Archive for December, 2008

Bushies belated big boy bonuses: gaming the rules

bushies make us worry

We now know the Bushies are intent on carving their deregulatory fervor into rule-making stone before they're finished looting our government.

What's less clear is how/whether PE Obama will expend political capital to reverse this pernicious ploy.

Turns out, it's not all that easy, especially if you choose to play by the rule-making rules...which the Bushies didn't (via commondreams).

Re-making the rules could take years, requiring time-consuming hearings, scientific fact-finding and inevitable legal wrangling, says Tim Dickinson.

Obama’s best option may be the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to kill a new rule within 60 days with a simple majority.

Published by Ken on December 31st, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | 1 Comment »

half of Kauai’s ‘shovel-ready’ stimulus projects are ‘green’

shovelready

Now we know more about the Kauai County 'wish list' for any stimulus package that might be headed our way.

Yesterday, the County published its 'priority projects' list in response to Congresswoman Mazie Hirono's reqest for for “shovel-ready” projects (via kauaiworld).

No guarantees, says Hirono, yet the aim is be ready so any new money could be put into the local economy as quickly as possible.

By some broad definition, more than half ($56M) of the $102M package is green, including water ($12M), waste ($22M), transport ($4M for buses), recreational projects ($10M) and energy efficiency programs ($6M).  Kewl!

Published by Ken on December 31st, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

‘reboot’ to beat the BAU boyz: on building local resilience

reboot

Thomas Friedman was half-right in his call for an American 'reboot' instead of a bailout.

As resilience-guru John Robb notes, the other half entails definitions of 'reboot' and prescriptions for reconstruction (via globalguerrillas).

"Unfortunately, everything else prescriptive in the article is garbage", says Robb. A real 'reboot' "can't be achieved through top-down business-as-usual (BAU) stimulus. It has to start at the bottom and grow organically".

We need "wholesale reinvention", says Robb. Newly networked communities need to be much more resilient to global shocks, more innovative and directive. Robb recommends building upon tech trends already leading us toward micro-level self-reliance. Wot he said!

Published by Ken on December 29th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

surfeit of super-rich smothers recession signs on Hawaii island

private jets smother tarmac

The first sign that something extraordinary goes down on Hawaii Island is the tarmac smothered in private jets.

Our Kona hotel may have been half-full this holiday season, yet the super-rich are flocking to this lava land in record numbers. (I counted 62 jets of all sizes as we left Keahole last eve.)

Embarrassing! Why? Because this poorest of the islands gets its extra bucks at Christmas servicing the ostentatious frolicking of overpaid execs by schlepping daily dozens of jet fuel trucks from Hilo and prepping $100-a-plate meals for these gamboling glitterati (via PBN). There’s no sign of hard times here!

Published by Ken on December 29th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Transport | 1 Comment »

oasis of calm: why Obama’s aloha spirit matters

obama body surfing

Sure, it matters that PE Obama learned how (and when) to use his sharp elbows from “navigating the thorny terrain of Chicago politics.”

What matters more is that Obama'a mood embodies the Aloha Spirit, "a peaceful state of mind and a friendly attitude of acceptance of a variety of ideas and cultures", says Jeff Zeleny in a wonderfull Christmas Eve essay (via NYtimes).

"More than simply a laid-back vibe, many Hawaiians believe in a divine and spiritual power that provides a sustaining life energy", says Zeleny. "When Obama gets on television, the national pulse goes down about 10 points”. Why?

Published by Ken on December 26th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

is the Internet helping or hurting our sustainability quest?

human e-volution

What's missing from today's Web is discourse that goes somewhere and the ability to take a wider perspective, says David Brin in a marvelous essay on human 'e-volution' (via salon).

Forget about "bipolar see-saw between optimists and pessimists", says Brin. "what's needed is not the blithe enthusiasm preached by Ray Kurzweil and Clay Shirky. Nor Nicholas Carr's dyspeptic homesickness."

Remember how we got here, says Brin...through "messy mixing of evolution, hard work and brilliance, standing on shoulders of those who sweated earlier progress."

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

things aren’t the thing: on feeling like belonging

my things

Things are "totems, stand-ins for psychological/spiritual needs", says Dave Roberts (via gristmill).

So, 'voluntary simplicity' misses the point of consumerism if it focuses only on giving up our things, right?

The point, says Roberts, is to find "alternative ways to provide people the sense of belonging, security and status” that we believe things can provide.

What's striking about the "frenzied grasping for stuff" is not the stuff but the frenzied grasping.

“We seem perpetually unfulfilled, convinced that new or other or more stuff will fill the holes inside us.…And that’s the hole in sustainability thinking about changing behavior.

Published by Ken on December 26th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | Comment now »

look what we found: a home for harmony with all species

rotating earth

"Re-embedding ourselves in our bodies and in our environment is the first step on a journey that leads to living in harmony", says Molly Scott Cato (via gaianecon).

Borrowing the "commonplace of green critiques that the dualism between mind and matter is one of the sources of our current predicament", Cato calls instead for holism--"for the reuniting of man and woman, of spirit and flesh, or people and planet."

Says Cato, "if we could learn to celebrate our fleshly inheritance and our earthly destiny we might make a better fist of our short span on earth." ...That’s my happy human holiday wish!

Published by Ken on December 25th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

climate known knowns from ’08: what have we learned?

climate lessons

Sheesh! Has it really been 9 months since HCA's climate change conference where we first learned all the ways Hawaii will be challenged in the years ahead?

Wonder what we've learned since then? Lucky us, Amanda Leigh Mascarelli has taken a look at how far our understanding of climate change has come in the past twelve months (via celsias).

For one thing, CO2 ain't the whole trip...Other greenhouse gases are now popping up on our radar, such as methane and nitrogen trifluoride, a gas produced in the manufacture of gadgets such as MP3 players and flat screen TVs.

Published by Ken on December 24th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comment now »

ordinary hero predicts collapse: Astyk on ’09 outlook

sharon astyk

Last year Sharon Astyk predicted that Hillary would not win and the economy would tank (via casaubonsbook).

...which would be mildly interesting but for the fact that Astyk's the 'soccer mom' of the sustainability blogosphere who's an upstate NY farmer (CSA), author of a forthcoming book on Depletion and Abundance, and was blasted as "carborexic" in the NY Times for her desire to reduce her family's carbon footprint.

Fact is, Astyk nailed more than 8 of 10 predictions last year, which she says was "when most people first realized something was wrong"...and now everyone's listening. So ya wanna know her predictions for 2009?

Published by Ken on December 24th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

tax credits for retrofits: bailout helps EVs

EV components

You noticed that tax credit for EVs added to the bailout bill last October to ensure its passage? No, neither did I.

Yet there it is: $2,500-$7,500 per vehicle, with $417 for each kWh of battery pack capacity in excess of 4 kWh.

So we could get a refund for most of the cost of an EV conversion, right? Wot are we waiting for?

Andy Grove says don't wait. "The ramp will be too slow, if we rely fully on new vehicle purchases". To get the needed penetration and reduce oil demand, we gotta retrofit the current car fleet (via greeninc).

Published by Ken on December 22nd, 2008 tagged Energy, Transport | Comment now »

Obama’s got a brand new bag: on finessing the climate fiasco

leapfrog

America may be starting late, yet the EU's failed will in Poznan suggests that leadership on climate change is up for grabs.

Please, Mr. President-Elect: Grab it!

Perhaps we can leapfrog to the head of the pack, here, and catalize a global agreement that'll get'r done.

Just so, the editorial at New Scientist notes that "the politics of climate change has been turned on its head. The old villain, the US, is our best hope - and a good one, too, because Barack Obama is serious."

Can you say Chu (as in ‘super-grid’) and Holdren (as in ‘global climate disruption’)? Great start!

Published by Ken on December 21st, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Energy | Comment now »

sustainably feeding ourselves: it’s not just about growing

food preservation

Jason Bradford is rediscovering the art of food preservation and storage, and his community is benefiting.

Howzat? As a CSA producer, Bradford supplies hundreds of families, and his food preservation processes are carving a dramatically smaller footprint than conventional methods (like refrigeration).

Now, everyone can relearn these low energy input food preservation techniques, as Bradford has sparked a wide-ranging conversation (via oildrum).

Funny thing is, most Kauai growers I know are also moving heavily into the processing and preserving thang.

Guess we're all, by now, fairly mindful of our gi-normous footprint from "modern" home storage and preparation methods.

Published by Ken on December 18th, 2008 tagged Food, HI-specific | Comment now »

on district energy systems: the neighborhood DIY model

sunnyside energy

Ya got old boilers in the school, skyrocketing home utility bills, and that climate thang hanging over yer head...wot's a low income neighborhood to do?

Build yer own solar-powered geothermal heat pump, that's what the Sunnyside neighborhood in Portland is doing (via sightline).

See, it all started when some students got together to figure out what they could do about global warming.

Then they discovered that "district energy systems" have been implemented throughout Europe, and they decided to replicate this model for small-scale energy systems to provide space heat and hot water for single family homes in the US. Then, the city got involved.

Published by Ken on December 18th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comment now »

on transport growth sectors: look out for bikes

US bikes and cars

Doesn't help the Big3 automakers that they're sitting on top of a declining market.

Fact is, US car purchases have been dropping for several decades, falling below 8M each year since 2003, according to BTS data.

Meanwhile, bike purchases have been climbing steadily since the late-90s and reaching 14M in 2005--almost twice the number of cars purchased. Yeah!

Nor does it help that the car growth markets are places like China and Eastern Europe, where US cars aren't all that popular (for some reason).

Next year, the Chinese will buy 4M more cars than in 2000, while Americans will buy 4M fewer.

Published by Ken on December 18th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Transport | Comment now »

Stanford, Cambridge scholars pencil out energy potentials

wind is best

So much noise surrounds the promotion of various green energy technologies that it's great to see independent assessments of these alternatives.

Now, two of our top minds tackle this task with mountains of data and calculations that tend to confirm what we already know.

Wind is best says Stanford's Mark Jacobson, yet we will be hard-pressed to substitute our fossil fuels with a combination of green sources, says David MacKay at Cambridge.

Jacobson's purpose is to "review and rank major proposed energy-related solutions”, while McKay guides us around the “claptrap” to actions that really make a difference and to policies that add up.

Published by Ken on December 17th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science | 1 Comment »

get yer offsets here: Kauai energy farm captures carbon

HMI carbon offsets

Good buddy Bill Cowern's tree farm got some press yesterday...with the hiring of a PR firm.

Turns out, Cowern's Hawaiian Mahogany company (HMI) got its operations certified by Winrock International and through the Voluntary Carbon Standard, then hires Softscribe to promote the sale of its credits (via hotelnewsresource).

With 3,200 acres of trees on Kauai, HMI sequesters an estimated 130,000 tons of carbon annually. Kewl.

HMI's offset sales seem to be pitched to hotels seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.

HMI has developed an integrated cycle of sustainable processes to produce sustainable lumber, bio fuels, on site hydroelectric power, organic fertilizer, and cattle feed.

Published by Ken on December 17th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific | Comment now »

green stimulus consensus: can Kauai be far behind?

save our environment green stimulus

Save $160 billion of that bailout money for ‘green’ public works projects, says the economic recovery proposal from the new National Coalition for the Environment (via NWF).

The ‘green stimulus” package put together by 20 of the largest environmental advocacy groups urges Obama "to bring our economy into the 21st century with green, environmentally-sensible jobs that lay the foundation for shared prosperity in the economy of the future".

Half the amount would go to a "Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit" ($30B) plus five priority projects focused on transit, infrastructure and green energy, and Kauai could learn some things by perusing this list.

Published by Ken on December 16th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

where there’s smoke…don’t yell “FIRE” in peak oil theater

IEA and peak oil

Calling for a "global energy revolution", the IEA's Fatih Birol urged world government leaders to prepare for "difficult days".

Which is fine and dandy...except his organization has labeled "peak oil" as the province of "doomsayers"...until now.

In fact, the differences between this year’s and last year's Outlook are dramatic, with twice the rate of oil supply declines and oil prices twice as high as previously expected.

Birol insists the IEA “never said we would always have oil”, in an interview with George Monbiot (via ukguardian).

According to Matt Simmons, the IEA report was toned down to avoid creating alarm. YIKES!

Published by Ken on December 16th, 2008 tagged Energy, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

Maui readies for stimulus: on greening the do-list

Save Our Environment website on green stimulus package

Should Obama go with the emerging consensus on green stimulus, gigabucks will soon be flowing to public works projects.

Now, local governments are scrambling to rewrite their 'ready list' for sustainability projects, and Maui is leading the pack in Hawaii (via mauinews).

Mayor Charmaine Tavares just announced a $200M 'green' stimulus package for the 'friendly' isle that includes over $60M for solar energy projects at county community centers, swimming pools and fire and police stations, plus island-wide electric vehicle charging and energy storage infrastructure.

Tavares got a jump-start on “ready-to-go" infrastructure projects through the Conference of Mayors "Main Street Recovery" initiative. Kewl.

Published by Ken on December 15th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »