Archive for November, 2006

NPR on island dimming…for migrating seabirds

save our shearwater with KIUC

The increased use of artificial light in fall and winter make for a dangerous migration for Shearwater seabirds on the island of Kaua`i.

The seabirds use moonlight to navigate, and their migratory patterns are disrupted by the lights of modern development.

So our utility coop (KIUC) has cut down on nighttime lights (via NPR).

As a result of this work, all 3,049 lights on KIUC poles are now shielded, and KIUC staff are working with island businesses to adopt their Save Our Shearwater (SOS) program's lighting recommendations.

Published by Ken on November 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

simple green building code: use LEED

LEED certification of green buildings

Doesn't get much simpler than this: Montgomery County (suburban DC) has approved legislation requiring "green building" features for future public and private construction in the county (via washington business journal).

There are plenty of "model codes" out there, yet why reinvent the deal.

Especially for places like Kaua`i, this should be a simple "Yes" vote for our new County Council.

LEED is a national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The LEED green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, identifies criteria that positively impact the energy and environmental characteristics of a building, including sustainability of a site, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and resources.

Published by Ken on November 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comments Off

plant breeding upgrade could obviate GMOs

cross breeding vs gene splicing

The threat of GMOs to Kauai's organic growers came up at our SusAg gathering yesterday, so I wanted to pass along this heads-up regarding a new technique that could make the GMO approach to food obsolete.

Jeremy Rifkin, a leading campaigner against GMOs, likes the new Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) approach so much, he believes this "could be the right technology at the right time in history" (via savvy vegetarian).

The MAS technique can locate desired traits in other varieties of a particular food crop, then cross breed those plants to improve the crop.

Says Rifkin:

Published by Ken on November 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

another new way to reuse paper

xerox reusable paper invention

Before you run out to acquire that new printer for reusable plastic paper mentioned last week, check out the progress at Xerox toward paper paper that is also erasable (via gizmodo).

Xerox has announced their invention of a new self-erasable paper that fades to white after 24 hours.

The invention "came from developing compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear."

The paper is reusable if you get their special printer to put images onto it.

Published by Ken on November 30th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | Comments Off

on island hunger and food security

community food security

Our Rotary club passed out 30 turkeys at a family support center last week, and I'm off to a startup gathering on sustainable ag this afternoon (hosted by Malama Kaua`i), so I've been thinking about food security for our island.

No, not the double-speak term recently adopted by the Bushies' ag fawners.

I'm talking about a strong, sustainable, local food system.

As with communities everywhere, Kaua`i needs to ensure access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food to all people at all times (via pacific palate).

Published by Ken on November 29th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

yo, Kaua`i: see Seattle’s recycling incentives

seattle recycling bins

As Kaua`i muddles toward another wimpy solid waste plan that will "develop interest and support in recycling," it's inspiring to see Seattle putting teeth into its innovative curbside recycling strategy (via lime).

Would you believe penalties for not separating your garbage? That should build support, no?

Seattle residents must sort out the recyclable items, or the city's hauler tags the garbage can and leaves it full.

Their compliance rate of 99.98 percent should help convince policymakers elsewhere that penalties can play a key role in pushing residents toward recycling.

Published by Ken on November 29th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

on greening your skiing footprint

ski green with green tags

Say you were going to spew 4 tons of CO2 flying from Hawai`i to a ski vacation in Colorado.

Wouldn't you at least want to patronize a green ski resort?

Now you can join ski areas in the fight against climate change and support the use of clean, renewable energy with Green Tags at ski areas that are making a difference (via sustainable style foundation).

Never mind that greenhouse gases are causing unseasonably warmer temperatures, reduction in snow-pack levels and ultimately lower quality ski conditions over fewer ski days.

Published by Ken on November 29th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

Americans (finally) get global warming’s serious

MIT survey on global warming

Just in case you didn't notice that US opinion has shifted sharply in recent months, a new survey from MIT shows that global warming jumped from 6th in 2003 to 1st in 2006 among significant environmental challenges cited by Americans (via the watt).

Almost half the respondents put global warming in first or second place. In 2003, the destruction of ecosystems, water pollution, and toxic waste were far higher priorities.

There is also an increased sense that global warming is an established problem, as almost 70 percent of respondents agreed that there’s enough evidence to warrant some level of action-- up from 50% three years ago.

Published by Ken on November 28th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

zero-emission whale tour from Hawai`i

whale songs broadcast from hawaii

Now you can see and hear the whales live from Hawai`i without leaving your home.

The Jupiter Foundation hosts live Humpback whale sounds by hydrophone and live (occasional) sightings by webcam on their website.

From their listening post at the historic Kahua Ranch on Hawaii Island, they can listen in on whales singing up to 50 miles away, and their webcam is right on the shore at Puako Bay.

The whales are extremely active vocally during their winters in Hawaii when they are mating and birthing calves.

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

mitigate or adapt: the Nairobi sticking point

mitigate or adapt

Should we be warding off climate-change (mitigation) or dealing with its effects (adaptation)?  This was the big debate in Nairobi (via the ecologist).

What's the difference? Investment in wind power would be mitigation, while adding a few feet to the sea wall would constitute adaptation.

The US and the EU pushed strongly for progress on the mitigation side, whereas developing nations pushed for adaptation.

Of course, in many cases, the developing world (including China) will be the first to feel the effects of global warming.

Published by Ken on November 28th, 2006 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

we’re all downwind of our own emissions

carbon monoxide in

Much American research has focused on the contribution of Asian pollution to the deteriorating air quality in the US.

 carbon monoxide outPerhaps this is part of the Bushies case against joining the Kyoto Protocol...unless China and India do, too.

Yet, the same monitoring satellites and emissions measurements that track Asian pollution to the US have also been tracking US pollution to Europe...and beyond.

Fair's fair. Ya gotta look at both the ins and outs of US pollution.

For example, these images of global emissions show the measured flows of carbon monoxide into (above left) and out of (above right) the US during the Summer of 2000.

Published by Ken on November 28th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

on a carbon tax for Hawai`i

carbon tax image via barrons

Tis the season to compose a legislative agenda, and no time like now to raise the possibility of a carbon tax for our energy-innovating state.

Getting serious about carbon reduction in Hawai`i will take some serious cash, and that's the purpose to which others are committing their carbon tax proceeds.

If we added $0.002 per kwh to our electric bills (which is what Boulder just did), we could raise over $2 million each year to support the State's plan (via treehugger).

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

what’s an EIS good for?

the EIS angel

Too many times, I've witnessed huge community efforts put into drafting and disputing an environmental impact statement, only to discover that it made little difference either way.

Due to flaws in the EIS strategy, I believe we need a whole new approach tuned to our sustainability challenges.

And we should stop kidding ourselves that we're helping the planet by forcing an EIS.

Contrary to a widespread misconception, the EIS regulation does not prohibit anyone from harming the environment, nor does it specify any penalty if the EIS turns out to be inaccurate, intentionally or otherwise.

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

what does EPA know that you can’t?

book burning or its equivalents

No sooner do we praise EPA for their vast library of climate change research than the Bushies start shutting down the libraries (via alternet).

Would you believe EPA's own staff is being shut out?

EPA bureaucrats did not wait to see if Congress might restore the funds or shift budget priorities in order to save the libraries; it acted immediately to box up documents for deep storage, and shut the doors.

Says Kelpie Wilson of TruthOut, "They might as well just burn them."

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2006 tagged Climate Change | 1 Comment »

go figure: plastic beats real Xmas trees

fake or real xmas tree

Before you get another Xmas tree, you might want to calculate the carbon emissions of your choices.

Or, you could simply ask Pablo, the sustainability engineer at the triple pundit blog.

Says Pablo, "it is far more ecologically friendly to buy a fake Christmas tree once, at a CO2 cost of 42.18 kg, than to cut down a tree every year at a CO2 cost of 172 kg (annual for at least 25 years)."

Of course, the superior option is to buy a live tree, which has already sucked up a lot of carbon, and plant it outside where it will provide carbon sequestration services for many Christmases to come.

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2006 tagged Community Initiatives | 1 Comment »

taroists do sustainability despite government

globalization from below

Here’s my thought on how Americans can loosen our fixation with government intransigence and move forward in our own communities toward sustainability. And why this is not only possible, but promising.

Fair warning: There’s some “systems thinking” and shedding of precious thought forms in what follows.

I'm a 'globalization-from-below' guy, yet I see an opportunity now for a community-corporate alliance to tackle our island sustainability challenges.

True, I'm a former local elected official with deep-seated cynicism toward 'representative' government and die-hard enthusiasm for community-based governance.

Published by Ken on November 26th, 2006 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

making clouds enroute to Hawai`i

jet contrails to hawaii

As we dig deeper into the climate impacts of air travel, the rapidly evolving understanding of jet contrails looms larger.

It is at least possible that jet contrails compound the impacts of the associated chemicals and contribute directly to global warming.

Some sense of how big a deal this is comes from this shot of contrails between Hawai`i and the U.S.

Turns out, the FAA is keeping a close eye on jet emissions, and NASA scientist Patrick Minnis' research suggests that jet trails may have warmed the air over the United States by as much as one-half degree Fahrenheit each decade since 1975.

Published by Ken on November 25th, 2006 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

plastic paper could cut office emissions

plastic paper printer

This new paper can be written on and erased by a new printer technology from Toshiba, and it's made from the same PET found in plastic bottles (via BBC).

If you use each sheet 500 times, you could save 75% of the emissions associated with office document printing.

The trick is to cover the PET-based paper with a layer of heat-sensitive chemical pigments that, under different conditions, turns white or black.

By altering the temperature and cooling times applied to this pigment, the B-SX8R printer can write and erase black and white text or graphics. The printer can produce up to 12 pages per minute and has a print resolution of 12 dots per mm or 300 dots per inch.

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

arsenic study gets Hawaiian teen a national award

nolan kamitaki young scientist awardee

Fourteen year-old Nolan Kamitaki is America's Top Young Scientist of the Year, and he's $20,000 richer in scholarship money as a result (via ENN).

The freshman at Waiakea High School on Hawai`i island won the Discovery Channel's Young Scientist Challenge, which is for student grades 5 through 8, when the winners were announced last Wednesday.

Kamitaki entered last year with a project analyzing the affect arsenic in local soils has had on Big Island school children.

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

companies adjusting to ecosystems serving them

ecosystem services and business operations

Unless business reduces its ‘operational footprint', major economic losses are forecasted due to scarcity of raw materials, higher operating costs, government restrictions and reduced flexibility.

So warns the World Business Council on Sustainable Development in a report this week.

WBCSD President Björn Stigson said: “Business simply cannot function if ecosystems and the services they deliver – like water, biodiversity, food, fiber and climate regulation – are degraded or out of balance. There must be a value attached to natural resources, and businesses need to start understanding this value.”

Published by Ken on November 24th, 2006 tagged Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »