15 April 2010

Sweden's Secret Tin Can Millionaire

Reposted in full from the Daily Mail, 31 March 2010

'A tramp who scavenged for cans and old sandwiches for 40 years has died leaving behind a secret fortune worth nearly £1 million.

Known as Tin-Can-Curt, Curt Degerman, 60, had been known around his home town of Skelleftea, in northern Sweden, as a harmless eccentric who picked up tins to sell for pennies to shopkeepers and a recycling plant.

However, what neither his family nor those in the town knew was that he then used the money to buy stocks and shares.

For despite appearances to the contrary, Mr Degerman was for 40 years actually a dedicated player of the financial markets.

As well as eating left-over food from bins and wearing the same filthy blue anorak, Mr Degerman would regularly study the financial pages of newspapers in the town's public library every day.

'He went to the library every day because he didn't buy newspapers. There he read [Swedish business daily] Dagens Industri,' his cousin told local media at the time of his death.

'He knew the stock market inside out.'

It was thanks to his shrewd decisions that he amassed his fortune.

It was only after he died of a heart attack that his relatives found he had left behind shares worth more than £731,000 in a Swiss bank account.

In addition he left gold bars worth £250,000 as well as £275 of loose change at his home.

The closet millionaire was described by relatives as a 'very clever' child who had dropped out of school after a personal crisis.

His fortune came to light after a row developed following his death.

Mr Degerman had made a will leaving his entire fortune to one cousin who visited him during the months leading up to his death.

But another cousin who believed his father was entitled to a slice of the fortune contested the will when the full extent of the estate emerged.

Under Swedish inheritance law the uncle, whose name has not been made public, held the legal right to inherit his nephew's riches.

The two cousins eventually settled out of court this week, agreeing to split the fortune.'

Hotel Offers 'Cycle For Your Supper' Deal

Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 15 April 2010

'A Danish hotel is pioneering a pedal-power electricity generation scheme it hopes will catch on in other countries.

The Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers, 15 minutes from the center of the Danish capital and five minutes from Scandinavia's main airport, is installing two exercise bicycles hooked up to generators.

Guests will be invited to jump on and start pedaling - and if they produce enough electricity they will be given a free meal.

From June, they will be able to race against the 366-room hotel's solar panel system in a bid to produce the most electricity.

"Anyone producing 10 watt hours of electricity or more for the hotel will be given a locally produced complimentary meal encouraging guests to not only get fit but also reduce their carbon footprint and save electricity and money," the hotel said in a statement.

Hotel spokeswoman Frederikke Tommergaard said the free meal offer applied only to paying guests, not passers-by.

The value of the meal - any one of the main courses on the hotel restaurant or lobby bar's menu - is about 240 Danish crowns ($44), she told Reuters.

The electric bikes will be up and running from April 19 and the plan is to test the idea for a year with a view to expanding it to more Crowne Plaza hotels, part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.'

Freecycling, the 'Eco eBbay'

Excerpt from G Magazine, March/April 2010

'Cyber-kerbside, cashless eBay or gifting…whatever you call it, the Freecycle movement is a spectacular success, with more than 3.5 million members in over 75 countries, supported by an army of 10,000 volunteers. Each day, The Freecycle Network saves more than 300 tonnes of stuff from landfill...

Whether you are trying to shift your old mattress, a refrigerator, left-over hair dye or bubble wrap, odds are someone in your area will be willing to take it off your hands and put it to good use.

Freecycle matches up giver to receiver via online groups such as Yahoo, transforming someone's trash into someone else's treasure. Best of all, there's no money involved and no strings attached.

Freecycle is used by all manner of people. Non-profit groups use it to collect items for the needy, while empty-nesters and downsizers use it to get rid of extraneous clutter and renovators use it to dispose of or collect building materials...

Freecycle has also spread to some unlikely places, such as the Palestinian Occupied Territories...

While The Freecycle Network currently operates in English only, it's about to enable volunteers in non-English-speaking countries to translate the template into their own language...

So if you're scratching your head trying to work out what do with that mattress/goat/car tyre … don't dump it, Freecycle it!'

14 April 2010

From Plains To Plate: Food Convergence Declaration

From Plains to Plate was convened by Friends of the Earth in Adelaide - here is the declaration that emerged from this event, attended by over 700 people.



Food Convergence Declaration
From Plains to Plate: the Future of Food in South Australia
10-13 February 2010, City West Campus, UniSA, Adelaide, South Australia

From 10-13 February 2010, over 700 farmers, academics, government, health and community workers, environmentalists, permaculturalists, small growers, gardeners, students, educators and other community members gathered at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, for From Plains to Plate: the Future of Food in South Australia. Through four days of workshops, presentations and discussions, the participants united in their commitment to building a more just and sustainable food system to ensure the security of South Australia’s food into the future.

Food is one of our most fundamental human needs, yet the current industrial food and agriculture system is facing serious challenges. Our ability to produce and distribute food is threatened by environmental issues like climate change, land degradation through erosion and salinity, declining water availability, and the peaking of world oil production. Economic challenges like the rising costs of food relative to income and the concentration of the food system in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations have serious implications. Corporate concentration affects the ability of citizens to access good food, to know the origins and contents of their food, and to shape a food system that truly nourishes. Issues of access to good food also highlight the serious health effects of our current diet, demonstrated by the escalating prevalence of diet-related illnesses in our communities.

1. Food security and sustainability

Every Australian has the right to healthy, affordable and safe locally-grown food. Already urban, rural and remote communities across South Australia are working to develop the local food systems we need. They are cultivating and sharing food, skills and knowledge through a diversity of methods, from community gardens and backyard sharing, to farmers’ markets, Community Shared Agriculture, development of regional food groups and other community-based strategies. However, focussed and innovative Government partnership is required in South Australia to address the growing challenges to our food system.

Recommendation 1.1

Among the many possible approaches, we call for the establishment of a government agency for Food Security and Sustainability. Such a body would unite the many, disparate government approaches to food and agriculture under one agency to support diverse community and private initiatives for a health-promoting, just and sustainable food system.

Recommendation 1.2

We call for the security and sustainability of our food to be explicitly acknowledged as a central policy priority, which is reflected in government programs and made an integral aspect of political discussion and debate. In practical terms, it is important that the responsibilities of the current Ministerial portfolio for Food should include not only food production and the food industry as an important contributor to the economy, but also a prominent focus on community food needs as a key element of economic, social and health-related wellbeing.

Recommendation 1.3

In keeping with this, Government policy and advisory bodies with responsibilities relating to food should have their charters and membership include specific attention to issues of community access to food, and local food security and sustainability. As a means of developing a clear focus on these questions, the Minister for Food and all senior officers with related responsibilities should report to Parliament at least annually on actions being taken and concrete progress made.

We acknowledge the enormous potentials of urban food production to cultivate healthy and nutritious food close to the communities where it is to be consumed, reducing carbon emissions and oil dependency while increasing local food security. The proposed 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide provides an immediate opportunity to address the continuing availability of adequate areas of land suitable for food production close to population, with priority for preventing further alienation of productive land.

Recommendation 1.4

We call for detailed planning to establish entrenched land zoning for food security, to ensure the protection of nominated urban, peri-urban and rural high-quality agricultural land in perpetuity to ensure adequate local food production and distribution for the needs of local communities.

Recommendation 1.5

We call for rebates to support urban food production and incentives that improve the quality of the land, including through composting and vermiculture, and the withdrawal of financial incentives from industries that degrade the landscape.

Recommendation 1.6

In the face of both environmental and social challenges, we support measures that assist farming families, households and innovators to remain on the land, and support additional measures for transitioning to sustainable farming systems. We believe that community-based initiatives such as farmers’ markets, regional food groups and Community Shared Agriculture provide powerful models for directly supporting farmers to meet local needs.

Recommendation 1.7

To support this transition, we call for greater government funding for sustainable and organic farming approaches, including through provision for education and agricultural extension, research and development, and the development of sustainable value chains. Research into and trialling of new farming crops and livestock by agencies such as the CSIRO, including into indigenous varieties suited to Australia’s uniquely balanced landscape and climate, is essential in this transition.

Recommendation 1.8

Food labelling should clearly indicate products that may contain ingredients derived from genetic engineering processes and techniques, or that employ nanotechnology in their production or packaging. Consistent with the South Australian Government’s moratorium on the commercial production of genetically modified crops, we call for an end to field trials of genetically modified crops. Such a measure is essential to protect farming and food industries from contamination.

Recommendation 1.9

Food waste along the entire supply chain is a major environmental and climate change issue. Food waste comprises around 40 percent of what remains in household rubbish after recyclable materials and garden waste have been captured. By composting food waste, we not only reclaim nutrients, but also divert waste from breaking down in landfill where it can produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its heat-trapping ability.

Recommendation 1.10

In addition to diverting food waste from landfill, the amount of food waste across the supply chain needs to be significantly reduced. Research by The Australia Institute in 2009 revealed that Australian households throw away more than $5 billion worth of food each year. Wasting food not only wastes embodied nutrients and energy, but also wastes water, one of our most precious resources. In a recent report by the Stockholm International Water Institute, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Water Management Institute, it was estimated that in the United States, 30 percent of food is thrown away, equivalent to pouring 40 trillion litres of water into the garbage.

2. Public health

Recommendation 2.1

Significant government investment is required to enhance food literacy in schools and the community. Food literacy is essential to strengthen knowledge, skills and confidence in food preparation and cooking as well as household menu planning and food budgeting. The essential role of food in celebrating community and promoting health also needs to be recognised through greater support for community food events and shared eating.


2.2 We call for government to take action to ensure healthy and sustainable food on the public plate, including schools and child care, hospitals and aged care, prisons, government departments and the armed forces. The United Kingdom’s Healthier Food Mark is one example of how such a project could be implemented.


2.3 To cultivate more informed food choices and further public consciousness of the importance of healthy eating, we support the movement for more thorough food labelling, including interpretive front-of-pack labelling. The UK’s ‘traffic light’ labels suggest one model for informing food choices.

3. Economy

Under the current industrial food and agriculture system, farmers receive less for their work, while food prices continue to rise, land is degraded and rural and remote communities disintegrate. The market-based, export-oriented agricultural economy in its present form is failing to sustain healthy rural communities, to improve farmer livelihoods, to increase the sustainability of our food system or to increase access to healthy, fresh food for all. To ensure the security of our food system, a new food economy needs to prioritise local markets.

Disconnected from the true costs of food production, the price of food is artificially low, ignoring externalities such as environmental impact, declining public health and the erosion of rural and remote communities. The expansion of diverse, community-based food strategies such as Community Supported Agriculture and farmers’ markets are essential strategies to promote distribution mechanisms that provide farmers with a fair price, reflective of the dignity of their work and the true costs of production.

The industrial food economy favours the concentration of corporate control in the food system. This is expressed locally by the dominance of the two main supermarket chains, resulting in Australia having the most concentrated retail food sector in the world. The dominance of corporations erodes the ability of farmers to demand fair prices for their produce, and reduces consumer access to information about the origins of their food. It detracts from State efforts to sustain regional communities and develop an environmentally responsible economy.

4. Education

Recommendation 4.1

With the serious decline of rural and remote communities and farming numbers, the appreciation of good food and its cultivation must become central to all schooling. Students must learn the skills of sustainable food production, and have opportunities to develop these skills. We acknowledge and celebrate the pioneering work already being carried out by teachers and parents in many South Australian schools with school gardens and kitchens.

Recommendation 4.2

We call for greater Government financial, curriculum and professional development support to strengthen and expand this important work. Increased funding for communities across the spectrum of socio-economic status to engage with school garden and kitchen projects is essential to this. Likewise, we encourage the expansion of these programs into broader initiatives that cultivate understanding of the food system and an appreciation of good food through strengthening links with farms, farmers, and farm education programs. It is essential that funding for community-based food initiatives supports the longevity of existing projects as well as new initiatives.

Recommendation 4.3

We call for an expansion of opportunities for students to engage with sustainable agricultural education, incorporated into the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). At the tertiary level, we call for approaches to sustainable and just food systems to be incorporated into agricultural programs, and other programs where relevant. Crucially, social and ecological literacy needs to be an essential part of all teacher education.

Recommendation 4.4

We call for the reinstatement of horticulture courses in major regional centres such as Mount Barker and Murray Bridge, and for the revision of those courses to cultivate sustainable approaches to food production in the face of climate change and peak oil, in consultation with South Australia’s many experts in sustainability and agriculture.

Recommendation 4.5

Likewise, we call for Government support to facilitate access to good land for new farmers to enter sustainable food production without an immediate burden of debt.

5. Networks

The building of a just, sustainable and secure food system necessitates the convergence of diverse groups to work together. At From Plains to Plate, we have come together in recognition of our common ground. The work we do as a network of farmers, community members, health and government workers, neighbourhood organisations, teachers, academics, educators and community members in South Australia is echoed in the actions of social and environmental movements across Australia and the world. We are a global movement, an alliance across a diversity of sectors to assert the importance of the justice, sustainability, security and sovereignty of our food system.

To continue the vision of From Plains to Plate, we are working to establish a South Australian food policy council, composed of representatives from community, government, industry and academic sectors. Such a council would draw valuable lessons from the success of similar councils in North America, dedicated to supporting the development of just, sustainable and local food security.

Good food is one of our most fundamental human needs, requiring action across a diversity of sectors. Already elements of a just and sustainable food vision are germinating on farms, in backyards and community spaces around South Australia. For this vision of a secure and nourishing food future to flourish amid the environmental, social and economic challenges we face, it demands that all sectors unite to place food at the centre of their work.'

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 1 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 2 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 3 of 7)

'You can't have a concern about climate change if you believe its induced by human beings without then being concerned about population levels...'

2:20 - hooray! Someone has asked WHY do we need to keep growing?

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 4 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 5 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 6 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

Dick Smith on Population March 2010 (Part 7 of 7)

Presentation convened by The Australia Institute; sourced from YouTube

13 April 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - Oprah (Part 1)

'...the french fries count as a vegetable...'

'...people don't want to change until the pain of staying the way they are gets worse than change...'

Sourced from

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - Oprah (Part 2)

'...I just think that, you know...enough's enough...'

Sourced from YouTube

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - Oprah (Part 3)

A burial ceremony for the deep-fryer!

Sourced from

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution - Oprah (Part 4)

'...don't give me [an excuse of] time, don't give me money - give me ownership...'

Sourced from

Jamie Oliver's School Dinners Improve Academic Results

Saint Jamie of the Oliver! He should be knighted. Seriously.

Reposted in full from The Guardian, 29 March 2010

'Absences down after chef changed junk food menu - a result which is a boost for celebrity as he struggles for US support

He has been ridiculed by the chat show host David Letterman, accused of high-handedness by a local radio DJ and reduced to tears by recalcitrant fast food-consumers during his war on American obesity. He has even dressed up as a giant pea pod in an attempt to turn the US on to his healthy eating agenda.

So Jamie Oliver will doubtless be relieved to hear of a timely reminder of his more gilded reputation back home. Today an audience of prestigious economists was told that the healthier school dinners introduced by the celebrity chef had not only significantly improved pupils' test results, but also cut the number of days they were off sick. The effects, researchers said, were comparable in magnitude to those seen after the introduction of the literacy hour in the 90s.

The proportion of 11-year-olds in Greenwich, south London, who did well in English and science rose after Oliver swept "turkey twizzlers" and chicken dinosaurs off canteen menus in favour of creamy coconut fish and Mexican bean wraps, according to a study of results in the south east London borough.

The number of "authorised absences" — which are generally due to illness – fell by 15% in the wake of his 2004 Feed Me Better campaign, brought into the nation's sitting rooms via the Channel 4 series Jamie's School Dinners.

But the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society also heard that the poorest pupils – those who are eligible for free school meals – did not seem to benefit. Instead it was mainly children from more middle class homes who saw their scores boosted after Oliver's junk food ban was implemented.

The researchers estimated that the proportion of students who got level 4 in their English Sats at key stage 2 increased by 4.5 percentage points after his intervention.

The percentage who got level 5 in science was up 6 percentage points, they reported.

Oliver described the research results as "fantastic". "It's the first time a proper study has been done into the positive effects of the campaign and it strongly suggests we were right all along," he said.

"Even while doing the programme, we could see the benefits to children's health and teachers. We could see that asthmatic kids weren't having to use the school inhalers so often, for example.

"We could see that it made them calmer and therefore able to learn."

The chef said it was further evidence that faster movement was needed towards improving take-up of nutritious, home-cooked school meals across the country, by training dinner ladies, getting kitchens and dining halls up to scratch and educating children and parents.

The presentation of the findings comes at a convenient time for Oliver, whose US version of the Greenwich project, currently being shown on the ABC network, has seen locals in America's unhealthiest city, Huntington, West Virginia, give him short shrift.

"We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day," radio DJ Rod Willis snapped at Oliver during the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. "You come to town and you say you're going to change our menus. I just don't think you should come here and tell us what to do."

Last week the Essex-born chef appeared on the Late Show, and was forced to listen to host David Letterman predict he would fail in his crusade to transform people's health. Letterman insisted diet pills were the only way to lose weight in the US.

Michèle Belot, of Oxford university's Nuffield College, and Jonathan James from the University of Essex, monitored results and absences in five neighbouring local authorities – chosen for their socio-economic similarities to Greenwich — as a control. They looked at figures from 2002 to 2007 – skipping the school year 2004/5, when the new menus were introduced.

The effects seen, they said, were particularly impressive given that they emerged within a relatively short period of time, and that the campaign was not even directly targeted at improving educational outcomes.

"As indicated by the relative fall in absenteeism, it is likely that children's health improved as well, which could have long-lasting consequences for the children involved not only through improvement in educational achievements, but also in terms of their life expectancy, quality of life and productive capacity on the labour market," the study said.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers presented at its conference in Manchester today found that almost seven in 10 union members thought all primary school pupils should be given free school meals.

The same number wanted controls in place to limit the sale of chocolate, sweets, crisps and deep fried foods.

A third said the dining room at their school was unsuitable, and 56% said they had seen pupil behaviour deteriorate after eating food with a high fat or sugar content.

James said the research team was now looking at why children from poorer homes seem to miss out on the benefits of the changes brought in by Oliver.

"This is a source of concern, in particular in light of using school meals as a way of reducing disparities in diet across children," the report said.

It suggested the difference might be because those from richer backgrounds adjusted more easily to changes in school meals, or because the less privileged students were more represented among those getting lowest scores, and improvements were harder to achieve for those at the bottom than in the middle.

Meanwhile there are signs that the tide in the US may be turning in Oliver's favour just as it did in Greenwich, where initial hostility from dinner ladies eventually turned to adoration. More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition supporting his campaign for better school food. After he appeared with Oprah Winfrey on Friday, 7.5 million people tuned in to watch his show.

The old Greenwich menu...

Burgers and chips

Sausage rolls

Fish fingers

Drumstick-shaped turkey nuggets

Chicken nuggets (pictured)

And the new one

Roast beef and all the trimmings

Mushroom and lentil bake

Mexican bean wrap (pictured)

Lamb and vegetable pie

Creamy coconut fish'

The F**K It Way

Sometimes it pays to stop worrying about the world and just say...