Co-op truck drivers considering strike action

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Co-op truckA thousand Co-operative Group distribution drivers are in talks to take strike action following an announcement that some drivers will be transferred to Eddie Stobart.

The board of the Co-operative Group made the decision in the week beginning January 25, and 85 staff at the Coventry national distribution center were told on on the 28th that they could be moved to the private haulier Stobart in April. The 310,000 sq. ft. Coventry warehouse deals with ambient goods and delivers to a dozen regional distribution hubs.

Unite, the trade union representing the workers, said it had “serious concerns” about the impact for other drivers across the business because it believes the Group could outsource its entire haulage operation. It is consulting with all members about going on strike.

Adrian Jones, Unite's national officer for retail distribution, said: “The Co-op has already intimated that it does not see itself as a haulier. It is our belief that with four sites already outsourced in Andover, Avonmouth, Cambridgeshire and the north west, the plans to outsource Coventry are the thin end of the wedge.

“That's why we are holding this consultative ballot for these 1,000 driver members because if they are outsourced it is highly likely that their pay, and terms and conditions will be seriously eroded; even their jobs could be under threat.

“Our members' job security across the national transport network is being put at risk by the Co-op's action. We are taking the temperature for industrial action and expect to then move to a full industrial action ballot.”

A spokesman for the Group said: “We have entered into consultation with affected colleagues regarding some of our logistics operations. The consultation is with colleagues about the proposed changes and how they are potentially impacted.

“We are still in the early stages of consultation, but all staff will be offered roles with the new employers under TUPE regulations, which has the potential to involve 85 drivers.”

Unite said all of its members were at risk of future outsourcing and it will be holding a consultative ballot of its 1,000 Co-op driver members who are based at Birtley, Newcastle; Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland; Castlewood, north

Derbyshire; Coventry; Newhouse, Lanarkshire; Plymouth and Thurrock in Essex.

The Group currently operates around 3,000 vehicles and trailers from 13 distribution centers.

Unite also raised concerns about the proposal, because of its past relations with Eddie Stobart. In 2012, Unite was involved in a long-running dispute when Tesco in Doncaster transferred 184 workers the haulage firm. It said drivers were then issued with a termination of employment notice with no prospect of re-employment.

Eddie Stobart “has proved to be ruthless in its treatment of such workers, as its behaviour at Doncaster proves only too clearly”, said Mr Jones.

He added: “Eddie Stobart's approach to industrial relations compared to the ethos of the co-operative movement is like 'chalk-and-cheese'.

“The Co-op Group has been through some difficult times recently during which Unite was extremely supportive. We are, therefore, very disappointed by this announcement.

“The Co-op's Christmas retail figures were encouraging, but we see this decision as a big retrograde step.

“All Unite is asking is that we have more time to investigate the viability of the comprehensive list of suggestions put forward by our shop stewards at Coventry to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

“But the management has declined to give us that opportunity, which is a great shame given the long-standing ethical values of the Co-op.”

It's a shame the Co-op Group so often doesn't seem to 'get' the wider co-operative movement. This could be a wonderful opportunity to help the drivers set up an independent workers co-op. With a bit of funding in place of redundancy payouts it certainly could be done. Instead the Co-operative Group just outsources things a non-democratic and anti-union company.

Having said that the unions are no better wither as setting up workers co-ops is not in their interest, as the need for a union is significantly reduced. A workers co-op, being in itself a democratic and co-operative company has no need, to all intents and purposes, for a union and therefore the unions are, in fact, not very positively inclined towards workers co-ops. Not that one can blame them really as it would reduce their funding.

One can also but say that it would appear are the Co-op Group has very much lost its way and definitely any connection to the roots whence it comes. It might be high time that Co-op members told the board exactly where to go and which direction.

© 2016

Aldi asks suppliers to stop using bee-killing pesticides

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Aldi-sued1German discounter Aldi has asked its German and Dutch fruit and vegetable suppliers to stop using eight pesticides that were found hazardous to bees. According to a press release from Greenpeace, Aldi Süd has asked the suppliers to bring this to effect at the earliest. These eight pesticides include, thiamethoxam, chlorpyrifos, clothianidin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fipronil, imidacloprid and sulfoxaflor.

Aldi is the first large European retailer to put a stop on the use of these pesticides, which is found hazardous to the bees. The Dutch and German growers, who supply fruits and vegetables to Aldi Süd, now will have to adapt their cultivation to suit the new requirement from Aldi. According to Greenpeace, this would not be a huge problem. More and more farmers and growers succeed in cultivating food without using these pesticides, Greenpeace said in the news release.

Nefyto, the trade association of the agrochemical industry in the Netherlands, considers the requirement of Aldi Süd undesirable and inappropriate. All I can say to that is that he and his association obviously would consider this step undesirable and inappropriate.

The British government, after the EU banned certain pesticides and chemicals harmful to bees, entirely disregarded this ban and actually more or less promoted the use of so-called neonicotinoids, upon lobbying by the NFU and other farming bodies who claim that without those pesticides they cannot grow their crops. Let's put it bluntly: without bees we won't have crops.

Aldi Süd's move can only be applauded and it can only be hoped that the other Aldi part, as they are actually two discounters with the same name – long story but that's how it is – also will go down the same route.

© 2016

Transformable water bottle Dopper supports clean drinking water projects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dopper-purple© Dopper

Meet Dopper!

Dopper is a Cradle-to-Cradle water bottle company that is bringing clean water to Nepal. Yes, the bottle is plastic but it will still replace thousands of plastic water bottles that an individual would otherwise use. And we also have to learn and understand that not all plastic is bad.

Replacing single-use drink containers with a reusable bottle, even if that one happen to be a plastic one, like the Dopper, not only cuts down on trash and problems like plastic pollution in the ocean, but it also reduces the amount of new resources and energy needed for the manufacturing process. It also cuts down on the unnecessary abstraction of water as, it has to be said, much of the bottled water is nothing more than glorified tap water. Dopper water bottles are designed and manufactured in the Netherlands.

The water bottle company Dopper it taking that concept a step further, with their Cradle to Cradle certified water bottle. The concept of Cradle to Cradle is not only that a product can be recycled, but that it is designed from the beginning to ensure that the materials can be made back into the same product – not downcycled. So, Dopper will take your water bottle back at the end of its life (or pieces of the bottle should it break) to make more bottles. Or you can put in municipal plastics recycling.

That said, the bottle is designed to last a long time, and it can be transformed for different occasions. If you want a wineglass on your picnic, you can unscrew the top third and have a cup. If you just want to take it on a run, there is now a sport cap available. And the wide mouth of the regular top makes it easy to fill up the bottle from the tap. Even easier you unscrew the “wine glass” and fill the bottle.

The Cradle to Cradle certification also means that the materials used and the manufacturing process are non-toxic and conserve water and, according to Dopper's website, the manufacturing process is “climate neutral.”

Dopper water bottles are designed to encourage people to drink tap water instead of buying plastic bottled water, but many people around the world don't have access to this source of potable water. That is why the company also started the charitable Dopper Foundation, which is helping set up safe drinking water and sanitation systems in remote regions of Nepal wit 5% of net profits from Dopper water bottles donated to the foundation.

Before closing let me reiterate once again that not all plastics, despite of what we are often told, are bad. There are plastic products without which many things today just could not be done. A water bottle may not, necessarily, be one of those but as far as this bottle is concerned it is a great piece of kit and I like especially the way it can be used.

P.S. Even if you do not need another water bottle but still want to support this kind of work, you can donate directly the to the Dopper foundation.

© 2016

Six Steps Back to the Land – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Six Steps Back to the Land
by Colin Tudge
Published by Green Books 19th January 2016
224 pages Hardcover
Price £17.99
ISBN: 978 0 85784 300 5 (hardback)

six_steps_back_to_the_land_cover“This book is an eye opener as to the realities lying behind high-level exhortations about 'feeding the world' and reveals how the path we are on is more about the interests of powerful elites, rather than the people eating the food.” – Tony Juniper, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, author of What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?

Farming could and should once again be seen as a desirable, enviable pursuit – assuming its rightful place at the center of human affairs, says Colin Tudge. With this change we could:

  • regain control over our food supply, reducing food waste

  • make our farms more resilient to extreme weather, pests, and disease

  • provide employment for huge numbers of skilled workers

  • ensure that our land is managed sustainably and left in good condition for future generations

  • help combat climate change

  • improve animal welfare

The new dogma is that farms cannot make money unless they are huge. The truth, in fact, is the opposite: Fatma Gül Ünal’s study in Turkey in 2005 showed that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times more productive than farms of 10 hectares or more. Despite this, we continue to push our farmers towards mega- farms despite the outcry against the inhumane treatment of animals, concerns about chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or the worry that single-crop arable farms will destroy the diversity of ecosystems.

The time has come for a renaissance in farming, says the author of this book, Colin Tudge, and the way to do that is through Enlightened Agriculture, a term he coined to describe agriculture that is “expressly designed to provide everyone, everywhere, with food of the highest standard, nutritionally and gastronomically, without wrecking the rest of the world”. With a solid grounding in science he explains how we can achieve that, and have truly sustainable, resilient and productive farms, taking us through: why we need to rethink our approach to farming; how we can move to low-input mixed farms; how tightly-integrated farms employ many skilled people; dealing with the practicalities of this form of farming in today's world; and how we can get involved.

The author is not naïve enough to think that it is a simple solution, or that it will be a magic fix. But it is an achievable way to make a difference, securing our food sovereignty and supporting local economies while combating climate change.

Colin Tudge is a biologist, science writer and author. He has been on the staff of Farmers' Weekly, New Scientist, and BBC Radio 3. He has a passion for food and agriculture. He is closely involved in The Campaign for Real Farming and the Funding Enlightened Agriculture network which support SMEs in the sustainable food and farming sector.

When reviewing a book, and as I do not like writing in the margins, many a book ends up having almost as many post-it notes stuck in it as pages (I use such sticky notes for reference purposes). Many sticky notes means either the book is bad I use those to refer back to in order to make comments or the book is very good and the notes are there to underline the extremely important passages which, at some stage, I may use as quotes in articles, and such. This book is once again one of those full of sticky notes and falls into the second category; in fact of extremely good.

This is definitely a book and author that, with the exception as regards to general capitalism, I can totally and wholeheartedly agree with in every point, well almost. The need for a proper land reform, or we might even want to call it agrarian reform, that the author also is advocating is something that I have, personally, been talking about for a log time also. But this reform needs to take a much more radical route than the one that is being advocated.

Everyone who is interested in farming, in food, whether as a private individual or and especially decision makers on a local and central government level, and even further afield should read this book. It will be an eye opener also to them. It should be on every politician's bookshelf but not just sitting there idly doing nothing but it should be read and acted upon.

Rating: Well, I would love to be able to give a ten out of five but as that just does not compute it will just have to be five out of five.

© 2016


bei Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Unverpackt Trier LogoUnverpackt wurde frueher fast alles verkauft in den Laeden und auf den Maerkten. Selbst Milch und Butter wurden “lose” verkauft und fuer Milch nahm man seine eigene Milchkanne mit zum Laden wo die Milch dann aus der grossen Milchkanne mit eine Kelle ausgegeben wurde. Butter wurde vom grossen Steuck abgeschnitten, in Pergamentpapier gewickelt und abgewogen. Kaese genauso, und auch Quark, Wurst und Schinken. Krank geworden und gestorben ist keiner davon.

Obst und Genuese kam alles lose und war nicht doppelt und dreifach in Plastik oder so verpackt und gar verschweisst. Und das gleiche ging fuer Kaffee (der ungemahlen war), Reis, Mehl, und fast alles andere.

Auch Werzeuge waren nicht in Plastik eingeschweisst, in Verpackungen fuer die man erst ein Werkzeug braucht um an den Inhalt heranzukommen, und selbiges war auch der Fall fuer so fast alles andere. Warum, dann, ist heute alles in solchen dummen Verpackungen die uns einen Haufen von Muell bescheren? Meist aus Vermarktungsgruenden damit die Verpackungen die Menschen anlocken und damit alles aufgehaengt werden kann und so.

Das Konzept des Unverpackten ist daher natuerlich nicht neu und auch Laeden dieser Art in der Neuzeit sind seit Mitte von 1970 immer wieder mal auf der Bildflaeche erschienen.

Einer der esten war Neal's Yard in Soho (London) gefolgt nach langer Zeit von zwei Marktstaenden die dann zu einem Laden wurden (auch in London). In Germany followed Original Unverpackt dann in 2014, oft in ihren Ansagen mit der fast-Behauptung das sie das erste Geschaeft dieser Art in der Welt seien, was natuerlich ueberhaupt nicht zutrifft.

In Trier wird jetzt eine neue Version erstehen unter dem Namen “Unverpackt Trier” und die Begruender moechten auch gerne eine Vernetzung von anderen solcher Laeden sehen, und man kann nur hoffen das sowas auch geschehen kann und wird. Leider, jedoch, scheinen einige diesser Geschaefte total gegen eine solche Vernetzung zu sein. Sie scheinen Angst haben ihnen koennten die Felle wegschwimmen wenn sie sowas machen wuerden. Auch scheint es das Anliegen einiger zu sein eine Kette von Lizenzbetrieben, sogenannten Franchisen, aufzubauen anstelle unabhaengige Laeden dieser Art ueberall zu sehen.

Um das Unternehmen jetzt richtig auf die Beine zu bringen hat “Unverpackt Trier” eine Crowdfunding Kampagne gestartet und Details dazu kann man hier finden.

Bei Unverpackt Laeden kauft man nur soviel wie man benoetigt und man bring – meist – seine eigenen Behaelter mit um die Waren dort hineinzupacken. Das spart an Verpackung und verringert den Verpackungsmuell, und es begrenzt die Verschwendung, denn der groesste Teil von Lebensmitteln die halt verschwendet werden laesst sich darauf zurueck fuehren das halt zu viel in der Verpackung war; mehr als man brauchte.

Der groesste Teil des Muells den wir taeglich produzieren zu Hause ist Verpackungsmuell, gefolgt von Nahrungsmittel die entweder tatsaechlich verdorben sind oder bei denen wir, wegen der Verfalldaten, die oft sehr verwirrend sind, das sie das sind.

Wenn wir unverpackt einkaufen (koennen) koennen wir erst einmal nur die Menge kaufen die wir brauchen – daher weniger Abfall in dem Bereich – und haben keine Verpackungsabfaelle die entsorgt werden muessen. Das verringert Abfall und daher Muell und es spart auch Geld wenn wir halt nicht ueberschuessige und verdorbene Lebensmittel wegwerfen.

Natuerlich ist das Problem mit Verpackungen und Verpackungsmuell nicht auf Lebensmittel begrenzt und beschraenkt und es waere gut wenn wir auch andere Gueter wieder einmal lose kaufen koennten.

Bei Unverpackt Trier wird man auch andere Waren lose einkaufen koennen wie z.B. Geschirrspuelmittel, uvm.

Da wir noch viel mehr von diesee Art Laeden benoetigen, und das ueberall, sollte diese Projekt unsere volle Untersteutzung geniessen.

© 2016

Deklaration: Weder GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW noch der Autor dieses Artikels wurden fuer diese bezahlt, weder von Unverpackt Trier noch von einer anderen Seite.

What is handwriting good for?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What is handwriting good for, in the Cyber Age? How can a pen or pencil, the latter which is, basically, a pointed stick, with a graphite core (no, it has not been lead for a long time), wielded in prescribed sequences of motions, compete with the simple tap-tap-tap of a keyboard? How could twenty-first-century cutting-edge creative multitasking and knowledge workers even bother with anything so archaic? It is a bit like NASA spending millions to develop a pen that would be capable to write in zero gravity while the Soviet Union used what already existed and work in space, the pencil.

The answer as to why you may want to grab a pen or pencil is just in for computer interface researchers have been studying what happens to work speed for everyday data entry and content creation tasks (called “walking while working” tasks) as workers use various forms of input: keyboard input (on the screen of a tablet or a hardware keyboard) versus handwritten input (handwriting on the screen of a tablet or on paper).

In comparative speed tests involving such everyday workplace tasks – where workers must read and think and write (and, often, walk and talk) all at the same time – the speed of accurate work when workers used onscreen handwriting averaged 33 accurate words per minute (wpm), with individual performance ranging from a low of 24 wpm to a high of 35 wpm. When workers used a tablet's onscreen keyboard instead, speed for completion of accurate work plummeted to 14 wpm, with a range from 10 to 24 wpm.

Tests were also carried out on other kind of devices and methods, such as “swipe”-style keyboarding: tablet software to speed work by letting fingers remain onscreen between letters. Gains were unimpressive – “swiping” workers averaged 19 wpm, with a range from 10 wpm (again) to 29 wpm.

The slowest onscreen handwriter finished work faster than the fastest onscreen keyboarder or onscreen “swiper” writer.

With hardware keyboards, the average speed of accurate work was 24 wpm, with a range from 20 wpm to 27 wpm, but even here the fastest keyboarder, using the fastest keyboard, still worked more slowly than the average person writing by hand.

Even more dramatic results appeared when the researchers had their subjects put down their tablets, put down their keyboards, and work on paper with pen or pencil. Handwritten work done on paper reached an average speed of 44 wpm for accurate work, with a range from 27 wpm to 55 wpm. In other words: Those who worked with paper and pen or pencil in hand completed work faster than those working in any other way.

The slowest person writing by hand, using paper and pen or pencil to take down data or ideas on the fly, worked as rapidly as the fastest keyboard user.

With handwriting on paper, average speed of data input tasks and creative work was significantly faster than with the next fastest input method which was handwriting onscreen.

Other research has also shown that students, for instance, who write by hand, using pen and paper (or even pencil and paper) take in more from a lesson that those who use a computer keyboard of whatever kind.

And still there are education authorities and entire countries even who want to do away with handwriting altogether, not just cursive writing, what is also sometimes called joint-up writing, and many try telling us that pen and paper or pencil and paper are dead in the age of the computer. I do not think so. And I believe that it to be foolhardy in the extreme to do away with teaching children to write by hand.

© 2016

Equality in the Countryside - a rural manifesto

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

rural-manifestoJanuary 6, 2016 saw the launch of two important documents at the Real Farming Conference in Oxford. The first one the latest book by Colin Tudge entitled “Six Steps Back to the Land” and published by Green Books (review of said book to follow in due course) and the second the manifesto “Equality in the Countryside”.

“Equality in the Countryside, A Rural Manifesto for the Parliamentary Opposition”, by Landworkers' Alliance (, The Land Magazine ( and the Family Farmers' Association, is a document to challenge, like the book by Colin Tudge, the way we look at farming and why things need to change. It is intended for the current parliamentary opposition to help them form their policies.

The manifesto is to be part of a campaign, according to Simon Fairlie of the Land Magazine), against a bogus countryside – one in which most people who live there don't work there. And he is right there.

It is sad but has to be acknowledged that most people who live in the countryside today work in towns, and people are being pushed off the land as farms get bigger and employ fewer people. Villages and the countryside has become no more, in many, if not most places, than dormitories for the city workers, who push the locals out because the locals cannot afford the house prices and social housing is (no longer) available in the villages.

The manifesto is aimed primarily at the progressive parliamentary opposition. Simon Fairlie of The Land magazine stated: “With a reinvigorated Labour opposition, and a body of Scottish Nationalists committed to land reform, we are now in a better position to challenge the orthodoxy that has held sway under the influence of the Country Land and Business Association, the National Farmers’ Union, and Scottish Land and Estates.”

The aim of the manifesto is to nudge policy towards equality and greater access to land and employment for people who live in the countryside and people who want to live in the countryside. There are 46 recommendations, although there could, and should, have been many more, possibly. Here are some highlights (the full manifesto can be downloaded as a PDF file from the website of the Landworkers' Alliance at

Here is a sample of recommendations for action from the Manifesto:

  • The Land Registry should not be privatized. The register of who owns which land should be completed, and made easily and freely accessible on line. A cadastral map for each municipality should be made publicly available at council offices, as it is in countries such as France and Spain.

  • The sell-off of county farms should be halted (except where county farmland can be sold for development and the proceeds used to acquire more or better land). Local authorities should be re-empowered to acquire land for rent to small-scale farmers and new entrants where there is a proven need.

  • Common Agricultural Policy direct subsidies should be capped at €150,000 per individual farmer, releasing an estimated £4million. The ceiling should be lowered progressively over time to a level that supports a wider range of thriving family farms.

  • Much organically produced food and animal feed is not labelled as such because the costs of certification are too high for small-scale producers. The burden of labeling and certification should instead be borne by farmers who employ chemicals or other ecologically suspect practices, rather than by organic farmers. In other words, food products that have been produced using artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified materials should be clearly labelled as such.

  • Increase investment in council housing and social housing in villages.

  • Measures should be taken to ensure that recently introduced government support for self-build housing is focussed on affordable housing, and not luxury housing.

  • All rural local authorities to set targets within their area for the reduction of carbon emissions through renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and micro-hydro — especially community schemes; and through energy saving measures such as insulation of buildings.

  • Support should be provided for the creation of “village service stations” in rural settlements that combine retail provision of food and essential goods with post-office and banking services, car-hire and minibus services, etc

  • Include land management (horticulture, arable crops, animal husbandry, forestry etc) as a subject at secondary schools on a par with academic subjects.

  • Reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, a ratcheted annual increase of carbon tax on petrol and diesel, including red diesel, with the proceeds earmarked for public transport provision.

Now let's look at some of those points, though not all, listed above, through my lens:

Land: The Land Registry should remain public and a proper one; one that everyone has easy access to. There is not much more that can be said to that but, maybe, if one if so inclined “Amen!”

Housing: More council housing and more self-build, and while the Tories according to Simon Fairlie have done a great deal – I must have missed that somewhere – towards self-build we need more of the kind of self-build where people can build, more or less, the kind of home that they wish to build, whether in wood, straw, Earthships, or whatever. The problem is the price of development land – we need more affordable self-build. Here one might mention the work of the Ecological Land Co-op, who are all about providing affordable land for self-build for smallholders. In addition to that any smallholding should be permitted to have building, regardless as to whether the status is that of “agricultural ties” or what have you.

Energy: The countryside will be a big provider as oil runs out in the form water, wind, solar, biomass, but profits should be kept within communities rather than exported to shareholders. However, biomass must not come at the expense of food, a points that Colin Tudge makes so well in his book.

Transport: Reduce private vehicle transport, improve public transport, but also village hubs with shops, post office, pub, bus stop and car hire. For a village to be alive and vibrant it needs shops of all kinds, as well and especially a post office. If we wish to reduce private motor vehicle transport then proper public transport for the countryside is a must and it must be brought back and that includes local railroad connections.

Education: As far as education is concerned we need to bring back the agricultural extension system and include farming and food production in school curricula. But the current thinking of government is that such school subjects are not required, not good for league tables, and such, and that only academic subjects should be taught in schools and colleges. That must change once again, as there are all too many young people who are not necessarily academically minded and would love to train for career in horticulture, agriculture, woodland management and forestry.

Environment: More trees and fewer sheep for uplands; more agriculture in green belts, instead of 'horses grazing under pylons'. And what we need more than anything is smallholdings and small farms without any red tape to entangle people wishing to establish those. When it comes to trees we also need more woodlands, and to manage the existing woodlands in the country everywhere properly.

Rebecca Laughton of the Landworkers’ Alliance stated: “For decades, the number of farms and the number of farm workers have declined remorselessly, while the cost of rural housing has become increasingly unaffordable. It is time we reversed these trends, and it is not rocket science to do so.”

She also talked about the need to get more young people into agriculture, and to put feeding people and environmental protection above corporate profit and that definitely is a no-brainer.

One issue that, alas, that even in this manifesto, no one dares to tackle, it would appear, is the need for proper land reform. And with land reform, or agrarian reform, I do mean here, yes, I do, the redistribution of land to those who are willing to work it as small farms in the way of the Dachas in Russia. While Colin Tudge does advocate some kind of land reform though by means of purchasing land the road that needs to be traveled is a far more radical way if we truly want to succeed with and have the farmers and farms of the future, the ones that are not agri-industry giants but the ones that truly serve the community, the people, and the nation.

© 2016

The need for proper land reform

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

agrarian1For food security and biodiversity the large industrial farms need to be broken up – and the same goes for the many large unproductive feudal estates in Britain – and the land given over to smallholders and those who wish to be such who will be able to produce much larger quantities of diverse foods on such places. The dachas in Russia are but one but a prime example for this.

As shown the Russian smallholdings in the form of dachas with land of one hectare (approx. 2.5 acres) are feeding the nation and provide some 80% of all fruit and vegetables sold and consumed in that country. It is not the large industrial farms, at least not as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, that feed the country but the dachas. When it comes to corn that may be a different story though many of those smallholdings also grow a variety of corn, but mostly for their own use.

The large industrial farms have far too large an environmental footprint, for one, and are thus more or less unsustainable and in addition to that also – often because of too much monoculture – they do not seem to be up to the job of feeding the nation. The latter is probably also due to the fact that much of what they produce is geared at export and foreign markets.

In addition, as already indicated, there are the large feudal estates – at least in Britain – whether “royal” ones or those of lords, dukes and barons, often primarily aimed at shooting sports that produce little or nothing in way of food and also do but little for the local rural economy. Those need to be broken up also, as indicated, and the land given over to people willing to farm those lands for the good of the nation, and the same goes for the woods to be worked for the good of the nation and the (local) economy.

Time and again, however, the British government, and that of the USA, insist that small farms and especially organic farming could never feed the growing population of the world despite the fact that the United Nations have said that only small farms, and in most cases this will mean growing food organically, can ever feed the world. They have also come out strongly against genetically modified organism, and so have plant scientists, stating that they can never feed the world, as it is being claimed and that they are dangerous, in fact.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proverb goes, and the proof of the pudding is the dacha system in Russia which proves that small farms, and even very small farms, can do just that, namely put the food on the table, and in the case of Russia against all odds, in the form of sanctions the USA has imposed, and forced the EU to also impose, on Russia.

Many of us need to get back to the land and into the woods and many would like to do just that, and be able to make a living that way, but lack the means to do so. Proper land reform could enable thousands upon thousands to do just that and that many additional farmers would bring enough food on the home markets for all.

Especially with regards to the feudal estates, and they are feudal estates, make no mistake about it, which are, in the main, the most unproductive pieces of land in Britain. The majority of the land of those estates are used only for sporting – sorry, I am almost laughing here – purposes, which means for the hunting (another joke) of game birds or other, such as deer, and are managed almost exclusively for that purpose and that purpose only.

Where the land really is not great – or even marginal, as it is often called – for farming, especially as regards to growing food in the form of fruit and vegetables, then this land, which actually may be wooded, should me managed as woodlands, by individuals and cooperatives, which means being distributed to the people, for the people, in the same way as parcels of land for small farms.

At the same time the law must be changed so as to make it possible for the people working such parcels of land or woods to erect a dwelling and other necessary building there so that they may live there also. But that would simply have to go hand in hand with the land reform itself.

Such redistribution of land and woods to those who are going to work it would also repopulate the countryside, including the villages themselves, and reinvigorate the local economy.

The countryside in Britain, and elsewhere, no doubt, is not just being depopulated; some seem to believe that it needs to become a preserve and reserve rather than a working landscape and thus therefore no houses should be possible on small plots of agricultural and forestry land. It must be a green area free of anyone living there, on the lands and in the woods. But there was a time when there were more people living in the countryside than there were actually living in the towns and cities and the countryside was thriving and it must become that way again. That, however, can only come to pass when we return to small farming and woodland operations and local businesses making use of the produce from such plots of land.

The way things are going at this very moment, however, in Britain and elsewhere in western Europe, leads to a flight of people, especially the young ones, from the countryside to the towns and cities as there are – one – no jobs in the countryside and – two – if there are then there no homes for those that would and could be working in those occupations. Villages are dying – or have become simply more or less dormitories for those working in the cities – and local schools, pubs, shops and post offices are closed down for lack of support. This needs to change in the same way that farming and forestry needs to change (again).

© 2016

From collar-attached to collarless

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How often do we toss out a still good, though may be not perfectly good, shirt only because the attached collar of it has frayed, worn thin, or even worn a hole into where it creases? Many of us have done this quite a few times too often I am sure for I certainly have done so.

Originally shirts never had this attached collar and most – if not indeed all – were collarless and collarless has become quite fashionable again. So, why not simply convert? Though this is not about fashion but about reusing or continuing to use really.

The other day I discovered that one of my favorite shirts had seriously frayed at just that crease of the collar and developed a hole there too. Loathing to throw it I wondered as to a conversion to collarless and decided to attempt it.

Slowly and carefully with a sharp pair of tailoring scissors I cut the collar of where it was attached to the collar itself and it worked out very well indeed. Which definitely is a bonus and I had nothing to lose as, had it not worked the shirt would just have gone where it would have gone without the conversion attempt anyway, namely into the trash.

Now, however, it has a lot more life left in it and I hope to be able to wear it for some time to come. I am sure that this will also not be the last of such conversions.

So, next time one of your shirts has gone that way give it a try. You have nothing to lose but you may just gain a shirt that can be worn for some time to come.

© 2016

Make things, not waste

and better still, make things out of waste...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It does not matter whether it is at the mad season at the end of the year referred to by some as Christmas, or at other times, nowadays everything needs to be store bought, as far as the majority are concerned, in order to be of value and to do the job.

There was a time – and this is not a fairytale and nor is it all that long ago – when people actually made things they wanted and needed themselves as much as possible and some, even already then, from discards.

It is true that waste is generated in many ways – and no, I am not even wanting to consider human waste – and has been, probably, since almost the dawn of times. There will always have been something that has not been able to be used, even by our very distant ancestors. Bones that could not be fashioned into bits of hunting tools or sewing needles and such, and the same goes for other things, I am sure.

Today, however, and recyclability of products is neither here nor there, we have become such a throwaway society that it is no longer funny. Not that it ever was. In addition to that we have the built-in obsolescence in products and the fact that the great majority of goods cannot be repaired or that we no longer have the people who can repair them.

By way of reusing, repurposing and upcycling, however, many things do not have to go into the waste stream, whether they are recyclable and in the end, if we are lucky, recycled, or not. And many things that we need or want can be made in this way for ourselves by ourselves. It is not rocket science but it is something that, it would appear, many of us have to relearn again. I am glad, I have to say, and no I am not gloating, that I am not one of them. I grew up with reuse as something that was simply the way things were done.

Making things yourself for yourself and for others, whether as gifts or even for sale, is satisfying and even more so if the raw materials come for free or almost for free and would have, otherwise, in the main, ended up in the trash can.

At times it may mean buying some tools or some (additional) hardware for the job when making things from waste items, at other times when making things it may mean buying everything that is required. In the latter case, it is true, there are occasions when this route may be a little more expensive, not counting the time investment even, than buying the same product made cheaply in some foreign country where the workers are often exploited but even then, when making it yourself, you can make it exactly the way you want it and you also know how to fix it – as you made it – should something go wrong.

There has been a time that I even built my own radio receivers, especially for shortwave broadcasts and communications, but that was before the advent of the microchip and phased looped lock synthesizers. We built them and could also fix them, with components, often salvaged from old radios and TVs, and they worked, and worked well.

I have made knives from old ones that were destined for the trash or that were, actually, salvaged from the trash. Those blades were turned into anything from small neck knives to larger hunting and fighting knives, given a sheath from salvaged leather.

If we learn, once again, how to make things ourselves and using, as many of our ancestors did, waste materials and the raw materials for doing this, very little waste is actually generated then and needs to be disposed off. Always remember that you can't throw anything away as there is no “away” in this case.

So, let's make things instead from waste.

© 2016

The End of Plenty

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The age of plenty is coming to, or maybe better put, has come, to an end and with that I do not mean this government imposed austerity in almost every capitalist country.

The plenty that I am talking about here is the plenty as in raw materials, as in non-renewable resources, as in “consumer goods”. This age is coming, or has come, to an end, despite the fact that oil, for instance, is cheaper, at the time of writing in Autumn 2015, than it has been for quite a long time, it is running out and those “reserves” that may still be there somewhere are too expensive to exploit.

The lack of oil and other non-renewable resources will mean that we will be living like in WWII under blockade and such with the big difference, however, being that this will be rather a permanent state of affairs and “make do and mend” will have to be the way of things again (not bad at all) and so will have to be reuse (another very good thing too). It will also mean an end to the consumer society and the rampant consumerism that we know today where almost everything is made to be thrown away (only that there, actually, is no such place as away). That too, in a way, is a good thing – the end of consumerism I mean, not the fact that we toss everything after having used it only for a very short time.

Many of the foods that we take, more or less, for granted today will no longer be coming into the country or at a high cost and we will have to, each one of us, change our diet and grow much more of our own food again akin to the “dig for victory” campaign, only that there will be no victory over an enemy in the end and a return to “normal”. This will be the new normal. The new normal will be the new way, new for many though it is not new at all, and, unlike a war, it will not end.

Wood, responsibly sourced from well-managed woods and forests will be the new plastic and many of the products, whether wooden or others, will (have to) be handmade, either by ourselves or by local makers.

This will not just apply to wooden products of whatever kind but to the vast majority of products as (heavy) industry, as we know it today and have know it since the industrial revolution, without a plentiful supply of fuel and raw materials will cease to exist as well.

Renewable energy, as in electricity, from wind, solar, etc., will not be able to provide the amount of energy that industry gobbles up today. Nuclear is not an option unless we could ever get fusion to work safely. Thus a complete change will come upon us probably rather sooner than later.

The end of the age of plenty does not mean lack of food, if we farm and grow food in a properly sustainable way and also change our diet. It will, however, mean that the vast variety of different foods that we have become so used to over the last five or so decades, many imported from thousands of miles away, will diminish. And it will also mean that using prime agricultural land for the growing of grass and especially “bio-fuel” crops can no longer be a practice.

The greatest impact this end of plenty will have is on our present consumer society and consumer culture and that of disposability, which is not going to be a bad thing at all either.

Those who have grown up in this “on demand” consumer culture, unfortunately, will be in for a real harsh shock and a very rude wake up call unless they, like all of us really, transition to this new way now. Easy this is not going to be for many, especially those who never went sort of anything in their lives, never had to wait to fulfill their wants, at least not to start with.

The good thing is, though, that this new way (of doing things) is actually not new at all but the way things used to be and were done, made and grown not really all that long ago, before the availability of cheap fossil fuels which, however, came at a very high cost to the environment, that is to say the Planet and people's health. It can be don, it must be done, and we must begin now!

The first thing to do right now is to change our diet and reduce – or better still remove – meat (except maybe every now and then if and when control of wild animals may be necessary) and transition to a more plant-based one. The second change we can and must do now is to cut down on our consumption, and here especially on “upgrading” our things, our gadgets, every six months to a year, or so, simply because a “new” model or version is out. “If it ain't broke don't fix it” should be here a case of “if it ain't broke don't replace it”. Make do and mend goes hand in hand here too although I know that many products today – unlike just thirty or so years ago – are made so that we can't actually fix them ourselves easily and repair shops that can are few and far between. Therefore, at least as a stop gap, we will have to learn a great deal of DIY in that department. DIY is also most useful in other respects, as there are actually many things that we could and can make ourselves which saves us money and also saves resources.

Reuse of items that may be seen by others, still today, as waste for things we want and need also, to some extent, falls into the DIY category. It was the way things were before the age of plenty and will (have to) be like that again with the end of plenty being upon us.

In many cases things will no longer be available “on demand” whenever we want them from the stores, as today, or by “mail order” by click shopping. While this may come as a shock for many who are not prepared, those that have the knowledge and the skills will be at an advantage and thrive and therefore it is so important that people prepare for this change.

This is prepping of a different nature as to what many survivalists do, and also groups such as the Mormons do. This will not just be a “long emergency” as described by James Howard Kunstler in his book “The Long Emergency” but a permanent state of affairs. It requires a different approach and mindset and different preparations.

The end of plenty does not have to lead to shortages in food and other basics, if we do it right but for that the way we farm must change too. But it, inevitably, will lead to shortages, or even the lack, of many of the consumer goods that we have come to take for granted and to having them “on demand” to purchase right now this very moment.

The end of plenty not only requires a “new” economic model but also a “new” political one. The economic model and political one are basically of the same nature and must go hand in hand. One cannot work without the other.

As far as food production is concerned, as already indicated, it will require a real land reform and the same goes for “forestry”. The people must work the countryside and the woods to produce food and wooden products for the nation and that means that the large, more often than not unproductive, estates must be broken up and given over to the people to work the land and the woods and everyone who wants to be a peasant (I said peasant not pheasant) or woodsman should be able to and be able to love on the land or in the woods and be able to make a living from his or her labors.

If we do not change the system and begin the transition to a new way of doing things and of living right now – or at least tomorrow – then the outlook is not a bright one, at least not until such a time that we have begun to work in a new way after the collapse and to wait until then would be foolish in the extreme.

© 2015

Enough is enough

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Too many people have and desire much more than enough while others, the great majority, do not have enough to live and barely survive.

We do not, necessarily, have too many people on this Planet of ours. What we have, though, are a small amount of people who have most of the wealth while the rest have little to nothing. And those that do have all that wealth want ever more, never being satisfied. It is like feeding a monster.

There is more than enough for everyone's need on this Planet b ut not for everyone's greed. And, if everyone would consider and come to understand that enough is truly enough everything could work out well for everyone.

The problem is though that the “elite”, as they consider themselves, or our betters, are not satisfied and want ever more and to that extent are even considering reducing the population of the world, wishing to reduce birth rates, for starters, in the poor countries and among the poor at home. But it is not the poor whose footfall is too heavy on our Earth, it is the footfall of this “elite” that is. Thus, methinks, the cull must start there with them if there is to be one.

Enough is enough means to have enough to live and thrive, and also to have enough in old age, no more no less. That does, however, require a change in the system and of the system, in society and of society, and in each one of us.

The system as it stands has brainwashed the majority, by means of advertising and other propaganda, into believing that the more they have the happier their lives will be, whether money or possessions, and as such things don't actually make happy it leads to never being satisfied.

“Possessions possess the possessor” it is said and this definitely appears to be the truth and this pursuit is causing a state of serious possession, like being possessed by evil spirits. It can often be seen in those people that have the latest gadgets but after five minutes they already are wishing for the next generation of them “just in case that they have more bells and whistles” to do things that they have never thought of being able to do and never have had a need for. And all that not to improve things and our lives but to make products “obsolete” and to make more and still more profits. It is time to get off this bandwagon.

© 2015