Shale is not a miracle solution for Europe

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Shale is not the miracle solution for Europe that is being made out to be by especially the British government.

fracking2_smlShale oil and gas have had but limited benefits for the US economy and their advantages for Europe will be even slimmer, a French think tank said recently.

The shale boon in the US has mainly benefited local economies and the gas industry with only "minimal" impact on macro-economic growth, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) said.

A sharp fall in gas prices that has benefited consumers is unlikely to be sustained, and for the foreseeable future, the United States will remain a big importer of crude oil, it said in an analysis.

The report cautioned that the advantages for Europe would be even narrower, given restrictions in geology, environmental considerations about exploration and a long and costly lead time to exploit finds.

"It is often overlooked, but the US shale revolution came after several decades of geological exploration which scaled up massively in the years preceding the boom," IDDRI said.

"Between 2000 and 2010, the US drilled a total of 17,268 exploratory natural gas wells, at an average of 130 per month. Exploration in the EU is in its infancy, with about 50 wells drilled" thus far.

A middle-of-the-road scenario suggests that by 2030-2035, the EU could meet between three to 10 percent of its projected energy demands from shale, IDDRI said.

"Shale gas should therefore not be seen as a solution to the EU's energy, climate and competitiveness challenge," said the forecast.

"The EU needs a holistic strategy combining energy efficiency, eco-innovation, low-carbon energy sources and a stronger, more integrated internal market."

It added: "Shale gas could be a complement to this, in so far as it could contribute to a more liquid, resilient internal gas market, particularly in those member states currently highly dependent on polluting coal or Russian gas."

The fact is that several shale gas and oil wells that have been drilled in the UK, for instance, have already been abandoned again with the comments by the company that no fracking be necessary as the gas and oil is unfracked in those rocks. Sources, however, have suggested that the real truth for the companies having abandoned the drilling is that the gas and oil is actually far too costly to extract. Still, however, the UK government is hellbent on getting almost half of the country, drilled and fracked, mostly in environmentally sensitive areas and in parks and open spaces, even within towns and cities.

The true forecasts that the UK government does not want to have the people know about as to prices is as suggested, namely that they will not be reduced at all to benefit the consumer.

It is therefore a completely fruitless exercise, except for the bent politicians, to continue with this dangerous practice and the it would be easily possible to cover the small amount of natural gas any shale exploitation would create by means, for instance, of methane digestion.

There are suggestions that if all sewage works and landfill sites would extract the methane produced there instead of flaring it off and is all farms would digest the slurry and such produced into methane that a very large amount of natural gas could be created almost for free.

We must remember that the Edison electricity generating plants of those early days were not designed to run on coal or oil but on sewage gas and the gas was extracted directly from the sewers. That, however, does not fit into the schemes of the powers that be and of industry.

Not far from where I live there is a small sewage works where five methane flares are burning day in day out and that is a serious waste of resources for which the natural environment would not need to be exploited were that gas to be used. In some instance, on some landfills, the methane gas is not even flared off but vented into the atmosphere and that is not just as waste but a crime as the gas, methane, is a much more dangerous greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus should not be vented to the outside at all.

Not only must we develop energy efficiency, eco-innovation, low-carbon energy sources, we must get away from carbon energy sources in the first place to renewables and while methane from digesters may still be a carbon energy as it will release carbon during the burning process it is a gas where there drilling and fracking does not enter in.

Other sources must be developed, however, that are renewable and low to zero carbon such as solar (photo-voltaic), wind and hydro and the most important way forward is the micro-generation of electricity on every home and business property.

If every roof would become a power station and, in addition to that, our energy usage be reduced there would be no longer any need for oil and gas. And while some advocate nuclear energy as a low to zero carbon option and one, so they say, must be put into the equation, it must be a no on that one until such a day that fusion is totally feasible as the latter does not produce the radioactive waste. But until such a time nuclear is not an option.

The only options are solar, wind, water and methane using methane digesters and from paces such as landfills and sewage works. As far as wind and solar are concerned the proper answer also would be more or less small scale generation on ever roof available and the change of the current in use as regards to voltage and current and changing the power for most applications to 12V DC with inversion of current where required.

In addition to that, or, to be more precise, before all that we need to reduce our energy consumption and also our use of fossil fuels in transportation and that will require a change in the way we live and work.

© 2014


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

wood350_5182b67755242Wood is a most important raw material and the best part of it is that it is growing naturally and therefore is always renewable.

Wood was most important once as almost everything was made from wood and the wood came – primarily – from coppice operations, the most sustainable woodland management system known to man.

Today plastic has replaced wood for many products once made from this raw material much to the detriment of not only forest industries but also the forest itself.

On the positive side, however, slowly people are, once again, coming back to value wood and treen goods and that also and especially goes for wood in the kitchen. In fact, wood is more hygienic and much healthier to use in the kitchen and in conjunction with food than plastic will ever be.

But plastic was made out to be a material of almost magic value, properties, qualities and much more though nothing could be further from the truth.

Alas the woodsman himself often falls for this looking for the handles of his tools to be of fiberglass and plastic rather than of wood believing them to be stronger. Another fallacy.

All too often we find axes, hatchets and billhooks with plastics (ABS) or carbon fiber handles which – one – also can break and – two – the way tools are made to join with the handles means that, should the handles break the tools themselves have to be – more often than not – thrown away as no new shafts can be fitted to the head. But I digressed.

Wood, while indeed often heavier, is a much superior choice and not just in the kitchen and for tool handles over plastic (or other materials).

Walking sticks and hiking staffs crafted from wood will outperform and outlast those newfangled plastic or aluminum ones each and every time. Having had more than one kind of those – even an expensive brand – collapse and break on me in use, I can vouch for that, as my wooden ones stood up to the same use and even more without any problems.

Going by the amount of those newfangled high-tech hiking staffs that end up broken in the litter bins on mountains, hills and in parks it would appear that I am not the only one who has had bad experience with those.

Coppice management of woodlands actually enhances biodiversity and creates new growth with much higher carbon sequestration than that of old trees that have reached the end of their productive lives.

A single standard tree lives – productively – for between 30 to 140 years – depending on the species – while a coppice stool, properly managed, renewing itself depending on the management cycle between 7 to 20 years will live – productively – for thousands of years. Trust me, I am a forester. But back to wood as a material.

As a raw material from which to make things wood is – more often than not – superior to man-made materials and the fact that it is natural and at the end of its life can go back into the cycle of Nature is but one, though important, point.

Wood can also be fashioned into so many objects and products with often but simple hand tools and that is the reason it was so extensively made use of in the days of old, aside from the fact that plastics, for instance, did not exist back then.

The advent of plastics saw the decline of many of the products that were previously made from wood (and other natural materials) such as baskets, as they could be produced much cheaper in plastic than could be wooden hand-made ones and the same goes for other products too, such as kitchen utensils, garden trugs, etc.

Britain's industrial revolution was not fueled by coal dug from out of the ground but by charcoal from coppice woodlands and almost all wood products bar the ships of the navies, both Royal and merchant, were made predominately from wood that came from those woodlands. Depending on the rotation cycle of coppicing even large beams and planks can be milled from the trunks of the trees.

Wood is – obviously – a natural material that, unlike man-made ones, such as plastic, is biodegradable even in an ordinary compost heap when the product has come to the end of its life. Until such a time, however, any wooden product keeps the carbon dioxide locked up that the tree has absorbed during the time that it grew.

The best way to dispose of wood – a wooden product – at the end of its (useful) life, unless it is possible to reuse the wood for something else, is to burn it, ideally in a stove for heat. Burning only sets free the CO2 the wood has absorbed while the process of composting it also releases methane, on top of carbon dioxide, during the decaying process, and methane is a greenhouse gas that is between 20 to 40 times more dangerous than CO2.

I love wood and wooden products but then, as said before, I could be seen very much as biased being a forester, a woodsman, by original trade. Wood is extremely tactile, as is leather, and most pleasing to the eye.

Wood and leather, though the latter is not really the subject matter here, are seen by many in the “green movement” as something rather not to use as the former “harms trees” and the latter “harms animals”. The alternatives, however, are materials which in themselves, in the production and in their disposal, harm the Planet.

© 2014

The extreme focus on materialism and its impact on the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The extreme focus on materialism is having a disastrous effect on the environment and biodiversity, but it is also affecting our communities with lower levels of trust and a general lack of concern of the well-being of others.

materialismSomething seems to be very rotten indeed at the core.

Our values, at both the collective and personal levels, are misaligned with a sustainable future. Greed, conquest, acquisition, power, control are values that not only are prevalent but are also rewarded and valued throughout Western society.

