Archive for July, 2007

transgenic animals: on the evolution of food

gmo salmon

Sure, the gene tweakers are having trouble raising financing for gene-mod food ventures, but only because the US hasn't yet set rules that would determine whether and how such products can safely enter the nation’s food supply (via nytimes).

Still, the market in so-called transgenic livestock is a-bornin', and methinks the US isn't ready for it.

On the one hand, many fear that consumers would shun foods from transgenic animals.

On the other hand, critics say that changing the genes of animals could lead to potentially harmful changes in the composition of milk or meat, like the introduction of a protein that could cause allergic reactions.

Published by Ken on July 31st, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

on the farm bill: more sanity in the Senate?

small farm yard

So, we're s'posed to be psyched about the $2.4 billion for renewable energy in the Farm Bill while the $42 billion in commodity subsidies remains (via treehugger).

Yikes! This ain't gonna get'r done, folks.

For example, $1 billion will go to 13,000 California rice growers over the next 3 years while the state's conservation programs only get $100 million.

Ahem, Mr. Senator, anyone on that side of the Capitol paying attention here?

In case you hadn't noticed, the House passed its hotly contested version of the Farm Bill last week (by a vote of 231 to 191), and the Senate will take this up next month.

Published by Ken on July 31st, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

print greener: waste less money and trees

greenprint product tagline

So mebbe y'all stopped printing a long time ago (as many of us did), yet we're all still sharing docs and some of these get printed, and...

Sheesh, when do the trees get some releaf?

Actually, Hayden Hamilton, a young former Ford exec, got the bright idea for a GreenPrint package that includes a print monitor (so you can track what you're actually printing), a convert-to-pdf thang, and a green font (via tech chronicles).

Say wot? Right, a green font...by which this small startup in Portland, OR means putting more words on each page without hurting readability.

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

yes, katrina, warming’s part of it

hurricane iniki hits kauai in 1992

Recall the climate modelers falling over backward to decouple Hurricane Katrina from global warming? 'We just have no evidence of a direct connection', they said then.

Even as recently as a few months ago, other climate modelers were pooh-poohing the worsening hurricanes scenario, and claiming that hurricanes are cyclical and the recent increase is just a reflection of a natural pattern.

Now, Greg Holland has the data which shows the link.

Writing in the Royal Society journal today, Holland reports that the number of Atlantic hurricanes has doubled over the last century, and warmer sea surface temperatures and changes in wind patterns caused by climate change are fueling much of the increase (via bbc).

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

feeding our own: community supported ag on Kauai

community supported ag system

When Kauai gets around to feeding itself, we're gonna be able to produce lots of food on a small portion of our available ag land.

So say Gary and Jillian Seals, founders of the Green Light Organization, whose family garden has grown into a full production Community Supported Agriculture system in Kilauea (via the garden island).

The Seals' collective has developed a working model that can feed more than 800 mouths per week off a single acre.

They have also created a Farm Incubator Program to transform interns into apprentices and then self-employed farmers.

Published by Ken on July 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

gaming your footprint: fun learning about impacts

global steps footprinting card game

The footprinters at Best Foot Forward have produced a card game that enables people to estimate their personal ecological footprint and explore their individual impacts on the environment.

Global Steps consists of 8 playing cards and one instruction card, with each playing card representing an area of consumption such as energy, food, paper, travel and so on.

The game is based on data and assumptions (for example about vehicle fuel efficiency and contents of the domestic waste stream) that are are set out in the book Sharing Nature's Interest.

Published by Ken on July 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

on visualizing global conditions: a new mapping tool

worldmapper showing footprints of nations

These maps are way kewl, because they convey a pile of info that your brain can process in one quick glance.

For example, you can visualize the US footprint in contrast with other countries.

Produced by physicists Michael Gastner and Mark Newman using an innovative algorithm based on linear diffusion, these maps resize each country in proportion to the value of a particular variable.

The worldmapper tool is now available online, and it covers a wealth of comparative data covering nearly 400 different variables from population to resource use.

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

on renewable energy strategy: draft reso for Kauai

joann yukimura councilmember on kauai

One of our County Councilmembers (JoAnn Yukimura) asked for help with a resolution on renewable energy strategy for Kauai, and I volunteered to produce a draft. Here it is.

I've borrowed heavily from other cities and counties who are taking similar steps.

One big caveat: this draft does not explicitly account for Peak Oil. It could be readily ammended to do so.

Note that Portland is one of the few cities so far to consider the implications of post-peak-oil and identify key strategic directions for anticipating these impacts.

Published by Ken on July 29th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | 5 Comments »

update on ferry footprinting: not so fast

study of emissions footprints for transport options, click for larger

If you're a rabid fan of the Hawaii Superferry (if there is such a thang), here's some chastening news from the footprinters.

Turns out, the leading footprint modelers at Best Foot Forward (BFF) have a new, improved online calculator that shows 'high speed ferries' with monstrous energy footprints.

Wudja believe 3-4 times worse than conventional ferries or planes or cars?

Before you start with the gnashing of teeth, however, there are several caveats to consider about this welcome, leading edge research.

Published by Ken on July 27th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

for the sake of appearances: our (human) bad

human food and car pleasuring

Couldn't help pondering the parallel between our addiction to junk food (which makes us obese) and our addiction to cars (which makes us overshoot).

It's all about metabolism.

The sugary junk food alters our bodies' metabolism, virtually guaranteeing that we will gain weight.

Just so, the private automobile alters our planet's metabolism, virtually guaranteeing that it will warm up.

(See Sam Moore's piece on London's 'metabolism' for an illustration of the car's role in climate change.)

In both cases, we have been sold 'a bill of goods'. Our vaunted producing/selling system has put something over on us.

Published by Ken on July 27th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

green consumerism: a pox on the planet?

eco junk on hawaii beach

Buying 'green' products is one thing, yet buying less is really what the 'green' thang is all about.

So says George Monbiot in a recent rant on 'green' buying guides, noting that "it is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products, and its carbon emissions continue to soar" (via common dreams).

"I'm now drowning in a tide of ecojunk", says Monbiot. "Over the past six months, our coatpegs have become clogged with organic cotton bags, which - filled with packets of ginseng tea and jojoba oil bath salts - are now the obligatory gift at every environmental event. I have several lifetimes’ supply of ballpoint pens made with recycled paper and about half a dozen miniature solar chargers for gadgets I don’t possess."

Published by Ken on July 27th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

warming means not just hotter: meaner, too

poison ivy loves co2

Different plants seem to like different amounts of CO2, dontcha know.

Take poison ivy, for example: more CO2 is better for this nasty weed. It grows more vigorously and its evil oil gets more concentrated as carbon dioxide levels increase (via lime).

So says Lewis Ziska, an ecologist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office on crop systems and global change in Beltsville, Md. after studying poison ivy grown in chambers and reporting the results in the current issue of Weed Science.

Published by Ken on July 25th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

think locally, warm globally: try staying cool

apartment AC fire in belgrade heatwave

Bruce Sterling's roost in Belgrade offers a hot vantage point for observing Europe's, well, hot Summer.

Sterling's beyond the beyond blog shows what 'living in the future' is like, with "your basic, everyday 'suffocate the fish" weather'".

Noting that "every society has its idiosyncratic reactions to the planetary climate crisis", Sterling says "think locally, warm globally".

Then, Sterling proceeds to cross-post news accounts of extreme weather events all over Europe, from torrential rains in the UK, to "furnace level" temps in Greece, and notes that Serbia has been brought to a standstill by the heat there.

Published by Ken on July 24th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

on unknown unknowns: wot’s killing us

paralyzed by uncertainty

Hey, wanna be way kewl in cocktail chats now? Spout the uncertainty stats from the climate models. And pontificate on the uncertainty of the uncertainty.

Yup, that's the newest wrinkle in the global warming spin game.

Damn handy for former deniers, too, 'cause it allows them to go, "yeah, human's are doin' it, but you don't really know for sure that all those bad things are gonna happen".

Without wheeling through all quibbling about the modeling assumptions and parameter estimation routines, let's concede a point and make another.

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

how to recycle car exhaust: the green box

greenbox concept via reuters, click for larger

Speaking of virtuous cycles...here's a novel concept for cutting your car's emissions and generating biofuel at the same time.

Turns out, three Welsh fishing buddies have patented and tested something called the "green box" which can capture all the CO2 (and nitrous oxide) in your car's exhaust system and feed it to algae...which can then be distilled into biofuel (via treehugger).

Picture this: you're driving around emitting mostly water vapor while your green box fills up with those yummy chemicals algae needs to grow really fast.

Published by Ken on July 23rd, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

reduce traffic, expand mobility: how’s that work?

glenn mcananama on nyc mobility

Wudja believe NYC may be about to launch a 'congestion pricing' scheme?

Why? To provide a clear financial incentive to NOT drive in the most congested areas of the city (via oildrum).

Wot a concept! Like London, only later.

As Glenn McAnanama notes, NYC is no sure thang, as political wrangling has delayed a 'green light' for Mayor Bloomberg's transportation initiatives.

Still, says McAnanama, "Transportation policy and livable streets issues have moved to the top of New York City's civic agenda and will remain in the political spotlight for some time to come".

Published by Ken on July 23rd, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

Hawaii’s biodiesel future, according to Tobias

jatropha growing in hawaii

Let's see, if Imperium can make enough from its Hawaii biodiesel refinery using imported palm oil feedstock, it will plow these earnings back into growing its own energy crops here in the islands.

In so many words, that's wot it says in Imperium's filings with the SEC to support its IPO.

Now, we have some clues regarding wot that energy crop might be.

Imperium's Mark Tobias posted this shot on his "deep green crystals" blog, showing a Jatropha plant growing in a test plot on Oahu.

Published by Ken on July 22nd, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 2 Comments »

got community? a focus for adaptation strategies

tending to community building

Part of any self-respecting GW 'adaptation' strategy involves re-examining your 'choice' of community.

That's right, adaptation's not just about relocating shore-front facilities, but also about relocating yourself...and not just to 'higher' ground, but also to places with more resources, stronger community networks, and smarter strategies.

Why? Not just because sea levels are rising, but also because nation-states are (or will be) collapsing (via how to save the world).

And, if self-managed communities are emerging in the vacuum that this collapse produces, you're gonna wanna choose your community well.

Published by Ken on July 22nd, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

competing for Chinese tourists: watch out for China

sanya resort abuilding in China

Think there's gazillions of Chinese just waiting to come to Hawaii? Gonna be the next big boom for island tourism?

Not if China keeps building their own tropical resorts like Sanya, they won't (via jetson green).

A tropical oasis right there in the South China Sea, Sanya resort on the southern peninsula of Hainan Island boasts amenities not unlike Hawaii...and so much closer, yeah?

Now comes world-class players with designs for the ultimate eco-centric resort at Sanya, and its mission might be taken as an implicit critique of much of Hawaii's resort development.

Published by Ken on July 21st, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

way to go Portland: you still lose

downtown portland google earth'd

Something there is about a well-planned town that wants it to succeed, and that's Portland (my first hometown) all over.

If urban growth and traffic management are the key variables, Portland is down for the medal round.

Having been around for some of the early strategizing, it's truly amazing to witness the fruits of planning with forethought. Sure traffic's a bitch here, like elsewhere, but imagine where suburban Portland would be without the truly massive investments in roads and multi-modal transport.

All of which is prelude to what comes next...peak oil.

Published by Ken on July 20th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »