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.