Archive for November, 2007

Heinberg and Hansen: a two-fer with feeling

hansen and heinberg know wot to do

Silly me: waiting to exhale 'til we see wot Bali brings...We know already wot must be done.

At least we know lots more as Richard Heinberg and James Hansen turn up the heat.

Hopefully, the nations assembling there are hearing the same message.

Heinberg advocates a concerted, thoughtful, intelligent reduction in fossil fuel consumption - and “at a forced pace” - to avoid an impending and severe many-faceted global social crisis (via celsias).

Hansen's pushing a moratorium on 'dirty' coal, a gradually increasing price on carbon emissions, and focused programs to reduce the non-CO2 climate forcings, especially methane emissions and black soot (via scitizen).

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

kiwi PM wows ‘em in Berlin: on NZ’s sus imperative

nz pm helen clark speaking in berlin

Tho't NZ's leadership on electric vehicles was amazing? Wot about the world's first emissions trading scheme to cover all sectors and all gases. Truly amazing, no?!

Speaking yesterday at the 7th Annual Conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development, Helen Clark highlighted NZ's collaborative efforts to set sustainability as a core product and service attribute (via NZ scoop).

Says Clark, "the risks of inaction on sustainability are too great, while the opportunities of taking leadership are substantial."

For NZ, "sustainability and prosperity will go hand in hand", says Clark.

Published by Ken on November 30th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

billions of humans too many: one planet’s not enough

too many humans

Sure, it's been convenient to turn first to tech for answers to humans' planetary overshoot.

We'll just trim our footprint, we promise (and this may even be possible...many nations headed to Bali seem to think so).

Yet, it's no longer just the pundits who notice that the best way to trim our human footprint is for a bunch of us to die.

Straight away, there are about 2 billion more humans on-planet at the moment than our 'biocapacity' can support (via SciAm).

Not to advocate mass suicide...yet that's effectively what's in the cards...whether by pandemic or war or disruption.

Published by Ken on November 28th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

kickin’ with the groins: on saving Waikiki beach

proposed groin structure on waikiki beach

Doesn't matter that rising sealevels will turn Honolulu into the new Venice. For now, folks want a beach in front of their Waikiki hotel, and significant effort goes into keeping and resupplying the sand there.

Now, one of the biggest hotels wants to put put up three T-shaped groins so that it will have a sandy stretch of beach fronting its property. Crews would pump in about 15,000 cubic yards of sand from two possible offshore sites, and the groins are designed to keep much of the sand in place.

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

lift up your eyes… to the house(?) on the hill

makaleha mtn structure via google earth

At sunrise yesterday a glint of reflected light caught my eye up on top of Makaleha mountain behind Kapaa. Somewhere up there is a reflective surface, but who knew what is it or why it's there?

I gnawed on that anomaly all day, then got up this morning and powered up Google Earth for a closer look at what's up there.

Lo and behold: there does appear to be a structure at 22° 6'59.85"N 159°24'51.46"W.

What had appeared to be atop the "waterfall wall" up Makaleha canyon is actually farther up at the Wekiu summit.

Published by Ken on November 27th, 2007 tagged HI-specific | 4 Comments »

Kauai hindu temple demos sustainable concrete

kauai hindu temple built on fly ash concrete

Here's a graphic illustration for how the quick is often the enemy of the sustainable. Kauai's Hindu temple got a foundation built to last 1,000 years...it just took longer to dry (via hinduism today).

Sure, builders love ‘modern’ reinforced concrete which reaches full strength in two days, whereas the ancient fly ash concrete takes three months. Yet, the quick-curing concrete only lasts for decades, while the other lasts for millennia.

When the temple’s Indian architect specified strength and longevity, it was clear that ‘modern’ concrete simply wouldn’t do, nor would ‘modern’ builders attempt the ‘experiment…which is where Cal professor Kumar Mehta came in.

Published by Ken on November 26th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

on denialists and oil: running out just in time

world oil supply forecast, click for larger

There's no way the US can significantly reduce its energy footprint unless we dramatically cut our energy consumption. Duh!

And only if we have little choice in the latter do we have a chance at the former.

That's the paradox of our post-denial period. On the one hand, the needed cuts seem impossible, while on the other hand they seem essential.

Fancy that: we avoid catastrophic climate change because we run out of oil. Talk about positive feedback!

Why bring this up now? The Energy Watch Group just released its oil supply forecast through 2030 (via new scientist).

Published by Ken on November 25th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Energy | Comments Off

buildup to bali: bottom-up boosters take a bow

wakeup call in bali

Let's hope the Bali bash builds on the global negotiation process, because we're running out of time to agree on how to make substantial emissions cuts.

Global carbon emissions have to peak in 2015 and then decline to avoid the worst, so we don't have time to start over.

Says IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri, “if there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment” (via ny times).

Still, one wonders if the 'global citizen' might be running ahead of global governance on this one.

Published by Ken on November 23rd, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

you’re no dummy if you’re reading this blog

readability score

Don't bother reading this blog unless you've got some post grad education, says the new bot at critics rant.

It's too complex for an 8th grade audience. Oh well.

Turns out, there's piles of math behind these readibility scores.

Don't know where this bot comes from, yet the tools behind Readability.info analyze the characteristics of your writing and outputs a variety of readability scores and statistics based on common readability formulas.

By comparing the readability score of different documents (or Web pages) you can better hone your writing and make sure that you aren't creating overly complex sentences and paragraphs for your audience.

Published by Ken on November 22nd, 2007 tagged Best Practices | Comments Off

paper power: new nanotech brew prints batteries

nanotech paper for batteries

Here's a battery breakthrough with huge potential: a new power source composed of cellulose, carbon nanotubes and a dash of liquid salts (via fast co).

These natural materials and lack of toxins are what make the new battery from RPI so environmentally friendly (via RPI news).

Wudja believe this stuff can be printed? And, depending on how the paper is made, it can function as a battery, a supercapacitor (an unusually efficient energy storage device that can deliver a quick burst of power) or both.

Published by Ken on November 22nd, 2007 tagged Energy | Comments Off

DIY tech as strategic lever: on fixin’ our stuff

DIY tech for self reliant communities

Speaking of virtuous cycles...what about local knowledge as a lever for altering the feedback loops?

Say wot? Yup, the part of social capital that's focused on 'who knows what' can be instrumental in reinforcing sustainability initiatives to change behaviors. Here's how.

Say you're stuck in a vicious cycle of dependence on global distribution for all your stuff. Enabling local folks to make and fix their own stuff is a potentially system-changing lever, here.

Watch wot happens when MIT's D-Lab comes to your village (via good mag).

Published by Ken on November 21st, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

have tallow, will bus: win-win for Scotland

bio bus in scotland

When does a bus pass look like a bottle? When it's a bottle of tallow or used cooking oil being exchanged for a discount bus ticket.

That's the deal in a Scottish initiative focused on greener travel and fuels (via eye on earth).

Bus patrons bring their used cooking oil to be recycled in exchange for reduced fares on West Scotland's Stagecoach run from Stewarton to Darvel...which currently carries some 15,500 passengers per week.

Stagecoach's 'Bio Bus' fleet runs on biodiesel produced by local bioenergy specialist Argent Energy.

Published by Ken on November 21st, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Transport | 1 Comment »

from vicious to virtuous: on strategic tipping points

eco tipping points

Systems thinking is all well and good, especially where it helps us identify feedback loops that shape the impacts of our actions.

Still, so much of our thinking has been focused on the vicious cycles leading our planet into catastrophe that we often neglect the virtuous cycles that reinforce our best efforts.

The trick is in turning the former (vicious) into the latter (virtuous) by exposing the strategic points at which the cycles can be reversed.

Nobody has studied this question more closely than the East-West Center's Gerald Marten, and you can watch his inspiring presentation of eco tipping points at this year's HCA conference.

Published by Ken on November 20th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

solar cells w/o silicon: nanosolar prints ‘em

nanosolar thin film tech

What if solar cells didn't need to be produced layer by layer, but could be printed directly onto a metal foil substrate?

That's the breakthrough tech coming soon from Nanosolar, and they're using absolutely no silicon in the process (via treehugger).

Instead of creating each cell by depositing a semiconductor between electrode layers, Nanosolar has figured out how to mix nanoparticles in the ink to lock-in the elements in just the right atomic ratios to each other.

Needless to say, this solar cell is a lot thinner and a lot cheaper to make, which is why Popular Science gave them "Innovation of the Year".

Published by Ken on November 20th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comments Off

Hawaii visitor flight emissions: another elephant

CO2 from kauai visitor air travel

Yes, Hawaii may be able to significantly reduce emissions generated by interisland traffic (perhaps by switching away from flying), yet this challenge pales in comparison with the emissions from visitor flights.

In a recent newspaper column, I explored the trends in interisland travel by Hawaii residents...since the airfares jumped sharply some five years ago.

Naturally, a lot fewer of us are flying to another island, and the former travel culture that viewed inter-island air like a bus is long gone.

No more is it a simple and inexpensive matter to schlepp your canoe club or hula halau or grandkids from one island to another.

Published by Ken on November 19th, 2007 tagged CO2 Emissions, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

gettin’ busy: on bloggin’ vs teachin’ sustainability

play the garbage game

You noticed the sharp decline of posts here in recent weeks, right? Been so busy running the sustainability seminar that bloggin's taken a back seat.

Never fear, we're learning a lot in that forum and it will all be reported here...eventually.

This week, for example, we're diving into concepts of waste...on an island where the tallest man-made structure is our landfill. From a sustainability perspective, this offers a wonderful exercise in systems dynamics and footprint assessment.

While we slog through this stuff in the seminar, have a look at this new garbage game from Gotham (via treehugger).

Published by Ken on November 19th, 2007 tagged Best Practices, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

Kauai as biodiversity garden: new study shows how

lida burney harvests seed pods on kauai

Wot if this 'garden island' were managed like a botanical garden so that threatened species could be reintroduced into our pre-existing wild environment and given a fair shot at recovery?

Good buddies David and Lida Burney are pioneering just such a bold new "inter-situ" approach to conservation here on Kauai by closely managing the recovery areas using the same techniques in zoos and botanical gardens (via star bulletin).

The common methods used by conservationists are failing, say the Burneys, and the risk of further extinction will only get worse as human contact and foreign diseases continue to devastate the natural environment

Published by Ken on November 19th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Ecosystems Research, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

wot he said: HI2050 sustainability plan falls short

HI2050 draft sustainabiliy plan

Good buddy Jan TenBruggencate called the other day to make sure he wasn't missing something, then blogged on the underwhelming draft plan produced by the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force.

TenBruggencate calls it "astonishingly soft and fluffy, with no sharp edges, no firm resolve, no powerful new directions...Before it is finalized it needs a shot of adrenalin, a sense of urgency, some specificity."

As I told Jan over the phone, this document makes clear that Hawaii residents aren't too sure what sustainability is, but they're pretty sure they want some.

Published by Ken on November 13th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

green building in perspective: where’s the leverage?

perspective on green building

The good folks at GreenBuild are so wonderfully wallowing in the popularity of their movement, yet their prospects for contributing to sustainability are little more than they were two years ago.

Then, while attending the Atlanta confab, I noted (to some consternation) that the early results of ecological footprinting suggested that green building represents a small slice of the emissions pie.

Still true...and largely unremarked.

To illustrate, here's what we're learning about the interconnections between building design, occupant behavior and community planning, based on a British study (at BedZED):

Published by Ken on November 13th, 2007 tagged Ecological Footprint, Green Building | Comments Off

carbon cloud lifts over Kauai ethanol plant: no coal

kauai sugar mill

Green energy advocates won a round on Kauai as Gay & Robinson announced today that coal will NOT power a proposed Kauai ethanol plant under development by Pacific West Energy (via Garden Island).

Now slated to burn bagasse instead, this $80 million project is designed to produce 12-million gallons of ethanol from sugar juice and molasses.

The ethanol plant is part of this historic sugar company’s transition to a renewable energy plantation on 7,500 acres of cane fields.

According to G&R’s Alan Kennett, “the major concern in the decision to not burn coal is not to put our entire energy plan at risk”.

Published by Ken on November 11th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | 4 Comments »