The village of the city block

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Upon reading the headline I am sure some folks will think that I probably have lost it as most will associate the village with the countryside and rural idyll. 

However, a properly designed city – or redesigned one – can create the village, even in an apartment block.

In fact, this is exactly what must be done and each of those village have to be self-governing and self-reliant, being interdependent but also independent, running their own affairs. 

In some places such villages have already been created even in apartment buildings where the lower floors are businesses and the upper ones are dwellings, with the balconies and green spaces gardens – in some instances even the roofs – for the growing of food for the residents of this “village”.

Some of the old housing estates in Britain, in their design, would make for great little villages where the central courtyard just asks to be made into a community garden where food for all could be grown by all. 

Every town and city has grown out of the village or villages and, in order for us to get back to a proper society and way of living, the village has to return into the towns and cities, street by street and block by block. Every block can be a self-governing and self-sustaining village within the greater unity. 

Growing the food needed, at least to the great extent is also possible in such environments despite the fact that many may think it not so. Paris, until just after World War One was almost self-sufficient in food due to the market gardens (and farms) within the city and just outside the city walls. And, if we go without too much meat or without meat altogether then all our food can be grown, almost, locally. 

Villages of this nature also do away with the need for commuting as it is a case of walking down the stairs to the workshops or stores (or office) where one works (or just to the next village). Though the latter would be rather the exception than the norm.

The industry in those villages will no longer be of the kind that we have grown used to that produce for a global market using large machines and needing lots of energy but the market will, predominately, be the village or the neighboring ones within the city or town and not some foreign country. 

Utopian this may sound but doing it we must in order for sanity to be brought back into this world and into our lives and for a new and better society than what we have been dragged into by the “elite”. 

Schools, kindergartens and everything else will be within the same block and everyone will, once again, look out for each other, and this will come about simply more or less automatically as that is our nature. Human beings are not, necessarily, competitive but like to work together and cooperate with one another. Well, most of them most of the time, and when the right environment is given it will be more often than not. A village environment, be this in the countryside or elsewhere, with 150 souls or thereabouts, being the maximum number, this interaction comes more or less automatically. 

The downfall of the Hippie communes, who tried something similar by way of co-housing in some location, whether an old village or in a building, was that often they got too big or more often than not there was a “leader” who took upon himself the wrong kind of authority. However, learning from such mistakes is possible and there are, on the other hand, also tried and tested methods that can be adopted and adapted. 

We cannot, however, wait for the power-that-be, as they currently are, to come along and do those things for us and create this new society. They are incapable of doing so and neither is it in their interest to do so. So, it is up to us to create the kind of society or societies that we want so that they are ready when they are needed to replace the old structures and therefore we must begin with the creation of the new about yesterday.

© 2015

Nightingale Site Destroyed For New Homes in Hampshire, Southern Ecological Solutions Reports

logoses25 May 2015 : Leading ecological and arboricultural consultancy, Southern Ecological Solutions, have commented on the recent news regarding a landowner who has been accused of ‘destroying’ a habitat for rare birds.

Local residents and conservationists in the local area of Romsey have claimed that the destruction of a former gravel pit will be bad news for nightingales. The rare birds are due to return to the UK this month to breed after spending the winter in central Africa. The landowner has removed scrubland from the site and is seeking planning permission for the construction of 16 homes on the land. There has been some dispute as to whether the land has any agricultural value and if it is polluted.

Conservationist Andy Lester has stated that the landowner knew that the site was a stronghold for nightingales, but they still ordered bulldozers to clear the land. This was done before an ecological survey was carried out in order to establish what wildlife was living on the two-acre site. Lester stated: “The site contained the last two breeding pairs of nightingales in Romsey. This is very bad news for Romsey because the nightingale is our rarest local breeding bird species and this was one of its last strongholds, and the site has been destroyed.”

Mr Lester also believed that the scrubland contained the invasive Japanese Knotweed plant. “It only needs a piece of knotweed the size of a thumb nail and it will grow. It’s now a sterile site. It had slowworms on it but he’s got rid of them as well.” Tony Wright, who is also objecting to the scheme, discussed the matter with the borough planning officials. He stated: “I do not believe that anybody who carries out such wilful destruction of an area of land prior to an ecological survey being conducted should be given consideration for planning permission.”

As experts in ecological surveys and consultancy, Southern Ecological Solutions took a keen interest in the story. A spokesperson from the company made the following statement: “Typically, an ecological scoping survey is the baseline of ecological information. It will identify the need for further survey and assessment should potential ecological constraints be identified. It’s often the minimum requirement of the local planning authority when determining or registering planning applications.

The surveys are compulsory in order to identify any potential ecological constraints such as legally protected species or habitats. Working on a site without conducting a survey could not only seriously damage the habitats of protected species, but could also jeopardise the future of any construction project.”

Southern Ecological Solutions (SES) is a multidisciplinary independent business that provides ecological and arboricultural consulting services throughout the UK.

N.B. This press release is presented without editing for your information only. The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article. Nor do we make any claim here to recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge of them.

Personal transportation of the future: The Bicycle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bicycle12.1_webWell, this is a little a case of back to the future, I know but despite all the hype the electric vehicle of whatever kind is not going to cut it for personal transportation for the masses. Keeping a horse and using horse and cart also is not an option for everyone, especially not those that live in towns and cities, that's for sure.

We are being told that battery technology is advancing on an almost daily basis but what no one who advocates the car in the form of electric vehicles (EVs) is the fact, and they don't even seem to consider it, that the manufacture of those and of those batteries requires energy and lots of it. It just will not work, period!

But still we are being sold the story that the electric vehicles, the battery car, is the future for personal transportation. It is not; the bicycle is, as it once was. I am sorry to shatter many illusions but the truth must be told.

And, the truth is that battery technology is not anywhere near what would be required to have all electric personal transportation and even less so freight transport.

The biggest problem remains the cost of the batteries and their components, both in monetary terms and in environmental terms and above that the fact that any of those batteries have a limited lifespan. They only have so many recharge cycles before they have to be replaced.

The future of all transportation, personal and freight, is going to be, once again, human and animal powered and not internal combustion engine or electric. As I said, I am sorry to shatter many illusions but we have to face reality and when the post-industrial area arrives, which it will, then those vehicles and their batteries will either no longer be produced due to lack of facilities or become so expensive as to be out of the reach of most mere mortals.

We have to leave the dream world that has been conjured up for us and wake up and face reality and reality is that things will, in the more likely not so distant future very different to the way we have known things to be. So, we better get used to the idea and start to prepare ourselves for this mentally.

The biggest problem is not that people in general are not prepared to face this reality but that industry and the powers-that-be are trying to blind everyone still with science and with smoke and mirrors. Everyone is in denial and believes government, industry and science will come up with a solution so we can continue to drive our cars, even if they are electric, that way we have done for the last half a century or so. Reality check: It is not going to work!

The reality is that, in the not so distant future, not only will oil be history, we will also simply not be able to continue to use it unless we no longer want a livable Planet and thus other ways must be found and employed and those other ways that those that were there before the world went mad, such as the bicycle, our feet, and also animal power.

The means of personal transportation for ordinary mortals with no way of keeping a horse will only be one option, aside from walking, and that is the iron steed, the humble bicycle.

Oh, and one little additional thought: It is not going to be the carbon-fiber road bike that we are talking about here but more the old-style single speed steel bicycle, produced in small workshops rather than in large factories in China.

But, for starters, there is no need to buy a new bicycle for transitioning to the “new” form of personal transportation. An old one, given some TLC will do just as well, if not even better, for you, your wallet and the Planet.

© 2015

The need for a return to coppice management

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The high timber forest consisting of so-called standards, with no small growth trees and coppice beneath, has its place and especially in areas where coppicable deciduous trees do not and cannot grow, and also for some end uses. In general, however, we must return to coppice management in most if not indeed all of our woodlands wherever it is possible in order to bring homegrown wood back into the economy and especially in order to rebuild local woodland industries.

For far too long the old woodland management practice of coppicing has fallen into disuse in favor of growing pine, spruce and fir – relatively quick-growing conifers and others such as larch, as standards (there is no other way as conifers simply do not coppice) to supply lumber, often for low-quality use, rather than hardwoods from full coppice woods and from coppice with standards, the latter which can be used to produce much higher quality products.

A great many of the products that once were made from coppiced wood nowadays are made from plastic or machined from wood in countries far away, or from bamboo, and carried around the globe at a high cost, especially to the environment, that is to say the Planet.

A return to coppicing our woods and using the timber harvested could bring a return of home-grown timber products made to high standards by local craftspeople and though those products would be more expensive than the current imports and those made from plastic they would be hundreds of times more sustainable.

At the same time the woods and the wildlife will benefit and so will the local economy also. The woods and the wildlife both benefit under coppice management because biodiversity is increased once the canopy is opened up every couple of years when sections of the woods are harvested and also because, in comparison to pine, spruce and fir, in broadleaf copses there is a complete set of layers to the woods. In the dark coniferous forests of standards those are generally non-existent due to lack of light penetrating the forest floor.

Coppice woods, while also dark in summer when growing and in leaf, this scenery changes, however, every seven to fourteen years when the stems are harvested. The canopy then is open for a couple of years and the everything changes on the woodland floor and coppice woods, especially coppice with standards, exhibit the entire range of the levels of the forest, benefiting the biodiversity of the woods and representing the healthy balance of a wood.

Die Notwendigkeit zur Rueckkehr zur Niederwaldwirtsschaft

Hochwald hat seinen Platz und ganz bestimmt dort wo Niederwald aus den richtigen Laubbaeumen nicht funktioniert. Aber im Grossen und Ganzen muessen wird zurueckkehren zur Niederwaldwirtschaft in der Grosszahl wenn nicht sorgar allen unsere Waelder (wo immer moeglich) um selbstgezogenes einheimisches Holz wieder zuerueck zu bringen in die Volkswirtschaft und besonders auch um die heimischen Waldindustrie wieder aufzubauen.

Fuer viel zu lange ist die Niederwaldwirtschaft bereits das Steifkind in der Waldwirtschaft und dem Anbau von schnell wachsenden Nadelhoelzern wurde Vorrang gegeben als Hochwald um Holz, oft fuer niderwertige Verwendungszwecke, zu produzieren, an Stelle von Hartholz aus dem Niederwald und dem Mittelwald.

Viele der Produkte die frueher hergestellt wurden aus dem Holz aus dem Holz das aus dem Niederwald und dem Mittelwald kam, oft in Heimarbeit und kleinen Werkstaetten, sind duch Plastik “ersetzt” worden und durch Holzartikel die von Maschinen hergestellt werden, oft im Ausland, im Fernen Osten, oder aus Bambus, und dann um den Erdball transportiert werden, zu hohen Kosten, besonders fuer die Umwelt und unseren Planeten. Das Holz selbst, fuer diese Produkte, oft stammt auch aus dubioesen Quellen.

Einen erneute Hinwendung zur Niederwaldwirtschaft und die Verwendung des auf diesem Wege produziertem Holzes koennte eine Rueckkehr von einheimisch gewachsenen Holzprodukten von hoher Qualitaet, hergestellt von einheimischen und ortsansaessigen Handwerkern, auf dem Markt sehen.

Waehrend solche Produkte, da handgefertigt, teurer sind als die momentanen Importe und Produkte aus Plastik sind sie aber hunderte Male mehr nachhaltig und halten auch laenger.

Zur gleichen Zeit wird sich eine solche Rueckkehr zur Nieder- und Mittlewaldwirtschaft positiv auf unsere Waelder und auf die Pflanzen- und Tierwelt auswirken wie auch auf die heimische Wirtschaft. Waelder und Flora und Fauna profitieren von kirrekter Niederwaldwirtschaft da die biologische Vielfalt sich erhoeht sobald das Blaetterdach des Waldes alle paar Jahre gelichtet wird wenn Holz in bestimmten Abteilungen des Waldes geerntet wird. Und auch weil in Gegensatz zum Hochwald, besonders dem Nadelwald, in Laubwald unter Niederwaldwirtschaft all Schichten des Waldes vorhanden sind, und besonders so im Mittelwald. In den dunklen Nadelwaeldern sind diese jedoch generell nicht vorhanden da wenig Licht auf den Waldboden durchdringt.

Waehrend Nieder- und Mittelwald auch dunkel sein koennen im Sommer wenn die Baeume wachsen unbd im Laub stehen, aendert sich dieses Bild jedoch alle sieben bis vierzehn Jahre wenn naemlich die Staemme geerntet werden. Dann ist das Blaetterdach fuer mehrere Jahre offen und auf dem Waldboden erwacht das Leben.

Im korrekt bewirtschafteten Nieder- und besonders im Mittelwald finden wir das gesammte Spektrum der Schichten des Waldes wieder was wiederum der Biodervisitaet grosse Dienste leistet und das gesunde Gleichgewicht des Waldes darstellt.

Erlaerung:

Mittelwald ist in Englisch “coppice with standards”, d.h es ist Niederwald in dem man bestimmte Baeume zur Hochwaldgroesse empor wachsen laesst.

© 2015

Buy less, make more

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

DIY is not dead, just asleep for the moment with many.

In today's world we are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us to buy more, more and still more. A little bit like the recycling admonition by governments that basically say recycle, recycle more and then recycle still more. The more seems to be the key to everything, it would appear, as far as some are concerned.

We are living in a constant perpetual growth economy which is not sustainable, neither financially, for us, nor ecologically for the Planet, and we, as “consumers” are the only ones that can make a difference here through our actions.

Reuse-Pro Alex Eaves recently wrote on Facebook: “Our votes for the kind of progressive, positive world that we want are in our back pocket. So, do we support something enough to spend our money on it? And equally as important, are we against something enough to not spend our money on it? Our world can be better. And we can make that happen. - Let's do this.” One cannot add much more to those words and sentiments. It is exactly thus.

Instead of buying more and more and then still more, of things that we do not need, let’s make things again by reuse and upcycling.

All too often, and even if I am in danger of repeating myself here, what we perceive as needs are all but wants suggested to us by clever advertising as something that we desperately need in order to be happy, more productive, and whatever else may be the case. And this goes for so many things, I am afraid, including things that, if we do “need” them, we could and can make ourselves for no or little money and (virtually) zero impact on the environment and the Planet's resources. But we have been so brainwashed towards consumption, to buying, that we cannot, it would appear, even thing about making those things ourselves.

Simple reuse, dare I say it again, of things that otherwise end up in the waste stream or, if we are lucky, are recycled, or downcycled, by being broken up and then made into something else, is one way of making – often ready made – things we may want (or even need). An empty glass jar becomes a drinking vessel, a storage container, a vase, or even a wind light. A clean empty tin can becomes a pencil bin or whatever else. The back of envelopes notepaper and so on. And that is just simple reuse.

Then there is upcycling – though some of the reuse mentioned above already fits that category – in that you makes something of greater from a piece of waste material and that is followed by “proper” DIY when you make things from scratch, though the raw materials can still be items of waste.

When it comes to making things ourselves wood is often the raw material that comes most handy and useful and wood has been the material that our ancestors have used. But aside from that there are all those things that normally would go into the waste stream that also have a use in the making of things for ourselves instead of falling into the consumption trap.

It is true that we cannot make everything that we may need and especially want but we should make as much as we can ourselves, by any possible means, rather than falling for all those advertising messages that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Start small and do a little more every day and soon you will no longer want to buy everything as making things is so rewarding.

© 2015

Increased Focus on Compostable Products for International Compost Awareness Week

BPI, USCC Announce Increased Focus on Compostable Products for International Compost Awareness Week

Healthy soil and global food security are intertwined, as are composting and diversion of food residuals. The US Composting Council and Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) are solidifying their partnership to facilitate increased food scrap collection, diverting valuable materials from the waste stream for high quality compost manufacturing.

BPI will become a benefactor member of the USCC, the two groups announced today. This is the highest level of membership support for USCC, and builds on the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations.

"USCC and BPI have been partners for more than a decade, and the Benefactor membership and MOU formalize that commitment," said Steve Mojo, BPI executive director. "The compostable products industry and composting have a symbiotic relationship as certified compostable materials need composting to close the loop at the end of their life, but they also help to increase the tonnage of food scraps that are diverted from landfills to composting."

BPI and its members have been major supporters of the USCC’s Compostable Plastic Task Force, an industry project to encourage compost manufacturers to work with product designers and developers so that end-of-life impact in composting is considered as decisions are made about compostable plastics. BPI’s benefactor membership solidifies its continuing support for the Task Force by creating an annual budget for the working group.

In the MOU signed between USCC and BPI, the organizations set out these major goals for the coming years:

  • Promoting the appropriate use of certified compostable products for collection and recovery of food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste streams.

  • Developing and providing resources and information in order to educate all stakeholders, both public and private, about the role and performance of certified compostable materials, and the importance of scientifically based standards;

  • Promoting the use of professionally produced, high-quality compost;

  • Promoting the development of municipal source separated organics (SSO) collection programs and processing infrastructure

"This is a more formal representation of more than 10 years of support by BPI," said Rod Tyler, president of USCC.

A key element of the partnership is for BPI to encourage its members to join the USCC by continuing to offer a significant discount on BPI fees, and for USCC to work with BPI members through the Task Force to ensure that new products are compatible with composting facilities.

About BPI

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a 503-(c)6, not-for-profit organization that educates, advocates, and certifies compostable materials to be safe for large-scale composting. It then licenses companies to use BPI Compostable Logo on products and marketing materials, helping consumers and composters make informed choices. It is the largest certification organization for compostable products in North America. All certified products meet ASTM D6400 or D6868, based on testing in a BPI-approved laboratory.

About USCC

The US Composting Council, a national organization dedicated to the development, expansion and promotion of the compost manufacturing industry, was established in 1990 to encourage, support and perform compost-related research. The USCC promotes best management practices, establishes standards, and educates professionals and the public about the benefits of composting and compost utilization. The USCC seeks to enhance compost product quality, train compost manufacturers and stimulate and develop compost markets. USCC members include compost manufacturers, marketers, equipment manufacturers, product suppliers, academic institutions, public agencies, nonprofit groups and consulting/engineering firms.

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

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Arts and crafts activities are good for you

Arts and crafts activities may be able to ward off dementia

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you have ever wanted to try your hand at pottery, woodcarving, basketry or knitting, a new study suggests that doing so might be good for your health, especially your mental health.

man-woodworking-150408Middle-age and older adults who do arts and crafts activities and socialize may reduce their risk of the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia, the study found.

Researchers have followed 256 people whose average age was 87 at the beginning of the study. Over four years, 121 participants developed mild cognitive impairment, a condition that means having thinking and memory problems, but problems that are not severe enough to affect daily life.

The people who engaged in artistic activities such as painting or drawing, in both middle age and when they were 85 and older, were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not engage in artistic activities.

The people who engaged in craft activities such as woodworking or pottery were 45 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not participate in such activities, the researchers found.

The study also found that the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment was also 55 percent lower among those who socialized in middle age and when they were older, compared with those who did not socialize and people who used a computer when they were 85 and older were 53 percent less likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment than those who did not use a computer.

It is not completely clear why engaging in these activities appears to help lower a person's risk of mild cognitive impairment but is it is likely that these activities maintain the function of neurons.

The new findings are very much consistent with the results of previous studies that have also demonstrated the benefits of cognitively stimulating and social activities and such activities have been shown to lower the rate of cognitive decline, or slow the development of Alzheimer's disease.

While medical science thus far cannot cure mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease, there is increasing evidence that disease risk may be modifiable and it would appear that certain activities, such as arts and crafts, among others, can help do so.

The study was published April 8, 2015 in the journal Neurology.

© 2015

Monkey puzzles: an iconic tree under threat

The monkey puzzle tree is under threat in its native Chile, but UK gardeners can help. Robbie Blackhall-Miles explains how

Listen to Robbie Blackhall-Miles talk about monkey puzzles in our new podcast on trees

1fce72fe-cce1-4fff-8ca8-b620ea647af8-2060x1236

I sat in a state of dismay as I read about the forest fires threatening Chile. Climate change has been causing the country’s Araucanía region to become increasingly hotter and drier and the forest fires it sees to become ever more frequent. The impact is being felt greatly by the native monkey puzzle trees, Araucaria araucana; over 1 million of them have been burned in the most recent fire that spread through Chile’s China Muerta National Park. The thought that these trees, some more than 1,000 years old, could be wiped out in a moment fills me with anguish; especially as I know that the ones that are left cover a tiny area; only a quarter of the size of London.*

My life has been influenced greatly by these trees. Growing up in a 1920s semi-detached house with a huge monkey puzzle in the garden instigated my interest in plant life. The idea that a plant family could have survived on this planet since the Jurassic era sparked the imagination of a very young me and led to my lifelong interest in the world’s plants and their evolution.

They don’t just tell a story of plant evolution either. They tell a story of adventure and war and the fate of British society.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2015/may/07/monkey-puzzles-araucaria

How forests can help to feed the world

Two men harvest ramón nuts in Guatemala.

A new report shows how forests around the world can help eliminate malnutrition while fighting climate change.

Often, feeding the world’s growing population and protecting natural landscapes are pitted against one another. We know that much of the world’s deforestation, particularly in the tropics, is associated with the expansion of crops like palm oil and soy, as well as cattle and cocoa.

Yet a new report from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations shows that forests can play an important role in eliminating hunger and creating more food security. This is important, because protecting forests has been identified as a key and cost-effective means of fighting climate change. So, a better understanding of how forests help feed people may be another tool in the arsenal of their defense.

Over a billion people around the world experience chronic hunger, and twice as many suffer from periods of food insecurity. “Unfortunately, there is little current appreciation of the diverse ways in which these tree-based landscapes can supplement agricultural production systems in achieving global food security,” the authors write.

Read more: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/how-forests-can-help-feed-the-world.html

Will by 2025 over half of the UK population be dead?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the time between 2015 and 2025 just under half of Germany's population is estimated to die and more than half of that of Britain, according to forecasts by Daegel.com.

The US-Information Service DEAGEL.COM, which has a rather military appearance, has on its website pages with forecasts for the population of most of the countries in the world and in their 2015 forecast they predict a fall in population numbers for the USA in the next ten years, that is to say up to the year 2025, from 319 million to 65 million. For Germany it is a drop from 81 million to 48 million and for Britain a drop from almost 64 million to less than 23 million, which, in the case of the UK is a drop by 65%.

Demographically can this not be explained by the normal aging process and subsequent loss of people through the common way of dying of old age and that of emigration. Such drastic reduction in population historically only came about in conjunction with long periods of war and the diseases that occurred under the population that was ravaged by such wars.

If we are to look at the forecast for the GDP the figures they also are rather alarming, where for the UK the forecast is a fall from USD 2,855,000 Million to just under 255,000 million, a drop of 91%, which would make the UK worse in GDP than Peru.

Either Daegel.com has a strange and maybe faulty crystal ball or they know something that most of us don't know and that the powers-that-be, but should not be, want to keep from us all.

http://www.deagel.com/country/forecast.aspx

© 2015