These values are reinforced through the media and pop culture with programming that essentially tells us we aren’t good enough if we do not and cannot buy this, that or the other, leading to an epidemic of apathy, despair, and depression.

This hardened world compels many us to erect walls and barriers to protect our hurt feelings, most of us at a subconscious level. And the talk is even of sustainable economic growth and such like but there is no sustainable growth. Perpetual growth does not compute with a Planet that cannot grow.

Governments have even, including the British one, likened people who are not on the consumption bandwagon to being “domestic terrorists” as they are not supporting the economy.

When 7 billion people are encouraged to take and consume as much as possible and are being told that it is good for the economy, after all, rather than just what one needs, it leads to infinite material demands.

With a planet, however, which is finite, we have a problem. The question we must ask if we are serious about creating a sustainable society is, “what are the sustainable values that form the foundation of a society that can sustain itself over millions of years?” It obviously cannot be a society that predicates well-being on exponential growth of the economy, natural resource use, and pollution. So just what are sustainable values?

Instead of consumption of material goods we must realign our values and we must learn to make do with what we have and look at making as much as we want and need ourselves. It can be done and is not hard at all. At least I do not think that it is.

We all must stop trying to keep pup with the Joneses or even outperforming the Joneses in regards to material possessions and learn to be content with what we have and only buy “new” when we really have to.

What is needed is an understanding, also and especially by economists, that we need to look at a post-growth economy, a constant economy, and not one that is based and demands a constant perpetual growth, which cannot be sustained on a finite Planet whose non-renewable resources are almost gone.

People will need every now and then new stuff but what we need first and foremost once again are products that are made to last and that can be repaired, the way it used to be. The world must get away from being a throwaway society to a reuse and repair one.

The majority of all goods produced in the world today are made in such a way that they (a) cannot be repaired and (b) have obsolescence built in, often about three years or less. But it definitely does not have to be that way as can be seen by products that were made in the “old” days when things were made to last and repairable and even in countries such as the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany, and the Soviet Union. I can vouch for that having a number of products from those countries that still work well today even though they were made thirty or even forty years ago. And there are still products made like that today in some places, Germany being one of those, by companies who care about their products, and where spare parts are available even decades after, many decades after, to enable repair and refurbishment of the products.

But, it is true, those products, made at home and not in China, Vietnam, or other cheap slave labor country, are expensive and cannot be had for cents. On the other hand, however, one gets a product that will serve for many, many years to come.

Electronic gadgets are the greatest culprits and computers are in the lead here and that also very often due to the fact that software makers, such as Microsoft, ensure that an old computer cannot work with the new systems. All designed in such a way as to keep selling more, more, and still more. This is not sustainable.

We must change and we must change now and we can create this change by demanding that things are made differently and by using the things that we have, by reusing, by repurposing, by upcycling and by making our own, as far and as much as possible. The makers will soon get the message and will have little choice but to make the changes that we demand. Unless, that it, “our” governments make our ways illegal, and that too is a possibility.

© 2014

Bloomberg writer advocates for a $4 minimum wage

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What's next? Employees pay to work? Best not give the greedy capitalists any ideas, shall we, for as far as they are concerned they would take that route gladly.

pyramid-kapThink minimum wage workers have it tough today trying to make ends meet? Wait until you hear what a writer at Bloomberg has to say.

Michael Strain, a writer at Bloomberg, thinks the wage is not low enough and he states, "If we knocked the minimum wage down to, say, $4 an hour, we would significantly mitigate employers' risk from hiring a long-term unemployed worker. Allowing employers to pay this group of people 45 percent less than other minimum-wage workers provides a strong incentive for businesses to give the long-term unemployed a shot."

And what about the fact that it’s impossible for workers to live on such a wage? Strain offers the predictable solution: have the taxpayers subsidize companies for failing to pay a livable wage.

Strain argues, "Of course, we can’t just lower the minimum wage for the long-term unemployed to $4 an hour and leave it at that. Society must have as a goal that no one who works full time and heads a household lives in poverty. This policy would have to be paired with an expanded earned-income tax credit, or with more straightforward wage subsidies – federal transfer programs that supplement a worker’s labor market earnings with tax dollars."

The capitalists will reduce the wage of the working class more and more to return us to the standard of a Victorian age and the way they and the governments, which are but an arm of the capital, in Britain, other parts of the European Union, and the USA, it will not be long and we will have arrived at the new Victorian era.

