I’m at Lake Tahoe at the Western Region meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). I’m attending as a Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) delegate; most of us are people in the ag industry.
Attending this meeting are deans of land-grant universities in the western U.S., and heads of their research, extension and teaching divisions. Back home, UH Manoa is a land-grant university.
At the first session, there was a panel discussion about how we can work together to maximize the Land Grant Universities’ extension, research and teaching functions. Also participating were representatives from the Western Governors Association, the National Association of Counties’ western representative and the Western Council of State Governments. I felt like this was a good effort at maximizing scientific resources.
I raised my hand and said that the County of Hawai‘i passed an ordinance banning all new GMOs. I said that I had found the input of CTAHR scientists very valuable in the discussion, and asked if the government groups were concerned about this issue. Of course, they were.
Then we got into the heart of the meeting, the Western agenda, which is about fire, water, invasive species, and endangered species. We discussed issues and prioritized action items. Next we had the research, extension and teaching groups go over the priorities and add their perspectives.
My thoughts? There are lots of things taking place that most people have no idea about. There are a ton of research facilities and people at work tackling a number of issues. These folks are all dedicated people who are interested in the public good. And they all believe in science – you can’t just say it; you have to prove it. I like this approach. It keeps us from wasting time and scarce resources.
With all the high brain-powered people here, I think I will ask them questions about GMOs that people back home will be interested in.
The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule‘a and Hikianalia departed Hilo a couple days ago, headed for Tahiti on the first leg of an around-the-world voyage. Kalepa Babayan is captain of the Hokule‘a, and he melds ancient ways with modern technology and education. He is one of the most solidly grounded person I know.
Literally thousands of members of our ʻohana waʻa (canoe family) have come to see the canoes. School groups by the busloads have come to share mele (songs) and hoʻokupu (offerings) to the canoes and crew. But if one looks a little closer, they can start to really notice how well this community still understands the sense of aloha. Every day for the past 10 days this community has come out to feed the crew three meals a day. Cars have been dropped off to help with last minute runs to the store. People have come without any expectation of personal gain to give of their time to just help us prepare for this 47,000 mile journey. Just this morning after sunrise, one of the uncles from nearby came to drop off a dozen or so lei, that he personally strung together with flowers from his yard, just to “Aloha” the canoes. He didn’t even ask to come aboard, rather, he left them in the care of one of our watch captains to bless the canoes with the sweet fragrance that reminds us all of Hilo.
We did our small part by supplying bananas and tomatoes, and feel very privileged to be able to support Hawai‘i's voyagers, along with hundreds of others. We learned, early on, that the voyaging crews like fresh fruit, especially longer into the trip, so we do this as much as we can on the voyages out of Hilo. We do our best to stage the ripening at different times, and try to see how far into the voyage we can get the bananas to last. We once got a batch to last until the crew reached the equator.
Keaukaha was the host community for the wa‘a and their crews, and its president, Patrick Kahawaiola'a, was in charge of coordinating. June and I went to Palekai to see the canoes the other day.
As we walked down to the water, we ran into Bruce Blankenfeld, the captain of Hikianalia. I knew he had lots on his mind, so I introduced myself by saying we had supplied bananas on previous trips, and that they should "try keep the bananas separated so they no all go off at one time." He knew exactly what I meant. I gave him the thumbs up and we kept on going.
To me, the voyage of the Hokule‘a and the Hikianalia represents hope for mankind. It is about the spirit of aloha. It is about using the resources available, modern and ancient, in a smart way. But mostly it's about attitude. There are a thousand reasons why no can. We need just one reason why, CAN.
Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, our Polynesian voyaging canoes, are sailing across Earth’s oceans to join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world. Covering 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, and 26 countries, the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage will highlight diverse cultural and natural treasures and the importance of working together to protect them. The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage began in 2013 with a Mālama Hawaiʻi sail around our archipelago, and will continue through 2017 when our new generation of navigators take the helm and guide Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia back to Polynesia after circumnavigating the globe.
The Hawaiian name for this voyage, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our Earth.” Living on an island chain teaches us that our natural world is a gift with limits and that we must carefully steward this gift if we are to survive together. As we work to protect cultural and environmental resources for our children’s future, our Pacific voyaging traditions teach us to venture beyond the horizon to connect and learn with others. The Worldwide Voyage is a means by which we now engage all of Island Earth—practicing how to live sustainably, while sharing, learning, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we all call home.
Years ago I worked for United Airlines, and the story of that portion of my life is told through travel tales.
For instance, when the airline started flying to New Zealand, I packed my bag. Two highlights of that trip were:
The Auckland Museum. I purposely, and delightedly, went to New Zealand by myself, which was delicious because it meant I got to go where I wanted, and do what I wanted, without compromise. It meant I could spend hours and hours at this museum with its fascinating Polynesian collection. I was so interested that a man who is a guide there, but was off for the day, gave me a tour of part of the museum. Also, I met a really nice older, grandmother-type woman in the museum’s café and we chatted for a long time; eventually she invited me to her house for tea and we had a fun visit that I have always remembered. (Lesson: When you travel by yourself, you often have experiences you would not otherwise have.)
Visiting Rotorua, specifically for the geothermally heated mineral spas that the North Island town is known for. That was great.
What a cool place, first of all. The whole town smells slightly sulfur-y, which gives it an otherworldly feel (smell?). I liked that.
People love soaking in those geothermally heated pools such as Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa (recognized by Conde Nast Traveller magazine as one of the Top 10 natural/thermal/medical spas in the world), I tell you. Including me.
Another big spa in Rotorua is interestingly called Hell’s Gate, with the subtitle, “The Beast Of All Geothermal Parks.”
From the website (which explains how it got that name):
Hells Gate geothermal attraction is Rotorua’s most active geothermal park and is known as the “AWESOME BEAST” of New Zealand Geothermal attractions. Hells Gate geothermal attraction features boiling hot pools and erupting waters with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Celsius; steaming fumaroles; hot water lakes; sulphur crystals and deposits; New Zealand’s largest active mud volcano; Southern Hemisphere’s largest hot water fall and even examples of land coral. See, feel and understand the awe of Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw as he gazed upon the land and gave it the English name “Hellsgate” as he believed he had arrived at the gates to Hell. A primeval setting displaying the awesome RAW POWER of the earth and its geothermal nature.
And here’s how they advertise their “unique geothermal muds,” and what they are helpful for:
See, touch and be amazed with the unique geothermal muds of the Hells Gate geothermal park – the black geothermal mud used for more than a century in the treatment of arthritics and rheumatism, our ice cold white geothermal mud that changes its form from solid to liquid and back again, that is used for the relief of burns; and the warm silky grey geothermal mud that gently exfoliates the skin. Hells Gate geothermal park is the only geothermal attraction in New Zealand that produces these three types of geothermal muds making Hells Gate geothermal attraction in Rotorua a unique geothermal mud experience.
And a little history:
Follow the footsteps of warriors old, through the swirling clouds of steam, past the pool where the Maori Princess, “Hurutini” lost her life for her people; see the violent geothermal activity of the “Inferno” with two erupting pools aptly named “Soddam” and “Gomorra” by George Bernard Shaw and then on to the “Kakahi Hot Water Fall, where warriors would return after battle to remove the “Tapu” of war and heal their wounds at the only Maori-owned area of geothermal in New Zealand.
I am such a huge fan of the whole hot spa soaking thing, as people have been, of course, throughout time.
From the UK Energy Research Centre: Geothermal energy was discovered in its simplest form many centuries ago. During Roman times water percolating through fissures in hot rocks produced hot springs in the ground around which civilizations were built (e.g. Bath Spa, UK; Pompeii, Italy).
This past summer I took my daughter to see the ancient geothermal Roman baths at Bath. Check out this neat video look at the elegant and historic town of Bath. The section on the baths themselves starts at about 4:09.
Then there’s the amazingly beautiful Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland, which Richard has visited and which I would love to see (especially between November and April, which is the season of the Northern Lights – how great would that combination be!).
And now I have worked myself all up into wanting to take a world tour: Visiting hot spas, soaking in geothermal mud, relieving aches and possibly medical conditions, who knows, while at the same time completely relaxing and rejuvenating. What a life that would be! Shall we have Richard send me on such a fact-finding mission?
I could go check out all these geothermally heated spas, first-hand, ask people why they flock to them, and then post reports on the blog telling you how great it is.
I would revisit Rotorua and soak right at Hell’s Gate.
I would go to Japan, where I was a teenage exchange student not once but twice, and still somehow completely missed the onsens.
It’s possible I would even try an “onsen tomago.”
Onsen tamago (温泉卵 or 温泉玉子?) is a traditional Japanese boiled egg which is originally slow cooked in the water of onsen hot springs in Japan. The traditional way of cooking onsen tamago is to place eggs into rope nets and leave them in a hot spring, with water that is approximately 70°C (158ºF) for 30 to 40 minutes. Crack open the shell and serve the egg in seasoned bonito dashi (Japanese stock) for breakfast, or in a light sauce made with mirin, dashi and soy sauce with chopped spring onions sprinkled over the top.
To heck with the eggs; I would soak myself in Japan’s onsen, snow all around, and possibly even with these macaques. Lucky devils.
On my international fact-finding mission, I would be forced to stay in Reykjavik and soak in the Blue Lagoon night after night after night, until I had marveled at the Northern Lights to my complete satisfaction.
But in the meantime, it’s not all bad here, either. There is, for instance, our geothermally heated pond at Alahanui County Park in Kapoho. Did you know that before the 1960 Kapoho eruption, the waters there weren’t hot? I didn’t know that.
Another interesting site within the Puna district are the heated tide pools at Ahalanui Beach Park (aka Puʻalaʻa County Park), where spring water has been naturally heated through geothermal energy and this mixes with ocean water along the shoreline.
I know Shara Enay from when she was a writer for Hawaii Business magazine, and I knew from the start that she was a special person.
She decided to go to Ethiopia to help the children there and has an amazing experience there, which she’s written about on her blog. This post was written as she prepared to leave Ethiopia:
When I decided to return to Ethiopia to work with orphans, I knew I was setting myself up for a broken heart. Six months ago, I stepped off of an Ethiopian Airlines flight terrified, unsure of myself and not knowing if I would last even six weeks, but hopeful that I could make a difference in other people’s lives. This experience wasn’t easy: Some days were awesome and some were down right awful, but it was life changing. I am leaving Ethiopia with a very heavy heart – again – because I will miss the wonderful people I’ve met throughout this journey, but, this time, I am departing with a sense of pride and achievement. I am not just content with the way things unfolded; I’m happy.
…I’ve met some of the most honest, compassionate, generous, genuine people here; people I will be honored to call lifelong friends. Since most Ethiopians don’t possess a lot of material wealth, they find happiness in simple pleasures, such as eating dinner with family and friends, watching a football match with coworkers, or helping their neighbors with home projects. They still pick up the phone and call people just to say “hello” and it’s common for them to drop by a friend’s house unannounced for coffee if they happen to be in the neighborhood. In a place where poverty is so widespread and there isn’t a lot to see or do, people and relationships become your first priority – exactly the way it should be.
There were multiple missions going on during our trip to the Philippines. Rose Bautista, Hawai‘i County’s immigration specialist, was our contact person as the people on our trip went back and forth. I’d known of her but never met her, and it was nice to meet her in person. She and Paulette Cainglit were constantly working to make sure everything was going smoothly.
Rose arranged for our delegation to meet the folks she connected with at the U.S. Embassy. In my junior high school days, I was a Word War II history buff, and it was very interesting for me to realize that the trial of General Yamashita, the tiger of Malaya, was held in the very room where we were standing.
We met Anthony Mira, who is in charge of the TSA in the Philippines with a task of protecting the U.S. from a specific al Queda plot. We had no idea. He happens to be from Kaua‘i. It made us all feel like we were connected to the world. Then we were briefed by Jesse Robredo, Secretary of the Interior for the Philippines. A very engaging person, he briefed us about how Philippines governance is organized.
We thought that was the end of our second day in Manila but Rose had heard that the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, had just arrived in port and that possibly some of our group could go on board for the welcoming ceremonies.
Well, Rose would not settle for a few of us attending and asked if we all could attend. And she was successful.
Next thing we knew, we were climbing the gangway past Navy people in formation and at attention, who were welcoming us abroad. It was going to be a bigger deal than we had imagined.
The U.S. 7th Fleet is everywhere in the Pacific. It makes regular port calls in the Philippines, Korea, Australia, Korea, Guam and Thailand, among other places.
At any given time, there are 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the fleet. Five of the largest armed forces lie in its area of operation. Half of the world’s population lies in the 7th Fleet’s area of responsibilities. Going up to the deck of the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the 7th Fleet, we could tell it was going to be a big big deal.
Admiral Swift, Commander of the 7th Fleet, made introductory remarks and he mentioned our Hawaiian delegation. He said that he lived in Hawai‘i for a while and so we were ‘ohana.
I was floored that here we were, a small delegation from the Big Island, on the deck of the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, being mentioned in ceremonies in Manila Bay.
More importantly though, was the friendship that the Filipino people hold for Americans. General MacArthur coming ashore in Leyte was not that long ago in people’s memories. You don’t get the emotion from history books. It hit Councilperson Angel Pilago very hard. We all felt it.
Toward the end of the evening, Nitta Pilago corralled all of us for a photo with Admiral Swift. So there we all were around the admiral, doing our best shaka picture. Shameless.
Dutch Kuyper was very much at ease with the senior staff. Mayor Kenoi found out that he and the Admiral’s wife had both gone to school on the East Coast and so were like classmates. This set the tone for the rest of our trip. Our delegation knew that this was going to be a very special, rewarding, aloha kind of trip.
We left Cebu yesterday via Supercat (that’s a high-speed catamaran). Crossed the water and traveled along the east side of Leyte Island.
The island is like Hawai‘i, with highlands in the middle. It seemed like there were cinder cones all over its surface. Due to its lack of erosion, Leyte looks relatively younger geologically than O‘ahu.
There was a huge welcoming ceremony. Beauty queens, band, dancers, dignitaries and a police escort. Each of us received an Ormoc City medallion to wear around our necks. Serious stuff.
After dropping off our bags, we went to Visayas State University (VSU). Our delegation met with the President of the University and had a briefing, where it was apparent that there are so many things we have in common. I loved the atmosphere and “can-do” attitude.
Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi set the big picture – the Aloha connection. This relationship is a long-term one of friendship.
Dr. Bruce Matthews, Interim Dean of the UH Hilo College of Ag, delivered UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney’s message of wanting to set up a student exchange program, and they are trying to achieve a Memo of Understanding on that before we leave. Their “cut through the red tape” attitude was most impressive to me.
VSU is a high-tech learning and research center that is building on what works locally, and then improving on it. For example, carabao – water buffalo – are utilized throughout the islands. But the university is improving the native carabao line by bringing in stock that grows faster in relation to a given time and food supply.
Also, carabao milk is thick, and not as appetizing as cow milk, but by diluting it by 50 percent with water, you end up with the nutrition equivalent of cow’s milk. Hmmm! We sampled carabao yogurt and it was wonderful. And it grows best on Hilo grass. Hilo grass? That is what survives overgrazing and mowing on the Big Island. And it goes on and on.
Third World? We can learn a lot about sustainability from this place. Mayor Billy sets the right tone for a long lasting and mutually beneficial partnership.
We toured the Reykjanes district of Iceland on Thursday, where the Blue Lagoon is located, and saw how they are using geothermal energy for multiple purposes.
We saw that some of it goes to a nearby town to heat homes. What they do is heat up fresh water and transmit it through a pipe that is covered with fiberglass insulation, and which runs inside a larger pipe. Now I understand how they can move hot water 15 miles and only lose 2 degrees C. That is also why there is no smell of sulfur coming through the hot water pipes.
Some of the heat is used to make electricity.
Some is used in a fish farm.
And some is used for high-end pharmaceutical plants, which grow in an enclosed greenhouse that is temperature-controlled using warm water, and LED-lit in the proper growth spectrum to maximize production.
One of the most important uses is Carbon Recycling International’s project: Capturing CO2 from the power plant and, with hydrogen from hydrolysis, making methanol as a synthetic liquid fuel for automobile transportation. This seems to be a more direct process than growing plants, microwaving it with petroleum electricity, etc.
It’s easy to imagine Iceland exporting tomatoes to Europe. It’s all about energy!
Would we do all that in Hawai‘i? Maybe not, because we have free sun energy.
But we do know that it is about analyzing energy in and energy out. Common sense.
This building at right has the 150KW of geothermal generation, as well as Power Plant Earth, a scientific exhibit area.
It’s very clean, modern and site-appropriate. These are some of the combusion turbines and hardware located indoors. It’s so clean one could eat off the floors.
The red is a 50 MW turbine. There’s an overhead crane to pick it up and move it around, and large roll-up doors to move it in and out. There were two of the 50 MW turbines in place and ready to operate, and one more to be installed. A 150 KW geothermal plant is not really very big.
The education center Power Plant Earth is at the entrance to the geothermal building. It’s a popular place for students to tour, and reminds me of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
From the “big bang“ theory of how the universe evolved from the size of a grapefruit to the harnessing of geothermal power in the Reykjanes peninsula, the exhibition shows how man utilizes different energy sources and how we benefit from it in our everyday lives. The exhibition´s most impressive showpiece is a geothermal turbine generating 50 MW of “green” electrical power, enough to keep Reykjavík City running on a good day.
We landed in Iceland, where the temperature is mild – it’s in the mid 50s. My shorts and a jacket are working very well, so far. I’m going to stay in shorts as long as it makes sense.
We took a cab into Reykjavik. My first observations were that there are hardly any trees, and that the lava base is very familiar to those of us who live on the east side of the Big Island.
My most significant observation was that there are no overhead electric lines. Everything is underground.
We passed an aluminum manufacturing company on our way in.
I expected it to be belching black smoke, but there wasn’t even a wisp of steam. It looked very benign. We have to visit those folks.
We checked into the hotel. Here’s the view from the hotel.
Then we got a car and went down to the Blue Lagoon. We went in the water and stayed in for maybe two hours; I’m not sure, because I lost track of time. It felt good to relax and get the kinks out after that long trip.
It was sea water with a very slight smell of sulfur, and you could open your eyes under water. People had silica mud spread all over their faces for its therapeutic value. I imagine the silica had the consistency of the stuff women put on their faces at a spa. It was very fine and actually felt kind of good. But I bet it would raise all kinds of problem in the geothermal pipes when it hardens and coats the surfaces.
We walked up and down the old city, which has a European feel.
It’s very nice and clean, and things were hopping on a Sunday night. We had to wait more than an hour on our third attempt to get a seafood dinner.
David Stefansson (the project manager at Reykjavik Geothermal) and his wife Olga Fedorova (an international trade lawyer and Russian translator) took us for coffee. They are very nice, friendly and fascinating people and we had a wide-ranging conversation. They told us a lot about the history of Iceland and its people in the context of moving from coal to geothermal many years ago. And in that conversation, we learned that the island’s trees had been cut down many years ago for fuel.
Of course, this all makes a lot of sense. It kind of makes me think of what can happen with biomass.
I want to learn more about the leaders who forced the change that has made the Icelandic people one of the most prosperous people in the world (notwithstanding the disaster that the banking industry recently placed upon the people. They apparently confused capital with energy.)
People here reserve Sundays for family time. It’s kind of like the old plantation days in Hawai‘i. Monday was a national holiday and so we went exploring.
One of many waterfalls in Iceland.
And another one. Iceland has incredible amounts of water from the glaciers.
I happened to be looking through the lens and saw this starting, so I recorded it. This kind of thing happens at random here:
Here’s one of the few products grown in Iceland.
Most are brought in from Europe or the Middle East.
Roald Marth (CEO of Ku‘oko‘a) and I just flew from Honolulu…
…to Los Angeles, and then got a connection to JFK, where we laid over for twelve hours. This gave us the opportunity to meet up with TJ Glauthier in New York City. TJ is on the Ku‘oko‘a Board of Directors, and at one time he was second in command at the U.S. Department of Energy.
He’s great, and it’s good that the timing worked to see him there.
We’re traveling light, for maximum flexibility. Instead of catching a limo into the city, we decided to explore and so we went by train. We took the Long Island Railway to Jamaica, Queens, and then to Penn Station in Manhattan.
This is when we were leaving Penn Station.
We walked down and checked in at the Hilton, where we showered and then did a circle tour of Manhattan Island by boat. We passed the exact spot that Captain Sullenberger landed US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River.
Then we caught a cab to meet TJ at the Algonquin Hotel. This next picture, left to right, is me, Ro and TJ.
He told us about the rich history of the writers who used to meet there regularly in the heyday of print media. There is a mural on the wall of the famous people who hung out there. We even saw the Algonquin cat, who was stretching and lounging right next to TJ’s chair.
Then it was back to the hotel, and then we caught a cab back to JFK and on to a Delta flight to Iceland.
It was nearly 17 hours in the air. Piece of cake!
Ro and I thought: We’ve got financing team people on the West Coast, we have a team on the East Coast and a team in Hawai‘i. We’re thinking about Europe as well as Asia. And we’re getting on a plane to Iceland.
I’m curious to see in how many ways they have been able to leverage geothermal energy. It is true that the economic downturn of 2008 hit Iceland especially hard, but that was due to financial matters, not energy ones.
August is a good time to visit – there are long days with mild temperatures of 55 F or so.
Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which Ingólfur Arnarson is said to have established around 870. Until the 18th century, there was no urban development in the city location. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades, as it transformed into a regional and later national centre of commerce,population and governmental activities.