Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Managing your woodlot

by Michael Smith

In this current climate in Europe with the demand for firewood being at an all-time high anyone who has the slightest idea how to manage the woodlots on his property can make quite some money.

Many people in Britain and also elsewhere do have their own little or even not so little woodlots on their property but have no idea as to how to mange it for their own benefit and also for profit, as far as firewood and such are concerned.

In addition to that there are farms that have quite a bit of woodland, even to such an extent that those plots of woodland are being used for shooting and such like. Very often, however, the tress are left to their own devices, so to speak, and no real management is being undertaken.

The same, in a way, is true for wooded parks, municipal or otherwise, where trees that have fallen are, unless the pose a danger, left where they have fallen to just rot away.

In other cases, where trees are cut in countryside management and municipal and public parks the trees are often cut into lengths and then left as “habitat piles” laying about higgldy-piggledy piled up. This is lazy forestry practice in fact despite the claims that it is “for the wildlife”.

In years gone by when people has Estovers rights and such like and even when it was no longer used in such ways woods and forests – including parks – did not have any of such debris left laying about and neither were logs left, and still wildlife thrives. More at times, it would seem, that today with the “habitat piles”.

Many forestry authorities are now advising against such “habitat piles” and that for more than one reason. The main reason being that those higgledy-piggledy left piles cause diseases to spread amongst the trees and therefore the advice is no to build proper “habitat piles” where the logs are sunk into the ground some way. That, however, requires time and effort.

The other reason is that trees left to rot in the woods and forests are a CO2 hazard, do to speak, for int heir decaying process the wood that is left to rot releases the CO2 that it has absorbed during its growing process. Fart better, therefore, to use the wood, even if it is just for firewood. The release of CO2 if the same but the heating with wood is carbon-neutral.

Also to be considered is that during he decaying process of the wood left laying about not only CO2 is set free but also a much more dangerous greenhouse gas, namely methane. This does not occur when the wood is burned.

So, instead of leaving the wood to die out there in the bush it is time to bring it in and turn it into an income, even if it be just a small one, whether for a farm or a municipal and public park or those that manage the countryside areas.

With the current demand for firewood for homes and – it could soon be – power stations we cannot afford to leave wood too rot out there.

If the right methods be applied some of the country's heating needs and those of power stations could be met by that wood which no one wants for anything else or which has no other market.

The issue of the Dutch Elm Disease in Britain could also be solved – to a great extent if not entirely – by removing all dead and dying elm trees and burning the wood in homes or better still power stations. The reason I recommend power stations here is because the wood then is not going to sit on someone's porch or in someone's yard at home for the beetle to mature and swarm and infect further trees with the pathogen that the, inadvertently, carry about.

Within less than a generation, if done correctly, the Dutch Elm Disease could, I am convinced, be overcome, if the above be employed. Other diseases too could be dealt with in this way, e.g. felling the diseased trees and burning the wood.

This is a case of killing two birds with one stone: removing – hopefully – the disease and providing carbon-neutral energy.

From the woodland owner's side this, obviously, does require some more work than just leaving things to fall and then in situ as they are. It requires the active cutting and bringing in of the wood and then preparing and selling it. The reward, however, could and should be grater here than the outlay, in finances and time.

It can be done because it used to be done. We have but become lazy in our management of woods over the years as, to some extent, the market for firewood was not there and the demand was rather low, and also as we were told in woodland management by certain people with little knowledge who thought that they knew it all to leave the wood as “habitat piles”. This, however, has caused more problems than that it did good; something that anyone with just half and ounce of brain could and should have seen coming.

If you leave diseased wood out there to rot down then you will spread the disease to other trees. This is so obvious but those misguided environmentalists who thought that they knew it all did not care about the trees and the possible income from those; all they cared about was invertebrates and such like needing a place to be.

What did they think those creatures did before when all woods and forests were managed properly, including for firewood and very little debris was lost? They lived quite well on the forest floor without human interference of giving them piles of wood to chew.

We cannot afford this practice, and in fact never could, for it caused disease to spread. Today, however, we can afford this even less for it is not beneficial for anyone, not at least the environment, that we import firewood from as far field as Poland to satisfy the need in Britain, especially as we here waste such wood.

It is most urgent that we manage our own woodlots, whether on farms or elsewhere, in such a way that they benefit us all.

The use of firewood is, as I have said before, carbon neutral as the wood only releases the amount of carbon that it accumulated during its growth. The same carbon is also released while the wood is a “habitat pile”. So not all that good for the environment, is it now.

Much better, therefore, to burn the wood and to have carbon neutral energy rather that to waste it by letting it rot in the woods.

Managing woodlots for firewood, especially if only dealing with dying and fallen timber, is not rocket science and the market is out there, at least presently, for firewood, and if we keep on at the right people the market may even get bigger as time goes by, especially when everyone realizes the facts about carbon neutrality of firewood.

This does only, though, really work, as to locally harvested firewood and not too that that has been imported from nearly as far afield as Russia. That is not a sustainable way to go. Using homegrown wood, on the other hand, is.

While I have been addressing here the British market, the lesson applies also for other countries. I do know that in other countries this seems too be understood far better than in Britain, such as in those of Europe and especially in the USA and Canada, but still there are some people who have little idea of how to get people to buy firewood because some see the smoke as an issue, as far as being “green” is concerned. However, the carbon neutrality of firewood is what should be considered by all of us; the smoke is something that is secondary and negligible, especially as far as untreated natural wood is concerned.

So, let's hear it for local firewood.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Bank of England Chief says Britain in deep recession

by Michael Smith

In a statement on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, Mervin King, the head of the Bank of England, said that Britain is in a deep recession but, it would appear, that like the politicians as well, he is not willing to accept the fact that it is a D and not a R; in other words, it is not just a recession, it is a depression. The governor might do well to have another look at the letters of the alphabet; depression is spelled with a “D” and in this case an uppercase one too.

Mervin King said further that the economy is going into the minus range, as if people hadn't realized that as yet. The only one that does not seem to be able to realize this and willing to accept it are the Labor regime of the UK and the state bank.

The Governor of the Bank of England also stated that other measures will have to employed, other than interest cuts, as the interest rate can basically be cut not much further, and are talking about the need to “print money”. This is NOT a good idea, as we have seen in places such as the former Rhodesia.

We need to find a new way and a new style of economy or the way things are for it is no longer going to work the way things are being done.

The present system is “kaput”, as they would say in German; it is broken, and the way I see it it is not fixable either. It if finished and we need to have a look at some new options. Some of those options are not, in fact, that new and are age old and well tested.

The system of buying on credit might be something that must be reconsidered as far as the individual consumer is concerned and either it is cash, check (though nearly no one wants to accept them bits of paper no more because of the costs of processing them) or debit card. In other words, if one does not have the money – saved – in an account or under the mattress – then one cannot buy the thing that one desires. A good was to be, methinks.

The greedy banks got us into this and we must never let them do this again.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Is reuse good for the economy?

by Michael Smith

The Financial Times has started using the word "austerity" in many of its headlines – and charity shops, the face of the second hand market in Britain, are experiencing a buying boom.
On the other hand a fair – though not so fair in other terms – of retailers, the purveyors of brand new things, have gone bankrupt, in liquidation or receivership, such as Woolworth, MFI and some other well known names.

Does this mean we are saturated with stuff?

The answer to this could be a probably maybe. But the truth, more than likely, is that people, that is all of us, are feeling the squeeze as with the recession and the prices for fuel and everything going up and up.

Do we still need to keep on spending on new things to keep the economy moving?

While the economic whizkids, who got us into this mess in the first place or who simply were so blind that they could not see it coming, and especially the powers that be, tell us to go and shop till we drop, basically, to help those ailing capitalist economies of ours, the truth is that we cannot do so. First off the environment must be considered for if we don't it does not matter what we do; we may no longer have a habitable planet. Secondly there is no money there and no credit to be had – not that one should work on the credit thing anyway – so how do the powers that be think that people can go out and spend, spend, spend.

Is designed obsolescence soon to be obsolete? Or should we keep on refreshing our material possessions to keep the economy moving?

In other words, the question is, "Is reuse good for the economy?"

I know that the government of this country – and, so it wold appear, also of other countries – is trying to create stimulus for us to keep on spending, and spending and spending; spending our way out of the recession, so they say. Personally I do not think that that will work.

Alternatively, maybe, just maybe, the economy is so far up the creek that we should consider building an alternative one and slowly migrate over to it.

There is no way, in my opinion, but then again I am no economist, that we can administer CPR to this troubled economy by spending as much as possible. It will not work and, well, do we have the money to do so, and, do we really need more stuff (only to throw other stuff into the garbage then).

Paul Smith of the Furniture Reuse Network (FRN) certainly advocates that reuse is a good thing but you might argue his focus is short-term and on real people rather than on the long-term health of the more abstract economy?

To some degree, methinks, the reason that the economy is in the dire straights that it is in because people and the planet were taken out of the equation by the the bankers and financiers and the big capitalists and especially the multi-nationals. As soon as you do that, that is to say to remove the people and the planet out of the equation as far as economy, and not just the economy, is concerned you head for severe trouble and so we did. Greed was all that fueled the banks and all that seems to have fueled industry and now we reap the whirlwind. But it is the little man an d the environment that suffers and not the fat cats. While we, the taxpayers, have to bail out the banks and certain sectors of industry, those who got everyone into that mess still award themselves fat multi-million pound bonuses and such payments. But I digressed somewhat.

Given that the governments of the world are doing everything they can to get spending going again it would seem that the powers that be certainly do not want reuse as a general practice, despite their “reduce, reuse, recycle” message about waste management, to take place. They want new cars, new houses, new washing machines, plasma screen TVs, MS Vista 09 and every other material (and immaterial thing) that generates jobs to start moving again. I mean, how many more sofas, TVs, etc. do we need. No, your old PC is not obsolete as yet, regardless of what the folks in Redmond try telling you. All you need is an operating system that works with less resources, e.g. lower processor speed, such as Linux.

There is no doubt in my mind that the economy is shrinking – and for everything that is reused that is one less thing that is made from scratch – environment 1 - economy nil. The same applies for re-purposing. But, as said, the powers that be do not seem to want this to happen, in all honesty, despite their pratter.

Artificially encouraging spending with the policy and print runs at the mint is only going to produce artificial demand – which in turn, produces artificial economy. It is the same as the alcoholic having a drink to get rid of the jitters - the junkie shooting up to avoid the come down. The example of Zimbabwe should also be obvious enough.

Grow your own, repair before replace, live lightly. Using and producing less is a global objective, or at least so it should be.

While it might be painful, painful for all of us, I do think that we have to go through this and kick the habit of waste and spend, spend, spend. I say reuse, don't refuse!

To some this may appear to be a stark choice between two paths, but is it really. We all know, at least those of us with some common sense, that business as usual will not be solving the problems we face. On the other hand, massive economic shifts in short periods of time seem to cause significant unrest and violence, do they not?

Then again, the choices here may not be as stark as some may think. Re-use often needs testing,such as in the case of electrical goods, and sometimes repair. These are key skills that allow re-use organizations to train and employ people. There is also a danger that the economic interest are short term. We live on a finite piece of rock with finite resources the longer we can keep items and resources in circulation the longer we will be able to have an economy at all. It is not a choice between the environment and the economy but a choice between short and long term thinking and, most importantly, survival.

Thus, in a reuse economy there are actually just as many jobs and transactions – just different skills and tills. An important thing wold be if we could but remember en mass some of the skills we have lost and then, maybe, get around to relearning some of those – all important, in my view anyway – skills and trades.

I would also like to add that I think that it would take us quite a while to use up what there is to reuse at the present time. It would be healthy to reuse as long as possible until we have thought up a way to a durable economy. It would also give the overexploited countries a chance to recenter themselves on their own needs and their own resources without having to hope that they can carry on pampering our so-called 'needs'. It is our own responsibility to live on what we have around us. We also have plenty of great skills and can learn some more too.

Being, as I said before, from a rather large Gypsy family, the reuse issue has always been part of us and that not just because we were a large family. In fact the Gypsy people recycled before the word was even invented. We made things from virtually nothing to sell at fairs, markets and door-to-door, and we reworked “trash” into goods people wanted to buy. Another kind of economy.

© M Smith (Veshengro) February 2009

Fragility of the power grid

by Michael Smith

The catastrophic failure of only two electricity generating plants in Britain, including the nuclear power station “Sizewell II”, in May 2008 should really have brought home to all and sundry but at least and especially to those in power that something must be done to protect the people and the country's infrastructure from such an event ever occurring again.

While I do know that there will always be the possibility of a fluke incident, as this may just have been one of, this, however, proves how extremely vulnerable we are in this country – and probably not just in this country alone – due to our highly centralized electricity generating industry.

Also to a degree the fact that most of our utility companies are foreign owned, and one is hard pressed to find one that is still a British one. Even “nPower” whose agents keep claiming that they are a green company and wholly British is foreign owned, namely by RWE of Germany.

The majority of our power stations are huge, not to say, gigantic, and far, far away from where people live and the power is actually consumed.

They, as individual stations, supply millions of households, as well as businesses, hospitals, schools, and so on.

The total failure of already only one of those can cause severe problems and also put a strain then of gigantic proportions onto the national electricity grid. If more than one station goes out then we are getting into serious trouble already and the power will, probably, go out to tens of thousands of homes, businesses and other places and this, obviously, can have rather serious impact on so many things. In some cases such failures can cause loss of life.

Fritz Schumacher in his books “Small is beautiful” suggested the things that we are, I know, finally coming to, namely localized power generating plants and people thought him crazy in those days of the 1960s when everything that was being build in that department had to be ever bigger and hence further away from the actual electricity consumer. And the fact that those stations then supply thousands upon thousands of homes, businesses, offices, and other establishment has then tremendous negative implications in the even of a failure.

Local power generating plants, as once advocated by F Schumacher and others, myself included, are now, finally, being looked at and they also make sense not just in the supply issue and the issue of a failure of the huge power stations.

Locally generated electricity can be of a lower voltage rating than that which is being generated far away and needs to travel a long distance. The power loss over the long distance in the cables is being compensated for by the extreme high voltages with which the electricity is leaving the power stations, in many cases those are 20,000 volts and more.

In order to generate that amount we waste a lot of resources and locally generated electricity would be better for everyone and here we could work on less than 1,000 volts and more than likely even directly at commercial and domestic current.

Both the environmental aspect of small local power plants and the savings in resources are important on the level of protecting the national infrastructure as well as the environment. Thus local CHP facilities, for instance, would kill two birds with one stone and also that many of those could be powered, say, by methane from sewerage plants or from waste wood and thus reduce the impact and also our reliance on oil and gas.

The fact is that those large power stations are not as economical as they once were tauted to be for they do waste a lot of resources in the production of the very high current that is required in order to transport the power over the long distance that it has to travel to its final destination, the end-consumer, to you and me at home, to our offices, factories, schools and hospitals, and everywhere else.

While the UK currently still produces oil and natural gas and is even a seller of same on the world market in the not so distant future Britain will have to become, once again, a net importer of oil and gas and then we are at the mercy of the likes of the Russian Federation and other such states and can be held to ransom over gas and oil supplies.

Smaller power stations, and here ideally local area CHPs, can go a long way towards this country's self-reliance as far as electricity is concerned, especially as other fuels can be employed here, as already indicated.

This would be good, as said, as regards the protection of the environment and the protection of the infrastructure of the nation.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Waste Wood

Why waste wood at all, it is a valuable resource

by Michael Smith

First we have had a study that costs millions in which the British government discovered – well, so the press release said – that waste wood can be burned; something that the Neanderthals could have told them. Now they are talking of using waste wood, together with food waste, etc. and turning that into a biogas to heat homes and power electricity generating plants.

In Britain, we are told, well over ten million (10,000,000) metric tons of waste wood is chucked into landfills every year.

Now what kind of wood are we talking here? Brushwood and cuttings from agriculture and forestry, or from gardens? No. We are talking milled lumber that has been used in the building industry and elsewhere; shoring timber, joists, and other such that are removed after a building is erected and, because there are nails in the wood here or there and such it cannot, so the building industry says, possibly be reused. Other wood of this nature that is thrown away is wooden pallets and other packaging crates. All, theoretically, reclaimable lumber, ready for many DIY projects of, if need be, as solid fuel for the stove at home.

There used to be a time when pallets, for instance, had a deposit on them and were taken back by the suppliers of the goods delivered on them. No longer. It all goes too waste, and most of it ends up in landfill where it rots down releasing carbon dioxide. This same wood, however, as indicated, would never need to go that route in the first place and neither would it need to be burned (at least not most of it).

Wood, while burning, releases only the amount of carbon dioxide that it has absorbed during its growing process, hence heating with wood is, basically, carbon neutral. It does, however, release the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere when it is composing in landfill; no more, no less. It is therefore better to burn the wood than to “compost” it or have it decay somewhere but... this “waste” wood would and should never have to be “waste” in the first place.

Many years ago I had a book from the USA, the title and author of which I can no longer recall as some “kind” soul borrowed the book from me and forgot to return it, that dealt with the making of furniture from pallets and wooden packing cases, normally thrown into the trash. This book was one of the few proper books I have ever seen on the subject – it would be good to use those ideas and reclaim pallets for some new use and also other “waste” building lumber. There is, in my opinion, no need for any of this kind of wood to be destroyed in any way. Most of this lumber is too good, in fact, to end up being burned.

Lumber of this kind is far too valuable, in my opinion, a resource to be burned, whether in the stove at home or in power stations., and nor should it ever go to the landfill either. It should be reused in whichever way possible and only those bits that have no further use should then be put to use then for the purpose of generating energy, whether as heat at home or in some furnace to make electricity.

Wood is only “waste” then when it really has no other use and cannot be turned into anything other than a source of heat and there is enough of that kind of wood discarded in woods, forests and parks on an almost daily basis in tree operations, often left as “habitat piles” for the wildlife. This practice, however, is not only a waste of a valuable resource, it is a cause of diseases in woods and it is lazy forest management practice.

However, building lumber and the wood of pallets and packing cases should never be turned in to so-called waste, in the first place, and nor should the thought be given to burning this material. The first thought should be reusing it, and if not for their original purposes, as no one, nowadays takes back old pallets for their original use, then for something else, such as the making of small items of furniture and such like. Only, and only, when all avenues of possible reuse have been exhausted should the thought go to turning this wood into a source for energy; not before.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Pandering to Muslim radicals yet again!

A sad day for Britain

by Michael Smith

Denying entry to the UK by the Dutch MP is political correctness gone mad and is probably against the European laws that Britain has signed, as well.

Pandering to Muslim radicals is NOT going to help the so-called “war on terror” because by doing what was done again on Thursday, February 12, 2009n at Heathrow Airport on orders of the British Home Secretary is in fact allowing the Islamist terrorists to win.

While Britain seems to be unable rid itself of hate speech Islamic preachers, some of which have been jailed for a variety of reasons, anyone, however, wishing to speak up against the violent Islam – and no, it is not a religion of peace – far from it – are being forbidden to do so an are silenced.

Freedom of Speech, however, in Britain, and that is what the majority of British subjects do not understand, is, in fact not a freedom at all and not a right but a granted privilege, as one Home Secretary has stated in public, and can be removed as and when the regime of the UK will feel like.

Why is it that Muslim radicals can scream hate and murder against Jews – though the Zionist have a lot to answer for that themselves – and Christians but when others speak out against Islam they are not permitted to even if they speak the truth.

You cannot win the “war on terror” by being afraid of what those Muslim radicals will do if they may feel offended by what someone may say about Islam. The Christian faith is not protected in such a way in the UK, though according to the statute book there is a “Blasphemy Law”, which is only relevant to the Christian faith but whatever is thrown towards the Christians nothbing ever happens. It appear to be one law for the Muslims and one for others.

The British government is pandering to the Muslims and this is giving victory to the enemies of that country and the enemies of the West per se.

The score, for the record is, Muslim terrorists ONE, British government NIL. And this is going to get worse the more we pander to radical Islam.

Maybe if members of the government had actually taken a look at the film by the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders and listened to the speeches by those preachers captured on film where Muslims are called upon top take over the USA, Britain, and Europe and turn all those countries into Islamic states with Sharia Law by force they might have understood what is happening rather than listening to the so-called moderate Muslims who may also but be agents of this kind of Islam – who knows.

The radical Muslims that want to turn Britain into an Islamic theocracy with Sharia Law should be told in the same uncertain terms as the former Australian Prime Minister told the Muslims in that country, namely that no one asked them to live here, in a predominately Christian country and if it does not suit them they are free to leave to countries that are governed by Sharia Law. No one is stopping them from doing so. However, while they are in this country and while they have the right to follow their religion – to an extent, and this country has already gone too far in accommodating them – they do not have the right never to be offended.

If they have a problem with Christmas or such like then that is their problem and, as said, they are free to leave. If they wish to advocate a violent overthrow of the countries of the West then I am sure we can find an answer to that and that is to be shot on sight.

Terrorism is not fought by pandering to their followers; it can only be overcome by getting rid of the cancer. The very safety and security of this country and our civilization is at stake.,

The safety and the security of the British Realm was not under threat from Mr. Wilders comin g to the U but by the very acts of stopping him entering the country and allowing him to make his point against Islamo-Fascism.

This kind of world view as espoused by those Muslim hate-mongers in the garb of Mullahs and Imams is nothing but another form of Fascism and as dangerous as was that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and Mosley, or the imperialism of Japan in the 1940s. In those days the countries rose up and fought against the onslaught. Nowadays everyone seems afraid and wants, yet again, appeasement, in the same way as before the Nazis began their real sweep across Europe, which nearly caused the fall of Britain too.

If we do not stand up to the threat and are prepared to combat it with the same resolute spirit that John Howard of Australia portrayed when he told those people where to get off then we will be made to regret that soon when we find ourselves all of a sudden under Islamic rule, by the back door, and before that totally paralyzed by fear of possibly offending the Muslim minority in this country.

No one ever worries about offending the Romani minority, for instance, and all told their might be more people of Romani-Gypsy descent in Britain than there are Muslims. But dare anyone mention anything against Islam and the Koran. Twenty years ago things were different when Salman Rushdie was wrote the “Satanic Verses” and received round the clock protection and all that. Freedom of speech they said then. How things have changed.

As I said before, the safety and security of our society and of each and every one is at stake here and our freedoms.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Lords issue warning regarding the 'surveillance state'

by Michael Smith

Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, Members of the House of Lords have warned. And rightly so, one can but hasten to add.

The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, so the Lords constitution committee said.

Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought.

Too many times local authorities also have been making use of RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was never intended to be used in the way that so many councils are employing it, such as spying on people as to what rubbish is put out when incorrectly and by who, and such like.

The government said CCTV and DNA were "essential crime fighting tools", but this has, in fact, been disproved by senior police officers who have stated not so long ago that CCTV is useless in most cases. So why the continuation of the lie to the people.

The only answer here can and must be that the government of the UK is hellbent on “people control” and nothing else.


Surveillance and data collection, so the Lords' committee says, must be proportionate.
What, however, is proportionate in this instance and who decides this and who monitors this on behalf of the people?

Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data.

Controversial government plans for a database to store details of people's phone calls and e-mails were put on hold late last year after they were branded "Orwellian".

Ministers are currently consulting on the plan, which would involve the details but not the content of calls and internet traffic being logged, saying it is essential to fighting terrorism.

While we are being told that this database will not contain the details of phone calls and emails who is to say that this is going to be thus and, yet again, who, on behalf of the people is going to monitor this.

None of these methods will aid in the fight against crime nor in the fight against terrorism. Only one things will: proper policing; one that is NOT target driven but one that uses the old-fashioned ways of investigations of officers with common sense and a nose for spotting things that are wrong.

In its report, the Lords constitution committee said growth in surveillance by both the state and the private sector risked threatening people's right to privacy, which it said was "an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom".

The public were often unaware of the scale of personal information held and exchanged by public bodies, it said.

He only reason I can see for all those intrusive measures is that the governments are, in fact, frightened of the people and of the power the people have nowadays with the Internet. For the very same reason that they, in Italy, are trying to outlaw the citizen journalist, the Blogger and Blogs.

Instead of alienating the people by such measures the governments should empower the people to take part in the enforcement of the laws that there are and to be the eyes and ears as far as crime and terrorism is concerned and empower the people also the properly, as individuals, to hold the police to account when they do not deal with crime in the proper way.

Target-driven policing is leaving people frustrated and worse. You cannot tell a crime victim that they must book an appointment with an officer to take a statement or too tell Park Rangers when there are hoodlums rampaging through a park, threatening people, that local officers will be made aware and will attend to take a statement in a couple of days.

The reason for such replies is the target culture and the wish to appear to solve everything to which officers are being dispatched. So, if you don't send a response vehicle then that is not logged as such an incident and hence the possible lack of a result in an investigation does not reflect (badly) in the league tables. This is what it is all about and, as far as the government is concerned, “people control”

here is so much misuse of the powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, for instance, that it is hardly surprising that people, and especially organizations that try to protect the civil liberties in the UK, are getting concerned.

Orwell was right only a little too early in the date.

There are and estimated 4,000,000 (in words: four million) CCTV cameras in the UK and often they are used by local councils to simply spy on people over issues such as littering and such like.

The Conservatives said the government's approach to personal privacy was "reckless".

"Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people," said shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve.

The government and the police, as said previously, are alienating rather than making friends out of the public but then they do not seem to care. They rather see anyone and everyone as a criminal and terrorist until proven otherwise. It used to be “innocent until proven guilty” but that was a long time ago.

When the “Miranda” warning in the UK was changed from “you have the right to remain silent but anything you may say will be taken down and given in evidence” to “you have the right to remain silent but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court”, the goalpost was moved and it became a “guilty until proven innocent”. In the same way as anyone carrying a knife may be considered automatically to carry it will ill intentions, for instance. A knife is a tool and not a weapon, primarily, and while there are people who carry a knife as a weapon the emphasis should still be, also with children and young people in the possession of a knife, that there is another purpose there for that knife than as a weapon of offense or defense. Guilty until proven innocent, and in the knife instance often it simply if guilty, whether guilty or not. You do not solve crime that way.

© M Smith (Veshengro), February 2009

Independence from gas and oil imports

by Michael Smith

As we have spoken about in the article as to Russia and its gas the western developed nations – the UK, the EU, etc., must become – largely – independent from foreign gas and oil to safeguard our countries' infrastructure.

This can, I think, be done but it will require a new way of thinking and especially the political will to do so. For starters we must get away from gas for heating and cooking and electricity generation, at least too a large extent.

The biggest problem is the political will. The latter always seems to be missing, it seem, for it is the large petrochemical companies that seem to hold sway somewhere and somehow in all the developed nations and it is very much also that governments are worried about the revenue they lose from the taxes on the oil and gas if a switch would be made.

In Britain, and other countries, it would appear that the people themselves are beginning to vote with their feet ;as far as heating is concerned for sure.

Presently those that can, it would appear, in the British Isles are rediscovering the wood-burning stove, at least for heating. The cook stoves that can use wood, nowadays, are mostly of the expensive AGA and Rayburn – now one and the same company anyway – which are well out of the financial reach of most ordinary people, and are also far too heavy for the floors of many homes.

The demand for wood for burning in stoves and fireplaces in Britain int his current financial, economic crisis and that of gas supply from the Russian Federation, way outstrips supplies and, as we have learned, wood sellers go to great length, even to the countries of Eastern Europe, in order to bring in wood. This also now pushed the price of firewood up a tremendous level.

Other means of independence from oil and natural gas and petroleum-based gas are available and also possible, but again as far as the nations are concerned at a government level, local and central, the political will is missing again.

There is, aside from the use of wood for heating homes, also the possibility to use timber, and here especially the waste lumber from the building industry to run power stations and combined heat & power plants (CHPs).

Then there is the possibility to use waste incineration as a source for to run CHP facilities though I am well aware of the fact how often that idea runs foul of the NIMBYs and also – strangely enough – the likes of Friends of the Earth, who will come out ranting and waving arms that we must recycle all rubbish and not burn it. Shame that they have not understood that there will always be some rubbish left over that cannot be recycled and it would be, in my opinion, much better to burn that and use it to power the nation rather than to tip it into holes in the ground, the latter of which we are running out of rapidly anyway.

Gas from waste is another way and means and then there is the humble methane gas that is released from landfills and from sewerage works. That too could be used for heating and cooking but, ideally, for the running of electricity generating plants.

I say the latter simply because methane gas happens to be a bit on the explosive side and even though it is used in many countries on farms and homesteads for heating and cooking it might not be the best idea to pipe it through towns and cities and have it used by people who might just be a little careless.

We must not forget that the first electricity power stations were not run on oil of the petroleum kind but on methane gas in fact. Mind you, the same is true for the first motorcars of the Ford “Tin Lizzy” variety. It was not until gasoline became cheaply available that the car was changed.

But back to the subject in hand, namely that of national independence from imported oil and gas.

We can no longer afford the luxury of oil and gas being brought in from far away, especially not from areas over which politics we have no control, whether this be the Russian Federation or the Ukraine or the seaways from the Persian Gulf to the West.

Our countries must look at ways to become if not self-sufficient than some way self-reliant as regards to oil and gas imports.

While I can suggest that we must do this I, as an ordinary writer, cannot, obviously, come up with all the possible suggestions as to how this may be done, but doing it we must.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009