Oh this year I'm off to "Sunny" Spain Y Viva Espana!!!

It's not that warm in Spain at the moment. Pretty much the same as it is here. Cold. Matters not. The time has finally come and I am off to Spain on December 24th. Consumers and capitalists of Britain and Ireland unite, cheer and then pray you can continue living the way you do in the years to come.

Thankfully, I won't be going to a part of Spain that has heard the song with the lyrics "Oh this year I'm off to Sunny Spain Y Viva Espana". Somewhere in the interior of Spain for me so owners of abandoned fincas start tidying up and lowering your prices. First lucky owner makes a tidy sum.

That sum is going to be a lot less than the sum I would have to pay in Ireland for an equivalent property. It's time to start a small-holding again. I have big plans and next year, whilst others are paying off debts and learning to save, I shall be living The Good Life again with my stunning novita, Maria Fernandez.

"Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!" They won't have heard that song either in Spain.

The Good Consumer

Thanks to Neil Boorman, in my previous post, here is a video called The Good Consumer. The video is an excellent commentary on how people are manipulated by the system of consumption.

Remember, tomorrow is International Buy Nothing Day. Give the corporations a kick where it hurts and feel better about yourself.

International Buy Nothing Day

A commenter in a previous post mentioned a doctored photo of Lord Kitchener. Instead of Lord Kitchener urging us to join the British Army in World War One, we have Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, imploring us to spend as part of our national duty.

The photo is part of an article about consumerism. Neil Boorman, author of Bonfire of the Brands, says "...what economists mean by the term 'consumer confidence' - it is the willingness of the public to spend money on ...products that we don't really need." And, "...cars halve in value the minute we drive them out the showroom, most gadgets become outdated or breakdown soon after their guarantee expires and clothes are virtually worthless once they're worn... Essentially, we are being ripped off."

Overconsumption is the reason why we westerners are destroying the planet and why the rest of the planet's population is kept in poverty.

This Saturday is International Buy Nothing Day. For me, almost every day is a no-buy day. I downsized over the year and have no wish to replace any of the junk I rid myself of. By way of counter-example, my parents are out everyday buying junk they don't need. My father recently bought a pair of working boots but he hasn't worked for five years.

Ultimately, consumption will be curtailed by nature. After all, why are we asked to reduce, reuse and recycle? Unless Harrods (Mars) Ltd. wants to open up a branch on Earth and we can carry on over-consuming again.

BBC - Should shopping be a patriotic duty?

Jimmy does GM

Last night I watched a TV programme about GM (genetically modified) food production. In Horizon: Jimmy's GM Food Fight, Jimmy Doherty, a well-known organic pig farmer, travelled around the world looking at the impact of GM crops on the world.

First, Jimmy visited Argentina where rainforests are being cleared to grow GM soya beans for animal feed and vegetable oil. We all know that replacing bio-diverse rainforests with mono-cultural farms is bad news for planet Earth.

Surprisingly, Jimmy's next visit was to an Hamish farmer who grows GM wheat. Though the Hamish won't have anything to do with most modern technologies they didn't think twice about GM crops. The big plus was increased yield, according to the farmer. "Be fruitful and multiply" etc. There were no minuses in his eyes. The visit to the US also showed that there are no laws requiring food producers to say whether any food product contains GM material. American citizens, you have my deepest sympathies.

In Europe, Jimmy saw that most Europeans are against GM crops. Many Europeans are willing to risk imprisonment and destroy GM crops. When Jimmy told people that GM crops require less pesticides and were drought resistant, some changed their mind and were more inclined to use GM foodstuffs.

However, there are natural ways of growing that keep pests at bay. Increasing the number of natural insect predators is one way. Growing certain crops together that fend off each other's pests is another. Also, if GM crops provide no food for certain insects will the dying off of those insects affect the food chain and humans in the long run?

Finally, Jimmy went to Uganda to see a team developing fungus resistant bananas. Here we were told that locals were stealing the GM crops to grow in place of their non-resistant banana crops. Desperate people will always take desperate measures, especially if they are uneducated.

We had no qualms about using leaded petrol or CFCs in refrigeration until it was shown that lead and CFCs were slowly poisoning us. So why the headlong rush into GM food crops when disaster maybe awaits us? Why poison ourselves to make the business élite wealthier?

There are those that say we need GM crops to feed the billions of extra mouths that the next few decades will bring. Of course, you all know my answer to that. If we had fewer mouths then we wouldn't need to destroy the planet to feed them. In the long run there will be global starvation no matter what happens. If we don't grow GM crops then there will be a food shortage. If we do grow GM crops then we will probably kill off the ecosystems that allow us to farm and that will result in starvation too.

Stimulating the economy

Yesterday, in the UK, the government released a pre-budget report to stimulate the economy. We have been given a 2.5% reduction in VAT (sales tax) so all is fine. We just have to go out and spend, spend, SPEND the blues away! Funny how all these economic problems are the fault of us consumers.

When corrupt bankers made a mess of the financial system, they were not asked to hand back their bonuses to pay for their crimes. No, our governments raised the national debt that we, the people, will have to pay back through taxes.

Now, we are in a recession and to stimulate the economy more debt (from £500 billion to £1 trillion) has been raised with tax cuts today, followed by crippling taxes tomorrow. All that just to get us out the door, buying junk.

In a previous blog, which I used to write, I wrote about our governments frog marching us to ATMs and dragging us at gunpoint to the shopping malls. It hasn't come to that yet but our political and business élite might just get that desperate for us to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Before the pre-budget report was given in the Houses of Parliament, Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a speech to the Confederation of British Industry. Almost at the very beginning of his speech he mentioned, "a world of finite resources". In the past I might have perked up but I know Gordon. He was soon talking about growth this and growth that. Growth, growth, growth! That's why I don't bother listening to politicians. I still can't see how a planet of finite resources can provide infinite economic growth.

On the one hand politicians talk about looking after the environment but as soon as their precious economy goes "tits up" then it's growth, spend, green what?

Meanwhile, in the US, the people have spoken. Well, as much as people are allowed to speak. The élite put up a suit and you vote for him or out comes the national guard and a national emergency. I applaud the American people for wanting change but I think the west's problems are too much for even Mr Obama to solve. Also, I think many Americans voted for Obama because they wanted him to find a new way of living their old bankrupt lifestyle. That just isn't going to happen.

First, the US has a national debt of over $10 trillion and that is not going to come down any time soon with the kind of projects the new president will have in mind. The US and the UK have awful trade deficits. All the mid and far east sovereign wealth funds are using the dollar and sterling IOUs we use to buy oil and plastic junk (for that is all our currencies are) to buy up our nations' assets.

If this recession does end, and there is nothing to say it will do so any time soon, our currencies will have been devalued further and our place in the world diminished. I am not for standing in the way of history and know that civilisations come and go. I just think that a small minority enriching themselves whilst giving away our national wealth is a crime.

Buy cheap food while you can

During the year I took the opportunity to buy rice in bulk and grow my own potatoes. No more snacking on expensive processed food. I grew my own salad greens and bought the cheapest (but also healthiest) meat I could find. This year I reduced my daily food expenditure to about £1.60 per day.

With the price of oil momentarily falling below $50 per barrel last week, some might think that the record oil and food prices were just a temporary aberration. Oil has only fallen in price because our stop-start global economy is temporarily in stop mode. Rising food prices were partly due to the amount of oil it takes to produce our food and also because many foodstuffs can be converted into fuel thus creating competition between food and fuel producers.

For now, there will be less conversion of food into fuel as petroleum is cheap enough, and in any case there isn't so much demand for fuel at the moment. However, any recovery in the global economy will see oil heading towards new records. More so as there will be less oil and more people.

Not only are dwindling oil reserves and an increasing population going to affect the price of food but also problems with our remaining farmland will add to our woes. As the population increases urban areas grow and farmland is lost. The quality of the remaining farmland worsens daily as there is increased pressure to grow more food per hectare. Artificial fertiliser may temporarily increase productivity but ultimately destroys the natural soil ecosystem.

China is the world's most populated country and fast becoming the number one economy. Not only does China suck in resources from around the globe to make the rubbish we waste our money upon but also sucks in food to feed its increasingly more affluent population.

Most of us can only see as far as the end of our own street, some no further than their front door. A globalised economy can move goods from one side of the globe to the other. When China goes hungry the money it has made from our credit binge will allow China to be first in the queue for food and fuel.

China is suffering from soil erosion as forests are felled for construction, to clear land for growing and for building new cities. The farmland doesn't last long as winds blow it, and rains sweep it, all away. New cities eat into farmland and the new urban class demands a western diet. China can only produce 90% of its own food and that percentage is about to drop.

This year's food price rise was not a temporary phenomenon. There's no time like the present for losing a few excess pounds and growing your own food. As we come out of this bust (and not for the last time) then demand will once again outstrip demand for food and fuel.

Guardian - Soil erosion to cut harvests in China's breadbasket by 40%

A cheaper cut above the rest

There is much on the television about eating cheaper cuts of meat to lower our food bills. Many cuts of meat have fallen out of favour. However, there is little on a pig that is inedible and yet people turn their noses up at pig trotters and shins.

A friend of mine enjoyed eating liver. If you buy liver in a supermarket then it is always liver from a cow. Instead of paying for this kind of liver, my friend would go to her local butcher and pick up a bag of pig's liver for nothing because the butcher couldn't give it away.

Today, I was in the supermarket looking for some chicken. Last week there was discounted cooked ham and so for the past four days I ate it stir fried into some egg fried rice. A little monotonous but cheap and certainly tasty.

With the ham now used up, I fancy some chicken in black bean sauce or some chicken curry. In the poultry section of the supermarket I was greeted with a choice between skinless and boneless chicken fillets at £6 for 600g or drumsticks and thighs with skin and bones left on for a price of £1.38 for 1000g. A no-brainer if ever I saw one.

Chicken is chicken. How lazy do you have to be not to prepare a piece of chicken, the way you need it? On getting home, out came the knife and I had the bones out and left in the fridge for a soup. Some of the meat will go into the soup. The rest of the meat is for the Chinese and Indian feasts to come. £1.38 for meat that is going to last me for a week.

What in the name of self-reliance are you up to?

With the growing and foraging season behind me, it is now the tinkering season. Over the summer I finished selling off all that was no longer useful to me. Old academic text books, childhood games and toys, and anything else that wasn't nailed to the floor was sold off, given away or dumped at the recycling plant.

I did gain a few things; some more tools, wine making equipment that was given away on Freecycle and a shortwave radio system bought on eBay. One thing I didn't gain was weight. Down to 12st 5.5lbs from 16st a loss of 50.5 pounds (23 kilos).

I have had to give away all my trousers with their 38-inch waists and buy a pair of 34-inch trousers. However, only the one pair as they are getting a little too big and so I will have to start buying 32-inch trousers in the future.

Dieting is now a lot easier than when I started losing weight. Even the thought of consuming as much as I once ate makes me feel ill. Three or four wholesome meals and plenty of exercise is all I have now, with no snacks in-between. Today, I walked a mile visiting the supermarket, a shopping list in hand with no deviations from it. I spend no more than £40 per month on food. With the bulk of my carbohydrate intake coming from potatoes I grew earlier this year and a 22 kilo sack of rice I bought cheaply, last spring.

In the shed I am once again finding time for wood gas experimentation. I recently bought a book on designing and building centrifugal fans. I desperately need one to get into automotive gasification. My time is currently taken up with converting an old leaf blower into a gas exhaust blower. I am learning new skills in cold metal forming.

With regards to where I am going to be next year, well I am all packed and ready to leave. I shall be going to Spain next month to meet with someone who has a selection of small farms for me to look at. Spain is still a lot cheaper than Ireland. There are some places tucked away in the mountains with a similar climate to Ireland so there is no need to fry or go thirsty. Fingers crossed!

Oh and considering recent postings and comments. I have some Spanish ancestry so I am running home rather than running away. ;-)

Overpopulation #2

A few concluding remarks to make about my previous post.

Am I the only person to see through the lie that our political leaders tell us? That "we need newcomers to our countries because we don't breed enough and need newcomers to pay taxes for our public services".

Excuse me but if our population shrinks because we are responsible citizens, who don't overpopulate, then our reduced population size won't need so many public services. With a smaller population we won't need so many policemen. With less traffic on the roads we won't need so many road building projects. With a smaller population we won't need such a large NHS to look after our health.

A smaller population is the best way for us to fulfil are carbon emission obligations.

If we continue to grow our population, just for tax purposes, then we only exacerbate our problems. The more people there are then the more people that grow old and the more people we need to pay taxes for more services. A never-ending cycle until resource depletion does away with all of us.


You might like to visit FairDebate.org a website with an American perspective on overpopulation.

I am often attacked for adding overpopulation to the debate on climate change and man's impact on the environment. Yes, we can and probably will add billions more to the global population. However, it will be to the detriment of those of us who are already here.

You can pack thousands more chickens into a battery farm but eventually the health of the farm will impinge upon the quality of life of its inhabitants. The planet is finely balanced such that humans are increasingly affecting the lives of all organisms.

Whether you believe global warming is man-made, or the product of natural processes, the fact is that the globe is warming and that will have a marked effect on our lives. Filling your car with bio-fuel might make you feel good inside but it will leave poor people in the developing world feeling empty inside their stomachs.

A left-leaning US president will want to spread the wealth. However, because there are many more poor people than there are well-off people, spreading the wealth won't do much for the poor. If all 7 billion of us lived equally then the majority of people in the world wouldn't see much of an improvement in their life.

Only through a sustainable human population size can we ensure a comfortable life for all of our planet's citizens. Without population reduction the world's problems cannot be solved.


The most annoying thing about losing weight

The most annoying thing about losing weight are the plateaus. You find yourself stuck at a particular weight for a couple of days. After a few days, you find yourself losing weight again but the plateaus can put you off, and make you return to the bad old ways.

During the two previous weeks, I found myself stuck around the 12st 10lb mark (178lbs or 81 kilos). The reasons are plain to see. First, ASDA decided to sell bags of crisps at 3.9p oer bag. Two bags of canola and palm oil drenched starch per day are not helpful. Portion size creep on my main meal didn't help. And, my exercise regime had become too easy.

The first problem was simple to cure. Selling starch at such a rediculously cheap price is probably one of the reasons why we westerners are a bunch of fatties. I still have a sack of potatoes I grew myself so why pay for crisps no matter how appealing the price may appear.

Portion size is always a problem, which is why I use a set of digital scales to weigh everything afore preparing it. Normally, I cook enough to last me a few days but when I cook something really delicious there is always a temptation for a second helping later in the day. That is where apples come into play. Snack on something healthy and with fewer calories than your main meal.

Finally, I changed my exercise regime because it was too easy. When I first started my exercise routine last March, I could barely do 20 trunk curls without wanting to call for an ambulance. As I have gotten fitter, and the Michelin tyres have left my stomach, I can now do about 60 trunk curls plus 100 trunk twists whilst holding weights. I have now cut back the trunk curls to 50 but make them more intense by holding myself in the up position for a few seconds thus forcing the trunk muscles to work harder.

Since the changes, my refershed low calorie diet and exercise regime mean that I have been losing half a pound per day since the weekend. Today I weighed 12st 7.5lbs (175.5lbs or 79.7 kilos). The belly is almost gone so I have about another half stone to lose. And then I'm going to have a mother big bucket of fried chicken!!!

Just the once, I promise.