Poor Countries Tap Renewables at Twice the Pace of Rich

Emerging markets are installing renewable energy projects at almost twice the rate of developed nations, a report concluded.

A study of 55 nations -- including China, Brazil, South Africa, Uruguay and Kenya -- found that they’ve installed a combined 142 gigawatts from 2008 to 2013. The 143 percent growth in renewables in those markets compares with an 84 percent rate in wealthier nations, which installed 213 megawatts, according to a report released today by Climatescope.

The boom in renewables is often made for economic reasons, Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in an interview. An island nation like Jamaica, where wholesale power costs about $300 a megawatt-hour, could generate electricity from solar panels for about half as much. Similarly, wind power in Nicaragua may be half as expensive as traditional energy.

“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these countries,” Zindler said by telephone. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”

Climatescope was developed two years ago by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the U.K. Government Department for International Development to track clean energy in 26 Latin American and Caribbean nations. This year’s report includes 19 African nations and 10 in Asia, research supported in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-28/cost-competitive-clean-energy-installs-surge-in-emerging-nations.html

Broccoli drink helps body fight air pollutants

(c) Flickr member Will CurranA clinical trial involving nearly 300 men and women in one of China’s most polluted regions has found that daily consumption of a broccoli beverage helped excretion of benzene, a known carcinogen, and acrolein, a lung irritant

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, working with colleagues at several US and Chinese institutions, used a broccoli sprout beverage to provide sulforaphane, a plant compound already demonstrated to have cancer preventive properties in animal studies.

“Air pollution is a complex and pervasive public health problem,” said John Groopman, professor of environmental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors. “To address this problem comprehensively, in addition to the engineering solutions to reduce regional pollution emissions, we need to translate our basic science into strategies to protect individuals from these exposures.

“This study supports the development of food-based strategies as part of this overall prevention effort.”

Air pollution, an increasing global problem, causes as many as seven million deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and has in recent years reached perilous levels in many parts of China.

Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified air pollution and particulate matter (PM) from air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, of which broccoli is one, have been found to reduce risk of chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer.

Read more: http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/wellbeing/health/16518/broccoli-drink-helps-body-fight-air-pollutants/

Why Everyone Should Care About Rainwater Harvesting

Why Everyone Should Care About Rainwater Harvesting Infographic(and How to Do It)

Rain, rain, go away? Don’t be so quick to reject the water falling from the sky. Turns out harvesting rainwater is an ancient practice with loads of modern-day benefits. Here’s the lowdown on the practice, and how to put the rain that falls on your home to good use.

What Is Rainwater Harvesting?

Quite simply, rainwater harvesting is the practice of collecting and storing rainwater (typically from the roof of a home or building) for later use. Rainwater harvesting systems range from the very simple—a rain barrel placed under the downspout of a building’s gutters—to more complex options that plug into a building’s plumbing system. The practice is popular across a wide range of demographics, from rural gardeners to people living in urban centers.

Even though rainwater harvesting has been practiced for thousands of years, it’s only beginning to inspire the formation of an organized industry. In recent decades the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, which promotes sustainable rainwater practices as a means of solving water and energy challenges throughout the world, has emerged as an industry leader. Despite its influence, there are currently no national standards regulating the collection and use of rainwater, although many states and municipalities have instated laws around its use.

Read more: http://www.custommade.com/blog/rainwater-harvesting/

Dancing from the heart

Peter Lovatt 8 Late London (c) Museum of LondonAccording to psychologists, dance can not only help improve our mood and fitness, it can aid creativity and make us feel more alive. Jini Reddy discovers how even novice dancers have no excuse not to get their bodies moving

My toes are gripping the springy floor and I scan the room. I’m relieved to see that none of my fellow dancers are in a tutu. Our ages run the gamut from 18 to 80 and collectively we’ll never make it onto the West End stage. But no one much cares. The reason? This is a Laban Dance Movement Choir and experience, age and appearance are irrelevant.

“A movement choir is a means of touching and enhancing one’s inner life,” explains choreographer and lecturer Anna Carlisle at a talk that precedes the workshop at Guildford’s University of Surrey. “It’s about simplicity of movement and enabling people to experience alone and together the emotional, physical and spiritual forces united in dance. It’s not necessarily designed for performance to an audience.”

It’s a fantastically accessible form of community dance and a chance to join a large group of people (both trained dancers and novices alike) and over the course of a day or afternoon to work together to create a piece of choreography known as a choir. It was dreamed up in the 1920s by Rudolf Von Laban, a performer and choreographer who was based in Germany and then England. Today, the Laban Guild, which promotes dance and movement inspired by him, is trying to bring it to more people.

“Movement choirs are very much needed in these days of speed, electronic devices, adulation of left-brain thinking, self-centredness and individualism,” says Carlisle.

Read more: http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/culture/art/16513/dancing-heart/

Amish Farmers Study Plant Immunology, Avoid Using Pesticides Completely

Amish farmers are studying plant immunology in order to grow healthy organic produce free of harmful chemicals.

amishorganic102114Amish farmers avoided the draft during WWII, even choosing to face jail time over going to war because they didn’t believe in combat, and now they are taking up a different fight altogether – peacefully – by studying plant immunology in order to grow healthy organic produce without pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals that biotech companies are lavishing on crops like cheap perfume on an uncouth lady.

Samuel Zook, an Amish farmer recently explained to a reporter:

“If you really stop and think about it, though, when we go out spraying our crops with pesticides, that’s really what we’re doing. It’s chemical warfare, bottom line.”

Zook should know what its like to try to grow without pesticides and still get rid of pests that would ravish his crops. He owns a 66-acre farm that was once riddled with fungus and other plant-killing insects that he could scarcely eradicate.  The 39-year old farmer talked at length about trying to run a homestead that had been in his family for five generations, and how miserably he was failing. He became disillusioned with the Big Ag methods promoted as ‘agriculture’ when they are nothing more than war on the natural world.  His frustration led him to the writings of an 18-year old Amish farmer from Ohio, named John Kempf.

This young upstart is the founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm the farmer established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. That’s right – it wasn’t just going to be an inconclusive guessing game about what to grow and how to grow it – his achievements would make any pro-GMO agriculturalist or biotech scientists eat their genetically modified words.

Read more: http://www.nationofchange.org/2014/10/21/amish-farmers-study-plant-immunology-avoid-using-pesticides-completely/

The Impossible Hamster

What the impossible hamster has to teach us about economic growth. A new animation from nef (the new economics foundation), scripted by Andrew Simms, numbers crunched by Viki Johnson and pictures realised by Leo Murray.

We wanted to confront people with the meaning and logical conclusion of the promise of endless economic growth. We used a hamster to illustrate what would happen if there were no limits to growth because they double in size each week before reaching maturity at around 6 weeks. But if a hamster grew at the same rate until its first birthday, wed be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a years worth of world maize production every day. There are reasons in nature, why things dont grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, sooner or later, so they must be in the economy. As economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond some very real environmental limits. With every doubling in the global economy we use the equivalent in resources of all of the previous doublings combined.
Concept, script and narration: Andrew Simms
Animation: Leo Murray & Thomas Bristow
Sound: Louis Slipperz
Scientific Adviser: Victoria Johnson


Man Facing Jail Time For Having a Windmill on His Own Property, Just Bucked the System!

The turbine of turbulence (photo by Bruce Bisping) Star TribuneThis summer, we reported on the story of a Minnesota man named Jay Nygard, who was risking jail time because he refused to remove a wind turbine from his property.

Jay owns a company called Go Green Energy, which sells wind turbines in other areas of Minnesota, but he isn’t able to do so in Orono where he lives because of permit and licensing laws. These are the same laws that are preventing Nygard from building on his own property.

The local government and a few nosy neighbors had been disputing the construction of this turbine for over 4 years, since it was built in 2010.

Recently, Jay reached out to us to share some good news about his case.

Jay has finally won the battle against his local government, and can now operate wind turbines on his property without the fear of being arrested.

In a statement to The Free Thought Project, Nygard said that “I am happy to announce that the Hennepin County District Court has chosen to honor MN state law and overturn the City Of Orono’s complete ban of wind turbines. This is a big victory for Green Energy, and my company, Go Green Energy, in it’s long standing push to bring Micro Wind Turbines to the Minnesota market. I am personally thrilled to see that the district court has affirmed my position of the importance of Green Energy in our society. I am also pleased to see clearly stated in the order the property rights that I have been denied during my continued litigation with the City of Orono.”

Unfortunately, this rule does not change the law entirely, but gives Nygard the right of way to build and operate wind turbines in this specific case.

Read more: http://thefreethoughtproject.com/man-wins-fight-local-government-build-wind-turbines-property

First Great British Bee Count reveals allotments make the best bee habitats

Allotments produced more bee sightings than parks, gardens and the countryside over the 12-week summer count

Aerial view of allotmentsAllotments are the best habitat for bees according to the results of the first Great British Bee Count this summer.

More bees were seen on allotments than on any other habitat including parks, gardens, and the countryside during the 12-week bee count from June to August.

More than 23,000 people across the UK took part in the count using a smartphone app to log their sightings of 830,000 bees.

An average of 12 bees per count were spotted on allotments compared to 10 in the countryside, eight in gardens, seven in parks and only four on roadside verges.

Bumblebees were the most frequently seen type of bee in all regions with 304,857 sightings including common species such as the buff-tailed bumblebee, garden bumblebee and white-tailed bumblebees. Honeybees were the second most-seen bee with 193,837 sightings. Of these, 42% were in rural areas, 30% in suburbs and 28% in towns and cities. The ginger-tufted tree bumblebee, which is often found nesting in bird boxes, was the third most identified bee with 69,369 sightings. It only arrived in southern England from mainland Europe in 2001, but the survey shows it has now spread throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Great British Bee Count was developed by charities Friends of the Earth and Buglife and retailer, B&Q, with the aim of providing annual comparable data and trends that will give a broader picture of bee health. Bee experts believe the mild winter, warm spring and long summer created good weather conditions for bees to thrive this year.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/28/first-great-british-bee-count-reveals-allotments-make-best-bee-habitats

Year-Round Mulching

leaves_mulchFor those of us who are now raking leaves and fussing about keeping our lawns clean, it’s interesting to step back and see “lawn debris” as having a purpose. I suspect Mother Nature actually has a plan in laying down her leafy blanket before winter arrives. For example, the layers of leaves create an insulating blanket for winter over the small seedlings of the forests. When warm weather returns, these leaves break down to enrich the soil. We can emulate nature by mulching our plants and help protect them for the coming winter.

Various Roles of Mulch

Mulch has other important roles besides insulation, however. A heavy layer of mulch conserves moisture in the garden to help plants survive hot and dry summers. Mulch is also a tremendous aid in smothering weeds. When gardening, I much prefer to concentrate on vegetables than spending time and energy weeding. Continual mulching also improves the soil’s structure and fertility. We are rewarded with more nutritious and tasty produce when there’s mulch to provide constant nutrition for plants.

Another benefit of mulch is to keep vegetables off damp soil and thereby prevent produce like cucumbers and tomatoes from getting dirty and even moldy. Additional mulching before winter prevents roots and bulbs from freezing and the soil from heaving and disturbing roots. 

What Materials to Use 

Mulching, like composting, is a basic practice of organic gardeners. We might think of “organic gardening” only as gardening without chemicals. Just as importantly, however, organic means using “carbon compounds,” or materials from animals and vegetables for mulch and fertilizers. Therefore, mulching is usually done with materials like grass clippings, shredded leaves, hay, straw, compost, sawdust, shredded corn cobs or newspaper. Some people also use polyethylene products for mulch. I don’t use those because they’re made from petroleum, and I also dislike the waste they create. I’d rather use materials that break down and enrich the soil and therefore don’t need me to clean them up!

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/year-round-mulching.aspx


Hands-Holding-Seeds1-1200x520While governments, scientists, civil society and others convened at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the U.N.’s weather agency reported that 2011 was the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850. Though politicians and pundits may still debate the origins and impacts of climate change, there is a general consensus in the scientific community that we are experiencing a significant shift in the earth?s climate. This shift has particular significance for people living in the developing world and those who depend primarily on both subsistence and commercial agriculture for their livelihoods. Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change and are confronted with daily evidence, facing ever chaotic and extreme weather conditions.

2011 marked a flashpoint for many small farmers and fair trade producers. Fair trade producers from Mexico and Colombia to Ghana and Indonesia experienced a record number of climate change influenced disasters, including landslides, severe floods and crop failure. According to Fairtrade International (FLO), fair trade farmers are experiencing up to 28% reductions in yield due to erratic weather patterns and droughts. Small farmers, already vulnerable from a lack of financing options, limited market access and/or volatile markets, among other factors, are now faced with lower yields, ?natural? disasters and higher costs to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts.

Climate change is impacting specific crops in very specific ways. A recent report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) detailed how a significant percentage of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two biggest cocoa producing countries, will be too hot for cocoa by 2030. Compounded by erratic and unpredictable weather patterns, flooding and new pests, cocoa and cocoa producers have a very bleak future. Sadly, this pattern is replicated in other crops like coffee. Coffee producing regions are experiencing a dangerous combination of lower rainfall and higher temperatures, which some speculate will render production unsustainable in lowland countries and regions by 2050. While coffee plants may be able to adapt to higher altitudes in search of cooler temperatures, small farmers are tied to their land, both historically and financially. The United States Agency for International Development?s (USAID) work with the Global Climate Change Initiative recently published a study that analyzed a number of intersections of climate change, poverty and agriculture. Key to the study is an index of ?country vulnerability? with many of the countries with significant fair trade presences ranked as ?extremely? vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Read more: http://overgrowthesystem.com/fair-trade-in-a-world-of-climate-change/

If America cared about the planet as much as the NFL, this is what it would look like

110What if people showed the same zeal toward environmentalism as they did sports? That’s the premise of BuzzFeed Yellow’s new video, “If We Cared About The Environment Like We Care About Sports.” The clip imagines greenies going wild over the rejection of a mountaintop removal bill, watercooler banter about a presidential address (“Did you see Obama’s climate speech last night?” “Oh no no no! Don’t spoil it! I had to DVR it.”), and one beer buddy telling another, “John Muir was the best American preservationist of all time. Period.”

Read more: http://grist.org/list/if-america-cared-about-the-planet-as-much-as-the-nfl-this-is-what-it-would-look-like/

Jen Gale’s Simple Kitchen Energy Saving Tips!

If you are anything like Jen, you might spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about food-what to make, new recipes to try out etc etc.

But how many of us put much thought into how much energy we use cooking our food? Eating is after all, essential. But are there ways we can eat well and save energy (and money!) at the same time?

The answer is yes! Here are Jen’s top tips for cooking with less (energy).

  • Batch cook-in the ‘good-old days’, it was not uncommon to set aside one day a week to baking everything that would be needed for the coming week. It saves all the energy that would be needed heating up the oven each time. Batch cooking savoury dishes also works well (and saves you time). Freeze what you don’t eat ready for another day
  • The energy saving-ness (not a word we know) of Slow Cookers has been independently verified. By me For a ‘roast chicken’ they use less than a third of the energy. Apparently you can also use slow cookers for jacket potatoes, and cakes- potentially life changing..!
  • Pre-soak rice and pasta in cold water to reduce the cooking time. Another method that has been tried and tested with some success, is to put the pasta in the pan with cold water, bring it up to the boil, with a lid on, then turn the heat off and leave it to cook in the residual heat. It takes a few minutes longer, but it does work.
  • Get a wonderbag, or make yourself a wonder box, or haybox
  • Halogen cookers are supposed to be lower in energy than conventional electric ones, as areRemoska mini-electric ovens
  • If you have a combi microwave, it can also act as an oven and a grill, and uses much less energy, as it is a smaller space to heat

Read more: http://www.startuk.org/jen-gales-simple-kitchen-energy-saving-tips/

Food expiration dates are garbage. Here’s a new label that’ll make you think before you toss.

Food expiration dates are for wussies. No seriously, they’re really not that important. Dates on labels like “best by,” “best-before,” or “enjoy by” are actually just guidelines from food manufacturers advising retailers when they think their food will be the tastiest. More often than not, most food is edible for days or weeks after the suggested date on a label.

That means most of us are probably throwing away hard-earned groceries. We toss about 40 percent of all the food we buy, or more than 20 pounds per person each month. Cue Bump Mark, a new food label meant to safeguard against unnecessary tossing.

The label is made of four different layers from top to bottom: plastic film, a layer of gelatin, a plastic bump sheet, and another piece of plastic film. As the food inside the package starts to decay, so does the gelatin in the label. By the time both the food inside and the gelatin have expired, all that’s left on the label is the layer of bumps. As long as the label is still smooth to the touch, the food is still OK to eat. The Washington Post reports:

Read more: http://grist.org/list/food-expiration-dates-are-garbage-heres-a-new-label-thatll-make-you-think-before-you-toss/

'It Is Not Hopeless,' says World's Chief Climate Scientist

As Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change opens meeting to finalize latest report to the world, head of agency says meeting challenge of global warming will not be easy, but that it can be done

"It is not hopeless."

That was the key message delivered in Copenhagen on Monday by Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the agency met to finalize the findings and language of its pending Synthesis Report, the last installment of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), designed to provide the world's policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment of the risks of human-caused global warming and climate change.

"The Synthesis Report will provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change," said Pachauri. "It gives us the knowledge to make informed choices, the knowledge to build a brighter, more sustainable future. It enhances our vital understanding of the rationale for action—and the serious implications for inaction."

What was critical for world leaders, policymakers and the global public at large to understand, he said, was that though it won't be easy to avert the worse impacts of the world's changing climate, it is possible.

Read more: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/28/it-not-hopeless-says-worlds-chief-climate-scientist

The Revolution That Wasn’t: Why the Fracking Phenomenon Will Leave Us High and Dry

yellow-brick-frack-blogA new, landmark report shows that hopes of a long-term golden era in American oil & gas production are unfounded.

America’s energy landscape has undergone a dramatic shift over the last decade—literally and figuratively—as a result of the widespread use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). Whole areas of the country have been transformed in a matter of months, while the fossil fuel industry has reversed the decades-long decline in crude oil production and increased natural gas production to record highs. Thanks to shale gas and tight oil (“shale oil”), by 2013 annual crude oil production was 24% higher and natural gas was 20% higher compared to just ten years earlier.

While this achievement is impressive, it pales in comparison to the sea change that has been triggered in “conventional wisdom” about our energy future. In a few short years we have gone from President Bush warning that the U.S. was addicted to oil and dangerously reliant on Middle East imports to fears of a production glut, as a recent New York Times article stated:

With domestic oil production growing month after month, many oil experts predict that the country’s output will rise to as much as 12 million barrels a day over the next decade, which would mean the country will be swimming in oil the way it is currently dealing with a surplus of natural gas.

Analysts at Turner, Mason & Company, a Dallas engineering consulting firm, say the country could hit a saturation point when production hits 10 million to 10.5 million barrels a day, at which point large exports will become necessary or drilling and production may have to slow.

Running Down a Dream

While the so-called “shale revolution” came as a complete surprise to most analysts and government forecasters, the conventional wisdom now appears to be that this is the beginning of a long-term transformation. Production of shale gas and tight oil in the U.S. is expected to grow at breakneck speeds throughout the decade, with natural gas production increasing for the next 25 years while domestic oil production peaks by the end of this decade and slowly declines to near current levels by 2040. Not only will supplies expand, according to conventional wisdom, but oil and natural gas prices will remain stable and relatively low for decades to come.

Far from being an academic exercise, the implications of this shift in conventional wisdom are profound and far ranging—influencing geopolitics, climate policy, domestic manufacturing and jobs, investments in renewable energy, and the health and well-being being of communities across the country. In fact, the perception of a long-term oil and gas boom has led to:

Read more: http://www.postcarbon.org/the-revolution-that-wasnt-why-the-fracking-phenomenon-will-leave-us-high-and-dry/

Succession Planting: Keep It Coming

A smart succession plan means fresh food from spring until snowfall.

Get Acquainted

Succession planting—following one crop with another—is the most important tool for maximizing a garden's yield. Creating a detailed succession plan now eliminates the guesswork of what and when to plant later on in the season. Get started by making a list of all the vegetables you want to grow and developing an understanding of their individual growth habits and preferences.

Catalog descriptions and seed packet instructions offer each vegetable's vital statistics, including when to first plant in spring, how many days the variety takes to reach maturity, how much space it requires, and if it is frost-tolerant.

Consider, too, how long each vegetable produces. Some crops, such as radishes and cress, have a harvest period of just a few weeks. Carrots, beets, and other vegetables with an intermediate maturation time may be sown in spring and again in late summer for fall and winter harvests. Others, including tomatoes and peppers, are long-season crops that bear continuously, while Brussels sprouts, corn, and winter squash remain in the ground for several months but only bear at the end of their season.

Create a Planting Schedule

Assembling all of this crop information into a planting plan is a bit like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of the garden. Simplify things by drawing a spring, summer, and fall diagram of each bed. Begin plugging vegetables into the diagram, with early, quick crops followed by long-season ones. Be sure to note the approximate date each crop needs to be sown or transplanted and when the expected harvest date is.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/succession-planting-keep-it-coming

Power storage group Alevo plan 1bn US battery plant

Swiss-based group launch new battery technology that they claim will be a breakthrough for storing excess clean energy, and create 2,500 jobs in the US

Wind turbines in motion  in Windfarm in  CaliforniaCould a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy?

The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power.

The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International EnergyInvestment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015.

The container-sized arrays store 2MW and would be installed on-site at power plants.

Jostein Eikeland, Alevo’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had an agreement with the Turkish state power authority, and was in discussions with US power companies.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/28/power-storage-group-alevo-plan-1bn-us-battery-plant?view=mobile

Should meat be a luxury?

Mom and dad, cover your eyes. Now that my cattle-ranching parents aren’t reading, I’ll say it: Americans eat too much meat. We’ve gone from eating four ounces of meat twice a week in 1920 to eating 4.4 to 6.9 ounces a day, according to a recent New Yorker article. To keep up with demand, the U.S. brims with monstrous factory farms. And that’s not healthy for animals, humans, or the planet.

So, how to solve meat overconsumption? You could approach meat as a sometimes-treat and utilize less-popular cuts and organs like tongue. Meat-as-luxury, an idea as old as time, has been applauded by many food thinkers. But Dana Goodyear’s aforementioned article “Elite Meat” does an excellent job of showing how that looks on the ground.

Goodyear profiles Anya Fernald, the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo, a company that includes a sustainable farm, a slaughterhouse, butcher shops, and restaurants. At $15.99 a pound for skinless chicken breasts, the resulting meat is pricey — but that doesn’t keep Belcampo’s products from flying off the shelf.

Read more: http://grist.org/food/should-meat-be-a-luxury/

Frugal lessons from the Amish

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Amish people and communities are unique in many ways, and their “Christian” doctrine and beliefs shall not be to discussion here for we can degree or disagree with them.

amish-buggy-500x339To most outsiders, they are known mostly as soft-spoken people who live a simple life, don’t use (mains) electricity, have no telephone (inside the house) and don’t drive cars. I have put some aspects here in brackets for the Amish are not just one entirely homogenous group with the same set of rules. Some allow electricity, as long as it is not from the grid, which means they may use generators, solar or wind, or other means of generating it, in the same way that some will not have a telephone at all while others simply will not permit one in the house and thus have an outhouse with a phone.

They’ve also had just enough bad press to make some people wary. No matter what your opinion of their beliefs, the traditional Amish lifestyle offers some (financial) advantages that anyone might consider adopting. Obviously, some adjustments involve sacrifices and commitments that not everyone is going to want to make, but the principles can still help you find ways to save. Here are some lessons to be learned from these “plain people”:

Sometimes “Need” really means “Want”

Most people cultivate a sense of need for things they could live without. Since most aren’t driven by a culture that abhors amenities, it can take a financial crisis to help a person realize what he or she can give up. How many times have you said, or heard said something like, “A person has to have some comforts.” to justify that second television, or a luxury car, or something similar? If saving money is your goal, take a look around and figure out what the real necessities are.

As I have said more than ones in my many writings on the matter of needs and wants is that many of our perceived needs are but wants, more often than not created by advertising.

Simple is good

In many ways, the things we spend extra money on either complicate our lives or end up costing more in the long run. A self-propelled lawnmower doesn’t cut grass any better; it’s just easier and has more moving parts to replace. A brisk hike in the fresh air is just as effective as that 30 minute stroll on an expensive treadmill and you’ll enjoy it more. Manual hedge clippers are half as expensive as electric, less noisy and give your arms some exercise.

Simplicity is also making a comeback with technology in many instances with a retro-trend as far as cell-phones are concerned, for instance, where a fair number of people have begun to abandon the smartphones for the older forms of mobile telephones which were just that, mobile telephones.

When it comes to simplicity there are many aspects of our lives that would benefit from being simplified again and that also includes our reading and our filing and whatever else.

Pen, pencil and paper still have their place and in fact the place is getting bigger again as there are also many people who are returning to the real letter and to using pen and paper for taking notes and also storing hard copies of stuff rather than keeping it digitally on some media or even “in the cloud”.

There are many other things in our lives that also benefit from being kept as simple as possible as to complicate things often makes things more expensive and when something goes wrong with them makes them, nowadays, (almost) impossible to fix, to repair.

Grow your own

I know, not everyone can raise livestock or big crops, but most of us can grow a few vegetables or herbs, even if they’re of the miniature, indoor variety. You’ll save some money and get better tasting, healthier produce, too.

It is possible to grow your own in the smallest of places, as Vertical Veg proves on his site and in his courses. You do not have to have acres of land on which to grow healthy vegetables for yourself (and your family). Even a small balcony can provide at least some.

In addition to that, if you don't have the space to grow the amount that you think you want to grow or need to grow, there is always the possibility to have an allotment garden (though the waiting lists are rather long in many places in Britain). In other countries those plots go by different names but in essence it is all the same.

Many hands make light work – and less expense

When big projects arise in an Amish community, family and neighbors pitch in to get it done. Granted, if you live in the city, a barn raising is pretty much out of the question, but that doesn’t mean that family and friends can’t pitch in to mend that back fence or build a deck. Building codes in most cities will allow a homeowner to do their own home improvements and “employ” someone to help. You’ll need a permit for most work, and there will be inspections, but if you can’t afford a contractor, some free meals and maybe a case of beer might go a long way toward paying your friends.

But not everywhere is it that strict as in the Land of the Free, which does not seem to be as free as it is always made out to be. In some countries you can pretty much do a great deal more though a permit for extensions and such like may be required or for outbuildings on your property.

Craftsmanship isn’t about expensive tools

The reputation of Amish woodworkers is based on attention to detail, patience and secrets handed down through generations. Many of their tools are hand-made. You’re probably wondering what that has to do with saving money. It’s simple. Photographers can create awesome images without the top-of-the-line DSLR. Web developers can create great sites without owning the latest computer or software. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in needing the biggest and best. Be the master of the tools you own and save some money.

Take care of your tools

Keeping the tools of your trade longer doesn’t mean letting them fall apart. Any skilled craftsman knows that without proper maintenance, tools fail. Keeping your equipment in shape means it will perform better, longer. Having to replace them because of premature failure isn’t cost-effective. Therefore, buying good tools, which may be a little more expensive than the cheap ones, are a much better investment than buying cheap ones that fall apart after only a short while.

Also, you don't have to buy new tools. Look for old quality tools that, with a little TLC, can be rescued and resurrected to outperform any new modern tool. This is because old tools were made by craftsmen who knew what the craftsmen who were going to use demanded in quality.

Quality is worth the investment

One of the reasons Amish furniture is in such high demand is that it lasts. Because of the meticulous construction methods and hand-selected materials, many Amish pieces become heirlooms. Sometimes saving money means paying a little more for something that you’re not going to be throwing away soon. Naturally, this applies to much more than furniture.

A handmade wooden spoon, a handmade knife, or other goods and products made lovingly with care to ensure that they last for several lifetimes are a much better investment than something that has built-in obsolescence and will break or otherwise no longer function in less that three years.

The biggest problem that we have today and why things don't last is the built-in obsolescence, designed by the manufacturers (and, dare I say, governments) so that we have to buy new every few years (to keep the economy growing) and that almost nothing made today can be repaired (easily and cheaply). When repair is more expensive than buying new then something has seriously gone wrong with our society, and that is the case today. Often spare parts can be more expensive than a new product and that just does not make sense at all.

Make the most of resources at hand

To an Amish farmer, a cow is a source of dairy products and fertilizer. A grove of trees can provide building materials, but needs to be managed well, because it also produces game for the dinner table, as well as other natural foods. Crops are rotated carefully to optimize soil condition and help control crop disease. Careful resource management helps Amish communities sustain themselves with little help from the outside. We can all save money by learning to manage, recycle and repurpose what we have.

Reuse and repurposing is also something that you will find on every Amish farm and it was – I stress the word was – commonplace once on every farm, homestead and the majority of homes everywhere.

To a degree, this is true, it was due to the fact that finances were tight and thus you did not just “pop out to the stores” to buy something or order it from a catalog or today on the Internet.

You did not goo out and buy glass storage jars; you used those that cam with stuff you bought. The same went for drinking glasses. You repurposed glass jars for those. Empty tin cans became pencil bins, scoops for chicken feed and soil for potting, and the list goes on and on. Other things were made from scrap wood in simple DIY fashion or more elaborate even.

Get the Most Out of What You Have

Those horse-drawn prams the Amish are so well known for are also handed down, and repaired or reconditioned many times over. So it is with their other possessions. The basic principle is that if something serves its purpose, it doesn’t need to be replaced. Imagine how much money you can save by keeping your car a few years after it’s paid off. How about refinishing the dining table instead of replacing it? Make what you own last a little longer and you’ll save.

The old adage from America “If it ain't broke don't fix it”, to a degree embodies this in that, if it is not broken and works well then do not replace it but keep using it and if it is broken and repairable then do so. It is worth it in the long run for (1) it more than likely saves you money and (2) as it has been working for a long time it will, repaired, work for another long while.

The Amish and other frugal folks also look after their belongings in a different way than do many of our contemporaries today. They do not seem to care that they have, for instance, lost something during a visit to the local park, as an example, and as I find on an almost daily basis, and go back to retrieve. They rather go and buy a new one. This is something that is so alien too me that I just cannot comprehend it.

Gifts Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Traditional Amish gifts for birthdays, etc. are simple, practical items and usually singular. A tool or an item of clothing is typical. More often than not handmade also. This was also the way when I was growing up, whether for birthdays, or other occasions. Bought gifts were very rare indeed.

While there’s no need to adjust your gift giving quite that radically, it wouldn’t hurt to consider buying one very thoughtful gift instead of a dozen expensive ones.

When it comes to surviving hard times, the Amish have sustained their culture and communities in North America for centuries, while relying mostly on themselves. What better example for those of us trying to provide for ourselves and our families in today’s economy?

© 2014

Family Farmers – Forward to the Future

2DU_Kenya_86_5367322642-629x417ROME, Oct 17 2014  “Who is more concerned than the rural family with regards to preservation of natural resources for future generations?”

Pope Francis posed the question in a message read by Archbishop Luigi Travaglino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See for the celebration of World Food Day on Oct. 16 at the headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Pope’s message went to the heart of this year’s World Food Day theme – Family Farming: Feeding the Planet, Caring for the Earth – as part of the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).

The celebration of World Food Day offered an opportunity to share experiences and steps forward towards the eradication of hunger in a way that is sustainable for the future.

“Family farming is key in this effort”, said FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva, praising the contributions of farmers around the world. “For decades they were seen as a problem to be dealt with. The truth is that they are an important part of the solution to sustainable food security.”

Read more: http://overgrowthesystem.com/family-farmers-forward-to-the-future/

Hamburg citizens vote to buy back energy grid

On September 22nd, citizens in Hamburg, Germany’s second biggest city, not only re-elected Angela Merkel as chancellor but also gave their electoral mandate to the city authority to buy back the energy grid in their Hanseatic city. Why? Because they concluded that the private sector cannot be trusted with public services – and that community ownership and participatory governance is the way to go, notes Anna Leidreiter.

The initiative for a rebuy of the grid protesting in Hamburg. (Photo by UNSER HAMBURG – UNSER NETZ)

Re-communalization, not privatization

The Hamburg-based civil society-led alliance “Our Hamburg – Our Grid” reminded citizens of a German federal law stipulating that municipal authorities invite bids from new companies, including communities, who wish to run the local grid once the contract term of 20 years ends. This alliance not only reminded citizens but actually called for action and campaigned for years for the buyback of the energy grid in the city.

And success: 50.9% of the population voted to re-communalize electricity, gas and district heating networks which are currently in the hands of multinational energy companies Vattenfall and Eon.

The motivation for Hamburg citizens? That energy supply is a basic public service that should not serve profit motives. They concluded that Vattenfall and Eon – the current grid operators – don’t act in the best interest of the people and are delaying Germany’s shift to renewable energy.

After the decision last Sunday, the Hamburg Senate and Parliament are required to implement the electoral mandate. They must ask Vattenfall and Eon for approval to increase the city’s share from the current 25.1% to 100%. If the companies oppose the sale – as is expected – the city must establish a municipal utility and express their interest by mid-January 2014 to operate the energy grid.

Read more: http://energytransition.de/2013/10/hamburg-citizens-buy-back-energy-grid/

Off-grid German village banks on wind, sun, pig manure

Feldheim (Germany) (AFP) - If Germany has taken a pioneering though risky role in shifting to renewable energy, then the tiny village of Feldheim -- population 150 -- is at its vanguard.

The hamlet near Berlin is Germany's first to have left the national grid and switched to 100 percent local, alternative energy, swearing off fossil fuels and nuclear power decades before the rest of the country plans to near the same goal.

Electricity now comes from a wind park towering over its gently rolling fields and reaches homes through Feldheim's own mini smart grid.

More than 99 percent of the wind power is sold into the national system, along with electricity from a solar park on a former Soviet military base.

As winter nears, people here will heat their homes from a biogas plant powered by local pig and cattle manure and shredded corn, while on the coldest days a woodchip plant will also burn forestry waste.

The villagers took bank loans and state subsidies to build the system, in partnership with green power company Energiequelle, but say it is paying off as electricity and heating bills have been slashed.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/off-grid-german-village-banks-wind-sun-pig-133137765.html

Online petitions

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Who do we hand our names and other information to is something we have to ask ourselves before we sign anything, I would advise.

AVAAZ, for instance, appears to have, as it has recently been claimed, links to some unsavory organizations belonging to a certain entity in the Middle East and with the possibilities of such connections one can but wonder as to how many of those groups that perpetually roll out this or that online petition they want us to put our name to are not in fact something more or have connections to something rather sinister.

Often such petitions are presented with big headlines to get people to sign when but with very little further information and without seeing both sides one should not simply add one's name to anything.

It was very much such a case when the British government, some years back, suggested to sale of some of the Forestry Commission forests to private forestry companies. The claim was that all the “state” forests were to be sold off and which would then be clear-felled for profit and left. No forestry company would ever work that way. But no one wanted to hear the counter argument.

Many petitions, whether from AVAAZ, or others, more often than not let the people that are asked to sign them know the full story behind something, I have found, but present just one side of the coin. One can thus often but wonder what traps are being set and thus my advice is: check all the facts before you sign anything and give away your data.

Furthermore, much like protest marches, demonstrations, vigils and all that stuff the question has to be as to what can or will be achieved with it. Regardless of number of signatures government can and will ignore anything at will. Democracy is but an illusion to keep the masses quiet.

The greatest concern we have to have, however, with online petitions, or any petitions where you have to give some personal information such as name, email address, and even physical address as to how such information is being used in the future and by whom. On what data base is your data and mine going to be stored and for what purpose is it going to be used?

We have to be much more discerning and instead of sitting on our backsides clicking and signing online petitions which may, or may not, be legit we should get down – up actually – to do some positive things, other than attending demonstrations, to make us feel real and connected to the things that matter.

However, most believe that they are doing good by signing such petitions and feel good after they have added their name to this or that list. “I have done something to change things” they believe. Really? Doing something to change things means actually doing something more than just signing your name and handing over certain information to the bottom of a petition. Doing something to make positive changes means getting out there and actually doing things – or even at home – and also learning from others and then teaching others too.

Clicktivism is not activism and will change nothing though it might get you onto some database the use of which we do not know. Thus, think before clicking and signing and rather look for true positive actions that will make a real change.

© 2014

Illegal foragers are stripping UK forests of fungi

Gangs commercially picking edible fungi to sell to restaurants and markets are leaving a ‘trail of destruction’ across ancient woodlands, such as Epping and New Forest

Fungus in Epping Forest.Saprotrophic funghi, a fungus that can be found in Epping Forest.“Here we go – this is one of the really nasty ones,” says Jeremy Dagley, pointing at the cappuccino-coloured cap of a two-inch mushroom nestled in the coppery leaf litter in Epping Forest. “The brown roll rim will kill you and it is not a slow death.”

But a few steps further on he discovers a mushroom the size and shape of a toasted tea cake. “This is a penny bun - also called a cep - and it’s really edible,” he says. “It is the one the pickers love. They are really expensive and really lovely to eat.”

Epping Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the border of greater London and Essex, is one of the best fungi sites in the country, with over 1,600 different species. But, like other fungi-rich sites such as the New Forest, it is being stripped out by illegal picking by gangs believed to sell the wild mushrooms to restaurants and markets.

“They leave a trail of destruction,” says Dagley, who has been head of conservation for 20 years at the 6,000 acres wood. “It has stepped up over the last five years. Sometimes people run away when they are challenged, but we have been threatened too. People pick using knives so they feel armed.”

He says pickers often take everything away and sort the edible from the poisonous later: “You can find people with 40kg of fungi, which is huge” but much is just thrown away.

Dagley says it is distressing to see the destruction, and it prevents the forest’s 4.5 million annual visitors enjoying the spectacular variety of fungi. The weird and wonderful shapes and colours of the fungi he points out revives his enthusiasm. “You have gills, frills and pores and the puffballs, they are like things from outer space,” he says.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/24/illegal-foragers-are-stripping-uk-forests-of-fungi

Rediscovered Roots

These uncommon vegetables are short on glamour but rich with culinary possibilities.

salsift-an undiscovered rootCultivating something old, but new to our gardens, is a wonderful way to connect with our ancestors—or in this case, with our “roots.” And daikon, celeriac, salsify, and scorzonera are root vegetables with old-world associations. Although common in European or Asian cooking, these crops barely register with American gardeners today. What a shame: All four offer nutritious top greens as well as flavorful roots that extend the harvest season well into winter. It’s time more gardeners tried these honorable heirlooms.

Salsify and Scorzonera

The young leaves of salsify and scorzonera are edible, and their flower stalks can be blanched and served as you would asparagus. Yet it is the roots that are most prized by gourmets. Salsify produces pale-skinned, often forked roots with tiny rootlets, while scorzonera resembles a petrified brown carrot without the taper; preparing the long, slender roots requires some effort. Both vegetables are southern European natives, widely cultivated in the United States during the 18th century but largely absent from seed catalogs today. They are readily available in European produce markets during the late fall and winter months, a tribute to old-world traditions.

“We grow salsify and scorzonera as an ornamental crop,” says Doug Croft, horticulturist at Chanticleer, a public garden near Philadelphia where the vegetable garden is more about design than harvest. Transitioning from a summer garden to fall often leaves gaps in the rows, but Croft discovered that salsify produces a brilliant green rosette during the fall months when many other vegetables are past their prime. “As a bonus, the plants send up flower stalks with gorgeous composite flowers,” Croft says. As biennials, the plants bloom in their second year: purple flowers for salsify and yellow for scorzonera.

Read more: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/rediscovered-roots

You know it’s good when your biggest transportation problem is too many cyclists

It must be nice to be Dutch: While the rest of us are dealing with ensuring reasonable access to reproductive healthcare and violent seasonal pumpkin festivals, in the Netherlands, people are taking to the streets to protest poor bike traffic planning.

While we’ve fretted about the possibility that there are TOO MANY bikers in the Low Country before, the truth is more complicated than that.

Citylab’s Sarah Goodyear points out that despite our utopian mental images of happy Dutchmen gleefully coasting along their superior bike infrastructure, even the most advanced of biking societies still have logistical speed bumps to work out when it comes to bike traffic. Case in point: In Utrecht, where an estimated third of trips are taken on two wheels, certain intersections have cyclists waiting so long for a green that some of them have just started running the light. And then the police started doing what they do best: writing tickets. The resulting backup last week was more than 100 bikers deep and rattled the city to its polite and measured core.

So last week, volunteers from the local chapter of Cyclists’ Union broke out the radical tools of social change — sweet rolls and pamphlets — to soothe their impatient compatriots and gently called attention to another of the poorly designed intersections last week. And it’s working! A day after the first incident, city planners conceded that the traffic signal’s timing was off, and readjusted it to cycle more cyclists through faster.

Read more: http://grist.org/news/you-know-its-good-when-your-biggest-transportation-problem-is-too-many-cyclists/

How To Make a DIY Worm Tower

Make composting in your garden a speedy affair with your own worm tower by eliminating a few stages in the composting process. Your garden or yard will love you!

Worm TowerA Worm Tower is basically a length of pipe buried halfway in the ground with holes drilled in the buried part for worms to get in and out. Food scraps are added directly to the tower instead of into your composting bin, and are eaten by worms already living in the target part of your yard. You can add Worm Towers to your full blown vermiculture / vermicomposting regime or just use them by themselves, particularly in raised beds. Several steps and lots of time can be eliminated for some of your composting by simply delivering food waste directly to the worms, directly on to the garden.

What you need:

Length of PVC about 3 1/2 inches (89mm) or larger wide or if you can get it a length of bamboo – much more ecological

Something to cap the tube with. (I bought some caps but there are other suggestions like a flipped over plastic pot with some screen to keep out the flies

A saw that can cut through PVC

Drill with large drill bit. I used 1 1/8 inches (30mm) but in the videos looks like they use 1/2 inch (13mm)


I had a 9 foot (2.74 metres) length of PVC already, but I did go buy three caps to seal off the top from flies and critters. Before starting this project I was reading about squirrels because several of them like digging in my garden. I was concerned that putting the compost into the garden might be an attraction, and it might, but I did learn that they can only smell about 6-8″ (152-203mm) under the surface of the ground. I took this into consideration when measuring out my pipe hole placement and my notes reflect that. Your results may vary.

Read more: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/how-make-diy-worm-tower

France experiments with paying people to cycle to work

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bicycle01France has, in the beginning of June 2014, started a six-month experiment with paying people to cycle to work, joining other European governments in trying to boost the use of the bicycle to improve people's health, to reduce air pollution and to cut fossil fuel consumption.

Several European countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany,

Belgium and Britain have bike-to-work schemes, with differing kinds of incentives such as tax breaks, payments per kilometer or mile (depending whether metric or imperial system being in use) and financial support for buying bicycles.

Britain made a lot of hullabaloo at the launch of its system but I have yet to see it working as to the financial support for buying bicycles and such. It seems to be a system that is worked, in the UK, through the workplace and it then very much depends on the company as to whether yay or nay.

However, the use of bicycles seems to be very much on the up for commuting and also for trips to the shops and vising friends locally and such in the UK and the trend is still rising, judging by the new faces one sees on a daily basis on bikes going to work or to the shops. It is just a shame that the UK has not also created a decent cycling infrastructure to go with it. The Netherlands and Denmark (and also Germany) are a totally different kettle of fish when it comes to cycling and cycling infrastructure.

In France, some twenty companies and other institutions employing a total of

10,000 people have signed up to pay their staff 25 cents (Euro) per kilometer biked to work, the trans port ministry said in a statement.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million kilometer, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

The Brussels-based European Cyclists' Federation has European Union funding to study best practices among various cycling incentive schemes, the group's Bike2Work project manager Randy Rzewnicki said.

City bike-loan schemes have played a large role in boosting bicycle commuting and cities including Barcelona, London and Stockholm have followed the model of the Velib in Paris.

What is far more important that a city-bike loan scheme, while a lovely idea and one that seems to have received to great response, is cycling infrastructure for people to be able to safely cycle to and from work, children cycling to school and people being able to pop down to the shops, including supermarkets, on their bicycles instead of using the car. When the infrastructure is there, one that has physically separated bicycle paths, such as in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, then people will get on their bikes rather than into their cars and no bike-to-work scheme for free or subsidized bicycles will be needed. The simple savings factor of bicycle vs. the car will make people do it.

© 2014

Landowners urged to restore ancient woodland

restoration-press-releaseThe UK’s leading woodland conservation charity has embarked upon a new scheme aimed at restoring ancient woodland in a number of areas across the UK.

It is now looking for woodland owners to make small changes to how they manage their woodland, and make a big difference to the protection of this irreplaceable habitat.

The Woodland Trust would like to work with private woodland owners to restore areas of ancient woodland affected by the presence of non-native or invasive species, such as plantation conifers or rhododendron respectively. The charity is offering advice and support to help people re-establish habitats affected by such planting so the conditions for species that rely on ancient woodland to survive can be strengthened and conserved for future generations.

Ancient woodland is the richest land habitat for wildlife in the UK that has evolved over many centuries. Its irreplaceable characteristics are identified by specialist species of plants, fungi and insects that are rarely found in younger woods.

Unfortunately much of this has been degraded over the years, and now ancient woodland covers just two per cent of the UK’s landmass. The Woodland Trust hopes to protect and restore existing and damaged ancient woodland by working with landowners across the UK and assisting them to carry out sympathetic restoration programs.

This project has been launched after the Woodland Trust was awarded £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore 52,000 hectares of ancient woodland in ten regions across the UK, ranging from Surrey to Scotland.

Peter and Brenda Tebby are currently restoring areas of their 44 acre woodland complex in Newdigate, Surrey. Peter said: “Knowing we are helping protect and restore a fragment of ancient woodland means a great deal to us. We were complete novices before we started but it hasn’t held us back. We’re lucky to have excellent support from family, friends and neighbours as well professional organisations, and our partnership with a local sustainable energy company provides a useful income from thinnings gathered during our work.”

Dean Kirkland, the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Woodland Restoration Operations Manager, said: “The productive use of land is an essential part of a sustainable future – but so too is the protection of irreplaceable elements that have formed its cultural and biological inheritance. As part of this project, we hope to bring a priceless part of our natural heritage back to life whilst building in resilience for the future.”

Mr Tebby continued: “With the right advice and guidance, a project like this is not just possible, it’s positively enjoyable – especially when you see nature responding and life returning to the areas you’ve worked on.”

Landowners who would like to restore their own woodland, can contact the Woodland Trust by emailing restoration@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

Source: Woodland Trust

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Owner Wins Climate Leadership Award

TRANSCANADAWASHINGTON -– The company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline was recognized this week for leadership on climate change -– to the shock of environmental activists.

Alberta-based TransCanada, which has been seeking permission to build the 1,660-mile pipeline from Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas, was included as a corporate climate leader on the Carbon Disclosure Project's Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014. The Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP, is a United Kingdom-based nonprofit that works with companies to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions. TransCanada was one of five energy sector companies included on the "A List" in this year's report.

The report notes that the company has set targets for emission reductions, and includes a quote from TransCanada: "Our business strategy is informed by the risks and opportunities from climate change regulations, physical climate parameters and other climate-related developments such as uncertainty in social drivers ... we anticipate that most of our facilities will be subject to future regulations to manage industrial [greenhouse gas] emissions."

In a blog post, TransCanada said the listing "presents those companies identified as demonstrating a superior approach to climate change mitigation."

"Recognition at the highest level by the CDP -- the international NGO that drives sustainable economies -- is very significant to us," TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement Thursday. "For us, our CDP ranking helps us continue to challenge ourselves in terms of protecting the environment at every level of our organization."

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/17/keystone-xl-climate-transcanada_n_6005898.html

What happens to your shredded office waste?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Have you ever wondered what really does happen to those bags of shredded waste that gets taken out of your office on a daily basis? Many who do not know, and that may include even you, more than likely, believe that that is all going to be recycled. But nothing could be further from the truth.

ideal-3104-office-shredder-waste-binNo longer do those bags of “confidential” waste that have gone through the shredder, nowadays contain only shredded paper. Nay, they also contain shredded credit cards, ID cards, CDs, DVDs, etc., and that all in the same bag.

This means that the contents of such bags, in fact, no longer be recycled in any way, shape or form and it all ends up in some incinerator or – wait for it – a “secure” landfill. However secure it may be it is still a landfill, a hole in the ground.

When it was just shredded papers that were in those bags recycling was no problem, despite the security thing, and new paper products were made from the pulp created with that and other paper.

Today this is not possible, though to some degree it would be but it would be somewhat costly, probably, to separate the plastic waste from the true paper waste and therefore all of it goes to be either burned or dumped in the ground.

If we really want to be “green” in business then we have to rethink the way we deal with this kind of waste and that would mean to shred paper separately to plastics. That way both can be recycled rather than buried in holes in the ground together or burned.

© 2014


heathlandAuthor, journalist and TV presenter Rob Penn tells Grown in Britain what makes British woodlands so important

I am writing this at my new desk. Andy Dix, a local furniture maker, made it from an ash tree felled near my home in the Black Mountains, South Wales. It is both exquisite and functional. It would have been easier to go to IKEA, or buy a new desk on-line but I felt the need to make a point: the pleasure we take from things made from natural materials is an extension of the pleasure we take from nature itself. In a generation, we seem to have forgotten this.

I’m particularly interested in the European ash (Fraxinus excelsior). It is arguably the tree with which man has been most intimate in temperate Europe over the course of human history and it is now under serious threat. Ash has been used for wagons, ploughs and, of fundamental importance from the Iron Age until the middle of the 20thcentury, the rims of wooden wheels. The unique combination of vigorous strength, durability and elasticity meant ash was used to make tool handles, ladders, hay rakes, hop-poles, hockey sticks, hurley sticks, walking sticks, tennis rackets, looms, croquet mallets, crutches, coracles, cricket stumps, oars, cups, spars, paddles, skis, sledges, cart shafts, the best blocks for pullies, tent pegs, snooker cues, musical instruments, car bodies and even the wings of airplanes. This list is far from comprehensive, and ash is just one of our native tree species. Yet in just half a century, we have almost entirely forgotten how to use ash timber. Mention ash today and the majority of people think only of firewood.

Read more: http://www.growninbritain.org/rob-penn/

India Man Plants Forest Bigger Than Central Park to Save His Island

Forest_Man-film-YouTube-screenshotAt the age of 17, after witnessing hundreds of snakes dying from drought on his island in India, Jadav Payeng started to grow trees on what was barren land devastated by erosion.

35 years later a jungle of almost 3000 acres (1200 hectares) — larger than Central Park — has grown in the wasteland, thanks to his daily careful cultivation. Diverse animals, including Elephants, now enjoy his lush oasis.

A documentary, Forest Man, shows how one person can change the course of nature.

Watch video here: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/forest-man-of-india-film/

Cyber threats to vital infrastructure

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cyber threatThe future looks bleak if we continue to (exclusively) rely on computer, the “smart” grid, and such systems, for our vital infrastructure as, it would appear, no one is capable to make them secure.

That factor, obviously, throws up the question as to, whether it is actually possible to make those electronic systems secure from cyber attacks and especially also (other) electromagnetic threats up to and including electromagnetic pulse (EMP) whether from an attack in one form or another or a solar event.

As far as data security is concerned the old ways may need to be brought back in the way of typewritten paper and filing cabinets, especially for sensitive, classified and secret materials.

The Russian intelligence community has in the late Spring of 2013 begun, in the light of the Snowden leaks and hacking attempts, to return to the use of real paper and electric typewriters for classified material and is using again also a physical and not an electronic distribution and circulation of such documents.

In our personal affairs that might also be something to be looked at as far as the storing and such of sensitive information is concerned. Emails are, it would appear, subject to a blanket government scrutiny and bulk collection and storage and while they may not be able to have a change to real them all it still makes the good old letter written, typed or printed and then stuffed into an envelope and sent by post a safer option still, especially at the “authorities” have to obtain a warrant – theoretically – to inspect your mail in and out.

Yes, sending a letter by “snail mail” is more expensive and takes a lot longer than using email but there are benefits, not at least the one that it is immediately in written, typed or printed format in front of you. In addition to that chances are that it has not been archived in some government snooping system, and thus the content is between you and the other party only.

When it comes to computer control, and here especially of our vital infrastructure, we are leaving ourselves wide open to problems. All it requires in some sort of hiccup and thin gs fall apart and let us not even talk about cyber attack or an EMP blast, whether man-made or natural.

We must not forget that (almost) everything is run on electricity, which is computer controlled, and a break down here will stop gas supply, as much as fuel for cars and trucks, and power for communications, plus the supply to the stores, our water supply, etc.

Can we really be so complacent as to leave everything such as this and much more in the hands of fragile technology, technology that is bound to fail and break down, and especially technology that can so easily be attacked with devastating consequences? We must be mad, collectively.

© 2014

How much are plants helping us fight climate change?

New research suggests climate models don't give plants enough credit for absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the air. But is the discrepancy enough to make a difference in global climate change?

Earth's plant life may soak up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study. And since CO2 emissions from burned fossil fuels are also the main driver of man-made climate change, that raises an obvious question: Are trees saving the world from us?

It's widely known that plants need CO2 for photosynthesis, but the study's authors say current computer models of Earth's climate underestimate how much CO2 is absorbed by vegetation overall. That's because most climate models don't factor in the way CO2 diffuses inside a leaf's mesophyll tissue, causing the models to misjudge plants' global CO2 intake by as much as 16 percent.

More photosynthesis is good, but can a 16 percent discrepancy slow down climate change? Some news coverage and commentary has suggested it might, raising the possibility trees and other land plants could buy us more time to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Yet several prominent scientists — including a co-author of the new study — tell MNN such interpretations are mostly hot air.

"No, it would not reduce the urgency of reducing emissions," says Lianhong Gu, an environmental scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who helped produce the study. "The climate change associated with fossil fuel use is much bigger than the response of plants to CO2."

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/blogs/how-much-are-plants-helping-us-fight-climate-change

A Healthy Cycle for Austin’s Compost Scene

When Paul Wilson cycles across town, he tends to attract a lot of attention. It’s not due to his attire (or lack thereof—that’s a different story), but rather the size of his cargo load. Wilson is one of the East Side Compost Pedallers, a bike-powered compost recycling program in Austin, Texas. The for-profit organization is on a mission to reduce landfill waste in Austin one bin at a time, by pedaling “scrapple” (their term for compostable food scraps) from homes and businesses to urban farms, schools, and community gardens, where it is composted into rich soil.

The Pedallers’ custom-built Metrofiet cargo bikes carry 55-gallon barrels that can weigh up to 250 pounds each, and one of their retro-fitted pedicabs loaded with multiple containers can total a whopping 800 pounds.

“Yes, it's tiring and yes, I get intimidated by the workload, but the daily cheers from passing cars and trucks who recognize the good we're doing brings me home with my head up,” says Wilson.

East Side Compost Pedallers (ESCP) is currently seven cyclists strong, but they plan to expand operations as they gain more accounts. Aside from their residential service area covering most of east Austin and some neighborhoods near the University of Texas, they also work with nearly 20 local businesses, from large tech companies like Dropbox to small cafes. Residences pay $4 a week for the Pedallers to pick up their compost from bins provided by ESCP. The pick-up fees for businesses depend on the company’s size and number of bins needed.

Read more: http://magazine.good.is/articles/east-side-compost-pedallers