Archive for April, 2008

Hawaii’s ‘shell’ game on sustainability: HI2050 setback

HI 2050 sustainability plan deferred

Ready for another rant on the urgency of Hawaii's sustainability challenges?

Can't help m'self after last-minute adoption by the state legislature of a "shell" bill that refers the draft "Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan" to the UH Public Policy Center for further review and concretization.

It seems lack of benchmark data was a show-stopper, as the leg flipped through piles of sustainability-related measures in final days of this session.

Never mind that good buddy Diane Zachary pressed to incorporate such metrics before the plan was submitted to the legislature. The question is: can Hawaii wait another 2 years to get its sustainability sh_t together?

Published by Ken on April 30th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

planning for a sustainable Kauai: AIA says go!

lihue theater

Lihue will get help from national architects in mapping out a plan for sustainability, thanks to the AIA's Sustainable Design Assessment Team (via interiordesign).

Citing local "ignorance or denial about the large context issues of global warming, peak oil and the risks and realities of global interdependence", good buddy Pat Griffin is guiding the Lihue Business Association in this effort to "integrate sustainability principles into the planning process."

One of 10 American cities chosen for the third year of this great program, Lihue has been grappling with creating a "Town Core Urban Design Plan" since 2003, and needs more help.

Published by Ken on April 30th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

speaking of fixes that fail: wuddup with hydrogen?

alice friedemann on hydrogen hype

Good on Alice Friedemann to revisit the hydrogen hype of only a few years ago and recapitulate all the reasons this turned out to be a false hope (via eskeptic).

"The laws of physics mean the hydrogen economy will always be an energy sink", says Friedemann.

Mebbe this explains why we haven't heard much talk about hydrogen in recent months.

Meanwhile, says Friedemann, "the United States government should stop funding the Freedom CAR program, which gives millions of tax dollars to the big three automakers to work on hydrogen fuel cells." Instead, the greatest net energy savings are in fuel efficiency, says Friedemann.

Published by Ken on April 29th, 2008 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

congressman sees forest with trees for ‘green’ energy

bill cowern interviewed by neil abercrombie

PIKO's gotta great video of Kauai ‘green energy’ giant, Bill Cowern, being interviewed by Congressman Neil Abercrombie (via sustainhawaii).

You can see and hear first-hand how Cowern is doing sustainable forestry on Kauai.

Cowern does a show-and-tell on agrichar, biogasification, pyrolysis, micro-hydro electric, plus a whole lot more, and Abercrombie seemed impressed.

Cowern is a big fan of albizia, and will use all parts of this tree in his business. The tops will go into fertilizer to replace imported nitrogen fertilizers, the bark will go into animal feed, and the rest will be milled into lumber or chipped for biomass energy.

Published by Ken on April 28th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | 1 Comment »

zero to 60 in a few months: time for new movement?

time for snap decision on clean energy

"A fantastic spasm of altered weather patterns is crashing down upon our heads right now", says Mike Tidwell, and "the only question left for America is this: can we snap along with the climate? (via orionmag).

"We need a mass movement of concerned voters that 'snaps' into place overnight—as rapidly as the climate itself is changing", says Tidwell, "Time is running out fast" to transform our economy and our lives.”

“Can we, as the world’s biggest polluter, create a grassroots political uprising that emerges as abruptly” and “demands the clean-energy revolution in the time we have left to save ourselves?

Published by Ken on April 28th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Energy | Comments Off

please don’t PLA me: another ooops story?

corn plastic risks

Sure PLA is biodegradable, yet wot does it degrade into? Methane? How unkewl is that?

And leave it to the Brits to monkeywrench our 'silver bullet' for baggin'. They're much more serious about this stuff than Americans, and they wouldn't want polylactic acid (PLA) to turn out like palm oil from Indonesia.

So, yesterday the UK Guardian headlined a story on how 'sustainable' bio-plastic can damage the environment, noting that "corn-based material emits climate change gas in landfill and adds to food crisis".

While PLA is said to offer more disposal options, the Guardian has found that it will barely break down on landfill sites.

Published by Ken on April 27th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

the fuzzy logic of ‘food miles’: think ‘last mile’

local food on the grill

Fashionable as it may be to favor local food, for footprint's sake, the advantage gets fuzzier as we delve deeper into the footprint factors.

...Like how far we drive to get this local food and how it is prepared.

Bottom line: footprint savings in food production are often dwarfed by the footprint of distribution, storage and preparation.

So, if you drive from Kilauea to Hanalei in your SUV to pick up your local fruits and vegetables...forget about saving the planet.

This illustrates how we'll need to resolve all our challenges together, and how, at least on Kauai, mitigation and adaptation are the same thing.

Published by Ken on April 27th, 2008 tagged Adaptation, Ecological Footprint, Energy, Food | Comments Off

more islanders taking the bus: the case for bigger budgets

the kauai bus

Ridership on the Kauai Bus has been jumpin' of late, up an average of 2% per month since early 2005, totaling more than 300,000 annual trips last year. Let's guess why that is, shall we?

Now, the $3.5M local share of next year's $5M budget is slated to jump 15% over last year, and the County Council wonders whether that's enough.

Green energy advocate and good buddy Ben Sullivan is pushing for even more funding, and not just because "it’s the best way we know to get 300 mpg on your way into work in the morning". Wot he said!

Published by Ken on April 26th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Transport | 1 Comment »

Hawaii soils and the fertilizer crunch: rethinking indicated

fertilizer crunch challenges island growers

Wouldn't it be tragic if Kauai taro farmers folded in the face of fertilizer inflation and supply disruptions?

Good buddy Stacy Sproat reports (via email) a critical shortage of fertilizer on island as large growers hoard the available supply and hedge against continuing skyrocketing fertilizer prices.

Meanwhile, ag economist Dale Lattz reports that US average fertilizer prices in 2007 were up 70% from 2003, seed up 53%, and fuel up 100%.

Oh, and, Bill Cowern sees a potential fertilizer spinoff of his biomass biz, though prolly not in time to help the taro farmers, whose operations are already showing ultra thin margins.

Published by Ken on April 25th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

defending China: the Olympics got nuthin to do with it

beijing olympics and water crisis in china

China does have a water problem, says Fred Pierce, yet it is "long-term and of global importance"...and "the Olympics are completely irrelevant" (via newscientist).

Why? "Beijing is draining surrounding regions, depriving poor farmers of water", as one newspaper put it, yet that's not "to keep taps flowing for the Olympics".

Says Pierce, this is "hyping a non-story. That water would be diverted regardless of the Olympics."

Pierce notes "the myth that the Olympics is drying up China is partly the fault of its politicians. The country has a major water crisis in the drier north of the country, the traditional breadbasket. For some years now virtually no water has flowed into the sea from the once-mighty Yellow River."

Published by Ken on April 24th, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

Kennedy on carbon: banish byzantine rules for energy boom

robert kennedy jr on energy fix

We're there, says Robert Kennedy, Jr: We know how to hasten the switch away from fossil fuels.

And wot he didn't say here in Hawaii last month is...he knows exactly wot the next president oughta do. For that, ya gotta go read Vanity Fair.

The next President oughta do three things: establish a cap-and-trade system, invest in a smart grid, and prepare green buildings and vehicles to plug into it. That's wot.

Kennedy did mention geothermal, as he did out here, noting the US sits on the 2nd-largest such resources on the planet.

Published by Ken on April 24th, 2008 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

sustainability and ignorance: more humility indicated

ignorance is a virtue

Mahalo to Steve Talbott for this heads-up: Some of our best minds see ignorance as a virtue (via netfuture).

Say wot? Yup...guided by minds like Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, David Orr, Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, a new "Culture of the Land" book series has just published "The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge".

Ignorance of a particular sort: "joyful", editor Bill Vitek calls it. With co-editor Wes Jackson, Vitek uncorks a potent brew of fundamental rethinking about our knowledge-based hubris.

I’m reminded of Donella Meadows saying we cannot “figure out” systems, yet we can “dance” with them.

Published by Ken on April 24th, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off

betcha can’t live like there’s just one planet…

democracy threat level

As if EarthDay were like a birthday or New Years, with obligatory spot checks on our progress of some sort.

It's not about "we're getting greener" anymore. It's more like "are we toast yet”?

And if Al Gore's right about the link between fixing the climate crisis and fixing our democracy, then we have cause to pause.

Listen up as Sean Gonsalves rants about the state of journalism, and quotes anonymous: “Great minds focus on ideas. Average minds focus on events and small minds focus on people” (via commondreams). Says Gonsalves, "That giant sucking sound you hear is democracy wheezing."

Published by Ken on April 22nd, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

fixing footprints is easy; climate change is something else

earth photo contest winner

Now that humans are running out of time to fix the climate crisis, we see how simple it would be to live sustainably.

We can provide for ourselves without diminishing the world, notes Michael Pollan, in a powerful essay titled "Why Bother?" (via nytimes).

We don't have to spend 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food, says Pollan.

We know how to fix that part. After all, notes Pollan, Americans once grew 40% of our food in "Victory Gardens".

The problem is, we've gone so far toward unsustainability that our human support system is failing. Time's up.

Published by Ken on April 21st, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

the rising cost of a free ride: on driving externalities

true cost of free ride

The "freakonomics" dudes wanna know: wot 'negative externality' caused by our driving costs more? Emissions, congestion, or accidents? (via nytimes mag)

Their answer may surprise you. As for me, their answer makes me think economics is truly freaky.

Auto accidents are by far the most costly, note the Steves (Dubner and Levitt), racking up 7 cents per mile in damage to people and property, while congestion costs 2.5 cents per mile in wasted fuel and lost productivity.

Emissions, meanwhile, impose social costs of less than a penny a mile. How skewed is that? Mebbe we're not correctly calculating our carbon costs?

Published by Ken on April 21st, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | Comments Off

wot are we conserving? presentation on Kauai’s prospects

ken stokes at kauai conservation conference on sustainability

Took the highlights from the climate change conference into my presentation on conservation at the Kauai conference to show the need for some re-visioning.

As in...the ecosystems we're trying to conserve today will be gone tomorrow, given wot we now know about Kauai's climate change prospects.

Wot with less rain, more storms, and higher seas, we'll be losing many of our tropical conservation will be increasingly beside the point.

Instead, words like "translocation", "transition" and "resilience" are cropping up in more and more conversations about conservation..

Which is why Kauai is gonna need a plan for adaptation to climate change.

Published by Ken on April 20th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

diverted by webwork: on making TKI sustainable

the kauaian institute website gets a makeover

So much effort has gone into this SusHI blog that my day job has suffered.

That would be The Kauaian Institute, where I conduct market and ecosystem research and advise companies and communities on sustainability strategy.

Least I could do is bring the TKI website up to par...and so I did.

The intent is to integrate this blog more tightly into the larger work of TKI, and generate additional interest in my TKI products like the ahupua`a poster, and services like my presentations on island sustainability.

Have a look, and consider supporting this work as you enjoy my blogging. Everything's connected!

Published by Ken on April 19th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

nanosolar goes utility-scale: CEO poo-poohs rooftops

nanosolar ceo martin roscheisen

Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen is inviting energy execs along on a Euro trip to view utility-scale solar projects.

Why? Nanosolar wants to sell lots of their breakthrough printed solar cells, and rooftop installation doesn't get 'em there. Says Roscheisen, "municipal solar power plants can be deployed at a different level of efficiency and speed. This is just not yet known very well to the public" (via nanosolar).

"A silent revolution is going on that the press rarely reports about," says Roscheisen, pointing to piece on Marin going solar as the exception. Ya gotta wonder if KIUC got the news yet.

Published by Ken on April 17th, 2008 tagged Energy | 1 Comment »

wanna help save Turtle Bay? on the upside of a downturn

turtle bay resort on oahu

When Kuilima Resort Company (KRC) tanked last year, they were mid-stream in plans for a dramatic expansion at Turtle Bay on Oahu's northshore.

Lucky us! Now Governor Linda Lingle's collaborative effort to buy the 850-acre resort property is under a full head of steam and looking for folks like you who care and are willing to help, according to Kevin Chang at Hawaii's Trust for Public Land.

Chang notes you can contact the Governor's Advisory Working Group at TurtleBayAWG<at> to contribute your ideas and financial support.

The goal of the working group is to negotiate a voluntary conservation sale and acquisition.

Published by Ken on April 15th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

switch away, says he…says we: on greening power and mobility

switch away to EV and green power

Multi-tasker that I am, I was watching/listening to David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, at a recent Princeton seminar on Energy, Climate, and Environment, while simultaneously calculating the potential mitigation impact of switching Kauai vehicles to electric (via climatechangeaction).

You know...the old 'don't switch fuels, switch engines' bit. I wondered: How much power would it take for all-EV, and how much carbon would be offset in the switch?

So, as I listened to Crane talk about us "Carboholics", I crunched the numbers. My kind of early morning fun!

Published by Ken on April 14th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comments Off