Gardens are helping North Carolina Cherokee build better, healthier families

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, now numbering about 15,000, has made its home in the North Carolina mountains for more than 11,000 years. And during that time, their tribal culture has centered on the Earth, especially agriculture. Cultivating plants to produce food has been a mainstay of Cherokee existence.

Recently, along with the rest of society, the Cherokee people have suffered from the excesses of modern living. Fast food, poor eating habits and lack of exercise have lead to obesity and an increased incidence of diabetes in their children and adults. And as in many communities, their tribe has seen the effects of the deterioration of the family unit, as well as growing drug, alcohol and other substance abuse issues and a breakdown in the tribe's social structure that can lead to domestic violence.

The Band has confronted these problems head-on, with expanded health care and education, improved public safety programs and a new, consolidated tribal-run social services system. While they were making a difference with these initiatives, they knew that to be successful they needed to deal with the root causes of these problems. And so they did.

In the end, it all came down to simply planting a garden. Not just any garden, but one that could be tended by a family, that produced nutritious natural foodstuffs and that brought families back together around the dinner table.

Eleven years ago, they started a program that consisted of distributing free garden kits each spring to tribal families. It started small. But today, they are giving out 750 garden kits each year, each capable of producing fruits and vegetables worth $600.

The garden project contributes nearly half a million dollars in nutritious foods to Cherokee families each year. Since the program began, close to 6,000 garden kits have been distributed, providing more than $3 million in healthy food for tribal members.

Each kit contains a mix of heritage vegetables and local favorites, including creasy greens, hominy corn and Indian beans, yellow squash, cucumbers, Sugar Ann pea, boc choi and spaghetti squash. Furthermore there is also a Saskatoon Serviceberry seedling that can grow to 10 feet tall and produce dark, purple berries and also a booklet detailing how to sow, care for and harvest the produce, along with a nutrition guide.

And those kits also contain the seeds of better health, for as adults and children go about the daily activity of planting, caring for and harvesting from their home garden throughout the year, they enjoy much-needed outdoor exercise.

Instead of eating fast food, more families are gathering around the dinner table enjoying what they have grown together. This is important for two reasons. First, it means that meals are more nutritious and healthier and, second, it reinstates the all important evening family gathering which has sometimes been lost in a world of television and computer games.

I believe that we can all learn from the experience of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and take a leaf out of their book for all of us wherever we happen to live, whether in the USA or in Europe or elsewhere.

© 2014

Forget apps, old-school mobiles ring in a comeback

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

nokia-retroThey fit into a pocket, have batteries that last all week and are almost indestructible. The old-school Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola cell phones are making a comeback as consumers tired of fragile and overly-wired smart-phones go retro.

Forget apps, video calls and smiley faces, handsets like the Nokia 3310 or the Motorola StarTec 130 allows just basic text messaging and phone calls, but the demand for them is growing and some of those second-hand models are fetching prices as high as 1,000 Euro a piece.

“Some people don’t blink at the prices, we have models at more than 1,000 euros. The high prices are due to the difficulty in finding those models, which were limited editions in their time,” said Djassem Haddad, who started the site in 2009.

Haddad had been eying a niche market, but since last year, sales have taken off, he said. And over the past two to three years, he has sold some 10,000 handsets, “with a real acceleration from the beginning of 2013.”

“The aging population is looking for simpler phones, while other consumers want a second cheap phone,” he said.

Among the top-sellers on the website is the Nokia 8210, with a tiny monochrome screen and plastic buttons, at 59.99 euros.

Ironically, the trend is just starting as the telecommunications industry consigns such handsets to the recycling bins, hailing smartphones as the way ahead.

Finnish giant Nokia, which was indisputably the biggest mobile phone company before the advent of Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy, offloaded its handset division to Microsoft this year after failing to catch the smartphone wave.

But it was probably also the supposedly irreversible switch towards smartphone that has given the old school phone an unexpected boost.

'Back to basics'

For Damien Douani, an expert on new technologies at FaDa agency, it is simply trendy now to be using the retro phone.

There is “a great sensation of finding an object that we knew during another era – a little like paying for vintage sneakers that we couldn’t afford when we were teenagers,” Douani told AFP.

There is also “a logic of counter-culture in reaction to the over-connectedness of today’s society, with disconnection being the current trend.”

“That includes the need to return to what is essential and a basic telephone that is used only for making phone calls and sending text messages,” he added.

It is also about “being different. Today, everyone has a smartphone that looks just like another, while ten years ago, brands were much more creative.”

It is a mostly high-end clientele that is shopping at French online shop Lekki, which sells “a range of vintage, revamped mobile phones.”

“Too many online social networks and an excess of email and applications, have made us slaves to technology in our everyday life. But Lekki provides a solution, allowing a return to basic features and entertainments,” it said on its website.

A Motorola StarTac 130 – a model launched in 1998 – and repainted bright orange was recently offered for 180 euros, while an Ericsson A2628 with gold colored keys for 80 euros.

“We have two types of profiles: the 25 to 35 year-olds attracted by the retro and offbeat side of a telephone that is a little different, and those who are nostalgic for the phone that they used when they were younger,” said Maxime Chanson, who founded Lekki in 2010.

“Some use it to complement their smartphone, but others are going for the vintage, tired of the technology race between the phone makers.”

While the return, so to speak, to the old-school Nokia and Ericsson, etc. cell phone is a good move (let's get back to basics) the prices that they are being traded at are a little more than stupid. Then, on the other hand, demand creates the price in this case and the rarity of those phones nowadays makes for steep prices.

I assume that Nokia is kicking itself now for having sold off its handset division to Microsoft after failing to catch the smartphone wave. A bad move, if you ask me, the sell off.

Smartphones are not the be all and end all and when I now see people making phone calls with their 7” tablet devices held to the ear I always want to fall about laughing. Not so long ago they wanted their cellphones ever smaller and now they cart about a thing that is bigger than what a schoolchild used to use to write upon decades ago.

It very much would appear that handset manufacturers have far too quickly abandoned the standard cellphone sector in favor of the smartphone one. What goes around comes around or so they say and as fashions often die quicker than they began the manufacturers should have held fire a little longer and now could be doing good business again.

I still have a Nokia 1650 and I think I shall be holding on to it very tightly now and I wish I still had the good old 3310 as well.

© 2014

You have to decide where you stand

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the monumental battle of our times we all have to take stock and decide where we stand and on which side we fight. Do you stand with capitalism and world domination (by the United States and its corporations) or do you stand for solidarity and peace, for liberty and justice, and for and with humanity?

I, for my part, did choose many years ago where, in this monumental strife of our time, I was going to stand and on which side I would be bearing arms, metaphorically and fore real.

The side that I choose is that of solidarity, of peace and of brotherhood of all, of a cooperative commonwealth, where I joined the struggle for a new an fairer world for all and where the fruits of a worker's labor are his or hers and not those of a corporation.

To take such a stand in a world where, it would appear, the amount of money you make, what kind of car you drive, what kind of home you live in, what brand of clothes you wear and such counts more that what and who you are is not an easy one to make when everyone else is peddling the hamster wheel but it is the right one for all mankind and the right one for the Planet also.

I have made my choice to stand for people and for the environment and against the capitalist system and (corporate) greed. But I cannot and would never think of making you decide where you take your stand. That choice is yours and yours alone and between you and your conscience. All I try to do it to make you think as to the way that you take.

Each and every one of us has to work out for him- or herself on which side he or she is going to stand and – if and when necessary – fight or whether to sit on the proverbial fence. In the latter case you have to understand though that, in the context of things, staying neutral means siding with the oppressors.

© 2014

Think tank predicts end of capitalism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cooperative_economy1At the end of April 2014 a global think tank is predicting the end of capitalism and the beginning of a co-operative economy. This message, however, after but a single mention in a BBC Radio news bulletin has ever since then been hushed up everywhere.

This news comes after only recently the United Nations predicting the end of the industrial era and the beginning of a post-industrial one now this. It is obvious that certain people want both to be kept as quiet as possible. Wouldn't do to scare the sheeple now, would it.

It is interesting to see the choice of words of the think tank to call the new economy to follow after capitalism a co-operative one.

A co-operative economy is, in essence, basically, co-operative enterprises, that means worker-owned, worker-operated and worker-led businesses and that might as well be called by its proper name, namely socialism or even communism, real and true communism.

This is the true meaning of “means of production in the hands of the workers” and not state-owned businesses, often referred to as publicly-owned ones.

This was always, originally, co-operative worker-owned, -operated and -led businesses, intended to happen in Russia after the Revolution of October 1917 and did, to a great extent, until Stalin messed it all up.

State-ownership of businesses is not socialism or communism but state capitalism. A co-operative economy would be the true path, and one where the workers really are the ones benefiting from their labor.

There are co-operative businesses in existence even under capitalism, especially in the UK, with the last remaining old one being the John Lewis Partnership. Others that once were have been taken over by corporations, many from across the Big Pond and others from Switzerland. The lure of the lucre was, obviously, too great to resist for all concerned.

But with the predicted end of capitalism and the emergence of a co-operative economy worker-owned, -run and -led enterprises will be – more or less – the only, and this is good news for workers, way to proceed.

The old system is, however, not going quietly, of that we can be certain and will do all it can to stay alive even though it will be in a coma, basically, and it is prepared to fight tooth and nail. The capitalist and especially the corporation are not prepared to let go of their large profits and thus incomes for them and their shareholders. But any struggle by a comatose system is not going to change the outcome in the end.

If, as predicted by the UN, the industrial era is coming to an end then capitalism will be finished also and that means a world entirely different from what we have seen before.

While we have seen – well, not us directly but previous generations – a world without industry as in factories and such so far the co-operative economy, as predicted by the think tank, has not existed properly.

However, it is going to happen; there is no other option for the world.

But we are not talking here about what previously has masqueraded itself as socialist economies, which were, and are, but state capitalism, but of an entirely new economic system along the lines that were envisaged by the likes of Owen et al in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, to a great degree, with enterprises where the workers truly own, run and lead those enterprises and truly own the means of production.

Instead of being afraid of this new system coming our way we should rejoice and work on bringing it about sooner rather than later as it will benefit all of those that are prepared to work and not loaf while making a fortune on the backs of the poor workers. So, bring on the co-operative economy and system and the post-industrial world.

© 2014

Fake economic growth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I May 2014 it was revealed by many of the world's media – even mainstream ones – that automobile manufacturers have acquired large tracts of land in many country where the can send newly manufactured cars to die.

399881_178948385539112_178794815554469_223247_388280526_nAround the world hundreds of thousand of newly made and newly registered cars – registered to the manufactures and their agents though unsold – are sent to those what can only be describes as graveyards for new cars to stand around for a year or so and then to be scrapped.

In the economic statistics, however, those cars show up as sales of new vehicles and thus create a fake economic growth and also a fake GDP for the countries where those cars have been made and registered. This all despite the fact that none of those cars will ever actually drive on our roads bar to said graveyards, maybe.

By means of this fiddling of the figures the people are sold the lie that the economy is on the up again but you can only fool people for a certain length of time. There comes a moment when folks – unless they are extremely stupid – will wake up and recognize the game that is being played.

Most people will not understand the logic of why something is being made that will not be sold and sent to the knacker's yard to be scrapped, in the end, and it only makes sense if we understand that the GDP figures are the collateral for the loans that countries take out from the private banks around the world. It is a ponzi scheme that is going to collapse – again – and then the troubles will be greater still then they were in the “Great Recession”.

Seeing those automobile graveyards one can but wonder as to whether or not there may not also be warehouses full of (other) consumer goods made but not sold and also, in due course, destined for destruction.

To have things produced, whether cars or other, to simply scrap then as they cannot be sold as people do not have the money to buy them and as too many are made just does not make economic sense, on its own. Only when it is used to massage the GDP figures it does. This is the capitalist system gone mad and the sooner we bury it the better.

Resources are being used up and energy, workers exploited and the Planet ravaged and plundered all just in order to pretend that the economy is doing fine? As it also does not make economic sense this is just weirder than weird.

But this fake economy and growth is also the key reason why obsolescence is built into (almost) every product today as only NEW sales count in the statistics and repair does not show up in this league table and it is but that league table that counts.

And it also goes for the housing crisis, as it is called. We do not have a housing crisis but an empty homes crisis but, yet again, refurbishing existing housing stock is not newly built and again does not figure in the growth statistics; only newly built homes do.

When we have masses of homeless but empty homes (and buildings that could be made into homes) that could house the homeless of several countries with still room to spare we must come to realize that something is, in the worlds of Hamlet, rotten in the state of Denmark, or, in this case, in the system as a whole and not just in one nation.

Not only are figures massaged and GDP created that does not actually exist upon which loans are then taken out but in those operations the entire Planet is not only mortgaged but also ravaged. It is indeed so stupid – for lack of another word – that it simply does not make sense on any level really bar – to some extent – in the league table game.

This is proof – yet again – if any more really would be needed that capitalism as a system is not working for people and Planet and never really has worked and that everything is based on a gigantic ponzi scheme which is about to collapse around our ears. And collapsing it will, make no mistake about it.

Overproduction is the problem and not under-comsumption by people who cannot afford to buy the products and in order to make us all buy the same things over and over again, as already mentioned, the capitalists decided some time ago to make products in such a way that they would have to be replaced every couple of years and cannot be repaired. And to top it all they also destroyed the repair economy making it thus impossible to get even things that can be repaired fixed.

Not only is the economic growth we are being told about a fake; any growth is unsustainable in our finite world and we have to be rethinking things.

Growth that comes from new innovative products that people buy because they are new and innovative is one thing – though also not directly sustainable – but fake growth created by overproduction and by built-in obsolescence is a crime and not just a lie. A crime against the Planet and the people.

© 2014

Recognition that we cannot continue to mistreat our natural environment growing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

DalaiLama“The increasing recognition that we cannot continue to mistreat our natural environment without serious consequences is a cause for hope.

When we can recognize and forgive ignorant actions of the past, we gain the strength to constructively solve the problems of the present.” ~ HH Dalai Lama

It is true that more and more people around the world coming to the realization that we cannot go on the way that we have for decades and more. But, while the people recognize that, for many of the governments and especially their backers, the capitalists, business as usual appears to be the way they are going.

Even though many people realize that we cannot go on the way we have and we have to make serious changes they seem to lack, in the same way as regards to politics, the wherewithal to understand that they are the ones who have to lead the change, all together, and not wait for governments to make the first move.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world”, the Mahatma said and in order to bring about change two things have to happen. One is that we have to change and two is that we have to be the change that we want to bring about. That means that we have to change our ways ourselves – without government taking steps, if need be – and be an example to others while we do it.

Many do believe that they are entirely on their own and that they, as an individual or even a family, cannot make an impact but that is not so. Reason being that they are not alone, just not connected to others of the same mind, and thus it is important that, while we do our own thing in the corner where we find ourselves, to join and link with others, even if (only) by means of the Internet, and to network. Everyone, however, believe themselves to be alone and many seem also to wait for someone else to make the first move.

Everyone, in their small corner, where they are, can make a difference and small things, when everyone does them, amounts to a lot and will make a difference. Better still when we can network with others, learn from them, and work together on larger ideas. But the change starts with us and especially within us. That is what we have to remember. Before we can make changes we, ourselves, have to change first and foremost.

The most important thing is not, as many may think, recycling. It is reducing our consumption and that in everything bar the essentials. Changing the way we eat and what we eat is also one of those changes that we should be making, aside from simply reducing consumption.

In making choices what we buy and where we buy and from who also is a great step and everyone can do this. Learning how things are made, where and under what conditions and then choosing accordingly, where possible, as often there is no choice, I know, is also one of those small acts that can make a difference.

Buy local and buy and eat food according to the seasons and preserve stuff for the winter months. Grow your own food or at least as much as possible. Make do and mend. Make your own and reuse, repurpose and upcycle instead of buying new all the time. Those – and many other steps – each and every one of us can take and with those make a difference, and even more so if we can encourage others to do the same.

Begin to understand that the rest of Creation is not, necessarily, there as our servants but as equal partners, so to speak, as our brothers and sisters, and that includes fauna and flora as well. Wolf and bear are my cousins, as well as oak and pine. Learn to live in harmony with Nature and do not try to fight against Her. We cannot win such a war even though the term “fighting nature” is often used for should we ever do win it we will die.

I earlier said changing the way we eat and what we eat is one step and I went then further to say to buy and eat local food and when in season and to preserve stuff for later. In addition changing our diet to a more plant-based one is a further good move to reduce the impact that each of us have on the natural environment and the Planet.

Changing our habits in many small ways can have a great impact and even more so if we can persuade others to follow suit and do the same or similar. Be that as regards to how we eat and what, or as to reusing what others would consider simply as waste which to repurpose or upcycle into things we need and want or by making do and mending. Voting with our wallets for the environment that we want is something that all of us can do, on a daily basis and it will, in the end, bring about positive results.

So, let's all go and do it! We can do it and we can make a change, even if we only can do small steps.

© 2014

Playing outside could make kids more spiritual

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kids-outside-Children who spend significant time outdoors could have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose than those who don’t, according to new Michigan State University research linking children’s experiences in nature with how they define spirituality.

In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the Earth, and felt their role is to protect it.

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies.

“We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”

For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.

The study also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination and creativity). For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees’ nests.

Van Wieren and co-researcher Stephen Kellert, from Yale University, used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings,

diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents. Seven of the 10 children in the study – who were 7 to 8 years old – were from families with a Christian background.

The researchers also found parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality. So what is it about nature?

It offers a diverse display of colors, sights and sounds; uncertainty; multisensory qualities; and above all, aliveness, Van Wieren said. Nature is usually in a state of flux, which fosters problem-solving opportunities that build self-confidence.

But we could be in trouble if kids continue their technology habits, she said. “This is the first generation that’s significantly plugged in to a different extent and so what does this mean?” Van Wieren said. “Modern life has created a distance between humans and nature that now we’re realizing isn’t good in a whole host of ways. So it’s a scary question: How will this affect our children and how are we going to respond?”

The response to this is rather an obvious one that the researchers seem to simply miss when they ask the question above, unless it was and is a rhetorical one. It is that we must get our kids, from a very early age, back into Nature to play there, the way we did when we were kids. Not as difficult an answer as it is being made out.

And now, with my thick tin foil hat on, I am going to put forward that the reason our kids are, even by means of the authorities where in some places it now seems to be a crime for children to play outside unsupervised, kept out of the natural environment and play in this environment is that it puts them in touch with their spiritual side and connects them to Mother Earth and that is totally against what is being worked at.

No one in their right mind can believe that the threats to children are greater today than they were say 40 or even 80 years ago as regards to perverts and such like. They have always existed but because kids were not – on the whole – ever playing outside alone but were always – mostly – in a group of sorts it and thus they were not as easy prey as is a lone child.

Traffic and such is more a problem today than it was many decades ago and because of the motorcar and its availability to almost everyone a pervert targeting children, whether boys or girls, can come from further afield and be gone rather faster than was the case back when. But, I believe, that much of the issues are created by the media – on behalf of the powers-that-be to keep kids out of the natural environment as a connection with Nature makes them too open to the truth and they are then not as easily influenced by media lies.

OK, tin foil hat off again...

Many churches also are not, and we must face it, too keen on children experiencing a love for the Creation rather than the Creator by the spirituality that comes from close contact with the Earth. It turns kids into people who question what they are told by the priests of the established religions and that undermines their powers. And this is not a new phenomenon either.

No child left indoors must be the slogan with which to work as we must get the children back outdoors and connected to the Earth and this must happen not in a structured way but the children must be allowed to explored and find their own way and connection with the Earth.

Time we brought some sense back into the lives of our kids and our own lives too. We keep them and ourselves way too busy to make any such connections with Nature, with Mother Earth, by allowing them, and ourselves, no time to be in Nature and to commune with Nature.

© 2014

Demand-led or industry-led consumption?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Much of our consumption, bar for life's essentials, is not as a result of need – thus demand – but of something that has been suggested to us, almost and maybe even literally, subliminally. By who? Industry, who else, via advertising.

MendingBy means of advertising on TV, radio and in printed media (and now also on the Internet), as well as on billboards, industry creates these perceived needs that make people rush out – or go online – to buy these unnecessary necessities. Pardon the paradox, the oxymoron, but it is one that people really fall for.

Most of our thus perceived needs that lead to unnecessary consumption are created in our subconscious mind by advertising and are only wants that we, because of industry's efforts, perceive not as what they are but as something that we urgently have to have (to bring us happiness, make us better in this or that, etc.).

Industry-led consumption, however, is not only created by advertising. It is also created by the fact that almost nothing nowadays is repairable and comes with a built-in obsolescence of bar a year to three after which we have to buy the same product again or an updated one, and that time and time again.

This is the way they keep the economy growing as, in the statistics, this always shows up as new purchases and thus give the false indication of a growing economy. That, aside from the fact that the perpetual growth economy is not good for us and the Planet.

The first step to change this entire thing is to stop being brainwashed by advertising that those things they praise to high heaven are things that we have to have and the second is to demand from industry that products they make are repairable.

The former anyone can do by simply ignoring the ads and the second we all can also do by using our buying power in that we shop for well-made products that are repairable.

I know very well that for the latter to work we would also have to have places that actually can mend things and who do not reply on machines and no skill to stick a sole onto a shoe but are incapable to repairing a seam of a leather bag or boot.

The problem is that the economy is geared to selling new goods all the time and repair does not make for economic growth statistics and thus the repair economy has been – basically – murdered, especially by means of the built-in obsolescence in the majority of products made and sold. Almost nothing is repairable and those goods that are cannot because, unless you can do it yourself, there are no longer repairmen or -women capable of doing true repair work and really fixing things that are broken.

Good news is on the horizon, though, as far as repairing is concerned. The Guardian newspaper has reported in May 2014 that repairing, especially of clothes, is in again and that many people are taking up sewing again, by hand and machine, often by means of the old-fashioned sewing machine of the kind that our grandmothers used to use.

© 2014

Government to take £40 from everyone who loses their job

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TUC LogoFrom this Autumn anyone who loses their job in Britain will receive £40 less as a result of government plans to make people wait for longer for any job support, according to a consultation published on Friday, May 23, 2014 by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) – an official body that advises the Department of Work and Pensions on benefits issues.

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) believes that the new policy will make newly unemployed people easy prey for loan sharks, with even the government admitting that the change may increase reliance on short-term loans.

The government plans to make all new claimants for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) wait seven days before they are eligible for help (at the moment they have to wait three days). The

committee’s consultation reveals that, according to the government’s own assessment, JSA claimants will lose £40 on average, while disabled people claiming ESA will lose £50.

The government’s impact assessment of the change, published by the SSAC as part of its consultation, shows that over 1.3 million people a year will be affected.

The government also believes that disabled people will be disadvantaged by the new policy and that under Universal Credit, “the potential hardship for claimants is much greater.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Forcing people to wait for job support will not help anyone find work. Instead it will make them easy prey for loan sharks. This has nothing to do with making work pay. It is simply

a mean attack on the welfare safety net and could affect any one of us.

“It won’t matter how long anyone has had a job or how much they have contributed to the system, they will all suffer the same penalty. The vast majority of people who lose a job thankfully find another one within a few months, but this is when they need help to tide them over between jobs. That is why we have a national insurance system to which we contribute when we are in work – a system that is now under attack.”

This is yet another attack, as Frances O'Grady so rightly said, on the British welfare system that was designed to stop people from having to resort to the methods they did have to in bygone days before.

The Con-Dem coalition is hellbent on bringing back not just Victorian values but the Victorian era, it would seem, with all the misery that goes with it.

When there are no jobs to be had for many who find themselves out of work they want to make it even harden on the people who find themselves in such a predicament. Not, I am afraid, that a Labour government would be acting much better, I am afraid, a the Labour Party today is as much for the working people as the Tory Party. The working class no longer has a true champion in Britain.

What was started under Thatcher (Tories) was continued under Blair and Brown (Labour) and is now being completed under Cammeron-Clegg (Tories/Liberal-Democrats). And from that we can see that none of the three main parties in British politics are prepared to champion the working class. The opposite rather.

© 2014

Monterey Shale Downgraded

Gov’t Slashes Calif. Oil Estimate

U.S. Department of Energy Agency Reduces Monterey Tight Oil Estimate by Over 95%

Oakland, California (May 2014) – In an article released May 20, 2014, the Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has drastically reduced its estimate of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey shale formation from 13.7 billion barrels to just 0.6 billion barrels a reduction of over 95%.

front-cover_Drilling California_200wThe downgrade has major implications for California’s energy and economic future, as well as the debate over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and other forms of well stimulation-enabled oil development. The perception of an impending oil boom has dominated energy policy discussions in California since the release of a 2011 report by the EIA which had estimated up to 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil—64% of the nation’s total—in the state’s Monterey shale formation. The estimate was widely cited by drilling proponents, and economic forecasts based on it projected millions of new jobs and billions in new tax revenue.

“The oil had always been a statistical fantasy,” said geoscientist J. David Hughes, author of Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, an influential report critical of the EIA’s original Monterey estimates. “Left out of all the hoopla was the fact that the EIA’s estimate was little more than a back-of-the-envelope calculation.”

Hughes’s report, published by PSE Healthy Energy and Post Carbon Institute in December 2013, was the first public analysis of actual oil production data from the Monterey Shale and the formation’s geological characteristics. The report found that all data suggested that the EIA estimates were wildly over-optimistic. INTEK, Inc., the source of the EIA’s original estimate, has since admitted that its Monterey figures were derived from technical reports and presentations from oil companies rather than hard data.

“We’re pleased that the EIA has corrected what was a groundless and highly misleading over-estimation of the potential of the Monterey,” said Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute. “We hope that everyone—from the EIA to policymakers and the media—will learn a cautionary lesson from what transpired here in California as we wrestle with questions about what the future of American energy policy can and should be.”

“Now that Californians have a more accurate idea of what promise the Monterey Shale does and does not hold,” added Dr. Seth B. Shonkoff, Executive Director of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Health Energy, “we must carefully weigh the benefits against the costs associated with fracking and other forms of well stimulation-enabled oil and gas development.”

J. David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada and North America for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. Over the past decade, Mr. Hughes has researched, published and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. He is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and a board member of Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy.

Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy provides a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying reasonable, healthy, and sustainable energy options for everyone. PSE Healthy Energy empowers citizens and policymakers by organizing and supplying objective, evidence-based information.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.


Nature deficiency in children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

KidsPlayingDensRecent reports in Britain have claimed – and they are more that likely right – that only 20% of children have any sort of connection with Nature which, it has to be said, is quite a shocking statistic

I do think, however, that the problem goes far deeper than that and I put a lot of the stresses and anxiety surrounding modern living down to the fact that we have increasingly become disassociated from our natural world.

The nanny state also does not help where it is – basically – illegal for kids to go out exploring on their own and, G-d forbid, carrying a pocketknife with which to do some whittling, making their toys from a stick, or even carving a walking stick.

In addition to that we have the recent ads for “Toys R Us” that make Nature out as something to be avoided and that play and fun can only be had with manufactured toys “Made in China”.

Considering, however, the fact that the simple and humble stick made it into the “American Toy's Hall of Fame” only a couple of years ago and now available in a woodland near you everywhere children, given the chance, do have completely different ideas as do the advertising agencies making the “Toys R Us” commercials and I refuse to actually believe that the entire commercial was not staged and that the kids were not actors themselves.

In response to those reports there seems to be loads of suggestions as to how to address this problem though none of which I expect any government will act upon. I am sure we all have our own suggestion and here are a number simple (and free) activities, some of which may appeal no matter what age the child maybe. Some are even fun for adults to do with the kids; in fact the adults should do them together with the kids.

  • Go on a bug hunt, anywhere from the local park to the garden or even a window box and see what is crawling around under that stone or beneath that leaf or piece of rotting wood. You may be surprised at the amazing world that exists out of normal view.

  • What better time than autumn to go out collecting and identifying leaves and nuts.

  • Hug a tree and take the time to feel the texture of the different barks, from the smooth ash, to the rough oak to the ridged sweet chestnut. And take the time to look up into the complex weave of branches and twigs, upon which you will already be able to see the buds that will open next spring.

  • Why not simple splash in a puddle or roll down a slope – perfect for those of us who really want to rediscover their inner child!

  • Go pond dipping or investigate a rock pool and see what creatures lurk beneath the surface of the water.

  • Make a secret map of your local green space, be it garden, park or woods, adding in distinctive features such as trees or hills or dips. And why not add some buried treasure? We used to make such maps of each and every area that we lived in or stayed in, and not just for fun.

  • Collect fallen wood to create a den in the woods (and add it to the above map).

  • Make space for nature by putting up a bird box (from January our garden visitors will be starting to check out places suitable for nesting), or create a pile of twigs or even build an insect hotel from anything that you have to hand (you will find plenty of advice on line).

  • Feed the birds and attract them into your garden where you can enjoy studying them without even having to go outside.

  • How about a game of “Pooh sticks” – stand on a bridge above a stream, drop in a stick each and see whose stick emerges first on the other side.

  • Have a war – or play Cowboys and Indians (or cops and robbers) – using stick guns. Aside from going hunting with slingshots (catapults) this was one of many things that we did as kids.

  • Go and make a walking stick.

And, I am sure, this list could go on almost for ever and everyone will have his or her own ideas. One important thing; get the kids outside and into Nature.

© 2014

Beyond flying – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Beyond Flying
Rethinking air travel in a globally connected world
By Chris Watson Edited by Chris Watson with Chris Brazier, Rob Hopkins, Saci Lloyd, John Stewart, Kevin Anderson, Kate Andrews, Tom Bennion, Susan Krumdieck, Ed Gillespie, Adam Weymouth, Lowanna Doye and Nic Seton
Published by Green Books, March 2014
208 pages, paperback, 198mm x 130mm
ISBN: 9780857842091
Price: £9.99

beyond_flyingFourteen authors from around the world share their stories about how they came to the conclusion that reducing their air travel was necessary to avoid playing their part in climate change, and how they changed values and attitudes to businesses and personal travel. These are the stories of how these remarkable people found easy and better ways of living and working in a globalized world with less air travel.

Friends of the Earth: rethinking travel
Foreword by Peter McManners


Part 1 Thinking beyond flying
1. To fly or not to fly? Chris Brazier
2. Deciding never to fly again Rob Hopkins
3. Young people and climate change Saci Lloyd
4. Waking up to the downsides of flying John Stewart
5. Slow and low – the way to go: a systems view of travel emissions Kevin Anderson

Part 2: Business beyond flying
6. A green travel experiment Chris Watson
7. Trains versus planes: building a low-carbon travel agency Kate Andrews
8. Going cold turkey: a law practice without any flights Tom Bennion
9. The no-flying conference: Signs of Change Susan Krumdieck
10. Slowlier than thou: why flight-free travel is about better, not less Ed Gillespie

Part 2: Savouring the journey
11. The human engine: bicycling to Beijing Chris Smith
12. Walking distance: Europe on foot Adam Weymouth
13. bike2oz: the world going through you instead of around you Lowanna Doye
14. A small matter of distance: trying not to fly to climate talks Nic Seton
15. Travel on a hot planet: exploring the global tourist industry overland Anirvan Chatterjee and Barnali Ghosh

How to fly less

So why fly less?

Flying has for so long been seen as an elite activity with the promise of status, luxury, leisure and freedom that we’ve blinded ourselves to the impact this First World activity has on climate change and on the damage it causes not only to the developing world but to us, too. We only have to look at the flooding this month in the UK, Argentina, Uruguay and elsewhere to see that.

Flying is never zero carbon. Despite aviation engineers making huge advances in efficiency, there is a limit to how much more they can do. Burning fuel in the sky is more than twice as bad as burning it at ground level.

Since the recession, 47% of UK businesses have reduced their flying and are committed to flying less and videoconferencing more. Why? Because of cost savings, greater staff productivity and lower CO2.

Fourteen individual travelers from across the world share their stories about keeping in touch in their business and personal lives while flying less.

From commercial, professional, academic, NGO, literature and science backgrounds, they have managed to find easier and better ways of living and working in a globalised world that readers can identify with. What is stopping the rest of us, then?

The book offers:

  • An inspiring catalog of reasons to fly less

  • 10 steps to reducing flying

  • Many examples of the delights of richer travel

  • An urgent plea for us all to change our ways

  • Ongoing royalties donated to Friends of the Earth


Chris Watson grew up in an airline family, flew light aircraft and was passionate about flying, but after reading extensively on climate science it became apparent that flying less is necessary. He is an architect, who regularly writes for journals and conferences.

Personally I am a no fly person; I don't drive either and neither do I own a car. As to flying: I do not fly well in the first place unless I can wear – and I do mean wear – my own personal parachute. No, no kidding!

It is almost insane that it is today cheaper to travel to the European mainland from the UK by plane than by train and the same is also true, in fact, as regards to rail travel in the UK itself. It is cheaper to go from London (Gatwick) to Birmingham by plane than it is by train. Does not make sense, does it.

The book, by means of essays by a wide variety of people who have chosen to give up flying or, at least, to seriously reduce it, makes a compelling case against the madness of our time which is this more or less tax payer subsidized air travel.

As flying, and aviation in general, as it includes air freight, is one of the greatest culprits as to pollution affecting the climate it is absolutely insane for the aviation industry to be blessed by tax breaks, tax relief on fuel and other things, and other concessions that are heaped upon it.

I would recommend this book to everyone to gain some insight as to how flying affects the Planet and how those less likely ever to fly are the ones who are going to feel – and are already feeling – the brunt of the result of our obsession with air travel.

Considering the adverse affect that flying has on the environment it is beyond my comprehension that not just politicians but especially members of “green” organizations jet off to climate conferences and such without almost a second thought, while preaching to or even at others to change their ways.

It would appear that they consider themselves exempt and important and it is a definite “do as we say not as we do” attitude. But we, in the environmental movement, and that includes them, must lead by example and the example is to use less polluting ways of doing things.

Rating: Definitely five out of five.

© 2014

Nature does not know waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is no waste in Nature. Everything is being recycled by various creatures both large and small and our system must be designed in the same way if we want to clean up the Planet and create a world that remains livable.

1219803198381116322trashWe must not just reduce, minimize or avoid waste; we must eliminate, if and where possible, the very concept of waste, by design.

At present, however, obsolescence is designed into almost everything we buy so that we have to throw something away in a year or three and have to buy new because the old cannot be repaired or upgraded. It is the way they keep the constant growth economy going. This constant growth economy, though, is bad for our finances and worse still for the Planet.

There was once a time, not all that long ago, where everything was repairable, often by users employing more or less simple DIY even. Today, more often than not, an appliance cannot even be opened and even if it can be opened repair simply is not possible, not even by a technician or it is prohibitively expensive to do so.

In the German Democratic Republic – the so-called Communist East Germany – in its days and until its dying day repair of almost everything was possible and was done and entire industries were geared to repairing, and not just expensive goods. Everything could be repaired and it was specifically made like this.

Until about around the 1980s this was also the case with many goods – the majority, in fact – in Britain (and elsewhere) and repair shops where everywhere and the costs very reasonable. Now shoe repair places can but glue on new soles and heels. Most have not idea whatsoever, however, as to how to resew a mid-sole back to the upper and such. If they have not got a machine for it it cannot be done, even if the shoes or boots are capable – and that too is rare nowadays – of being repaired.

Repairability and second use – in the case of packaging and such – must be designed in so that waste can become a thing of the past. But our own mindset also creates unnecessary waste when we don't think as to reusing things, such as packaging materials, where possible for other tasks. Our ancestors did have that mindset and not just the poor and we need to reclaim this too.

Total and complete elimination of waste will not, I believe, every be possible but things need to have sustainability designed in and packaging should, wherever possible, be biodegradable and compostable.

For cardboard this means doing away with glossy paint and using vegetable-based inks instead, for instance, and we should also take a leaf out of the book of bygone ages and places such as the GDR, when and where packaging was thus and very minimal and glass bottles and -jars must go back to be refilled, as and where possible.

And we must relearn the way our ancestors thought and consider each and every item of (packaging) waste as a potential for reuse. Food waste should, ideally, not occur and if it does then that food waste should be composted to feed plants or first fed to animals such as chickens and such and, as their waste, go into the compost after.

Other products must be designed in such a way that (1) they last and (2) can be (easily) repaired and upgraded instead of having obsolescence designed in just to make us buy new every couple of years to keep the economy artificially turning, and don't get me started as to the stupid notion for the need of a perpetual growth economy.

Waste reduction to almost elimination level can be designed into products and packaging and packaging waste is one of the biggest problems as far as waste is concerned together with the built-in obsolescence.

The problem is, though, that industry has no intention to change anything and neither do the powers-that-be. It is, thus, up to us to force the needed changes.

© 2014

To vote or not to vote, that is the question

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If votingIf voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it”, said Mark Twain, and true he is and was.

The fact is that our so-called democratic elections are but a farce to make the people, that is you and me, believe that by choosing this or that candidate we, the people, participate in the government and the governing process.

Time and again people will say that if one does not vote one gives one's voice to the greater of the (two) evils and that one has to choose the lesser of the evils. However, I say why choose any evil.

And the problem with political parties is, anyway, that as soon as they get a taste of power they disregard what their pledges and promises were and get on with governing, that is to say oppressing, the people.

Just for a moment imagine that everyone would stay away from elections or that, as it was suggested, elections can only be valid if more than 50% of the electorate cast their ballots, and that turnout would not happen and only a few percent would actually go to the polling stations. What then? They would then either have to force people to cast their ballots or they would have too start all over again.

Boris Johnson (Conservative), the Mayor of London, demands that Union ballots have to have a greater than 51% turnout while at the same time stating that for mayoral elections and general elections a turnout of less that 35% is fine. This shows what a farce this all is and that it is but a game to pacify the people into believing that they live in a democracy.

There is no democracy anywhere. Not a single so-called democratic country with a so-called democratic government is a democracy in the true sense and thus it is all but window dressing.

Do you really think that your vote makes any difference. The choices are made well ahead of the elections by the people who pull the strings of the puppets and this can be seen well enough if one but manages to inspect the claimed votes versus the cast votes and voters attending, and yes, even in the United Kingdom.

Joseph Stalin said “It does not matter how many votes are placed its who counts the votes that matters” and that definitely is the case and also as to how the votes are counted.

In view of those shenanigans and the fact that we are being invited to a game the outcome of which is predetermined, and the same, by the way and especially also goes for the US presidential elections, before our American cousins wonder, I have decided that that is one game I am not playing.

If we did have the choice on the ballot paper to mark a box “None of the Above” and if those voices would be counted as votes that were “No” votes, so to speak, then things might be different but choosing the lesser of two evils does not make for a right.

I am not telling you what to think or what to do; all I am asking you is to think.

© 2014

Where is your source?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Where is your sourceIsn't it strange that each and every time that a Blogger writes a controversial piece on the Internet, or someone posts something on Facebook or such, someone who does not agree with it will come along and question it with “where is your source?” or “without listing sources this has no validity” and other such bulldust.

However, those very same people would not ever even as much as think to make the same statements and ask the same questions as to anything that is written or broadcast in the so-called mainstream media. They simply believe (almost) everything that they read in the papers and magazines or what they hear and see on radio and television. Amazing, isn't it.

As soon as, however, some “alternative media”, a citizen journalist and -editor writes something on the Internet which they do not want to believe even though it is true they scream for the source and say that it cannot be true unless one can link to a source.

The truth is that the majority has been so blinded and deafened by the so-called main stream media, by the propaganda of the state through those media streams, that they cannot and will not believe anything that those media have not reported. They would have told us on the TV or in the papers, I hear so often. Yes, sure, in the same way that the Nazis told the German people about the concentration camps and the ovens.

Aside from the fact that the world's “mainstream media” is but owned by a few corporation today and many of them are so tied into government and corporations and certain groups that the truth is not something that many of the are prepared to present to the readers, listeners or viewers but only entertainment masquerading as news.

There are some of the mainstream media who do go out on a limb at times and those are worthy of watching but the majority are bound by editorial policies that are decided by their owners and their masters, including government.

In Germany under Hitler the media was used as a propaganda machine to dumb down the people and have them follow the decrees of the Fuehrer and his minions and it is not much different, only somewhat more subtle, in our so-called democracies of today. It was for the very reason that it was forbidden for Germans of the Third Reich to listen to foreign radio stations, for instance, and it is for that reason that the powers-that-be would like to be able to silence the citizen journalists and the Bloggers. In fact not so long ago the Italian government actually tried to make citizen journalism illegal as newspapers and media in Italy, theoretically, need to be licensed ever since after the Second World War and Mussolini's fascists. However, it would appear that they decided to leave it at the status quo.

It does show, however, that the established media and especially the governments do have a serious issue with alternative media, whether run by citizen journalist and “ordinary” Bloggers or alternative media groups.

The sources of a Blogger may not be other newspapers or other websites, often they are not at all, but real life, inside knowledge and what they have discovered for themselves through investigative work. Hence there is may be no web-link that can be provided, just the story, much like in your “normal” newspapers, radio and TV channels.

© 2014

Social contract

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What contract? I signed naught!

Time and again we are told by “our” governments that we are all in a social contract (with them). However, a contract has to be something that is signed off by both parties and, the way I see it, none of us ever have seen the contract let alone signed it.

social_contractThe talk about social contract is just something to keep the masses quiet and obedient and allow the powers-that-be and which shouldn't be to do as they wish for they are, after all, enacting the social contract to which we are said to be a party.

Well, as said, I doubt that anyone understands this social contract talk let alone has any idea what it is supposed to be all about. It is a fake as no one has ever seen it let alone agreed to it.

The social contract thing is a philosophy, if we want to call it thus, that was first given life by Rousseau at around the time of the French Revolution. I bet the French also had no idea that they were supposed to be entering such a contract.

Hereunder the representation of the idea of Rousseau found on Wikipedia and other sources:

Of The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique) (1762) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is the book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1754).

The Social Contract helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate; as Rousseau asserts, only the people, who are sovereign, have that all-powerful right.

The stated aim of the Social Contract is to determine whether there can be a legitimate political authority. In order to escape from either a conflictual state of nature or illegitimate forms of tyranny, man must enter into a Social Contract with others. In this social contract, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same amount of rights and impose the same duties on all. Rousseau argues that it is illogical for a man to surrender his freedom for slavery; thus the participants must have a right to choose the laws under which they live. Although the contract imposes new laws, including those safeguarding and regulating property, a person can exit it at any time (except in a time of need, for this is desertion), and is again as free as when he was born.

Rousseau posits that the political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population (women included) which represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew.

Rousseau claims that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government. Since a government is only as strong as the people, and this strength is absolute, the larger the territory the more strength the government must be able to exert over the populace. In his view, a monarchical government is able to wield the most power over the people since it has to devote less power to itself, while a democracy the least. In general, the larger the bureaucracy, the more power required for government discipline. Normally, this relationship requires the state to be an aristocracy or monarchy. It is important to note here that when Rousseau talks of aristocracy and monarchy he does not necessarily mean they are not a "democracy" as the term is used in the present day - the aristocracy or monarch could be elected. When Rousseau uses the word democracy he refers to a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy. In light of the relation between population size and governmental structure, Rousseau argues that, like his native Geneva, small city-states are the form of nation in which freedom can best flourish. For states of this size, an elected aristocracy is preferable, and in very large states a benevolent monarch; but even monarchical rule, to be legitimate, must be subordinate to the sovereign rule of law.

The way most governments today, however, seem to see the social contract idea is that they make the rules and we have to sign up, collectively, to abide by them, even if they are tyrannical as we, so they claim, are parties to this social contract.

I doubt that that ever was the way that Rousseau saw this idea. In fact the opposite, I should think.

This so-called social contract also includes policing by consent. This latter, however, is also such a strange bird in that, as far as I see it, one has to first of all consent to something and secondly if something then does not work one should be able to withdraw that consent. You can't do that, though.

When it comes to “policing by consent”, we are told, we have given the government and with it the police, collectively our consent to be controlled by them and thus we cannot withdraw our consent as individuals. Somewhere along the line this does not compute and the entire story is a farce on both counts, social contract and policing by consent as both would require the us, each and every one of us, to make the educated choice to give such a consent and I doubt that anyone has done such a thing.

So, despite what we are told, we are not free but slaves to the system and the powers-that-be. Free people can give their consent and withdraw it as and when. Only slaves cannot.

© 2014

Green Products: Marketing or real change of values?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The numerous “green” products that have a supposedly lower environmental impacts as their conventional cousins give us the good and fuzzy feeling that we are thinking and living more sustainably. But, has really enough happened? The truth of the answer to this is a firm no.

greenwashing-cartoon1The potential of consumer goods to become “green” is large. Alone in Germany in 2011 consumers spent around 36 billion Euro on “sustainable” products (I have put sustainable in parenthesis because some may just products that make the claim but really are not, such as bamboo) and of those 14 billion were spent with regards to making homes more energy efficient. But, when put in the context of consumer spending in 2012 of 1,500 billion Euro then that what is being spent on “green” products is only 2.4% of that entire sum.

The problem is that industry and design are not seeing that potential as to greening products, and I mean here properly greening products and not greenwashing products. And sustainability also and especially means that those products have to be made locally and not in Timbuktu or more likely China.

Often businesses use terms such as “sustainability” and “green products” predominately as a marketing ploy as, for instance, with regards to the claims made for bamboo fiber, which is nothing but Rayon, and such claims, if they cannot be substantiated, as is often the case are then nothing but greenwashing and that is very much on the increase. If the consumer is unaware then he or she falls for such claims and while believing he is doing the Planet good is, in fact, not.

Not every man or woman on the street, the average consumer, even the “green” consumer, knows his or her onions, so to speak and can easily be misled by such false claims, and that is, obviously, the whole idea in this, namely to bamboozle and to make people believe that they are buying something that is good for them and the Planet.

Instead of buying green products we must first and foremost look at what we can reuse and repurpose before we even take the route of buying. That is the green way.

All too often even those who think of themselves as green and environmentally friendly cannot think past recycling bin and the eco-store and I have seen that more than once. The example I like to cite here is the one about the person who proudly comments that he has bought a recycled steel pencil bin for US$10 for his home office while at the same time throwing a clean tin can, which would have been able to serve the same purpose for $0 or the one who proudly comments on his recycled glass storage jars he bought for US$18 while tossing one clean glass jar after the other into the recycling bin that would have done the same job for no money at all.

Consumption and consumerism has been conditioned into us, including those in the green movement, to such an extent that we cannot think, at least not the majority, and even, as said, those that consider themselves green and environmentally conscious, and in the cases of the latter ordinary consumption has been replaced what we have come to refer to as greensumption, that is to say the buying of supposedly green and environmentally friendly goods. And greenwashing is all around us to such an extent that few people can see through the marketing.

However, it is much greener to make than to go and buy and reuse and upcycling is often so easy that it almost is impossible to believe and still so many cannot see the potential of the things that they then simply toss into the recycling bin. We have to learn to think again in the way that our grandparents and their parents thought and bring back sanity into the world.

© 2014

Bring back the reuse mindset of our ancestors

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How can we bring back the reuse mindset of our ancestors, our grandparents and their parents?

glass_jars_reuse (2)The first step is education against the false mantra of recycling. It would appear that the majority, even in the green movement, have misunderstood the recycling message, aided and abetted by our governments (and we will not talk about whether governments are actually a good thing or not), to read “recycle, recycle, recycle” rather than the reuse that is in there also.

Recycling, commercial recycling, is expensive and also impacts on the environment detrimentally.

While reduction of packaging and thus packaging waste is one way of getting rid off the amount that is being produced there is a lot that will remain and reuse, repurposing and upcycling is far better than (commercial) recycling.

It is certainly true that even our ancestors has and created waste and humans have done so – and I am not referring here to human waste, if you know what I mean – and especially since products have been packaged in one way or another.

Our ancestors saw almost every bit of waste – at least those on the lower level – as a resource which to reuse and upcycle well before those words, especially the latter, were coined and became fashionable.

While the words may have become fashionable today few people, it would appear, at least in the developed world, though, seem to be doing it.

Everyone, well almost everyone, seems to have been brainwashed by the misinterpreted recycling mantra in such a way that all that they can think about is to toss those things into the recycling bin regardless of any reuse and upcycling possibilities, and the powers-that-be, from local to central government keep this going. “We need to recycle more” we are told. No one, almost, ever mentions reuse though despite the fact that reuse is much more important.

Instead of buying drinking glasses – which were expensive – our ancestors reused and repurposed glass jars from whatever that were suitable for this and the term “having a jar”, often heard in English working class areas, no doubt came about as a result of this practice of reusing glass jars for drinking glasses.

Shoe boxes were reused and repurposed for storage boxes for knickknacks and especially photographs, letters and documents. More often than not those boxes were given (nice) labels so they knew what was in this or that box. Some would even decorate the boxes with left-over wallpaper or such like.

In other instances glass jars were repurposed as storage containers for dry goods, such as beans, peas, rice and flour or for storing nails, screws and other small bits of hardware in the workshop, garage or garden shed and the ladies used them to store sewing supplies, especially the likes of buttons and such.

Bent nails, extracted from this or that, were straightened out and reused or stored for future use – yes, in those very same glass jars mentioned earlier – and the same goes for screws, nuts and bolts. Out ancestors would – literally – have a field day with the pallets that are tossed out by their thousands today and also with the other things that get thrown away at a daily basis.

They seem to have been able to see a potential reuse in and for almost anything and everything. We, in the main, do appear to have lost this ability, this knack, but we must regain and redevelop it. It is important to do so and to be reusing a repurposing as we will never be able to totally eliminate waste, especially not as regards to packaging waste.

We must revisit the time of our reusing and repurposing ancestors, by way of old “How-To” books and such and then apply what they did to the waste materials of today. While the packaging material world of our ancestors was tin cans, glass and crock jars, wood and cardboard and ours today has more plastic in it many of the ideas of old can still be used and adapted for today.

We must do it for the sake of our finances and especially for the Planet.

The more that we reuse and repurpose for our needs and wants the less money we have to spend on those things and also less waste has to burden the environment as waste and also products for which we substitute the items do not need to be manufactured.

In theory, without adding it all up, recycling sounds very a very good way out but it still needs an awful lot of energy and not just in the process of recycling. It is the collecting and then the transporting – often more than half-way across the globe – to processing that is often omitted from the figures banded about.

Reuse and repurpose more and starve your bins, including your recycling ones. Your wallet and the Planet will thank you.

© 2014

Capitalists can buy themselves out of any crisis

"Capitalists can buy themselves out of any crisis, so long as they make the workers pay" – Lenin

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Those words of Vladimir Ilyitch Ulyanov (Lenin) are still as true and valid today as they were when he made that statement, maybe even more so.

Pyramid_of_Capitalist_System1The capitalists will, on the backs of the poor and on the backs working class, buy themselves out of any crisis and most if not indeed all of those crises are created by the capitalists themselves. There are very few that cannot be laid at the door of capital and the banks.

Wars are almost always the result of the machinations of the capitalists and the ruling classes, the junkers and those others that lord it over the people. Other crises too are all too often orchestrated by those in order to further their interests whatever those may be at that particular time.

While the poor may commit (petty) crimes in order to feed themselves and their children they have never started a war or orchestrated some crisis to get what they want. They only, in general, go after what they need.

The ruling class and the capitalists, on the other hand, do not need more but still they want more. More resources, more money, and that ideally for nothing. They oppress the people, exploit the workers, and it is they who reap the profits and not the people what actually do the work. Many of them also do not even risk their own capital but play with stolen money and resources. Any poor person would end up in jail for what seems to be considered acceptable practice and even laudable when done by the capitalists and the ruling class to further their interests. Are they not growing the economy and that is what counts?

Aside from the fact that the perpetual growth economy not being sustainable it is all done by exploitation. Exploitation of the workers in the factories and businesses, exploitation of other countries and the exploitation of the environment to such an extent that the Earth is being destroyed. And all for profit and more, more and more money that they do not need.

Crises are manufactured so as to advance their interests, especially as regards to the exploitation of natural resources in other countries, whether oil, gas, gold, timber or whatever. The accusation against Saddam Hussein of Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction was fabricated in order for US companies especially to get their dirty hands on Iraq's oil and Afghanistan has not been invaded to fight Islamic terrorism but in order to get the minerals and rare earths that are there in them hills. And whose sons and daughters have to fight on the fields of battle? Those of the working class and not those of the ruling class.

Financial crises too have been fabricated in order to devalue currencies and destroy economies and the poor and the working class are the ones who have to carry the can once again by having to take wage cuts but having to pay every rising prices for food and utilities. It is they that are made to pay for the crises that the capitalists and the bankers create to further their own interests and those of the businesses and banks that they represent.

Only when the workers truly own the means of production and other businesses will the worker ever be free of this exploitation. But this liberation is not achievable by simply expropriating the current owner and making the state the owner of such businesses for the status quo of boss and worker still then remains.

Nationalizing of industry and businesses does not make for ownership by the workers (and the people). It creates nothing but ownership by the state, and I mean the state, that is to say state capitalism, and turning workers not into owners but into wage slave to the state and that just will not do.

© 2014

'Parliament makes decisions, not the people'; Peers say

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Parliament1This is the way the British government, the Commons, the Lower House – also thinks. The people cannot be trusted with referendums, whether on the EU or other, or with anything else. Parliament, the master, knows what is best for the slaves.

Just by way of explanation Peers is a term used for collectively for the members of the House of Lords, Britain's Upper House in Parliament and Members of Parliament are those in the House of Commons, the Lower House or Lower Chamber.

Therefore we can see that the British system is not a democracy, and that not even by a long shot. In a democracy the people rule or, if there is a parliament, which there should not be, then all power emanates from the people, and neither is the case here and nor do the parliamentarians in Britain think that it should be so.

As far as they are concerned is that as they are elected we, the people, have thus surrendered to them our power and after they are “in office” we must shut up for the next four or five years, depending on the length of the parliamentary term.

In fact, this is very well laid out in the German term for voting, that of “Stimme abgeben”, which could be translated as it should be, and not into casting one's vote, as “to cede one's voice” or to “give up one's voice”, and that is exactly the way it is being seen by our so-called representatives, namely that once we have taken part in the game of elections we have given our voice to them and have to remain silent as now they have the say on our behalf.

Make no mistake, folks, that is exactly how it is and pans out and it is for that very reason that they do what they had planned anyway, regardless of what they stated in their election manifesto. They know that the voters have abdicated their power, their voice, to them in the election process. The only ones who do not know that fact are the voters, the electorate. They have no idea as to what games are being played and that so-called democratic elections are but for show to keep them, the people, quiet and in the belief that they have a choice of how they are being government, while being told that they are free people.

And don't think that it is any different in other so-called democracies. Not one iota except, maybe, in Switzerland being an exception where plebiscites have to be held for any major decision, almost, to be taken by government. But in all cases there is still the state and the government and that is where the problem lies.

© 2014

Freeplay’s Encore Player radio makes a splash during record-breaking journey around the world

Encore_article1Freeplay Energy’s Encore Player radio was recently put through its paces by extreme sportsman Sam Greatrex when he took part on a grueling 100-mile rowing expedition from Oxford to London.

The expedition was a warm-up for Sam’s forthcoming attempt to break the world record for the fastest human powered circumnavigation of the world – and his Encore Player will also be going with him then. The bid, titled ‘Lap the World’, will kick off in August 2014 and aims to raise £240,000 for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.

But first, Sam and his seven crewmates rowed from Oxford to Putney Bridge, London. Sam’s new Encore Player radio kept the team entertained and charged their mobile phones throughout the journey; its robust design, powerful speaker and patented dynamo-powered energy source making it ideal for sustained outdoor use.

Sam Greatrex comments: “I approached Freeplay Energy as there seemed a natural fit between the company and our values of demonstrating sustainable energy management while delivering world leading performance. Having said that, it will also be a life saver to have a radio to listen to while I am making my way around the globe, and the inbuilt light and mobile phone charger will be invaluable. I can even load my favorite tunes onto an SD card and use the Encore Player’s integrated MP3 player.”

John McGrath, Freeplay Energy’s managing director, adds: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to support Sam’s record attempt by donating an Encore Player radio, which is particularly appropriate for use on the ‘Lap the World’ bid, as it too can be fully powered by human energy, via its high-efficiency wind-up mechanism. Of course, if Sam chooses to save all his energy for getting himself around the world, he can use Encore Player’s built-in solar panel to power the multi-band radio, play MP3s or charge his mobile phone.

“We were proud to support Sam both during his initial rowing challenge between Oxford and London, and then as he takes on his amazing ‘Lap the World’ expedition later this year. We wish him all the very best and look forward to watching his progress as he creates a new world record.”

Originally designed for use by the 1.6 billion people worldwide who currently live without access to a regular electricity supply, the solar and dynamo-powered Encore Player is a multi-band radio, MP3 player and recorder, light and mobile phone charger. Weighing just 1.08kg and less than 26cm tall, Encore Player is highly portable and its sturdy, robust design ensures that it is suitable for use in the most rugged of environments.

Encore Player builds on Freeplay’s long experience of pioneering wind-up and solar technology to deliver products that provide information, communication and lighting for people around the world who live off-grid.

Now that Sam has completed his Oxford to London trip, he will continue preparations for his ‘Lap the World’ challenge. This will see him cross 25 countries and five continents in the course of his 18 month journey. He will cycle 18,000 miles and row 14,000 nautical miles in order to break the current record for the fastest human powered circumnavigation of the world, which has only been completed by two other people to ExplorersWeb standards. Sam chose to use the record bid as a fundraising initiative for Macmillan Cancer Support having made a full recovery from the disease following diagnosis at the age of 10.

Sam concludes: “Macmillan Cancer Support provides essential help for families affected by cancer and the money we raise will help the charity to provide more services for more people at a very difficult time in their lives. I am grateful to all the companies and individuals who have, like Freeplay Energy, pledged their support for ‘Lap the World’ and I look forward to achieving a new world record.”

For more information about ‘Lap the World’, visit or go to to make a donation.

About Freeplay Energy

Freeplay Energy is the leading manufacturer of windup and solar powered products, specialising in Outdoor Leisure, Emergency Preparedness, and Aid and Development.

Freeplay Energy has been the original and leading global brand of clean, dependable energy products since 1994. Freeplay Energy's patented technology harnesses human, solar and rechargeable energy and converts it into electricity to power unique portable consumer products, replacing conventional disposable batteries that are environmentally toxic and expensive.

The current product range includes radios, flashlights, lanterns, and mobile power devices. Freeplay Energy's products have been distributed throughout the developed and developing worlds by a range of businesses, charities, NGOs and government and UN agencies.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.