Heinz meanz plastic jars for Beanz

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Now I have seen it all! Or have I? Is everyone gone mad?

Heinz is to sell its famous baked beans in a resealable plastic bottle so that open containers can be kept in the fridge. Marvellous – NOT!

This is as stupid, I am afraid to say, as when Sainsbury's went and put chopped tomatoes into Tetrapak kind of packs which cannot be recycled.

What is wrong with emptying a tin can into a storage container, maybe a repurposed glass jar? Nothing and it is, in fact, environmentally friendly. This, on the other hand, is madness.

The new Heinz Beanz packaging is a plastic jar with a screw top, dubbed the Fridge Pack, which will go on sale in September with a RRP of £1.79. So, I guess, the consumer is going to pay a very high premium for a plastic jar that he or she can put into the fridge if not all the baked beans have been used.

The £3m through-the-line campaign, including TV advertising, is being paid for, obviously, by the recommended retail price of £1.79 for the 1kg jar. I guess I shall be sticking with Sainsbury's Basics Baked Beans in a tin can. Thanks.

And with each 1kg Fridge Pack being the equivalent of two-and-a-half cans and lasting only for five days after being opened, it is likely to be purchased mainly by families or die-hard bean lovers.

Time to tell Heinz what we think, I guess.

© 2010


Leading solar and wind installation and development company The Green Company (Europe) Limited (“TGC”) announces that it has secured investment from leading private investment fund, Constantine Group plc. Baker Tilly Corporate Finance and Veale Wasbrough Vizards advised TGC on this transaction which will enable the business to continue its successful development.

Established in 2006 and with offices in Bristol and Glasgow, TGC installs and develops solar photovoltaic (PV) farms and also medium scale wind turbine projects for landowners, businesses and investors. The company provides customers with a turn-key service from initial concept, through permitting, installation, commissioning and operations.

The funding from Constantine, which has over 125 years’ investment experience, provides the increased capital TCG needs for the continued growth and security of its renewable partners over the life of the FiT and beyond.

Ben Cosh, Managing Director of The Green Company, said: “The Green Company has led the way in distributed renewables in the UK for the past four years and with the introduction of the 25-year returns available from the feed-in tariff we required an investor who would work with us and be involved for the long term.

“We were impressed with Constantine’s long term view, mirroring the long term nature of solar and wind projects and the long term issues embodied in energy security and climate change”.

Constantine Group is celebrating its 125th year of trading in 2010 and as part of its entrance into the energy sector has acquired a 33% stake.

Nigel Prescot, Chief Executive of Constantine Group, said on completion of the transaction: “We have been looking for a strategic investment into renewable energy for some time. Ben Cosh and his team have the experience and dedication to maintain TGC’s market leading position in this fast growing sector”.

Baker Tilly Corporate Finance Partner, Andrew Killick who led the transaction advice added: “Many companies have tried to jump on the Feed-in Tariff bandwagon but very few have the track record and experience of TGC, and I believe that bringing it together with Constantine will be to the benefit of both parties”.

Nathan Guest, Corporate Partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards who advised the Company on the investment said: “Having assisted The Green Company through its early development stages, Constantine's investment gives the Company an exciting future both here in the South West and across the UK as a whole”.

The Green Company (TGC) was established in 2006 and was the first wind turbine company in the country to successfully obtain its Microgeneration Certificate (MCS). The team has carried out 1000’s of planning applications and has a 95% success rate with wind turbines.

TGC is developing its own solar and wind projects and also works on a consultancy + build for clients and investors across sites that are residential, commercial and agricultural.

TGC is operating solar farm public consultation exhibitions across Cornwall from August 9th-11th 2010 for its 2-5MW solar plants that it is currently developing.

Constantine Group plc is a privately-owned investment company which began as a shipping company in Middlesbrough in 1885. It is a long term investor and works closely with the local management to develop businesses to achieve their strategic objectives.

Baker Tilly is the trading name of a number of separate legal entities which together form a £191m (gross fee income), top 10 business of accountancy, tax and business advisers to entrepreneurial businesses. Baker Tilly has over 1,750 members of staff and over 260 partners with 28 offices throughout the UK.

Baker Tilly International is the world’s 8th largest accountancy and business advisory network by combined fee income of its independent members. It is represented by 147 independent firms in 114 countries with combined fee income of US$3.13bn and 26,000 people worldwide.

Source: The Green Company

Save the date: 10:10:10

10:10:10 – a global day of doing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sunday October 10, 2010 will be the 'global day of doing' and there’ll be thousands of practical carbon cutting events and activities all over the world. The 10:10 organization wants your business or organisation to be a part of it.

Mark the day in your diary now. From Cosmopolitan magazine to hit TV shows, to thousands of individuals, to business, hospitals and schools – everyone will be doing something. On 10:10:10 itself, the 10:10 organization wants to see your pictures, mails and video, which they‘ll then be streaming live from the 10:10 ‘newsroom’ and some major media platforms in towns, cities and workplaces across the UK.

What are you planning for 10:10:10?
10:10 is all about positive practical action and 10:10's ‘global day of doing’ is about taking this ambition to the next level. The choice is yours and just because 10:10:10’s on a Sunday it doesn’t mean you can’t do something in the run up to the date. The 10:10 folks will still broadcast it!

Throw a work bash to celebrate what you’ve already done and get more people involved and excited. If your employees and partners haven’t signed up to the campaign then this could be the time to get them on board.

Team up with colleagues, other companies in your business park or organizations in your local community to launch a joint carbon cutting project. Take the opportunity to launch an idea you’ve been meaning to get started on, be it a car club or ‘switch off’ campaign.

Get creative… and win!
10:10 are also be launching a competition to see which of our organisations can come up with the most ingenious carbon cutting idea they’ll put into action for 10:10:10. Not only will the best idea receive a cracking prize, you’ll also get the chance to see your idea showcased to tens of thousands of people and businesses taking part. Get your thinking caps on, send us your ideas and register your plans by emailing business@1010uk.org or organisations@1010uk.org.

© 2010

Autumn Timber Care & Gardening Tips from Forest

Autumn is the perfect time to start preparing your garden for winter, before the cold weather and frost sets in. Tidying the bedding, ensuring everything is clear and laying down the right groundwork now, will help your garden reach its full springtime potential.

Here, Forest has devised some top tips to help you beat the havoc caused by our increasingly severe winter weather.

Timber Care

  • Check the condition of all your garden fences, posts, structures and stores, securing any loose joints and replacing weakened or broken items. Sand off any old, flaking stain or dirt from dry surfaces and apply an annual coat of good quality wood preservative.

  • Autumn is a good time to work on your fence. Any flowers and leafy plants in borders alongside the fence will have died back, so walking on the area will not damage them too much. However, maintenance on any trellis with climbing plants should be carried out in early spring before the plants start to grow again.

  • Decking will benefit from a good clean and an application of preservative or stain, decking oil and decking protector, to help prevent moisture damage and mould growth.

  • If roofing felt has been torn or damaged on garden buildings, replace and ensure it is fully secure. Give all glazing, oil hinges and window fixings a good clean. If metalwork shows signs of rust, clean and apply Hammerite Paint. Check all fixings are tight and then your building will be ready to withstand the winter weather to come.

Storage Tips

  • When there is no more need for garden furniture, store it in the shed or garage to protect it from the winter weather and allow it to dry out.

  • Be frugal and save seeds in a cool, dry, frost-free place, such as a tin box in the shed. These can then be sown in the spring.

  • Remember to check that your tools are in good working order and store them away for when you next need them.

  • Dig and store summer tubers and bulbs, which can then be planted again in spring.

Composting Tips

  • Winter gives cuttings and leaves a chance to break down and produce nutrient-rich compost, which will be ready for boosting the garden in the New Year. Now is also a really good time to turn your compost heap. It will heat up nicely and then gently rot over the winter.

  • Avoid bonfires where possible. Instead, put garden waste on the compost heap or add it to the council's green waste collection.

  • Be sure to rake your lawn and keep it free from leaves. Whilst leaves will provide the lawn with nutrients, they will also help encourage unwanted weeds and also suffocate the lawn, which needs to breath. The leaves also make great compost!

  • A good composter should be compact, allow plenty of air to circulate and offer easy access.

  • Good compost needs just two main ingredients: ‘brown’ and ‘green’. Heap on plenty of ‘brown’ materials (such as dead leaves and plants, straw or sawdust) and layer with ‘greens’ (grass cuttings and any vegetable kitchen waste). Try to use more browns than greens as this will make your compost decompose better.

  • If the materials you use are fairly dry, water your compost heap from time to time to keep it ‘sponge-moist’.

  • Don’t use diseased plants or tough weeds such as dandelions and couch grass; you’ll simply be spreading them back onto your garden later.

General Gardening Tips

  • Remove plant debris and diseased leaves from flowers and vegetable patches. Dig up the annuals - plants that last only a season - and put them on the compost heap. Flowering perennials - plants that spring up year after year from their roots - should be cut back. And remove yellowing or dead leaves or flowers before rot develops as well as any weeds hidden under the plant foliage.

  • Plant spring bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips and new perennials - the soil is still warm but moisture levels are increasing, so there is still time for plants to establish themselves before the cold really sets in.

  • This is also a good time of year to plant or move shrubs and trees to allow them to anchor down before the growing season. Reflect on what was successful in this year's planting scheme so that you can adapt your plans for next year.

  • Some vegetables can be sown in sheltered spots at this time of year. For instance, it’s a great time to sow lettuce, spinach, broad beans and cauliflowers.

  • When the autumn rain arrives, fertilize your lawn with a slow-release 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer, and if the lawn needs thatching, this is a great time to do it.

  • Encourage birds into the garden by providing extra food. Place the feeder near a tall shrub, fence or mature tree to provide protection from predators. Plant berry-bearing plants for an extra source of food for birds and other wildlife. Firethorn, rowan and holly plants are recommended.

To encourage more gardeners to get their gardens ready for winter, Forest has launched a ‘National Tidy Garden’ weekend – 23rd and 24th October 2010 - designed to get your garden ready for the winter. Look out for even more top tips on how to ‘winterproof’ your garden on Forest’s twitter and Facebook pages.

For more information & where to buy

For more information about the event or to stay up-to-date with Forest’s latest news find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter - www.twitter.com/GardenTimber.

Forest’s ranges can be purchased in more than 1,000 garden centres and builders merchants up and down the country. Home delivery is also available on a wide range of products.

Source: Whitefoot-Forward PR

World Tap Water Week

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

You didn't know that it existed, did you? Well, it didn't until The Green Thing invented it in 2010 and, as far as I am concerned, this is a good idea.

The Green Thing invented this new tradition called World Tap Water Week because, as they said, it's high time the world celebrated humble, tasty tap for the everyday hero that it is.

Of course every hero needs a villain to battle, and in the case of Tap it’s the arch criminal Mineral. Mineral water is somewhat like the emperor’s new clothe, being made out to be so tremendously good for us and all that jazz. The truth is that it is not and that mineral water does untold environmental damage, tastes exactly like tap water and costs 1000 times as much. Yet people across the world fall for the mineral water and bottled water myth and think they’re buying something crucial to their health or self-esteem when they’re not. Someone’s gotta tell ‘em the emperor’s got nothing on! And someone also tell them that mineral has got nothing on tap either. In many cases bottled water actually is nothing but tap, filtered if we are lucky, and put into a plastic bottle. You must be joking...

There is nothing special about mineral water or bottled water. It is made in the same way by using two hydrogen atoms, mixed with one of oxygen, and that's it. Same as tap water. Thus they taste the same and do the same stuff, after all it is... well, pardon the pun, water. So why would you pay for water in plastic bottles that, in some cases, has been transported more than half-way around the world, and often lots of money, when you can, basically, get tap water for free.

From now on, according to Green Thing, World Tap Water Week happens every year in the third week of August. Ladies and gentlemen. It’s time. Time for tap!

We should simply create this as a tradition from now on and designate, as indicated, the third week of August as World Tap Water Week and why not?

Personally, I do not do bottled water unless there is absolutely no other option, and whenever I can it is tap water, at times filtered, at other times not, carried in a reusable bottle, including repurposed glass Snapple lemonade ones. I also refuse to pay for bottles if I can upcycle my own.

So, let's remember for next year: The 3rd ween in August is what? It's World Tap Water Week...

© 2010

Garden Bird Supplies call for clean baths

Garden Bird Supplies urge bird lovers to keep their baths clean

A fatal infection is causing devastating effects on the UK’s garden bird population; particularly affected are greenfinches and chaffinches according to researchers. Garden Bird Supplies are urging bird lovers to help stem the spread of the disease.

Research carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has blamed a fatal infection caused by the bacterium Trichomonas Gallinae which can be spread by unclean bird feeders on a 35% reduction in the Green finch population. The Chaffinch is the second most frequently affected species, although a range of garden birds have been found to be susceptible to the parasite.

Mark Sherwood of Garden Bird Supplies, one of the UK’s leading mail order suppliers and on-line retailers of bird products including bird baths feeders, said, “Following this news we are urging all our customers to regularly clean out their bird baths and bird feeders to try and stop this disease spreading between birds”.

Researchers believe that the trichomonad parasite harbouring the disease was probably transmitted via birds' saliva, outbreaks are most severe and frequent in the period of August to October.

The mostly likely way that the infection is transmitted from one bird to another is thought to be through birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season; or through food or drinking water contaminated with saliva.

Mark Sherwood said, “All our bird feeders and bird baths are designed to be easily cleaned and we are now advising our customers to wash bird baths and feeders before re filling with food or water.”

The Garden Bird Supplies website, offers comprehensive advice on feeding birds as well as a range of bird food and accessories. The new Autumn 2010 catalogue will be available shortly

Part of the Flying Brands group, Garden Bird Supplies is one of the UK’s leading mail order suppliers and on-line retailers of bird products, with a comprehensive collection ranging from bird baths and books to nesting boxes and feeders.

Practical information on all aspects of feeding and enjoying garden birds is offered on the comprehensive website: www.gardenbird.co.uk

The company is a member of The Birds and Business Alliance (part of The British Trust for Ornithology) and is participating in the Garden Bird Health initiative (GBHi) organised by The Zoological Society of London.

Source: Garden Bird Supplies

British Office Workers 'Addicted' to Paper

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

LONDON, UK, August 2010 - A survey of 1,000 U.K. office workers has found that efforts to make office paper use more efficient are proceeding sluggishly at best, wasting huge amounts of resources and stymieing IT managers' attempts to rein in energy and paper use.

The survey, conducted by research firm Loudhouse on behalf of Kyocera, found that the average employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and as many as 6,800 of those sheets are wasted.

On top of piles of unneeded print jobs, the survey found employees feeling less concerned about the environment and printing more often – a sign that 'green fatigue' is taking its toll on participation in environmental and conservation initiatives.

Only 68 percent of respondents said they were personally concerned about the environment in this year's survey, down from a high of 77 percent in 2008. Kyocera and Loudhouse have conducted this study for three of the last four years.

Despite a drop in environmental concern, 70 percent of IT managers surveyed said that their companies could do a better job encouraging workers to print smarter, largely through employee education about the cost benefits of more efficient printing.

And printing issues constitute a huge time-suck for IT managers: The average IT department spends one-third of its time on dealing with office printing, and nearly one-quarter of respondents say they spend 50 to 100 percent of their time on printing.

But IT managers also see progress happening in encouraging greener printing practices. About 40 percent said they are getting more executive support in putting green printing on the IT agenda, incorporating environmental policies into the network, and encouraging workers to print less.

A number of green printing policies are becoming more common in corporate offices, according to the workers surveyed. In-office recycling is commonplace, with 78 percent of companies encouraging paper recycling. And those ubiquitous email footers urging you to "Consider the environment before printing this message" have made their way into 55 percent of the companies surveyed.

The most common policies that have been embraced by companies are loose policies governing duplex and color versus black-and-white printing. Only 22 percent of firms have implemented password- or card-controlled printing, which allows IT or office managers to track paper and printer use on an individual basis.

As a result, there is still an inordinate amount of paper wasted by the average worker: Of the 10,000 or so pages printed per employee per year, as many as 6,800 of those sheets are thrown away or recycled. The chart below breaks down where workers are wasting the most paper.

A question of mine that this survey has not answered is as to how many of those pages where just printed on one side and could have been used again, for a variety of uses, aside from making paper aeroplanes, such as as notepaper, before finally going the recycling route.

It would seem that people just cannot think about printing double sided.

I know that it is so much easier just to hit “print” without having to go into “properties” and setting it to enable double-sided printing and many people seem to not have the few extra minutes to do that.

The full research report is available for download [PDF] from KyoceraMita.co.uk.

© 2010

Re-inventing the wheel…

…the man behind the Brompton bicycle talks about 35 years of the folding bike revolution

'The Genius of the Brompton Fold': An Evening with Andrew Ritchie will be held on Wednesday 1st Septemper 2010 at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross St, EC1M 6EJ (Farringdon Tube). Doors open 6pm, Talk begins at 6.30pm. Refreshments are available.

Tickets for this event are £7 - all proceeds going to Sustrans - www.sustransshop.co.uk [Code: RG188] - or phone 0845 113 0065 during office hours

Andrew Ritchie, a Cambridge Engineering graduate and inventor of the Brompton bicycle, will be giving a talk at The Gallery in London on 1st September on his own personal story of how he invented the bicycle that was ahead of its time.

Andrew was working as a landscape gardener in London when, in 1975, he conceived the idea for a folding bike. He has guided the Brompton Bicycle Company from its initial production facility in a railway arch to become the largest bicycle manufacturer in the UK producing 26,000 bikes per year and the last transport manufacturer of any kind based in London. Thirty five years later and Bromptons are sold in 33 countries worldwide.

This informal evening is a chance to hear the story behind Andrew's invention in his own words and how it has helped transform the potential for everyday sustainable travel in the UK.

Sustrans is the UK 's leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK 's transport challenges.

This year Sustrans is marking the fifteenth anniversary of the National Cycle Network. On 11 September 1995, an award from the Millennium Commission enabled Sustrans to embark on the first 2,500 miles of a 6,500 mile National Cycle Network. The Network now extends to just over 12,000 miles and carries one million walking and cycling journeys every day.

Sustrans is calling on UK governments to invest in doubling the number of journeys under five miles made by foot, bike and public transport to four out of five by 2020.

for more information and to download a copy of the call to action visit http://www.sustrans.org.uk/about-sustrans/call-to-action-for-2020

Please consider attending this even to sponsor, so to speak, Sustrans and with it a new future in the UK for cycling and walking and for sustainable transport.

Michael Smith (Veshengro) © 2010

Keeping winter tidy with Forest

The harsh winter weather can wreak havoc on our gardens, which is why it is essential to make sure that you have the necessary storage facilities to keep it well maintained. One company that offers a host of winning storage ideas is Forest, the UK’s favourite manufacturer of garden timber products.

From log stores to garden chests and small sheds, Forest’s garden storage range has it all. Created to keep your garden tidy throughout the winter and all year round, all of Forest’s products will add an eye catching and practical element to your garden.

The Forest Premier Shed is manufactured from the highest quality planed 12mm timber cladding, suitable for all your garden requirements. Featuring a fully boarded roof and floor, stainless steel fixings and a lockable door, the Forest Premier Shed has been pressure treated to ensure a longer life. The shed also features styrene glazed opening windows – ideal if you want to make your shed into a work space! RRP: £849.99 / Dimensions: 177(w) x 242(d)cm.

Forest’s Garden Chest features a removable front panel for easy access. The low height makes it perfect for storage throughout the garden, including under windows and in garages. Dimensions: 94 x 126 x 86cm / RRP £139.99

The Log & Tool Store from Forest combines log, pre-packed coal and tool storage areas. Completed with slatted base and back, the Log & Tool Store has been designed to allow air flow to the logs. The unit also features a handy integrated shelf. Dimensions: 152 x 176 x 69cm / RRP £199.99

The Tall Garden Store is great for keeping all your long-handled gardening tools in. Manufactured using rustic overlap timber and featuring a pent roof, the Tall Garden Store is widely available throughout Forest stockists.

The Forest Slot down Compost Bin is a great idea for beginners and the serious composter alike. The extension kit means you can create a double or triple compost heap. RRP: £74.99 (£54.99 for one extension kit) / Dimensions: 82 x 106 x 106cm

All of these storage solutions are the perfect accompliment to Forest’s ‘National Tidy Garden’ weekend – 23rd and 24th October 2010 – designed to get your garden ready for the winter. Look out for top tips on how to ‘winterproof’ your garden on Forest’s twitter and Facebook pages.

For more information about the event or to stay up-to-date with Forest’s latest news find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter - www.twitter.com/GardenTimber.

Forest’s ranges can be purchased in more than 1,000 garden centres and builders merchants up and down the country. Home delivery is also available on a wide range of products.

Source: Whitefoot-Forward PR


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The average home can save £37 every year by turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby. Lights and appliances account for 23 per cent of a household’s electricity consumption*.

Electricity monitors enable people to understand the cost of electricity and B&Q is making it easier to see how small changes can make a big difference to a home’s energy consumption with the OWL energy monitor.

The OWL shows the impact that can be made by the simple flick of a switch, which could lead to substantial savings each year. It is simple to install; the OWL Wireless Electricity Monitor is easily clipped on to your existing mains supply without the need for an electrician or tools.

Available from 161 B&Q stores nationwide in the UK the OWL sells at £19.98.

Additional energy savings, obviously, can be achieved by home insulation and such like but many have done that already and still leave their lights and appliance on. With such a monitor it may be brought home to them as to how much they are wasting.

© 2010

* Energy savings supplied by the Energy Saving Trust

Nematodes needed now!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Harrod Horticultural has superior products to grow your own

Late summer and early autumn is a critical time for nematode applications. Successful treatments now will reduce many of this years and next year’s pests!

Vine Weevil

Vine Weevil eggs are now developing into damaging larvae that feed on plant roots. If left untreated they will feed on plant roots until the winter. They will then become dormant but will start feeding again early next spring.

The use of nematodes against Vine Weevil larvae is very effective, especially when treating pots and containers but this proven form of biological control depends on timing. If you can treat your plants before it gets colder, a significant reduction in Vine Weevil populations can be achieved.

Apply Vine Weevil Killer nematodes before the end of October. The nematodes are easily applied by watering into pots and containers.

GPC-275 Vine Weevil Killer small pack £8.95 – treats up to 100 plus 1 litre pots. GPC-280 Vine Weevil Killer large pack £27.95 –for large containers and open ground treatments; treats up to 100 square metres


Daddy-long-legs or Crane flies tend to appear in large numbers in early September. This is followed by a new generation of Leatherjacket grubs that develop from the eggs laid by these insects. The brown-grey grubs get to work quickly eating grass and turf roots. They can cause significant damage in large numbers and attract animals and birds to lawns, which rip up lawns looking to feed on them. September is a very important month for controlling Leatherjackets with nematodes.

Leatherjacket Killer nematodes should be watered into lawns about 2 weeks after you see large numbers of Daddy-long-leg adults or before the end of October. The nematodes are watered directly into the lawns, so they can search out and kill the Leatherjacket grubs under the grass. This is a safe and non- chemical treatment for your lawn.

GPC-022 Leatherjacket Killer small £9.95 – treats up to 12 square metres. GPC-285

Leatherjacket large £19.95 – treats up to 100 square metres.

Also don’t forget to apply Chafer Grub Killer nematodes to your lawns by the end of October, the damage is similar but different nematodes are used to control each pest.

GPC-290 Chafer Grub Killer £29.95 – treats up to 100 square metres.

Check out http://www.harrodhorticultural.com/ for more information

© 2010

Is the economy on the way south again?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

To all intents and purposes, from the way the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve are talking, it would appear that we might be headed for another dip, after the small little up, in the economy.

While they are still trying to talk down the effect such a renewed downturn would have consumers certainly – especially in Britain – are voting against spending.

In some media reports there was even the “D”-word mentioned; the word “depression” and this might just be what we are headed for, despite the fact of whatever the powers-that-be are trying to tell us.

Even if this Depression is not going to equal the Great Depression of the 1930s, together with the arrival of the cost of oil going through the roof as a result of Peak Oil, and the UK's Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES) seeing 2013 as the year when oil will be coming to the unaffordable level as far as price and cost is concerned, we are going to be in real dire straights.

Should the experts of ITPOES be right then the rising cost of oil will be adding further problems to the economy and thus send it further south still, and even the countries that currently think that with a growth of a couple of percent, such as Germany, they are out of the Recession, will face a new a further downturn.

How the economy globally is going to handle that is a serious question and it is something that we must get ourselves prepared for for such an event too could trigger serious problems.

It would appear that in the USA they are preparing for stagflation, which means both interest rate and unemployment rate being high with the economic growth being slow – or non-existent.

The other possibility for both the USA and the UK was, and may still is, deflation, when the inflation rate actually goes into the negative realm. This normally give the economy a real serious blow.

The fact is, as far as the British people are concerned, spending is not something they are going to do and it would appear that the number of those vacationing abroad this year, in the 2010 summer, has gone down while the holidays in the country seem to have gone up and camping holidays and those in holiday camps of the Butlins and Haven kind are back on.

Staycation in the country and at home seems to be much more on the agenda this year, so at least it would appear from the number of visitors to local parks for picnics with children and such, that even the previous year when the trend really got going.

The government is trying to, obviously, get people to spend money as they have this notion, like most modern economist, that the economy and the country can only work if the economy has proper growth.

But, as I have said in a different article, the economy worked well in the old days when good were made to last and people passed those goods on to others when they died, for instance. It was not about spend, spend, spend and still our countries worked. So why are our governments and economists so fixated on economic growth.

If we are headed for another dip in the economy and it is indeed going south, once again, we better think of another approach and this approach may, in fact, be looking to saving for things again instead of buying on credit and looking for and buying things that actually last.

Maybe this is also a chance to look at a total reappraisal of our economic system, and I am not directly talking here about changing capitalism, as I do not think that there is so much wrong with it as people claim, but the system of the more, more, more is what I am talking about.

In my opinion, this is the way to go and it is a preparation for what we will be forced to change over to once the end of oil actually arrives.

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil, how it could affect you and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via http://the-end-of-oil.blogspot.com/

Businesses demand faster broadband speeds

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Companies say that they do not need expensive high-speed trains but rather would see investment in super-fast broadband ‘media highways’.

While those findings – and hence maybe they should not then be surprising – come from a survey conducted by a major broadband provider, Virgin Media Business, nevertheless many of those bosses questioned found that speedier broadband could significantly improve their bottom line.

This result, with 36% of those questioned, was higher than those who believe improved road (24 per cent) or rail (30) infrastructure would bring commercial benefits.

Virgin Media’s Andrew Beckhaus said: “Global figureheads from prime ministers to leading business owners have identified better communications infrastructure, such as fibre-optic networks, as the linchpin for improving the global economy.

“We saw a general election packed with policies on how each political party would improve the nation’s communications infrastructure.

“This survey highlights that the issue is still at the forefront of the boardroom agenda and the very real need for businesses to step away from legacy infrastructure towards a faster future.”

I have said many times before that we do not need the high-speed rail connections that the government, the previous Labour one was, and the current Con-Lib coalition one seems to be, advocating.

High-speed rail will cost a great deal more than any super-fast broadband infrastructure across the country, including the rural areas. At least, that would benefit the rural areas, unlike the high-speed rail link.

In addition to that many people could work from home if they had fast broadband connections and thus would not need, at least not every day, commute into London or other large towns, cities and conurbations.

© 2010

Clean up after your dog

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

People who allow their dogs to foul in parks, open spaces and the road without cleaning up after them not only are inconsiderate and obnoxious; they endanger the sight and the lives of children.

In Manchester a two-year old little girl could lose the sight of one her eyes because she fell into dog's mess at Platt Fields Park, Manchester.

The child had run towards the gate of a fenced off area in the park but fell down in dog dirt and rubbed her eyes before her mother could get to her. Despite the fact that her mother managed to clean her eyes and wash it, the toddler woke up early the next morning with swollen eyes and was taken to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital where doctors confirmed that she was suffering from toxocariasis.

Toxocariasis is carried in dog feces and can lead to complete blindness or even death if not treated within 72 hours. Though the girl has been released from the hospital doctors believe that she might lose some sight in one of her eyes.

This is one of the many reasons that in the Romani-Gypsy Culture dogs (and cats) are considered unclean and are never permitted to enter a true Gypsy household, even though the Romani People may, originally, not even have know of the disease.

It is such a sad state of affairs that dog owners are so inconsiderate in parks and open spaces that a child could lose her eyesight simply of the fact that someone could not be bothered to pick up the mess that his or her pet deposited.

We can observe it again and again daily of how dog owners will ensure that they are a “safe distance” ahead of their dog when they walk it so as to not to be able to see that the dog performed and then, when challenged by Rangers become abusive to the extent, at times, of threatening physical violence.

Some are that inconsiderate and ignorant that they deliberately take their dogs into areas that clearly are marked as “no dogs allowed” and then state “but he is on a lead” or such.

In some countries, Germany amongst them, there is now a little idea taking hold where small flags are planted in dog's mess that identify that this mess is looking for an owner to take care of it, in an attempt to shame people into being responsible.

This seems to be, at times, the only way to go as a quiet word and any attempt in teaching them to be responsible dog owners does not seem to sink in at all.

What will it take? A death of a child from toxocariasis?

© 2010

Wind power generation increases by almost a third

Wind now powering more than two million homes

  • Energy statistics reveal a 31% increase in wind power generation in 2009

  • Renewables contribution to UK electricity mix up by 20%

  • Wind energy now represents 2.5% of all UK electricity production

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

RenewableUK, the trade body representing Britain 's wind, wave and tidal energy sector has welcomed figures which show the percentage of electricity on the grid from wind power increased by 31.1% last year compared to 2008. In 2009 wind power in the UK produced 9,304Gwh of electricity or enough energy to power more than two million homes, the equivalent of around two thirds of households in Greater London.

The statistics, published by DECC as part of The Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) 2010, also reveal that between 2008 and 2009 the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources overall grew by 20% from 5.6% to 6.7% and the proportion of all UK electricity produced by wind power now stands at 2.5%.

Maria McCaffery MBE, RenewableUK Chief Executive said: “It is good news to see the role of renewables in meeting our energy needs is rising and in particular the significant contribution from the wind industry. These are promising statistics but we must go further and act faster. With one third of our power supply needing to be replaced by 2015 we cannot delay in greater deployment of clean energy technologies. If we are to avoid an energy gap and secure our supplies for the future, we must maintain momentum to deliver a robust renewable energy industry that will lead to the creation of thousands of green jobs.”

She added “Meeting our 2020 renewable energy targets will be largely dependent on Britain unlocking its offshore wind potential. The UK is capable of delivering 49GW of electricity from this sector over the next decade; more than half our current energy needs. However, achieving this goal will require strong political will and a policy framework that ensures Britain does not lose out to the rest of the world in this burgeoning industry.”

RenewableUK has broadly welcomed the Annual Energy Statement but is urging Government to raise its target of 12GW of offshore wind installed by 2020 to over 20GW.

What we still are forgetting, it would seem, is to make small wind, that is to say, micro-generation of wind energy, a real feasibility by making effective and efficient small turbines that really can pack a punch at low cost, or even teach people how to – shock, horror – build and install their own.

The UK, and not just the UK, must become serious about small wind and solar by taking away all planning restrictions in regards too those.

While the talk was about those turbines and panels no longer needing planning consent and being able to be installed without the reality is a total different one at local level.

Councils the width and breadth of Britain still take action against people who install such turbines and panels without consent, more often than not quoting aesthetics of an area or such ***.

Wind turbines on every roof and solar heating panels and photo-voltaic panels must become a common sight in such a way that we find it strange if a house does not have at least one turbine and solar panels.

This will require a new approach by the councils but, let's face it... no planning consent needed means another source of income gone and they will not want to have that now, do they...

© 2010

IOG SALTEX’S ‘World of Arb’ makes tree surgery best practice comes alive

IOG is planning a series of demonstrations, workshops and seminars for this year’s SALTEX show.

Working closely with arboricultural specialist the BTS Group in the World of Arb area of the show, there will be a daily programme of tree climbing/access and rescue demonstrations, walk-in ‘ask the BTS expert’ workshops, as well as a display of products needed for safe and effective tree surgery - focusing especially on equipment for working at height efficiently, effectively and safely.

In addition, the schedule of free seminars taking place in The Grandstand will also include sessions dedicated to the arboriculture industry.

The BTS programme of live demonstrations will include best-practice routines for:

  • Access - climbed versus platform – highlighting health and safety issues as well as the efficacy of the alternative routines/methods; and

  • Aerial rescue techniques – focusing on accident and emergency routines when close to electricity/power lines.

Kevin Moore, Training Manager of the BTS Training division, says the enthralling programme will involve BTS staff from the Group’s Ipswich, Luton and Leeds depots.

Elsewhere in the show, arborists will also be able to view and discuss a wide range of appropriate equipment, from harnesses through to sky-high access platforms, from other exhibitors.

The IOG SALTEX World of Arb showcase is one of a number of special feature areas planned for this year’s show – visit www.iogsaltex.co.uk for details.

Nick Clegg has announced plans for a 'new Green Deal'

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has, on August 19, 2010, announced plans for a new Green Deal which he says is part of the coalition's 'quiet green revolution' to create jobs and protect the environment.

It is just such a shame that the coalition government is cutting funding to the environmental bodies left, right and center. This is not the “green” government that they promised us, despite of all the noises that are being made.

Mr Clegg, speaking in South Tyneside, said that the Green Deal will combine growth in the economy with a greener and more efficient way of using energy.

He wants to reduce energy demand and carbon emissions while making homes warmer, saving consumers money and stimulating green recovery in jobs.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "I want to focus on plans for a Green Deal to combine growth in the economy with a greener and more efficient way of using energy.

"Green Deal Finance will allow householders to make their homes more energy efficient, saving on their bills, without the need for them to provide up-front finance.

"Homes account for a quarter of all emissions in the UK, and this is no longer a problem we can ignore. With some of the oldest housing stock in Europe we also face a huge challenge."

According to Mr Clegg up to 14 million homes could benefit from the Green Deal through insulation.

Payments will be collected through energy bills and the most energy inefficient homes could save, on average, around £550 a year.

The Government will begin legislating for these proposals in the Autumn and they are expected to take effect in 2012.

RenewableUK, one of the country's leading renewable energy trade association welcomed the plan as an 'important step' in maximising employment and business benefits in the renewable energy sector.

RenewableUK small systems manager, Indre Vaizgelaite, said: "It is encouraging to see Government taking action on renewables and the environment.

As an industry we look forward to next phase of the Green Deal which is expected to focus on the microgeneration sector.

"The UK small wind sector currently has more than 14,000 small systems installed but the Green Deal will be a great catalyst for further growth which in conjunction with more energy-efficient homes, will be vital in driving down our carbon emissions."

RenewableUK's 2010 small systems market report revealed that the UK market stands at £17.2 million and the figure for UK manufacturing export revenue from this sector is £7.59 million.

While it is very important indeed to make homes, and buildings in general, more energy-efficient by way of insulation, double- and triple-glazing, we must also look at ways of reducing energy use simply by using more efficient lighting, heating and whatever else, as well as by simply not running unnecessary lights and appliances.

The insulating on buildings, though, must be in the forefront, followed by energy production on every roof. Alas, that is not something they have even thought of as yet, though something that we have spoken about here on the Blog in “Every Building a Power Station”. I just wonder when they will catch on.

© 2010

Early Fall, Strong and Long Winter?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British Met Office recently mentioned that they predict a very early autumn (fall) this year, with sleet, hail and even snow at the end of September and winter to arrive by snow and ice by the end of October.

If their predictions for the mild winter of 2009/2010 is anything to go by maybe we should not be concerned but, then again, they could just be right and if they are we are in serious problem in the UK.

Already during last winter the power stations were hard pressed to keep the lights on and the gas supplies too were getting rather precariously low. If we get a severe and prolonged winter this year we might really find ourselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The infrastructure is still as bad as it was the winter gone and nothing has been done to improve it in any way, shape or form. Thus, should the cold really strike and stay, things could get ugly, especially for those that have no alternative to electricity or gas as far as heating is concerned.

But has the government of the United Kingdom, the previous and the new one, made any preparations and contingency plans for a strong winter? It would appear not.

That means, when things get bad it will be the consumer, the people of the country, that will bear the brunt.

Don't worry, the Prime Minister and his cronies will be OK.

© 2010

Greenways mean go for a staycation summer

Greenways mean go for a staycation summer in London

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Now that the school holidays are well underway, people in London are being encouraged to explore the city using a brand new network of greenways, which are family-friendly walking and cycling routes in and around green spaces in London, linking up local attractions.

Carl Pittam, Director of Sustrans in London, said: “London is a short journeys city where the average trip is just three-and-a-half miles, a distance which can be easily walked or cycled by most people if there is a safe and attractive place to do it in, like the new greenways network.

“Increasing cycling levels in London is vital for tackling congestion, reducing carbon emissions from transport and addressing the health problems associated with inactivity. But cycling needs to be made accessible to people of all ages and abilities if more people are to be encouraged to travel by bike.”

The greenways are quiet routes ideal for those who are new or returning to cycling, families with young children or anyone who feels particularly vulnerable on busy roads.

Recently opened greenways include a route along the attractive Ravensbourne River within the wildlife, woodland and wetland haven of Beckenham Place Park.

Elsewhere in London, a new greenway allows people to cross the Hogsmill River in the borough of Kingston upon Thames, there’s an improved route for walkers and cyclists through Hounslow Heath nature reserve and earlier this month a new greenway opened at Happy Valley in Redbridge.

They are already making a difference to the daily lives of Londoners. Mother of two, Michelle Young, who lives and works in Kingston, says “My cycle to work has been improved no-end by the new bridge over the Hogsmill. Previously it was such a hassle negotiating the narrow paths and barriers, but now it’s my favourite part of the route. The kids love it too, we regularly go the playground next to the bridge at the weekend.”

London Greenways is a collection of projects that seek to create a network of attractive and functional routes for walkers and cyclists, and aims to improve access to and through green space across the capital.

London Greenways has been developed and funded by Transport for London (TfL), Sustrans, the Olympic Delivery Authority, the London Boroughs and others over a number of years and incorporates schemes delivered through the TfL Greenways Programme, the Mayor’s Great Outdoors programme and Sustrans’ Connect2, National Cycle Network and Greenways for the Olympics and London (GOAL) projects

There appears to be one serious problem though. Finding a list and maps of the routes – without trying to get cycle maps from Transport for London – seems to be a nigh impossible task.

I have tried in more that one place and they just cannot be found online and that is where they should be.

There should be a downloadable PDF file of each of the routes available somewhere but, it would appear, no one even has thought about this. And this, in my view, is a serious shortcoming. If those maps exist maybe some could point us into the direction of them...

© 2010

Dirty coal back on the menu

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, UK, August 2010: The UK was going to phase out all the old and polluting coal burning power stations but seems to have given them a reprieve.

This shows how desperate the situation is regarding oil and natural gas by now and while coal is still better, as far as I am concerned, than is nuclear it is an unsustainable option.

And nuclear power also is back on the agenda and even a fair number of greens are, for some reason unexplainable to me, see it as a green option. Ever considered the waste problem? Obviously not!

What about the possibility of something going wrong and a radioactive discharge? Oh, but, I hear them say, at least there is no CO2. Doh? Am I missing something here?

Clean coal, which is a term often being banded about, is something that just is a little like dry water.

Coal is not and can never be clean and anyone claiming that coal can be clean is living in cloud cuckoo land and maybe should either stay there or come back into the real world and understand that there is no such thing as clean coal.

In addition to that, like oil, coal is a finite fossil fuel and, in the not too distant future, will be part of history. You know, the place all former things go to.

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil, how it could affect you and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via http://the-end-of-oil.blogspot.com/

Back To School In Eco-Friendly Style

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ROCHESTER, MI, August 2010: The August 2010 issue of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report is out, featuring ways to save environmental and economic resources when readying your kids to go back to school.

Emphasis is on use of recycled materials and being "greener" when packing lunches. According to Editor Bob Lilienfeld, "Just by spending an extra 2 minutes a day to pack lunch for 2 kids, a family can save $2 a day, or over $325 a year! Simply switch from single-serve, disposable packaging to larger, more economical sizes of fruits, vegetables, cookies and crackers. Then put these items in reusable containers."

The August issue also discusses whether packages made from bio-polymers, or containers claiming to be biodegradable or compostable, are as sustainable as they are purported to be.

This part of the August issue of ULS also and especially makes most interesting reading and should make us really think. Bio-plastics are somewhat like bio-fuels; not as green as we are made to believe. In fact, let me rephrase that: they are not at all green in the main.

While plastics from bio-polymers are a way of making plastic from sources other than oil the fact that actually crops are used to produce the base to those polymers is what is also a problem in the long run. Those crops are, first of all, also food crops and secondly they will take up, in the same way as crops for bio-fuels, valuable food growing lands.

The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report is published monthly, and its website is rated #1 by Google, Yahoo! and MSN for searches relating to waste prevention and source reduction.

Editor Bob Lilienfeld also hosts the monthly TV segment Use Less Stuff on Fox. The current ULS newsletter can be found at http://www.use-less-stuff.com/Archive/ULS-Report-V10N4.pdf. This is a PDF file and you will need a PDF reader for this.

One of the best PDF readers available, in my opinion, is not Adobe Reader but Nitro PDF Reader. It is free and, so I understand, Open Source and has the facility to add annotations, etc. which will also be saves (something you have to pay dearly for in other readers) and also can extract text and pictures.

© 2010

The Great Bamboo Con

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Green consumers are being conned all over the pace with the claim that bamboo is a very eco-friendly material, especially in the form of flooring, plywood and such for the building trade, or as a fabric.

Nothing could, in fact, be further from the truth.

However, “eco-stores” and green media keep harping on and on about the supposed eco-friendliness and the sustainability of this fast growing grass that can be used, in some ways, like hardwood.

While bamboo is fine when it is used as it always has been in the countries where it grows, for containers and whatever else, made by hand without any real “additives”, when it is being made flooring to – supposedly – be as good as real hardwood flooring and more environmentally sound then greenwash hits.

Bamboo does not come in planks. It is a hollow grass, though rather hard. Thus it has to be turned into sheets and this takes a great deal of energy and also chemicals.

In other words, bamboo flooring is nothing more than laminate flooring, using bamboo rather than sheets of hardwood. Where is the green factor here? There is none. It is as bad for the environment as is wood laminate, period.

Bamboo plywood is recently also being praised as being an environmentally friendly product for the building industry. Since when is any plywood, whether from FSC certified wood or bamboo, environmentally friendly? The glues and resins used certainly are not.

Now we come to bamboo clothing. To make a fiber from bamboo that can be spun and woven it must be created and that is done in the same way as viscose made from wood and used for Rayon. Anyone thinking green product might like to check out how viscose is produced. It should be a real eyeopener.

When it comes to items of tableware and kitchen stuff made from bamboo then those could be seen as green as long as they are made as they have been for centuries in the country where bamboo grows and has been used traditionally to make all manner of things.

Bamboo chopsticks certainly fall under sustainability, as do other traditional products but anything that is created using machinery, glues, resins, and other processes, the story changes.

All in all the greenwash of bamboo is a rather serious issue in the green field that we must conquer and the record must be set straight.

Unfortunately this does not tally with the ringing of the cash registers and producers and merchants vehemently reject any of the factors that we keep raising as to bamboo being not as green and sustainable a product as they claim.

It is all very much the same as with the “Eco-Button”; but you all know the story by now, I guess.

There is so much greenwash about that all I can suggest here, aside from exposing it, that the buyer beware.

© 2010


Local Money, Local Industry, Local Food, Local Everything

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In order to transition successfully to a post-oil age world we must localize everything as much as possible.

While total self-sufficiency is not ever going to be possible – as the American Indians a proof enough for none of their tribes and nations was totally self-sufficient – self-reliance is a different kettle of fish and should be attainable to a high degree.

The Native Americans, the Injuns, traded for things that they could not obtain in their area or make, but wanted, and there will thus be such incidents in such a localized economy of the post-oil society and era.

However, everything must be brought down to a local level, economy and all, including government, which must be really by the people, of the people and for the people, and all this will be as much by necessity of transport being an issue as well as for other reasons.

Local currency, local money

Local currency, local money, whatever form this may take, is one way, as already demonstrated by the Transition Movement in the Transition Towns as well as those that just simply opted for a local currency, of ensuring that money stays in the local economy benefiting local businesses. This can and should be introduced already before the oil is gone.

Once the end of oil has arrived this currency, this local trading unit, will take on a a slightly different role then, as it may be the only “money” available then. Presently such currencies are a complimentary thing and often are exchanged 1:1 with the coin of the realm. Barter, more that likely, though, will really be the primary currency in most economic exchanges after the event.

Local Industry

Simply by necessity production of most good and most services will have to be localized and occur on a local level and predominately, I should think, by hand and small power tools, only, with some trade to and from the outside of the local area.

No area, no village or even town, will ever be entirely self-sufficient in everything and total self-sufficiency is but a dream, and a false one at that. It did not work for the Native Americans, nor for the backwoodsmen nor for monesteries and such like communities.

Nevertheless, by force of necessity I believe that we must manufacture many of our needed goods at home, so to speak, and in some cases literally at home, from furniture to metal goods and everything in between.

Local Food

Local food, grown right where we live and used fresh when in season and as preserved foods, such as dried and canned, in other times, is important now to reduce the emissions associated with food, the so-called food miles and will be more important in the future.

Food security can only be guaranteed if you and I get down – literally – to growing at least some of our own food; the more,, obviously, the better.

The sooner we begin with doing this the more we know about growing our own food when we will have to grow most if not all of it ourselves if we want not to starve.

Thus everything will have to be grown right in our own backyards, or thereabouts locally. We have no other choice than,going local in this as much as in everything else.

The problem with transportation and travel alone will see to that after the event, when gasoline or diesel will be scarce, no longer affordable to the ordinary man and woman in the street or, simply, no longer even available.

It will not do any harm whatsoever, though, if we localized everything, as far as possible, now already while things are still more or less normal. Or are you telling me that things are normal?

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil, how it could affect you and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via http://the-end-of-oil.blogspot.com/

Budget could cause return of recession, economic watchdog has warned

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What do they mean “return of recession”? I had not noticed it had gone anywhere.

A double-dip recession is possible because of the measures that were announced in the emergency Budget by the coalition government, warns the government's new economic watchdog.

Respected economists Sir Alan Budd and Geoffrey Dicks, from the Office for Budget Responsibility, have told the Treasury select committee that the measures announced could harm the economy. And, certainly, they could harm our economy that is built on the growth model. This shows, yet again, that we must get away from that model and that rather yesterday than tomorrow.

According to both those figures from the OBR the chances are for a double-dip recession, but let's face it... those chances have been there for a while and most economists, in fact, have been saying that this was something that could happen.

The most interesting bit is that they think the recession could return, considering that, as far as most people are concerned, including economists with brains, it has not, as yet, gone away, and that despite all the massaged figures.

The fact is, however, that we have little other chance as to do as the government outlined as to deficit reduction for otherwise the country could be bankrupt sometime in the future.

This proves, yet again, that the words of America's founding fathers were so very prudent and right in that they stated – shame no one has taken a blind bid of a notice – that a nation must never ever be indebted to any bank or foreign country (my paraphrasing).

Shame not one country seems to have understood this message, and this message also, in my opinion, applies to us, as people, in general, in that debt is a bad thing.

© 2010

Wait! There could be birds still nesting

Hold back a while before trimming the hedges and trees

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

You may be getting frustrated and angered by straggly foliage or unruly tree branches which appear to be taking over your garden and by a hedge that looks in serious need of a haircut, but try to hold back on the trimming.

The RSPB is is urging gardeners to avoid making the chop as there could still be late nesting birds hidden within the greenery and you certainly could seriously disrupt them and even cause the death of their offspring.

An RSPB South East media officer said: “The RSPB receives a lot of calls at the moment from people that have started hedge trimming and discovered a nest. It is very disturbing for gardeners to think they have upset their garden birds and they worry that they may fly the nest and the young won’t survive.

“You can save yourself a job and wait for a few weeks, ideally until late September at the earliest. If you do need to do it sooner for safety reasons perhaps, try and replace any greenery as much as possible so as not to deter the birds.”

Most garden birds breed between March and August but some species will be on their nests until late into September.

Cutting this early could also starve birds and mammals of a vital fruit supply. Many plants will still have an abundance of berries which could see the birds through the winter.

Last year’s winter larder of berries on shrubs and hedges meant the difference between life and death for many resident birds and winter visitors.

The RSPB is also urging local authorities to hold back on cutting hedges for a few weeks yet where possible.

Many have to cut hedges for path access or horticultural reasons for example, but where there is flexibility, the wildlife charity suggests waiting until the end of summer.

If maintenance is unavoidable at this time, the RSPB asks that gardeners, local authorities and contractors consider nesting birds and do preliminary inspections.

© 2010

Peak Oil threat to British Columbia's food supply, says report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Climate Change and rising oil prices are a threat to ability of British Columbia to feed itself in the future, say scientists and planners.

Farmers in this Canadian province produce only 48 per cent of the meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables that are being consumed there, according to a report prepared by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

The report, titled “B.C.'s Food Self-Reliance”, says that the area of farmland with access to irrigation in the province would have to increase by nearly 50 per cent by 2025 to provide a healthy diet for all British Columbians. You can download the report for yourself from here.

Maintaining the province's current level of food self-reliance in 2025 would require a 30-per-cent increase in agricultural production, according to the report.

The total amount of land being farmed in B.C. has gone up by less than one per cent since 1986, according to census data. In the Greater Vancouver Regional District, only 223 hectares of farmland came under irrigation between 1996 and 2001, for a total of 6,375 hectares.

The agricultural industry's reliance on fossil fuels for irrigation, processing, harvesting, refrigeration, transport and the production of fertilizer, and the fertilizers themselves being, predominately oil-based, means that as the world's oil supply wanes and fuel prices spike, we should not expect to be eating Chilean grapes and Mexican lettuce in a few years time, according to Vancouver architect and planner Rick Balfour.

Balfour, who obtained the ministry report through Freedom of Information legislation, envisions a near-future in which virtually everything we eat will have to be produced locally.

Rick Balfour, who served as chairman of the Vancouver Planning Commission until last week, has organized "war games" sessions for planning and futurist conferences in which people try to work out how societies and economies reorganize as a result of oil price shock. The "re-ruralization" of the suburbs – tearing up low-density neighborhoods to grow crops – is a typical scenario, according to him. And I must say that from what I have come to understand I can but agree with Mr. Balfour.

"This report speaks to that very issue and it was being buried by the government," so said Mr. Balfour. "It took six months to get a 20-page report that asks the question, 'When we can't afford to ship our food from Chile and California, what are we going to do?'"

Within seven to 10 years fuel prices are going to spike dramatically, Balfour said. Peak oil theory predicts a massive rise in oil prices as oil production reaches maximum outputs and production begins to fall. Scientists and planners predict that a painful reorganization of the global economy will follow the peak and subsequent decline in oil production.

While Rick Balfour reckons that it will take seven to 10 years for the fuel prices to spike dramatically I, and many others, reckon this time to be much nearer by now. The British “Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security (ITPOES) – members of which include, amongst others Richard Branson, of the Virgin Group of companies – seem to think that 2013 may be the year when the impact will hit us already hard, and say as much in their report of February 2010 (which also ended up buried a little until July 2010) called “Crunch Oil”.

We must make our changes and transition now to a world with less oil or even virtually no oil.

Can we handle $10/gallon gasoline? Of course not. It will throw the economy into chaos, if not ruin. What we will have seen so far will look like a picnic and a gentle stroll in a park.

The problem is that the governments are not prepared to tell the people and the people also do not appear to be ready for this message.

The British Columbia government buried the report that they themselves commissioned and produced, no doubt out of fear as to how the people would react should they ever find out.

Now it is in the public domain and I just wonder what backlash might come out of this and as to whether people will finally realize where we are headed. Will they act and prepare or will they continue, in the main, act like ostriches and bury their heads in the sand pretending it is not happening?

When the likes of Richard Branson and other captains of industry get seriously concerned about Peak Oil and its impact we better sit up and take note. Those people generally do not scare easily. Methinks when they scare we are in trouble. Time to act and that time is now.

Get ready to move into a no-oil world and learn all you can about the issue and how to live and thrive in the new world after oil.

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil, how it could affect you and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via http://the-end-of-oil.blogspot.com/

This is the Age of Austerity

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Frugality and austerity do not have to be a bad thing; they can, in fact, be good for us and the environment.

While the governments keep harping on about us needing to spend, spend, spend to keep the economy going and growing, frugality and austerity at home and in the office, at work, are the right thing for the future, regardless.

Consumption is more dangerous to the Planet as is any growth in population, though still I advocate the “stop at two” idea.

The Great Recession, which has in no way gone away as yet and which could still dip again, should get us all to cut back on our consumption but, in the main, that has not happened, as yet, as people still spend and spend and consume as if there be no tomorrow, and most of that on credit.

With government measures coming into force to reduce the national budget deficit the economy could go south once more and we then really need to take austerity measures and apply frugality.

Why not start it before it becomes something we are being forced to do?

This is indeed the age of austerity and cutting back and making do and mending, reusing and upcycling instead of going to the shops and buying, and walking and cycling instead of driving, will be good for us, our pocketbooks and the Planet, Mother Earth.

But will we do it and get used to it before we are going to be forced to do it by circumstances beyond our control?

I'd rather transition into everything slowly, though in this case I have arrived already to a great extent, than to have to rush it or have to get used too it when I have no other choice.

The choice is yours to make before the choice no longer is yours.

The coming end of the oil age, no doubt, will push us into this way more and more and we will be forced to look at different ways of personal transportation with gasoline getting dearer and dearer and the same will be true for consumer goods for, once the oil is getting more expensive then also consumer goods coming from abroad, and other things, will go up in price.

Grow your own, at least some of it, making do and mending and reusing and upcycling will become the norm, in addition to use getting about in a healthier way.

© 2010

To learn more about Peak Oil and what a society post Oil Age might look like get and read the book “The End of Oil”. You can obtain the book via http://the-end-of-oil.blogspot.com/

Burgon & Ball Potato Harvesting Scoop – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Potato Harvesting Scoop, ideal for use large tubs, raised beds, or planters on the patio, in which you are growing your taters, is a brilliant re-interpretation of a traditional potato ‘grate’ – for lifting your potatoes without damage.

The bar across the end of the tines prevents accidental stabbing while the tine’s spacing and shape allows potatoes to be sifted from the soil. The design is a rather old one and the full-size tools were in use in potato and sugar beat harvesting in the days gone by. A proven design.

The tool is ideal for use with Burgon & Ball Potato Planting Bags and also for tub planting, as I do in my garden. If using to harvest potatoes grown in the ground it is recommended to first loosening the soil around the base of the plants.

Forged from stainless steel, with hardwood handle and leather hanging thong, it is a high quality tool and also, in my view, an heirloom which, if looked after, will be a tool that is still going to be used by your children and grandchildren.

A small word of advice: Despite the fact that the potato harvesting scoop has that bar across the tines to prevent damage to the potatoes being harvested the scoop should be used with care, especially when harvesting potatoes while still leaving the plants in place. It is still possible to graze the potatoes, if you work without care, and this would make them vulnerable in storage.

This is, as I have said, a great tool, brilliantly designed and one that will, I am sure, become a heirloom, and I really love using it.

© 2010

The Healing Effects of Forests

Maybe there actually is something to that “hug a tree” idea. In fact, I think there is.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Vienna, Austria: “Many people,” says Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla, “feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know that there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature.”

Forests – and other natural, green settings – can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells.

Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.

In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature – for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit caries, is produced from hardwood bark.

Dr. Karjalainen will coordinate a session on the health benefits of forests at the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul. “Preserving green areas and trees in cities is very important to help people recover from stress, maintain health and cure diseases. There is also monetary value in improving people's working ability and reducing health care costs.” she says.

The notion that green settings, forests, parks, and gardens, have a beneficial effect seems to also borne out by the results in the change in behavior of young people on council estates in Britain who got involved in the community gardens run by some transition town set-ups, for instance.

Rather than, as was feared by law enforcers and others, that the youths would trash the gardens and steal any produce it is they who have become, often, the guardians.

Working with the soil, in addition to just visiting forests, parks and gardens, enhances the result even more and it is a shame that forests and parks do not get more children and young people involved in a volunteering role as this could cut down a lot of problems, maybe.

Hugging trees, literally, has also found to be very beneficial, as many who get out into Nature and thus commune with Her via the trees can attest to, myself included.

We simply need more trees, more forests, and here commercial forests are as valuable as non-commercial ones and today the monocultures of the early to mid of the 20th century are being consigned to the history books of forestry anyway.

Many people have an issue with commercial forestry and wish to see forests that are not managed by humans but this shows how far they are in cloud-cuckoo-land, as their notion of “wild forests” is something that, and the g-ds only know how, has gotten into their heads from magic and mystical beliefs. There are no forests that have never been touched and managed by human hand.

Without commercial forestry and forest management many of the woodlands and forests of today would not even exist and the areas, more than likely, would either be grazing land, be mined or be villages, towns and cities.

IUFRO, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, is a nonprofit, non-governmental international network of forest scientists that promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and enhances the understanding of the ecological, economical and social aspects of forests and trees.

An important part of IUFRO’s mission is to disseminate scientific knowledge to stakeholders and decision-makers and to contribute to forest policy and on-the-ground forest management.

© 2010

The Gardener's Hymn

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all

But what we never mention, though gardeners know it's true
Is when He made the goodies, He made the baddies too!

All things spray- and swattable, disasters great and small
All things paraquatable, the Lord God made them all

The greenfly on the roses, the maggots on our peas
Manure that fills our noses, He also gave us these

(Chorus) All things spray- and swattable,...

The fungus on the goosegogs, the club root on the greens
The slugs that eat the lettuce, and chew our aubergines

(Chorus) All things spray- and swattable,...

The drought that kills the fuchsias, the frost that nips the buds
The rain that drowns the seedlings, the blight that hits the spuds

(Chorus) All things spray- and swattable,...

The midges and mosquitoes, the nettles and the weeds
The pigeons in the green stuff, the sparrows on the seeds

(Chorus) All things spray- and swattable,...

The fly that gets the carrots, the wasp that eats the plums
How black the gardener's outlook, though green may be his thumbs!

(Chorus) All things spray- and swattable,...

But still we gardeners labor, midst vegetables and flowers
And pray what hits our neighbors, will somehow bypass ours!

All things spray- and swattable, disasters great and small
All things paraquatable, the Lord God made them all

Reducing our Energy Consumption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We are being urged, by government and others, in the home and at our places of work, to turn off light and appliances that are not in use, and such like, in order to reduce our energy consumption, as households and businesses, and as a nation.

No one in government, however, seems to look at how electricity, for one, is being wasted in our towns and cities by the local authorities used for illuminating “landmarks” and such.

Do we really, say in London, have to have things like the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, to name but two, lit up at night like no one's business. The amount of energy wasted by those illuminations must go into the millions per annum.

In the same way I do not think that we have to have government building lit up at night on the outside and neither do we have to have unused government buildings with lights on just in case someone breaks in and hurts himself in the dark. An excuse given again and again by local authorities who do that. What happened to burglars carrying flashlights? I always thought every self-respecting burglar took that along with a crowbar.

We also, I do not think, need to have government buildings with their lights on everywhere even though most people have gone home for the night. But that is the general state of affairs in many of those places.

Government should lead by example but obviously has no idea how to do that and finds one excuse after the other why lights are left on, why computer screens are glowing in the offices well past midnight when there is definitely no one home anymore, and especially about illuminating certain building from the outside. Not that any of those excuses really wash.

Then we could, in addition to that, talk about town halls and other local and central government buildings that are overheated in winter, with often temperatures well above 25C and people still complaining that they are cold and then bringing in additional space heaters.

Whatever happened to the advice that government gives to householders to turn down the heat to 18C and if they feel cold to put on a jumper? Can that advice not be applied to office workers too?

Before all this air-conditioning and such people would go to the office in a jacket with a thin jumper and they would work in the jacket, if need. That is why the jackets of office workers had those patches on their elbows. Nowadays they sit in shirtsleeves and often with the sleeves rolled up while the snow is falling outside. Is that really necessary?

It is time that we learned again to do with less heat (and cooling) the way our parents and grandparents did. Then again, when it comes to government, neither they nor their workers pay the bills directly. It is the taxpayers that do;; in other words: you and I.

We all must learn to do with less energy use but the leadership must be taken by the governments if they want to have the people follow, as regards to reducing the nation's energy consumption and thus meeting the CO2 reduction targets.

© 2010