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.

Kualoa Ranch – Rope Course Challenges

Kualoa Ranch is one of the most exciting tourist spot located in the scenic Ka'a'awa Valley, Hawaii. They have a variety of attraction and activities here such as the horseback riding, ATV tours, jungle expeditions, hula lesson, movie sites.etc. Kualoa Ranch has became the shooting site for many movies such as the Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl Harbour, Godzilla.etc. We can still observe the remaining of the shooting props such as the godzilla's footprint, Aztec pyramid, war trenches, guns.etc. At the same time, the ranch is still use for cattle breeding and they have so many cows in the valley.

Our trip to Kualoa ranch was not to observe the movie sites or go on horseback riding but we were there to go on the rope course. However, we still get to pass by the movie sites on our way to the rope course's site. The ropes course was so challenging and terrifying. The first rope course is the V shape rope course where we have to climb a tall tree then stand on the V shape rope which was tied from the tree to two other trees while holding hands with our partner face to face to support each other. Unfortunate for us, the rope that support me from falling got tangled and it takes more than 10 minutes for the facilitator to fix it. So, we are strangled at the top of the tree for a long time while our hands and legs are getting numb. I became a tree huger that day. After the facilitator has fixed the problem, we moved through the v-shaped ropes. This challenge is guaranteed to fail and to fall because the ropes that we stand on are getting farther away as we progress. My feet was shaking terribly because the rope that we have to stand on is purposely loosen and at the same time I was terrified which makes my leg trembling. When I started to step on the rope and feel the shaking rope, I was extremely terrified and I even thought to surrender and just jump. So I persuade David, my partner to jump together, however he supported me and said “we can do this, don't jump, are you ready? Let's move.....”. So we move together slowly, bit by bit before he said that he's going to fall down, and this time I am the one who motivates him to move on as we have started already. We fell down though. The lessons that I learned from this challenge are to move on despite whatever obstacles are in front of you. If we keep on staying at the same spot, we won't go anywhere and get stuck with anything that are bothering you which is even worse. We also have to be supportive and open to be supported as it does make a difference and do motivate you to move on. And be prepared as what we think is easy may not seem what we thought of it to be. It is really different when we are put at the position.

The second challenge is an individual challenge where we have to walk on the rope which is tied from one tree to another. They have several ropes tangling for us to hang on along the walking rope. However the first one is far away that you can't grasp it without letting go of the other hand holding the tree. It is called the ropes of faith where if you are able to grasp the first rope than the rest will be easy and if you can't, then you will fell down and it's over. Same with the first challenge, the rope that we are suppose to stand on is purposely loosen to to make it unstable. Surprisingly, I was once again terrified up there and it took me a long time to move and grasp the first rope. It is scary to let go of the other hand which holding the tree as it feels that you will fell down if you let it go. However, I manage to grasp the first rope with the support from the people down there and it needs a lot of concentration to grasp it. I was so shocked and in a disbelief that I manage to grasp the rope of faith. My legs are shacking and trembling again out of shock. So, I move on slowly, grasping one rope by another, until my hand feels numb but I am determined to finish it up and I did. The lessons for this challenge to me is that even though that we have experienced the same thing before, we might still uncomfortable with the next one but the previous one should motivates you to go. And there's a difference if you are alone without partners to support each other. I took a longer time to start the second challenge because I was alone up there compared to the first challenge with a partner. However, with the support from those below, I am still able to move on. I was also motivated by people who does it before me as if they can do it, why not me.

The third challenge is to climb a series of obstacles with 3 partners. We were tight together and the person in the middle was blindfolded. The two person besides her must support and and give direction physically and verbally where to go. It looks easy but it is really challenging and needs full focus and courage. This challenge really tested the team working skill among the participants and strategy to get onto the top. The final challenge is the easiest and fun to celebrate the end of he day. The flying fox! We glide down the flying fox which is the longest in the state. This challenge need full-scale team work from each members. Everyone have their own roles and we have to rotate our stations. There are people assigned to watch the flag, ladder, rope to pull down the cable, catcher who will catch the glider and other. Thus, we have to trust each other and be responsible to ensure that the glider and everyone are safe.

The ropes course is a metaphor of our life. It challenges us to face our fear. It shows us that we have to move on despite all of our fear. It shows us the importance of team work and being supported and supportive. Sometimes, we will encounter with something that obstruct us in our work and life. How will we response to these obstructions? Will we just turn back or just do nothing, or we can face the obstructions and settled it once and for all, then may progress. Anyway, the support from other people is sure the most valuable asset along our progress. Thank you team for your support.

I'm still waiting for the pictures on the rope course as I did not take any pictures during he course. I'll upload it as soon as I get it. Please enjoy the picture of Ka'a'awa Valley that I took before we begin the course first.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Weekend Activities

Today is Sunday here. I chose to stay in my room and rest. I took this chance to watch tv too. They have 78 channels, amazing. Anyway, I went several places yesterday. We went to the Dole Plantation which produces pineapples in Hawaii. They have amazing souvenir shop with many items based on pineapples. I wonder why we don't have this even though we are the largest pineapple producer in the world (I'm not sure if we are still now). They even have the train service to see around the plantation and they have the world's largest maze (I did not get in though). Apart from cultivating pineapples, they also cultivate other crops such as banana, coffee, and several others. This place is just amazing and better then what I anticipate about plantation that should look boring. They are so many people visiting this place. After visited this place we went to the beach and see turtles. There are so many of them in the wave and two of them manage to land on the beach. They are bigger than what I imagine it would be. They have conservationist group who look after the turtles and ensure that visitors would not harm the turtles. They set a temporary boundary around the turtle and it's path so that people would not touch them.

Then we have our lunch at Shark Clove before moving to the Waimea Valley. Waimea Valley is one of Oahu last partially intact Ahupua'a and is significant in the history of Hawaii Nei. It continues to be a repository for Hawaiian spiritually and traditions. We can have the opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture on a site stretching from the mountains to the sea. It encourages us to experience a natural pristine environment while learning of the values and traditions of Hawaii heritage. We encountered cultural, botanical, ecological and historical wonders including the only fully restored heiau (temple) dedicated to Lono, the deity of agriculture, fertility, peace and music. This Hale o Lono heiau dates back to 1470 AD and is considered very sacred, and continues to be a place of worship to this day. At the end of the valley, they have a waterfall where visitors can enjoy the cool fresh water. After that we went to Waimea Bay before heading back home.

Solid Waste Management City and County Council of Honolulu

Hawaii is facing significant challenges in solid waste management as they have limited land and are isolated in the middle of the pacific ocean. The island need to manage the municipal waste disposal of more than 850,000 residents and more than six million visitors to the island each year. Currently Hawaii have 3 operating sanitary landfills and 1 incinerator on the island of Oahu. We visited one of the sanitary landfill which are the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill. The landfill is operated by a private company under the permit granted by the City Council. It is amazing as the landfill do not have any smell as what we expected it to be. The reason for this is because they choose a location which received minimum average volume of rain and they capture the methane gas which makes the smell produced by the sanitary landfill. The methane gas is sufficient to power thousand of home on the island and is used for generating electricity for the facility. The City Council owns the gas as it is their land and they planned to use it for an alternative energy source on the island. For now, they are still collecting the gas as they need a certain amount of gas before it can be used to generate electricity for the city to ensure sustainable supply. At the bottom of the sanitary landfill, they placed a high-density polyethalene plastic and they placed it on top of it after it is full to minimise the leakages into the water table underground. They also have a facility to capture all the leakages underground into a tank before sending it to the waste water treatment plant. An independent laboratory will conduct the groundwater test on a regular basis as required by the Health Department. All the roads at the sanitary landfills were built by the trash itself. The trash are buried underground, layer by layer and they use soil from various construction sites to cover the wastes. A compacter which cost about $800,000 is used to spread and squash the waste to ensure efficiency of space use.

After visiting the sanitary landfill, we went to the incinerator called HPOWER. It is owned by the state and the tax payers but is operated by a private company. Beside the facility, there are a coal power plant and the coal was imported from Malaysia. The HPOWER is built to burn trash and change it into energy to power the island. The main goal is to reduce the trash by 90%. However, the remaining 10% which is in the form of ash will be sent to the sanitary landfill. The facility converts 2,160 tons of waste per day into electricity to power more than 40,000 area homes and businesses. The facility utilises refuse-derived fuel technology. The waste is prepared and cleaned of non-processible and non-burnable materials through a series of conveyors, trommels and shredders. Waste is then combusted in furnaces at temperature of 982 degree celcius and reduced to an inert ash residue, which is significantly less than the original volume. Exhaust flue gasses are cleaned through a sophisticated pollution control system before reaching the stack. First, acid gases are neutralised and treated by a dry flue gas scrubber. Then the gases pass through an electrostatic precipitator where the micron-0sized dust particles are removed. As the cornerstone of the islands's integrated waste management system, the facility complements community recyling, waste reduction efforts, and landfilling. The facility recovers and recycles thousands of tons of ferrous and non-ferrous metal as part of its waste to energy process.

Community Forestry and Carbon Credit Project

Community Forestry and Carbon Credit Project is a pioneer project of its kind which is located in Cambodia. Dr. Mark Poffenberger who is the Executive Director of Community Forestry International spent his time with us to explain more about this project. Community Forestry International, Inc. (CFI) assists rural communities to stabilize and regenerate forests by helping policy makers, development agencies, NGOs, and professional foresters create the legal instruments, human resource capacities, and negotiation processes and methods to support resident resource managers. At CFI, they believe that including local communities in the management of natural resources leads to increased livelihood security and poverty alleviation that, in turn, encourages greater sustainable development. CFI enables community forest management strategies to become an integral part of sustainable forest management world-wide. CFI programs are implemented through four interrelated thematic areas: 1) Regional and National Policy Dialogues, 2) Mediation Processes and Methods, 3) Participatory Research and Field Programs, and 4) Communication. The program components are designed to engage national policy makers, professional practitioners, and communities to facilitate learning, reduce conflicts, and ultimately create management agreements that result in more equitable, sustainable forest use (Source: This program is closely related to the UN-REDD program.

The idea is to preserve the rainforest and use it as carbon sink to reduce the carbon emission to the atmosphere thus reducing global warming. The machanism is through carbon credit where other party can send their carbons to the rainforest and pay for it which is a source of income for the communities which are looking after the forest. There are 3 major markets that have been identified which are 1) voluntary buyers - to offset emission, 2) compliance buyers - who are legally required, and 3) investors - for future appreciation. The project is further supported by the remote sensing technology to determine the carbon concentration in a certain area.

The Value of The Environment

Scott was giving his lecture on Thursday on the values that affect our consideration on the environment. We currently are living in the era of consequences where all the works and development of the previous generation have turn it's back on us, leaving us with natural disasters, resources depletion and environmental degradation. However, there are still no sense of urgency to take care and repair the damages that we have done on the environment. According to the Copenhagen Consensus, the challenges of global warming are still at the bottom of the list and several others environmental issues are also listed in the bottom half of the list. Unfortunately, the environmental damages that have been done and are currently going on right now are much more rapid than our response. Ironically, we knew the threat but human-kind are slow to response to this threat. All of this can be related to human systems which have different values on their priorities which include the culture, politics and economy.

In terms of the culture, there are several aspects that can be related to the environmental issues. The first one is the Abrahamic religion (including Islam, Christianity, Judaism.etc) which believes in one God who has created the world. The God has sent human-kind to the world which suppose to be the super-beings on earth that can think and become the steward on the earth. However, human-kind has misused their brain and try to alter everything on earth with the believe that we can do everything as long as we can think, and forget the responsibility that has been given to us by the Creator. Second is the detachment from the environment. Traditional cultures have a close relationship with their surroundings and the environment. As we progress and become modernised, we are getting farther away from these values and tend to forget it. Nowadays, several cultures including the Hawaiian are in their rennaisance age to reconnect their life to the traditional values. Can we re-acquire the treaditional knowledge? How to remind the people of the connection remains the challenge especially at the countries that had left their values for a long time, but if the Hawaiian can, why not us. Third is the pre-cautionary principle as oppose to pro-cautionary principle. Pre-cautionary principle is to prove that something is safe first before proceed to do it, while pro-cautionary principle is to proceed first than look at the consequences before finding solutions to the problems arising. Our strengths can also be our weaknesses. One good example is the strength to think. We do think that we can think of everything and repair whatever damages that have been done. But, each solution usually bring us to other problems which need solutions as well, and it will continue in that way.

The second human system is the politics. Politics have divided the earth with borders. However, many environmental issues are cross-border for example the haze in South East Asia and the global warming. Thus, there are always limitations in getting consensus and implementing solutions for those issues. Centralisation of administration has also been proven to be more ecological damage than decentralisation. This is due to the differences and the variety of environmental surrounding at each area which need local solutions and not general policies as a whole. It is also harder for central government to identify all the issues and threats that are happening at the locality because their area of jurisdiction is too big. Other than that, it is also hard to turn on environment consensus into political will. The politics is much more influenced by the economy rather than other aspect of environment or social. The blame game is also a common scene in politics. For example, the haze in South East Asia. All the affected countries blamed it on Indonesia. While it is true that a large proportion of the haze source was originated from Indonesia, they failed to come into sense that the other proportion of the haze came from domestic sources. Unfortunate enough they do little on their domestic sources and keep on focussing how to prevent Indonesia from burning their forest. The time for change remains a mystery. When are we going to change? Is it now, or a decade, or within century or do we want to wait until there is a major hardship on the earth.

Economics remain the most tricky when it comes into the environment. How do we value the nature? Some people are starting to work on valuing the rain forest, for example the ecological accounting. However, ecological accounting is to complex and depends on what criteria that is being considered. For example, the value of watershed to provide water, the cost of damages if natural disaster struck as a result of deforestation, the habitat for wildlife and others. There are also commodity price issues. The commodity price is volatile in short-term annd long-term declining. The volatility of the commodity price while have and adverse effect to the environment as well. Third is the discount rate which means the value of your savings in the future. It can be related to the environmental problems as well for example China who says that they wanted to get rich first before dealing with the problems. The other aspect is the scale which include individual to collective or long-term and short-term. What is our scale of environmental stewardship? Is it enough to bring on change? If it is not, we better work more on it as if tragedy struck, it is a tragedy of common. All of us will be included even those who work for the environment. Externalities is often get excluded in the consideration of economy. There are different externalities which include spatial, temporal and informational. Economics are often focussed on the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and the externalities is put outside the CBA. Unfortunate enough the externalities are often damaging to the environment. Finally is the hazards. For economic purposes we often put ourself at hazardous places to settle for example the volcano because the land is fertile. We also know the long-term consequences but we often made decisions based on the current time-frame. For example the tsunami that strucked Acheh. We do know that there are cases of Tsunami before and the earth quake is a 100-year event. But we still built on our settlement on that area as we do not even consider the 100-years consequences to come.

Thus, there are 5 pathways to mitigation which include:
1. Improving insight.
2. Enhancing information flow.
3. Refocussing incentives.
4. Improving investments.
5. Implementing through institutions.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Field Trip Day

We visited the Lyon Arboretum and was welcomed by Dr. Christopher P. Dunn, the Director and also a Scientist. Lyon Arboretum is the only university-owned tropical rainforest botanic garden in the United States which covers and area of 78.3 hectares in the Manoa Valley. It is said that nearly 300 native Hawaiian plan species are threatened or endangered. In addition, there are 1700 native species in Hawaii where 90% of them are endemic, meaning they occur nowehere else on earth. This is due to the location of the island which is issolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and far away from other lands. However, the biological diversity our Hawaii is under enormous threat due to the introduction of invasive species and climate change. The natural resources of a place are very important as they support the cultures which are living there. So, if the natural resources are threatened, the cultures that they support are also threatened. Due to the cultural diversity and biological richness in Hawaii, it have become a potential to be a research centre for biolcultural diversity. The Arboretum is uniquely positioned, with an association with the university, its plant conservation research, and its plant collection to be a majot force in engaging reserachers, policy makers, and the public in deriving solutions to the biocultural diversity crisis. We had also beeing briefed by the scientists which are working at the labs on their works and what they do. It is amazing that the arboretum actually imported many foreign species to the botanic garden including from Malaysia, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand and several other tropical countries to be planted at the garden. This is to support their research on the tropical plants but they have to control the growth of the species so as not to threatened the native species. The plants bank have thousands of collection from different organisation including the army, state government and others which store their seeds at the arboretum's lab before they decide when to use it.

The second place that we visited was the Manoa Heritage Center. It is a non-profit organisation established since 1996 which aims to promote thoughtful stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Hawaii. The historic site consist of Kuku'o'o' Heiau (an ancient spiritual site), a native Hawaiian garden, and the historic home of the Kuali'i. The center is committed to preserving and interpreting the garden, the historic home, and the natural and cultural history of Manoa Valley for future generation. The historic house was built in 1911 by Charles Montague Cooke Jr. using the stone quarried on the site. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is still a private home and not open for tours. The Heiau at the back of the house is the only one that are left and the Cooke has taken the initiative to restore it physically and culturally to its use in the year 1993. Historical evidence suggest that the Heiau eventually became an agricultural temple for the mapele class dedicated ti the rites and rituals surrounding food productivity. Surrounding the Heiau is a Native Hawaiian Garden featuring the endemic and indigenous plants as well as Polynesian introductions. The Polynesian introductions are the plants that were brought by the Polynesians on their voyage to find a new land which include the coconut, taro, ricegrass and others. This is because they are unsure whether the new land will have foods so they bring along with them the seeds which can cultivate foods. However, when they found and settled in Hawaii, they also have found good uses for the native plants especially for medicine purposes.

The final destination for the day is the Hanauma Bay. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii, is enjoying the benefits of over a decade of moves to reestablished its prestined marine ecosystem. Recognising the damage done by years of neglect and abuse by allowing around 3 millions visitors anually, the City and County of Honolulu in 1990 laid out a plan to restore Hanauma Bay to a clean, healthy state by reducing the number of visitors, establishing an education program, and instituting supportive restriction ( We were given a briefing by the park's volunteer on the background and how they do things. Before entering the park, the visitors must watch a video clip on the things not to do on the bay which include not to feed the fish because the fish will become more aggressive and not very healthy as well as attracting too many fish to come than what the bay can handle. They also limited the number of people on the bay by providing only a certain amount of parking lots and each vehicles can only have a maximum of 3 people. They also limited to only 300 stalls to prevent more people to come. Other than that, the tour agent must get a permit to bring in tourist and they only have limited number of tourist that they can bring. Those without the permit are only allowed to bring in the tourists for 15 minutes to take pictures and enjoy the scenery and then leave. The park also uses several chickens to control the bug population including cocroaches at the bay. They had also changed the use of septic tank to centralised sewerage treatment plant to prevent leakages into the water. In addition, the park keep a close eyes on the food chain at the bay to ensure that the marine ecology is sustained.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Advocating Traditional Values for Environmental Stewardship

On Tuesday, we have a talk by Ramsay Taum again. He was talking about engaging environments from the traditional perspective of the Hawaiian culture. It is an eye opener to be in USIE where we can get more understanding about the local community and what do they think of the tourism industry which the tourists won't know. The locals have realised that the current development of the state which brings in millions of tourist each year have depleted their environment. The total number of tourist in Hawaii at one time is larger than the total number of the local population. The tourists are not only using their resources such as water which are scarce in the island but also are damaging to the envirionment and produce more rubbishes. Thus, Hawaii is not self-sufficient right now as what they are in the past. They have to import their bottled water and foods and at the same time export their rubbishes.

Concern with the current development of the state and their future, the Hawaiian are looking back to their traditional Hawaiian culture which have a strong relationship with the environment.The lifestyle of the traditional culture have pictured many sustainable concept in their everyday life where they will always leave something for the use of other people and give time for the nature to reproduce the resources before they start to harvesting again. The Ahupua'a concept itself is a sustainable living concept. Ahupua'a is a system of system. It is about land and resources management as well as behaviour management. Each Ahupua'a are divided in a piece of cake shape from the mountain to the river so that each Ahupua'a have the same resources which covers from the jungle on the mountain to the lowland for cultivation and the sea for fishing and leisure. And each community of the Ahupua'a are restricted to enter and use the resources in other Ahupua'a without permission. Thus, they must be self-sustained to survived and the land division of Ahupua'a is fair enough to give the chance for each Ahupua'a to get the same resources. Their time is also based on the natural time as opposed by the artificial time that we use today. Natural time is the time required by nature to revive. For example, the chief of the Ahupua'a (a district) will go down to the sea and determine whether it is the season for harvesting or not. If someone defies the restriction to catch the fishes out of the harvesting season, he will be punished which means death. This is because the chief wants to ensure that they will not overfish and give time for the fish to breed again. Other than that, the traditional Hawaiian culture also believe that to get water, they must plant trees which is true enough. They just have a close relationship with their environment where they can even predict if the drought is coming before starting to ask the people to cultivate tapioca for the drought season. They just know what to do and when to do it. There are several other concepts of the traditional Hawaiian culture that are very related to the environment as well. Ramsay was also refering to planning which can be REAL. This includes several values and aspects that have to be consider which are Responsible, Respectful, Relevant, Ecological, Ethical, Economical, Apropriate, Accurate, Authentic and Local. He also stressed that there is a flaw in the system now where people who makes money from the nature did not pay a single cent to the nature. For example, tourism agency which uses the natural beauty for their marketing did not pay a single cent to the nature back which can be used for restoration and preservation projects. Instead they can make money with a minimum capital and make a lot of profit.

The evening session was filled by a talk from the Blue Planet Foundation. The foundation is actively lobbying for the State Capitol of Hawaii to enact clean energy bills which promote clean energy and reduce the GHGs emission. This include for all sectors that are involved in energy usage including transportation, power generator, residentials and others. Currently, Hawaii is dependent on fossil fuel power plant where they have to import the oil from other countries. They also have the wind turbine and bio-thermal powerplant but it is only producing a small percentage of the energy generated in Hawaii. They are also promoting the use of electric vehicles where they are only about several hundred electric cars already operating in Hawaii. The city council has also provided several parking lots that have the charging point for the electric vehicles but it is still not sufficient. They said that people are unwilling to change to electric car because of the insufficient charging point provided while the city council and businesses are also not willing to provide the charging point because there have low demand. So, it have become a challenge for them to promote the use of the electric cars where they have to persuade either one party to take the risk first and use the electric car or provide the charging point.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

State of the World

On Monday, we were given a lecture by Dr. John Cusick. He is an Associate Specialist at the University of Hawaii Environmental Centre which is attached to our program. Dr. John was covering about the overall environmental issues in general that are becoming a concern of the world today. This include the protected areas, laws and governance aspect, rights and conservation as well as bio-cultural diversity and indegeneous peoples and several others. Among the debate that he brings is the anthropocentric as oppose to biocentric. Anthropocentric is human-centered while biocentric is being centered on nature rather than human. He took and example as what is being said by Scott relating to western environmentalist who came to China and ask the farmers to take care of the environment because they said that the cow's life is more valueable than their children's life. This has upset the local people as they also have the rights to improve their quality of life and why should they sacrifice their future while at the same time the western environmentalist can continue to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle at their home country? How about anthropocentric? How can it contributes to saving the environment?

My idea of environmental movement is that it should be anthropocentric. This is because we want a sustainable development. But what is sustainable development? As define by the Earth Summit in Rio de Jenairo, Sustainable Development is a development that can meet the demand of the current generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their's. Or, we can just say that we want the development to be continous. Why we want the development to continue? Because we want to keep on improving the quality if life of the people. But how can we ensure that the development will not stop? By taking care of our environment and not using our resources more than what can be produce naturally by the mother earth. So, by being anthropocentric, we are actually being closely linked to the environment as well. After all, it is a human rights to have a better quality of life but the attitude is the actual culprit that is destroying the environment. Its the attitude of being greedy, wasteful and ignorance. We choose to be ignorant because we are afraid to face the truth of what is becoming of our future or we could not care less.

In conclusion, being environmentally motivated does not mean to be an extremist or a tree hugger. It does not neccesarily to be in love with the environment. But, to some people it is a matter of ethic and value that we should adhere to. We must be ethical in performing our duties not only to the professional body or our clients but also to the environment as it serve as the base of all the things that is happening around us. We are using it to improve our quality of life so we should be considerate and take care of it. As the Hawaiian idegeneous people says, don't just take, give back.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Weekend Tours

Tour Places:

Saturday - Diamond Head - Farmer's Market - Beach (Saturday)

Sunday - Pearl Harbour (USS Arizona Memorial Park - USS Bowfin Submarine - USS Missouri Battleship - Pacific Aviation Museum