Quinoa, the superfood that is impoverishing Peruvian peasants

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Quiona_LambsQuarters1Quinoa has become a sought after superfood for almost everyone desiring a healthier lifestyle and especially vegetarians and vegans. At the same time the western hunger for this “superfood” is impoverishing Peruvian peasants, leaving not enough for their own needs.

Oh, yes, they do get paid by the buyers for the grain that they sell them but they can't eat money and quinoa is their staple and thus there is not enough for their own needs.

If this plant would be growing here in the developed world most gardeners and farmers would pull it out as a weed because it is a goosefoot after all, the same genus and basically the same plant as the native goosefoot, aka Fat Hen or Lamb's Quarters. In other words, we have a cousin of this superfood growing wild in our fields and gardens in our own countries though the common goosefoot is not as productive and prolific with its seeds (grains).

This common goosefoot, a relation to the amaranth, was – please note the word was – a staple also of the diet in the Punjab until the arrival of hybridized wheat – the short-stemmed stuff – and Roundup. However, it was the greens of this plant that the people in the Punjab were using and not so much the seeds. The fact that the plant got killed off by the herbicides needed to enable the wheat to grow well the local population also developed serious problems with malnutrition.

But we have many what could be called superfoods growing in our own gardens, in the countryside and even on some many sites in towns and cities. However, we tend to call them weeds and the gardeners pull them out or hit them with one or the other herbicide, often the dreaded Roundup. We should be cultivating and eating them instead. Also instead of importing superfoods and so-called superfoods from other countries and continents.

The French are well ahead of us in this, and have been for centuries. They don't pull up dandelion, for instance. Instead they eat it. And the same goes for many of those so-called weeds in other countries. Chenopodium album (Lamb's Quarters, aka Fat Hen or White Goosefoot) is – or was before the advent of the new kind of wheat and Roundup – by the people of the Punjab and in other countries and regions other weeds are on the menu too.

The Greeks have a dish (or side dish) called Horta which is nothing more than nettles, dandelion and some other edible wild greens cooked like spinach. Chickweed too is a pot herd and also goes well with egg and cress where it is used as a substitute for the salad cress. Many of those weeds have been shown to be (almost) superfoods and thus we should not waste them by pulling them up and disposing of them. We should use them to nourish us instead.

© 2016

Over 50s in UK politically right-wing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The over 50s, who form half of the adult population, were voting in their thousands on the night of March 2nd 2015 on which political party leader ‘best performed’ on the only seven-party political debate that night.

Silversurfers.com, who hosted the poll, has revealed that Prime Minister David Cameron performed best with 27% of the vote and his current Deputy, Nick Clegg getting a disastrous 3% - a mighty change for the Liberal Democrat leader from five years ago.

The results themselves came out about as follws:

  • David Cameron leads as best performer with 27% of the votes

  • SNP’s leader Nicola Sturgeon was very close behind with 26%

  • Nigel Farage beat off Ed Miliband with 24% with just 14% for the Labour leader

  • Nick Clegg turned out to be a disaster in this poll with just 3% of the vote

The poll which saw over 1,100 over 50s vote also revealed and quite surprisingly that Nicola Sturgeon was a close 2nd getting 26% of the vote. Despite her continued pledge to separate Scotland one day from the United Kingdom, many of the over 50s were commenting that maybe a Conservative-SNP coalition might be a good thing!

The voting did not go in the favor of Ed Miliband, at all, which saw him fall far behind UKIP leader Nigel Farage who got 24% of the votes.

When we see how the older working class, for instance, run, literally, over to UKIP and even other right-wing parties and groups the radio call from a certain Apollo spacecraft “Houston, we seem to have a problem,” rings in one's ears, only that the call is not being made to Houston but to all of those that look for a better alternative to Toryism and Capitalism. Another five years of the Tories in Britain and the poor and working class in this country will have nothing left.

While it may be true that the 50s were not mentioned once in the two hour debate, particularly as they are now nearly half the adult UK population. The aging population was mentioned in relation to the NHS but there was no debate on how the UK will manage a society that is increasingly living longer with many over 50s having a vast untapped experience that could be used to help the youth of today learn “new” skills.

But, then again, none of the politicians in that debate seem to have mentioned the over 50s who are making choices that they may come to regret when they no longer have the social services and the NHS to rely on free at the point of delivery when they need them, if they give the Tories another five years to destroy the country and especially the welfare state.

On the other hand the over 50s indeed have often untapped skills and experience that could be used to help the youth of today to learn “new” skills; new meaning here skills that will be important in a new society to be built on the ruins of the old, the latter which is about to fall apart around our ears.

Capitalism cannot be reformed, and neither can the Labour Party. What this country, and indeed the world, the Planet, needs is a new movement, a new society, a new system, that takes account of both man and Planet, and where the economy is based on the resources and not on ever more and more growth.

To achieve that, however, we must get the over 50s away from the fascist ideas that they, currently, are appear to be following, from the ideas of the Tories, of UKIP, the EDL and others.

It was frightening to see how many of that age group seem to be in the marches of PEGIDA, which joined with the EDL, in London, for instance, on Saturday, April 3, 2015. And it is also those of the fifty and over age bracket that appear to be the majority of the members of the AfD and PEGIDA in Germany. Although, it has to be said, that also many young, especially unemployed and working class men and women, are being caught up in this.

© 2016

When robots steal our jobs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This is not a farfetched science fiction idea and notion but is on the way to becoming reality; the robots that is, and with it fact that they will cause us to lose our jobs.

More and more jobs can now be carried out by “robots”, even the mowing of lawns, even though those robotic mowers still need to be “told” precisely, often via wires surrounding an area, where too cut and all that but they do exist and are being refined more and more.

Many manufacturing jobs already are being carried out, and on some levels for some time already, such as in the automotive industry, by robotic systems. Yes, this mechanization of production processes has done away with the drudgery of the repetitive work at the production lines, but it has also done away with the need for workers and more and more jobs are under threat through the introduction and the development of robots to replace humans.

As if outsourcing of jobs to countries such as China, Vietnam and India, etc., have not caused enough problems already we are now headed towards the total elimination of some jobs altogether. Now we have come even thus far that there is software available that automatically generated newspaper articles and this may soon make the journalist redundant (or so it has been suggested).

So, what is the answer to this dilemma that many people could, in the not so distant future, lose their jobs and any chance of another one?

Some have suggested a universal (basic) income for all but I cannot see that happening unless all means of production would be in the hands of the workers (no, not the robots that do the work) and that I cannot see happening in the near future either, at least not in the UK and the US.

We have seen, in history, those things happening time and again, whether it was with the weavers at the advent of the mechanized weaving loom, or others. But now things are looking much different to then, for everything, almost, could become mechanized by way of robots and what trades can the workers replaced by those machines enter in today's world? Very few, I should think.

Yes, there will be some jobs and trades that cannot be replaced by robots but attempts will be made, of that we can all be certain, to replace as many humans as possible with machines in order to “save money”.

One has to wonder though as to whether those wishing to save money in production processes by replacing humans with robots have actually pondered who is going to buy their products if they put people out of employment and cheat them out of an income?

If you make something that no one can afford to buy because they do not have the money to do so because your actions have caused them the lack of money you soon are going to run out of customers.

That equation, however, does not seem to enter the minds of those whose only motivation is profit by reduction of costs and one of the greatest costs in any industry is that of labor and it is that one that they want to reduce at all costs.

Can anyone in their right mind really believe that those selfsame capitalists are going to be so nice to give every worker that the robots make redundant (and everyone else) a nice basic income of a couple of thousand Dollars equivalent a month and let everyone do as they wish by way of being creative, for instance, such as writing, woodcarving, painting, gardening, and all that, or even volunteering?

It is not going to happen unless we change the system and not just tinker around with the old one. Capitalism cannot be reformed. It was designed not to favor the proletarian, the worker, but only the owner of production, and no capitalist government is going to give a universal basic income to the people whether or not they are the victims of job losses due to mechanization and robots.

Robots will soon be stealing the jobs of most of us and unless we are going to do something about it, and do something about it now, we all, and our children and children's children after us, will be on the scrap heap.

© 2016

And they wonder why our High Streets are dying

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Worthing Herald, Worthing, West Sussex, as well as the Portsmouth News, and others have reported on the closure of a profitable gift shop for men in the town or Worthing. And this is but one of many stores that are forced to close its doors because they cannot afford the rent hikes and/or the over the top business rates.

Profitable gift shop closes due to high business rates (Portsmouth News)

The Mens Gift Shop, in Montague Street, Worthing, a profitable gift shop, would not be closing if “antiquated” business rates were halved to help small retailers, its owner, Michael Smith, has said. The shop has been trading profitably for the past 13 years but have closed by the end of February 2015.

Mr. Smith has launched a stinging attack on the business rates system, which he views as out of date and favoring larger firms.

He said: “The biggest problem for us is the antiquated system of business rates, which is just not fit for purpose. If rates were halved, then we would not be shutting”, and he believes larger retailers and online firms such as Amazon have the advantage on smaller traders due to complex business rates calculations, which have not been updated for years.

He said: “Once a shop hits 1,850 square meters, it becomes a large shop and rates are capped at £70 per square meter. We pay £350 per square meter.

“A company like Amazon would pay £35 per square meter. They pay 10 per cent of what we do because it is classed as a warehouse. Amazon isn't a warehouse, it's a retailer.”

It would also appear, it has to be said, that in many towns and cities of the UK, priority seems to be given to large chains and and supermarkets rather than to individual retailers and craftspeople as far as stores go and the reason for that I may leave the reader to think about. We may all be wrong as to what our thoughts on that are but, then again, we may all be correct.

If we, and that is all of us, want a thriving high street and towns centers then we must demand from the councils that a different approach is being taken and that independent shops are given the priority over those from the large chains, whether those be Teso, Sainsbury's. Morrisons, Asda, Pound Shop, or Amazon, Argos and the like.

Independent retailers and craftspeople make a town center something that you want to go to and, yes, grocers, butchers and greengrocers too are needed. In fact everything from the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, and everything in between.

© 2016

Hedge management boosts rare butterfly

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ButterflyImproving hedges by proper hedgerow management helps to conserve the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly and also aids other wildlife. Often, in the same way as coppicing, laying hedges and managing them, besides trimming them, is seen by certain self-proclaimed ecologists and environmental experts as bad for wildlife but neither the proper management of hedges nor coppice management of woodlands is. It is actually of great benefit to wildlife and trees, and in the case of coppice woodlands also to the people and local economy.

The Brown Hairstreak butterfly was thought to be extinct in the West Midlands until its rediscovery in 1970 in an orchard. Since then, local landowners have helped the colony to expand.

According to Jane Ellis of Butterfly Conservation, the Brown Hairstreak

requires blackthorn hedgerows on which to lay its eggs. It responds positively to "sensitive" hedgerow management.

The biggest problem that we have today, however, as regards to farm and roadside hedges is that they are no longer being properly and sensitively managed but get hacked with a flail without ever being laid properly.

In addition to that there are too many hedges that are planted today with other shrubs than those that are beneficial for the likes of the Brown Hairstreak and others and the hedges are, if planted, are all too often planted without real thought and method.

This is the same with woodlands that are allowed to fall into disrepair short of destruction for lack of vision and resultant from that lack of proper management. Private woodlands, as well as and especially council owned woodlands are so affected, and while there is little that can be done as regards to those in private hands but, maybe, applying to the owners if they want them managed, those that are publicly owned by councils, whether county councils or municipal or parish councils should be handed over, for management, to cooperatives, or other interested parties.

© 2016

For more on coppicing and why, etc. see “Managing our Woods”, a small book that explains the whys and wherefores of managing our woods in this way and calls for us to return to that way.

President Obama's blackmail threat over EU Referendum

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Obama said that Brexit would put UK at ‘back of the queue’ for trade deal in huge EU Referendum intervention

POTUSHowever, someone on social media mentioned that the Americans do not, per se, use the term queue and thus it would appear that the text was written by the UK government and given to the US President to use. Though I am well aware that in some instances the word queue is also used in America and thus it could also have come from the POTUS himself.

Speaking at a press conference in London alongside David Cameron, Obama said: “First of all, let me repeat, this is a decision for the people of the United Kingdom to make. I not coming here to fix any votes. I’m not casting a vote myself. I’m offering my opinion. And, in democracies, everybody should want more information and not less. And you shouldn’t be afraid to hear an argument being made. That’s not a threat. That should enhance the debate.

Particularly because my understanding is that some of the folks on the other side have been ascribing to the United States certain actions we’ll take if the UK does leave the EU. So they say, for example, that ‘well, we’ll just cut our own trade deals with the United States’. So they’re voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do and I figured you might want to hear from the President of the United States what I think the United States is going to do.

And on that matter, for example, I think it’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc—the European Union—to get a trade agreement done.

And the UK is going to be at the back of the queue. Not because we don’t have a special relationship but because, given the heavy lift on any trade agreement, us having access to a big market with a lot of countries, rather than trying to do piecemeal trade agreements, is hugely inefficient.”

Either way it is blackmail and should be seen as a threat and should be rejected as such. The US President has no right to interfere in the affairs of this country unless Britain is not a sovereign nation but just a US colony. I will leave the reader to make up his or her own mind about this latter issue.

Fact is that President Obama wasn’t just talking about his views but issuing a direct threat about the consequences of the referendum. What we are seeing here is more textbook Project Fear than platitudes about what is in the American and British interest.

It fits in perfectly with the tone of the Remain campaign, sowing doubt in voters’ minds about what will happen to the British economy if the country votes to leave. But it will also agitate those Eurosceptic Tories who are already furious about the way the US President has been harnessed by the In campaign.

In some speeches and references to the British EU referendum a couple of weeks back the current POTUS also implied that it would hurt the “special relationship” if the British people should vote to leave the EU.

What is this “special relationship” actually, we should ask here, and how did it come about and who actually benefits from it. The greatest benefactor from it is and has always been the US, whether it is with regards to extraditions of people the US views as criminals or other issues.

To understand how this “special relationship” came about and how it is that the US has such an influence over the UK we have to go back some 70 years or so to the time of the Second World War and the agreement between Churchill and the United States as to American help in this war against German fascism. It was there that Churchill had to grant the US certain rights and privileges over British sovereignty and had also to sign away the colonies to enable to US to become a “world power”, which before that it definitely was not. And in this light this blackmail threat has to be seen also and especially.

© 2016

Millions of Brits leave personal data exposed because they don't know their own passwords

London, 14 April 2016: Nearly two thirds of UK adults rely on 'auto-fill' to complete the login process for some or all websites and a third login automatically AND store their bank card details to shopping sites such as eBay and Amazon – making them vulnerable to substantial financial losses.

That’s according to a survey conducted by antimalware and mobile security company BullGuard. With nearly half of Brits primarily accessing these sites on their phone, the loss of their handset could prove disastrous.

BullGuard commissioned the study exploring the login preferences of 2,000 UK adults when browsing the web on a phone or tablet.

"The results show that a great number of people are taking risks with sensitive data, largely for the sake of convenience”, said Cam Le, Chief Marketing Officer at BullGuard. “We save login and payment card details often without a second thought, but with that comes the risk of what could happen should our mobiles or tablets fall into the wrong hands. It’s always important to make it is as difficult as possible for criminals to access personal and financial details, and that includes those stored on personal devices.”

Less than half of people taking part in the survey have set up a pass code for their phone or tablet – meaning anyone who gets their hands on the device can access its contents freely.

Three in five respondents leave themselves open to cybercrime by staying logged in to social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, which could contain private information that could be used for cyber theft or fraud.

58 per cent of Brits stay signed-in to their email accounts permanently, despite the private and sensitive information potentially accessible.

Nearly two thirds of people store their credit or debit card details on Amazon, over a fifth do the same for eBay and a third also save their card details on online payment service, PayPal.

Furthermore, over a fifth of respondents stay permanently logged-in to the payment service.
The typical Brit has approximately six different passwords and seven in ten struggle to remember them. In fact, Brits have to request a new password every other month on average because they keep forgetting them, while a third of respondents resort to writing their passwords down.

Eight in ten of those polled said they use the autofill option “purely for speed and convenience” while half say it’s “annoying to continually type passwords in.”

On why they find it difficult to remember passwords, over half of respondents blamed websites which force them to use “strange characters” or numbers.

Over a third of UK adults struggle because they try to have a different password for each website they log in to. In addition to the wealth of private and financial information potentially available to opportunistic thieves, the device itself isn’t cheap – being worth £194.09 on average. Despite this, little more than three in ten people have insured their phone or tablet.

Less than a quarter of those surveyed have activated the “find my phone/tablet” function enabling them to track their device if lost or stolen, while just a fifth of respondents have installed security software on their phone. However, BullGuard believes there is a compromise to be found.

“It’s understandable, given the sheer number of often quite complicated passwords we have to deal with, to need a helping hand”, Cam Le continued. “In light of these results we’d advise people to be more selective with the websites that have login details pre-stored. Anything that includes financial details for quick transactions or allows access to them – such as Amazon, Paypal and eBay, the top three in our list, should be something you commit to memory. Sites that don’t reveal any potentially sensitive data are lower risk. Hopefully with this middle ground, people can enjoy a comfortable and safe environment online.”

Top 10 sites for storing bank card details
1. Amazon - 64.13 per cent
2. PayPal - 32.90 per cent
3. eBay - 21.19 per cent
4. Tesco - 10.78 per cent
5. Argos - 9.85 per cent
6. Marks & Spencer - 9.48 per cent
7. Apple - 7.62 per cent
8. Rakuten - 6.88 per cent
9. Asda - 6.69 per cent
10. NetFlix - 6.69 per cent

Top 10 sites for storing login details including passwords
1. Facebook - 60.12 per cent
2. Email provider (Hotmail, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc) - 35.28 per cent
3. Amazon - 33.97 per cent
4. Twitter - 26.69 per cent
5. eBay - 20.25 per cent
6. Instagram - 13.88 per cent
7. PayPal - 13.57 per cent
8. Google+ - 11.89 per cent
9. Pinterest - 9.13 per cent
10. Linked-In - 9.05 per cent

BullGuard is a fast growing antimalware and mobile security brand. Its award-winning product portfolio includes internet security solutions, mobile security, 24/7 identity protection, and social media protection for both home and small business users, including BullGuard Premium Protection - a unique suite that goes beyond the PC to safeguard personal and financial information by continually monitoring the web, social networks, as well as the dark web for stolen and compromised data sources.

For more information visit BullGuard.

Official ground-breaking ceremony: vortex energy builds 22MW "Gadegast" wind farm

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

After three years' project development the construction work is starting on the eight wind turbines in Saxony-Anhalt

projektierer-generalunternehmer-vortex-energy-gadegast-sachsen-anhalt-wi-1_webWith the start of the foundation work for eight wind turbines in the district of Gadegast all those involved have reached a special milestone. The North Hesse all-round wind energy company vortex energy Deutschland GmbH has been developing the project for three years now and has succeeded in selling it to a large German institutional investor. As the general contractor, vortex energy will be performing the construction work in the period April to September 2016. After commissioning, vortex energy will also take charge of the wind farm’s technical and commercial management.

projektierer-generalunternehmer-vortex-energy-gadegast-sachsen-anhalt-wi_webThe company, which is based in Kassel, has developed the project from the “green field” stage since it was included in the regional plan of Anhalt-Bitterfeld Wittenberg as a priority wind energy area in 2013. There was intensive debate and in some cases resistance, but then overall approval was achieved and vortex energy was able to prevail over the competing project companies, its having planned and designed the wind farm with the consent of the town of Zahna-Elster and concluded the necessary agreement with the landowners concerned. After a total project planning time of three years it also successfully obtained the approval under federal pollution control legislation (BImSchG) for eight wind turbines.

The wind turbines of the type GE 2.75 MW with a total height of around 200 metres are being erected in the municipal area of the town of Zahna-Elster. Each turbine has an electrical output of 2.75 megawatt. The hub is at a height of 139 metres and the rotor diameter is 120 metres. "Being in the 3 MW class, the turbines chosen are ideally suited to this wind farm," explains Philipp Jeske, CEO of vortex energy Deutschland GmbH.

"After commissioning, which is scheduled for the end of September, vortex energy will also be taking charge of the operational management. It is important to us that we are for investors a comprehensively competent partner, that we successfully prepare the wind farm for marketing, while meeting all statutory specifications, and that as the operational manager we remain a contact partner for at least a decade. This involves considerable trust," Dr. Florian Leuthold, COO, vortex energy Holding AG, stresses.

The "Gadegast" will supply around 16,250 households with an annual output of about 65 million kilowattt hours of green electricity. With these turbines it is possible to save an annual amount of more than 37,000 tonnes of CO2 as compared with the energy generation mix in Germany, which is still dominated by fossil fuels. "A further step on the road to 100% energy supply from renewables," says Dr. Till Jeske, founder and CEO the vortex energy Group, "We regard the decentralised generation of energy from renewables as the key to the future and we want to make a major contribution to the energy turnaround in Europe," Jeske states.

Vortex energy was founded in 2004 and currently employs 65 people in Kassel and Szczecin . The company specialises in the planning, construction and operation of wind turbines and solar power installations in Germany and Poland. Since 2010 vortex energy has been among the top three leading Polish companies on the wind energy market. To date vortex energy has constructed 16 wind farms with a joint capacity of 340 megawatt in Germany and Poland. Since February 2015 vortex energy has had a concession in Poland as a supplier of electricity trading and balancing. The vortex energy Group includes vortex energy Deutschland GmbH and vortex energy Polska Sp. z o.o.

Comment by GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW: While wind farms may be better than fossil fuel power station of all types, including gas and bio-gas, in general we, that is especially government and industry, are still not getting it.

Instead of ever taller wind turbines with ever larger blades what really is needed is a total rethink on more than one level.

First of all we need to reduce our consumption of energy, in this case electricity, and secondly we need to re-engineer homes and businesses to work on lower voltages so that thirdly by use of small wind and solar all homes and business become, more or less, independent from any outside supply of electricity.

Most appliances today run on a much lower voltage than 220/240 volt AC. They do not need that kind of power. Most work on 12 volt DC, or even below that, and lighting also, with LEDs could be on that voltage. This, however, would require a different circuitry in the home and would, with small wind and solar panels, make every building energy independent. That, however, is something that the powers-that-be and industry just do not wish to ever happen.

Small wind turbines (and efficient solar panels) on every roof, combined with a predominately 12 volt DC system, would make power stations more or less obsolete, including large wind turbines, and would make every house independent from the power companies. The problem is that the political will is not there and we will be told, no doubt, should we be demanding such changes, that thousands of jobs would be lost.

The truth of the matter is that energy independence of people is something that, for some reason, the powers-that-be are extremely scared of and that is why they try their damnedest, as can be seen by some many actions they take against off-gridders in the land of the free and the home of the brave, to prevent this. People who are independent from such sources as power and food are dangerous in the eyes of those that wish to control the masses.

© 2016

Quorn Lincolnshire Sausages (Aldi) – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

AldiQuornSausages1_webFor the first time ever I gave Aldi's Quorn (vegetarian/vegan) sausages a try – I have tried and tasted many different kinds and brands – and those are the first that were not dry and tasteless. In fact they were very much akin to a cross between beef sausages and pork sausages. Juicy and great tasting.

While they are available at my local Adli store I am unable to actually find them listed on the Aldi.co.uk website, but then not everything that is standard in the range is ever listed there, it would seem.

At £1.49 for a pack of 8 sausages they are definitely cheaper than many others I have seen and tasted and thus even better value for money.

I never thought that I would ever come to enjoy those products having experienced only those that were very dry and (almost) tasteless, even on many of the trade shows and such places I happen to attend as a journalist, but these ones certainly make for a change and I did enjoy them very much. Thus I can most wholeheartedly recommend them.

© 2016

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article. Even the package itself was purchased at the local Aldi store

Warning that transgenic maize in Spain could spread uncontrollably

EFSA and Monsanto are ignoring risks for farmers and the environment

TeosinteFriday, 22 April 2016: In an open letter to the EU Commission, several Spanish, British and German organisations are urging that effective measures be taken to prevent genetically engineered maize from spreading into the environment. As evidenced by the organisations, the ancestor of cultivated maize, teosinte, is widely invading agricultural landscapes in several regions of Spain where, in some cases, the genetically engineered maize MON810 is also cultivated which is producing an insecticidal protein. Since teosinte and maize can interbreed, the organisations are warning that transgenes stemming from MON810 might also be inherited in the wild populations of teosinte and spread uncontrollably in the environment.

“We are requesting the EU-Commission and the Spanish government to stop the cultivation of MON810. Otherwise, gene flow from MON810 to teosinte may cause it to produce Bt toxin. This would, in turn, confer higher fitness to the hybrids of maize and teosinte in comparison to the native teosinte plants and enable the transgenes to spread widely without control. This is a scenario carrying major risks for farmers and the environment”, Maria Carrascosa says for Red de Semillas from Spain.

Teosinte does not normally grow in Europe, but rather in Mexico, which is the joint centre of origin for maize and teosinte. It is not clear how teosinte was introduced into Spain, where it is seen as a weed that has detrimental economic implications for maize farmers. Genetically engineered maize MON810 is produced by the US company Monsanto, and is cultivated in Spain on an area of more than 100.000 hectares.

Gabriela Vázquez from Ecologistas en Acción seriously criticises the authorities in Spain and Brussels: "The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission know that we have teosinte, but they are not taking actions. This situation is untenable.”

Producers of genetically engineered plants holding authorisations permitting the cultivation of these plants in the EU are legally obliged to prepare annual monitoring reports about the associated risks. Therefore, the information about teosinte has to be included into these reports as a potential threat to farmers and the environment. However, as the organisations discovered by analysing official reports published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in April 2016, neither Monsanto nor the EFSA have made any mention of the spread of teosinte and its possible implications at all. The organisations consider this to be unacceptable, in particular, because they already informed the Commission about the problem in February 2016.

“The cultivation of MON810 has only been allowed under the condition that there were no relatives of the maize to which transgenes could be transferred and thus spread. This has now changed completely.” Christoph Then says for Testbiotech.

In their joint letter, the organisations Amigos de la Tierra (Spain), Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos COAG (Spain), Ecologistas en Acción (Spain), GeneWatch UK, Plataforma Andalucía Libre de Transgénicos (Spain), Red de Semillas “Resembrando e Intercambiando” (Spain) and Testbiotech (Germany) request the EU Commission to

  • reject the opinion as put forward by EFSA

  • take measures to stop the cultivation of MON810 in Spain

  • withdraw the authorisation for the cultivation of MON810 GM maize in the EU, since the responsible company has repeatedly failed to provide any information on the teosinte infestation in Spain and its risks for farmers and the environment.

Source: Testbiotech http://testbiotech.org/

Does an eco-village have to be in the countryside?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

640px-BedZED_2007For the majority of people almost everywhere the village equates the countryside and thus they would believe that a village, also an eco-village, can only exist in the countryside. However, the majority of our towns and cities today are but a conglomeration of villages and therefore an eco-village should and can be equally at home in the town as in the country.

Now what is an eco-village in the first place and why would we assume that it has to be in the countryside?

An eco-village, regardless of its fancy, newfangled name, is basically a community or a commune that wishes to live and work together in a way that does not harm the environment, or better the biosphere. It may be in the countryside, off-grid, and somewhat away from civilization, so to speak, but it on no account has to be, and maybe even most of them should not be.

Most people in the developed world today live in urban areas. Not so long ago many more lived in the countryside instead of in towns and cities, and while the movement of “back to the land” is good and necessary even for some homesteading and that kind of life will not be possible. For many, in fact, that will be the case, and this is not due to the countryside not being able to accommodate them or such, but for reasons of not being able to or even wanting to move into the stick.

Still those very same often hanker after the idea of homesteading, of living in a village, a community where people live and work together and also grow their own food and all that. But, because they cannot leave the urban or suburban areas due to commitments – or lack of funds to move into the sticks – they see no way of doing what they would like to.

All towns and cities today, bar those that we created from nothing, so to speak, are based on a collection of villages that grew together or were joined together and thus at the heart of the urban community there still lies the village; we have but to find it or recreate it.

Thus an eco-village in town or country is not all that far fetched and is indeed possible and must be possible. They can be created right where we live, in our street and even a block of flats (apartment block to our American cousins), and elsewhere.

Transition Towns have sort of advanced the idea but there are ways in which this could be improved upon and other models developed. Truth is that an eco-village could be developed almost anywhere in any situation and location. It definitely does not have to be in the countryside and we must create such in the urban areas as well and especially.

In the same way that you can homestead anywhere an eco-village can be created (almost) anywhere.

It is estimated that 80.7% of the US population currently lives in urban areas (as of 2010) and in places such as the concrete jungle it is easy to become disconnected from nature. More and more people are seeking to get back in tune with the earth, and there are many that reckon to truly do that you have to go outside city limits to do that. In one way they are correct and in another way they are not.

The old Hippie Commune, so to speak, of Christiania, also know as Christiania Free State, which is one of the oldest and longest established, and still existing, community which is, what one could refer to if one wanted to, an eco-village, slap bang almost in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark, is a great example for what can be done in the urban environment. But one does not, necessarily, take over an old army barracks, an old hospital site, or similar.

An eco-village is a community whose inhabitants seek to live according to ecological principles, causing as little impact on the environment as possible, and such eco-villages or eco-communities and -communes have as much a place in the urban area as in the rural ones, and may even be more needed more so in the former.

Transforming a neighborhood into an eco-village or an eco-community will take some effort, as the Transition Town Movement and that of the Kietzwandler, the German sort-of equivalent, have shown but they have also shown and proven that it can be done. However, to expect, almost overnight to get an entire town to become an eco one is unrealistic.

The way to start is block by block and street by street, which seems to be something that the Transition Movement (notice the word “town” has, more or less now been dropped from the menu) is beginning to realize. In any case we have to rebuild the village in the city and we might as well then build eco-villages while we are at it.

An urban or suburban eco-village, in the same way as a rural one, can be purpose built from scratch or being developed from some existing structure and while many eco-villages that exist at present are a collection of like-minded people living in community, a commune to a degree, mostly in rural areas, those that are to be developed or which develop in a neighborhood are generally of a different composition where people may first still to have to be persuaded to make the necessary changes.

Those that are developed in suburban or urban areas from scratch or from something already existing, such as an old barracks, or similar, can be a collection of like-minded eco-conscious people, and such structures could act as models and examples for anything that might develop outside those or those who have created the intentional eco-communes might act as facilitators to those wishing to establish eco-neighborhoods.

In some parts of he world the village is being reestablished in the city by people who have come from villages creating a village kind of living environment even in apartment blocks, with workshops on the ground floor and gardens all around where food is grown for the community.

It can be done, as it has been shown, and that would also make for eco-villages in urban and suburban areas. All that is needed is the will and especially the will and the facilitation from the sides of the governments, local, county, state and central (federal) to allow for this to happen. The latter, however, is where it always seems to give problems and that also goes for those that are being established in the countryside.

Living in and creating an eco-village is not so much an off-grind living adventure, it's about community and actually creating new models of how we can and should live. In fact and truth the models are not new actually; they are a return to the way things were and need to be for everything to work properly.

Such an eco-village should also include, ideally, and the location of it does not matter one iota in this, community-run businesses, or small “individually-owned” enterprises of various kinds, as long as they have a low impact on the biosphere, and ideally also off-grid energy sources, community gardens and agriculture, and many more “alternative” services and ideas.

It is all about establishing working models to the system that can kick into action when the old system finally kicks the bucket, so to speak, either by its own volition or by being helped along a little. Thus those communities really must include all the services that are necessary, but it all depends on what it possible at the location and as an individual commune or what can be achieved by cooperation with other such communities in the area. No man is an island and no commune of this kind either. Unity makes us strong.

© 2016

Natural & Organic Awards Europe 2016: winners announced

The winners of the coveted Natural & Organic Awards Europe 2016 were announced yesterday (Monday 18 April) at the Natural & Organic Products Europe trade show; which took place at ExCeL London.

The awards, which celebrate the standout brands and products of the year, were hosted by Natural Products News; in association with the Soil Association. The 2016 presenter was leading business woman and BBC Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.

“The Natural & Organic Awards are now in their 21st year, and it’s been fantastic to see them grow in stature – to the point, where now, they are the recognized benchmark for excellence in natural and organic,” said Jim Manson, editor of Natural Products News.

“But as well as celebrating fantastic businesses and great products, the Awards also provide us with an opportunity to stop for a moment and celebrate the people – and the shared values – that make our natural and organic industry so special, and enduring. Congratulations to all of our fantastic winners and finalists,” he said.

The ‘best new product’ awards were voted for by visitors to the show on Sunday 17 April and then judged by a panel of leading industry experts; including Al Overton (head of buying at Planet Organic), Julian Wright (‎purchasing director at The Health Store), Julie Goodwin (owner of Natural Health) and Jeff Martin (MD of As Nature Intended). The 13 winners were selected from over 320 New Product Showcase entries, in categories covering food, health, beauty and natural living.

The 2016 results:


Winner: Bounce Foods – Coconut Lemon Protein Crush

Finalist: Pulsin’ – Fruity Oat Bars: Strawberry

Finalist: Perkier Foods – Oaty Cranberry & Cashew Sprouted Bars

Finalist: Naturya – Superfood Breakfast Boost


Winner: Booja-Booja – Booja-Booja Dairy Free Ice Cream

Finalist: Go4raw – Go4raw Crackers

Finalist: The Coconut Collaborative – Chocolate Snowconut Sticks

Finalist: Creative Nature Superfood – Organic Chia & Cacao Brownie Mix


Winner: Pukka Herbs – Turmeric Gold

Finalist: Zealong Tea Estate - Organic Tea

Finalist: Alo Drink – Alo Crisp

Finalist: Tropicsoul – Tropicsoul Smoothies


Winner: Tsuno – Tsuno Bamboo Sanitary Pads

Finalist: Tosh Products Ecoffee Cup – Bimbamboo Bamboo Fire Dining

Finalist: Natracare – Dry & Light Incontinence Pads

Finalist: Message Earth – Slow Living. No Stress!


Winner: Nutristrength – Goat & Sheep Whey Protein

Finalist: Revive Active Products – Mastermind by Revive Active

Finalist: Gofigure – Go Figure Meal Replacement Shake

Finalist: Pukka Herbs – Turmeric Active


Winner: Tabitha James Kraan – Organic Dry Shampoo (compact)

Finalist: True Organic of Sweden – Undercover Agent

Finalist: Savannah Bee Company – Honey Bee Bar Soap

Finalist: Westlab Mineral Salts – Revive Epsom Salt Scrub


Winner: Kinetic Natural Products Distributor– Jason Men’s Range Forest Fresh

Finalist: Hope’s Relief & Bodyverde – Speed Shave

Finalist: Fair Squared – Green Tea After Shave Balm


Winner: Natrasan – Natrasan First Aid Spray

Finalist: Marili Skincare – Caramel Hair & Body Wash

Finalist: Natural Senses – Pure Organic Baby Lotion

Finalist: Shea Mooti – Baby’s Gentle Lotion


Winner: Hope’s Relief & Bodyverde – Topical Spray

Finalist: Eterno Naturals – Wooden Spoon 100% Natural Rose Butter

Finalist: Sóley Organics – Birta Lift & Glow Nourishing Serum

Finalist: Spa Technologies UK – Flower Peel


Winner: Inika Cosmetics – Vegan Lipstick

Finalist: Eterno Naturals – 100% Natural Active Deodorant

Finalist: You & Oil – Vitamin Serum Nourish & Energise


Winner: YES Organic Intimacy – YES Cleanse Organic Intimate Wash

Finalist: True Organic of Sweden – All You Need Is Me

Finalist: Freshious Life & Beauty – 5-A-Day Radiance 2-In-1 Cleanser


Winner: Bob Parker, G & G Vitamins

Finalist: Bridget Cole, Pukka Herbs

BEST INDEPENDENT RETAILER – sponsored by Pukka Herbs

Winner: Wild Oats, Bristol

Finalist: Mulberry Bush, Lampeter

Finalist: Nature’s Corner, Newbury


Winner: Holland & Barrett

Finalist: Revital

Finalist: Wholefoods

Finalist: Planet Organic

Finalist: As Nature Intended

BEST NEW ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCT – in association with the Soil Association

Winner: Lovechock – Lovechock Mylk Cranberry Buckwheat

Finalist: BodyMe – Raw Cacao Orange Protein Bar

Finalist: Conscious Chocolate – Lions Raw

Finalist: Natures Aid – Ultimate Superfoods

BEST NEW ORGANIC PRODUCT – in association with the Soil Association

Winner: Viridian Nutrition – Scandinavian Rainbow Trout Oil

Finalist: Sam-Har LLC – Organic Blackberry Compote

Finalist: Pukka Herbs – Machta Tea

Finalist: Sunwarrior – Sunwarrior Organic Classic Plus


Winner: Lynn Lord, Natures Aid

Natural & Organic Products Europe 2016

Natural & Organic Products Europe is the UK's biggest trade show for the natural products, health food and organic sectors. Its 20th anniversary edition, which closed yesterday at ExCeL London, has been hailed as its most successful and biggest show to date. Total attendance figures are due to be released by the event’s organiser Diversified Communications UK later this week.

The next edition of Natural & Organic Products Europe will take place on 2-3 April 2017 at ExCeL London. For more information, please visit www.naturalproducts.co.uk.

Humble Brush, from Sweden with love

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I encountered Humble Brush for the first time ever on this years Natural & Organic Products Europe exhibition on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the ExCel center in London's Docklands.

HumbleBrushThe concept behind the Humble Brush, especially the by-one-give-one idea, is a good one but, I am afraid to say, some of the statements on their website and in their literature are more than just a little misleading and thus I have rewritten them in the way they should be.

The handle of the Humble Brush is made out of bamboo which naturally provides a non-slip surface. As it is a natural material, similar to wood, it does biodegrade harmlessly over time. The brush features an ergonomic grip instead of the straight board handle that many wooden or bamboo toothbrushes commonly use.

With reference to bamboo the literature and website states: Amazing sustainability. Did you know that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth? It is naturally antibacterial which means that there is no need to use fertilizers or pesticides during its cultivation. Clean material! Pretty amazing, right?

What the antibacterial properties have to do with the fact that no fertilizers or pesticides are required in growing bamboo beats me. The antibacterial properties do not make it pest resistant. Those properties are about something else altogether. Most wood too has the same antibacterial properties.

Unfortunately a lot of half-truth and outright lies are being perpetuated and circulated about bamboo and bamboo products and companies using such materials fall into the trap of simply believing what they are told without further researching the matter.

As I said, when it comes to bamboo and products from bamboo, I am afraid, we have to be very careful about any of the claims that are being circulated and to which the people here seem to have fallen prey as well. Local wood would be much better than bamboo that is shipped from the other side of the world and forests also grow without fertilizers and pesticides, generally.

All Humble Brush products have soft (adult) and ultra-soft (children) bristles that have been verified to be free from the toxin BPA (bisphenol A). The bristles are made out of nylon, and then we come to an interesting but misleading statement from the company's literature that claims about nylon: “a durable material (true) that degrades over time (misleading as it is a synthetic material, often containing PVC, that takes hundreds of years to degrade and then it is not a biological process in returning to the soil but one that contaminates the soil. And while the statement that it can be processed through regular waste channels is true the fact that it is attached to a stick of bamboo makes that rather questionable. True is though that there is no other, and definitely no plant-based, material that would allow the brush to be used for the recommended three months.

The packaging of the brush is compostable as both the transparent wrapper in which the Humble brush is packed in the cardboard box is plant-based; we used to simply call it cellophane, and the cell standing for the fact that such wrap was made from cellulose, and this wrapper is nothing different. The box is made out of 100% recycled material and as it is cardboard will also compost.

Humble Brush, it is claimed, has no disadvantages to conventional toothbrushes and will last you just as long as any mass produced plastic toothbrush. And with that I do not have any issue at all.

For every Humble Brush sold, we donate a toothbrush or the equivalent production cost to a child in need, and that is what is behind the buy one, give one concept.

Through the The Humble Smile Foundation, together with partners, helps people most in need of oral care around the world. People in need receive the means, education and motivation to improve their oral hygiene. Studies shows that a poor oral hygiene can lead to systemic health problems. Early oral care interventions may prevent or arrest systemic disease.

This is a step for sure to eliminating the mass of plastic toothbrushes that are tossed out annually all over the world. The nylon bristles, unfortunately, still will remain an issue but less so than entire plastic toothbrushes that are going into landfill.

If one would be crafty inclined than one could, no doubt, use the bamboo handles to make something else out of an one would only have to discard the bristles themselves.

Oh, and while I am at the subject of reuse and reworking: Don't toss an old toothbrush. They can be used for many other brushing tasks after they can no longer be used on your teeth, from cleaning the spaces between tiles, around taps on sinks and basins, to cleaning the bicycle, or using the brush as a shoe polish applicator. And that goes for any old toothbrush.

I like the brush and the concept of the buy-one-give-one for sure. The only issue I have is with the literature both in print and on the web, which is, to some extent tantamount to greenwash, though it is possible that the people behind Humble Brush have been misled themselves by others.

N.B. What I have said here about bamboo does not just apply to the Humble Brush toothbrush but to all such toothbrushes and also many other bamboo products, and don't get me started on bamboo fiber or we are going to be here all day.

© 2016

Broken fence posts... no longer a problem

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

postbudycompile2Thanks to one revolutionary product, repairing broken fence posts is no longer the labour-intensive, time-consuming job it used to be.

Post Buddy, was created just over four years ago and is unlike anything else on the market. It is already proving popular with home owners right across the UK with more than 45,000 online sales over the last two years and a five star eBay rating.

The Post Buddy system is a quick, simple and highly effective way of fixing wooden fence posts of all sizes. Uniquely there is no longer the need to dig up the broken post or dismantle any of the existing fencing. Repairing broken fence posts with Post Buddy will extend the life of an otherwise solid fence by years.

Wayne Phelan, inventor and company founder said: “I originally came up with the idea for Post Buddy when several of my own fence posts broke. I didn’t fancy spending hours digging up and replacing the posts and I knew any available repairs were a hassle. I needed to get it done quickly, as broken posts often cause a chain reaction. One breaks, then another, eventually the whole fence collapses.”

“I wanted an easy solution. I played around with various ideas and that’s how Post Buddy was conceived. A quick, labour-saving repair which anyone would find easy to use.”

The Post Buddy system consists of two powder coated mild steel stakes 750mm long. Inserted between the fence post and the existing concrete base, the Post Buddy stakes are able to penetrate the underground timber. The stakes are secured to the above ground post, thereby acting like a splint, bridging the rotten section of wood, making the fence post solid once again.

For more information, easy to follow instructions and demonstration video please visit the Post Buddy website at www.postbuddysystem.co.uk or check out Facebook and Twitter.

Post Buddy is a UK Patent product: Granted 1210616.7 with International Patent Pending PCT/GB2012/051374

While before you had to use all manner of things if you wanted to fix a broken fence posts and yes, angle irons do, to some extent, work. As they are not as easily to put into the ground, so to speak, alongside the post between the concrete, it was and is always a bit of a hit and miss affair – often it is a hit affair as you tend bashing your hand with the hammer – with the Post Buddy strips, on the other hand, it is a lot easier, and safer.

© 2016

Seven out of ten parents with young children worried about cuts to parks

ParkAllianceReport1The Parks Alliance (TPA), the UK’s voice of parks, on April 15, 2016, published 'The National Playground: growing the next generation on the importance of parks to family life. The current squeeze on budgets is putting our parks and green spaces at risk and data highlighted in the report show that parents with children under 10, are most concerned about the impact of budget cuts on local parks, with 7 out of 10 worried about the prospect of cuts. In this parent group, 8 out of 10 visit parks once a month, the highest number of any park users.

Parks are an integral part of childhood. In an average month, 48% of all children in England visit local urban parks. Across the country it ranges from 46% of children in the North East to 54% in the east of England. Other data highlighted in the report include:

  • Park visits accounted for an estimated 827 million visits taken to the natural environment in England 2014/15.

  • Every month, on average, three quarters of children (75%) visit the natural environment with adults from their own household.

  • Play was the dominant reason given by adults for the visits they took with children to the natural environment. 47% of children took visits that were motivated by adults wanting to play with their children and 43% took visits where the motivation was ‘to let the children play’.

Mark Camley, Chairman of The Parks Alliance, said: ‘Public parks have provided generations of young people with safe space to play and enjoy themselves. Parks and green spaces enable families to spend quality time together, and help with physical and mental health. The case for maintaining parks is clear but their future is under threat. Since 2010, 86% of parks managers’ report cuts to revenue budgets. The Park’s Alliance is concerned about the risk of closures, sell-offs and a drop in the quality of our green spaces and calls for a public Inquiry in to how parks are funded.’

The report also features visitor data from three local parks in Crosby, Wheatley and Wetherby highlighting their importance to their local communities.

Parks Alliance report 'The National Playground: growing the next generation' was published Friday April 15, 2016 and is available by clicking on the link above.

The Parks Alliance is the voice of UK parks, representing the people and organisations that create, maintain, invest in and use the public green spaces that we are proud to have at the heart of British life. Its objective is to promote and protect the public parks we are proud to have at the heart of UK life and culture. The UK-wide Alliance includes organisations and senior park industry figures from local government parks services, private contractors, industry bodies, NGOs and volunteer and park friends groups.

Source: The Parks Alliance

Activists project Pac-Man animation onto API headquarters

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On the night of Wednesday, April 14, 2016, environmental activists taking part in the Democracy Spring mass nonviolent actions projected 16-story high images on the office fronts of D.C.’s top pollution lobbyists. The visual protest aimed to spotlight exorbitant political spending against the environment.

At around 9 p.m., Friends of the Earth and Oil Change International projected visuals of the video game character Pac-Man, a play on words for Super PACs, gobbling up the logos of leading oil and gas companies contributing to climate change. This loop played on the headquarters of the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The projections highlighted the millions of dollars each organization spends lobbying to expand fossil fuel production and to resist regulation addressing climate change.

“Oil and gas giants like Chevron and Exxon hide behind API and the Chamber of Commerce to do their dirty work in the capitol,” said Jon Fox, senior democracy campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “We hope to shine a bright light on the millions of dollars dirty fuel lobbyists spend to keep polluting the planet.”

In 2015, API spent nearly $7.8 million lobbying for its clients -- which include more than 650 of the industry’s worst polluters. API’s lobbying to delay investments in clean and safe alternatives to oil, thwarts efforts to avoid the devastating effects from a global rise of 2 degrees Celsius, such as the melting of Arctic ice, sea level rise, more extreme tornados, hurricanes and floods.

Since the 2010 Citizen’s United ruling, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee spent more than $1 million to elect anti-environmental political candidates across the country. During the same time period, the Chamber spent $542 million to actively support anti environmental policies that put all of us at risk, such as the TPP trade agreement.

“The Chamber put its weight behind the TPP which protects dirty energy companies from the environmental and public health regulations necessary to protect us all from climate change,” Fox said.

For more information on the reforms needed to reclaim our democracy, visit http://www.foe.org/democracy.

Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

Search is on for Britain’s greenest youngsters


Jon Snow meeting last year’s Young Green Britons – experts in Energy, Transport, Food and Nature.

Ecotricity, the world’s first green energy company, has today launched a competition to find the greenest youngsters in Britain, with the four winners taking the stage at this summer’s WOMAD Festival to present their ideas.

Ecotricity, who will host a stage at the festival, is asking school pupils aged 11-16 to send in their ideas about how to achieve a Green Britain.

The competition will focus on the three areas that make up 80% of our emissions in Britain – Energy, Transport and Food – as well as ‘making room for Nature’.

The youngsters will be supported by well-known or expert mentors to help refine their ideas, before delivering a speech during the Young Green Briton Chat at WOMAD.

Last year’s winners included Findlay Wilde, a 14 year old conservationist who was mentored by wildlife presenter Simon King – Findlay has since appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Wildlife Power List, been interviewed on Springwatch and Newsround, and worked with the RSPB on their Hen Harrier campaign.

Findlay Wilde said: "It’s hard to put into words just what a great opportunity and experience the Young Green Briton Chat was. To have the chance to meet such important people from the conservation world was fantastic, but to be able to share my thoughts and feelings with such a massive audience was really something else. It’s not every day you get to reach out to so many people.

“The relationship I have formed with Ecotricity since the competition has been amazing. We are working together to protect Hen Harriers, they are supporting my campaign work and I really want to help them with the awareness for the Young Green Briton debate. If you feel strongly about protecting our environment, my best advice would be get involved, grasp this opportunity and let our generation’s voice be heard."

This is the second year of the Young Briton Chat and will be the fourth year that Ecotricity has been at WOMAD, the internationally established world music festival, which this year runs from 28-31 July at Charlton Park in Malmesbury.

Last year’s Young Green Briton panel was chaired by Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow and included Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, TV presenter Simon King, actor and electric car fanatic Robert Llewellyn and organic food entrepreneur Geetie Singh-Watson, with this year’s host and panelists to be announced soon.

Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder, said: “Our Young Green Briton competition was a fantastic success last year – we heard some great ideas from some very committed and talented young people.

“It’s a real encouragement to hear these voices of the up and coming generation, so focussed on sustainability and the idea of a Green Britain. This will be our second year of the competition and we’re looking forward to lots of great new entries, some new mentors and the involvement of some of last year’s winners.”

About the Young Green Briton competition:

• Young people aged 11 – 16 can enter the competition by sending a video, written article or a recording to explain their ideas on how Britain could be greener.

• Their submission should focus on one of the four categories of Energy, Transport, Food and Nature and also consider what is needed to encourage and inspire others to adopt their ideas across schools, the local community and around the world.

• Each of the four winning pupils will meet their ‘Green Britain mentor’ at the festival and receive a mentoring session, before taking the stage to put their points across.

• Entries should be sent to younggreenbriton@ecotricity.co.uk and must make it clear in the subject line which of the four categories is being entered.

• All entries will be acknowledged and must be submitted by 1 June. Ecotricity will select three finalists in each category and each mentor will select the overall winner, per category, by 30 June, when winners will be informed.

• The four winners will receive a weekend pass for themselves and two adults to ‘WOMAD 2016’ (including camping and backstage entry into the Artists’ Village), as well as an Ecotricity goody bag and a personal meeting with their Green Britain mentor.

• Permission must be obtained from a parent or guardian and terms and conditions apply.

Ecotricity was founded in 1995 as the world’s first green energy company and now supplies over 175,000 customers across the Britain from a growing fleet of wind and sun parks. Ecotricity is a ‘not-for-dividend’ enterprise that, on average over the last eleven years, has invested more per customer in building new sources of green electricity than any other energy company in Britain.

Carved wooden spoons and other treen goods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TreenGoods1Never two of carved wooden spoon and other treen goods will ever be alike when carved along the lines of the wood, letting the grain guide the carver and dictate the shape, curves and such like are what make every piece a unique item. Unlike the stuff you will find - “cheap” - in stores, which are almost all 100% alike; those are machined.

When carved following the way the wood guides the carver the strength of the wood is retained. When a piece is machined, however, and that even when “just” the blank is cut by means of a band-saw, or such, in order to be able too produce (almost) uniform pieces, that strength almost always is being undermined if not even destroyed. That is even the case in this instance should, in the case of a spoon, for instance, the bowl be carved by hand with a gouge or spoon knife. Most of those bowls when kitchen spoons (and others wooden ones) are mace by machine also appear not to be hand carved but done by some kind of machine also.

Anything that is carved by hand entirely, however, retains the strength of the grain and thus the product will last so much longer than any “mass-produced” item, even if it is made of wood.

Working with so-called “green wood”, and green wood means either freshly cut or up to eighteen months old timber, is different than using wood that has been seasoned for many, many years, and is cut by saw and then worked with a saw, etc. Green wood is easier to work, while it is in that age range, though some woods, such as Ash and Oak, can already be very hard to work after just resting six moths, as I found out when trying to cave a drinking cup, a Kuksa, out of a piece of Ash after it has been resting for some time, but no more than half a year, of that I am sure.

The greenwood worker once upon a time, and no, I am not about to begin a fairytale, was found in every village and more than one would be found in the towns as well and he did not just make spoons and bowls. Wooden spoons and bowls, however, were still very common around World War One in almost every home in the rural areas and both were used for eating with and of even. And that wood, from which those treen goods were made, and they were not just spoons and bowls, all came from the local area, mostly from local coppice woods, managed in a way that goes back thousands of years.

Machined wooden utensils, as in sawn timber – often seasoned already – and then, if it concerns spoons, the hollow, the bowl, being gauged out by machines, have, to a great extent, lost their natural strength as they are often cut in such a way that no consideration is given to the natural run of the grain of the wood. Hand carving (or turning on the pole lathe – or even other kind of lathe) works with the run of the grain and the grain per se of the wood. And while it is not possible in that way to create products that are uniform in shape and size each and every one is, however, unique and much thought and work has gone into them.

Such handmade items, generally, will outlast machined ones by generations and many handmade spoons and other treen goods, with the patina of years of use, have found their ways into many a museum.

Wood, and that includes and especially green wood, is a very versatile material but unlike steam bending and other treatment often given to products made of seasoned wood are, generally, made by working with the way Nature has grown the tree or branch and thus there will rarely be one piece that will be exactly like the other.

Green wood was also used for the building of the timber-framed houses in Britain (and elsewhere) from stately homes to the smallest hovel and many such houses have withstood the ravages of times so much better than any modern building ever will. One particular house that I do know, in the village of Oxshott, in Surrey, was built before the time of Kind Henry VIII even and is still standing to this very day.

In the days of yore the task of the forester was to identify such shapes in the trunks of trees as could be of use for shipbuilding, the building of timber frames for homes, and much more. And it was one of those old foresters, working for the mines, from Germany who coined the term “sustainable forestry” and introduced this form of management to the woods and forests of his native lands.

© 2016

The resurgence of Gross-Deutschland, of the Greater Germany

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Every since the annexation of the German Democratic Republic, which used to be referred to as East Germany, by the Federal Republic of Germany, aka West Germany, the country is re-militarizing at a great speed. It has also changed its “constitution” to allow the armed forces to go into action on foreign soil which, originally, was expressly forbidden.

Being one of the leading countries – in fact one could say the leading country – of the European Union it is looking for new ways to reinvent itself as a military power. Although, it has to be said that it is more its occupational authority that is pushing Germany to be the spearhead of any NATO action against the Russian Federation.

But Germany does not even need help in it ambitions. It is ambitious enough itself, or more precise its government is, to attempt to assume to be the ruler of Europe.

One of its parliamentarians in autumn 2014 suggested that actually the system of political parties and elections should be done away with and a kind of king, appointed, or should that be anointed, by the elite, should be used, and that also for the EU, who then, in turn, would chose and appoint his cabinet from other unelected people.

And close on its heels in autumn of the same year the German Chancellor Merkel was hosting the Russian “dissident” Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been expelled from Russia after a jail term for embezzlement, and basically feted him as a “next president of Russia” and when challenged that the Russian people would have something to say about that she retorted that the will of the Russian people be irrelevant in this case.

Democracy, not that we have real democracy anywhere, no longer counts anything and the will of the people is irrelevant, as far as the German elite and the world elite are concerned – and, let's face it, if voting would make any difference they would have made it illegal a long time ago – and all that counts is their ambitions. We, the people, are only pawns and slaves.

The Bundeswehr – the German Armed Forces – are now calling for war preparedness as they must, as they say, be ready for war. This is not what the statutes for the founding of the Bundeswehr ever stated. It was to be a defense force and not one ever geared to “go to war”, to deliver a preemptive strike. But that is what they have in mind now.

Two major world war emanated from German soil and this was to be prevented from happening ever again but now, the way things are going, the new Greater Germany is gearing up to bless the world with yet another conflict that may be started from German soil and even by German troops. This must not allowed to happen.

© 2016

Begonia, Coleus and Kale

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

KaleKale in the flower beds? Yes, precisely. Kale belongs in your flower beds as it will do double-duty as a good foliage plant, if sown early enough, and in winter (no, not when all the birds have flown) when the flowers have gone you eat the kale. And while it is still in there after the flowers and before you've eaten it all it also adds color to the otherwise bare beds.

But kale is not the only cruciform vegetable that you should grow with you flowers and other leafy veg can also be included, such as Swiss Chard, especially the red veined one, as can so-called ornamental cabbages and kales (both are edible though their taste may be different of the “normal” ones). Furthermore there is walking stick kale, also known as Jersey cabbage, which makes for a tall plant and which, I understand, is also, more or less, a perennial.

Those walking stick kales can add height to your beds out front but a word of warning: they grow up to ten feet tall given the chance. Once they flower – which could take a year to three – they will self seed new and the stalks can be used, as they traditionally were in their original home, the Channel Island of Jersey, to make walking sticks. The sticks need to dry though first for two years before they are ready for being made into such sticks.

And, while kale, and colorful leaf veg, should be in your flowerbeds flowers should also be in your vegetable begs. In the latter case those that are companion plants to your veg, such as marigolds, for instance, but they are not the only ones.

In many places in the USA, for instances, it is against local ordinances and, it would appear, even state laws, to grow vegetables in the front yard. Only lawn and flowers are permitted.

I agree that such ordinances and laws are stupid and worse but I am sure it is possible to circumvent, as they should be, such legislation simply by growing edible flowers and among the flowers foil age plants in the form of vegetable such as kale and other brassicas, as well as some other vegetables, especially colorful leafy ones. Strawberries and tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets, together with flowers.

As far as you flower beds, or tubs are concerned, the ones with the begonias et al, take cuttings of the begonia and coleus for overwintering frost free and when the frost has killed them, eat the kale. And the same goes for the other brassicas that are frost-hardy.

As far as I am concerned flowers and veg belong together and often times they compliment each others, not just by way of colors and such but also that one is beneficial for the other by keeping away pests and such.

When growing food you want every available space and any and every help you can get.

Beans and peas where, in the early days when they came to Britain, not grown for their food value but for their flowers and I must say that I do like their flowers and they do last for some time too.

Be a rebel! Plant flowers and veg together.

© 2016

Mobilisation for start of mass opposition against patent on tomatoes

European-wide coalition increases pressure on politicians and the European Patent Office

kopf-nl-nologoThis week, a European-wide coalition is starting a mass opposition against a patent held by the Swiss company Syngenta on tomatoes produced by conventional breeding. We will be mobilising thousands of people within the time period of the opposition lasting until 12 May. The organisations taking part in this action will also be raising the pressure on European politicians to take measures against patents on plants and animals.

In 2015, the European Patent Office (EPO) granted patent EP 1515600 to Syngenta, which claims tomatoes with a high content of so-called flavonols. These compounds are supposedly beneficial to health. The patent covers the plants, the seeds and the fruits. This so-called “invention”, however, is simply a product of crossing tomatoes from the countries of origin (Latin America) with varieties currently grown in the industrialised countries. Furthermore European Patent Law prohibits patents on plant varieties and on conventional breeding. All in all, around 1400 patent application on conventional breeding were filed at the EPO so far and around 180 patents are granted already.

“We hope that as many people as possible will support our opposition and help us to put pressure on the politicians to end patents on plants and animals. The big corporations are abusing the patent system in order to take control of food production,” says Christoph Then for No Patents on Seeds! “We have to stop them now.”

The opposition is being organised by members of the international coalition of No Patents on Seeds! such as Arche Noah in Austria and Berne Declaration in Switzerland. In Germany, Campact is amongst the organisers, and the EU-wide organisation WeMove is also taking part.

The result of the mass opposition will be presented to the EPO on 12 May. On the same day, the Committee on Patent Law will be holding a meeting. This Committee includes delegates from member states of the European Patent Organisation. At the meeting, the Committee will discuss the implementation of current prohibitions in patent law, which exclude patents on plant and animal varieties and conventional breeding. Currently, these prohibitions are applied by the EPO in a way that renders them ineffective. The organisations behind the mass opposition are demanding that the member states of the European Patent Organisation now take decisive action to stop further patents on plants and animals. The Administrative Council, which can make decisions on rules of implementation of the prohibitions will have its next meeting end of June.

The patent

The call for mass opposition

The reasons for opposition

Source: no-patents-on-seeds

The Cyclists' Pair by CultureCycle

a28fa2d6f235755f2bff283dee5a8ec5_originalOn 2nd April 2016 CultureCycle's Angelina Russo launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Cyclists' Pair - 4 identical high quality woollen, handcranked, machine washable cycling socks to deal with the perenial problem of single socks.

The Cyclists' Pair are the first hand-cranked cycling socks to be made available to a mass market. There are four different types of socks:

  • The Funster - a short, entry level sock that will keep you cycling all day long

  • The Offroader - a mid calf length cycling sock in two colours with the option of spun aramid thread, better known as kevlar, knitted into the toes and heels.

  • The Racer - three colours, two racing stripes, ribbed mid calf length sock with the kevlar option.

  • The Executive - the top of the range cycling sock for the discerning cyclist. Cashmere, wool and silk blended to create a mid calf cycling sock that can be worn on an off the bike.

All socks are hand-cranked on turn of the century circular sock machines. The yarns are the highest quality German, Italian, New Zealand and Australian yarns. All socks are knitted with fine lycra throughout so that they don't lose their shape. Can we machine washed and with regular wear, will last up to two years.

Sock designer, Angelina Russo from Canberra, Australia, knows what its like to cycle in the cold. Canberra mornings are regularly below zero and the clear frosty air lead her to design socks that would stand the often minus 6 degree celsius starts.

Cyclists will love The Cyclists' Pair. 4 identical socks delivered in an embroidered felt carry case means that you can keep a spare pair with you all the time and you know that, should one go missing, you still have the rest of the The Cylists' Pair.

Whether you're a road cyclist, mountain-biker, commuter or occasional rider, The Cyclists' Pair are designed to deliver warm, comfortable cycling experiences while being elegant and fashionable. The woollen socks breathe, and, at the end of a long ride, just throw them into the washing machine and they will be ready to ride again.

The Cyclists' Pair Kickstarter campaign will allow CultureCycle to undertake the first production run, thus honouring the tradition of domestic manufacturing that underpins the circular sock machine. Importantly, this production run will deliver high quality, Australian designed and made cycling socks to a broad market.

The campaign’s backers will receive the very first of the production run and will become CultureCycle VIPs.

For more information, please visit the Kickstarter page

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/culturecycle/the-cyclists-pair or contact the designer and maker.

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

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