Regular changes to bank notes counterfeit protection?

Now don't be daft!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Lagarde-Christine-imfThe reason is to make keeping cash at home (or in some deposit box) futile as notes will, suddenly, no longer be legal tender and thus worthless.

There was a time when this was not done and neither did the design of banknotes change nor did they suddenly cease to be legal tender but now this is being done on a rather more or less regular basis, happening every couple of years, almost; at least in Britain.

The aim is for people to keep their money in the bank, either in a current account or savings account and thus for the banks (and the government) to have control over your money.

In fact, it has come so far by now that banks and government consider the money that you have in your bank accounts not to be yours but theirs, to do with as they please should they so decide. In the UK you now have to prove good reason for you to withdraw more than about a thousand Pounds Sterling in cash from your account and if the bank does not like the reason (and you need to have written proof that you need the money) they will refuse to give you your money.

Many people really do buy the story the government – and banks – tell abut the need for changing the design of the notes all the time in order to prevent currency counterfeiting. However, there are countries who do not do that at all, such as the USA where there never seems to be a change in design and definitely, as far as I have seen, no removal of certain designs and then declaring them to be no longer legal tender. Then again in the US it is not all that easy, especially for people in rural areas, to have a bank account as access to banks (and electronic payments) is not as widespread as is the case in the European Union, for instance.

Several EU member states, Germany among them, have already basically declared that they consider all savings that people have in their accounts fair game should they need to secure the banks in the event of another financial crash.

Now the IMF has come out with a tax – the IMF, the “International Monetary Fund”, an unelected body that is not your government or mine – of around 10% (and you have already paid tax in your country on that money) on all your assents, all the money that you have, in savings, current account, pension funds and -plans, etc. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg (no, not the lettuce kind).

Not so long ago the German Finance Minister, I believe, stated that all financial assets of everyone in the European Union could be subject to seizure should the governments and/or the EU leadership so degree in case of need. Remember they are talking about the money that you have worked for and saved and have in one or the other bank account. And no, before you run to the bank to get your money out; that is not going to work as they have already “safeguards” against that in place in that you will need – at least it is thus already in the UK – a good reason to withdraw cash above a certain amount (with some banks that is above £500 with others above £1000) and that in writing please. Even then the bank may decide that your reason to get your money (in cash) is not good enough.

Changing your money, slowly but surely, over into gold or silver coins, as some survivalist websites and magazines in the USA advise, is not going to be of any use either and you know why? Because you can't buy anything for gold or silver coins; they are not accepted in shops as “legal tender”.

Guess we'll all have to come up with something better...

© 2014

Staying organized with an old-fashioned paper diary

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Paper PlannerWhile I am no Luddite and do use technology – obvious, isn't it, as I use the Internet and a computer – organizing my personal life is one area in which technology has failed me. Thus I have gone the old-fashioned route of keeping track of everything on paper, and here's why it works so well.

November or December is “buy a new planner” month for me and it has been like that for me now for a number of years since I have given up various different methods in digital form and also by making my own planners from templates.

I never got on really with the calendar and diary on the Blackberry and neither with any of the ones that come with the computers, such as in Outlook or the Open Source equivalents, neither with the online ones. None could provide me with what I wanted, namely something where I could make entries in my way.

Then I went to do my own from templates, initially in the old Filofax, but that also was more effort than it was worth and simply did not give me a big enough page to write everything. Following this were printed out templates put together into a diary/planner in a ring-binder. Again it did not really suit my purposes.

That's when I went back the old route and bought again a paper diary (or planner). The first one of this kind, in fact, I did not even have to buy; it came my way as a gift at the Garden Press Event a couple of years back, an A51 standard A5 Day-to-a-Page hardback bound diary with full pages also for Saturdays and Sundays, which has a ribbon bookmark. And since then it is that kind of diary that I buy every year at the end of November or the first weeks in December.

I always chose a diary that has all days – including the weekends – on a full page as those days are for me as busy as the days of the so-called “working week” and just having half a page for each of those days just does not cut it for me.

Yes, A5 is quite a size and such a diary may be a little bulky to carry around all the time it is, nevertheless, much more versatile than any electronic device and I do not have to worry as to whether the battery holds out, and such. Having paper pages also makes it possible to stick or staple in additional notes and other things and over the year it becomes a record of things done (ore not done, though planned, as the case may be) and I can always go back through them for reference purposes.

There are lots of reasons why I love my paper diary beyond being organized:

1. There is no battery to recharge and pens are available everywhere.

2. It also feel less rude pulling out a planner such as this to scribble a note in the middle of a conversation than pulling out my phone. Though for notes I carry a paper note-taking system that I devised myself and which is always on me.

3. While some people may prefer one brand over the other – and there are many famous and not so famous – such as Moleskine or Leuchturm1917 or Faber Castell there are also others, especially of the A51 kind that do not break the bank and cam be had for less that US$5.

4. A paper diary planner is quite often a conversation starter and the same goes for paper notebooks it seems and people are always surprised to see someone using one and most say they want one, too. Everyone seems to be fed up with the impracticality of phone calendars and such like.

5. A collection of past planners is an instant collection of diaries. Without any extra effort, you have a fairly detailed record of everything you have done for the past how ever many years.

If you are looking for an alternative way to stay organized in 2015, give a good old paper planner a try. You may be pleasantly surprised at how effective it is. And you may never want to go back to the electronic way. And the same goes for note-taking. Here paper also surpasses everything else, at least in my book (pardon the book pun).

© 2014

Cameron predicts new economic crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In mid-autumn 2014 the British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the Euro zone is teetering on brink of new third recession and he may, in fact, not be far off this. The fact is that, despite what they are telling us, the economy is not doing very well at all and also not in Britain.

It is being suggested to us day in day out that the economy is on the up – in Britain at least – and that we have lower rate of unemployment for decades. That may look fine on paper but the reality, alas, is somewhat different. Many of those that have “found” jobs and are off the unemployment register are in part-time or very low-paid employment only and thus have very little purchasing power.

The only way, and they are hard at work on that one, to grow the economy, is to have another lovely big war or why does anyone think has NATO started a new cold war against Russia?

The austerity drive to “reduce” public spending definitely is not helping the economy to grow one bit. In fact it is having the exact opposite effect especially as so many public sector employes have faced job losses and those that retained their jobs pay freezes, which actually amount to loss in income due to other costs rising, and now, after a year or two having been given a miserly one percent increase in their wages the talk is of yet more cuts and more pay freezes.

At the same time they, and not just Britain, waste Billions on armaments and new aircraft carriers (that will not have any aircraft for them as the one that is supposed to fly from the, the new US-made F-35 has still got problems even getting off the ground properly, literally), a Trident replacement and also a ring-fenced foreign aid budget of Billions upon Billions. All of this could get the economy at home working nicely. Then again the perpetual growth economy is (1) not sustainable and thus (2) has to be abandoned. On the other hand such monies would do nicely for the health service and social housing.

What, as it would appear if we look at it without blinkers on, we are really heading for is not just a little third recession, and not just the Euro zone but all of us, but a full-blown Depression more likely greater than that so-called Great Depression of the 1920's/1930's but the powers-that-be do not dare to even suggest such a thing openly, not even by way of a warning.

Why not?, you may ask, but the answer to this is very simple. It would put the proverbial feline amongst the columbidae and cause panic because, unlike in the 1920s when the Great Depression struck, and even though it was bad for people, they knew, in general, how to make do and how to make and do things for themselves. Not so people in today's entitlement culture who believe that government – or someone – has to do this or that for them and that the government – or someone else – is responsible if they have problems.

Our parents, grandparents and their parents were much more capable of handling many of such things and problems as they did not have the entitlement mentality that the powers-that-be have brainwashed the population with. They knew how to look after themselves, their families and also others in the community and in turn everyone looked after one another. Today most people do not even know their neighbors and often do not want to get to know their neighbors either. Sharing and helping each other, thus, is no longer being done, in most cases, and community does not exist in all but name.

The next Great Depression is coming and it, more like than not, will be worse than the one in the 1930s and it is time – high time, in fact – that we all got back to some sense in our lives and got to know one another and learned to help where help is needed once again without expecting a reward in return.

© 2014

Which world are we trying to sustain?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Which world are we trying to sustain: a resource to fulfill our desires of material prosperity, or an Earth of wonder, beauty, and sacred meaning?

While many of us would want to, no doubt, sustain the Earth, and simply for the very fact that we need her to live there are others, the capitalists who do not think, it would seem of the future in terms of survival, thinking they can buy themselves out of any problem, who are but interested in the material things and in making ever more profit.

They and the governments that they control because they are indeed the shadow government of the world talk about growth, growth and still more economic growth, and of needing to grow the economy still more. Why? Not that we, the ordinary people, benefit but that they can fill their coffers and those of their shareholders.

They do not seem to understand, and many of the general public seem to also repeat the waffle that they are force-fed by the media on behalf of the government and its masters, that the world is finite and that growth is not possible as such.

And then we have the dear people in the American Republican Party, even law makers, who make statements such as “too many wind turbines will stop the world from spinning, as there is only that much wind available” and that the use of solar panels will reduce the sun and its light.

However, when the mention is made of peak oil and the fact that the world is running out of oil, natural gas, minerals and such, they reply with the statement that G-d has put those riches into the Earth for our use and he will continue to replenish them and thus we will never run out.

We have to learn to think differently and act differently. So far we have almost entirely destroyed the Planet, causing the extinction of animals of plants by the G-d only knows how many species, believing that we have the right to rob everything from the Earth for our benefit and profit, because G-d gave us dominion over the Earth.

But, as I said in my piece “Climate change crisis reminds us that we are called to care for Creation”, that is a total misinterpretation of what is written in the Scriptures for dominion in this context means being a good steward and must not be confused with domination and a right to do as we please.

The latter is, however, the approach that the capitalist system has taken in exploiting the riches of the Planet for the financial benefit of but a few and the detriment of the rest of Creation.

Changing our ways does mean taking a different approach, that is true, and one where we cannot have a new flat-screen TV or new car or new this or that every five minutes and where things must be used until such a time that they really can no longer be fixed and made to continue to work; like it once was, at least among all but the super rich.

The notion of perpetual economic growth is a false one that will destroy the very Planet that we depend on for our survival and cannot be sustained on a finite Planet whose non-renewable resources have almost been depleted in their entirety. Neither can we continue to burn fossil fuels. Not just in the way we have done and reducing their use but we have to cease their use, period.

It is not (just) the CO2 emissions either that are at issue here but the general pollution caused by them, and nuclear is not an option either as their may be no emissions and air pollution from the power stations, the extraction and processing of the fuel takes a great deal of energy and the end storage of the spent fuel rods, which will be radioactive, and thus dangerous for the environment and us, for thousands of years. It does not need, I am sure, another Chernobyl or Fukushima to get that message across, at least not to the general public, I should hope.

However, our governments keep telling us, and even supposed environmental organizations, that we must have nuclear power in order to fulfill our carbon reduction targets. Hello! Is anyone home? Are we all stupid?

If we want to sustain a system that will sustain us then there is but one way and that is to change our ways and yes, it will mean a change of way of life. Either we do that or there will be no life. It is that simple and it is your call.

© 2014

Reuse Economy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This is not about reusing the economy but about an economy of reuse rather. Reusing what we have and this reuse can, does and will take many different forms.

It will, however, stifle the economic growth – and a good thing that will be too – that the powers-that-be keep telling us we must have in order to prosper; they that is, not us, the ordinary man and woman.

The economy today, the one that they promote, is an obsolete model. It is not broken, however. It was designed this way. It is, however, not fit for any purpose on a finite Planet and is only designed to exploit both man and beast and the Earth.

Douglas Rushkoff has said that we are living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That's because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

That is what is called overproduction and has nothing to do with making things that are needed but with keeping “slaves” employed – and only that to some degree – and thus built-in obsolescence in products, graveyards for newly produced cars, etc.

Industry keeps producing things that no one buys, because they do not have the money to do so, to make it appear as if the economy is booming. In the case of cars they go even so far as to register those – even though those new cars are destined to be scrapped as no one buys them – to themselves and their agents to make it appear that x-amount of new cars have been bought.

In the main the reuse economy will operate at home and in the community and it is about what it says on the tin; reusing. Reusing what we have and extending the life of everything that we have as well as and especially making use of all those “free” things such as waste materials in form of packaging, such as glass jars, tin cans, cardboard boxes, etc. and also about repairing the goods we have. (More repair in the “repair economy”).

Reusing what we have got instead of buying new and passing on to others those things that still work well and that are good but which we no longer use so that someone else can make use of them.

But, it does not end there!

There are different kinds of reuse that form part of the reuse economy.

The first is reuse per se which means actually to keep using what you already have got instead of buying new simply because it is new (and has more bells and whistles you never will use in a lifetime). The old American adage “If it ain't broke don't fix it” would apply here with but to read “If it ain't broke don't toss it out”. And before you toss it out because it no longer works also see as too whether it can actually be fixed and then kept going. That is the first part of the reuse economy.

The second part of the reuse economy is, as far as I see it, reuse of waste, predominately packaging waste, to repurpose for another, “higher”, use. This is often also called nowadays upcycling. When I was a kid no such names were available and it was just something you did and glass jars became storage containers and even drinking vessels, to substitute glasses; shoe-boxes became filing boxes; tin cans were used also for all manner of things, and the list could go on.

If you would see my kitchen cupboards and counters you would know that I do not just preach it but that I practice it too. There are drinking glasses that are repurposed glass jars, cutlery bins that are tin cans, containers made from milk jugs to hold cleaning materials and tools, and so on. I do not believe in buying something when I can make it myself for nothing, or almost nothing. Why should I throw those glass jars and other things out. After all, indirectly and theoretically, and also practically, I have paid for them when buying the good which were packaged in them.

The reuse economy, so to speak, on a third level is still very active when people, neighbors, pass children's clothes, for instance, that their children have grown out of to others whose children and younger and the same for toys. And then there is the other level of “freecycle” and similar Internet sites and places, and also places in the real world, where items no longer in use in one home (or office) find another good home elsewhere and will continue to be used.

This also goes for the reusing of perfectly good furniture, or items of furniture that may need a little TLC and tuning, and mix and match for furnishing the home was once the way and it is becoming a trend again with some. And why not?

But, as said, the powers-that-be do not really like this kind of economy as it does not help the GDP and the corporations. Tough luck to them. Let them call me a terrorist and yes some government people have just done that some time back when they accused all those people who are thrifty and are reusing and such as equal to domestic terrorists as they – we, as I include myself, thank you – are not spending to grow the economy, the one that they are promoting.

We need to change the economic model to one that benefits both man and Planet and not the big corporations and in fact there is more than one economic model that we must combine to make things work in the right way. Reuse is part of this, as is repair.

© 2014

Buy less and make do with what you've got

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The average person – guess I am not one of them – is bombarded with about 5000 ads per day telling them to buy more and how much happier they would be if they just would buy this, and that and the other.

Far too many, unfortunately, fall for that trick and actually believe that if they have more and buy more they are happier, be this possessions or money to buy those possessions.

And they try to do just that. They have the iPhone that only came out say six months ago but as soon as a new version comes out they have to queue up to get the newest one, and to make sure that they are one of the first to have the latest one, they stand in line for hours and hours. Does it make them happy? For five minutes maybe but that is about it.

What is wrong with using and continuing to use the things that you already have got and which work perfectly well? Well, nothing! But those adverts keep suggesting to the minds of those not as strong as some of us that they have to have those new things because of the additional bells and whistles and in order to be happy and “cool”. If you want to be cool go and sit in a refrigerator.

The first thing to do is in order to avoid all those suggestive adverts, those commercials, is to divorce yourself from your television. You won't regret it, especially not in places where you have to pay some US$200 per year for the permit to be able to watch all that garbage that masquerades as entertainment on the goggle box.

Use the Internet for real good films and material and with the right little websites and add-ons (more often than not free) you can even download many of the movies and such. Furthermore revert back to the radio and to reading – ideally real – books. You know those things printed on paper. The good part of the latter “entertainment” is that it does not need power to run and you can even read during a power outage, at the beech, on the mountain top and wherever else you might fancy. The danger is with reading that it broadens your mind and horizon, especially if you read the appropriate materials.

And you don't even have to buy the books. There are places – I am sure you may have heard of them – where you can borrow books. They are called public libraries. Though, if the powers-that-be had their way those would end up being closed depriving those with little resources of the possibility of reading.

On the other hand many public libraries, as they are run and funded, through tax monies, by the powers-that-be is that you won't necessarily get your hands on every book you might want to read. Some may be banned as too dangerous for public consumption.

On another level there is no need to buy a new cellphone, a new TV (best get rid off the old one to someone who wants it and forget about the TV altogether), PC, or what-have-you when the old one is still performing its service well and covers all our real needs. What good are all those bells and whistles that we will – more than likely – never ever use? They are but a waste of our money – in buying the new product while the old one still works – and a waste of resources. And, despite the claims of the adverts, those new products will make us no happier than the old ones. In addition to that when buying a new one you – more often than not – have to learn an entire new way of using it.

Before you heed the messages in those commercials first consider a few things.

  1. Does my old one still work?

  2. If the answer is yes then don't buy new.

  3. Does my old one still do what I need and want it to do?

  4. If the answer to this is also yes then, again, don't buy new.

  5. If it does not work ask yourself (or someone else) if can be repaired.

  6. If the answer here is yes then repair it, get it repaired or go to a Repair Cafe and get help in repairing it and do it yourself.

When it comes to repairing good old things that are more than worth retaining and (re)using then there are a number of resources you can access for free or almost free.

First there is Instructables (Internet), and also other sites that guide you through repairs and hacks, and then there are the Repair Cafes. Fair enough the latter are still few and far between in some places and they are not held frequently in some places as in others. Nevertheless they are something to look into before tossing a buying new.

Often the reason that something no longer works, specially when it comes to electrical and electronic goods, is a blown internal fuse, a faulty switch or a loose solder joint. While those faults are easy to locate and repair, in theory, the fact that manufacturers today don't want us to be able to repair anything or get anything repaired means that the screws often are of such a type that the ordinary person does not have the tools to remove them.

In other instances the cases are actually glues shut rather than the parts held together by screws and this makes access even more tricky. But with the help of someone who knows how to do it without damaging case and product a repair can, quite often, be successfully achieved and the products saved from becoming another item in the waste stream and a burden to the Planet.

© 2014

Repurposing NOLA: An entire store full of stuff made from scrap and waste

Repurposing nola bags on wall photoBeing in New Orleans for the big Greenbuild conference, we didn't get a whole lot of time to look in stores. However it was hard for a TreeHugger to pass a store called REpurposing NOLA, billed by founder Traci L. Claussen as " female-owned triple bottom line company utilizing excess fabrics of our community to create sustainable designer goods."

In 2009 Traci started making bags from burlap coffee sacks and old carpet.

She began designing bags for her own travels: an eco-duffel for a trip to the Jurassic Coast of England; a burlap HoBo handbag for running around town; a RE-weekender Bag for trips to the coast. She made adjustments to the prototype after each trip, to add or edit options that would make it more useful for the next trip.

She has also filled her store with an eclectic mix of furniture, accessories and knick-knacks, all repurposed from what normally would go to the dump. It's all a great eccentric experience, and Traci seems a bit eccentric too. This seems to be a New Orleans specialty.

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London is too rich, and too expensive, for its own good

‘Capital of the world’ means nothing if only the wealthy can afford to live in it

A group of us, mostly metropolitan types, found ourselves in a public house in Hull city centre last weekend. I ordered a round of drinks: two pints of bitter, a pint of lager, a large glass of white wine and a pint of lime juice and soda. I got out £30 from my wallet, as I'm used to London prices. The barmaid leaned over to me and asked me for £9.40. No, you've made a mistake, I told her. She hadn't. That's what this round of drinks costs in a very nice pub in Hull, with a pool table, cheese cubes and crackers on the bar, and where they play an eclectic mix of relatively obscure Ian Dury songs and country and western standards on the sound system.

Back in the capital, I went to the pub next to my office in Soho and asked how much that round of drinks would cost. Guess what the answer was. £20.60! Yes, more than twice what I'd paid in Hull.

It came as no great surprise to me, therefore, to learn the next day that, according to a reputable survey, London is now the world's most expensive city, taking over that dubious mantle from Hong Kong. It is now twice as pricey to live in as Sydney and four times more than Rio de Janeiro. Hull, sadly, doesn't figure in the list of comparisons.

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State Of Texas Tried To Shut Down A Sustainable Community

garden_of_eden_quinnEarlier this year, the state of Texas brought several SWAT teams to the quiet and peaceful Garden of Eden Community and threatened its existence. In what appears to be an intimidation tactic, only a single arrest was made based on unrelated outstanding traffic violations, and a handful of citations were given for city code violations. Absolutely no drug related violations were found and all inhabitants of the community were unarmed.

Each of the community members present in the house were initially handcuffed at gunpoint by heavily armed SWAT officers. This included the mother of a 22 month old and a two week old baby. As part of the raid many of the crops were destroyed by officers, this included wild and cultivated plants such as blackberries, lamb’s quarters and okra. Officers also proceeded to remove a variety of materials the community had planned to use in sustainability projects like pallets, tires, cardboard and more.

The Garden of Eden Community is a sustainable community geared towards living a ‘high vibing’ lifestyle outside of the confines of how the average person would live. The community believes in coming together to produce the basic necessities of life and they support each other through each step. They grow their own food, live peacefully and since 2009 they have been providing food, shelter and sustainability education classes and workshops to the public for free.

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Beyond the Fear of Living Without Money

Living without money is an issue that many are concerned about but not many people are talking about solutions. Many of us already live in either poverty or near poverty levels.  Is the answer found in government assistance and the material world or is it found in going beyond this ego-centered, materialistic world and finding a new way of living?Living without money is an issue that many are concerned about but not many people are talking about solutions. Many of us already live in either poverty or near poverty levels.  Is the answer found in government assistance and the material world or is it found in going beyond this ego-centered, materialistic world and finding a new way of living?

The world’s economy is based on economics, which is backed by the banking system that is designed to create debt.  For example, imagine that I am your local conglomerate bank and there was only $100 in existence. If I lent you that $100 and expected you to pay me back $110, how can you possibly do this when there is only $100 in existence?  Where are you going to come up with that $10 extra dollars that never existed? This is the global Ponzi scheme that banksters have been playing since the inception of currency.

The mainstream media continues to push ego-centered, materialistic programming while its advertisers support this mentality.  In the meanwhile, we are blinded by reality as we play into the system that has entrapped us as being economic slaves to the elite.  It’s a no-win situation.  The rich get richer at the expense of our hard work. Is this our true, divine reason for being here?

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Homeschooling your active child

Give kids lots of time outside and using their bodiesIn today's society, it's not viewed as a good thing for children to be too active. They're supposed to sit still, pay attention, be quiet. School can be nightmarish for energetic, excitable kids.

It's easy to debate whether children should be diagnosed as ADHD or if we're simply not giving modern kids enough time to be active and expecting too much of them, too soon. Whether you're dealing with a child with a diagnosis or just trying to meet the needs of an energetic preschooler, the same tactics can help.

The good news is that kids in homeschool can learn in ways that truly suit their personalities and their needs -- and be healthier for it.

Here's a few tips for homeschooling active children.

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‘Smart Cities’ Should Mean ‘Sharing Cities’

These days every city claims to be a “smart” city, or is becoming one, with heavy investments in modern information and computing technology to attract businesses and make the city competitive.

But when mayors and developers focus on technology rather than people, smart quickly becomes stupid, threatening to exacerbate inequality and undermine the social cooperation essential to successful cities. After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.

In India, Dholera is one of 24 new smart cities planned in order to accommodate the country’s rapidly expanding population. The planned city has cleared most approvals, but is stalled with the coastal zone regulatory commission, probably because of the predicted engineering challenges and expenses of a site on salt flats with a high risk of flooding. Moreover, villagers and small-scale subsistence farmers, who inhabit the proposed site and fear eviction from their land and livelihoods, have been staging peaceful protests with support from a grassroots land rights movement.

In London too, smart-city thinking is socially dumb. Here the problem is epitomized by Tech City in the Shoreditch district. Intended as a hub for tech innovation, it has turned into an annex of the London financial complex, dominated by Google, Cisco, McKinsey, and Intel. The artists, designers, and startups that began the process of regeneration in Shoreditch have been displaced by “commercial gentrification.” Just up the road in Tottenham, the rebranding of warehouses as ‘artistic quarters’ has displaced low-rent communities in favor of bankers and financial speculation.

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11 Steps to Starting an Agricultural Education Program in Your School

According to The National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America), creating a proposal and getting started is easier than you think.

Agricultural-Education ProgramWith a little motivation and determination, you too can start an agricultural-education program in your high school.

1. Assess your community’s needs.

  • Why does your community need an agricultural education program?
  • What will your program’s philosophy be?
  • How much interest is there in your projected program?

To find out why your community needs an agricultural education program, look at other schools’ and programs’ descriptions of their programs and talk to their teachers and program directors. The more information you have regarding how the program will help the community, the better start you will have.

Your goals will reflect your program’s philosophy. What will students achieve and what experiences will they have? Here is an example of a program philosophy.

Surveys are an excellent way to get some real numbers on how much interest there is in an agricultural education program. Remember, the program is for the community, so a successful program rides on whether the people involved actually want it.

2. What happens after students finish the program?

  • What careers will be available?
  • Are the jobs local or national?
  • Is class credit available to local colleges?

Find out through the FFA what careers are available, and where, after graduation by visiting here.

3. Gain community support.

  • Which community members have an interest?
  • Survey local businesses.

It’s as easy as a few internet searches or a drive around your town or city to find out which businesses are involved in environmental services, food processing, animal health service, greenhouse and landscaping services, and humanitarian and charity services. These local businesses can be involved by donating money or items that can help you get the ball rolling.

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Loving Local: Place, Economy and Community

A block of brownstone row houses in West Philadelphia became my place in the world – a place where I aspired to start a business, raise a family, and help build a strong and joyful community. Making a commitment to this place and taking responsibility for its well-being was the first step I took toward helping to build a sustainable local economy in my region. After opening the White Dog Cafe on the first floor of my house in 1983, I soon began buying from local farmers. Fresh local food not only became a hallmark of my business, but also the way I learned about broader economic issues for my region and beyond.

A farmer who supplied my restaurant once told me that successful farming is the balance of masculine and feminine energy – of efficiency and nurturing. Too much efficiency and not enough nurturing means a well run farm, but poor quality products. While too much nurturing may produce great tomatoes, but end in a failed business. I applied this concept to the larger economy and saw that our industrial food system is all about efficiency with little or no nurturing. How much can we squeeze out of the soil, the animals, the workers with as little as possible in return? How little space can we give that egg-laying hen? How little light and air? How little food and water? All to get the cheapest egg possible. No nurturing there.

It’s just as bad for pigs. In windowless factory farms mother pigs are kept in crates so small that they cannot turn around, lie down or take a single step for most of their lives. When I first learned of these conditions in 1999, I was horrified to think that the pork we were serving in my restaurant must come from these animal factories, as most all pork in our country does. I went into the kitchen and announced, “Take all the pork off the menu – the bacon, the ham, the pork chops. We cannot be part of this cruel and unhealthy system.” In our search for a humane source, our supplier of free-range chickens and eggs told us of a neighbor who raised pigs on pasture. We began buying two whole pigs a week, and our chef created recipes to use all the parts of the meat.

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Fear of The Unknown Is Creating Hysteria In Every Part of Our Lives Torres, Prevent Disease | Being afraid of the unknown is not a new concept. From birth to death we’ve been trained to fear everything for a very long time. The dangers of modern life have a stranglehold on people’s imaginations. Sociologists call the phenomenon a risk society, describing cultures increasingly preoccupied with threats to safety, both real and perceived, but most definitely imagined. Most institutions today, whether they be academic, medical, religious, government and all others, would not exist in the way, shape or form they do today if it were not for the element of fear. The Earth you see before you today and the Earth of the future will be at a distinct contrast when it comes to how afraid we are of the unknown. Many of you see it coming already.

It’s why wars exist. It’s why modern medicine exists. It’s why politics exists. It’s why laws exist. We fear everything, so we must naturally attempt to control or prevent what we fear most. A majority of people will agree that the world is more dangerous than ever before. Even in the face of evidence that negates this misperception, there is no relief. We lock our doors, say our prayers, marvel at our own pessimism and then wonder why we still can’t get to sleep. We are immersed in a culture of fear.

Neurolinguistic programming, emulating psychosis, television, advertising, the illusion of terrorism and several other remarkable concepts affect every facet of our lives and our world at the expense of our health, safety and security.

If there is a disease, we must develop a vaccine or drug. If there is a terrorist, we must develop anti-terrorist measures. If there are criminals, we must create laws. If there are bullies, we must create anti-bullying policies. It is our nature. It is human nature. Well at least when it comes to modern humans.

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7 Ways Our Children Are Being Brainwashed birth, virtually all of us have been brainwashed through various outlets that encourage materialism, ego, subservience, control and conformity. But where do the origins of mind control begin and what can we do about it?


As children, the brainwashing begins in the church when we are baptized. Many parents do not question baptism or the origins of it and blindly have their children baptized as the church welcomes them into the community in the name of Jesus Christ. The Jesus story, alone, isn’t questioned by enough Christians who blindly believe anything they are told in the name of “faith”.

I’d like to believe there is a Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny, too. These holidays both have Pagan origins, yet Christians never question these either. It’s all part of the lie propagated to us by religion.

Many Christians will argue that their church does good things for others while the bible provides good morals and values.

A counter-argument is that you don’t need a church to do good things for others or a bible to be a morally sound person. Additionally, the bible also teaches hatred and fear such as when God allegedly kills everyone with the “Great Flood”, except Noah and his family.

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Hands off Britain's buddleias!

It's a fragrant favourite and butterflies love it, says NIGEL COLBORN. So why has the Government got it in for the buddleia?

article-2702210-1FE378AA00000578-271_634x422With its purple, golden-eyed flowers full of fragrant glory looking their best at this time of year, buddleia  is undoubtedly Britain’s prettiest and most popular late-summer shrub.

Also known as the ‘Butterfly Bush’ because its nectar attracts so many insects, you can see it flourishing in parks and gardens all over the country.

But perhaps it is flourishing a little too well, for the plant has  just been given a black mark by the Government.

Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consider buddleia an ‘invasive alien’. What a pejorative term for such a beneficial plant. The phrase conjures up man-eating space monsters or foreign tanks roaring up our beaches.

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Overcoming Materialism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This also and especially must be the task of any new political movement of the working class. But materialism has been and is the new god, even among and particularly the working class, despite the fact that many may not be able to afford the things that they want.

It would appear that everyone almost everywhere in the developed world believes that things make him or her happy and the more things the greater the happiness. Alas this is, however, not so. The problem is that the more wealth and possessions people have the more they worry about losing them through theft and in other ways and that sure does not make happy.

Even the poor, who can barely afford, if at all, to feed themselves and their families, more often than not, want all those material things, those goods that advertising makes them believe that they need. Needs and wants are two different things and those needs suggested in such a way are but wants. However, the manufacturers must make us believe that we actually need those things; otherwise they cannot sell us those things.

People all too often end up in a quandary here in that, because of advertising, they really believe that they need all those material goods and then also there is the “keeping up with the Joneses”, with the neighbor. If the neighbor gets a new three-piece suite they have to get an even “better” and more expensive one, and so on, regardless of whether they need it or actually can afford it, and often they forgo, in order to be able to compete in this game, the necessities of life.

Material possessions are put before anything and everything else and people are being judged by everyone almost as to how much they earn, have and own, and it was Margaret Thatcher, to a great degree, in Britain who bequeathed this to us. She also stated, so it is being reported, that anyone in his early thirties still using a bus should be considered a failure. It was the Thatcher government who also destroyed the social rented housing market buy wanting “to make everyone home owners”, which is a load of garbage.

Using the bus rather than driving and even owning a car or renting a home (in the social sector) should not make someone a failure. In many countries in the European Union, such as, for example, Germany, the great majority rent their homes rather than own them, although many areas are now becoming gentrified and rents are rising to such an extent, with the protection that used to exist, apparently having been removed, well beyond the ability of the ordinary people's incomes.

All too often – most of the time – people judge other people by what they have by way of possessions and money; by the kind of house they own and if you don't own your home you are already looked down upon automatically; by the car they drive and if you don't drive, and well, if you do not own a car and drive one then there must definitely be something wrong with you and you must not be working hard enough to earn enough; by the clothes they wear; and by the gadgets they own, aside from also how they look, talk and walk. We are not what we own or what we wear but how we live.

© 2014

Why I don't celebrate Christmas

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The first reason for me not celebrating this “holiday” called Christmas, aside from the fact that I never did due to being of a different belief system to Christianity, is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of Yeshuah bin Miriam, referred to as Jesus, the Christ.

The birth of Christ did not happen on December 25th; that was the birth of the Sun in the Mithraic religion and from this it was imported into the “church” created by the Roman Emperor Constantine and merged with the revelry of Saturnalia. And today it has degenerated to a consumerist event beyond proportions.

As far as I am concerned this is the season of the regeneration of the year when the sun and thus the year gets reborn and progresses into the New Year.

While the giving of gifts has been part of many traditions of the Yuletide it was always one gift and always those were handmade and not multitude of gifts that were made in a factory.

Christmas has become an orgy of spending and it is not one gift and handmade but it “has” to be as many as possible and they all have to be as expensive as at all possible to express our love and appreciation for someone. We seem to have gone totally insane.

And government attached value to this spending as well as we are supposed to help buy the economy out of recession and all that. Sorry, but I refuse to do that as it does not work and only puts more and more profits into the pockets of the greedy capitalist corporations.

Never having been part of the Christmas madness or the celebration of Christmas per se, as for us, when I was a child, the end of the Yuletide, New Year's Day was the day of the gifts as it marked the end, much like it was done in the Soviet Union, with Grandfather Frost and the Ice Maiden being the bringers, of Yule and the new beginning.

Yule marks the rebirth of the sun and it is a potent symbol of death and rebirth – going from the darkness into the light again. Yuletide starts before the Solstice and continues on until New Year ’s Day and this is a “celebration” that makes sense to me.

As to so-called Christmas, the birth of Jesus did not happen in Midwinter and thus is wrong if we come from the Christian perspective, and it would appear that someone wanted it to coincide, sort of, with the Jewish Chanukah, and then they added some new bits from an Eastern religion to it, combined that with various aspects of European Paganism and stirred heavily.

So the celebration of Midwinter and Yuletide makes much more sense as it comes, if done the way is should be, without the madness of consumerism and the expensive gifts “Made in China”, as they most are, nowadays, that nearly need a mortgage to pay for them.

Let's bring some quiet into the madness of the world again with a Midwinter celebration that does not venerate the god of money but that venerates the Earth and its cycles.

So, on that note I wish you a happy Yuletide and some peace and quiet to be renewed, just like the sun, for a new year.

© 2014

Say, What? Michigan Legislators Insist that Burning Tires is 'Clean, Renewable Energy'

Michigan politicians make a mockery of environmental standards.

6588151679_5ea9e64703_bThe Michigan state legislature is playing loose with its environmental definitions, passing a bill on Thursday that qualifies the burning of solid waste as "renewable energy." And according to the Michigan news site,, this includes the burning of tires. 

The state's House of Representatives passed the legislation 63-46. It would qualify burning solid waste as a renewable energy fuel source. But environmentalist and other activists are calling the legislation "irresponsible."

The bill, sponsored by state house republican Rep. Aric Nesbit is designed to "remove barriers to  the use of solid waste as a clean energy source."

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“Their Sky Has Changed!” Inuit Elders To NASA Regarding Earth’s “WOBBLE”

So, yes, the weather across our Earth has been INSANE for the past few decades, and in the West recently, it’s been getting CRAZY (see HERE [1] , HERE [2], and HERE [3]) – we even had what they called “The Worst Storm in Recorded History” a few weeks ago.  But, us North Americans often forget a race of wise ones who predate us by thousands of years live here, too, and they know a heck of a lot more about the weather than us.

That’s why a recent article on The Big Wobble entitled, “”Their Sky Has Changed!” Inuit elders sharing information with NASA regarding Earth’s “WOBBLE“” [4], caught my attention.

The article states:  We are all obsessed with the weather here in the West and rightly so with the unusual weather we have had to endure recently, extreme has become the new norm but what about our brothers and sisters living on the Canadian Arctic circle?

Inuit knowledge and climate change was discussed by delegates at the recent global warming summit in Copenhagen and what the Eskimo elders are saying have NASA, scientists and experts alike worried….Global warming might not be the whole story!

It seems the Inuit elders are also witnessing strange and unfathomable weather up there in the North.  The elders talk about how their world has changed, how it was then and how it is now.
It is a worrying picture, a picture of melting glaciers and thinning or disappearing sea ice.  Seals with burns on their coats and covered with sores and a thinner hide, the Seal skin has deteriorated and while scientists maintain man made pollution is contributing to climate change the elders are convinced something much much bigger is going on!
Astonishingly what the elders are saying is global warming is not the whole story…

The elders maintain the Sun doesn’t rise were it used too, they have longer day light to hunt and the Sun is higher than it used to be and warms up quicker than before.
The elders who were interviewed across the north all said the same thing, their sky has changed.

The stars the Sun and the Moon have all changed affecting the temperature, even affecting the way the wind blows, it is becoming increasingly hard to predict the weather, something that is a must on the Arctic.

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Land, Co-ops, Compost: A Local Food Economy Emerges in Boston's Poorest Neighborhoods

From kitchens that buy and sell locally grown food, to a waste co-op that will return compost to the land, new enterprises are building an integrated food network. It's about local people keeping the wealth of their land at home.

The Food Project photo by Paul DunnWhen Glynn Lloyd couldn’t source enough locally grown produce, he decided to grow his own.

Since 1994, Lloyd has run City Fresh Foods, a catering company based in Roxbury—one of Boston's lowest-income neighborhoods. He wanted his business to use locally produced food, but at that time it was hard to come by. So in 2009 Lloyd helped found City Growers, one of Boston's first for-profit farming ventures.

Today, City Growers is part of an emerging network of urban food enterprises in Roxbury and neighboring Dorchester. From a community land trust that preserves land for growing, to kitchens and retailers who buy and sell locally grown food, to a new waste management co-op that will return compost to the land, a crop of new businesses and nonprofits are building an integrated food economy. It's about local people keeping the wealth of their land and labor in the community.

“We don’t need big corporations like Walmart to come in and save us," Lloyd said. "We have homegrown solutions right here.”

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Justin Welby's 'shock' at scale of hunger in UK

Hunger 'stalks large parts' of the country, Archbishop of Canterbury warns ahead of Parliamentary report on issue

Justin Welby has accepted an invitation to present Thought For The Day on the Today programme being edited by Antony JenkinsThe Archbishop of Canterbury has said he was left more shocked by the plight of Britain's hunger-stricken poor than suffering in African refugee camps.

Food is being wasted at "astonishing" levels across the UK yet hunger "stalks large parts" of the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby said.

Families are being forced to turn to food banks to make ends despite holding down jobs, he wrote in the The Mail on Sunday.

The Archbishop's comments come ahead of the publication on Monday of a parliamentary report he has backed that sets out a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020 and urges ministers and the food industry to act.

In the The Mail on Sunday article, he said, although less "serious", the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain had shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa because it was so unexpected.

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Cost Of Military Jet Could House Every Homeless Person In U.S. With $600,000 Home

F35It's no news that a large portion of our federal tax dollars goes towards defense spending. But your jaw might drop at the cost of the newest jet manufactured by the U.S. military, and just how much good could have been achieved domestically with the same price tag.

The $400 billion program to create a fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, which, as The Hill points out, is seven years behind schedule and chronically plagued with misfortunes and incompetencies, could have housed every homeless person in the U.S. with a $600,000 home.

The staggering fact, configured by Think Progress, is just one of several figures the news source put into perspective for taxpayers. For example, the amount spent per year to build the F-35 jets could easily fulfill a $16.7 billion request by the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs to save countless lives from preventable causes around the world — and then have enough left over to fund UNICEF's budget request, too. The full cost of the jets program could also fund the National School Lunch Program, which feeds about 31 million students annually, for the next 24 years.

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This massive retirement home would grow its own food

If it can be done – I know it is but a concept – then it can be done in every city around the world in the general living areas as well. Ed.

It’s a good thing the Homefarm is still just a twinkle in its architects’ eyes, or Grist might suddenly find itself a little short in the editorial department. I mean, just look at this proposal for an assisted-living facility that mixes urban farming with high-density living and tell me you wouldn’t consider early retirement:

spark-homefarm-3SPARK Architects created the beautiful proposal to address two major issues in Singapore: a rapidly aging population and low food security. Singapore is one of the fastest aging countries in the world, and it imports more than 90 percent of its food.

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Reversing Global Warming, Hunger and Poverty: Supercharging the Global Grassroots

"It is easy to forget that once upon a time all agriculture was organic, grassfed and regenerative. Seed saving, composting, fertilizing with manure, polycultures, no-till and raising livestock entirely on grass—all of which we associate today with sustainable food production—was the norm in the ‘old days’ of merely a century ago, not the exception as it is now. Somehow, back then we managed to feed ourselves and do so in a manner that followed nature’s model of regeneration.

“We all know what happened next: the plow, the tractor, fossil fuels, monocrops, nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, feedlots, animal byproducts, e. coli, CAFOs, GMOs, erosion, despair—practices and conditions that most Americans today think of as ‘normal,’ when they think about agriculture at all.

“Fortunately, a movement to rediscover and implement ‘old’ practices of bygone days has risen rapidly, abetted by innovations in technology, breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and tons of old-fashioned, on-the-ground problem-solving.”
—Courtney White, The Carbon Pilgrim, Nov. 16, 2014

A critical mass of climate scientists have warned us repeatedly that we must reduce the concentration of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere to 350 parts-per-million (ppm) in order to preserve life on Earth.

Unfortunately the business-as-usual behavior of out-of-control corporations, indentured politicians and hordes of mindless consumers, continues to lead to billions of tons of CO2 and greenhouse gases (GHGs) being pumped into our already (398 ppm) supersaturated atmosphere and ocean. By the time major reductions in fossil fuel use take effect—in 20 years, if we’re lucky—it could be too late. By then, we will likely have reached 450 ppm or more, approaching the point of no return, where serious climate instability morphs into climate catastrophe.

While climate scientists sound their alarms on the global warming front, agronomists and hunger experts warn of equally catastrophic events. They tell us that unless we embark on a global campaign to reduce the damages of industrial agriculture, restore soil fertility (especially on the 22 percent of potential arable lands now eroded or desertified), improve crop quality and food nutrition, and conserve water, we face increasing rural poverty, starvation, and permanent food and water wars, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where the majority of the world’s population live.

These looming disasters—climate catastrophe, and rural poverty, starvation, and food and water wars—are not entirely unrelated. And neither are their solutions.

We can reverse (not just mitigate) global warming. And while we’re at it, we can also restore soil fertility, eliminate rural poverty and hunger. We can do this by sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere, using the traditional, time-tested tools we already have at hand: regenerative organic farming, ranching and land use.

What will it take to make this world-changing transition to a livable Earth?

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To tree or not to tree, that is the question

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Well, it's that time of year again and we have to look at this question again.

ChristmasTreeFarmOften it is reckoned that a real tree is better than an artificial one for reasons that the latter is made from oil-based materials, often, and thus has a serious impact on the environment.

Natural Christmas trees, however, also are not without an impact on the environment and the Planet. Far from it and especially the “Christmas tree farms” are a problem to the environment in that they, more often than not, are the wrong kind of trees in the wrong place.

While real Christmas trees, grown on farms, take up to 15 years to reach harvestable size during which time they improve air quality by emitting oxygen and, to some extent provide habitat for wildlife – often on ground that is unsuitable for other crops, such as steep slopes and areas beneath power lines, the fact remains that those trees are, afterwards a problem for waste management unless they can be burned for heat or mulched for compost.

If the trees come from so-called forest thinnings, as is the case in many cases in forest areas, then the real tree may be fine to use as, otherwise, it would go up in smoke only, as per practice in the woods. But that is more the exception that the rule today.

The real environmentally friendly choice, I am afraid to say, is to forgo the tree entirely unless you want to make one out of some waste materials. And while we are at it, and I am a bit of a spoilsport here, why not abandon this consumerism holiday altogether. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of Christ, absolutely nothing and the tree also has nothing to do with it.

There are good and bad sides to both tree option, whether real or artificial, that the best choice is not to have a “Christmas” tree at all and, if you want to decorate for the Yuletide, the Birthday of the Sun, or whatever, but it is not Christmas and the time of the birth of Christ, then use evergreen branches, such as Holly (Ilex ilex), Fir, Spruce, or Yew but don't go and cut down a tree. Use also other natural materials, such as pine cones, twigs and such, to make the winter festival decoration, if you will. Leave the tree standing, however. Better for the environment, and that in more than one way.

© 2014

The End of Growth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“We do not have enough growth in the economy. That's why people are not well of”, said in November 2014 a representative of an industry body in the UK.

For that statement, I suggest, we read: “We must have more growth so that capital can make more profits and screw the Planet and its inhabitants.” His concerns are hardly genuine for the people who are not well of, and his words are actually an insult to all of us.

This is not to say that state capitalism that used to masquerade as “socialism” is any less harsh on the Planet. It is but another side of the same capitalist coin.

Perpetual growth, as is being advocated by our governments and the business lobby, however, is not, never was, and never will be, something that can ever work on a finite Planet such as is the Earth, and it is not, never was, and never can be, sustainable.

All the governments keep telling us everyone that the economy must grow and grow more and then still more but when the ceiling is reached by this plant what do we do then? Knock a hole into the ceiling? No, we must prune it back like we would do with a plant that is getting too big.

The way we are going about it, however, would mean that this plant would have to grow through a hole in the ceiling into the apartment or whatever above and then when it reaches the ceiling there another hole must be knocked, probably through the roof, ad infinitum.

We have reached the ceiling already and by our consumption have already knocked a hole into it and the plant has grown through it. We are, basically, using up the resources of more than one Earth. However, last time I checked there is but one and thus we are already in serious trouble. This growth must be stopped or this plant will devour us all.

Despite this, however, the powers-that-be, industry and its lobby groups keep harping on about that we need to buy more in order to grow the economy. Hello!?! Anyone out there? It cannot be done or we have no Planet left. Wake up time, everyone!

© 2014

Telephone carrier service as measure of worth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Discrimination of those that behave differently, that have less than others, that are of a different religion, skin color or ethnic or national origin, those that are a bit on the overweight side, and so on, is nothing new.

Now it has gone so far even that people apparently discriminate against others based on what telephone carrier service they have:

Sprint and AT&T are the premium brands while Verizon is considered average. TMobile, Metro and Walmart pre-paid phone services at the bottom.

But telephone carrier services are not the only measures that are thus employed . Your make of car, your type of home and whether owned or rented and its size, as well as the kind of clothes and the brands you wear, and so on, all are used by people to determine your worth.

We have become a society where not what a person's character is counts but what job he performs, with those doing manual labor, on the bottom of the ladder; what kind of car he or she drives and should they not own and drive a car then they are seen as absolute losers. And let's not even talk about people who live in “poverty”, even if they have chosen to live in a state of voluntary poverty.

People do not even ask as to why people may have decided even to live a life that is not linked to consumerism and the pursuit of money and possessions and status. In the eyes of the world of today any such people are failures and best avoided.

Sometimes we can but wonder what kind of a society and world we have become where the worth of a person is measured by his or her possessions and by what telephone service he or she uses rather that by what person he or she is and what character they have. Somewhere along the line things have gone awry, haven't they?

© 2014

DIY Every Day Carry Notebook

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Note_taking-system1_smlPen and notebook come in very handy, and not just for writers and journalists, many times during the course of the day. Lugging, however, an expensive Moleskine or Leuchtturm 1917 notebook around in all conditions and just for jotting down fragments of thoughts and idea, and such, may not be your idea of fun. It certainly is not mine.

Personally I have no wish and possibility to carry a large notebook around with me on a daily basis. This is only feasible if I carry my map case or such. And thus my notebook has to fit into a hip pocket or a shirt pocket and in that case anything larger than A6 is just too big.

There are a number of ways to make a (small) notebook for your daily carry – and making is definitely better than buying here – and it does not even have to be a notebook in the “normal” sense. It can be a number of 3x5 index cards in a wallet, for instance, especially when you just make notes that are written up into articles or what-have-you later.

The “Hipster PDA” is one option for using 3x5 index cards, as it is simply a number of those cards clipped together by means of a small Bulldog clip. Or one could, obviously, also carry those cards in a leather wallet specifically made for them.

This system of note taking does require index cards, however, in both cases which, with the aid of a guillotine (paper trimmer) can, though, be recycled out of any waste card stock, such as cereal boxes, or such.

If you want to use “ordinary” paper, and especially the green option of using waste office paper, there are several options for DIY EDC notebooks.

The most appropriate paper size for an EDC notebook are A6 and the smaller A7 with A& being very small and thus fitting easily into a shirt pocket. A6 is the size that just about comfortably fits – sort of – into a hip pocket of jeans and most other pants.

Making your own EDC notebook allows you to create a note taking system that is just right for you and your requirements in a way that is, more often than not, not the case with anything that can be bought “off the shelf”.

I have played around with the Hipster PDA and other systems using 3x5 index cards but found the best solution – for me – in folding an A4 sheet of paper in such a way as to create eight pages of A7 and I then carry five of those folded and creased sheets in a wallet that I made for it, giving me 20 pages to write on, carried in a small space.

To make those sheets you fold a sheet of A4 in half, to A5. Then you bring the open edges over to the crease and thus create an A7 wide and A6 long piece of paper. This you then fold upwards bringing the open edges together to form and A7 size pad. You then make good the creases by using a “bone” and put a number of those into a designated wallet and you have a note taking system that can go with you anywhere; well, almost, as diving into water with it might leave you with rather soggy notes.

I found this the solution for my purpose but I also make notebooks in other ways, reusing waste office paper, but for every day carry the leather wallet with five creased sheets, giving me, as said, twenty pages A7, is just right. And I also always have a good supply of spare pages ready made up to go into the wallet when the completed ones come out.

It is definitely the system that works for me but there are also, for sure, other ways of making your own EDC notebook and one option if found here on Instructables.

© 2014

Colbie Caillat wants to start a vegan clothing line

Up on the bandwagon she goes with all the others...

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Colbie_CaillatTwo-time Grammy winner Colbie Caillat has sold more than six million records, written songs for other stars including Hilary Duff and appeared on Saturday Night Live, but the 29-year-old singer-songwriter has plenty left

to cross off of her bucket list. She says that she would love to start her own vegan clothing line, which would serve as the culmination of years of hard work as an animal activist and dedicated vegetarian.

Colbie Caillat says that making a vegan clothing line is definitely a goal and she is an advocate for all-vegan garments, choosing to wear stage and street looks from designers like Stella McCartney, Maje, and Nicole Miller, whose clothing is not produced in a way that harms animals.

What no one seems to consider is that while vegan clothes and shoes may not “harm” animals they often do, however, harm the Planet, especially the shoes which are, more often than not, made of synthetic “leather” and for synthetic leather you best read oil-based materials.

There is no need to wear fur, that is true, and a fox's pelt always looks best on a fox and while wool, on the other hand, is just something that must come off the sheep anyway really to keep them healthy not everyone can wear it, and most vegans, I know, would not.

As to leather – I know, we have just been there a minute ago – the only real alternative for shoes and bags is either hemp, that is to say canvas materials, or cork, if we want to avoid synthetics or, alas, synthetic leather. Synthetic leathers, at times made from plastics, are often used in clothing and fabrics. Artificial leather is marketed under many brands, including "leatherette", "faux leather", "Naugahyde", and "pleather". For more information on artificial leather see:

While “ordinary” clothing sure enough can be made from natural materials that did not harm animals or involve animals, such as hemp, cotton, linen, etc. there is a limit what can be done without harming the environment, it is, at times, difficult to have your cake and to eat it, is it not?

© 2014

The Autumn Statement is already forgetting the floods of last winter

The temporary increase in funding for flood risk management after the Winter Floods of 2013/14 has not been sustained. To continue on this funding trajectory will inevitably mean greater flood risk throughout the country.

“Whilst belt tightening is part and parcel of life at present, there are some areas that must be protected – investment in sustainable flood infrastructure is one such area,” says CIWEM Rivers & Coastal Treasurer, Jed Ramsay.

Even in the current economic climate, underinvestment in the UK’s flood infrastructure is unacceptable, according to CIWEM.  With climate change impacting the frequency and severity of flooding, CIWEM is concerned that this will become an increasingly pressing issue, weighing heavily on those that live and work in areas identified as being at risk of flooding.  This will be compounded by the reduction in spending on maintaining existing flood defences.

“Failure to maintain our existing flood defences and invest sustainably and sensibly in new flood risk schemes will lead to continued loss of life and property, extensive damage to the UK economy and ongoing misery for millions of people,” says Ramsay.

The Autumn Statement from the government does nothing to address the real and sustained levels of funding that will be required if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and the major flooding we see on an almost annual basis.  And yet the past guides the way for us. In 1953 flooding killed over 2100 people (307 in England) which triggered investment in coastal defences.  The net result was that the coastal flood in 2013 was larger in size than that of 1953 but resulted in no loss of life.  This shows that we are able to manage flood risk to an acceptable level if the finances are in place. Investments in flood risk management provide some of the best returns, in damages avoided, that can be found in public sector investment.  Put another way failure to invest adequately will cost the nation dearly in monetary and in socio-economic terms plus of course the risk to life will be increased.

Greater investment in river maintenance is needed

CIWEM believes that the current emphasis on capital investment to the detriment of annual maintenance works is increasing flood risk at a local level.  The recent report by the National Audit Office stated that over the last five years maintenance funding has fallen by six per cent in real terms.  Annual maintenance of rivers – such as maintaining existing crucial defences, weed and vegetation trimming and silt removal – are essential activities that have been cut to the bone through several decades of spending cuts.  The continuation of this policy will result in ongoing degradation, which will then cost a great deal more to restore. Timely appropriate spending is not only better in maintaining appropriate levels of flood risk but also is environmentally better and cheaper in the long term.

‘Partnership Funding’ is muddying the waters

The partnership funding scheme has laudable aims – to increase the level of contributions to flood defence schemes from those benefiting locally – especially those who are perceived as able to pay.  The reality on the ground has been that the majority of partnership funding has been met by Local Councils at a time when their budgets are being dramatically reduced.

This policy requires more work in order to leverage more private sector funds for schemes so that there is an appropriate balance between central government support for mitigating local flood risk and the direct beneficiaries of schemes also contributing. 

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world

The CIWEM Policy Position Statement, Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management, can be found online at

CIWEM will be publishing an in-depth report on future flood funding in January 2015.

Source: Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)

The Commons

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

labour-the-commons"Commons" is an Old English word. The word Commons, in pre-industrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment traditionally defined such as forests, rivers, fisheries or grazing land that are shared, used and enjoyed by all. In fact those were parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. As commons were referred areas that were part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households.

The Commons were not just willy-nilly for everyone's use, however. It “belonged” to the Commoners and there were also subdivisions of those, such as the Estovers.

In English law, estovers is wood that a tenant is allowed to take, for life or a period of years, from the land he holds for the repair of his house, the implements of husbandry, hedges and fences, and for firewood.

The Estovers, in more modern times, had the right to take, by hook and by crook, firewood from commons and also woodlands of estates, and only for their own use, theoretically, and not for sale as a commodity.

The Commons, as found in Britain, are very similar to the system if the iriai in Japan. "Commons," like iriai, is a word which, in pre-industrial times, was used to designate certain aspects of the environment.

People called commons those parts of the environment for which customary law exacted specific forms of community respect. They called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households.

The customary law which humanized the environment by establishing the commons was usually unwritten. It was unwritten law not only because people did not care to write it down, but because what it protected was a reality much too complex to fit into paragraphs. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, to graze, and to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.

Many of the commons in Britain was, more or less, done away with by the Enclosure Act(s) or Inclosures Act(s) – depending on the spelling but meaning the same – where the people lost their rights to the use of the commons.

While there are still Commons in Britain they are no longer, in general, available to people as they once were and most of them are today “public open spaces” which are, like parks, private property of the local authorities “with public access granted” and thus are no longer the commons of old where the local people, especially the designated commoners, had the right to pasture, pannage, the right to take firewood “by hook and by crook”, etc. today the gathering of firewood, even for one who would be an estover, or the gathering, for own use, of wild edibles, is governed by bylaws and general illegal, as any such activity would require the permission of the landowner, under law, who today would be the local authority and rarely such permission would ever be granted.

While Keepers and Rangers often will not concern themselves with someone taking some herbs, wild edibles, mushrooms, etc., it still means that, theoretically, they could and the police also might. This also applies to hedgerows and other such areas.

In fact foraging is a very gray area, nowadays, unlike in the days of old, and care has to be exercised as not to clash with the law, unfortunately.

What we need is to bring the commons back into true common ownership of the commoners and thus make them, more or less, once again, and the “produce” of them, available to all. Especially, however, to those that are the commoners and who have had the right to them by virtue of having that status by living in a village or such. That, however, would more than likely require an entire change of system. Well, let's go and change it as it needs changing anyway.

© 2014