Archive for October, 2006

stern facts on U.S. emissions

stern review of climate change

Now that the Stern review is out, we can update our analysis of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with other countries.

We notice that, yes, CO2 emissions are growing faster in China (3.7%pa) and India (4.3%pa) than in the U.S. (1.4%pa), yet their energy intensity is declining faster (-6.4% and -2.5%, respectively, versus -1.5% per annum) and their energy sources are no dirtier than ours.

The U.S. emits as much greenhouse gas as China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa combined.

Published by Ken on October 31st, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

avian malaria grows as Hawai`i warms

hawaiian i`iwi bird susceptible to malaria

A living laboratory on Hawai`i island is the modest headquarters for an ambitious global warming research project (via PBS).

Small changes in the climate here can immediately affect plants and animals, even wipe them out entirely.

Because of that sensitivity, one goal of the so-called bio-complexity project is to see whether the Hawaiian ecosystem can serve as an early warning system for climate change elsewhere and how it may impact plants and animals.

Published by Ken on October 31st, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | 1 Comment »

Pablo says reconsider OTEC…for Kaua`i

port allen electric power plant

Kauai's new energy coop is launching a crash program to get the island off fossil fuels (80% from this "dirty" Port Allen plant), after a timely review of available options.

KIUC picked the top five, and rated OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) number six.

The web's top blogger on energy technologies, Pablo Paster, notes that if the "efficiency of energy conversion" were considered, OTEC would rank much higher.

It's a free "heat engine", says Pablo, in that it brings the cold water (free) together with the warm air (free) and converts the difference into electricity.

Published by Ken on October 30th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

Rotarian builder goes green in big way

unlimite4d construction goes green on kauai

One of the biggest builders on Kaua`i is going green, and I would expect nothing less from a fellow Rotarian.

Why? Because it's the right thing to do, and that's a large part of what Rotary's commitment to high professional standards is all about.

When I wrote about the paucity of "green builders" in the islands, I had no idea Peter Robson was quietly shifting his development strategy.

Peter 's company appeared in Sunday's Garden Island announcing their green innovations and exhorting "other local businesses to join us in making the right choices for our island community."

Published by Ken on October 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

get yer green fellowship here

echo green fellowships

Do you have an incredible new idea that could change your community, your country, or your world?

Are you an entrepreneur who won't rest until your idea has been brought to life? Or a leader who has recently started an organization to do just that?

If so, apply for an Echoing Green Fellowship.

You could receive up to $90,000 in seed funding and support to launch a new organization that turns your innovative idea for social change into action (via the inspired protagonist).

Think about it... How often does an offer like this come along?

Published by Ken on October 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

flash from wombat: all is one

wombat on all is one

The wombat speaks, and he's smarter than you, so listen up!

In less than a minute, this rapid-fire animation tells you everything you need to know about how everything is connected and how to get along on earth for the next million years (via global community).

...Not two earths, not three, but one. All is one.

Check out this short, irreverent take on the state of the world! It's cute and potent.

This from one of those rare success stories: a philanthropic foundation does so well that its funded projects become self-sufficient and it cashes out and starts over.

Published by Ken on October 30th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

mesh network for island ecosystem monitoring

HBMP at CCRT

An integral element of Pacific NEON comes from a new company that has prototyped a mesh network of wireless, rugged, self-powered, data collection hardware with advanced capability to collect, analyze, and visualize environmental data on a real-time basis in all island ecosystems (via EPSCoR).

The new technology effort is led by ecologists at the UH Center for Conservation Research and Training in collaboration with engineers from Stanford's National Biocomputation Center.

The technological innovations that resulted from this interdisciplinary collaboration created a set of “next generation cybertools” ready to be commercialized by a new Honolulu-based start-up company called Intelesense Technologies, Inc. established in January 2005.

Published by Ken on October 29th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

FAST track for Hawai`i ecosystem research

EPSCoR at UH

The Hawaiian word imua means to go forward, and in Hawaii IMUA also stands for Investing in Multidisciplinary University Activities, which is a key element of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

The EPSCoR initiative is just getting underway at UH, lead by the Focal Area Science and Technology (FAST) team, which includes some of the islands' pre-eminent ecologists.

EPSCoR's mission to promote biodiversity in an integrated island environment is centered on three research thrusts: Evolutionary Genetics, Ecosystems Studies, and Information Technology for Environmental Research.

Published by Ken on October 29th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

fear of frogs: how not to think about sustainability

fear of frogs in hawaiiWhereas invasive species are a dominant threat to Hawaiian ecosystems, this doesn't mean that the all invasives are bad or that they deserve equal focus in any eradication campaign.

Some invasives are fatal for our native species, while others are benign, and our limited resources for combating the former shouldn't be squandered on the latter. Duh!...Which is what's happening with the coqui frog. Huh?

This little quarter-sized import from the Caribbean has gotten lots of media attention because of its "anoying" two-tone chirping, and government has been pouring money into its "control".

Published by Ken on October 28th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

call to action on Hawai`i ecosystem research

duffy in hawaii streambed

Just before presenting my paper last July on the convergence of corporate and community strategies for ecosystem restoration in Hawaii, I read this piece by David Duffy and Fred Kraus on "The Art of the Solvable" (via Environment Hawai`i).

It got me thinking about how to focus a problem-solving research agenda that goes beyond merely collecting scattered ecological information.

I love the authors' suggestions, which include greater contact between scientists and land managers, improved dissemination of research results, and greater use of natural history knowledge in conservation efforts.

The authors' overall point is that:

Published by Ken on October 28th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

finding hidden invasives in Hawaiian rainforest

sensor for invasive species in hawaii

Peter Vitousek's "army" is undertaking a new project to map the chemical and structural composition of Hawaiian ecosystems and to find exotic species and track their ecological impacts.

Using novel sensor technology in a high-altitude aircraft, these researchers found it is possible to detect species of invading plants that are changing the ecology of the islands' rainforests.

For example, the Kahili ginger plant, which is rampaging through large sections of our native `ohi`a forest, can be spotted with sensitive instruments that look for the high water content characteristic of this plant, and for reduced amount of nitrogen in the forest canopy, which is one of its impacts.

Published by Ken on October 28th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

starwood going green with luxury hotels

starwood in hawaii

Maybe Starwood will get around to a green retrofit for its dozen or so Hawaii hotels, but for now they're launching the "1" Hotel and Residences, the first luxury, eco-friendly global hotel brand (via greenbiz), starting in Seattle

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has agreed to be an environmental advisor on "1" with the initial goal of setting a new standard for environmental excellence and, over time, to transform the entire hotel industry.

The "1" concept combines the best of environmentally sustainable architecture and interior design with impeccable service and luxurious comfort.

Published by Ken on October 27th, 2006 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

first cost not last word in green building

green building standards

After closely examining the premiums for compliance with green building standards, it seems the rift in perception between "first cost" and "lifecycle cost" is starting to close, giving builders real reasons to go green.

Getting behind the "it costs more" resistance to building greener does require some reframing, but that's where environmental economics comes into play (via worldchanging).

What is the true cost of any project when you look at its impacts on the earth -- and its benefit to the user -- over the entire span of its functional existence (and through its disassembly and disposal)?

Published by Ken on October 27th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

put island biomass in your green sandwich

green sandwich

When I heard Bill McDonough talk about the green sandwich last March, I knew it wasn't about lunch because he was focused on building an entire green town on Maui.

Still, when McDonough said it's "something we're working on," I had no idea he was joining the company, Green Sandwich Technologies, which offers structural concrete panels that use a lot of local materials and are ideal for residential and commercial buildings.

I especially liked the fact that you could fill these panels with bagasse (or orchard trimmings, road-side weed growth, straw and stalk mowings), before covering them with Earthskintm.

Published by Ken on October 27th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

fast facts on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions

US ghg

Ever wonder how much of the total emissions in the U.S. come from where? Like how much from our driving or home power.

Or how much of our emissions are sequestered in our ecosystems?

Here are summary measures from EPA's annual report on U.S. emissions that can help put into perspective our multi-pronged efforts to reduce emission in our communities...our country:

Published by Ken on October 27th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

the only sustainable country: Cuba

WWF living planet

A closer review of the WWF's 2006 "Living Planet Report" (earlier posted here) reveals that Cuba is the only country in the world with what they call "sustainable development".

The WWF's rating includes both its own measure of "Ecological Footprint" and the UN's "Human Development Index".

Countries must score well on each to qualify as sustainable, and it's interesting that the only one is an island.

The ecological footprint is a measure of demand on the biosphere. Whereas the U.S. footprint represents 5.3 times our global share, Cuba's is actually 17% less than its share.

Published by Ken on October 26th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | 3 Comments »

Kaua`i eco-behavior shows troubling trends

kauai eco-bahavior - click for larger view

Looking for signs that Kauaians are living ‘greener’? There is both good and bad news.

‘Green’ living might include things like using less energy and water, having fewer cars, and generating less waste.

On a per capita basis, Kaua`i seemed to hit a peak and turn down on most accounts in the mid-1990s.

The latest 2005 data show little cause for celebration, however.

Only water usage shows a continuing reduction. All uses, including irrigation, spiked in 2001, yet the trend is moving down.

Power consumption has remained flat, solid waste has remained high, and cars have jumped up again in recent years.

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

trees are worth more alive

tropical forest worth more alive

Sure we're psyched about Bill Cowern's far-sighted plan to chip trees for Kaua`i power, and we still see global destruction of forests for fuel as terribly short-sighted.

Now (via triple pundit) we notice that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has acknowledged there's good and bad in carbon trading solutions to deforestation, yet trees are much more valuable as carbon sinks than as fuel.

Here's a few factoids:

Published by Ken on October 26th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

LCV green voting endorsements exclude Hawai`i

green voting guide from LCVWanna vote green this year? Here's a national guide from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

It's not clear why Hawai`i and Alaska are left out. Although Hawai`i has no affiliate in the Federation of State Conservation Voting Leagues, Alaska does. Yet, neither are shown on the map.

Still, you'll be delighted to know that both Sen. Akaka and Rep. Case get 100% scores from LCV (while that other Hawai`i Senator got 71%).

The LCV map gives a point and click reference for green candidates and initiatives throughout the country while providing links to the voting records of the enivironments best and worst elected representatives throughout the last term in office (via conscious earth).

Published by Ken on October 26th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

go on a green diet to reduce your carbon debt

carbon dietFor the next eight weeks, Slate and treehugger invite you to consider your own individual contribution to global warming—and challenges you to go on a carbon diet.

The goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 that you put into the atmosphere by 20 percent.

If you're a carbon glutton who doesn't bother to turn off the lights when you leave the house, you may find this diet pretty painless.

(And just think of the fringe benefits—lower heating bills, poorer oil barons.)

But even if you're already a svelte recycler or a carpooler, there's a lot more you can do.

Published by Ken on October 26th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »