Going green has saved Sutton Council £227k in 2010

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SuttonSutton, UK, November 30, 2010: The London Borough of Sutton's drive to become more sustainable has reaped dramatic results with £227,000 saved this year. This shows what can be done with, what appears to be, small acts.

The annual EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) report shows that energy use in the council has fallen by 15 percent since 2002 saving £164,000 a year. Water consumption at the council has also dropped – falling by 29 percent from 2001 levels, saving £63,000 a year.

Councillor Colin Hall, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change on Sutton Council, said: “This is a staggering amount of money to save in one year. It proves that it makes economic sense to continue to make Sutton more sustainable.”

Most of the energy savings in council buildings have been achieved through simple measures, such as better control of heating installing thermostatic radiators and loft and pipe insulation. Other measures have included using energy efficient lighting and changing the voltage of electricity coming into council buildings to the minimum required. Around 75 per cent of the energy used now comes from green supplies.

Water use has also been reduced substantially by installing water efficient toilets and through quicker identification and repair of leaks, particularly at allotment sites.

Councillor Hall added: “Measures such as installing insulation and energy efficient lighting have made all the difference. These are exactly the same measures that residents can take in their own homes to save money and tackle climate change.”

The London Borough of Sutton, in many cases, appears to be very much in the forefront when it comes to green issues in the south-west of London and in Surrey, of which, theoretically, Sutton still is a part.

Sutton, unlike many other councils, also gives composting bins to its residents, for free, and residents can get free compost (produced by the recycling services) and other such products, including free wood chips.

© 2010

33 Acres of Forest Preserved by Walk Light Media’s Responsible Media Program

NYC, New York (Nov 20, 2010) – Walk Light Media, through its Responsible Media Program (RMP) has preserved 33 acres of forest on behalf of advertisers using its online ad network.  Key Q4 contributions to the RMP include Smart USA, The Home Depot and CitiBank.

The Responsible Media Program embeds corporate social responsibly and Cause Marketing awareness into the existing process of online media planning and buying. The program works by preserving an equal area of forest for every banner ad delivered on the Walk Light Media (WLM) ad network at no additional cost to advertisers.

"This is a great milestone for WLM and our clients. For the first time companies have made a substantial environmental contribution through the normal course of business, online media buying." said Kirk Marsh of Walk Light Media. "By coupling solid actions to existing business processes the RMP is enabling companies to make positive environmental actions at no cost to them.  Sustainability in practice."

RMP’s "Saving forests one banner at a time" works by calculating the area each banner advertisement occupies on a person's screen, multiplied by the millions of times an ad is displayed. This digital area is then converted to real forest floor area.  "The area of one banner in terms of forest floor does not seem like a lot but when you add up the millions of times that it is delivered it amounts to acres and acres of forest", said Kirk Marsh.

A list of participating companies and web site publishers, along with the number of acres preserved can be found at www.walklightmedia.com/responsible-media.  The program is updated with new contributions quarterly.  

Walk Light Media is an online ad network for sustainability, healthy lifestyle and conscientious consumerism. With 22 million monthly unique visitors and over 30 tier 1 publishers that cover a diverse spectrum including: Sustainable Business, Healthy Living & Beauty, Home, Food, Responsible Investing, Parenting and Green Employment. WLM founded the RMP as part of its core belief in social responsibility.

Source : Walk Light Media

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

Boycott Launched to Save Imperiled Bluefin Tuna

Consumers, Chefs, Restaurant Owners Urged To Avoid Buying or Serving Critically Endangered Species Suffering from Overfishing, Oil Spill

SAN FRANCISCO: The Center for Biological Diversity today called on consumers, chefs and restaurateurs to boycott bluefin tuna, a staple at some sushi restaurants and one of the most imperiled fish on the planet. The boycott comes on the heels of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s refusal Saturday to halt overfishing and take measures to take bluefin off its current path toward extinction.

“Bluefin tuna are teetering on the brink of extinction. If regulators won’t protect these magnificent fish, it’s up to consumers and restaurants to eliminate the market demand, and that means refusing to eat, buy or serve this species,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney for the Center, which petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection for the Atlantic bluefin tuna earlier this year.

The boycott launched today calls on consumers in the United States and around the world to stop eating bluefin tuna sushi. The boycott covers restaurants in the United States that advertised bluefin tuna on their online menus as of last week, including Nobu in New York City, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles; Sushitaro in Washington, D.C.; and Kabuto Sushi in San Francisco.

“The desperate plight of bluefin tuna has been well-known for years and, while some restaurants have rightly removed it from their menus, others continue to serve it. That has to stop if we’re going to keep this fish from slipping into oblivion,” Kilduff said.

Bluefin tuna are a remarkable ocean species capable of growing up to 10 feet long, swimming at speeds up to 50 mph and crossing an entire ocean in just weeks. Unfortunately, the sushi market keeps prices for tuna high – a single bluefin tuna sold for $177,000 in 2010 – and encourages illegal and unreported fishing.

Atlantic bluefin tuna have declined by more than 80 percent since 1970 due to overfishing. They suffered another blow in 2010 when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill fouled bluefin spawning habitat. Scientists estimate that 20 percent of juvenile bluefin in the area were killed.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature already lists two species of bluefin, the Atlantic and the Southern, as endangered. The Pacific bluefin tuna is not yet listed but the National Marine Fisheries Service says the population is subject to overfishing. The Fisheries Service is still considering the Center’s request to protect Atlantic bluefin under the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s boycott calls on consumers to sign a pledge not to eat bluefin or spend money at restaurants that serve it. It also urges chefs and restaurateurs to sign a pledge not to buy bluefin tuna or serve it at their establishments.

“There’s a direct connection between consumer demand and the extinction crisis that the bluefin tuna faces today – and it’s time that connection be broken,” Kilduff said.

To learn more, visit bluefinboycott.org.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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As Climate Talks Open in Cancún, World Leaders Must Seek Steep Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Pollution

CANCÚN, Mexico - World leaders begin meeting today in Cancún, Mexico, to address the global climate crisis against an ominous, but still hopeful, backdrop. This year will likely be the hottest on record. The rapid warming of the Arctic threatens the polar bear with extinction and the rest of the world with sea-level rise from the melting of the Greenland ice sheet; the global climate crisis puts many of the world’s other plants and animals at risk as well, including corals, birds, amphibians and mammals.

“The United States needs to join the world in seeking a path to set the planet back on course toward a healthier, sustainable climate,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute and one of several Center staffers in Cancún for the climate talks. “It’s time for the United States to heed the warning from scientists who say global greenhouse gas pollution must peak within the next five years — and decline steeply after that — if the world is to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.”

The United States has already taken some significant steps, including the use of the Clean Air Act, one of the country’s most successful environmental laws, to curb carbon pollution. Still, much more needs to be done both domestically and abroad. First and foremost, world leaders must agree to commit to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million or less — the level scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst effect of climate change. (Current CO2 concentrations are around 387 ppm.)

“Tens of thousands of people from across the globe are gathering in Cancún to demand action so the world can avert a climate disaster. Solutions are within our reach, and there’s still time for President Obama’s government to contribute to an agreement that will preserve a livable planet,” Siegel said. “We call on the Obama administration to join in a binding, science-based agreement among countries around the world that will immediately begin addressing this unprecedented global crisis.”

For more information, visit the Center’s website about the Cancún climate talks.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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

Simple everyday answer to £50billion obesity problem

Today’s Public Health White Paper announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has received a cautious welcome from UK charity Sustrans.

Sustrans agrees with Lansley that “active travel and physical activity need to become the norm in communities” But the charity says much more commitment and detail are needed, particularly in reducing traffic speeds and volumes and in shifting transport investment to healthy ways of travelling.

Philip Insall, Sustrans’ Heath Director, said, ‘Walking and cycling for everyday journeys are recognised as the most practical, inexpensive and accessible ways for people to include physical activity into their daily lives.

‘They are crucial elements in tackling the growing problem of obesity and related illnesses, and the huge costs that come with it – forecast to be £50 billion a year by 2050. The White Paper rightly recognises the importance of active travel, but it lacks detail on how the Health and Transport departments will make it happen. This is doubly disappointing given that walking and cycling measures are much cheaper, and much better value than traditional transport investment’.

The London 2012 Olympic Games legacy aims to help at least 2 million people become more active. Sustrans has already shown how this can be done. In 2009 alone more than 2 million people were more physically active through walking and cycling on the National Cycle Network, more than half of whom were previously not active enough to benefit their health.

Sustrans also helps 130,000 children every year to be more active by enabling them to make the school journey by foot or bike. The number of children cycling every day increased more than threefold, giving pupils a head start in healthy, active travel habits.

Philip continues, ‘We are already demonstrating that if safe and attractive walking and cycling routes exist, people will use them. If schoolchildren are helped to overcome the barriers to travelling by foot or bike then they happily do so. Government policy needs to recognise this and respond to it with serious investment’.

Source: Sustrans

Elpis.com launches Double Takes photography competition

The Art of Upcycling

Elpis1Elpis.com, the social networking and online collaboration platform, has launched a photography competition to find the most original recycling schemes in the world and to celebrate the art of upcycling.

Double Takes is open to any photo that shows a fun, innovative or unusual way of re-using or recycling everyday things. Submissions so far include:

- A computer monitor converted into an aquarium.

AquaComputer_sml1 - Old skis used to build a (cool) chair.

- A handbag made of drinks can ring-pulls.

The most popular image, as voted for by members of elpis.com, will win a top of the range digital SLR camera. Runners up will win prizes including OWL energy meters and Carbon Offsets.

To enter, simply log-in to elpis.com and upload images. Vote for the best images, and share with friends. Entries close on 1st March, 2011. Full terms and conditions are available on http://www.elpis.com/think/en/contests.

Source: Frontier Media

Snow reveals a different way of life, says Sustrans

Snowfall across the UK has shown how our streets could be very different places to live, says UK charity Sustrans.


With many vehicles immobile or travelling slower than usual due to the snow, children have had the chance to claim back their streets for play and more people are walking to school and work rather than relying on their cars.

Sustrans launched its ‘Quality Streets’ campaign earlier this month, calling for 20mph speed limits in residential streets across the UK www.quality-streets.org.uk

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans' CEO said: ‘Snow is a very real demonstration of how, when cars are slowed right down or taken off the roads completely, children take the opportunity to play freely outdoors, neighbours socialise, and people connect with their surroundings more. This is precisely the vision we have for Quality Streets.

‘The lack of opportunity for children to play safely in their own street and people to travel more safely on foot or bike is contributing to an obesity epidemic which puts the UK near the top of the world’s fat league tables.

‘Too many residential streets are clogged by traffic when they could be safe public spaces where children can play safely outside their front doors and travel independently.   The Government announced last week that it plans to measure UK quality of life and well-being in 2012, and having streets that are made for people to live in rather than traffic to drive through, could have a significantly positive impact on that.’

Visit www.quality-streets.org.uk before the end of February, 2011 to lobby your local councillor for a 20mph street.

The Sustrans website - www.sustrans.org.uk - has a free online map service to discover how to get around everyday on foot or by bike. Search for local or national routes, plot journeys, or find what the local area has to offer from schools, supermarkets and local landmarks to car clubs, bus stops and bike shops.

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 12,600 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. Its current campaign for Quality Streets, www.quality-streets.org.uk, highlights the importance of slower speeds and encourages people to lobby their councillors for 20mph speed limits across whole villages, towns and cities.

Wouldn’t life be great if the street outside your front door felt like your own space? Somewhere to chat with your neighbours, kick a ball with the kids, get about by foot and bike? Somewhere to give us all a better quality of life - a quality street. Sign up to our Quality Streets campaign and improve your local environment.

Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. We`re a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. It`s time we all began making smarter travel choices. Make your move and support Sustrans today.

Source: Sustrans

Winery promotes reusing rather than recycling used wine bottles

No, really? Did someone read my question here on the Blog?cowhownwines

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A southern Oregon winery is trying to reduce waste by spearheading "The Rinse Project". The idea is for winemakers to re-use bottles instead of recycling them curbside.

Much of the carbon footprint of the wine industry comes from its bottles.

wine bottles The “Rinse Project” – an effort to encourage winemakers to actually reuse old wine bottles, rather than simply recycling them, is being pioneered by Cowhorn Winery of southern Oregon.

According to Barbara Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn Winery, as much as 90 percent of wine bottles end up in landfills… and, surprisingly, on roadways. That’s why Cowhorn is starting to send her winery’s used bottles to Wine Bottle Renew, a company that uses a high-tech method of cleaning glassware and providing the newly cleaned bottles for wineries to reuse. According to the Wine Bottle Renew website, “Every case of Renew wine bottles will offset the equivalent C02 emissions of 138 gallons of gasoline.”

Steele’s behind the environmental mission of Wine Bottle Renew and as such, is not just making efforts for Cowhorn – she’s also encouraging other wineries to start considering quitting the curbside recycle habit in favor of reusing their bottles. For her, the logic is simple: “We’re going to be able to lessen our energy footprint and at the same time spend less time worrying about glassware so we can spend more time making fine wine.”

This is absolutely great news that someone has actually taken heed of this and is tackling this issue and what can be done with wine bottles surely can also be done with glass jars and such. Why are we not, therefore, doing it?

© 2010

Cycling – Fixing a puncture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

remove-innertube The first thing when you own a bicycle is to learn how to fix a puncture (after learning how to ride it, obviously) and even a child can be taught how to do that already.

Many who are taking up cycling now, as a means of keeping fit but primarily as a means of getting from A to B cheaply, often, while they may have learned how to ride a bike have never gotten to grips with the nitty gritty of doing any repairs, not even fixing a puncture. The one thing you do not want to do it to go and take the bike for repair for just a puncture; it will cost you more than a new inner tube. So DIY is called for.

There are many, however, who do not have the faintest idea of how to actually fix a puncture and many seem to have more money than sense when they, because of a puncture, discard the bicycle and buy a new one rather than learning how to fix it.

Maybe some also think it beneath them to work on a bicycle and get dirt, oil and grease on their fingers in this way. Something that might stain their fingers or a couple of days.

A new inner tube for a bicycle costs you probably – in the UK – the equivalent of $8 while having someone fix it could cost you four times that much. The job is, however, so simple if you don't want to fix and just replace. Fixing is a little more time consuming but much cheaper.

The Internet is full of instructions regarding this task and thus I am not about to reinvent the wheel by going through it step by step.

A good idea, if you do take up cycling, is to get a small booklet, of one kind or the other, that tells you how to do the basic tasks. In some places those booklets are given away free even. Have a look at them and then practice. It is NOT difficult and could, nay will, save you lots of money.

On the move have a spare inner tube or two with you, and a pump, obviously, so you can quickly fix a puncture by changing the tube and then, when back home, repair the actual damaged tube.

