How can we stop global warming?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When most people ask, “How can we stop global warming?” they aren’t really asking what they pretend they’re asking. They are instead asking, “How can we stop global warming without stopping the burning of oil and gas, without stopping the industrial infrastructure, without stopping this omnicidal system?”
The answer: you can’t.

stopWe cannot continue with the status quo and an ever growing economy and nuclear power and electric cars are not going to help us one bit here either.

Nuclear power simply is not safe unless and until the day that we can use fusion instead of fission but that day is still so far off that it, more than likely, is never going to arrive.

The electric car, touted as the answer to the ICE and everyone wishing to continue with personal motoring, is also no answer at all for, in fact, it emissions may not come from the vehicle itself but from the production of both the car, the battery and the electricity used with which to charge the battery.

Governments the world over and also the green movement per se are not prepared to tell the people that the way they have been living is going to be history or they are going to be history. Mankind has but two choices, to adapt and change or to die.

Industry has to be brought down to a level of production where it but produces for what people need and not what industry produces and then wishes to sell to the people by means of advertising suggesting to people that if they have but that product they will be happy ever after.

Production needs to be localized so that the “factories” and workshops produce and sell only in a nor or less local area supplying the needs of the people. And the same goes for agriculture, for food production.

As far as personal transportation goes the age of motoring, unless we really wish to commit ecocide and thus suicide, is history and we need to use other ways of getting about, ways that are tried and tested and have been used for centuries.

It is not just carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions that are behind climate change. Other aerial and atmospheric pollution is equally a culprit and the warnings were issued already in the 1960s and early 1970s by those people wrote off as hippies and new agers. However, they were right after all. However, governments and others love to play with CO2 as almost the only kind that may be the causal agent of climate change because they have invented this lovely system of indulgences call carbon credits and carbon certificates and even a stock exchange for them.

The soot that is causing the glacial melt in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges has been renamed to “brown carbon” so that they can still play with those indulgences. It is soot, people, and it comes out of the chimneys of the factories, settles on the glaciers and thus causing them to melt by absorbing rather than reflecting the rays of the sun, thus causing the melt.

Mankind has to change and adapt or will, invariably, die as the Earth will no longer be able to support life. Thus, if we want to survive and give future generations of people and other life a chance then we must change our ways and do so pronto. Ideally yesterday or the day before even.

Those of us who advocate this are hated by the people and especially the governments, and first and foremost by those in the developed world. The former don't want to hear it because they want to believe their governments that life will go on as it is and the governments don't want us to tell the truth because the don not want the populace to be stirred. The mere advocating of the need to change can, to some extent, get one branded as a “domestic terrorist”.

But we must continue to warn for, unless the people do wake up and understand that stopping climate change cannot be done by retaining the constant-growth economy and the personal motoring and all that, we all will be in serious problems and, in the end, the Planet will no longer able to support life, at least not human life.

In order so that the people do not realize how critical the situation has become with oil many governments in the developed world have brought strategic reserves of oil (and gas) on stream to keep the prices artificially at a lower level than they would be in reality.

In 2011 the world used 40% more oil than it produced and forecast, though amended later, was for 2012 to be 60% more than production. The recession saw to it though that it was ONLY 50% above production. Now it does not take a mathematical genius to work out that that – somehow – does not compute and that reserves were brought into play. But, reserves are just that... reserves... and they will run out sooner or later.

The hope is now being placed on tar sands oil and shale oil and -gas with claims of enough oil for the next 50 to 100 years... That would mean another 50 to 100 years of emissions of various poisons killing the Earth entirely. All in the name of progress or what?

I guess that governments also believe, like Professor Hawkins, that we have to abandon the Earth and find another inhabitable Planet (to destroy). Reality check! There is no other planet that can sustain life in our solar system. None. Maybe they believe that in the next 50 to 100 years they can find one, eh?

We need to change and should have done so already yesterday and that means that we have to get used to a different way of living than that that we have been used to – well the majority of people in the developed world – for a rather long time already.

We have to go back to ways of our ancestors and not just as regards to personal transportation but also as regards to production of goods and food and their distribution. The way we live and work and much more.

That does not, necessarily, mean that we will no longer have electricity or such as renewables can provide that for us, and also cooking gas via methane digestion, but it has to be brought down to a local level of the home and the current and voltage used must change. And we first and foremost must also reduce our energy consumption, as we must reduce consumption as a whole.

Personal transportation will no longer be the motorcar but Shank's pony and the bicycle and, for longer distance, the likes of public transport, in the form of buses and trains.

When we bring everything down to a local level, or almost local level, then commuting long distances will be a thing of the past as will be the out-of-town super- and hypermarkets and shopping malls, then there will be no need for all this traveling about.

We also cannot stop climate change by geo-engineering, by spraying chemicals into the atmosphere and creating artificial clouds. Those may stop the rays of the sun reaching the Earth and heating it up but they also change photosynthesis and thus reduce food production. Hello! Is everyone stupid? It would appear so. Stop playing G-d! We need to change, period! And we need to do that NOW!

© 2013

Nestlé is draining Pakistan to sell us bottled water

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Nestlé is draining developing countries to produce its bottled water, destroying countries’ natural resources before forcing its people to buy their own water back.

73b401e9fd6b09fe6b504c026f498d42Now it is happening in Pakistan. Groundwater levels are plummeting, families are being driven into poverty, and whole areas are being rendered uninhabitable.

But we still have got time to help before Pakistan's water supply is completely tapped out – and if we show Nestlé its heartless policies are sparking a global backlash, we can stop it from decimating more of our natural resources.

But in this context we must also remember the words of the former CEO of the company stating that, as far as he and his company are concerned access to water is not a human right and that water is but a commodity to be exploited.

Until we all wake up and refuse top buy bottled water then those companies, and not just Nestlé, will continue to do as they do. The answer is a simple one: switch to tap water and leave the bottled, whether plastic or glass, behind.

As said, Nestlé is but one of the bottled water companies that are responsible for decimating the groundwater supply in many places. While Nestlé is now doing it in Pakistan Coca Cola has been doing it, and probably still is doing it, in India and those two companies also fill their bottles with tap water and then sell it to us at a horrendously inflated price. Each company has a brand of bottled water where with at least one of them it states – in very small print – on the label that the water comes from “municipal sources”, in other words, it is tap water.

Who in their right mind is going to buy a bottle of tap water at the rate of $1.50 per liter when from the tap it is almost free? Alas, it would seem that many people do believing, as they do not bother to read the label or want to understand the truth, that this water is better for them and safer, because it is bottled water, that the water that comes from the faucet.

Every one of us can take a stand and by doing so change what is happening by refusing to buy water in bottles and fill up reusable bottles from the faucet. Just don't reuse the PET bottles in which bottled water comes. Get a proper reusable bottle of a BPA free plastic, stainless steel or glass. But make the change for the sake of your finances and the Planet.

© 2013

Is the High Street making a comeback?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We are being told by many that the High Street, or Main Street, as our American cousins call it, in its last throws. But is this really the case?

highstreet1Despite behemoths like Starbucks and Amazon, the number of independent bookstores, coffee shops, and other businesses appear to be growing and this is a good thing indeed.

We all know that the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, the large supermarkets in the K such as Tesco, ASDA (part of Wal-Mart) and Sainsbury's, and especially Amazon are killing the smaller businesses on the High Street businesses but this is, thankfully, only partly true. Those retailing behemoths have devastated a lot of communities across the America and the UK, and they’re still growing. But the good news is that despite the big chains, also in the field of coffee shops and such, the small ones are still holding on and, in many cases, are increasing.

One surprising comeback to the High Street, in many places and countries, despite Amazon's impact, are the local independent bookstores and the more the merrier, I say. And the same must be the case for other shops too, whether greengrocers, hardware stores or what-have-you.

Even in the age of e-books and Amazon, independents are growing: For the last four years, their numbers and total sales have grown, despite the recession. In 2009 there were 1,651 independent bookstores in the United States. Today there are more than 1,900. And e-books, in my opinion, are not an answer for the great majority and neither will they do anything to save trees and the Planet. The opposite rather on both counts. But that is another discussion point and one that I have covered before more than once.

In order to keep revitalizing the High Street we all, as consumers, need to frequent it more and local authorities have to do their part by making the High Street more accessible in way of parking of cars and bicycles for is there is no way to leave the car or bike then people will not come to the High Street.

Shop owners too have to do their bit and that can also be the provision of bicycle parking, so to speak, and much more, in order to attract customers. Coffee shops must offer secure and free wi-fi for use by customers and other services too could come the equation such as, as the coffee shops of old, being a meeting hub for people as well as a center for alternative postal services.

Hardware stores also could offer services to customers, via “subcontractors”, such as sharpening of garden tools and others, giving other small businesses a link to the greater community while taking a small cut as a facilitation fee.

Bookstores aren’t the only retail sector where independents are expanding. Local coffee shops have grown faster than Starbucks. Bakers and specialty food stores are thriving. Independent pharmacies and pet, fabric, and stationery stores are growing too. At least in the United States.

How do they compete with the giants? One factor is the “buy local” ethic and in 2012 sales at independent businesses in cities with “buy local” campaigns grew 8.6 percent while those that did not have such campaigns grew 3.4 percent.

Independents are also capitalizing on their ability to win loyalty by hosting events, such as author talks at bookstores. And bookstore owners have learned to feature high margin items such as note-cards, toys, and chocolate.

There are many more things that local shops can do to get customers come through their doors and keeping the High Street alive and all it takes is some deep thought as to what additional services could be offered.

Independent bookstores could also help butting artists and craftspeople to find an outlet even though it might not be books and in addition to that the acceptance, or even the creation is not in existence already, of local currencies can also go a long way here.

What can we do, as consumers, besides shopping at their stores, to help our local retailers? We can't do much about the big boxes’ ability to get major discounts from suppliers and pummel the public with advertising. But we can protest when local governments give tax abatement and free land to the retail giants. Indiana, for example, gave Amazon $11 million to locate five warehouses in the state, and we must also campaign so that those large retailers actually pay the tax the owe and not let them get away with tax avoidance, as the UK government has allowed Amazon and others to do.

Another great way for local retailers to get custom come through their doors, and hopefully become loyal shoppers, is to, and this is an easy thing, offer free tap water for those that wish to refill their water bottles. It has been tried and it seems to work.

So don’t think that the High Street is down and out for the count. As the “buy local” ethic continues to gain momentum, as stores get creative in using their local advantage, and as online sales lose their tax advantage, the lights may again shine bright on the High Street. But, mush of it will be down to us, as consumers, as to whether the High Street will get up again to fight another day or not.

© 2013

The sickle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A good old-fashion sickle, sharp and perfectly weighted, is a tool just made for the job of clearing vegetation from around the trees. It given the user total control and thus does not damage the bark of the tree as often does the use of a powered grass trimmer (strimmer) and requires no guards to be placed around the trees either.

sickle_tiltUsing a good hand tool is all about letting the tool do the work. Despite the obvious strain on the back, using a sickle is very therapeutic and far more eco-friendly (and quieter) than a machine. In fact, many organizations are starting to realize the advantages of working this way.

The scythe, too, is making a comeback in countryside management, and so it should. The billhook is another one of those tools that just cannot be beat when working in the management of woodlands and the countryside.

Even when it comes to felling in small woodland management operations the crosscut saw, one man or two man, will still, with the exception of the sneding of the branches, often beat the chainsaw and especially as far as noise and other pollution is concerned.

The design of the sickle, basically, has changed little since the Middle Ages and even before, though many different kinds for different purposes, much like with the billhook and the scythe, can be had. The principle, however is and remains the same. The differences are things such as sweep and curve of the blade or serrations on them, such as some of the Indian and Japanese ones have.

The good thing about a sickle is that it does not require much tuition to use it, more intuition, unlike the scythe, which does need a little skill that needs acquiring so as not to injure oneself (or others). Even the billhook requires more acquired skill than dos the sickle. Keeping it sharp, in the same was as with regards to the billhook and the scythe, is a different kettle of fish and that does take some learning.

The sickle can be used for many cutting tasks from cutting away vegetation from around trees and here especially saplings without the risk, unless one is not careful, of cutting them off or damaging them, as is often the case with the use of a strimmer, to harvesting standing crops. And, before the advent of the scythe that was what the sickle in many a form was used for also.

I, for one, love using these tools, a real link to the history of countryside workers, as they are effective and also efficient and require little to no real maintenance, other from sharpening and keeping them clean.

© 2013

The village and Nature have had the answers all along

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The personal revolution is the realization that the village and Nature have had the answers all along. We must, therefore, turn to our community and the great Earth for sustenance and knowledge.

english_villageWe must, once again, become fallible and human again by living dangerously and stepping off of the assembly lines of unnatural life before it is too late.

The simple things in life are the greatest gifts. They are all there waiting for us to realize their value and partake in their blessings. We do not need to change anything, except ourselves.

Nature is the supreme cradle of life, and must be protected and treated with the highest respect and care. We must have clean air and water, and beautiful natural foods for everyone, everywhere.

We must cultivate beautiful spaces, where communities and families are free to come together to share and enjoy the bounty of earth. Above all all of us deserve real freedom, but to have real freedom, we must be wild and free yourself.

It means and will mean changing the system of exploitation of man and Planet and reconnect with the Planet and the people around us. We must create working local communities again and manage ourselves, away from government interference. In fact, we must abolish the state altogether and start a fresh, learning from the mistakes of the past.

Democracy – proper participatory democracy – is not possible in large groups or communities, let alone nation states or federation of states, and thus we must return to clan and tribal level, and the village of the size that it used to be in the days of old, before villages became dormitory places for city commuters to live, is a size that just about would have worked, before the advent of the 20th century. Thus, in order to free ourselves from the way things are in this current world, we must return to the village and work everything on a village level.

The village, in times past, was the center of everything. Almost everything was made locally with but a few “essentials” being traded from further afield. Nowadays almost nothing is produced locally, not even in the country, but comes from abroad. Even local produce cannot be sold – legally, in most cases – direct to the local people. It is sent far away to the wholesale markets from where even the local greengrocer has to get his produce instead of from local farmers and growers.

People who have surplus from their own little plots and their own hens and such are not permitted to sell any of this to neighbors without the appropriate government license – which means interference no end to obtain and maintain – and even the bartering of such produce is frowned upon by the powers-that-be and this again points to the need for a change of system.

In fact, everything needs to be brought down to village level for us to be able to live a sustainable life and also a fulfilled life. Life must return to the village level – and village can mean a number of things here and refers more to size of are then anything else – and that includes work also and people will govern themselves and look after themselves and each other and that state must be abolished once and for all.

© 2013

US study proves: Euro-Zone close to collapse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Euro-Zone is, according to a study by US economists Kevin O’Rourke and Alan Taylor in the recent issue Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 27, Number 3—Summer 2013—Pages 167–192.

Broken-EuroThe reasoning behind this belief of the two top economists is that the current Euro-Zone is not a uniform currency and economic area. Locational factors and market cycles are marked by fundamental differences and without a synchronized development of the market cycles such large economic area such as the Euro-Zone is unable to function.

The monetary politic in this case faces a dilemma. While the southern states of the EU clamor for lower interest rates there is a definite need to for higher interest rates in central and northern Europe. This, however, is not allowed under the current policies of the European Federal Bank and thus the problems are going to get worse.

Officially inflation is not permitted in the countries worse hit by the crisis and therefore those countries are attempting, via salary reductions, to create a so-called “internal inflation” in the respective national economies.

During the years of economic growth until about 2007 wages grew disproportionally in those southern EU countries aided and abetted by low interest rates from the ECB. Now we are being confronted with a heap of shards which was the Euro.

Kevin O’Rourke and Alan Taylor can foresee the day of the total collapse of the Euro as Brussels is incapable to take the required steps that are necessary for a reform all the way to a partitioning of the Euro-Zone into a northern and a southern one.

The Euro and the EU itself are a failed experiment that the powers-that-be, hellbent on creating a federal Europe as envisioned already by Adolf Hitler, are trying to force on everyone and which they try to keep afloat despite the fact that the boat is filling up rapidly with water, and that with all means possible.

Even the UK government is trying to persuade the people, even though there is supposed to be, at some time, a referendum on whether or not the UK is to stay in the EU, that the European Union is necessary for our economy and that we would have serious problems if we would leave the union.

The truth, however, is that we do not need to be in the EU in order to trade with the EU and furthermore we should concentrate, in Britain, to, first of all, manufacture things at home again and that primarily for the domestic market before even thinking of export.

The most important thing is to cut ourselves loose from imports, whether from China or elsewhere, of goods that could easily (and they used to be) made here and for about the same retail price if the corporations would not be as greedy as they are.

Manufacturing at home, however, could be done by smaller companies who might, if we are lucky, not be as greedy as the current large corporations and they might actually even be prepared, as used to be the case, produce quality products that, when they break, can – perish the thought – be repaired and thus be made to last.

The European Union is not and never was a good idea. Envisaged already by Adolf Hitler under the same title that it took already almost in the beginning, the European Economic Community, it was intended as a fascist takeover of all of Europe and it is now coming to pass with Germany being in the driving seat. They may have lost the war but won the peace, so to speak, and will do their utmost to dominate as of Europe in a United States of Europe.

The Euro is, basically, the USE's “Dollar”, but as the EU is not a union – and that one is rather flawed as well – such as the United States of America, it cannot and will not ever work on its own.

It is time to abandon the experiment of the Euro as well as that of the EU and to return to the way things were, of individual nations trading with each other without some unelected fascist super body interfering. And, after return to normality, it then is time to also abandon the nation state for smaller entities such as tribes so that people can really participate in politics.

© 2013

Everyone loves a freebie!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

British consumers have become freebie hunters, with a recent survey finding that a third of them have switched from their regular brand in order to receive a promotional product.

11190Nearly half of all consumers (48%) in the UK would switch their brand for cooking accessories, while nearly 42% would switch for a coffee mug.

Other items that can persuade consumers to change brand include fizzy drink branded glasses (39%), a cuddly toy, such as the puppy associated with a well-known toilet roll brand (34%), the meerkat toy (34%), a cosmetic purse or tote bag (30%) and the monkey toy associated with a familiar tea brand (28%).

Men are most likely to switch their brand for a coffee mug, while women would switch their brand for cooking accessories.

The survey of 1,000 consumers was commissioned by Promotional Products Week, which has been organized by the British Promotional Marketing Association.

Of the promotional products that consumers have and use, 62% stated they have a pen, 35% a mug, 33% a keyring, 25% a t-shirt or sweatshirt and 25% a drinking glass. Other items of merchandise kept and used including USB sticks, bags, caps and notepads.

82% of consumers said they keep promotional products because they are useful, 24% because they are relevant and 20% because they are good quality. Interestingly, over a quarter (26%) keep them because they are a novelty.

I must say that I do tend to keep most of the stuff from shows and such that I end up being given and have USB drives almost coming out of my ears and the same goes for mugs. Gimme hats are also very welcome with me as I almost exclusively wear baseball hats and one can never have enough and free is always a good cost here.

Consumers have picked up or expect to be able to pick up promotional products at exhibitions (80%), roadshows (60%), hotel rooms (49%), banks (38%), hotel receptions (32%) and car dealers/garages (31%).

Looking at branding on promotional products, nearly half of the consumer surveyed (47%) said that ‘significant’ branding was acceptable, whereas a third (33%) stated that branding should be ‘subtle.’

As far as I am concerned the advertising on the freebies does not bother me in the least, unless I do not support the company. Otherwise I rather have a brand such as that on show than the Nike or whatever other clothing brand logo that I may not support.
In the current economic difficulties nearly three-fifths of consumers said they are more likely to keep freebies than before the recession. What’s more, one in 10 consumers said they would give a free branded product as a gift to a friend or family member, again showing how product choice can help to raise brand awareness among not only the direct recipient, but among wider friends and family as well.

But, in these economic times brand awareness is not what anyone is interested in when it comes to branded merchandise and it was not in the old days either when you could collect all manner of useful things for home and kitchen via grocery store brands, be that drinking glasses, mustard pots, or even cutlery, etc.

Everyone loves a freebie, including cuddly toys, and that even more so in an economic downturn.

© 2013

The trees are called Standing People

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The trees are called Standing People, by the Native Americans, and we should perceive them in the same way, because they are our teachers. They do not walk about like human beings, but they do hold the energy of the Earth and Sky.

trees3The roots of the trees go deep into our Mother Earth, and their branches reach for the sunlight high in the sky.

These teachers of the woods show humankind how to balance the male and female energies present in every human being.

Through their example, we can learn how to give and receive. The trees are firmly grounded in the Earth and are reaching for the heaves with their branches, showing human beings how to be bridges between the tangible and non-tangible worlds.

The balance of demonstrative and receptive is found in the heart of humans and in the trunk of trees.

These living examples of balance allow humankind to discover the flow of life force that brings inner peace. It is circular and flows up through the roots to the tops of the branches, traveling down to the roots again, creating a recycling of energy.

But the tree never is on its own. It forms a living symbiosis with others around it and does this via an Internet of the trees, the wires which are fungal and without this symbiosis between trees and fungi neither tree nor fungi could live.

Like trees we must connect with the Earth Mother by rooting ourselves deeply in Her while stretching out to the sunlight for warmth and energy. We must feel the pulse of the Earth in order to be able to live well on this Planet.

Modern man, alas, has forgotten this – much due to certain religions that have cut him off from the Spirit of the Mother – and has come to believe himself to be a higher being than other forms of life on the Planet and master over the Earth.

Much of this has been due to a misinterpretation of the scriptures, very much on purpose and not accidental, of the term “G-d gave man dominion over the Earth” which was taken to mean domination and thus control. Nothing, however, is further from the truth for it in reality means that G-d appointed man as husbandman, as caretaker, of the Planet. In his wish for domination, however, man altered the agreement.

It is, however, those monotheistic religions, based on a perceived single male divine being, that has caused the great damage to the Earth in that it has cut people off the truth and the links with the Earth Mother and we must now redevelop those and reconnect to save mankind and the Planet.

The trees can teach us so much if we are but prepared to pause and listen to them and observe them, and care for them. And yes, they do need our care quite often to live better and longer and so be there for us when we need them.

Bernard of Clairvaux – St Bernard (no, not the dog, though the latter is named after the former) – understood and taught that trees and stones can teach us more than any human teacher if we but pause, listen and observe. Though he also was an abbot of the Catholic Church and seriously into the Virgin Mary.

We must connect, or should I say reconnect, with the Earth, our Mother, and learn from the ancient ways of the Native Americans and other Peoples who still know the secrets of Mother Earth. The trees can and must be our guide in this and in this way we may be able to heal the Earth and get Her back to health.

© 2013

Why do we need to get richer?

The holy grail of perpetual economic growth...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What is it with our obsession with wanting to grow ever richer and with the notion and holy grail of perpetual economic growth and GDP? When is enough enough? For some people it would appear never.

scrooge-mcduck-make-it-rain2The Ethiopian famine in the late twentieth century was less caused by drought and more caused by the prolonged civil war that had be racking the country but still it was claimed it had to do with drought and, as they claim now, climate change. However, it was predominately the civil war that was the causal agent of the Ethiopian famine of those years and if. More often than not, the cause of continuing famine in the region. For, when we see that Saudi Arabia is using Ethiopian, Sudanese lands and those in Somalia to grow wheat for its use then we must question the drought idea more than ever.

Starvation and malnutrition cause by poverty more than any climatic changes and drought, etc., still exists even after this time and not just in the Horn of Africa and Africa general.

This fact makes, at first sight, the question “why we need to get richer” absurd.

Of course there are millions and millions of people in this world that need to get “richer” but is the way we are getting richer the right way and do we all need to get richer.

So far the pursuit of riches together with the increase of wealth has not diminished suffering. On the contrary. The very rich are getting richer, the 1%, and the rest of us all are getting poorer and it affect the poor more so than any other group.

The dominant Western science, economics, with which they like to measure progress, does not take account of suffering, of poverty, nor do mainstream business models consider it to be a costs. The only costs that they worry about are those that directly affect profits and shareholder value.

Wealth alone cannot overcome suffering and poverty. It requires a qualitative improvement and not (just) a quantitative one.

The emphasis on constant economic growth has led many in the developed world to worship wealth. Wealth has become the measure to be applied to how well someone, some company, a country, is doing. But what should be the real measure of wealth of a person, of a company and indeed a country, is happiness.

The constant economic growth advocated by almost all governments is not sustainable and we cannot continue down that road if we do not want to destroy the Planet upon which all life, and not just human life, depends.

How rich should we be to be satisfied? The Roman philosopher Seneca had a very precise answer to this question when he said that we should acquire an amount that does not descent to poverty but one that is not far removed from poverty. In other words we should be satisfied with having enough.

There are too many people who have more than enough but they still want more, and then still more, and after that still more, never being satisfied with what they have. They are spurred on by the desire not just to keep up with the Joneses but to keep (well) ahead of them, and many stop at nothing top get there. This is greed and nothing more.

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas has a different way of measuring the country's wealth. It is Gross National Happiness that they are using as standard instead of Gross National Product as what the economists in the developed nations use as a standard of measure and it is the happiness of the people that should count, like in Bhutan, and not the wealth of corporations and the nation.

The assessment should be how happy the country is and its people are rather than how rich the country is and its inhabitants are. The two, of course, are very different. Wealth cannot buy you happiness and in most cases the acquisition of it also does not make the person happy. Just greedier for more and more wealth and possessions.

Simply getting richer does not make us happier and neither is simply getting richer the answer to poverty at home and abroad. While it is important that people have a decent standard of income and living standard how this is achieved is another question.

People must be able to earn their living in ways that make them happy and not in ways that make wealth for corporations on the back of the poor working class. This also means that our means of production and ways of production and producing goods and providing services has to change.

It has to become a case that the means of production, and thus the income itself, is in the hands of the workers, the craftspeople, the service workers, and not in the hands of some, often multinational, corporation. And these requires a complete change of system.

Does that mean that the economy should not grow? The answer here is not an easy one but first of all we have to realize that perpetual growth just is not possible in a finite world and that the great majority of non-renewable resources have almost gone and that means that the economy just cannot carry on growing and people consuming as if there be no tomorrow.

What is required is a resource-based economy and a constant economy and not a constant growth economy. And, in order to bring a better life to the areas that are poverty stricken the West, so to speak, must stop exploiting the areas and their people. Let's, by all means, buy what they produce but not have them used as a cheap labor source.

We cannot allow any further to have countries such as Kenya grow green beans and flowers for the West taking valuable growing space from the people and water resources. Buying any of their surplus foods is one thing but actually having them grow cash crops (for which they actually get very little) that the local people do not eat.

Our manufacturing has to be brought inshore again so that workers at home have jobs and so that the exploitation of workers in foreign countries stop. And then the means of production must be in the hands of the workers and not any longer in the hands of the capitalists who exploit man and Nature equally.

Our making of things, whether in “factories” or workshops, must be done, once again, on a human scale rather than on the industrialized scale that it has been done for the last century or two.

The large industries and plants are not sustainable anyway and we just cannot go on this way. It gobbles up land and other valuable resources of the Planet aside from what the manufacturing process takes from the Planet.

People will still buy goods made in a sustainable way, even if somewhat more expensive, as long as they are well made and made to last and are repairable, and that means the makers will still be able to sell goods. It will be a different kind of economy though. One led by income and based on resource availability rather than led by capital and high finance.

Every individual (adult) should have a means of livelihood, and ideally this working for himself or in a cooperative with others. And this is the first strike to liberation from oppression and liberation from dependence.

Getting rich from market driven economics is not healthy and it benefits more the wealthy than the poor. We have seen where this kind of economics lead us; to market crashed time and again.

It is easy to blame the bankers for the problems but they have a lot to answer for, especially the financiers that run the banks today. The very rule of those banks seems to be “never lend any money to anyone unless they don't need it” for, unless you have money, you don't stand a chance to lend any to to anything with.

But let's get back to the way things are at the moment. It would appear, and in fat it is so, that current economics of growth lack a moral purpose as their ultimate aim.

It should be that you don't consume more than you need and thus the consumerism that we see all around us in the developed world today is a case of people just buying things because it is a sort of a passion, or should we say an obsession. They seem to believe that the more they have in material goods the happier they will be and if they can just have the latest this or that then their happiness will be complete, but that never happens. Or if they can just get another x-amount per months this will be the case. We need to learn to be satisfied with what we have and what we can make for ourselves instead of buying more and more things that we do not need.

Consumerism is, basically, based on greed and advertising is suggesting to us that we need more and more and is makes us more and more greedy. To overcome this we have to, instead of spreading the message that more is good, the message of consumer and consumption restraint.

Thus we need to change the way we produce and only produce what is required for our communities, considering the 100 mile radius, say, then we don't have to have this buying all the time to keep the economy, in this case a localized economy, going.

This kind of economy does not mean that there will not need to be any growth at all. Farming will have to produce more and more to ensure food security for a growing population. But much of that can also be achieved, to some extent, in that people grow at least some of their own food in their own back- and front yards, on allotments or community gardens.

Other “industries” should not grow but should, in fact, be diminished, such as the defense manufacturing and arms industry, and instead of more motorcars, considering that oil is running out anyway, buses and trains should be build so that people can use public transport and also bicycles for the local traffic.

For this one needs, to some extent, however, a regulated, or shall we call it, a planned economy where, as Gandhi said it is not a case of not producing but what to produce, by who and for whom. With this three points of “what to produce”, “who produces it” and “for whom”, you have the perfect moral package of a good economy. It is a wonderful cycle of production and consumption that is so logical and that is the reason why Marx and Lenin did instigate the planned economy, even though it did not always work, but that was also due, to some extent to the fact that, in the days after Lenin, it was state capitalism and not (true) communism anymore.

The growth economy has so infiltrated each and every aspect of our lives that everything is being measured only in economic terms and that is the main reason, it would appear, that those of us, despite, well, before the crash of the early twenty-first century, of getting wealthier as nations, are not happy. And buying more and more things does not, as those that have the means to do so, keep finding out time and again.

Enough must be enough and as, as I said before, the Roman philosopher Seneca put it when he said that we should acquire an amount that does not descent to poverty but one that is not far removed from poverty. That should be the aim, and no more. When you have all that you need and a little above it should satisfy.

This is how we honor our fellow man and Mother Nature...

© 2013

Independence comes through making things

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Independence, true independence, comes about through making things, growing things and doing things for ourselves (and our community).

Gandhi spinning_webThis is more than simple self-reliance and self-sufficiency. It is total self-empowerment and brings about independence.

The Mahatma said something along those self-same lines when he was leading his beloved India to home rule.

However, modern India has lost the course and is now making goods – as slaves almost – for the West rather than the way it should be, for its own people and is, once again, importing some consumer goods from elsewhere. But I digressed.

None of us are truly free and independent, as individuals and as people, if we do not have the chances and possibilities to make things, to grow things and to do things for ourselves (our community). We are but wage slaves and slaves to the system and to governments which lord it over us.

Often those that lord it over us are not even our own governments but unelected entities in foreign lands, as in the case of the European Union, the rising fascist European superstate, where unelected bureaucrats, who are accountable to no one, decide what we may or may not do, what crops we may or may not plant, etc.

Not that the USA and its people are any better off than those in Britain or elsewhere in the European Union when it comes to government meddling in what people are permitted to do for themselves.

The people can never be free and independent unless they can produce and grow what they want and to do things for themselves and able to, thus, participate in the market and run their own lives. Production must be local and primarily for the local community first and foremost and carried out by local people.

Even, or especially, in the majority the so-called free and democratic countries, and especially in Britain and the EU and in the USA, countries that claim to be the bulwark of freedom and democracy, people are not permitted to be free and independent as they need to be and should be.

While you may be able to make and produce a variety of things when it comes to selling craftspeople, etc., find restrictions and the need for government permits and licenses (and they cost money) and this even more so for smallholders and other growers. In addition to the the latter, now, since EU regulations put in place in late Spring 2013, can also no longer grow, and that even applies to home growers who only grow produce for home consumption, what they want and must use ONLY EU approved seeds and plant materials. Old varieties are are illegal to use and possess and the saving of seeds and the exchange between friends even also falls foul of those regulations. Tell me again how free we are!?!

this means that, to all intents and purposes, government controls what we may do, make and produce, grow and sell and even eat, and as regards to doing things for ourselves.

It is basically, in most EU countries at least, illegal to even consider using force to protect yourself, your family and your property and especially if you consider using any kind of weapon for this purpose. If you, for instance, are threatened by an assailant with a knife and you beat him with a stick (which you may have carried for defensive purposes) it will be you who ends up in court charged with a crime and not the punk you attacked you.

But, relying, as you are told to do, on the police to come to your aid – after he knifed you – is also not going to work as it is no longer officially, though the people were not told, the task of the police to protect (and serve) the public but to enforce the laws laid down (by the powers-that-be). Sorry, but would you ming mentioning again how free we are?

We need to change the system, not the government (in fact, the latter needs to be abolished) if we ever, as people, want to be free and independent and not slaves.

© 2013

Quinoa and how our use impacts of the people whose food it is

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It makes absolutely no difference whether it is Fairtrade or ordinary trade, the fact that in the developed world this food is seen as a super food, especially amongst vegetarians and vegans, is leading to possible starvation of the people whose staple food this is.

Quinoa1It is especially sad that we allow this to happen where in most of our countries we pull the cousin of Quinoa which also produces feeds of the same value out of the our fields and gardens as weed. The plants that I am talking about here is knows by a number of names, some of them are Goosefoot, Fat Hen or Lambsquarter.

Because people, especially vegetarians and vegans, in the West, in the developed world, demand more and more of this “super food” the people who produce it and whose staple diet it used to be can no longer afford it, and this even if it is supposedly fairly traded, as in “Fairtrade”. There is nothing fair at it and this is but one of those foods that has that kind of impact on people in the Third World where it is produced.

Our demand for this stuff is causing, according to reports, a shortage of this staple foods in the Andean countries where it is being grown and this is not a sustainable way to go.

Vegetarianism and veganism is always advocated as being a sustainable way but when we demand exotic stuffs to feed ourselves then it becomes far from sustainable. It is a little like bringing in firewood into Britain for sustainable heating from as far away as Poland, the Ukraine and Western Russia. Sustainability is something else, folks, and not this.

We must reconsider how and what we eat for sure and that also applies to vegetarians and vegans. It is not possible to demand foods that have to be shipped in from thousands of miles away and our demand of which cause the producers to go hungry.

It is high time that we rethought the system and not just in this regard.

© 2013

Less is more

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We have been conditioned, and not just in our modern times, to believe that if we have more money, more goods, more of everything, we will feel better and live better.

lessBut we can see that most people who have lots of money and possessions are not happier that those who have less; often those that have less are happier than those that everything and a lot to spare.

The rich tend to run after more money and then wonder how to protect it. They are not happy, they are stressed out as to how to keep the money, goods and property that they have accrued, more often than not by exploiting the poor and the working class, and how to make still more.

But this attitude has also been transmitted down the line, so to speak, with the ordinary folks also believing that the more they have the better their lives will be and the happier they will be. The people of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) also believed that until they were taken over by the capitalist German Federal Republic – occupied may be a better term – and now many, the great majority it would appear, long to have the GDR back and the way of life that they knew where possessions where not what counted but quality of life.

Wealth, personal and that of countries, should not be measured in money terms, it should be measured in quality of life, in joy, in having community, in living in harmony with nature.

Today most of us, especially in the developed world, have far too many possessions and those possessions are indeed possessing the possessor who wants new stuff all the time for the belief appear to be that the next new gadget, the next new car, the next this or that, or the next higher paycheck, will give the peace and the happiness that they all desire. And, when the new car, new this or that, does not provide the desired happiness level the aim is to get something else that will and thus the vicious circle and spiral continues.

Marketing and advertising, especially on the television, try to make us believe, and succeed with many people, that if we just have this new cellphone, this gadget or that, or this new car or whatever, we will be happy ever after. Until, that is, that they suggest yet another one two days later.

The first move towards a simple life, one where less can become really more, is to divorce and ditch the TV and get into the habit of not taking any notice of advertising in any shape or form. It can be done but it means training oneself to become that relaxed about things.

Even in the green movement people have been brainwashed by advertising that they need this and that green gadget and whatever in order to not just be happy but to be truly environmentally friendly and greener than green. But no gadget or product can make anyone be environmentally friendly.

Reducing consumption is one of the main steps to becoming greener, so to speak. Not buying more, even if those goods and products are eco-certified, and are ethically made and made from recycled materials, etc.

Less is more and good for the Planet. Not greensumption. And less is also more as far as happiness and contentment is concerned. We just have to understand this first to become happy and content and in order to do that we must ban suggestive advertising by means of the TV out of our lives and that of our children.

Make things for yourself, from scrap, and see how satisfying it can be to do that. Make things from wood and the same result will be yours, and even more so if you persevere and you start to become a master in making things. Teach your children and grandchildren such crafts and the contentment that comes from those too.

The greatest part of the so-called rat race is the perpetual pursuit of happiness by consumption. You can't buy happiness and you also don't have it fall into your lap by ever more income, especially if you hate the job. Don't worry what the Joneses do; you are not the Joneses. And remember: it is not a competition.

© 2013

Documenting the value of paper

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you are interested in what research has to say about the value of paper, don’t miss this recently released report from the American Forest & Paper Association. It provides a terrific review of studies, reports and scholarly articles that show how paper enriches and improves many dimensions of our lives.

vluaepaper1Yes, you may say that they are biased, as all foresters could be considered too, as working the forests is our livelihood and paper is one of the products of our forests.

And, even as the demographic scale tips toward the new generation of digital natives, paper remains an important and essential component of multichannel communication.

Paper informs, creates a permanent record of milestones in life, provides secure documentation, reaches customers and offers a sustainable communication option that no other medium can match.

While the coexistence paper and digital communications continues to evolve, the reasons for choosing paper are as strong as ever … paper offers value that just can’t be beat!

Far too many people believe and repeat the mantra that going paperless or using less paper saves trees and especially the trees of the Rainforest but that is but a mantra and has little to nothing to do with the truth.

First of all we are creating more paper waste, and this is where the problem lies – waste, than ever before since we have gone “paperless” for people want and need paper records and thus print them out, regardless.

E-readers and e-books are being advocated and people flock to buy those but no one, it seems, or at least almost no one, considers the costs of the devices (and the hosting of the e-books) to the environment. E-readers are far from green and never will be green. Paper, on the other hand, especially if sourced from sustainable managed resources, is.

When it comes to saving the tropical Rainforests reducing our use of paper will not make one single iota of a difference as tropical hardwoods are not used and cannot be used in the production of pulp for the making of paper. The wood is simply too hard. Trust me, I am a forester.

Paper can be recycled and other paper and card products can be made from it. More than can be said for e-readers and e-books. That is not to say that I do not like the use of PDFs; I do, but only for electronic transmission of materials that then, as far as I am concerned, are printed out, bound and read like a normal book or such.

The great majority of all pulp for paper production comes from forests that are planted, managed and owned by the paper companies themselves and if it would not be for the fact that they bring an income to those companies those forests simply would not exist. The land would be developed for whatever; housing, industrial estates or whatever, but would not be forests.

In addition to that those companies and their forests proved thousands upon thousands of jobs, in the forests and down the line, and the trees that are cut are replaced at least at a 1:3 ratio, that is to say for every tree felled three new ones are planted.

If you are really interested in the truth you can download “Documenting the Value of Paper: Literature Review” here

© 2013

Sweden has run out of rubbish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Due to Sweden’s innovative waste-to-energy program and highly efficient recycling habits, this Scandinavian nation faces an interesting dilemma. They have run out of trash.

resourcerecovery_smlThe country’s waste management and recycling programs are second to none as only four percent of the nation’s waste ends up in landfills.

By contrast, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over half of the waste produced by American households ends up in landfills and things are not better in Britain either. To add to that the fact that many things that are collected in kerbside recycling also end up in the same place as there are no means to recycle them, there is a glut in the market for recyclables or they are “contaminated” and thus cannot be (easily) recycled.

Because Sweden manages waste so effectively and then use what remains to partly power their country, they are now living an environmentalist’s dream; a shortage of garbage. Can you believe that?

However, the environmentalist in Britain demand that our waste be recycled and not burned and even that what, invariably, remains and cannot be recycled must be recycled say Friends of the Earth and other groups. Incineration must not be done, they say, and that despite the fact that Sweden shows the way how to do it.

In order to continue fueling the waste-to-energy factories that provide electricity to a quarter of a million homes and 20% of the entire country’s district heating, Sweden is now resorting to importing trash from the landfills of other European countries.

In fact, those countries are paying Sweden to do so. Yes, you read that correctly, countries are paying to get rid of a source of fuel they themselves produced so that Sweden can continue to have the energy output they need instead of using the waste for the same purposes at home. This is madness, if you ask me.

One does not have to be an economist to know that this is one highly enviable energy model and that, besides the economic benefit, the Swedish system of sustainability clearly has vast environmental benefits.

Apart from the traditional recycling programs that are being used, Sweden's waste-to-energy system ensures minimal environmental impact from the country’s waste and thus the country's extremely efficient circle of consumption, waste management, and energy output provides the current global population and coming generations inspiration and guidance towards a more sustainable future.

The United States and Britain could learn a great deal from Sweden and how they do things but, alas, it is in Britain the so-called environmentalists that actually block any attempts of doing this, e.g. production of energy from waste by burning it.

Rather Britain is playing with burning biomass in some power stations in the form of pellets which, in the main, have to be imported from as far afield as the USA and are, more often than not, made from virgin wood rather than waste wood. Or those power plants are fueled by biomass in the form of specially grown “crops” such as willow, eucalyptus, or miscanthus. Plants which use up land areas better used for the growing of food.

We must change and we must change now and follow models that work in other countries and implement them in order, in this case, to (one) have energy security and (two) reduce the waste going to landfill.

© 2013

Real leather vs. imitation leather

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many vegetarians and especially vegans do not like to and actually refuse to use leather products and wear leather shoes. They go for shoes and other products made from imitation leather and such instead.

While canvas, and also hessian, for bags of all kinds is certainly a good choice and a green and ethical option and waxed canvas makes good waterproof bags and can even be used for footwear artificial leather of any kind is, to all intents and purposes, plastic regardless of what name it may bear and thus NOT green and environmentally friendly at all. In a way it is like replacing wood with plastic as has been done for many years already and see where that got us.

The only other option is the use of real rubber, that is to say latex, from the rubber tree, for footwear, like our wellington boots of old were, or wooden clogs.

Skai, which is an imitation leather and one of the most common ones, is a polythene (or even PVC) coated cloth and thus oil derived and nothing more than plastic in but a different form. And that, unfortunately, while being animal cruelty free, is environmentally very unsound.

Clogs – wooden entirely, as in the Netherlands and other places – or wooden sole with upper, originally leather but could be waterproof canvas or even latex rubber, probably are the only options, if one wants to be cruelty free shoes and boots without using plastic material and does not want to have bast shoes as the Russian peasants used to wear.

I really hate to disappoint those that think that artificial leather can be environmentally sound and eco-friendly. As it can only be derived from an oil base it does not compute.

While artificial leather, etc., may be “cruelty free” in that it does not involve animal skins, it is, as already pointed out, a cloth coated with some plastic material in a leather effect and thus a burden to the environment. Even if the plastic layer should be derived from recycled plastic artificial leather still has an enormous environmental footprint especially as it is non-recyclable at the end of its life. It is a bonded material similar to advertising banners and truck tarps.

Things often are made out to be much easier than they are when products are presented to people who want to do things a certain way. You can have cruelty free leather-like products yes. But they come at a cost to the environment and so does leather and the production of it, I know, and not just the animal that has to die for it. Tanning, especially the modern methods, can pollute the air, water and land if not handled properly, as nowadays harsh and dangerous chemicals are involved all too often.

There are alternatives such as vegetable tanned or even brain tanned. No one today tans anymore with urine but that would be, once again, an option. The waste product of it could simply be used as a fertilizer afterwards.

There are always two sides to a coin and, as is often the case with coins two, one side is prettier than the other.

© 2013

Rainwater harvesting turns weather into resource

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While for children, an incoming storm typically brings sighs and choruses of, “Rain, rain, go away”, for property owners and managers with rainwater harvesting systems on-site, however, regular downpours can mean a smaller water bill.

