Archive for December, 2015

Keiki Kalikimaka Fun

December 31st, 2015

As the year 2015 comes to a close, the Green Leaf shares the following Keiki Kalikimaka ornaments that did not make it into the paper, but hold an honorary place in this blog.

Here is a beautiful one-of-a-kind sketch of a nene goose in a Santa hat set against a rainbow, blue sky and marsh with vivid color and details. By Samantha Shiroma, 6, of Ahuimanu Elementary School.


Celebrating Hawaiian monk seals, this Keiki Kalikimaka ornament features a seal in Santa hat in repose on the shoreline by Katerina Im, 10, of Aina Haina Elementary School. Remember, when the seals are resting on the shore, let them sleep.


Another playful sketch of a Hawaiian monk seal (look at those eyes! so realistic) with presents and an elf atop his head. This seal is swimming in the ocean. Mahalo Kira Tobita, 11, of Mililani Middle School. Beautiful drawing.


Hawaiian monk seal with Santa hat frolicking in the waves. Mahalo to Kristen Ching, 11, Punahou School for this beautiful Keiki Kalikimaka ornament.


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Year 2015 in review

December 15th, 2015


It's time again for the 2015 year in eco-review.

>> 1. Obama rejects Keystone XL Pipeline.

When President Barack Obama came to Hawaii for his annual holiday vacation last year, a handful of protestors showed up on the outer sidewalk corner of the cul-de-sac where he was staying on New Year's Eve. They didn't get much press attention.

Among them was Frostpaw, the polar bear, a mascot from the Center for Biological Diversity who donned an Aloha shirt and held a sign that said, "Stop Keystone XL." They had been following the president around Oahu during his vacation and apparently, as AP reported, even got the president to pause and say, "Hey, polar bear!" while playing a round of golf. The president had the power to veto the project altogether, but no one knew when he would make a definitive decision.

On Nov. 6, President Obama rejected TransCanda's application for a permit to complete the Keystone XL project.

"Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change," he said. "Ultimately, if we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky."

>> 2Climate Change and Hurricanes.

In a 180-page report published in November, dozens of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and across the world concluded there was a link between climate change and the substantial increase in active Hawaiian tropical cyclone seasons. We were lucky this season. We had an unprecedented number of hurricanes heading our way, even three simultaneously. We experienced high humidity, thunder, lightning and rain — but fortunately, averted any major disasters. Our recent Big Q poll found that most of readers think the issue of global warming is critical, and that we must take action now.

Perhaps we are finally waking up. On Saturday, Dec. 12, at the climate change conference, known as COP21, in Paris, nearly 200 countries unanimously agreed to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. For highlights, click here.

>> 3. A sweltering summer.

Hawaii set numerous record highs in temperatures this summer, due to El Nino and global warming which resulted in rising ocean temperatures. The sweltering summer resulted in a public school crisis for the Hawaii Department of Education, with students sweating in classrooms that reached between 90 to 100 degrees when school commenced July 29, during the height of summer. Parents complained, and the state responded by installing several hundred portable air-conditioners in classrooms, but that is a temporary solution, at best.

Campbell High School students took it upon themselves to launch a crowdfunding campaign, Fahrenheit73, to install a solar powered air conditioning unit.

Due to lack of state foresight, Hawaii's aging public school infrastructure not only does not have the electrical upgrades in place necessary for air-conditioning, but did not jump on the solar PV bandwagon fast enough. The Ka Hei initiative, launched last year, is attempting to reduce its electricity costs by installing more solar PV and implementing other conservation measures while incorporating STEM lessons into the curriculum.

>> 4. Plastic bag ban for Oahu.

The plastic bag ban for the island of Oahu finally went into effect on July 1, three years after the Hawaii legislature passed the measure. Oahu was the caboose behind neighbor isles, including Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties, which already had a ban in place. But it's kind of a lame ban, in that it still allows retailers to offer a thicker plastic bag. Vendors who sell prepared foods are not covered by the ban.

>> 5. Sun sets on Hawaii's solar industry.

Sadly, the outlook for the solar industry in Hawaii has dimmed considerably. The future for solar in Hawaii is bleak.

The sun set on solar options for most homeowners when the state Public Utilities Commission announced it would cap new residential and commercial solar projects at 25 megawatts, or about 4,500 new systems, on Oahu. That cap will probable be reached within the first few months of the new year. That translates into a standstill for most of the industry, and layoffs.

Prior to that, the PUC also ended the net energy metering system, which allows homeowners to sell back the energy they produce, but don't use. Although solar is often portrayed as a luxury, Hawaii's middle-class homeowners who saved their hard-earned money or sacrificed other expenses to install solar PV will suffer the most. Only Hawaii's wealthy will be able to afford the  battery storage systems to go off the grid, though those prices will eventually come down.

All this is based on HECO's claim that the grid is at full capacity (which many of our readers doubt is sincerely the case), and due to HECO's own failure to prepare the grid for solar demand over the past decade. Hawaii, despite its claims of having the most solar installed per capita, is not at all a leader in sustainability. On the contrary, it looks as if we're a backwards state sliding even further backwards.

>> 6. Looming NextEra deal.

We love NextEra, we love NextEra not.

The future of Hawaii's electric utility remains up in the air as we wait to see whether the Public Utilities Commission decides to approve Florida-based NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion acquisition of the Hawaiian Electric Cos. Hawaii Gov. David Ige, the state consumer advocate,  DBEDT, Maui County Council, Sierra Club Hawaii, the Alliance for Solar Choice, Life of the Land and numerous other parties have all publicly opposed the deal as currently proposed.

Fair Energy for Hawaii, an initiative paid for by the Ulupono Initiative (an intervenor in the Nextera/HECO merger), says in its current state, the "scales of this deal are vastly tipped in favor of Hawaiian Electric shareholders, not consumers." Furthermore, NextEra has not made any actual guarantees of lowering energy costs for the people of Hawaii. Meanwhile, the state has committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Most recently, HECO CEO Alan Oshima admitted during a hearing on the pending sale that NextEra's claim it will save customers $60 million only translates to $1 per month per customer.

>> 7. King St. Bike Track.

Love it or hate it, the two-mile King Street Bike Track is now part of the King Street experience. The protected bike lane on the left-hand side of King Street officially opened in Dec. 2014 as part of a pilot project. Bicyclist commuters are using the track. Some drivers are griping about it. As both a biker and driver, I don't think it may have been the best choice of a street for the protected bike lane. But I don't have a problem driving down King Street (when making a left turn, make sure you look over your blind spot to the left to see if bikers are coming). I envy folks who live close enough to commute by bike. I think the parking spaces alongside the bike track should go – it's bizarre to have them on the left side of the road.

>> 8. Hope and peril for monk seal pups.

‘Ama‘ama and Puka at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA Permit 18786,

Ama‘ama and Puka at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA Permit 18786,

The good news is that the Hawaiian monk seal pup population in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands went up this year, according to data from NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Team. There were 148 pups born in Papahanaumokuakea this year, 22 percent more than in 2014. Ke Kai Ola, the new monk seal hospital in Kona, also took in a few pups this year, which were successfully returned to their homes in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands after gaining weight.

At the same time, a growing issue of concern for Hawaii's critically endangered monk seals — toxoplasmosis — emerged towards the end of the year. In November, RN36, a two-year-old female monk seal died as a result of toxoplasmosis, which come from infected cats. Stray cats shed the eggs for toxoplasmosis into the environment, including the watersheds that lead to the ocean. At least eight seal deaths since 2001 are attributed to toxoplasmosis.

Currently, Ke Kai Ola is home to seven monk seal patients — Mahina, Mo‘o, ‘ena‘ena, Neva, Puka, Ama‘ama and Kilo. Six were rescued from Papahanaumokuakea. Kilo was rescued from Niihau.

>> 9. Turtle Bay conservation deal.

The state of Hawaii reached an agreement on the future of Turtle Bay conservation lands in October of this year. It goes down in the books as part of land conservation history. Four miles of coastline and eight miles of trails will be protected in perpetuity, while 665 acres from Kawela Bay to Kahuku Point are to be conserved with a total of $45 million shared by the state, the city and the U.S. Army in partnership with Trust for Public Land. Turtle Bay Resort, meanwhile, will limit its development plan to 725 resort units, including two small hotels and up to 100 resort residential homes.

>> 10. IUCN World Conservation Congress.

It's coming. Following on the heels of COP21, or United National Conference on Climate Change in Paris in early December, Hawaii is set to become the first U.S. site to host the IUCN World Conservation Congress Sept. 1 to 10 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Held only once every four years, the Congress is expected to bring up to 10,000 attendees from around the globe, including high-profile attendees such as Prince William and possibly, President Barack Obama. The theme is "planet at the crossroads."

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Finding a tree

December 14th, 2015


Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging...Not only green when summer's here, but also when it's cold and drear...

Shopping for a Christmas tree takes on new meaning when you visit an actual farm and see the trees that are growing out of the ground up close. That's why the trip to Helamano Farms on Whitmore Avenue in Wahiawa was worth the drive the weekend after Thanksgiving (and honestly, it's not that bad, as long as there's no traffic).

Thanksgiving in Hawaii this year was rainy, so the red dirt was still a bit soggy, but it was nevertheless fun to walk  between the rows of Norfolk pines, exploring the Leyland cypresses and new this year — silver-blue Carolina Sapphires and evergreen Japanese Yoshino cedar trees.

It was our first time visiting the farm, though it had been on my to-do list for a few years. I'm so happy we finally made it.

Our dog, Kona (a Springer spaniel mix from the Hawaiian Humane Society) and my son Brandon, 5, loved roaming the grounds. Kona loved sniffing around the tree trunks (and will remember all the smells, I'm sure). Brandon just loved running among the trees.

From the moment we parked and stepped on to the farm, we found the staff friendly and welcoming. Ezekiel Gamponia-Tyrell showed us around, helped us pick out a Leyland cypress and sawed it down. Some people wander around for more than an hour finding just the right tree. We found ours within about 15 minutes.

But you're still welcome to wander around after you've found your tree, and take photos (see my photo gallery below).

Before we knew it, Ezekiel had the tree hefted over his shoulder and headed toward checkout, then he netted it and helped load it into the back of the pickup truck.

Ezekiel Gamponia-Tyrell, a worker at Helemano Farms, helps customers select, cut down and load the tree on to their vehicles.

Ezekiel Gamponia-Tyrell, a worker at Helemano Farms, helps customers select, cut down and load the tree on to their vehicles.

Every year, people in Hawaii are so used to waiting in anticipation for the trees to be shipped over here from Oregon and Washington state, and picking out a tree from a parking lot. While I know some people are just wedded to the idea of the Noble fir with its particular pine scent for Christmas, a local tree makes a great alternative.

You would be cutting out the carbon pollution of shipping trees across the ocean, the risks of invasive pests, mostly yellow jacket wasps and slugs, and supporting a local, family-owned business. I think it'd be great if there was more than just one Christmas tree farm on Oahu.

As of Dec. 1 this year, 201 containers with 126,020 Christmas trees arrived in the isles, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, which inspects the ships upon arrival. Eleven containers were held for treatment — two had yellow jack wasps and nine had slugs.

I would say that the trip to the farm was part of the fun.

At the farm, there are also lovely, handmade Norfolk pine wreathes for $25 and homemade jellies (mountain apple, lilikoi and more) for $10.

Dogs on leashes are welcome at the farm, a wonderful part of the experience. Helemano Farms is at the end of Whitmore Ave. (turn right into the parking lot just before the military base). Hours are from noon to sunset Wednesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to sunset on weekends. Prices start at $45 and up for a Norfolk pine (starting at five-feet tall), and $60 and up for Leyland cypresses and other trees. You can also find Helemano Farms on Facebook.

More photos:






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December 5th, 2015

Sunrise photo from veteran surf photographer Ted Grambeau's exhibit SEALEVEL — Silence of Change at Pipeline Gallery. Courtesy Ted Grambeau.

Sunrise photo from veteran surf photographer Ted Grambeau's exhibit SEALEVEL — Silence of Change at Pipeline Gallery. Courtesy Ted Grambeau.

World renowned surf and adventure photographer Ted Grambeau debuts SEALEVEL — Silence of Change, the first of a series of exhibitions across the globe, at Pipeline Gallery in Haleiwa.

SEALEVEL is a photographic series: "Exploring the elements and interplay of the ocean before sunrise. Distilling the elements to a bare minimum to express a body of work that is purely abstract. Captured moments from nature's rich pallet of colors, its subtle tones and myriad of hues reflecting the mood of each new day."

"I want to bring awareness to one of the major environmental issues of our time through the medium of fine art photography," said Grambeau in an artist's statement. "Telling the shocking story about climate change by choosing to use beauty without words — the silence of change — the rising sea level."

Grambeau, who has explored surf from Iceland to Madagascar, made a personal commitment two years — or 730 sunrises — ago to creatively document sea level rise resulting from climate change.

The result is an array of powerful tableaus, each one unique and stunningly beautiful in its own way, capturing the beauty of nature and instilling a love for the ocean.

Climate change is often seen as someone else's responsibility, according to Grambeau. Unless an individual understands how it will impact them personally, it is unlikely they will feel empowered or motivated enough to take action. Through the awareness of art, he hopes to inspire "the choice of change."

The exhibit is up until Monday, Dec. 7 at Pipeline Gallery, 66-165 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, on Oahu's North Shore. Follow Grambeau @tedgrambeau on Instagram.

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