In search of a better way to think about a sustainable Hawai`i, green economist Ken Stokes covers island markets and watersheds, plus systems thinking, sustainability knowledge, community initiatives, sustainable design, ecosystem management, climate change policy, and ecological footprints.

RU ready for ‘weird’ weather? the case for adaptive investment

cold kauai decembers, click for larger

As we track and anticipate climate change in these islands, the one certainty seems to be that we are in for “weird” weather.

For example, the record-cold December on Kaua`i (see chart) and the recent Hanalei gusher that broke records (and gauges) certainly qualify as "Black Swan events"--things previously thought to be rare that occur with increasing frequency.

Of course, those who build models of "system dynamics" tell us this weirdness is an expected consequence of the "hockey stick" trends we're now seeing. Every major geo-physical indicator is ramping up faster and faster (see chart below), and this accelerating quantitative change is generating startling qualitative changes.

Published by Ken on January 4th, 2010 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | 1 Comment » |

what more can one say? on the need for sustainability action

can all u can

People are compelled to act when the alternatives are worse. This gem from Sharon Astyk captures the essence of all the study I've been doing since launching this blog 3 years ago.

Says Astyk, "It is not necessary to offer optimism...We know it may already be too late...What people feel is a necessity, a sense of urgency and a shared crisis." (via casaubonsbook).

As one of Astyk's commenters puts it, "we need to forget about the top national political leaders doing much, or even much at the state level. We also can’t think of ourselves as survivalists with a bunker mentality."

Published by Ken on August 25th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment » |

think “one pound per mile”: on emissions reduction priorities

1lb emissions

Embedding balanced thinking in every day life is an essential part of the "resource literacy" we're promoting, right?

So, sustainability thinking involves much broader awareness of emissions 'metrics' the numbers in this chart. Wanna know the relative emissions impacts of, say, plastic bags versus driving. Here ya go!

Let's see: if we use an average of one plastic bag a day, we could go two weeks before accumulating the equivalent of one pound of emissions.

Now, perhaps if we all held in our minds the "one mile, one pound" metric associated with our vehicles, we might work harder to reduce our miles.

Published by Ken on August 19th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off |

more HCA video: Ramsey Taum says keep it REAL


There are many solid reasons to watch this presentation at last week's Hawaii Conservation Alliance conference, especially including where Ramsey Taum ends up after a marvelous romp through native insights on sustainability.

Taum opens with this quote from Marcel Proust: ""The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Then he adds, "Sustainability acknowledges the systemic relationships between activities and entities that at first glance may not reveal their connectivity." Yeah, try them new 'eyes'!

Taum's presentation is all about the special sustainability challenges in these islands, sitting on the mountaintops of the "Blue Continent".

Published by Ken on August 12th, 2009 tagged HI-specific, Sustainability Science | Comments Off |

sustainability courses, KIUC get local news play

kcc sustainability

Nice piece in today's Garden Island on my upcoming series of sustainability short courses, and yesterday's op-ed by the venerable Walter Lewis on the need for a KIUC rate hike was also kewl!

Have to say our island sustainability conversation continues to amp up, and I'm getting more and more "pinch me" moments as our community learning and dialogue advances. Seems like only yesterday that sustainability was 'fringy' stuff...

Sadly for most of us, getting in this conversation takes some homework. For openers, we gotta change how we think, and that's as tough a task as there is.

Published by Ken on August 9th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Sustainability Science | Comments Off |

climate science in Hawaii: the HCA 09 conference videos


Yeah! Ain't gr8! Already, many of the videos from last week's Hawaii Conservation Alliance conference on climate change are uploaded and waiting for your perusal. Watch 'em here.

Aside from the savings on carbon-spewing (of the inter-island variety), one reason I didn't go this year is because I can get all the good stuff this way...without leaving our treehouse! It's like the next best thang to virtual conferencing.

And kudos to HCA's Deanna Spooner and crew for another smash hit conference! And mahalos to the dozens of scientists and policy wonks who shared their work and latest thinking!

Published by Ken on August 7th, 2009 tagged Island Ecosystems | Comments Off |

Holdren on climate policy: lead or be cooked

john holdren

As Copenhagen looms, Obama's science advisor John Holdren says "industrialised nations need to get their acts together..and developing countries have to join pretty soon, or we're going to be cooked" (via newscientist).

Holdren still sees a chance for Senate passage of "commitments that will move us onto a declining emissions trajectory", and if so, "we will see a degree of progress at Copenhagen that will surprise people."

For now, Holdren sees cap-and-trade as a vital stepping stone, with "more ambitious" targets to be added over time.

Such adjustments are "likely", says Holdren because two things are going to happen:

Published by Ken on August 3rd, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off |

will KIUC listen to McKinsey? on energy efficiency strategy

McKinsey report

McKinsey unleashed another blockbuster on energy efficiency clearly showing how to get the first 30% of cost-savings and emissions-reductions, concurrently with developing new green energy sources (via greeninc).

The upshot would be 23% less energy demand by 2020, and trillions not needed for new energy generation.

Meanwhile, KIUC is betting against any such thing, assuming instead that energy demand will continue to grow fast (because efficiency won't work), and so we must soon add another fossil fuel generator (because green energy is unreliable).

We've noted many flaws in KIUC's plans, and next Tuesday evening you can see their business-as-usual (BAU) approach in action.

Published by Ken on August 1st, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Energy | 1 Comment » |

military spending must shift to reflect climate security

guns vs green

With our military budget now approaching $700B annually, a new report from IPS urges Obama to shoot for a minimum of $30B in each of the next 20 years for climate change initiatives, including R&D and retrofits for government facilities (via grist).

Grist's Kate Sheppard notes that this need not be a zero-sum game, since climate action could be funded from carbon cap revenues (if they ever emerge from Congress).

Still, 'twould be smart to ratchet down on the gunboats as we ratchet up the green generators. Even with the stimulus package, Obama's military spending is still 9 times higher than climate action.

Published by Ken on August 1st, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off |

sustainability ain’t philanthropy: Werbach on corporate strategy

adam werbach

Sustainability is not about "doing good" or "protecting the environment", says Adam Werbach, and corporations must integrate sustainability into their core business strategies (via SFS).

"Yes, it's important to reduce waste and toxins in a company to protect our diminishing natural resources", says Werbach.

Still, "an environmental strategy is not enough to sustain most businesses for the long haul", says Werbach, and "too often, a 'sustainability strategy' is simply an environmental strategy with a new name."

Instead, Werbach urges business to focus on a "strategy for sustainability", and underscores the difference with three telltales. A company has a strategy for sustainability when it:

Published by Ken on August 1st, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off |

resilience path: turning cost centers into savings vehicles

bootstrappin communities

The thing about investing in your own energy or food production is that you not only reduce your monthly costs but also end up owning productive assets.

John Robb sees this as financially bootstraping communities seeking to bolster their resilience (via globalguerillas).

According to Robb, owning a windmill, solar array or garden is superior to owning a retirement account...especially in the likely inflationary economy of the near future.

Robb expects that the monthly savings will far exceed the monthly returns on your 401k/IRA accounts. Moreover, notes Robb, "as returns accumulate, it makes possible new investments in productive systems with additional cash flow opportunity."

Published by Ken on July 30th, 2009 tagged Island Ecosystems | Comments Off |

ahoy Senator! boaters want emission reductions, too

west marine founder

Citing the horrors of ocean acidification, a major boating company has launched a 'call-your-Senator' campaign to push for a climate bill even stronger than Waxman-Markey. Kewl!

West Marine sent emails to its customer base making the connection between CO2 and ocean acidification, noting that "solving one will solve the other", and urging boaters to "demand far greater emissions reductions than were able to pass the House."

"As one friend who got the email said, it's "interesting to see them step up with a position!"

Especially with 'Big Coal" flooding the Senate with cries for even more loopholes, this is a heartening sign.

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

Mayor as playuh: Kauai’s lineman for county sustainability

kauai mayor

Pinch me! For the first time, our island's political leadership is stepping up to the sustainability challenge, and I'm feeling better about our chances with this big guy up front.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho isn't just mouthing the "S" word...he's serious about preparing Kauai for the sustainability transition coming down on his watch.

Carvalho is launching a series of newspaper columns on sustainability and is learning to fold-in the sustainability theme with his daily "stories" as he moves from appearance to appearance.

Ya gotta like Carvalho’s chances as a cheerleader for the behavior changes that are integral to these transition times.

Published by Ken on July 26th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comments Off |

fulfilled with little: more low-hanging fruit

fulfilled consumer

'Tis hard to sense loss as the financial sector reels...if ya got no portfolio to lose.

Hard, too, to stay focused on holding-on to 'stuff' if ya got nothin'. And, it's hard to stop givin' back to community if that's all ya got.

Sure, I'm an economist, yet I've let all the recent financial news just wash over me. (I gave up 'stuff' after Hurricane Iniki.) I'm amazed that so many folks who've worked hard to "make it" are now not much better off than the rest of us.

Reading Nate Hagens, I'm wondering if it's all about "self" (via oildrum).

Published by Ken on July 26th, 2009 tagged Systems Thinking | Comments Off |

Hawaii social investment: ulupono initiative for sustainability

kyle datta and ulupono initiative

Let's hope Hawaii's social entrepreneurs are lining up for this: a significant source of funding for new business models in "indigenous renewable energy, local food production, and waste reduction", through the Omidyar's just-launched Ulupono Initiative.

Now settled in the islands, Pierre and Pam Omidyar are plunking down heavily to support "Hawaii's transformation to sustainability", and it's not just about money…more about catalyzing change.

As leaders in "social investment" with nearly $1B already committed planet-wide, Omidyar intends this island team, led by Kyle Datta and Robin Campaniano, to help "grow a 21st century economy where economic progress and environmental stewardship go hand in hand."

Published by Ken on July 24th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off |

learning about sustainability: on creating courses for Kauai

sus courses at KCC

Can't recall more fun than conceiving effective methods for communicating the scope of what we're learning about sustainability...and shaping this into accessible short-courses!

That's been my focus for the the past several months, and I'm delighted to report that the inaugural learning opportunities will launch in 3 weeks at Kauai Community College through the Office of Continuing Education & Training (OCET).

Fortunately, I've had some practice with previous seminars for Kauai leaders, yet this field is advancing so rapidly that it's truly challenging and inspiring to sum up what we're learning, especially regarding the challenges facing this small rural island.

Published by Ken on July 23rd, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off |

Hawaii climate change funds escape guv veto

HI climate change

Bravo for state legislators who last week overrode Governor Lingles' veto of SB266!

So, there will be a climate change task force to study the potential impacts of rising sea levels, eroding coast lines, ocean acidification, fiercer storms, and other expected affects of climate change, and to suggest response strategies...all funded with $100,000 a year to be diverted from the state tourism fund (via gristmill).

Grist's Jonathan Hiskes notes that the fed’s climate change report forecasted severe effects on U.S. Pacific islands if climate change continues unchecked.

Lingle had argued that the state's emissions reduction task force was already addressing climate change.

Published by Ken on July 20th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Climate Change | Comments Off |

runup to Copenhagen: agreement on planes and boats?

ships planes on copenhagen agenda

Forgive yourself if the rush of high-level pre-Copenhagen gatherings leaves you befuddled about the prospects for an achievable climate change deal to supersede Kyoto. We just hope it all works out, right?

Now, Gordon Brown has called for $100B annually from developed nations to help developing world 'leapfrog' to cleaner energy technologies, with funding from a new tariff on airline and shipping industries (which were excluded from Kyoto). Kewl! (via newscientist).

Guess that means emissions from flying and shipping would become the 'cash cow' for the green fund, rather than coming under the umbrella of national emissions targets. Double kewl!

Published by Ken on July 20th, 2009 tagged CO2 Emissions, Climate Change | Comments Off |

Maui beach scientist’s swan song: retreat and relocate

Zoe Norcross Nu`u, climate specialist

As Zoe Nu`u leaves the UH's research program on sea level rise, where she has focused on Maui's beach erosion, Rotarians in Kihei/Wailea got to hear a parting shot about what's coming.

We're already seeing ocean inundation in low-lying areas, says Nu`u, and it may only be a few decades before rising seas will necessitate 'fortification' of many beach areas.

Longer term, says Nu`u, Hawaii must plan for retreat and relocation.

Nu'u spoke to the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea on July 8th, 2009.

Zoe Norcross Nu'u Rotary Club Talk on Vimeo.

Published by Ken on July 18th, 2009 tagged Adaptation, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off |

sustainability is not the absence of un-sustainability

ehrenfeld book cover

"Greening" is about making us less un-sustainable. Sustainability is something else", and "we'll need both", says John Ehrenfeld (via sloanrev).

Ehrenfeld's new book defines sustainability as "a positive vision of the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever…It is an emergent property that only appears when the whole system is functioning properly.”

Greening, or working on eco-efficiency, is critically important, yet this is not sustainability. This is perpetuation of our 'quick fix' obsession, which might reduce our un-sustainability, at best.

"Creating sustainability requires a new story of how the world works and how humans act", says Ehrenfeld.

Published by Ken on July 17th, 2009 tagged Sustainability Science, Systems Thinking | Comments Off |