Archive for the 'Sustainability Science' Category

(Chronologically Listed)

the physics of sustainability: on zero entropy systems

max entropy

My 2002 book stressed “closing the loops”, and we’ve since learned much about how this can be done.

In one key moment, physicist Mae-Wan Ho half-accidentally discovered that “living organisms appear like a dynamic liquid-crystal-display”. This must mean, reasoned Ho, that living organisms are highly organized, and "coherent energy is being mobilized and transformed in the organisms”.

Ho set out to reformulate the thermodynamics for living systems, based on this core principle, which has “large implications for ecosystems, food, health and economies."

Most important, our "maximum entropy" model is precisely wrong. We need a "zero-entropy" model of sustainable systems.

Published by Ken on May 2nd, 2010 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

more HCA video: Ramsey Taum says keep it REAL

islanders

There are many solid reasons to watch this presentation at last week's Hawaii Conservation Alliance conference, especially including where Ramsey Taum ends up after a marvelous romp through native insights on sustainability.

Taum opens with this quote from Marcel Proust: ""The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Then he adds, "Sustainability acknowledges the systemic relationships between activities and entities that at first glance may not reveal their connectivity." Yeah, try them new 'eyes'!

Taum's presentation is all about the special sustainability challenges in these islands, sitting on the mountaintops of the "Blue Continent".

Published by Ken on August 12th, 2009 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

sustainability courses, KIUC get local news play

kcc sustainability

Nice piece in today's Garden Island on my upcoming series of sustainability short courses, and yesterday's op-ed by the venerable Walter Lewis on the need for a KIUC rate hike was also kewl!

Have to say our island sustainability conversation continues to amp up, and I'm getting more and more "pinch me" moments as our community learning and dialogue advances. Seems like only yesterday that sustainability was 'fringy' stuff...

Sadly for most of us, getting in this conversation takes some homework. For openers, we gotta change how we think, and that's as tough a task as there is.

Published by Ken on August 9th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

sustainability is not the absence of un-sustainability

ehrenfeld book cover

"Greening" is about making us less un-sustainable. Sustainability is something else", and "we'll need both", says John Ehrenfeld (via sloanrev).

Ehrenfeld's new book defines sustainability as "a positive vision of the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever…It is an emergent property that only appears when the whole system is functioning properly.”

Greening, or working on eco-efficiency, is critically important, yet this is not sustainability. This is perpetuation of our 'quick fix' obsession, which might reduce our un-sustainability, at best.

"Creating sustainability requires a new story of how the world works and how humans act", says Ehrenfeld.

Published by Ken on July 17th, 2009 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

the physics of sustainability: on zero entropy systems

max entropy

My 2002 book stressed "closing the loops", and we've since learned much about how this can be done.

In one key moment, physicist Mae-Wan Ho half-accidentally discovered that "living organisms appear like a dynamic liquid-crystal-display". This must mean, reasoned Ho, that living organisms are highly organized, and “coherent energy is being mobilized and transformed in the organisms".

Ho set out to reformulate the thermodynamics for living systems, based on this core principle, which has "large implications for ecosystems, food, health and economies.”

Most important, our “maximum entropy” model is precisely wrong. We need a ‘zero-entropy’ model of sustainable systems.

Published by Ken on April 13th, 2009 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

criminal acts: on sustainability and culpability

criminal acts

Perpetuating our unsustainable behavior can hardly be blissful, when ignorance is no excuse for law-breaking.

And never mind that awareness is like a curse, where you cannot NOT see our stupidity.

It’s gotta be immoral to continue spewing carbon long after we know it does irreparable damage to the planet, and since business-as-usual will increase this risk, it must be considered unethical. Even geo-engineering to fix our mess has an ethical dimension (via 2020science).

Fact is, Catholics now recognize “polluting the earth” as a “deadly sin”. So, are we gonna start putting folks in jail for driving around in spew-mobiles?

Published by Ken on February 3rd, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

Stanford tackles next revolution with new energy institute

global energy

Something there is about oil company and hedge fund money that wants it to go green...or so it seems down on "the Farm".

Stanford yesterday announced the creation of a $100 million energy-research institute that will house a new sustainable-energy research center. And the donors are: former execs at an oil company and a hedge fund. Kewl! (via greeninc)

Already, Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project, is researching energy technologies from fuel cells to carbon capture and storage.

Now, Lynn Orr, who heads GCEP, will direct Stanford’s new Precourt Institute for Energy, which will also house the new TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

Published by Ken on January 13th, 2009 tagged Energy, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

things aren’t the thing: on feeling like belonging

my things

Things are "totems, stand-ins for psychological/spiritual needs", says Dave Roberts (via gristmill).

So, 'voluntary simplicity' misses the point of consumerism if it focuses only on giving up our things, right?

The point, says Roberts, is to find "alternative ways to provide people the sense of belonging, security and status” that we believe things can provide.

What's striking about the "frenzied grasping for stuff" is not the stuff but the frenzied grasping.

“We seem perpetually unfulfilled, convinced that new or other or more stuff will fill the holes inside us.…And that’s the hole in sustainability thinking about changing behavior.

Published by Ken on December 26th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

Stanford, Cambridge scholars pencil out energy potentials

wind is best

So much noise surrounds the promotion of various green energy technologies that it's great to see independent assessments of these alternatives.

Now, two of our top minds tackle this task with mountains of data and calculations that tend to confirm what we already know.

Wind is best says Stanford's Mark Jacobson, yet we will be hard-pressed to substitute our fossil fuels with a combination of green sources, says David MacKay at Cambridge.

Jacobson's purpose is to "review and rank major proposed energy-related solutions”, while McKay guides us around the “claptrap” to actions that really make a difference and to policies that add up.

Published by Ken on December 17th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

Hawaii profs to compete for big grant in sustainability science

UH sustainability grant

Next April on Earth Day we'll learn who's getting a million bucks for sustainability research at UH Manoa.

Yesterday, UH announced the competition among its own faculty for this new  2-year grant with a March 1 proposal deadline. The intent is to promote an interdisciplinary research effort in an area of sustainability research of significant relevance to Hawaii (via HIreporter).

It is anticipated that after two years the successful applicant team will be able to "transition the project to an externally funded center/program that will continue to address critical issues around sustainability science, technology and policy." Look out for UH! And there’s more…

Published by Ken on December 9th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

why Hawaii needs a Gore: on sustainability beyond politics

joann yukimura

Got some facetime yesterday with JoAnn Yukimura following her unsuccessful run for Kauai Mayor on a sustainability platform, and came away refreshed in my views of our political leadership.

Asked if she’d consider "pulling a Gore" by stepping out of politics to spearhead a sustainability advocacy campaign, Yukimura demurely smiled and said it was "an interesting idea".

One reason I find it interesting is the state of practice in our state/county governments. The way it's stacking up, it’ll be years before these bodies slog through all the themes and minutiae comprising a deep sustainability agenda...energy, transport, food, building, goods & services, and waste.

Published by Ken on December 5th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

sustainability favors the color blind: on ‘green’ branding

peeling green

Doesn't matter if your purchasing pattern pegs you as pea green or evergreen...what matters is whether your lifestyle is sustainable.

So argues John Rooks, in a marvelous essay on the use of colors in sustainability marketing (via enviroleader).

Says Rooks, "green was an obvious color to hang the environmental renaissance on. It was a reclaiming of the old pejorative 'greenies' and 'treehuggers'”, yet 'green' has been co-opted as a shortcut to simply imply sustainability..."a thin varnish on top of brands and ideas."

On the other hand, true sustainability does not need color. It's "transparent, clear, open, void of obscuring color", says Rooks.

Published by Ken on November 23rd, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

eco-nomics spotlights asset values outside the market

natural capital

Never mind that market values have diverged from actual values in the economy. Most of our valuable ecological assets aren't even on the books, says Robert Costanza (via commondreams).

That's because large parts of the natural world are usually viewed as "free", says Costanza, including wetlands that purify water, oceans that produce fish, and trees that soak up greenhouse gases...among other 'ecosystem services'.

Costanza sees the current financial crisis as a chance to put price tags on nature in a radical economic rethink to ensure that the depletion of our planet's biocapacity gets figured into conventional measures of wealth. Now that’s eco-nomics!

Published by Ken on November 2nd, 2008 tagged Ecosystems Research, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

framework for sustainability thinking: 12 stops in a matrix

knowledge matrix

Listening to Julian Darley* dish sustainability solutions, I couldn't help thinking that our greatest need at the moment is 'knowledge management'.

That is, creating a framework for storing what we're learning, based on a new mental map of what we need to know. And then growing a network for sharing and building this knowledge on the fly.

Darley goes on at such length and each item is so compelling that I begin to lose track of where we are and end up with a laundry list...which is not what we need. We need something like a three-dimensional matrix to depict all the interconnected elements.

Published by Ken on October 26th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

Ariyoshi and me: have we progressed since the ’02 writings?

george ariyoshi

Hard to believe Hawaii's former guv George Ariyoshi has been writing about sustainability since launching his column in Hawaii Business back in August '02.

And, hard to believe my Kauai sustainability book was also published six years ago. (Sheesh! Time flies even when we're NOT havin' fun...heh)

Back in August '02, Ariyoshi opined, "To correct our course, we must ask, 'What is the right decision for the long term? How can we, acting together as an informed community, fulfill our obligation to coming generations?'"

My book's Foreword envisioned an islander "ethic of taking responsibility for others, nature and the future".

Published by Ken on October 2nd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

building sustainability science: going beyond panaceas

sustainability science

Sustainability science aims to find solutions for diverse and complex problems. Yet, how do we go beyond abstract cure-all proposals for achieving sustainable systems?

Late last year, a special issue of PNAS sought to "challenge the presumption that scholars can generate simple, predictive models of linked systems and deduce general solutions to problems of the overuse of resources."

Elinor Ostrom (et.al) recently noted that "scholarly journals are peppered with works predicting ecological disasters unless some preferred cure-all is adopted" (via PNAS).

Never mind that researchers out in the field are often distressed by these cure-all proposals from academics. We need better science.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

which city is least unsustainable? on rankings by SustainLane

sustainland city rankings

Never mind that Cleveland and Milwaukee jumped ahead of Honolulu in the latest 'sustainable city' rankings (via treehugger).

Does it make you feel better that we're ahead of Albuquerque? Do Portland residents care that NYC is creeping up on their number 1 ranking?

Let's face it, less unsustainable is a long way from sustainable.

All these rankings can do is offer a sense of who's shifting farther in the right direction. "Step away from the vehicle", and all that.

These indicators do (can) not show how far we have yet to go. For that, ya gotta check out the Cascadia Scorecard.

Published by Ken on September 22nd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

another speech, another spark: on the Hawaiian audience

speaker tags for stokes

Don't know why native Hawaiians aren't a bigger presence in our islands' sustainability conversation, since this would seem to be their issue.

After all, who knew more about sustainability than their ancestors who lived out here in the middle of the Pacific without metal or trade.

Still, my speech to the distinguished members of Hale O Na Alii last eve was a great opportunity to address Hawaiian leaders on their own turf.

I spoke on the similarity of sustainability thinking and the ancient kapu. Was I gentle? NO! "Stand up, kupuna", I exhorted. "This is THE Hawaiian issue. We can't do this without you!"

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

BAU down to indicators: known knowns by the numbers

cascadia scorecard for energy

Business-as-usual (BAU) is the enemy. Step away from the vehicle!

This message comes clear is all our conversations about sustainability, yet how do we know when we've turned the corner?

Town by town around the planet, we're starting to compile measures of progress toward sustainability goals, and the community indicator movement is blossoming into a major force in the transition to sustainability, even here in Hawaii.

The Kauai Planning & Action Alliance, for example, is moving to complete its first update of the community indicators we produced last year (of course I'm involved). And the state of practice is rapidly evolving, thanks to two Seattle-based efforts.

Published by Ken on September 17th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

get hooked on my heroine: the Dana Meadows video

dana meadows in 1994

Wow! Wudja believe this woman had an enormous influence on my life and work, yet I never got to meet her or catch one of her presentations.

Now we all can, thanks to the gang at Gund Institute, who have posted video of Donella Meadows' 1994 classic on envisioning sustainability.

From all those years of reading Meadows' "Global Citizen" columns, it was hard not to be most touched by her humanity and her adventuresome spirit.

Still, I wasn't prepared for this "Down to Earth" presentation. Meadows opens with a confession that she's tossed her prepared slides and will speak about some "new things".

Published by Ken on September 8th, 2008 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »