What do protests and demonstrations achieve?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The way it would appear protests and demonstrations achieve very little, regardless of how peaceful they are and how many people march, as far as a change is concerned.

We must have (more) practical positive actions for and of change and less rhetoric.

Marches, demonstrations, vigils for peace, and whatever, make the organizers and participants feel good and make them feel that they are doing something. But what do they achieve, what is the outcome? Precious little!

The media pays no attention to them as long as they are peacefully marching and demonstrating and if, the gods forbid, violence does flare up that achieves the opposite, for the media and the powers-that-be then make the participants out to be radicals and terrorists even you just can't win in that department.

Therefore positive practical actions and examples to encourage others to do likewise are what is needed. That goes as much for ecological issues as for political and system change.

We also and especially have to be careful with online petitions and protests and must think very carefully as to whether or not to participate in them. (More on that in another article).

What is required, as said, are not so much protests, marches and demonstrations on the streets but demonstrations of practical positive examples for people to follow and to participate in.

With a few exceptions in the past marches, demonstrations, and such like have had very little to show for, at least not in the last decade or so and neither have had most petitions, online and otherwise.

The political system that we have at this present moment is rigged in such a way that neither voting nor anything else short of a revolution will make absolutely no difference and will not bring about the change that we so desperately need.

The this needed change, this new system that is desperately needed by all but especially the poor, can only be brought about by us, by means of positive action, it will not come about in any other way. We are deluded if we believe that the powers-that-be will relent if we keep demonstrating and protesting. They won't!

But we can change things, doing it one step at a time and while it is true that the change is needed yesterday, yesterday we did not go anything about it bar hollering and marching. Today and tomorrow, however, let us work on positive things that will lead to the change, slowly but surely.

Before, however, we can goo out and conquer the world we must affect those changes first in our lives, our personal and our public lives. We cannot, for instance, create a peaceful world if we are not at peace with ourselves.

Then start your own journey towards the changes by implementing changes in your own home setting and your life and in small steps and increments. Find people of like mind thereafter and see what together you can do. That way much can be achieved, much more than by attending any demo, march or protest meet.

© 2014

Wind is cheaper than coal, oil and gas, says European Union study

Wind power UKIf your price doesn't reflect the true cost of your product, then you are either going to go out of business, or you are going to have to foist the costs onto other people.

It's clear that fossil fuel industries have been pursuing the latter strategy for quite some time now. But as awareness of the true costs of climate change and air pollutiongrows, this position becomes increasingly precarious.

The latest indication that things must change comes in the form of a European Union commissioned report—written about over at Recharge—which finds that onshore wind is the cheapest energy source of all, once externalities such as climate change impacts and health effects are taken into account.

With onshore wind costs coming in at about €105 ($133) per MWh, this figure compares favorably to gas (€164/MWh), nuclear (€133) and, most dramatically, coal (€162-233).

We should note that onshore wind also beats offshore wind (€186/MWh) and solar (€217) by a considerable margin. However, while the cost of coal and other fossil fuels is likely to go up as supplies get harder to reach and lawmakers get serious about putting a price on carbon, solar costs continue to drop dramatically and industry insiders estimate offshore wind costs could drop 40 percent in coming decades.

Read more: http://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/wind-cheaper-coal-oil-and-gas-says-european-union-study.html

Pentagon says we could soon be fighting climate wars

In one of its strongest statements yet on the need to prepare for climate change, the Defense Department today released a report that says global warming “poses immediate risks to U.S. national security” and will exacerbate national security-related threats ranging “from infectious disease to terrorism.”

The report, embedded below, builds on climate readiness planning at the Pentagon that stretches back to the George W. Bush administration. But today’s report is the first to frame climate change as a serious near-term challenge for strategic military operations; previous reports have tended to focus on long-term threats to bases and other infrastructure.

The report “is quite an evolution of the DOD’s thinking on understanding and addressing climate threats,” said Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security. “The Department is not looking out into the future, it’s looking at what’s happening now.”

Read more: http://grist.org/climate-energy/pentagon-says-we-could-soon-be-fighting-climate-wars/

The document, by the way, makes for interesting reading… Ed.

Wind Power Blows Away Coal and Gas in Nordic Countries

Wind power is blowing gas and coal-fired turbines out of business in the Nordic countries, and the effects will be felt across the Baltic region as the renewable glut erodes utility margins for thermal power stations.

Wind power UKOSLO (Reuters) - Wind power is blowing gas and coal-fired turbines out of business in the Nordic countries, and the effects will be felt across the Baltic region as the renewable glut erodes utility margins for thermal power stations.

Fossil power plants in Finland and Denmark act as swing-producers, helping to meet demand when hydropower production in Norway and Sweden falls due to dry weather.

The arrival of wind power on a large scale has made this role less relevant and has pushed electricity prices down, eroding profitability of fossil power stations.

"Demand for coal condensing power in the Nordic power market has decreased as a result of the economic recession and the drop in the wholesale price for electricity," state-controlled Finnish utility Fortum said, booking an impairment loss of about 25 million euros($31.67 million).

Nordic wholesale forward power prices have almost halved since 2010 to little over 30 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) as capacity increases while demand stalls on the back of stagnant populations, low economic growth and lower energy use due to improved efficiency.

Read more: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wind-power-blows-away-coal-and-gas-in-nordic-countries/

Oil prices are falling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

October 2014: Oil prices are at an almost all time low for the last decades but does that mean that peak oil is not real and that more oil is being gotten out of the ground? No is the answer, plain and simple.

Some oil producing states have reduced the prices, actually, and the US has increased, so it is said, its production of oil and especially of shale oil. But what no one mentions is that fact also that some of the Western nations have, once again, put strategic reserves onto the market in order to create some more smoke and mirrors.

Furthermore the fall in prices, and the reduction in prices by some producing states, is also due to some large extent to the lack of demand for oil as economies, including the Chinese one, are still shrinking, despite what the powers-that-be like to make us believe.

While the oil price is falling indeed almost daily the reason is not that there is more oil sloshing about on the market but that many producers are reducing their prices because of the economy of most of the developed and developing nations still being in the doldrums the price reduction is due to the producers needing to sell their oil in some way. Thus they have to cut the price.

Don't believe what you hear and read and what you see about this on the TV. There is not so much more oil sloshing about; there is just a lot less demand and there are strategic reserves that are being used also.

While the fall of the prices may be good for consumers, such as drivers, and it may, if the energy companies will allow it to happen, also be good for energy consumers, it shows that the economy is not happy and that we better prepare for yet another crash to some in the not too distant future.

© 2014

Nobel laureates call for a revolutionary shift in how humans use resources

Eleven holders of prestigious prize say excessive consumption threatening planet, and humans need to live more sustainably

Amazon deforestationEleven Nobel laureates will pool their clout to sound a warning, declaring that mankind is living beyond its means and darkening its future.

At a conference in Hong Kong coinciding with the annual Nobel awards season, holders of the prestigious prize will plead for a revolution in how humans live, work and travel.

Only by switching to smarter, less greedy use of resources can humans avert wrecking the ecosystems on which they depend, the laureates will argue.

The state of affairs is “catastrophic”, Peter Doherty, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, said in a blunt appraisal.

He is among 11 laureates scheduled to attend the four-day huddle from Wednesday – the fourth in a series of Nobel symposia on the precarious state of the planet.

From global warming, deforestation and soil and water degradation to ocean acidification, chemical pollution and environmentally-triggered diseases, the list of planetary ailments is long and growing, Doherty said.

The worsening crisis means consumers, businesses and policymakers must consider the impact on the planet of every decision they make, he said.

“We need to think sustainability – food sustainability, water sustainability, soil sustainability, sustainability of the atmosphere.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/07/nobel-laureates-call-for-a-revolutionary-shift-in-how-humans-use-resources

Begrünte Dächer - Wohlfühloase und Notwendigkeit

Foto1SteildachOptigrün1Die Optigrün international AG ist auch auf der Messe BAU 2015 mit einem eigenen Stand vertreten und präsentiert ihre aktuellen Innovationen. Dabei stehen folgende Themen und Systemlösungen im Vordergrund:

Genutzte Dachlandschaften, Lebensraum Dachterrasse, Dachgarten

Die Dachterrasse als zusätzlicher Pausen- und Wohnraum - mit dem durchdringungsfreien und auflastgehaltenen Geländersystem "SkyGard" ist dies gefahrlos möglich. Und mit den Optigrün-Pflanzgefäßen Typ Alu lassen sich viele Gestaltungsideen umsetzen.

Industriebegrünungen mit Mehrfachnutzen

Industriedächer sollten nicht nur aufgrund des Bauauflagenzwangs begrünt werden, sie vereinen eine Vielzahl an positiven Wirkungen: ökologischer Ausgleich, Schutz der Dachabdichtung und Regenwassermanagement - dies und vieles mehr bietet die Optigrün-Systemlösung "Retentionsdach".

Steildachbegrünung - sicher und günstig

Das Optigrün-Schubsicherungssystem Typ P mit der FKD 58 SD eignet sich für geneigte Dächer bis etwa 35° Dachneigung. Der Vorteil des Systems liegt in der einfachen Verlegung und dem günstigen Materialpreis, so dass Steildachbegrünungen kostengünstig realisierbar sind.

Fachberater stehen für konkrete Objektdetails und allgemeine Informationen schon auf der Messe zur Verfügung und unterstützen Planer und Ausführende auf dem Weg zu einer fachgerechten und dauerhaft funktionsfähigen Dach- und Fassadenbegrünung.

Must Environmentalists and Labor Activists Find Themselves at Odds With Each Other?

Can We Earn a Living on a Living Planet?

The need for jobs, and the ecological limits to growth

It has been a tough couple of years in the effort to unite labor, community, and environmental groups, an alliance that has always been strained.

The extractive energy sector—coal, gas, oil—has historically had strong union representation and well-paying jobs. Tensions rose in 2011 after the Sierra Club escalated their campaign to close coal plants and 350.org, the climate protection group led by activist Bill McKibben, called for a halt to the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  Even Obama’s relatively mild order this past June on reducing pollution from power plants was opposed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Mineworkers.

At a February 2013 meeting of labor and environmental activists, Damon Silvers, the AFL-CIO’s director of policy and special counsel, yelled and pounded the table, “Where is the transition plan for workers? Why isn’t this part of your demands?”

Divisions will increase in the coming years, as two competing urgencies collide. Labor and community justice organizations will demand jobs, economic growth, and reductions in inequality. And environmental activists will increase pressure to curtail fossil fuel production in the face of climate disruptions. Both the politics and the policies of these goals seem to diverge. But must they?

Read more: http://prospect.org/article/must-environmentalists-and-labor-activists-find-themselves-odds-each-other

Why choose reclaimed furniture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Kitchen ca. 1950Using reclaimed furniture to decorate your home is a great way to add a period feel to any room, and to add a touch of rustic beauty to a bland, modern design. Upcycling is quite fashionable at the moment, and it's easy to understand why. However, whether this is really upcycling or reuse and restoration is another question.

Visiting salvage yards and looking for battered antiques to restore is incredibly satisfying, and there's something special about lovingly sprucing up an old piece and making it your own.

While furnishing a home this way, with free-standing pieces of furniture, is somewhat different to what we have seen in the last decades where everything seems to be, almost, the “built-in” kind, and in most cases that stuff is – pardon my language – crap. Particle board and the stuff that appears to have been almost made from sawdust with resin glue, from which many of the new items of furniture are made of, does not stand up to anything.

Take a look at some of the reasons why I would choose upcycling old furniture over buying new factory formed furniture any day.

Antique furniture is much more interesting than modern flat-pack stuff. Even the most scuffed, tattered and damaged items are likely tougher and more hard-wearing than the average item you can purchase from a catalog or store today, unless it comes from somewhere where the item is made from real wood but then you are going to pay a lot of money for it.

Once you have reupholstered that chair, or sanded and repainted that cabinet, the quality of the materials and the caliber of the craftsmanship will show through. You'll also have a great story to tell about how you acquired the item, where it came from, and how much fun you had doing it up.

Restoring antique furniture, and even well-made furniture that does not entirely fit the antique label, as for that label to be applied officially an item has to be of a certain age, often more than fifty to a hundred years at least, can save you a lot of money, and it's good for the environment too.

When you fix up a mahogany cabinet, you are extending the life of something that may have been built decades ago, and saving the planet by not wasting resources on purchasing some lower quality furniture which needs made, packaged and transported, wasting huge amounts of fuel and precious resources. And, also very important, you keep the carbon dioxide the tree absorbed locked in this item of wooden furniture for much longer than still.

One of the best things about reclaimed furniture is that older items are well made, hard-wearing, and easier to customize. It's hard to change how modern furniture looks because instead of stained wood, many items are plywood or worse particle board or something resembling sawdust with glue with a cheap veneer over the top. You can't really sand and repaint or re-stain that kind of furniture. However, you can do a lot with high quality older items. With just some sandpaper and paint you could turn an ugly nightstand into a beautiful piece that would not look out of place in a modern bedroom or turn an old run down table into an eye catching statement feature.

If you want a real interesting kitchen, as far as I am concerned, then create one out of free-standing kitchen cabinets as they were until the 1960s or thereabout. There are still some that can be found and often for little money as people wish to “upgrade” to built in kitchens. The latter which are by far inferior to the old kind of cabinets that were made of real wood and not particle board or worse.

And, if simply restoring old furniture is not enough for you, you can always try your hand at making your own items out of salvaged wood? There is an entire community of people who like to make their own furniture from railway sleepers, reclaimed period doors, old trunks and other materials that have been deemed useless by their owners. It takes some patience and skill to do this, but it is worth the effort. The furniture you make will be truly unique, and you will be able to take pride in telling people that it is all hand made.

© 2014

Before lighting that bonfire or those leaf piles: Think Hedgehog!

The time of bonfires and burning leaf piles is upon us again but so is the time of the hibernation of Prickles the hedgehog.

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Therefore before you light those piles of brush or leaves check as to whether our prickly friends may not have taken up residence and have gone to sleep.

If so please leave those heaps alone until late spring. Prickles thanks you!