Peak Oil! Another Myth?!?

Are we being lied to again?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

According to specialists in the field of geology as regards to oil there is no geological “peak oil”; just a political one.

This was mentioned on some radio broadcasts on the BBC recently with regards to the untapped Iraqi oil reserves which, according to the experts, are larger than the Saudi Arabian ones have ever been.

Time and again, however, in certain circles it is being claimed that the world is either nearing “peak oil” or has already reached this level and even gone beyond.

Experts, on the other hand, said, state that there is no reason for a geological “peak oil” anywhere and that reserves known and yet not full known will take many decades to centuries – possibly up to 200 years – to reach the “peak” level that is being talked about under the term “peak oil”.

The only thing, so experts, that is causing a feeling of “peak oil” is created politically by oil producing nations.

So, why are half-truths, falsehoods and even outright lies, yet again, being perpetuated by certain people and groups within the environmental movement as to the availability of oil in the ground?

While I will say, on the record, that I believe that we must stop burning oil in cars, power stations, etc., for the good of the Planet and humankind and should hold on to the oil for all the other products that we need oil for, the truth appears to be that there is not going to be any geological shortage of oil in the foreseeable and even further distant future.

Oil is way too valuable, though, to be burned as a fuel and emission-wise also harmful for humankind and the Planet in general. Many of the respiratory diseases affecting children and adults alike today can be traced back to the use of oil in the motorcar, etc. But, as said, it would appear that we are not about to reach, let alone have we reached, anywhere near “peak oil”. At least not on a geological basis.

The political basis, on the other hand, is a different story altogether as many oil producing nations and oil companies are creating an artificial “peak oil”, holding everyone to ransom, for more and more profit.

Humankind must, regardless of oil possibly lasting for another century or more, develop transportation and energy systems that are not dependent on oil or other fossil fuels.

Oil and other fossil fuels, such as coal, are too dangerous for to be burned, as already stated, and oil way too valuable to be wasted in that way until we have viable alternatives to oil for much needed chemicals and plastics. After that we just leave oil be and be done with it.

It is not possible, for instance to replace the plastics used for the cases of laptops, netbooks, cellphones, etc., with anything else. Wood does not work there (and please no one mention bamboo – it is not a viable alternative in more than one aspect) and the use of metals are not an alternative either. Bio-plastics, that are produced from biological sources and that also will biodegrade and even compost are becoming available slowly but until such a time that we have a real alternative we must preserve oil, even if it is going to last for a few more hundred years and not burn it.

While we must, for the sake of Mother Earth and all Her children, human and non-human alike, find an d use alternatives to fossil fuels for our energy needs, “peak oil”appears to be yet another unsubstantiated myth being put about by certain groups of people, many with very much a hidden agenda.

Lies abound in so many sectors here that it is not surprising that the Average Joe does not believe it all.

Many a common man seems to be able to see right through the shenanigans going on in the politically-manipulated scientific world.

While, as said, we need to urgently develop alternatives to the fossil fuels upon which our energy production and our transport infrastructure is based, honesty also must be employed again if people are to take notice and come with us on this journey. Period!

The message from geologists in the oil sector is: “There is no “peak oil” and we are still a hundred or more years away from it.”

So, who to believe? People who are experts in geology with an interest in keeping oil up and running or others? May the reader use his or her own mind as to this.

© 2009


Chernobyl-blighted land to be used for biofuel crops

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Vast tracts of land contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, so it was announced recently, could be used to grow crops for the production of biofuels.

The government of Belarus has teamed up with Irish specialists Greenfield to build one of Europe's biggest bioethanol plants.

The crops needed to produce the fuel will be grown on land affected by the meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor over which happened now over twenty years ago.

Food crops cannot be safely grown on the land, but it is still relatively fertile, making it an obvious candidate for biofuel production.

As well as providing feedstock for the bioethanol plant, growing crops on the land will also help with the clean-up as they absorb toxins from the soil.

Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov said: "Belarus depends on imports of energy resources, which is why we invest considerable effort in building up technologies which can work on local and renewable energy sources.

"We consider ethanol to be one of the most promising and sustainable sources of cheap and nature-friendly energy, and we have several advantages for its production here.

"Firstly, Belarus' agriculture can easily supply the necessary volume of biomass for ethanol production.

"Then, Belarus is probably the only country in Europe with vast territories which can be used for biomass production, the lands affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe 21 years ago.

"We can link the economic rehabilitation of these lands to agricultural production of biomass for the energy sector."

The Minister concluded: "The Government of Belarus has declared ethanol a priority topic for energy development, so we are very happy today to see the first steps being taken, in what we are sure will be a successful and large-scale development of ethanol production."

Greenfield chairwoman Ann McClain said the company also plans a program, connected to the cultivation of biomass crops to supply the ethanol plant, to remediate and decontaminate lands affected by radioactive particles from the Chernobyl nuclear explosion and return them to full use.

This project will also take in the two other countries contaminated by the accident, Russia and Ukraine.

She said the company planned to conduct field trials once the first ethanol plant is online to establish how the environmental benefits of its approach can be maximized.

Ms McClain said: "Greenfield's plan to produce bio-ethanol will use land which has been contaminated by radioactive isotopes to cultivate biomass crops for the ethanol distilleries.

"At the same time, we believe that growing the biomass crops will work to clean up

the affected areas.

"At a later stage, when we move on to second-generation cellulose ethanol, there will be even

greater advantages which will mean faster bio-cleaning of the contaminated zones.

"We hope we can build on research, field trials, and the experience we accumulate to go on to a comprehensive program to use biological methods to clean up the areas affected by Chernobyl.

"The benefits will be economic, of course, but above all they will be social and environmental."

The same land could also, and this is my opinion as a forester, be used to grow trees for pulp and furniture. The absorption of the toxins would be greater still and trees aqre, generally, a better clean up agent than other plants.

While it is good to see that this is first of all done by a smaller company and not the big fuel companies getting involved the notion of cleaning up the contaminated areas so that food crops can be grown there again is a good one too but... and here is the but... does the company doing all this work really believe that people will buy the “clean up for food production bit”.

Is someone really going to tell me that once they have a place that they can grow crops on for biofuels because food crops can, presently, not be safely grown there,t hey will relinquish the area soon so that Belarus and the Ukraine can grow food there again. Not when profits speak.

While the biomass production is a good idea as the contaminated areas can be used for little else my opinion is that putting that large contaminated land under trees would be better still, also as a carbon sink.

© 2009


Cut music's impact on climate and download your tunes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Digital downloads have been blamed for taking away a vital or essential part of the music industry's profit model. However, compared to commerce in compact discs, downloads great for the climate, in some way at least, and even better if you leave them all on your PC or another storage device rather than burn them yourself to CD. I do, however, the latter, from MP3 to audio.

Get your latest Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, or classical, blues, etc., via the Internet, and you could cut the energy and carbon dioxide overhead by 40 to 80 percent over distribution of a physical CD, according to a recent report that was commissioned by Microsoft and Intel.

The savings come in getting rid of physical packaging, delivery, and the compact disc itself; the range of impact depends upon whether the customer burns the music to a CD.

If you walk to the music store instead of driving, however, the CO2 emissions are about equal with downloading and burning, say the researchers. But, can you walk to your music store? I could not to mine. The nearest that could sell CDs at a decent price is somewhere in the region of 14 miles away.

The power usage of the download, however, depends on whether you have high-speed Internet connection. With 56k or less on dial-up, aside from being slow, it also takes a lot more energy of your computer in order to process the download.

However, personally, I do see the download as a better option to the CD that is made, then cut, then packaged, the shipped and all that. And if one could buy entire ISOs of albums then, aside from the fact that I am burning that CD, as an ISO is a disc image, it would really make things simple. .

The same could also be applicable to movies and newspapers, etc., that is to say, downloading them.

With newspapers, downloadable in PDF format, it would save lots of printing costs and paper, and essentially trees.

In London the “Evening Standard” has recently, under its new KGB officer owner, become a free newspaper and I, although I do take the opportunity when traveling the Tube and such, of the free Metro and the Standard but would not, otherwise, buy a newspaper or take one, and would love to have proper access to the local newspapers online the same as I can get the Kent Observer on Saturday and the Kent on Sunday online and downloadable as PDFs. Sure this all ain't rocket science now.

© 2009


A year and a decade in review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The year – and the first decade of this new century, and indeed millennium – are quickly coming to a close. And what a year, and even couple of years, it has been and what a decade!

The economy took a dive, starting in 2008 about, as did the global climate talks at the end of 2009. Budgets were frozen or even melted away, while consumers and most businesses just hunkered down. The bankers were so dishonest and there we so many ponzi schemes – and let's face it the way the world economy is run it is nothing but a giant one – that many large and small banks went to the wall while the great part of the remainder ended up being bailed out by the governments.

However, as far as consumers go it depends where one looks. Spending this Holiday season in Britain seems to have been very high, from what I have personally seen in the stores. Already Wednesday December 23, many stores had bare or nigh empty shelves, meaning either that they anticipated a lack of demand and did not bring in enough goods or that people spent on credit cards, more likely, despite the recession.

Regardless it appears to have been a banner year for green business in many parts of the world. It would be better still for the green businesses if greenwashing would be left out of the operations and honesty be employed.

Alas, way too often we have found that companies have been economical with the truth, such as SIGG as regards to BPA, have been putting out half-truths and even outright lies, such as claims by Gaiam as to their bottles being BPA-free which they were not.

What is the consumer to believe?

Then, after “Bankers Gate”, we had “Climate Gate” and the proverbial hit the air moving appliance. Now we see a lot of damage control in that the tack has been changed. Honesty went out of the window, it would appear, amongst climate scientists much as amongst bankers and theories were presented as definite facts and those that dissented were silenced. Most of science is not fact but theory and we all better begin to understand that. A lot is dependent on certain things coming to pass and it is all a case of “this might happen if...” but most of it is still unproven, regardless of how many scientists believe that this is so. Belief does not fact make.

Folks, if we could just have some honesty then people might just believe it. The climate is changing but it is not just “global warming” and aside from the changing climate there are many other problems – and that is an understatement – Mother Earth is afflicted with that we ignore at our peril.

However, in the so-called “fight against climate change” all the other problems are being sidelined and ignored nigh on. Even problem with soil and water are blamed on climate change when the truth is other kinds of pollution.

What good is a nice cool Planet when we can no longer drink the water, breathe the air and risk eating anything grown in the soil due to pollution?

The next year 2010 and the next decade will be a decisive one as far as cleaning up the Planet and trying to heal Mother Earth and in doing this we must apply a complete new set of priorities; priorities and technologies born out of the knowledges of the Indigenous Peoples and those that always had a close relationship with Mother Earth.

2010 will be the year, and the years immediately following, that will decide whether or not humankind is going to commit mass suicide or not.

Let us hope and pray that people will come back to Mother Earth and learn to interact with Her again instead of trying to fight Her.

© 2009


Pope says neglect of environment as great a threat as terrorism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

VATICAN CITY, December 2009: Neglect of the natural environment is as great a threat to peace and prosperity as global terrorism, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI said in his most extensive ecological statement to date, released by the Vatican on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.

"If You Want To Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation," is the title of Benedict's message for the 43rd annual World Day of Peace, which will be observed on January 1. The full text of the message can be found on the website of the Holy See here (

Reciting a litany of environmental woes – including climate change, desertification, water pollution, the loss of biodiversity, and depletion of rain forests – the His Holiness stressed their "profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development."

The Holy Father connected this "ecological crisis" to the globe's current economic troubles and lack of equitable food distribution, which are all "ultimately also moral crises" that call for a "profound, long-term review of our model of development" and a "lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity."

Such solidarity should extend not only between rich and poor nations but across time, the Pope wrote, with every generation conscious of its duty to exercise stewardship of the earth for the benefit of those to come.

The message linked responsibility to personal morality, insisting that the "book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics."

The Holy Father did not specifically mention the United Nations climate summit that was under way in Copenhagen when he wrote his message. But Benedict's message notably called for "efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth's resources."

Pope Benedict has addressed environmental problems in previous World Peace Day messages, and in his encyclical on social teaching published in June, but this is his first major text devoted to the topic.

Its release marks the 20th anniversary of "Peace With God the Creator, Peace With All of Creation," by Pope John Paul II, also written for World Peace Day, and widely considered the start of the Vatican's engagement with the environmental movement.

The Holy Father is not the only one who has likened the threats to the global environment to be as much of a danger to the world as global terrorism, of whichever brand; others have done so too. Many, however, have forgotten the other issues which His Holiness has raised though, such as the pollution of air, water and soil, and the destruction of forests, and I would like add, not only tropical rainforests.

The world would do well to heed this message from the Holy Father, in the same way as the world would do well to heed the messages that have been put out by leaders of the Indigenous Peoples, such as the American Indians, as to the issue of the environment.

When we learn how too treat Mother right maybe, just maybe, we will also learn how to treat ever part of Creation with respect.

© 2009


The Long Emergency

The 2008/2009 economic-financial crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If anyone thinks this is going to get fixed fast I would suggest a good rethink, and that includes the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK.

We are not as yet out of the recession/depression and things that show thus are but, I would suggest, but I am no economist but a journalist with some common sense, just blimps.

Some senior economists and analysts are suggesting that we have just entered an upstroke of a W-shaped recession and some senior bankers state on record that they believe that the next down stroke will be a very deep one.

Now is, therefore, the time to batten down the hatches and look at ways that we can “recession proof” our lives.

Acquire skills that could and will be useful should the economy really go south and things turn into something, like some economists are predicting, that will be worse, much worse, than the Great Depression of the first quarter of the twentieth century. If they are right then we all better do something for life as we know it, that is to say the lifestyle that most of us in the developed world enjoy still right now, is then on borrowed time.

The first thing to learn, and it is not so much a skill as a habit, is thriftiness. There is a lot to being thrifty; not just buying things in a thrift store.

Those that never have had to do any of that would do well to read some accounts of life and living in the 1930s and also find some of the books that were written with regards to how to make do with little to nothing.

If you can get a-hold of them invest in the Foxfire series of books as they have great information contained therein and also in books that deal with the how-to of many things.

Then learn to sew in order too repair, alter and even make your own clothes. Consider getting hold of a sewing machine and learning how to use it. Ideally such a machine should be a human-powered one, either by treadle or hand crank. Just make sure no one tries to sell you one as an antique, as that could be rather costly. However, thrift shops often do have them, especially the hand operated ones, at a reasonable price.

Also learn how to do leather work in order to make small leather goods but also, if possible, how to repair your own footwear and leather items.

Reuse and upcycle much of what would be regarded as trash into things that you can use around the home, the office, the garden, etc.

Learn to grow your own food and learn how, and this is most important, to preserve the harvest.

If you own your property, and it is at all possible, consider the preparation to take your home off-grid by means on alternative renewable energy sources such as small wind, solar panels, water wheel, and such for electric power; wood and methane gas for heat and cooking.

Also learn woodworking skills and other DIY stuff so that you can be as self-reliant as possible, and those are good skills to have, even if you do not live on a homestead in the boonies.

These and other skills also, aside from saving you money, and that already before any such emergency strikes, they can also bring in money for you or be ways of bartering for things you need and want but cannot produce yourself.

The ability to cut your own hair and that of your family is also a good skill to acquire and, when you have a little experience can also be one of those skills that can be a trade, that is to say a skill that can bring you in money or bartered goods or services.

While the politicians are trying to tell us that we are out of the recession and that everything is going to be hunky-dory again there are others who think rather differently and while that may sound like pessimism the best way is to prepared for the worst and accept anything better as a bonus.

Therefore, my suggestion is that we all learn to make do with less and get somewhat of the consumption train that seems to be running away with us, and learn to make things also for ourselves again. Aside from being great fun it also is good for the pocketbook.

The biggest problem we have nowadays is that most goods can no longer be opened and repaired, for instance, and everything is made to be tossed when it no longer performs properly and to be replaced with new. A toaster can no longer be opened to have a repair carried out and the same is true now even for radio receivers and such.

In many cases today, even if repair is possible, with smaller items especially it is cheaper to buy new than to have it repaired. We must vote with our feet and our pocketbooks, if at all possible, to let manufacturers know that we will no longer accept the “can't be repaired” way of things.

When it comes to travel it is also advisable that we look at alternatives to the motorcar as gasoline and diesel may be going up in cost soon again and when the recession hits more and more those costs may not be affordable to many of us.

Looking at changing for some journeys over to cycling should be a consideration and that would mean, if you haven't got one, to purchase a bicycle. It does not have to be a brand new one, though.

Then, once you got a bicycle try to learn how to keep it maintained and how to repair things when things go wrong.

People have gone so far down the road nowadays that they throw cycles away simply because the have a flat and do not know how to repair it. Instead of learning how to do it – and fixing a flat definitely is not rocket science – or even going to a bicycle mechanic – a trade that is picking up again – they throw into trash and buy new. Does not compute, I know. But we see this all the time and not just with bikes.

People also will go to the stores to spend say $10 for a metal pencil bin for their desk when all they would need to do is take a tin can and do the same. Nearly looks the same too.

They go and buy glass storage jars when, yet again, all they would have to do is to look at the things they throw into the trash- or the recycling bin. The list could go on and on on in the same way as the list of skills to acquire could go on and on.

© 2009


E-recycling drive at Zoo

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens will host an Electronic Recycling Drive at the Zoo from December 28th through January 10, 2010.

The list of electronics being accepted during the drive include: TV’s less than 27 inches, DVD or VCR players, audio and visual equipment, stereo’s, laptops, computer monitors, computer mainframes,... Mp3 players, cell phones, PDAs, handheld devices, gaming devices and digital cameras.

The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is at:

3755 NW Highway 17-92 (I 4 exit 104)
Sanford, FL, 32771

Tel: (407)323.4450

and open Mon thru Sun from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

So get down there and get rid of all those old PCs and other devices that you have no idea of where to go with them for recycling.

© 2009


Some small ways to upcycle CD/DVD jewel cases

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I tend to get a lot of CD/DVD jewel cases with press information and other such stuff from trade fairs and as the CDs/DVDs become useless once that data has been extracted from them I turn the latter into coasters and sun catchers while the cases get upcycled for other uses.

One of them is as a holder for a special calendars that just fits into the case, which the case folded backward to create a holder. This makes a great desk accessory.

The calendars for this purpose you can find – around Christmas time but sometime all year round – on the websites of a variety of companies, such as especially Canon Creative Park ( and all you have to do is print and cut them too size and you have a month-by-month calendar for free.

The same way of turning such cases into a holder is also most useful for the kitchen in order to hold up recipe cards while you prepare your meal.

Furthermore you could keep one in your car, if you are a driver, to store away your auto insurance, registration and other important papers. Though you should not, in my view, leave the case with the documents in the car overnight.

The same stand, as earlier mentioned for the calendar and the recipe card can also be used to make a photo frame out of such a jewel case. Just fold back, put in photo and stand up on desk.

As not all of jewel cases work with the fold back principle some will remain that you cannot upcycle in that way or any other really.

So, those that cannot be thus dealt with, put on Freecycle or Craigslist, or on other forums, for a small upstart bands and music artists to use to package their demo CDs or album releases.

This way you rid yourself of the cases that you cannot use or upcycle and someone else does not have to fork out lots to get some. A total win-win situation.

© 2009


Private utility companies

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Utilities such as water, gas, electricity, and such like, should be part of the publicly owned portfolio of a nation. On no account, in my opinion, should any of such vital industries be ever foreign owned, regardless whether owner be private or government.

But in the UK this is the case and the entire country can be held to ransom by foreign powers and entities. Everything from power over water to municipal services are owned and run by foreign companies, some which have links to the governments of the countries.

This, as far as I see it, is a real serious and even dangerous situation and can be seen on a nearly annual basis as regards to the threats of the gas supplies being cut from Russia, via the Ukraine, with Russia always blaming the Ukraine for this and the supposed non-payment by the Ukraine for the gas that they consume.

We should have learned – in Britain – from the two world wars as to dependence on food, etc. from abroad.

Too much of our food still comes from abroad and government officials are even saying that they cannot understand all the fuss we make as to dairy farmers packing up because they cannot make a living at 18pence or less a liter when milk costs about 80pence a liter in the stores. Those officials say that there is no problem: we will simply import milk from abroad. Sorry, run this past me again.

When it comes to utility companies the situation is about the same; that is to say, the country and the people, with most of the utilities being in foreign hands, are dependent on the good will of foreigners and those foreign companmies that own our vital infrastructure.

Important industries, and here especially vital utilities such as water, gas, electricity, should never be foreign owned, whether by private companies or governments, as is the case in some instance, regardless of whether those are friendly countries or not.

In the same way as the railroads and the postal service should be national and publicly owned.

The problem is, though, that the leaders of country and industry do not seem to see it that way as all they seem to be interested in is money, and, in the case of government, to rid themselves of public businesses that may require the input of some tax monies.

It would very much appear that we have not learned the slightest thing from the two world wars and the problems that can be caused by the reliance on imports.

The same is true also with having foreign interests and powers in control of the country's vital industries and infrastructure, and this does, obviously, include the utilities.

In the UK most utilities, ever since Margaret Thatcher and her government, are foreign owned. Electricity and gas b y the likes of EDF (France) (Energie de France is probably government owned), E-On (Germany), N-Power (German parent company; RWE), etc., while many of the water companies are owned by US American and other foreign entities.

While those countries where those owners come from, presently, are allies and “friends” being beholden to their good will is still, as far as I see it, a very bad idea.

We must, methinks, rethink things, and that pronto.

© 2009


Dutch authorities plan to charge car drivers per kilometer they drive

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Over the next few years, all road users in the Netherlands will start to pay for using their vehicle rather than for owning it.

The kilometer charge will halve the number of traffic jams and benefit the environment, claims the Dutch Ministry of Transportation.

Dutch drivers will be first in Europe to start paying according to the kilometers they drive rather than for owning a car, if a legislative proposal submitted to the lower house of the country’s parliament goes through.

The kilometer charge would replace road tax and purchase tax in 2012. The idea is to cut CO2 emissions while halving traffic jams in what is one of Europe’s most congested road networks.

The transport ministry expects the number of kilometers traveled to drop by 15% as the charge on the distance driven will lead people to opt more readily for public transport. This would reduce carbon and fine particle emissions by over 10%, it estimates.

The amount of the tariff will depend on the CO2 emissions produced by a passenger car, or on weight for other vehicles. Certain vehicles like taxis, buses and motorcycles will be exempt from the charge, while an alternative system will be set up for foreign vehicles.

A driver of a standard car would initially be charged three cents per kilometer, increasing to 6.7 cents in 2018, according to the proposed law. Legislation introducing rush-hour surcharges specific to a location could be introduced later on, the Ministry of Transport said.

The kilometers will be tracked with a GPS device to be installed in every vehicle. This will record each journey and send the information to a billing agency.

The only concern that I would have here is this GPS system for it will not just, and that much is obvious, be able to be used for tracking as regards to payment. It will also be able to track every driver as to where they are, when, and how fast they drive, etc. I see this as a serious invasion of privacy.

Nevertheless, most people will end up paying less, as the charge will not exceed current taxes and the abolition of the purchase tax will slash a quarter off a car’s price, the ministry argues. All the revenue collected from the charge would go directly to building roads, railways and other transport infrastructure.

The kilometer charge has been hotly debated for years due to privacy concerns, but the transport ministry offered assurances that information sent via the GPS would be "legally and technically protected".

"The authorities will not have access to any journey details and will not be able to track any vehicles. So the privacy of road users will be guaranteed," it said in a statement.

And pigs fly...

But environmentalists argued that future transport IT to help cut emissions will ultimately not be any more invasive than the ability to send a text via mobile phone.

"People will worry that the system heralds the arrival of Big Brother, but our mobile phone handsets already double as a highly-effective means of tracking our movements," said the UK Environmental Transport Association (ETA).

The UK will always play such valid fears as to possible data misuse by the authorities down. Every time that any such concerns are raised they have immediately the answers and claim that only this or that will be tracked but nothing more. They really must think everyone living in this country as stupid.

While a “pay-as-you-drive” charge might be beneficial for both the environment and the drivers' pocketbook I cannot help but think that this is just the beginning of tracking of various things.

Certainly I am well aware that my cell phone can be tracked (one of the reasons it is a prepaid one) and even the Oyster Card that I use for the London Transport Network can track me as well as to where I go and when and by what means, whether by bus or tube, tram or railroad.

However, all the assurances, especially when it comes to the British government, are totally void for we have seen what is being done here in the name of “war against terrorism”.

I have had dealings with vehicles that have GPS trackers on board and while the idea may only be to track for one specific purpose the software allows to do so much more, such as checking on what speed was used when and where, where the vehicle was at this or that time of the day, and much more.

From a privacy point this does very much concern me even though I am not a car owner or -driver but a cyclist.

While charging per kilometer or mile – whichever measuring system may be in use – sounds a very good idea, in principle, as to getting people to use the car less I wonder whether we cannot find other ways to persuade people to leave the car and use alternatives.

Then again, seeing the love affair that people in Britain, and other places, have with the motorcar I guess the answer to that is that there is no other way, bar legislating in one way or the other.

© 2009


Steam train to the rescue

Steam shows superiority to diesel and electric. Old technology triumphs over modern.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When during the cold snap in London and the Home Counties in December 2009 the electric trains too and from Kent ceases to work leaving hundreds of commuters stranded in London it was a train pulled by a steam locomotive that rescued a large number of them and got them home.

The train was on an excursion trip and is owned and operated by the A1 Steam locomotive Trust who have rebuilt the locomotive, a Tornado, and when they chanced into Victoria Station on that evening and seeing all the stranded commuters space was made available on the train for them and they were invited on board with a “jump on, we take you home” message.

The “Tornado” locomotive, the first new main line steam locomotive to be built in Britain for almost 50 years, defied the arctic weather on Monday, December 21, 2009 and hauled two of only a handful of trains operating in the county of Kent.

The new Peppercorn class A1 Pacific's 1940s technology was able to withstand the snow and ice that brought much of Southern England to a standstill and hauled ‘The Cathedrals Express’ from London Victoria to Dover and back. On the second trip Tornado was able to rescue around 100 commuters who had been left stranded by more ‘modern’ trains, dropping them off at stations en-route.

While the “Tornado” steam locomotive was able to perform perfectly all electric trains were not. Due to the ice and snow they could not make contact with the electrical connectors.

At the same time six trains of the Eurostar service which uses the Channel Tunnel also failed miserably and broke down due to moisture caused by temperature changes leaving people stranded do hours on end, some of them in the tunnel itself.

The new £3m Peppercorn class A1 pacific steam locomotive was built over almost 20 years by The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, a registered charity, at its Darlington Locomotive Works. Frequently headlined in the national and international press and on TV and radio, No. 60163 Tornado was the subject of a BBC documentary ‘Absolutely Chuffed: The Men Who Built a Steam Engine’ broadcast on Christmas Eve on BBC2 last year and now available from the Trust on DVD. The locomotive was officially named Tornado by HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in February of this year and has since entered regular service on excursion trains on the Network Rail main line.

Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, commented as regards the rescue of the stranded passengers that those Cathedrals Expresses were Tornado’s last main line trains of her first year of operations.

Not only, he said, are the Trust delighted that she was able to brave the arctic weather to haul two of the few trains to run in Kent on that day but also that the Trust are very pleased to have been able to help some of London’s stranded commuters to get home in style.

While coal may not be the greatest and greenest way to power a train (anymore) there might be other ways that steam trains could, once again, prove much more useful and reliable than the modern locomotives.

It should also be possible to create steam turbine locomotives, fired by gas, for instance, and I mean here gas as in methane and such from sewage and landfill, though using biomass could also be a feasibility.

The more we see of some modern technologies and their failures the more it appear to me that it might be a good idea to have a look at some of the old technologies, once again, and the reliability of steam trains over the more modern ones proves this, I think.

© 2009



Go Green Expo 2010 Kicks off Cross Country Tour with Return to Los Angeles and Bigger, Better Star-Studded Eco-Showcase

NEW YORK, N.Y., December 2009 – Go Green Expo, the nation’s premier green business and sustainable lifestyle show known for its innovative and interactive programming, today announced an exciting and exclusive television partnership for its 2010 tour with the CBS Television Stations group. CBS Television Stations will support Go Green Expo with programming and advertising to broadcast the message of going green to millions of homes in local markets visited by the show, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

“CBS is the perfect media partner to help us further spread the greener living message beyond attendance and reach millions of homes in America from the savviest environmentalist to the newly green,” said Bradford Rand, CEO and Founder of Go Green Expo. “We are thrilled to kick off the new year with a great new partnership and return to one of our favorite cities, Los Angeles.”

Following the groundbreaking inaugural Los Angeles show last year that reached more than 10,000 eco-minded attendees, Go Green Expo will make its second appearance at the Los Angeles Convention Center on January 22-24, 2010 as the first stop of the nationwide tour. With interest rapidly building among the eco-ratti, the upcoming Los Angeles event is nearly sold out with two months to go before show time.

Celebrity speakers already signed on, including Ed Begley Jr. and Mariel Hemingway, will be featured alongside hundreds of noteworthy exhibitors, inspiring panel discussions and much more, priming this year’s show to support Go Green Expo’s reputation for unique and engaging programming.

“Go Green Expo has such tremendous potential to reach communities across the country on easy and smart ways to go green,” said Jim Sullivan, President of Sales for CBS Television Stations. “We are pleased to offer our televised and online media support through this partnership and looking forward to making a positive social impact with the Expo’s launch in Los Angeles this January and beyond.”

The 2010 National Tour will focus on the next steps in the growing green revolution including the latest and greatest eco-friendly products & services, renewable energy sources for businesses and consumers, educating the community about the many tangible ways to be and go green, sustainable methods of transportation and cutting edge solutions for growing the green economy.

CBS Television Stations consists of 29 stations, including 16 that are part of the CBS Television Network, nine affiliates of The CW Network, three independent stations and one MyNetworkTV affiliate.

The Go Green Expo National Tour will boast the latest in green design and function, supported by Metropolitan Exposition Services and Printing Responsibly, such as: 100% compostable and biodegradable table top coverings, recycled material booth ID signs, biodegradable banner material, soy and water based inks and a waste management program that takes environmental and social ramifications into account by utilizing local donation programs.


International panel of experts conclude sound from wind turbines has no harmful effect on human health

Multidisciplinary panel conducts most extensive study of its kind to date

OTTAWA, December 2009 – An international panel of experts has released a report based on a review of a large body of scientific literature on sound and health effects, and specifically with regard to sound produced by wind turbines. After extensive review, analysis and discussion, the panel has concluded that sounds or vibrations emitted from wind turbines have no adverse effect on human health.

The study is the most thorough of its kind ever produced by a group of medical or scientific professionals. The seven-member panel includes experts in the fields of medicine, audiology, acoustics, environmental and public health from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

“The panel’s multidisciplinary approach helped to fully explore the many published scientific reports related to the potential impact of wind turbines on people’s health,” said Dr. Robert J. McCunney, one of the authors of the study and an occupational/environmental medicine physician and research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans.”

The study’s panel was jointly established by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association to conduct a review of all current peer-reviewed scientific literature available on the issue of perceived health effects of wind turbines. The objective of the panel was to provide an authoritative reference document for those making legislative and regulatory decisions about wind turbine developments.

“The Canadian Wind Energy Association supports the responsible and sustainable development of wind energy in Canada,” said CanWEA president Robert Hornung. “This study will go a long way in addressing people’s concerns and answering their questions about the effects of wind turbines. Canada’s wind energy industry will continue to take a proactive role in ensuring wind energy developments are good neighbours to the communities that have embraced wind energy.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is the voice of Canada’s wind energy industry, actively promoting the responsible and sustainable growth of wind energy on behalf of its more than 450 members. A national non-profit association, CanWEA serves as Canada’s leading source of credible information about wind energy and its social, economic and environmental benefits. To join other global leaders in the wind energy industry, CanWEA believes Canada can and must reach its target of producing 20 per cent or more of the country’s electricity from wind by 2025. The document Wind Vision 2025 – Powering Canada’s Future is available at


Reducing CO2 to cool the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Renewable, sometimes called alternative, energy, wind, wave and sun, are touted as a way to reduce CO2 emissions and cool down our, unfortunately, overheating Planet.

But that is not the first step to take.

The to all intents and purposes the very first step we must take and make must be reduction in energy consumption, by us; by households, by industry, by businesses per se, and this can be and must be done on several levels.

Reduction of energy consumption is only one part, yet again, but we will start with reduction in energy consumption before we go to other means of cutting CO2 emissions without the need of new technologies.

Much could be achieved simply if we all would cut down on the appliances, whether computers, or what-have-you, being left on “standby”. Standby power is vampire power and while you may think it is but a little electricity that is being used it all mounts up, and that even in a private household.

Too many appliances, such a TVs and computers are lest on on standby in many, many homes and people do not even seem to realize that that adds to their electricity bill. In addition to that it puts a strain on the environment and the Planet.

Government department, local and central, schools and such like, also have their role to play here an d businesses, in that they need to learn to turn off the lights when no one is home and especially to turn off computer workstations and their monitors.

Waste of electricity like that not only costs the individual householder or the business or government department but all of us in terms of Climate Change and, in the case of businesses and government all of us as consumers and as tax payers respectively.

Also, when it comes to renewable energy no one even seems to see water power, micro-generation and large, as renewable energy, but it is. All it requires is to dam a river and run the fast slowing water then over a water wheel. That is the easiest way. Obviously, there are large power stations that do use water from huge dams but what is something that we must, seriously, look at is micro-generation in terms of wind power as well as this kind of water power.

While nuclear power, for instance, and that is the nuclear industry's and -lobby's argument all the time, does not produce CO2 emissions per se, and would look like a relatively green option the fact of the nuclear waste and it's half-life does really make it the opposite. That is to say, an option that is the opposite of green and environmentally friendly. Nuclear power cannot, therefore, be termed green though a large number of the lobby would like to claim it thus or at least carbon neutral. Nuclear remains a very dangerous option and road to take.

Can we, however, satisfy our current – and please pardon the pun – demand for every more electricity capacity with just renewables, that is to say primarily wind and wave, with a little solar?Personally I doubt it and that even if we add to the renewables – rightfully – water, biomass, and methane, into the equasion.

So, what to do?

As already mentioned the way to go, and we must go it now, is to reduce the electricity that we waste, for starters, followed by reducing the amount that we actually use. The former is easy and the latter just a tad more difficult.

Let's face it that our current consumption is just way too high; consumption and waste of electricity I mean. Other consumption too but that is not, presently, to discussion here.

There are many ways to combat the waste of electricity.


For starters we must make it a habit to turn lights off if and when they are not in use. So when there is no one in a room then switch off the lights. Many people leave lights burning on landings and in corridors for the “just in case” but is that really necessary. I do not think so. I am sure it is possible to find the switch and turn the lights on and then off again. We are just too lazy, methinks, and find any excuse for not doing it.

The same for the likes of cell phone chargers and other such devices. A long as they are plugged in, in the main, they draw power, unless they are the latest generation of so-called intelligent chargers, which recognize as to whether there is load there, that is to say, whether a device attached, or not and is using the current. But those are still few and far between. The best move is to unplug, where there are no switches on the sockets, or to switch off at the socket, as can be done in Britain.

When it comes to turning off lights and appliances our governments, who keep telling us that we must make savings in energy consumption, should look at their own doorstep first, in this instance for many a local government agency, as well as central government agency, leave the lights on in their office and the computers running.

In the UK we know of at least one case where the local authority, the municipality, has the lights burning in an abandoned school 24/7 just in case a someone might decide to break into the place and hurt themselves and then sue the council. I always thought self-respecting burglars carried a flashlights. Utter waste of energy by those that keep lecturing the ordinary citizens as to how to reduce energy consumption.

Turning down the thermostat a degree C or two

When it comes to energy savings as to heating here all that is needed is to turn down the thermostat for the furnace a degree Celsius or two – best temperature is around 18 deg C – and that already – in financial terms – will save quite a few bucks a years. In CO2 emissions it is better still.

If you do get a little cold of an evening – for some reason or the other – don'

t follow your impulse to turn up the heating; get a cardigan or such instead. It works, for often it is just a temporary chill spell.

Forests for carbon sequestration

When it comes to capturing CO2, the so-called carbon capture, or carbon sequestration, only one thing really can guarantee success and that is forests for carbon capture. But then I would say that, some will say, for after all Iam a forester by trade, originally. And here we should not, primarily, as seems to be done, look to the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and elsewhere but we should, first and foremost, consider the boreal forests which, according to scientific study, absorb three times as much CO2 as do the tropical rainforests.

In addition to that we must reafforest devastated areas and ensure that all forestry operations in boreal and standard forests, as well as tropical ones, are carried out on a sustainable basis. This means that for every tree cut at least three should be planted; the way the adage went in the forests of Russia. It was accepted practice that every tree cut would be replaced by at least three new saplings planted.

Forests are the best carbon capture method, closely followed by grasslands and by peat bogs.

However, the new carbon capture industry will hardly permit that idea to have free run as they would be losing out big would simple biological carbon capture be instituted.

Herbert Giradet and his colleagues advocate just that; namely biological capture through the panting of more forests and this is the only thing that really makes sense, together with, maybe, sequestration of carbon using biochar, which then gets buried in the ground and, at the same time, gives food to plants.

There are many other ways to reduce CO2 emission and our impact on the environment, obviously.

Reducing the amount of times that we jump into the car, especially those of us who live in countries where we have relatively decent public transit systems, called public transport in the UK and other places in Europe, and do not live a million miles away from stores, schools and such.

All too often I watch when people put the darlings into their SUV or MPV only to take them the few hundred meters to a mile and a half down the road to the school that they attend, while they, together with the parent, of need be, could easily walk it or cycle and talking the same time as going by car considering the rigmarole of getting them into the car, strapping them in, etc. At the same time parent and children would get exercise.

The same is true with the trip to the local stores for a pint of milk and the newspaper.

The amount of people who do the same kind of trip as the above mentioned for school a few hundred meters to a mile to the local store to get, maybe, a pint of milk and a newspaper (or some more shopping) and then take twenty minutes driving about trying to find somewhere to park is mind boggling.

I can achieve that same trip in less time than it takes them to get the car off their drive, parked and then doing the shopping and back, on foot and definitely by bike.

There are times – though being a cyclist by choice but also necessity – that I wish I'd have a car to go longer distances as our railway system, mostly working well as it does, is rather costly, or when it is pouring with rain and I have to get somewhere and it means that I have to done all the foul weather gear and still, probably, get wet somewhat.

But, there are journeys where the bike or even walking beats the car and that on many levels and we must get back to using human-powered means of transportation a lot more in order to cut CO2 emissions and – and that concerns me in the car issue more still – other pollutions and pollutants.

Other ways to lower our impact on the Planet

Reducing consumption

This is something that is very important even though in the current economic climate at time of writing in the Derepression (yeah, just invented that word here to represent a Recession/Depression even though no one wants to admit that we are headed deeper and deeper) of the early 21st century those that refuse to consume are being seen by the governments as similar to terrorist – and I kid you not.

Reduction in consumption is a must to reduce CO2 emissions as well as the exploitation of so many resources.

Over the last forty or so years we have been turned from a society that bought stuff to last to a throw-away society. When I grew up things were made to last, from the smallest things to cars and trucks and also things could be fixed, whether this were toys, shows, radios, TVs or cars. Today, alas, many of the smaller things no longer can be fixed or the costs of doing so – unless you are a DIYer who likes to tinker with things – is so prohibitive that it is cheaper to buy new.

The fact is that that is how goods are designed today. They are designed to be used and then to be discarded in order for new ones to be bought thus keeping the economy turning over. That is, however, a false economic growth, one based solely on people needing to replace things because they cannot be repaired.

Clothes are, for instance, so cheap that it is not worth the time and effort and the cost to have something repaired. If you cannot sew yourself, whether by hand or machine, then the cost, yet again, makes it prohibitive, as it is somuch cheaper to just buy new.

This all just does not make sense and sometimes it is like the lunatics running the asylum when I look at it.

Personally, I refuse to be part of this consume till you drop society and it give me great pleasure to rescue found objects, and make use of them or to make something of use out of them.

Refuse – Reuse – Upcycle

This is my take on the so-called “Three Rs” and has lots to do, I think, with the fact that I am born and bred Romani-Gypsy and our clans have been doing the reuse and upcycle bit for ever and a day.

While many people think “reduce, reuse, recycle” but concentrate on recycle we should look at reuse first and that means refusing to buy things that we can make from items generally considered as waste.

Don't go out and buy glass storage jars when, in fact, the glass jars with the lids that you throw into the recycling bin would serve exactly the same purpose. I must admit that I do that all the time, and glass jars are also useful for other storage purposes, not just the ones in the kitchen, for instance.

Tin cans too can be reused in ways that meet the “refuse – reuse – upcycle” motto in that they can be turned in to so many things. Why spend money on pen/pencil bin(s) for the desk when a good tin can, probably painted or “dressed” in leather, vinyl or denim, will do the same job for nigh on nothing. Why send such tin cans to the recycling bin and -plants when you can make use of them, saving you money.

This attitude also reduces the impact in the environment for – one – no energy is needed to make the item you would otherwise buy nor any CO2 emitted for transportation, etc., and – two – no energy needed in recycling the tin(s) that you have used in making the replacement of the pen/pencil bin(s), and such, as they do not go to the recycling plant.

My office is full of such tins for holding pens, pencils and other items and I needed more than one of them for I have so many pens that came from trade fairs and such events. With those pen bins such writing instruments are always at hand. Now I only need to find a way to keep note paper near by.

There are so many other things that are the containers that have held this or that and which could all, with just a little thought, get upcycled to things that you can use and even to things that you may be able to sell at markets or gift friends with.

This list as to the upcycling things is by no means exhausted here and I could get on nigh on indefinitely but I also would leave your imagination some scope.

On the other hand, a little additional suggestion: Do you use business- or calling cards. If so then invest in an Ideal Stamp and a guillotine, aka paper trimmer, and use, say, cereal cartons to cut your cards from which you then imprint with the stamp and – voila – green business/calling cards. Great conversation pieces they are.

© 2009



Fundraising Focus Shifts to Benefit Endangered Coastlines

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

New York, December, 2009 – The second year of the National Audubon Society’s Pennies for the Planet, a national conservation education and action campaign for young people, kicked off on December 17, 2009 with a focus on protecting endangered coastlines.

Pennies for the Planet ( is a powerful tool for motivating children to learn about and become engaged in protecting biodiversity.

Children and young people collect pennies to support specific wildlife projects and also participate in environmental projects in their own communities. By teaching students about threatened ecosystems and wildlife, Pennies for the Planet hopes to connect young people and families with the environment and provide ideas about how they can help protect it.

The Pennies for the Planet campaign is made possible by support from TogetherGreen, a five-year Audubon initiative – in alliance with Toyota - created to build the promise of a greener, healthier future through innovation, leadership and volunteerism.

For the 2008-2009 Pennies for the Planet school year campaign, students and families across the country raised $26,186.28 – that’s 2,618,628 pennies – to support the first year of Audubon conservation projects including South Carolina’s Four Holes Swamp , Maine ’s Project Puffin and Audubon Wyoming’s Sagebrush Sea .

Pennies for the Planet change collected from now through the end of August 2010 will be divided equally among the following three important conservation projects:

Share the Shore, to help raise public awareness about protecting nesting shorebirds, including the endangered Snowy Plover, and the other wildlife that live on California’s sea shores;

Save Our Soil, a project to purchase and plant native plant species that will keep the marshland from eroding and provide habitat for alligators, birds, and crabs;

Restoring Florida ’s Panther Island by building up marsh systems, removing invasive vegetation, and improving the area’s water quality and habitat for important species such as endangered Florida panthers, wood storks, and gopher tortoises.

The school or group that raises the most funds by Earth Day, 2010 will be treated to a daylong BioBash celebration with prizes and fun green outdoor activities led by a team of Audubon educators and partners. Last year, the highest donation came from Hooverville Elementary School in Waynesboro , PA , which raised nearly 200,000 pennies.

“We need to nurture tomorrow’s environmental leaders, and it is vital that we give children everywhere the chance to discover what it means to give back and to care for wild places in need of conservation attention,” said Audubon President John Flicker.

“Pennies for the Planet links environmental education with environmental action, which we hope starts them on a lifelong journey toward conserving and stewardship in the future.”

Over the last decade, in conjunction with several other environmental organizations, Pennies for the Planet has helped tens of thousands of young people nationwide conduct local action projects in their communities and raise thousands of dollars to support species and habitat conservation.

Pennies for the Planet materials, including a full color poster and educators guide, a newsletter for kids, and a participation form with incentives and awards are available for download from for classroom or at-home use.

TogetherGreen was launched by Audubon and Toyota as a five-year initiative in 2008 to build the promise of a greener, healthier future through innovation, leadership and volunteerism. For more information, visit

While the TogetherGreen initiative is set for a five year term, so far, one can but hope that it will be extended and, maybe, become a permanent institution. One could also hope that similar initiatives could be started by other organizations and groups, even small groups of individuals.

Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at

Toyota established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates 10 manufacturing plants, with another under construction in Mississippi. Toyota is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. Through its corporate initiatives, manufacturing operations and philanthropy, Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. In 2007, Toyota contributed more than $57 million to philanthropic programs in the U.S. For more information on Toyota 's commitment to improving communities nationwide, visit

© 2009



Some timely energy saving advice to homeowners from the HVCA, the officially recognised organisation representing central heating contractors

December 2009 - Energy prices have remained at record levels despite substantial falls in wholesale costs and the “big six” energy giants have told regulator OFGEM that it is unlikely gas and electricity prices will be cut in 2010.

So what can consumers do in order to become more energy efficient and help keep their energy bills to a minimum? Some timely advice comes from the Heating Helpline ( or 0800 840 4069).

Backed by the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA), the Heating Helpline provides essential information on energy saving in the home, the importance of regular heating maintenance and offers dozens of money-saving solutions for homeowners.

This useful 10-point guide from the Heating Helpline will help homeowners keep bills down and reduce waste this winter.

  1. The hot water cylinder thermostat in the home should be set at 60°C or 140°F. Any higher is a waste of energy and could lead to scalding, but any lower and there may be a risk of legionella.

  2. Insulate the cylinder to avoid wasting energy. Fitting a jacket to the boiler that is at least 75mm thick could save more than £50 each year.

  3. ‘White’ appliances like fridges that are more than 10 years old are “energy hogs”. Replacing an old refrigerator or freezer with a modern appliance (energy efficient A or A+ models) could save you as much as £150 per year.

  4. Set room thermostats to no more than 21°C (70°F). Each degree centigrade below this temperature can save as much as 5% on your heating energy.

  5. Consider fitting one of the new generation of programmable thermostats that let you choose the time you want your heating on and its temperature for all seven days of the week – it means saving energy by not heating your home unnecessarily.

  6. By installing a condensing boiler and modern heating controls, you could save over £200 a year on your fuel bill – even more if you are replacing an electric system. Since the changes to the Building Regulations in 2005, anyone installing a new domestic gas boiler in the UK has been required by law to use a high-efficiency option.

  7. Unoccupied rooms don’t need to be heated but a little heat will prevent condensation. Thermostatic radiator valves let you control the temperature in each room. TRVs cost around £8.00 each.

  8. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 80% less energy than old style standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 12 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL can save up to £100 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

  9. Badly fitted doors and windows mean avoidable heat loss. Draught proofing doors and windows by sealing gaps will help save energy. Similarly a curtain at the front door and heavy, well-fitted curtains at the windows provide insulation and reduce draughts.

  10. Heat rises and a great deal of heat can be lost through the roof, so upgraded insulation in the roof space can have a major impact on heat loss through the ceiling, typically paying back within two years. Ensure your insulation is at 27cm as this could save you up to £150 a year.

Robert Higgs, Chief Executive of the HVCA, comments: “As winter approaches homeowners need to ensure that their heating system is safe as well as energy efficient and the Heating Helpline can offer substantial benefits to the homeowner, including providing expert advice and guidance on energy-efficient home heating as well as the need for regular heating maintenance.”

Further information on how to reduce energy bills and save energy is available via the free Heating Helpline on 0800 840 4069 or at the website


Should you ditch the glitzy wrapping paper this Holiday?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Should you ditch the glitzy wrapping paper this Holiday for the good of the planet? The Browns of No.10 Downing Street are certainly doing it.

My personal view on the glitzy metalized wrapping paper is that it would be better it would be ditched altogether, and that includes the manufacture of them.

Most kinds of glossy wrapping paper – and the metalized ones are nigh on a metal foil – are not recyclable and hence, unless people open the gifts carefully and keep the paper for reuse, all of this stuff will end up in landfill where it stays for years and years.

If that is not the option then ditch the glitzy “paper” and go for another option. One of them is to actually make your own from whatever suitable may come to hand, such as comics pages from newpapers or even just simply the newspaper pages.

While this would appear to be very Scrooge-like it is the gift that counts and not the paper, as far as I see it.

So, follow the Brown's example and ditch the glitz.

© 2009


What indigenous peoples can teach us

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When it comes to living in a more symbiotic way with Mother Earth the indigenous cultures of our Planet can modern man a great deal, if he would but be willing to listen.

Though, it has to be said, it is not only the indigenous people “rooted” in a particular space but also many cultures that are not so rooted but still are close to Mother Earth.

We ignore their knowledge, wisdom, and lessons at our peril regardless of whether or not climate change is caused bu human activities. The loss of species and the pollution of air, soil and water most certainly is.

How can we possibly think that our abuse of the gifts of Mother Earth, the gifts which modern conceited man refers to as “natural resources”, can go on and has no lasting impact?

How could we have believed that burying waste in holes in the ground would not come back to haunt us?

We must have been stupid!

It is not just the American Indian and the Alaska Native that can teach us a great deal, as far as living in harmony with Mother Earth is concerned. There are other groups too from which modern man would do well to take a few lessons.

Among those are the Australian Aborigines, the Kalahari Bushmen, and others.

Also included in this groups must be, though often forgotten, the Romani-Gypsy, the one that has lived in harmony with Nature until the most recent times but still do today.

The Gypsy of Britain, for instance, the Romanichal primarily, have an environmental footprint many size smaller than the general population and that despite the fact that some might commit the occasional act of fly tipping or rubbish, for instance. I am not condoning such behavior and neither other kinds of bad behavior; it is just a statement of fact.

Already the reason for the smaller footprint is the fact that most still live in caravans, in trailers and mobile homes, that do not have as much space and there is not so much the consumerism at home as amongst the rest of the population. You can't accumulate too many possessions in a trailer or even a mobile home.

Those of the Gypsy People who live still closer to Mother Earth, so to speak, and who still use Her resources as basis for making a living, be that the making of pegs, clothes- and tent- (rare nowadays), wooden flowers (rarer still), walking sticks, baskets, etc., only take as much as they need and leave the rest for another day.

Much, alas, of the Gypsy's knowledge, whether as regards to medicines and healing or to a spiritual connection with Nature is dying out with the Elders and some has gone almost irretrievably already.

Modern man, however, clear fells a wood simple because he can and because he has an outlet for the wood, for instance. The good manager of a wood will, obviously, replant but many do not, replying on natural regeneration, which often does happen only slowly or even not at all.

Indigenous People all over the world have a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth and the space where they live, hence their close attachment to the land and its features often.

If modern man wants to survive on this Planet, together with all of us, he must stop and listen to the indigenous voices and to the voices of the Planet. Many answers are there in indigenous knowledges and in Nature itself.

Man must, once again, connect with Mother Nature and listen to Her in order to find out how to live lightly on this Planet. The way that the climate is wreaking havoc all over the globe should be a warning to him that things are not as they should be and that Mother is ailing.

Many of the answers and remedies are so simple but it seems to take scientists expensive research to “discover” them, such as recently the fact that chemical fertilizers do not actually put goodness back into the soil and that for that it requires organic matter, such as manure and compost. The farmers of old, and those who live by the old ways, have known this for ages and all the scientists would have needed was ask them, such as the Amish.

They know that in order to have living soil it needs the input of organic matter in the form of manure and compost.

Soil that is alive in this way is also one the best sequesters of carbon as the manure and other organic matter put into the soil absorbs CO2 and then passes this on as food to the plants.

The old folks also know that forests are needed for a healthy world and a healthy environment; again something that seems to have taken scientists quite by surprise when they “discovered” this fact.

Time to ask the Indigenous People, and those otherwise close to Nature, a few questions and involve them to make their input into the way things are done.

© 2009


Green Gift Wrap

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Nowadays everyone seems to want fancy wrapping “paper” with which to wrap holiday gifts or other presents in.

I use the term paper rather loosely here, and hence it is put into the inverted commas, as quite a lot of that “paper”, in our present time, is more of a tinfoil and plastic rather than, in fact, paper.

But why bother with expensive fancy “paper”at all. It should be the gift that does it and counts and not the paper it is wrapped in or the box it comes in.

If done right other things can substitute well for the fancy, and often rather expensive – to you and the Planet – wrapping “paper” that cannot be recycled and will end up, unless carefully removed and saved for reuse, in the landfill.

Homemade gift bags, either from templates available on the Internet and then printed on your printer, if the gift is small enough; bags made from newspaper or just simply newspaper as wrap makes a great and Mother Earth friendly gift wrap and if done right, as said, will also convey a message to the recipient. This will be a message that you care for the environment and not that you are a Scrooge, of that I am sure.

Let's look at alternatives and starve the merchants of this expensive wrapping stuff that ends up harming the Planet.

© 2009


Grow Your Own made easy with Gardening Direct’s new Vegetable Collections for 2010

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Gardening Direct has built on the great success of their 2009 Autumn range of vegetables and produced an extensive line of Vegetable Collections for 2010.

Realizing the great demand for home-grown vegetables, Gardening Direct has made it easy for gardeners at every level of knowledge – from beginner to expert – to grow their own, regardless of the size of their garden or allotment. The company’s horticultural experts have hand-picked the best varieties of vegetable to ensure that they will grow happily in any garden, on a patio or even in a window box.

Highlights from the Spring range include a large selection of potatoes, with a new Successional Collection featuring Pentland Javelin, Carlingford and King Edward varieties plus three grow bags, allowing gardeners to harvest potatoes from Spring though to Autumn, whether in the ground or on a patio.

Other notable selections include Indoor and Outdoor Tomato Collections, with five varieties in each supplied as large plug plants, a red hot Chili Collection, two Patio Collections and a Root Vegetable Collection, Greenhouse and Salad Collections, the ever-popular Herb Garden as well as a Summer Veg Collection, the perfect starter selection.

Also destined to be best-sellers in 2010 are the All Year Round Collections, available in Family plot (20 x 30ft) or Small Plot (10 x 10ft) sizes. These costs £149.95 and £49.95 respectively, with the vegetable varieties supplied as large plug plants throughout the year at the optimum time for planting, along with full growing instructions. The former includes 27 different varieties (enough to feed a family of four all year) while the latter offers a selection of nine popular vegetables.

Other notable additions include an increased selection of Vegetable Seeds as well as new Onion and Garlic bulbs, including Garlic Elephant, which produces extra large bulbs of super-smooth flesh, perfect for slicing and roasting.

Prices for all the vegetable varieties are highly competitive, starting at only £2.19 for seeds and £4.99 for plug plants. For more information please see

Growing from plugs is one of the surest way and method to get to a good vegetable garden. While seeds are, obviously, much cheaper to buy you have to have the space to start them and grown them on and all that, before they even ever reach the plug stage.

While, as said, growing from seed, is cheaper, probably, than buying in plugs, there is no guarantee that all your seeds are viable for I have had for example, often only one out of five bean seeds actually grow into a plug-size plant and then a full plant.

The problem with seed is that it is not always reliable and for those that want to be certain that they have viable plants that are capable of growing into food plants the best way might be plugs from sources such as Gardening Direct.

© 2009


U.K. Leads the Way in Banning Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

CHICAGO, IL – The Cancer Prevention Coalition commends the UK's largest nationwide chain of health food shops, Holland & Barrett, for its recently announced ban on beauty products containing some toxic ingredients, but warns that products containing a wide range other toxic ingredients remain on the shelves.

On October 6th, Holland & Barrett announced that it would "ban hundreds of leading beauty products over claims they contain toxic ingredients" in their 525 stores nationwide.

Holland & Barrett announced that they have been working over the past year behind the scenes with suppliers to eliminate the use of these chemicals. As a result, they decided to reject certain well-known brands from their stores and reformulate all their own label products.

The main ingredients of concern to Holland & Barrett in this ban are a group of hormonal preservatives known as parabens, and an unrelated harsh detergent known as sodium lauryl sulfate.

Holland & Barrett has additional stores in the Republic of Ireland, in South Africa and in The Netherlands, where they use the trade name "De Tuinen."

Holland & Barrett is the first UK company to take this action, but it is not alone.

In mid-October, the giant retailer Morrisons, one of the nation's leading supermarket chains with over 400 stores, announced that it would shortly review concerns regarding the dangers of parabens.

Cancer Prevention Coalition Chairman Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. warns that numerous published scientific studies over the last two decades have shown that the parabens - methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl, and benzyl - pose toxic estrogen-like effects.

"These vary widely, from the most potent, butyl, which is hormonal at levels 100,000 times lower than natural estrogen, to the less potent methyl," Dr. Epstein says.

"Parabens readily penetrate the skin of immature female rodents, from where they can pass directly into the blood, and stimulate premature uterine growth," he explains.

"Even at very low concentrations, parabens have also been shown to stimulate the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells in laboratory tests," Dr. Epstein emphasizes. "Of additional concern, administering parabens to immature male rats decreases their sperm counts and testosterone levels." "Parabens have been identified in the breast tissue of a woman with breast cancer, presumably originating from its presence in a product used as an underarm deodorant or antiperspirant," he cautions, saying, "This incriminates parabens as a possible cause of breast cancer."

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a well-known harsh detergent and a penetration enhancer. Dr. Epstein explains that this chemical damages the superficial layers of the skin and causes prolonged damage to the skin barrier. This allows the ready penetration of carcinogens and other toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products through the skin.

Evidence on the danger of parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate is still denied in the Cosmetic Ingredients Review's annual U.S. Compendium. This document details the industry's claims on the safety of about 1,470 ingredients listed on the labels of cosmetic and personal care products, including parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate.

These two ingredients continue to be claimed "safe" in the 2009 Cosmetic Ingredients Review Compendium, an annual publication of The Personal Care Products Council, formerly The Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association.

The Council also assures that all products that U.S. consumers buy are safe, and under control. This reassurance remains in the Council's 2009 annual Cosmetic Ingredient Review Compendium.

Dr. Epstein cautions that the Council maintains dozens of full-time lobbyists at the federal and state levels, and pursues an aggressive political agenda against what it considers to be "unreasonable or unnecessary labeling or warning requirements."

"Holland & Barrett is to be commended for its initiative in phasing out parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate," says Dr. Epstein. "However, the company appears strangely unaware of other toxic ingredients. These include a wide range of other hormonal ingredients, such as phthalates and bisphenol, besides a still wider range of carcinogens."

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; The Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Toxic Beauty (2009 Benbella Books,

While in the UK health food stores, and even major retailers such as Morrisons, look at those dangerous chemicals the US FDA seems to say that nothing needs to be done and all is hunky-dory, same as they did and still do, I understand, as regards to BPA in plastic water bottles and in the lining on tin cans, including soda cans.

Had it not been for Canada in banning BPA and the consequent interest in the green media predominately manufacturers of the water bottles, such as Nalgene and SIGG, would not have made any changes. Now we have BPA-free polycarbonate from which such bottles are made; something that before, it would appear, was claimed to be impossible, and the same for liners, as in the SIGG bottles.

Only, however, when one takes a close enough look at who “controls” the FDA and what involvement its “scientists” have with the various industries will people understand why the FDA does nothing until it is too late, normally. Too much vested interest in the status quo.

© 2009


Upcycle old CDs and DVDs into drinks coasters

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I am sure many of us have old CDs and DVDs or various kinds laying around the place that are duds, no longer used or simply no longer usable and recycling those is actually not as easy as it is thought.

My favorite way of upcycling them is simple and does not require any tools even. All you need is an old CD or DVD and bingo, a drinks coaster; as simple as that.

I get so many CDs and DVDs with press information at trade fairs and other shows which, after I have extracted the information from them, have no further use, to be honest and as, as I said, they are difficult to recycle because of the silver layer and hence it is best to upcycle them. In fact I have so many I could start a business with them as coasters, methinks.

Turning them into drinks coasters is, as said, the easiest way to upcycle such CDs and DVDs because doing so does not require any tools and processes.

This is a very simple project that is a very good way of keeping such unwanted, no longer wanted and no longer usable CDs and DVDs out of landfills and at the same time one that can save you money. Why buy coasters when you can make them that easily yourself?

© 2009


It does not matter what I do, it makes no difference

One person's action does not make a difference, is what so many believe but it does...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many, way too many, people believe that it makes no difference whether or not they do their bit for the Planet as regards to Climate Change as individuals, as they believe that the action of on e person cannot make any difference.

The problem is though that so many think exactly the same and for that very reason of belief they do nothing. “I cannot make a difference”, is so often the message that we near.

The truth is, however, that any little bit does make a difference and when everyone who thinks as above changes to understand that what he or she does – even if he or she perceives to be alone – does actually do make a difference.

In fact each and every action, however, small does make a difference and if all those of us who think that they cannot make a difference on their own actually do it then we are all together and make a great difference.

Now, let's go and do it.

© 2009


Generating electricity for a cooler planet

Micro-generating of electric power by various means though primarily wind and a change of the voltage that we use may be the answer.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Our current problem is – and please excuse the pun – the current, that is to the the 240 Volt AC in UK, 220 V AC in many EU countries and 117 V AC in the USA and the fact that our power stations are huge and in locations faqr away from the consumer of the energy.

We must reconsider first of all and foremost the voltage that we use in our homes, offices and elsewhere. Today's electrical and electronic appliances, bar the large ones like fridges, freezers, washing machines and such, no longer need the 240 V AC (or whichever other high mains voltage) but the majority runs of a voltage of 12 volts DC (automobile battery voltage) and often lower still. I will make here once again the point for a dual electrical circuit in our homes and offices, for starters; one for 12 Volt DC, generated by micro-generation on the building, and another one, if need, for appliances such as white goods, that is to say, fridges, freezers, power tools, etc.

The problem that we are talking in generating Gigawatts and such by power stations – and the aim is to reach such also in wind turbines – and the high voltage of several tens of kilovolts even that the current leaves in when leaving the power plant is only due to the fact that the generating plants, the power stations, are soo far away from the places where the power is actually use.

The reason for the tens of thousands of volt AC that the current is “transmitted” down the line in is that by the time it reaches the final stations were it is turned into usable electrical power, the voltage is down from several tens of thousands of volts to less than a thousand and will then be transformed down to 450 V AC and finally to 240 V AC, which is the UK standard current.

Would the power be generated locally, where building, city block, street, or even neighborhood, the voltages would need to be not very much higher than the voltage one would like to use could be a much lower one, lower that thirty volt DC even. In this way a lighting and light appliance circuit can be crated in homes and offices that will be able to power anything up to TVs and such, as all just need a little adjusting, for lack of a better word, as they all have power supplies built in or external than reduce mains voltage to 12 volt DC or lower still.

Lighting could be LEDs and the savings of using such low power and low power consuming lights would really be a great thing.

If the power is produced by micro-generation on the premises, so to speak, whether b y small wind, solar, methane gas, or other such, then the current needs to be just that – that is to say the voltage – of a motorcar, e.g. a nominal 13.5 volt DC, which, in reality, equates to 12 volts direct current.

In order to be able to run a building with this the power must and can, as opposed to alternate current (mains voltage) be stored in batteries such as marine deep cycle, as those that used to be use in diesel-powered submarines.

While I am not electrician nor electrical engineer I do know that it can be done and that it works and I have played around with such ideas before, and not just theoretically.

Not only that; there are actually enough people living off-grid who are doing just that. They use small wind, solar, water, and other means, generate the automobile voltage and then store the power in banks of batteries. They also invert this voltage to mains if and when needed. While that, however, is good and fine on a homestead somewhere more or less in the boonies it would be a little different in house in town or different still in an apartment in the city, I should think.

Currently, in most countries, the power is generated far too far away from the consumer and hence, by needs, is in the range of several tens of kilovolts, requiring huge machines to produce it, whether steam turbines, wind turbines or whatever.

Nearly all of that voltage is lost in transmission over the long distances that the electricity has to travel to the converter stations and ultimately to the consumer.

If, on the other hand, we would produce the power local, real local, then neither the huge turbines and such are needed, and neither the high voltage. A lot of the current infrastructure would not be needed either, such as the transformer stations, the transmission lines, etc.

It is true that this would put come people out of jobs and some companies out of business, unless they would change what they do, but it would certainly be better for the planet and all of us.

Another advantage is that lower voltage – such as automobile voltage – does not carry the electrocution risks as does high voltage and in addition to that the possibility of cancers caused by the high voltage power lines that carry the electricity from one end of the country to the other would diminish. Studies have shown that cows are not very healthy when grazing under such power lines.

If that is what that does to cows I hate to think what it would do to people who, and many do, live under such high power transmission lines.

For that reason too, plus all the other possible, and even impossible, ones we must reconsider how we generate electricity and where and in what voltage.

© 2009


Civil Society Denounces US Bullying Tactics & Backroom Deals

US has Undermined Climate Talks with Bullying Tactics and Backroom Deals

Civil Society Denounces U.S. Plan for Fast-Tracking Warming, Worsening Humanitarian Crisis, and Fueling Ecological Collapse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Copenhagen, Denmark, December 2009: Despite President Obama's assurances and claims of progress at the UN Climate Talks, the negotiations continued into the early morning as civil society leaders were left out of the sessions at the Bella Center and protesters gather outside.

"For the U.S., which is the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, to come to Copenhagen and try to strong arm the world into accepting a phony accord that will do nothing to prevent climate catastrophe is beyond irresponsible; it is criminal." said John Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders and member of Via Campesina.

"At the present, before the end of the final plenary, the draft Copenhagen Accord sets dangerously low emissions targets and provides too few resources to stop the unfolding climate catastrophe gripping the planet," said Professor Michael Dorsey with the Climate Justice Now! Network. "The Accord is little more than rhetoric hiding a failure to actually address the climate crisis. This destructive Accord represents a death sentence for Africa, the Amazon, Indigenous Peoples, and small island nations."

"An accord secretly crafted without the participation of developing countries is another example of the U.S. using its power to manipulate the outcome with no binding commitments," said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "We are highly suspicious of the tactics of the US obstructing a Kyoto Protocol agreement, while at the same time aggressively trying to push through a forest carbon offset agreement called REDD+ with weak safeguards that could violate the land and forest rights of Indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities. Indigenous peoples here in Copenhagen have been demanding action -- not false hopes and empty promises -- and these delays and bullying tactics amount to continued carbon colonialism."

"The COP 15 has seen an obscene amount of lobbying by the emerging corporate carbon dealers who are peddling false solutions, while the oil and coal lobbies are still the elephant in the room," said Camila Moreno, of the Global Justice Ecology Project from Porto Alegre, Brazil. "The common sense solutions that have been demanded by social movements and civil society around the world are to leave fossil fuels in the ground and make a deal that is legally binding. Today's developments do nothing to move those real solutions forward and could wipe entire nations off the map."

"This is an emergency and we need climate justice now! We must acknowledge that we from the south are the real creditors and the governments of the North are the real debtors. They owe the world economic debt, ecological debt and climate debt and they must pay now," said Wahu Kaara from the Kenya Debt Relief Network.

Kate Horner, the International Director of Friends of the Earth US, said:"This is the United Nations and the nations here are not united on this secret backroom declaration. The US has lied to the world when they called it a deal and they lied to over a hundred countries when they said would listen to their needs. This toothless declaration, being spun by the US as an historic success, reflects contempt for the multilateral process and we expect more from our Nobel prize winning President."

President Obama stated on the Saturday morning that a deal had been concluded that, while not perfect, was a good one and one upon which further negotiations can be built.

This is a total and utter farce and the way it would appear very few of the developed nations, least of all the United States, the biggest of all polluters, had not even the slightest intention to come to a proper deal as to trying to keep the Planet's temperatures in check below 2dec C.

Way too much was at stake, for them, such as the USA, as regards to their oil and coal industry and to their pollution lifestyle, to be able to agree to what is needed.

The USA refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and they had no intention to create and sign anything that would be legally binding at Copenhagen. Far from it. But then again, who are the biggest payers into the campaign funds of American politicians; the oil and the coal industry.

It was once said that the oil industry in America was in bed with government and that was true then. Nowadays it is the case that the oil industry is in government and we can see this in the way the United States talks nicely but does nothing as far as pollution and emissions are concerned.

Canada is no better either when it comes to the Alberta Tar Sands and as to Britain... in that instance we will have to wait and see for the Prime Minister Gordon Brown may have made promises but may not be able to deliver, especially as he is facing an election in Spring of 2010.

© 2009