What happens to your shredded office waste?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014

AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST ROB PENN TELLS US WHY BRITISH WOODLANDS ARE SO IMPORTANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyber threats to vital infrastructure

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014

How much are plants helping us fight climate change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Healthy Cycle for Austin’s Compost Scene

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

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

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

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

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

Re-thinking our ‘built to fail’ society

Brompton-bicycle-2-385x250In-built obsolescence may seem a forgivable quirk of the modern technology many of us love, but it has a force of its own, placing us on a wheel of consumer slavery. But there is another way

When I first heard of planned obsolescence – products being purposefully built to fail in order to fuel our buying more and more – I felt shock and disbelief. The concept was the very antithesis of the values I’d been brought up on by my dad, a skilled woodworker who had made a guitar and a clavichord from scratch, who had spent 18 months when I was younger, lovingly poring over the joints and cornices of an oak dresser. Pieces infused with expertise and care, built above all, to last.

But the story gradually came together for me. Members of planned obsolescence club range from the light bulb cartel of the 1920s who collectively decided to build their bulbs to fail more quickly, to the endless iterations of iPads, televisions and computers created and marketed today, creating a culture in which something more than 12 months old is worthy of being scoffed at and out-of-date. Or so we’re told. One of the pre-cartel light bulbs still shines in a fire station in Livermore, California, going strong after 112 years, a symbol of long-forgotten constancy completely at odds with our culture of trend and aspiration.

As James Wallman explored in his book Stuffocation, keeping people spending more and solving the problem of underconsumption became a key business focus, firstly in the US and then spreading quickly worldwide.

“A real estate agent in New York called Bernard London, in a pamphlet called Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence,” he writes, “suggested that the government stimulate demand by defining the time any product was allowed to be used. It would work like the use-by date that comes with food.”

Read more: http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/economics_innovation/social_enterprise/16343/re-thinking-built-fail-society/

This graphic novelist tells the true story of climate change

climate changed page 112-3If Philippe Squarzoni knows one thing, it’s that a book can’t change the world. When the French graphic novelist — whose work tackles such hard-hitting topics as the Zapatista movement in Mexico and homicide rates in Baltimore — decided to put together a 500-page tome on climate change, he did so, he says, not out of any kind of activist agenda, but because “je ne pouvais pas ne pas le faire” — “I couldn’t not do it.”

He never thought it would alter the trajectory of things, change anyone’s mind, or make people care. Nope: He claims it was simply because the problem was so vast and so all-encompassing. The more he learned about it, the bigger and scarier it got, and he just couldn’t to put it down.

“It’s climate change that chose me,” he says. “I didn’t choose anything.”

Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science was published this spring in the U.S. The original French title translates as “Brown Season,” which refers to that lifeless, muddy interval between winter and spring, and, as Squarzoni told OnEarth Magazine, “I feel like humankind is in a similar state of transition.”

Read more: http://grist.org/people/this-graphic-novelist-tells-the-true-story-of-climate-change/

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