Archive for September, 2008

building sustainability science: going beyond panaceas

sustainability science

Sustainability science aims to find solutions for diverse and complex problems. Yet, how do we go beyond abstract cure-all proposals for achieving sustainable systems?

Late last year, a special issue of PNAS sought to "challenge the presumption that scholars can generate simple, predictive models of linked systems and deduce general solutions to problems of the overuse of resources."

Elinor Ostrom ( recently noted that "scholarly journals are peppered with works predicting ecological disasters unless some preferred cure-all is adopted" (via PNAS).

Never mind that researchers out in the field are often distressed by these cure-all proposals from academics. We need better science.

Published by Ken on September 30th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

smart, safe & fair: on sustainability strategy

hockey sticks

The human support system is failing faster than you can flick a hockey stick. Fact is, all of our system metrics have gone exponential--fuel, money, emissions, population--so the trend lines look like hockey sticks.

This system failure follows from our failure to see the whole system.

Now, our new 'mental map' of this support system shows three 'spheres' that are inter-looped, reciprocal and dynamic.

A series of vicious cycles already flicked on in each sphere is exacerbating the threats in the other spheres.

So, wot's our strategy and how do we resolve all of these challenges together? That's the question.

Published by Ken on September 29th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

silence will not protect you: telling kids about climate change

orion mag

Wanna help Sandra Steingraber write a kids book on global warming?

Steingraber's asking for help because it's "not clear how to describe what happens when the already-rocking boat is in danger of flipping over." How would you tell a six year old where all the birds and bees have gone? (via orionmag).

Don't talk about this stuff at home? Steingraber, too, used to believe that "frightening problems need to be solved by adults who should just shut up and get to work."

Yet, when her kids started talking about hotter weather "because the Earth is sick”... Steingraber  decided it's time for THE TALK.

Published by Ken on September 29th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Climate Change | Comments Off

deal with this: Stephen Miller on Hawaii climate change

stephen miller at hca

Great video here as Stephen Miller addressed the annual conference of island conservationists in July with another blockbuster presentation (as previously reported in EnviroHI).

Miller anticipates what might happen to the islands' landscape ecology and its implications for resource managers in this excellent (no, mandatory) review of the science for all who care about sustainability in Hawaii.

Our island sustainability initiatives will unfold in the context of climate change. So, as we're retrofitting our buildings and vehicles for renewable energy, growing our own food, and making more of our own stuff, our climate is also going to be changing...perhaps dramatically.

Published by Ken on September 29th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

place-based sustainability science: governance strategy needed

sustainability strategy

How will your community transition toward sustainability? Not alone and in the dark, one hopes.

When the world's best thinkers are stressing the need to prepare for climate change, peak oil, and growing social unrest, we might hope that every community is placing a top-of-mind priority on their sustainability strategy.

Many transition towns are forging sustainability strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own environmental impacts, and create a change of attitude toward renewable energy.

The sustainability mission is to inspire communities in this transition as they unleash the collective genius of their own people. How to govern this?

Published by Ken on September 28th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

Kanu Hawaii gets help promoting island sustainability

Kanu Hawaii logo

Haven't heard of Kanu Hawaii? That's about to change, thanks to some big-time public exposure coming to this new nonprofit that seeks to become a "movement of people drawing on island strengths to make Hawaii a model of environmental sustainability, economic resilience and compassionate community."

See, Kanu is the recipient of the Ad 2 Honolulu pro bono public service campaign for 2008-2009 (via starbulletin).

Ad 2 is an industry group of advertising professionals age 32 and younger whose campaigns have earned national recognition for putting newer nonprofit orgs in the  top-of-mind spotlight.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

on gaming the future: Superstruct launches Oct 6

superstruct online futurism game

Ready for Superstruct? This futurism game is all about facing down humans' five big superthreats, and it's coming to a 'puter near you a week from next Monday.

Superthreats? Quarantine, Power Struggle, Outlaw Planet, Ravenous and Generation Exile...Each of these makes the others worse.

"Superstructing has allowed us to survive in the past and it will help us survive the super-threats", says Jane McGonigal, resident Game Designer and Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Future. McGonigal takes play seriously. She studies the power of games to impact the real-world -- and she creates games that do just that.

Published by Ken on September 24th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

at the County Council: ‘sustainability thinking’ speech online

ken stokes at kauai county council

To help celebrate SusHI's 2nd birthday, I took the time to learn how to use HandBrake (a great open source tool) and converted my speech video into a movie format and got it uploaded.

Ten months ago I was invited by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura to make the same presentation to the County Council that she had seen me give as the keynote for the Kauai LEGS Sustainability Conference.

This is, by now, my stump speech on sustainability thinking, and it introduces the 'new story' of the three spheres.

It's called "Kauaian Sustainability: It's not what we think, it's how." Watch it!

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

SusHI twos: a backward look at forward motion

SusHI turns two

Just 2 years, 1,250 posts and 850,000 visitors ago, SusHI was launched.

In recent months, from 40,000 to 50,000 visitors have stopped by and clicked on an average of 2.4 posts. That's an average of nearly 1,150 daily unique visitors throughout this period. Recently it's been hovering around 1,500 daily. Kewl.

So much has changed in these 24 months, and it's hard to believe the global warming debate is long over and peak oil is here.

Two years ago, I was writing about letting go of fear and growing our own food in these islands. So, some things don’t change.

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2008 tagged HI-specific | 1 Comment »

Simmons Hawaii-bound to speak on the energy challenge

matt simmons

Great conference coming on November 20 at the Big Island’s Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, where Republican energy consultant and industry insider Matt Simmons will be the keynote speaker.

Hawaii Energy Challenge 08 will "assemble keen minds to realistically assess the rising cost of imported oil, its import for key sectors of Hawaii’s economy and impact on island lifestyles, and a range of forward-thinking, dynamic opportunities to develop sustainable energy and liquid fuels."

Published by Ken on September 23rd, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comments Off

which city is least unsustainable? on rankings by SustainLane

sustainland city rankings

Never mind that Cleveland and Milwaukee jumped ahead of Honolulu in the latest 'sustainable city' rankings (via treehugger).

Does it make you feel better that we're ahead of Albuquerque? Do Portland residents care that NYC is creeping up on their number 1 ranking?

Let's face it, less unsustainable is a long way from sustainable.

All these rankings can do is offer a sense of who's shifting farther in the right direction. "Step away from the vehicle", and all that.

These indicators do (can) not show how far we have yet to go. For that, ya gotta check out the Cascadia Scorecard.

Published by Ken on September 22nd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

how to undermine today: ignore tomorrow

jamais cascio futurist

Amidst ongoing wars, accelerating economic collapse, and cascading environmental ruin, can we afford to spend our time thinking about the future?

Especially when these challenges are massive and frightening, it's easy to dismiss futurism as self-indulgence, right?

Not so fast, says Jamais Cascio. "Futures thinking is perhaps better understood as an immune system for our civilization" (via openthefuture).

"Without a sense of what's next, a capacity for understanding connections and horizons, and a vision of what kind of world we want, our efforts to deal with today's problems will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come", says Cascio.

Published by Ken on September 21st, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

is it safe? on health impacts of global warming

health effects of global warming

My stump speech on sustainability thinking incorporates the latest framing by suggesting public safety as the appropriate criteria in the ecology sphere.

As I run down the litany of ecological threats, I go: "Is that safe? It's not. You know." So when health impacts of global warming start showing up in major US media, I jump for joy (via usnews)!

Folks need to know this stuff, and not just because it might prompt them to act sooner with more radical changes in their daily practices. Turns out, scientists around the globe are observing changes that impact individuals' health and creating models to predict where we might be headed.

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

another speech, another spark: on the Hawaiian audience

speaker tags for stokes

Don't know why native Hawaiians aren't a bigger presence in our islands' sustainability conversation, since this would seem to be their issue.

After all, who knew more about sustainability than their ancestors who lived out here in the middle of the Pacific without metal or trade.

Still, my speech to the distinguished members of Hale O Na Alii last eve was a great opportunity to address Hawaiian leaders on their own turf.

I spoke on the similarity of sustainability thinking and the ancient kapu. Was I gentle? NO! "Stand up, kupuna", I exhorted. "This is THE Hawaiian issue. We can't do this without you!"

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

here comes waterprinting: on footprinting state of practice

greenwash guide

Maisie Greenawalt went to a conference on Carbon Footprinting & the Supply Chain. Whoopdeedoo!

Wot's the big deal? She took notes!

As VP of Bon Appétit (same folks who footprinted their cafeteria food), Greenawalt doesn't necessarily like conferences, yet this one was special. It came with 2 days in NYC, and attracted an intriguing mix of industry reps...from ConAgra to the World Bank, Nike to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture.

Says Greenawalt, "overall, cows took a beating, packaging was shown to be somewhat of a red herring and I was impressed by the level of knowledge held by major manufacturers."

Published by Ken on September 20th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

BAU down to indicators: known knowns by the numbers

cascadia scorecard for energy

Business-as-usual (BAU) is the enemy. Step away from the vehicle!

This message comes clear is all our conversations about sustainability, yet how do we know when we've turned the corner?

Town by town around the planet, we're starting to compile measures of progress toward sustainability goals, and the community indicator movement is blossoming into a major force in the transition to sustainability, even here in Hawaii.

The Kauai Planning & Action Alliance, for example, is moving to complete its first update of the community indicators we produced last year (of course I'm involved). And the state of practice is rapidly evolving, thanks to two Seattle-based efforts.

Published by Ken on September 17th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

livin’ large was kewl: small is more kewl

flatpack shelter

Sure, I'm biased, 'cause I already switched to small. The Kapa`a treehouse where my wife and I live and work has 500 sf...if you include the deck...which we do...daily.

More than enough room, we find, as long as you're not into stuff piling up. And certainly it's vastly more green (saved 1 T CO2e).

In case ya haven't noticed, small has a new caché among home designers, as evidenced by weekly updates about mini-homes on blogs like Inhabitat and Jetson Green.

Yet, I gotta say this fold-up house featured on Treehugger takes the cake! Wudja believe high-density, multi-storey, stackable, packable? Check 'em out.

Published by Ken on September 17th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, Green Building | Comments Off

new food footprint tool gives ‘low carb’ diet new meaning

low carbon diet calculator

Astrid Scholz gets some play with a new calculator that focuses on the carbon footprint of our food (via newscientist).

Scholz is an ecological economist at Ecotrust who developed this tool so Bon Appétit Management Company could create a "Low Carbon Diet" for its 400 plus cafeterias in the US.

The calculations can become "fiendishly complicated", says Scholz.

The footprint of industrially raised chicken breast, for example, includes the emissions from preparing the feed pellets, transporting the animal to the wholesaler, running the slaughterhouse, refrigerating, storing and shipping, plus your driving to the store and back, storing and cooking it.

Published by Ken on September 14th, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint, Food | Comments Off

Hawaii planners’ conference focuses on sustainability

grand wailea resort maui

Wot a concept! All of Hawaii's hundreds of planners converge on a fabulous Maui resort to kickback and open their minds to some new ideas about sustainability.

HCPO offered a daunting schedule of brain food, so that I found myself presenting in the ‘relocalization’ session, yet would have preferred catching the ahupua`a session underway in the room next door. `Aue!

Still, HCPO's focus lends plausibility to the sense that sustainability and its implications is rumbling up through the ranks.

Some planners may feel guilty about all the carbon-spewing to pull off such think fests, yet it seems clear this face-time was worth it.

Published by Ken on September 12th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | 1 Comment »

slashing auto dependence with rapid response green fleets

rapid response taxibus

Tomorrow I'm off to Maui for the planners conference, where I'll talk about sustainable transport, energy and food...including a 'what-if' called "Kauaian LandLines" which looks a lot like the new TaxiBus coming to London.

Sarah Rich writes that a fleet of 20,000 TaxiBuses can handle 8 million daily passenger journeys, versus London's current taxi fleet (20,000 vehicles, 0.5M rides), or buses (6,000 vehicles, 4M rides), or the Underground (2.5M rides) (via worldchanging).

With Kauaian LandLines, which similarly envisions computerized door-to-door itineraries, I estimate we could replace all car commuting with a fleet of 2,000 8-passenger vans. Cheaper and greener.

Published by Ken on September 10th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Transport | Comments Off