Archive for August, 2008

to change ways, change minds: on sustainability thinking

sustainability thinking

Humans act like we think. Nothing new about this. Yet, if we're talking about changing human behavior, we gotta start with how we think.

Since sustainability necessitates a whole different way of living on this planet, it follows that we need a whole new way of thinking...Which is why I like to talk about sustainability as a way of thinking.

Start with how we 'modern' humans have been trained to think. We thought we could take the resources, make the products, and dump the waste. Call this 'Take-Make-Waste' (TMW) thinking, says Bob Doppelt (via CSmonitor). Now, switch to sustainability thinking...

Published by Ken on August 29th, 2008 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

economists help regulators focus on costs: silly us

cost benefit flaws

First came the headsup about weaknesses in the computer models economists use to forecast the impacts of global warming...they're  not worth the bits they're stored in.

For whatever reason (poor science, bad luck, who knows), these computable general equilibrium models simply don't perform well in predicting what actually happens in our economy.

So, when you hear that the US "can't afford" the necessary changes to avert the worst of climate change, don't believe it. We don't know that.

Now, economist Frank Ackerman (a buddy from younger radical days) slices and dices the use of "cost-benefit" analysis to "monetize" these impacts (via sightline). Here, too, you should be very worried. Why?

Published by Ken on August 27th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

when arctic soils thaw: can you say vicious cycle?

arctic permafrost

Maybe you had to have grown up in Alaska (as I did) to fully appreciate the permafrost phenomenon, yet little did we know how lucky we were that soil stayed frozen.

Howzat? As it thaws, we're seeing vast new quantities of carbon dioxide (not just methane) percolate up into the atmosphere.

Just how vast is the focus of new research just published by scientists in Fairbanks (via lime).

Just how vicious is underscored by this stat: there's 60 percent more CO2 down there than previously estimated.

More CO2, more warming, more thawing...more CO2. This is not the cycle we wanna ride...(heh)

Published by Ken on August 27th, 2008 tagged CO2 Emissions, Climate Change | Comment now »

water, water everywhere…in everything we consume

water footprints

You tho't we were in trouble because we built an industrial ecology on cheap energy? How about 'free' water? Turns out, the footprint of our water use is worse than our energy footprint.

Dutch researchers found that the ‘virtual water’ required to produce and distribute our stuff is embarrassingly enormous (via worldchanging).

Research on the UK's water footprint, just out from WWF, found that the UK ‘imports’ twice as much ‘virtual’ water as the British water they use.

Wudja believe average British water consumption requires 50 full bath tubs per person per day. Oh, and, 31 of those are ‘virtual water’ imported from their trading partners.

Published by Ken on August 26th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

Kauai launches Green Drinks social networking event

green drinks on kauai

Every month all around the world, people who are working toward a greener planet meet up for drinks and informal sessions known as Green Drinks.

Now, Gabe Zingaro will host Kauai's first “Green Drinks” this Friday at Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Kapaa, for a mix of green passion and great networking. That's not a stretch, since Zingaro is so ‘going green’, having won our Rotary club's 'green restaurateur' award last year.

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

waste reduction and import substitution: same same

food wasted

Speaking of food system features we don't want to reproduce as we shift to more local production...half our food is wasted.

Try following food from field to fork and funny things happen. New findings from the International Water Management Institute show as much as 30% of food in the US is thrown away (via celsias).

This research focused on the water wasted in the process of producing this wasted food. We can always grow more food, yet we're fast running out of water. To meet growing food demand, global water use may grow by 50%…yet the world doesn’t have that much water.

Published by Ken on August 25th, 2008 tagged Food, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

ski resort housing bubble coming with global warming

ski housing bubble coming

Wudja believe housing prices in ski resorts could drop as much as 24% with global warming of 2°C?

That's just one of the findings reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of SF in a review of research on Regional Variation in the Potential Economic Effects of Climate Change (via econview).

The authors looked at research from snow country that documented housing price drops after no-snow years...and then extrapolated the results.

Of course, the report notes we can expect "substantial subcontinental variation in the potential impact of climate change, largely due to differences in the existing climate."

Published by Ken on August 24th, 2008 tagged Adaptation, Climate Change | Comment now »

fuggedabout red vs. blue states: try purple populism

purple america from YES mag

Ever wonder how the political parties manage to split America into two parts, when the vast majority agree on some of the most important issues of the day?

Me too! Now, new polling results make clear how unified Americans really are (via YES!mag).

And YES! goes beyond the polls to layout "10 Policies for a Better America" that most of us can agree on—- "whether we think of ourselves as red, blue, or some other political color."

Here's one clue: this year’s campaigns (as before) will focus on personalities and hot-button issues. Real issues are simply too…unifying, it seems.

Published by Ken on August 24th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives | Comment now »

substituting Hawaii imports while reducing our footprint

hawaii oil imports

...More on resurging interest in development strategies for "import substitution"...prompted by comments on my previous post.

Note that the same Hawaii imports that rank right up there as ‘substitution’ candidates--energy, transport and food-- also loom largest in our ecological footprint.

And yup, Hawaii could ‘resurrect’ these substitutes, since it once actually did feed itself (fish, poi, rice), generate its own energy (whale oil, wood), and transport itself with local power (horses, canoes).

So, in a sustainability strategy, Hawaii needs to substitute imports of energy and food, which means  100% renewable energy and local food self-reliance, and also probably switching to EVs. Let’s delve deeper.

Published by Ken on August 23rd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

sustainability means a positive future: ya think?

sustainability thinking book

To change our future, we're gonna have to change our minds, says Bob Doppelt (via celsias).

First, we gotta get over reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization, which Doppelt calls the 4Rs of disinterest.

Why? "The future will be powered by sustainable thinking in business, organizations, governments and everyday life" says Doppelt.

As Hawaii 2050 says in its initial goal statement, we need an "ethic of sustainability"; we need to learn how to "live in a sustainable way."

Doppelt employs strategies from the health field to change our thinking and behaviur from unsustainable to sustainable…and then defend them until they become as automatic.

Published by Ken on August 23rd, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

“start some new thinking that will surprise the world”

surprising new thinking

That's how John Adams urged Americans to embrace revolution.

Now, Bill Vitek argues that Americans "must change to a way of life as inconceivable to us as the invention of the modern factory or heart transplant would have seemed to a peasant or professor in medieval Europe" (via commondreams).

"We are living in revolutionary times!", says Vitek. “Efficiency tweaks won't save us... It's so much easier to hope for a miracle. But our best hope lies in embracing revolution."

Echoing his earlier essay on the virtues of ignorance, Vitek says “our challenge is to make a new Enlightenment”.

Published by Ken on August 21st, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

can Hawaii substitute imports as transport costs shift?

hawaii imports

Trade has decreased Hawaii's ability to be self sufficient, and now the benefits of trade are slipping as transport costs slide up the scale. Does this mean Hawaii should resurrect import substitution? Yup, says Nathan John Hagens, although he's not just talking about Hawaii.

"Import substitution policies (are) not only for LessDevelopedCountries, but for the US and rich nations as well," says Hagens (via oildrum).

Globalization has led many locations to specialize and, forgo local expertise and use of local resources, notes Hagens. Yet not all products have local substitutes, and Hawaii might study which imports we could substitute, if/when we have to.

Published by Ken on August 21st, 2008 tagged Adaptation, Transport | Comment now »

putting the eco in town planning: brits show how

british ecotowns strategy

Great Britain is setting out to build 10 new eco-towns in 12 years, each big enough to hold the entire Kauai population (via bbc).

Each town will build on good links to surrounding towns and cities in terms of jobs, transport and services, and put back as much or more energy as it uses. All buildings will meet new green standards, and at least 30% of homes will be affordable.

No one will have to walk more than 10 minutes to access frequent transit. And each town will excel in at least one area of environmental technology. Whew!

Published by Ken on August 20th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Green Building | Comment now »

species relocation service: new focus for conservation

pinion forest threatened

We got to see early science findings last March when Lee Hannah reported on ‘translocation’ as a method to save certain species at the Oahu climate change form.

Now the mapping of habitat movement is becoming a high art in great demand as conservationists ponder where to focus next.

Peter Aldus reports from the Society for Conservation Biology meeting in Chattanooga last month that research teams across the planet are trying to work out how species and habitats will be affected by changes in temperature, rainfall, sealevel and many other climate variables…just as we are here in Hawaii (via newscientist).

Published by Ken on August 20th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecosystems Research | Comment now »

the irony of hubris: on human control issues

human control of world

Just as humans are gaining significant control over our environment, we're starting to lose it, says Richard Heinberg in a marvelous essay (via postcarbon).

“Humankind has control issues, and they’re about to get a lot worse.”

"Even our great grandparents were relatively powerless against the cold, the heat, famine, insects, diseases, and the rest of nature’s inconveniences when compared to ourselves," notes Heinberg.

Yet, "with the end of cheap fossil fuels, and therefore the end of cheap energy, our ability to control our environment begins to wane", says Heinberg. This has “abundant practical implications, but also a collective psychological, even spiritual impact.”

Published by Ken on August 18th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

tracking green markets: on one index that’s rising

enviro pencil pushed

As a metrics maven, I hold undying affection for stats that paint provocative pictures...like 7th Generation's new index of market trends, observations, and responses.

Inkslinger introduces the index as a snapshot of leading environmental indicators that paint a portrait of the state of our world. These "facts and figures that we think say a great deal about where we are today and where we need to go tomorrow."

Take the brouhaha over prospects for new 'green' jobs, for example, and focus on this statistic: waste recycling generates 6 times the number of jobs as landfilling, and 36 times waste incineration (via brightestgreen).

Published by Ken on August 18th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, CO2 Emissions | Comment now »

coming soon to airports near you: far fewer fearless flyers

sunset of mass air travel

Those who live far from family, or work for the airline industry, or depend on tourism or airfreight for an income will have few options, says Richard Heinberg (via globalpublicmedia).

Why? The airline industry has no future, and this includes airfreight. "In a few years jet service will be available only to the wealthy, or to the government and military", says Heinberg.

As Hawaii knows intimately, "cheap airfare has helped facilitate the geographic dispersion of families and businesses alike", says Bradford Plumer (via newrepublic).

Now, Daniel Lerch reports that the airline industry is coming out against airport expansion (via postcarbon).

Published by Ken on August 18th, 2008 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Transport | Comment now »

collapsing empires compound system instability

viscious cycle in peak oil

So, the dust has hardly begun to settle from the Soviet collapse, and we should not expect global stability for many years, says John McLaughlin (via beyondthebeyond).

Meanwhile, Stuart Staniford thinks we're brewing our own version of collapse around the food versus fuel thang (via oildrum).

Oh, and, Jeff Vail sees a viscious cycle threatening to induce the worst consequences of Peak Oil far sooner than anyone expects (via oildrum).

Makes ya wonder if it's time to dust off those barbarism scenarios and revisit our prospects under the various versions of collapse. Yet, few folks are factoring in prospects for abrupt change...

Published by Ken on August 16th, 2008 tagged Systems Thinking | Comment now »

3 bins for single stream recycling: new math for waste diversion

single stream recycling from ecocycle

Let's see how 3 bins can be simpler than 2 once you get the hang of 'single stream' recycling (via gristmill).

Confusing at first, yes, yet when you learn that 'single stream' refers only to the recyclable material, like paper, plastic, glass and metal, you gotta be liking it already.

Why? 'Cause all those recyclables go into a single sorter in communities now adopting this new approach from the grassroots non-profit recycling group Ecocycle.

Now you can use the second bin for all your food waste, which will go to the composting pile.

Published by Ken on August 15th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

inflation prompts conservation as footprint gains popularity

footprints shrinking with conservation

A whopping 7 in 10 Americans are trying to lighten their carbon load, according to another set of results from a poll by ABC News, Planet Green, and Stanford University (via sightline).

As Eric Hess notes, that's the same share of Americans who are watching Michael Phelps make Olympic history. Yeah!

That's right: 71% of Americans say they’re trying to shrink their carbon footprint through driving less, conserving electricity, and recycling. And, there's more good news.

More Americans want stuff to be both greener and cheaper than either greener or cheaper. Kewl! This could end up influencing the Fall elections. Ya think?!

Published by Ken on August 15th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecological Footprint | Comment now »