Winter storm preparedness

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Tech for winter storm preparedness, but not just tech.

LED-Trekking-Torch-5W-AAs September gives way to October, the US enters the heart of the hurricane season while in Europe we are entering the season of the autumn and winter gales and storms.

In order to be prepared for this and the eventual outages and other problems associated with such weather phenomena it is important to have supplies to had to get through any eventualities. Some supplies to have at hand are obvious, such as canned foods, as well as dried foods, toilet paper, and means of alternative lighting and also, if you do not happen to have a wood stove, an alternative for cooking meals. Medical supplies, such as a good first aid kit (and the knowledge of how to apply first aid) also are an absolute must.

Then there are the tech supplies (tech for lack of a better word) that also come in handy or, to some extent, are very important.

Stay informed

When a storm, or any other (natural) calamity, hits, it is important to receive information from the authorities. While in the US the so-called weather radio service operates and special radio receivers can be gotten to listen to those AM, FM and NOAA digital radio stations in Europe, at least not in the UK, no such service exists and one has to reply on ordinary radio frequencies, such as the BBC or the public radio services in other countries.

As mains power may be knocked out and, even though you should have enough of the right kind of batteries to hand as well, a good idea is also to have a hand-crank radio as a standby. There are a number of different makes on the market, obviously, and the choice is yours. My recommendation, though, would be one of the Freeplay range.


Storms and other weather or natural calamities may knock out power and also telephone communications and that way neither your landline nor your cellphone will be of much use. Using flags to communicate with your neighbors or a Morse lamp may not be that reliable. So what then?

In towns and cities things are a little easier, probably, but if you happen to live in the villages or even more rural then you may want and need to other means of communicating with others and this is where two-way radio comes in.

For those who are not radio hams – and then they do have restrictions on who they can communicate with (only other radio hams, on the given frequencies) – there are two other options (aside from illegality of using more powerful kit on commercial frequencies) and those are PMR (FRS) and/or CB Radio.

The PMR is a UHF radio service that has but a limited range, especially with the license-free radios while CB Radio still works on the old shortwave (HF) range in the 11m band, that is the 27MHz range, and the range of those radios are dependent on whether legal or illegal power is being used and in all cases on the conditions and the antenna. However, the range is a fairly good one and can be thus a good means of communication.

Drawback on both those systems is, however, the fact that they operate on open frequencies and that the transmissions are not permitted to be scrambled (at least not in Europe) and thus there is no privacy unlike with your landline or cellphone. However, for staying in touch with your neighbors, especially in rural areas where you are not living next door to each other, license-free radio services, such as the ones mentioned, even though there is not the same privacy as on a phone, are extremely useful and important during any such situations. This is also a way that you can find out what is happening in other areas.

While some people, even among the survival writers, believe that the landline will be happily working still when the power is out this is rather questionable as often today your landline phone also depends on electricity in your home and, if the local exchange does not have power then, more than likely, the wired telephone network will be down as well.

Your cellphone, especially a smartphone, will be useless very soon, the latter more than the old-fashioned ordinary cellphone, as the battery will need recharging every now and then. There are, obviously, some options to keep your cellphone operational for some time, either by use of a so-called power-bank, which is, basically, a rechargeable battery that often has enough power to recharge a cellphone at least twice from empty. Another alternative if to have some sort of hand-crank generator that lets you charge your cellphone and other USB devices. But, if the power is out in your area then, more than likely the cellphone network may be down as well, unless they have serious alternative power backup.


Unless you want to rely on candles or have oil lamps and a supply of lamp oil then you may want some battery-powered flashlight and other lighting. In fact, if you have to go out in the dark you may want a flashlight or two anyway.

With today's much improved LED technology such, even powerful, flashlights have become rather cheap by comparison to some years back and beat the old-style flashlights that use(d) incandescent light bulbs and, generally, also are much better as regards to battery consumption, and their lumen output are much higher than any of the old style flashlights.

Now you can also get hand-crank flashlights and also emergency and camping lamps that are also a good idea to have, especially the latter ones, in case of any disaster at home.

Obviously, if you are using any kind of battery-powered devices, whether flashlights or other, you will have to have some spare batteries in store to keep those devices going. Always remember that you may not be able to (1) get to a store and (2) that they may have run out of stock (of any kind). Most stores, especially the larger kind, all work on the just in time principle which means that if there is a run on supplies and there are disruptions the shelves will soon be empty and might stay that way for a while.

There is a lot more that you should do to prepare for a storm or other natural (or man-made) calamity and much of it is common sense rather. Handling things a little like our grandparents and theirs did things in that there is always some food at home and other necessary supplies, and not just simply during the storm season, is the way to go.

© 2016

How can nuclear power be seen as 'clean' energy?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How can nuclear energy ever be seen as 'clean' energy, even remotely, when we have no way of dealing with the spent fuel other than store it up for some future generation to worry about? And in addition to that problem there are the inherent dangers because, as we know, accidents DO happen!

At the same time while the renewable energy industry is being told that it has to stand on its own two feet – leading to substantial cuts in government funding – when the nuclear industry has been subsidized for the past fifty years, and is still being subsidized. Or is anyone trying to tell me that the French and Chinese, who are going to be building that controversial power station at Hinkley Point, are not getting incentive payments from the British government. Calling the Hinkley station controversial is not to say that not all nuclear power stations are controversial, they are.

Aside from the very issue of Hinkley Point in the UK nuclear power, in general, is a polluting energy source and while there may be no CO2 emissions during the running of such a station, no one seems to calculate those in the building, and even worse, no one is considering the spent fuel issue the storage of which is a problem, especially in the long run. I am not even wanting to talk about any possible accident and discharge of radioactive substances.

Successive UK governments have refused to entertain state ownership of our utilities and services - yet EDF is 80% state owned (French) and the companies building he new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point are 100% state owned (Chinese). It is being estimated that even if the project is four years late and 25% over budget, but will still make a profit. How is that even remotely possible? Only through large subsidies by government which, in turn, will mean that our energy bills will, no doubt, go up to cover the extortionate cost, with all profits going overseas.

If problems occur, and when, are the Chinese (and I believe that there are already major concerns over the technology being used) going to put our interests ahead of their own state interests? Why are we even considering this when there are far cleaner, safer and cheaper renewable alternatives available? Have they completely lost the plot?

When I have asked many times how nuclear power can be seen as 'clean' energy, I have always told that spent fuel disposal will doubtless be sorted out by the time it is needed. And pigs will fly on their own as well by that time, I am sure.

In 2016 there have also been two books of which I am aware that made the point – for lack of a better word – that we need nuclear power as it is a 'clean' source of energy and had the same answer as to the nuclear waste, namely that in the next couple of year – or thereabouts – the issue will be solved. Needless to say one of those books that I have reviewed – review of the other is to follow – was given rather short shrift, as will the other, because of this fallacy as to nuclear being a clean source of energy, and that the waste issue will be sorted in the not so distant future.

The fact is, in other words, none of them know nor care so long as there is money involved and it seems to me that the French and Chinese just can't lose, while the UK tax payer will pick up the bill!

Nuclear power is not clean energy, whatever they may try to tell us, and neither is it too cheap to meter, as they used to tell us around the 1960s. The truth of the matter is that both are and were lies. Nuclear energy is not even carbon neutral, if everything is factored in. There are other ways to keep the lights on, asides from using nuclear energy, and those ways are green and clean.

© 2016

France aims to ban plastic cups, plates and cutlery

But the proposed ban is not without controversy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plastic-glassesFrance's latest efforts to reduce pollution, especially in the form of plastic waste, will also affect picnickers in parks and countryside. Under this controversial new ban, they won't be able to use, nay even buy, plastic goblets from which to drink their wine, or plastic knives with which to make sandwiches.

Coffee machines will no longer cough out plastic cups, as part of the country's plans to be more environmentally friendly, thus making live in the office a little more different too.

The new measure, which took effect August 2016, gives producers until 2020 to ensure that all disposable dishes sold in France are made of biologically sourced materials and can be composted. It follows a ban on plastic bags, in place since July.

While several other countries and some U.S. states have also banned plastic bags, France appears to be the first country to introduce a blanket ban on plastic dishware. It comes after Paris hosted a landmark conference last year on fighting global warming, and as the Socialist government tries to push France toward the forefront of environmental progress.

While ecologists' organizations lauded the French law and hope it sets an example for other countries, opponents argue that product bans hurt consumers, and that the French measures violate European Union rules on free movement of goods.

Worried that the French ban could extend to other countries, Pack2Go Europe, a Brussels-based organization representing European packaging manufacturers, says it will keep fighting it.

Pack2Go Europe's secretary general Eamonn Bates is reported to have said that the organization is urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law and that if European Commission won't then they, the organization, will. This is exactly how TTIP will pan out if it gets the go-ahead. Corporations and and trade bodies will sue governments if actions infringe on their bottom line.

The French government says that the measures will ban sales of single-use plastic cups, plates and glasses unless they are made of bio-sourced materials that can be composted in a domestic composting unit.

The problem and fact is, and that is where Eamonn Bates is entirely correct, when he says that there is no proof that bio-sourced disposable cutlery is more environmentally beneficial, and that no products made from bio-sourced plastics will degrade in a domestic composting unit.

No so-called bio-degradable plastic that is so far in existence can be composted in a domestic composting unit and if the French government is claiming that then they are, in fact, lying.

This claim about biodegradability may actually make people believe that there is nothing wrong with simply leaving plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc., in the countryside (as the stuff will rot away). Well, it is not that simple and it won't just rot away. It could actually make the litter problem worse rather than tackle it.

We are now seeing the people, instead of using simple disposable cups, flatware and such, bring reusable plastic cups and such, and metal cutlery, but then leave both behind, or toss them into the littler bins. Aside from being a waste of their own money and resources somewhere along the line they seem to not have completely understood the word reusable.

I have, over the last year or three, found enough of such silverware, that is to say knives, forks and spoons, that I could equip a small cafe with them. They might not all match but there would be enough sets for sure. As said, somewhere along the line many people have lost the plot.

© 2016

Invasive Asian hornet identified in in Britain for first time

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There has been a confirmed sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire

Invasive Asian HornetThe National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire – the first time the hornet has been discovered in the UK.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than a bee. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees.

Work to identify, destroy and remove any nests is already underway, which includes:

  • setting up a 3 mile surveillance zone around Tetbury

  • opening a local control center to coordinate the response

  • deploying bee inspectors across the area who will use infrared cameras and traps to locate any nests

  • readying nest disposal experts who will use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy any nests

Nicola Spence, Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, said: “We have been anticipating the arrival of the Asian hornet for some years and have a well- established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread.

It is important to remember they pose no greater risk to human health than a bee, though we recognize the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies. That's why we are taking swift and robust action to identify and destroy any nests.

We remain vigilant across the country, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors.”

A local control center will be opened tomorrow near Tetbury and bee inspectors from around England will be closely monitoring a three mile radius around the initial sighting.

They will be supported by nest disposal experts who will use an approved pesticide to destroy any hornets and remove any nests.

The hornet found in Tetbury is currently undergoing DNA testing at the National Bee Unit in North Yorkshire to help establish how it arrived in the UK.

The hornet arrived in France in 2004 and is now common across large areas of Europe. It was discovered for the first time in Jersey and Alderney this summer. It is believed the species will not be able survive in the north of the UK due to colder winters.

Oh dear! It would appear that we have managed to import yet another exotic invasive pest into the country because of our great bio-security. Much like the fatal tree diseases, such as sudden oak death, chestnut blight, ash dieback, and, possibly, the oak processionary moth may also belongs into that category. Unfortunately the above list is not even complete.

When will the authorities in the UK are prepared to take measures of serious bio-security, along the lines of those of Australian, in order to keep as many of those possible pests and diseases out of those islands.

While it is true that some moths and other invasive insects may make it on wind vectors from the European mainland fungal diseases attacking our trees and the likes of the ash borer, find and have found their way onto our shores by imports that were not properly checked and also by absolute stupidity such as bringing in plants from parts of the world where certain diseases are rampant or even have our trees grown there from seeds collected in the UK.

One has to begin to question as to whether it is actually simple stupidity or whether there is more to it than what we see.

© 2016

The greatest threat to our Planet is apathy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The greatest threat to our Planet is the belief that someone else will save it. ~ Robert Swan

It's not really about saving the Planet, it is about saving ourselves for without a healthy Planet we are dead long before the Planet is. The Planet can do very well without us but we cannot do without the Planet. That is what people have to understand and I think if we would present it as fighting for our own survival then people might take it all a lot more serious.

The Earth does not need us but we need the Earth for our very survival. In fact the Planet, our Earth, would do, probably, much better without us that with us. That is that we all have to remember and maybe then we all wake up to the fact that we need to do something. But it is not saving the Planet but saving ourselves while at the same time regenerating the Planet and making it healthy again. Our very survival as individuals and as a species depends on us changing our ways, and we have to do that yesterday ideally. As that is not possible, however, because retrospective change does not work, we will have to do it now. Now, not tomorrow or the day after or next week, next year or such.

We cannot wait for governments and NGOs and all such bodies to do, or not do, something. The something that is to be done has to be done by each and every one of us, especially by changing the way we live, and do things. It is our personal survival and that of our children and their children, and that of our species that depends on our actions now. It is up to us to do something and every individual action counts here.

Oh, you ask, but what can I, on my own, do? Well, a great deal, especially if everyone, or at least almost everyone, does those things. Let's start with wasting less and buying less. Especially buying less unnecessary stuff. Reuse rather than buy new. Make things instead of buying them. Grow some of your own food. Drive less and rather walk or cycle; is also better for your health.

Every time that you are going to purchase something – other than essential foods and such – ask yourself honestly “Do I really need this or is it just something that I want (because others have it)?”. If your answer is a no then do not get it. On the other hand, if you may need it in the future and you know that you do, and the deal is right, then, but only then, do go ahead.

But too many of us do buy things that they do not need but think they do need simply because they confuse wants with needs, whether current needs or future needs. If your whatever still works and does what it is meant to do then there is no good reason to buy the latest version of it simply because it has more bells and whistles that you will never use. You, more than likely, haven't used half the bells and whistles on the current one. And so it goes on and on.

We need to get our priorities right and change our ways, and that especially in the consumption department, and no, buying “green” or recyclable does not cut it either here. Replacing “ordinary” consumption with “greensumption” is not making changes, and many of the supposedly “green” products are not as green and environmentally-friendly as claimed either. The greenest product is the one that you already have and that you keep using. The next greenest one is a second-hand one.

On another level there is reuse, repurpose, upcycling and make it yourself, and the green credentials here depend on whether you are using virgin materials or whether you are using old materials or even waste, or what would be regarded by most as waste. The latter, obviously, scores higher than the former, but all score higher than buying made elsewhere, for example.

I never know whether to laugh, cry, or scream when I see people throwing a glass jar into the recycling bin and then are talking about purchasing some recycled glass storage jars. Somewhere along the line many have lost the plot and definitely all too many also do not have the mindset that our grandparents and their parents had. Yes, for them it was often a matter of necessity to make use of everything and not to waste things that could be made use of, if not immediately then at some later date.

While for our ancestors this behavior often was dictated by lack of money to buy things for us it is a matter of survival on this Planet. As a world we are living beyond our planetary means in that we use up far too many resources, often non-renewable ones. Thus we have to reduce our impact on that level – and other levels, such as the pollution we create – by changing our ways. It is, as I have said but will do so again, our survival and that of our species that depends on those changes that we make.

Every single one of us has it in his or her power to make positive changes which, together, as a whole, however small those little things may be that we, as individuals can make, create a large sum. So, lets do it for it is not simply the survival of the Planet that is at stake but our survival.

© 2016

Education has a mass production mentality

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

school-1200x800_cToday's educational system has a 150-year-old, assembly line, mass production mentality. It was designed, so to speak, during the industrial revolution and many schools, in fact, were factory schools and many of them existed, in many places, until the end of World War One and even beyond.

The Prussian system of compulsory education, upon which many of the systems today are based, has had but one but one aim, namely to produce slaves for industry. Just enough “knowledge” in reading, writing and numbers that would be necessary, plus a few other things, and in addition to that total obedience to the state and its structure(s).

Young minds are being put into a mold and taught absolutely not to express any critical thoughts and ideas. They will be suppressed, if need with force, and so it has been with physical force in the form of beatings and canings in times gone by and other forms of punishment and it is today simply by other means. He or she who does not conform is ostracized instead of being beaten by the teacher. But the aim is still the same. The other way is by using the “nudge” principle or by means of drugs in that the child is “diagnosed” with having a non-existent mental illness called ADHD or such. The daydreamer is often the brightest mind but he just does not fit in and refuses to conform and hence punished (in time gone by) or drugged (today). Questioning the material presented is not permitted.

In order to learn no one needs to go to the brainwashing institutions called schools. All a child has to learn is to be able to read and write, and deal with numbers, and after that all he or she needs to be encouraged to do is to follow his or her own path in learning. Everyone wants, every child and almost every adult, to learn and learning never stops.

But only with a shift of perspective, we can seriously change the way the world learns.

A child learns from the day that he or she is born and wants to learn and discover the world, but not, necessarily, in the rigid pattern set by the authorities. The powers-that-be are not interested in an educated people but in a people who have been molded and shaped, through the medium of “education”, into obedient slaves. Critical thinking it actively discouraged rather than supported and is being suppressed at all levels and with all possible means.

A truly educated population is a threat to the established order and for that very reason the powers-that-be try to prevent home education, home-schooling and un-schooling as much as possible and in many countries it is actually illegal not to send children to the government schools and failure to do so can lead to fines or imprisonment and losing one's children to the state.

Learning is not equal education and government education does not, necessarily, promote learning. Especially it does not promote independent leaning and critical thinking. The reason for the latter is that that very much gets in the way of the aim of what government education is intended for, and that is the very reason why children and young people are being let down by the system and enter adulthood knowing very little of what is important. In almost all cases all that happens is that the children and young people are being drilled to pass exams and the “knowledge” that is crammed into their brain will not remain there and, largely, is useless for the future anyway.

© 2016

The importance of trees

The benefit of trees for farms and everywhere

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time? Today. ~ Chinese Proverb

13942506_1111418662227684_221703025_nTrees wherever they are make people calmer and studies have shown that when there are trees in towns and cities there is less crime, especially violent crime.

Having said that it is a fact though, despite the findings of the studies, that there is a great deal of antisocial behavior, however, going on in parks and open spaces, definitely in the UK.

Farmers seem to have, in recent times, completely ignored trees and especially the benefits of trees. However, a lot of farmers are planting trees now as that wood is needed to fuel environmentally friendly sources of power which is great but still farmers, in general, see trees around the farm and the farmland as causing problems, such as creating too much shade on field margins.

If that is the case why not leave a margin for the wildlife instead of complaining about the shade.

Politicians, and especially not the unfortunately reelected Tory politicians, don't think about trees at all and do not understand such things as ancient woodlands. They seriously believe that, if an ancient woodland is “in the way of development, this ancient biosphere can simply be relocated or a newly planted woodland take its place.

Ancient woodland does not mean a wild wood that has never been toughed by the hand of man. It means it is an area that has been a woodland, worked by man, for at least 400 years, and has become, in that time, a unique ecosystem.

Recently one of those politicians stated that there is no tree older than 200 years in the whole of the British Isles and thus this term cannot apply to any woodland in Britain.

That statement is wrong already in more than one point and the first one being that there are trees in the British countryside, as well as in parks and other places that far exceed the 200 year mark and secondly they do not understand, or should we say do not want to understand, the term “ancient woodland”.

Politicians across the width and breadth of this country, and not this country alone, must take more notice of trees and especially the benefits that come from trees.

If a proper value, in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, would be placed upon our woods and our trees the powers-that-be but should not be might actually understand the importance and the benefits of trees. But the understanding must come about in other ways too. And, in addition to that, also many so-called environmentalists have to come to understand that our woods must be managed and cannot be left “to Nature”.

As said earlier, there have actually been studies conducted that concluded that there is less crime where there are trees and in addition to that we need trees for the production of oxygen and the absorption of carbon dioxide but also as a raw material and not just for biomass, firewood and charcoal.

Like with food, I know, there are some politicians – quite a large number in fact – who say quite openly that we do not need to grow any of that at home as we can get all we need from abroad. It is not just shortsighted, it is stupid in the extreme.

Britain was once an island of trees and for thousands of years we have managed our woods by coppicing and we have managed them well. Today, however, Britain has some of the lowest amount of tree cover of all the EU member countries and that is more that disconcerting.

But wood or timber or lumber, what ever you want to call it, is only part of the story of trees, and so is the fact that where there are trees there is less crime, for instance. There is also the fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide, or you could say they breathe in carbon, and exhale oxygen. And that is, probably the greatest gift that they give us. That, and wood, the most versatile raw material. But the benefits of trees do not end there and an entire book could be, nay should be, written about all of them. No, don't worry, I am not about to do that right here and now. In fact, I shall close here now by saying “we need more trees”.

© 2016

Photo credit: Katjusha Kozubek

The dictatorship of the elite

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Despite being told that we have democracy – which we do not have anywhere, true democracy, that is – we are being ruled by a self-styled and self-proclaimed elite who believe that they only know what is best for the people. The people themselves also cannot, apparently, be trusted to vote for the right candidates and have to be guided and, to make it easier, in the future, so some of them have already publicly stated, it would be better if we no longer had party politics and political parties but a “head of state” that is being chosen by the elites and who, in turn, with help of the elites, would then appoint his or her cabinet.

He or she who does not have a problem with this, I am afraid to say, has been brainwashed in such a way that they do not understand what the politicians are actually meant to be, namely public servants, and who they are answerable to, namely the people.

What is being aimed at here by the so-called and self-proclaimed and self-styled “elite” is to bring all countries of the world, ideally, back to feudalism where the “elite” rules like emperors, kings, princes and chieftains, and the people are all but serfs. Anyway, people who are being ruled are not free but are serfs or slaves.

Politicians are supposed to be the representatives of the electorate but behave as if they are the ones, in most cases, who know it all and it does not matter what the electorate's wishes are as soon as they are in office. They seem to believe that they are then no longer answerable to the people but only to their parties and the prime minister or whatever he or she may be called. And it has been the very same elected officials, and even more so the unelected ones in Brussels who have decided that party politics and political parties should become a thing of the past and that people should, once again, be rules by appointed (or should we call it again anointed) rulers and chieftains.

To this end they also wish to control the people through all kinds of measures which are claimed to be necessary for the security of the state and the people, against terrorism. At the same time they also want to curtail any kind of freedom of speech, of the right to peaceful assembly, and also, membership of certain political parties, groups and unions.

At the same time the people are being lulled to sleep by means of bread and circuses, much like in the last days of the Roman empire, predominately nowadays through circuses, because some can hardly afford the bread, and the circuses nowadays are called “soap operas” and “reality TV shows”, and such like.

The people also, those that may still think for themselves, believe that they cannot make any difference and thus they become disillusioned and give up trying to do anything. In addition to that the rest of the population has been brainwashed into believing that they can all become little millionaires in their respective countries, despite the fact that there is absolutely no chance to achieve this. Most people have also been brainwashed into thinking only for themselves, in the manner of “what does this party or that party” or “what will the government” do for me and what can I get out of this, with the the motto “I am alright Jack” and that is about it. That they, themselves, however, in the capitalist system, could also fall on hard times and may need the safety net the destruction of which they permit.

But this is how the elite wants to rule, namely by creating the fear that if anyone dare to buck the system and thereby lose employment. In that way they are able to oppress the people and have people work more and longer for less and less monetary (and other) rewards.

The elite wants to establish a dictatorship, a dictatorship that will be worse than anything that we have ever seen before. We are already seeing the rigging of elections, and not only in Banana republics, the discounting of votes cast, ballot stuffing, attacks on the Trade Unions and their activities, and more. However, if the elite will have their way we will have no legal ways to defend ourselves against oppression by those that should not be ruling in the first place.

Democracy means “the people govern themselves” and not that the people are being ruled, not even by elected rulers. Those that have rulers, as I have said already, are not free men and women but are serf at best and slaves at worst.

We must stand up and say no to a dictatorship of the elite and fight for true democracy. We must throw a spanner into the works of the elites so that they and their corporate cronies cannot establish the oligarchy or oligarchies that they wish to do, and TTP, TTIP and TiSA are the spearheads of this attack. It can be done and a new system must be created. A new system is possible, one where man and Nature count rather than where profit at all costs is the guiding principle. Let's say no to the dictatorship of the elite!

© 2016

Austerity a cover for class war against the poor

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Austerity is being used as a cover-story for class war against the poor

Austerity and deficit reduction are being used as a cover-story for conducting class war against the poor as simultaneous reductions in taxes on the wealthy and cuts to spending on social security amount to a redistribution of wealth away from the poor to the rich.

Austerity – and the supposed need for it – is being used by the powers-that-be (but shouldn't be) as a narrative to conduct class war and to make the poor poorer still.

To be talking about reducing the state further when effectively what you are doing is reducing taxes like inheritance tax, corporation taxes, and the like, that is to say you are giving tax breaks and gift to the already rich, the oligarchs and the corporations, while at the same time you are cutting benefits, social housing, and other things that benefit the poorer in society then that is class war, pure and simple.

Under David Cameron in the UK the Conservatives have cut the top rate of income tax paid by the wealthiest, and pledged to cut inheritance tax for estates of up to £1m.

Corporation tax has also been dramatically reduced, while VAT, a flat tax, has gone up. £12bn cuts to the social security budget are in the pipeline. The income tax allowance has been increased and council tax frozen in most areas. While a freeze in council tax also benefits the poorer it mostly benefits those of the larger houses. At the same time there are cuts made, or proposed, to reduce the council tax benefits, housing benefit, and in addition to that there is the “bedroom tax”.

Even the former head of the civil service, Lord Turnbull, said deficit reduction was simply a “smokescreen” for a Conservative attack on the state.

A “reduction of the state”, which is what the Tories are playing with, benefits only the rich and powerful and harms those further down the ladder, from the middle-class to the working class, and the latter, and those out of work, are affected worst proportionally. Thus it can be called nothing else but class war, or maybe we could even go as far to call it warfare on the poor.

© 2016 

Zero Waste

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Zero waste is a nice idea and concept but does it work as an individual action? The answer, the short one, is NO!

A fair number of people around the developed world are attempting a zero waste lifestyle and claim that they are having great success. They have very little waste they produce, but for many that means waste that they can't get rid off in the various “recycling” streams. The reason I am putting recycling in this context in quotation marks is that much of that what is being put into those bins is, in fact, not recycled but just sent to landfill.

Waste reduction is certainly possible from an individual, family, commune or even community standpoint, but total zero waste we, ourselves, will be unable to achieve, aside from the fact that there are also bodily wastes but let's not get into that discussion.

The greatest amount of waste that we encounter in our daily life is packaging, which we have to dispose off. Notice that I did not say that we have to throw away; that is because there is no such place as away, as far as waste is concerned.

True zero waste can only be achieved if and when manufacturers end the excessive and over-packaging and when we can get many of our groceries, as was once the case, loose again, without packaging.

Yes, we can slim down out trash cans by putting all the waste products, such as bottles, paper, etc., into the appropriate receptacles for recycling and where possible, though more often that not it is not, buy unpackaged goods, but much of a difference it will not make until manufacturers reduce or even do away with packaging, an the over-packaging that they seem to be addicted to and when stores sell goods loose again the way they used to only half a century ago.

The idea of zero waste may be all the rage right now but realistic it is not really. The fact, and possibly unpalatable truth for some, is that there is no such thing as true zero waste.

Even in a so-called closed-loop system, waste is created in some capacity, be those emissions from transportation, energy wasted during the creation or repurposing of goods, and so on. The term zero waste is a misnomer, and the goal to achieve 100% zero waste, while noble, is not feasible for most consumers. But that does not mean the path toward zero waste is not one worth embarking upon as long as we remember that total zero waste just is not possible and do not beat ourselves up over it.

Reduction of the waste we create, even if, without industry and legislators making serious changes, real zero waste may not be achievable, is a good thing to do, on an individual or family/group level.

It can be done and here are some small points:

  • by refusing, where possible, packaging and finding stores – not very easy at the present – that sell goods loose like almost all stores did before the middle of the 20th century

  • by reusing as much of the packaging waste as at all possible

  • by using a little or no so-called disposables as possible

  • by reducing and eliminating food waste

  • use what you have for as long as possible

  • buy second hand where possible

  • buy products that are made to last

  • buy handmade

Those are, obviously, only a few small pointers and while they may not lead to total zero waste are a step to something close to it. Zero waste just simply is not possible for even with vegetables, without packaging, there is some waste but that, at least, can be converted onto compost.

© 2016

EU Regions are planning on banning petrol (gasoline) and diesel cars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Banning older cars in city center

France is the first EU region, as, according to Junker and Co there are, or will be, no longer nations states (member states) in the EU but only regions, to ban older cars, before 1996 or thereabouts, from the center of the cities. Germany is about to consider the same, and there it might even become an outright ban of cars of that age.

Obviously, the claim is that this is designed to improve the air quality in the cities and to benefit the biosphere, aka environment, but it may also be a ploy to enable the automotive industry to sell more new cars. Presently people seem to be hanging on to their older cars more than they used to only a decade or so ago. That means that industry is not selling as many new cars and another way must be found to rectify that.

Outlawing petrol and diesel cars altogether

Norway and the Netherlands. in the next couple of years or so. want to totally outlaw gasoline and diesel cars. And those two may just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. How this is going to work is anyone's guess but note that it will be cars only, not trucks, buses and such like.

It is becoming more and more obvious, at least to me, that the aim is to make personal travel over longer distances an impossibility for the ordinary folks even though for the sake of the ecosystem we do need to change our habits and rethink how we travel and especially as regards to commuting to and from work.

electric-car1_webIf they are going to tell the people that they can carry on personal motoring by using electric cars I personally going to have a hysteric laughing fit as that are just more than pipe dreams. It just is not going to happen, and definitely not in the long run.

Most places, especially in the UK, and in towns and cities, have on street parking and thus overnight charging of cars and their batteries just is not a possibility.

Electric vehicles are, currently, are also several times more expensive than motorcars of the same size and the range of electric cars are still very much reduced compared to gasoline or diesel powered motorcars. Much of it due to – one – the fact that the batteries have much shorter range to cars with a full tank and – two – that the batteries still take several hours to charge compared to a few minutes of filling up a tank. Unless that changes in the very near future and the prices come down significantly then personal motoring in many places will be stopped.

So what does that leave us really?

The ordinary punter will be forced to either use public transport, which in many places is already overstretched or in some places more or less non-existent, or will be forced to use human-powered transport, that is to say walking or cycling. In rural areas the horse for riding and for pulling a cart or buggy may come into use again, but that depends on the availability and price of such animals.

While we will have to change the way we travel and where we live and work for the sake of the Planet but also because of cheap oil running out and electric vehicles will never be able to replace the internal combustion engine for cars and trucks, as I have said before, the transition, which will have to happen, will now not be a transition but an abrupt end and one without anything on offer to replace it.

When it comes to heavy transportation and agriculture, for instance, battery-power will never be able to make it and thus we either will have to continue to live with heavy diesel engines or we have to return to the ways of our forefathers, which is to say animal power and for maritime shipping the power of wind, for example.

I hate to say it but I have been warning for years that aside from the fact that we, honestly, have to change and rethink how we travel and also and especially our commute. It was obvious that the powers-that-be were going to use climate change and pollution as a vehicle to curb the mobility of the poorer in society.

When it comes to the proposed total ban of gasoline and diesel cars in those two countries (with other more than likely to follow) the current date is less than five years away and, as far as I can see it, there will be no alternatives available – at an affordable price at any rate – that will enable the majority of people to continue have the ability of the mobility that comes with a car, and I say that as a non-driver, a freedom of mobility that was unknown to people before the age of the car. But this mobility, no doubt, has also been a thorn in the side of the elite who wish to control the plebs.

It is true that the pollution from cars and trucks with internal combustion engines not only are a possible contributing factor to climate change their emissions also cause many health problems in our towns and cities (and elsewhere), as do combustion engines everywhere, as shipping, rail, and air transportation, is another contributing factor. But note that they are only going to ban gasoline or diesel cars, not trucks, planes, diesel trains or diesel ships.

As said already several times we all have to change our attitude to personal travel and rethink many aspects of it, especially in regards to commuting to and from work, but it should be, of have been, ideally, a transition where people slowly advance to the new ways.

Then again, how much time do we still have to actually perform this transition before the pollution levels, nowadays referred to as emissions, actually cause an ecosystem collapse and also the question is as to whether gasoline and diesel will continue to be available and at what cost.

© 2016

Simple links can be infringement of copyright

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

courtBloggers beware! The European Court of Justice has made a judgment that many will see as very strange indeed.

A new judgment by the European Court of Justice has currently many Bloggers worried and, apparently, rightly so. According to this judgment simple links to other online content can constitute a copyright infringement and thus be a felony.

Blogs often contains many links to other online content and up till now Bloggers thought little about this and linked this and put in links, either in the text or as references to back up their articles and arguments and to show examples. Some even, and I have done so myself, link, with partial texts, to articles on other Blogs of websites. This will have to change in future, it would seem.

A new ruling by the European Court of Justice could become a catastrophe for Bloggers. The second chamber of the court has decided that the mere inclusion of a link can – can, not might – constitute an infringement of copyright. Everyone will now have to verify whether such contents that are being linked are protected by copyright, and this verification has to be ongoing for should some copyrighted material turn up on that site at some later date so could it have severe consequences for the person who has set the link to that particular page or site.

The judgment, so it is claimed, shall only be relevant for businesses and Blogs financed by advertising and not for private individuals. That, however, I would take with a large pinch of salt.

Despite the fact that the court has acknowledged that this ruling could have serious consequences for freedom of opinion and even freedom of speech have they decided that commercial operators of websites and Blogs have the express duty to verify before and also after nothing is linked to copyrighted material. But that is often not that easy to verify and at times it is not obvious at all whether the content on another site is protected by copyright.

There is, however, not proper definition available for this and thus Bloggers financed by advertising and commercial operators are more and more in danger of falling foul of the law by putting up links to other articles and sources.

Even if it is being said that the judgment is not applicable to private individuals running a Blog it has to be said that “financed by advertising” is very much a stretchable term and in addition to that if the link is to a site or page or article which is marked as copyright it still could be seen as an infringement and a private individual could also be held to account. Many a Blogger, who is but a private individual, may take advertising on the Blog, whether directly paid for or in the form of Google ads, for instance, and could be seen, thus, as having a Blog supported by advertising, and could, therefore, be treated by the court as such.

I have to say this is really a nice way by the powers-that-be to stifle exchange of information and and of free opinion building.

© 2016

Celebrate a Design Classic this Recycle Week: The jam jar, the world’s original eco-packaging

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Friends-of-Glass-Timeline-ALT-VERSION-low-resIt is Recycle Week once again, this year, 2016, from September 12 to September 18, and what better time to celebrate one of the most recyclable products on the planet – the humble jam jar. With over 200 million produced each year, the jam jar makes a familiar and welcome sight on our breakfast tables. Now it’s time to take a closer look at this environmentally friendly design classic.

A glass jam jar is a simple, beautiful and practical design that won’t deteriorate no matter how many times it is re-used or recycled. Because glass is inert, the jam jar keeps its contents fresher for longer and when put into the recycling bank, it takes as little as 30 days for it to be returned to the shelf as a new jar – making it a perfect role model for the circular economy.

But glass jars are not just jam jars. Many other produce comes in a variety of glass jars. There are pickles of various kinds, there is mustard and many more besides jam. So, why don't we just celebrate the humble glass jar instead of just the humble jam jar?

Across Europe, 73% of glass jars and bottles sold are collected for recycling, and 82% of these are used to make new jars and bottles. In doing so, over 12 million tonnes of virgin raw materials are saved (enough to build two Egyptian pyramids) together with cutting 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road).

What’s more, despite the name ‘bottle bank’, glass jars, like bottles, are infinitely recyclable when put into one of these recycling units, and the design of a glass jam jar makes it ideal for up-cycling at home. It can be washed and re-used as a handy household object such as a vase, tea light holder or lunch container.

Rebecca Cocking from Friends of Glass says: “Jam jars are the original form of sustainable packaging and it’s vital that we recycle them properly for a true circular economy to exist. Whilst glass recycling figures in Europe are promising, we still need to recycle more glass here in the UK. Only by putting high levels of cullet (used glass pieces) back into the system can we successfully reduce CO2 emissions and save energy.

“Upcycling jam jars is fun and creative, and by doing it you get more than one product for your money. The very nature of glass means you can keep transforming your jam jar as often as you like until you are ready to take it to the recycling bank where it can be made into a new bottle or jar.”

Over the years, the glass jam jar has evolved into the design we know today. Its origins can be traced back to the early 19th century when it was rudimentary in design, having no screw top but instead sealed with wax. Since then, a number of preserving jar shapes and designs have enjoyed popularity including Mason jars and Lightening jars, as well as the commercial jam jar we know and love today. From Robertsons, Hartleys and Chivers through to own label and French brands such as Bonne Maman, jam producers have looked no further than the classic glass jam jar as the perfect vessel for preserving taste.

Recycle Week, organised by WRAP, comes in the wake of the latest installment of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War On Waste campaign, which once again has put the spotlight on what we do with our packaging waste. It’s a good moment then to celebrate the jam jar – a reminder that one of the most sustainable and beautiful forms of packaging ever created is already sitting in front of you at breakfast.

When it comes to glass recycling the figures from industry, I know, sound very impressive. The problem is that they do not always hold up in reality for all too often the glass for recycling actually does not end up making new glass jars, for instance, but is used to make a far inferior product which is then actually the end stage, and that is road aggregate.

As far as glass jars and glass bottles are concerned and recycling we are still, alas, seriously missing the point.

Instead of going for “recycling” glass jars and glass bottles should be returned for reuse – put a refund on them as there used to be on glass bottles in days gone by – or they should be reused at home, in the office, and/or “upcycled”. Not rocket science.

During the Second World War in Britain glass jar were collected not for recycling but to be reused to put new jam, or whatever other produce, into them after washing and sterilizing. Bottles anyway went back as they all had a refund attached to them. Doing it that way would save more energy and thus money still but, alas, that would then cut out the recycling industry and they – and government – would not want to do that now, would they.

The first stop for any glass jars you end up with at home should always be the reuse box, so to speak, and that especially as glass jars simply happen to be so very versatile and useful. And, you have paid for them by purchasing the product. They are not giveaways. So, you hold on to as many as you can make use of. Don't toss them into the recycling bin and then go out to buy “recycled glass” storage jars; those glass produce jars can very happily fulfill the same job at no extra costs at all. Think before you toss. Recycle only when you have exhausted all of your own possibilities for reuse and upcycling.

© 2016

See also “Let’s have a jar” and “The humble glass jar”.

New German Civil Defense advice

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

fa-hamsterkaeufeA great deal is being made by the media and others about the recently released document by the German government as to civil defense and the advice given to people to have at least ten days of supplies of food and other essentials, including water and cash, at home.

OK, the question that is sort of the elephant in the room is, obviously and unfortunately, with all the saber rattling going on by NATO, with Germany in the lead, against Russia, as to whether there is something in the offing.

On the other hand the threat of a cyber attack and the fear of it in government circles could be the reason for the ten days advice, as it would be hoped that any damage done by such an attack to the vital infrastructure could be mitigated and repaired in that time frame.

Cyber attacks do not, necessarily, have to be carried out by hostile states and no EMP “bomb” or other device is needed. Hackers and terrorists, of whatever persuasion, can easily cripple the vital infrastructure of a country such as Germany or the UK, or even that of the entire EU, and that alone due to the fact that everything today is computer controlled and thus extremely vulnerable.

Banks and cash points will no longer work, cell phone networks and possibly even the ordinary telephone network will be out of action, electricity, gas, and water will no longer be available on demand. Much, if not indeed all, of public transport, aviation, and even shipping could also be affected by such an attack or attacks. With today's Internet of Things things (no, no duplication of the word) can only get worse rather than better in that department.

Prepping, as it has been called for a while now in America and indeed other countries where the so-called “survival(ist) movement” had its reaches, has been sort of almost mainstream for some decades but amongst some folks it never has been out of fashion since the year dot almost.

Having supplies to almost withstand a siege and having alternative heat and light sources has been part of rural life in many places for ever, as storms can knock out electricity supply, and other weather conditions can make getting to the stores for supplies difficult to almost impossible.

Having supplies at at hand vegetables, fruit and even meat, canning, as in preserving produce in glass jars, has been in use even in towns and cities of Europe. It was, obviously, more practiced in rural areas but, nevertheless, many city folks also canned and preserved food in season for when it was not in season and thus always had at least some in store. Why, therefore, such advice to have provisions to hand in case of an emergency proves to be so controversial is, on one level, difficult to understand while, on another level, with the previously mentioned saber rattling and all that it is understandable that some people, and even the media, are concerned and are wondering as to why now, after more than 20 years of not having given such advice to the population.

Even during the Cold War there was never the admonition by the government to have such supplies at home. Then again it was more common than today for people to grow some of their own food and to can and preserve produce in other ways, even bought in produce.

It should be common sense to always have supplies at home in the event of any kind of emergency but that went out of the window in the last couple of decades, at least in places such as Germany, the UK, and such.

The biggest problem I can see in modern towns and cities and even the countryside in the countries of Western Europe, such as Germany, the UK, and others, is the fact that there will be little to nothing in the shops anyway a day or two after such an event – if the stuff in the stores even lasts that long – as all supermarkets especially work on the “as needed” principle in that they rely on daily supplies being trucked in. Thus, having a supply of cash at home is not going to make much of a difference unless one wants to trek to the country to buy from farmers direct, for instance.

And now, to top it all, it would appear that the German government is intending to follow the lead of the US by talking about confiscation of farms and food production facilities in the event of a crisis. That then does away with buying direct from the farmers as well. Then again, on the other hand it could be so that farmers are not able to profiteer from selling produce at overinflated prices to people wishing to buy them.

What really is behind this all, I guess, we will only find out some time later from this date. Preparing, however, is never a bad idea and many people do it the world over for emergencies without having to be told by the government.

© 2016

FDA orders so-called antibacterials to be removed from soaps

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

NO anti-bacterial soapThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday, September 2, 2016, issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic wash products containing certain active ingredients can no longer be marketed. Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products.

This final rule applies to consumer antiseptic wash products containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. These products are intended for use with water, and are rinsed off after use. This rule does not, unfortunately, apply to and affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes or antibacterial products used in health care settings.

It is being assumed that triclosan, triclocarban and other so-called antibacterials, to be in fact, aside from the overuse of antibiotics, the causal agent for the growth in the so-called super-bugs and as such do more harm than good and thus the ruling by the FDA can but be welcomed.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water," Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), said in a statement. "In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others. If soap and water are not available and a consumer uses

hand sanitizer instead then the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that it be an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. For wipes, we should think, the same should hold true and we should ditch the triclosan & co stuff altogether. In other words, just carry a small bottle of good old-fashioned surgical spirit or of Voidka of at least 75% ABV such as some of the strong Polish or Russian ones.

It would appear that finally common sense is beginning to prevail, once again, and that we begin to see what all those so-called antibacterials and, maybe other stuffs, actually are – namely dangerous gimmicks intended only to ramp up sales for the chemical corporations. Similar to what seems to be going on in the pharmaceutical industry: if we haven't got a disease available on which to use a new drug then let's just invent one and ADHD is but one example.

© 2016 

The humble glass jar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

reuse_glass_jars_in_pantryNot only are glass jars useful, but they can also make whatever you fill them with beautiful. If light is streaming through or just reflecting off the contents, the jar makes something merely functional into an aesthetic experience. But whether or not the latter is relevant is another thing. The usefulness of glass jars, especially those that come for “free” with a variety of products you may purchase is not in question. I placed the word free here in inverted commas as, in all honesty, we do pay for the glass jars with our purchases. They are thus not really free. And still many throw such jars out into the waste stream or for recycling (and then go out and buy recycled glass storage jars). Yes, I have come across such people personally.

Many products bought in stores, whether it be pickles, mustard, instant coffee or other products, often come in glass jars of a variety of shapes and sizes and most of them just ask to be reused for other purposes.

Our grandparents and their parents hardly wasted one of those jars and they were used for all manner of things, including drinking vessels and the terms “having a jar” for having a drink of beer (or whatever) more than likely has to do with the fact that the poorer people could actually not afford drinking glasses and cups and reused and repurposed glass jars for this job.

Glass jars are great for storing salt and other dry products and produce, incl. flour, dried pulses, rice, pasta, etc. in the pantry and our ancestors did just that as well. Furthermore, they are great to store leftovers in the fridge for use the next day or so, instead of using plastic.

I must confess I have a whole cupboard – well, almost a whole one – full of empty glass jars of various shapes and sizes and I also repurpose some other ones as drinking vessels for various drinks, from water, over lemonade and beer to spirits.

All possible odds and ends, such as hardware for working with wood, such as nails, screws, etc., as well as hardware for leather work, plus other stuff, are all in different glass jars in the storage areas. The advantage with glass jars is that, more often that now, you know what is inside by just looking and no labels needed. Other glass jars are repurposed as vases, should there be cut flowers to display, such as some coffee jars.

The uses for the humble glass jar are almost endless and the best part of it is that they are – quasi – free.

© 2016

Call for 5p tax on disposable coffee cups

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, UK, September 1, 2016: The Liberal Democratic Party in Britain has today called for for the introduction of a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups to cut usage.

Tim Farron said to this: “Throwaway cups are a threat to wildlife and the environment and its high time the Government stepped in to reduce the amount of waste created each year. I want to see a culture shift towards bringing your own cup for a refill, rather than buying cups which are often non-recyclable and then throwing them away.’’

As the 5p charge on plastic bags seems to be making inroads towards a reduction of the single use plastic shopping bags and makes people bring their own reusable shopping bags such a tax on disposable coffee cups might make them think about spending a few pounds on purchasing and them bringing along their own reusable cup.

© 2016

Have we all become far too reliant on technology?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I think the simple and short answer to this is a simple yes.

Although modern technology brings many benefits, we may also be depending on it far too much.

The Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) has issued a warning that people are at risk of losing their basic map-reading skills and knowledge of how to use a compass and that because of a growing dependence on smartphones and satnav devices.

Roger McKinlay, President of the Royal Institute of Navigation, warns that society is being “sedated by software”, and wants schools to teach basic navigation skills to children:

“It is concerning”, he said, “that children are no longer routinely learning at home or school how to do anything more than press “search” buttons on a device to get anywhere.

“Many cannot read a landscape, an ordnance survey map, or find their way to a destination with just a compass, let alone wonder at the amazing role astronomy plays in establishing a precise location.

“Instead, generations are now growing up utterly dependent on signals and software to find their way around.”

If we consider that a couple of years ago the British forces in Afghanistan could not leave their bases because the satellites for their satellite navigation systems did not work and thus those systems could not be used. Apparently map and compass use and skills no longer exist even in the military and that is definitely worrying.

One group that all of us would like to think would be well-versed in navigation are commercial airline pilots. But even they, it seems, can rely heavily on new technology to do their job. And the same goes for maritime traffic. Ships today no longer have two-way radio but rely on satellite communication in addition to satellite navigation. In my opinion it is a problem waiting to happen.

Only a short while ago “several dozen” American Airlines flights were severely disrupted all because of a buggy iPad app. The problem arose because of an update pushed out to the JeppView iPad app used by pilots with American

Airlines in place of the 16kg (35lb) worth of flight plans, and paper manuals which pilots typically carry.

Switching from a hefty physical kit bag to the iPad app's electronic version didn't just save weight for the pilots, it was also claimed to have had economic and environmental benefits.

As American Airlines proudly explained at the roll-out of the iPad app in 2013, the savings on fuel and paper were considerable: “Removing the kitbag from all of our planes saves a minimum of 400,000 gallons and $1.2 million of fuel annually based on current fuel prices.”

“Additionally, each of the more than 8,000 iPads we have deployed to date replaces more than 3,000 pages of paper previously carried by every active pilot and instructor. Altogether, 24 million pages of paper documents have been eliminated.”

A video released at the time also underlines the benefits of the iPad app to pilots. It all sounds wonderful, but then something went badly wrong.

According to media reports when the iPad app's software was updated with a new version of the runway map for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, it conflicted with an existing version of the map on some pilot's devices.

Without access to flight plans, pilots felt they were left with no option but to not take off, returning to their aircraft passengers to the gate until the problem could be resolved or alternative flights could be arranged.

All this, of course, amid growing concerns about the state of air traffic control network security and fears that hackers could exploit on board Wi-Fi.

The same airline has also, in the beginning of June 2015, had to ground all its aircraft due to a glitch in the computer systems. Apparently it was only affecting planes on the ground and not any that were in the air already. Thank the gods for that, one can but say. But, let's think the unthinkable and consider the implications of a computer failure inflight. Maybe it has happened already with a plane or two in the last couple of months; a plane or two that crashed and for which the pilot or the co-pilot got the blame. Just thinking aloud.

Nobody is saying that it is wrong to take advantage of modern technology to make our lives and work easier, but we must consider what we will do when we become too reliant on gadgets and computers to do the hard work for us, and how we will cope when they are not available to us. Crutches are all very well, but when they are taken away from us we all know that falling over is hard to avoid.

The way people have become to reply on satellite navigation systems and other things electronic and feel lost without them it definitely would appear that, as a society, we have become far too dependent on technology and losing our ability to think for ourselves.

There is also the fact that almost everything nowadays is computer controlled, and often internet enabled, and that, when services go down nothing works. This not only can be very frustrating, it can be dangerous. Add to that all the infrastructure such as power distribution and others that are run by computers which could be “killed” by electromagnetic pulse or by hackers, leaving us high and dry, literally dry as far as water distribution is concerned.

There is nothing wrong with technology, nothing whatsoever, but it is our over-reliance on it and the fact that almost nothing is going to work if and when there are problems with it that is the problem and also that we do not seem to be able to manage to do almost nothing when technology fails. Just try buying something with debit- or credit card, now that they are trying to make cash illegal, virtually, when the system has failed. And trying, even if one can still do so, getting cash out of the “whole in the wall”, the ATM, is also not an option. So what then?

© 2016