Rain_Water_HarvestRainwater harvesting is the ancient practice of collecting and storing rainwater for later use. Modern rainwater harvesting systems work by collecting rainwater, typically from the roofs of homes or institutional, commercial or industrial buildings, storing it in a large tank, and then utilizing a pump and pressure system to distribute the rainwater to connected plumbing fixtures. In the main, still to this day, however, rainwater harvesting is still the simple way of using a rain barrel attached to the downspout of the gutter.

In Britain it was mentioned some years ago that every newly built home was to have a rainwater harvesting system installed the water of which was then to be used for flushing toilets and washing the car, watering the garden, and such like. So far, it would appear though, this has not been implemented.

The modern rainwater harvesting systems can have elaborate treatment methods that use chlorine or ultra-violet (UV) lamps for disinfection, or simply use screens to remove debris like leaves and twigs. Ultimately, the treatment methods employed depend on what the property is using the rainwater for.

What benefits does rainwater harvesting offer property owners and tenants?

Rainwater harvesting systems allow property owners and tenants to use rainwater as a resource instead of having to remove it through roof drains, eaves troughs or parking lot catch basins.

Another benefit is that rainwater use reduces municipal water consumption, which helps cut down on a building’s water bill. It also reduces the need for municipalities to treat and pump water, a process that is both chemically and energy intensive.

Farms and rural households have engaged in rainwater harvesting for centuries but in urban centers it is relatively new.

It must also be considered that while in Britain and Canada and most other countries rainwater harvesting is legal it is not in a great many of US Federal States and in many local areas even if the state does not have a blanket ban on harvesting rainwater.

When harvesting rainwater from the roof it is best not to use it for potable use, that is to say for drinking and cooking, etc., even if the various forms of treatment are used because of materials on the roof that could be dangerous to health and which, possibly, cannot be removed by treatment.

But, even if “only” used for the other uses the savings can be immense and that means saving for your pocket and for the Planet. So, let's go an make some rain barrels and harvest some rain.

© 2013

Freedom and government are opposites

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

voluntaryismPeace and freedom comes about when nation states and governments are abolished and when people are allowed and empowered to be their own masters, their own sovereigns. When the land, which can be owned by no man or state, is worked by all for the benefit of all. Then and only then will things truly change.

We we stand at this moment in time and history is at the crossroads of the old and the new. The old we all know only too well and the new most fear, as it is unknown. But, the choice is simple. Go on as is and we commit ecocide and wars will always be with us or take the road less traveled towards a new dawn.

You cannot be free while being governed at the same time. The two diametrically oppose each other. Freedom and being governed just does not compute as the two, government and freedom, are in direct opposition to each other.

The majority, around the world, however, seems incapable to fathom and understand this simple truth having been conditioned – brainwashed might be a better term – to believe that government is necessary and that it requires a government by the people for the people. But any government of any kind means that there is no freedom and only privileges granted which can, at any time, arbitrarily, be removed.

Even “rights” supposedly guaranteed under a constitution or “basic law” are but privileges that the powers-that-be have, often begrudgingly, granted and they will remove them as and when they see fit.

Do not believe, not even for one minute, not a second even, that a written constitution, not even the one of the United States of America, is any different.

If you are free then you have all the rights under the sun but no government. If, however, you have a government then you are not free and then there are no rights; only privileges granted like to a prisoner or a slave who behaves well.

© 2013

Wooden chopping boards vs. plastic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

For as long as the gods only know wooding cutting and chopping boards have been in use in domestic kitchens, the kitchens of the big houses and palaces, and in food business.

cutting-boardsIn the latter part of the 20th century, however, hygiene people insisted that wood was bad and that plastic cutting and chopping board and blocks must be used instead, especially in food businesses. All butchers' blocks and wooden boards – in commercial catering and food environments – were, by legislation, basically, replaced with plastic ones.

Plastic-Non-Slip-Cutting-BoardGreat claims of hygiene benefits, etc. were made until some food scientist decided to conduct a test using salmonella cultures on plastic – cleaned with disinfectant – and on wood – just scrubbed the old-fashioned way – and found the next morning that the bacteria on the wooden board were dead while the ones on the plastic one had gone forth and multiplied and were very much alive. It was then wooden boards and blocks were exonerated and deemed safe (again).

Some hardwoods – conifer softwoods are not suitable for use in the kitchen in any case because of their resin content – have higher anti-bacterial properties than others while some are not suitable at all due to tannins or saponins or other toxins.

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) – yes, the wood of the often as “non-native” maligned tree in Britain – is one of the best woods – if not indeed the best wood – for chopping and cutting boards, and other kitchen utensils in general, as it has the highest anti-bacterial properties. Also sycamore is extremely taste-neutral, as it lacks tannins.

Maple then follows in the list – in fact sycamore is in the maple (Acer) family – and then beech (Fagus sylvatica) and then Ash and Birch. This is at least the case in Northern and Central Europe. Woods in other countries and areas will be different ones, for sure, but wood will always be the best choice over plastic and that also with regards to the environmental footprint.

Hazel is also a good choice for treen products in the kitchen but, as predominately worked – or should be worked – in rotation coppice may not produce pieces of trunk large enough for chopping boards.

For thousands of years we have used wood in the kitchen and it is doubtful that anyone ever got sick from the use of it. From chopping and cutting boards over utensils for cooking to serving spoons and eating utensils everything was made of wood. Everyone used to, once upon a time, have his or her own personal wooden eating spoon. That was before the arrival of cheap metal utensils and the latter caused more grief than wood, especially the metals the use of which is not that good for us.

When you see the grooves you create by cutting on plastic and the depth of them you will realize how they can and will harbor all manner of nasties. This does not happen in the same way with good hardwood. Considering then that wood kills the germs more than likely with its anti-bacterial properties without the need of impregnating it with, as done with some many plastics, Microban, which is but Triclosan under another name. A chemical which is not all that good for us and in fact has been linked to the emergence of the super bugs.

Thus, chose wood over anything else for chopping and cutting boards, as well as for breakfast boards, in the kitchen. It is a safe and healthier choice than plastic. Ensure, however, that the surface is not lacquered, varnished or painted. It should be oiled only. You would not want bits of PU varnish or paint ending up in your food.

© 2013

Cruelty Free International calls for a ban on household product testing on animals

image004Leading manufacturers support Cruelty Free International’s call for Government to ‘Clean Up Cruelty’ with a ban on household product testing on animals

London, UK, Oct 2013 – Leading brands including Astonish, Method and Ecover have joined with the international campaigning organization, Cruelty Free International, to request the UK government make good on its pledge to introduce a ban for testing household products and their ingredients on animals.

After three years of consideration and promises the Government has still not made a final announcement regarding the ban and now looks set on doing a U-turn having indicated that only finished products will be covered by the ban and not the ingredients.

Cruelty Free International has launched its new campaign initiative,Clean Up Cruelty, which has received cross-party support from many MPs, including Caroline Lucas, Henry Smith, Adrian Sanders and Kerry McCarthy The campaign also has the support of leading brands whose household products are certified as not tested on animals under the Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny program.

Cruelty Free International Chief Executive, Michelle Thew, said:“We are delighted to receive widespread political and company support for our campaign. Household names such as Astonish, Method and Ecover have shown that it is possible to sell safe and effective household products without inflicting pain and suffering on animals. The UK led the way in implementing a ban on animal testing for cosmetics. It is now time to do the same with household products and their ingredients. We urge the Government to implement this ban as soon as possible and take the cruelty out of cleaning.”

Astonish said, “Astonish is more than happy to lend our support for the Cruelty Free International Clean Up Cruelty campaign. With an EU ban in place for cosmetic testing on animals it is certainly the time for a ban on household product tests. We wish Cruelty Free International success in achieving this goal”

Ecover said, “Ecover is proud that all our household products meet the Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny standard and are free from animal testing. We support the Cruelty Free International campaign for a UK ban on all household product tests on animals; including both ingredients and the final products.”

Method stated: "Here at Method we are proud to carry the Leaping Bunny logo on all our household products. We will be strongly supporting the Cruelty Free International campaign for a UK ban on all household product tests on animals; including both ingredients and the final products, full stop.”

Bio-D stated: “Bio-D supports the Cruelty Free International Clean Up Cruelty campaign for a ban on household product and ingredient tests on animals. In 2013, with so many humane alternatives available, now is the time to Clean Up Cruelty and we are pleased to sign our name to the petition and encourage others to do the same.”

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, said: "After three years of delay, excuses and broken promises it is time for the Government to do what it should have already done and end the use of animals to test household products"

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: "I'm proud that my constituency office is cleaned only with cruelty free products. It's time we ended testing these products and their ingredients on animals"

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley said:The UK led the way in banning the use of animals to test cosmetics ingredients and finished products, now I'm supporting Cruelty Free International in the campaign to end the use of animals to test household products"

Adrian Sanders, Lib Dem MP for Torbay, said: "With retailers having proved for many years that it is possible to manufacture household products without subjecting animals to cruel tests, its time the practice was ended in the UK once and for all"

-Cruelty Free International is the only organization solely campaigning for a global ban on animal testing for consumer products. With offices in the UK, the USA and Singapore, it works with governments, regulators, companies and partner organizations worldwide and has placed the issue of animal testing on the agenda of many governments for the very first time as part of its global work to end product tests on animals. For further information:

- Cruelty Free International has led the campaign to end the use of animals to test household products. OurClean Up Crueltycampaign has gained widespread support around the UK from politicians, councils, retailers and the public who have pledged to only use cleaning products approved by Cruelty Free International Humane Standard, symbolized by the Leaping Bunny logo, as free from animal testing.

-Animal tests for cleaning products are not specifically required by law; to market a product a company must demonstrate its safety, but this can be done by using approved non-animal tests and combinations of existing ingredients that have already been established as safe for human use.

-In 2011, then Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone MP promised the ban would include the ingredients that go into making up the product as well as the finished cleaning product itself. She said,“The prohibition will apply to both finished household products and their ingredients, although in practice mainly the latter are tested.

- The Leaping Bunny symbolizes the only international no-animal-testing certification. It requires that companies prove what they claim. Certified companies are audited for compliance with their animal testing policy and the strict criteria of the Humane Standards. Other companies which currently sell household product accredited by the Leaping Bunny scheme include Marks and Spencer and Greenscents. For further information:

The infrastructure of industrialism is fragile and vulnerable

by Michael Smith Veshengro)

power_gridThe infrastructure of industrialism is fragile and vulnerable, ripe for disruption and sabotage.
Weaknesses of security in the great majority of industrial control systems could allow hackers to create cataclysmic failures in infrastructure, according to researchers at the Black Hat security conference in 2013.

Our dependence on technology – fragile technology – to run everything from power stations and electricity grid, gas supplies, water supplies and even the transport system for supplies of food and good to the supermarkets and stores, might be the very undoing of the world as we know it today.

It does not require an EMP device detonated at altitude to knock out the infrastructure of nations. All it requires is hackers disrupting the system and making it crash and everyone is up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The one this affects more than the big guys, however, is the average Joe on the street, so to speak for let's not believe for one moment that the powers-that-be will suffer. They will have their bunkers, their food supplies and their families taken care of.

Not only is the infrastructure of industrialism vulnerable to attacks by hackers and saboteurs, it is also vulnerable to solar flares and such like events. Such events, without even the need for any hacking, could send nations back into the stone age, at least for some time, by knocking out vital infrastructure, such as electricity, gas and water supplies, and the supply chains to the markets upon which people depend for their food.

We have become far too reliant on high-tech for almost everything and even our communications, not just telephone, whether ordinary or cell phone, are all dependent, on satellites and other high-tech means the breakdown of which, whether caused by hacking or other destructive force.

Considering also and especially the climate cataclysm and biosphere collapse being caused by global industry and its incessant greed, we must change how we live and how we work before it is too late.

We also have to consider that there is no factory or industrial production that is also sustainable as far as the environment and the Planet is concerned. That means that we need to return to less consumption and to products made by craftspeople and artisans, food from proper (local) farms and our own gardens and such, and making much more for ourselves, as was the way of our grandparents and their parents.

That does not, however, necessarily, mean that we have to return to the Dark Ages or even the nineteenth century for we do have means at our disposal, means that do not have to be polluting either in production, to generate electricity, to produce – yes, produce – gas for cooking and even heating, but we will have to make changes in how we use this electricity and gas and we will have to get away from the motorcar and get back to human-powered, and animal-powered, means of transportation.

When it comes to electricity and other energy consumption we simply use too much, and it is not (just) households that are at fault here but industry and businesses in general, as well as government, local and central.

Do office buildings really need to be illuminated all through the night when no one is home? Do street lighting have to be on all through the night? Do our motorways in Britain really have to be lit up at night? And government has the audacity to shout at households to stop wasting energy, even though we must stop wastage in the home too.

However, the stand-by setting and some other supposed power hogs are not at all and this becomes evident to anyone who uses a power meter in the home such as “The Owl” or similar. But the government and some agencies keep telling us that that is where most of the power is supposedly wasted while not looking at their own stoop first.

When it comes to where we live and work and how we live and work then, yes, we need to take a step back, even in time, and get back to some sensibility and normality.

We cannot continue to commute hundreds of miles to our places of work and then travel back to our dormitory towns and villages of an evening. We need to work again where we live and live where we work and, although this might be a little more difficult, under the same roof, well, almost.

Our towns and villages must become vibrant communities again where people not just sleep but actually live and work, and our cities must be repopulated again and made liveable. And electric power and other energy must be generated and created locally in close proximity too where people live and work and with renewables this is not a health issue as was the case with the coal-fired electricity plants in London in the early days.

We must decentralize power generation so that no event, man-made or natural, can knock out every bit of power from the entire nation, for instance. The Second World War and the attacks on power stations and especially the hydro-electric dams, by the Allied forces on German areas, such as in the Ruhr Valley, that managed to knock out a great deal of the area and further afield and crippling industry should be just one example as to the why of decentralizing power generation and energy production.

Decentralized power generation means that it is far harder to wreak such havoc and even more so if renewables are in play as in “every building a power plant” with solar, wind, etc. generation methods.

But we must also de-technify (sorry, just invented that word) the controls and the distribution so that no hacker or EMP event can knock the systems out and thus the lights.

While I am no Luddite and use computers to a great extent, thus not advocating that we got rid of everything computerized, I also know their vulnerability and not just to hackers and electromagnetic pulse and this includes lightning strike.

The talk is often as to “hardening the infrastructure” against such events but that is a great deal easier said that done and thus we need to cut ourselves off from the over-dependence on technological controls and return to a more manageable way of doing things. But with local power plants and such like this is extremely easy and easier still with electricity generation on each and every building for use by the building and with surplus going to the neighborhood.

Only by changing the way that we live and work and the way we do things can we prevent a breakdown and total destruction of the Planet.

Small is beautiful...

© 2013