The repair economy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know this may sound a little strange and I am not talking about repairing the economy, for we need to change it not repair it, because it is not broken; it was designed that way.

The repair economy is something that we once, actually, had in the form of little workshops that were geared to repairing this and that, from shoes and clothes to radios, TVs, bicycles, and much more.

In the German Democratic Republic, that some people called and still insist in calling East Germany, or communist East Germany even, literally a whole sector of the economy was geared to repair. Not because things broke down easily for lack of quality – rather the opposite, things were designed to last – but because things were repairable and repair was a great deal cheaper than buying new. It was thus also, though repair shops and such were no officially counted as part of the economy, in other countries, including Britain, the USA, and elsewhere.

Nowadays, however, most of those repair shops – at least in the UK – are no longer with the exception of the high street shoe repair places who can just about glue a heel or a sole on but that is about all. Ask them to resew an upper to a leather midsole and they are utterly confused and lost (“I don't have a machine for that,” I was told).

But you will very rarely, if indeed, find the little shop where there will be a guy sitting there with a soldering iron fixing electrical goods, because most of those goods today either cannot be repaired, as they have been designed not to be repairable, or it is more expensive to have them repaired than to buy the same product new again. When a spare part for a computer printer, for instance, costs itself more than a new printer then we really have to question on what principle the economy is working. That is how we register economic growth. Oh, but I am digressing.

We must get back, though, to products that are made to last, that can be repaired and to the repair economy, the small and not so small businesses that specialize in repair. In addition to that we need the small makers back as well, but that is a different story.

But the way this is being promoted by some at the present, much like the so-called circular economy, is not going to deliver the real needs of this kind of economy because all too often the need for products that are made to truly last in the way they were once made is still not properly part of the equation. We must rethink our approach on many level and travel back to the future, so to speak.

We are still, in most talk about any kind of economy, fixated way too much on growth. Growth, the way our economy promoted it, an infinite one, is simply not possible on a finite Planet. Even the majority of proponent of a so-called “green economy” still keep incessantly talking about growth, about growing the economy.

By now we have exhausted and almost exhausted our non-renewable resources, and not just coal, oil and gas, but also metals, though the latter we can reclaim by proper recycling processes, and we are now hell for leather doing the same for rare earth and rare earth metals, be it cobalt, lithium and others for the batteries and other components for cellphones, e-vehicles, etc. and the extraction of at least cobalt and lithium causes environmental and human disasters.

We need to make a serious u-turn and we must make it now and return to the ways of old combined with the knowledge and technology that we have today to produce again in a sustainable way making things that last and that can be repaired, either by simple DIY-tinkering by user or, well, tinkerer, or in small workshops dedicated to undertake such repairs. The latter then creating a repair service economy or sector of the economy. Like with less waste production though using glass bottles and jars, for instance, and having refundable deposits on such containers or though collection of recyclables, only they were not called that then, by the rag-and-bone man, we have been there before and we must go there again.

© 2021

Corona Max Forged Branch & Stem Pruner – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know that this review comes rather late but better late than never, as they say.

The Corona Max Forged ClassicCUT Pruner is crafted from forged steel for the professional or demanding gardener. Its strength and durability means everyday use isn't a problem. If you need to get the job done day in and day out, you can depend on this pruner.

Professional-grade tool with resharpenable, replaceable high-carbon steel blades

High-precision pivot bolt and locking nut keep blade and hook aligned

Fully-forged steel construction through to tips, for maximum strength and lasting sharpness

Non-slip grips for greater control and comfort

Lifetime warranty

Cuts up to 1.25cm

For smaller hands

Product code: BP3130BB

Packaging is great as only cardboard, though with a plastic window, and thus, more or less, fully recyclable. In fact remove plastic and throw rest onto compost heap.

Blades are extremely sharp, and I do mean the extremely. Alas, the edge of the review sample did have a serious burr on the outside of the cutting blade which means that the final polishing was not done well. This burr, had I not discovered it and removed it, could have caused damage to the cutting edge.

This is a pruner designed for somewhat smaller hands and it does feel a little strange, at first, to someone with larger hands. However, it really cuts extremely well and the catch, very different to many on the market today, is extremely positive and you know it is locked when it is.

Those pruners are extremely well constructed and the blade comes very sharp, right from the box. Alas, the sample from the Garden Press Event 2020, supplied by Burgon & Ball, as already mentioned, had a serious burr on the cutting edge that could have caused damage to the blade. Nothing, however, that a little steeling did not solve. I sincerely hope that that, however, was just an exception and it is not also the case with other blades. Someone not spotting it might have damaged the blade. In other words could we improve quality control at factory end please. Extremely sharp the blade was, nevertheless, despite the burr (now rectified).

The criticism as to the quality control regarding the burr aside this is an extremely well made pair of pruners and I really like it and it has, by now, become my favorite pair of secateurs to take into the garden.

© 2021

We cannot just consume our way into a more sustainable world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro) 

Let's talk about consumption (for starters).

The modern world we live in demands, due to its capitalist ways, that we consume on a huge scale, whether that be products, clothes, stuff – but where does it end? Only this kind of consumption in today's capitalist society keeps the economy actually growing and maybe even going.

But we cannot consume our way into a more sustainable world; it just is not going to work. Anyone who claims and believes that either is in greenwash marketing or has fallen for the ploys of the “green” marketeers, the greenwashers, as I shall be calling them here.

The only way to go is for us all change to the way we consume products and only buy things that we can take care of and that will be kept for years. But there comes the problem and that is that such products are few and far between in today's society and world. They still exist but they are not cheap and they are few and far between.

The greenest and most environmentally product is the one that you already have even though it may have a lower score on the ratings than the latest one. Why? Because you have already got it and it will take many years, in fact, before the environmental benefits of the "better performing" new one will actually make themselves felt as it has cost the Planet a great deal in its manufacture. Something that is often not considered and which the greenwashers will not tell you. they want you to buy their gear.

As an example, to offset the CO2 caused by manufacturing, a washing machine's optimal lifetime is 17-23 years. Most people keep theirs for only 11.5 years. In many cases the machine actually fails well before that time – can you say built-in obsolescence? – and hence more CO2 is being produced for the new machine. We need washing machines, refrigerators, and other products that do not have to be replaced but which can be repaired and we, as “consumers”, can vote for such products with our pocketbooks or debit or credit cards.

In a way this is the same with the electric bicycle for instance where a new battery will be required about every two to four years and I very much doubt that the CO2 caused in the manufacture of the battery will have been offset by that time. So what is the best bicycle ten if not an e-bike? Any good old-fashioned pedal bicycle and the sturdier made the better.

Now let us look, for a moment, at cars. Your current older car of whatever make, if you have a car (I don't), may have higher emissions than the newer ones but, and here comes the big but, before you break even, so to speak, as far as CO2 is concerned, the new car may have to be driven for many, many years. You old car has, maybe, already cleared its original CO2 output caused by manufacture.

In many cases your old model, whether car or whatever, is the greener one because it has already been manufactured and used for some time.

It is part of reuse, to be honest, even though it is not a proper case of reuse but a case of continued use. All too often people throw away their current, still perfectly good this or that simple because a new, or claimed to be greener, version is available.

Buying “green” products to replace perfectly good existing products, regardless of what they may be, is not being green and buying such products we are beginning to fall for greensumption and greensumption is also consumption though maybe, but only maybe, of products that are slightly better on the environment than the old version.

We must get away from consumption, or better over-consumption, because there will always be products that we have to “consume” because they are truly consumables, instead of changing from one kind of consumption to another.

As already indicated we must vote with our pocketbooks and cards to force producers to make goods that have a long lifespan and can be kept going by being repairable, ideally even by the user him- or herself, instead of the way they are presently where most products cannot be repaired or otherwise fixed in any way, shape or form.

While there are still some such products available most nowadays are not and yes, products that are made to last and are repairable do cost somewhat more to buy initially but such cost can be recouped, so to speak, sometimes several times over the lifetime of the product that can be kept going than over those that break after a year or even five and have to be bought new again and again.

There was a time when one would save up to buy such products, if necessary, but today we want instant gratification and because of that products are made – in the Far East mostly nowadays – to make them as cheap as possible but it is neither cheap for us, the consumer, in the long run, and definitely not for the Planet. Those products impact heavily on the environment as new ones have to be made all the time, have to be shipped more than halfway across the world, followed by how to dispose of the broken products or those simply tossed out because people can afford to buy the latest version (with more bells and whistles) simply because they are relatively “cheap”.

© 2021

The solution for the great bicycle shortage – buy vintage

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Long live old bicycles

Bikes are an incredible way to commute, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. If you're in the market for a new two-wheeled rig, try the used bike market!

That brand-new 2021 model may be hard to come by these days, but the used bike market has endless inventory. Here is why old bikes rule.

As if we haven't endured enough in the past year or so, due to the “academician”, we are currently living through what may heretofore be known as The Great Bicycle Shortage of 2021, which means complete bicycles, as well as parts, have been hard to come by and that also due to the fact that during the “pandemic” many people have gone back to using bicycles to get about rather than public transport. On top of that there are tons of bikes and parts still stuck, at the time of writing at the end of June 2021, in containers on the MS Ever Given, the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal and was, until recently, impounded by the Egyptian authorities.

While not all supplies of bikes and components have dried up supply is lagging behind and to a great extent the rather stretched supply chain has to be blamed for this. So, depending on what you are after, the current supply disruption may mean that new upgrade you have been waiting for could be back-ordered for quite a while.

But is that really such a bad thing? New bike stuff is only new for an instant, and while it may be thrilling to throw a leg over the latest in cutting-edge technology, it is only a matter of time before the novelty and excitement wears off. Meanwhile, the bicycle itself has been around for like a century and a half, which means this lack of new stuff could be the perfect excuse to explore the fascinating, enlightening, and at times highly pretentious world of owning and riding vintage bikes.

Of course, to truly appreciate old bikes, you do have to adjust your expectations.

If you are are going to delve into the realm of old bicycles for the first time, you may be surprised that much of what is called “new” in cycling is not really new at all and has been around for almost as bicycles have been.

Take the whole gravel thing, for instance. Believe it or not, people have been riding bicycles on irregular surfaces for a really long time, and in fact the original bicycle, or the forerunner of the bicycle, the Draisine, invented by a forester named Drais, was to replace the horse, because there was a lack of them in his days due to a certain natural calamity, and to be used in forests.

Of course, to truly appreciate old bikes, you do have to adjust your expectations. Will the cantilever brakes on that 1990 Stumpjumper offer you the effortless one-finger stopping power of today's hydraulic systems? No. But so what? You are riding a vintage bike! Take a little time to appreciate the nuances of period-correct stoppers. Sure, some of those “nuances” may include squealing, grinding, and the occasional bout of fork judder

Plus, once you understand how they work, you can eliminate most of those issues, and you will even find that when properly set up, those old brakes can work pretty quite well, though you may not stop as instantly as with the hydraulic systems or even disc brakes. Anyway, if you cannot appreciate the purposeful spread-eagle stance of a pair of vintage cantilevers then just swap them out for V-brakes, which will easily and cheaply solve 95 percent of your problems.

Once you immerse yourself in the old stuff, you may find that the newest and latest no longer calls to you the way it once did. You might even start to find it a little, shall I say boring. An old bike will take you back in time, while also giving you the thrill of bringing a little of the past back into the present. In addition to all that you give life, and sometimes an old bike may need some TLC, back to a long-neglected bicycle but, more importantly, you keep it from the scrap yard or the landfill.

© 2021

Surviving a societal collapse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Why is it that almost everyone that one meets or otherwise encounters, who expects a societal collapse, appears to be obsessed with and by and focused on weapons?

Do you have seeds? Do you know how to grow a garden for food and how to farm? Do you know how to filter water to make it potable?

Where are your crafters? Who can blacksmith, work leather, sew and work wood and do carpentry? Who knows medicine and herbal lore and can identify edible (wild) plats?

We won't survive a collapse by killing each other. In fact we will need each other in order to survive. There is no such thing as self-sufficiency proper. Self-reliance maybe and yes but self-sufficiency no.

We will only survive with benevolent skilled communities working together. Not by fighting and killing each other. There is no way that any of us can survive on their own, not in the long run, because in the event of a societal collapse we will need to be able to make things that we need and none of us can do all that on our own.

Surviving just on eating small game that cane be gotten by snare and even larger animals that are shot with rifles is not going to work, especially not when it comes to low-fat animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Even the Neanderthals did not just live on meat. They probably ate more in the way of edible plants than they actually ate meat.

But there are so many other things that none of us will be able to procure or produce on our own. You cannot know how to do everything and even if you know you may not be able to physically do it. We will need other people with who we can trade and barter for the things that we cannot produce and make for those that they cannot.

What happens when the lone “survivor” gets sick or injured? No man is an island. We will only survive with benevolent skilled communities, as said already, working together, sharing skills, resources and also trade with each other and other such communities. Not by fighting and killing each other and, as far as firearms are concerned with collapse of society there will not be, for long, any ammunition available. Well, OK, we then simply kill each other with wooden clubs (sarcasm out).

Once the ammo runs out hunting will also become somewhat difficult for the survivalist, unless they have muzzle loading muskets, flints and are able to make their own powder because with such muskets it is possible, as they are smooth bore, to also shoot pebbles instead of lead balls.

Growing food, livestock keeping, and other cannot be done on the move and will require a settled communities.

© 2021

Let's kick carbon

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


Well, this is the latest slogan of the renewable energy companies and the advocates of wind and solar and, don't get me wrong, I am all for this but, and now comes the but, we have a problem with both the turbines and the panels and that is the “end of life” solutions, for which there seem to be none.

The blades of the huge turbines cannot be recycled are are actually classed as hazardous waste, much like nuclear minus the radiation and there are issues with dealing with the “end of life” disposal of PV panels as well, it would appear.

That aside, let us start at the beginning. Those turbines and panels don't just grow naturally. They are manufactured from components that are also manufactured and the raw materials which are mined or whatever. All those processes create carbon emissions and I seriously have to ask whether those are being negated over the short lifespan that those turbines and panels actually have. The same goes for batteries for EVs, though that is a separate issue.

The lifespan of one of those big wind turbines is no more than 20 years after which it has to be dismantled, at a huge financial as well as environmental cost, and they still talk about “kicking carbon”. Small turbines that power a property, as long as we could consider changing the voltage and current kind that we are working with, are cheap to make – they can even be home-constructed (from trash components no less) – and can be maintained cheaply and have a much greater lifespan.

In order to really and truly kick carbon emissions and using “green” electricity we need to change the voltage, first and foremost, that we are using. We need to use that kind that can be produced by PVs on roofs and small wind turbines and that is nominal 13.5V DC and not 220/240V AC (or 110V AC as may be the case in the USA) and put 12 Volt DC circuits into our homes, offices and small workshops. Lighting can be easily and efficiently today with LEDs (yes, the also have a carbon cost attached to manufacture) and low voltage and even most of our electronics today need less than 12 Volt DC even. Even refrigerators and freezers are available in 12 V DC – generally for RV and yacht use.

And we have to change our energy, as in electricity, use. But the aim, by governments, is to go almost all electric, be that in the home, in transportation, everywhere. It would appear, however, that no one has actually worked out how that is supposed to work with the grid often already overstretched with just the few electric electric vehicles being plugged in to charge of an evening.

They know far well that with renewables, as in sun and wind, and maybe, just maybe, water, they cannot provide for the need and demand and hence they are advocating nuclear as a “green” option. Methinks they have forgotten something and that is the aftercare of nuclear, whether in the disposal of the waste or in the decommissioning of the plants. And then there are the possibilities of accidents or even, the gods forbid, an attack on such facilities.

Nuclear fusion is still very much in its infancy, despite the fact that good results have been achieved in some tests some years ago. However, so far no one really wants to go the fusion route, and that not only as regards to the problem of cooling. The main “problem”, so to speak, is that there will be no material falling on that can be weaponized.

We have to change the way we do things in order to truly “kick carbon” but neither governments, nor industry, as well as most individuals, are not prepared to do that.

We need to look more towards small wind and small solar – on every building – so that every building becomes a small power plant, rather than looking at ever bigger solar and wind farms and ever bigger turbines.

The main stumbling block for small wind and small solar on every home are the vested interests of the energy companies. Couldn't have households and small businesses being – more or less – independent from the energy producers, couldn't we now. And where would the income be for government from this as well? It can all be done but the will is simply not there. Lots of talk and lots of complicated solutions being suggested rather than finding easy solutions which often stare us in the face.

© 2021

In a disposable society, to repair is to rebel

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In this kind of disposable society, in which we happen to live at present, to repair, and to reuse, is to rebel. And this is a rebellion in which everyone, regardless of age and gender can partake.

Reuse is the first part of this rebellion really before we even get to repair but reuse, much like repair, has fallen very much out of vogue in favor of buying new “because the old product is recyclable”. Ouch!

The latest smartphone may have more “bells and whistles” than your old one but have you even made use of the “bells and whistles” on your current one? More than likely not. So what is the point of replacing something that works perfectly well for everything that you need just because there is a new model out or someone you know has the latest model.

But there is so much more to reuse (and repair) that just the above example. It starts very low down on the scale already with say reusing glass jars in which you buy produce. Instead of throwing those into the recycling bin reuse them as storage jars; saves buying recycled glass ones, as I mentioned in previous articles, at a high costs. After all you have paid for those jars in which those pickles or whatever came in. While there will come a time that you will have no other choice to throw some of them into the recycling but until then, well, reuse them.

In addition to reusing pickle jars – generally somewhat larger in size – there are smaller jars that can serve well as drinking vessels. It has now become fashionable for the hipsters to actually use canning jars and such as drinking vessels. Something that once was the domain of the poor.

When it comes to repair there are some things that can be fairly easily repaired and maintained, such as bicycles for instance, especially the older kind without too many gears or none at all. However, being able to fix a flat tire should be in the realm of most. Alas, it would appear that it no longer is and not only do people no bring their bike to get fixed then but some go as far as getting rid off the old one by disposing of it – often not in the right places – and buying new.

People seem to do the same with even expensive kitchen knives that have gotten blunt having no idea as to how to put a good edge back onto them and, alas, the knife grinders that once were about no longer are because people, rather than paying say a third of the cost of a new knife having it sharpened, rather go an buy a new one and tossing the blunt one. Throwing away has become such a convenience for some and the saying that some people have more money than sense must today be slightly rephrased into having – apparently – too much money and absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, alas, today far too many things – the great majority of mass-produced products, in fact – have obsolescence built in so that after a year or a couple they suffer a catastrophic breakdown. And, having been designed to be – more or less – non-repairable (or repair is multiple times the price of new) we have to purchase a new product of the same kind. Shoes and boots, also, are, unless seriously expensive, no longer repairable in any way. Even if you happen to have a boot, for instance, where, as I had, the upper comes away from (and yes this boot had one) the leather midsole most so-called shoe-menders of cobblers are no longer capable of carrying out such a simple repair (because they don't have a machine to do it, as I was told). Actually no machine needed; only two bent needles and some leather-worker thread. Alas, I was unable to get hold of such needles at the time and the boots were disposed off.

Repair, as well as reuse, for that matter, can be learned, and both are a true act rebellion in the capitalist society that most of live in. The latter generally only requires a change of mindset and a little imagination and lateral thinking while the former actually requires the acquisition of some knowledge and skills. But it is not rocket science or brain surgery and with the Internet at our disposal there many good tutorials can be found.

Being able to repair, wherever possible, not just extends the life of the product but also keeps waste out of even the recycling stream and saves raw materials too. Oh, alas, it is not generally good for the economy which is designed on perpetual growth, a growth that can only be maintained if we keep buying new all the time rather than repair.

The crisis with the Covid pandemic, especially the lockdowns, have shown that most of us have only bought what we really needed and that that has almost lead to a collapse of the economy.

Let's do it, let's be rebels.

© 2021 

Wheels of Fortune

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In Paris, cycling seems to be the new normal, as a result, probably of the “pandemic” and Paris appears not to be alone. Cycling has also seen and increase in London and other places.

As legions of cities worldwide scrambled to enforce lockdowns aimed at keeping the spread of Covid-19 (SARS-Cov-2) at bay, citizens across some of the biggest cities in the world encountered a strange sight. Streets that would usually be teeming with noise and fumes fell blissfully silent, replaced by clean air, the rustling of leaves and an often-piercing symphony of birds.

The blaring of car horns in many places has been replaced by the tinkling of bicycle bells (though some bicycles seem to be lacking those or some cyclists have no idea how to use this strange little device on the handlebars).

For a brief moment, the roads belonged to people. Perhaps emboldened by the sheer number of people taking to walking and cycling or, as is more likely, heeding technical guidance issued by the World Health Organization to prioritize walking and cycling for the sake of social distancing, many cities began fast-tracking plans for walking and cycling. Some cities moved at a remarkable pace. Berlin built 14 miles of cycle lanes virtually overnight. Other cities, such as Paris, followed and created cycleways and Paris has already created around 1000 km of protected cycle lanes in the previous years.

Can this last? Residents appear to be generally receptive to the changes while drivers not necessarily are and especially whenever something like this is being tried in Britain the car lobby and drivers will scream discrimination and that cyclists should not have special privileges, often claiming that the so-called “road tax” is only paid by drivers and cyclist thus get special treatment. That cyclists were here before the cars and that roads were initially not built for cars is something they just cannot accept and they also cannot accept that the tax they are paying is not used for road building and repairs but goes into the general tax pot and is a duty they pay for being allowed to actually drive a car and pollute the air.

A reduction of cars in our towns and cities will be good not just for the air but also will reduce noise pollution and especially permit children – unless parents and governments have different ideas – to once again play outside and even along and on the streets without fear of injury and death. That said it also would need cyclists to learn to stick to the rules and not pretend to be partaking in the Tour de France and racing like the maniacs, as they do often, and ignoring road signs and even traffic lights.

On the other hand the much touted electric bikes are, in my opinion, not the answer due to a number of facts. One of them being the initial cost compared to an ordinary bicycle and the other factors are the cost of replacement batteries (when one can get them) and first and foremost the environmental cost of producing the battery.

I have had the experience, although I did not purchase the e-bike but was allowed to retain it after a review and, yes, I was and am happy with it as it is but, and now comes the but, the battery is now almost failing and it is impossible (at least at the moment) to obtain a replacement (also due to the fact that the manufacturer has change the design of the battery now and the MK2 battery differs from that of the one for the MK1 – though the former is not obtainable either should one want to) the cost for a replacement battery is well over £350, which means well over one third of what is the original purchase cost.

Therefore, instead of replacing the battery, I have opted to purchase an “Elephant Bike” instead at around £30 less. The “Elephant Bike” is a refurbished Royal Mail bicycle and on a buy-one-give-one operation from a company called “Cycle for Good”.

If we really want to get people cycling we must crate the infrastructure for them to do that safely and if we want to consider cycling as a true environmental alternative then we must get away from over-promoting the electric bicycle because the battery is the weak point and the production of those batteries, whether for bike or other vehicles is not without a serious environmental impact. Alone the mining of the rare earths and metals required for those batteries make for an environmental problem close to a catastrophe.

It is the more or less old-fashioned bicycle and its use that needs promoting – and this is where even secondhand and refurbished ones come in – in favor of the electric ones. Electric transportation of all kinds is not the answer and when it comes to cycling – and also the use of scooters – we need to return to the human-powered versions rather than the electrical ones.

First and foremost there is no battery to be replaced every couple of years – at a rather high costs – and then the other benefit of the old-fashioned bicycle is the fact that, in general, repair, maintenance and servicing can be carried out by the user or, in the case of a child, by the user's grown-up carer or friend.

© 2021

The so-called green revolution

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The so-called “green revolution” and its effect on farmers and people


When the “green revolution” hit the Punjab in India it all looked great with the shorter wheat than what was common, and not just in India, before that time.

Now, however, it turns out that it has caused and is causing malnutrition because one of the staples of the diet no longer is present, actually an edible weed, namely goosefoot (plants in the Chenopodium genus), and the leaves are used as a kind of spinach in the diet of that area.

The shorter wheat varieties that have come about after the so-called “green revolution” are being outperformed in growth by the goosefoot and farmers are forces, literally, to employ weedkiller against the weed that once formed a staple of the local diet, leading to the loss of said nutritious weed and to malnutrition.

In fact it was the “green revolution” that led to the use and excessive use of weedkillers such as glyphosate whether in the form of Roundup or others and often the use of certain seeds employed in this “green revolution” goes hand-in-hand with the use of such herbicides, now all grouped under the name of “pesticides”.

Well, for some those weeds were anything else by pests. They were necessary foods and the fact is that some of those weeds have a far higher nutritional content than there cultivated cousins.

We have become so obsessed with weeds and their eradication, especially when it comes those much shorter crop varieties today in comparison to some 80 to 100 years ago where, in the end, the crop outperformed the weeds and, to some extent, smothered them. But not before the people were able to make use of much of them.

In addition to the shorter stemmed varieties of wheat and other corn (I am not using the word corn here in the American sense where it equates maize) and weeds outperforming the crop (in the early stages) the use or more and more sophisticated machines for harvesting also made weeds in the field something that needed eradicating. And we are surprised why our soil, water and air is poisoned and even our very foods, with the residues of those toxic substances.

Our modern farming practices and those of the “green revolution” are not conducive to health of the Planet and neither to human health, and that especially not in what used to be called third-world countries and while, say, India, is quite industrialized in some way in other ways and aspects it is still a third-world country and, personally, I see nothing wrong with countries developing slower than we have developed in Britain, the US and elsewhere. That rapid development, be it in farming or otherwise, may not be and have been the best thing ever anyway.

The obsession with so-called weeds and their eradication by farmers has led to serious problems in the ecosystems and that, alas, mostly because we (all) seem to misunderstand what many weeds actually are, namely the ancestors of many of our cultivated crops.

As I have said above there are many so-called weeds that are, nutritionally, much better than the crops that have been cultivated from them and this does not just go for goosefoot (although there does not really seem to be a cultivar of that genus, as far as I can see). Dandelion, though that being a different subject, is one of those weeds that everyone obsesses with as regards to eradication of “weeds”. It is, however, a plant that is extremely beneficial and good to eat and in some countries, France being one of them, it is often deliberately grown in kitchen gardens.

In summing up one could say that the co-called “green revolution” was not very green, as in environmentally beneficial, at all and also in many cases does not really have benefited people either.

© 2021

Make recycling worth it

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


I do mean that literally in making it worth for people to actually collect recyclables as once was the case. Nowadays the recyclables go to the municipalities who then, in turn, sell them on. And, if there is no market for the particular kinds of “recyclables” at some time then the stuff gets sent to the great hole in the ground, aka the landfill.

However, there was a time, and it is not all that long ago and not just in countries such as the German Democratic Republic, often referred to as East Germany. There, however, it was organized much better and that also and especially because raw materials were scarce in that country having little on natural resources. In fact there was a central state business in the GDR, SERO it was called, which purchased those recyclables and for many youngsters this was their pocket money.

Up until not such long ago there was a system in Britain (and many other countries) where there was a deposit on all glass bottles, except wine, and the collecting and returning of such bottles that people had, despite of the deposit money on them, thrown away, was the pocket money earner for many a youngster, myself included. In some countries a return scheme of this kind or similar still exists, or exists again, Germany being one example here, where even on plastic bottles there is a refund available. In the US there have been so-called reverse vending machines for soda bottles in many areas for decades already.

The German Democratic Republic (GDR), on the other hand, went a great deal further and all kinds of recyclables could be resold to the country, for it was the country, the state, who bought them from the collectors, and those included not just glass bottles but also glass jars, newspapers and other waste paper, as well as cardboard, and much more besides. But such schemes can, it would appear, only work in a system other than capitalism.

During the Second World War even in Britain all manner of things were being taken in for recycling, including your jam jars, albeit more often than not without any money coming to the person bringing them, After all it was for the “war effort”. But it shows that there is a way to make recycling – and especially the collecting of recyclables – worthwhile for the ordinary person if someone would be willing to pay say 20p per glass bottle or jar.

But, despite all the talk, the political will do do something like that, in other words to return to what we had once already, just is not there and all manner of excuses are being found by government.

© 2021

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