3 million solar power systems in Germany with German solar photovoltaic collectors having generated 28 billion kilowatts, in 2012, supplying 5% of Germany's total demand for electricity.

Germansolar5_zpse1e8e6f2According to the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar), Germany now boasts 1.3 million solar power systems – with most of those privately owned. These systems generated an estimated 28 billion kilowatt hours of clean electricity in 2012; representing year on year growth of 45 percent.

Chief executive of the Solar Industry Federation Carsten Koernig said solar power's share of Germany's energy supply had quadrupled in three years and the price of solar panel systems halved.

Photovoltaics in Germany currently supply around five percent of electricity demand. By 2020, BSW-Solar aims to see PV's share in Germany's electricity mix reach at least 10 percent and at least 20 percent by 2030.

Germany's strong push for solar power has been a key driving force for reducing the cost of solar panels and related parts around the world.

Now, with prices of lithium-ion batteries dropping, just as predicted, BSW expects to see an upsurge of consumers adding batteries to their systems, in 2013, to boost self-consumption rather than selling their power to the grid under "feed-in tariff arrangements" which it expects will offer a higher financial returns to consumers, and improve limitations with intermittency, (variations in weather, and day-night cycles.)

Increasing numbers of consumers are attracted to the idea of self-reliance, and being able to maintain electricity during blackouts caused by storms, or utility induced peak load management crises during heat waves.

If one enters "German solar energy" on Google images one can see many beautiful and historic churches, and fair tale-like Bavarian country-sides, that have incorporated solar panels in a way that preserves the natural beautify or their historical architecture, and scenic country side.

If, in addition to PV's, people would also add small wind turbines into the mix of energy self-reliance and self-sufficiency, using batteries to store the energy their homes, farms and workshops could be off-grid altogether.

Let's hear it for sun and wind to help give us a brighter, cleaner, and less expensive energy future and to reduce emissions.

While in Germany, once again, the people and government, seem to get it, in countries such as the UK and the US neither people not governments seem to get it. But, then again, renewable energy does not provide the politicians with the backhanders that they get from coal, oil, gas and nuclear. It is as simple as that.

© 2013

Feed people, not landfills

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that around 35 million tons of food waste was generated in 2010, of which 97% was thrown away in landfills or incinerators.

At the same time, more than 14% of households in the United States were food insecure, meaning they did not know where their next meal would come from.

The EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy displays the most preferred and least preferred methods for dealing with food waste. Photo EPAThrough its new campaign "Feed People, Not Landfills," the EPA is looking to connect people and businesses who have excess food with hungry families in need – helping communities, saving money and reducing food waste.

"Much of the food that is discarded in landfills is actually safe, wholesome food that could have been used to feed people," the EPA said.

The EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy displays the most preferred and least preferred methods for dealing with food waste. Photo: EPA

To keep edible food out of landfills and bring it to people in need, the EPA is calling on businesses, such as grocers, universities, stadiums and other venues, to take part in the Food Recovery Challenge by changing up their business models to reduce waste at its source, then donate leftovers to local food banks, shelters and other services.

However, managing the food waste problem of the nation (and the world) isn't only a task for businesses. Consumers also play a key role in the process, and the EPA offers loads of helpful tips to help you cut back at home.

"The best way to reduce food waste is to not produce that waste to begin with by finishing the food you already have first, and then only buying and preparing what you need," an EPA spokesperson said, and never a truer word was spoken.

In a recent study by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (http://greenreview.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/almost-half-of-world-food-thrown-away.html) an estimate of around 2 billion tons was made as regards to wasted food, from field to store, to consumer, etc.

It is estimated that about half of all food produced does not even make it to the store shelves and one of the main reasons is that supermarket buyers reject produce that, they claim, does not look the way consumers wish it to look. Thus misshapen fruit and vegetables are left to rot in the fields.

There is much to be done by way of educating people as to reducing food waste and this also begins with accepting fruit and veg in shapes that Nature creates for Nature does not make evenly shaped vegetables.

In addition to people will have to be educated what “sell by” and “use by” and “best before” dates actually mean and that, in more cases that not food that has gone a day or even more past the “best before” date is perfectly fine to use.

In addition the law also requires changing so that stores do not have to thrown and destroy food, as they are, in the UK, required to do at present.

More often than not food thrown out by market traders and stores has to be rendered inedible by means of chlorine bleach being poured over it so that people will not salvage this food out of the bins.

No wonder we have folks going hungry and food waste while at the same time government and industry try to keep brainwashing the people into accepting genetically modified and -engineered foods by claiming that GMOs are required to feed the people.

If all the wasted food could be harnessed then there would be enough to feed all the hungry several times over. That, however, does not fit into the schemes of industry and government.

© 2013

The war in Mali

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Does it really have something to do with defeating AQ in the Maghreb? Personally I doubt.

The truth is that the area especially that is under the Islamist “control” is full of “vital” minerals, including Uranium, Lithium and others and that's what it is all about.

In previous wars very often it was about oil in the recent times but now more wars will be fought for the “possession” of the means of exploiting rare earths and minerals.

Iraq, it was claimed, has weapons of mass destruction, including nukes that could reach the UK (that was the original claim) within 45 minutes, and that was, so we were told, the reason we had to go in and get rid of Saddam Hussein. As we have found out later is that Iraq did not have any such capability at all.

Iraq was about oil for while the sanctions lasted the oil could not be gotten at. And once the US managed to lay its paws on Iraq it also managed to lay its paws on the oil, for almost nothing, with the exception of the losses of servicemen and -women and thousands of innocent Iraqis.

In Afghanistan the story if less about oil – although it has to do with it to a degree and with putting Iran into a pincer – but about rare minerals and earths, in the same way as with regards to Mali.

War, as Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC, said, is a racket and it is all about the interests of the various governments and the banks that back those governments and businesses that have the ear of the governments.

At home our governments also need those wars against terrorism as it enables them to ever more restrict the freedoms of the people at home, whether citizens or residents. All in the name of “keeping our streets safe”.

If we want to keep our streets safe from terrorism then the way to do that is to stay out of other countries' affairs and stick at our borders defending the country and dependencies but no further than that.

© 2013

UK privatizing probation service

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The United Kingdom government has decided to outsource the rehabilitation of prisoners to private companies and charitable organizations.

What next? Private police forces – oops, they call them services now? Private army? We already have a private navy launched recently which could lay the foundation to the Royal Navy being privatized.

When one considers that mercenary activities are a felony for any British citizen and then considers that the members of this private navy to hunt down and destroy Somali pirates are British one can only surmise that the government is backing it to the hilt.

As I have already said the possibility of a private nationwide police service is in the offing in the UK and this does not bode well at all. For, if they, which they will, are to be paid by results then how are those results to be measured. One can but wonder, methinks.

© 2013

Bovine TB

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British government and especially the farming lobby blames badgers as being the carrier of this disease.

However, I would like to suggest that the badger is just the hapless victim.

It is called “Bovine TB” and not “Melis melis TB” for a reason. The reason being it is a disease that is a cattle one and the badger just happens to get infected by cattle that have the disease and then he, poor badger, becomes an additional carrier.

To all intents and purposes, this tuberculosis is a bovine one, and it is not the badger who is the originator. Thus we need to look at cattle and some way of vaccinating them. However, it is easier to blame the badger and go and kill those – after all – protected animals.

The entire thing is a vicious circle which starts with the cattle, gets transferred to the badger and then via the badger to other cows. There is only one way to break this circle and it is not by killing badgers.

Think about it, it is called Bovine TB not Melis melis TB. Melis melis is the Latin term for the badger and bovine means cow, or cattle.

© 2013

Good on you, Starbucks

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The global publicity given to the Starbucks $1 reusable and the message it sends to Starbucks customers, staff and the wider community is extremely powerful.

This move by Starbucks, however, is a response to change in consumer sentiment about what behaviour is acceptable. So, let's keep our fingers firmly crossed that it may foreshadow big changes in the Starbucks service model. Personally, I still doubt it.

keepcup1However, I have not, as yet, seen those cups as to say how good they are and how long they may last, eventually. It also would appear that they do not have arrived in the Starbucks outlets in Britain; at least not as yet.

With over one million disposable cups discarded to landfill every second, we all need to rally to change our behaviour from discard, to reduce and reuse.

The best reusable is the one you use. But many reusable mugs that people bring along – if they do – to coffee shops and -bar do not fit under the machines and thus, more often then not, the barista will, actually, first fill a disposable cup with which to then decant the coffee into the reusable mug.

We do, I believe, still have to see how the Starbucks reusable cups perform and how well they last and, above all, as to whether they can be used in other coffee house chains.

Theoretically you should not have any problems across the chains with a reusable barista standard cup such as the KeepCup and thus I still recommend that anyone considering a reusable invest in one of those. (And no, I am not getting paid by KeepCup for endorsing their products; I just like them).

© 2013

What are the most important skills to relearn?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I do say relearn rather than learn as regards to acquiring the important livelihood skills of the old ones that we will all be needing in the future simply because we need to relearn them and to some extent it may be a serious learning curve as many of the “old masters” are no longer among us.

Many people, no doubt would have many a different answer to this question and I also would like to stress that I did not ask for just one skill and hence there will be more than one skill listed.

One of the most important skill that we have to relearn, it would seem, is the kill of thinking for ourselves. It would appear that we have forgotten or surrendered this skill and have others, especially the governments, think for us, tell us what to think and what to do.

Another skill we all once seem to have had is the one of making do with what we have. It is, I know, a mind-set rather than a skill but it also involved of making things from nothing for our needs and wants and it appears to also something that most people today have lost.

Our ancestors, and that not all that long ago, applied that mindset to (almost) everything and they knew how to reuse everything as much as possible and to make things out of things that others regarded as waste.

Today even the people in the “green movement” often are totally sucked into consumption and consumerism. So much so that reuse, despite the fact that they repeat the Three R mantra time and again of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” when it comes down to it most can't seem to think reuse at all.

All too many people only hear “recycle, recycle, recycle” when it comes to the Three Rs and, it must be said, the governments with their stress on recycling also is not helping. People need to learn (again) how to reuse things.

In all honesty reusing, repurposing and making do and mending is a skill and a mindset both and it is something to be acquired again by all, and the sooner the better.

Gardening is another one of those skills that we must relearn. There was a time when most of the food for the table came from people's gardens, market gardens and family farms, real farms and not food factories.

When American's had Victory Gardens and those gardens in the backyards of citizens produced 40% of the nation's food. It is possible to get to that stage again but again but only when we get rid off the stupid zoning laws, in the US and Canada, especially, that make a vegetable garden, basically, illegal.

To gardening also should belong small animal husbandry, whether keeping (and raising) chickens for eggs (and meat) or rabbits, etc. Much of it can be done in the backyard, as long as we are talking small animals.

Foraging for wild edibles and hedgerow harvest is also a skill that has become lost and we need to relearn it for there is much out there, in the wild, that can be eaten and that are very good for us. There are many so-called weeds that are edible and are nutritious. In fact I have gone so far as to import wild foods into my garden, that is to say edible weeds. They grow without needing much looking after and fertile soil. In fact some don't do well in fertile soil and thus are great for marginal soils.

Canning and preserving is another skill that has been lost with the majority of people today. Few have any idea how to preserve the harvest for the winter and the “lean” season and this leads to waste of garden produce and to then having to rely on imported foods.

Cooking (from scratch) is another skill that seems to have been lost almost entirely with the great majority and too many people rely on ready meals and ready ingredients from which to make a meal (if they make a meal at all and not just eat the ready ones reheated in the microwave). Even recipes that can be found today more often than not talk about a can of this and a can of that and this or that ready ingredient. Duh? Whatever happened to cooking properly.

The knowledge of herbal medicine, of healing plants, has also gone out of the window in the last half a century or so in our so-called civilized countries and in some places they would like to make the use, and if not the use then at least the sale of herbal remedies (medicines), illegal, as has already happened in the European Union.

However, whatever the idiots in Brussels say is, as far as I am concerned, more than irrelevant in this, and many other matters, and we need to rediscover the use of herbs for health and for the treatment of ailments.

A most useful resource, as far as I am concerned, in this field are the books by James Wong, such as “Grow your own drugs”, which accompanied the BBC TV series that James did.

Another important skill for the future is bartering and I am sure everyone knows what bartering is and thus I do not have to elaborate on the issue more than need be.

While most, no doubt know what bartering is in theory very few will ever have actually worked that system and thus it is important that we start now, on a small and local level, to rediscover this system.

General DIY skills also are important to learn in order to be more self-reliant (there is no way of any of us ever being self-sufficient and not even the native Americans ever were) and those are all the skills you may be able to think of, from carpentry, to plumbing, over working with electricity (ideally here produced by renewables such as sun and wind, etc.) and in 12V DC, and many others.

Other skills also that I would say should be in our armory, to what ever level of perfection, should be the working of leather, of metal as on blacksmithing, copper smithing, etc., working with green and seasoned wood, as in woodcarving and spoon/bowl making, and much more. We might also wish to include here basket making but simply having a book or two to hand for all those skills is not really the answer. We must learn them and perfect them as much and as far as possible.

There will always be a need for good livelihood skills and we need to be learning a large variety of skills. However, it must be remembered that none of us can be a master of everything and that is, in the end, where barter comes in.

© 2013

The war on Islamists in North Africa will go on for decades

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The war on Islamists in North Africa will go on for decades said British PM Cameron in a statement after the attack on the gas plant in the Algerian Sahara.

Sure it will. They will make that it will for it gives the authorities the means to oppress the people at home for decades to come.

All that the war against terrorism is is a way to create more and more legislation to oppress law-abiding people in our respective countries, whether the UK, the USA, or others.

All this “war” is about is the oppression of the people at home and for that reason AQ was created by the West, and yes, it was created. In fact, as an organization it does not really exist and never has.

So, think again who benefits from this “war”. At the same time it allows the capitalist neo-colonialists to enter countries to get at the minerals, the oil, or whatever else.

The Iraq war was not about removing Saddam Hussein. It was about access to Iraq's oil, preferably for free, except for the lives of soldiers and civilians in the country.

The only reason why we keep having a war on terrorism is, in the UK especially, to be able, for the government, to keep the “War Powers Act” active under which they can enact illegal laws against gun ownership and the carrying of defensive weapons by civilians.

There was a time, a little over a hundred years ago, where it was not just legal, but required, for a subject of Her Britannic Majesty (yes, Victoria was still on the throne), to keep and maintain a firearm and legal to carry this and use it. It was also legal to carry a club, a cudgel, or such like for one's defense. But, as they say, that is long ago.

Then came the so-called Irish Troubles and the “War Powers Act” and it went downhill ever since and, despite the fact that this act cannot be retained after the cessation of hostilities it is still in force by claiming that we have to act against terrorism.

Once the IRA and others gave up the fight we keep finding new enemies in order to maintain the established status of this act in order to keep the people disarmed and to keep them oppressed.

If our governments, that of the UK, the US, and others, would not get involved in things that do not concern them, and would stop supporting the illegal Zionist entity in Palestine there would be no problem.

That is not to say that there are no morons amongst certain Muslim groups, such as those that wish to impose Shariah Law in the UK and who even have begun patrols of a Muslim Religious Police on the streets of the UK.

However, there is but one other reason, aside from keeping the “War Powers Act” alive in the UK, for any wars in those countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, etc., and that is the fact that the powers-that-be want to get their grubby paws on the minerals in those countries and do not want to have to pay for them.

War is a racket, said Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC, therefore to hell with war.

© 2013

Greece and Spain are just the beginning

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Greece and Spain are just the beginning, the rest of the EU is going to follow sooner or later, including Germany

Anyone who thinks that the Euro crisis and the crisis in the European Union is going to stop with Greece and Spain better have a contingency plan and a good one at that.

All the austerity measures are not going to help one single bit and in the end they people will revolt and this will, by creeping incrementalism, affect the entire Euro zone.

The system is broken and no amount of austerity and tinkering around with it will fix it. Rather the opposite is the case. All the tinkering and the austerity measures forced upon the people of the countries concerned will, in the end, lead to revolts that will have to either be suppressed by force or will lead to the break up of this so-called Union.

When it was but a free trade area, called the European Economic Community things were fine and good and if it has remained as that then there would be no problems as we have them now.

However, the Germans and the French, ever since the very beginning, were looking to create a Greater Europe, which has always been the aim of the German imperialists (and those of the French) and this was the beginning of the undoing.

While there may be many of the governments of the EU member states that rather wish to create such a Federal Europe, not realizing that the ones who will be in control will be the Germans and, to some degree, the French, with all others playing second or even third fiddle, a great majority of the people in many of the member states want nothing more than to get out of the Euro and out of the EU. But, much like in the UK, they will not be given the free choice of a yes or no vote.

When we see the US administration wading in to the debate, in the UK, as to a referendum on maybe leaving the European Union and Obama and his aides stating that, on no account can that be accepted, we can also see that there is a much greater agenda there as to the EU than what we can see on the surface.

If the UK, or any other EU member state, would get involved in such a manner in the internal affairs of the US they would, and rightly so, be given short shrift by the American authorities but, it would appear, the US administration seems to believe that it has a right to dictate to those of us in Europe.

Unless a miracle happens, and many of us don't really want that to happen, here and in other countries, the Euro Zone and the EU are going to be history in the not so distant future and good riddance to both.

The EU is not the greatest thing that has ever happened to Europe but the opposite rather and the sooner everyone would realize that the better.

© 2013

Buy local and not at the People's Republic of China

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Start this New Year of 2013, although we are already a few weeks in, with a commitment to buy from local craftsmen and -women, seamstress, farmers, etc. We can all help our economy stronger by this simple act.

63619_512681615432733_1778521018_nEvery time that you go to Walmart, or other such outlets, you are supporting only the retail economy and the economy of the People's Republic of China. When, however, you buy from local producers you support local people and the local economy.

Shake the hand that grows your food and the hand that makes your goods

Buy local, from local growers and makers – at least as far as possible – and ideally from them direct. In doing so you support not only the local economy but a family and any employees of that producer.

More and more we are hearing that slave labor, literally, is being used to produce goods for our markets in the People's Republic of China (and prison labor) and other countries, whether Thailand, India, or elsewhere.

Buy local and support localism...

© 2013

The best way for the banks to increase the debt in the world is through war

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The best way for the banks to increase the debt in the world is through war and every war for the past 200 years at least was fermented and often organized by the bankers and their instigators and partners, among others, the Roman Catholic Church.

The world is at a point of the ponzi-scheme collapse, which is the capitalist system (and even the Soviet Union was, under Stalin and after, state capitalism), and this is why the bankers have created a new enemy in the form of Islam. As there was no longer a real enemy, so they invented one, radical Muslims. Not just invented but actually created by them.

Those Muslim jihadists that they are creating themselves do not realize that they are being used in this big scheme of things intended to perpetuate the rule for the bankers and corporations which, in turn, own and control our governments.

Those bankers may, at this very moment, be organizing a third world war, on such a scale it is unlikely anyone would survive.

The people have but one choice and that is to rebel against this fraud perpetuated by the bankers, corporations and governments and refuse the invented authority of government, taxation, legislation, refuse to be a party to corporation, and join together in poly-centric community, based upon contract. Establish human labor economic systems, based in physical labors, take back the Earth from the small band of clinical psychopaths now destroying it.

There definitely is a small band of psychopaths pulling the strings and destroying the world, but there are Islamic psychopaths too, let there be no doubt about that.

The answer does not lie in any form organized religion but rather in the moral evolution of humanity.

Whatever our religion or philosophy, we need to revere life and nature. We need to have compassion for our fellow humans and for all creatures. We need to realize there is no life or happiness in materialism and stop our rampant consumption and acquisition of stuff that is suffocating this planet.

Most urgently, we have to abandon our use of fossil fuels because that is causing a crisis that threatens our survival as a species. But we must also not fall into the trap of nuclear energy; a path the British government is treading.

We need a new system. A system based on natural law and the an economic system that is resources led and not demand led. A constant economy and not one that is based on continual incessant growth. Out Planet and its non-renewable resources are finite and thus cannot grow and neither, therefore, can the economy.

Already now the developed world is using the resources of several Planets to fulfill demand, a demand that is artificially created by built-in obsolescence in our products and the inability for them to be repaired. This is an unsustainable system and we cannot continue along its path. We must do an about turn and begin to live without our means.

© 2013

Brits waste a family dinner every five days

As many families across the UK tighten their belts for a budget conscious January, new research by Mintel Consulting , in partnership with Sainsbury’s, reveals that over seven in 10 (77%) households are still throwing away food unnecessarily, leading to an annual waste bill of £680 per family, according to WRAP.

roast-chicken-lemon-heroThe research, carried out among 2,500 households, shows that families spend an average of £85 each week on groceries, but despite recent tough times and savvier shopping, throw away 15% of this. Three in 10 (30%) households attributed their food waste to cooking too much food at mealtimes and throwing away the left overs.

Despite the fact that 84% of British families still indulge in a Sunday Roast on a weekly basis, WRAP research reveals that the average British family wastes a staggering 5.8 kg of meat, potatoes and vegetables, equating to 1.8 billion Sunday roast meals each year. This is the equivalent to each family in the UK throwing seventy roast dinners into the dustbin every year – or one every five days.

The research also shows that 49% of families spend more time preparing the Sunday Roast than any other meal in the week. Given this, it is all the more surprising that large amounts of this these foods are thrown away.

This research has been released to mark the launch of Sainsbury’s ‘Make your Roast go Further’ campaign which supports customers in creating a further two family weekday meals from every Sunday roasting joint. Sainsbury’s are offering hints and tips on how to use your leftovers.

Susi Richards, Head of Food at Sainsbury’s said: “Our research shows that the Sunday Roast is a significant contributor to overall food waste in UK households and this is why we have made it an important part of our new Food Goes Further campaign. We want to help our customers Live Well for Less, by helping them to reduce their food waste. If each of the 22 million customers who pass through our stores each week thinks differently about their Sunday Roast leftovers, then we would see less food in the bin and more money in our customers’ pockets. We have provided a series of easy to follow recipes for leftovers, meal planners and tips to help our customers make the most of their food.”

To support the launch of the ‘Make your Roast go Further’ campaign, TV favourite and good housekeeping guru Aggie Mackenzie is lending her support to the project by helping the nation to embrace their leftovers. Aggie said: “Put quite simply, families cannot afford the bill of food waste anymore. To avoid food finding its way into the bin, roast leftovers should become the key ingredient for a second and third family meal or snack. Little steps like a well-stocked store-cupboard and meal planning and shopping for the ingredients you’ll need to make your roast joint go further, can have a big impact.”

Emma Marsh, Head of Love Food Hate Waste from WRAP, added: “Food waste isn’t good for family finances or the environment. One of the major barriers to UK households reducing their food waste is a lack of confidence in using left overs. If we can encourage UK households to get savvy with left-over food, effective planning and storage of food, we are one step closer to reducing the amount of UK waste that finds its way to landfill.”

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.


Low consumer confidence generates record levels of inquiries at online gourmet food company Farmison & Co

Online gourmet butcher Farmison & Co has this week seen a surge of customers ordering their breed specific 100% beef burgers, all handmade and naturally reared. Taste driven and offering farm traceability, orders at Farmison & Co have seen a huge uplift as consumers lose confidence in supermarkets. From £6.99 for four Highland rarebreed beef burgers to £10.95 for free range half pound beef burgers reared at Abbots Farm in North Yorkshire.

As well as being a trusted online butcher - Farmison & Co is also an online cheesemonger, greengrocer and specialist pantry item provider - championing local farmers and artisan producers - all products delivered directly to the door of the home cook. With next day delivery available.

Farmison & Co began trading in 2011 after founders of Farmison.com John Pallagi & Lee Simmonds were so disappointed not to receive a British Rose Veal joint one Christmas they soon realised the unsatisfied appetite for online orders of excellent food with sound provenance. As a result John and Lee both of whom care deeply about UK food heritage ensure that the vision at Farmison & Co always has always been to bring home cooks the finest fresh produce from leading growers and producers.

Farmison&Co offers one of the largest ranges of exquisite seasonal ingredients from traditional farmers, growers and artisan producers across the British Isles - a wealth of delicious produce available in one simple delivery from the online butcher, greengrocer and cheesemonger. We represent many of the best independent British farmers and producers including 31 butchery farms offering over 32 different breeds, over 30 fruit and vegetable growers offering many varieties of seasonal produce and exclusive access to over 50 British farm house cheeses, more than 60% of which are not available anywhere else online. Delivered direct to the consumer’s door in prime condition with next day deliveries.

For further information please visit www.farmison.com

Twitter: @farmisonUK

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.

Beefburgers found to contain horse meat (in UK)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Processors claim not their fault... but claim meat from foreign suppliers must have contained horse...

It may be considered no longer real news, as the media have been running this to death by now but the fact remains that we have an issue here that should not have occurred.

While some burgers have 'just' contained traces of horse meat supposed beefburgers in TESCO stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland have contained almost 30% – nigh on a third – horse meat and there is just simply no excuse.

The processors cannot have been that ignorant that the meat they obtained – especially in the TESCO case – was not only beef but contained a great amount of meat from another source, one that is far cheaper, on the European mainland, than is beef.

While it is true that horse meat is not dangerous in any way, shape or form and that it is very much on the menu in countries such as France and Belgium it nevertheless is not beef and when the label says x-amount of beef and lists no other meats then this is fraud on the consumer.

Furthermore in some cultures the eating of horse is a taboo and renders a person unclean. This is, in this case the same as if Jews or Muslims would be sold meat that would turn out to be pork.

This brings us now to 'traceability' and honesty on the side of the supplier of our meats and meat products which, as it would appear, just does not exist.

Sure the consumer, and that includes you and I, are to blame here as well as we want cheap and cheaper products which then leads the producers and processors to cheat. While that is no excuse it is the truth, after all.

If we want to know what is in our food and where it comes from then there is but one answer, localism. This means to buy our food from local sources and, where possible, direct from the producers.

The same should also go for the majority of other things that we buy. Not only do we know where it comes from, who produced it but we support local farmers, growers, producers and craftspeople.

© 2013

Peach, Cherry and Plum pits as cancer cure: I think not

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Do not believe everything that is being circulated on the Internet and not just in this regard.

Recently the photo shown here was posted on various places on Facebook with the claim that the Vitamin B17 contained in the seeds (pits) is a cure for cancer.

312466_401189729963635_996536051_nHowever, those seeds – all bar those of raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and grapes – contain cyanide, some more some less, and thus they are rather toxic. The cure could be a permanent one in that it would kill not just the cancer cells but also the patient.

In fact all seeds of the genus prunus, which includes cherry, apple, plum, peach, nectarine, apricot, and the so-called cherry laurel, contain this poison. Cyanide was the poison of choice for Hitler's SS and secret agents to kill themselves in case of capture and thus it is not, repeat not, a cancer cure that you can simply apply as suggested by a number of places on the Internet.

While there are many natural cures for many ailments, including cancers, be knowledgeable before you consider dabbling with them.

Not everything presented as the truth is the truth and not every conspiracy theory is true. Caner has more to do with diet and lifestyle than with anything else and prevention and regression can be generated by simply eating right.

In the Victorian era, people, especially the working classes, despite what we have been led to believe, were healthier and lived longer than we do today and cancer was (virtually) unknown among them. The richer classes, on the other hand, did die earlier often and did often suffer a number of diseases, including cancer, which can only be attributed to the wrong diet.

Thus it can be safely assumed that cancer is a disease that was, predominately, caused by diet and, later, by the amount of dangerous chemicals that have been and are still being used.

Ever since we are using the wrong fats for cooking, such as margarine (designed as axle grease for wagons) and vegetable oils, which all, at high temperatures become carcinogenic, and this includes olive oil, even and especially extra virgin oil.

Olive oil and such are not used for frying, for instance, in the Mediterranean cuisine but for salads and such. When they fry things they more often than not use animals fats, in the form of butter or lard.

We have been deceived for decades now that using animal fats is bad for us and now several studies have shown what our ancestors have always known.

However, it is also true that we need more vegetables, fresh vegetables, and fruit in our diet, and less meat, and more fish, and it is that kind of diet that was prevalent for the Victorian working classes and they thus were healthier than we are now.

And, no, peach and other such pits are not safe...

© 2013

Air quality in Beijing was the worst ever measured on Earth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Air quality in China's capital on the weekend of January 11/12, 2013 was at levels judged hazardous to health and the worst ever measured on Earth. Authorities fear environmental concerns could spark social instability. The pollution was, in fact, about forty, that is four-zero, or in  figures 40, times more than the limits set by The World Health Organization.

Now, allow those headline to sink in for a moment.

Pictures from Beijing from that weekend show that it was almost impossible to see further than a few yards ahead in the streets. This was a smog worse than any London “fog” of the old days has ever been and, in fact, it is becoming a more or less regular occurrence in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Yes, you can buy or make items in China for super cheap, but one reason for that is because their environmental standards are nowhere near sustainable levels. They are the epitome of "the more we make, the more we take" attitude and this is why it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to reuse what's already here first. It's one small step that we can make. If you need something, look for a pre-owned version first. Seriously, eBay has everything.

Aside from that there are so many other ways in which we can reduce the need to buy new. Reuse is one of the best ways to go about it.

You do not have to buy a set of glass storage jars, even if they are made from recycled glass. All you have to do is to reuse those jars in which you purchase produce from the stores.

Do you really have to go out and buy a “recycled steel” pencil bin, which also more often than not is “Made in China”. I am sure you have enough tin cans that you can – pardon the pun – repurpose for the same purpose without having to spend one single cent on it.

But, I need a new PC, a new cellphone... Really? If MS Windows no longer wants to work on your PC because it may no longer have the right speed or whatever then there is a much better alternative (not just to buying new) and that is to change the operating system to a Linux based one.

And why do you need a new cellphone? Because the new ones have more bells and whistles. It's a phone and as long as your current one can make calls and works well don't change it.

It is time that we all started to refuse to buy new as much as possible. It is not always easy as there will be things you have to buy new every now and then and then, more often than not, locally made products or products made in the country are not obtainable as everything is “Made in China” but let those purchases be few and far between.

If we want there to be a decent place for our children and grandchildren to live, we need to change the way we consume.

© 2013

Is the post-fossil fuel economy already emerging?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is often said that cultural shifts only become clearly evident with hindsight. Thus I ask as to whether it is possible that the post-fossil fuel era has already begun?

Indeed, for all the talk of insurmountable challenges and very real crises‐both ecological and economic in nature – there are also promising signs of a shift in how our global culture operates.

Many young people waiting longer before starting to drive, or don't even bother, while others are building their own smaller mortgage-free homes. Others still are into freeganism, on their own or in groups, and some are becoming disillusioned with the race for ever newer gadgets that they are devising ways of repairing and retaining what they have.

Add to that the fact that some serious business types are also questioning the fundamentals of growth-at-all-costs economics, and people everywhere are beginning to ponder the notion of a plenitude economy where quality-of-life matters more than GDP, and you really can make the case that we are witnessing something profound.

Growth-at-all-costs economics cannot work and neither can so-called sustainable growth as we have but a finite Planet and many of the non-renewable resources are finite and depleted or almost depleted. The requirement, which many new style entrepreneurs are beginning to realize, and also many of the serious business types mentioned earlier, is for a resource-based economy and a constant economy and not one based on growth, not even sustainable growth, which is an oxymoron to start with.

There is a renewed interest in growing our own food and in foraging from the wild, and that almost everywhere we look in the developed world. In Italy bike sales are outpacing that of cars and bike sales are also on the rise in many other countries.

However, we must advance ourselves by finally coming to the realization that we cannot carry on exploiting and polluting the Planet and while many individuals have arrived at that place our respective governments, especially not that in the UK and the USA, have not and show no real intention to even perambulating into that direction.

The British government of the Con-Dem coalition finds every possible excuse in the book not to create a real green deal and to green the existing housing stock in the country, for instance, and neither are they prepared to advance a real revolution in renewable energy in electricity and gas.

Despite success stories from other countries, such as and especially, Germany where several towns have gone renewable energy only including of industry in those towns and one of them, just south of Berlin, with medium-heavy industry even, having cut itself off the grid entirely and is, actually, feeding the grid with surplus energy, the UK keeps on with building more nuclear power stations. The excuse is that nuclear must be part of a reduced carbon future. This is bull dust and they know it. But the nuclear industry provides nice backhanders, of that we can be sure; something that the renewables industry cannot and will not do.

However, as individuals we can be the change and force the change upon our respective governments and upon industry, farming, retail, etc. We are the power...

© 2013

Not all charcoal is equal

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

With barbecuing becoming more and more popular, also and especially with many top chefs and gastro-pubs around Britain most of the charcoal sold in the country aids in the destruction of the tropical forests.

Only 10% of all charcoal sold in Britain is from this country. Most of it comes from tropical hardwoods which require firelighters, the latter tainting the meat with carcinogenic residues. That charcoal also is very harmful to the environment by way of production in those Third World countries whence it comes.

British lump-wood charcoal, made from Hazel and such like, from coppiced woodlands does not require the chemical firelighters which, in the majority, are made from petroleum products, such as paraffin (kerosene) or are a gasoline-based fluid.

Charcoal made from coppiced Hazel, and other such native, and not-so-native, hardwoods, does not, as said, require chemical firelighters and thus is much more environmentally friendly than the charcoal that we generally find on offer in our stores.

Worst still, even though it sounds very good and sustainable, is the charcoal made from “recycled” wood. What wood, I would like to ask, has been recycled into those charcoal briquettes? Maybe it is better we don't know and just ignore those offerings. Definitely they are not something that I would want to cook my sausages, burgers and chops on.

While no glue should be needed in the use of those briquettes as the sawdust will have enough lignin to bind everything together the worrying aspect, in my book, is as to the treatment such wood may have undergone in first place (unless it is all but sawdust from sawmills, but even then).

Charcoal made from coppiced hardwoods, from British woodlands, is sustainable. The rest is greenwash.

© 2013

U.N. urged to freeze climate geo-engineering projects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In October 2010 the United Nations was asked to impose a moratorium on "geo-engineering" projects such as artificial volcanoes and vast cloud-seeding schemes to fight climate change, by some green groups, fearing they could harm nature and mankind.

The risks are too great said a group of envoys from many countries at a major U.N. meeting in Japan aimed at combating increasing losses of plant and animal species because the impacts of manipulating nature on a vast scale were not fully known.

Some countries regard geo-engineering projects costing billions of dollars as a way to control climate change by cutting the amount of sunlight hitting the earth or soaking up excess greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.

"It's absolutely inappropriate for a handful of governments in industrialized countries to make a decision to try geo-engineering without the approval of all the world's support," said Pat Mooney, from Canada-headquartered advocacy organization ETC Group.

“They shouldn't proceed with real-life, in-the-environment experimentation or the deployment of any geo-engineering until there is a consensus in the United Nations that this is okay."

Some conservation groups say geo-engineering is a way for some governments and companies to get out of taking steps to slash planet-warming emissions.

Geo-engineering is nothing but playing G-d and this is not something that we should even attempt.

If it comes to reducing the impact of climate change we need to reduce emissions and NOT just CO2 emissions for it is not just CO2 that is the problem. Other pollutants are much more dangerous for the environment. So, why the constant stress on carbon?

The answer to that is simple. Carbon can – now – be traded, just like gold, silver, coffee, grain. Something that cannot be done with soot and other pollutants.

Spraying questionable aerosols and other geo-engineering methods, which is in all cases but untested territory, should not even been attempted.

Cloud-seeding has been used, I know, for many decades but I also know the problems that have been caused when there was no control of the floods of rain released. In addition to that we have still to-date no idea how safe the silver iodine and other agents used are actually in the environment.

The agencies that employ this – officially on our behalf – are playing G-d and have no idea what they actually may release when they do so.

We cannot play wound with our environment and with Nature in such a way. We are no the Creator and we have no knowledge of what results our actions might have. Stop geo-engineering now!

© 2013

The power of regeneration of some tree species

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many, though not all, broad leaved species of trees, and also some evergreens, such as the Yew, have an amazing power to regrow after having been cut or having fallen over.

That is the very reason why coppicing of woodlands is a management system that is so much superior to other methods though, as said, it does not work with all broad leaved trees and with conifers it, basically, does not work at all with the occasional exception.

This fallen hazel stemAs an example of this regeneration power let's take a look at this fallen hazel stem in the picture below. It is a wonderful example of the regenerative power of nature and its endless ability to amaze and fascinate. So long as approx 25% of the root system remains intact the stem will stay alive and new growth will be encouraged from the dormant buds along its length – hence the row of new stems.

Fallen Lime Tree2This picture of a lime tree in a local park, in fact the my place of work, also can stand as yet another example. It has been regrowing since having been thrown in a gale some twelve or more years ago and now, basically, sports a whole array of large trunks on the base of the old trunk.

Those trunks, obviously, we branches when the tree fell and they began reaching for the light in a different way and became thus trunks.

Both Hazel and Lime are prolific in regrowth after such an incident or after having been coppiced and Yes, though and evergreen with needle like leaves, but not a conifer and a hardwood, also has the same ability and also layers when branches from a tree manage to embed themselves into leaf litter.

Another species that regenerates extremely well also is Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) and because of it's ability to do so is used extensively for coppice creation, alongside of Hazel. The Chestnut wood is, predominately, made into palings for what is referred to as temporary stock fencing.

Another great regenerator is Sycamore but many people seem to dislike that tree and regard it as a weed, more or less. However, it is a fast growing tree and makes a great wood for the making of kitchen utensils and implements and has also some of the greatest antibacterial properties of woods. This makes this wood one of ideal choices for chopping boards, spoons, etc.

Some broad leaved trees do not regenerate as well as others and some virtually not as all so, when it comes to coppice woodland management the right choice is important.

However, in general, coppice management is the best choice for managing our woodlands, and not just in Britain. It can be done in most, if not indeed all, countries of the Northern hemisphere and, though I cannot vouch for this, probably would work on the other side of the equator also.

© 2013

2013 International Compost Awareness Week Poster Winner Announced

BETHESDA, MD, January 16, 2013 : A high school junior from Michigan has been recognized by the United States Composting Council (USCC) as the International Compost Awareness Week poster contest winner. This year contestants were challenged to visually portray the theme, "Compost! ...Nature’s Way to Grow." Jennifer Tigani from Westland, MI was selected as the grand prize winner of the 2013 ICAW poster contest.

ICAW_POSTER“Ms. Tigani’s design is a compelling reflection on the role of compost in maintaining a healthy planet,” said Michael Virga, USCC Executive Director. “It’s encouraging to see a young talent such as Jennifer invest her time and creativity to promote this important message,” Michael added.

Jennifer wins a prize of $500 for her entry and her art will be incorporated into the official ICAW 2013 poster. Each member of the USCC receives a complimentary poster. Others may order a poster online for $5 per copy. Bulk copies are also available.

"The U.S. Composting Council is pleased with the overwhelming response this year with over 150 entries from around the globe. This year’s poster contest was truly an international event with each division winner representing a different country. It’s exciting to see that people from around the world understand the important role compost has on creating a sustainable society,” said Lorrie Loder, President of the U.S. Composting Council.

The U.S. Composting Council invites everyone to join in celebrating International Compost Awareness Week, May 6-12, 2013. This year activities span the globe with celebrations planned across the United States, Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia and Ireland - composting advocates will be encouraging everyone to compost!

International Compost Awareness Week focuses on broadening the understanding of compost use and promotes awareness of composting. Globally, ICAW events show that innovative compost programs and educational efforts improve community sustainability and actively promote the use of renewable resources in landscaping, horticulture and agriculture.

International Compost Awareness Week is a fun and educational week of events that offers an opportunity to learn more about the many benefits of composting while enjoying the backdrop of fun activities. To find out what's going on in your area and for a list of resources to plan your event visit: www.compostingcouncil.org.

USCC thanks the following companies for the generous commitment to sponsor ICAW 2013 activities: A1 Organics, BioCycle, City of San Jose, Composting News, Filtrexx, MSW Management, NatureWorks LLC., Recology, Reotemp Instruments, Soil and Mulch Producer News, St. Louis Composting, Waste Management, We Care Organics.

About the US Composting Council

Established in 1990, the U.S. Composting CouncilU.S. Composting CouncilU.S. Composting CouncilU.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 www.compostingcouncil.orgwww.compostingcouncil.orgwww.compostingcouncil.org

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Increased investment in flood infrastructure and more robust, realistic planning policies must be implemented soon, warns the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), or more UK homeowners will soon be in over their heads.

“While belt tightening is part and parcel of life at present, there are some areas that must be protected – investment in sustainable flood infrastructure is one such area,” says CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE.

Even in the current economic climate, underinvestment in the UK’s flood infrastructure is unacceptable, according to CIWEM. With climate change impacting the frequency and severity of flooding, CIWEM is concerned that this will become an increasingly pressing issue, weighing heavily on those that live and work in areas identified as being at risk of flooding. This aspect of well being, or lack of it, for those living in areas of greatest risk, is not fully taken into account in determining the business case for flood protection measures, because a means of contingent valuation for this aspect has, as yet, not been fully developed.

“Failure to invest in infrastructure and manage the risks of flooding in a sustainable, realistic way will lead to continued loss of life and property, extensive damage to the UK economy and ongoing misery for millions of people,” says Reeves OBE.

CIWEM shares the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) concerns about the significant risk of underinvestment, which could lead to those within areas identified at greatest risk likely to find the level of future premiums to insure against flood risk unaffordable, if insurance is available at all. With coverage not yet guaranteed beyond June 2013, many homeowners are faced with an uncertain future. CIWEM opposes a model that may allow homes to become unsellable because of the risk of flooding, and where homeowners are unable to secure insurance or lending to purchase a new or improve their existing homes. With increased frequency and severity of flooding, the viability and future of communities where property cannot get insurance would be in question, causing whole communities to be potentially lost. This is a step change from a Big Society and localism agenda.

Where uninsured communities are affected, it is often the local authorities who provide the response to flooding and subsequently reclaim their expenditure from the Treasury. With this state of affairs, CIWEM believes that alongside governmental investment, ABI must be proactive in their own investment of flood reduction measures, including the provision of financial contributions to flood schemes that could otherwise reduce their own exposure to risk, should be undertaken. When rehabilitating properties affected by flooding, CIWEM argues for greater resilience in the methods and materials used, rather than simply returning the properties to their previous condition.

Blue belt designations needed, not green light for development

CIWEM calls for stronger, updated planning policies and guidance to include designated "blue belt" areas delineating significant flood plains and designated "yellow belt" delineating coastal erosion probabilities. There should be a presumption against inappropriate development in these designated areas, which would otherwise cause detriment to existing properties. CIWEM also believes that stronger enforcement of the delivery of the current policies are required to ensure the objectives of avoiding inappropriate development in areas required for flood storage and conveyance, and ensuring new developments do not increase flood risk. While innovative, recent development proposals that enable homes to exist alongside rising waters are too uncertain and problematic for settlement – especially when disused, brownfield land remains plentiful in the UK.

CIWEM believes a more radical policy accepting that some settled areas must be moved or sacrificed is necessary from this point forward.

“It is fanciful to imagine that there is the time and money to build the vast defences and infrastructure necessary to meet the demands of a growing population in a much wetter country. We will soon have no choice but to designate some parts of the country 'blue belt' and protect them from development,” says Reeves OBE.

Until then, continued educational efforts are needed to inform sections of the public about river dynamics, the need to prepare personal flood plans, and the importance of responding to flood warnings when alerted. Furthermore, increased funding must be made available to ensure that all UK residents, especially those most vulnerable, are protected in the event of flooding. Whilst community flood awareness groups have been initiated and community plans to help identify vulnerable residents have been encouraged, CIWEM believes more could be done to reinforce this approach.

These and other flood related issues will be discussed at the forthcoming CIWEM conference ‘Delivering Flood and Coastal Schemes – Funding and Partnership’ which will be held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London on 30th January 2013.

  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 www.ciwem.org.

  2. The CIWEM Policy Position Statement, Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management, can be found online at http://www.ciwem.org/policy-and-international/policy-position-statements/flood-and-coastal-erosion-risk-management.aspx

  3. For more information or to register to attend the 30th January 2013 CIWEM conference, ‘Delivering Flood and Coastal Schemes – Funding and Partnerships,’ please visit http://www.ciwem.org/events/events-calendar/2013/jan/30/rivers--coastal-group-winter-meeting-.aspx

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.

Woodland Products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Today the majority can barely think as what to make from the timber of our woodlands but our ancestors made almost everything for their daily lives and needs – as long as it was not something metal, pottery, or other – from the wood of the coppice woodlands.

Woodland_Products_webThose coppice woodlands were, predominately, coppice with standards and all of the wood that could be harvested had a use. They even made their weapons for defense from them, such as cudgels. Even the longbows for hunting and warfare came from the coppice woods, whether they were made from Yew (later) or from Elm (before).

For thousands of years, until very recently, wood was one of the predominate materials for so many things of daily living. In fact for all things of daily living aside from metal and ceramics. However, even plates and bowls in the homes of the poor were from wood as earthenware and ceramics were way too expensive.

The houses of old were built – more often than not from wood or timber-framed – and most of the time it was greenwood that was being used, and this, predominately, came from woodlands that were coppice with standards.

Since about the first quarter of the twentieth century this began to change. To some degree this was due to the advent of the first plastics and this continued in that much of what was made of wood back then is today made of plastic, derived from oil and not very good for the Planet.

Tool handles made from various different hardwoods, and most of those case from coppice operations. Ash was the predominate wood choice for tool handles in the British Isles and also much of Europe. This is because of its strength and also the ability to absorb shock, important in hammer and ax handles, for instance.

The Scandinavians often used and still use Northern Birch for ax handles which is not far removed in its properties to that of Ash when it comes to the use for tool handles and also for some other products.

Other woods had and has other uses and we must relearn the properties of all those woods that can be grown in the age-old and proven method of coppicing and bring wood back into use, not just for the odd beanpole, pea stick, walking stick, for fire wood, charcoal and such, but for much, much more.

It is time that we rediscovered wood and its uses and thus breathed life back into our woodlands by bringing them back into production proper.

One thing that is often overlooked and that is that many different woods have antibacterial qualities, some more than others, and are thus the idea choice, despite what we were taught some years, back, for use in the kitchen, the butcher's shop, etc. it is for that reason that many professional chef will but entertain wooden spoons and other treen goods in his or her kitchen. Should we not take a leaf out of their books.

Wood in our homes and in our hands also connects us to the Creator and to Mother Earth and we need this connection today more than ever.

© 2013