As far as the capitalists are concerned any kind of minimum wage is an anathema to them and in order for them to be able to get every higher profits and dividends for the shareholder of the multinational capital and corporations workers need to make do with as little as possible and if they can't make ends meet then they will simply have to work more than one job or starve.

Or, as in the suggestion by this Bloomberg writer, the state, the government, should pick up the tab that businesses do not wish to pay. It is amazing that Ford, when old Henry decided that he was going to pay his workers more than anyone else did, was more successful than were the others. And, while it is true he had an ulterior motive, namely for the workers to be able to save money in order to buy his cars, it is also shown in other countries and companies, such as Volkswagen in Germany, that this principle of paying workers a high wage can work very well indeed.

But there are but a few companies and more or less global corporations who look at such a model. The rest would rather pay as little as possible and either, as in the UK with the government cutting away all of the safety net, want the working class back at Victorian levels or, as in the USA, want the government to make up the difference between pay and what someone needs to live on. It is all about greed and profit and to them the worker is even less worth than would be a slave.

A slave at least, being property of the “owner”, could at least count on being fed, housed, and clothed. When wage slavery came in the capitalists were rubbing their hands with glee and having been doing so ever since. They no longer had to feed, house and clothe the slaves. Instead they could actually charge them rent for living in company houses, for shopping at company stores, etc. and they would like that Victorian standard back.

For that very reason, amongst others, the system needs changing and the Labor Movement needs people to join it to fight for a new way.

© 2014

Happy 365th Birthday Fiskars

Fiskars celebrates 365 years of innovation and design

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Established in 1649 as an ironworks in a small Finnish village, Fiskars has grown to be a leading global supplier of consumer products for the home, garden and outdoors. Fiskars' products bring joy to consumers' lives and help solve their everyday problems – every day.

Known for innovation and design, it's the Fiskars Classic orange-handled scissors, selling over one billion pairs worldwide, that turned Fiskars into an internationally recognised and renowned brand.

From the very first nails, hoes and knives made in 1649, to launching the world's first plastic handled scissors in 1967, and producing gardening tools in 1985 Fiskars continue to design and innovate to this day.

In the garden sector, Fiskars holds premiere position for its cutting tools.

Following three successful spring TV campaigns, Fiskars is back with two campaigns for 2014. The first TV campaign is launching in April and will promote Fiskars PowerGear™ pruner with its 3x more cutting power.

This will be followed during the Easter period with Fiskars highly recognisable Weed Puller campaign.

Fran Kershaw, Trade Marketing Manager for Fiskars UK Ltd, says, "We're incredibly proud of the Fiskars heritage. 365 years is a landmark for us and we wanted to celebrate it through demonstrating our expertise as well as showing consumers that we are a forward-thinking and innovative company. Our TV campaigns over the past three years have been highly successful, driving footfall to retailers and increased product sales. We look forward to similar success when our Fiskars PowerGear™ campaign launches."

From 1649 to 2014 Fiskars has lead the way in cutting tool technology and the future is bright and most certainly orange.

Having had the pleasure to use and review a number of Fiskars' products I can but wish them many more successful years to come and being a bit of a woodcarver in my “spare” time the Fiskars X5 is for me the hatchet to use for rough shaping and even using it like a plane at times.

© 2014

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

The comeback of the paper notebook

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

head-medium_0Basically declared dead well ahead of time at the advent of mobile devices, the cloud and all that the paper notebook is far from dead and dying. In fact, it is making a definite comeback, as are good quality pens and their use.

The German company Leuchtturm 1917, who has been making good quality notebooks well before Moleskine was ever thought of, reported a 40% increase in notebook sales across the board in 2013 compared to the previous year. And more and more notebooks of the style, upon which Moleskine is based, are being produced by and for other stationery companies.

Seeing that we are, supposedly, in the digital age makes the return of analog ways an interesting phenomenon, not only are paper notebooks, especially good quality ones, all of a sudden cool – a little like the Filofax was in the Sloane Ranger era – but demand for typewriters, and here even and especially manual ones, and here also working vintage ones, also is on the up.

Paper and especially paper notebooks, and analog in general, is far from being dead or at the brink of extinction in the digital age and this is also good so, in my opinion.

The United States has reported that in a number of areas enquiries as to learning the use of a typewriter to such an extent that typewriting schools are opening up (again) even. And most of those enquiries appear to be coming from young people under 28 years of age.

