Archive for May, 2007

corporate sustainability: it’s about managing risk

ISS on sustainability risk reports

Risk and liability for ecosystem damage is a bigger factor now in corporate performance, if only because institutional investors are taking sustainability considerations into account more thoroughly when looking at investments.

Environmental and social issues including climate change, energy use and labor and human rights practices are quickly becoming issues for mainstream investors as well as shareholder activists.

Now, one company is making it easier to assess and manage these risks (via GreenBiz).

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), a major provider of corporate governance and proxy voting services, has announced that it will create a global Sustainability Risk Reports database.

Published by Ken on May 31st, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

reversing ecosystem degradation: action agenda

report on natures capital

Because nature provides the conditions for a healthy, secure, and fulfilling existence, such as fresh water, food, protection from floods, and spiritual enrichment, it is hard to think of a development or investment decision that doesn't in some way depend upon and affect nature.

Still, all we've done so far is measure the damage in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a ground-breaking study on how humans have altered ecosystems, and how changes in ecosystem services affect human well-being, both now and in the future.

Now, the World Resources Institutes (WRI) is taking the next step with its report on Restoring Nature's Capital (via common dreams).

Published by Ken on May 31st, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

speaking of unreason: US to subsidize coal?

liquified coal tech going for subsidies

"Brilliant", says Joe Madden, regarding the recent push in Congress to subsidize liquefied coal as a potential fuel source for vehicles (via triple pundit).

Okay, so we're gonna drag the garden hose into an already overflowing bathtub and turn on the faucet while simultaneously mopping up the excess water from the floor.

That's wot we're talkin' about here, and "this is an abomination" says Madden.

In an ironic twist on the notion that sustainability is not about left or right, Madden notes that this hair-brained proposal has backers on both sides of the political aisle.

Published by Ken on May 30th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

why unreasonable people rule: Gore on daily show

gore on stewarts daily show

We are so much more interested in being entertained than in being informed that we have abandoned reason as our guide to action.

So says Al Gore on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show last Thursday (via grist).

We don't care so much about what the facts are as about what it feels like...that's wot comes out of some wonderful banter between these two media moguls (uh, if ya haven't yet, see Gore's channel, Current TV).

Of course, Gore is all over this in terms of how our government increasingly abuses and manipulates democracy.

Published by Ken on May 30th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

greener than thou? depends on who’s polling

who is a green consumer

Joel Makower tracks the marketing buzz surrounding green consumerism and comes up with four categories worth mentioning (via 2 steps forward).

According to Makower, you're either committed, or conflicted, or confused, or cynical (and you know who you are).

Or, like Makower, you may be a little bit of each.

That doesn't stop the marketing segmentation studies from rolling off the presses. By Makowers' recent count, no less than 5 major studies on this just hit the streets.

These studies have divvied the green landscape into endless green segments, such as Active Greens, Muted Greens, Green Motivated, Green Hypocrites, and Green Ignorants.

Published by Ken on May 29th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

ya gotta see this movie: speaking of inconvenient

crude awakening oil crash movie

Would it be terribly inconvenient if you couldn't gas up you ever?

No way, you say?

Watch this 90-minute documentary called Crude Awakening, then consider the question again.

My wife did, and she concluded we're f_cked.

To be fair, the movie producers use this language: "our industrial society, built on cheap and readily available oil, must be completely re-imagined and overhauled."

Yeah, imagine doing without all those other things we make from oil.

And you tho't the war in Iraq was about oil. Wot if it is? Would you support it then?

Published by Ken on May 29th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

Hawaii’s ahupuaa models a sustainable future

21c ahupuaa concept

Wassup with the ahupua`a? Suddenly, the phrase "21st Century Ahupua`a" in on many lips out here.

Wot is this? Turns out, for the Hawaiian islands, ahupua`a (pronounced ah-who-pooh-ah-ah) is everything. Literally.

The ahupua`a echoes modern concepts of ecosystem or watershed, only more so. For traditional communities, the ahupua`a (running from the mountain to the sea) contained all the resources necessary to sustain the folks living there.

Harkening back makes sense, now, since these islands face the prospect of relying increasingly on resources at hand.

Yet, how many islanders even know which ahupua`a they’re in? Hopefully, my new research will help here.

Published by Ken on May 28th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

another oops story: drought threatens coal power

dams without water

Australia's eastern seaboard faces electricity brownouts because coal-fired power stations are running out of water (via sydney morning herald).

Guess the Aussies are gonna need better efficiencies and renewable energies, too...preferably of the sort that don't require water.

Says one local legislator, "what we are seeing here is that the very core of the climate change problem, burning coal, is now being hit itself by climate change".

Coal power requires huge amounts of water, and yet the Aussies want to export more coal, and burn more coal in their country.

Meanwhile, dwindling dam levels are threatening power supplies.

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

into a memory hole: no climate change controversy

sculpture by dame elisabeth frink

Sometimes the world seems so Orwellian, it's sufficient to let the propaganda speak for in this piece from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (via WBCSD).

This sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink seems to fit the story, which I reproduce in its entirety below.

Climate change has moved from "controversial" to "conventional" in the US, according to Standard & Poor's, although costs are difficult to estimate since control technologies are uncertain.

"2006 will be seen as the year when climate change moved from the controversial to the conventional in the public mind," said Swami Venkataraman, S&P director in corporate and government ratings.

Published by Ken on May 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

15 years w/o a hurricane: knock on wood and wait

chip fletcher photo of hurricane iniki destruction on kauai

Want evidence that catastrophic weather catalyzes lifestyle changes? Look no further.

As luck would have it, I arrived on Kauai the year before our last hurricane.

In 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai like a bullseye, and many of us haven't been the same since. I wasn't the only one to lose virtually all of my physical possessions. And I'm certainly not alone in ultimately not missing them.

This was, in many ways, a cathartic, liberating experience. Since then, my ecological footprint has been much smaller. Why? I'm no longer attached to stuff, nor do I need lots of space to keep me and my stuff out of the elements.

Published by Ken on May 28th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

is Hawaii ready for green energy? listen up

henry curtis of life of the land

One of the most important discussions Hawaii can have is about to begin in earnest, as a plethora of experts and policy wonks descends on the State Capitol June 8 for the first-ever forum on the implications of global warming for the islands' energy future.

Climate scientists, legislative and government leaders, utility executives, and, yes, economists will be featured at this day-long gathering organized by Life of the Land's Henry Curtis.

Henry, you rock! While others may wring their hands and worry that our electric utilities are not going green fast enough, Henry is catalyzing a full-on re-think of the PUC's IRP process.

Published by Ken on May 27th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | 1 Comment »

finally going green: Hawaiian-style development

green roof at kapalua

OK, so every other media outlet in the world is covering the green building thang. Why not our island newspapers?

Done. Today's Honolulu paper blares the 'going green' headline and leads with an off-grid estate on Hawaii Island (via star bulletin).


Never mind that the estate in question was built far from any community the builder had no choice.

At least Bob McNatt at Maui Land & Pineapple got some justly deserved press.

Having had the pleasure of working with McNatt several years ago, I'm delighted he's getting noticed for his pace-setting work to build entire green communities.

Published by Ken on May 27th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

digest this: the ultimate poi from Hawaii

trao dream

'Spose ya know that poi made from taro rules in Hawaii. And for good reason: it's a wonderful food.

The only challenge for non-locals is getting over the notion that you won't like it.

Wot's not to like? Think of poi as Hawaiian pudding.

Actually, that's pretty much what my friends' company, Taro Dream, has done.

Their product gives you a sweet dessert without the fat and excessive calories.

The kewl thang about poi is it's easily digestible and low allergenic, not to mention high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. The nutrition in poi is better utilized than other foods due to fermentation and the small starch granules.

Published by Ken on May 26th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

integrating best products with green design

green building systems software

Wot do ya get with a mashup between Autodesk and Google? Green Building Studio, that's wot (via cnet blog).

Wudja believe a computer automated design application for architects and builders that evaluates a building's energy efficiency?

Yup. And after it does that, it pops up product recommendations for insulation, lighting and other products to increase efficiency.

The Santa Rosa, Calif.-based company makes money from the software as well as generating leads for product suppliers.

The company essentially exists to tackle two problems:

First, the company's software encourages the construction of more energy-efficient buildings.

Published by Ken on May 26th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

worse, worser, and worsest: on emissions trends

emissions shares globally

Here's a bit of bad news...times three.

Not only is there no evidence of progress in managing carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries, there is also new evidence of burgeoning emissions in developing countries.

And, cumulative emissions are now at the upper boundary of the worst-case scenario used by the IPCC.

Overall, the rate by which global carbon dioxide emissions are increasing each year has nearly tripled since 2000 according to new research by the National Academy of Science (via oneworld).

Published by Ken on May 26th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

leave it to the kids: getting to zero footprint

zero footprint kids calculator

Because the future of the planet is in their hands, and it is no exaggeration to say that concern for the environment manifests itself as involvement in our children’s education.

Now, the folks at ZeroFootprint wanna be as helpful as possible to you when it comes to answering the kids’ questions.

So, they've launched the ZeroFootprint KidsCalculator.

The idea behind the calculator is that all of our decisions and patterns of behaviour add up to a "footprint," which is just a way of measuring people’s demands on nature. The more we consume, the bigger our footprint is. Indeed, our footprint is global.

Published by Ken on May 24th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

growing wiser: pick your portal at Paul’s place

wiser earth

Wondering where your group fits in the world's largest movement? You know, the one now merging the 1.5 million groups dealing with ecological restoration and social justice.

Well, chances are you'll never know unless you enter your own info at WiserEarth, a new project of the Natural Capital Institute and sister site for Paul Hawken's new book, Blessed Unrest.

Why? Because staff at the World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility have so far seeded the interactive directory with only 100,000 org entries.

Published by Ken on May 24th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

green horn: my mug on Kauai people

ken stokes green economist on cover

The weekly newspaper put me on the cover last week, and the fact's embarrassing.

Sure, it's a great honor, especially to be part of their incredible series on amazing Kauaians that has unfolded over the last several years.

Still, wot makes me so special? Certainly not my looks (heh)!

OK, so I'm current prez of one of the island's most effective nonprofits, and have been a prominent advocate of 'green' thinking for several decades.

Yet, there are so many more Kauaians who are actually doing stuff that's gonna help us save the planet. Me? I'm just a green economist.

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

dude, where’s my sink? tracking carbon absorption

carbon tracker from NOAA

Speaking of awesome numbers, NOAA has a new tech tool for tracking the metrics of climate change.

CarbonTracker is a system that calculates carbon dioxide uptake and release at the Earth's surface over time.

It estimates the carbon dioxide exchange from an 'atmospheric point of view'.

Since CO2 mole fractions in the atmosphere reflect the sum of all the CO2 exchange at the surface, they form the ultimate record of the combined human and natural influence on greenhouse gas levels.

NOAA developed this tool to better understand the global carbon cycle and to support carbon management policies.

Published by Ken on May 23rd, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

picture this: unsustainable numbers as art

photo of jet contrails

Having focused much of my career on making numbers talk, I must confess I was totally blown away by the effective messages carried by these images.

Award-winning photographer, Chris Jordan, is "Running the Numbers" on American consumption.

Wudja believe an entire exhibit composed of wall size images that depict stuff we throw away every cars, or cellphones, or cans or prisoners.

Looking at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics, Jordon visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

Published by Ken on May 23rd, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off