Edible Cities – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Rooftops and Beyond
by Judith Anger, Dr. Immo Fiebrig, and Martin Schnyder
Foreword by Sepp Holzer
Published by Permanent Publications October 2013
176 pages paperback, illustrated with color photographs and drawings throughout, 225mm x 170mm
ISBN: 978-1-85623-137-4

Edible CitiesWant to grow food but have nothing larger than a balcony, windowsill, or a piece of wall? No problem! This is a gardening book with a difference. It will help you to grow your own fruit, vegetables, herbs, and even mushrooms in small spaces in the most ecological way possible. Edible Cities shows you why the urban landscape can be a great place for permaculture. Discover inside:

  • Principles of permaculture

  • Worldwide examples of urban gardening projects

  • Ideas for flats and balconies

  • Green roofs

  • Vertical gardening and urban beekeeping

  • Guerrilla gardening and successful community projects

  • Illustrated practical techniques with clear instructions

Preface and contributions by Sepp Holzer

Edible Cites aims to inspire urban residents to incorporate nature, preferably the edible variety, into their lives. The authors, ardent permaculturists inspired by their study with Sepp Holzer believe that growing plants is possible for anyone with a balcony, rooftop, or even just a windowsill. To that end, they offer a broad overview of permaculture followed by numerous examples of how it is implemented in ways both beautiful and delicious.

Urban case studies from cities all over the world. Packed with inspiration and practical, fully illustrated ideas, discover how people around the world are inventing new growing opportunities and making them a reality with few resources and a lot of creativity. Find out how you, too, can plan and create your own urban growing paradise.

This is a great book that can be seen and used as a sort of manual for the creation of blueprints for the Edible City, a concept that we must turn into reality.

The issue is not just greening our cities, our urban areas, in the literal and other aspects but actually make spaces within productive by way of food growing.

The good news is, while there is still pollution for sure in our cities, the fact that gasoline no longer has lead as an additive makes the consumption of food grown in urban areas now, basically, once again, safe.

Car tires for growing of food, as advocated, so to speak, in the chapter about Detroit (pages 120-123) is a problem issue as, unless those tires are not steel belted radial tubeless ones, they leach cadmium, and possibly other chemicals, which can and will be taken up by the plants and in turn by those consuming the plants as food.

This book is the first – at least one of the first and few – that actually talks proper sense about making compost. As where most advise not to have any meat and cooked foods in the compost heap here, finally, sense is talked in that the advice is to is to include those items.

Personally I have always done that and never have had any problems though, nowadays, any such leftover foods go first through my hens.

The only problem with regards to cooked foods and meat in a compost heap is that it may attract rats. But then again even vegetable remains will do the same and, it would appear, the very heap itself.

I very much like the little practical tips that go with almost every chapter and here, as example, shall stand – pardon the pun – the Potato Tower. But this is but one and not the only one.

Having mentioned all those positive aspects a few negative ones will also have to be mentioned.

The first one would be that the high gloss paper, together with some of the text color, at times makes for tiring reading, especially in conditions of artificial light.

The second one being that the Urban HomesteadTM would have best been omitted from this book as a good example in permaculture as Jules Dervaes' ongoing lawsuits against people using the term “urban homesteading” in an attempt to trademark and patent the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading”, etc., puts him a little in the league of Monsanto and Nestle.

Such actions fall very much under “money grabbing” and do not belong into the movements that want to promote a change of how we do things.

But those two points shall not detract from the book and the fact that it is a brilliant guide to permaculture in urban areas. The edible city must become reality for the sake of all of us and especially the Planet.

© 2014

The Great Bamboo Lie

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bamboo_Forest_smlFour companies that use bamboo for clothing and other household fabrics were charged by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive advertising techniques: claiming that the fabrics are made from “bamboo fiber”, are manufactured using an environmentally friendly process, are naturally antimicrobial, and will biodegrade. In point of fact, says the FTC, “bamboo fiber” is really rayon, the same fiber invented in the 1850s. Rayon is traditionally made from wood pulp, but it can be made from any pulpy substance, including bamboo, and the FTC had issues with these companies selling rayon under a misleading label that made it seem more eco-friendly than wood-based rayon. Furthermore, they add, both wood-based and bamboo-based rayon are manufactured using air-polluting caustic soda, or lye, which is not environmentally friendly and destroys any antimicrobial characteristics that may have existed in raw bamboo pulp. Regarding claims of biodegradation, the FTC says that bamboo will not biodegrade if tossed into a landfill, where most of our trash ends up.

The FTC is not the first to criticize bamboo-clothing manufacturers for advertising the fiber as eco-friendly when the process of converting the pulp into fiber employs such caustic chemicals. In a recent article for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is currently working with textile mills to lessen their environmental impacts, recommended that any designer looking for more eco-friendly fabrics should avoid bamboo. And the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW has, more than once, criticized the claims made about bamboo, and especially bamboo-clothing and I believe that the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW was, in fact, one of the first to take an issue with the promotion of bamboo and especially bamboo-based textiles as greenwash.

Bamboo is always claimed to have an environmental upside in that grows quickly, replenishing itself in as little as 5 years after it has been harvested always compared with 15 to 20 years for trees, though no one seems to look at proper coppice rotation in this matter. It is said to require few pesticides and very little water. I have yet to see wood grown in most environments to require pesticide and for water, well Nature takes care of that with trees.

Bamboo clothing is not – really – natural and neither is it biodegradable or compostable. It is a viscose material and the same as Rayon with the only difference being that one is made from wood pulp the other is made from bamboo pulp. Same difference.

Someone from the green movement stated in response to the US FTC ruling with regards to bamboo clothing that no clothing, not even from natural fiber biodegrades. I would like to dispute that fact and suggest to that person to try to see what happens to a cotton T-shirt or a wool blanket after a year or two in the compost heap. They will have disintegrated. How do I know? I've done it!

Bamboo fiber bowls, cutlery, etc., are still being promoted in the UK, even and especially on green (trade) events as the be all in green but it is a lie plain and simple.

While traditional bamboo products, including furniture, made in countries where this grass grows are fine and good it is not good and sustainable to import them thousands of miles to Europe and the USA and then call them eco-friendly products. Such imports are, in the same way as bamboo clothing, flatware, etc., are not green nor sustainable.

It we want to be eco-conscious and sustainable then furniture should be from homegrown wood (or better still from reclaimed wood) and the same goes for flooring and treen ware. And as far as clothing is concerned this should be from real fiber or if man-made then it should be marked and marketed as such. Bamboo for clothing is Rayon, which is a viscose material and thus, regardless of the fact that it is either wood or bamboo pulp, man-made. Period!

When it comes to bamboo flooring we encounter the bamboo lie and that on a real heavy level. Bamboo flooring is but a laminate flooring type, like wood laminate flooring, and is not green and environmentally friendly at all regardless of the growth rate of bamboo. You cannot cut bamboo into planks or slabs as bamboo is hollow in the round and a lot of heat and other energy, plus powerful glues, are required to make this kind of flooring. It is also not as hard and hard wearing as normal hardwood flooring. It is greenwash in the extreme and it is time that the truth be told and broadcast far and wide.

If you want green flooring – aside from a “dirt” floor – then choose hardwood and ideally here reclaimed hardwood flooring. Now that is green and sustainable.

If you want sustainable clothing then go for real fiber or recycled fiber materials and, ideally, go pre-used from thrift stores. I have not bought new clothing, bar underwear and socks (I would never go as far as buying them pre-owned), for I do not know how long. And, when the clothes really come to the end of their lives then reuse them for cleaning rags and such like before condemning the material, finally, to the waste stream or, if made of truly natural materials, to the compost heap to return to the soil.

The greatest problem that we are facing as consumers who want to be environmentally conscious and do good to the Planet is the amount of greenwash that is about and whose misleading claims are not just misleading but outright lies, such as in the case of bamboo textiles and bamboo flooring, for example. We must, thus, arm ourselves with the knowledge and combat greenwash wherever we encounter it.

© 2014

Stop the biofuel madness

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

no_biofuelsIt is said that there is not enough land on which to grow food, and this is, more than likely true, and yet land is being taken out of food production at the same time to satisfy our “need” for gasoline and diesel in the form of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. If you think that this, somehow, does not compute I have to concur with you. It does not.

We must have gone totally insane to put fuel before food, whether it is corn (maize) being grown for biofuel or miscanthus, or whatever.

Somehow it would appear that automotive fuels have greater priority to those that claim to be our “leaders” than food security. Can we really not think beyond the motorcar and are we going to put driving before food? It would appear that those “leaders” most certainly do.

We can neither eat our gars nor the fuel on which they run, whether made from mineral oil or from plants and we must make the choice and make this clear to those that pretend to be our rulers.

Furthermore, aside from using valuable farm land, or in the case of palm oil for bio-diesel destroying the rainforests of Asia, biofuels will do nothing whatsoever to reduce carbon emissions and pollution, it is just a change from fossil fuel to another one to be burned in combustion engines.

Additionally, bio-diesel particle emissions, the ones held responsible for the increase in asthma, have been found to be several times greater than those from fossil suel diesel.

We are jumping from the proverbial frying pan right into the fire, and losing out as regards to farming areas at the same time. Has everyone gone insane?

It would, however, appear that everything is being done to maintain the motoring madness instead of getting people out of their cars and onto or into alternative means of getting about.

The British capital London has been told to cut air pollution by 2020 or face hefty fines and the cutting of pollution, whether in London or elsewhere, is not going to happen if we keep on motoring as we do right now and, as far as diesels are concerned, it will only get worse with bio-diesel. Time to wake up!

It is good to see though that many young people in the early part of the second decade of the twenty-first century are going car-less and are walking, cycling or using public transport instead. This is, to a degree, due to the ever increasing cost of running a motorcar as with tax and all that aside from the purchase price but also because they begin, and it is but a beginning only, so far, to understand that motoring is not a sustainable way.

There are still too many people who are not comprehending this, as yet, and firmly believe that mineral oil derived fuels and others will continue to make personal private motoring, which many see as a (human) right even by now it seems, possible.

This is, however, an illusion conjured up to them by those – unfortunately – in power with their snouts firmly embedded in the trough of the oil and motor industry.

You can't eat your car, or roads, neither most bio-fuel crops. We have to understand that we either can drive and by this very action destroy the Planet or change our ways and eat. Both at the same time soon will no longer be possible.

And here we are coming back to the issue of the way ever since World War Two the car has been put on a pedestal and we have separated ourselves not only further from Nature but also, as far as where we live further from our places of work and thus have become dependent and reliant on the car to get from home – often many tens of miles away – to work and back.

With mineral oil, if I may call it that, running out all over the place cheap and plentiful petroleum products are about coming to an end and no amount of tinkering, such as with hydraulic fracturing – fracking – for shale oil and shale gas is going to make any difference in that quarter. It is just going to prolong the agony and the destruction of ecosystems.

We must transition now to a oil-free future, and that included one free of biofuels, which still pollute and possibly even much more, to one without the internal combustion engine. And even methane produced by anaerobic digestion be best reserved for use in our electricity generating plants and for cooking and heating than for use in motor vehicles.

It is time – high time indeed – that it was realized that the time of personal motoring is over, is history and that the motorcar is and will have been but a blip in the history of mankind. The future is car-less, at least internal combustion engine car-less. And the sooner this was being realized the better and the futility of biofuels (and fracking) be abandoned.

© 2013

Police approve garden shed made from rubbish

A British inventor has designed a shed made from waste materials that has been recognised as the most secure garden shed ever.

Nigel Broderick came up with the idea for the DaylightSecure garden shed after somebody broke into his wooden shed and stole his bicycle. It is the first garden shed to be awarded the Secured by Design certification since the scheme started.

“Things should be just as safe outside your home as inside,” says Nigel, “and I wanted to come up with a sustainable solution.”

The shed is made of TPR, an award-winning alternative to concrete that is manufactured using waste diverted from landfill. The shed also features a high security double door and composite roof to let the daylight in.

secure garden shed-smlBrodco DaylightSecure Garden Shed

Brodco, the (Somerset) company behind the DaylightSecure shed, is now a member of Secured by Design, a flagship UK police initiative to help ‘design out’ crime through the use of high quality, innovative products and processes.

“Not only is the Daylight Secure shed made from recycled products and carbon neutral,” says Alan McInnes, General Manager of SBD, “but it also benefits the environment by helping to prevent crime and stands out as something truly different.”

In order to achieve Secured by Design status the shed had to adhere to the organisation’s rigorous test standards.

Theft from sheds, garages and gardens in the UK increased by 10% in the last year alone, and around 5000 homes are targeted every week according to the Office for National Statistics.

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, company or organization mentioned.

Is wood more hygienic than plastic?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The lie about plastic

We have been told, including by the so-called experts, that plastic is by far more hygienic than wood as wood being a natural material. It is hardly surprising seeing how man-made materials and especially plastics of all kinds were and are feted as the be all and end all.

cutting-boardsAs far as plastic chopping boards and kitchen utensils are concerned it is very difficult indeed to get them to go moldy or such but does that really mean that they are better? No, for this is about the only advantage of a plastic chopping board compared to a wooden one. But then again you do not have to leave your wooden chopping board laying about in the damp. After you clean it you hang it up, as people used to do it.

As said, and here ends the good part of plastic as to chopping boards and other things in the kitchen. At least since Plastic Planet and other criticism as regards to plastic and especially the noxious chemicals that it contains that constitute a risk to health plastic has lost its celebrity status.

Wood is more hygienic and environmentally friendly

While it is true that there are some woods that should on no account come into contact with foods during chopping and cutting – as fruit bowls many of those will be fine – such as Yew and Horse Chestnut and a few others as they are poisonous most woods, however, have very high antibacterial and antiseptic properties and the leading one here is the much maligned Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) and the heartwood of the Pine (Pinus silvestris). Other woods too exhibit the same antibacterial properties, though some to a somewhat lesser extent.

Wood, in comparison to plastic and also stainless steel, which often contains heavy metals such as chromium and nickel – that's why using cast iron for cooking pots and pans is so much better than anything else – is biodegradable in that wooden utensils can be simply put onto the compost heap at the end of their life to return to the Earth (or burned). Plastic, as we all know, does not biodegrade and cannot be composted (regardless of what industry is trying to tell us) and even stainless steel needs to be recycled in an energy intense process.

Some decades ago all the butchers and catering establishments have been forced, by law, to throw out all their wooden blocks and boards but some clever souls decided to carry out a test – so I have been told – and they dumped a culture of salmonella each onto a wooden butcher's block and onto a plastic block and left them overnight. The ones on the plastic one apparently had read Genesis and had gone forth and multiplied while the ones on the wood were all rather dead. Killed by the tannin in the wood and the fact that wood, be water absorbent, had deprived them of their growing medium, namely moisture.

There you have it. Not only does wood look good, it also is good, and especially in the kitchen. You can now, with a clear conscience, dig out those wooden chopping and cutting boards that you put way, clean them gently, sand them down and oil them and use them again.

© 2014

Getting to Effective Climate Change Governance

The Worldwatch Institute discusses the characteristics of governance that can be most effective in facing the converging environmental crises of the future

1914Washington, D.C.---When a crisis develops, what sort of governance is best? Crises have traditionally resulted from situations of social turmoil, such as military invasion, revolution, or corruption, but expectations are that modern-day emergencies are more likely to arise from disturbances due to climate change and other environmental disruptions. Rising sea levels and severe weather patterns are predicted to increase the number of environmental refugees to the tens, even hundreds of millions, with millions more suffering severe disturbances to their livelihoods. In the Worldwatch Institute's (www.worldwatch.org) State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, contributing authors deliberate over what qualities of governance will be the most effective as we endure the planet's long future struggle with environmental crises.

It is possible for us to reach a state of sustainable living, but this will happen only once we are able to overcome political----more than technical----problems. Current governments, encumbered by bureaucracy, swayed by special-interest groups, and forced to respond to a variety of competing communities, have so far proven incapable of dealing with the threat of climate change. If we are ultimately unable to push our leaders into effectively rewriting policy, we must prepare ourselves for what kinds of catastrophes might arise and how we can best deal with them politically.

Brian Martin, professor of social sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and contributing author of State of the World 2013,provides four essential features of effective governance during times of crisis.

  • Widespread participation: "Significant participation is essential for rapidly responding to a crisis," says Martin. "Genuine participation is greatest when power is shared. The more people take part in creating a solution, the more likely they are to stay committed."

  • Development of resources: When troubles arise, we need to be prepared with adequate technological and material resources. These include food, transport, and especially methods of communication.

  • Tolerance and inclusion: Having certain sectors of the population opposed to action can delay and prevent important changes that need to be made. With everyone participating, we ensure that solutions are acceptable to all citizens and that every group is contributing to solving challenges.

  • Skill development: Through education and the sharing of ideas, we can be prepared to respond to threats in effective and intelligent ways. Martin explains that strategic insight is most likely to flourish in a form of governance that gives considerable autonomy to smaller units, while enabling communication between them so that insights can be shared, tested, and applied.

All of these characteristics can be achieved with a government that is both local and flexible. These qualities are best demonstrated by the efforts of smaller grassroots groups, which have been successful in encouraging citizen participation and influencing local government actions. Groups that involve members of the community in which change is being made are so far creating more awareness about climate change than large, international organizations.

"International governance is particularly unsuited for dealing with crisis," says Martin. "There is little citizen participation and little capacity for skill development. The result is a form of symbolic politics that gives only the illusion of authority."

David Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, offers a long-term perspective on how we can transform our governments to handle any imminent environmental catastrophes. One concern he addresses is the potential for the emergence of authoritarian governments to provide ultimate enforcement of societal change. According to Orr, the most effective alternative to this kind of state totalitarianism is to strengthen democracy.

The best way to strengthen democracy is to create active citizen participation in government, rebuilding democracy from the bottom up. A transition to local, self-governing communities will raise the legitimacy of policy choices and improve public knowledge.

"In our time, strong democracy may be our best hope for governance in the long emergency but it will not develop without significant changes," said Orr. "One necessary change is to confront economic oligarchy. Today the majority of concentrated wealth is tied, directly or indirectly, to fossil fuels. A second change must be to the triviality, narrowness, and often factual inaccuracy of our political conversations. It is time to talk about important things." While neither are easy tasks, neither will be living through four degrees of climate change.

Worldwatch'sState of the World 2013, released in April 2013, addresses how "sustainability" should be measured, how we can attain it, and how we can prepare if we fall short. For more information, visit www.sustainabilitypossible.org. Worldwatch's upcoming book State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability, which highlights both obstacles and opportunities and shows how to effect change within and beyond the halls of government, will be available in April 2014.

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

Slovakia: Organic farm hiring Roma appreciated abroad, but not by the state

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Rudlov u Vranově nad Topľou, Slovakia: On December 18, 2013 the US Chamber of Commerce expressed its appreciation for an organic farm in the Slovak village of Rudlov u Vranově nad Topľou that is staffed by Romani people. For the past seven years, the Svatobor NGO has been teaching Romani residents how to farm there.

roma-Gypsy_settlementThe farm is supported from the sale of compost and vegetables and by providing trainings to municipalities. Slovakia has an aid package worth EUR 200 million available for Romani integration, but the farm has received none of that funding.

"When we came here it was like a jungle, no one was taking care of the land and illegal garbage dumping was going on. Today we employ 10 Romani staff members year-round and we have more than 100 volunteers. We have applied for support to the Plenipotentiary [for Roma Community Affairs] with five different projects so far. They told us that they like our activities, but that was all," says association founder Stefan Straka.

Last month a session of UNESCO in Paris also expressed appreciation for the farm. In a competition for best charity project of the year, it came in fourth place.

It would appear that, as per usual, the monies of those funds supposedly for Roma integration are used for other things that benefit the government politically rather than what benefits the Romani People in that country.

So much money has been wasted all over Eastern Europe that was intended for Roma integration and, it would appear, in most cases no one has the faintest idea what the monies were spent on and there is nothing to show for it.

When, on the other hand, there is a project available that would really benefit from a little monetary help from this fund it is being told that while they like what they are doing there is no money available for such a project which really benefits Romani People.

This also shows that the Roma integration programs have nothing to do with the Roma doing anything for themselves but they are intended (1) to perpetuate the victim mentality, (2) perpetuate the perception by the non-Romani as to the Roma being lazy, stupid and such like (which is not the case) and (3) it is jobs for the boys, so to speak, who create projects into which they “force” the Roma. In other case the monies end up in the pockets of certain presentation Gypsies that the authorities make use off and nothing ever is achieved at all.

Projects such as this organic farm are something to be lauded and not just with a few good words but with support by financial means which should, after all be used for Romani (integration) projects. That, however, would make them succeed and that is not what the powers that be have in mind.

© 2013

Climate change is causing Earth's poles to shift

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dn24755-1_300Melting ice sheets and glaciers are leading to the redistribution of mass on the the Earth's surface. Because of the extreme accuracy with which scientists can measure the Earth's pole, this could be a new key indicator for climate change.


I have been predicting, if you would like, this happening ever since I have been become aware of a shifting of the magnetic pole, which is not a pole shift but a shifting or better tilting of the Earth's axis and this is what the truth is about “shifting of the poles”. The pole or poles, themselves, actually cannot move or shift and thus it is the Earth's axis that is tilting rather. The magnetic north pole, for instance, is actually a magnetic mountain located on an island just off the Canadian coast in the far north and the shift of the axis of the Earth is causing it to appear moved somewhat nowadays.

The axis of our Planet has begun to tilt because of the ice melt in one area and, in fact, the build up of ice on another, as is currently happening in the Antarctic while in the Arctic the ice is, predominately, just melting and a tilt of the axis could really cause mayhem to the Planet's climate and to all of us.

This is not, however, the first time that the Earth goes through this, but it is the first time that humans are present and the first time that there are so many billions that could be adversely affected by any such happening. The possibility it that it could end all life, as far as human and other animals are concerned, on Earth.

The question is, now, as to whether we will be able to stop and rectify this, and that would then require all of climate change to be man-made, or whether it is too late already, as far as the man-made part of climate change is concerned, and we have no control of this happening.

If the latter is the case then the upheavals that are being caused will be the death of millions of our fellow men and women on the Planet and, more than likely, also the death of many of our fellow animal beings as everything is simply going to change.

No one can say what is going to happen, how and when, as no one has ever been present at such an event and the aftermath of it and neither will any computer models be able to predict anything. Computers work on the GIGA principle, which is to say “garbage in garbage out”, meaning as we have no knowledge of what happens, etc., we cannot enter any data or assume that the response is the correct one.

How can we prepare for the event? We can't, is the simple answer. Having said that, however, we must do everything in our power to eliminate any possible man-made causes of climate change and that means now and not in some years' time and pollution (no, not just CO2 emissions) must be reduced and eliminated forthwith. No more talking about it at conferences; the time for fireside chats about it is over, action is required and it is required the day before yesterday.

© 2013

January is the time for garden tool maintenance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

january1In the dissertation “Kalendarium Hortense” in the 17th century for January it says, amongst other things such as trimming your fruit trees (with the exception of those in the genus Prunus, although it makes no mention of this exception), and the planting of beans, peas (in the form of seeds – Ed.) and sowing of early cauliflower, “in over wet, or hard weather, cleanse, mend, sharpen and prepare garden tools”.

In the main this is the quiet time in the garden and your tools will not be much used, with the exception of pruning shears, loppers and saws for the pruning of the fruit trees, and thus this is the time, especially when you cannot actually get out into the garden because of cold or wet, to do the maintenance on your tools.

Sharpening is an essential task and it is also a skill and should be done with care as not to do damage rather than good and the wrong approach to sharpening can blunt a tool rather than sharpening it and I have seen this done more than once. There are also people who are scared of sharpening their tools “too much”, making them “too sharp”, afraid that they could cut themselves with them. The truth is that you will cut yourself much easier with a dull blade than a sharp one.

For the gardener and forester the tools need to be sharp and sharp tools are essential when pruning as to minimize the damage to the tree or shrub from the cut inflicted on the plant. And it is not only the obvious cutting tool that can benefit from some sharpening. Spades and the cutting edges of trowels, as well as and especially hoes benefit greatly from this and make work much more efficient.

Clean your tools first, dry them well and oil them, and that applies to all tools and not just those with moving parts such as secateurs (pruning shears), loppers, scissors, etc., including the metal parts of hoes, spades, trowels, etc. and also apply some vegetable oil or beeswax to the wooden handles of your tools.

All moving parts of the shears and such should be oiled well and, in case of the secateurs, this includes especially the springs also. If your secateurs have the so-called caterpillar spring remove this gently and place in its entirety into a bath of oil and leave in there for a while before refitting it. Do not attempt to remove other kind of springs of secateurs, pruners and loppers; just liberally oil them.

According to many gardeners January, as “Kalendarium Hortense” states also, now is the time to put in the seeds for broad beans (Fava), and also others, as well as peas, to give the an early start. Apparently the seeds are then ready in the ground to get going as soon as the temperatures and all is ready for them to germinate and grow. I must say that I have not done this before but have often started the seeds indoors and then planted the beans out – and then they got hit by frost.

So, in the next week or so, when I finally can actually get into my garden without requiring the use of a rubber dinghy, I shall be putting down the first Fava beans and also pole and bush beans, as well as peas.

Some tools certainly also will need some looking at though most I try to keep maintained in a running order, so to speak, that is they are kept cleaned when they have been finished with as often as possible.

© 2014

The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Zero Waste Solution
Untrashing the  Planet One Community at a Time
by Paul Connett
Foreword by Jeremy Irons
400 pages, paperback, B&W Images, 6” x 9”
Published by: Chelsea Green, October 11, 2013
ISBN: 9781603584890

Zero Waste"The Zero Waste Solution is for all those concerned about humanity's heal the and environment. Essential reading for anyone fighting landfills, incineration, over-packaging, and the other byproducts of our unthinking and irresponsible throwaway society." ~ Jeremy Irons, actor; executive producer of Trashed

Waste is something we make every day, but we rarely give it much thought. That is changing, though, as emerging programs around the globe show many ways in which a community can achieve zero-waste status.

In The Zero Waste Solution, author and scientist-turned-activist Paul Connett profiles the most successful zero-waste initiatives around the world, showing activists, planners, and entrepreneurs how to re-envision their community’s waste-handling process by doing the following:

  • Consuming less;

  • Turning organic waste into compost;

  • Recycling and reusing other waste;

  • Demanding non-wasteful product design; and,

  • Creating jobs and bringing community members together in the process.

Connett is a leading international figure in the decades-long battles to fight pollution and has championed efforts to curtail over-consumption and keep industrial toxins out of our air, drinking water, and bodies. He is best known around the world for leading efforts to help communities sustainably eliminate and reuse waste rather than burn it or stow it away in landfills.

In addition to showing how zero-waste status can be achieved, Connett exposes the greenwashing behind renewed efforts to promote waste incinerators as safe, nontoxic energy suppliers.

The book offers detailed information on how communities can battle incinerators that emit dangerous particles into the atmosphere. And they (almost) all do.

The Zero Waste Solution is an important tool kit for anyone interested in creating sustainable communities, generating secure local jobs, and keeping toxic alternatives at bay. And this book should be compulsory reading for anyone connected with waste “management” and especially here those in local government, as well as those in product and packaging design.

This is another one of those books that has been acquiring – during my review reading – post-it note flags by the tonne and that all for positive reasons. In this case mostly so I can find passages for future reference, as Zero Waste Solutions has so much to say that makes sense and it points the way forward.

“Zero waste is not utopian”, as the Vice-Mayor of Naples, Tommaso Sodano, said, “but the only way to go if we wish to be a sustainable city”. This comment could be expanded to say that zero waste is the only way to go if we want to have and see a sustainable world.

The author, and this is the only comment other than absolutely positive that I want to make about this, always mentions odors as a problem with (domestic) composting programs. However, a proper compost heap should not have bad or foul odor emanating from it. If it does then there is something wrong with what has been put into it.

Is Zero Waste, I mean total zero waste, as advocated by the author of this book, possible? Not only must it be made possible; it is the only way.

People, communities,m are not the problem towards a zero waste goal. Politicians and vested interests are, as in so many fields of sustainability. All too often zero waste, when mentioned by politicians, whether of local or central government, means zero waste to landfill; in other words a diversion of residual waste from landfill to incinerator instead of eliminating such waste. Whether it is just that those politicians are unable to understand the concept or whether they are in the pay of the vested interest groups is something people will have to judge for themselves. I believe that in many cases it is, as with so many other subjects, be this fracking, deposit schemes on glass bottles (and jars), and much more, the fact is that vested interest groups have been going about handing out gifts.

In closing I will say again what I said already earlier in that I suggest that the book “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time” be made compulsory reading for all involved in so-called waste management and also those in design of products and packaging.

About the Author

Dr. Paul Connett is the Director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), and the Executive Director of its parent body, the American Environmental Health Studies Project (AEHSP). He has spoken and given more than 2,000 presentations in forty-nine states and fifty-two countries on the issue of waste management. He holds a bachelors degree from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College and is a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology at St. Lawrence University. He lives in Binghamton, New York.

© 2013

Utah is on track to end homelessness by 2015 with this one simple idea

Give them an apartment first, ask questions later

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

800px-Utah_in_United_StatesThe United States State of Utah, the Mormon State, has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015.

And how did they do it? The answer is a simple one really. The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached.

In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they should fail they still get to keep their apartment.

Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results and no surprise there, I would think.

Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.

In Britain we are being told – time and again – that we have a lack of homes to put house the homeless but the truth is that we do not have a lack of homes; we have an empty homes crisis, to be correct. That is to say that there are many empty, even council homes, about but many of those have been earmarked for destruction – why, you ask – to make way for new developments (nice little earner). But at the same time squatting in empty properties has been made a crime and so has homelessness, now, basically.

The UK has enough empty homes to house all the homeless in this country and Ireland together and if we would but consider all other empty properties that could be, by the people themselves, such as squatters have been doing all the time where they could, doing the places up we would not have to have any homelessness in Britain or elsewhere in our so-called civilized countries.

© 2013

The commute is literally killing us, and cooking the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

commute1A mounting body of evidence shows that those who commute are more unhealthy, more stressed and die sooner than those who live closer to their jobs. The commute is literally killing us, and cooking the Planet.

It also, I am sure, depends on how you commute to your job and most, alas, do it by car (and that on their own) which means lots of pollution but also zero exercise, if you do not count pushing pedals and turning steering wheel.

Instead look at other ways to commute or, ideally, see as to whether your job and your home can get closer together. It is simply not sustainable to live in the deep countryside and work in the city, such as London, some 200 or so miles away, turning villages into expensive dormitories rather than living communities.

If you want to live in the country then work there too and support the local economy and community. But the majority of those commuters, where often both partners work in the city, don't see this countryside, where they have chosen to live, and by that action have priced out local that want to live and work there from having a home, except for weekends when they then are far too busy entertaining and doing things to their home than mingling with the locals.

We just cannot continue this way. It is literally killing us and the Planet and, at the same time, is turning our towns and cities into just commercial centers with no heart and the villages of our countryside into expensive dormitories for the (rich) commuters forcing out locals who want to live and work there.

In other European countries this phenomenon does not seem to exist, or at least nowhere to the same extent as in Britain. In Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and other places towns and cities are not just commercial centers; they are also places where people actually live, and that even in very center of town and city. London, on the other hand, is almost devoid of life in the evening and I am not referring here to people wandering about and going to clubs, the theaters and such but people living there. And, while there are people living even in the centers of American towns and cities the daily commute over tens to hundreds of miles also takes place despite.

The British government is now talking, once again, of plonking Garden Cities and such into the countryside, the residents of which, no doubt, would still be commuting and, as the infrastructure of railroad stations and such does not, for those places, exist as yet, this would and will mean a commute, predominately, by car. We are being brainwashed into the notion of working in the cities and living in the countryside to the detriment of both the cities and the countryside.

Instead of building new towns, even if they are called Garden Cities, willynilly – almost – in the countryside where there are no jobs, where there is no work for the residents and who, therefore, will be commuters, which is totally insane, we need to bring the people back into towns and cities, at least those that work there. That means that towns and cities must be made livable (again) and have all the necessary facilities created for the people, ideally by the people.

Plonking even eco-towns into the countryside, regardless of how green and sustainable the homes, and the towns even, may be does nothing for the environment. The opposite rather.

What is required is a greening of our existing towns and cities and bringing the commuter back from the dormitories near to the places where they work and that means into the towns and cities, even the very centers of them.

Then again the eco-town idea was never intended to do anything else but give developers and house building companies in Britain a nice little earner. Retrofitting and greening our existing homes and buildings in cities, towns and villages would not have done that and thus the idea of the eco-towns was floated.

But, we must retrofit our existing homes and buildings in our cities, towns and villages and bring work and workers closer together once again. This also means, as already mentioned, greening those places by providing what the people want and need. This also means that our villages, towns and cities need green spaces, community gardens where people can grow their own food, and also shops and other amenities to make people want to live in those places.

It is not rocket science but it requires the political will and allowing people to build their own communities and that even in the cities.

© 2013

Make this New Year the year of the green resolutions

Make the 2014 the year of the green resolutions at home and elsewhere

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

new-year-green-resolutionsMany people tend to make New Year resolutions that they end up breaking, unfortunately, already, in the majority, about two days in, because those resolutions are, all too often, about self-improvement. Let's forget about those and make yours resolutions that have a lasting impact on you and the environment. Resolve to make this year greater, more productive, more peaceful, beautiful and green than the last.

Go green at home and elsewhere. Going green should not cost you money, it should save you money.

Often people believe that in order to do something for the environment, to go green, they have to buy all those green gadgets and things but that is not the case at all.

Don't buy a recycled steel pencil pot; instead make your own from an empty tin can. Don't buy a set of recycled glass storage jars; use empty glass produce jars instead. And this is just a very small example.

Reduce waste: By doing the above you already begin with the waste reduction program and at the same time save money. Buying new, regardless whether made from recycled materials of not, though buying stuff made from recycled materials is better than stuff made from virgin raw materials, creates waste and required the use of many kilojoules of energy.

Waste reduction takes many forms and one of them is reducing food waste. Every year people throw out about half of all the food that they buy because they buy too much,, cook too much and have no idea as to how to use leftovers, and also do not understand the use by, and best before, etc., dates and the latter can be confusing.

So, resolve to buy less, cook from scratch and learn how to use leftovers and the meaning of the dates.

Reuse (including “waste” materials): Glass jars = storage jars; tin cans = pencil bins and many other things; and the list could go on and on.

Make you own: Instead of buying everything that you want and need try to making things for yourself, from items of “waste”, natural materials or other.

Want and need a walking stick? Don't get one of those telescopic aluminum or fiberglass things. They break or bend when pressure is applied such as trying to prevent a slip from a mountain. Make yourself a good sturdy wooden one.

Grow a garden: Even if you do not have all that much space you can grow some of your own food.

Rethink your eating habits: Instead of always having meat consider that meat was once upon a time reserved in the time of our grandparents and their parents for special days and Sundays, in most cases, and they were a great deal healthier than us today. Also their food, including the meat, was produced in a much healthier way than it is today.

Use a reusable water bottle and fill up with tap water instead of buying water in plastic bottles. Better for your wallet and the Planet. And no, bottled water is not healthier than tap.

Take homemade lunch to work or to the park. Don't buy at fast food places, and use real cutlery when having a picnic in the park or for your lunch at work rather than plastic flatware.

Change the way you travel: Walk or cycle instead of using the car and for longer distances, wherever possible, use public transport. The former two are good for Planet and your wallet, the latter, in the case of Britain, I am afraid much better for the Planet than your wallet.

Those are but a few ideas for some green New Year's resolutions which are easy to do, are good for the Planet, and which also, at the same time, give your wallet a relief from the stress and strain.

© 2013