Archive for May, 2008

Honolulu not greenest city: false hope from flawed study

HI vs CA emissions trends

When some survey ranks you as the greenest city in America, ya gotta feel a greater sense of urgency about reducing yer emissions, right?

Wrong! And that's what's tragic about the Brookings Institution study released Thursday: False satisfaction (via HNLadvertiser).

Why false? Because this study's methodology was almost designed to make Honolulu look good. I mean, take the dirty thing we do the least-- like heat and cool our homes-- and make that the biggest factor. Of course, we'll score well.

Sadly, the study data covers only a small fraction of our total emissions, yet the headlines scream 'greenest'. Ready for a reality check?

Published by Ken on May 31st, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | Comment now »

sustainability is easy in Hawaii (not): one couple’s experience

containter living on hawaii island

After you factor in the robbery and remoteness, sustainability doesn't look that simple to Dan and Jill, who recently migrated to Hawaii Island to try their hand at it (via learningsustainability).

Their story makes ya wanna just hug 'em with exhortations to hold on. “We aren't rich people, so these setbacks are a major blow to the accomplishment of our goals. This isn't the first time we’re feeling emotions we never thought we'd feel.”

Acknowledging that "poverty-related crime exists everywhere”, they note that “by leaving Hawaii we would gain significant relief from the racial tension and race-related theft and violence." Hold on!

Published by Ken on May 29th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | 1 Comment »

how do we know wot we know? on red-blue mindsets

jesusland map

Speaking of a disconnect...ya might wonder where the lack of concern for global warming comes from among red-staters.

Wonder no more: "they have learned the set of facts propagated in the conservative media universe", writes Dave Roberts (via gristmill).

Turns out, Republicans who consider themselves well informed on the topic seem no more worried than those who profess ignorance, according to a new analysis of survey data (via newscientist). Democrats, on the other hand, become more concerned as they learn more.

Is this because Republicans are "moral absolutists and epistemological relativists?" Yes, says Roberts. "They have their own reality, their own facts."

Published by Ken on May 28th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

Kauai enviros and locals: on impediments to consensus

haole by catherine lee

"The environmental movement has managed to engage only a small portion of the Kauai community", writes good buddy Joan Conrow (via kauaieclectic).

Wanna guess which portion? That's right, "and so long as it’s largely comprised of haoles from the mainland, it’s simply not going to be effective", says Conrow.

Conrow notes that although early environmentalism on Kauai was largely driven by locals, few locals are involved now.

The reason? Conrow quotes Andy (another good buddy), saying "as more haoles got involved in the movement, their aggressive, loud, confrontational tactics served to turn off some locals, who tend to be fairly conservative socially."

Published by Ken on May 28th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

of birds and bads: shearwater blocking Kauai windpower?

birds and turbines

God bless the A`o (shearwater) and all Kauaians whose labors of love help mitigate their risks of extinction.

Feral cats eat their eggs and chicks, pigs and goats degrade their habitat, and lights disorient them, causing collisions with power lines.

Now comes word (via the 'coconut wireless') that Kauai may pass up a major wind energy project because the turbines may also kill some shearwaters. `Aue (alas)!

And this for a bird that resides on Kauai from April to October, and whose most vulnerable time is the fledgling season in October.

Published by Ken on May 27th, 2008 tagged Energy, Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

island ahupuaa on earth: a google layer for kauai

kauai ahupuaa boundaries on google earth

So, ya wanna know where your ahupuaa is? Turns out, these ancient boundary lines for Hawaiian land divisions are increasingly easy to access in digital form.

Problem is: some of these lines are in the wrong place.

Of course, our only guide for where these lines should be is a set of handed-down principles (see TTGI, AppB).

And the only clue we have that the lines are in the wrong place is when these principles are violated.

Here's my version 1.2 of the Kauai boundary lines, as they have emerged from a dozen years of research with archives and kupuna knowledge:

Published by Ken on May 26th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

wot disaster? food and unsustainability in the community sphere

foot riots in haiti

Don't know why equity in the community sphere gets far less coverage than disaster in the ecology sphere or stupidity in the economy sphere.

Virtually every day we see evidence of social unrest, yet the link to unsustainability in the global economy is seldom made.

Does it matter more that Americans are paying more for gas than that poor people on three continents are rioting over food?

Surely not, yet both are signs that our sustainability crisis is spinning toward breakdown.

"If people are hungry, they have no stake in stability," said Hedi Annabi, the U.N. special representative in Haiti (via WashPost).

Published by Ken on May 25th, 2008 tagged Food, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

3 spheres for sustainability: a meme for our time

Just posted this animated graphic as a contributed meme called "3 Spheres for Sustainability" over at Global Mindshift.

3 spheres of sustainaibility

It's from my LEGS keynote last October, and has been useful in many presentations since then.

Tho't ya'd wanna see my framework (or 'mental map") for thinking about sustainability...

BTW, the Mindshift folks gotta great set of memes.

Wot's a meme? Says Global Mindshift:

"A meme is a unit of cultural information that can be transferred from one individual to another. Like genes for the body, memes help cultures evolve."

Check 'em out...

Published by Ken on May 22nd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

wot’s the story? selling editors on climate coverage

andy revkin on selling climate change

Half the journalists' job is getting their story picked up, and this is tougher with climate change because few editors know wot to do with it, says Andy Revkin.

Revkin (NYT) recently joined the RealClimate guys (Gavin Schmidt/ Ron Miller) along with reporter Bill Blakemore (ABC) and editor John Rennie (SciAm) in a CJR panel on covering climate change.

"If you're trying to get on page one or network news", says Revkin, "you face the peril of not being true to the science."

I wondered about this last Friday, briefing journalists from all over on sustainability and climate change in Hawaii.

Published by Ken on May 21st, 2008 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comment now »

last call for humans and all: on doing a 350

bbq earth

Bill McKibben's piece on "civilization's last chance" focuses on getting back to no more than 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, and never mind that MLO shows we haven’t been there for 20 years (via commondreams).

Says McKibben, "those grim Club of Rome types who, way back in the 1970s, went on and on about the “limits to growth” suddenly seem … how best to put it, right."

Now, when we talk about 'limits', we mean 350, says McKibben, borrowing James Hansen's "tipping point" argument (recently published in Science). This "may now be the most important number on Earth".

Published by Ken on May 19th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

optimism is revolutionary, cynicism is obedience

politics of optimism

Alex Steffen quiets my nerves with a marvelous essay on optimism as a political act (via worldchanging).

Steffen's no Pollyanna, mind...he's an expert in the politics of the possible.

Still, Steffen sees a political bias in the air of despair. Is it possible that seeing solving the planet's problems as 'unrealistic' is a political choice that favors them that have?

When combined with the politics of fear, says Steffen, this becomes the politics of impossibility.

Instead, Steffen suggests that 'realism' be defined as "within our capacity" and "necessary."

Published by Ken on May 19th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

it’s the preponderance, stupid: Schneider on managing climate risk

stephen schneider at blue planet summit

Next time someone asks if you believe in global warming, ask them: "Do you believe in evidence? How about the preponderance of evidence?"

So says Stephen Schneider, talking about climate science and risk management at the recent Blue Planet Summit.

"The difference between someone in denial and someone who's a skeptic is evidence", says Schneider. "We're all skeptics in science; we're supposed to be skeptics. But denial is not looking at the vast bulk of evidence, and then taking some little point and saying, oh, that disproves it."

"Part of the job of good citizens is to be able to see through this."

"No one thing disproves it”, says Schneider. "The big problem in the public battle is that people take the 'speculative' to say I've trumped the 'well established'".

Published by Ken on May 18th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comment now »

speaking of sustainability and conservation: wot’s Hawaii’s news peg?

ken stokes presentation at KCC

Yours truly will reprise the message on sustainability and climate change in Hawaii from my presentation at the 2nd Kauai Conservation Conference for the environmental journalists gathered this week at NTBG.

Honored and delighted would prolly cover it. Good fun, too!

Here's my presentation, which begins with the question: Can Hawaii conservation efforts succeed without achieving sustainability?

Following the freak-out at HCA's recent Climate Change Forum, where UH's Chip Fletcher (the sealevel rise guy) announced "there's not a lot of good news out there", I'll try to communicate a sense of mission for islanders facing climatic conditions that are:

Published by Ken on May 16th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

turning up the Kauai volume: RU ready to learn and lead?

sustainability seminar for kauaian leaders

Perhaps, like me, you sense an urgent need to accelerate our learning about sustainability on Kaua`i.

We are not alone: "Turn up the volume," said MIT's president Susan Hockfield at a recent gathering of the Alliance for Global Sustainability. "We need a serious national discussion of sustainability... The climate won't wait."

To advance our Kauaian conversation about the challenges and complexities of island sustainability, The Kauaian Institute is launching a third round of learning sessions in the newly redesigned Sustainability Seminar for Kauaian Leaders (SusSem).

SusSem provides a thorough grounding in the latest sustainability science and best practices for sustainable development. More important...

Published by Ken on May 6th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

Caldeira ramps up ocean warning: overwhelming feedback

carbon cycle

Ken Caldeira was in Hawaii some weeks back to talk about the planet's imminent loss of coral, due to acidification of our oceans.

Wot he didn't say was how some bubbles in Antarctic ice cores helped us understand why ocean acidification is accelerating now.

Caldeira saved that bit for a new article (with UH colleague Richard Zeebe) derived from a study of long-term carbon cycles (with those bubbles) in the May edition of Nature Geoscience.

We're overwhelming the planet's finely tuned feedback mechanism, which has removed excess carbon from the atmosphere for, like, eons. Don't count on that continuing, says this research.

Published by Ken on May 5th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

turn up the volume on sustainability, says MIT prez

susan hockfield, mit prez

"We need a serious national conversation about sustainability", says Susan Hockfield, which would be simply interesting except for Hockfield's job title: President of MIT.

Wot, ya mean MIT hasn't solved our tech challenges yet? No, says Hockfield, and "we need to tell the truth about the power and limitations of technology."

Hockfield seeks elevated public debate because some of our most daunting challenges have been largely ignored.

Like the issue of scale. We need real solutions, says Hockfield, not dilettante's distraction...which is wot we get if we ignore the scale issue. Everyone has a part, says Hockfield, since individual behaviors must change...

Published by Ken on May 5th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

plain living and high thinking: Pachauri on new paradigm

rajendra pachauri

Rajendra Pachauri recently told the Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS) about the relationship between our footprint and our practices (via treehugger).

That's right, Pachauri's Keynote at MIT, with leading academics from Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the US in the house, says "We need a totally new paradigm of development that minimizes the footprint of our actions and our efforts on the ecosystems of the planet."

"We may be able to bring about a greater adherence to the practices, the traditions, the philosophy of Eastern societies. And some of these societies did emphasize plain living and high thinking, so to speak," says Pachauri.

Published by Ken on May 4th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

the wrong stuff (part 2): ‘it’s about tradeoffs’

tradeoffs are so 20th century

This new way of thinking called sustainability is more like juggling than playing catch.

It's not like you throw the ball, then you catch the ball. It's more like you're throwing and catching lots of balls all at once.

That's different from how we were taught to think.

And we're gonna need to change how we think about sustainability if we've got half a chance at pulling ourselves back from the brink of extinction.

So, it might be helpful to review precisely wot's wrong with our 'old' way of thinking.

Published by Ken on May 4th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

the wrong stuff (part 1): ‘cheaper is better’

cleaner is cheaper

So much of wot we 'know' is wrong and needs to be reworked. Take our essential consumer guide: ‘cheaper is better’. That's wrong.

Well, it actually depends on wot ya mean by cheaper…and better. If you're talking about consumer price, then, yeah, it's wrong. If you're talking about the planet price...that's different.

Why? Because few prices include all the costs. Like social and climate costs…you know, the full-on footprint.

Nor do prices account well for stuff that's truly priceless (better). Like love. Like survival.

Fine. Do we replace it with: ‘greener is cheaper’? And wot about laggards who still put cheaper first?

Published by Ken on May 2nd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | 1 Comment »