The Commons

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

labour-the-commons"Commons" is an Old English word. The word Commons, in pre-industrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment traditionally defined such as forests, rivers, fisheries or grazing land that are shared, used and enjoyed by all. In fact those were parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. As commons were referred areas that were part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households.

The Commons were not just willy-nilly for everyone's use, however. It “belonged” to the Commoners and there were also subdivisions of those, such as the Estovers.

In English law, estovers is wood that a tenant is allowed to take, for life or a period of years, from the land he holds for the repair of his house, the implements of husbandry, hedges and fences, and for firewood.

The Estovers, in more modern times, had the right to take, by hook and by crook, firewood from commons and also woodlands of estates, and only for their own use, theoretically, and not for sale as a commodity.

The Commons, as found in Britain, are very similar to the system if the iriai in Japan. "Commons," like iriai, is a word which, in pre-industrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment.

People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. They called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households.

The customary law which humanized the environment by establishing the commons was usually unwritten. It was unwritten law not only because people did not care to write it down, but because what it protected was a reality much too complex to fit into paragraphs. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, to graze, and to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.

Many of the commons in Britain was, more or less, done away with by the Enclosure Act(s) or Inclosures Act(s) – depending on the spelling but meaning the same – where the people lost their rights to the use of the commons.

While there are still Commons in Britain they are no longer, in general, available to people as they once were and most of them are today “public open spaces” which are, like parks, private property of the local authorities “with public access granted” and thus are no longer the commons of old where the local people, especially the designated commoners, had the right to pasture, pannage, the right to take firewood “by hook and by crook”, etc. today the gathering of firewood, even for one who would be an estover, or the gathering, for own use, of wild edibles, is governed by bylaws and general illegal, as any such activity would require the permission of the landowner, under law, who today would be the local authority and rarely such permission would ever be granted.

While Keepers and Rangers often will not concern themselves with someone taking some herbs, wild edibles, mushrooms, etc., it still means that, theoretically, they could and the police also might. This also applies to hedgerows and other such areas.

In fact foraging is a very gray area, nowadays, unlike in the days of old, and care has to be exercised as not to clash with the law, unfortunately.

What we need is to bring the commons back into true common ownership of the commoners and thus make them, more or less, once again, and the “produce” of them, available to all. Especially, however, to those that are the commoners and who have had the right to them by virtue of having that status by living in a village or such. That, however, would more than likely require an entire change of system. Well, let's go and change it as it needs changing anyway.

© 2014

Renewables Not Enough: World Needs Democratic, Decentralized Energy, says Report

'A timely and equitable energy transition can occur only with greater energy democracy, which requires that workers, communities, and the public at large have a real voice in decision making.'

In order to build an adequate low-carbon 21st century energy system that scientists have said is necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, a new report argues that the world must look beyond large-scale, centralized renewable projects—such as industrial solar and wind farms—and take up efforts to build more democratically-controlled and decentralized power grids.

Contained as a chapter in the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability, the research compiled by professor Sean Sweeney, who co-directs of the Global Labor Institute at Cornell University, says the world's energy systems must be "reclaimed to serve public interests, rather than focus on maximizing sales and profits" for the large corporations who now benefit from the burning of fossil fuels and the centralized grids that distribute most of the world's electricity.

"A timely and equitable energy transition can occur only with greater energy democracy, which requires that workers, communities, and the public at large have a real voice in decision making, and that the anarchy of liberalized energy markets is replaced with a comprehensive and planned approach," writes Sweeney.

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Let’s put the collaborative economy at the service of territories!

Capture d’écran 2014-10-16 à 10.16.46This post aims to explore the opportunities that may arise with the spread of the collaborative economy on a given territory. It is based on the work of Benjamin Tincq and Diana Filippova - Ouishare Connectors – about collaborative territories in France. As part of the research conducted in partnership with the CG92 - Hauts de Seine “département”- they wrote an essay (in French) published in Les Entretiens Albert Kahn, and they co-organized a workshop with policy makers on October 8th with Samuel Roumeau from Sharitories. Their contribution is an important input to the Sharitories program and the prospective Collaborative Territories Toolkit, especially since it is extremely well documented and conceived as a call for concrete action at local level.

Ouishare defines the collaborative economy as the wide range of practices and economic models based on horizontal structures and communities’ contribution. A collaborative territory is defined as a territory that hosts and nurtures practices, projects, spaces and tools from the collaborative economy to the benefits of an open, horizontal and abundant territory. Put simply, the central question behind this definition can be asked as follows: on which kind of territory do we want to live collectively? Ouishare created a typology to explain the contours of this notion of collaborative territory. It articulates around three components: shared territories, productive territories, and territories as commons.

A typology for collaborative territories

Shared territories envision the territory as a platform. They host the fast growing collaborative consumption, whose development has been facilitated by the multiplication of (hyper) local systems and global platforms. Systems such as ridesharing, bikesharing, coworking, local food consumption and production, or p2p home rentals have emerged quickly in the mid 2000s. While these are the most frequently implemented collaborative services on territories, they sometimes create tensions and controversies, especially in the hotel and taxi sectors. These sharing systems promote usage rather than possession of material goods, and favour horizontal organization and reduced roles of intermediaries. As these systems need a very local critical mass, the local territory is a very good entry point to supporting their development. The explosion of collaborative consumption on territories concerns several sectors. First, mobility is probably the most dynamic sector with the development of long distance ridesharing (Blablacar), instant ridesharing (Lyft), p2p car rentals (Drivy), or even shared cars and bikes (Autolib’ and Velib’ in Paris). Second, the food sector puts emphasis on local production, distribution and consumption (the most famous initiative is La Ruche Qui Dit Oui). Third, the tourism sector is also boiling with various initiatives such as p2p house rentals (AirBnb), Couchsurfing, sharing food at one’s place (Cookening), or p2p travel experiences (Vayable).

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Monique Villa: Human stories shine in the new media landscape

F (c) Thomson Reuters Foundation and ReutersJournalists have a responsibility to reflect the world more accurately, believes Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But as she tells Lucy Purdy, there is now a resurgence in human-centred stories and media that triggers positive change

No stranger to the thrill of a scoop, Monique Villa’s eyes shine when she speaks of the adrenaline she feels being a journalist. A former news-breaking globetrotting reporter and news agency chief, and now head of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, her career has been fast-paced and varied.

Since being appointed CEO in 2008, Villa has transformed the Thomson Reuters Foundation into a global corporate organisation, leveraging the tremendous power of Thomson Reuters to run programmes that bring about change and empower people across the world. She has been ranked among the world’s 100 most influential people in Business Ethics by Ethisphere and is, above all, a passionate advocate of in-depth journalism. That is, the responsible, human-centred weaving of stories that matter.

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Wind power is cheapest energy, EU analysis finds

Onshore windfarms far cheaper than coal and gas when health impacts are factored in, report shows

Dawn over Whitlee wind farm on Eaglesham Moor just south of Glasgow, Europe's largest onshore wind farmOnshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account, according to an EU analysis.

The report says that for every megawatt hour (MW/h) of electricity generated, onshore wind costs roughly €105 (£83) per MW/h, compared to gas and coal which can cost up to around €164 and €233 per MW/h, respectively.

Nuclear power, offshore wind and solar energy are all comparably inexpensive generators, at roughly €125 per MW/h.

“This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Justin Wilkes, the deputy CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

The paper, which was written for the European commission by the Ecofys consultancy, suggests that the Conservative party plan of restricting new onshore windfarms will mean blocking out the cheapest source of energy when environmental and health facts are taken into consideration. It has been suggested the Tory plan could be done through a cap on onshore wind turbines’ output, lower subsidies or tighter planning restrictions.

“Any plans to change policy for onshore wind must be looked at in the context of this report,” said Oliver Joy a spokesman for EWEA. “Investors need long-term visibility. ‘Stop-start’ policies as well as harsh retroactive changes can blindside investors, driving up the risk premium and cost of capital.”

The documents’ contents may also be unwelcome in some quarters of the commission, which early today published selective results from it that did not include external health and pollution costs.

These showed that renewable energy took €38.3bn of public subsidies in 2012, compared to €22.3bn for gas, coal and nuclear. The EU did however note that if free carbon allowances to polluters were included in the data, it “would reduce the gap between support for renewables and other power generation technologies.”

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Towards Amsterdam Sharing City – Interview with Pieter van de Glind and Harmen van Sprang

shareNL _ Pieter van de Glind en Harmen van Sprang _ april 2014 _ (c) Merlijn DoomernikPieter van de Glind and Harmen van Sprang are the co-founders of ShareNL, a Dutch knowledge and networking platform that connects and informs initiatives from the sharing economy: consumers, businesses, organisations, governments, research institutions and media. Founded at the idea stage in 2012, in 2013 Pieter and Harmen set up the actual shareNL platform and started building on it. The team has now grown to include four more team members helping them in their work.

One important initiative started by shareNL is Amsterdam Sharing City. They work together with the city’s Economic Board, among a broad range of other local stakeholders, to make Amsterdam the first official “Sharing City” in Europe, following international examples like Seoul in South Korea and San Francisco in the US (BayShare).

In this interview, we asked Pieter and Harmen to share some of their experiences with this still relatively young project.

Stina:  Sharitories – what does this neologism evoke to you?

P&H: It evokes the transition from closed to open. From ownership to access.

Can you please tell us more about your work with shareNL? How did you end up doing it?

P&H: A couple of sharing economy entrepreneurs discovered the need for an overarching platform in the Netherlands. We stepped into making this platform happen while we were still studying and working on other things. Pieter at the time was doing research on the consumer potential of collaborative consumption. Co-founder Harmen van Sprang stepped in while he was working as a freelance innovation manager within the field of creatieve industries in Amsterdam. However, the main reason we ended up doing this is because we have a lot of passion for it.

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Primark opening flop in Dresden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In Dresden, in the former German Democratic Republic, now annexed by West Germany, the opening of a Primark store, the first in this ancient city, and also one of the first in the former East Germany (GDR), on November 19, 2014, was more or less a total flop. The expected crowds stayed away almost completely.

Whether it has to do with the people of Dresden are being more ethically minded than those in other parts, especially of West Germany, and avoided the store for that reason, or whether they the mindset of the old East still exists to some degree, or whether it is for another reason is not something that can be ascertained, fact is, however, they stayed away and the store was almost devoid of customers, with staff outnumbering customers by ten to one or more even.

Expected were in the region of 20,000 people through the doors upon opening but nothing happened. The only people queuing were two teenage girls. And those two customers, at this opening, were outnumbered by staff and security personnel, the latter who were supposed to keep the crowd in check.

Primark claims to be able to sell its clothing so very – one could say dirt – cheap because of high volume and low profit margin. The truth appears to be another one, as we have already discovered, namely that they goods are produced in Third World countries where workers are exploited and where they work for very little wages in often dangerous conditions.

Whether it was the weather, or the fact that the opening was on a weekday, or that the people in that city really have begun to return more to the ways that they and their parents have known, namely that of a more caring society under GDR socialism, that led to the flop of the opening is anyone's guess.

But, I firmly believe that we should send that company and others a message by staying away as much as possible from that kind of outlets that sell goods that are made on the backs of the poor in Third World countries.

And not buying that much is a good move on other levels too, not least the environment and our wallets.

© 2014

Building Super Soil

Garden soilSoil is the crucial building block for a city farm. Learn how to build healthy soil to nourish your farm garden.

When it comes to urban gardening, your soil will either make you or break you. To nurture healthy soil that will provide nutrients to your garden’s crop, understand what your soil is made of and how you can improve its structure.

Soil Components

In order to understand how best to care for the soil, it’s important to know what’s in it. Every sample of soil contains the same basic ingredients in relatively the same proportions.

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North Dakota Finds Itself Unprepared To Handle The Radioactive Burden Of Its Fracking Boom

Bags full of radioactive waste in an abandoned North Dakota building.North Dakota recently discovered piles of garbage bags containing radioactive waste dumped by oil drillers in abandoned buildings. Now, the state is trying to catch up to an oil industry that produces an estimated 27 tons of radioactive debris from wells daily.

Existing fines have apparently not been enough to deter contractors from dumping oil socks — coiled filters that strain wastewater and accumulate low levels of radiation.

“Before the Bakken oil boom we didn’t have any of these materials being generated,” the state’s Director of Waste Management Scott Radig told the Wall Street Journal. “So it wasn’t really an issue.”

The state is in the process of drafting rules, out in June, that require oil companies to properly store the waste in leak-proof containers. Eventually, they must move these oil socks to certified dumps. However, North Dakota has no facilities to process this level of radioactive waste. According to the Wall Street Journal, the closest facilities are hundreds of miles away in states like Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana.

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This could happen anywhere where fracking will be allowed. Are we prepared too having to deal with the aftermath just to get more fossil fuel to burn? Ed.

