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Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

From Marti:

KAHEA joined a coalition of environmental, conservation, and ocean user groups in appealing the decision of the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting to allow Kyo-Ya, the owner of the Moana Surfrider Hotel, to build a massive luxury hotel on the beach at Waikiki.

Kyo-ya proposes to knock down the 8-story building (that should not be built there) and build a new huge 26-story, surfboard-shaped, luxury hotel and condo structure right next to the historic Moana Banyan Tree Court and the Kuhio Beach Park (the only public park on Waikiki beach).

Such a proposal is not allowed by the many laws passed over the years to protect Oahu’s shorelines, especially Waikiki Beach.  Despite these protections, the City approved Kyo-ya’s proposal.

Allowing this construction project is such a bad idea, in so many ways:
– it will increase the pressure to use this beach while undermining the overall experience of the beach;
– it will mean a taller skyline and even more seawalls;
– it will make suffering sea level rise that much more painful;
– it will create housing for the absurdly wealthy while adding to the construction waste landfilled in Native Hawaiian communities;
– it won’t create any longterm jobs, but it will make it even harder to fish, dive, and surf in this area; and
– it will weaken the overall efficacy of the laws we established to protect our best interests because the City felt like exempting the hotel from the no-build zone on Waikiki.

That’s why we are appealing the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Learn more about this issue:

Coalition fights to keep Waikiki developer Kyo-Ya from bending the rules,” The Hawaii Independent, Jan. 6, 2011.

Appeal filed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Dec. 28, 2010.

The Surfrider Foundation

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Have a greener holiday party this year, and no, I’m not talking about your Christmas tree.

Sustainableparty.com has come up with a guide to direct the common person on having sustainable and environmentally friendly parties.

The guides covers issues that include: Community, Resource Conservation, Food, Transportation Materials and Waste Management. Even if you only practice one of their recommendations this year, you will feel better about this wasteful (sometimes even frivolous) season.

Please click on the following link to view these easy and practical ways to reduce your holiday impact:

Sustainable Party Best Practices

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From Melissa:

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) was denied approval by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of it’s Amended Biofuel Contract with Imperium Renewables on August 5, 2009. The amended contract would have Imperium import biodiesel from a West Coast refinery to power HECO’s new 110-megawatt generating plant, instead of a refinery built by Imperium.

Costs brought on by this amended contract would have shifted costs from Imperium to HECO’s customers, as it would have to import the fuel from the West Coast of the Continental US. The PUC ruled,

“…the Amended Contract limits Imperium’s potential liability for failure to perform, but HECO failed to provide credible evidence that such a provision, which substantially shifted risk from Imperium to HECO and its ratepayers, was necessary.” Given the substantial amendments to the Original Contract, which were not subject to a competitive bidding process (or some other process that would provide the commission with some assurance that the amended terms are reasonable), the commission finds that HECO failed to demonstrate that the Amended Contract is in the public interest…”

Although this is a win for HECO’s ratepayers, they must also ask themselves if biofuel is right for Hawaii. As stated in the testimony of Henry Curtis, Executive Director of Life of the Land, against the Amended Biofuel Contact,

Life of the Land’s position (on HECO’s application requesting the Public Utilities Commission’s of the State of Hawaii’s approval to commit funds estimated at $134,310,260 for the purchase and installation of the Campbell Industrial Park Generating Station and Transmission Additions Project) was that biofuels negatively impact climate change in a number of ways: producing ethanol and biodiesel requires the use of large amounts of fossil fuels, water, and land. Hawai`i is parceling off its agricultural land and where we would get the water remains a huge issue. Will Hawai`i ever be able to grow enough biofuel to satisfy our needs? Life of the Land doubts it. After one hundred plus years of plantation-style monocropping, is this what we really want to do? Growing biofuels is not about small farmers, it is about big agribusinesses and corporate farming. How will this help Hawai`i’s struggling family farms? Should Hawai`i be using our precious agricultural lands to grow energy crops or food? Since Hawai`i imports 90% of our food, wouldn’t promoting food security and feeding our people be a more prudent use of these lands? Biofuel production competes with food products for resources. In the US, corn that could be used to feed people and animals is siphoned off for fuel. In Brazil ethanol production displaces other crops which are then grown in newly decimated Amazon rain forests. The most productive source of biodiesel is palm oil. Most of the world’s biodiesel is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia on recently destroyed rain forests. … Indonesia ranks third in the world in greenhouse gas emissions from the carbon emitted by burning forests and peat soils to make room for mono-cropped palm oil plantations. In essence, we are substituting the greatest source of global warming – the burning of fossil fuels – for the second greatest contributor – deforestation. …

Also provided in the testimony of Henry Curtis, Dr. Tadeus Patzek, Chairman of the Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin, states:

Now I am predicting the diverse negative consequences of intensive biofuel use in Hawaii and dare the defenders of the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO’s) decision to burn palm oil from Malaysia in an electrical power plant on Oahu to laugh at me. What seems to be at stake here is a tragically misguided decision by HECO to secure a new source of fossil fuel for its electrical power station. Their thinking seems to be that as long as the new fuel is not crude oil, somehow its flow will increase the strategic security of energy supply of Oahu. This type of linear, unimaginative thinking is characteristic of large bureaucracies under pressure to come up with a quick fix of a perceived problem.

Are monocropped agrofuels the fix to our dependence on petroleum, or should be be looking other places such as renewable energy systems? As HECO moves to solicit bids for alternative biofuel suppliers, that question should be in the back of everyones mind.

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From Melissa:

Air quality monitoring stations in Lualualei, Timberline and Waianae offer daily measurements of Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide and Particulates in the surrounding areas on an easy-to-use website. The color-coding system on the website is aesthetically pleasing and shows the condition of each pollutant for that day.

A small disclaimer notes:

The data on this web site are preliminary and await review and validation by qualified staff. The data may be revised or invalidated after review. Every effort is made to assert the validity and integrity of the real-time data displayed on this web site, but data can be affected by equipment malfunctions, technical difficulties and other unforeseen circumstances.

So check your air quality, but question the data as well.

The website is user-friendly and answers basic questions about their system.

West Oahu Air Quality Monitoring website

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From:  Andrea

Just last month, Act 155 was passed in the Hawaii Legislature, amending Hawaii’s renewable energy law.

One of the highlights of this amendment was the strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (often abbreviated as RPS).  These standards are binding for electric utility companies, which must satisfy the specified percentage of their net electricity sales with electricity generated from renewable energy sources by the specified date.

Now, Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards are as follows:  10% by 2010; 15% by 2015; 25% by 2020; and 40% by 2030.  The two standards that Act 155 changed are the two later dates:  the 2020 standard was increased by 5%, and the 2030 standard was a new addition.

This strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards was a wise move by the Hawaii Legislature.  Hawaii should be a predominant leader in the renewable energy realm, considering that it is the most oil dependent state with over 90% of its energy needs met by imported fossil fuels– a doubly detrimental impact with carbon footprints from long-distance importation and burning.  The context of climate change and sea-level rise heighten Hawaii’s energy vulnerability.

Yet, Hawaii is also ideally situated to move the ball forward with renewable energy due to the high availability of solar, wind, wave, and tidal energy.  Thus, the Legislature’s addition of the long-term standard, 40% renewable-created electricity by 2030, is in line with Hawaii’s position of great need, vulnerability, and opportunism.

However, the short-term standard could be a bit more aggressive.  Although a five-percent increase to 25% by 2020 is an improvement, a few other states have more stringent short-term standards.  For example, California is requiring 20% renewable-created electricity by 2010– double Hawaii’s 2010 standard.  And, Maine has a 2017 standard of 40%, Hawaii’s standard for 13 years later, while New York has a 2013 standard of 24%– 9% greater than Hawaii’s 2015 standard.

Regardless of the precise standards, the definition of “renewable energy” sources must be amended.  While creating more stringent standards in the short-term is ideal, amending the definition of “renewable energy” to only encompass those sources that are truly clean is a must.

As it stands now, the definition of “renewable energy” does not contain any qualifications.  For example, it includes “biofuels.”  Such an unqualified authorization allows utility companies to meet the standard with, say, palm oil, which fits the broad definition of “biofuels.”

What’s the problem with palm oil qualifying as a renewable energy source?  This “biofuel” implicates a significant carbon footprint due to carbon-emitting land change.  After the deforestation, heavy fertilization, and peatland burning required to produce the palm oil, the production of this “biofuel” actually contributes more to global warming, opposed to ameliorating the crisis.

Renewable energy sources and, thus, renewable portfolio standards for utility companies should authorize only clean renewable sources in life-cycle terms.  Renewability should be just one requisite for clean energy sources; the holistic footprint, including emissions, land change, and other environmental impacts, also must be taken into account.

Otherwise, we may simply displace the impact to another medium.  Without amending the law to reflect this crucial qualification, the renewable portfolio standards may end up perpetuating the very problem that they are intended to improve.

Want Hawaii to lead a meaningful renewable energy transition?

Contact your representatives in the State Legislature and voice your opinion!

Here’s contact information for our House representatives:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/house/members/members.asp

And, here’s contact information for Senate members:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/senate/members/members.asp

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From Alana:

On Thursday night, a film entitled A Sea Change, was shown at the Bishop Museum. It addressed the much ignored by-product of climate change, ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is, arguably, the most dire consequence of adding ridiculous amounts of carbon dioxide to the air. 

For years, the ocean has been absorbing extra CO2 from the air, a total of 118 billion metric tons of it. Adding 22 billion pounds of CO2 to the ocean each day is severely changing the chemistry of the water. But what is wrong with the pH of the ocean lowering by .1, or .01, or even .001? It may not seem like much to us, but any change affects what all life depends on most: the creatures at the bottom of the ocean food chain, namely pteropods. Pteropods are moth-like, transparent creatures, that seem to fly in the deep ocean. They are the food for a myriad of creatures, which in turn are the food source for hundreds of other creatures, that humans then feed on. Increased amounts of CO2, though, are causing the pteropods’ calciferous shells to disintegrate. This threatens the entire food chain.

Scientists have underestimated the magnitude and haste of climate change. They  assert that we are past the point where we can stop the extinctions that will come with the disappearance of pteropods and coral. This situation is so extreme that within a few centuries humans could be all but extinct as well. As one scientist simply exclaims, “we’re screwed”.

 The thing that disgusts me most about all of this, though, is that we could have solved it by now. It would only cost TWO PERCENT  of our GDP to solve the energy crisis. It can be argued that 2% of GDP is a lot of money, but I think it might be a good asking price for ensuring the continuation of our survival as a species, and the survival of the animals we depend on. To put this in perspective, enough photovoltaic cells could have been built to power the entire United States with only $420 billion–HALF of the Iraq war budget.

A big hurdle that the public has to face is simply realizing how much we rely on the ocean, and that it is in fact possible for us to change something that big. Most people accept the fact that the ice is melting, but continually deny that life is endangered because of human activity. One woman in the film says,

“We are a very visual species. What is below water is invisible to us. What we can’t see, we pollute… because it doesn’t exist to us.”

So what can we do about this? The main thing to do is just analyze your lifestyle and make sure that what you do doesn’t add to this serious problem. Venture capitalists have the choice of going down the alley of exploitation as easily as the alley of sustainability. The government owes it to everyone to do something about this. This type of problem will threaten national security, the world food supply, etc, so when is anyone going to do something about this in terms of strong legislation– or creating an actual plan of action?? Depending on your age, you may not see the effects, but it is real. It is not going away. I know that there will not only be a sea change in my lifetime, but a world of change.sea_change_a

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From:  Andrea

Most people are familiar with our inalienable natural rights, as John Locke summed up as life, liberty, and property.  But what about nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve?

These are the inalienable legal rights that the town of Shapleigh, Maine, voted to grant to nature last February.  Now, in the town of Shapleigh, population 2,326, natural communities and ecosystems are endowed with these inalienable, fundamental rights, and any town resident has “standing” to bring a lawsuit on behalf of natural communities and ecoystems.

Read the Boston Globe article here:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/07/19/should_nature_be_able_to_take_you_to_court/?page=1

Shapleigh is on the right track.  While critics may argue there are too many potential litigants, ranging from the Kukui tree to the Waimea River, there exists an entire planet of species and ecosystems deserving of the right to exist.  And, sadly, counts of these potential litigants are diminishing.  See:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N01296862.htm

The above article, published July 2, reports that more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the last five-hundred years, with almost 17,000 threatened with extinction now, according to a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature report.  The track record shows that we are failing at conservation.  Endowing nature with the right to exist may bolster our efforts at conserving biodiversity.

Apparent in many facets of our social structure, we have consistently valued profit above nature.  After all, corporations have long had the legal status of a “person” and the corresponding rights, including ability to sue.  If corporations are “persons” in the sense of legal status and rights, then what is the problem with nature possessing rights to exist?  Nature is fundamental to our own existence, quite unlike corporations.

We are behind the time in recognizing nature’s rights.  Notwithstanding the dire situation of lost biodiversity, concepts of an ethical relationship with nature have been around for at least 100 years.  Aldo Leopold, an early environmentalist, wrote about his “land ethic” in A Sand County Almanac.  Based on the idea that ethics should be expanded to encompass nonhuman members of the biotic community, Leopold summed up his land ethic as follows:  “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  If we humans were on board with this profoundly simple land ethic- and had been during our last couple hundred years of pillaging-, then perhaps we would not be in the situation of having to pass town ordinances to grant nature the right to exist.

But, alas, so is human nature.  Our attempts at control have led us to a precarious precipice:  here, at the edge of continuing to diminish biodiversity, we have a choice.  The town of Shapleigh recognized this watershed moment and stepped in the direction of preservation.

If my town votes for a similar ordinance, you bet I’ll holler aye.  And, when critics question, “how do we know what nature wants?” and argue that the interest is actually ours, I’ll have my response.

Sure, we humans may be the ones instituting this groundbreaking regime of granting legal rights to biota.  But in reality, the idea of humans bringing these suits on behalf of nature is not so far-fetched.  After all, people serve as trustees to bring suits on behalf of incompetent people and trust beneficiaries.  Human implementation of nature’s rights is requisite:  the law is our system, and our impacts and attempts to control ecosystems thus far have led to the gross loss in biodiversity.

Humans- but not corporations- are a part of the planetary ecosystem.  We are not the operators behind an enormous control panel, like we have long been masquerading.  As a single species, we should make room in our legal and socioeconomic structures for the other species to survive, lest we deprive them all of their right to exist.

We should be celebrating and wholeheartedly codifying nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.  Without nature, without Earth, homo sapiens would not exist.

Ho’okahi No Ka ‘Aina A Me Na Kanaka.

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