Archive for October, 2007

Kermit as ‘ordinary hero’: green is the opposite of easy

kermit the frog on being green

When Kermit noticed how tough it was being green, many folks thought that meant it was OK if ya weren't...green, that is. 'Cause "it ain't easy", right?

Of course, our sympathy for Kermit might just as logically have helped us raise our own standards.

Fact is, achieving sustainability is gonna be a heroic struggle. The opposite of easy. That doesn't mean it's enough to "try to be green". Our human support system is either sustainable, or it's not. There's no such thing as 'sorta' sustainable. 'Trying' doesn't count.

Turns out, Kermit plays the 'ordinary hero'...just listen to the end of his song.

Published by Ken on October 31st, 2007 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

energy, transport and cost: 3 spheres for solar!

solar BEV

Say Kauai had a buying club for residential solar systems...to bring the costs down. And say we also had a financing program to amortize the cost over 20 years...like Berkeley (via sf gate).

At what price point could we install such systems, and what would be the annual payments? Would this constitute significant savings over current residential electricity rates?

This ‘club’ approach holds promise for making climate action synonymous with poverty reduction. How so? Poorer households need budget relief as well as smaller footprints.

At Kauai rates, we know that solar can compete. Yet, can we actually reduce energy costs? That’s wot I wanna know.

Published by Ken on October 29th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

density and mpg: on cars, cities and climate

sprawl and auto dependence

Get yerself a condo in town, lose the car and, voila: you're solving climate change and saving big bucks.

How so? Less auto-dependent development is key to mitigating climate change (via smart growth america).

The growing demand for conveniently located housing in walkable, accessible, compact neighborhoods could significantly reduce the growth in the number of miles Americans drive, shrinking the nation’s carbon footprint while giving people more housing choices.

In Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change, a comprehensive review of dozens of studies, published by the Urban Land Institute, the researchers conclude that urban development is both a key contributor to climate change and an essential factor in combating it.

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

coming resource wars…in America’s own desert

no water in US desert

When the snowpack disappears from the American West (and there's a 2/3 chance that 30 to 70% of it will), expect a catastrophic reduction in the flow or water to farmers and cities.

What then? "An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result", says Jon Gertner, with farmers, cities, states, Indian nations, and foreign nations (Mexico) suing each other (via ny times).

Already, the enormous Lake Mead reservoir in Arizona and Nevada (that supplies nearly all the water for Las Vegas) is half-empty, and statistical models indicate that it will never be full again.

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

dontcha get it? it’s about using ‘warm words’

sieze the consensus

How do we talk about sustainability in a way that isn't so alarmist it has a distancing effect or so personal and small that it fails to compel?

That's the question recently addressed by some pace-setting British research.

For once, I think they're asking the right question. And, frankly, that's no mean feat.

So much of our discourse these days reflects a misapprehension of precisely where our 'modern' human support system has gone awry and where the levers are with which we can reshape our 'post-modern' future. That is, we're asking the wrong questions.

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

adaptation and mitigation: like eating and drinking

adaptation strategy needed

We've heard lots about how to reduce emissions to stabilize greenhouses gases, yet what about adaptation strategies to ensure the resilience of communities to the consequences of inevitable climate change?

Now there's new help for those turning to effective adaptation strategies for an altered and rapidly changing world.

The Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment has just released a Survey of Climate Change Adaptation Planning (via triple pundit).

The report explores available adaptation resources and summarizes ongoing efforts to deal with the environmental and economic challenges of climate change. Eight existing adaptation plans and 18 adaptation planning efforts with a wide variety of impact areas are reviewed.

Published by Ken on October 18th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

Honolulu’s got a brand new plan: on unsustainability

manu o ku mascot for Honolulu

Far be it from me to pooh-pooh progress, yet making your city less unsustainable is sorta like getting less pregnant. I mean, either you are or you aren't.

So when Honolulu says it wants to be "more self-sufficient and sustainable" and "more in harmony with our island environment", you'd have to say that's a good thang. Is it good enough? Of course not.

Honolulu's new 'sustainability plan' is little more than a catalogue of piecemeal efforts, each of which makes the city a little less unsustainable.

Sure it's handy to add them up, and I feel better knowing that someone is doing something.

Published by Ken on October 17th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

on Gore’s 9 ‘errors’: nothing of the sort

convenient untruths

At worst, Al Gore's documentary contains some convenient untruths, not the 9 'errors' claimed in a British court, according to the RealClimate gang.

Still, "it is clear that the purported 'errors' are nothing of the sort", write Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann.

Bear in mind that the British judge found that "Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate."

As RealClimate points out, "the judge referred to these as 'errors' in quotations precisely to emphasize that, while these were points that could be contested, it was not clear that they were actually errors."

Published by Ken on October 16th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

dude, where’s my headline? on holding the focus

distracted

John Feeney at Growth Madness rips a raucous riff on media headlines. "Wake up", says Feeney. "Ecological issues should be headlines every day."

Ironically, says Feeney, "the stories which do make the front page often have ecological bases which go unrecognized."

"We are so very distracted," sighs Feeney, speaking at Boulder's A Renaissance of Local festival on "the media’s consistent failure to recognize the most important news story in human history."

Sure, the stories making headlines are "mostly important", says Feeney, yet "their importance pales in comparison with that of our ecological plight."

Published by Ken on October 16th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

on positive feedback: can you say subtle complexity?

feedback loops

Here's something we all need to understand: Feedback. No, not like: "Hey, that was a great speech!"

More like: "Hey, more warming is leading to more warming." You know...as in viscious circle.

Howzat work? Now you can read all about it in a wonderful OpEd piece by Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of "The Upside of Down" (via inspired protagonist).

We all know everything's connected, right? So, Homer-Dixon shows how, say, the connections between the air and the ocean can propel a change in one through a change in the other to accelerate the original change.

Published by Ken on October 15th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

Kiwi juice: green powered NZ targets switch to EVs

ev targets in NZ

Who knows why that other part of Polynesia is so far ahead of Hawaii...but look wot the Kiwi's are up to.

Wudja believe EVs? Now that New Zealand is well on its way toward green electricity (70% hydro/wind), this makes sense.

Prime Minister Helen Clark recently announced her government's target of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by 2025 (via celsias).

Another of the 5 targets adopted is this: "we will be one of the first countries in the world to widely deploy electric vehicles." Yeah!

Here are the other 3 targets:

Published by Ken on October 15th, 2007 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

hunting for who’s in the hunt? watch hunter

hunter lovins on youtube

Here's Hunter Lovins in a recent interview, where she incidentally frames sustainability as I did in the LEGS keynote yesterday (via celsias).

Says Lovins, "sustainability, as typically defined by those of us who work in the field, is solving the very real problems facing us. We live in a carbon constrained world, we're losing virtually every major ecosystem in the world, and all of our infrastructure is vulnerable and could be cut off at any time."

Voila! There's your 3 spheres...

"Put all those problems together, and you have a nest of issues that is going to force change, whether we like it or not", says Lovins.

Published by Ken on October 14th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

Kauai sustainability conference shows LEGS

3 spheres mental map for sustainability thinking

Ya wouldn't know it from reading our island news rag, yet the 'bookend' speeches by Stacy Sproat-Beck and moi actually came off as planned.

I actually did deliver the keynote on the 3 spheres of sustainability thinking and Stacy actually did deliver the closer on ahupua`a management at yesterday's LEGS conference. Too bad if ya missed 'em.

Still, Maika`i no (outstanding) to Ben Sullivan and the Apollo Kauai conference crew who made this such a memorable day!

Somehow, cub reporter Nathan Eagle couldn't get there early enough or stay late enough for these 'bookends', yet fortunately he was able to cover most other presentations...since there was so much good stuff getting dished all day.

Published by Ken on October 14th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

unsustainability leave ya speechless? attend this confab

juggling earth

Gotta get up and get away...to Kauai Community College this Saturday morning (13Oct). Why? Yours truly will keynote the LEGS conference on Kauai sustainability.

You should come. Every Kauaian and others who care about our island's future should be in this conversation called "Locally Engaging Global Solutions".

Hey, Jeff Mikulina will be there, talking about how we can motivate changes in behavior toward a more sustainable island lifestyle.

Following the release of Hawaii's 2050 sustainability "plan" 3 weeks ago, our island can use some careful scrutiny as we focus on the challenges of our unsustainability.

Published by Ken on October 10th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

oh mama, Obama gets it: on US energy strategy

barack obama intros new US energy policy

There are at least a coupla reasons ya gotta like the energy policy introduced by Barack Obama in New Hampshire the other day.

For one thang, Obama's three-step plan takes a top-down AND bottom-up approach by focusing on both industry and the way individuals consume energy.

For another, Obama supports auctioning of carbon credits, rather than giving them away or "granfathering" the polluters, as the EU did.

And, if ya wanna clear picture of why auctioning matters, check out this salient post from the Sightline Institute.

Published by Ken on October 9th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

think traffic’s bad? fixing it is worse

hwy building boosts emissions

A proposal for the Seattle region to spend $17 billion on new roads, road maintenance, and rail transit, mostly through an increase in sales and vehicle taxes, will actually boost harmful carbon emissions.

So says King County Executive Ron Sims (a former board chair of Sound Transit) who came out against the "congestion reduction" proposal last week.

Why? "Every extra one-mile stretch of lane added to a congested highway will increase climate-warming CO2 emissions more than 100,000 tons over 50 years", says new report from Sightline Institute.

Published by Ken on October 8th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

our purchases, china’s emissions: wot a deal

chine dependence study

Let's see: the boats go from China to the West Coast, then back out here to Hawaii...just like the pollution.

So if we wanted less Chinese coal dust in the islands, we might try ratcheting back on our big box purchases.

Seems sufficiently circular to me, yet some folks don't get the connection.

Now, the New Economic Foundation is driving home the point that China is rapidly becoming the "environmental laundry for the western world.

NEF's Andrew Simms says, "it is demand from countries like the UK which leads to smoke from Chinese factories and power plants entering the atmosphere."

Published by Ken on October 8th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

would humans allow that? polar bears debate

polar bears debate why ice melting

Cute, yeah? This video entry for the green film competition at Friends of the Earth depicts a debate between two polar bears (via ecostreet).

The focus? Why their ice is melting.

The bears consider every possible cause of global warming...including the possibility that humans would allow anything to happen to the polar bears and their habitat.

This they reject out of hand. No, humans wouldn't allow that...surely?!

"Must be our hats", agree the bears.

Well, at least they're no less sophisticated than we are...

Published by Ken on October 7th, 2007 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

bargin’ in on Kauai: wot if the oil didn’t flow?

oil barge nuuana in hawaii

First thang to get lopped off when the oil supply turns south is gonna be the far end of the supply lines (via oil drum).

If this sounds like Kauai, perhaps you'd like to join our Peak Oil Task Force.

Oh, uh, we don't have one. Why not? You ask. Dunno.

I can tell ya this much: the other week, as we cruised through the rebuilt harbor area in Pt. Allen, Susan noticed this big boat-like thang with no superstructure at the dock, and wondered wot it was. When I pointed out that was our lifeline (in the form of an oil barge), she got angry. "Ya mean we're sitting here assuming that puppy's gonna keep coming?"

Published by Ken on October 6th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

wot sustainable mobility looks like as cities explode

chinese city designed green

Berkeley’s renowned College of Environmental Design recently co-hosted a “Meeting of the Minds” conference to discuss the issues and opportunities of mobility in an increasingly urbanized world.

Dean Harrison Fraker’s keynote addresses laid out the challenge of transportation planning in the world’s cities and how different regions have responded historically (via ev world).

Fraker notes that the mix of travel modes is the most unbalanced in the United States (90% of travel by personal car), compared to the mix in either Japan (25% car) or the EU (50% car) where walking, cycling and public transit play a much larger role.

Published by Ken on October 5th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »