Archive for April, 2009

100 days to sustainability vision: Obama’s the ‘green’ FDR

obama 180

Three "game-changing accomplishments" in his first 100 days oughta get Obama some kind of historical recognition all by itself, says Joe Romm (via worldchanging)

Citing the "green stimulus", the first "sustainable budget" in U.S. history, and the "regulatory breakthrough" on carbon pollution, Romm claims Obama is “remaking the country through his positive vision”…”the first President since FDR to do so."

Calling Obama "the first president in history to articulate both the why and how of the sustainable vision -- and to actively, indeed aggressively, pursue its enactment", Romm calls these out-of-the-shute accomplishments "an unprecedented reversal of decades of unsustainable national policy."

Published by Ken on April 29th, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Energy | Comments Off

not so fast! on the virtues of slow money for sustainability


Greed got away from us...the quarterly-numbers crew insisted that valuations keep climbing...and lots of folks lost everything.

So, what if we were satisfied with less? What if NOT all our financial resources went into the fastest growing funds?

What if a fund for sustainability initiatives on Kauai was just about the safest place to put your money? How hard could it be to create such a fund?

Been wondering about this as we contemplate our island's sustainability transition, and assess the scale of new social investment required to get'r done. Naturally, I’ve been inspired by the "slow money" movement (via triplepundit).

Published by Ken on April 29th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

we’re insanely unsustainable, so where are the shrinks?

planetary craziness

Psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren is outraged that mental health professionals are not out front in the effort to change behaviors that threaten our planet (via huffpost).

“Scientists all over the world are warning us about the threat of catastrophic and irreversible climate change”, says Van Susteren, so “I am stunned that this threat to the health of the planet and the public is so underplayed.”

Van Susteren wants to know “Why are these organizations and their members, those most skilled at exposing the danger of denial and destructive behaviors, so silent about this crisis? Are they in denial themselves?” Good question!

Published by Ken on April 28th, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

ecological footprint goes prime time: calculator on CNN

footprint calculator on CNN

My parting shot at the Leadership Kauai confab on sustainability was to suggest that the most "radical" question you can ask these days is: "What's my footprint?"

Why? Because you'll be shocked to discover how many planets it would take if everyone lived like you, but also because you'll learn some things about the relative significance of energy, food, travel, and home consumption.

CNN gave this question a whirl over the weekend and joked about the 4.8 planets that newscaster Josh Levs calculated for himself (via nextnowcollab).

'Tis kewl that good buddies at Footprint Network got major play for their insightful work.

Published by Ken on April 28th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Ecological Footprint | Comments Off

nextgen leaders focus on Kauai sustainability

leadership kauai logo

Friday last I confab'd with Hawaii's best as Leadership Kauai's current 22-member class immersed in the National Tropical Botanical Garden and focused on sustainability.

Our panel with Kaipo Lum (Vision Foresight Strategy), Josh Stanbro (Hawaii Community Foundation), Jerry Ornellas (East Kauai Water Users Coop), John Harder (Zero Waste Kauai), and Chipper Wichman (NTBG CEO) was moderated by Keone Kealoha (Malama Kauai)...and went on (fairly fruitfully, I tho't) for nearly 3 hours, despite the deafening downpour on the metal roof.

Sustainability as changed thinking was my focus, and I shared some 'eye candy' to illustrate systemic failure and the urgency of transition initiatives.

Published by Ken on April 22nd, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

it’s the process, stupid! on transition communities going viral

viral community

Once we've decided that 'transition' communities can help us build the world we want, the viral engagement process looks like a good tool for the job, and we can pick it up by whatever handle we grasp and swing it as earnestly as we can, says John Robb (via globalguerrillas).

"Let's borrow/steal from what seems to work" in Rob Hopkins 'open source' methodology for unleashing community participation, and "build from there", says Robb.

According to Robb, "the real value of the Transition Towns approach is its concisely crafted methodology for catalyzing community participation." It worked in Sandpoint, Idaho, and could work anywhere.

Published by Ken on April 21st, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

beyond sustainability: on systems evolving to absorb shocks

egg brittle

Jamais Cascio wonders how we can live within our means when those means can change beneath us, sometimes swiftly and unexpectedly (via foreginpolicy).

According to Cascio, sustainability is not enough if it is seen as "the right combination of behavior and technology that allows us some measure of stability".

"A sustainable world can avoid imminent disaster, but it will remain on the precipice until the next shock", says Cascio.

Cascio's solution? Shoot for resilience, instead, and “accept that change is inevitable and in many cases out of our hands, focusing instead on the need to be able to withstand the unexpected.”

Published by Ken on April 21st, 2009 tagged Adaptation, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

does Hawaii have the personality to rally ’round resilience?

hawaiian obama

Hawaii residents may be among the least extraverted, conscientiousness and open, yet we're fairly agreeable and not all that neurotic, according to a new study in social psychology showing how our personality is shaped by institutions and social norms, which in turn shapes group behavior (via sightline).

Turns out, a sample of personality profiles in each state shows a "strong relationship" with state-level indicators of crime, social capital, religiosity, political values, employment, and health, according to researchers.

This is a useful data point as we islanders focus on the resilience of our communities, where personality might shape our successful transition.

Published by Ken on April 15th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

the physics of sustainability: on zero entropy systems

max entropy

My 2002 book stressed "closing the loops", and we've since learned much about how this can be done.

In one key moment, physicist Mae-Wan Ho half-accidentally discovered that "living organisms appear like a dynamic liquid-crystal-display". This must mean, reasoned Ho, that living organisms are highly organized, and “coherent energy is being mobilized and transformed in the organisms".

Ho set out to reformulate the thermodynamics for living systems, based on this core principle, which has "large implications for ecosystems, food, health and economies.”

Most important, our “maximum entropy” model is precisely wrong. We need a ‘zero-entropy’ model of sustainable systems.

Published by Ken on April 13th, 2009 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

too big to flex: resilience thinking about collapse

flex tree

Ever since E.F. Schumacher, we've polished this sense of the ugliness of BIG...with good reason.

Now, with national looting by corporations "too big to fail", we 'get' that size matters.

And, from a resilience perspective, we see that big versus small invokes "the difference between brittle and graceful failure", says Jamais Cascio (via fastcompany).

Says Cascio, "Resilience implies both strength and flexibility; a resilient structure would bend, but would be hard to break. Resilient flexibility means avoiding situations where components of a system are 'too big to fail'--that is, where the failure of a single part can bring the whole thing crashing down."

Published by Ken on April 11th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

banking on sustainability: three spheres for reinvestment

e3bank logo

As long as we're bashing the banks for squandering our wealth, we might envision a new kind of bank that actually fuels the sustainability transition.

A bank like, say, e3bank, recently formed in a suburb of Philadelphia, which operates on the triple bottom line business model (via sustainablepractices).

This 'green' bank's mission is to "strengthen enterprise and restore the environment, while increasing social equity". Kewl!

Hold on to your hats, now, 'cause e3bank's founders go on to assert that "the financial industry has a critical role to play in the societal shift to a sustainable world". I mean, pinch me!

Published by Ken on April 9th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

we’re in the money: on printing currency for local resilience

detroit cheers

When Gannett's USAToday gives primetime coverage to the local currency movement, you know we're either desperate or waking up.

Never mind they featured Detroit's "Cheers", the 'scrip' now printed by downtown businesses in that particularly desperate place.

Fact is, Kauai's version (called KISSES, for Kauai Island Self-Sufficiency Economic Trading System) could enhance our resilience for the tough times coming.

Think of this as another way to retake control of our local financial resources.

Yet, we shouldn't stop at swapping local for national bucks, when we can monetize the community work we're already doing to create new money.

Published by Ken on April 9th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

COP-15 should link sustainability and prosperity

COP15 Copenhagen

Don't expect a binding treaty with hard commitments actually being signed in Copenhagen, says Alex Steffen (via worldchanging).

Yet, that doesn't mean we're doomed to failure, as long as Copenhagen "helps reframe the debate." We can score a "major victory" by "changed thinking" says Steffen.

Howzat? First, "set the record straight". Fact is, we "need help understanding not just the clarity of the scientific consensus on climate, but also its fierce urgency; not just the need for strong and immediate action, but the incredible opportunity for transformation such a commitment offers us as a nation and the world as a whole."

Published by Ken on April 8th, 2009 tagged Climate Change | Comments Off

Hawaii legislature doesn’t ‘get’ the urgency of sustainability

ag fair at capitol

With such low regard for government, perhaps it's no surprise that I haven't been tracking sustainability measures at the Hawaii legislature.

But, then, I haven't missed much. Fact is, the nation’s financial collapse has largely pushed the "green" stuff off the state legislative table. Fancy that!

The "S" word is rarely heard at the capitol this year..except for an on-site Ag Sustainability Fair last month...and that was more about self-sufficiency.

And, don’t expect anyone to run for governor next year on the HI2050 Sustainability Plan platform, since that effort failed to get funding for tweaking the policy and metrics.

Published by Ken on April 8th, 2009 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

does cancerous capitalism merit life support?


The last time capitalism was restructured (in the 1970s), our 'social contract' was shattered, and the only way it survived was by appropriating all the productivity gains to capital, while the workforce continued to borrow in an ill-fated attempt to keep up the appearance of 'progress'.

This is "identical to how cancer co-opts the host's systems of cellular metabolism to grow rapidly", says John Robb (via globalguerrillas).

"The value created by doubling productivity went to global capital markets instead of doubling incomes for employees", says Robb.

What Robb calls "parasitic predation" looms again as capitalism now struggles to survive the financial meltdown.

Published by Ken on April 7th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

investing in Kauai farms: on feeding ourselves at scale

thrifty vs actual diet

One of the Leopold Center’s kewl tools provides market-size estimates for Kauai's current food consumption.

By this measure, we're plowing through nearly 30,000 tons of food annually.

And, if we adjust this figure to reflect the fed's "Thrifty Food Plan", we'll need closer to 37,000 tons for a nutritious diet.

Oh, and, recall that the optimal "least-cost" diet consisted of five foods - flour, cabbage, spinach, evaporated milk and dried navy which case we'd need far less for survival.

Kauai’s food target for sustainability is prolly somewhere between these…in which case we might do it with 7 “Dream Farms”.

Published by Ken on April 7th, 2009 tagged Food, HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

Kauai food strategy needs sustainability thinking

food output shares

Needing to reinvent our food system as part of the sustainability transition, we might expect a 2-day Ag Forum tasked with 'strategic planning' to address systemic issues within a sustainability framework. Yet, mebbe Kauai isn’t there yet.

Despite apparent consensus that we must grow more food locally, the focus this past weekend was more on vulnerability than sustainability.

From a synopsis of the state-of-practice, we 'get' that the desired outcome is "eco-efficiently producing food and non-food crops within local supply-chain clusters and socially-inclusive communities, resulting in enhanced cost, risk, nutrition, and entropy.” And, we need more practice thinking this way.

Published by Ken on April 7th, 2009 tagged Food, HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

will the last boomers out leave the sustainability door open?

collapse scenario

My recent "Factors" column in Kauai People highlighted the implications of retiring boomers for island demographics in the decades ahead.

The boomer wave now cresting on these shores will double the share of seniors by 2030.

Then, the world will start to collapse, according to the updated World3 model (originally published by Donella Meadows etal in 1972).

Says British researcher Dolores García, "in the 'business as usual' scenario, the pattern is one of collapse of human population, food production and industrial output. The decline is gradual, starting somewhere around 2030".

So, boomers die, collapse ensues.

Published by Ken on April 3rd, 2009 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

how do we know when we’re sustainable?

getting to one planet living

The best available measure of sustainability is the ecological footprint. After all, there's only so much planet to go around. And, the first thing we learn when calculating our footprint is how many planets it would take if everyone lived as we do.

So, if sustainability is defined as "one planet living", then we can use the footprint method to determine how much we need to cutback in order to achieve it.

Americans who haven't looked into this, be forewarned. Our footprint is flat out ugly! Would you believe 4 to 6 planets, depending on your income and household members? (Some footprint calculators may vary.)

Published by Ken on April 2nd, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

the case for the eBus: on communities collapsing forward

electric bus

Reasonable folks are worried about collapse these days, and even if we don't trigger the big one, there are things communities can do to "prepare themselves to sail as gracefully through that turbulence as possible", notes Alex Steffen (via worldchanging).

Steffen's hot tip: "prepare to collapse forward", which means "investing now in solutions that will...provide constituent parts for a better replacement system."

Says Steffen, "our goal should always be to avoid collapses in general, but where we see them coming, our goal should be to collapse as intelligently as possible."

That’s a strong argument for investing in electric buses.

Published by Ken on April 1st, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Transport | Comments Off