Archive for March, 2007

business contributes to dialogue on cooperation

global pathways toward sustainability

Looking for a refreshing break from the political rhetoric being seen both sides of the Atlantic regarding sustainability?

If you're a corporate environmental manager, you might be forgiven for feeling a little bewildered.

Climate change has perhaps never been so significant in the battle for hearts and minds.

But what seems to be noticeably absent from the debate is a practical, business-oriented discussion of the challenges facing the world today.

Now, there's a pathway that's laid out in exquisite detail. The WBCSD’s Policy Directions to 2050 provides precisely this.

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

standards and labels coming for biodiesel?

sustainable biodiesel summit

The fourth annual Sustainable Biodiesel Summit was a good place to be if you're interested in bringing the sustainability issue to the forefront.

By now, this has grown into a national movement when groups from all over (including Hawaii) attending the San Antonio gathering (via renewable energy access).

Focusing on feedstocks, fuel quality, energy efficient processing and small business modeling, the summit was a great opportunity to share innovations, best practices and address challenges.

"People feel isolated and crazy for doing biodiesel on a community scale," reflected SaraHope Smith, an organizer of the summit.

Published by Ken on March 31st, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

on thinking: we’re not that stupid, are we?

clearing for deck view

Whatever one might say about environmentalism, "one of its great successes has been to generate widespread awareness of the problems we face", as Prince Charles says in the Bioregional Solutions Foreword .

Righto. So, why, despite this awareness, are we still doing stupid things.

For example, a neighbor does a slash and burn thang on the bluff to open up their new home views, and never checks whether permits might be required for something like that, nor investigates what native species might be part of this obtrusion.

Are they evil or ignorant? Either way, why are we surprised by their stupidity?

Published by Ken on March 30th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

how’s Hawaii doing? on prepping kids for tech

education week on the digital decade

OK, so there's been an enormous upheaval in educational technology since the late-1990s, and many of us believe there's a close link between our kids' mastery of this stuff and our chances with global warming.

Still, it's fruitful to reflect on how we're doing in this transformation, and chastening to learn how poorly (D+) Hawaii is doing.

According to Education Week's 'Technology Counts' report for 2007, nearly all schools can now get online (vs. 14% in 1997), and the percentage of instructional computers with high-speed access hovers around 95 percent.

So, how does Hawaii stack up? Not good.

Published by Ken on March 29th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

wot does FEET have to do with footprints?

FEET index, click for larger

Finally, I've gotten a good look at a new method for indexing the ecological impacts of global trade, which is contained in 'Bioregional Solutions', a Schumacher Society briefing (available only in print).

Never mind that I had to ship this small book from the other side of the planet. It was worth it.

Why? Because the Foreign Exchange Earnings per Transport ton of CO2 (or FEET Index) is a marvelous tool for helping us think about the ecological footprint of the products we consume.

In essence, FEET compares the financial gains in the country shipping the product with the emission gains in the country receiving it.

Published by Ken on March 29th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

going exponential: Hawaii tracks CO2 growth

exponential increase in co2 tracked at mauna loa observatory

Big news on CO2 trends this morning from the Honolulu papers: atmospheric measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory show the rate of increase in carbon dioxide has been increasing exponentially since 2005 (via Star Bulletin).

John Barnes, who runs the MLO, reports faster growth ever since atmospheric carbon dioxide hit 380 parts per million in 2005.

Bear in mind that the Stern Review focused on 450 ppm as the threshold above which dramatic climate changes are likely to occur, and that the long term trend shows CO2 increasing at 2.5 ppm.

Published by Ken on March 29th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comment now »

wot victory feels like: things going futurist’s way

heavy weather by bruce sterling

Sheesh, has it been 15 years since Bruce Sterling wrote 'Heavy Weather', already? Wot would we do without futurists?

Now, Sterling reminds us he saw the dot-green thang coming...ten years ago (via Wash Post).

Says Sterling, "It took a while for others to get it. Some still don't. They think I'm joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being "counter" and "alternative" -- they don't understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything -- the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn't go on."

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

tata means hello: india in the pacific

pacific island forum

Delegates from around the Pacific are meeting this week in Fiji to discuss sustainable development matters such as renewable energy, rainwater harvesting and waste management (via PIF).

The sustainable development workshop is an initiative of the government of India, in collaboration with the Tata Energy Research Institute, and the Pacific Islands Forum.

No, there seems to be no relation to the Indian auto manufacturer, Tata, now working on the air car.

The Indian government has provided funding of nearly one and a half million US dollars along with other assistance.

Published by Ken on March 28th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

been there: dunn this in your business?

debra dunn

Back in the day, when Carli Fiorina was the new CEO and the sky was the limit for HP, Debra Dunn was HP's CSO before there was such a position.

Now, Dunn has moved on to Skoll, where she is an advisor to social ventures, yet her reflections on the HP experience are insightful.

Interestingly, Dunn uses the past tense to describe HP's green initiatives.

So, if you're wondering wot happened, here's Dunn on a podcast with the iinnovate team.

Published by Ken on March 27th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

charging ahead: take sugar in your battery?

bio battery

Unlike the batteries in a Prius, whose nickel is extracted at great eco-cost, all of the materials used to build a new generation of sugar batteries are biodegradable.

Yup, just like humans convert sugar into energy, these batteries can use a sugar high to keep your electronic devices cranking (via network world).

Electrochemist Shelley Minteer at Saint Louis University recently announced that her team has cooked up biodegradable fuel cell batteries that can run on just about any sugar source and that can last three or four times longer per charge than typical lithium ion batteries.

Published by Ken on March 27th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

waiting to inhale: dirty air overtakes this village

dirty air in linfen china

Over the past five years, the Chinese city of Linfen, with 3.5 million people, has become a symbol of the worst side-effects of China’s breakneck economic growth.

The New York-based Blacksmith Institute puts Linfen alongside Chernobyl on a list of the planet’s 10 most contaminated places.

Linfen is the frontline of the battle against global warming because it lies at the heart of a 12-mile industrial belt, fed by the 50 million tons of coal mined each year in the nearby hills of Shanxi province (via common dreams).

Published by Ken on March 26th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

it takes a village: on the new green urbanism

green town design in sonoma

Speaking of the CSO, this company has one and he's blending sustainability into its plans for a whole new town.

That's right, Sonoma builder Codding Enterprises plans to create a sustainable village on the 175 acre site of the former Agilent Technologies campus in Rohnert Park (via SF Gate).

This community of 2,000 homes and businesses, centered around a town square, will blend the latest green technology with the principles of sustainability and new urbanism.

Codding's chief sustainability officer, Geof Syphers, says "We want to make sustainable living easy and appealing for people."

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

weak and fearful: why environmentalism fails

eco critique

Sheesh, I've gotten so frustrated in recent months while touting our fundamental need for a new way of thinking about sustainability. (See here, here, and here, for example.)

Now, I think I get why environmentalist friends give me blank stares…perhaps they can't see that the way we think about ‘environmental problems’ is part of the problem.

Curtis White has found a way to write about the mythical 'idols' of American culture that also drive environmentalism off its intended track (via orion mag).

There's so much worth chewing on in 'The Idols of Environmentalism' that I'll just direct you to it and excerpt some of White's jewels below.

Published by Ken on March 25th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

what would a green island community look like?

greening of cuba

We know the answer to this question, because Cuba showed us how to do it 20 years ago.

Not because they were green back then, but because they had to shift rapidly and nearly totally to self-reliance.

Why? With the collapse of the Soviet Union and a tightened US embargo, oil imports were cut by over 50%, leaving that island on the verge of total collapse.

So, what did they do? I will provide a synopsis below, and you can see for yourself in this documentary, 'How Cuba Survived Peak Oil', which is getting some buzz.

Published by Ken on March 25th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

toxic cleaning products: don’t do this at home

green cleaning products

The cocktail of hazardous substances that we rely on to make our bathrooms sparkle or our floors shine is truly obscene.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the typical home is on average 2-5 times more polluted than the air just outside—and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated—largely because of household cleaners and pesticides.

So, Worldwatch is pushing a different approach to Spring cleaning. You guessed it: green cleaning products.

Keeping our homes clean and avoiding toxic cleaners don't have to be mutually exclusive, says Worldwatch.

Published by Ken on March 24th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

the CSO position: new corporate leadership needed

chief sustainability officer challenges

Few organizations today can articulate their sustainability vision, not because there aren't lots of innocuous “feel good” statements on corporate web pages (there are), but because vision is lacking.

And that's okay: we're new at this, says Rick Walker (via green biz).

Today, there are only a small handful of corporations with a 'chief sustainability officer' (CSO), but in 5 years there will be many hundreds.

By then, says Walker, the companies that have articulated visions and driven them deep into their organizations will have the influence to drive innovation that truly will transform their respective industries.

Published by Ken on March 24th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

the other ‘E’: equity in transport emissions

equity in air travel emissions

The equity part of sustainability often gets short schrift, yet the more we learn about ecological footprints, the more we see how inequitably the planet's resources are ravaged.

Never mind that the developed countries (with 20% of the people) generate 80% of the emissions, and that humans are currently living like there's 1.25 planets available.

Right, borrowing from our grand kids.

For now, look at the inequities in air travel (via turbulent issues).

Oxford researchers have found that 61 per cent of all travel emissions came from individuals in the top 20 per cent of ‘emitters’, while only 1 per cent of emissions came from those in the bottom 20 per cent.

Published by Ken on March 24th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

the unsustainables : stumbling toward the future

the unsustainables

Meet the Unsustainables, a blended family (including a Joe Camel-esque goat in a Hawaiian shirt) that stars in a series of short animated episodes produced by SustainLane. They may not always choose green, but like the rest of us, they’re trying!

This original new series of animated episodes depicts the lives of a blended family in a modern urban environment (via worsted witch).

Each segment centers around our characters who, like many of us, stumble towards the future in an attempt to live green. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they don't.

Published by Ken on March 23rd, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

leave it to beavan: practicing sustainable living

no impact living in manhattan

Who said anything about chewing bark?

I mean, achieving sustainability doesn't have to mean sacrificing our civilized lifestyle.

Just ask Colin Beavan.

Yesterday, the NYT featured Beavan's 'year without toilet paper',  highlighting the very personal, very urban face of environmentalism these days.

OK, so they keep their lights low. Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style.

Turns out, Beavan is four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Beavan will tell you, but to date include:

Published by Ken on March 23rd, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

500 posts and counting: on 6 months of bloggin’

SusHI monthly visitor traffic

Hey, I'm way ahead of Lloyd Alter at Treehugger! It took him nearly a year to get to 500 blog posts, and I'm there in half that.

I notice that Celsias is paying $50 for posts on sustainability, which would equate to $50,000 annual income if I could figure out how to get it. Wouldn't that be grand!

To make matters more maika`i (outstanding), yesterday saw my highest visitor count yet: 1,477.

Would you believe a total of nearly 108,000 visitors in 6 months? That's an average of nearly 600 daily, and each averaging 2.2 pages viewed. (And I even took some of February off to visit grandots...)

Published by Ken on March 23rd, 2007 tagged HI-specific | 1 Comment »