Recycling is taking our mind off the real issue

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recycling and recyclability is taking our minds off the real issue and that is the overconsumption and consumerism but then that is also the aim.

The act of recycling and the recyclability of products and/or their components is meant to make us feel good and forget about the real culprit; our wasteful consumption and the built-n obsolescence in most of the products on the market today.

Not so long ago goods were made to last and so they could be repaired if and when they eventually did break down, but they did cost more, by comparison. We did, therefore, not simply throw them out when they were a little older or when a new model came out. We used them for as long as it was possible. Often the money would not have been available to afford to change them. Instead things got repaired, whether this were clothes or shoes and boots or other goods, and that even in the homes and offices of the very rich.

Today the model has changed to cheap(er) goods that fail soon and we have to buy the same product over and over again as they cannot, more often than not, be repaired, or it is much more expensive to repair than to buy new. This is the way our economy today actually functions. Company profits depend on products breaking just at the right time so that we have to rush out and buy new and the cycle begins all over again and this built-in obsolescence is equally found in expensive brands as in discounter products, and about the same time span goes for them all.

But this built-in obsolescence is only half of the problem though, to a degree, a large one. The biggest problem by far is consumerism and our belief that we must have this or that, or that we must this or that item new because the old one, well, is old and old in this context is often six months to a year old only, and that all the while the old one still dos work and still does the job perfectly well. But throwing it out is not a problem, industry now tells us, as everything in it is recyclable. And so what if it is? Is that a good enough reason? No!

Recycling and recyclability is not the answer to the problem. It only clouds the real issues and problems, namely consumerism and the perpetual growth economy.

We all know what we must do if we want to rectify this and that is to stop buying all those products we do not need and to upgrade our things every five minutes even though our “old” ones still work perfectly well.

We must learn to also repair the things we have and to maintain them, even, though it is often claimed today that this cannot be done, although with some products this is, unfortunately, the case, and that is a rather sad state of affairs. But even when repair is easy and can be carried out by almost anyone there are still people who rather buy new than to spend half and hour or an hour fixing it again. The case of a bicycle someone brought to the refuse tip because it had a flat tire which they could not bother to repair is but one of those “shining” examples. Oh yes, they had already bought a new bike, by the way.

But, seems to be the attitude, those products can all be recycled and thus I can just go and buy new and toss the “old” one into the recycling bin or whatever. Scary, I know!

Despite the fact that almost everything nowadays can be recycled chances are that most things are not and are just dumped into landfill. Or they are sent, a great cost to the Planet, to Third World countries to be broken up into their component parts, causing misery to the workers and pollution the environment. Much of the so-called recyclables, however, and that includes glass, textiles, and what have you, that are being collected by the kerbside collections, end up in the very place we don't want them to end up, namely the landfill.

That, and because I have learned from a very young age to value things and money is the reason I try to make everything last for as long as possible. In some instances I probably take things to the extreme as far as this and repurposing and reuse is concerned. But so be it.

© 2015

The Eco-Home Design Guide – Book Review

The Eco-Home Design Guide
Principles and practice for new-build or for retrofit
by Christopher Day
Published by Green Book 29th October 2015
ISBN 9780857843050 (paperback)
£24.99 paperback (£39.99 hardback) 256 pages, 255mm x 205mm

4039With a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales

The Eco-Home Design Guide is the fantastic new book by Christopher Day. Designing an eco home is about working with your house's place and situation, not about relying on intrusive technology and hi-tech materials.

Christopher Day draws on his extensive experience to explain the key principles of eco-home design, common-sense methods to create a pleasant, comfortable and healthy home, all illustrated with beautifully simple hand-drawn illustrations. The book includes several case studies of eco homes, reviewing with the hindsight of what worked well and what could have been better. It is perfect for anyone designing or building their own eco-home as well as for professional builders, architects, surveyors and developers. If buying to eco-convert the book shows how to work out how easy it will be to remedy the problems of an existing building.

Compared to a conventional house, an eco-home will be more comfortable thermally, cheaper to keep warm or cool, healthier and more resilient to extreme weather and power disruptions. By looking at a variety of “why”, “where”, “how”, “what” and “when and who” issues you can identify what aspects of eco-design are important for you, enabling you to create a home that is in harmony with the environment around it at the same time as matching your individual physical, social aesthetic and space needs – a house where life is worth living.

Day's approach to eco building uses simple, easily-accessible materials and techniques and remedying shortcomings of a home's location to give an improved microclimate. This not only keeps the embodied carbon of the building lower, it also makes it accessible to anyone building with a limited budget or poor access to resources (such as in the developing world).

Unlike most building and design books, The Eco-Home Design Guide encourages people to think of whole- of-life care. This makes it perfect for anyone who wants to design a home that is wheelchair friendly. With the benefit of experience, Day shows how a few small changes can make sockets and switches accessible or enable a wheelchair user to turn around easily in a corridor.

Regardless of your reasons for building or retrofitting an eco-home, Christopher's advice is the perfect starting point. He walks you through all the essentials, helping you to put together a realistic and achievable design, whether you are an homeowner taking on your first project, or an experienced architect or developer.

Christopher Day has studied architecture and sculpture and has been committed to eco-architecture and an ecological lifestyle since the 1970s. He was Visiting Professor in Architecture at Queen's University of Belfast and has received four design awards, including a Prince of Wales Award, for his work on eco-houses and Steiner schools. He is the author of Consensus Design; Environment and Children and Spirit and Place. In his Dying: Or Learning to Live? he talks about how he came to terms with his diagnosis of motor neurone disease (ALS).

This is a very detailed book that looks at all aspects of eco-home design and the refurbishment of older buildings into eco-homes. When I say all aspects I do mean all aspects, up to and including perimeter defense, that is to say making your home and properly secure against intruders, including defensive landscaping, though there are still more of those, if one should need them, that are not covered in this book.

A great manual, for a manual it is, for anyone considering designing, building an eco-home, or refurbishing/retrofitting an old(er) home to eco-home standards.

A great and extremely useful manual. Five out of five for sure.

© 2015

Talking Trash With The Cyclists Behind This Compost Startup

An eco-preneur hits pay dirt with a bike-powered pick-up service in the heart of Austin, Texas.

compost pedallers

Last year the world generated more than 1.3 billion tons of food waste. Tons. That’s more than 20 pounds of food per person per month that floods into landfills and emits harmful methane gasses. Some cities have gone to bat on the problem by creating civic compost programs. For example, Seattle recently passed a law mandating that all food scraps be kept out of residential garbage and offers weekly pickup of food waste bins. And in Austin, Texas, there’s a similar pilot program, but expansion to the entire urban area could take up to 10 years.

Until then, small business and private networks are popping up to fill in the gaps, including Austin’s Compost Pedallers, a startup that offers bike-powered, carbon-neutral food waste pickup. Since its founding in 2012 by Dustin Fedako, Compost Pedallers has diverted 500,000 pounds out of the waste stream a la community composting. Their 650 subscribers within a five-mile radius of downtown Austin pay $16 a month for pick-up services. Anyone who signs up simply finishes, say, his or her morning coffee and tosses the grounds into a green 5-gallon bucket that the Pedaller crew cleans and delivers once a week. Once banana peels, egg shells, and other nonanimal waste accumulates, the bucket goes out on the porch for pickup. Then one of the company’s nine cyclists arrives in style on a cargo bike and dumps the residential food scraps into large bins strapped to the front of their ride or in a bike trailer that follows behind. At the end of the daily route, the haul goes to the company’s garden partners—called compHOSTS—like Springdale Farms. These hosts add the scraps to their personal compost piles and—with guidance from Compost Pedallers’ how-to handbook—transform the waste into usable material for their growing operation. So far the operation has kept an estimated 70 tons of methane out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more here.

3 Things Getting In The Way Of Your Urban Farm—And What You Can Do About It

Growing food in the city isn’t without its challenges, but there are things you can do to start living out your farming dream right where you are.

Starting your urban farm may take some creativity to get around certain hurdles.

The homesteading life—a productive yard, some chickens, a canner bubbling on the stove, perhaps a little extra cash coming in from farmers market sales—has never been a more popular dream. As a hedge against the fragility of corporate employment, as a psychological antidote to the intensity of modern life, as a solution to questionable and uncertain food production, there are more and more people wanting to find a way to bring their food production "on site” to their urban or suburban yard.

But obstacles can make it difficult to take the leap—or even to feel like it is possible to get started. Here are some ideas that might help you get started working around those challenges and headed towards a better life.

Read more here.

Homeless People Plant a Rooftop Garden and Feed the Shelter Organically

Heartwarming stories about individuals and organizations offering compassion and help the homeless abound and most of us enjoy being reminded of the goodness in our fellow humans and being presented with a ray of hope within what is a widespread challenge that faces our world and local communities; and while idealistic gestures that are very often well-intending are certainly feel-good and help bring attention to the issue of homelessness, the issue itself remains.

While it has come to public understanding that one of the biggest problems faced by homeless people is loneliness and lack of connection with other humans, the real issues of being out of sync with the system itself remain and those issues need to be explored and understood.

This is why the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless, is catching some big media attention.  The Taskforce is serving the homeless in the community by allowing homeless people to serve themselves.  A rooftop organic garden in the city is designed to feed displaced people green natural healthy foods and to establish routine capabilities of self-sufficiency, otherwise known as Agorism.This truly allows individuals without homes the opportunity to empower themselves in tangible ways.

The rooftop garden,operated by the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless, provides marginalized individuals routes through which their root problems can be addressed, rather than simply providing temporary solutions to cover symptoms.

Read more here.

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee

Grandmother says... Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee; "Which are you?"

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked. "What's the point, grandmother?"

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.

"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?


A Note On Recycling, From Your Crappy Old Furniture

Before you haul me to the curb, let's have a little chat.

Boy looking at old chair

Hey there! I’m that old wingback you got for your first apartment—remember me? I totally lent that studio some respectability. And we had some good times, cuddling up with books, doing crossword puzzles together, staying in and watching movies. Sure, I was a little broken-in when you first found me, but you had more time than money back then, and I made a great fix-up project. You ironed patches on my thin spots, and we had fun with that ill-fated painting experiment. When I came out looking less damask burgundy and more multi-colored barf, you sewed me several slipcovers, and I’ve got to say: Each was more professional-looking than the last.

But I can see you’re not so keen on me anymore. You haven’t sat in me forever. And lately you’ve been dumping all over me (usually your dirty laundry). And I get why—I’m not as comfortable as I used to be. I’ve got a broken spring that’s a pain in the ass if you sit in the wrong place, the cat’s been tearing at my arms and back for years, and I’ll admit: One of my legs is a little wobbly. I saw your look the other day, and I know what you’re thinking—it’s time for me to go.

Read more here.

Fall yard cleanup bad for bees, warns apiarist

Leave those leaves where they are, says beekeeper Erica Shelley. Solitary bees embed their larvae in the ground and raking leaves can harm their chance of surviving over winter.

A local apiarist is encouraging people to skip major yard cleanups this fall for the sake of bee health.

Bee expert Erica Shelley says people unwittingly destroy important bee habitats when they rake leaves and clean away dead wood.

While honeybee colonies overwinter in their hives, solitary bees don't survive the winter months and bury their larvae in the ground or in the hollows of branches. When spring arrives and temperatures warm up, the new insects know it's time to emerge, says Shelley.

"If people are throwing out their dead wood, rototilling their gardens and throwing down mulch in the spring, then they actually can't emerge," she said.

Read more here.

You could soon go to jail for wearing body armor

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BodyArmor1You could soon go to jail for protecting yourself from bullets: Congress proposes a ban on body armor which will make it illegal to own and use full ballistic armor.

A new piece of legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives, H. R. 378, labeled the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which if enacted would deprive law abiding citizens of another means of self defense.

The legislation, forwarded by Rep. Mike Honda, would ban citizens from ownership of enhanced body armor, defined as “body armor, including a helmet or shield, the ballistic resistance of which meets or exceeds the ballistic performance of Type III armor, determined using National Institute of Justice Standard-0101.06” in the bill. Level III and higher body armor can defeat most common rifle ammunition.

The body armor in question has a sole purpose of protecting the wearer from potential serious injury or death from being shot.

If passed, this bill would usurp people's ability to own a truly defensive form of protection, with penalties for possession/ownership ranging from fines to jail time or both.

In his press release, Rep. Honda states: “This bill allows law enforcement to respond to active shooting situations more effectively. The bill prohibits the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users, such as first-responders and law enforcement.”

Perhaps if Honda put as much effort into disarming the overly militarized police, as attempting to take away law abiding citizens ability to defend themselves from would-be shooters, people wouldn't have the impetus to wear body armor.

The armor is purely defensive in nature, and people should always have the ability and right to defend themselves against attack.

The right to self-defense is the right from which all other rights are derived. As John Locke stated, self-defense is the first law of nature. Each person owns his or her own life and no other person has a right to take that life, or hinder the preservation thereof.

The Supreme Court has held that the police have no duty to protect citizens , so that responsibility now falls squarely on the shoulders of individuals themselves. Only problem is that when people wish to do it the law says that they can't, and especially not from the government and their agents.

To take away people's ability to access defensive armor, after telling them that they are on their own and are owed no protection by law enforcement, almost seems like a cruel joke.

Why should a law-abiding citizens, that takes steps to defend themselves passively, be criminalized? Interestingly, government employees and personnel who work for the various government agencies, departments, or “political subdivisions” are exempted in the bill.

Additionally, the bill states that citizens who own body armor prior to the bill taking effect, would, in essence be grandfathered in and be treated the same as government personnel.

Where is the sense in government banning something that provides people protection from harm?

The logic of this bill is so askew that it wouldn't be surprising if perhaps next they will try and pass a bill that outlaws hiding behind things while being shot at.

In a continuation of that logic, law enforcement could use the PR line: “If you haven't done anything wrong, why would you need to hide behind anything?”

But we have to ponder what this is really all about and that is namely that the government is afraid of the people, as it rightly should be, and that the people with arms and body armor could present them with a problem in their endeavors to enslave everyone.

If this has not, as yet, gotten into your head, dearest reader, then it is about time it did. And this is but another step on the road to further restrictions as to personal self-defense and the ability to defend yourself against a tyrannical government. The lunatics are running the asylum and have no intention of giving it up.

© 2015

You’re obsessing about the wrong home energy uses


Keeping an eye on your own energy use is the “duh” approach to a smorgasbord of environmental problems, up to and including climate change. As a reporter, I can obsess over research funding for renewable technology, or streamlined permitting for solar installations, or more public transit, or better roads for cyclists and pedestrians, or how much fuel is burned in schlepping and refrigerating my food before it gets to me. But if I actually want to feel like I have control over one small corner of the world, I turn off the lights when I leave the room. When the downstairs neighbors in my apartment building turn all the lights on in the basement, because they are little weenies who are afraid of the dark, I go downstairs, turn them off myself, and generally think uncharitable thoughts about them and their various lifestyle choices.

In all this light-switch obsessing, I am a textbook illustration of a phenomenon explored recently by the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Chris Mooney over at the Washington Post does a good job of summarizing the study:

People generally weren’t very good at estimating how much total energy use the different categories consumed. For one, they didn’t realize that the biggest energy users — home heating and driving “private motor vehicles” — were dramatically more energy intensive than many other smaller energy users, such as computers or dishwashers.

You know what this means: I have been judging my neighbors for all the wrong reasons. This is pure tragedy.

Read more here.

Alys Fowler: restrain your urge to tidy the garden

Don’t clear away those tired and broken brown stems – they’re essential to the health of your patch next year

I look at the leek and elephant garlic seedheads that are toppling over, and eye up the snapped-off poppy seedheads and other bleached bits of growth. There are many house-beautiful webs made by the garden spider (Araneus diadematus), with their distinct cross on their backs. The frost will kill off these spiders and with them take down much of the rest of the garden.

The garden is a dishevelled mess and I contemplate tidying it up a bit, but at this point in the season this is an act of mere vanity. We now know that all those tired brown stems are essential for wildlife – in particular, the broken and not so pretty ones. During the coming month the poppy seedheads will tumble and some of the globe artichoke heads will fall as the stems rot. Others will stand proudly, of course, but in my experience those that lie horizontal are the ones that are colonised quickly by other life.

Some creatures may move into the hollow stem and sleep there over the winter. Others may make them the roofs of their subterranean homes. Moulds, mildews and fungi will start to break down the tough lignin of these stems. But before these rot back into the soil, others will feed off those fungi and moulds.

Clearing up the garden now is disastrous, yet it is deep within our gardening culture. We all have an urge to tidy away anything that is less than aesthetically pleasing, but the health of next year’s garden lies in all that is not so appealing.

Read more here.

Is BT about to Ditch Fixed Line Phones?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BTAccording to sources BT considers existing telecoms regulations obsolete and wishes to drop its commitment to fixed line telecommunications.

The future strategy vision from BT forecasts "IP services will be used nationwide by 2025". It considers a review currently being undertaken by Ofcom (the telecoms regulator) into digital communications as "an opportunity to roll back obsolete rules in this area to create a level playing field".

According to BT, "Regulation has not kept up with the massive growth in competition and rapid pace of technology change over the last decade, whilst there are many overlaps between British and European laws which could be removed and simplified. Such measures would improve efficiency, stimulate competition, and encourage investment in the UK's connected future."

Ofcom launched a review of digital communications in March this year, to ensure telecoms companies have the incentive to invest in their infrastructure and to innovate and flesh out future competition policy in the market. It will also look to identify whether there are opportunities for deregulation.

According to Ofcom, internet players such as Skype and WhatsApp currently deliver a broad range of voice, video and messaging services by broadband. Most of the UK's fixed network operators now have plans to emulate these companies, delivering services over their broadband networks and eventually switching off their traditional voice networks.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, almost everything imaginable.

A power outage in general used to make the ordinary telephone network almost immune as it was powered by its own current and the exchanges were working on backup generators. When, however, there is no power in the home then the broadband and VoIP phone is rather useless. When your router is down so it your broadband, unless you access all those service via a smartphone. But what guarantees that the service will work in a power outage? None!

The reason BT (and other fixed line telephone providers) wants to get rid off the regulation and fixed line phones is because of costs eating up some of the profits. It is all about that and shows, once again, the danger capitalism is to the people and privatization of essential services, be this post, telephone, or other utilities.

Time to bring all those utilities, including BT and other telecommunications, the Post Office (Royal Mail), the railroads, etc., back into public ownership and give them the brief that they are to perform and make the stick by it. Public utilities and services are not meant to be a for-profit operation but one for the people. What is so difficult to understand there?

© 2015

25 sneaky names for palm oil

Palm oil fruit

Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names. For consumers concerned about the catastrophic ill effects of the palm industry, here’s what to look for.

Palm oil is the most popularly used vegetable oil in the world. It is remarkably versatile and is used in everything from snack food and shampoo to biofuel. It is so prevalent that it can be found in around half of packaged items in most supermarkets.

It comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) which is native to West Africa. It was once used for basic things like food and fiber, but with a yield greater than other vegetable oil crops, and with low labor costs, it has become the go-to oil. While trees were once planted in small-scale, sustainable systems, the high demand has created a need for large-scale plantations.

Read more here.

Working on an allotment is GOOD for your health...and this is why...

DO YOU want to know the secret to a long and happy life?

An allotment in England


Not so much the eating of vegetables (though that certainly helps) but the growing of them.

According to scientists from Essex and Westminster universities spending half an hour a week on an allotment results in an instant reduction in stress and fatigue, as well as boosting self-esteem, vigour and a general feeling of good health.

They also found that allotment holders are less likely to be overweight, have more energy and are not so prone to anger, depression and anxiety.

In a study published in the Journal Of Public Health the authors say: “We found that fewer than 30 minutes of allotment gardening produces a measurable and beneficial health effect.”

None of this is news to anyone who has an allotment.

Whether it’s a pristine, award-winning mini farm producing perfect vegetables all year round, or a scrubby bit of dirt by the railway tracks yielding a bagful of runner beans and a couple of dozen potatoes every other autumn, the simple pleasures to be found on the plot go far beyond the act of actually growing anything.

My wife Heidi and I have had our allotment for 10 years.

When we moved to Oxford from London almost the first thing we did was join the waiting list for a plot in our local area of Osney.

Read more here.

Changing the system

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The system cannot be improved, it must be changed. The problem is that the system is not broken, it was designed this way, that is to say to be benefiting but the wealthy few and leaving the poorer section of “society” out in the cold, literally.

When talking here about the system I am not referring just to the political system or the economic one separately but to both combined as one as, to more than one degree, they do go hand in hand.

Capitalism does not work and never will in bringing the working class and the poor in general to a better living standard and the “trickle down” approach is at best a fallacy, at worst a total lie that is known to be the lie by those who are its advocates.

And the political system of what is being referred to as “democracy” also does, cannot and will not and never, as the people do not really have a say in their own affairs. They are being governed, from above, which means they are nothing but slaves and our system is but a new version of feudalism.

The people, in the main, however, do believe that voting allows them a say in how they are governed – please note that being governed means that one is not a free person – and that the rulers are doing their bidding.

The fact is that if voting would change anything it would have been made illegal long ago. The “right” to vote, and so-called democracy, is being used to keep the people quiet, that is all, plain and simple.

When from the electorate, being 100%, only 35% turn out to vote because the rest has become disillusioned by the process, then a majority vote out of the 35%, of say 55%, which then would be less than 20% of the entire electorate cannot be seen as having been given a majority mandate to govern. The truth is that in such a case, and it is the case in the UK in most elections, that 80% of the electorate voted against any of the parties represented on the ballot by abstention. And I have not even mentioned spoiled ballot papers.

Often people like to say that government is a necessary evil. That, by the same token, then also would equate that evil is necessary. But I don't think anyone would agree with the latter, that is to say that evil is necessary.

The system that there exists at the present, political and economic, is geared to create a ruling class, a ruling elite, that will lord it over the masses like feudal lords and masters and treat the people as serfs and it does not matter whether it is in Britain, other countries of Europe or the USA. It is the same everywhere even though many Americans claim that, according to the Constitution they, as individuals, are sovereigns in their own right. Try to assert that “right” and see where that gets you.

In all truth the system is one and not two, as the two components really cannot be separated from each other and thus it is capitalism that, in itself, is the problem. It is geared to suppress and oppress the people to keep them “down” in order for the lords to have a pliable labor force, and to have such a pliable labor force full employment, for instance, is an anathema. Without a large pool of unemployed workers capitalism simply cannot exist and function.

Capitalism requires, for it to function, that a certain number of the population is unemployed as otherwise they could not scare the workers that they have into accepting bad condition, low pay, and all the rest. As long as unemployment exists the capitalists can wave the sword of loss of job over any worker who kicks back at low wages, bad conditions, etc. and who joins a trade union.

For that very reason there will never be enough jobs created by those capitalists for each and every member of the labor force in a country or an area. It simple would not be profitable for them to do so even if they have the order books full to overflowing and it is not ever going to happen. And that is why we have to change the system to one where everyone can have work in which he or she is happy.

© 2015


“Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love.”

-Teilhard de Chardin


Ecovillages are laboratories of human relations, in which we test the power of new systemic thinking to bring about necessary changes in the local and global economic, social and ecological environments. Ecovillages provide conditions for cutting-edge sustainability experiments. In these living and learning laboratories, we quickly learn from mistakes and advances. Both are held in a complex framework of dream and vision, earth and cosmos, technology and spirit, intention and love, dance and chant, cycle and balance, death and renewal.

What is sustained in an ecovillage is not economic growth or development, but the entire web of life on which our long term survival depends.  A sustainable community is designed in such a way that its ways of life, businesses, economy, social activities, physical structures and technologies do not interfere with Nature’s inherent ability to sustain life.

As laboratories of sustainable living, ecovillages offer widely applicable insights for the planning and reorganization of our societies. Ecovillages combine a supportive social-cultural environment with a low-impact/high-quality lifestyle. When we look at the ecovillage model developed on five continents, it is clear that ecovillages are creating a sustainable middle ground between rich and poor, while designing interdependent and life-enhancing bio-physical and psycho-social processes. In these experiments we find no sign of the deprivation that the popular media depicts as the necessary price to be paid for reducing resource consumption.

Read more here.

From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food

Earlier this week, the paywalled site PoliticoPro reported that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wants "farmers and agricultural interests to come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods."

We agree with Secretary Tom Vilsack that the word "sustainability" is meaningless to consumers and the public. It’s overused, misused and it has been shamelessly co-opted by corporations for the purpose of greenwashing.

But rather than come up with one definition for the word "sustainable" as it refers to food and food production methods, we suggest doing away with the word entirely. In its place, as a way of helping food consumers make conscious, informed decisions, we suggest dividing global food and farming into two categories: regenerative and degenerative.

In this new paradigm, consumers could choose food produced by degenerative, toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture-based industrial agriculture systems that destabilize the climate, and degrade soil, water, biodiversity, health and local economies. Or they could choose food produced using organic regenerative practices based on sound ecological principles that rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.

Read more here.

The End of Plenty – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The End of Plenty
The Race to Feed a Crowded World
by Joel K. Bourne, Jr
Published by Scribe UK September 2015
400 pages Paperback
Price: £16.99
ISBN: 9781925228120

the_end_of_plenty_0-1An award-winning environmental journalist introduces a new generation of farmers and scientists on the frontlines of the next green revolution.

When the demographer Robert Malthus (1766-1834) famously outlined the brutal relationship between food and population, he never imagined the success of modern scientific agriculture. In the mid-twentieth century, an unprecedented agricultural advancement known as the Green Revolution brought hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and improved irrigation that drove the greatest population boom in history – but left ecological devastation in its wake.

In The End of Plenty, award-winning environmental journalist Joel K. Bourne Jr. puts our race to feed the world in dramatic perspective. With a skyrocketing world population and tightening global grain supplies spurring riots and revolutions, humanity must produce as much food in the next four decades as it has since the beginning of civilization to avoid a Malthusian catastrophe. Yet climate change could render half our farmland useless by century's end.

Writing with an agronomist's eye for practical solutions and a journalist's keen sense of character, detail, and the natural world, Bourne takes readers from his family farm to international agricultural hotspots to introduce the new generation of farmers and scientists engaged in the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. He discovers young, corporate cowboys trying to revive Ukraine as Europe's breadbasket, a Canadian aquaculturist channeling ancient Chinese traditions, the visionary behind the world's largest organic sugar-cane plantation, and many other extraordinary individuals struggling to increase food supplies – quickly and sustainably – as droughts, floods, and heat waves hammer crops around the globe.

Part history, part reportage and advocacy, The End of Plenty is a panoramic account of the future of food, and a clarion call for anyone concerned about our planet and its people.

Right, so much for the press release from the publishers now to my take of this book.

I do not really care how many positive endorsements a book receives I always will give my own take on a book the way I see it.

The first comment I will have to make, as regards to the Paperback version of this book for the British market and that is that the binding of the cover is very poor and came almost undone within a few times opening it. But that is a physical one and not necessarily brings the book into disrepute.

Now to the books itself, other than the physical attributes. While it all started out in an interesting way it became soon evident (which was this was headed) that, aside from the fact that the author appears to believe that the world's population must be reduced and also seems to see the forces of the capitalist market to be the be all and end all.

When the author arrived, after initially giving the so-called “Green Revolution” a thumbs down, where I agreed with him entirely, at advocating genetically-modified and genetically-engineered seeds with the claim that that genetic engineering of seeds has been done by farmers and seed breeders for thousands of years I was about too hit him. He either on purpose or through lack of knowledge confuses genetic-modification and -engineering with selective breeding. The latter is not genetic modification or -engineering, as no genes from other organisms are being “injected”, as is the case with genetic-modification and -engineering. At this point an otherwise relatively good book turned into trash.

This was then followed by his almost promotion of glyphosate (Roundup), now regarded by many agencies as carcinogenic, and even toxic, the author's credibility hit rock bottom on page 231 in the UK paperback version of this book and it was at that page that I closed the review of this book and added it to my collection of trash books. It must be obvious even to the most blind that a product that is, basically, a diluted form of the nefarious warfare agent “Agent Orange” cannot be considered safe in any way, shape or form. Not that Monsanto would admit that that is what their product Roundup, aka glyphosate, is.

Various agencies around the globe, including in the US, have marked Roundup and thus glyphosate, as a dangerous to people and the environment and we best took note of that, especially in light of the fact that many of the same agencies, for years, refused to do so.

On the other hand, when it comes to feeding the growing population of this Planet the UN and others have stated very clearly that we must get away from industrial agriculture and large farms that damage soil and environment and return too small farms and organic farming. The Russian dachas – the, what some call weekend homes, which most of them actually are not – with their small acreages, often less than a hectare, are what is supplying 80% of all fruit and vegetables to the Russian market and population. Imagine what could be done if more of those small farms and market gardens would be in existence.

It is for that reason that the Russian President and parliament are drafting a law that will give every Russian the right to between one and six hectare of land to work, with financial help or even outright grants to build a home there on that land also, to grow food for themselves and their families and for sale on the markets.

We can feed the world, especially if we all would change to a more plant based diet than consuming meat at the rate that most countries are doing, and those fruit and vegetables could be grown on smallholdings rather than large scale industrial farms that pollute the Planet in an organic way. But it would mean a complete change of system, including political system, and as long as capitalism is permitted to rule the market in foods it is hardly going to happen, for it would also require a real land reform.

© 2015

A Low-Energy Way To Keep Root Veggies Fresh

You don't need to invest in chest freezers—all you need is straw and a little bit of outdoor space.

storage clamp

If you're looking for a way to store your garden yield, but don't have a root cellar, try building a storage clamp. A clamp gives gardeners an inexpensive means to store fall-harvested root vegetables through the winter. The technique of insulating heaps of potatoes, turnips, carrots, and other vegetables with layers of straw and soil has been used for centuries in Europe. Here’s how it works:

Read more here.



All those pretty leaves we see in the autumn are filled with anthocyanins, a few flavonoids, and the remnants of carotenoids that provide most of their brilliant colors. Yet they can quickly become a headache when they fall to the ground. No one enjoys the back breaking work of raking them into a big pile, stuffing them into a trash bag, and throwing them away.

Stop! You don’t need to do all that. It is actually better for the lawn and the environment to leave leaves where they are.

According to the National Wildlife Foundation, “You shouldn’t feel obligated to rake up every last leaf in your yard this fall. Leave leaves on the ground — they have a lot of benefit to wildlife and your garden.”

Read more here.

Trickle down economics

How we are told it works and how it actually works

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We are often told that the trickle-down economy works like a pyramid of glasses and when the top one is filled and overflows the others below are filled up and when they overflow the ones lower down. The reality, however, is a rather different one, as shown in the graphic.

Trickle-down-econonicsMysteriously, rather than the top glass overflowing it seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger still without anything even reaching the second tier let alone the bottom one.

The entire story of trickle-down economy is a lie designed to keep the masses quiet and in the belief that, sooner or later, as long as those at the top get the tax reliefs and all that, the good things will trickle down to those at the lower tiers. Fact is, however, that simply is not going to happen.

There is really only one way that those at the bottom of said pyramid ever get the benefit of their labor they, those that do the work, will have to take control of the means of production. There is no other way.

More and more people, including and especially economists, are beginning to come to the conclusion that capitalism is coming to an end and that Marx was right after all. However, while Marx initially said that the means of production must be in the hands of the people somewhere along the line this line has been changed, in later editions of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, to read “the means of production must be in the hand of the state”. The latter makes a total mockery of worker control as they change but one slave master for another, and the latter being worse than the former.

Only when those that actually produce the goods actually also reap the fruits of their labor in that they own the means of production, the workers the workshops and factories, the farmers the fields and the farms, and the woodsmen the woods and forests, will the exploitation of man by man ever come to an end.

© 2015

Green America Applauds President Obama’s Rejection of Keystone XL Pipeline

Washington, DC (November 2015) – After years of deliberation, President Obama demonstrated his support for an economy that supports human and environmental health, and that helps position the U.S. for clean energy leadership, by rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline today.

The proposed pipeline would carry nearly 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day across 1,200 miles from western Canada through the U.S. to an export facility in Texas.

This decision comes after President Obama vetoed a congressional bill earlier this year that aimed to bypass executive branch decision-making on the pipeline’s future and fast-track approval to construct the pipeline. The President has maintained that his final decision would be based on the State Department’s assessment of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the impacts such a project would have on the environment, the economy, climate change, and American lives.

“Rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline and moving toward a clean energy economy, including key steps identified in the President’s new Clean Power Plan, represent a win for our economy, farms, businesses, the environment, public health, and our long-term energy security,” said Fran Teplitz, Green America’s Executive Co-Director for Business, Investing & Policy. “This decision is an important step in transitioning our nation away from fossil fuels and towards the clean energy economy our nation needs.”

“In addition to rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, we urge President Obama to reject the increasing number of natural gas pipelines proposed and being built across the country. Those pipelines are also dangerous, serve to maintain our reliance on fossil fuels, and leak methane – the most potent climate change gas,” added Todd Larsen, Green America’s Executive Co-Director for Consumer and Corporate Engagement. "As the United States heads into the Paris Conference on the Parties, we need to show the world that we are shifting away from fossil fuels."

Green America, with 200,000 individual members and 3,000 business members, has been a vocal opponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline project. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, first applied for a permit in 2008. The reasons Green America as well as Nobel laureates, environmentalists, sustainable businesses, ranchers, farmers, physicians, indigenous communities, and many others opposed the pipeline include:

* The pipeline will exacerbate the climate crisis. The dirty tar sands oil production process alone generates three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude oil generates.

* Tar sands extraction and transport will result in leaks and spills that harm human health, especially in indigenous communities and those along the pipeline route.

* Tar sands extraction and transport will pollute and harm the environment including water, land, forests, air, and wildlife.

* According to the State Department, only 35 permanent jobs will result from the project.

* The pipeline will not increase US energy security -- the oil is intended for export.

* The Keystone XL pipeline takes our nation in the wrong direction in terms of energy and economic policy.

* We need to move immediately toward mass investment in clean energy and energy efficiency to secure our energy needs, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and create millions of good domestic jobs.

Green America commends President Obama’s decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, urges a cessation of new natural gas pipelines, and calls on the President to continue to exert the leadership required to move our nation towards a clean energy future.

N.B. This is an unedited press release for your information only. The publication of this does not constitute an endorsement by the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW or its Editor(s) of the organization(s) that have released this statement.

UK government supports solar for Africa, slashes subsidies at home


I received two interesting press releases over the weekend.

The first, from Power for All—a campaign aiming for universal energy access through renewables—was jubilant: Power for All receives UK support for Africa's poor to achieve energy access through distributed renewables. The second, from UK solar installer Solarcentury, not so much:Government’s proposed £7m budget for solar equivalent to subsidising Hinkley Point for just two days (Hinkley Point refers to anew, massively subsidized and Chinese-built nuclear reactor in the works for South West England).

With the UK's Department for International Development throwing its weight behind solar for rural communities in Africa, you'd think the government would also be pushing renewables as the wave of the future at home too. After all, from Morocco targeting 50% renewables within the next 5 years and the world's biggest utility breaking up with fossil fuels, there does appear to be increasing momentum behind a decarbonization of the world's energy system. What government could possibly want to be left behind?

Read more here.

Consumption can cause all manner of ills

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Consumption can cause child labor, environmental pollution and social inequality and many more ills to boot.

The way consumption is running rampant and we are being encouraged to consume more and more is a recipe for disaster on many levels, not at least on the environmental one.

The governments keep telling us all, however, that we must consumer more in order to grow the economy and to raise living standard. I do not know on which planet they are living but, apparently, it cannot be this one or they just simply do not live in the real world at all.

Consumption and the perpetual growth economy are something that just does not for a healthy Planet and a healthy population make. There is exploitation of the Planet and exploitation to workers that all make those goods cheap and those goods, alas, are mainly also made in such a way as to break down – about a day or so after the warranty has expired – forcing us to buy new, as they, in the main, also are designed and made in such a way that repair is not an option. Perpetual growth on a finite Planet such as the Earth is is not possible but it is the only way the powers-that-be seem to be able to think and the only way capital can make more and more profit.

The only way we can change things, and we can do it, it to refuse to be part of it, or, at least, reduce the part we have in it by reducing our consumption understanding that so much that we do buy believing that we need this or that are but wants and not needs. No one needs a new cellphone or a new computer or whatever simply because there is a new model out. And the same goes for fashion and everything else. You may need clothes but you do not need fashion.

But that route is not one that people wish to travel as such a refusal to partake in consumerism is seen by many of our peers as a sign of not being able to afford things rather than of a voluntary step of trying to tread a little lighter on the Planet and help conserve its resources. Neither is it a popular step with the governments who are only interested in GDP and thus in growing the economy and, as did the UK government a while back, liken those that refuse to partake in this madness to “domestic terrorists”.

But fact is that we have to get out of this hamster wheel and back to normality of only buying what we really need and maybe so luxuries only every now and then and that means that as long as something works it does not get replaced. And if it can be repaired and that is cost-effective then it is repaired rather than a new one purchased.

We all have to change our attitude and approach to things and get off the bandwagon of consumption for the sake of it if we want to continue to live on this Planet and have it support us.

If we continue to use up the resources of the Earth, both non-renewable ones, such as oil, gas, coal, and minerals, as well as the renewable ones, and get a handle on the pollution of all kinds then there is, really, no future for the human race.

It is time to get out of the rut and do things differently and that may mean not buying new and also reusing what we have, including items of waste that we generate and that have a reuse and upcycling potential, and to make things ourselves (again).

© 2015

Viewpoint: The rejected vegetables that aren’t even wonky

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall standing in front of a mountain of parsnips

Tonnes of perfectly good food are thrown away in the UK every year. Why, asks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

I've witnessed some pretty grim scenes in the food business down the years - appalling conditions in the poultry industry, crazy EU fishing laws, all kinds of greed and folly.

Root vegetables may be a touch harder to feel for than chickens or fish. But watching 20 tonnes of freshly dug parsnips consigned to the rubbish heap in a Norfolk farmyard - purely because they didn't look pretty enough - is still one of the most shocking things I've ever seen.

That's not just a few sackfuls of parsnips, it's not a skip-load. It's a colossal mountain of them - enough to fill nearly 300 shopping trolleys. And, more importantly perhaps, to feed 100,000 people with a generous portion of roast parsnips.

That was just one week's wastage. So multiply by the 40 or so weeks of parsnip season (September-May) to get the full annual figure - four million parsnip portions that could, but won't, get eaten.

Read more here.

New York’s JFK airport has an urban farm. Wait, what?


The potatoes in your bag of complimentary airline chips could someday come from a farm at — surprise! — New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Outside JetBlue Airways’ Terminal 5, a few thousand black plastic crates form raised beds for an urban garden. USA Today reports:

Designed to promote New York agriculture and add a bit more green space to the airport, the 24,000-square-foot T5 farm is growing produce, herbs, and the same blue potatoes used to make the Terra Blues potato chips JetBlue offers year-round as complimentary snacks to passengers during flights.

“In today’s world of genetically modified and franken-foods, it is very important to know where your food comes from,” said Brian Holtman, JetBlue’s manager of concession programs, at a farm “reveal” on Thursday. “By creating a farm at T5, we can show crew members and customers exactly where their food is coming from.”

This fledging farm-to-airplane-tray movement has a long way to go. It takes between one and three potatoes to produce each bag of JetBlue chips, according to CBS, and JetBlue hands out 5.8 million bags each year. The potatoes grown in the airport’s garden (smaller than half a football field) would meet less than 1 percent of that demand, CBS points out. That’s not the plan for right now anyway: The farm will provide produce for the terminal’s restaurants.

Read more here.

Rag Pickers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

1863476Rag pickers exist still to this very day in many countries around the globe and even in some European (Union) Nations. The name, to some great degree, is a misnomer as they are not just picking rags from the rubbish dumps but many other things that can be recycled. They fulfill a valuable service managing waste resources but, unfortunately, they are not being valued by society and governments and instead of receiving thanks they often receive the opposite.

The Gypsy People – or many of them at least – in Eastern Europe are engaged in this activity, as are many people in Third World countries (sorry, I do not do political correctness and refuse to call those places developing nations). Gypsies were also, more often than not, the so-called “Rag and Bone Men” of Britain, and other countries as well, and their activities kept valuable resources of discarded objects out of the waste stream and landfills, then called rubbish dumps or rubbish tips. A task for which they received little thanks. Also in Western Europe many Gypsies were pickers on the rubbish tips, removing those things that the Rag and Bone Man had not gotten his hands on.

There were also, as already indicated, Gypsies in Britain and other West European countries, who operated as pickers on the municipal rubbish tips, before the time the licensed pickers and now the “keep out – recycling” attitude.

Much of my childhood was spent going through rubbish tips myself salvaging items for repair and resale, scrap for sale, or things that could be reworked into something else to sell. I guess that is why I am still today loathed to throw out anything that could just possibly and remotely be upcycled into something “new” or which could come in handy for use in some way or other.

Today, as said, the activity of the picker on rubbish dumps, now called landfills, and especially at waste transfer stations, once upon a time called rubbish tips, is strictly controlled and licensed pickers have to pay fees to the councils for being allowed to rescue resources. Without a license it is considered theft and the same goes, according to law, for removing anything from a dumpster, even if it is not on someone's property. The world has gone mad, I am sure of it.

© 2015

How a ‘chicken tractor’ can clear and improve soil, as well as getting rid of pests


My vegetable field has some problems. It’s not that vegetables don’t grow there; over two seasons I’ve had some notable successes, it’s just that there’s verdant weed growth throughout, more slugs than you can shake a stick at, and the soil needs improving if I am going to grow the range of crops I want to, on what can be a challenging site.

Of course, chicken tractoring is one of the staples of Permaculture gardening, and the first time I saw chickens used to help in the garden was at Ragman’s Lane Farm years and years ago. Since then I’ve had chickens in most of my gardens, but it’s always a good idea to refine and reconsider how we design our food growing systems.

Chickens enclosed in a pen will till, scratching and clearing away weeds. They won’t necessarily knock-out perennial weeds, but they will keep all kinds of plant growth under control. In so doing of course, they will also provide quite a lot of their own food.When I cleared ground in my mountain garden in France, I went in first with the brush-cutter, and then penned the chickens on the opened ground; they couldn’t clear brambles unaided, but once I’d started the work, they quickly made ground good enough to be turned into beds. Here in Wales, my birds will face less of a challenge, more greenery and less thorns.

In their scratching and searching, chickens effectively control slugs, eating both the adults and uncovering their eggs. Slugs are considered by many people to be the single biggest limiting factor on veg production in this climate, controlling them can make the difference between a viable garden and no garden at all. I know quite a few people here in the wet West who use Indian Runner ducks or Khaki Campbells to eat slugs, they are breeds which much prefer to eat slug flesh than your vegetables, but whilst you’d never let chickens roam amongst your veg, carefully penned on ground being prepared for gardening, they can at least clear the way a little, and keep a lid on the slug population prior to planting or sowing.

Read more here.

How to Make The Most of Your Yard (Including Weeds!), Permaculture Style

Make the most of your yardNot all the world hates weeds. Sure, there are many gardeners scuffling around in the clogs, cursing those pesky dandelions (actually a highly medicinal plant) and that crabgrass blemishing their flower beds. They offer theories as to how to prevent them, when to get rid of them and, at the weakest and worst moments, may even spray a little agent orange, aka Roundup, to kill them dead, dead, dead.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, with a little effort and a good plan, weeds and gardeners can live in harmony. In fact, it’s not just weeds. It’s all those twigs and sticks that loiter round beneath trees. The mountains of leaves that spiral down in the autumn can join in as well. With the right mindset, that is a mindset of feeding your garden some premium organic fodder, all the yard work many have come to despise can actually be … exciting.

That’s right. I said it. I love weeding and raking. I get warm and fuzzy over fallen debris from my trees. I know that all of this stuff will make my garden a richer, more fertile space, and it is completely free. Instead of agonizing over the work I’m doing to keep the grass trimmed, through permaculture techniques, I’ve learned how to make my yard work for me.

Step 1: More Garden, Less Grass

The first and most exciting step of making your yard work for you is getting rid of the grass and making a garden (Here are ten reasons to do it!). This, however, doesn’t have to be the typical tilled-up rows we’ve come to associate with growing vegetables. Garden beds can be arranged like flowerbeds, or they can be beautiful herb spirals or funky designs. The idea is to use the space to grow food, which can be an alluring mix of colors and aromas as well. Then, rather than mowing the lawn so much, you get to harvest some food.

Read more here.