Companies on a Mission – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Companies on a Mission
Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Sustainably, Responsibly, and Profitably
by Michael V. Russo
with a Foreword by L. Hunter Lovins
Cloth 272 pages, 4 tables, 15 figures
Published by Stanford University Press 2010
Companies on a Mission book_smlISBN-10: 0804761620
ISBN-13: 9780804761628
Price $27.95
ISBN-10: 0804774285
ISBN-13: 9780804774284
Price: $27.95

As the Library Journal states this is a well-written and informative business book that provides valuable tips and background for anyone interested in starting up or managing a socially conscious company.

It is very informative but definitely not a book that you can read in a week for you will be forever making notes on some sticky note pads to stick into the pages in order to go back to it later too – maybe – implement some of the ideas.

"Companies on a Mission” brings academic rigor to the age-old notion of 'going well by doing good' and mission-driven companies succeed, as Mike Russo makes crystal clear in this compelling book, not just because their missions make them greener, but because they make them better. They create quality products, garner a fanatical following, and engender innovation, passion, and fun for employees and customers alike.

But, they also tend to fall flat on their faces when, like the Roddicks with Body Shop, and others, the company and the brand gets sold off to big companies that don't have the same ethos.

While the Roddicks had great morals in business when the company was bought out by L'Oreal things very much went downhill, as far as most of us in the green movement are concerned, and the same also happened to so many other ethical companies when they were bought up by other companies, Rowantree and Cadbury's being just some other examples.

The book is a highly informative and extremely well-written analysis of the creation and growth of ecologically and socially minded firms and it provides a balanced assessment of both the opportunities and the risks that enterprises face in trying to combine social and environmental accountability and survival in the marketplace. While Russo in his book maybe focusing on small firms, the lessons it offers are relevant to all businesses seeking to position themselves and their products as eco-friendly and/or socially responsible. Only, I would think, the bigger the company, especially them publicly owned, that is to say, being one with shareholders, of how ever many, the more difficult it will be.

This also was obvious with the sale of Body Shop, for instance, for while the Roddicks may not have wanted to sell the fact that the company was listed on the stock market and was owned by a fair number of big shareholders who saw this as a chance of making a quick buck the company was sold off to a company that is less than ethical in many of its operations.

But that is my opinion as to the way some of such companies went from good to bad, so to speak, and has, actually, nothing to do with the book.

However, the book is a most valuable source of information and ideas as to how to run a mission-driven company (and the size should not matter) and how to maintain the flow.

Definite worthy of study and worth its price. Only I cannot understand why the E-book sells at the same price as the printed and bound version.

© 2010

Cuban doctors and nurses in Haiti put the world to shame

The doctors and nurses of communist Cuba are the backbone of the fight against cholera in Haiti

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)Cuban doctors on Haiti1 It is they who are the real heroes of the Haitian earthquake disaster, of the human catastrophe on America's doorstep which Barack Obama pledged a monumental US humanitarian mission to alleviate, and where all what happened was a US military invasion.

IS it the fact that those heroes are from America's arch-enemy Cuba, whose doctors and nurses have put US efforts to shame, that their efforts receive little or no recognition in the world's media?

A medical brigade of 1,200 Cubans is operating all over earthquake-torn and cholera-infected Haiti, as part of Fidel Castro's international medical mission which has won the socialist state many friends, but little international recognition.

Observers of the Haiti earthquake could be forgiven for thinking international aid agencies were alone in tackling the devastation that killed 250,000 people and left nearly 1.5 million homeless. But, Cuban healthcare workers have been in Haiti since 1998 and so when the earthquake struck the 350-strong team jumped immediately into action. And amid the fanfare and publicity surrounding the arrival of help from the US and the UK, hundreds more Cuban doctors, nurses and therapists arrived with barely a mention. Most countries were gone within two months, again leaving the Cubans and Médecins Sans Frontières as the principal healthcare providers for the impoverished Caribbean island.

The arrival of the US military forces supposed to come to help the people of the island looked to all intents and purposes from the position of a military-trained onlooker like myself as an invasion.

As I wrote at the time, the landing and disembarkation pattern of the US helicopter gunships that were landing and supposedly carrying aid was that of an invading force taking over the landing zones and securing them by means of firepower.

Figures released last week show that Cuban medical personnel, working in 40 centres across Haiti, have treated more than 30,000 cholera patients since October. They are the largest foreign contingent, treating around 40 per cent of all cholera patients. Another batch of medics from the Cuban Henry Reeve Brigade, a disaster and emergency specialist team, arrived recently as it became clear that Haiti was struggling to cope with the epidemic that has already killed hundreds.

Since 1998, Cuba has trained 550 Haitian doctors for free at the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina en Cuba (Elam), one of the country's most radical medical ventures. Another 400 are currently being trained at the school, which offers free education – including free books and a little spending money – to anyone sufficiently qualified who cannot afford to study medicine in their own country.

What did America do? Nothing.

Cuba's contribution in Haiti is like the world's greatest secret. They are barely mentioned, even though they are doing much of the heavy lifting. The Cuban traveling doctors have served as an extremely useful arm of the government's foreign and economic policy, winning them friends and favors across the globe.

Could not America have done the same? Sure they could have but that would not fit in with the free market policy and the aim of companies to exploit places like Haiti or military aims of taking over that small island nation.

The best-known program of the Cuban medics is Operation Miracle, which began with ophthalmologists treating cataract sufferers in impoverished Venezuelan villages in exchange for oil. This initiative has restored the eyesight of 1.8 million people in 35 countries, including that of Mario Teran, the Bolivian sergeant who killed Che Guevara in 1967.

The Henry Reeve Brigade, rebuffed by the Americans after Hurricane Katrina, was the first team to arrive in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake, and the last to leave six months later.

There is a lot that we all could learn from Cuba and not just from its doctors and nurses if we, that is the USA and the UK, would just be prepared to permit a look.

© 2010

Study shows that over-cleanliness negatively affects immune system

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

noantibacterial-soap_sml How many more studies will they need. Some years back – and I wrote about it in “Grandma was right after all... a little dirt does not hurt” – the discovery, which every Elder knew, was made that a little dirt is, in fact good for kids.

In a never-ending quest to eliminate human contact with germs, science has given society a number of hygienic chemicals. Among these chemicals are Triclosan, found commonly in anti-bacterial soaps, toothpaste, and many other products, and Bisphenol A (BPA), found in the protective lining of food cans. A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor suggests that these chemicals may be detrimental to the immune system and cause allergies.

Both Triclosan and BPA are classified as endocrine-disrupting compounds. They interfere with the body's natural synthesis, transport, and other processes of hormones.

Researchers from UM used samples from adults in the United States and children over age 6. They compared concentration of these chemicals in the urine with cytomegalovirus antibody levels and diagnosis of allergies or hay fever. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies and allergies/hay fever are indicators of alterations of the immune system.

"We found that people over age 18 with higher levels of BPA exposure had higher CMV antibody levels, which suggests their cell-mediated immune system may not be functioning properly," said Erin Rees Clayton, research investigator at the UM School of Public Health and first author on the paper.

They found that children with high levels of Triclosan had a higher propensity for allergies and hay fever. This means that overexposing children to antibacterial soap and other "clean" products actually has the opposite effect of making the child sicker.

"The Triclosan findings in the younger age groups may support the 'hygiene hypothesis,' which maintains living in very clean and hygienic environments may impact our exposure to micro-organisms that are beneficial for development of the immune system," said Allison Aiello, associate professor at the UM School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.

Surprisingly, age played a factor in this study. For example, adults with high levels of BPA also had higher CMV levels, while children under 18 did not.

More research, they reckon, needs to be done to establish a definite causal relationship. Their question is as to whether people really sicker from over-using hygienic products or whether they use those products because they are sicker? Researchers need to study the long-term effects of BPA and Triclosan to see how they affect the immune system.

The proof, however, has been in the studies that were done in Italy some years ago that showed that children who grew up in over-clean homes were sicklier than those that grew up in homes where they were exposed to some dirt, especially out of doors.

Triclosan and BPA are both dangerous, and not necessarily for the same reason. An overuse of Triclosan does the same as too much antibiotics, namely creates also superbugs, that is to say bacteria and viruses that become resistant to the anti-bacterial, antibiotic and anti-viral drugs and compounds.

If it comes to getting rid of nasties there are much better cleaning agents, natural ones, that do equally well as do Triclosan and its like and one of those is acetic acid, CH3COOH, also known as ethanoic acid, in other words, vinegar and using this might just help our kids and all of us.

And allow our kids to get dirty once again... a little dirt does not hurt.

© 2010

Broken Promises

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BrokenPromises Epsom, UK, 12/28/2010: The year, which is about to come to a close in but a few days, has been a year full of promises by this or that politician.

In America, already begun the year before, it was the current President, Barack Obama, and in Britain the coalition government between Tories and Whigs, lead by David Cameron.

When in opposition Cameron promised that, amongst other things, he would bring back “park keepers” in every publicly owned park but in reality such jobs are currently being cut left right and center because of government cuts.

President Obama promised that the American people would get a descent health service, and especially those that were being screwed by the insurance companies but the reality is a fudge that still benefits only those that can afford to pay for their health care and the insurance companies.

He also promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and deal with the detainees, which are in fact held illegally, fairly. Another broken promise there.

Many of the promises, it is claimed, could not be kept due to legal restraints and especially the fact that the government coffers are empty. Whose fault is that?

It is not the fault of the public sector workers, the park keepers that Mr. Cameron had promised for every park, and the poor people who cannot afford health insurance, but the fault of the very government for bailing out the banks which were, so they said, “too big too fail.”

No company should ever be too big to be allowed to fail and how come it was only the banks that got bailed out but not industry in general.

When in Britain old and established companies were feeling the squeeze and were headed for the scrap heap not a single penny was forthcoming from the government coffers but there was money available to bail out the banks that caused no end of grief.

Everywhere we look there are broken promises by politicians and I doubt that the new year will be any better.

In fact millions of public sector workers in Britain and elsewhere are facing the loss of their jobs and with the way that things stand very bleak prospects, especially those that are over a certain age, and especially so as any welfare is dependent on finding non-existent work within a year.

We can but wonder as to whether the return of the workhouse may no be just around the corner in Britain and the way things stand no one would blink an eyelid, as long as they are safe.

It is time that we came to the understanding that our elected representatives do not represent us in any way whatsoever and that their only interest – in the main – is what they can get out of it, be it in financial or other gains. The people are just a minor hindrance.

There is no distinction of the color of their flags under which they rally nor of their creeds. They are all in it only for themselves and for their cronies and have no regard for the people who may have elected them. Unless, that is, the way it would appear, you are one who can fund things for them.

Companies too are, predominately, and not just companies, even public service employers, interested in what money they can make and save by shedding workers and then making other individuals left do the jobs of three or four.

A change is needed in the way our countries and everything are run and a new economy is needed too. In both cases it has to be the adage “where people matter” but presently they seem to matter nowhere. Unless that is, they happen to be abroad, where the UK is spending over half a billion pounds on aid.

Let's get real and let's consider our own people first. No one is going to help us in times of crises. We have to do it ourselves. So why do we have to run to everywhere else?

The time for a new way has come, one where we consider local issues before those further afield and that is as to “government” the same as to food and the economy.

We need to slow down our lives, our economy and our countries, and we must reign in our politicians and their falsehoods.

© 2010

Guantanamo Bay won't be closed down soon

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The illegal prisons camps of Guantanamo Bay on the Island of Cuba will not be closed down any time soon and that despite of the promises made by US President Barack Obama when he took office.Camp-x-ray-detainees But, then again, this is just one of the many promises to the United States people that he has reneged on or that he has simply broken, period.

The US government had to admit that the President's promise cannot and will not be met and that the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba will remain for some time to come and that the so-called “illegal enemy combatants” being held there and their future will remain in limbo.

The prison camp of Guantanamo Bay has been controversial from day one and the declaring of those there as “illegal enemy combatants” even more so. Human Rights campaigners and -organizations have been criticizing the conditions in the camps on Cuba. In addition to that the actions of the US soldiers and those of intelligence and security services personnel gave ammunition to Islamist anti-American propaganda, some not without reason, no doubt.

In spite of all these problems it will not be possible to close the prison camps on Guantanamo in the foreseeable future. President Obama had wanted to close down the Guantanamo prisons at the beginning of the year but, according to White House speaker Robert Gibbs, this has been prevented by “legal” reasons.

He said that it will take a “while” before the plans for the closure of the prisons at Guantanamo can be realized and put into practice. It turns out to be very difficult to put the inmates of the prisons through the American legal system or too deport them and budgetary constraints do not allow the building of an alternative prison nor does it make the transfer of the prisoners to existing American jails possible.

Mr Gibbs speculated that a draft is in existence for legislation that will make the unlimited detention of some – for this we should, maybe, read “all remaining” – prisoner at Guantanamo official. However, so it is said, it will given them, at the same time, the right to challenge the legality of their detention there. Please do not make me laugh.

For Gibbs stated further that some will of those prisoners, which are illegally held,and we must not forget that, will be held in detention at Guantanamo – or elsewhere in military jails – for ever.

Obama has, as said, made many promised that he has decided not to keep when he realized that there was opposition. He could close Guantanamo by executive order in the same way as he could have given the American people a decent health care system that would free at the point of delivery. But he has not been willing to use ExOs in those matters.

The majority of prisoners in the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay have been snatched from the streets of a variety of countries and brought there by extraordinary rendition, including from the streets of Britain and the fact that those people are being held there doe not make our streets any safer. In fact, it gives ammunition to all those that want to fight a jihad against the West.

America, which claims to be the great bastion of liberty, appears to be so different in reality. I mean when the President can even consider to sign the order to a US citizen who may, or may not, be a terrorist, living abroad to be “terminated with extreme prejudice” or when one wants to go after people who have embarrassed the US government like it was done by Wikileaks, what is one to think of that country? Bastion of liberty certainly does not come to mind.

© 2010

Old Christmas trees give life to other trees

Old Christmas trees help other trees grow year-round in Parisian neighborhood parks

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

After all the festivities of Christmas are done and dusted comes the question as to what to do with the Christmas tree around with so many of the festivities have taken place. christmas-tree-recycling-sign-paris While many municipalities, in the USA and in Europe, now have recycling programs for Christmas trees which are recycled by being turned into mulch or compost it is not everywhere you can actually see how yesteryear's Christmas trees help other trees to grow. In Paris, France, you can.

Every year since 2007, the City of Paris has been running a program under which it opens up tree collection points at 95 parks and gardens throughout the city, according to the entrepreneurial news portal Springwise:

<<Consumers need only bring their trees to the collection spot nearest them. From there, the tree will be crushed and used to enrich the soil in local parks, serving to restrict weeds and reduce evaporation. This is Paris's fourth year of recycling Christmas trees in this way, and the program is growing rapidly. From 15,000 trees recycled in 2007-2008, the number grew to 27,150 in 2009-2010.>>

This way, as Springwise points out, the benefits of recycling stay in the local community – and are very visible. When spring comes, Parisians can stroll back to the local park where they donated their Christmas tree, and know that they have done their part to keep it green and beautiful.

This here, once again, shows that the real tree is much better than the fake one when it comes to being eco friendly as it can be recycled in a way that allows other trees and plants to grown and thrive even though that the decaying mulch will, in fact, release the CO2 the tree has absorbed during its life. Unfortunately this method is not CHG neutral as would be the burning of such trees, as is done in some other municipalities, for heating homes.

Real trees, however, will beat fake ones any day and that for more than just the reason of being capable of being recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.

When I was a child we used to collect Christmas trees in the neighborhoods from folks and burn them for heat. But not before we had cut out the bit of the tree that could be made into things that could be sold on markets, such as wooden whisks.

Recycling of Christmas trees should be an integral part of the waste management strategy of every municipality, of every borough, and I am sure that some folks might be prepared to do it for them, who could also salvage parts of the tree from which to make such aforementioned whisks, for instance.

© 2010

Pandemic outbreak of Swine flu sweeping through Britain

A pandemic outbreak of swine flu is sweeping through Britain even though 70% were vaccinated last year


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, UK, 12/27/2010: A pandemic of Swine flu is sweeping through the UK despite the fact that 70% of Britain's over-65 population was vaccinated against swine flu last year. This year, that number is nearly the same with 68.5%. But flu vaccine proponents insist that until everyone is vaccinated, the flu will continue to infect people.

What these vaccine advocates absolutely will not admit, however, is how many of those who are sick with the flu this year also got vaccinated last year. This little detail is left out of every mainstream media report on vaccines and the flu. They simply refuse to mention this all-important number, leaving readers to leap to the incorrect conclusion that only those who were not vaccinated get sick with the flu. An assumption which is false. 

In fact, of the 450 critical care beds in England that are now occupied by flu patients, we can safely assume that most of those infected patients are people who received flu vaccines in the past, including the swine flu version that was being given in 2009.

The side effects of the vaccine, and worse still of the Tamiflu anti-viral drug that was given against the Swine flu, were horrendous. I know, I had the swine flu and was given Tamiflu.

Such statistics are never made available to the public or the press, of course. To release such statistics would expose the Great Lie of the vaccine industry: That flu vaccines simply don't work on 99 percent of people!

In fact, it would appear that in many cases the people who are most susceptible to catching the flu are precisely the very same people who get vaccinated. This could be because vaccines weaken the immune system in the long run, leaving you more vulnerable to future infections. A bit like taking antibiotics too much.

They deny your immune system the opportunity to practice its own adaptive response to invading microorganisms or viruses, thus, it would appear, causing your immune system to atrophy in the same way that a wheelchair-bound person will experience leg muscle atrophy.

The immune system is a lot like a muscle: Use it or lose it!

But flu vaccines provide weakened viruses to the immune system (along with other preservative chemicals that can be extremely dangerous to neurological health). It's sort of like working out your muscles at the gym but having your trainer do all the heavy lifting for you. Obviously you're not going to have very strong muscles in the end because your body won't need to invoke a very strong adaptive response.

The same is true with vaccines and the flu: If your body is exposed to weakened flu viruses year after year, it gets lazy and weak, and when it one day comes into contact with a full-strength virus circulating in the wild, it's not in good enough shape to handle the challenge.

In addition to all that there is a serious Vitamin D deficiency going on in Britain, due to underexposure to sunlight, and we may, so it is reckoned, soon see the reemergence of rickets in our children.

A person who is vitamin D deficient will also have an alarmingly weak immune system response because vitamin D activates the immune system to do its job. In people with extremely low vitamin D levels, even vaccines containing weakened viruses won't solicit an antibody response.

It would therefore appear that the flu vaccine just cannot and will not work in the great majority of those to who it is given and in addition to that many, in fact, develop the very flu against which they just have been vaccinated, often a month or two after the event – the authorities always claim that that will just be a mild form – due to the fact that they have a weakened immune system.

Much of this weakened immune system and immune system response of the population is due a variety of factors of which the lack of Vitamin D might be the biggest, so at least according to some research. However, in my mind there is no doubt that poor diet, often, nowadays, nothing but fast “food” and the lack of contact with the “fresh air” and Nature, probably play a much greater part here.

However, no one is allowed, so it seems, to challenge the assumptions of the vaccine quacks and industry bodies.

The vaccine-pushing quack medical community believes that if they could magically convince 100 percent of the people to get vaccinated, they would have this problem licked. In their own minds, they have unscientifically convinced themselves that a vaccine equals automatic and full protection against a flu virus.

And yet even they won't dare ask this simple question: Of all the people sick from the flu who are right now lying in Britain's hospital beds, what percentage were vaccinated against the flu last year or this year?

The flu vaccine propaganda, of course, demands that people never be allowed to collide with the scientific facts about how many people who are vaccinated against the flu still catch the flu anyway. (The flu re-infection rate.) That's why you will NEVER see an honest answer to this question released by hospitals, vaccine companies or vaccine-pushing doctors.

Keep taking your flu jabs, everybody. But don't ask whether they actually work, because that question isn't allowed to be asked in the cult of medicine that dominates the sick-care landscape around the world today.

We wouldn't want actual science to interfere with a really profitable con job now, would we?

The diet of so many people, old and young alike, today lacks (fresh) fruit and vegetables and to a very great degree are, as I have indicated above, are made up of highly processed foods and more often than not in the form of fast “food” of the McDonald and similar variety.

The reason I put the word food in inverted commas is because I would not regards McD's and similar stuff as food and of no nutritional value whatsoever. Therefore, stuff like that does nothing for the immune system, rather the opposite. No wonder that people are ill all the time.

Environmental factors too, play a part, I grant that much, as can be seen with the increase of respiratory illnesses and allergies. We have really screwed up the world and our bodies to boot.

© 2010

Dublin has announced measures for water rationing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


As if Ireland did not already have problems enough now the country's capital has to start water consumption due to lack of it. That is lack of water not lack of consumption.

Dublin City Council has pleaded with residents to turn off their taps as water supplies run low.

Authorities also fear people filling baths to conserve water for themselves, as report of the problem spreading from the capital with water shortages now reported around Ireland.

Around half of local authorities in Ireland are restricting the flow of water with threats of cutting off people who use too much water being proposed.

During two night in the beginning of December 2010 Dublin City Council took the measure to restrict the supply of water in all areas, from 7pm to 7am.

Measures such as these should bring it home to all of us, whether in Eire, the UK, elsewhere in Europe, the USA and Canada, or wherever, that water is a resource that is by no means ever bountiful (I know, even not when we have had floods) and that we must do everything to preserve water.

Man cannot live without water and neither can animals, whether wild or livestock, or plants and without enough water everything will die.

The aqua cycle seems to have been severely disrupted and turned on its head by the very fact that we all simply use too much of that lovely wet stuff, and we don't even want to talk about the leaks that take weeks and months often to get repaired by the utility companies.

We must do more to look after that most precious resource of water and preserve it where we can.

© 2010

Launch of new compostable checkout bag

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Yeah! Right! Compostable is a very stretchy word, much like recycled and we will tackle the latter at another time.

A company in Oxfordshire is the first in the UK to offer a 100% compostable checkout bag.David Cameron visits Polythene UKPolythene UK has produced the Polycomp bag, which contains biopolymers made up of starch and according to the company they biodegrade fully within just 10 days, as soon as mirco-organisms are present.

The process is accelerated even further when temperature is increased, for example during the summer season, where the bugs are more active in the garden.

The bags are certified as fully biodegradable and compostable according to the European norm EN13432, which was set up to regulate products which are disposed of in composting sites and maybe that should give us the real hint here; the term “ products which are disposed of in composting sites.”

Polythene UK's managing director James Woollard said: “I figure that as checkout bags are something we all use and as we are all about to start having to buy rolls of compostable bags - due to changes in the way our food is being recycled - then why not make one bag that does both jobs?

“That way consumers will be able to buy their compostable bags at the checkout for the same price as they would spend on the rolls of bags, use them to take their shopping home, then reuse them in their green bins, so their food waste can go for anaerobic digestion or other composting methods.”

The company, based in Witney, were boosted a visit from David Cameron in November, who discussed the potential of the checkout bags further with James Woollard.

Mr Woollard hopes to persuade consumers, supermarket buyers, and government members to switch to a 'greener' option.

He said: “Although compostable checkout bags are already being successfully used in places like Belgium, UK supermarkets are currently resisting the idea due to the additional cost.

“However I am confident that one of the major chains will be forward thinking enough to offer the first truly environment solution to the UK's plastic bag problem.

“And with the drive of both consumer and government support I am certain that the switch to this 'greener' option is not too far down the line.”

The checkout bags will be on display at the easyFairs ECOPACK show in February 2010 at Birmingham's NEC.

From the term that I highlighted earlier, namely “products which are disposed of in composting sites” I would gather that this bag may be called “compostable” and may be thus but not within 10 days in your compost heap in the back garden. Absolutely no chance.

We have been there with the bio-plast (also from corn starch) bags for the kitchen caddies. They took in tests – my own ones – up to 2 years to compost in a domestic composter.

Why, pray, do we need to have still plastic bag when reusable cotton, jute, etc., bags can be had at a reasonable price or which anyone with a little sewing machine skill can make?

When our mothers and grandmothers went shopping or sent us to the shops as kids it was with a reusable shopping bag of a variety of materials, and this is not so long ago. This should be the way to which we should, nay must, return.

© 2010

Bring Back Domestic Science

Bring back “Domestic Science” to our schools

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

domestic-science1 For decades British schools have taught what in later and latter years came to be known as “Domestic Science”, though primarily as “cooking” and “home making” to the girls. Only in later years, before the subject was abolished, was it also compulsory for boys, as indeed it should be.

Today most girls leaving school, and the boys definitely, have no idea how to cook a meal for one or so a family, from scratch, and while the home has to take a great of blame for this, the school system too must shoulder a fair amount of it.

Having not gong through the school system anywhere – thank G-d – I cannot say how much on other domestic skills the “Domestic Science” curriculum contained, such as sewing, etc., but it should and boys equally should learn how to sew and how to repair clothes as should girls.

It would do good for the boys that see sewing as sissy and as beneath them to remember and consider that most top tailors and fashion designers are not women but men, and men's outfitters have always been. And no, most were and are not gay.

For boys, in the time when “Domestic Science” was, basically, the sole domain of girls, there were the DIY lessons, from which girls were, in the main, excluded. But neither exclusion should be and such subjects should be open to,(and even compulsory for, both sexes.

Both cooking and sewing, and other, let's call them “domestic crafts”, must be taught to both sexes and the same must be for “woodwork”, as it was, I think, called, or technology and such nowadays, so that both are capable of cooking a meal, looking after themselves in that way, repair their clothes and if this be only sewing on a button, or fix an electric plug, etc. to build a bookcase from scratch or even scrap wood.

Those skills will, of that I am certain, become, once again, extremely important as things are about to change significantly once we have come to the final end of cheap oil and we may have to be able then, alone for reasons of costs, be able to repair things again and to make things for ourselves, and this includes growing our own food at home, where possible, and to make meals from such home-grown food.

All those skills must, in fact and reality, become part of the curriculum of a new “Domestic Science” or “Domestic Skills” education in our schools. But the home has to pay its part here too.

So, lets bring back “Domestic Science” to our schools and let it starts at elementary school already.

© 2010

Lakeland “in the kitchen” – Spring 2011 – Preview

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

6215_KIT1_2011.indb Epsom, UK, 12/26/2010: In the next couple of days or so this latest catalog from Lakeland will be dropping onto customers' doormats and into their letterboxes and it is, once again, a catalog that is well worth a very close look for those interested in green issues and saving money while cooking, for instance.

On page 3 already it starts with the “Scudle” the use of which will help reduce food waste and while the material may not fall under “green” the food savings factor will.

The catalog then continues with preserving bottles and other food storage jars and containers on the next page and also further inside of it.

Home bread baking, which is becoming ever more popular by the week, it would appear, is being taken care of on pages 34 and 35 of the catalog, with 3 different types of bread makers on the latter page, and breathable bread storage bags and other bread storage containers on page 41.

healthy food preparation, as in cooking, is also, pardon the pun, catered for in the form of a number of steamers, slow cookers (crock pots), and pressure cookers, starting on page 64 with the EXQ steamer, run on electric, and the stainless steel steamer on page 93 which is for stove top use on the hob.

Both the slow cookers – electric, obviously – and the pressure cookers – some electric and dome for stove top use – come in a number of different types and prices. Crock pots are brilliant for cooking food, whether roasting meat (though somewhat different in taste from oven roasted), to doing vegetables or one-pot meals, such as casseroles, slowly and tasty. I would have never thought that I'd ever make use of a slow cooker that much but I rather use that than the oven and not just because of the energy savings by using the crock pot.

Steamers too are brilliant for cooking, especially, as far as I am concerned, vegetables and I am sure that once you have started using a steamer for your veg you do not ever want to go back to boiling them. Pressure cookers too are generally extremely energy efficient and produce great tasting healthy food.

Other products in the catalog too are worth looking at such as the lovely pestle and mortar sets for creating your own freshly prepared herbs and spices and pestos.

Once again a catalog full of interesting products as far as energy saving and such is concerned.

© 2010

Britain says it will ignore medical advice on pesticide-spraying

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The public will not have to be notified when crops, fields or parks are being sprayed with pesticides potentially harmful to their health, despite warnings from the British Medical Association.

172895Campaigners have reacted with dismay to a Defra announcement that farmers and greenkeepers will not be required to notify residents when they are spraying pesticides.

The British Medical Association (BMA) had advised the government that it should introduce mandatory notification of spraying to alert 'vulnerable groups such as those suffering from respiratory problems'. Defra's own consultation on the issue admitted that the public believed the current voluntary approach was not working and that public signs indicating spraying had taken place should be compulsory.

However, the government has ignored the public and medical profession, saying: “We do not believe it is appropriate to introduce a statutory requirement for operators to provide advance notice of planned spray operations to members of the public living adjacent to sprayed land.”

Pesticide campaigners said the government was pandering to the interests of industry. “The reason they are not prepared to do anything is their ideological dislike of regulation, it is not based on science,” said Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN-UK) policy officer Nick Mole.

The UK is required to show how it will meet new EU rules on pesticides due to come into force at the end of 2011. Defra said it only planned to make 'minor changes' to existing voluntary measures, which will mean calls to ban pesticides in areas used by vulnerable groups, such as school playing fields and parks, will also be ignored.

Farming minister Lord Henley defended the move, saying he was following 'sound scientific evidence'.

“By making a small number of changes to our existing approach, we can continue to help feed a growing global population with high-quality food that’s affordable, while minimizing the risks of using pesticides,” he said.

Pesticide campaigner Georgina Downs said it was 'outrageous' for Defra to suggest it had no compelling evidence to justify a ban on the use of pesticides in certain areas.

“The prohibition of the use of pesticides in the locality of homes, schools, children’s playgrounds, hospitals and public areas is absolutely crucial for public health protection, especially that of vulnerable groups,” she said.

Nick Mole said a 'key opportunity' to bring in a targeted reduction in pesticide use and advance notification warnings had been missed. One that 'gives lie to David Cameron's view to make this the greenest government ever'.

But who can continue to believe any claims that David Cameron made before he came to power as Prime Minister.

I remember how the now Prime Minister when in opposition time and again stated that he would “bring back the Park Keeper” as resident staff to all publicly-owned parks and open spaces but what is happening now? Park staff, especially resident park staff, are cut and CABE, the organization that ran “Park Force”, is being closed down. So much for the promises of the now Prime Minister.

While we know that the previous government wasted most of the money that the country had and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer left a lovely note for the current Chancellor saying that there was no money left the way this new government is running things certainly is entirely contrary to the promises that they were elected on.

It would appear that the old adage of “How do you recognize that a politician is lying?” with the answer being “His lips move” is all too true for it does not seem to matter which side they are on they are not interested in the people but only in themselves.

© 2010

The Young Market Gardeners – Book Recommendation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TYMGcover_sml2The Young Market Gardeners
by Ethelind Fearon
Published by Lutterworth Press, London
First published 1953 (which also appears to be the only time)
Price: 10s. 6d. net

A book full of commonsense as to market gardening and vegetable, etc. gardening in general and not just for youngsters.

The book is written in the first person, as if by a young person, and is very funny at places that will make the reader laugh out loud. I certainly have done so more than once.

The Young Market Gardeners is a book that is easy to read and the gardening advice and truths are easily absorbed.

Obviously, the money terms are something that many today will no longer have any knowledge of, e.g. Pounds, Shillings and Pence, with a Pound Sterling being made up of twenty shillings and a Shilling being made up of 12 pence. Also the compost brands and those of pesticides, etc., are something that, like £, s. and d., are part of history. Some also may have a problem with the measurements of things as Imperial measurements of inches, feet, etc., are also no longer part of most people's knowledge and the same is true for temperatures in Fahrenheit, unless one is in the USA.

Despite those little things, however, this is a book that should be put back into print quickly, in the way that it is written without changes of any sort, as it teaches some rather valuable lessons regarding the growing of vegetables. Alas, presently, this book is very much “out of print” and but a few copies seem to be left and those that do appear for sale seem to be rather costly.

If a copy can be found for a decent price then it is well worth acquiring it and that fast and then holding on to very tightly.

The Young Market Gardeners is a book that will become a much needed resource again in time to come, of that I am sure, and thus it would be good to republish it, even and especially as an E-book.

© 2010

Snow Disruption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

hammond Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has asked the Chief Scientific Adviser to review the probability of severe winter weather becoming a regular feature and he plans to use the Chief Scientific Adviser’s advice to establish whether there is a case for greater investment in winter resilience in the future.

David Quarmby’s independent report into the response to the severe weather experienced earlier this month is published today. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Quarmby said “It’s certainly not true to say that the government and local authorities have not been prepared. So far as salt goes, I think we have been very ready for this particular winter. It’s just that it’s come early and been very severe.”

Mr. Hammond expressed sympathy for stranded travelers whose plans have been disrupted by the severe weather, saying that he understood that it was “particularly stressful just a few days ahead of the Christmas break.”

He added: “Nonetheless, the reality is that, with further severe weather forecast, Heathrow is likely to be operating at reduced capacity for the next few days and passengers need to recognise it may not be possible to reach their planned destinations this week.

“Once we’ve got through the problem, once we’ve got things moving again then we will have to have that discussion and find out exactly what went wrong, and most importantly what went wrong in handling passengers who were stranded.”

Addressing the road network, Mr Hammond said that salt stocks were at a much higher level than last year under Labour, and that a national strategic salt reserve now existed for the first time to support local authorities.

The problem, however, has not been an isolated British one. Other EU countries that have been hit by severe snow and ice, even countries such as Sweden, have had serious problems. Only no one seems to be mentioning it in the UK.

Germany too had to shut a number of its airports and on the roads and rails there has been chaos.

I am really amazed though that the likes of Germany and Sweden, who never seemed to have much problems in the past in severe winters, seem to be having problems now. Did everyone really think that the climate was going to be changing to so much warmer that we no longer needed road salt, grit and snowplows. It really would seem thus.

The theories as to why we have been having three consecutive cold winters recently are many and one of them the one that because of the ice melt – supposedly – in the Arctic the winters will be colder here in Northern Europe, including Britain.

What, however, if it has nothing to do with that at all but with a possibility of the Gulf Stream having left us? That possibility has looked rather on the card, and it is being caused, more than likely, by the damage that we, humans, have done to the ecosystems at the Equator, especially as regards the Amazon Basin and the rainforests in that region.

If that be the case then we better get used to a much colder overall weather pattern/climate in countries such as Britain seeing that London, England is about on the same latitude as is Toronto in Canada. Welcome, therefore, to a much more arctic Britain.

Therefore the governments, and the public, better get prepared for a completely new era of weather even though it is not new, as Britain has had very cold periods before (and I am not talking of the Ice Age here) such as in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, for instance.

Preparations may have to include more salt for gritting roads, snowplows and especially a way of insulating homes and buildings in general.

As to road, rail and air travel in such times we may have to come to terms with the fact that that may just not be possible for a while when such weather hits us. And the way things do appear in due course much of this traveling may no longer be in the real of feasibility any way once the era of cheap oil has come to an end; an end that is close to hand.

© 2010

Cutting costs with web conferencing

Cutting costs with web conferencing for the Public Sector

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Cut costs with web conferencing – but take care to manage the cultural transition well

With public sector spending high on the political agenda, Adobe Systems' Will Cawthorne argues that web conferencing is one of the best ways of cutting costs - and offers advice on the practical and cultural issues that need to be managed to encourage take-up.

He said: “In this new age of public sector austerity - and indeed openness - one area of expenditure that is coming under increasing scrutiny is travel. Only recently the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles published details of all his department's spending over £500. He revealed that last year alone the department spent more than £1.5m spent on hotels and transport - including £635,000 on taxis and cars.”

And he continued: “At Adobe we are firm believers that web and video conferencing can make a real dent in these kinds of costs. Indeed, Adobe has been proactive in integrating its own online conferencing solutions to ensure that colleagues can collaborate remotely, hold meetings and facilitate 'anywhere' learning.”

BUT, let me tell you, you DO NOT need to use Adobe. There are far better and cheaper service available from other sources.

I to anyone, and especially the public sector, which is in dire financial straights at present, to look for alternatives in video conferencing and to look especially, as with other software too, at Open Source software and at web based services, some of which are free to use even.

Many conferences can be held online, either via video conferencing software or via web based service and even entire exhibitions could be held virtually. While it is not entirely the same as visiting an exhibition on terra firma it could save a lot of money and reduce the environmental footprint of an organization tremendously. So, it is good for your finance and for the Planet.

© 2010

Most of what passes for “green” in business only tinkering at the edges?

Is most of what passes for "green" in business only tinkering at the edges of a global economy built on the passing mirage of cheap oil?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The answer is a resounding YES...green_business_sml

At least 64 countries around the world, and most of the major oil companies, are now clearly past the point of peak production (in some case many years ago already), so we can expect a series of energy price and supply shocks similar to that of 2008 as the production of oil for the global economy declines.

Many of those countries and oil companies are also well aware of this Peak Oil fact by now. Only they still refuse to tell the general public.

The New Zealand government and a former US Energy secretary are now saying so, as US Strategic Air Command, Lloyds Insurance, a UK Industry Task Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security, the current British Energy Secretary, and the Transition movement, of course.

Transition has the tools, techniques, approaches and, in the Transition Network, the expertise to help businesses, organizations and communities adapt, and find positive opportunities. Yet in most boardrooms, there's still huge misplaced faith in continuing growth – well beyond the planet's means – and the debates is whether they have now, maybe, done enough on the green agenda, rather than how they plan to kick the oil addiction.

Many people and companies still do not see, and even refuse to see, the key issue of peak oil.

With the global recession following hot on the heels of the last commodity spike, global oil consumption dropped just enough to fall in line with global oil production.

Overhead issues suddenly became income issues and for many, the focus of their attention was shifted. As recession turns to recovery and the world's haulage industries and manufacturing industries start to stir back into action, fuel issues will again hit the headlines as consumption again exceeds OPEC's agreed outputs.

While we often refer to Peak Oil – and I have done so in the title of a small book – at the “End of Oil”, it is, in all honesty, but the end of cheap oil, as there will remain some oil in the ground.

That oil, however, I think will also remain there and that because of reasons of economy. It is way too expensive to bring this remaining oil to the surface as simply no one will be able to pay for it. Liquid black gold oil was once referred to and in due course, I am sure, the price will also be going to reflect that.

Many businesses do not consider any “not business as usual” models in which they could anticipate energy security-based risks, re-orientate their thinking and still thrive and prosper. Such models, however, must be considered for the BAU model will no longer be feasible.

We must get away from the abuse of oil and reduce our consumption. As far as energy generation is concerned we must go renewables and to the burning of waste to energy, methane gas and electricity generating plants powered by that gas, and such.

We also must reduce our energy consumption, full stop. We just cannot continue to use electricity, and other non-human and non-animal energy, the way we have been doing for the last century or so. It is just simply not sustainable and, in fact, never have been.

Even with renewable electricity – and may be especially – we must reduce our consumption to a proper usage. There can no longer be any waste of it allowed such as the way London is lit up like a Christmas tree every night by empty offices.

And talking of Christmas, and while not wanting to be a spoilsport, the extravagance of the Christmas lights, whether on London's Oxford Street and such, or in the local council areas, is something that must end and must end now. We cannot afford that waste of electricity.

Those who light up their homes over the Christmas period too should be told in no uncertain terms that they must stop this practice so as to reduce energy consumption and have more power when we need it.

© 2010

International Hazardous Waste Inspection Project Report Highlights Advantages of Cooperation

hazardouswaste Washington, DC, December 24, 2010: A report released today by the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN) confirms the benefits of cross-border collaboration in combating the illegal trade in hazardous waste through seaports.

The report details the results of the INECE SESN International Hazardous Waste Inspection Project, a simultaneous inspection exercise involving environmental, customs, and other enforcement authorities from countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Participating countries undertook coordinated environmental inspections at their seaports during June and July 2010 and reported their results.

The Inspection Project results indicate that compliance with international treaty provisions regarding international hazardous waste movement remains a challenge. Substantial domestic and international efforts will be needed to counteract negative social, environmental, and economic impacts that arise from illegal waste trafficking. Of the 74 total targeted inspections conducted during the inspection project, 53% discovered non-compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

The results of the Project also highlight the crucial importance of effective communication channels at the international, regional, and national levels for detection of illegal trade in hazardous waste. During the Project, participants exchanged information using a variety of methods including informal contacts made possible through the SESN.

“Stopping illegal hazardous waste trade across borders requires the kind of cooperation INECE excels in,” said Durwood Zaelke, Director of the INECE Secretariat. “The INECE ports project shows what a well-coordinated network can accomplish.”

Recommendations that emerged from the Inspection Project include facilitating future opportunities through enforcement cooperation through  international inspection projects; providing capacity building for relevant authorities at seaports; communicating INECE’s environmental compliance and enforcement expertise to countries working to shape more effective domestic programs; and continuing to build partnerships that promote cooperation and collaboration at seaports.

The SESN participants will continue to collaborate in the future to detect and deter illegal shipments of hazardous waste through seaports.

The Inspection Project was supported by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and by IMPEL, a network of representatives from authorities of the European Union Member States involved in the inspection and enforcement of transfrontier shipments of waste and other environmental laws.

The report is available on the INECE SESN website at

The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), the only informal transgovernmental network of practitioners dedicated to pursuing the rule of law, good environmental governance, and sustainable development at all levels of governance, has 20 years of experience building capacity among compliance and enforcement practitioners to make environmental law work on the ground.

The INECE Seaport Environmental Security Network (SESN) works to strengthen the enforcement capacity of both developed and developing countries to prevent illegal hazardous waste shipments through ports, and prevent dumping in the developing world.

Source: The International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

New Obama Offshore Oil Plan Sacrifices Polar Bear Habitat

polar bear WASHINGTON, DC: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Thursday issued a revised offshore oil plan that will allow drilling in the heart of polar bear habitat in Alaska. Salazar’s announcement, which came in response to a previous court ruling, finalized a revised 2007-2012 nationwide offshore oil leasing plan. The previous plan, issued under the Bush administration, had been overturned by a federal appeals court for failing to properly analyze impacts of drilling off the Arctic coast of Alaska. Salazar’s new plan reaffirms a 2008 lease sale in polar bear critical habitat in the Chukchi Sea. 

“Once again Secretary Salazar has placed political expediency over sound science and the rule of law, and polar bears and other arctic species will suffer for it,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Oil development in the Chukchi Sea, home to America’s polar bears, remains a dangerous proposition because no technologies exist to clean up oil spills in icy waters. Thursday’s plan upholds the sale of leases in the Chukchi.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations filed a court challenge to the 2007-2012 offshore oil leasing plan issued by the Bush administration. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia set aside that plan for failing to adequately assess the environmental impacts of opening up areas off Alaska to drilling. Thursday’s announcement comes in response to that ruling. A court in Alaska also separately ruled this year that the environmental analysis underlying the lease sale in the Chukchi Sea was unlawful.

“Secretary Salazar has apparently learned nothing from either the Gulf spill or the courts. No matter how many times the courts overturn his decisions to open the Arctic to oil, he comes back with the exact same decision,” said Cummings. “This year in the Gulf of Mexico we saw the damage that a massive oil spill can cause. Given the lack of clean-up technology for an oil spill in the Arctic, Salazar’s decision to move forward with the Chukchi leases demonstrates that all the promised reforms following the Gulf spill ultimately mean nothing for the Arctic.”

In a separate but related development, also in response to a court order, Salazar announced on Wednesday he would uphold a Bush-era decision to list polar bears as merely “threatened,” rather than the more protective status of “endangered.” Such a move allows Salazar to exempt greenhouse gas polluters nationwide, as well as oil companies operating in polar bear habitat, from some of the Endangered Species Act’s most protective provisions.

“This week Secretary Salazar has delivered a double-barreled blast to the future of the polar bear,” said Cummings. “At this rate Secretary Salazar will be writing the polar bear’s obituary rather than its recovery plan.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

Biggest plastic recycling facility to process half of UK’s plastic bottles

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

AWS Eco Plastics Europe’s biggest plastic sorting and recycling facility, which has recently opened in North Lincolnshire, aims to process half of the UK’s plastic bottles by the middle of next year and address the growing demand from industry for low carbon packaging.

AWS Eco Plastics, devastated by a fire 14 months ago, officially reopened on November 23, 2010 as a new £17 million state-of-the-art facility capable of processing more than two million plastic bottles a year.

The Hemswell factory – the largest of its kind in Europe – aims to process almost 50 per cent of the UK’s entire plastic bottles going to waste by next year, when it increases processing capacity at the site to 140,000 tonnes. The UK is projected to recycle 300,000 tonnes of plastic bottles per year by the end of the year.

One of the key attractions of the facility is its ability to recycle plastics through the facility that are 68 per cent less carbon-intensive than packaging made from virgin materials. Demand for food-grade recycled plastics has increased in recent years as retailers and brand owners have sought to increase the recycled content in their products.

According to a report by the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) this year, UK demand for food-grade recycled plastics continues to outstrip demand, with prices typically ranging up to £40 a tonne.

State-of-the-art equipment means AWS Eco Plastics has a flexible output of eleven different streams of plastic, ensuring that it is virtually zero-waste and able to address the growing demand from the food and beverage industry for food-grade recycled plastics.

TITECH sensor-based sorting systems means bottles can be sorted by polymer type and by color, thereby achieving levels of purity and quality for food-grade recycled plastics.

"There is huge potential in the UK market and this can only grow as the demand for low carbon food and drink packaging increases. This is a growth industry in which the UK has the potential to be a world leader, a prime example of the Government’s low carbon economy," said Jonathan Short, managing director of AWS Eco Plastics.

The new facility employs over 130 people with 110 of those employed on the processing site itself.

It must be said that it is good to see that Britain is – finally – beginning to lead in some sectors of the environmental business field and maybe, just maybe, this facility will stop the stupid practice of sending plastic bottles around the world to China for them too be processed there back into plastic which then is shipped back to us.

And maybe, just maybe, this might give the impetus for this country to also become the leader in recycling other materials in facilities here, at home, instead of shipping the stuff abroad. It is about time.

© 2010

Aspartame has got a new name but, do not be fooled, it is still the same

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

aspartameThis artificial sweetener haunted by an ugly past is still as dangerous as before, regardless of name change.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” claimed Shakespeare. Conversely, a sweet name for a potential toxin, does not make it sweet. Bit like the renaming of HFCS to corn sugar. It does not matter what name you give it it is still the same stuff.

Aspartame, has had a makeover. Thanks to the slick marketers and their actions and ideas, the artificial sweetener now goes by the new, ever-so-sweet-sounding name of, wait for it, “AminoSweet.”

First developed in 1974, by 1980, an FDA Board of Inquiry voted unanimously against approving Aspartame for human consumption, but the vote was overruled by the FDA commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes Jr. by 1983. Only one year after the approval, an FDA task force learned that some of the original data showcasing Aspartame’s safety had been falsified to hide results showing animals fed Aspartame had developed seizures and brain tumors; however, the FDA maintained its approval of this product.

In 1983, the same year Aspartame was approved for use in carbonated beverages, a neuroscientist published reports in The New England Journal of Medicine that Aspartame may increase body weight by stimulating a craving for calorie-laden carbohydrates.

By 1991, the National Institutes of Health cataloged 167 adverse effects linked to Aspartame use. In 1992, the U.S. Air Force issued a warning to pilots not to fly after ingesting Aspartame. And by 1994, the US Department of Health and Human Services had linked the artificial sweetener Aspartame to the risk of 88 symptoms of toxicity.

Learn about the symptoms and conditions linked to Aspartame

Research confirms that Aspartame is an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a substance that literally excites brain or nervous system cells until they die. In other words, it is a neural pathway agent, and one that may have sinister uses and sinister reasons for still being approved.

According to Lynne Melcombe, author of Health Hazards of White Sugar, research links Aspartame to the following health conditions: anxiety attacks; appetite problems such as binge-eating and sugar cravings; birth defects; blindness and vision problems such as blurred vision, bright flashes, and tunnel vision; brain tumors; chest pain; depression and emotional problems; dizziness and vertigo; edema; epilepsy and seizures; fatigue; headaches and migraines; hearing loss and tinnitus; heart palpitations and arrhythmia; hyperactivity; insomnia; joint pain; learning disabilities; memory loss; menstrual irregularities and PMS (premenstrual syndrome); muscle cramps; nausea; numbness of extremities; psychiatric disorders; reproductive problems; skin lesions; slurred speech; and uterine tumors. Research even links Aspartame to death. Aspartame’s effects can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy, Epstein-Barr virus, Huntington’s chorea, hypothyroidism, Lou Gehrig’s disease; Lyme disease, Ménière’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and postpolio syndrome.

According to Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred-Year Lie, some of the cancers linked to Aspartame include: brain, liver, lung, kidney, and lymphoreticular cancer.

Aspartame is found in many diet products, including soft drinks, as well as a wide variety of prepared foods. But, shockingly, it is also found in some multivitamins, supplements, and pharmaceutical drugs.

The reason, however, that the FDA approved Aspartame for human consumption against the better judgment of many is the very fact that the FDA sits in the pockets of big industry and that is also why neither BPA is being regulated against nor HFCS and other, even more dangerous, substances.

Aspartame is also goes by the name of NutraSweet in Europe, as well as a number of other ones, and like in the USA it is not being regulated against in the EU. Then neither do they consider it necessary in the EU to legislate against BPA. One can but ask as to why and who benefits.

While we are on the subject of poisons that have been approved to be used on humans sodium fluoride is one that also springs to mind.

Yes, the very stuff that is in most – unless you chose one that does not contain it – toothpaste and that many governments have ordered, or are intending to order, to be placed into the drinking water. Fluoride is on the poison list and is also a neural pathway agent. Makes you think as to what is going on, doesn't it?

© 2010

Santa Claus and his little helpers heartbroken this Christmas

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Santa & elves1 North Pole, Arctic, December 2010: There are only a few days left until Christmas Day and for the first time in decades Santa and his elves have been rather sad this Christmas season.

But how could they be happy when they have to read so many sad letters from children who are clearly feeling the effects of their family troubles? Sadly, the majority of “Dear Santa Letters” received this year by both children and struggling parents nationwide are asking for less of the hottest toys and latest gadgets that would normally be on any child’s wish list.

Instead they have been forced to read letter after letter from children asking for things such as food or clothing, or heartbreaking pleas asking Santa to help their parents pay their bills rather than the latest DS Game Pack, American Girl Doll, Xboxes, Barbie doll dream house, or new bike they really want. Or worrying about whether they’ve made the good list, and not the naughty lists this year. Some post offices have even claimed that some letters came directly from parents begging for help paying rent, mortgage, utility bills, or help finding a job so they don’t end up homeless.

This year my mom don't have much money to spend on Christmas gifts so I’m writing to you.” Cesar, 7 writes in his letter to Santa, and as reported in USA Today.“It would make us really happy if you and your elves would bring us toys and clothes.”

Another Santa letter from a 9-year-old girl read, “Dear Santa, Please help my mom and dad find jobs so that my family and I can be happy again. It would make us so happy.” “I have been really good this year.”

A 5-year-old wrote, “Please bring us food, sneakers for sister and me and boots for dad.”

It has also been reported that more letters from unemployed single parents have been sent to the post offices. One letter in particular from a single mom read, “Dear Santa, I’ve been unemployed for 7 months now, and cannot afford to purchase toys and clothes for my two boys this year. Please help me save Christmas for my family Santa!”

It is obvious that the economy is not getting better despite the little hope we had earlier this year when more job openings seemed available and when one looks at those realities in children (and adults) writing such letters to “Santa” that things certainly are not rosy at all.

Still, however, the powers that be are trying to tell people that everything is hunky-dory and the economy is getting better; as they try to do in Britain.

I do not know on which planet those government people are living but it must be a parallel one to ours or, maybe, even a parallel universe altogether.

The truth is that we are still in dire straights as far as the economy is concerned and jobs and all and still the powers that be try to tell us otherwise. Time they woke up.

© 2010

Bamboo can capture carbon fast, says report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bamboo Bamboo, a wild grass that grows in Africa, Asia and Latin America, could help tackle climate change and provide income for local communities, a conference has heard. It can sequester carbon faster than similar fast-growing tree species such as Chinese fir and eucalyptus when properly managed, said Coosje Hoogendoorn, director-general of International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), based in Beijing, China.

She was speaking on December 2, 2010 at the launch of 'Bamboo and Climate Change Mitigation' — a report on bamboo's potential role in adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development — in a press conference held during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 16), in Cancun, Mexico.

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet — with a growth rate of up to 1.2 metres a day. It is stronger than steel, weight for weight, and its roots can reduce soil erosion by up to 75 per cent.

"Although botanically bamboo is a woody grass and not a tree, bamboo forests have comparable features to other types of forest regarding their role in the carbon cycle," the report said. "They sequester carbon through photosynthesis, and lock carbon in the fiber of the bamboo and in the soil where it grows."

Under regular management practices, bamboo sequestered an equal or greater amount of carbon over the 60-year lifespan of a Chinese fir plantation.

"If the bamboo forest wasn't managed through annual harvesting practices, it would be significantly less effective at carbon sequestration," the report added.

Hoogendoorn said: "Bamboo is a remarkable resource for driving economic development, and is readily available in many of the world's poorest countries.

"One of the major ways bamboo can assist communities to cope with climate change is in low-cost, sustainable, climate-resistant housing," she said. "Its strength and flexibility make it one of the best materials we have to withstand floods, storms and earthquakes."

Alvaro Cabrera, INBAR's regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the network is working to provide vulnerable people in the region with safer homes made from bamboo.

Apart from mitigating climate change effects, "people can make money by building sustainable industry that requires little investment", he said.

INBAR is also working with farmers in Kenya and Uganda to replace tobacco farming with bamboo cultivation. But work in Kenya is slowed down by legislation that mistakenly classifies bamboo as tree, which means it is forbidden to cut it down, Hoogendoorn said.

"Bamboo is different — the more you cut it the more it grows and authorities have to understand this."

As long as bamboo is grown in countries where it is native, I have no issue, but knowing how it is taking over natural systems here in the U.S. I am very wary of it being promoted as a source of climate change mitigation. Might we not be trading one bad situation for another - i.e. carbon versus invasive species? When we promote certain technologies for mitigation or adaptation we need to make sure we are very specific in where and how the technology is used.

Bamboo is a great material but it should only be use the way it has been used for millennia in those countries where it grows naturally and where it is grown – because it is a native plant – also in plantations.

However, bamboo is not a trunk like that of a tree but it is hollow inside and hence it cannot be made into slices and thus board and therefore bamboo flooring is NOT green and environmentally friendly and neither is bamboo clothing.

When bamboo, as I have said, is used in the way it always has been used in bamboo's native countries then the products are very sound ecologically but, as also said, when it is used the way it is being advocated by some for flooring – which is nothing but a laminate flooring – or bamboo fabrics – which is nothing but a viscose – then this is not good at all for the Planet and we better rethink.

Link to full 'Bamboo and Climate Change Mitigation' report

© 2010

Biofuels potential harm to biodiversity. A European report and recommendation

Biofuels and their invasive potential is a problem being address worldwide. A report was written for the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (known as the Council of Europe-Bern Convention) by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) - an agency led by the Italian Ministry for the Environment.

Sweet Sorghum crops within Mediterranean Landscape

Following the report the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, worried that the increase of biofuel cropping systems may lead to cultivation escapes of invasive taxa with subsequent negative effect on native biological diversity, adopted advices to reduce impacts, of potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops, on species biodiversity and natural ecosystems.

The Recommendation, warns that some biofuel crops may invade areas outside cultivated fields, and in so doing may impact on native biodiversity. The Council of Europe, made advices to reduce potential invasiveness of alien plants being used as biofuel crops. It is important, stated the group of experts, to bring in pre-cultivation screening for each proposed genotype and region. In addition new cultivation criteria to limit the dispersal and recruitment capacity of the invasive crops need to be introduced. Without these measures, escaped biofuel crops may cause loss of native biodiversity and farmland functionality.

Click here to read the report 'Invasiveness of Biofuel Crops and Potential Harm to Natural Habitats and Native Species Report'.

Click here to read the Bern Convention published "Recommendation No 141 (2009) of the Standing Committee, adopted on 26 November 2009, on potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops".


Reccomendation 141/2009

Source: Bioenergy Division

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

Average American's drives at less than five miles per hour

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

NoCarThe average American puts in 1,600 hours to go  7,500 miles by car. That is less than five miles per hour in driving speed and I am sure this is about the same speed that people will average on their journeys in Britain.

It is being said that the average driving speed in towns and cities in Britain is – not counting the boy racers – around six to ten miles an hour (obviously accounting for stops, snarl ups, tail backs and all that).

At a speed like that a bicycle will beat the car any day and the average speed given for the average American is about the walking speed of the average fit person. I, for one, can walk, at a steady pace, at four miles to the hour, at least and that means that many a journey can be made by foot quite well.

In fact most journeys to the shops – in towns, cities and suburbia in Britain – can be made easily on foot or by bicycle as most are never ever anywhere near the “average” five mile distance so often quoted.

Too many people will get into their cars to go less than two miles to the shops to buy milk and the newspaper and getting there then spend another mile or so driving aroun d looking for a parking space. Stupid? I sure think so.

In the time that they drive about they could have walked there and and back easily and, at the same time, could have gotten in some exercise as well, improving their health.

© 2010

High Speed Rail: Upgrading existing rail network should be priority

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

hs2-trainCommenting on the British Government's announcement of Monday, December 20, 2010 revealing the proposed route for the new high-speed rail link, Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner, Richard Dyer said: “We urgently need investment in faster, better rail travel - but current high- speed rail plans will do little to cut climate-changing emissions or entice people out of planes and cars.”

“The Government's priority should be to upgrade our existing overcrowded rail network - so ordinary travellers can benefit from better commuter and longer- distance services.

“More must also be done to encourage greener motoring and boost cycling and walking for short distances - which is better for our health and the environment.

“High-speed rail could play a part in a low-carbon transport network, but only if it is powered from renewable sources and backed by action to make rail travel cheaper and more attractive than flying or driving.

“UK transport policy has been stuck in the wrong lane for far too long - it's time to steer it in a new and greener direction.”

I have said ever basically since this hair-brained idea of the HSR to Birmingham has been on the table that it is not high-speed rail that we need but proper railroad infrastructure.

The Friends of the Earth spokesman is still on about the need for high-speed rail, much like the government, with the addition that the says that the existing rail network should be priority. That one has to agree with and I have said that time and again.

Friends of the Earth says that, if built, the new line must not go through protected sites like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs - the UK's highest wildlife designation) and impacts on the landscape must be avoided where possible or else minimised. But I would suggest that the entire hair-brained scheme be scrapped and that proper, reliable, rail services are created in a national railway company, as British Rail once was. Services worked and were affordable, unlike today.

84% of passengers on HS2 will be taking new journeys or transferring from existing rail services; only 16% will be people who would have otherwise travelled by air or car - HS2 Command Paper. March 2010

Nearly half of all passengers arriving in London in the morning peak in 2008 were on trains that were full or overcrowded - National Audit Office "Increasing Rail Capacity"

Network Rail predicts that there will be a 30 per cent in the numbers of commuters using National Rail services into the capital during the weekday morning peaks up to 2031. Network Rail South East Route Utilisation Strategy Dec 2010

The HS2 high-speed rail idea will do nothing to change the current problems that we are having in that people use their cars too much, especially on shorter journeys, journeys that could easily be done on foot, by bike or by affordable public transport (if it be in existence), or fly too much on longer journeys. It will do nothing to offset our current emissions and pollution caused by the use of the motorcar, and here especially on short journeys.

The high-speed rail scheme should have been buried with the spending review but apparently got a nice ring-fence erected around it. Why? Simply because someone's cronies are getting a nice fat backhander? Or is it false prestige? If the latter, very much like nuclear, we cannot afford it.

Our biggest problem in Britain as to getting people out of their cars and onto public transport and the railroad is that our services are simply way too expensive.

British rail fares are double if not more of those of the next most expensive country in Europe, namely France. All other countries are far cheaper than France and the UK and have, thus a much greater uptake of public transport and rail travel, on trains that are, in the main, reliable and clean. Much more than can be said for the British service.

While British Rail was, maybe, at times a problem the fares were affordable and trains ran well enough if we were not plagued, as too often in those days, by strikes.

Privately owned companies have no place in public transport, whether buses, trams, metro, or railroad passenger services. Why not? Because the majority of the owners of such companies do not have the traveling public at heart but their bottom line and that of their shareholders.

We need to re-nationalize the railways in Britain, at least the passenger rail services, and not give out franchises to private enterprises wanting to make lots of money from fleecing the traveling public.

Time for a serious rethink and change and time to bury the high-speed rail idea, for the time being at least.

© 2010