RoSPA in the UK has put our a Bicycle Owner's Handbook which, on page 18 and 19, tells you how to fix a puncture. And that is just one of the things that it teaches you.

Free books like those are worth their weight in gold for anyone taking up cycling and you, more than likely, can even download them from the Web.

Like with a car, a well-maintained bicycle will be reliable and will last, and a bicycle, well-maintained and looked after, will, probably, last much, much longer than any car.

© 2010

Cumbernauld plant leads the way on green power

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A state-of-the-art plant at Cumbernauld which transforms food waste into renewable electricity and heat was officially declared operational on September 28, 2010 by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.

The Deerdykes facility, created by Scottish Water Horizons, the public utility’s commercial and renewable energy business, is the largest organic recycling facility in Scotland and the first site in the UK to combine anaerobic digestion and in-vessel composting.

Food waste is digested in the plant and can be converted into 8,000 megawatt hours of ‘green’ energy each year - enough electricity to power up to 2,000 homes.

Mr Lochhead said: “In Scotland, we produce around two million tonnes of food waste each year. Preventing household food waste alone going to landfill is the equivalent of taking a staggering one in four cars off Scottish roads.

“As part of our Zero Waste Plan, we aim to recycle 70 per cent of all waste by 2025, with just five per cent landfilled. As well as encouraging the reduction and recycling of waste, a zero waste society is about transforming it into a valuable resource. The new Deerdykes anaerobic digestion plant can process 30,000 tonnes of food waste each year, producing enough electricity to power up to 2,000 homes.

“This is a greatly impressive facility and I congratulate Scottish Water Horizons for being at the forefront of organic recycling and renewable energy. I am confident that facilities such as Deerdykes – the largest in operation in Scotland – will make a significant contribution to a zero waste Scotland.”

Mr Chris Banks, Scottish Water’s Commercial Director and Chairman of Horizons, said: “This new plant shows we’re leading the way not just on renewable energy but in helping Scotland towards its ambition of zero waste. As environmental and recycling targets become even tighter we expect others will follow the lead of Scottish Water Horizons.”

30,000 tons of food waste a year

The state-of-the art Anaerobic Digestion facility at Deerdykes, the site of a former waste-water treatment works, can handle 30,000 tonnes of food waste each year. The anaerobic digestion process breaks down the waste to produce biogas which can then be used to provide electricity to power the works itself with surplus offered to the National Grid or exported directly to local businesses.

The plant also produces heat which could be used in district heating schemes for local homes and businesses in the Cumbernauld area.

The process also creates nutrient rich digestate which can be used as a fertilizer to improve the Scotland's soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers whose manufacture has a significant environmental impact.

Helping Scotland towards zero waste

The Deerdykes Composting & Organics Recycling Facility at Cumbernauld was initially used to turn garden waste into compost, primarily converting local authority collections into environmentally friendly 'pod' compost.

The facility benefited from a £1.7million grant from Zero Waste Scotland. Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

"Anaerobic digestion has a huge role to play in creating a zero waste economy in Scotland, generating jobs and revenue from materials which we have always thought of as waste. Scottish Water Horizons should be congratulated for leading the way with this development.

"Scotland's Zero Waste Plan is clear that organic waste, from food and other sources, should be recycled back into useful products which can, for example, help Scottish farmers grow food crops in a proper 'closed loop' approach. With anaerobic digestion there is an extra benefit of producing gas which can be used for sustainable heat or power. By supporting projects like this, Zero Waste Scotland aims to drive a huge increase in anaerobic digestion and composting."

Scottish Water Horizons is also assessing the production of biomethane from biogas at Deerdykes. The intention is that this sustainable vehicle fuel would be used by Scottish Water's fleet.

Reading the figure of 30,000 tons of waste food that the plant can handle a year one can but wonder how many tons in fact are wasted and dumped annually, primarily in landfill sites. The mind just boggles here.

And, we all know, I am sure, that much of that food would not need to be wasted. Some of it is wastage in transit, we know that, but others is wastage in the form of fruit and veg with a little blemish here or there that greengrocers and supermarkets remove from their deliveries as they believe, and rightly so, often, that customers will not buy those.

Years ago market traders and greengrocers would give away such fruit and vegetables to those that were poorer than the rest and people gladly accepted them. Today they are no longer permitted to do so, whether on markets or in shops. That is why we have so much food waste.

I addition to that there is the fact that so many people today can no longer cook from scratch and also have no idea of how to use leftovers. Thus stuff ends up in the bin. A sad state of affairs.

© 2010

Non-CO2 Pollutants Are Promising Target in Cancun, Could Delay Warming by Several Decades

Cancun, Mexico, November 28, 2010 – Led by the tiny Pacific island of the Federated States of Micronesia, a growing group of low-lying islands and other vulnerable countries are calling for fast action on the approximately 50 percent of global warming that is caused by pollutants other than carbon dioxide (CO2). The scientific case for such a strategy was laid out today, on the eve of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, in an Op Ed in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28victor.html?_r=1&ref=opinion) by Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and his colleague, Professor David Victor.

Ramanathan and Victor highlight the importance of aggressively reducing CO2 emissions, but note that the road ahead will be long, difficult, and expensive, and that “in the meantime, a fast-action plan is needed.”

The authors go on to say that reducing the non-CO2 pollutants can delay additional climate warming by several decades. Among the non-CO2 pollutants are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, tropospheric ozone, and black carbon soot.  Technology is already available to reduce these climate-forcing agents, and doing so would produce strong collateral benefits. 

For example, reducing emissions from open cooking and diesel vehicles could save many of the 1.9 million lives lost each year due to black carbon soot.  Reducing tropospheric ozone can improve public health as well as agricultural productivity. Methane is another potent climate warmer that needs to be targeted; capturing emissions from sources such as landfills and coal mines would benefit the climate system and the gas could then be used as a source of energy.

Micronesia submitted a proposal last year to address these very climate warmers – black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone – under the UN climate treaty. Micronesia re-submitted their “Programme of Work on Opportunities for Near-Term Climate Mitigation” this year and it will be considered by Parties at the Cancun meetings over the next two weeks.

“This is a critical opportunity that all of the Parties in Cancun need to be aware of now,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, whose group supports action on non-CO2 and will be attending the Cancun meetings. “CO2 is the main game, but it’s pretty clear that progress on CO2 is not going to be quick or easy, and we still need to do something fast on climate to buy time – this is what reducing non-CO2 emissions can do for the world.”

In addition to the Micronesia ’s proposal on near-term mitigation, there is another major opportunity for climate progress in Cancun : phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty. This has been a parallel effort of Micronesia ’s for the last few years under the ozone regime, where HFCs are the current substitute for substances that deplete the ozone layer. The U.S. , Canada , and Mexico provided their support for this strategy through a separate, but similar “North American” proposal. At the treaty’s meeting earlier this month in Bangkok , 91 countries signed onto a declaration supporting the use of low-global warming potential substitutes instead of HFCs which can have hundreds to thousands the warming potential of CO2. The Parties included Micronesia and other small island nations, the Philippines , Indonesia , Bangladesh , Egypt , Congo , Nigeria , the 27 countries of the EU, as well as Japan , the U.S. , Canada , and Mexico .

The Parties in Cancun can ensure success with this effort – and win a major climate prize of up to100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent in mitigation – by directing the Montreal Protocol to take responsibility for production and use of HFCs (emissions are controlled by the Kyoto Protocol).

“Fast action on HFCs and the other near-term climate warmers is essential for the survival of low-lying islands and other vulnerable States,” said Andrew Yatilman, Director of Micronesia’s Office of Environment and Emergency Management. “This is the time for action and we can do it now, right here in Cancun .”

For more information, see:

“To Fight Climate Change, Clear the Air” by Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David. G. Victor , New York Times (27 November 2010). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28victor.html?ref=opinion

A Novel Tactic in Climate Fight Gains Some Traction” and “Support Grows for Expansion of Ozone Treaty”, New York Times.

Mario Molina, Durwood Zaelke, K. Madhava Sarma, Stephen O. Andersen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, and Donald Kaniaru, Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2009).

Source: Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Making Leaf Mold

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)Leaf Mold

Now that the leaves, probably, have finally all come off the trees is the time to do some raking of them. But stop! Before you toss them into the green waste disposal for the council to get rid off them consider using them in your own garden.

Make leaf mold from it which is a great product to cover your tender area with next winter, to cover your plant beds with for moisture retention and weed suppression, as well as a soil improver. Leaf mold is an excellent, free soil amendment. It is easy to make, simple to use, and has a huge impact on soil health. Leafmoldcage

Leaf mold is a form of compost produced by the fungal breakdown of shrub and tree leaves, which are generally too dry, acidic, or low in nitrogen for bacterial decomposition. Leaf mold is the result of letting leaves sit and decompose over time. It is dark brown to black, has a pleasant earthy aroma and a crumbly texture, much like compost. In fact, leaf mold is just that: composted leaves. Instead of adding a bunch of organic matter to a pile, you just use leaves. However, unlike bacterial decomposition, as with ordinary compost, leaf mold is created, primarily, by fungal action.

Due to the slow decaying nature of their high carbon content, dry leaves break down far more slowly than most other compost ingredients. This can be overcome either by placing the collected leaves wet in plastic bags (taking care to avoid collecting from areas that may be subject to high levels of pollution, e.g., roadsides), or in specially constructed wire bins, to encourage fungal action. To accelerate this fungal breakdown, it is useful to keep the leaves wet and avoid the drying effects of wind. The traditional wire enclosure may slow down the process by allowing the contents to dry out unless it is lined with cardboard or similar material.

You may be wondering why you shouldn't just make compost. Why bother making a separate pile just for leaves? The answer is that while compost is wonderful for improving soil texture and fertility, leaf mold is far superior as a soil amendment. It doesn't provide much in the way of nutrition, so you will still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility. Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner. It increases the water retention of soils. According to some university studies, the addition of leaf mold increased water retention in soils by over 50%. Leaf mold also improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria.

Leaves alone can take between one and two years to break down into rich humic matter with a smell reminiscent of ancient woodland. While not high in nutrient content, leaf mold is an excellent humic soil conditioner. To speed up the decomposition process, fallen leaves can be shredded, for instance by using a rotary lawn mower.

Use the lawn mower with a collection bag or box to collect the leaves. Set the mower on the highest setting in order not to get too much grass, and the machine will then, basically, vacuum up the leaves into the bag or box as you go along.

Not only will this method collect the leaves. It will also chop them into small pieces as it goes along. This method saves many hours of leaf raking and collecting and especially the horrible job of trying to pick them up, especially as when you try doing this the wind will make itself up.

Make a leaf bin using chicken wire and then empty the lawn mower collection bag into it. Simply hammer four wooden stakes into the ground and wrap the chicken wire around them to form a box. Adjust the size of the bin for the quantity of leaves you have.

I am lucky this year in that I have gotten hold of a large old wire waste bin from a municipal park. It was destined to be scrapped and it is now going to be filled with as many leaves as I can get my little hands on.

Late Fall is also the perfect time to start a new compost heap. Take a drive around your local industrial estates and look for sources of free pallets. Many businesses will be happy to give the pallets away for free, just try asking. Five pallets are enough for a basic, but sturdy compost heap.

Another way of making leaf mold is in bags such as old fertilizer bags but make sure the bags you use are thin bags that let the light in or things will start to grow. From time to time check the contents and if the leaves are dry add a small amount of water to keep them moist.

Leaf mold has several uses in the garden. You can dig or till it into garden beds to improve soil structure and water retention. You can use it as mulch in perennial beds or vegetable gardens. It's also fabulous in containers, due to its water retaining abilities. Leaf mold is simple, free, and effective. If you're lucky enough to have a tree or two (or ten) on your property, you've got everything you need to make great garden soil.

Don't waste your leaves – and those of your neighbors, if they don't want them – and turn them into one of the most useful resources for growing your veggies.

© 2010

Co-operative looks at possible BPA presence in receipt ink

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Co-opA chemical which has been linked to causing problems with foetuses and in young children may have been used in a supermarket chain's receipts.

The head of sustainability for the Co-operative, Paul Monaghan, admitted he had been in talks with the supermarket's far eastern suppliers over the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA) in till receipts.

Mr. Monaghan, who was speaking at the Environment Agency's annual conference in London on November 24, 2010 briefly mentioned the presence of Bisphenol A, also known as BPA during his presentation.

Although, his mention was quick he was questioned on it by a member of the audience and further pushed by the conference chair BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

BPA, which was declared a toxic substance in Canada only in September this year, has been linked to causing development problems with unborn children, and in addition to that is being seen as the culprit in the loss of fertility on males, plus many other health problems of children and adults.

It has, in the past, been widely used in consumer products, but scientific tests highlighted concerns about it in 2007 and since 2008 it has been mostly removed from consumer products, or at least so we are being told.

It was not until last year that SIGG produced new bottles without BPA containing liners, Gaiam fell foul of the claim that its bottles did not contain BPA, and Nalgene had to change its polycarbonate material of the bottles as Canada made them do so.

Responding to the questions from the floor, and Mr Harrabin, Mr Monaghan said he would demand BPA was removed.

He said: "I say to the suppliers get rid of it, then we have a discussion. The start point is, if I can get rid of it, I will."

© 2010

Compostable Packaging – Really?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Time and again we read that this or that product has “compostable packaging” or that this or that product range at this or that supermarket is sold in “compostable packaging”. The question is what does “compostable packaging” really mean?

The statement as to “compostable packaging” is very misleading indeed for while it is true that that kind of packaging, often PLA based plastics, is indeed compostable this only applies to commercial composting facilities. It will take years, if ever, to compost in a composter in your garden or on your compost heap.

Most consumers, however, do not have that kind of knowledge and this extends as far as the compostable liners for kitchen caddy which, we are told, can be tossed onto the compost heap or into the composter with contents and will be gone within three months. Nothing could be further from the truth.

How do I know? I have tried it. And even after two years the PLA plastic material still is not broken down completely.

Thus, discernment is needed on the side of the consumer and stores and vendors better get their facts straight. You will be found out to do greenwashing and customers will not like you one bit for it.

Too many stores and vendors claim to be green and ethical but engage in serious issues of greenwash on a n almost daily basis either totally unaware of the fact or simply in order to fleece the consumer. Which one is it?

Let's call one out for starters, and this is the store where I like to do my general shopping; Sainsbury's. The claim is that the packaging on the “So Organics” range of foods is compostable but, as we have just come to see, this is only true to an extent in that the composting must happen in a commercial composting plant. The customer, however, is not told that and, I could bet my bottom dollar here, the great majority will believe that they can just toss it onto the compost heap and it will be gone in three months or such.

Maybe Sainsbury's would be so kind as to rectify this and let customers know that this claim of compostability only applies properly if the stuff goes to the big commercial plants. The heat generated in a domestic compost heap or in a composter is just not great enough to create a proper breakdown process.

Sainsbury's is, by no means, alone in this and others of the British supermarkets and others are equally guilty when it comes to such claims in the same way as when it comes to the milk in bags, the chopped tomatoes in cartons, etc. While it may reduce the waste, as in amount, most municipalities do not have the recycling facilities for such new items. Laminated packaging, for instance, cannot be processed and thus the claims of reducing the impact when going from tin cans to cardboard lined with tinfoil packs does not wash.

May I suggest a serious rethink and honesty in green claims...

© 2010

Macedonia plants 7 million trees to revive its forests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What a brilliant idea!

macedonian tree planting Skopje, MK, November 28, 2010: Macedonians took a day off work on Friday, November 26, to plant seven million trees as part of a project started in 2008 to revive fire-ravaged forests in the landlocked Balkan country.

"The main goal of the 'Plant together for all of us' initiative is to protect the environment and increase ecological awareness among citizens, especially to bring together children and parents to plant the trees together," said organiser, opera singer Boris Trajanov.

About seven million nursery plants – mostly cypresses and pine trees – were planted at around 80 sites throughout the country, he said. Trajanov and his associates, backed by the government, launched the action in March 2008 after raging fires ravaged about 35,000 hectares (86,500 acres) of greenery in Macedonia.

Since then more than 20 million trees have been planted in planting days held twice a year, in March and in November.

Trajanov, a prominent Macedonian opera singer and UNESCO Artist for Peace, said the initiative "has gained popularity and massiveness" in the past two years. "Now you can often see people planting trees in their yards and neighbourhoods," he said.

Every summer wildfires destroy thousands of hectares of forests in Macedonia, especially in the southern part of the country. They are mostly caused by human error, but also high summer temperatures in summer.

Experts said that restoring the damaged ecosystem could take up to 50 years.

This is certainly an initiative that would not go amiss in many another country, including the UK and the USA.

Planting forests, for amenity and commercial use, also help to absorb carbon (and other pollutants) out of the atmosphere. So why don't we all get down to planting a few trees or hundred?

© 2010

Lawsuit Filed Over EPA Refusal to Address Lead Poisoning of Wildlife

SwansLeadPoisoning WASHINGTON – Conservation and hunting groups today sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to regulate toxic lead that frequently poisons and kills eagles, swans, cranes, loons, endangered California condors and other wildlife throughout the country. The EPA recently denied a formal petition to ban lead in fishing tackle and hunting ammunition despite long-established science on the dangers of lead poisoning in the wild, which kills millions of birds each year and also endangers public health.

“The EPA has the ability to protect America’s wildlife from ongoing preventable lead poisoning, but continues to shirk its responsibility,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA’s failure to act is astonishing given the mountain of scientific evidence about the dangers of lead to wildlife. There are already safe and available alternatives to lead products for hunting and fishing, and the EPA can phase in a changeover to nontoxic materials, so there’s no reason to perpetuate the epidemic of lead poisoning of wildlife.”

In August, a coalition of groups formally petitioned the EPA to ban lead in bullets and shot for hunting and in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The petition referenced nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers illustrating the widespread dangers of lead poisoning to scavengers that eat lead ammunition fragments in carcasses, and to waterfowl that ingest lead in spent shot or lost fishing sinkers. The groups filing today’s lawsuit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Project Gutpile, a hunters’ organization. Since the original petition was filed, more than 70 organizations in 27 states have voiced support for the lead ban, including those representing veterinarians, birders, hunters, zoologists, scientists, American Indian groups, physicians and public employees.

“Having hunted in California for 20 years I have seen firsthand lead poisoning impacts to wildlife from toxicity through lead ammunition,” said Anthony Prieto, cofounder of Project Gutpile, a hunters’ group that provides educational resources for lead-free hunters and anglers. “Although many more sportsmen are now getting the lead out, the EPA must take action to ensure we have a truly lead-free environment. It’s time to make a change to non-lead for ourselves and for future generations to enjoy hunting and fishing with a conscience.”

“Over the past several decades Americans chose to get toxic lead out of our gasoline, paint, water pipes and other sources that were poisoning people. Now it’s time to remove unnecessary lead from hunting and fishing sports that is needlessly poisoning our fish and wildlife,” said Karen Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “Today’s action is a step to safeguard wildlife and reduce human health risks posed by lead.”

The EPA denied the portion of the petition dealing with regulation of lead ammunition based on an incorrect claim that the agency lacks the authority to regulate toxic lead in ammunition. The EPA asserted that shells and cartridges are excluded from the definition of “chemical substances” in the Act. That claim is contradicted by the legislative history of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which provides clear authority to regulate hazardous chemical components of ammunition such as lead. Earlier this month the EPA also issued a final determination denying the portion of the petition on fishing sinkers, even though the agency itself had proposed banning certain lead fishing weights in 1994.

Hunters and anglers in states that have restricted or banned lead shotgun ammunition or fishing gear have already made successful transitions to nontoxic alternatives; fishing and hunting in those areas remains active. Alternatives continue to be developed, including the U.S. military’s transition toward bullets made of non-lead materials.

For more information, read about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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

187,000 Square Miles Designated as Polar Bear Critical Habitat in Alaska

PolarBears WASHINGTON – More than 187,000 square miles (approximately 120 million acres) along the north coast of Alaska were designated today as “critical habitat” for the polar bear as a result of a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace against the Department of the Interior. This designation under the Endangered Species Act is intended to safeguard those coastal lands and waters under U.S. jurisdiction that are vital to the polar bears’ survival and recovery.

The habitat rule comes at a critical juncture for the polar bear. The Interior Department is under court order to reconsider by Dec. 23 elements of its 2008 decision to list the polar bear as “threatened,” rather than the more protective “endangered” — a decision that could affect whether the Endangered Species Act can be used as a tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary threat to the species. At the same time, the Interior Department is also considering whether to allow oil companies to drill for oil in the polar bear’s newly designated critical habitat in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska.

“The critical habitat designation clearly identifies the areas that need to be protected if the polar bear is to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “However, unless the Interior Department starts to take seriously its mandate to actually protect the polar bear’s critical habitat, we will be writing the species’ obituary rather than its recovery plan.”

Federal agencies are prohibited from taking any actions that may harm or damage — the legal term is “adversely modify” — critical habitat.   Species that have critical habitat designated are more than twice as likely to be recovering, and less than half as likely to be declining, as those without it.

“Polar bears are slipping away,” said Andrew Wetzler, Director of NRDC's Land and Wildlife Program. “But we know that there are crucial protections that can keep them around. Today’s designation is a start, especially in warding off ill-considered oil and gas development in America’s most important polar bear habitat.”

In May 2008, the Interior Department listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, Interior issued a special rule exempting greenhouse gas emissions from being regulated as a result of the listing. A court challenge to this regulation by the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC and Greenpeace is ongoing.

“Designating polar bear critical habitat is a good first step toward protecting this species,” said Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace campaigner in Anchorage, Alaska. “However, as long as the secretary of the interior maintains that he can do nothing about greenhouse emissions and global warming, protections for the polar bear will ultimately be ineffective.”

Scientists have made it clear that polar bears need help soon. Global warming is melting the sea ice the bears depend on to hunt, mate and raise cubs. If current greenhouse gas trends continue, scientists predict two-thirds of the world’s polar bears — including all the bears in Alaska — will probably be gone in 40 years and possibly well before then.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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

Show Off Your Label Fairtrade Fortnight 28 February - 13 March 2011

Do you love the fact that you buy Fairtrade products and campaign for trade justice whenever possible to help support farmers, workers, their families and communities in developing countries. Well, then you could qualify for the Fairtrade Foundation’s competition to find the biggest Fairtrade show off’s in the UK as part of next year’s Fairtrade Fortnight (28 February – 13 March 2011) themed Show Off Your Label.

Fairtrade Fortnight is the Fairtrade Foundation’s annual awareness raising campaign to promote the difference that Fairtrade makes to millions of people in developing countries. It is also when businesses, Fairtrade supporters and stakeholders such as NGO’s, come together to organise thousands of events around the country to get people buying and understanding the impact of Fairtrade, and, the global need for fairer trade. The Fairtrade Foundation and 100% Fairtrade companies like Café Direct, Divine and Liberation, also bring Fairtrade producers over to tour the country and meet campaign groups, schools and faith groups. Producers coming over this year include a banana farmer from the Windward Islands, a small-holder coffee farmer from Tanzania and a cotton farmer from India.

To help kick start events, the Fairtrade Foundation has once again produced an ideas-packed Fortnight Action Guide to inspire and enthuse people. The guide and website contain ideas on everything from extreme labelling activities; Fairtrade bake-offs to show off both your culinary skills and showcase Fairtrade products; creating your own pop-up restaurant in your own home with creative sample menus; to using Fairtrade cotton bunting, available free of charge, to decorate events. In fact, the main campaign focus in 2011 will be on Fairtrade cotton which is currently celebrating its fifth anniversary, with people being asked to help break the world record for the longest length of cotton bunting.

More than 10 million West African people rely on cotton for a living but because of unfair trade practices are still living in poverty. Even though one in four people say they have bought Fairtrade certified cotton products in the UK, still less than 1% of cotton fashion on the high street carries the FAIRTADE Mark. Fairtrade cotton guarantees a Fairtrade minimum price as well as a Fairtrade premium for investment in social development projects such as water, education and healthcare.

With most West African cotton farmers earning less than $1 a day and subsidies paid to European and North American cotton farmers depressing world prices, it’s becoming practically impossible for small-scale farmers in West Africa to compete. Next year is a crucial opportunity for Fairtrade campaigners to make a noise about the situation at the tenth anniversary of the WTO Doha Development Round.

The Show Off Your Label theme was inspired by Fairtrade campaigners who each year love showing off their passion for Fairtrade, with ingenious events combining fun with a serious message. Over the years, there have been all sort of exhibitionist antics – from human Fairtrade tea-bags to a Fairtrade banana world record eating events.

“In today’s world, many people see labels as a way of defining themselves. Choosing products with the FAIRTRADE Mark too says a lot about a person’s lifestyle and values,” says Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy and Communications at the Fairtrade Foundation.

In addition to Action Guides, a range of promotional materials such as posters and banners with catching slogans like Parade your Fairtrade peppercorns, Laud your Fairtrade lemons, Shout about their Fairtrade Socks, are available for events in canteens and offices. ‘Showing off’ will give people the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for Fairtrade and Fairtrade products and to tell the story of the people behind the products.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is the only label which gives groups of farmers and producers the means to improve their livelihoods through the guaranteed minimum price and premium for social, environmental and business projects. Around 7.5 million people (farmers, workers, their families and communities) – across 58 developing countries in the developing world benefit from the international Fairtrade system.
The number of Fairtrade towns now stands at 500. There is also a growing international movement of Fairtrade Towns in 18 countries; around 6,000 Fairtrade Faith groups; almost 5,000 registered schools in the Fairtrade Schools Scheme; and 127 Fairtrade universities and colleges.

Source: Fairtrade Foundation

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

German CDU Party considers restricting press freedom in the light of terror threat

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

CDU_logo The Christian Democratic Union, the leading party in the governing coalition government in Germany is serious considering the restriction of the freedoms of journalists and the press freedom because of a perceived terror threat.

Is it once again that terror, the supposed threat of terror and fake terror, that is going to be used to restrict freedoms in Germany, and soon other EU member states?

The CDU considers that, in view of the danger of terrorism the freedoms of the press and of journalists should be curtailed. Thus journalists shall in future not longer be permitted to write and report about potential target.

Reason given by German parliamentarians as to why this is a necessary step, in their view, is, they claim, that if the media would report about possible targets this could be an inducement to terrorist to attack just such a given target.

One but needs to hear the garbage arguments that those proposing such anti-media measures are banding about to realize that it has absolutely nothing to do with what they say but all to do with wanting to curb the freedoms of the media to report what needs reporting.

First of all why would any terrorist even think of attacking a possible target that has been mentioned in the press and other media? People will be on heightened alert and be much more vigilant. Therefore it would be counterproductive to do so. A terrorist wants unsuspecting targets in order to cause mass casualties not a place where people are aware of the possibility of an (imminent) attack.

We need but to listen and read the arguments by those – and I will call them thus – fascist politicians to realize what they are up to and it has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the public.

And the same is also true in other countries of Europe were terrorism has been used to curtail the freedoms of the public and the media.

© 2010

Federation of German Criminal Investigators demands use of armed forces in the country


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


The Federation of German Criminal Investigators and the Minister of the Interior of Lower-Saxony demands that German military be used as additional police force in Germany itself. The need is claimed to rise from the threat of terror – here we have the fake terror again – and the lack of police officers and the deficit in the security budgets. Thus, it is claimed, the military must be put into action to aid the executive of the country. 

This is, so far, the most ominous development in Germany, next to the demand by the CDU to curb the freedoms of the press, that points to a re-militarization of policing and of oppression by the state.

This very much smacks of an era that we all hoped to have been consigned to the dustbin of history never to rear its ugly head again, in Germany especially, and in other countries but, alas, it would appear that the very people charged with protecting the country are now wanting to have it go back to such times.

The Federation of German Criminal Investigators demands, as said, that the Bundeswehr, the German army, be deployed as a support unit – yes, the German army was thus during the times of the Nazi terror as well as before under the Weimar Republic and even before that.

Because of the fact that the police defined state of emergency resultant of the danger of terror will continue far into the next year, the government should permit the use of the military to assist the executive powers of its own country, said Klaus Jansen, the president of the Federation, and he especially wants the use of the Feldjäger, the military police of the army, because they are trained in police matters.

While for the moment the federal government and the commander-in-chief of the German army speak out against such use of the military we can but hope – and maybe even pray – that they do not change their minds or that there is no change in leadership that is resisting this for some time to come.

The current terror alert in Germany – and elsewhere – must not be allowed to become a reason for the use of the military, not even in the role of an auxiliary police. The German military is neither suited nor permitted – under the Constitution – to be used as a Deputy Sheriff but then again, under the Constitution it was also never allowed to be used abroad and they changed that quickly in the German parliament.

Let us hope, and pray, as I have said already, that this is not going to be done in this case as well.

© 2010

Tea Party believes open Internet a threat to freedom

What is the Tea Party's beef With net neutrality?


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


If there is one thing activists on both the right and the left can agree on, it is that the resurgence of grass-roots political activism was born of, and in many ways is dependent on, the power of a free and open Internet.

Yet at the same time as Sen. Al Franken spoke to a packed house in Minneapolis and warned of a corporate takeover of the media, and as a hearing featuring Federal Communications Commission Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps heard the public concerns of Verizon and Google's recent efforts to drive the regulatory framework for Internet access and the mobile media, Tea Party activists have apparently had a change of heart and would rather see a corporate takeover, a corporatization of the media world than to see the possibility of free citizen journalism.

According to Tea Party folks, who have made great use of the Internet, a free and open Internet threatens our freedom. Sorry, erm, run that by me again. More specifically, many on the far right view the Obama administration's movements toward net neutrality (no matter how sputtering and so far ineffective those movements may have been) as more evidence of a growing socialist agenda. How they make that one out beats me and I guess a great many others too, but thus is their train of thought.

Those who have come out in opposition to any proposed government regulation argue that the idea of net neutrality is an assault on free speech and free markets – that government regulation will prevent consumers from flexing their collective purchasing muscle and keep corporations in check.

The problem, of course, is that policy framework put forward by Google and Verizon and the mergers between many of the big players in the field limit the power of the consumer by consolidating services and providers. The fewer the players in any commercial market the less likely innovation and evolution can take place. However, this is not necessarily bad for a free Internet, especially one where activists can be active because the platforms are provided free, well sort of, by the bi players, such as Blogger, which is part of Google.

In a lot of ways Tea Party opposition to net neutrality is not all that surprising. The consistent narrative of this movement is anti-government involvement, even if certain nativist elements currently speak louder than the libertarians of the group. But the biggest problem here is that the opposition to net neutrality assumes an already functional free-market. And that's just not the case. Media consolidation has reached a tipping point and without strong action now, the kind of access that the public has become accustomed to, and the kind of access that has pushed successful grass-roots organizations on both the left and the right, is directly threatened by the growing corporatization of the Internet.

On this issue, the populists of both the left and the right should be able to find common ground. But so far the reaction from the right has been knee-jerk and contrary for the sake of being contrary. But if the Tea Party thinks that media consolidation in any way helps their cause, they are sadly mistaken.

The Tea Party behaves in its opposition to net neutrality and Internet freedom very much like a fascist government. Italy is a great example here where they are trying to outlaw – basically – any citizen journalism and thus any Blogs that may operate as a news and opinion platform as, according to the reasoning of the Italian lawmakers only licensed media is permitted; licensed by the Italian state, regardless of whether the platform for the Blog, for instance, is in Italy or abroad.

All those that wish to use certain pressures are afraid of freedom of the Internet and the real freedom of the press and rather have a controlled Internet and a controlled press. Often they claim that such controls must be put in place to “protect our children” and has it not been the mantra “for the children” each and every time, aside from “war on terror”, when new draconian measures have been brought in as regards to this and that.

Now it is getting even worse, as far as the Tea Party people are concerned, in that they claim that a free Internet is threatening our freedom. I am having a little difficulty with comprehending that line of thought except for this that, in my opinion, they feel threatened by it and thus claim that “our” freedom, that of the “free” world is under threat from a free Internet.

But, then again, we must not forget that those are also the same people who are afraid, so it would seem, of a free, well, sort of, and universal system of healthcare, like that in Britain and Germany, for each and every American.

That all definitely should make us think, methinks.

© 2010

Lights out for London

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London lights at night

No, it's not as serious as it may sound. We are not running out of electricity for London – as yet.

The London Assembly's Environment Committee are launching an investigation into the reasons lights are left on in workplaces overnight in London. In most instances, as far as I see it, the reason should be blatantly obvious; laziness.

It is estimated that lighting up the capital's offices and shops accounts for eight per cent of all London's carbon emissions, equivalent to 3.52 million tons a year.

The Carbon Trust estimates that 25-30% of an organization’s electricity costs come from lighting. Using energy efficient lighting can cut these costs by a third. And even more can be cut if people would just remember to turn the building off after they leave. A reminder poster may need to be created to the effect of “would the last person to leave please turn off the building”.

The Carbon Trust also calculates that lighting bills could be cut by 15 percent by only using lights when and where they are genuinely required.

The Environment Committee will consult with businesses and examine at the reasons lights are left on and how to promote energy-saving policies.

Environment Committee chair, Darren Johnson, AM, said: "When you are out in London at night, you will see buildings all across the capital with their lights blazing. Is this necessary?

"Turning off lights saves energy and money. So we want to understand why so many workplaces leave lights on overnight.

"We also want to see if there is more that the GLA and the Mayor could be doing to enable and encourage workplace lights to be switched off when they aren't needed."

In addition to discussing the issue with businesses, the Committee is seeking the views of the public. The Committee will hold a public meeting in December and publish a report in early 2011.

One only needs to see government buildings, for it is not just industry that causes this problem. The lights are on, the computers are running and, well, no one is home. And we see even worse. Empty school buildings with lights burning day and night so that a potential burglar cannot sue the authorities should he suffer an accident when breaking in in the dark. I always thought that every self-respecting burglar would carry a flashlight.

Why we need to have a costly investigation in the reasons for leaving the lights on beats me too. It is obvious, as I said, why it is and it requires education not investigation. Another job for the boys?

You can find out more about the investigation by clicking here.

© 2010

Chinese lantern problem spreads beyond farming

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Chinese lantern in field

Farm leaders’ calls for Chinese lanterns to be banned are gaining support from the wider public.

The mother of a toddler who had his face badly burned after debris from a lantern dropped from the sky is calling for an outright ban, and we can but hope that such a ban will be forthcoming soon.

According to Sky News, Cael Jones was with his family and friends on Bonfire Night at a party in Penycae, near Wrexham, when the accident happened.

The family were watching the lanterns climbing through the sky when a melted section fell out of one of the lanterns and landed on the little boy's face.

"It's shocking what happened, it was the worst night of my life," his mother told Sky. "The oil got stuck on his face and his face was black. Everyone was screaming. He couldn't open his eyes."

It has also emerged that Chinese lanterns are causing problems for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

From 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2010 the Maritime and Coastguard Agency responded to 128 false alerts believed to have been caused by sky lanterns.

Lifeboats were launched for 26 of these incidents and on two occasions a helicopter was sent out to investigate.

Those lanterns are mistaken in coastal areas as parachute signal flares and thus the emergency services are mobilized unnecessarily, leading to costs and risks.

In other areas, aside from farming, and the incident at that bonfire night celebration, those lanterns cause distress to all manner of wildlife and that aside from the fire risks that those lanterns pose in the countryside and forests.

Many a fire in forests and heathland can, by now, be attributed to the sky lanterns and despite the fact that it is claimed that the paper of which the “body” of the lantern is made will not burn it does burn or melt in many cases and thus creating a ignition source for a wildfire.

A total ban of sky lantern and not just the ban on use; it must include a ban on sales, should be put in place and that well before next summer. It must be an enforceable ban and not as loose as the issue with the sale of fireworks which, as far as the law (used to) stand were only permitted to be on sale about a week or so before Bonfire Night or, as in the case of Germany, about a week before New Year and the use any time after New Year was illegal.

The same must be done and enforced as far as a total ban on sky lanterns is concerned. They are a menace and have no place amongst us.

© 2010

Carbon offsetting is the new indulgences

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Pope_selling_indulgences Carbon offsetting creates the perception that we can continue to pollute at the same rate with no consequences. It is the new equivalent of the indulgences of the Catholic Church of the 16th century against which Martin Luther spoke up.

Nothing has changed bar that is it not sins in the religious sense but environmental sins that are being prepaid here with those newfangled indulgences called carbon offsets or carbon credits.

What are we doing? Taking loans out. That is to say carbon credits, on the future of our Planet. We must be totally and entirely mad and out of our minds. All in order to continue with the BAU business model.

I do not care whether it is called carbon offsetting, carbon credits or carbon trading. It is still the same, namely indulgences bought by the rich countries from the poor countries in order to continue pollute at will.

The business as usual business model is not sustainable – not that it ever has been – and we also must consider that carbon is but one part of our environmental footprint and for that reason I have the use of the term “carbon footprint”.

Carbon is banded about that much because they have come up with a way of trading credits, in other words, indulgences, and this is being seen by many people as a way of making a quick buck.

Carbon offsetting must be dumped in the same way as the Church of Rome stopped the use of indulgences. While it is a nice niche business for some big organizations, financial organizations even, it is not anything that will ever benefit the Planet. Period! The sooner we all realize that the better.

We must change, not trade fictional credits and indulgences.

© 2010

Roller blinds are the best for controlling heat and maintaining privacy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Again soRoller blindmething where the old ones knew what really worked and what not. Heavy drapes, by the way, also do the trick but roller blinds are easier to apply, especially when it comes to keeping the heat of the day out.

Roller blinds are the ultimate window treatment solution for your home and offices, whether or not you are thinking of renovating and decorating your home and office.

Such blinds are very popular nowadays amongst interior designers and decorators as they add beauty and can very much improve the looks of the windows.

The best things of roller blinds is that the come in a variety of designs, colors, sizes and textures and you really have a choice there a to what may take your fancy. You no longer just have the World War Two blackout blind material and a few different ones. Aside from the different and varying designs those blinds also come in many different kinds of fabrics giving you a great deal of choice.

Sole roller blinds work with a cord that you pull one way for up and another for down, others are spring-loaded and when you pull on the tab they roll up by themselves and others are operated electrically by remote control. All is available from you local DIY stores, generally.

Roller blinds can let light through while blocking heat escape, sun rays and heat from outside but they can also be in such a way that they are like the blackout blinds of World War Two which will let no light in or out.

The former a great for living rooms and such while the latter are ideal for bedrooms, as they let no light in. If you want to have blackout and also allowing light through at times then installing one set in the window recess and one on the outside does the trick. Together they will be better still at keeping the heat out in winter.

Roller blinds, thus, can aid to some degree in the greening of your home by keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and reducing your energy usage.

© 2010

Peerage for former Friends of the Earth campaigner

Bryony WorthingtonCommenting on news that former Friends of the  Earth campaigner Bryony Worthington has been made a Labour peer, Friends of the Earth's Policy and Campaigns Director, Craig Bennett said on Friday, November 19, 2010: "We're delighted that Bryony has been made a peer.

"Bryony was one of the key architects of a Friends of the Earth's campaign that led to the introduction of the Climate Change Act - setting the world's first legally-binding cuts in UK emissions.

"Her commitment to tackling climate change is second to none, and her persistence and drive are legendary.

"She will be a huge asset to UK politics at a time when political parties must up their game on climate change - hopefully this is a sign that the Opposition is going to press the Government hard."

Source: Friends of the Earth

Europe plans greener farming policy

Commenting on European Commission proposals released on Thursday, November 18, 2010 on the future of European farming policy, Friends of the Earth food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said: "The Commission is right to recognise the need to tackle the damaging impacts of European farming and the problems caused by our dependence on overseas sources of protein to feed our animals.

"European farming practices are devouring the planet - they must be completely overhauled to protect the climate and wildlife here and around the world.

"Our reliance on imported soy animal feed is fuelling our factory farms, and this is a major cause of deforestation, carbon emissions and loss of wildlife, especially in South America.

"Last week, the UK Government promised to make our meat and dairy industry greener - it must play its part in farming reform by shifting the £700 million taxpayer-funded factory farm hand-out to planet-friendly food production."

Source: Friends of the Earth

Vegetarian Belts & Other Imitation Leather...

...cow-free, yes, but what about the No-Cowsenvironmental footprint?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We must remember that the vegan leather is a fake substance made, more often than not, from a plastic of sorts. Not very green now, is it?

Most synthetic materials, if not indeed all, are petroleum-based in one way or the other and therefore environmentally friendly they are not.

If you want non-leather belts – as a vegan or vegetarian – why then not use canvas belts like the kind that are worn by the US military and other forces?Why have a pretend leather belt (or shoes)?

The material for most fake leather belts, and the same is true to a great degree for shoes, unless they are the fake suede, which is a different kind of plastic, is polyurethane and while better than the old polyvinyl chloride (PVC) PU is definitely not environmentally friendly. It is a petroleum product.

With the end of cheap oil on the horizon those of the vegan and vegetarian groups better have a closer look at whether or not they want to continue to use such materials. While no cows may be harmed in the making of their belts and shoes the environment definitely is being harmed.

While the Franciscan Brother idea of using a hemp rope as a belt – it works, so why not – may be going a little too far anyone wishing to have an alternative to real leather should check from what materials the fake leather goods are made. Most of the materials have a serious impact on the Planet and thus should be left out of the equation.

The hemp rope, thus, in another way, may not be all that far fetched and, in fact, as I have mentioned already, belts of the stable-belt kind worn by the military with the American slide buckles might just be an idea and might also be the only real alternative.

When it comes to leather-free shoes, and considering the materials again for fake leather, the only stuff that is feasible is canvass and felt.

Once cheap oil is gone there will no longer be the alternative available in fake lookalike leather and it will either have to be leather again (what other are you going to make the soles from) or other natural materials that may be not as well suited as is leather.

Some food for thought, methinks...

© 2010

McDonald's, PepsiCo and KFC are to help write British health policy

mcdonalds-smlDepartment of Health putting fast food companies at heart of policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I did check the date: It is NOT April 1st, thus it cannot be an April Fools. On the other hand, a John McEnroe term comes to mind. Yes, the famous one of 'You cannot be serious'. Alas, it would appear that they are.

The British “Department of Health” is putting the fast food companies McDonald's and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart, pardon the pun, of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease.

If it would not be such a serious issue I'd be laughing and I guess so would everyone else as it is so absolutely stupid, ludicrous and ridiculous that it is fit for a comedy. This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five "responsibility deal" networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month. Thus it would appear that someone is going to be putting the security of the hen house in the capable paws of the fox.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. As I have already said, if it would not be such a serious matter one could but laugh, mistaking this as a comedy.

Working alongside those are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health.

The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal's sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

The leading supermarkets are an equally strong presence, while the responsibility deal's physical activity group is chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers.

One can but wonder, methinks, as to where some politicians have their brains and how many get a good backhander out of some of those deals.

In early meetings, these commercial partners have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed. They have been assured by Lansley that he wants to explore voluntary not regulatory approaches, and to support them in removing obstacles. Using the pricing of food or alcohol to change consumption has been ruled out. One group was told that the health department did not want to lead, but rather hear from its members what should be done.

While public interest groups are taking part in drawing up the deals, many have argued that robust regulation is needed to deal with junk food and alcohol misuse.

Instead of listening to the experts in public health the government has decided to listen to industry and thus allow those that make money out of the sales of this or that not very healthy product to make policy. In the same way the food labeling was done according to what industry wanted rather than the warning traffic light which was asked for by the experts.

I am beginning to wonder when the government is going to put the security of the realm into the capable hands of the likes of the FSB and maybe even the Taliban and Al-Qaeda?

According to a spokesman government wanted to improve public health through voluntary agreements with business and other partners, rather than through regulation or top-down lectures because it believed this approach would be far more effective and ambitious than previous efforts.

While big government, such as what Labor wanted, is not a good idea neither is this way of running things. There must be a balance and we cannot allow them to do what seem to be happening in the USA where the FDA, amongst others, seems to be owned, lock, stock and barrel by lobbying groups.

© 2010