Finding Takers for Lonely Leftovers in a Culinary Nook of the Sharing Economy

BERLIN — Fresh from a bracing workout at the gym, Anton Kaiser gazed hungrily into a refrigerator, considering arugula, pineapple jam, salted butter and two bags of green grapes before reaching for a white bread roll, baked that morning. “I haven’t eaten all day,” he said, “so it’s great.”

Perhaps best of all, it was free, available in the middle of a graffitied courtyard in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Like the rest of the offerings in this so-called food sharing refrigerator, Mr. Kaiser’s bread roll would, under normal circumstances, have gone straight into the trash.

But in Germany, where concern about wasted food has mounted in recent years, such refrigerators — stocked with leftovers from private parties and restaurants, and open to the public — are just one of several initiatives aimed at keeping edibles out of the garbage.

There are roughly 100 of these food sharing sites in Germany. About 50 have refrigerators, and the rest are just shelves. They are a small, offline branch of, a two-year-old Internet platform that gives members a chance to connect with other food sharers online, should they find themselves in possession of an extra cabbage or, as one Foodsharing post put it, “too many delicious organic potatoes for one person to eat.”

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How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

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Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era

Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era• Study finds people believe work is plentiful and unemployment is a lifestyle choice
• Evidence of an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with questions over legitimacy of benefits
• Government rhetoric on ‘scroungers’ likely to reinforce these attitudes

British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of unemployed people and other disadvantaged groups, according to academics at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).

A study by the University of Sheffield has found there is a growing sense that unemployment is caused by individuals’ personal failings, rather than by structural problems in the economy.

People tend to believe that work is plentiful, and that unemployment was therefore a lifestyle choice, rather than an imposition, and that poverty therefore results from moral deficiencies.

The research also highlighted an alarming intolerance towards disabled people, with participants questioning the legitimacy of benefits for disabled people deemed incapable of working.

It is clear that the derogatory term ‘chav’ remains in popular usage. Middle class research participants tended to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture so as to validate and re-affirm their own superior social position. Working class respondents were more likely to identify and condemn ‘chav’ culture in order to distinguish themselves from it.

We appear to be witnessing the re-emergence of traditional distinctions between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, associated with the Victorian era.

This research identifies contemporary attitudes to the unemployed by drawing on a series of case studies conducted in Leeds, in Northern England. The evidence presented here is based on 90 interviews which were conducted with participants from a variety of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds.

The Coalition government’s welfare policies are in part a response to the kind of popular prejudices identified in the research. However, government rhetoric on welfare ‘scroungers’ is likely to reinforce these attitudes – focussing blame for poverty on individuals rather than on wider structural problems in Britain’s increasingly low-pay, low-skill economy.

There is in fact a danger that misplaced fears and prejudices relating to welfare claimants will present a threat to social cohesion, potentially legitimising policies which might exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social inequality.

Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield and author of the report, said: “The evidence is mounting that the coalition government’s austerity agenda has been targeted at the poorest groups in society rather than the most affluent.

“This research shows that this is reinforcing prejudicial and intolerant attitudes towards the most disadvantaged members of society, as the government has been successful in individualising the causes of poverty and unemployment, and marginalising the socio-economic determinants of hardship.”

The full report can be viewed at .

Today’s publication is the eight in a new series of SPERI British Political Economy Briefs. Through this series SPERI hopes to draw upon the expertise of its academic researchers to influence the debate in the UK on sustainable economic recovery.

Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) is an academic institute based at the University of Sheffield. The institute aims to bring together leading international researchers, policy-makers, journalists and opinion formers to develop new ways of thinking about the economic and political challenges posed for the whole world by the current combination of financial crisis, shifting economic power and environmental threat.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Source: University of Sheffield

Food Forests Could Bring Healthy Organic Food To Everyone – For Free

food_forestFood forests or Forest gardening have been around for a long time with many of the native cultures practicing this form of sustainable agriculture. It is a form of low-maintenance plant-based food production which replicates natural ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, running vines and perennial vegetables. Beneficial plants and companion planting is a big part of the food forest system.

Unlike much of the modern industrial agricultural system which relies heavily of inputs such as fossil fuels and artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, a food forest once established is self-regulating and highly abundant in yield.

Why Food Forests?

  • Forests are home to approximately 50-90% of all the world’s terrestrial (land-living) biodiversity — including the pollinators and wild relatives of many agricultural crops (Source: WWF Living Planet Report 2010)
  • Tropical forests alone are estimated to contain between 10-50 million species - over 50% of species on the planet.
  • Rainforests cover 2% of the Earth’s surface and 6% of its land mass, yet they are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species.

It is evident that forests themselves are synonymous with life, biodiversity and fertility. Where life gathers, complex and mutually beneficial relationships are created between organisms; natural harmonious communities form, and life forms multiply and proliferate. If forests are where most of the life on the planet is, then anything less than a forest is most likely less suited to supporting life. Life supports life, yet we have forgotten that we are in fact part of the web of life itself, and depend on other life to sustain ours.(1)

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Ambrogio Lorenzetti – Allegory of Good GovernmentIn the first part of the series “The Quest for New Value(s)”, I argued that the collaborative economy was a convenient “catch-all” concept, utterly insufficient to create a new paradigm shift all by itself. Yet we fiercely need a paradigm shift. My take is that the true paradigm shifter we are looking for is less the collaborative economy than its indirect impact on our social organization and our culture. Although less visible, they have the power to profoundly upset the current social order and are the key to what, at OuiShare, we call a collaborative society.

It’s time to explore what this collaborative society we started talking about a few months ago is. The consequence of this adventure is quite obviously the end of consensus: there is no guarantee that the social visions each one of cherishes are one and the same.

The “collaborative economy” and “collaborative society” approaches are peculiarly different: the latter is prescriptive while the former is descriptive. Having the ambition to build a collaborative society implies that we have at least a set of principles, values, beliefs, wishes, in one word, an affirmative vision for which we could fight for. Some would call it an ideology. I am certain most of you would prefer to avoid to talk about ideology altogether because of its heavy historical burden. But thinking about society exclusively in economic terms is actually the most hidden and perfidious form of ideology, and it’s called neoliberalism. This ideology’s biggest asset consists in disguising its set of values and beliefs under alleged rational and scientific terms. Maybe talking openly about the ideology associated to a collaborative society is more honest, yet more dangerous.

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7 Crops to Kick Off Your Spring Garden

Is your green thumb itching to get gardening again? These cold-loving crops will help you get the growing season started.

7 Crops to Kick Off Your Spring Garden - Photo by Stephen Ticehurst/Flickr ( of us gardeners eagerly anticipate getting our hands in the dirt after a long winter indoors. To get a jump on the spring growing season requires a bit of planning, as well as knowledge of cold-tolerant vegetables and season extension techniques.

A key is to prepare the soil in the fall, so you can begin planting seeds in the spring as soon as the soil has completely thawed and warmed to the seed variety’s minimum temperature for germination. Keep in mind that heavy soils, such as clay, compact when worked while wet, preventing drainage. Allow them to dry out adequately before working them, especially if you didn’t prepare them in the fall.

Growing crops that germinate at cooler soil temperatures also helps you get an early start. (It also helps if they can withstand unexpected late frosts, though isn’t necessary if you use row covers or cold frames when the temperature is expected to dip below freezing.) To determine the soil temperature, stick a soil thermometer about 1 inch deep into the soil and allow it to stabilize. If it’s at the minimum recommended temperature, it’s time to kick off planting your spring garden. Here are seven crops to try.

1. Beets (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris)

Some beet varieties, like heirloom Chioggia, mature in as little as 45 days, making them ideal for an early crop. When soil has warmed to 40 degrees F, plant seeds 3/4 inch deep, 1 inch apart, in rows spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. When seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart by cutting off the tops. Don’t pull seedlings, as this might uproot nearby plants you want to keep.

Beets tolerate soil low in nutrients but need even water to prevent becoming bitter, so keep soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the growing season.

Begin harvesting beets when they reach 1 inch in diameter, or if you want larger crops, wait until they reach 3 inches in size. Larger beets can become pithy. Beets can withstand light frost, but should be harvested before the heat of summer, which slows sugar production, making them less palatable.

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More than village gossip: how hyperlocal journalism is reinvigorating communities

Citizen JournalistAs local newspapers close and budget cuts put increasing pressure on remaining journalists, the hyperlocal journalism movement is stepping up to provide the services communities rely on. Nicola Slawson finds out more

For 126 years there had been a local newspaper in Fulham and Hammersmith. The first issue, which came out on 6 April 1888, featured a story about an accident involving a local boy who had been delivering milk on Dawes Road. In April 2014 the Hammersmith and Fulham Chronicle was closed, leaving 180,000 people without a local newspaper.

Some, including the local council, were shocked when owners Trinity Mirror announced their decision. But some 242 local newspapers were closed between 2007 and 2011, according to the Press Gazette. More newspapers are being added to this figure each year. And it’s not just closures that are causing waves in local journalism; budget cuts and redundancies are putting increased pressure on remaining staff.

It’s in this environment that a new sector is fast emerging. Known as ‘hyperlocal’, or community journalism, thousands of websites have been set up across the UK serving local communities.

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Is the end of the Euro nigh?

Deutsche Bank forecasts crash of the Euro for 2017

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

According to predictions by the Deutsche Bank the Euro is headed for the abyss and it is headed for it at a rate of knots. They predict that the demise of the is about imminent and state that the Euro zone is headed for the largest capital flight in history and estimate that the value of the Euro until the year 2017 will fall to below that of one US Dollar.

euroAfter already Goldman Sachs, the leading American investment bank, declared the true and fair value of the Euro to be one Dollar or less the Deutsche Bank is following suit in that analysis. According to prognoses by Deutsche Bank the Euro will only be worth 95 US-Cents by 2017, which would mean a catastrophe for Europe and the Euro.

A fall to 95 US-Cent would mean a devaluing of the Euro by 25%. With this estimate the Deutsche Bank stands, however, almost alone as almost no other bank seems to see it in the same way. However, as the Deutsche Bank is the world's second largest dealer in foreign currencies this estimate should be taken seriously and into consideration.

Currency expert George Saravelos justifies this with the largest flight of capital the Europe will be facing in the near future. The continuing stagnation in Europe – even the possibility of another recession in the Euro zone – which is being likened to the lost decades of Japan, together with low rates of growth (as said, another recession may be in the offing even) and very low rates of interest will lead to investors no longer seeing any return for their investments in Europe and thus will move their money in droves to other places. This would seriously weaken the European common currency.

Saravelos said that the proof for his thesis of the Euro problems are in the economic data. The currency union produces record export surpluses while at the same time the unemployment rate remains at a record high.

This is referred to as an economic paradox. The export surpluses are estimated to be soon over 400 Billion Euro per annum and thus will be higher than those of China even. This surplus is, however, not, as it would be common, transferred into local currency in order to pay workers there. The European Central Bank (ECB) creates artificially low interest rates and negative deposit rates and levies penalty interest on the money that is “stored” in banks and shown on the balance sheets the investments of which are over 500 Billion Euro so that investors have no other option but to move their money abroad.

The British Barclays Banks sees the situation equally gloomy as does the Deutsche Bank and also the US bank Morgan Stanley.

Already in October 2014 the Euro crashed from its then value of $ 1.40 to the current level of $ 1.26.

A further devaluation of the Euro of the magnitude predicted and estimated by the Deutsche Bank and others will see the Euro zone hitting rock bottom and as no local, as in sovereign national currencies, exist anymore in the Euro zone countries those cannot even jump into the gap to bridge things.

This could lead to a new Great Depression rather than just a Great Recession in the Euro zone and to a collapse of the economy – at least of those parts of industry and commerce dependent on export – with serious consequences. The 1920s in Germany will look benign in comparison to what may be headed Europe's way should the predictions of Deutsche Bank be to some degree correct.

© 2014

A Calendar/Mandala Celebrating Natural Cycles

Natural cycles are circular, so why are calendars not? Robert Alcock explains why he has created a free to download and print, circular calendar/mandala for everyone to use!

ALC-CAL15.jpgEver since I can remember, my internal picture of the year has been a circle - with summer opposite winter, spring opposite autumn. This makes perfect sense if you consider that, after all, a circle is the shape of the Earth's orbit around the sun.

The view of time as a cycle has been around for millennia - examples include the Celtic wheel of the year, the Mayan calendar, the Taoist yin-yang symbol and the Dharma wheel in Buddhism. But modern cosmology views time as an arrow, not a cycle: a endless onward progression with no turning back. Our calendars reflect this view, presenting time as an infinite sequence of rectangular boxes, reminiscent of the boxes (like houses, rooms, and cars) in which many of us spend our lives.

But for anyone who values our connection with the natural cycles of earth, sun and moon, it makes far more sense to depict the year as a circle. If you think about it, it's rather surprising that so few calendars represent the year in its natural shape.

Since I couldn't find any round calendar designs that I liked, eventually I decided to go ahead and make my own. This design has been evolving for about three years, and I'm fairly happy with it, but it isn't meant to be definitive. I'm offering it on the web for free in the hope that others will pick up the idea and run with it.

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Hives for Pollination and Conservation

WM2013-8-4 041 (2)When most people think of bee keeping, jars of glistening honey come to mind. And while there’s no argument that honey is perhaps one of the sweetest and immediate rewards of bee keeping, it should be considered that bees and other pollinators provide benefits on such a larger scale. It’s important to support pollinators of all kinds and we can do this by providing a variety of housing to not only Honey Bees but other species of pollinators as well.

Here are some interesting facts about pollinators provided by The NAPPC (North American Polinator Protection Campaign) and the Pollinator Partnership.

“Why does pollination matter to us?
• Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
• Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila.
• In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

Are pollinators in trouble?
• Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plan and animal species, and diseases and parasites.
• Many pollinators are federally “listed species,” meaning that there is evidence of their disappearance in natural areas.
• The U.S. has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years.
• A lack of research has hindered our knowledge about the status of pollinators. The E.U. has been so concerned that they have invested over $20 million investigating the status of pollinators in Europe.

So as you can see pollinators of all kinds are important to the us, our food production, the production of medicines and the natural balance of the food chain. For those of you who want to support pollinators, but perhaps don’t want to get involved in the whole honey extraction process, here are a few alternative hive options that might interest you.

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Your iPhone Is Literally Crippling People In Third World Countries. Watch This, Make A Difference.

More than half of U.S. electronic waste is shipped overseas.Okay, your iPhone is not directly causing a problem; rather it, in combination with all the other electronics of the world, contributes to a devastating global issue–electronic waste dumping. Even more devastating, however, is the fact that the very people who fuel the endless cycle of electronics consumption have no idea that this problem exists*. The latest and greatest gadgets hit the market, and the old (and usually, perfectly good) devices fill our closets, trash cans, and maybe (but likely not) our recycling bins. Out with the old, and in with the new, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

As this video illustrates, there is no magical place called “away” in terms of electronic waste. In most cases, “away” is a smoldering dumping ground on the other side of the ocean where children burn electronics to salvage their scrap metals, inhaling toxic fumes in exchange for a few measly dollars. And, if it’s not the fumes that hurt, then the dangers of a crime-ridden electronics black market add to the harmful impact. Whatever the issue may be, “dumping” creates serious, and in some cases life-threatening, problems for its victims.

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Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

That day appears to be dawning.

The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.

Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.

Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire, but recent analyses show that even without those subsidies, alternative energies can often compete with traditional sources.

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Tips for Beginning Gardeners

Me in the gardenBeginning a garden is to embark into a world full of joy, excitement, and reward. For those of you who are just beginning to garden I say, "Welcome! Enjoy your mistakes, learn from them." As my grandfather told me, "The basics are the same for everyone, but we all have our own way of gardening." Don't be afraid to try and fail, learn and implement the lessons in your next garden. There is a great deal of information available to you, especially with the Internet, but that can be kind of daunting. I suggest finding a resource or two that you can identify with and trust. If you don't have someone in your family who is a gardener, the best thing to do is to find a local farmer and learn from them, you can start by visiting your local farmers' market. Most of us are happy to share our knowledge with someone who truly wants to learn.

I was fortunate to be born and raised a southern farm girl. When we are raised in a certain way, we tend to forget that not everyone knows what we know. Expecting a beginning gardener to know what we have learned over a lifetime, is like expecting me to go to Atlanta International Airport and know my way around! With that scary thought in mind, there are a few tips I have learned that I would like to share with you. Hopefully, these will enhance your gardening experience.

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A Miscellany for Garden Lovers – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A Miscellany for Garden Lovers
by David Squire
Hardback, 144 pages
Published by Green Books, 13th November 2014
ISBN: 9780857842749
Price: £9.99 

A Miscellany for Garden-LoversGardening is an age-old craft that is about as old as when people first settled and began to cultivate the land and grow vegetables for food, and flowers for beauty and health. It is steeped in mystique and peppered with handed-down wisdom, often derived from “sons of the soil” who grew larger cabbages than their neighbors.

A Miscellany for Garden Lovers is a fact-drenched and beautifully illustrated book of insights into garden history that will leave you enthralled with its diversity – from digging the soil and keeping of bees to early plant hunters and weather rhymes, as well as used for plants you may have never heard of.

In a little over 140 pages the author presents you with garden knowledge in the form of short snippets which, more often than not, will leave you longing for more information on the subject. Just as it should be!

A lovely presented hardback book that will make a great addition to every gardener's and garden lover's library, and will make a gift that will be highly cherished.

Even I, as a professional gardener and forester and someone who grew up in the countryside, have learned things, many things, from the pages of this book that I never knew before.

About the author:

David Squire has spent a lifetime gardening and writing. He has written more than 80 books and has been awarded the Garden Writers of America ‘Quill and Trowel’ award. David studied horticulture at the Hertfordshire College of Horticulture and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden at Wisley, Surrey, England.

I have greatly enjoyed this book and it will find a special place on my bookshelf where it will be used for reference every now and again, I am sure.

As we were mentioning “cherished gift” earlier this book, considering that time of the year is coming up again, will make a great present for any garden lover and will be very well received for sure.

Rating: 6 out of 5 (if it would just be possible) so it will have to be 5 out of 5, I guess.

© 2014

Developing a sustainable living may require urban agriculture

Developing a sustainable living may require urban agricultureImagine living in an inner city and buying your vegetables and fruit just moments after they've been harvested. Imagine waking up to the rustic sound of a cock crowing. Imagine your household waste and sewage serving to grow even more food in a highly sustainable way. This is the promising picture painted by the EU-funded Supurbfood project.

"The goal of the Supurbfood project," Han Wiskerke tells, "is to make urban and peri-urban agriculture much more important than it is now." Wiskerke is the coordinator of the project and a professor of rural sociology at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. He goes on to explain that the project also aims to close the food-waste cycle, to shorten the food supply chains, and to create multifunctional land use in cities.

The results of Supurbfood cannot be quantified just yet since the project will continue until October 2015. But it is clear that promoting urban agriculture is likely to encounter some hurdles. Among them, one of the issues is "legislation, most of all," the coordinator explains, "For instance human excrement is often forbidden as manure in food production; yet it can be a very valuable component of compost."

All the other possible problems can be dealt with. The lack of space, for example, can be solved by growing vegetables, nuts, and fruit in parks. Poultry and small animals can be kept on rooftops, and in petting zoos. And 'greening' a city makes it a nicer place to live in, with cleaner air and more recreational facilities. Multifunctional land use is key according to Wiskerke.

But the implementation of this ambitious plan is not all straightforward. "Pollution, however, is a problem," he admits. "Not so much for air pollution; you can wash that off easily, but pollution of the soil; that needs to be monitored carefully."

Other scientists in the field are generally in favour of the project concept. And they point out that the project's inherent process of international dialogue is one of its crucial and very innovative aspects. In addition, the sharing of experiences and exchange of best practice makes it unique, and the most promising project of its kind.

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Restarter Profile: Meet Faraz

Untitled 5Tell us a little about yourself.

I studied Materials Science in Oxford University and I’m still finding my way, career-wise. What I’d like to do is design and invent interesting products, so I spend lots of time in hackspaces working on prototypes.

When did you start repairing electronics and electricals?

My secondary school science teacher had given me a soldering iron when I did an after school electronics class. I still have it today and bring it to every Restart Party. It helped me replace a capacitor in an LCD monitor being discarded at uni. If there was a broken electronics item in the house it was a good exercise to break it open and deduce how it works. This sort of curiosity helps with fault finding skills.

Why do you attend Restart Parties?

I love helping people, I love learning and I love solving a puzzle. At Restart Parties I can do all three at the same time. I have made some great friends amongst the regular Restarters and it’s awesome to meet up and see how they’re getting on.

What is your favourite kind of repair?

I like hacks. They may not be pretty, and it’s a bit of a grey area for repair, but it’s cool to use the tools at your disposal and some creative ingenuity to improve something. Those fixes leave me with a good feeling.

What do you do when you are not Restarting?

I spend a few evenings in an open workspace/hackspace in my area. Use the few hours to develop something I’m working on that might use an arduino. I have a wild imagination with many ideas I’d like to explore, I hope one day I can use some of them to earn money.

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Sheffield plastic is fantastic for growing bottle firm

1363573369It is a Sheffield manufacturing success story that shows the city is about more than just metals.

More than 600,000 Ohyo collapsible drinks bottles have been sold worldwide and the firm has just launched a new larger size aiming to crack the outdoor and US market.

The ingenious item can be squished more than 10,000 times while the special plastic resists mould and is dishwasher safe. It is on sale in M&S and Boots.

Founder Guy Jeremiah has worked with William Beckett Plastics since 2009 and is set use the firm’s Chicago warehouse.

His success comes after he was famously slated by Duncan Bannatyne on Dragons’ Den, who threw the bottle at him in rage.


How trust can be a practical tool for positive change

Being able to trust can create a powerful foundation for reframing how we see the world and taking more purposeful actions in our lives, discovers Jini Reddy at the Findhorn New Story Summit

P1030878 (2)Is trust the secret ingredient in the recipe for creating a brave new world?

As I travelled to the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community, learning centre and ecovillage in Scotland, I chewed this over. I was attending the New Story Summit, a week-long global gathering aimed at creating new narratives around ecology, social justice and the economy.

The question seemed apt: after all, the Findhorn Foundation community owes its existence to acts of radical trust. In the sixties, its founders faithfully followed their intuition – the ‘still, small voice within’ as one of the trio, Eileen Caddy called it. Via guidance received in this way barren soil was miraculously transformed into a wonderland of garden produce: flowers, plants, herbs and vegetables, including 40-pound cabbages that stunned horticultural experts (well-documented at the time). A community based on a culture of service and deep listening grew from this. Trust led to a new model, hitherto unthinkable.

Yet, it’s an ancient and sacrosanct practice within indigenous cultures. “For many sustainable cultures there’s a principle of reciprocity and right relations. This often translates as ‘never take more than you can use, never harvest more from this Mother Earth for your life needs than you can replace in your own lifetime’,” says Pat McCabe of the Dine Nation in New Mexico, who led rituals during the event.

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Recycling is BULLSHIT

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This video explains, though a little tongue in cheek, what I have been saying in several of my pieces over time too as regards to recycling and all that.

Much of what we have been told about recycling, and the mantra has become one of “we must recycle more, and more and still some more”, rather than the original one of “reduce, reuse, recycle”, is false and is not because our governments and industry are concerned about the environment and the amount of refuse. Recycling is big business. But when there is a glut of recyclables then then what happens? They go the normal route, namely to the landfill and in fact even when there is not a glut many of them do.

The most important thing for us to do to reduce waste going into the waste stream – and I include the “recycling stream” here – is to reduce the waste that we generate and then we must learn to reuse and upcycle before we even consider any other option. That way we save money and keep stuff out of the trash tips.

© 2014

Make your own propagator

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

recycled propagator 3While, no doubt, you could and can go and buy you plant propagator, such as the fairly inexpensive Propagro, you can easily make your own plant propagators at no cost, almost.

The easiest way it to make such a propagator for individual pots is to use a clear plastic bag, place the pot (with seed(s) inside) and lightly close the top of the bag. It works! I have done it and that more than once. And this is a great reuse for those clear plastic produce bag one has to use at so many of the greengrocers in which to package the fruit or vegetables.

Another way to make your own propagator, and you are actually recycling or reusing and upcycling, whichever term we should use here is irrelevant, is to put PET bottles – bottoms cut off/out – as cloches over the pots (or even seeds/seedlings/plants outside). The caps make it possible then to control, of a fashion, the air flow and you can take the caps of entirely to give more air. Alternatively you can poke a little hole into the caps for airflow.

Reusing PET bottles in the garden is not only reserved for use as cloches and propagators but propagators is what we are concerning ourselves with at the moment.

Small bottles, such as half-liter or liter ones work well to put on standard plant pots to grow on individual seedlings while the larger two liter or even larger ones, such as the large water bottles, work well over larger plants to keep them warm-ish, even in the colder months.

Obviously, it will not keep tender plants that really should be in a greenhouse during winter from freezing but other plants can, possibly, kept going for a much longer time with such cloches.

The best use for such recycled cloches, in general, however, is to use them for starting off seeds.

© 2014


Persimmon plc group CEO Jeff Fairburn with Brigadier Greville Bibby and new ex-services recruits Martin Hughes, Ross Wilson and Luke Daly.Leading housebuilder, Persimmon Homes, has announced a recruitment drive to bring up to 500 ex-military personnel into the business.

The housebuilder, which has 24 regional businesses in England, Wales and Scotland, is working with Nordic Focus Training, to retrain people from the Army, Royal Navy and RAF in bricklaying and joinery.

Speaking at the launch, held at one of its developments in Durham, group CEO, Jeff Fairburn, said: “We have worked hard over the course of 2014 to develop this programme to help us meet a shortage of much needed skilled tradesmen across the UK.

“Earlier this year we appointed a dedicated ex-military resettlement specialist, Tommy Watson, to spearhead the programme and we began welcoming the first of our new employees at the start of October. We are already on course to bring 500 new people into the business in 2015 and if our growth continues, we will repeat this in 2016.

“The new recruits are all starting on an 18 month training programme with time spent in the classroom and out on site. Our courses welcome new people every four weeks and based on the recruits we’ve already seen we are very excited with the quality of the candidates and some of them I’m sure will go on to take management positions within the business in the future.”

Persimmon currently employs 3500 people across 24 businesses as well as its head office in York. Alongside trainee bricklayers and joiners, the company is also directly employing other staff with a military background into sales and management roles.

In 2013, Persimmon signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant and all new trainees will be encouraged to be reservists.

Persimmon will build over 13,000 new homes in 2014 and plans to open many more developments in 2015.

“As a business, we appreciate how hard our team works to support our growth and deliver new homes to communities across the UK. Each year hundreds of young new apprentices and trainees join us and I know that the latest ex-service people to join us will be welcomed by everyone.”

Source: SourceWire

Photo: Jeff Fairburn, Brigadier Bibby & soldiers

Conservation Solutions Can Improve Water Quality For Millions of Britons

New scientific findings indicate that Bristol and Glasgow could achieve a ten percent reduction in sediment from its water supply by investing in watershed conservation

UrbanWaterBlueprintArlington, VA — Britain’s water quality is under unprecedented pressure from high nutrient and sediment levels due to increasing populations, climate change and environmental degradation. With urban water use on the rise, securing an adequate and clean water supply is an urgent challenge.

The “Urban Water Blueprint” released today by The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the International Water Association, provides an in-depth analysis of 2,000 drinking sources (rivers, forests and other ecosystems from which water comes from) serving over 500 large and medium sized cities. This includes the 100 largest cities in the world, representing nearly 1 billion people. Collectively, these cities represent $21.8 trillion in economic activity, or 48 percent of the global urban GDP.

Preventing water from becoming polluted can often be more cost-effective than treatment. The analysis finds that one in four cities would see a positive return on investment from investing in watershed conservation.

Bristol and Glasgow have been identified in the “Urban Water Blueprint” as cities that could reduce sediment and nutrients from their water sources by ten percent through incorporating conservation solutions and subsequently lowering their water treatment costs by an average of five percent.

“This analysis answers for the first time, the fundamental questions of what investments can be taken to incorporate nature in the delivery of clean water and the quantitative value of these actions for water managers,” said Giulio Boccaletti, The Nature Conservancy’s global managing director for water.

“Cities that invest in watershed conservation can no longer be the rare exception; rather such investments need to become a regular part of the toolbox for water managers. For this to happen, people living in cities need to understand where their water comes from so that city and water managers can support measures that will often be implemented outside of metropolitan areas.”

The “Urban Water Blueprint” not only identifies the water risks facing large cities around the world, but analyzes the potential for five conservation strategies that have proven performance and wide applicability across natural and working (agricultural) landscapes. The strategies include Forest Protection; Reforestation; Agricultural Best Management Practices; Riparian Restoration; and Forest Fuel Reduction.

Each strategy is evaluated on how effectively it reduces sedimentation and nutrient pollution in the 2,000 watersheds that were analyzed.

Forest protection and reforestation have been identified as the best conservation strategies for both British cities. The analysis identified that Glasgow has the highest potential for sediment and nutrient reduction from its watersheds and Bristol a medium potential on sediment reduction.

“We found that watershed conservation can be both an economical viable and environmentally sound investment for developed and developing cities alike,” said Robert McDonald, senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy and one of the lead authors of the report. “What’s so exciting is that cities that embrace both the engineered and natural solutions to securing adequate and clean water supplies can not only meet future demand, they can literally reshape surrounding landscapes for the better.”

“IWA sees the growing strategic importance of connecting cities to their watersheds, and water utilities as pivotal players in making the various inter-dependencies work. Watershed conservation solutions will increasingly need to become mainstream options for water utilities and cities for enhancing water security” Tom Williams, director of programmes, at The International Water Association.

"Access to clean and adequate water supplies is a critical issue facing global mayors, and one made more pressing as cities grapple with the impacts of climate change. The research released today shines a spotlight on the need for urban watershed conservation strategies, and paves the way for cities around the world to share knowledge and implement viable solutions," said Seth Schultz, director of research, measurement & planning at C40.

About The Urban Water Blueprint

The “Urban Water Blueprint – Mapping Conservation Solutions to the Global Water Challenge” was made possible through generous contributions from Ecolab through its Foundation, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Foundation, and 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation.

The “Urban Water Blueprint” has an accompanying website as a tool for city and water managers to evaluate the condition of drinking watersheds and the potential impact that conservation strategies, such as reforestation and agricultural best management practices, can have on water quality.

Displaying new information on more than 2,000 watersheds and 530 cities, the Blueprint provides science-based recommendations on where these strategies are most cost-effective. This data, along with detailed case studies of cities that have successfully adopted watershed conservation, can serve as a guide for city and water managers planning future infrastructure investments that include both engineered and natural infrastructure, as well as a learning tool for the one billion people living in the featured cities.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 119 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

The Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally. C40 was established in 2005 and expanded via a partnership in 2006 with President William J. Clinton’s Climate Initiative (CCI). The current chair of the C40 is Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes; the 108th Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board. To learn more about the work of C40 and our Cities, please visit, follow us on Twitter @c40cities and like us on Facebook at

The International Water Association (IWA) is a global reference point for water professionals and a source of knowledge, experience and leadership for sustainable urban and basin-related water solutions. IWA members come together from across the water profession to share knowledge, experience and know-how that deliver solutions to the most pressing global water challenges. The strength of IWA lies in the professional and geographic diversity of its members: we are represented in 130 countries through 10,000 individual and 500 corporate members, including scientists from across many disciplines, economists, accountants, social scientists, and managers and leaders among those professions.

Source: The Nature Conservancy


Most expensive vegetables in your gardenMany vegetables can be expensive to purchase by growing the most expensive vegetables in your garden and buying the least inexpensive vegetables at your grocery store you can easily help drop your food budget.  This especially important for people like me with very limited space to grow everything that I consume.

It may be impossible to put a price on the satisfaction of bringing in a basket of produce fresh from your garden.  As well as the enhanced flavors from having truly fresh produce from your garden compared to that of your local supermarket.  Though when I was harvesting my potatoes this summer with my daughter I did have the thought, Would it have been smarter for me to grow something else in this space?  I estimate out of the 4-5 square feet I used for these plants I probably got about $4-5 worth of potatoes.

I did a little research first to determine yields of various plants per square foot and secondly what the value (organic supermarket prices USD) of the yielded produce at harvest.  Given I am a city dweller with a fairly small footprint for my vegetable garden (about 30-35 square feet) making decisions on what to buy at the supermarket and what to grow in the garden may be a huge money saver with just a few dollars invested in some seeds for your vegetable garden

Now from the results below you can see the winners for the most produce value per square foot are many of the leafy green vegetables/herbs (cilantro, lettuce, chives, dill, Swiss chard) next comes many of the larger vine plants (tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, peas) with many of the root plants taking up the rear.  Now much of this makes sense where many of the vine plants grow on trellises and are allowed to spread, which I guess is sort of cheating the square foot rule but I will let it slide.  Compared to the root plants whose production is entirely dependent on the space allowed in square footage they have to grow as well as these are normally inexpensive produce items to begin with.

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Don't rake your leaves, scientists say

leavesSEATTLE, Wash. -- Here's an excuse to use the next time someone asks you to rake the leaves: science.

The National Wildlife Federation is encouraging people to leave the leaves.

On its website, the NWF says dry, dead leaves are important habitats for all kinds of critters.

Butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, and other creatures live, lay eggs in or eat from leaves, according to NWF's plea with the public to let the leaves stay where gravity left them.

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TreeHouse is like Home Depot with a green conscience

Stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot often don’t live up their promise of “home improvement.” After all, if we’re throwing away useful old materials, buying new stuff, and working all weekend just to keep up with the latest trends in design and decor, but the house still leaks like a sieve and gobbles electricity, what’s really being improved?

In 2011, to address this home-nonimprovement issue, environmental consultant Jason Ballard opened a new store called TreeHouse, in Austin, Texas, focused on digs-enhancing projects that make homes more energy-efficient and eco-friendly.This one-stop greening shop provides straightforward guidance and building products that are otherwise only available to professional architects, designers, and construction companies.

The Guardian‘s recent profile of the company sums up the problem TreeHouse tries to tackle:

Currently, customers interested in reducing their electric bill or cutting their carbon footprint are faced with a baffling array of products and options, some of which are outstanding – and many of which are not.

To make matters worse, if customers want accurate, up-to-date information on sustainable products, they usually have to do a lot of research on their own. That combination of limited access and a dearth of information creates hurdles that turn many consumers off.

Demystifying the world of smartening our dumb homes hinges on enlightened employees, so every one of the company’s workers gets 110 hours of training each year. Furthermore, the center of the store — prime product space — is reserved for education and demonstrations. For shoppers in a hurry, TreeHouse offers a simple “better-best-exceptional” performance-scoring system.

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Charity builds "Lego-style houses" to tackle UK rent crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Y CubeOne of Britain's leading housing charities has come up with a novel way to beat London's housing crisis, in the form of “Lego-style” housing. Though they say housing crisis and the government does neither London nor the UK has a housing crisis, nor a homelessness one; all the UK has is an empty homes crisis.

Y: Cube, developed by the YMCA, offer 26 square meter prefabricated “studio” apartments that can be easily built almost anywhere.

According to the charity, the housing blocks provide everything from clean water to central heating, making them the ideal home for people working in London unable to afford the capital's rent. And that problem was created by one of the previous government, namely the Thatcher regime, when it more-or-less forced the councils to divest themselves off their social housing stocks.

One unit costs around £30,000 to build, and are let for £140 per week, making the units 65 percent cheaper than standard London accommodation.

The units were developed with Roger Strik Harbour, an award winning architect partially owned by Baron Rogers of Riverside, which specializes in functionalist structures.

Closely resembling the red hotels found on a Monopoly board, the units can also be stacked in a tower in order to save space and fit more residents.

“The average disposable income going on housing now is going on fifty percent. People are having to make huge compromises, they're having to share flats, share houses. Ideally, what people want is their own front door,” YMCA Director of Housing and Development Andy Readfearn has said.

“So there's a massive, massive gap and what we want to do is begin to address that, challenge the sector to provide choice and give hope to people.

“You have to innovate, you have to bring different people to the market. Y: Cube is our solution. This allows us to procure accommodation quickly, we can keep these rents really low so everyone benefits,” he added.

Such solutions come as homelessness is spiking across the UK.

According to the Combined Homeless and Information Network (CHAIN) database, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless between 2013-14, while the number of people sleeping rough in London grew by more than 70 percent, to 6,437 people.

Other reports suggest one in three Britons are just one pay check away from homelessness, as wages at the bottom end of the economy continue to stagnate.

Shelter, another homeless support charity, estimate more than 90,000 children in the UK are without a permanent home, the highest number of homeless children since 2011.

The biggest scandal, as already mentioned, is the fact, though, that there are homeless people, individuals and families, while at the same there are thousands upon thousands of empty homes, not to speak of other empty properties that groups of people would be happy to turn into homes themselves, that are allowed to decay, that are not even on the empty homes register as they are waiting for the right time and price to be sold off to developers, including and especially council homes.

The government, and, I am afraid to say, housing charities in the main, are harping on about the lack of (affordable) homes and the need to, therefore, destroy the countryside to build more homes.

The truth of the matter is, however, that not more new homes are needed but old ones need to be made habitable and rented out to those that need them. But there is no money in for the boys and no backhanders for the politicians, central and local alike, and civil servants.

Only new home building attracts tax relief from government for the home builders and thus it is why also self-build is rather discouraged in Britain and it all has to be built by building companies. Self-builders also don't give nice little handouts to politicians and civil servants, whether in money or in kind; companies, on the other hand, who are being awarded, or hope to be awarded, such government contract, on the other hand, do give such incentives to those “helping” them.

A change of system is needed in order for all to live in decent homes that they can afford.

© 2014