Green City Solutions from Dresden wins Europe’s founder price in the circular economy

(Press Release)

Idea of air purification in cities prevails against competition

Berlin, 28 October 2016. Last night in Berlin, Start-up Green City Solutions won the international Green Alley Award 2016, Europe's first founders award for the circular economy. Green City Solutions has combined a moss installation with an IoT-Technology that provides clean air and reduces urban heat. A single “City Tree” does what would otherwise require 275 trees: it absorbs 100 kg of CO2 annually, thereby ensuring clean air as well as a pleasant urban climate. The installation is already used in Europe and Asia. The start-up was awarded a package of cash and benefits with a value of 30,000 Euro. Six finalists from Germany, Finland, France and UK presented their pitches before the jury and audience.

“Green City Solutions has succeeded because they address one of the biggest risks to humanity. Their installation is a completely new solution with a large impact and can be implemented worldwide. Furthermore, the team has presented their business model clearly and proficiently", said Jan Patrick Schulz, Managing Director at Green Alley Investment GmbH.

Naomi Climer, former President and member of the British Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and patron of the Green Alley Award 2016 continued: “The jury was particularly impressed by the approach used by Green City Solutions because it combines modern IoT-Technology with ecosystem services. Their business can be easily applied and is scalable. Both factors played a key role in the decision process of the jury. From my perspective, all of the ideas have potential. I wish all of the start-ups continued success and I am sure they will all find suitable investors for their business models.

Before presenting their pitches in the evening, the six finalists gathered at workshops with experts from industry and the waste management sector, to collaborate with them on their business ideas.

At the award ceremony, Jonne Hellgren, CEO of RePack, delivered the keynote speech. He spoke about his experience starting his business. His advice to the start-ups was to never give up and to follow their own instincts. RePack, winner of the Green Alley Award 2014, is currently expanding its business into the German and Dutch markets.

A panel discussion on “The death of business as usual?” was held in which participants discussed how experienced and new market players can learn from each other to successfully establish a circular economy. Kieren Mayers, Head of Environmental and Technology Compliance at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Dr. Maja Goepel, Head of the Berlin office of the Wuppertal Institute, and the CEOs of Adaptavate (Tom Robinson, winner of the Green Alley Award 2015) and (Moritz Zyrewitz, finalist of the Green Alley Award 2014) participated in the discussion, which was moderated by the editor of ARTE Magazin, Shila Meyer-Bejaht.

Since 2014, Green Alley, a subsidiary of Landbell AG, has annually honoured ideas that address waste and resource management with its Green Alley Award in conjunction with several award partners: the crowdfunding platform Seedmatch, the London-based accelerator programme Bethnal Green Ventures and the European Recycling Platform (ERP) Finland.

In its third year, the Green Alley Award already received nearly 200 applications from 52 countries. In addition to the financial and benefit package that winners receive, Green City Solutions will also have the opportunity to receive investment support.

Information about the Green Alley Award, the finalists, as well as images from the event can be found at

Photos can be downloaded here:

Press Contact: Doreen Rietentiet; Tel: +49 30 609819507;

About the Green Alley Award

The Green Alley Award is given once a year to entrepreneurs and start-ups of the circular economy, organized by a network of partners in the Circular Economy and European entrepreneurial scene. Green Alley, the initiator and circular economy investor, has been working with Seedmatch, Germany’s crowdfunding pioneer, since 2014. Additional partners include the London accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures for technology driven start-ups in environmental and social areas. This year’s lead partner is the European Recycling Platform (ERP) Finland, a recycling supplier for electrical and electronic equipment as well as batteries.

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Gtech Multi MK2 – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Gtech-Multi-Mk2The Gtech Multi is the Gtech AirRam's perfect partner. It takes the attachments from your upright vacuum and puts them right into the palm of your hand. Having said that it does not mean, though, that the attachment that have come with you upright or other vacuum cleaner will, actually, fit the Multi. Just that the attachments for the Multi are those that you are familiar with, in a fashion, from those of your “ordinary” vacuum cleaner. What the Multi does is to give you the versatility to make short work of cleaning those hard to reach places in your home: Stairs, upholstery, curtains and even the car interior.

Using the attachments on a traditional upright or pull-along vacuum can be a real pain in the proverbial. Dragging it round from plug to plug; the hose never seems to reach far enough, not to mention the heavy weight. I have found that even with the metal tubes and attachments there are places that I cannot get into – maybe because of the tubes, considering they are rigid. With the Multi there is no such problem.

In fact, the Gtech Multi has been designed to make all those problems disappear in that it uses the attachments that you are familiar with from your upright vacuum, and combines them with the cleaning performance to complement the AirRam, all rolled into a cordless hand-held vacuum.

The Gtech Multi lightweight hand-held vacuum is specially designed to clean the hard to reach places in your home, with a powerful motor and the high airflow needed to make short work of edges, stairs, upholstery or even the car interior. The Power Brush Head makes clearing pet hair from carpets and upholstery a breeze, as well as taking the hassle away from cleaning the stairs.

The Gtech Multi handheld vacuum cleaner comes armed with a full set of attachments. A crevice tool, dusting brush and flexible hose are all conveniently stowed away in the body of the vacuum. The Power Brush Head tool allows you to make short work of stairs, sofas and car interiors. A separate car cleaning kit is also available.

The Multi’s power comes from a professional-grade 22V Lithium-ion battery. One 4-hour charge delivers up to 20 minutes of cordless vacuum cleaning; a 1-hour charge will deliver a burst of additional run-time. A 4-stage LED display indicates how much charge is left in the battery.

Cordless technology nowadays means that cleaning is no longer limited to the length of a power cord or hose. With a 36cm (14-inch) extension tube and concealed flexible hose, the Gtech Multi hand-held vacuum cleaner gives you the freedom to clean from floor to ceiling and the flexibility to reach into nooks and crannies.

Like the AirRam the Milti MK2 now comes with integrated LED-lights that illuminate the target cleaning area, leaving nowhere for the dirt to hide. This is a real boost when it comes to seeing where the cobwebs and such are hiding and believe me spiders are real good at putting them everywhere. And with the aid of the 36cm (14-inch) extension tube there is no need bend down to clean skirting boards. The Multi comes with a 36cm extension tube.

The only issue, so to speak, that I found using the extension tube is the wobble due to the play that there is in the flexi-hose attachment.

I don't think I have done ever so much cobweb and dust removal than since I have the Gtech Multi MK2. But then it is so handy to just grab it – when you see a target – and do it there and then.

As I never have played around with the predecessor of this Gtech vacuum I cannot compare the two, obviously, but I can but say that the Multi MK2 is a great piece of kit and I don't know how I ever managed without something like that before. Coming to think of it I didn't.

Did I mention that I love the Gtech Multi MK2? Well if I didn't then I mention it now; I do, lots. The spiders in the house hate me for sure now, and the Multi. Many of them, and especially their climbing frames, have ended up in the body of the Multi by now, and some ladybirds, I am to say, also found their way into it after considering to make my home their home for the winter. Dear ladybirds, there is a perfectly good bug hotel outside, please use it; thank you.

Now we come to the important part, and that is the question as to whether the Gtech Multi does what it says on the box. Yes, and yes again. And, as I said before, I don't know how I ever managed the cleaning around the house without the Multi.

© 2016

Materialism does not lead to happiness

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Advertising and industry try to tell us – and government too – that if we just go shopping more and more for things we don't need and really can't afford and more than likely never will use will bring us happiness. That is a lie. All it does is empty our wallets and fill the coffers of industry and service providers. Happiness it will not bring us.

However, many of us fall into this trap on a daily basis, believing the advertising hype that this or that product is just what we need and that if we have but that product we will be happy and content. It does not happen. So they then go out and buy something else that is promised to bring that happiness, and again it does not happen. And so the cycle continues.

To me, but then I am weird, buying things does not – necessarily – bring me happiness. Actually saying that buying bring me happiness would be wrong anyway. Most purchases are necessities and thus happiness does not come into the equation. Making things with my own hands, and more often than not from what others would regard as trash, on the other hand does.

But, obviously, there are materialistic people about who think, and I stress the word think, that their possessions and acquiring more and more of them, makes brings them happiness but the truth is that they are becoming obsessed by their possessions.

A materialistic person is someone who tends to fall in love with their material possessions, especially luxury goods and wealth, and equates them to happiness and fulfillment. This is especially so when the owning of the

possessions is motivated by emotional reasons rather than functional reasons. An old saying of the Romani People in England is: “Possessions possess the possessor” and this, unfortunately, seem to be very true indeed. And this is true with regards to money as much as with other kinds of possessions.

The biggest problem, so to speak, is the pursuit of material possessions in the believe that by owning them we will become happy. Maybe for a few moments and then then hunt is on again for something else that the advertisers and their clients tell us will make us ultimately happy, and so the vicious circle repeats itself time and again. We spend more and more money, and use more and more of the Earth's resources, in this futile quest for happiness where happiness cannot be found.

Here I would like to put forward a definition of wealth that says: “You are rich when you are content and happy with what you have.”

Take a good look at the majority of those that are regarded as wealthy in the world's view. Do they appear to be happy? In the main they do not just appear to be not happy, they really are not. They have millions and even billions of Dollars in their accounts and otherwise accumulated but they want more and more and just do not seem to be content with what they already have acquired.

Then, in contrast, look at the “poor” that are happy and content (until someone tells them that they are living below the accepted standards and such) with what they have because they have what they need and are able to make a lot of what they want and need for themselves, as well as being able to grow their own food, and such like. Happiness does not come from material possessions; often the opposite is true. And that aside from the fact that in the pursuit for ever more possessions we are ravaging the Earth, the only Planet that we have to sustain life.

© 2016

The Internet of Things and its trials and tribulations

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

English man spends 11 hours trying to make cup of tea with Wi-Fi kettle

Data specialist Mark Rittman spent an entire day attempting to set up his new appliance so that it would boil on command and it just did not want to cooperate.

All that wanted was a cup of tea but little did he realize that he would have to spend eleven hours waiting for his new hi-tech kettle to boil the water.

Mr. Rittman, who is a data specialist living on the English south coast, set out trying to make a cup of tea with his Wi-Fi enabled kettle at around nine in the morning. But it was not long before he ran into trouble with said kettle

Three hours later the kettle was still having problems with the main issue apparently being that the base station was unable, for some reason, to communicate with the kettle itself.

It would appear that the key problem to Mr. Rittman's predicament was that the kettle did not come with software that would have allowed for easy integration with other devices in his home. So he was, therefore, trying to build the integration functionality himself.

Then, after eleven hours, there was a breakthrough in that the kettle started responding to voice control. And then, finally, success in that the kettle did what it was meant to be doing, namely boil water.

Because he so nicely shared this escapade on Twitter there were, justifiable, some people who wondered what was wrong with old technology, that is to say using an ordinary electric kettle. That is also the question that I would have asked.

In addition to that the trials and tribulations of Mark Rittman should, I think, give us all some food for thought as to why anyone would want to use Wi-Fi enabled kettle (and other devices) in the home, aside from the computer and printer, and such. And that is aside from any security and privacy issues that could come with those devices and the connection of them directly to the Internet.

Many of the devices of the Internet of Things are actually communicating with third parties and your Wi-Fi speakers, for instance, could actually be listening to you and transmitting what they hear to some party that you many not wish to know everything.

The same goes for your smart fridge, or other appliance that also is, via Wi-Fi, part of the Internet of Things, and let's not even talk about the smart meters, though they may not be inside your home to spy on you directly. The latter, however,can be used in other ways to spy on you and even shut off your energy use if the suppliers deem this to be appropriate.

Don't misunderstand me, I am no Luddite, but I am more than concerned about this Internet of Things stuff as:

  1. I do not think that we actually need this,

  2. that it may also cause serious problems for users,

  3. that they can be hacked and be used against us,

  4. that they are a threat to privacy

and last but not least

  1. that they will add to the use of energy, of which we are already using too much.

And this list, probably, could be expanded at quite some length, I am sure, but those above are just some of the main concerns that I have, aside from the fact that it also makes us extremely lazy.

Honestly, if you want to boil the kettle can't you just get up, go into the kitchen or wherever, fill the thing with water and switch it on? The same for other appliances, if they need turning on and off, such as the washing machine.

To top it all, and the warnings of that were given by many, it now transpires that the DDoS attacks that crippled a great many sites on the Internet for hours on Friday, October 21, 2016, was created using hacked IoT cameras, and other gadgets. As said, the warnings were sounded by many, also in the IT field, as to this IoT being a dangerous thing and something that could be used to cause crippling attacks. Time, I would say, that we rethought things.

© 2016

Sustainable consumption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The idea of sustainable growth and sustainable consumption is about the same as having sex to preserve for virginity or having a war for peace. It does not work. You cannot have sustainable growth and neither can you have sustainable consumption.

Yes, we all consume and will have to consume but we do not have to consume more, and more, and more, of the Planet's non-renewable resources just because someone is trying to sell us something.

Today's problem as regards to products is that they are designed to break down just after the warranty expires and we are forced to buy new, as repair, more often than not is way too expensive or not even possible. There was a time, however, and that was not all that long ago, that everything could, be repaired, sometimes even by the user doing it himself. Not only could everything be repaired, it was actually designed in that way so that it could, although there were stickers on radios and TVs, and such, that stated “no user serviceable parts inside”, but that did not deter us from doing our own servicing. And, in addition to that, there were repair shops around almost everywhere, from cobblers to electrical repairs, and everything else in between.

You simply did not go out every time something stopped working to the shops (or on line, though there was no on line back then) and bought new; you went to have it repaired or even, as said, did it yourself. And still the economy did not fall down. But most people only bought new if the old product really could no longer be repaired, or if they – such as in the case of young people leaving the nest – were setting up a new home, though there were times, obviously, when people bought a newer version of a product simply because it was better than the older one.

The repair shops had their own part in the economy and they thrived because people had their stuff repaired and because it was repairable. In the German Democratic Republic, for instance, those repair businesses, were part state economy even in many cases, and were big companies.

Sustainability and economic growth do not, actually, go together, especially not the capitalist idea of perpetual growth of wanting to sell more and more and then still more (of the same product). You just simply cannot have perpetual economic growth on a finite Planet and the Earth is a finite Planet. The non-renewable resources are just that, non-renewable. None, no god or whatever, is going to put more oil, more gas, more minerals, more rare earths, and what have you, into the ground after we have exploited was has been there. It is not going to happen even though some people, including some US legislators seem to believe and “teach” that. Once it's gone it's gone.

Then we must ask ourselves as to whether consumption, the hunt for more and more, can actually ever be sustainable and the short answer to that is a simple and firm no. It simply cannot and is not. Even buying more and more green products to make us feel to be good eco-warriors is not sustainable. And to top it all many of those “green” products are not very green at all, be that in the material they contain, such as bamboo fiber products, or many others. When a company is not willing to tell me what the ingredients are that supposedly make they dishwashing liquid “green” in comparison to others and which still have a questionable ingredient, which is even listed, such as, for example, 1,4-Dioxane then the “green” credentials are, in my view, rather sketchy to say the least.

There is no such thing as sustainable consumption and never will be or can be. We can make it a little more sustainable by

  1. buying only what we really need

  2. buying second-hand

  3. making things for ourselves where and when we can

  4. reusing what we have, mending and making do, as well as reusing and repurposing items of, say, packaging, such as glass jars, etc.

Our grandparents and their parents we masters in this, and especially in reuse, repurposing and in making their own things, and we must become such masters again ourselves if we are to become sustainable. We also have to rediscover wherever possible to grow our own food again.

© 2016

The truth about the Monday Demonstrations in East Germany

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In order to avoid any confusion the Monday Demonstration referred to here are not the Vigils for Peace, that have been coined Monday Demonstrations now as well, but those that happened in East Germany before the “Wall came down”.

Flagge der DDR_webThe Monday Demonstrations in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) of 1989 and 1990 were not, as always portrayed by the West, about rejoining the two Germanies. Far from it.

The people took to the streets to wake up the leaders of the country and the Politburo that they wanted true Socialism and a true Socialist Democracy and that they wanted an end to what the system had become and and end of the abuses of power and privilege by some. They wanted a truly socialist German Democratic Republic – the great majority at least – not a takeover by the imperialist Federal Republic, though that is what happened in the end.

The majority of the demonstrators truly and honestly wanted more true socialism leading to communism, combined with the freedom to travel, also into capitalist countries and, if they so wished, to be able to leave the country without facing backlash and reprisals if they uttered this wish.

In the West, however, all of this was called an uprising against socialism and communism and for capitalism and “western” democracy, which it was not. But, today even many of the participants of the marches who took part for the mentioned reasons regurgitate the line by the Western propaganda machine that it was an uprising against communism. The majority wanted a reform of the system to true democratic socialism and not a destruction of it.

What they got, however, was an annexation of East Germany by West Germany and an occupation of the German Democratic Republic by West Germany.

The National People's Army (NVA) was ordered to surrender, basically, and ordered to have its small arms destroyed by having armored vehicles of the Bundeswehr roll over them. That is how you treat the army of a nation conquered and occupied.

West Germany did what it would have done – together with the US – had Dulles gotten his way and the Wall and fortified border would not have been built. The plan to overrun the German Democratic Republic and to launch an attack onto the Warsaw Pact was well under way but the Wall, the anti-fascist bulwark, put an end to those endeavors by the West.

All Dulles siblings were involved in the “reconstruction” of Europe – that is the western part of it – after World War Two and Alan Dulles, who was the head of the CIA in those days, was the mastermind behind the various ideas of attacking the German Democratic Republic and with it the entire Warsaw Pact. The plot to have the US Army and the Bundeswehr roll into the GDR in August 1961, which was discovered by scouts of the GDR and hence the building of the wall, was his last nefarious act he could try and run with. A few months later Kennedy sacked him, basically. But, I digressed a little.

What the majority of the East Germans who went onto the streets wanted was a proper version of Socialism and not a unity with West Germany. The movement, however, appears to have been hijacked by fifth columnists who made it appear in the West that the demonstrations were about the people of the East wanting to become part of the West. Nothing could have been further from the mind of the majority who took part in the marches and demonstrations.

The West, however, infiltrated the movement and now makes the Monday Demonstrations out to be something that they were not intended to be by those who began them claiming that the people wanted a reunification with the so-called federal Republic of Germany, commonly then know as West Germany.

The great majority of those East Germans that weekly went to those demonstrations had only one aim in sight and that was the creation of a truly socialist and truly democratic German Democratic Republic; they did not want to become part of the capitalist West Germany, ruled by Washington and anyone claiming it to have been that way is not speaking the truth.

© 2016

Civil Defense Concept

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The government of Germany has recently admonished its citizens to store food and water, and other provisions, including money, at home – enough for at least ten days – in case of an emergency situation.

food stored in cellarLots of jokes have been made about this, as in hamster purchases, and also lots of fear is going about as some wonder whether a war between NATO and the Russian Federation could be imminent, instigated by NATO. But there are many threats today, including cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, that would leave the unprepared in the dark, hungry and thirsty and without energy for cooking and heating and also without money.

There was a time – yes, I know, much of it during the Cold War, but also well, well before that – where having provisions at home was common sense in case of disasters, power outrages, or other eventualities.

Civil defense, in a time not so long ago, also did not just concentrate on the eventuality of war. It also dealt with catastrophes of other kinds, and for that very reason the sirens hat were still being used – and tested regularly, and are again today – in places such as Germany – did and do not just have the air raid sound and that for the all clear but also had one tone for catastrophe and that could be anything from storm surges to large dangerous forest fires (and everything else, for that matter).

In days past the supply chain of stores was a different one than today and stocks were held in a different way and not just be called in and delivered on the just in time principle. Nevertheless people canned and preserved food stuff, buying produce when in season, and laying it up for when not, or in case of emergencies when they could not get to the shops or when the shops could not get supplies in.

In addition to that people also stocked up on other things of daily use and for said emergencies. Toilet paper, batteries, flashlights, etc., were stocked, as was lamp oil (and oil lamps were in strategic stores at the home), candles, matches, and much more.

While it may be somewhat worrying as to why, suddenly, the advice again in Germany, and some other countries – for Switzerland and Czechoslovakia (yes, I still call it thus) also appear to have issued similar advice to its citizens – to store food, water and other necessary supplies, in general it is rather a case of common sense.

I would even suggest to go further than that and follow, to a degree, if one can, what the Mormons do, and that is to have more or less a year's supply of food and other essentials at home, even though, in the case of Germany (and some other countries) the word is five days of water and ten days of food. And it does not have to cost the earth. Buying a couple of tins of this and that and dried foods when one does one's ordinary shopping and storing this in the right manner already gets one to this state without much investment.

On top of that I would suggest to grow as much of one's own food as possible – and this can be done, to an extent, even in small spaces and using containers. The system of allotment gardens and, and we need more of those and the ones I will mention next, community gardens is a further means to do this if one does not have the space in one's own garden (or it one has not got one at all). And any surplus produce should be canned.

Not so long ago canning was even practiced by people in towns and cities, even apartment dwellers in that they would buy produce in season and in bulk – it used to be cheapest then – and can as much of it as possible for use during winter, hard times, or in times of crisis.

Such a store of emergency supplies should also include a means of cooking without utilities, such as a spirit stove, pressure stove or similar. First Aid supplies and necessary medication as well, obviously and some means of communication should also be included.

Means of communication in this instance does not mean cellphones. They may or more than likely may not work in a crisis situation, and that not only because of the battery life and the possibly lack of charging those batteries but because, primarily, because the networks may be down and/or destroyed.

While amateur radio is an option only if you happen to have a license there are means of radio communications, though the distances covered are shorter, even if you lack this license and thus some of those should be included in your emergency store. CB Radio and PMR sets are viable options. The PMR radios, in the US referred to as FRS, have but a short range but are great for communication a such a level while CB Radio, especially helped along with what, under normal circumstances would be illegal, a radio power amplifier.

The latter, much like amateur radio, however, requires a lot more by way of electrical power and also a decent antenna setup. The small PMR walkie-talkies don't but then they don't have the range and, again, there could be a problem with keeping batteries charged, as many do have a special kind of battery set, though in many that can be replaced by ordinary AAA-batteries. It's all horses for courses, as they say.

The entire idea of having supplies to hand in case of any kind of crisis is not a bad one at all – in fact it is a good one – even though in the current world climate – and I am not referring to the weather kind of climate – the advice is a tad worrying in the “do they know something they are not telling us” department.

© 2016

Stop the Fuelishness – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Stop The Fuelishness: Plan For A World W/o Fossil Fuels Save The Environment
by Johnroy Messick
Published by Xlibris Corporation
ISBN: 9781514431085
Available in hardcover, softcover & e-book
Perfect Bound Softcover – Price $19.99
Dust Jacket Hardcover – Price $29.99

FuelishnessThe short review could be: “this book is utter foolishness” and it could end there.

The author claims to be completely independent and while the book is self-published a PR company has been used to publicize and promote the book worldwide. Now tell me again someone may not have received some financial incentive from somewhere to promote nuclear energy over renewables for instance and that as “clean” energy.

The book has been produced by an obvious vanity press outfit, shown by the quality of the book, but then that matches the writing of the author. The style is rather that of someone not well versed in writing for an audience, which makes reading extremely cumbersome.

It seems to be extremely fashionable at present to have supposed experts write books – disguised as serious work – praising the benefits of nuclear energy and passing off any concerns about the safety of nuclear power, and especially that of the waste, with comments such as: “we expect to have overcome that problem in time”. Really? Yes, sure, and pigs will fly as well by that time.

Yes, it is probably true that renewables cannot provide for the way we are intending to continue consuming electricity and wasting it. On the other hand it has been proven that, with the right provisions, renewables, such as wind and solar, and especially small wind and small solar, could be the answer. The right provisions are the problem though, as in using electricity differently and more efficiently.

Nuclear fission is not safe and never will be and that not just because accidents will happen, as we have seen often enough, but also and especially because of its legacy, the radioactive waste and later the decommissioning of nuclear power stations. Neither is it a cheap source of energy; the opposite rather, for it is heavily subsidized by governments, whether in Britain or elsewhere. Renewable energy, on the other hand, has to make do without any government help and claiming that it has to learn to stand on its own feet, as has been said by some of those writers, really is laughable as nuclear certainly is not standing on its own feet.

Governments, however, subsidize nuclear energy because the spent fuel rods are a source material for the production of weapons' grade Plutonium for the making of nuclear weapons. Were it not for that there would be no money for nuclear from government coffers. Nuclear is also prepared to wave wads of cash in front of politicians and, it would appear, writers. Something solar and wind are not (prepared to be) doing.

Authors that are perpetuating the myth of nuclear as a safe (and cheap) source of energy, and a carbon neutral one, are not just deceiving themselves, they are lying to the world. More than likely they are doing so on behest of the government(s) or the industry and anyone who gives such a spiel of promoting nuclear energy cannot be considered independent, not by a long shot.

Aside from the fact that this book is so badly written that it is painful to read it, and then the author claiming to have financed this all himself and being completely independent, etc., believing and claiming, like the author of other book I had the misfortune to read, that the issue surrounding the dangerous waste will be sorted in due course, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, it can only receive a rating of zero out of five.

© 2016

The Spurtle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is a lot of – well, let's call it what it is – rubbish being talked about what a spurtle is. Fact is that it originates from a simple stick and all that the Scottish people did was to improve upon the simple stirring stick.

Not spurtles even though Wikipedia may say soWhat all too often, especially by wood carvers in the USA, but also some in other countries, are called spurtles are spatulas of different designs but on no account are they spurtles.

Also, to all accounts and purposes Wikipedia is talking dribble as regards to the spurtle, claiming that the spurtle or spirtle was originally a flat spatula for flipping oat cakes.

As far as I have been able to ascertain the spurtle, as we know it today, appears to have developed out of a simple stirring stick, used for porridge and gruel, originally just a stick with the bark removed, later a little more carved and, in the end lathe turned to the way we know it today.

Those are spurtles (turned left) (hand-carved right)Using a spurtle or a stirring paddle for making porridge or gruel instead of a wooden spoon prevents the stuff sticking to it and you just wipe it on the rim of the pot. While using a spoon there is always some porridge, some oats, or whatever else, that ends up rather “embedded” in the bowl of the spoon, so to speak. They weren't daft the old folks; the sure knew what they were doing.

So, in order to clear up the confusion, so to speak, this little piece here and the two photos. The first one shows what are claimed to be spurtles but which are not and the second one shows what are spurtles.

© 2016

Fossil fuels and others of a similar nature

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While fossil fuels, no doubt, are a problem for the biosphere – I hate nowadays to use the word environment as it has also other connotations – other fuels that are being burned in motor vehicles, even though they are created from plants and other resources, still have, as far as air pollution is concerned, the same or even worse an impact.

It is reckoned that the particle emissions from bio-diesel are many times higher than those from diesel based on “normal” oil and thus it is a case of “from the frying pan into the fire” here and bio-ethanol (the bio prefix is actually not needed as ethanol is an alcohol that generally is made from plants or grain) still is being burned in the same way as gasoline. Green it is not even though it is not made from oil coming out of the ground but from renewable resources.

The great majority of bio-diesel is made from palm oil and the growing of those palms, and the planting of ever more of them, is destroying rainforest areas in many tropical countries around the world. The use of maize (corn for our American cousins) for bio-ethanol is doing similar things to prime agricultural land; land that would be far better put to use in growing produce for people.

Aside from the negative effects on the biosphere the growing of those crops for bio-fuels causes those are still fuels that are being burned in engines and it does not make their emissions less harmful than those from oil-derived fuels; in some cases, as in the case of bio-diesel, it appears that the particle emissions are several times higher and more dangerous than those from ordinary fuels, in that case diesel.

While oil, as in the sticky black stuff that comes out of the ground, is coming to an end anyway, or at least that kind of oil that can be gotten out of the ground cheaply, and many no reckon that the remainders of both oil, and coal, be best left in the ground. Natural gas is the cleaner burning fossil fuel but it is still a fossil fuel that has to be gotten out of the ground though, theoretically, there would be no need to do that as natural gas is, basically, methane and that can be produced by a variety of means and from a variety of materials, and could also be “harvested” from sewage treatment plants and landfills.

Not that easy, I know, to use it to power cars and trucks with methane, though it can be done, has been done and is being done, but it could heat our homes, cook our food, and power our electricity generating plants.

In fact, in many cases, using gas, especially methane created in a digester, on a farm or homestead, for heating, via a combined boiler with a Sterling engine, you would, literally, have your own power station at home, creating energy while heating the house. Add to that photo-voltaic cells on the roof and small wind turbines, and a home, homestead or farm could be entirely self-sufficient in energy production. Even more so if the lighting and other circuits would be on a lower voltage, e.g. 12 V DC rather than 110/240 V AC. But that is a story for another essay.

The biggest problem, as said, is that whatever the source of the fuel of the oil or gasoline kind, even if it is bio-diesel and ethanol, it is still being burned in internal combustion engines and the emissions and pollution, for pollution is not just emissions, could even be worse than those from what we might refer to as ordinary gasoline of diesel, and we might be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

But how are we going to carry on motoring without those fuels then? Battery cars just don't cut it, as yet, and for larger trucks, farm machinery and such, battery never will. The only answer is that we have to change the way we travel and may have to seriously think about the ways that our forebears did it, that is to say by human power or, in some cases, the use of animal power again, as in the case of “trucking” and farming.

Yes, and that will indeed mean that we cannot travel as far and that also means that we cannot commute (by car) tens of miles and more daily from homes in the countryside to the city. We will have to, once again, work where we live or live where our work is, or at least close to it, so that our place of work can either be reached on foot or by bicycle. Perishable goods also will have to come from much closer to home again as horse and cart travel a lot slower than do trucks.

I know that many people believe it to be their human rights to own a motorcar and to be able to use it as and when they want but there is – so far – no such right in any way, shape, or form, and the way the prices are for battery-powered vehicles for many this would never be a possibility anyway. Does anyone really believe that they will become so cheap that everyone will be able to afford them? Unless the battery technology improves in such a way that common and cheaply available renewable resources can be used for them then it will remain but a dream. And, to be very honest, so far I cannot see this development.

We will also have to redesign and retrofit buildings to retain heat in winter and remain cool in summer so as to use less energy for heating (ideally very little) and none for cooling in summer. And, we do have to do this now, not next year or the next decade.

© 2016

Can you improve on something perfect? Yes, Gtech can!

Gtech AirRam Mk2 Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Gtech AirRam Mk2-1Four years ago the Gtech AirRam entered Britain and I was one of those who was privileged to attend the launch of it and take one home with me for review and found it to be an amazing piece of kit. When I was invited to the launch of the AirRam Mk2 I wondered how it possibly could have been improved over what it already was, namely, in my opinion, the perfection in vacuum floor cleaner. But improving it Gtech certainly could and did the already perfect.

A lot of positive changes have been made to the AirRam to make the perfect one even better and more convenient still and they will be listed further in this piece.

As said four years ago, in 2012, Gtech launched the AirRam cordless vacuum cleaner. The no-tube design represented a completely new approach to vacuum cleaning. AirRam’s high performance, low power usage and long life has been very successful, propelling Gtech from ‘start-up in a cow shed’ to ‘serious floorcare brand’ in just four years.

Keeping the core principles of the original, the new AirRam Mk2’s dirt collection system has been completely redesigned. Dirt is compacted into a tubular bale with an active ejection system (an aluminium slider) for cleaner emptying even into small bins.

Performance on carpets and hard floors has always been good, but the new AirRam Mk2’s ability to clean uneven and deeply creviced flooring has been transformed with the addition of its, unique patented AirLOC system. AirLOC changes with each cleaning stroke; on the forward stroke the front face of AirRam Mk2 opens to collect larger debris. On the backward stroke, AirLOC seals to the floor to collect fine dust from deep crevices.

In international cleaning tests, the new AirRam Mk2 outperforms the UK’s best-selling, cordless vacuums across all surfaces; carpet, hard floor and crevices.

The new AirRam Mk2’s efficient use of power delivers 40-minutes high performance cleaning from each 4-hour charge.

Gtech CEO and founder, Nick Grey says: “With AirRam’s new approach to vacuum cleaner design it was inevitable we would learn a lot from seeing how the technology works in a wide variety of homes. We’ve watched and listened and made some really important changes to the product’s design.”

Gtech’s growth from £4m (2011) to approaching £90m this year has been recognised with prestigious business awards including a Queens Award for Excellence in Innovation, No. 2 rank in the Profit Track 1003 and No. 11 in last year’s Fast Track 1004 Sunday Times business league tables. Since 2012 Gtech have sold over a million cordless vacuum cleaners.

Gtech AirRam Mk2’s new features include:

  • NEW patent-pending AirLOC technology - Gtech’s patented AirLOC system picks up larger debris from the surface of the floor and cleans into deep crevices. This combined with the short wide air path helps the AirRam Mk2 clean even more dirt from carpets, hard floors and from crevices.

  • Lightweight – Thanks to its revolutionary design which does away with so many bulky parts, the AirRam Mk2 weighs just 3.5kg, that’s half the weight of many mains powered upright vacuums, making it easy to lift and carry up the stairs.

  • Cleaner emptying - A new dirt collection system makes AirRam Mk2 easier to empty with even less mess. Dirt is collected into the head of the vacuum, moving it just 4cms before compressing it into the unique, snail-shell bin. This compression technology enables the AirRam Mk2 to pack away an impressive 2.4L of dust and debris into its 0.8L capacity bin. When full, eject this tubular bale of compressed debris straight into the bin with a slide of the dirt ejector arm.

  • Long run time – AirRam Mk2’s power comes from a professional grade 22V lithium-ion battery. Its energy efficient design means you can clean your home twice on one charge, running for up to 40 minutes; a 1-hour short charge will deliver a burst of additional run time. A 4stage LED display indicates how much charge is left in the battery and is rechargeable whilst in situ, or when removed from the head of the vacuum cleaner.

  • Easy to clean - Simply slide out the filter, tap it clean and replace. The brush bar has a release button to allow for complete removal and a cutting guide to make hair removal a cinch.

  • Easy to operate - The on/off switch is now foot operated so no bending, and there is a telescopic handle which is activated by a simple button mechanism that locks and unlocks the handle at full height during operation, and half height for easy storage. Move effortlessly from carpet to hard-floors and back again, with no settings to change. AirRam Mk2 has an ultra-low profile, allowing you to reach under chairs and tables and its edge cleaning technology helps you get into those awkward corners and makes it great for cleaning the stairs. Its cordless technology means no more fighting with snagged cords or plug sockets.

  • Headlights - New, full width LED searchlights mean there’s now no place for dirt to hide.

For complete cordless cleaning combine the AirRam Mk2’s 40-minute run time with the Gtech Multi Mk2 (review to follow), which has been enhanced with a 30% power increase, giving a 20-minute run time, and you have an hour of floor to ceiling cleaning for your home.

Where to Buy?

Buy exclusively from priced £199, or £299 when combined with the new Gtech Multi Mk2.

Gtech Promise

Gtech offers a two year guarantee to fix or replace the Gtech AirRam Mk 2 if anything breaks as a result of faulty manufacturing. If you aren’t happy with your AirRam Mk2, Gtech will either exchange it or give you a full refund within the first 30 days.

Rating: If it would compute I would give the Gtech AirRam Mk2 a ten out of five rating as I did with the eBike. Oh, what the heck, let's just do it.

10 out of 5. Oh, erm, did I mention as yet that I love it and its cleaning power? Well, I very much do. And yes, before anyone wonders, after four years and regular use, my AirRam Mk1 is still working great.

© 2016

Countries phasing out fossil fuel cars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many countries and regions are proposing the phasing out of fossil fuel cars in the next decade or even earlier with some cities beginning a ban on all but electric cars, especially in town centers, within the next couple of years. (We wrote about that not so long ago here).

compact-electric-car-43068But, and here comes the interesting part, electric cars are expensive and not, as yet, fully developed to replace cars and trucks. The fact that they are expensive beyond the means of most ordinary people will mean that many will no longer be able to own and use a car. But then again that may just be the idea.

While we will have to face the facts that, aside from not being very conducive to human, animal and plant health, due to the very nature of the combustion engine, oil-based fuels for the propelling of vehicles (and in general) will be getting more difficult to obtain in the future and thus the end of the motor car is nigh, the materials for electric vehicles, and especially the rare earth, and the word rare should be the big giveaway here, will also become more and more difficult to extract. The reason for this is the fact that without the large machinery, powered by, well, yes, you guessed it, oil-based fuels, required for the extraction such components just cannot be gotten out of the earth.

That means that the battery technology of today used for electric vehicles, and that, unfortunately, also includes electric bicycles, will no longer be feasible and, unless we develop another kind of battery that does not rely on materials that are hard to obtain, electric vehicles also will cease to be available. They will, anyway, not be available in the not so distant future to any but the rich “motorists” as, unlike predicted, the costs will go up and up and not down. Remember the rare earths and the ensuing difficulties of extracting them. That alone will make for rising rather than for falling costs and manufacture and shipping, when oil is starting to get harder and harder to come by, will also make for ever rising costs.

In addition to that there is the fact that the batteries used in EVs have a limited life, a great deal shorter than the old style lead acid batteries (and the latter are rather heavy, as we all know, I am sure), and after a couple of years you will need a new battery that often is half the cost of a new vehicle. I am referring here to the modern batteries for the electric cars and not the lead acid kind of batteries. So, for most average people electric vehicles and motoring after such a phase out and subsequent ban of cars with internal combustion engines will be but a dream.

Those that still believe that they can carry on driving a car, albeit an electric one, after such a time, or after when fossil fuels are no more, better wake up and get back into the real world quickly and make some serious adjustments to how they do things. The hydrogen fuel cell also is and will remain a pipe dream. Methane power could be utilized but you are still burning that fuel; then again you also burn the hydrogen.

Truth is, and I will keep saying this until it has finally sunk into the heads of people, that the age of personal motoring, just as one of the people in the documentary “The Power of Community”, about Cuba not so long ago, is history. Or as he said, the motorcar was a blip in the history of mankind and no more.

Therefore we will have to reconsider our ways and especially how we travel and by what means and commuting long distances to and from work will also come to an end unless there are rapid public transit systems that can cover this.

While the latter can operate in the suburban and urban areas many who nowadays commute long distances to work live in rural parts but work in the urban areas and that will have to change as they will not be able to commute by means other than the car (which will have ceased to exist or become too expensive to own and run). Some people in the UK live in in rural areas several sometime hundred or more miles away from London but nevertheless work in the capital. They travel for hours by car or overcrowded trains but they live in the country, of which they see nothing during the week and very little during the weekend.

The ones who should be living in the country are those that wish to live and work there, growing our food, working our woods, and doing other things there, while at the same time reanimating our moribund villages. The city workers who live in the villages just because they can do not – or very rarely – contribute to the village and also make it almost impossible for people who actually want to live and work in the countryside to live (and work) there.

However, I am almost certain that the change in transportation will also create a change in demographics in that those who work in the city but live in the countryside, no longer being able to commute easily will move back closer to where the work is and leave the countryside once again to the real country people and those who do want to be country people.

We need to once again live where we work and work where we live or at least as close as possible to both. And people need to wake up to the fact that that will be the new norm and that personal motoring, with a personal car, will no longer be the case. Human powered transportation – aside from public transport – will be once again be the case, and for most that will mean walking or cycling.

© 2016

Dark times – dark times indeed

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Facebook friends and real friends break off with people because their PC settings warn him or her that someone's website or Blog is right-wing. This happens through a browser add-on that appears to be developed by the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung in Germany to warn about supposedly right-wing sites and those that have right-wing contents, and deal with supposed conspiracy theories. But it also and especially picks out sites and Blogs that do not go along with the neo-liberal thinking of governments in the EU.

Friends, Facebook ones, and others, comment, if they do at all, that it would be automatic character assassination to be seen to associated with someone or with sites and Blogs who or that has been marked as right-wing by such programs and their algorithms.

This is how far we have come. In the same way that anyone who criticizes the Zionist entity in Palestine is automatically called anti-Semitic nowadays anyone who believes things differently as being prescribed by the governments is now blacklisted. Automatic execution by robots even if only in the virtual sense.

What we have arrived at thus is economic sanctions by means of false information acquisition and with that we have arrived at a dictatorship, no ifs and buts, which only those of us notice who stand in the way of such activities.

That particular foundation, the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, has a knack of listing anyone who and anything that does not conform to the prescribed norm as right wing, as Nazi, as anti-Semitic, and so on and so forth, and thus destroying people that are a thorn in the flesh – to whatever degree – of the neo-liberal establishment.

The Amadeu Antonio Stiftung likes to present itself as an independent foundation and NGO, but nothing could be further from the truth, for on its supervisory board, its board of managers, sit, amongst others, the head of one of the intelligence services of the Germany.

It can only be assumed that that particular “foundation” based in Germany is by no means the only one working in such a way for we can see this unfriending in the virtual and real realm in other countries and places too.

In some cases it may just be that the neo-liberal brainwashing has worked very well amongst some people though they will give the same reasons, that is to say that they fear by being associated with a person who writes certain things on his websites, or just on social media, would be detrimental to their personal lives as well as their “careers”.

Only recently I have had an experience where a Facebook “friend”, a young female who really must be smoking the wrong stuff, was taking issue with me for campaigning, so to speak, against child marriages of migrants to Germany and for me citing the “constitution” and the criminal code. I was called a Nazi, greeted with Heil you-know-who, and told that the law should not be valid in those cases. The brainwashing seems to have worked very well indeed, as indeed those marriages, even if the bride is but 12 or 13, are being considered for validation by the authorities in some federal states of Germany.

We have, it seems, come to a point where right is wrong and wrong is right and were good is evil and evil good. Dark times indeed.

© 2016

Don’t look for happiness, look for contentment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How many of us think along those lines:

  • “I wish I had him / her as my friend… then I’d be really happy. ”
  • “I wish I was famous, then I’d really be happy.”
  • “I wish was making enough money… then I’d be happy.”
  • “I wish… I wish.. I wish…”

Have you ever felt this way? I bet you have.

We spend our lives running after things or people, hoping that they will make us happy. But as soon as we get what we want, the happiness fizzles away & we start running after the next shiny object, the next connection, the next high.

Finding happiness in material things is like fighting illness with pain killers. The effect is superficial and rather short term.

It is nice to be happy, really happy, and to experience this high but you have to understand that this kind of happiness is like a wave on the ocean shore; it comes, and it goes. It is also a little – more than a little – like the high induced by drugs (you get where I am leading to).

What we all really should be striving for is to be content. Contentment is a lasting thing which happiness is a fickle thing that, as said, is like a wave on the beach or like the high induced by smoking a joint or by alcohol, a state of euphoria.

What is the difference between contentment and happiness?

If you chase happiness, it will always be one step ahead of you. If you chase contentment, there is nowhere to run. Happiness is, more or less, an emotion that comes and goes, contentment is more a way of life.

Contentment is a state of constant well-being despite the ups & downs we face. Life is challenging and at times it can throw us off balance. By practicing contentment, we find the strength to remain at peace no matter what. Looking for happiness, on the other hand, is a temporary high only, somewhat akin to consuming alcohol or certain drugs.

The first step to contentment is to be grateful. While sometimes circumstances may make you wonder how you can be grateful with what life throws at you there are definitely things to be grateful for.

If you are alive and reasonably healthy then that for starters. Then there are family, friends, the food we eat, the natural world and its wonders, and on and on the list could go. Practice gratitude. Some people even suggest of keeping a gratitude journal. It is not an easy thing at times but worth it, I think.

When we are grateful for what we have, it focuses our attention on what is right in our lives. Not only do we become content, it also helps us maintain a positive perspective when we face challenges. And the latter is important so as not to be thrown off balance.

Also and especially avoid complaining all the time. Complaining only creates more unhappiness not only for you, but also for those around you. Though there is a tendency in society to think that if you are complaining all the time, you must be “smart”. Because if you are complaining you’re implying you know how to fix the world’s problems or that you’re somehow better than others.

Even with practicing contentment does not mean that you have to or will walk around with a constant smile on your face. In some instances that could be seen as rude, inappropriate or the smile could even be mistaken for a smirk. Pretending that everything is alright when it is not is also not good; it is unreal.

Every time before you complain, ask yourself “Why am I complaining?” Is it to validate myself? Or is it because there’s a genuine problem that needs to be addressed. If it is the latter then try to be constructive in your criticism. Look at the world from the point of view of the other person. Listen well. Put forth your needs. Try solving the problem together.

If it is about something else than a person, such as circumstances, issues in your neighborhood or town, or such like, then see whether you can find a solution, and idea that might create change, rather than just standing or sitting there complaining.

In most cases this will lead to a solution.

So, the next time you catch yourself thinking “I wish I had so and so… then I’ll be happy”, gently remind yourself, that you are responsible for your own happiness; no one else. And that happiness, your happiness, does not (need to) depend on “being famous”, “making more money” or anything external.

What you are really looking for is to be content. And once you realize contentment comes from within, you don’t need to wait any longer. You can be content here & now. In other words: be happy with what you have got and you reach contentment.

© 2016

Waste not want not: Sweden to give tax breaks for repairs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

RepairThe Swedish government attempts to tackle the “throwaway culture” by cutting VAT on fixing everything from bicycles to washing machines

The Swedish government is introducing tax breaks on repairs to everything from bicycles to washing machines so it will no longer make sense to throw out old or broken items and buy new ones.

Sweden's ruling Social Democrat and Green party coalition is set to submit proposals to parliament on Tuesday to slash the VAT rate on repairs to bicycles, clothes and shoes from 25% to 12%.

It will also submit a proposal that would allow people to claim back from income tax half of the labor cost on repairs to appliances such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines.

It is hoped by the Swedish government that the tax break on appliances will spur the creation of a new home-repairs service industry, providing much-needed jobs for new immigrants who lack formal education.

The incentives are part of a shift in government focus from reducing carbon emissions produced domestically to reducing emissions tied to goods produced elsewhere.

Sweden has cut its annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 23% since 1990 and already generates more than half of its electricity from renewable sources. But emissions linked to consumption have stubbornly risen.

The policy, according to the government, is also tied in with international trends around reduced consumption and crafts, such as the “maker movement” and the sharing economy, both of which have strong followings in Sweden.

The proposals will be presented in parliament as part of the Swedish government's budget proposals and if voted through in December will become law from 1 January 2017.

We can but hope that there are also the businesses in place that can offer those repair services, for in many countries now, due to the fact that repair is more expensive than buying new, more often than not, such businesses are now few and far between, if they exist at all.

And when it comes to, say shoe and boot repair, those little shops often have, for instance, no idea of how to resew leather upper to a leather midsole. “I do not have a machine that can do that”, I have been told by three proprietors of such shops. While they may be able to sew an ordinary seam on a boot or shoe with a machine, they cannot sew anything by hand, as would be required sewing upper back to midsole. We are beginning to lack the skills now of doing such things.

On the other hand such incentives, as proposed by the Swedish ruling parties, could actually revitalize the once thriving repair economy. And we would do well to replicate something along those lines also in other countries. There was a time when repair was the norm and order of the day and there were repair shops for all manner of goods almost everywhere. They were part of the economy.

© 2016