Archive for January, 2009

tried-and-true, and wrong: the stall factor in sustainability

HI vs US biz index

Trying to quantize Hawaii's economic challenge? Wanna know how much sustainability we can afford? Here's new help.

FRB Philadelphia now publishes a business conditions index for each state that is virtually up to the minute, so you can watch the recession in real time (via honoluluadvertiser).

How's Hawaii doing compared to other places? Fair to middling.

Hawaii's index is down 4 points (at 116.8) since December 07 versus the US average loss of 1.4 points (at 157.8), yet the median state loss is 4.9 points.

Time to shelve the green stuff? Hardly. Can we afford NOT pushing forward on sustainability? NOT.

Published by Ken on January 30th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

on greed and resilience: sustainability as counter strategy

greed vs resilience

Resilience guru John Robb is riffing on moral conflict, game theory, evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics to get us thinking in new ways about greed.

Robb notes the "striking" rise of "greed as the ultimate descriptor of much our economic behavior" and argues that "greed as a universal survival strategy...results in the type of massive economic collapse we are seeing today" (via globalguerillas).

It follows, says Robb, that "a counter strategy to greed will emerge, as the people not driven solely by greed seek protection against its revealed excesses."

Robb’s got some ideas what this strategy will be. Wudja believe sustainability?

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

deluding ourselves with misplaced concreteness


Now that 'impossible' has become commonplace, folks are fussin' about 'black swan' events. You know, stuff that couldn't happen...but does.

Things like 40 days of rain breaking Kauai’s dam. Or, the collapse of the global economy.

Fact is, our deciders operate in a statistical world where probabilities are for focus, and 'extreme' events aren't factored in.

Turns out, any assessment excluding the unlikely is "worse than useless. It's delusional", says Joe Romm.

Referencing a Harvard economist's critique of climate modeling, Romm notes that "climate disaster is virtually certain with business-as-usual emissions."...Which is why I'm inclined to call-out BAU as the real threat.

Published by Ken on January 29th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

what Hawaii deciders need to know about sustainability

sus juggle

We're seeing lots of programs and designs these days that boast "innovative sustainability features".

Pinch me! A few short years ago, the "S" word was still too "hot" for polite company.

Now, much of our conversation about sustainability leaves me cold. Why? Because we don't know what we're talking about.

Here are some quick tips for what we should be talking about: Sustainability is about wholes, not parts. It's about limits, not increments. It's about relationships, not things. It's about all three spheres. It's not what we think, it's how.

Published by Ken on January 27th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 2 Comments »

bootstrapping community sustainability: yes we can

boot strap sustainability

Within the next few weeks, SusHI will see its millionth visitor...not bad for a blog focused on Hawaii's sustainability, right?

Much of this visitor traffic is fleeting, and few feast on the full fare of ecosystem, economy and community coverage here.

Still, some of you regulars have hopefully benefited as I, too, learned more and faster in an effort to help my clients and my community turn and face our sustainability challenges.

Now that we're fairly-well up-to-speed and have clearly in-hand the full range of knowledge needed to address our challenges, what should we do next? Have another conference?

Published by Ken on January 22nd, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

how change will come: emission targets meet cost resistance

climate change targets

Joe Romm blasts NRDC on the big boyz' climate change targets (USCAP-Blueprint), and David Hawkins rebuts about realities of pacing ourselves (via gristmill).

"This proposal is a dead end -- and an even deader starting point. Shame on NRDC, EDF, and WRI for backing it," says Romm of the Blueprint.

Hawkins replies: "to make change happen we need to realign the players, not just attack them."

Sure, "the science justifies a tighter target", says Hawkins, yet we need to "ignite the engine of policy change" first. And this entails "overcoming the claims and anxieties about the costs of doing what the science justifies".

Published by Ken on January 21st, 2009 tagged CO2 Emissions, Climate Change | Comments Off

social networking on Kauai energy: this ning’s 4U

kauai energy ning site

Few places stand alone in the energy world, yet Kauai must and can.

Join with other Kauaians now focused on our island's energy future.

Thus begins the new ning site on Kauai Energy I'm helping launch for islanders to engage with our sustainability challenges in a more robust way.

Ning's 'social networking' tools enable anyone to access and contribute to this exploration at any time.

First up: the KIUC election of 3 new Board members in the mail-in balloting that will take place in March, and news that Ben Sullivan has won nomination by the KIUC Board to stand for election.

Published by Ken on January 20th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comments Off

on what sustainability is not: holding on to something

maine woods

One might notice it's clear and cold in midcoast Maine, where Chris Cooper "takes to his woods and improves the land as he gains firewood against the inevitability of a winter yet to come."

(Cooper should know it's cold, too, in Kapaa-- a record-low 54F yesterday! heh)

Especially upon savoring Cooper's 'cabin door' essay, one notices who's talkin' from where (via commondreams).

(Or mebbe that's an impulse born in the Juneau woods of my small-kid times.)

For I, too, am remembering that "even at our lowest, most forlorn, most desperate, we lived better than millions do", as Cooper puts it.

Published by Ken on January 19th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

beyond sustainability: Hawaiians to push reverence for Earth

ranger cindi orlando

To 'do no harm' ain't good enough; we gotta do good, and this form of "moving beyond sustainability" is the aim of a phenomenal gathering of native wisdom-keepers to be hosted next June by Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island.

It's way kewl that this event is being held where Ranger Cindi Orlando is already leading the charge toward 'climate friendly' parks.

This 2009 gathering is for traditional wisdom keepers from the Hawaiian Islands to meet by themselves and explore the contribution they can make to the gathering of traditional wisdom keepers from around the world in June of 2010 (via socialedge).

Published by Ken on January 19th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

what to do when the do-list doesn’t do it: on green stimulus

green stimulus graphic from salon

Monetary policy loses much of its leverage when interest rates fall near zero. Fiscal policy is slow and wasteful. So, what's PE Obama to do?

According to Ed Glaeser, we must "help ensure that governments don't make the downturn worse by cutting spending during a recession" (via boston).

"The best way to make sure that a vast stimulus package doesn't turn into a federal boondoggle bonanza is for that money to go directly to private citizens and local governments", says Glaeser.

Glaeser’s proposal? “Reduce payroll taxes for middle- and lower-income people”, then “shore up the balance sheets of state and local governments”.

Published by Ken on January 15th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

printing local bucks for sustainability: on mutual credit

Kauai bucks, click for larger view

Hard to believe it’s 10 years since I first proposed alternative Hawaii community currencies (also featured in my book) to “create work by simply printing new local money".

It's still a great idea and more folks are viewing 'complementary' currency as an instrument of development more immune to outside (recession) forces.

Resilience guru John Robb views these 'scrips' as "a 21st century approach to economic development and disaster/crisis recovery (via globalguerillas).

Ben Block notes that there are "at least 4,000 complementary currencies are now estimated to be in circulation worldwide".

Now, Kauai’s KISSES initiative (Kauai-Island-Self-Sufficiency-Economic-System) is taking off. Kewl!

Published by Ken on January 15th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

Stanford tackles next revolution with new energy institute

global energy

Something there is about oil company and hedge fund money that wants it to go green...or so it seems down on "the Farm".

Stanford yesterday announced the creation of a $100 million energy-research institute that will house a new sustainable-energy research center. And the donors are: former execs at an oil company and a hedge fund. Kewl! (via greeninc)

Already, Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project, is researching energy technologies from fuel cells to carbon capture and storage.

Now, Lynn Orr, who heads GCEP, will direct Stanford’s new Precourt Institute for Energy, which will also house the new TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

Published by Ken on January 13th, 2009 tagged Energy, Sustainability Science | Comments Off

think climate debate’s over? on hurting the economy

hitting the fan.


hitting the fan

Our "intellectual enablers of inaction" have changed, as climate skeptics are replaced by economists playing on our fear of collapse, says Frank Ackerman (via $s&sense).

Oh, good! The tanking economy arrives just in time to bolster the BAU boyz!

Business-as-usual (BAU) is almost always cheaper than change...until unusual things happen.

Couching PE Obama's stimulus package in strictly economic terms is to miss the difference between 'good' costs and 'bad' costs, says Ackerman.

"Is it really a matter of indifference whether we spend $1 billion on bigger and better levees or lose $1 billion to storm damages?”, asks Ackerman.

Published by Ken on January 11th, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

Susan George transorms: on the insanity of inequality

saturday sem;inar.


susan george

Sometimes it helps to slow down our voracious info scanning enough to let a single salient presentation wash over us and guide our minds through a cogent assessment of our global situation.

Take the October speech in Ottawa by Susan George, for example. This is well worth the wait (via climatechangeaction).

Why? George covers the map with an insightful argument about the global threat posed by deepening inequality.

Says George, "the world is awash in money. There is no excuse for the inequality crisis...Be in a state of high alert. The window of opportunity will not stay open that long.”

Published by Ken on January 10th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

HI superferry EIS: old tools shed little light on sustainability

friday footprint.

HSF at maui.

As expected, the Superferry EIS provides recommended mitigation measures for everything except the passionate opposition to the Superferry by some Kaua'i residents (via HNLadvertiser).

Sadly, the crucial emissions data provided is of little use, due to methodological vagaries across multiple operating scenarios.

We still don't know the 'ecological footprint' of this boat, nor even the emissions per ton mile, nor are we yet able to compare this form of transport with inter-island jet travel.

Let's hope the State didn't pay big bucks for this "Air Quality" assessment, which seems to copy numbers from a handbook used by LA harbors.

Published by Ken on January 9th, 2009 tagged Ecological Footprint, HI-specific | 1 Comment »

no quick fix for sustainability: on green stimulus

thursday thicket.


quick vs green

There will apparently be little policy debate about the composition of PE Obama's stimulus package, since all that seems to matter is spending heavily and quickly in a Keynesian boost (via gristmill).

Fair enough, yet the quick may be the enemy of the green unless we're spending on stuff that moves us toward sustainabilty.

Why? Because we know that delay is increasingly costly on sustainability measures, and because some of what we're spending is for stuff that will have to be undone.

If we agree that propping up this economy is paramount, then we haven’t learned a thing about sustainability.

Published by Ken on January 8th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

minding Kauai’s mountain: tackling invasives thru collaboration

wednesday watershed.

Kauai watershed alliance.

Great news up mauka as the Kauai Watershed Alliance builds a fence to keep ungulates out of our native rainforest areas, and recently posted the Draft EA for the East Alakai portion of the protective fence project.

Program director Trae Menard of the Nature Conservancy is now working with Resource Mapping Hawaii in pioneering the use of multispectral high-definition cameras to map the location of invasive species (via starbulletin).

The initial target is the Australian tree fern, now invading large areas of our mountain.

In addition to ungulate and weed management programs, KWA is implementing high tech monitoring of watershed conditions

Published by Ken on January 7th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

ecosystem assessment tool helps boost natural capital

tuesday tools.


InVEST tool

Pssst! Wanna tool to help landholders protect biodiversity while also improving human livelihoods? Look no further!

Stanford’s Natural Capital Project offers a beta-version planning tool called InVEST that quantifies ecosystem services and maps alternative management regimes for optimizing carbon sequestration, water quality, biodiversity, and timber harvests, among other elements of the landscape (via ecoinformatics).

Through discussion with stakeholders, scenarios are developed to explore consequences of changes on natural resources, conservation, and human well-being, then kick out a map of future land use and land cover.

Published by Ken on January 6th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

Obama targets social entrepreneurs: on pushing bigger solutions

monday marvels.


social enterprise

Noting that “our problems are not too big, but our solutions are currently too small,” PE Obama has promised an “extreme makeover” of government support for social entrepreneurs (via triplepundit).

So, help may be on the way for grassroots groups who can drive innovation in education, economic development, healthcare and the environment.

Obama knows that in every community (not just Chicago) it is these social entrepreneurs who develop new concepts and bring them to scale.

Obama’s “new partnership” with social enterprise calls for R&D tax breaks, a “Social Investment Fund”, and a federal capacity-building agency for the nonprofit sector. Kewl!

Published by Ken on January 5th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

it’s not what we eat…it’s how: on re-thinking food systems

systems thinking



rethink food system

When we frame the food crisis as a "system failure", it simultaneously obviates the guilt-tripping about what we eat and also points to near-term solutions we're gonna need to implement.

Something like a "fundamental rethink" of our food system, says Tim Lang of Britain's Food Council (via bbcnews).

A food system designed in the 1940s to capture cheap energy and ignore "astronomic" ecosystem costs cannot be patched-up, says Lang. It must be built on a series of "new fundamentals." This is doubly urgent, says Lang, since "growth in food production per capita is dropping off” just as human population is exploding.

Published by Ken on January 4th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Food | Comments Off