Paper, handwritten, or types, or printed, will be with us for much longer as records and books go than anything stored on hard drives or in “the cloud”.

The British Archives at Kew have been working on the archiving or websites and other material from and on the Internet but had to make a choice as to what to keep and what not to and much of what is on the Internet today, even important information, will not be available for future generations, not even researchers, unlike published books in print, notebooks, journals, and other paper records, whether held in public, university or private “collections”. And we call that advancement?

E-books and cloud storage all sounds good until we look a little deeper into that glass and find that we have been falling for an illusion on a grand scale.

Amazon's Kindle books have had a serious problem once when Amazon decided that people had had their books long enough and deleted them off people's devices. Even though you pay for them you do not, unlike with a physical book, actually own them and you are not permitted to – legally – pass them onto others. It is also not technically possible to do so.

If you store your notes – and some people even upload, using white-lined notebooks, pages of their paper notebooks – and other stuff in the cloud you give, by using the service, the owner of that service, be this Google or whoever, copyright use of everything to use and distribute as they see fit. Sorry, but I do not think so! Thus my notes and other materials stay in hard copy firmly with me (and in digital for on some electronic media in my possession).

It very much appears to be time to rethink digital and find some terra firma again and some sanity. And, it would appear, a fair number of people around the globe are beginning to realize that too.

The paper notebook, the fountain pen and the typewriter are on their way back again already and, so it would appear, not just in a small way.

Paper notebooks have a great deal going for them and they are far from dead, that is for sure. While this may not be to the liking of the proponents and advocates of paperless and may also displease the believers that the production of paper harms the tropical rainforests – which is a fallacy – it is a sign that people appear to be looking for “slower” ways in our maddening modern world. The continuing increase in the same of paper diaries, address books and agendas also proves this trend.

At the same time paper notebooks, the notes contained therein and diaries are always accessible, even on a mountain top or during a power outage and thus beat the electronic equivalent – if there is such a thing as an electronic equivalent to them – hands down (and that goes for real books as well). No batteries, no power cord, no connection, or whatever, to worry about.

Paper is here to stay and is going still very strong indeed and long may it continue.

Personally I cannot function without paper notebooks of some kind and I always have various on the go.

© 2014

US Spying a Threat to Global Climate Deal

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

climate-change-conference1The US government has been at it again spying at all and sundries and this time it is revealed the target were the UN Climate Talks and its participants.

Activists and experts have expressed outrage at the revelations that the US government, through the NSA and its allies, has conducted espionage on participants of UN climate talks.

They are calling for President Obama to commit to no further spying on participants of the talks, accompanied by a drastically increased commitment to climate action on the part of the United States, if the talks are to succeed as they build toward another global summit at the end of 2015.

"The UN climate talks are supposed to be about building trust - that's been under threat for years because of the United States' backward position on climate action - these revelations will only crack that trust further," Meena Raman, negotiations expert from the Malaysian based Third World Network, said.

Brandon Wu, Senior Policy Analyst with development organization ActionAid in the United States, said: "Fighting climate change is a global struggle, and these revelations clearly show that the US government is more interested in crassly protecting a few vested interests - rather than acting ethically by taking responsibility to lead and working cooperatively with others to find solutions."

"This is yet again an underhanded, undemocratic and arrogant use of power by the US government to protect corporate interests. We urge the citizens of the United States to condemn these actions by their government and call for an immediate stop to its blocking progress in the climate talks," said Lidy Nacpil, director of Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, a social movement headquartered in the Philippines.

And Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth EWNI in the UK, said: "If Obama's rhetoric on climate change in the State of the Union is to be believed he must use an executive order to stop spying on climate negotiators and take up a position on pollution cuts that is consistent with the science."

But, let's face it, the United States government and its funders, the industries with vested interest, and those of it allies, have no interest in the success of the UN Climate Talks as that could and would mean that things would have to change. This could not possibly allowed to happen now, could it, as it would cut into the profits of the companies and the “income” of the politicians industry has managed to bribe.

All the United States and most other developed countries do is pay lip service with regards to climate change and the wish to make changes and then they look at (1) buying carbon credits from Third World countries and (2) play with fire by claiming that nuclear power is the answer to a carbon-free future. But I will not start a discourse on nuclear even though it is not the answer. The fact is that the powers that be in the developed countries have no interest in reduction of carbon emissions and reduction of consumption as that does not bring them money; it is as simple as that. And that is why the likes of the US and the UK will spy on the talks in the same way that they declare climate protests acts of terrorism.

There is lots of rhetoric from the sides of the powers that be in the often referred to as “Western” nations but it is but rhetoric as far as climate action is concerned totally missing the point that action is required and total different action that which they are advocating in their speeches and all the papers that are being produced by them.

They wish to have business as usual and further economic growth (and this is not just the way it is seen in the developed world) on a Planet that cannot grow and with ever diminishing resources. How that is supposed to work beats the hell out of me, for sure.

A copy of the leaked document, which concerns the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, can be found here.

© 2014

Rags to...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

No, not to riches, but an awful lot else...

Not all rag & bone men had horses and carts as this London photo showsHow many (cotton) garments, one can but wonder, end up in the waste stream and ultimately the landfill or incinerator on a daily basis and that only from homes, not to speak of those that for whatever reason are discarded by manufacturers and stores.

There was a time when old garments - “rags” – and in those days all made of natural fibers were collected for recycling, and that was before that word was even coined. “Rags” were collected by the so-called “Rag and Bone Man” and those were sold by him to be made into cleaning rags for industry and military gun cleaning patches, as well as to be made into paper.

We claim to have advanced since World War Two and before but in the way that we create waste and manage our discards, same as in some other departments, it does not appear to be the case at all.

Considering that in those bygone days we seem to have recycled more and better – true, it was also out of necessity - and reused more and better than today points to the fact that we have not progressed at all, at least not in a positive manner.

Wipes in industry – and elsewhere – nowadays are non-woven synthetic materials such a polypropylene and paper (one time use and toss) and thus textile rags went out of fashion and favor.

Even though some companies have begun – again – to make (specialty) paper out of textile waste it is being treated and paraded as something new as in “did you know you can make paper from textile waste”. They seem to forget – conveniently – that the first paper, made by the Chinese, use to be made from rags. We keep reinventing the wheel, it seems.

Off-cut waste from the garment industry, as long as we are talking natural materials such as cotton, canvas (hemp), and such like – alone could produce tons and tons of paper, not even considering how much more could be made from clothing such as T-shirts, jeans, etc., thrown out by people on a daily basis all over the world.

In the days gone by such rags would have been – on a more or less regular basis – collected by the “Rag and Bone Man” on his rounds and kept out of the waste stream but nowadays into the landfill or the incinerator they go. And they call that progress.

In the absence of a viable and useful collection system for rags – especially from natural materials, as textiles made from synthetic fibers often are not much use for even cleaning rags, bar some – for the the “Rag and Bone Man” of old is all but history, we must reuse as much of this resource as possible ourselves (at home).

Our ancestors would have, first of all, reused the material from any old garment to make something new, including and especially quilts and such like, and today the same could be done again and also making totes and such. Only when the fabric really was of not reuse use it would be tossed into the rag bag for use as rags around the home, etc., or for collection by the “Rag and Bone Man”.

Old socks and mittens, and here even of synthetic fleece, can be turned into dusters for use around the home – I do this all the time – and worn-out denim jeans – and who has not got them from time to time – can be made (upcycled) into a variety of really useful things for use around the home, etc., and even for sale. The Internet abounds with ideas and instructions on the latter matter.

Cotton T-shirts and such like, when they have come to the end of their useful lives, can be turned – if all else fails and there is no other use for them – into cleaning rags for a multitude of uses.

Some modern-day garment materials, such as some polyesters – aside from fleeces and high-cotton content poly-cotton blends – and, though not all that common anymore, Nylon, do not lend themselves well for the conversion into rags of whatever kind as they are not very absorbent.

Worn-out towels also do not – immediately – belong into the trash (and not even the rag bin). They can be remade in to flannels and then, ultimately, into dusters and cleaning rags, and this goes also for tea towels.

Using cleaning cloths and rags, repurposed from worn out fabric, is a green and frugal way to travel and reduces the use of paper towels, wet pipes and such likes, which impact quite negatively on the Planet.

This is just a little food for thought as to what to do with rags that turn up, so to speak, in the absence of the of the “Rag and Bone Man” and any viable waste clothes collection

Will we see the modern-day “Rag and Bone Man” soon? I doubt it though it would be a good idea.

© 2014

Air pollution kills 200,000 people a year, vehicle emissions largely to blame

Automobile emissions are linked to some 53,000 premature deaths every year, according to a new study by MIT

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

air-pollution1A new study released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that air pollution is prematurely killing off some 200,000 Americans every year, and the leading source of that pollution is vehicle emissions. In fact, some 53,000 deaths annually are linked to exposure to automotive exhaust. Following a close second is electric power generation, which accounted for 52,000 deaths.

“It was surprising to me just how significant road transportation was [as a contributing factor],” said Steven Barrett, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, in a statement, “especially when you imagine [that] coal-fired power stations are burning relatively dirty fuel.”

The study results, which were published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Environment, used information collected in 2005, but Barrett and his team say the data is reflective of current usage and trends. Other areas of emissions studied were industry, commercial and residential sources, marine transportation and rail transportation.

When researchers broke down the data and analyzed the health impact of air pollution by state, California topped the list for suffering the worst health effects from air pollution. About 21,000 premature deaths — or slightly more than 10 percent of all pollution-related deaths annually — occur in the Golden State, with emissions from road transportation and commercial/residential heating and cooking cited as the main culprits.

Most of the premature deaths related to electricity generation were in the Midwest and east-central parts of the U.S., where power plants tend to rely on coal with higher sulfur content.

The city with the highest emissions-related deaths was Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents die each year from long-term exposure to air pollution.

Premature deaths were categorized as deaths occurring a decade earlier than expected. The research was based on data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory.

The question is as to whether it really required an expensive study yet again to “discover” and confirm something that we have known already for decades and of which the Hippies in the 1960s and 1970s already warned us all. But then again they were just eccentrics and not scientists.

However, they and many others of us, were right and renaming the pollution as “brown carbon”, as has been done as to the soot that is causing glacial melt in the Himalayan mountains does not change this either.

The climate scientists have become obsessed with the word “carbon” and that, I would say, simply because of the invention of carbon trading and carbon certificates, the modern version of indulgences, nothing more.

We must get away from this carbon this and carbon that and address all pollution and also not just those from exhausts, whether vehicular, factory, power stations or others. A chimney is also but an exhaust, only bigger that that of a car or truck.

And it is not just airborne pollution that is an issue and a danger to us all and the Planet which is the only one that we have to live on. The is no Planet B, there is only Mother Earth.

© 2014

Former NSA contractor develops font designed to combat government snooping

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ZXX-Font-1372075525-0-11Sang Mun is a former contractor for the NSA. Mun created the font as a response to increasing government incursions on privacy. “I have become dedicated to researching ways to ‘articulate our unfreedom’ and to continue the evolution of my own thinking about censorship, surveillance, and a free society,” he explained to Reason Magazine, after releasing the font online in June 2013.

The font is intended to work by throwing off Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software with the unique and noisy style.

This font is reckoned to be a great weapon in the war on America’s privacy. It is encouraging to see such proactive measures being taken. You can download the font for free, here.

Below is an open letter from Mun explaining his reasoning for disseminating the ZXX font.

I do not know what OCR system the “author” of the fonts has used but in tests of converting documents written in any of those fonts, turned into PDF and then using an OCR extractor in a program the material was read back perfectly. This leads me to believe that it may work as far as letters are concerned but not for emails or other electronic communications. Especially after having used the font to write an email also and upon receipt it was nicely in clear text.

If you really want to avoid government snooping it would appear that we need to develop codes, like the spies of old did, using numbers derived from books that the sender and the recipient use as base, that is to say the book cypher. And, the book cypher is almost impossible to crack by electronic means as the finding of a message still attached to a dead carrier pigeon of WWII showed. The code cannot be broken without knowing the relevant book or books used to generate the code and not even the most sophisticated computers that the NSA or GCHQ use cannot do it.

Whether this font will be able to throw off the scanning software intend for storage of intercepted material will remain to be seen. The one that scanned from PDF to text that I used, a free program, did it with ease and even with the version with the greatest amount of “noise” of this font.

The jury is still out on this, I am sure. Thus, if you want to securely communicate use a good book cypher and change the books used all the time.

You should have at least six different books from which to generate the cypher – though you don't use those books all at the same time – and your communications will be uncrackable. You then use a number code, either five or six digits, corresponding to page number, number of line, and word in that line. Simple but basically uncrackable.

Use the font by all means if you want. I will do too. By mixing the font versions, as indicated in the picture, however, throwing the system off may be possible. But real important stuff will be sent in code.

© 2014