Archive for September, 2006

nexgen bamboo housing


More than 1 billion people worldwide live in bamboo houses, and that number could grow significantly if this new strategy succeeds: the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan. INBAR, a Beijing group, are sponsoring a design competition to develop panel-based modular structures.

The group issued a call for prototype designs for bamboo shelters (due by October 15th) based on a recent international design workshop on modular bamboo housing.

Bamboo (called `Ohe by Hawaiians) has been getting a lot of attention in Hawai`i, and is already an allowable residential structure under island Building Codes. Bamboo vacation rentals (like this one) can be found and stands of bamboo are growing on each island.

Published by Ken on September 29th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comments Off

sustainable sushi on SusHI

bluefin tuna

The Ecostreet Blog has a great report on how "the British are creating such a demand for bluefin tuna that many EU fishing fleets are breaking laws and catching far more tuna than they are allowed to."

But they found that some outlets are already looking to “sustainable sushi” to help solve the problem. Moshi Moshi is a chain of sushi restaurants in the UK that is a leader in the “Invest in fish” campaign. They plan their menu around seasonal and local ingredients, and have removed bluefin tuna from their restaurants completely.

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2006 tagged Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

…but will goats eat Cat’s Claw?

goats on Kaua`i

The City of Seattle recently brought in a goat farmer from Spokane (Healing Hooves, via Treehugger) to help clear away blackberry brambles on a steep hillside around a utility substation that had become a fire hazard, and the brown-eyed herd proved quite obliging.

Turns out, with the right training, goats, sheep and even cattle can survive and thrive on a mixture of weeds, brush, and grasses, thus helping to control weeds and reduce fire danger.

Now then, what about Cat's Claw (Caesalpinia decapetala)? One of the islands' most troubling invasive species, this woody vine with sharp thorns and yellow flowers forms impenetrable thickets over widespread areas of Kaua'i, O'ahu, and Hawai'i.

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

letting go of fear: an exercise in systems thinking

click for larger dynamics of fear

In the transformation to sustainability, we all face a huge, urgent task: to learn a new way of thinking.

Sustainability is not a phrase or a fad. If anything, it's a paradigm...a way of thinking...a sensibility. And we're going to need lots of practice (the subject of this post) to make the switch.

It's not about simple slogans or sound bites, but about the hard work of ensuring that we enhance our understanding of how everything is that we run into far fewer "ooops" moments than we did in our industrial era.

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

giving thought to how we think

Donella Meadows

If you are (as I am) a fan of Donella Meadows (RIP; I dedicated my book to her), you probably believe (as she did; from Alan AtKisson's 2001 eulogy) that "ultimately the world will choose maturity, compassion, and wisdom over mindless growth, consumption, and pollution". Despite your inherent optimism, you are probably also "worried, deeply worried, about the future of human civilization and the worsening ecological crisis."

Like 'Dana,' you probably believe in "the possibility of a higher spiritual power...and especially, in the inherent goodness of human nature, and in our ability to rise up together, to care for one another, to overcome adversity, to reinvent the world."

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

blowin’ in the winds

cane fire

Islanders like to think our air is 'clean' because the tradewinds blow everything 'away.'

But what comes (and goes) on the tradewinds?

How much of China's coal dust do we get, and who get's the soot from our cane fires?

One of my columns on 'eco-measures' in the Kaua'i Island News reports on the particulate matter found in our air (from the 'scorecard' by Environmental Defense), and it'll be a shocker for some.

Turns out, Kauai's level of PM-2.5 (the microscopic particles that cause most respiratory problems) ranks us in the 40th percentile on a 'clean-to-dirty' spectrum among U.S. counties.

Published by Ken on September 27th, 2006 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

fear of flying to Hawai`i

flying fear

Brian Nattras isn't the only commentator on island sustainability already sparking worries about Hawaii's umbilical dependency on air travel. (Brian was, though, to my knowledge, the first to sound the alarm here on Kaua` a Po`ipu presentation last October.)

At a recent "Hawai`i 2050" kick-off event on O`ahu, the UH futurist, Jim Dator, spun several plausible scenarios in which air travel to Hawai`i goes way down.

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

green style finds


If you're a style-monger who's worried that sustainability could ship us back to sackcloth and ashes...check out fabulouslygreen (via sustainable style), a new blog that reports on the hottest eco-style products in fashion and interior design.

They highlihght products that blend eco-modern style with sustainability and social responsibility.

Fabulous, no? Better still, their blog entries are their own musings and not paid for by advertising.

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2006 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

catalytic communities linked via Brazil


Brazil's Catalytic Communities (via WorldChanging) has evolved into an established leader in community empowerment.

CatComm's website offers public, freely available information (in three languages) on community-initiated solutions to local challenges, which may include everything from sanitation to unemployment to HIV. The CSD accepts submissions from community groups who have documented their work as a means of sharing their solutions with others who might use similar strategies to deal with issues in their own communities.

CatComm balances online and on-the-ground work, taking advantage of tech tools which create opportunities for individuals to meet and work face to face.

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comments Off

why Kauai was drier after Iniki


If more plants cause more rain, then having our plants hurricaned away just might explain why it didn't rain much on Kaua`i in late-1992. (Kauaians remember what a huge break this was during those months when we had tarps for roofing.)

This research note from Nature magazine (via Ecostreet Blog) finds a correlation between vegetation coverage (estimated from satellite photos) and rainfall in Africa's Sahel from 1982 to 1999. When the researchers added the previous month's greenness to a predictive model based on past rainfall levels, their predictive skill increased by 20%.

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

green economists ask big questions

green cities

Matthew Kahn, whose new book "Green Cities" is now available, has an interesting list of the "big questions" in environmental economics.

...Such as: How large are the economic costs caused by climate change? How much green R&D is being triggered? What are green public policies?

He got to thinking about this issue after keynoting a fascinating green economics conference at Vail (which I would have attended...but for the carbon offsets).

What's fascinating for me is that we're now starting to get answers to many of the questions green economists have been asking for years.

Published by Ken on September 25th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

community responses to changing energy future

peak moment tv

Peak Moment may well be the first television series on the topic of "peak oil" and positive responses to energy decline. As mentioned on Treehugger today, this is all about community solutions.

The weekly half-hour program features energy news with Rick Hartmann, followed by host Janaia Donaldson's conversations with guests about local food production, renewable energy, transportation alternatives, sustainability, economic localization, personal responses, and other topics.

Published by Ken on September 25th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comments Off

ahupua`a all over again


In ancient times, the Hawaiians could find most of the resources they needed within their own ahupua`a (a pie-shaped land division running from the ridges to the reefs).

Now the State is proposing a return to ahupua`a management as an integral part of its new "ocean resources management" vision. Public meetings now underway across the islands are focusing on integrated management of land and sea in collaboration with government and community groups. What a concept!

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

toward food self-sufficiency in the islands

100-mile diet

The concept of a 100-mile diet may be taking off on the continent, yet in the islands it essentially equates to growing our own food...on each island.

Since Hawai`i is starting at only 36% self-reliance in vegetables (as of 2004, according to the State's "market supply" figures), this means we have a long way to go (just like our suppliers).

The good news is that the islands could grow our own vegetables with a modest amount of land...according to my estimates, about 33,000 acres statewide, or roughly 1,800 acres on Kaua`i. (This is equal to about 3,400 sq.ft. per household.) To put this in perspective, Kaua`i currently has over 21,000 acres of fallow sugar cane land.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

social networking tool for sustainability


If you're not into drinking from a firehose, here's a new way to manage your learning about sustainability. Gusse is a network of folks who each have a bit of knowledge and are willing to share in order to advance our understanding of how cities might become less unsustainable.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

SUVs could best hybrids


Here's an item sparking some controversy in the blogosphere that purports to document how an SUV might not be so bad for the planet, after all....if you drive it long enough. Turns out the "ecological footprint" of a hybrid's batteries and composite materials is significant, paring down whatever mileage advantage they might have.

Net-net: An SUV driven twice as long as a hybrid could offset the extra energy from driving them with the energy savings from making them.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

water transport has a green footprint

bello mundo

Of course Hawai`i tourism is vulnerable to dramatic shifts in the price and availability of air travel, which many commentators (including the closing essay in this premier issue of Bello Mundo) view as a particularly problematic source of greenhouse gas emissions.

I recently wrote a column about the comparative energy footprint of different modes of transport, which clearly shows transport by boat has a 20:1 footprint advantage over jets.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

…and if sea levels rise


Here's a recent presentation by the Hawai`i Coastal Geology Group which shows what Waikiki might look like with a 1 meter rise in sea level.

(The Outrigger hotels might retain their name for a different reason.)

The presentation also describes (mostly misguided) efforts to keep the beaches and hold back the sea throughout the islands.

Perhaps instead of allowing more development on the beaches, Hawai`i should be moving its beaches to higher ground...

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2006 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

the taroist imperative


Following the theme of my book, this blog will track (among other issues) the 'just do it' initiatives of community-based organizations throughout the islands.

In this usage, a 'taroist' (evoking the metaphor of the taro patch. where community work gets done) is anyone who contributes to community work because it needs to be done.

For example, Bill Cowern (one of my favorite Kauaian taroists) has been planting trees on 4,000 acres (near Kauai's "tree tunnel") that can be chipped and gasified to provide 10% of our island's energy. Cowern decided to "just do it" 10 years ago because he saw our looming vulnerability to non-renewable energy sources.

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

strategies for preserving island biodiversity

We'll try to stay on top of the world-class science underway in the islands that is focused on our rainforests and other land areas where native species (somehow) persist.

One fascinating line of inquiry concerns the prospects for island reforestation with Koa trees as part of a new island carbon sequestration strategy.


I recently presented a paper at the annual conference of the Hawai`i Conservation Alliance suggesting that these prospects (carbon credits) are now shifting island corporations and communities onto a converging path (based in part on my sustainability work with David Cole's Maui Land & Pineapple, Inc.). Restoration of island ecosystems is in everyone's interest.

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off