Archive for September, 2007

making a market for albizia: new lessons from a taroist

albizia tree, invasive or valuable biomass?

Bill Cowern was recently on KKCR's talk show describing his company's plans to supply 10% of Kauai's future energy from the biomass of chipped trees.

Cowern's favorite tree? Albizia. You know, that runaway 'invasive' now found all over the islands.

Why Albizia? It grows fast and, when intermixed with other trees Cowern is growing, it provides enough nitrogen and other nutrients that has dramatically cut the need for commercial fertilizers by 95 percent.

Still, Albizia has achieved a kind of notoriety, exemplifying good intentions run amok, and complicating Cowern's plans for expanded tree plantings.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | 2 Comments »

getting over Hawaii, virtually…with a desktop footprint

atop waialeale by helicopter video

Psssst! Wanna see the islands without spoiling something for someone else?

Try these virtual flyover high def videos from Blue Hawaiian, the "cadillac' of helicopter tour companies (via Frommers).

There are so many parts of each island that you cannot see without getting up in the air, yet I have never wanted to go by chopper.

Why? Because I've had too many 'wilderness' hikes here spoiled by the constant buzzing of tour helicopters. Naturally, I'd rather not indirectly inflict this on others.

Still, I've always wanted to see what the top of Waialeale looks like. Now, I (and you) can, without going anywhere.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

tracking footprints just got easier: OpenEco launches

openeco launches

Good buddy Gil Friend at Natural Logic reports that OpenEco has launched a new global on-line community that provides free, easy-to-use tools to help participants assess, track, and compare business energy performance, share proven best practices to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and encourage sustainable innovation.

Developed by Sun Microsystems in partnership with Natural Logic, OpenEco is inspired and guided by Natural Logic's 'Business Metabolics' sustainability performance dashboard that tracks any organization's footprint, including energy, water, materials, products and "wastes" and easily compares enviromental and economic metrics.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

more hurricanes coming if hawaii loses its ‘cold wall’

david boynton photo of rain clouds on waialeale

Who knew Hawaii was protected from the eastern Pacific hurricane factory by a wall of cold water just east of the island chain?

No one thought to check if this 'cold wall' would survive global warming...until two ecologists from the Fish & Wildlife Service started working with climate models.

Reporting on a remarkable collaboration between island conservationists and climate modelers, Teresa Dawson zeros in on how and why Hawaii's storm and rain patterns are destined to change...perhaps dramatically (via environment hawaii).

Says Stephen Miller, co-author of a recent presentation at the HI Conservation Alliance conference, “We were, at every step in the process, staggered at what we were seeing.”

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

mindful markets, vibrant civil society: Lovins imagines

lovins at gala anniversary for RMI

Wanna learn how the cause of our problems is our solutions?

Check out Amory Lovins' "Gala Speech" on the occasion of RMI's 25th anniversary.

Called "Imagine a world," this speech oughta be required viewing by every concerned citizen.

Lovins opens with what Lovins calls RMI's "guiding parable", which is about how not to parachute more cats.

Says Lovins, "this story shows that if you don't understand how things are connected, often the cause of problems is solutions. Most of today's problems are like that."

RMI is all about harnessing hidden connections, says Lovins, so the cause of solutions is solutions:

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

sustainability gets hip: catchy rap for our times

sustainability rap from green screen tv

You knew it was comin' to this...and thanks to Jennifer Sifuentes of Aloha We Deliver for the tip.

Wudja believe rap on sustainability?

Yup, and this is way kewl kine stuffs from the Green Screen team (via earth media).

Making sustainability hip and fun has been a long time coming, and it's about time to we had some fun (or at least a catchy tune) while we work for cleaner water and a cooler climate.

According to these rappers, "environmental stuff is light when we step on the scene."

Here's the main thang from this song:

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

follow me, I’m right behind ya: US on climate deal

US govt claims to be helping

Good thang only mid-level bureaucrats showed up at the Bushies alter-occasion on global warming.

Not much happened, that's why. Except we got to see again how isolated the Bushies are (via ny times).

The US is willing to lead, said Condi Rice, but is not willing to commit to negotiated emissions reduction goals and still prefers a voluntary compliance scheme.

John Ashton, a special adviser on climate change to the British foreign secretary, notes that “a voluntary approach to reducing greenhouse gases is hardly likely to be more effective than voluntary speed limits on the roads”.

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

wot else am I doing that’s too dumb for words?

garrison keillor column in salon

Waking up to one's footprint is often like this. Once we learn how our purchases lead to plundering, some gnashing of teeth seems in order.

And, gnashing is wot Garrison Keillor is dishing this week as he 'fesses up to his stupid preference for bottled water (via salon).

Says Keillor, "San Pellegrino and Perrier got rich off the pretensions of liberal wastrels like moi who thought it set us apart from the unlettered masses."

Keillor acknowledges that "the current campaign against paying good money for bottled water...is so sensible on the face of it."

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

learning to look at our shadow: on the shamanic part

paul hawken and bill mckibben interviewed

We're having a debate about our future, in case ya hadn't noticed.

Yup, we're still figuring out how to engage folks on the salient issues, yet the debate is in full flower.

So say Paul Hawken and Bill McKibben in a marvelous interview with Jon Lebkowsky (via worldchanging).

And, Lebkowsky asserts, the tone of voice used by these two guys has something to do with their success.

"Both have unique and perhaps even healing voices", says Lebkowsky. "I'd call Bill's tone in 'Deep Economy' 'engaged neighborly,' and Paul's in 'Blessed Unrest,' 'inexorably graceful'."

Published by Ken on September 26th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

this has gotta be a coincidence…or is it?

bbc poll results, click for larger

Wudja believe the same share of Americans who selected our president (24%) also still believes human activity is NOT a significant cause of global warming.

That's one of the less remarkable findings from a new global poll on climate change.

The headline finding is this: 71% of Americans and 79% of all humans believe human activity IS a significant cause.

Hmmm...guess that debate's pretty much over.

Timed to coincide with the Bushies alter-occasion, the results reflect the views of 22,000 humans polled in 21 countries for the BBC.

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

Hawaiian view of prosperity: on evoking wealth

wai equals wealth in hawaiian

Sometimes the writing in the blogosphere is so strong we simply want to share it.

Such is the case with my good buddy Joan Conrow's very first post in a new blog called Kauai eclectic.

Never mind that it centers on an instructive exercise for anyone...looking through the eyes of a different culture.

The point about this piece is its pointing us toward fundamental notions of real value.

Here's how Conrow crafts it:

Published by Ken on September 25th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

Orr’s onion: peeling layers of polluting purchases

peeling layers from onion

Start with the silly stuff, says David Orr, if you're looking to cut your consumption of fossil fuels, and you'll find that a sustainable society is within reach.

Interviewed by Deborah Rich, Orr notes that "changes in our fossil energy consumption, and hence, carbon emissions, are not optional but mandatory" (via sfgate).

"Our choice is whether we organize the transition or let circumstance and nature do it for us. The former path permits cautious optimism; the latter would be catastrophic at a scale difficult to imagine", says Orr.

Published by Ken on September 25th, 2007 tagged CO2 Emissions, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

worst case scenario: why sustainability matters for Hawaii

yin yang mitigate adapt

Part of our shift toward less unsustainable ways of living, traveling, and doing business in the islands involves mitigating our footprints.

Another part involves adapting our systems.

These threads are interwoven.

Our island living is threatened by global warming, resource wars, and social unrest, just like everywhere else.

And our way of doing things in business, households and governance must change to fit the special challenges of our tropical islands.

Stuff we tho't doesn't affect us...does. And stuff we never had to think about...we do.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

should we have a baby luau? on SusHI @ 1

SusHI turns 1 today

Feel like celebrating either way, now that the first year of bloggin' is behind me. Whew!

Who knew this was like a way of life...sharing the learning that we've all been doing a lot of this past 12 months.

Fact is, not much more than a year ago, we islanders were still not sure we could use the "S" word in polite company.

A year ago, far fewer of us were persuaded that our changing climate posed an urgent challenge, or that there was something we could do about it.

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

sustainability is a way of life: Hawaii looks to 2050

HI 2050 sustainability summit

To grasp the simplicity and enormity of our challenge, you need read no further than Goal One in the Hawaii sustainability plan which was previewed for about a thousand of us gathered on Oahu yesterday.

"We seek to encourage every man, woman and child in Hawai’i, as well as every institution, to live in a sustainable way" says the first line in this path-breaking document.

And I, for one, am indebted to my buddy John Knox (who helped draft this document) for ensuring this gem floated to the top, following an 18-month community engagement process that often seemed more about the kitchen sink than about carbon sinks.

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

paper or plastic: it’s not about bags, but wot’s in ‘em

absurdity of pape versus plastic debate

Justin Brant writes pointedly about why the contents of your shopping bag matter far more than the bag itself (via sightline).

Says Brant, "Assuming that a grocery bag holds one day's worth of food for a family of four, the choice about what to put in the bag is about 186 times as important as the bag itself."

Brant calculates this number using the concept of embodied energy -- the energy used to produce, transport, and dispose of a product over its entire lifetime. For food this includes making fertilizers, processing, transportation, storage, and cooking.

Here's how Brant set up this comparison. Using data from the most on-point study he could find, he calculated the energy used to produce, process, transport, store, and cook four servings of two different diets:

Published by Ken on September 21st, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

orienting to wind: another exemplary Hawaii home design

ohana house designed by james cutler

Cutler is "a maestro" because "this structure has music to it: theme, composition, variation on theme, tension, and rest", say reviewers of the Ohana Guest House recently designed by James Cutler for a windy and lush site at the end of the road on Hawaii Island.

And yup, it got raves in a recent issue of Architectural Record, where Robert Ivy writes this house "holds infinite promise" on "such a heroic natural setting" (via treehugger).

Who knew designing for withstanding 80-mile-per-hour sustained gales could be so 'organic', as Frank Lloyd Wright used to say.

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Green Building | Comment now »

how many planets do we need? on our consuming footprint

consumer consequences online footprint calculator

Sheesh, it's fun to watch the rolling adoption of ecological footprinting as a decision aid, both for individuals and institutions as well as for towns and regions.

Latest off the drawing board is a new online calculator from the folks at Redefining Progress (RP) who recently helped refine the footprinting calculus (via csrwire).

Working with American Public Media (APM) and video game developer Realtime Associates, RP just unveiled 'Consumer Consequences', an online game that lets people see the environmental consequences of their lifestyles.

Of course, this is a 'serious' game, which allows Americans to redesign their lifestyles to try to live within the world's resources.

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2007 tagged Ecological Footprint | Comment now »

now that you’ve switched light bulbs…switch again

LED bulbs to replace CFLs

Who knew the CFL imperative would be so short-lived, superceded as it may be now by LEDs (via ecostreet).

Wudja believe LED light bulbs now perform on a par with incandescent light bulbs as far as quality and consistency of light goes?

Check out the EarthLED blubs, for example. (Cute name, yeah?)

Oh, and, throw in the 10x less energy needed to produce the same amount of light, plus the fact that LEDs last 50x longer than old-fashioned incandescents...ya just might get folks attention.

Wot about the price, you ask? Well, this is where ya gotta switch to high math.

Published by Ken on September 19th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

Hawaii ‘invasive’ may portend fuel independence

jatropha tree on hawaii island

Jatropha may be a hot prospect for growing biofuel in Hawaii, yet Ted Seaman is still searching for a farming and harvesting method that will work on the islands' marginal lands.

Seaman heads up the Big Island Fuel Crops Project whose goal is to show that Jatropha curcas can and should be grown as an agricultural crop on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Never mind that jatropha is considered a 'high risk' invasive.

Seaman disagrees with this assessment, noting that jatropha trees planted back in the plantation days at worker campsites have not spread from the places they were intentionally planted.

Published by Ken on September 19th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »