The story of the MV Ever Given

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


This picture of the MV Ever Given embedded in the banks of the Suez Canal shows exactly what is wrong with our trade today and how close the current system is to the brink of collapse.

As an example there was a story the other day on the BBRC Radio 4 about a wood merchant who has some wood flooring on board of that ship. The flooring is French Oak which was shipped all the way to China where it was turned into veneer and then glued onto plywood tongue and grooved to become laminate flooring.

The same as, and not just the UK, send, or used to sen, our recyclable plastic to China to be turned into pellets to be re-imported into our respective countries to have plastic products made from or import plastic products made in China from those plastic bottles. We keep sending tulips to Holland, so to speak, each and every time instead of doing the things at home.

In addition to that the story with Covid-19, aka SARS-Cov-2, and it new variants is threatening, so we are told, imports into the UK, for instance, from the European continent as Britain may be putting a number of EU countries on the “red list” with regards to the infections. The haulier associations say that any measures imposed such as testing and quarantine could discourage truckers coming to the UK and thus could threaten supplies of foods and other goods.

As far as Britain is concerned, having left the EU, the time would be right to reconsider home production of many things and also and especially improving the situation of farming by returning to smaller general farms rather than the huge farms and for farmers, as well as fishermen, instead on thinking first and foremost about export to actually think about feeding the nation.

The same goes for production and ownership of companies. Time to bring things back “in house”, so to speak, and to make things again in the country rather than to be relying almost wholly on imports from China and other such places where labor is cheap and environmental laws lax and workers' rights almost non-existent. But, hey, it is cheap and everyone wants things cheap and the corporations want cheap labor so as to reap high profits.

The corporations do not care that, for instance, in the extraction of both the materials from which the batteries for our cellphones and electric vehicles are made and the production of cacao for chocolate child slaves are being used. As long as whatever is being produced can be produced cheaply is all that counts for them.

What to do? Towards autonomy, zero waste, creating a network with the neighborhood, training to acquire the old knowledge and so on. Back to basics, more or less literally.

One of the most essential things that leads to autonomy is to make your vegetable garden, and it does not always need a great deal of space. Grow up instead. The other is to learn to make things for yourself and to learn to and be able to repair things.

Instead of relying on technology to solve the problems we might do well to look at other ways, some not so complicated ones.

© 2021

The SIGNAL FOR HELP

The anti-violence gesture to recognize and help victims of abuse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Thumb of the hand folded, four fingers up and then closed to a fist: an anti-violence gesture we all need to learn to recognize, because through silent and universal language you can ask for help against domestic abuse.

This is a gesture that should become international, codifying a call for help from women victims, but victims are not always women, of domestic violence or who feel in danger anyway.

It can often be difficult for those who suffer abuse to ask for help, due to the presence and constant control of their abuser, but also the spiral of fear that the violence perpetrated triggers.

The problem, like with so many things, that the more they are made public the more also the opponent, in this case the abuser, knows such signals and codes and the cipher is broken. Nevertheless for victims knowing this code and for everyone else to know ity too might just save someone's life. So let's spread the knowledge.

© 2021

Corona reinvents sustainable packaging by launching beer pack made using barley - giving the essential beer ingredient a new life


 ● The initiative is part of the continuous commitment of the brand on finding sustainable technologies to protect nature

● New technology - three years in the making - repurposes surplus barley straw into packaging material in a circular process eliminating wastage

● Revolutionary new process uses 90% less water*, less energy, and behaves just like regular paper when recycled.

18 March 2021: Corona today launches a new, circular form of packaging for six-packs as part of its long-standing dedication to protecting the environment – harnessing surplus barley straw to create a truly sustainable paper packaging solution.

Corona, which has a deep connection with the natural world, is the first global brand to leverage technology and processes three years in development by AB InBev’s Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITEC). This ground-breaking technology reimagines how to use barley, giving the essential beer ingredient new life as a sustainable packaging solution.

Barley seed will continue to make the beer that consumers know and love. But barley straw, a leftover from farmers' harvests, will now be used through a unique pulping process built to handle its relative fragility.

Combined with 100% recycled wood fibers, this process creates a paper board to produce new packaging that is as strong and durable as a regular six-pack, but better for the planet – able to carry six cold beer bottles from the store fridge to the beach, but using far fewer resources along the way.

Turning barley straw into paper fiber uses 90% less water*, along with less energy and fewer harsh chemicals. Using leftover barley straw is also far more productive than the equivalent area of woodland, and Corona sees this as one path forward to eliminate the need for virgin trees and raw material from their supply chain in the future.

Upon completion of the successful pilot, AB InBev, Corona’s parent company and the leading brewer in the world, will review rolling out the technology to other brands thereby increasing the potential positive environmental impact and the ability to influence the whole beverage industry.

Felipe Ambra, Global Vice President of Marketing, Corona, said: “Corona is a brand born at the beach. We’re deeply connected with nature and appreciate all that it has to offer, so we want to continue to do our part to protect it. Our deep reverence for nature is what inspires our vision to become a sustainability leader in the consumer packaged goods industry, because we want everyone to be able to keep enjoying paradise.

Starting with our own packaging, we assessed where we could make changes within our production and supply chains to make a real difference. We are proud to announce this first step in reinventing the future of packaging for our industry.”

Keenan Thompson, Director of Packaging Innovation at AB InBev, said: “We’re excited to finally launch this new packaging innovation we’ve been developing over the past three years. At AB InBev we are continually pushing boundaries by developing scalable solutions. Today is a proud moment for us, not only are we providing an opportunity for farmers but we’re also delivering a more mindful solution to the consumer.”

The new packaging will launch today with an initial 10,000 six-packs rolling out as a pilot in Colombia in March, followed by Argentina later in 2021 as Corona looks to scale the new solution globally.

Source: Corona Press Office

Wood for good: how building timber framed social housing can save taxpayers £261 million

PRESS RELEASE

Tuesday 26 January 2021


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called on the government and local authorities for urgent investment in housing to meet the growing demand for social housing. Homeless charity Crisis recently calculated that 90,000 homes need to be built a year in order to meet this demand. Paramount Timber Frame have gathered recent studies in the industry to calculate that if these houses were built using timber frame construction rather than traditional masonry methods, it could save the government over £261 million.

Timber frame construction responds to the wider housing challenges. In fact, building with timber would see the government’s existing target of building 300,000 homes per annum reached far more effectively and sustainably, generating cost savings across the board and arguably moving towards bursting the current housing bubble.

Timber framed homes in the UK is the most traditional building method boasted by the UK’s oldest properties, surviving since the 15th Century. However, brick became the Victorian answer to mass housing production in the 19th Century. With sustainability becoming a core value for many businesses and individuals, the other benefits to building with timber are beginning to come into focus.

Building with timber is cost effective, with timber frame coming in at around a 2.8%* cost saving. It is also shortening construction time as Rider Levett Bucknall found in a study between the 2 methods. The build time for an average timber frame home was only 41 weeks compared to 49 weeks for masonry. The 2 months of saved time equates to further cost savings on labour most notably, as well as improve cash flow by completing projects sooner.

The cost savings and efficiency aren’t the only benefit associate with timber frame, it is also highly sustainable. Timber is part of the circular economy, which is the most effective carbon store. When used instead of the more traditional building materials, a single cubic metre of timber will save around 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. When extended to the 90,000 homes a year – that can make a huge difference to the environment.

Timber is also a renewable material, with up to 90% of the timber used in the UK coming from certified sustainable sources such as the FSC and the PEFC. The majority of the remaining 10% comes from well managed sources in countries which do not practice certification. For every one tree that is harvested, five are planted in its place which means that it is not only a sustainable method, but one that is integral to the governments Net Zero by 2050 initiative.

Richard Swayne, Director of Paramount Timber Frame says: “The time has come for the industry to switch to timber frame more aggressively. The benefits for using timber instead of traditional masonry methods are tenfold. At Paramount Timber Frame, we know there is intense need for delivering high quality, good value housing and fast. Switching to timber frame is how we start to build for tomorrow. To not only alleviate the housing crises, but to evolve the industry to becoming more sustainable, for both the environment and society.

Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association says: “It’s no secret that Britain’s housing construction has faced numerous challenges over the decades, from planning restrictions, cost of materials and safety issues. Timber construction provides a glaringly obvious solution to many of these challenges whilst also meeting housing needs efficiently and net zero carbon by 2050 target.

With timber construction we believe we can build back Britain, Better, Greener and Faster. Our Time for Timber campaign embodies this, bringing together the science, data and industry thought-leaders, echoing that the time to change our out-dated construction methods is now.”

*according to study by Rider Levett Bucknall

Please see the below data contributing to the cost saving total:
Average house size: 91 sqm*
Cost per sqm for timber: 1,148.38**
Cost per average house size for timber: 104,502.58
Cost per sqm for masonry: 1,180.34**
Cost per average house size for masonry: 107,410.94
Cost for 90,000 average homes a year in timber: 9,405,232,200
Cost for 90,000 average homes a year masonry: 9,666,984,600
Saving of £261,752,400
*according to RIBA Homewise report 2015
**according to study by Rider Levett Bucknall

About Paramount Timber Frame
Paramount Timber Frame are the design and manufacturer of offsite timber frame structures used in the construction of property. Head quartered at their purpose built factory at Chatham Docks, Kent, the company is committed to transforming the way housing is built in the UK by providing and championing cost-effective, time-efficient and sustainable methods. Paramount Timber Frame provide developers and construction companies with the materials to create quality homes that are built with the future in mind, creating space for the growing communities and protecting our world for generations to come.

Our world is losing ice at record rate

Monday, 25 January 2021

  • A research team – the first to carry out a survey of global ice loss using satellite data – has discovered that the rate at which ice is disappearing across the planet is speeding up.
  • The findings also reveal that 28 trillion tonnes of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017 – equivalent to a sheet of ice 100 metres thick covering the whole of the UK.

A paper, published today in The Cryosphere, describes how a team of researchers led by the University of Leeds in the UK, used information from ESA’s ERS, Envisat and CryoSat satellites as well as the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 missions to find that the rate at which Earth has lost ice has increased markedly within the past three decades, from 0.8 trillion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 1.3 trillion tonnes per year by 2017.

To put this into perspective, one trillion tonnes of ice can be thought of as a cube of ice measuring 10x10x10 km, which would be taller than Mount Everest.

The research shows that overall, there has been a 65% increase in the rate of ice loss over the 23-year survey. This has been driven mainly by steep rises in losses from the polar ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

Ice melt from ice sheets and glaciers raises sea levels, increases the risk of flooding in coastal communities, which has severe consequences for society, the economy and the environment.

Lead author Thomas Slater, a research fellow at Leeds’ Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, said, “Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most.

“The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sea-level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century.”

The study is the first of its kind to examine all the ice that is disappearing on Earth, using satellite observations.

The survey covers 215 000 mountain glaciers spread around the planet, the polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the ice shelves floating around Antarctica, and sea ice drifting in the Arctic and Southern Oceans.

Dr Slater added, “Over the past three decades there’s been a huge international effort to understand what’s happening to individual components in Earth’s ice system. This has been revolutionised by satellites as they allow us to routinely monitor the vast and inhospitable regions where ice can be found.”

The increase in ice loss has been triggered by warming of the atmosphere and oceans, which have warmed by 0.26°C and 0.12°C per decade since 1980, respectively.

During the survey period, there was a loss of 7.6 trillion tonnes of Arctic sea ice and a loss of 6.5 trillion tonnes from Antarctic ices shelves, both of which float on the polar oceans.

Isobel Lawrence, also a research fellow at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, said, “Sea-ice loss doesn't contribute directly to sea-level rise, but it does have an indirect influence. One of the key roles of Arctic sea ice is to reflect solar radiation back into space, which helps keep the Arctic cool.

“As the sea ice shrinks, more solar energy is being absorbed by the oceans and atmosphere, causing the Arctic to warm faster than anywhere else on the planet.”

Half of all losses were from ice on land – including 6.1 trillion tonnes from mountain glaciers, 3.8 trillion tonnes from the Greenland ice sheet, and 2.5 trillion tonnes from the Antarctic ice sheet. These losses have raised global sea levels by 35 millimetres.

It is estimated that for every centimetre of sea-level rise, approximately a million people in low-lying regions are in danger of being displaced.

Despite storing only 1% of Earth's total ice volume, glaciers have contributed to almost a quarter of the global ice losses over the study period, with all glacier regions around the world losing ice.

Report co-author and PhD researcher Inès Otosaka, also from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, said, “As well as contributing to global mean sea-level rise, mountain glaciers are also critical as a freshwater resource for local communities.

“The retreat of glaciers around the world is therefore of crucial importance at both local and global scales.”

ESA’s Mark Drinkwater added, “The tap to the vast global icy reservoir has been well and truly opened by global warming. Continuity in satellite data is the key to predicting future ice losses, and to assist in mitigating the threats posed by sea-level rise, shrinking high mountain glaciers and further climate feedbacks. The Copernicus Expansion missions, CRISTAL, CIMR and ROSE-L have been designed to fill the gaps in current Sentinel capabilities for comprehensive monitoring of changes in the global ice cover.”

Full article: http://www.esa.int/.../Our_world_is_losing_ice_at_record_rate

Source: ESA

The world has two energy problems

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The rich use too much of it, and the poor have too little.

Someone asked: "What's the higher moral imperative preferred? Poverty and reduced living standards commensurate with lower emissions or higher carbon emissions and all the benefits of a modern society?"


It is actually a valid and troubling point, made graphic in the above picture where carbon emissions are roughly proportional to income, and pretty much the only people living below the 2.5 tonne per year line are also seriously below the poverty line. This leads to the conclusion that we really have two energy problems, one of the rich, and another of the poor.

The lack of access to energy subjects people to a life in poverty. No electricity means no refrigeration of food; no washing machine or dishwasher; and no light at night. You might have seen the photos of children sitting under a street lamp at night to do their homework. The first energy problem of the world is the problem of energy poverty – those that do not have sufficient access to modern energy sources suffer poor living conditions as a result.

It's like the world lives in two bubbles, the pink one mostly in energy poverty, and the blue one where everyone is pretty much over the line, and the richer they are, the higher the emissions per capita. Also, as the people in the pink bubble make more money, they go blue.

The essential truth missing from economic education today is that energy is the stuff of the universe, that all matter is also a form of energy, and that the economic system is essentially a system for extracting, processing and transforming energy as resources into energy embodied in products and services.

Or, more succinctly, money is essentially embodied and operating energy and some experts believe that the solution is to find large-scale energy alternatives to fossil fuels that are affordable, safe and sustainable.

Without these technologies, they believe, we are trapped in a world where we have only bad alternatives: Low-income countries that fail to meet the needs of the current generation; high-income countries that compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs; and middle-income countries that fail on both counts.

Every country is still very far away from providing clean, safe, and affordable energy at a massive scale and unless we make rapid progress in developing these technologies we will remain stuck in the two unsustainable alternatives of today: energy poverty or greenhouse gas emissions.

It appear to be a very hard sell these days to believe and promote that there is a third alternative, a decoupling of energy from fossil fuels though increase use of renewables, and a decrease in demand through a culture of sufficiency, of using less. Maybe it is somehow fantasy-land, this believe, but the latter would start enabling the former. Without the latter the former is not possible, and that is where the problem lies.

Without a decrease in demand for energy and everything else, to be honest, it will simply not possible to move over to renewables and, as winter 2020/21 has shown, at least in Germany where the government advised people to stock up on candles, that, with the demand of energy with everyone being at home during the Covid19-pandemic and lockdowns, the renewables, upon which the German electricity network mostly, nowadays, replies just are unable to supply demand, with power cuts a result.

In addition to that we must find reliable ways of storing excess energy for use during the lean times. For off-grid homes this is more or less relatively easy by using battery storage, in many cases in the old-fashioned and well-tested lead acid batteries but on the large scale this is still a problem. Maybve it is also the large scale that is the problem.

© 2021

Reuse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Photo for illustration purposes only

I am a very strange bird, so people would certainly say, in that I have a serious problem in that I am trying to find a reuse for almost everything. Whether the fact that I have grown up rather poor and in a Romani (Gypsy) family is the main reason for this I could not say but it certainly has contributed greatly to it.

As children we did not have much if anything by the way of bought toys, and other things, and so finding things that we could use, whether for play or in their more or less original use, was always a joy. To a great extent it has remained with me ever since that time, though I don't do much playing with toys anymore but the other part surely remains.

There is a saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure, or something to that effect, and that goes, as far as I am concerned, for any reusable and reworkable items regarded as trash, as much as for lost and not reclaimed things, and few people would believe what people actually toss out – also in parks and open spaces – or leave behind by accident or abandon on purpose, and how few ever inquire as to lost items, and that includes children's scooters, bicycles, rather expensive coats and other items of clothing, etc.

With the way that so many people nowadays behave it is no wonder that we have a problem with waste management for they either “need” to get rid off something they no longer want and just dump it anywhere or they just replace what they lose because they seem to have far too much money and no sense whatsoever. We have become a real throw-away society, and not just in Britain, of that I am sure. The problem is that there is no such place as “away” where things can be thrown. It is also a huge waste of resources.

We need to get back to the mindset of about half a century or more ago when the majority of us would actively look for ways to reuse, repurpose and rework things that might have been regarded by some then and the majority now as trash.

Even producers of foods and other items had packaging made with an immediate reuse built in, so to speak, such as French mustard that came and still comes, at times, in glasses of the kind that are used in every French home, or at least those of the lower classes, for table wine. German mustard often used to come in small beer glasses and there were many other such examples.

However, it does not require, or it should not, instructions of how to reuse something. When I was growing up we rarely, as children, were given “proper” drinking glasses but were handed jam or Frankfurter jars to drink out of. It we dropped and broke them it was not a financial issue. In fact the “real” glasses were kept for visitors; we all drank from jars. In my home it is still that way today. Old habits rarely die.

I doubt that there is anyone who does not remember their grandmother having a biscuit tin full of buttons and others full of other sewing paraphernalia or a grandfather who did not have all manner of nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and whatever else, in glass produce jars in the home of workshop. The backs of envelopes were used for writing down things and for the children to draw upon. Boxes and tins from various sources were reused. Nothing was waste if there was a smallest chance of making use of it.

Time for a reset in this department and also for a rethink not just among the people but in industry and manufacture.

© 2021