Archive for January, 2007

business doing well doing good: wot a concept

profit in climate change

For too long, we've heard that any effort to stem greenhouse gas emissions would ruin the economy, forcing big business to all but fold up their tents and the global economy to go down the tubes.

Now that corporations are beginning to view climate change as an opportunity, says Joel Makower, the complaint is something entirely different: Big business is engaging in climate profiteering! (via 2 steps forward)

Makower cites a Wall Street Journal column by Kimberly Strassel bemoaning self-serving corporate action on climate change, citing last week's announcement of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership led by ten of America's largest corporations.

Published by Ken on January 31st, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

where does new development belong? still asking

school built in wrong locations

Why do we still put new development wherever land is available instead of where it belongs?

That was the question asked in my first column for the Garden Island some nine years ago.

Sadly, there is little evidence Kauai has learned this lesson yet.

Just the other day, a County Councilmember suggested putting a new complex of affordable housing up on the bluff by Mahelona Hospital...just because the State wants to dispose of this surplus land.

What's wrong with that? Like the Middle School across the gully (referenced in my first column), this site is one of the few places in Kapa`a that no one can walk to.

Published by Ken on January 31st, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

smoke as mirrors: cooling with surplus sulphur

air pollution over phoenix

For those who think cutting emissions is too hard, a senior economist at US EPA offers another way: Put more sulphur into the upper atmosphere.

That's right, says Alan Carlin, we should increase pollution of this particular sort (or soot) in order to reflect sunlight back into space (via guardian uk).

Set aside for the moment that the oil and gas industry is sitting on a mounting surplus of sulphur, and is desparate to find a market for this byproduct of cleaner refinery technologies.

Published by Ken on January 31st, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

on edible foodlike substances in the supermarket

fruits and vegetables

Special affection goes out to Michael Pollan for his clear, brief advice on how Americans can improve their nutrition (via inspired protagonist).

Says Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

Along the way in this lengthy article, Pollan takes some shots at "nutritionism", a new kind of dietary ideology that has us more focused on what’s in our food than we are focused on simply eating the right foods themselves.

Published by Ken on January 31st, 2007 tagged Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

Stanford podcasts on nonprofit-corporate relations

social innovation conversations

From the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Business School comes Social Innovations Conversations, an open and collaborative online platform for cross-sector and multidisciplinary learning for social change.

Right off, there's a great podcast here on corporate-nonprofit relations with three experts on working together in good faith. (And, it's always gratifying to see my alma mater pursuing inquiry similar to my own.)

Acknowledging the mutual distrust and misperceptions that often prevent nonprofits from working with corporations, the panelists show how community groups can achieve their objectives in ways they could not have found alone.

Published by Ken on January 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

the giant panda in the room: wot’s China to do?

dead fish in china sea

For a while, no one talked about how US emissions are not as bad as they might be if we hadn't relocated all our factories to China.

And no one talked about the effects of this rapid industrialization on China's people and ecosystems.

Then, suddenly, everyone started talking about China as a major polluter, as part of America's whiny excuse for not joining Kyoto.

Now, China's best minds are hard at work on tweaking its development path to avoid the worst effects of industrialization (via china dialogue).

Published by Ken on January 30th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

envisioning sustainable futures for Kauai

permanent culture on kauai

Kauai architect and planner, Juan Wilson was sufficiently impressed with the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force that he responded in detail to their request for vision statements to be incorporated into their planning efforts for Hawaii's future (via island breath).

Wilson takes off from the futurist scenarios presented at Hawaii 2050's kickoff event last Fall and then (with help from Linda Pascatore and Jonathan Jay) he riffs on how those scenarios might play out on Kauai.

In those Hawaii 2050 scenarios, elements that were common to all futures foreseen by the Task Force were expensive fuel, climate change, an end to tourism as we know it, and difficulties obtaining food.

Published by Ken on January 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | 2 Comments »

FYI: Hawaii hearings on sustainability issues

gary hooser, mina morita, kauai leaders

Couldn't resist the opportunity to help my buddies Mina Morita, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, and Gary Hooser, new Majority Leader in the Senate, make sense of the sustainability-related bills in front of the State Legislature in the days ahead.

Kaua`i (nay, Hawai`i) is blessed to have their leadership at this crucial decision-making moment for our island state.

Here's what I sent around, and may amplify at Morita's Thursday morning hearing:

Aloha sustainability leaders!

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 4 Comments »

Hawaii’s offshore goldmine? Pacific trash vortex

north pacific trash vortex

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza recently cruised into one of world's largest trash vortexes, centered 600 miles northeast of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

Sometimes referred to as the "garbage patch", this North Pacific sub-tropical gyre is the epicenter of a system of currents and winds covering most of the North Pacific.

The currents tend to force any floating material into the low energy central area of the gyre, which is the equivalent of an area the size of Texas swirling slowly around like a clock.

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | 3 Comments »

Sterling to Exxon: no pity for you losers

viridian design logo

Since his first Viridian speech eight years ago introducing the Viridian movement to an unsuspecting yet grateful planet, sci-fi author Bruce Sterling has led the charge to create "irresistible demand for a global atmosphere upgrade."

Now, says Sterling, mission accomplished.

It's great to start a Monday morning with this sort of top-spin.

Here's excerpts from his recent rant. Read it and weep for joy.

We Viridians have beaten that clock. There is no need to wait for distant 2012 to declare victory in our war to make green trendy.

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

Paul Hawken on “bottom-up world arising”

hawken book blessed unrest

His book and documentary called "Blessed Unrest" will be out May 1, and Paul Hawken is still moving forward to spark a larger movement in civil society.

Having served as one of the environmental movement's early inspirations, Hawken now criticizes the movement as too narrowly focused.

Says Hawken (via treehugger radio):

"The environmental movement arose because we had better science. It became a movement of trying to prevent harm. What that obscures is the fact that all environmental movements are about reducing the suffering of all forms of life. That sense of care and compasssion was missing. People who were suffering were saying 'what about me?'"

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

human complacency on warming: are we like frogs?

jumping frog

As you may have heard, frogs will try to jump out if you drop them into hot water, but if you put them in cool water and slowly bring it to a boil, they will stay and eventually die.

Never mind that frogs aren't really that stupid, according to zoologists; frogs will at some point invariably try to escape.

Still, this mythical story helps illustrate the dangers of human complacency (via planet ark).

Like the fabled boiled frog, people may find it hard to tackle an invisible threat.

Published by Ken on January 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

ocean absorbs less CO2 as globe warms

ocean absorption

We know that feedback loops are crucial considerations as we learn how to think about sustainability and global warming.

Here's a loop you may not have considered.

Turns out a decrease in precipitation over ocean leaves the water saltier and thus diminishes its capacity to soak up planet-warming carbon dioxide.

Oh, and, faster evaporation does the same thing.

Guess what will cause less precipitation and faster evaporation. Right: global warming.
In other words, this feedback loop is certain to accelerate climate change.

So says an analysis by David M. Karl, a UH biogeochemist (via science news).

Published by Ken on January 28th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

does organic mean local? the air freight factor

organic via air freightThere is little point in going organic to avoid polluting you food, then flying it round the world spewing emissions in the process.

This is the key contention in the local versus organic debate, yet the distinction may disappear if farmers in the UK have any say (via guardian).

The UK’s leading organic certification body has just launched a year long consultation into whether air freighted food should be banned from carrying the organic label.

Patrick Holden, spokesman for the Soil Association says:

Published by Ken on January 28th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

DIY hydrogen: solar separation, home fueling

home hydrogen fueling prototype

Sure, sourcing and transport of hydrogen seemed formerly intractable problems.

But, forget about all that infrastucture, says Australian fuel cell scientist Dr. Sukhvinder Badwal.

Badwal's reseach group at CSIRO in Melbourne has developed a home fueling station that uses solar and wind energy to make electricity which then makes hydrogen, and stores it in a corner of your garage (via green wombat).

How's that one: no piping infrastructure, no transmission losses, no nuclear plants or fossil fuels to make the stuff.

It produces enough in a day to run your car about 100 miles.

Published by Ken on January 28th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

Hawaii legislature targets emission reductions

HI climate change

Yeah! Hawaii may be about to join 12 other states who have adopted their own versions of the Kyoto Protocol.

Two bills recently introduced (HB 226 and HB 678) call for monitoring and capping Hawaii's greenhouse gas emissions.

Never mind that some of the fine print is a bit screwy. These bills should be modified and passed.

What's screwy? For openers, HB 226 calls for reducing emissions 7% below 1990 levels, yet gives no date for achieving this target. Nor does it define which emissions we're talking about.

Published by Ken on January 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

HBR on green building: it’s a slam dunk

HBR on green building

When Harvard Business Review declares that green building is "no longer a pricey experiment, but a realistic choice for most building projects", you know the world is changing.

When the author of HBR's piece on building the green way offers ten practical design and construction rules that will help you conserve the Earth’s resources and your budget, you wonder if HBR isn't changing, too (via treehugger).

What, no fuss, no fight? No conceptual quandries or complex management models?

If that's HBR's take on green building, then you can bet it's a slam dunk.

Published by Ken on January 27th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | 2 Comments »

bushie tales: wot’s the US move on green building?

alfred e neuman-bush

Ya gotta watch what this guy does, not what he says.

Fugetabout his prime time speech on Tuesday. Check out his Executive Order on Wednesday (via facility blog).

Would you believe green building and energy efficiency standards for all federal agencies?

Right. So, his 'State of the Union' barely included global warming and energy alternatives, but this is huge. Pinch me.

Somebody up there has been doing their homework, too. The GSA (the government's landlord) studied in-depth the various rating systems for green building, and selected the USGBC's LEED standard. Nice move!

Published by Ken on January 26th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives | 2 Comments »

on learned helplessness: feel safer in an SUV?

upside down samurai

Quite ironic, isn't it, that some folks will buy an SUV because they want to feel safer?

This is like one of those stupid pet tricks.

Actually, says Dave Pollard, it's learned helplessness (via how to save the world).

You know, that "exaggerated feeling of lack of control, of enormous danger, of inability to respond to danger, that comes from repeated exposure to actual or apparent threats."

Pollard notes a compelling analysis by Malcolm Gladwell on this topic that focuses on our limited ability (as Americans) to "put risks, dangers and fears in proper perspective, especially when they hit close to home."

Published by Ken on January 26th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

a river (of car fumes) runs through kids lungs

traffic fumes stunt lung development

Mebbe ya gotta be a cyclist or jogger to appreciate this story. After all, who knows more about air quality alongside our highways?

Now we know that living too near a busy road could stunt a child's lung development.

Many children who live and go to schools near busy roads could be at risk, according to research by USC scientists published in the Lancet medical journal (via BBC).

The study found that kids who had lived within 0.3 mile (1,650 feet) of a motorway had much poorer lung function at the age of 18 than those who had lived one mile away or more, even when factors such as smoking in the home were taken into account.

Published by Ken on January 26th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »