Industry reacts to Defense Committee report on Security

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC), the UK's aerospace, defense and security trade association has reacted to the House of Commons Defense Committee report on the defense contribution to UK national security and resilience.

Ian Godden, SBAC Chief Executive, said: "The committee is right to recognise that the security industry works well with Government and to recommend a clear connection between industry and the National Security Strategy. The industry believes that 'we're all in this together' with the authorities and this should be reflected more formally when the NSS is updated this summer.

"The Government has improved its processes for working with the industry to deliver UK security on counter-terrorism issues. However, our sector still finds it difficult to engage the Government in a cross-departmental manner. The most notable omission from the first version of the National Security Strategy from an industry perspective was the absence of a high level sketch of the industrial interface mechanisms and broad capabilities available to the UK Government on security matters. Like the French defense and Security White Paper published in June 2008, the second iteration of the Government's National Security Strategy should consider in more detail how it plans to work with the defense and security industry."

The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) is the UK's national trade association representing companies supplying civil air transport, defense, security and space. SBAC encompasses the British Aviation Group. Together with its regional partners, SBAC represents over 2,600 companies, assisting them in developing new business globally, facilitating innovation and competitiveness and providing regulatory services in technical standards and accreditation.

The UK has the world's largest aerospace industry outside the USA. UK based aerospace activity had a turnover of £20bn in 2007, supporting a highly skilled workforce of over 164,000 people where 39 per cent have a degree and 2 per cent are apprentices (2,769). It is potentially well-placed to exploit further growth in the global marketplace with R&D spending in 2007 of £2.74 billion.

Therefore, I must says that one should not be surprised to the reaction of the SBAC seeing that they, after all, are the trade body of the British defense industry and they have a vested interest in keeping the status quo and even advancing defense spending to that their members can rake in vast profits for often garbage (as can be seen with the equipment the British soldiers have in the current theaters of operations).

As mentioned already in a previous article on this matter, that is to say on the recommendations of the House of Commons Defense Committee report, we no longer need the systems that the industry seems to be pushing upon the country.

What good are nuclear missiles in an age of insurgency warfare and one that could even come home to roost? No good at all. Not that they were ever much good in the first place.

Huge aircraft carriers that are sitting duck targets also are not the greatest idea in this changed nature of warfare. One can but wonder in which world some of those people live.

What is needed, as said previously, is a new approach and weapons and equipment that allows our military to counter the new treats with the proper tools.

© 2009

Warnings regarding the 'surveillance state'

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, Members of the House of Lords have warned. And rightly so, one can but hasten to add.

The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, so the Lords constitution committee said.

Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought.

Too many times local authorities also have been making use of RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was never intended to be used in the way that so many councils are employing it, such as spying on people as to what rubbish is put out when incorrectly and by who, and such like.

The government said CCTV and DNA were "essential crime fighting tools", but this has, in fact, been disproved by senior police officers who have stated not so long ago that CCTV is useless in most cases. So why the continuation of the lie to the people.

The only answer here can and must be that the government of the UK is hellbent on “people control” and nothing else.


Surveillance and data collection, so the Lords' committee says, must be proportionate.
What, however, is proportionate in this instance and who decides this and who monitors this on behalf of the people?

Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data.

Controversial government plans for a database to store details of people's phone calls and e-mails were put on hold late last year after they were branded "Orwellian".

Ministers are currently consulting on the plan, which would involve the details but not the content of calls and internet traffic being logged, saying it is essential to fighting terrorism.

While we are being told that this database will not contain the details of phone calls and emails who is to say that this is going to be thus and, yet again, who, on behalf of the people is going to monitor this.

None of these methods will aid in the fight against crime nor in the fight against terrorism. Only one things will: proper policing; one that is NOT target driven but one that uses the old-fashioned ways of investigations of officers with common sense and a nose for spotting things that are wrong.

In its report, the Lords constitution committee said growth in surveillance by both the state and the private sector risked threatening people's right to privacy, which it said was "an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom".

The public were often unaware of the scale of personal information held and exchanged by public bodies, it said.

He only reason I can see for all those intrusive measures is that the governments are, in fact, frightened of the people and of the power the people have nowadays with the Internet. For the very same reason that they, in Italy, are trying to outlaw the citizen journalist, the Blogger and Blogs.

Instead of alienating the people by such measures the governments should empower the people to take part in the enforcement of the laws that there are and to be the eyes and ears as far as crime and terrorism is concerned and empower the people also the properly, as individuals, to hold the police to account when they do not deal with crime in the proper way.

Target-driven policing is leaving people frustrated and worse. You cannot tell a crime victim that they must book an appointment with an officer to take a statement or too tell Park Rangers when there are hoodlums rampaging through a park, threatening people, that local officers will be made aware and will attend to take a statement in a couple of days.

The reason for such replies is the target culture and the wish to appear to solve everything to which officers are being dispatched. So, if you don't send a response vehicle then that is not logged as such an incident and hence the possible lack of a result in an investigation does not reflect (badly) in the league tables. This is what it is all about and, as far as the government is concerned, “people control”

here is so much misuse of the powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, for instance, that it is hardly surprising that people, and especially organizations that try to protect the civil liberties in the UK, are getting concerned.

Orwell was right only a little too early in the date.

There are and estimated 4,000,000 (in words: four million) CCTV cameras in the UK and often they are used by local councils to simply spy on people over issues such as littering and such like.

The Conservatives said the government's approach to personal privacy was "reckless".

"Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people," said shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve.

The government and the police, as said previously, are alienating rather than making friends out of the public but then they do not seem to care. They rather see anyone and everyone as a criminal and terrorist until proven otherwise. It used to be “innocent until proven guilty” but that was a long time ago.

When the “Miranda” warning in the UK was changed from “you have the right to remain silent but anything you may say will be taken down and given in evidence” to “you have the right to remain silent but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court”, the goalpost was moved and it became a “guilty until proven innocent”. In the same way as anyone carrying a knife may be considered automatically to carry it will ill intentions, for instance. A knife is a tool and not a weapon, primarily, and while there are people who carry a knife as a weapon the emphasis should still be, also with children and young people in the possession of a knife, that there is another purpose there for that knife than as a weapon of offense or defense. Guilty until proven innocent, and in the knife instance often it simply is guilty, whether guilty or not. You do not solve crime that way.

© 2009

National Railway System

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Britain must, and I am serious here, re-nationalize its railroad system, including the operating and running of trains, for the good of the nation and the traveling public.

While British Rail of old may, at times, has been problematic and many of us complained and strikes caused problems at times, in general, it worked and was reasonably priced.

Ken Livingstone (and yes, he used to be known as “Red Ken”), the former Mayor of London, said on BBC Radio 4 recently that he would suggest that the government bring all the current franchises back into public ownerships as and when they come up for renewal and this is a noting that one can but agree with.

British Rain (BR) may not have been great and outstanding, and the public railroad systems of our European neighbors put us to shame each and every time, it was, however, like those of our European neighbors, publicly owned.

Other European Union neighbors of our and further afield still have their railroad system in public ownership and most if not indeed all their mass transit system too and their systems work and work well and are much, much cheaper than the systems in the UK – or in the USA where they are also private.

When rail fares are so much more expensive than flying – often four to ten times more – then there is something seriously wrong and one should take a very close and serious look into the situation as to why this may be thus.

I also makes no sense whatsoever, in the case of the UK, for instance, to have shareholders of rail franchisees reap the profits from rail operations during the good times while the going is great only for the taxpayer to have to foot the bill when the companies get into trouble during, say, a recession, as presently is the case, for example.

Time we really thought about this.

The only way to run a railroad and other public mass transit systems is to have then in public hands and ownership and not run to make profits for shareholders. This is the only way. Ken is right.

So far most railroad companies in the UK are not delivering a good service for the traveling public and the prices are well too high.

It does not make sense that a ticket – bought on the day – from a town in Surrey to Birmingham International is quoted to cost 215 GBP for second class rail travel when the same thing can be accomplished on inland carrier from Gatwick to Birmingham International on first class for about a quarter of that. Try again!

We also not not need a high speed rail system doing London to Birmingham in thirty-five minutes but we need a rail service that can do that reliably in a half-hourly departure sequence getting us there in say and hour-and-a-half for a price that can beat flying hands down, at say 25-30 GBP second class. It can be done in Germany! Why not in the UK?

For the USA a similar stupidity rules and train travel is x-time more expensive than flying and, once again, this does not compute nor does it make sense.

If government – regardless where – really is serious about getting people to use alternatives to the car then rail travel and mass transit systems must become cheaper, a lot cheaper. And there need to be more trains and/or buses and they must be more reliable. Otherwise people will not buy it.

© 2009

Parks provide the perfect summer holiday

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Tight budgets and the current economic climate might be causing families to holiday in the UK, or simply stay at home, but that doesn’t mean the summer holidays have to be dull and boring. This week families have the perfect opportunity to take part in free, fun and healthy events being held in celebration of “Love Parks Week” in parks across the country.

Parks and Open Spaces are the ideal place to visit whether you have children or not during your staycation, your holiday at home. In too many instances people just have not been making use of their local parks and too many have, for that very reason, fallen into disrepair.

The campaign takes place between Saturday 25 July and Sunday 2 August and is organized by parks charity “GreenSpace” to celebrate all that parks have to offer, with over 600 family-friendly events taking place in parks and green spaces.

From live music events and family fun days to art workshops and sports days, there will be plenty to keep the kids active and entertained!

Paul Bramhill, Chief Executive of GreenSpace, said: “Love Parks Week is a great opportunity to celebrate what parks and green space mean to communities. In the current financial climate parks are more important than ever – they are free to visit and provide opportunities to improve health, relax and unwind, enjoy nature, play and have fun.

“This year we want as many people as possible to show support for the campaign by attending an event and taking advantage of what these fantastic places have to offer.”

Parks and green spaces, as Paul Bramhill said, and as I have too, are more important than ever. They are free to visit and many provide great opportunities on a variety of levels.

Let me just ask a few things of you when you visit your parks and open and green spaces: Respect the bylaws, consider other visitors to the park, do not damage trees, plants or other wildlife and please take you rubbish home with you. Litter all around a park makes it unsightly.

Also, if you enjoy your local parks see whether there is a way for you to get involved in keeping them nice by, maybe, volunteering some of your time to look after them.

Over 600 events will be taking place across the UK, with an expected 400,000 people attending a Love Parks Week event.

“GreenSpace” is a registered charity which works to improve parks and green spaces by raising awareness, involving communities and creating skilled professionals. For more information please go to

For more information about specific events, organiser contact details can be found on the Love Parks Week What’s on guide at

© 2009

Mayor of London urges people to enjoy Love Parks Week

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This week Londoners are being urged to take advantage of the many free and family-friendly events taking place in parks and green spaces across the city as part of “Love Parks Week”.

Just in time for the summer holidays of the school children across the capital “Love Prks Week” has been launched and aims to encourage Londoners, and not just Londoners, for the events are not just concentrated in London, to make use of their local parks and open spaces.

Parks and Open Spaces are, in our current climate of economic uncertainty, more needed than ever in the last decades for recreation and staycation of people who cannot afford to take holidays elsewhere and also who, for reasons of the environmental footprint do not wish to do so.

There are over 100 events planned events in the capital, including the Waltham Forest Mela at Chestnut Fields, a community fair at Mile End Park and a teddy bear’s picnic at Hampstead Heath. Full event details can be found on the What’s on guide at

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: “I am delighted to offer my support to “Love Parks Week” and urge Londoners to take advantage of these wonderful events.

“London is fortunate to be a very green city and we need to preserve and protect our parks.

That is why I am providing funding to revamp eleven much-loved green spaces across the capital and why it is so important that a fantastic new park in the east of the city will be created as part of the legacy of the 2012 Games.”

Paul Bramhill, Chief Executive of “GreenSpace”, said: “I am delighted that parks in London will be playing host to so many Love Parks Week events this year. The campaign is a great opportunity to celebrate what parks and green space mean to families and communities.

“This year we want as many people as possible to show support for the campaign by attending an event and taking advantage of what these fantastic places have to offer, so it’s encouraging to see that so much is planned in London during the week.”

The campaign takes place between Saturday 25 July and Sunday 2 August and is organized by parks charity “GreenSpace” to celebrate all that parks have to offer, with over 600 family-friendly events taking place in parks and green spaces across the country.

Over 600 events will be taking place across the UK, with an expected 400,000 people
attending a Love Parks Week event.

“GreenSpace” is a registered charity which works to improve parks and green spaces by raising awareness, involving communities and creating skilled professionals. For more information please go to

So, everyone, let's hear it for our parks and open spaces and go and use them. But, please use them responsibly and take your rubbish home with you.

© 2009

Does Recycling Really Make a Difference?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Such is certainly a good question and one that is frequently in the minds of many people though not often openly asked because we are being told to recycle and in some cases “forced” to do so. So, how valuable is it really?

While it can be tricky to contextualize the real impact of dropping a few cans and bottles into the right bin, your recycling really does make a big difference if the recycling is, in fact, done right by the municipalities, for instance.

In the UK, for example, when the bottom, so to speak, fell out of the market for glass for recycling some while ago while the bottles were still collected from the bins they were dumped in the same truck – unsorted despite the people had sorted them – and dumped in landfill. The collectors could not get enough money for the material.

Also, we must beware of certain supposed recycling collections, such as those for plastic grocery bags: in the main the cannot be recycled so, while stores may collect them they do end up in landfill anyway. You might as well use them to wrap your trash in them.

However, dome properly, recycling does work and has a very important point in our fight to clean up the environment.

Let's look here for a moment at the benefits of recycling aluminium.

First of all, as with many things in this world, it just takes more – more resources, more energy – to make new things than to recycle old things. Consider that 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce just one single can using virgin materials. In addition to that Bauxite, the raw material from which aluminium is made, is a rare commodity and becoming rarer every minute.

How does that add up in your life? Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours. And, tossing a single aluminium can in the garbage wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.

If energy savings aren't your thing, it turns out the recycling can also have significant social benefits, too. Consider the Cans for Habitat program, a national partnership between the Aluminium Association and Habitat for Humanity, where aluminium cans are recycled through a network of nationwide drop-off locations to raise money for Habitat for Humanity to build quality, affordable housing for, and with, low-income families.

Benefits of recycling glass

Glass is one of the most popular materials recycled, because of its raw material composition – mostly sand – and because it can be recycled over and over again without degrading in quality. In fact, recycled glass is the main ingredient in making "new" glass, and an estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles.

Every 20 glass bottles you recycle will save two pounds of carbon emissions; that adds up to 700 pounds of carbon emissions – the equivalent savings of line-drying your laundry for six months – saved per ton of glass that is melted down.

However, having said the above, one of my pet peeves is in fact the recycling of glass bottles that are not broken and could much better and cheaper for much less energy be simply cleaned and refilled and used again.

Such as system was in use all over the place, in Europe as well as the USA, up until about the mid-1970s. Then suddenly everything ended up first in throw-away glass bottles, such as soda and coke, and later, finally, in plastic ones.

There is, however, no need for a glass bottle, or any glass container for that matter, to be broken up and remade into new glass. All it needs is for them to be cleaned and refilled. That simple. The savings are tremendous, for the economy and especially the environment.

Recycling should only, though, be number three or four in our considerations as to what to do with out waste.

First of we should think about reducing the amount of waste that we generate; then we should look at how we can reuse repurpose and upcycle some of the things that are often considered waste; and finally and only then, we should think of recycling.

Glass bottles, and glass containers per se, should not ever end up in the trash nor the recycling – unless broken – but should go back to whence they came to be cleaned and refilled and thus reused.

But everywhere we look, in Britain at least, so far the talk is only about recycling of glass and making it into new glass and other products.

If we really, as nations, want to do somenting to reduce the use of energy and the waste of resources we must get back (1) to the use of glass over plastics as far as bottles and other containers are concerned and (2) we must get back to a return for refund scheme for bottles, as it used to be, and (3) add into such schemes also glass jars of every kind.

General recycling

While recycling is beneficial for the environment and even the economy – to a point on both counts – it would be much better if we, ourselves, everyone that is, would think before we toss anything out as to whether it could be used for something else or whether there may be someone who could use it for something else.

When it comes to recycling of materials other than aluminium and glass there are some that simply cannot be recycled, despite at times the public being misled by a variety of claims for the manufacturers and also even politicians that those can be recycled.

Such are, for instance, drinks pouches and also many a candy wrapper, as well as packaging of potato crisps (potato chips as our American cousins would call them) and other such kinds of snacks. In most cases those packaging are a laminate of a variety of materials that cannot be separated and hence the packaging cannot be recycled.

Companies such as TerraCycle, however, and also initiatives such as Trashe Bolsas and others in the Philippines upcycle many of such materials into products that are very well made and very useful to boot.

There is, in fact, a great deal more of materials that we use – especially for and in packaging – that simply cannot be recycled. It is, therefore, high time that we rethought carefully – as nations and individuals – as to what we are using. The people, that is you, I and everyone, could force a change if they would just be prepared to do so.

© 2009

Prescription for REAL Healthcare Reform – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

by Howard Dean, MD
with Igor Volsky and Faiz Shakir
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing June 2009
ISBN 978-1-60358-228-5
Paperback 140+ pages Price USD 12.95

It is absolutely amazing what a disaster the current US “Healthcare”system actually is and it is even more astounding that so many people, especially in the conservative (Republican) camp do not seem to get it, even those of the poor level..

In many places I read of them ranting and raving against the national health care system proposed by President Obama and his team. They cite the British National Health Service making out that it is extremely bad without having any real knowledge of the NHS whatsoever.

I am in Britian and Ii thank the g-ds each and every time when I hear about the problems people have in America paying for medical care that I live here. Thanks!

The only people who win in the US health insurance system – or should we better call is scam instead of system – are the insurers and not those are depend on the insurance. Good for Howard Dean to point this out so clearly in his book. One can but wish and hope that people will read his book and understand what he is saying.

Howard Dean makes a great point for a proper health care system in the United States, one that actually benefits the people, all the people. Such a system is about time too.

With the recent issue of the Health Care Plan and Bill put forward by the Obama administration the opponents – the g-ds only know why but I guess we can make and educated one, guess that is – of this bill are still talking about how bad such a socialist – it is not just by socialists – and where do they get that idea from – health care system, the National Health Service (NHS), supposedly is in Britain.

Claims have been made in this connection that if you have cancer in Britain you will die under the NHS. Such claims are nothing but lies perpetrated by people with a hidden agenda. The British NHS has the finest cancer hospitals and a great majority of them world leaders in the field.

While the British NHS is not perfect and many of us moan about it and waiting lists for hospital treatment and such it is a good service and one that is not very expensive.

America would do well to adopt a similar system to the UK or Canada, for it works and has worked ever since its inception, when Bevin launched it.

No political party in the UK would dare to touch the NHS, not one of them, whether right or left of the political spectrum, for the NHS is – basically – loved by the people.

Maybe readers would like top consider as to why so many people from all over the world try to come to Britain to be treated in the NHS hospitals. I am sue it is not because the service is a bad one. They come here because we have some of the best doctors working in the NHS and the treatment is free.

From what I have so far seen and understood of the Obama Health Care Bill it will not replicate the same health insurance system as in Britain or Canada where health care will be affordable for all paid for via deductions from the paycheck.

As Howard Dean makes the case to employers for instance this kind of all inclusive health care via insurance where everyone pays into from the paycheck – as is also found in most other EU member states – is also much kinder on the pockets of employers.

I must say that I am always amazed that most Americans do not seem to get this fact at all.

The scream is always as to “socialized” medicine though that they presently have is, on the other hand, only something that benefits the insurance companies and the doctors but not the people.

This is a fact that is clearly demonstrated throughout this book by Howard Dean and his co-authors and we can but hope that this book finds many readers and that those who read and understand the message will find a way to communicate the truths contained herein to anyone and everyone that they know. Thus American and the Americans may one day have a health care system that really does them justice.

Most recommendable book.

© 2009

Free fun events for families as Love Parks Week launches

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

(Saturday 25 July) The summer holidays are here and more than ever, families are looking for cost-effective ways to entertain the whole family on a budget. And this even more this year than in previous years.

Staycations are on the books for a lot of people and parks are a great way to spend some time of your staycation, your vacation at home.

Love Parks Week, organized by parks charity GreenSpace, kicked off on Saturday, July 25, and offers the perfect way to beat the kids’ boredom on a budget, with hundreds of family-friendly events taking place in parks and green spaces across the country.

With over 600 events ranging from live music events and family fun days to art workshops and sports days, there will be plenty to keep the kids active and entertained!

The campaign runs between Saturday 25 July and Sunday 2 August 2009 and celebrates all that parks have to offer, while calling for continued investment and support for these valuable community assets.

To find Love Parks Week events happening in your area visit

Paul Bramhill, Chief Executive of GreenSpace, said: “Love Parks Week is a great opportunity to celebrate what parks and green space mean to communities. In the current financial climate parks are more important than ever – they are free to visit and provide opportunities to improve health, relax and unwind, enjoy nature, play and have fun.

“This year we want as many people as possible to show support for the campaign by attending an event and taking advantage of what these fantastic places have to offer.”

Love Parks Week is an annual campaign, organized by parks charity “GreenSpace”. The campaign was founded in 2006 and has grown steadily. It is now established as a major event that is celebrated in parks across the country.

Over 600 events will be taking place across the UK, with an expected 400,000 people
attending a Love Parks Week event.

“GreenSpace” is a registered charity which works to improve parks and green spaces by raising awareness, involving communities and creating skilled professionals. For more information please go to

For more information about specific events, organizer contact details can be found on the Love Parks Week What’s on guide at

© 2009

Government says country should not attempt to be self-sufficient in food

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Britain must not bury its head in the sand over food supplies, warns the environment, food and rural affairs committee

Britain should grow more crops to avoid global food crisis, MPs of the environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) committee, have said.

However, in the same breath they stress, that Britain should not try to become food self-sufficient because that could make the country even more vulnerable to supply shortages. A single disease could devastate staple foods and it might be seen as to exemplify an "every country for itself" approach, said the MPs.

Any attempt for the country to attempt to be self-sufficient in food would be detrimental for us all, they say but somewhere along the line this does not compute in my eyes. I mean I may be stupid but self-sufficiency should, in my view, be the goal, before we ever think of exporting food.

While I see the reasoning as to disease, and the Irish potato famine, caused to some degree by (late) blight is a good example, it is also a lot of hogwash as the country does not rely, unlike the Irish poor did, on one source of food.

As to importing: well, that is a different story. Sure we will, as long as we are able, I am sure, import the fruit and vegetables from abroad. We should, however, leave foreign meat where it is, especially the likes of American beef that is mostly raised in the horrible feedlots and also the like of the Brazilian beef that is raised in the destroyed Amazonian Rainforest.

On the other hand the same MPs said that the UK could do far more to improve homegrown food production: "Only 10% of the fruit consumed in the UK by value is grown here. Apple orchards have reduced by nearly 33% in just 10 years and less than a third of the apples eaten here are grown here".

What they do not seem to say though is that most of our apple orchards have been grubbed out over the last couple of years, especially the great English eating apple varieties, because of too much cheap imports from abroad.

When it comes to the notion of more homegrown food one can but agree with those people in this committee and that is the same reasoning that I have been employing for years now. However, my reasoning is, primarily, that the country should look after itself before we think of exporting.

That, however, is not what those people want, for at the same time those members of parliament in this working group called for more research money, particularly into GM and other hi-tech food production.

A minister denied that they want to start intervening in telling farmers to grow what where and how, the truth, however, is a different one, methinks.

The same minister also said that people should primarily eat vegetables and salads and should rethink their protein intake from meat. Oops, here we go!

I think we can all see where those people are coming from. Their interest is the GMO farming industry and one can but wonder how much money this “think tank” is getting from the likes of Monsanto, et al. I call into question the independence of those – and many other – think tanks and quangos. Many of them seem to be in some big organization's pocket.

The real fact that this country, and it does not just apply to Britain, must become self-sufficient, as self-sufficient as possible, in terms of food and everything else possible. This is what helped us to win the war against the Hitler Fascists in World War Two.

We do not need GMOs that are untested as far to human consumption and neither do we need those to feed livestock as, once again, we do not as yet know what this may do to us, as humans. GMOs also may contaminate other crops and hence we should reject that method of playing G-d.

I rest my case and leave the reader to come to his or her own judgment here.

© 2009

N-power's parent RWE not as green as they may wish you to think

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

RWE, the company which wholly owns the British energy company N-power, the latter which loves to claim to be soooo green and often claims in their sales tactics to be only providing green energy from renewable resources, has been caught red-handed manipulating nuclear power entries in Wikipedia, German edition.

Now who would have thought of them employing such tactics? I for one, however, am not surprised, having encountered the scrupulous sales tactics of N-power's agents and the blatant lies that they bamboozle the unsuspecting people who are interested in buying green energy with.

Not so long ago N-power has been wrapped over the knuckles by the British authorities for their misleading sales tactics and such like but despite that and despite complaints from members of he public to the company's CEO and other bodies the company still goes about the place using the same tactics.

Customers and potential customers should note that (1) N-power is wholly owned by the German energy giant RWE (Rheinisch-Westafaelische Engerie) and (2) that RWE is a nuclear producer.

And at this point I shall rest my case with the little addition of “let the potential customer beware and research before commitment”.

Just some food for thought.

© 2009

Brita Climate Ride 2009

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

September 26–30th, 2009 will see the 2009 Brita Climate Ride taking place from New York City to Washington, DC, a ride of over 300 miles and will unite cyclists from all over the country and elsewhere and of all kinds.

The Brita Climate Ride 2009 is the 2nd annual event of this kind where cyclist are riding in order to raise awareness of Climate Change and the dangers posed to our world if we continue to live and consume in the way that we do presently.

Caeli Quinn, co-founder and director of Climate Ride, said the ride is a positive way for people to express their concern about climate change. "This has been a remarkable year for the advancement of climate change awareness in the U.S., but we need to see a significant commitment to curbing global warming and increasing renewable energy options," Quinn said. "Not only does Climate Ride show that it is possible to connect two of the greatest cities in the U.S. by bicycle, but we also educate and inspire along the way. Then we exercise one of our most important rights as Americans, to pay a visit to Congress. The hundred or more riders, and the thousands of people who sponsored them, make this journey possible and send a message straight to Washington – that America must take action to arrest climate change and become energy independent."

Climate Ride is the first group bicycle ride to address climate change and renewable energy issues. Climate Ride also endeavors to show that the bicycle is the ultimate carbon-free machine and a viable form of transportation.

Climate Ride was founded by Caeli Quinn, 32, (Whitefish, Mont.) and Geraldine Carter, 33, (Missoula, Mont.) to raise money for innovative organizations that are working to educate Americans about the impacts of climate change and engage them in the possibility of a renewable energy-based economy, and to mobilize politicians to enact meaningful climate change and energy policies. In 2008, they debuted Brita Climate Ride, the first multi-day bike ride to benefit climate change. They developed a roster of expert speakers (including Mike Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy; Randy Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association; Betsy Taylor, president of 1Sky, and Wood Turner, director of Climate Counts), to educate the Climate Riders about climate science, sustainable energy, and the environment. In 2008, Climate Riders represented 30 states and a variety of cycling abilities from novices to competitive cyclists. The youngest Climate Rider was 21 and the oldest was 78.

Climate Ride is the first group bicycle ride to address climate change and renewable energy issues. Climate Ride also endeavors to show that the bicycle is the ultimate carbon-free machine and a viable form of transportation.

The bicycle is indeed the ultimate, as said above, carbon-free transportation machine and cycling a viable means of transportation, from the school run, going to the stores to commuting to work.

Unfortunately, when it comes to provisions for cyclist, in Britain, as well as in the United States, we find that they are sadly lacking, in the main.

Most European mainland countries are much more bicycle friendly, to say the least, with some of the outright leaders in that field.

Denmark and the Netherlands probably come to mind first in this category, as we are all too familiar with the pictures of cycles galore in places such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen. However, those two countries are not alone and also France and Germany especially have good provisions.

Germany has cycle paths along its entire federal road system and also on your normal country roads where there may not be a cycle path attached drivers are much more courteous towards the cyclist than they are, for instance, in the UK. This is probably because most of those drivers also cycle on other occasions.

It would appear from my experience that most if not indeed all German households have a bicycle for every member of the family and that this is indeed an alternative transportation means there. The cities all have cycle paths that are alongside the sidewalks and this all works most harmoniously.

Britain, on the other hand, makes rather half-hearted efforts as far as cycle routes are concerned though Sustrans, the alternative transport charity, has created a number of cycle routes.

It is not cycle routes for the primarily leisure cycling that we need in Britain but cycle paths on all roads across the entire country and in every city to every place. So far, however, even though often great trumpeted about by the government, any such paths are not continuous also the roads and they also are not safe for riders as there in no physical separation between them and the racing motor traffic on the roads.

A new approach is needed and one where, maybe, the law needs changing which makes it illegal to cycle on the sidewalks and many of them could, anyways, be converted to dual-use without much of a problem. Though some cyclist would have to rethink their attitude to the rules of the road and such.

© 2009

Free booklets to help people in Scotland get active

People all over Scotland can now set off on an active day of exploration from their own doorstep with a series of free booklets on the National Cycle Network.

The four booklets include suggestions for short rides and walks along the Network’s traffic-free railway paths, canal towpaths, coastline and woodland, and the various sights to see along the way from castles to kingfishers.

The booklets have been published by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which co-ordinates the Network. They cover Edinburgh, Fife, Central and Borders; Glasgow and Ayrshire; the Central Highlands, Argyll and The Trossachs; and the Tay Estuary to Moray.

Katharine Taylor, Sustrans’ National Cycle Network Development Manager in Scotland, said: “Most people live within a mile of the National Cycle Network and these maps show how easy it is for us all to get out and enjoy our local surroundings.

There are plenty of traffic-free routes throughout Scotland which are great for a walk or for cyclists of all abilities.

“An entire day of free activities can be planned with these maps, so it can also be a great way of keeping children entertained during the long summer holidays.”

For copies of the free maps, call Sustrans in Scotland on 0131 5398122 or the Sustrans Information line on 0845 1130065. They are also available from tourist information centres, cycle shops, leisure centres and hotel receptions.

Further information about Sustrans, including detailed online route mapping, see the Sustrans website at


Prevent Cancer: Phase Out Toxics in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

CHICAGO, IL, July 2009: The Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC), and other concerned scientists and consumer advocates, are calling on the federal government to require a phase out of carcinogenic and other toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

As the Obama Administration works with Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation this year, the CPC notes that President Barack Obama told reporters at the July 10 Group of 8 news conference, "We have to bend the cost curve on health care, and there are some very specific ways of doing that - game changers that incentivize quality as opposed to quantity, that emphasize prevention."

Most cosmetics and personal care products on store shelves today contain five major categories of toxic ingredients, warns the CPC. These toxics are: frank carcinogens; precursors of or "hidden" carcinogens; endocrine or hormonally disruptive; penetration enhancers; and allergens.

Tables listing these five categories of toxic ingredients are available on the CPC website at

There are only a few exceptions to products containing these toxic ingredients, notably those that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The tables, compiled by Dr. Samuel Epstein and Randy Fitzgerald, are published in their new book, "Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health ... And What You Can do About It."

"Our skin is highly permeable," cautions Dr. Epstein in "Toxic Beauty." Less than one-tenth of an inch thick, skin is a porous membrane that is highly sensitive to toxic chemicals. What we put on our skin affects our health just as much, if not more, than what we put in our mouths."

Some toxic ingredients "illegally remain unlabeled," warns Dr. Epstein. "Of particular concern are hormonal phthalates, and synthetic "aroma boosters" which strongly intensify organic fragrances."

Expressing concerns on carcinogenic products, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, in 1997 Senate Hearings on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Reform Bill, warned that, "The cosmetics industry has borrowed a page from the play book of the tobacco industry by putting profits ahead of public health."

This is a major understatement, warns Dr. Epstein, who points out that tobacco products are labeled with explicit warnings on cancer risks, which relate only to late adolescents and adults.

In striking contrast, there are no warnings whatsoever on cosmetics and personal care products, yet their ingredients pose unrecognized lifelong dangers to the entire U.S. population, including the fetus, following maternal use and absorption through the skin into maternal and fetal blood.

The cosmetics and personal care product industry, other than relatively small U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic companies, can no longer claim ignorance of the wide range of toxic, and even life threatening, ingredients in products manufactured and sold by multi-billion-dollar companies, including those that engage in multilevel marketing.

The FDA is responsible for the regulation of cosmetics and personal care products in the United States. The legislative framework for regulating these products, whether manufactured in the U.S. or imported, is based on the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FFDC) Act, and its amendments.

FDA Regulations stipulate: "Each ingredient used in a cosmetic product and each finished cosmetic product shall be adequately substantiated for safety prior to marketing. Any such ingredient or product whose safety is not adequately substantiated prior to marketing is misbranded unless it contains the following conspicuous statement on the principal display panel: ‘Warning: The safety of this product has not been determined.’" This is commonly known as a "Black Box" warning. The Cancer Prevention Coalition further recommends that financial penalties should be imposed on all companies marketing products containing toxic ingredients until they are completely phased out.

Nevertheless, the FDA has rarely exercised its explicit authority over the last seven decades, no matter how dangerous the product and its ingredients.

The minimal exceptions in the decade following the 1938 Act are just the following few ingredients:

  • Zirconium – containing complexes in aerosol products, as they can induce granulomas in the lung.
  • Hexachlorophene – because of its neurotoxicity; however, this ingredient may still be used in the absence of "an alternative (effective) preservative."
  • Mercury compounds – because of their neurotoxicity.
  • Chlorofluorocarbon propellants – although they may still be exported.
  • Dithionol – as it can cause photosensitivity.
  • Halogenated salicylanilides – as they can induce photosensitivity.
  • Chloroform – "because of its animal carcinogenicity and likely hazard to human health."
  • Vinyl chloride – as an ingredient in aerosol products, "because of its carcinogenic effects on humans and animals."
  • Methylene chloride – "because of its animal carcinogenicity and likely hazard to human health."
The Cancer Prevention Coalition emphasizes that the time to require the cosmetics and personal care products industry to phase out carcinogenic and other toxic ingredients is well overdue.

The Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC), which opened its national office in Chicago in July 1994, is a nationwide coalition of leading independent experts in cancer prevention and public health, together with citizen activists and representatives of public interest and environmental, and women's health groups.

Since passage of the 1971 National Cancer Act, the overall incidence of cancer in the U.S. has escalated to epidemic proportions, now striking 1.3 million people each year, and killing about 550,000.

Our goal is to reduce escalating cancer rates through a comprehensive strategy of outreach, public education, advocacy, and public policy initiatives to establish prevention as the nation's foremost cancer policy.


Nothing wasted, so it is claimed, as supposed recycling rate soars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Epsom and Ewell Council, in the county of Surrey, in Britain, is on course, statistically, to have one of the highest waste recycling rates in the country.

The new recycling system that was started to be introduced in the borough in March has now been extended to finally be covering the whole of the district.

The council now offers a kerbside recycling service for food waste, plastic bottles and cardboard.

People using the new service people in the initial areas of the the borough have boosted their recycling rate to more than 55 per cent.

This means the borough is on course to recycle and compost one of the highest proportions of waste in the country while the cost of the service remains below the national average.

On average, the council is collecting about 30 tonnes of food waste for composting every week and about 20 tonnes of plastic bottles and cardboard for recycling.

The question for the cynics here though remains as to how much of the bottles and the cardboard really is, in the end, recycled and does not end up in landfill due to, say, lack of demand for the “raw material”, that is to say, the bottles and cardboard by the re-processors. This was the case not so long ago countrywide with glass bottles.

The problem is that this council, like so many others, as I understand it, does not take any other plastics for recycling bar bottles and they have to be #1 and/or #2. There are basically no facilities anywhere in this country to deal with any other plastics which, theoretically, are recyclable.

Reduction and upcycling must be the first priority in the fight against waste and not only the recycling idea of processing the articles, such as the bottles and the cardboard, via a breaking-down process, to new plastic and paper/board.

Also, as we have discussed before, it is not possible to make new plastic from 100% recycled and the same goes for paper and board if it is to be of any strength.

Reuse and upcycling we need to look at at a much larger scale than only recycling.

Why can cardboard boxes not go back to a supplier for reuse, for instance, or have companies actually collect them and resell them to people wanting boxes. It is done in some places and countries. Sure this can be done in Britain and elsewhere too.

© 2009

National Green Energy Council Endorses Their First Green Apparel Company

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SAN FRANCISCO, July 2009 | The San Francisco Bay Area, recently voted one of the “greenest” areas in the nation, is also the home of the National Green Energy Council’s newest endorsement. The environmentally respectful t-shirt line, A Lot To Say, Inc., has just been given an exclusive and unprecedented endorsement from the notable non-profit organization.

The National Green Energy Council (GEC) – not to be confused with the other GEC – is one of the largest and most distinguished non-profit organizations committed to educating adults and children about the importance of energy efficiency, environmental awareness, global warming and the responsibilities that we bear in order to save our planet and our future.

Some of their ambassadors include: Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Rudy Giuliani, Ted Turner and Mariel Hemingway.

Green Energy Council President and CEO, Ralph Avallone notes: “In a time where green awareness is imperative but not always followed, we find a lot of fact and fiction between what is really green and helpful to the planet, and what we call ‘green washers’ - not actually green. Our program only gives endorsements to truly outstanding green technologies such as the A Lot To Say, Inc. apparel brand. They are making a difference by educating children and the public through their message and manufacturing process. Their shirts are the ultimate in environmental wear because of these distinctions, and because they are made and manufactured here in the USA with a portion of all profits going directly back into reversing the effects of global warming. This product absolutely stands head and shoulders above its competitors and previous technologies."

The endorsement of “manufactured in the USA” is certainly something that we all can and should endorse, or, if we are not in the USA then “manufactured wherever I live” kind of. Though, even though I may be based in the UK, I would rather take “made in USA” over “made in China” if I cannot have it “made in Britain” or “made in Germany”, “made in France”, for instance.

A Lot To Say, Inc. co-founders and sisters Jennifer Stanich Banmiller and Alison Stanich Power said in response to the coveted endorsement: “We are both pleased and honored by this endorsement from such a well-known and respected national organization. It’s been our goal to create messages of substance on products using the greenest applications possible. It proves that we can make popular products with great messages using responsible technologies.”

Here are the facts:

  • The garments are made from recycled plastic bottles instead of harvested and processed raw materials, which helps conserve our planets limited resources while also removing material from our landfills.
  • The shirts are colored and printed with a revolutionary AirDye? process so it uses NO water. Dying one basic t-shirt takes approximately 15-25 gallons of water, which is often taken from critically scarce sources and released back into the environment after being polluted with the dye products. A Lot to Say, Inc.’s sustainable option replaces the traditional dye and print process with an AirDye? method, which uses NO WATER, requires 70% LESS energy and produces NO hazardous by-products.
  • This revolutionary process reduces water consumption by up to 95%, energy consumption up to 86%, green house emissions by up to 84% and eliminates PVS products by 100% (PVS is a highly carcinogenic plastic with a lifespan of hundreds of years which inhabits landfills for generations).
  • All of the t-shirts are made in the USA, meaning no sweatshop labor.
  • The entire line demonstrates sustainability on all fronts—from what it’s made of and how it’s made, to the longevity of the product and the cost of the shirt (a fraction of what you’d see it for in retail).
The environmental savings are remarkable. For every 25,000 t-shirts sold, the planet will save:
  • Energy – 1,132,500 MJ (mega-joules)
  • Water – 157,500 gallons
  • Green House Emissions – 57,500 (kg CO2 equiv. Emissions)
Aside from being environmentally conscious, these cult status t-shirts are chic and stylish and everyone from Hollywood Blvd. to Haight St. are being seen in them.

To purchase these t-shirts and help reverse global warming, go to Every sale counts! Even something as simple as buying a shirt and spreading the message will help you do your part.

© 2009

Ecogear’s New Line Of Rugged Yet Sleek Bags Are A Class All Of Their Own

New Genus Line Combines Form, Function, And Eco-Friendly Materials To Make For The Ultimate Bag

You’re hiking up a great mountain, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and everything about you is one with nature…everything except that horrible toxic backpack you’re carrying. Luckily, for those in search of a smarter product, Ecogear has come up with Genus, the stylish eco-friendly line of accessories that are tough enough to handle any hike, run, or walk without being tough on the environment. They are unlike any other product on the market and are guaranteed to become your new favorite accessory anywhere you go.

Genus is composed of rugged, yet stylish backpacks and messenger bags that are perfect for anything from a company board meeting, to a trip to the beach, and everything in between. Made from a special material called Ecoweave (Ecogear’s patented PVC-free, harm-free coating), these bags are made with sustainable components and toxic-free dyes, making for completely environmentally-conscious and safe products. They are perfect for the person who loves the outdoors and wants their purchases to reflect that.

“Genus is defined as a class or group,” said Ecogear owner Jimmy Chen. “We named these bags Genus because we think they are in a group all of their own. No other eco-friendly product is compatible enough to accompany you on a climb up a treacherous mountain, and stylish enough to act as a briefcase in the office. They are versatile, trendy, and best of all they are not harmful to the environment. We are very proud of this product, and hope everyone loves it as much as we do.”

This line has five different styles to choose from with options ranging from designs like Snow Leopard with pockets and varied components, to the simpler Mohave Tui suited for everyday use. Bags come in a wide variety of colors including sporty color combinations as well as more professional all-black exteriors. They promise the full functionality of other bags, with the additional bonus of safe and eco-friendly materials. They retail starting at $39.99 and can be purchased on the Ecogear e-commerce site.

Ecogear was founded in 2006 by Jimmy Chen. Inspired by a family vacation and quality time with his children, Jimmy decided he wanted to work towards a cleaner world. Since then, Ecogear has worked to produce high-quality, stylish, eco-friendly bags for people everywhere, as the hope for a healthier environment affects us all.

For more information on Genus or on any of Ecogear’s products please or about Ecogear generally please visit


Environmental Leadership Reinvigorated

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recently at a meeting in Switzerland a group of emerging environmental leaders pledged their personal commitment to creating a new wave of environmental action in the 21st Century. Speaking at the close of three days of intense discussions, the group set out their practical ideas on how to kick-start a deep change in the way the world economy works to prioritise human welfare and a to finally secure a long-lasting, sustainable, approach to the use and preservations of our environment, which is the fundamental basis of that welfare.

“This meeting sought to inspire and foster a new wave of leadership in global environmental governance, drawing on the knowledge of several generations of environmental leaders”, said Maria Ivanova, Director of the Global Environmental Governance Project.

This meeting drew together a stellar cast of environmental leaders over the past 40 years. They included Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the first United Nations conference on the human environment and the Rio Earth Summit; Mostafa Tolba; Elizabeth Dowdeswell; Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner.

“This was the first time that all five Executive Directors of the United Nations Environment Programme have been gathered together in one meeting”, said Maurice Strong.

Other participants included Mohamed El-Ashry who was the CEO of the Global Environment Facility from its inception to 2003; Yolanda Kakabadse, the newly elected President of the WWF International; and Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Senior diplomats that shaped today’s international environmental laws and structures, and those currently involved working to reshape that system, all took part in this debate with a key group of young environmental leaders.

“While the issues are complex and seemingly intractable, there are also many reasons for optimism”, said William Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. “We have made important strides on environmental issues, and need to keep moving forward with new solutions”, he said.

Current challenges identified by the emerging environmental leaders stressed the need to secure greater accountability on environment-related commitments, and advocating for a more central place for environmental issues in decision making and structures. “We need to be making investments in the right places – investing in skills, in young people from all fields, and in our leaders”, the young leaders said. “We will need to be as radical in our thinking as the first generation of doers were, and take action through our networks, using new media and all the tools we have at our disposal.”

One thing I would like to point out and add here and that is the more I hear the word “global governance” as in Global Environmental Governance Project the more I get concerned as to what agenda is being pushed here as with so many supposed green and environmental projects.

Here we seem to have a “global governance” agenda. We have been there sometime already with the United Nations global governance program of some years back and that too had nasty undertones.

While the environment and a proper economy “as if people mattered”, as Schumacher put it, is in all of our interest, for sure, global governance of any kind and in any shape or form must be watched if we value our freedoms, often so hard won.

For further information see the website of the Global Environmental Governance Project at

© 2009

Eco-Gear “Black Rhino” - Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

EcoGear shows that ballistic nylon without harmful toxic chemicals is possible and just as strong as the “ordinary” material.

The Black Rhino is a backpack that was created with all aspects of travel in mind, and comes complete multiple compartments made to fit everything from laptops and cell phones, to clothes, water bottles, and other outdoor necessities.

The Black Rhino is a multi-functional backpack that comes with a multitude of compartments that make travel trouble-free. It includes a section for laptops that conveniently pulls-out to form a padded laptop sleeve with handles for easy accessibility. It also has a deluxe organizer pocket, cell phone holder, and even an MP3 player compartment, complete with an outlet for easy access to headphones. Aside from that, the Black Rhino also features large compartments that are perfect for carrying a change of clothes, shoes, and anything else you might need on a visit to the great outdoors. The bag is made of entirely eco-friendly and sustainable materials including PVC-free nylon and non-toxic dyes. It comes with extra features like padded shoulder straps and a mesh vent back, making it as light and comfortable as possible.

The “Black Rhino” pack is one of the best backpacks of this kind that I have seen, so far, and will be equally at home in the city and the boardroom as in the backwoods and on the trail.

The styling is extremely smart and the bag will go equally well with a business suit as with blue jeans and a lumberjack shirt.

The Black Rhino has an all-black exterior and comes with a soft lined valuables pouch on the shoulder strap. It promises the full functionality of other bags, with the additional bonus of being completely safe and eco-friendly. The bag retails for $59.99 and can be purchased on the Ecogear e-commerce site. For more information on the Black Rhino or any of Ecogear’s products please visit

As far as I understand Ecogear will shortly also have packs the material of which is made from recycled plastic bottles. Together with the ethics of non-toxic dyes and such that should be one of the greenest backpacks of this nature than available, I should think.

Eagerly looking forward, I must say, to be able to lay my hands onto one of them as a sample for review as and when they hit the market.

The “Black Rhino”, as said, is an environmentally friendly backpack that looks good everywhere and with the built-in removable padded laptop bag that will take, so it appears, notebook PCs up to about 17 inch screen, is the ideal bag for today's busy executive who may have to travel at a moment's notice.

You ask as to whether I like it? Have a guess! The answer is “very much so” and I may become rather attached to it, methinks.

Some folks might consider the price tag to be a rather big one at $60 but you get a lot of bag for your bucks and you don't have to feel guilty as regards the environment when purchasing and using an Ecogear bag.

© 2009

Biodegradable plastics

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In all honesty this could be rather a short piece for there really is no such thing as a biodegradable plastic, bar those made from cornstarch and the other kind used by EcoGen.

The rest of plastics, whether plastic carrier bags or other, do not biodegrade nor compost.

There is also no biodegradable plastic carrier bag, bar, maybe, those that are, supposedly, made of cornstarch.

The claim that carriers biodegrade is far fetched for they, like all plastics, will just break down slowly, through the impact of light, and other elements, into ever smaller particles of plastic. But that is not in any way a process of biodegrading. And while thus breaking down those products continue to release whatever chemicals into the soil and the water, and, probably, if and when the particles become small enough, into the air as well. Not a nice prospect and the truth is there are probably already masses of those minute plastic particles in the air that we all breathe.

Even the cornstarch plastic takes up to two years to decompose and I would suggest that we get away from plastics wherever we can. Not that that is a real possibility and feasibility seeing so many things are made of plastic nowadays.

In the absence of real biodegradable plastic, however, we then should ensure that all plastic is recyclable and is recycled and maybe, just maybe, we could, at least as far as containers for packaging is concerned go back to some of the old ways, such as glass bottles and jars, also for yogurts, for instance, and some still come on glass pots.

Such glass containers, as mentioned above, should also be returnable – for a small refund – to be refilled and reused.

We also should and must return to the loose goods sales in the grocery stores rather than everything prepackaged in lots of plastic.

Why, precisely, does Braun have to put their replacement tooth brush heads into those big blister packs of non-recyclable plastics often when the brushes are already “wrapped” in individual blisters of their own? Only so they are big boxes that people can spot a mine off. This does not make sense.

In fact here are so many things that just do not make things that it is rather worrying at times and proof that we have not advanced at all in so many ways.

While I am no Luddite and do not wish to appear as one there are many old ways a technologies that may be much better in our endeavor to live with a lower environmental footprint than many of those modern ways and gadgets.

Do you really have to have a handheld computer, a PDA? Would not a paper notebook and a pen suffice? I know it does for me. The Filofax is also still kind with me. No batteries and no bits that could fail and cause data loss.

I am also one of those people – and I have no idea as to how many of us there may be – who recycles by repurposing as much as I can and I do make my own notebooks, for instance, from “waste” paper.

But I digressed a little – yet again – at the end.

As far as the truth is concerned there are, aside from the cornstarch based and EcoGen no plastics that are biodegradable and hence we should, therefore, demand that at least all those plastics that we HAVE to use are recyclable and are going to be recycled.

© 2009

CobraHead Announces E-Coat For Their Tools

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cambridge, WI – July, 2009 – CobraHead LLC (a leader in ecologically friendly gardening products) is now using E-Coat epoxy coating on the blade of their CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator and the locking collar of their CobraHead Long Handle. E-Coat is a special formulation organic polymer that provides a good looking, tough and rust resistant black coating. The coating is durable but will wear away on the small tool as its blade is in contact with the ground. As it wears away, it breaks down into non-toxic, bio-degradable components.

Readers of this magazine will certainly, I am sure, appreciate the features and value-for-money cost of these high quality tools. The tools are made in the USA from US sourced materials. Not often you can say that about a product nowadays.

The short handled version incorporates a bio-plastic handle comprised of post-industrial recycled plastic and strengthening fibers from agriculturally grown flax.

The long handled version is custom sized according to the user’s height and is perfect for anyone who has difficulty bending over. Left or right handed gardeners will find both versions comfortable to use.

The tools have a knife-quality steel blade of a unique "cobrahead" shape that easily cuts through soil. The blade is best thought of as a “steel fingernail®” that grabs weeds and pulls them out intact, including the whole root. The edges of the blade are quite sharp, so the tool is also effective for scalping and cutting off weeds at or below ground level. Its weeding capabilities are superior to all other small weeders currently being marketed.

The short handle CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator weighs just 9.2 oz and is 13" long. It is available for purchase through the website ($24.95 including shipping) and at select garden stores and catalogs.

The long handle CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator weighs 2.4 pounds and comes in handle lengths of 48", 54" and 60" (inches). The blade assembly adds 8" to the length. It is available for purchase through the website ($59.95 including shipping) and at select garden stores and catalogs.

© 2009

Green Independent Retailers Reveal Upsides of The Crunch, Reservations About Green Shoots and Hopes of a Greener Consumer

( Marks & Spencers (M&S) has launched a national advertising campaign pushing its £200m ethical plan and chiding rivals for retreating from commitment to green issues.

The Real Green Retail Group applauds M&S’s commitment to green retailing, reveals what the economic downtown has meant to them, and their hopes for the future.

Ecology Building Society has seen record levels of savings inflow and greater awareness of the ethics around the financial sector as a whole, although overall profitability is down for a variety of reasons. Paul Ellis, CEO of Ecology Building Society, says, “People are now more focused on the ethics of money so ethical financial institutions will rebound strongly when general recovery in the economy commences.”

Organic Wine Specialist, Vintage Roots has seen its mail order business increase as more people are staying at home and socializing with friends rather than going out. Director, Neil Palmer also reveals one benefit of the economic downturn has been the enhanced relationships he has developed with suppliers to ensure price increases are kept from consumers.
Ethical Retailer, Green Shop has managed to innovate and respond to consumer’s needs by introducing refills for cleaning products which have proved popular. Green Shop’s Jane Powell reveals they have also been able to take the opportunity to consider the future and gear up for recovery, she says “When the economy recovers we are confident that the rain harvesting/ solar side of the business will expand a lot more – partly due to increased Government focus in this area.”

Making use of the slow down to reevaluate and plan for the future has been a common theme amongst the independent retailers who form the Real Green Retail Group. The ethical business sector has seen phenomenal growth in the past ten years and all the RGRG businesses are taking the opportunity to sharpen their message in the wake of a dramatic increase in the practice of ‘greenwashing’ by many mainstream and unscrupulous companies hoping to pull the (not very organic) wool over consumers eyes.

William Lana of Greenfibres believes that the financial meltdown will stimulate a higher consumer consciousness. “Keeping-up-with-Jones at any cost has lead to resource depletion, disparities of wealth, and an unstable global economy. We need to reinvent our cultural drivers. People don’t mind working hard if they feel the system is just; our system isn’t broken, but it could sure do with a major overhaul. Part of the responsibility lies with our elected leaders but we all know that real change will only come from the bottom up, and we – as consumers – are part of a massive Grassroots movement, we just don’t see ourselves as such yet. We need to buy fewer, better quality, more responsible products. Products which have histories to be proud of, and which fulfill real needs.”

Paul Ellis of Ecology Building Society agrees with this view, saying, “We must not repeat what has helped cause the crisis in the first place – untrammeled consumerism. Recovery should be led by moves to a green economy.”

The Real Green Retail Group is a group of environmental and ethical retailers who aim to pioneer and promote the development of Real Green Retail initiatives. Membership of the group reflects authentic environmental and ethical practices.

The group is made up of nine retailers who have operated within the environmental sector for an average of 15 years providing a combined 160 years of experience in Green Retailing. The group is working to pioneer progress in the ethical sector and to ensure caring for the environmental is a consumer's priority in selecting any product or service.

Real Green Retail Group is currently made up of:
Greenfibres, Vintage Roots, Green People, Green Building Store, Graig Organic Farms, Ecology, Green Stationery Co, The Green Shop, Vinceremos.

Further information and latest news from these companies can be found at


G8 Recognizes Need to Act on Super Greenhouse Gases, Considers More Aggressive Stance on CO2

Washington, D.C., July 2009 – As the Group of Eight began discussions on targets for reducing climate emissions, talk was circulating of a possible commitment to limit warming to 2˚C. If the G8 comes to this conclusion, it will be a significant step forward for climate mitigation. The only way to meet these goals however, will be to pursue fast and big cuts in both CO2 emissions, which are causing half of the warming, and non-CO2 emissions which are causing the other half. Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions for example, are predicted to be up to 45 % of CO2 emissions by 2050 under a 2˚C scenario to stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm.

Other non-CO2 emissions include black carbon aerosols, methane, and tropospheric ozone.

Low-lying island states led by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Mauritius have proposed phasing down HFC production and consumption under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty. “This treaty is responsible for creating HFCs, and this treaty has the expertise, the experience and the responsibility to eliminate these super greenhouse gases,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “These HFCs have global warming potentials of up to 14,800 times greater than CO2.” FSM has asked the U.S. to support its proposal to phase down HFCs with high global warming potentials.

“We welcome the news that the U.S. and the rest of the G8 countries are voicing support for more ambitious climate targets,” said Amb. Yosiwo George, FSM Ambassador to the U.S.

“Island nations and other vulnerable states depend on this strong leadership to help avoid the devastating effects of abrupt climate change that are sure to occur without aggressive action on both CO2 and other emissions such as HFCs. We hope this leadership will translate into support for FSM and Mauritius ’ proposal to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.”

The Montreal Protocol negotiations open next week in Geneva and conclude the first week of November in Egypt .

FSM along with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Republic of the Fiji Islands, sent a letter to President Obama several weeks ago requesting U.S. support of the FSM and Mauritius proposal and emphasizing the importance of addressing HFCs immediately: “Even if developed countries made significant mid-term cuts in CO2 emissions, the continued growth of HFCs globally could trigger near-term abrupt climate changes that would destroy our way of life, our homes, and displace our populations.”

Congressmen Waxman and Markey also sent a letter to President Obama requesting that the Administration support amending the Montreal Protocol to phase down these super greenhouse gases, as did Senators Boxer and Kerry. The Waxman-Markey climate bill that recently passed the House phases down HFCs under a separate title. According to sources, the G8 will recognize the importance of phasing down HFCs and reducing black carbon emissions: “We recognize that the accelerated phase-out of HCFCs mandated under the Montreal Protocol is leading to a rapid increase in the use of HFCs, many of which are very potent GHGs. Therefore we will work with our partners to ensure that HFC emissions reductions are achieved under the appropriate framework. We are also committed to taking rapid action to address other significant climate forcing agents, such as black carbon. These efforts, however, must not draw away attention from ambitious and urgent cuts in emissions from other, more long-lasting, greenhouse gases, which should remain the priority.”

“An early victory that takes out a piece of the climate problem that would be 45% of CO2 emissions by 2050 would provide great momentum going into Copenhagen ,” added Zaelke.

Climate negotiators are just beginning to realize that half of global warming is caused by CO2 and the other half by non-CO2 emissions. The non-CO2 half of climate change is also the fast half. HFCs, black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone have short atmospheric lifetimes ranging from hours to days, up to a decade and a half. Reducing this half of climate emissions can produce fast cooling and is an essential complement to cuts in CO2. These fast action non-CO2 strategies, as well as expanding biosequestration through better forest management and expanded production of biochar, are the only ways to meet the commitment to keep climate warming under 2˚C.

The Alliance of Small Island States have called for an even more ambitious climate target of keeping warming below 1.5˚C to avoid passing the temperature tipping points for abrupt climate change which would cause severe sea level rise and devastate their island nations.

The mission of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) is to promote just and sustainable societies and to protect the environment by advancing the understanding, development and implementation of effective, accountable and democratic systems of governance for sustainable development. IGSD brings together professionals from around the world who are committed to strengthening environmental law and institutions to promote sustainable development.



Ecogear’s Black Rhino Backpack Is The Perfect Accessory for Traveling On The Job Or For Fun

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, July 2009 – Today’s world has no boundaries, and whether trekking the globe to meet with clients in Shanghai or cruising to the Caribbean to snorkel in an endless coral reef, Ecogear has created the perfect versatile all-in-one bag to cater to your every need. The Black Rhino is a backpack that was created with all aspects of travel in mind, and comes complete multiple compartments made to fit everything from laptops and cell phones, to clothes, water bottles, and other outdoor necessities.

The Black Rhino is a multi-functional backpack that comes with a multitude of compartments that make travel trouble-free. It includes a section for laptops that conveniently pulls-out to form a padded laptop sleeve with handles for easy accessibility. It also has a deluxe organizer pocket, cell phone holder, and even an MP3 player compartment, complete with an outlet for easy access to headphones. Aside from that, the Black Rhino also features large compartments that are perfect for carrying a change of clothes, shoes, and anything else you might need on a visit to the great outdoors. The bag is made of entirely eco-friendly and sustainable materials including PVC-free nylon and non-toxic dyes. It comes with extra features like padded shoulder straps and a mesh vent back, making it as light and comfortable as possible.

“Owning a business that allows you to travel all over the world shows you the true importance of a good quality bag,” said Ecogear Founder Jimmy Chen. “We know that a lot of people usually have to go through the trouble of changing bags when they switch from personal to business travel and vice-versa. With the Black Rhino we wanted to create a product versatile enough that it could be used for both purposes and still be efficient. We are very proud at the way it turned out and believe that it has the characteristics to become any traveler’s newest prized possession.”

The Black Rhino has an all-black exterior and comes with a soft lined valuables pouch on the shoulder strap. It promises the full functionality of other bags, with the additional bonus of being completely safe and eco-friendly. The bag retails for $59.99 and can be purchased on the Ecogear e-commerce site. For more information on the Black Rhino or any of Ecogear’s products please visit

Ecogear was founded in 2006 by Jimmy Chen. Inspired by a family vacation and quality time with his children, Jimmy decided he wanted to work towards a cleaner world. Since then, Ecogear has worked to produce high-quality, stylish, eco-friendly bags for people everywhere, as the hope for a healthier environment affects us all.


The CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator & CobraHead® Long Handle Tool – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator is a tool that was developed by Noel Valdes, the owner of Cobrahead LLC, as a result of his gardening hobby. The blade is called a cultivating tine.

The US garden tool industry cranked out hundreds of thousands of long handled tools with three and five of these blades on tightly curved tines locked into cast iron heads and with various forms of attaching screws., and the same is true for the garden tool industry in Britain and elsewhere. Those cultivators could be found all over.

Production ceased sometime in the late 1950s in the USA with the collapse of gardening as a necessity by most Americans. The old tools are still out there, and many are still in use by hard-core gardeners.

Noel modified the blade to work as a short handled weeder and cultivator. The tool is primarily a weeder, but it is an excellent cultivator and also an extremely useful planting device. Using it is mostly intuitive, but think of it as a "steel fingernail®" and its logic should become apparent.

It scrapes, scratches, and digs. It can extract huge tap roots, pull out grasses, and shave off small weeds. It works in the tightest areas, but it can cover an amazing amount of ground for such a small tool. It can clean out the cracks in pavers and flagstones. It lays down an excellent furrow for seeds and it makes a nice hole for transplants or bulbs. Its uses are, as they say, limited only by your imagination.

The CobraHead® Long Handle is actually a variant of another tool that used to be made in the US. It was called a single tined cultivating hoe. It used the same blade shape, but with a more pronounced curve, similar in shape to a shepherd's crook.

Noel realized an advantage of making the sharp all-around, flat blade absolutely perpendicular to the handle and this tool can be used as a scalping or scuffling hoe and by holding the tool like a broom, one can sweep off small weeds before they get established. With it, you have both excellent reach and the ability to work in the tightest areas. The tool is also a superb cultivator, and what it lacks in width, it more than makes up for in the efficiency of having the thin blade cut through soil with very little resistance.

As a company Cobrahead LLC decided to “walk the green walk” from the outset as regards tool production and for the company's business model.

The tools are made locally, right there in Wisconsin and all the rawmaterial inputs for both the tools are US sourced. The small tool features steel with a recycle content of at least 60% . Its handle is a unique "bio-plastic" – an injection molded blend of 80% recycled polypropylene and 20% agriculturally grown flax fiber. The flax makes the plastic lighter and stronger.

The long tool features replaceable parts, so should the blade be broken, the tool does not need to be discarded, but can be repaired. The handle is North Carolina ash, considered the best for wood handles of this type.

The CobraHead® Long Handle has an MSRP in the States of $59.95. It is available for that price (including shipping) from the company's website at, and stores and catalogs listed on the site.

Customers outside the USA and Canada can order directly from the website but there will be a delivery charge added then to the cost of the tool(s).

I have have received samples of both the small tool and the big tool for review and I must say that the tools definitely live up to what has been said about them and the workmanship is superb.

They work both very well in small spaces while, as said, they can also cover large areas easily.

The CobraHead® tools are ideally suited for work in market gardening and raised bed operations and the intensive close growing operations that are favored now by many that grow produce for personal use and also for sale.

Having a tool that can weed, hoe and till the soil all in one, so to speak, is a great way to go and the depth of the tillage is very good as well. The CobraHead® tools are the kind of tools you always were looking for but did not know that they existed or you did not believe that they could work that well.

Personally I would not want to be parted from those tools ever again as far as my own gardening work is concerned. I am definitely finding the CobraHead® tools to be indispensable aids in my vegetable gardening endeavors.

© 2009

British Home Secretary backtracks on ID Cards

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior) has on June 30 announced that the planned ID cards will no longer be compulsory for British citizens.

This is one gigantic U-turn on that issue appertaining the controversial ID card system and one which, theoretically, make the 50-billion GBP scheme a farce.

The system that was claimed to be a bulwark against terrorists and all that was nothing but an attempt in “people control” and I may be wrong but I can still see the government, at some stage, do an total climb down and abandon the system of ID cards entirely, for presently they will remain compulsory for all foreign workers and asylum seekers and available as voluntary ones for British citizens.

ID cards will do nothing and can do nothing again the determined terrorist, and are useless entirely against the homegrown Islamic or other terrorists, who would be on the cards as British, even if they had an ID card.

Compulsory ID cards have been in existence in Germany at least ever since the Nazis if they were not there before them and they still exist and it did nothing against the Bader-Meinhoff Gang, the so-called Rote Armee Faktion, and such like. Yes, many of those had false ID cards and in those days forging cards was not all that difficult but...

The money allocated for this ID card scheme in Britain could be much better spent creating green jobs, for instance, and a proper green infrastructure.

And on that note I rest my case...

© 2009

Staycation Ideas

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In order to save money during this financially uncertain time, try going on a “staycation” with your vacation time.

Stacations, in the same way as “fakeaways” aka “fakeouts”, became somewhat fashionable when the economy was beginning to go south in 2008 and with the recession now biting this is something that we will, I think, be seeing more of.

In addition to the financial issue people are also beginning to consider the impact that they are having on the environment with all their traveling to places abroad, and that not even taking into account, I should guess, of the negative impact they may have on the local environment and people where they go.

Yes, I know that tourism brings work to quite a few people in those destinations but at what other cost.

What we are also now seeing – in the UK especially – is people vacationing in the country rather than going abroad and the few “Holiday Camps” like Butlins and Haven have been booked out for this summer well before Easter.

But actually staying home, at your home, for vacation can save you the stress of traveling and the extra money you may have spent while on your trip.

Personally I do not do travel. But then that is me. And definitely not abroad and I do not stay away from home for longer than a day, if I can help it. So, staycation is the way I always spend my vacation time and there are many locations that one can go to for a good vacation time, if one does not want to spend the time entirely in one's own garden, for instance.

Going for a hike on the North Downs, such as Box Hill, for instance, or along the North Downs Way, is how I do it, when the weather permits, or going to visit this or that “attraction” such as museums and such like. While some of those destinations do cost an entry fee others do not. Most museums in Britain are, once again, free to get in, though, as said, other places, such as National Trust houses and such like, have entry fees and some can be rather steep too.

Picnics in the countryside, if you have family and kids, and in local parks are also a great way to spend a vacation at home. Much of this is free and at times it is also easy and cheap to get to.

Below are a couple of staycation ideas that you can apply to your own circumstances and locales.

1...Go to a state fair or city festival. The rides, games & cultural events often cost less than a theme park.
While there may be an entry fee at times and the rides do cost some money, there are occasions when some entertainment for the children comes free, including bouncy castles and such like.

2...Go camping for a couple days. Sites in state and national parks are inexpensive and often have swimming.
Often you can also go swimming at lakes and rivers for free and there also are then opportunities for picnicking and – in some instances – even for camping. Only recommendation and warming: do not use rivers that have boat traffic such as freight and pleasure steamers and such like for swimming. It could be dangerous on more than one level.

3...Take public transportation to your nearest museum. Kids will love the science, aviation, art and history.
Many museums are free and all you have to pay for is the bus or train fare. OK, train fares in Britain can be costly if you go some distance. Take a packed lunch and go to a public park for a picnic.

4...See a morning or matinee movie at a low price and ask if your family can have a tour of the projection room.

5...Local zoos and aquariums are also a great day out though, at times, have expensive entry fees attached. Become a member of your local zoo or aquarium. Most memberships pay for themselves in a short time, if you visit often enough.
Another place worth visiting, with kids too, is a Botanical Garden, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, just outside of London. Very interesting is the research work into medical properties of plants that is being conducted by the scientists there and if might just be possible to learn something on that subject. Your kids might be better educated after the vacation than their peers and they may even have had a smashing time with it.

6...Find a community theater in your area and attend a play. These are inexpensive and fun! Some community theater groups do also do open air plays in local parks and such like and those events are extremely good to attend. The weather could interfere but, so what.

7...Beach it! Even if you do not live near the ocean and the seaside you can still do it. A day trip to a local lake or river can have the same relaxing effect. More relaxing often than going to the seaside with the thousands of people on the popular beaches and no space to sit down often.

8...Visit a farm and go fruit-picking. When you get home, bake something with the fruit you picked. There are also general “pick-your-own” farms where not only you can pick fruit but also, when the seasons is right, vegetables.

9...Go on a Farm Visit. Many farms now have open days or generally allow visitors. If you don't live near the countryside and farms where such visits are possible, there are always, in Britain at least, the so-called “Urban Farms” and all of those welcome visitors. The kids will love the animals and the “City Farms” generally have an area where the children can, in fact, pet the lambs and other farm animals. A great day out for sure.

10..Get an Allotment: Allotment gardening, whether or not you have a garden at home, is great fun and a nice way to grow your own food. The kids will love this as well – most at least. If your garden at home is big enough convert it to a “home allotment” and do the same there. Give the kids their own little allotments where they can grow their own foods. You'll be amazed how suddenly they will want to eat their greens.

© 2009