Wednesday, 10 June 2009

How Water Works in Oahu

Oahu steep mountains are key to the island's ability to attract clouds and abundant rainfall. On young, high mountains such as the Big Island's, clouds drop their precipitation before they are pushed to the highest elevations, leaving the upper reaches dry and desert-like. On older, eroded islands such as Oahu and Kauai, rainfall is heaviest on he windward sloped and mountain peaks, allowing lush vegetation to cover even the highest ridges. A relatively flat island such as Niihau has very little rainfall because it lacks the high elevation slopes. Without the slopes, winds cannot push moist air upwards to produce clouds and precipitation. Rainfall is only one part of the water cycle equation. Oahu also interacts with the skies to funnel water from the atmosphere back to land. The island's topography, augmented by a healthy, balanced natural ecosystem, catches, collects and stores water. A watershed is an area of land, such as mountain or a valley, hat catches and collects rainwater. Topography influences whether rainwater moves toward the sea via rivers and streams or via movement underground. Oahu has two main watersheds, one in the Koolau Mountains and another on the crest of the Waianae Range. The Koolaus run perpendicular to the Northeast trades and experience the heaviest rainfall. The Waianae peaks, though higher, sit in the Koolau rain shadow and receive less rain, even on their windward slopes.

A rainforest is a forest ecosystem in which rainfall is abundant throughout the year. The covering in the forest catches rain and dew and stabilises the upper soil layers, letting rainwater filter through to deeper layers. Forest growth also stabilises stream banks, limiting erosion debris in surface flow. The heavily forested regions on he mountain tops of each island are Hawaii's primary watershed areas. Hawaii native forests have evolved over millions of years to become highly effective watershed covers. Vegetation in the forest fills every level. It soaks up rainfall like a giant sponge, allowing water to drip slowly underground and into streams. When a forest is degraded, rain falling on bare earth causes erosion. The water-retaining upper soil layers are washed away, leaving behind less permeable clays. Water runs off this impermeable surface rather than filtering down to replenish the aquifer. Streams that emanate from deforested mountains flood during rains. When the rains stop, these streams run dry. The loss of stabilising tree and plant roots results in landslides. Debris carried by streams ends up in ocean coastal areas, causing siltation of reefs. When a native forest is eroded and damaged, opportunistic foreign species invade. While these new plants can stabilise bare ground, the watershed cover they create is not as effective as that of the native forest.

In 1879, James Campbell and John Ashley discovered Oahu vas underground water lens. Campbell had purchased 41,000 barren acres on the Ewa plains. He dug 273 feet into the soil and found a gusher of fresh, clean water. Before too long, wells were being bored all over Oahu and suddenly the island's growth seemed limitless. As Oahu rapid growth continued, demands for water escalated. Honolulu's population was swelling and tripled between 1879 and 1915. Outside the city, more and more land was being put into sugar can and other crops, including rice. Everyone it seemed needed more water. In Honolulu, there were some early attempts to oversee water use and development. Outside the city, government oversight was all but nonexistent. Through the end of 1920s, water development on Oahu was widespread and largely unchecked. People took what they needed and left the planning to someone else. The water free-for-all couldn't last forever. With so much water being taken out, the rains could not replenish the aquifer. Wells began to salt up or dry up altogether.

In 1929, after a series of events, the Legislature took unilateral control of water from the City and turned it over to a newly created semi-autonomous city agency, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. The newly created board was given broad powers over water to develop it, sell it and plan for its future on Oahu. It used the mandate to create the island's first truly effective water management system. All of the effort paid off. There was a marked reduction in the draw from Oahu aquifer and the water table stabilised. To deal with Oahu's growing population; the Board built water reservoirs, laid larger and better pipes and made sure the city's pumping stations were in the top shape. They also look at new sources of water for the city. Just before the outbreak of World War 2, they began to develop their first facility outside the city, a new station in Halawa Valley which is currently the largest underground water pumping station in Oahu called the Halawa Shaft.

The earth's population continues to grow and freshwater supplies are under threat. In the century between 1950 and 2050, the amount of water available per person is expected to decline by 74%. To combat a global water crisis, nations are inventing new technologies and strategies to deal with water shortages. They are using science and ingenuity to create new water sources and to recycle their existing water. Oahu is currently recycling its water and is producing up to 12 million gallons of recycled water per day. They produce 2 grades of water, one for irrigation and the other for industry. The recycled water is delivered to users through pipes separate from the drinking water distribution system. Though safe for human contact, recycled water is not intended for drinking. Recycled water is regulated by the State Department of Health to the highest level of safety. However, they estimated that the current water supply system cannot sustain the future demand and eventually they will have to deal with desaltation of the sea water. The Board of Water Supply is also active in engaging the community. They had a far ranging series of programs to teach the residents all about water and how to preserve and protect their precious water supply. They also work with other agencies to safeguard the environment and the health of the water users. And above all, despite of all this advance and complex system, the water in Hawaii only cost $2.25/gallon!!!

Source: Board of Water Supply (2007) Water for Life. Honolulu: Honolulu Board of Water Supply (25M/07).

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

U.S. Coast Guard Roles in Environmental Protection

The Unites States Coast Guard is a military branch of the U.S involved in maritime law, mariner assistance, and search and rescue, among other duties of coast guards elsewhere. Its stated mission is to protect the public, the environment, and he U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region, including international waters and America's coast, ports, and inland waterways. They have a broad and important role in homeland security, law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental pollution response, and the maintenance of river, intra-coastal and offshore aids to navigation. They worked together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas and skies, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve understanding and stewardship to he environment. Marine Debris is any persistent solid material that is disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the great lakes. It is a global problem affecting the environment, economy, human health, safety, and marine life. The NOAA Marine Debris Program serves as a centralized marine debris capability within NOAA in order to coordinate, strengthen, and increase the visibility of marine debris issues and efforts within the agency, its partners, and the public. This Program is undertaking a national and international effort focusing on identifying, reducing, and preventing debris in the marine environment. Additionally, the MDP supports and works closely with various partners across the U.S. to fulfil the Program's mission. The U.S. Coast Guard helps in providing the facilities and equipments during the clearing of marine debris by NOAA and the volunteers.

USCG is also involved in curbing illegal fishing that threatens to destroy the fish sanctuary or overfishing. They have several zones that are categorised by no fishing, seasonal fishing, and free fishing. They also have close eyes for illegal fishing vessels including those from other countries which fishes in the U.S. waters. USCG plays a significant role in protecting the humpback whale from illegal whalers and any other elements that can threaten this endangered species. However, there is a contradiction in what they do by protecting the super ferry which was threatened by activists from entering Hawaii. The super ferry itself was threatening to the whales as it uses the same route of the whale's migration. Other than that, USCG also responses on the oil spill threats whether by clearing a spill or curbing the spill from happening by taking all the oil in the vessels that are going to sink or got stranded.

Friday, 5 June 2009

USIE on Local News

A group of 20 undergraduate scholars from Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are currently in Hawai'i participating in an innovative environmental leadership development program. The program is designed to foster a greater understanding of the U.S. environmental movement and aid in the development of sustainable pathways to environmental stewardship.

On May 10, participants of the United States Institute on the Environment (USIE) arrived in Honolulu to participate in leadership development workshops and obtain an overview of the U.S. environmental movement through lectures at the East-West Center's Honolulu campus and field studies in the community before departing for Maui on Wednesday, May 26. Upon their return to Honolulu on Saturday, May 30, they will be participating in a Sustainable Solutions Series from June 1-3 at the East-West Center before departing to San Francisco, the Monterey Bay area, and Washington D.C. for the remaining two weeks of the institute.

On Wednesday June 3 from 9:30-10:30 a.m., Ted Peck, of the Hawai'i state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, and Robert Alm of Hawaiian Electric, along with others, will be participating in presentations on "Sustainable Solutions from government programs." The presentations, which are open to the public, will be held at the Hawai'i Imin International Conference Center (Jefferson Hall, 1777 East-West Road).

Diversity is a key strength of the program, whose participants bring a broad range of backgrounds, including Aerospace Engineering, Green Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Urban Development, Tourism, and Public Health.

Participants include:

Sophiah Jamil (Singapore), who is studying the security implications of climate change and has published research on the environmental movement among Muslim youth;

Masikerei Vunicagi (Fiji), who works as a field trainer educating rural communities on environmentally sustainable living practices;

Cheow Geh Tsung (Malaysia), who studies water quality and fresh water resources, and has worked in Malaysia's heavy industry sector;

Lee Yee Hui Jonathan (Singapore), who is studying the effects of the aviation industry on climate change, and has been part of General Electric Aviation's "Eco-imagination" team;

Ms. Subhashni Raj (Fiji), who is studying coral reef biodiversity and conservation on a scholarship to Bangalore University;

Wong Shu Kuan (Malaysia), a marine biology student focusing on conservational genetics.

Funding for the United States Institute on the Environment program is provided by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For more information on the program, visit

The EAST-WEST CENTER is an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific, and the United States. The Center contributes to a peaceful, prosperous and just Asia Pacific community by serving as a vigorous hub for cooperative research, education and dialogue on critical issues of common concern to the Asia Pacific region and the United States. Funding for the Center comes from the U.S. government, with additional support provided by private agencies, individuals, foundations, corporations, and the governments of the region.


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Sustainable Solutions From Different Perspectives

For 3 days in a row, we received loads of speakers to discuss with us about their works in their organisations respectively. Those speakers came from different discipline, backgrounds and fields of works namely the sciences, private sector, policy makers, NGOs, government programs and UH students. Among of the distinctive speakers are Senator J. Kalani English, the Hawaii State Senator from Maui and several other Representatives and Senators from Hawaii. The politicians talked about their contributions on passing the Hawaii Sustainablity 2050 Plan which emphasises on self-sufficiency, cultural values particularly the traditional Native Hawaiian culture, bottom-up approach and others. Other than that, they also had laid out the Hawaii Clean Energy Future which is a roadmap towards 70% of clean energy dependency by 2030.

We also got the chance to meet several of the planners who work on environmental issues such as Environmental Impact Study (EAS)/Environmental Assessment (EA) and solutions to reducing GHGs emission from consultants and the university. There are significant differences between the speaker from the university and the consultants who are practicing. The university talked more on theoretical and their research wherelse the practicing consultants talk more on their expereinces which are very interesting and sometimes controversy. The questions now is how can the practicing consultants use the knowledges and research from the university in their project and how far can they colloborate with each other to find new appropriate concepts and solutions. Anyway, this is not the case for the discussions that we had because they talk on different subjects. One of the consulants talked on the watershed and sea level rising while the professor from the university talked on the GHGs reduction.

Among the speakers from the private sectors are Ed Kenney, owner of Town Restaurant; Gary Forth-Maunakea, MA'O Farm, Pete Cooper, Better Place; and Bob King, Pacific Biodiesel. Ed Kenney's restaurant serve organic foods with the motto of "Local first, organic whenever possible, and with aloha always". He spent a year backpacking the globe including in Malaysia. We actually went to his restaurant for dinner, the food is quite different from what we usually have. Gary on the other hand operates an organic farm on the island. He supply the organic foods to local shops and restaurants without middleman so that the price will not get too expensive. Ed also get his supplies from Gary's farm. Bob King is a businessman of organic fuel. One of the sources of his organic comes from restaurants used cooking oil including from Ed's restaurant. So, it is amazing to know how the system works where we never expected that a fuel company will get their resources from local restaurants. Peter Cooper on the other hand is from the organisation called Better Place, an electric vehicle service company that is building electric vehicle recharge networks around he world.

There are dozens more speakers that had came to talked with us on their projects and I found it very useful and an eye-opening. We learned so many things and gain new ideas which makes us continue thinking on how to apply what we had heard here to our country wherever appropriate. Apart from the invited speakers, we also joined into a social event called green drinks where we met a lot more green passionate people from Hawaii and expand our networking there. We also had a dinner and roundtable discussion with sudents from East-West Center, UH Environmental Studies and UH Sustainable Saunders and exchanged ideas and experiences of their environmental movemen in campus. This is very interesting as UTM still does not have any environmental movement in campus and I am planning to initiate it. There was also one interesting session on how to communicate with the media which was given by Derek Ferrar, EWC Media Relations Specialist. The 3 days roundtable discussions with various people from different backgrounds and disciplines really does interest me and benefited me a lot.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Maui Struggles

Maui is always refers to as one of the most desirable place to visit in the world. As oppose to Oahu, Maui is more rural and less developed and may portray more of what people imagine of Hawaii with their natural environment. Thus, the environmental management in Maui is essential for a variety of stakeholders especially for the local community itself. Many events had happened in Maui which have seen the native Hawaiian opposition to development and activities that threaten their environment and culture. The movement is so strong to the extend that some group even become radical and bombed the water pipe to prevent development from encroaching on their home town. The strong movement is still visible now where we can observe Hawaiian flag being raised upside down showing the radical group against the government. They was also involved in protesting the military actions for bombing the Kahoolawe island for training purpose. The island have a significant meaning to the native Hawaiian tradition where it is considered as the baby, Maui as the mother and Big Island as the father. Fortunately, the military have stopped bombing the island now. The most recent event is the opposition against the ferry service between Oahu and Maui that can transport thousands of cars between the islands. The ferry company now have to stop operation since they failed to get enough revenue to continue their operation.

The community movement is especially strong at the southern shore of the island including the small village called Hana. The roads to the village are winding and narrow purposively to prevent unnecessary development from coming in, including the massive tourism activities that does not benefits the local community instead threatening their culture. Even though, they are opposing the development that threatens their traditions, the community there are very friendly, welcoming and taking good care of their guests. The community is very active in their efforts to reeducate their childrens with the native Hawaiian traditions which have been forgotten and their language which was banned by the American once they overthrown the monarchy. They realised that what the U.S. Government has done to their islands are more damaging than what they previously practice from their traditions. We've joined one of the activities called Lima Restoration Project which educates the childrens to plant lima (seaweed). Lima is one of their delicacies and the number have drop significanly at the current time. They are also working on the Kapahu Living Farm which is operated by the Kipahulu 'Ohana. Kapahu Living Farm ( is located inside the protected area which aims to revive and restore the traditional agriculture practices especially for taro plantation which have a close relationship with the native Hawaiian. The current community of Hana is struggling to revive and implement the Ahupua'a concept and all other raditional values and knowledges.

Maui is also popular with the Molokini crater which is one of the best snorkeling and diving site in Hawaii. However, the coral reefs and sea organisms here are not as diverse as in Malaysia. Moreover, the impact of the tourism activities had further reduces the number of coral reef and sea organisms. They have not yet determine the caring capacity for the area and as a result, we can observe that Molokini was crowded with vessels and snorklers. It might be that the number of human being in the water is more than he number of fish. It is make worst by the vessels which release the efluence from their boat into the ocean. However, some vessels do concern and keep their efluence inside the vessels before releasing it at the facilities provided at the jetty. Kahanu Garden which is located in Hana is unique too. They have the largest ancient Heiau in the whole Polynesian. This site shows the importance of the water catchment area where the ancient Hawaiian really taken care of it. Another interesting thing about Maui is they conserve so many towns as it were in the past without even adding more new development into it. Everything are left as it were except for the new shops inside it and visitors can actually feels the environment of the 18th century towns. Maui has a lot of histories and what happens there are so unique that does not happen anywhere else. We can observe so many ruins along away way where it used to be settlements for the native Hawaiian. There are so much thing that can be learn from Maui.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Community and Network by Scott

What is a community and what is a network? Community is those who can be defined by a closed boundary and having a more intimate relationship and share a common interest (e.g. public facilities, neighbourhood.etc). However, the increasing urbanisation has make the definition of community more complicated than before as the relationship in a neighbourhood became weaker and is not as intimate as it was. Network on the other hand can't be defined by a boundary and their relationship is more purposive (business network, political affiliation, hobby groups.etc). A network can be a connection of people from different places or countries which are working on a common goal.

Either we realize it or not, we are all connected in this world. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "All of life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly will affects other indirectly". So, why do network matters? It is important to bring people together to achieve a goal and brings on to leadership. From networking, people can change or find the tipping points which lead to change either to a better or worst environment. The context of network includes change which is nonlinear, nature, society and network positions.

Networks can either hurt us or empower us. For example, the relationship among the world economic which has caused the financial crisis when one company faced bankruptcy which leads to a domino effects to the other companies. But, it also can empower us if we know how to use it. Barrack Obama was once expected to lose to Hillary Clinton as she have a solid foundation of finance backing her campaign compared to Obama. She is also related to Bill Clinton, he most succesfull President of the United States. However, Obama wins the election as studies shows that he won from the power of network. He knows a lot of people in the grass-roots which helps in his campaign to influence their relatives and friends which later on influenced their's. Networks can also define us. We can be defined by what causes we joined (e.g. political parties, alumni, NGOs).

So, where do we find network? Network can be find from the system, ideas, events and people. And these elements can connect to each other. In a system, if one elements of the system failed, it will bring on domino effect o the other elements which bring to the failure of the system. Ideas can also connect people. People can be connected based on their ideas either the same idea or different but in the same interest which can bring to healthy discussions. It also can be connected from the events that had happened, for example a social party which open the opportunity for people to meet other peoples. So, events does influence networks.

Since, networking have so many benefits, thus network weaving is important. It is important to diversify specialisation thus open up our perspectives and come out with better solutions. With varies background, it can encourage creativiy in the network and ensure that he netwrok is sustainable. It is also helpful for social capital or resiliance and useful as a tool for spreading the word. So, how can we weave he networks or what holds us together? As discuss earlier, it may be the ideas that bring us together. It may also be the common outcome that we want to achieve. Identities is one of the element that are usually associated with networks. But, the most important thing that hold us together is for survival. So, for us to survive the environmental impacts these days, it is important for us to build on our networks to spread the words as quickly and effective as possible.

Source: Macleod, Scott. (2009) Community and Network. United States Institute on the Environment, 26th May 2009.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Blog on Hold

As we are going for a field trip to Maui tomorrow, I won't be able to update the blog until we return to Oahu on Saturday. Thank you for visiting the blog. Hope I will be able to update the blog as soon as possible upon returning from Maui.