Archive for October 2013

Speaking for the trees

October 29, 2013

On Friday, November 1, we can all celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree. In Hawaii, the first Arbor Day was proclaimed in 1905 as a day to plant trees and shrubs on school grounds and in public parks. Since 1993, Hawaiian Electric and Kaulalani (the Urban and Community Forestry Program) have also given away over 20,000 free seedlings.

There are free tree giveaways on four islands. Get there early to choose a tree that’s right for you (get there early – one per person, while supplies last).

* Oahu: On November 2, there are free native tree giveaways at the Hawaiian Electric Kahe Power Plant in Waianae; the Urban Garden Center in Pearl City; the Hawaiian Electric Ward Avenue facility in Honolulu; the Hawaiian Electric Koolau Base Yard in Kailua; the Wahiawa Botanical Garden in Wahiawa; and Waimea Valley on the North Shore.

* Maui: On November 2, 1,000 Hawaiian trees will be given away at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului. There will also be free demonstrations of proper tree care and water-saving techniques.

* Kauai: On November 2, over 2,000 plants and trees will be given away at Kukui Grove in Lihue. There will also be free compost and educational giveaways and booths.

* Hawaii Island: On November 1-3, 500 native trees will be given away at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook, during a three-day celebration. You can also watch woodworkers make poi boards and poi stones; and take a guided tour of the Garden (with paid admission).

Arbor Day Hawaii has a helpful 5-step checklist to select the right tree for your space:
1. What do you want the tree to do? Should it provide shade, windscreen, fruit, or flowers, and grow big or stay small?
2. How much space does the tree have to grow? Are there overhead power lines, underground utilities, nearby buildings or structures, swimming pools, or scenic views? Remember: roots can extend 2-3 times beyond the canopy!
3. How are the planting conditions? What are the sunlight, water, soil, wind, and salt spray conditions?
4. Will the tree grow well in your neighborhood? What other trees and flourish grow nearby?
5. How much maintenance does the tree require? What kind of maintenance can you do – falling leaves and seeds, picking flowers or fruit, and tree trimming?

You can also download “Hawaii Backyard Conservation: Ideas for every homeowner” to learn about conservation practices and native plants.

Beyond planting a tree at your home, you can support the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, which is dedicated to restoring 1,000 acres of historic koa forest on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island. You can sponsor the planting of a Koa Legacy Tree or plant your own tree on a Legacy Tour.

Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” What trees have you planted? Who planted the trees in your life?

Celebrating sustainable fishing

October 22, 2013

My husband is an enthusiastic fisherman, so it’s no surprise that we went to the Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Festival in Honolulu earlier this month.

It was sunny, humid, beautiful October morning, and volunteers greeted us with event programs at the entrance to Pier 38. White tents lined the pier and saltwater fish were displayed in the cool auction warehouse. My husband disappeared into the white tents and conversations with other fishermen. My 7-year old son and I enjoyed relaxing music and free shaved ice from Chevron, but we missed Coastie the Safety Boat, the Coast Guard robotic boat that moves, blinks its eyes, speaks, and shoots water at boys and girls.

The theme this year was “Sharing Our Ocean Resources, Sharing Responsibility,” and I’d like to thank the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group, volunteers, and sponsors for a friendly and educational event. Our oceans and our fisheries are a vital resource for food sustainability in Hawaii.

Let’s also take a few moments to appreciate all of the research, education, and sustainable practices that are necessary to ensure sustainable fishing.

Fishermen Code of Conduct

Fishermen of all ages can follow the Fishermen Code of Conduct, written by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council:
1. RESPECT NATURE and your place in it.
2. SEEK ADVICE of experts with generational knowledge of the local resources.
3. SHOW REGARD to spawning seasons and juvenile fish.
4. DO NOT WASTE. Take only what is needed.
5. KEEP SAFE people, property, and resources.
6. OBEY fishing laws and rules.
7. USE PROPER gear and techniques.
9. SHARE your catch.

Families can teach children about ocean safety and only taking the fish that you need. You and your keiki can practice “catch and release,” remembering to keep fish in water as much as possible, handle them gently, and remove hooks quickly. If you decide to keep your fish, make sure it is of legal size and in season, and pack it on ice. Read “One Fish, Two Fish, Get Ready to Go Fish!” together, a beginner’s guide from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group. Down a copy of “Why is Hawaii’s Ocean Important?” an activity book from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

All of us can support sustainable fisheries by knowing where our fish comes from and choosing local sustainable seafood. We can read more about Hawaii’s sustainable fishing in “Keeping Hawaii Seafood Sustainable” by the Hawaii Seafood Council.

Are you a fisherman? Do you have a favorite seafood recipe? What are your favorite fishing memories? My childhood fishing memories involve a bamboo pole, shallow streams, and my dad.

Thoughts about the federal government shutdown

October 15, 2013

Since October 1, we’ve been in a federal government shutdown. I feel angry, annoyed, and powerless. I am torn between admiring those who stand by their convictions and wanting to smack those who refuse to compromise.

As I’ve read and watched the news about the effects of the government shutdown, I’ve been thinking about how we got to this point – and what we can change to make it more unlikely in the future. Here are some thoughts about the federal government shutdown.

1. Actions (and inaction) should have consequences for Congress. In a private sector company, an employee who doesn’t do their job would get suspended, put on notice, or even fired (with an escort out the door). Congressmembers’ poor job performance should also have consequences. Their salary, benefits (health insurance), and perks (travel, meal, lodging, and entertainment expenses) should be suspended during a government shutdown.

2. Let’s agree to line-item budget approval. The Senate and the House are unwilling to compromise, but why must the federal budget be all-or-nothing? Instead, Congressmembers should go through the budget, line-by-line, and approve each budget item so that the federal government can continue to function. Then Congress can focus on the budget items on which they cannot agree.

3. Congress needs a succession plan. Presidents have vice presidents; governors have lieutenant governors; principals have vice principals; police chiefs have deputy police chiefs. But the succession plan for Congressmembers is… an appointment by the governor. Or re-election, months or even years later. Maybe we should change the law to elect an adjunct senator and adjunct representative. The adjuncts would act as a chief of staff (so that we wouldn’t have to pay additional salaries) and be able to complete the congressmember’s term if they are incapacitated – or impeached. I would think that failing

Possibly the only silver lining in the government shutdown is that we’re temporarily safe from the IRS. With apologies to hard-working and understanding IRS agents, we can breathe a sign of relief because IRS audits are being suspended. I think that most of us have a tremendous fear of being audited.

How has the federal government shutdown affected you? What can we do differently the next time there is a budget crisis?

Grading character in school

October 8, 2013

If you have children in a Hawaii public school, you’re probably in the middle of fall break and getting ready for report cards. Even if you don’t have school-age children, you probably remember the anticipation (and fear) of getting quarterly and semester report cards.

Today, Hawaii public elementary schools have a three-part report card that evaluates attendance, six general learner outcomes (GLOs), and academic proficiency, with a section for teacher comments. Only one of the GLOs is based on character: Community Contributor (the understanding that it is essential for human beings to work together).

While many Hawaii schools emphasize character values, like honesty and respect, they don’t grade students’ character growth. This may change as more Hawaii schools implement the International Baccalaureate Program and begin to emphasize the ten IB Learner Profiles – among them the goals to be Principled (to act with integrity, honesty, and fairness), and Caring (to show empathy, compassion, and respect).

Other schools have already developed programs that give character development as much attention as academic performance. For instance, the charter school KIPP NYC has come up with a character report card, based on the work of Dr. Angela Duckworth, Dr. Chris Peterson, and Dr. Martin Seligman, and in partnership with Riverdale Country School.

KIPP NYC focuses on seven behaviors that reveal their students’ character and can predict their future success, both in college and career.

1. ZEST — approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated. Actively participates, shows enthusiasm, and invigorates others.

2. SELF-CONTROLregulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined. In school work: comes to class prepared, pays attention and resists distractions, remembers to follow directions, and gets to work right away rather than procrastinating. In interpersonal relationships: remains calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked, allows others to speak without interruption, is polite to adults and peers, and keeps temper in check.

3. GRATITUDEbeing aware of and thankful for opportunities that one has and for good things that happen. Recognizes and shows appreciation for others, and recognizes and shows appreciation for his/her opportunities.

4. CURIOSITY taking an interest in experience and learning new things for its own sake; finding things fascinating. Is eager to explore new things, asks and answers questions to deepen understanding, and actively listens to others.

5. OPTIMISM expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it. Gets over frustrations and setbacks quickly and believes that effort will improve his/her future.

6. GRIT finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience. Finishes whatever he/she begins, tries very hard even after experiencing failure, and works independently with focus.

7. SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself; including the ability to reason within large and small groups. Able to find solutions during conflicts with others, demonstrates respect for feelings of others, and knows when and how to include others.

At student-parent-teacher conferences, they discuss the character growth report card, praise students’ character strengths, and offer strategies to improve character weaknesses.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” declared Martin Luther King, Jr.

How would you rate your child’s character? Would you support a program to teach parents how to build character in their children? Should schools emphasize character more, and would you support a character report card?

“You’re Only Human” by The Gecko

October 5, 2013

You're Only Human

There are a lot of geckos living in my house, but they are not good conversationalists. None of them are as charming and articulate as The Gecko, who disarmed me with this introduction to his book:

“I’m supposed to say something here that will make you want to read my book… Well, to my knowledge, this is the first book ever written and illustrated by a gecko. So by reading it, you’ll become part of history, especially if it ends up on the bestseller list.”

“You’re Only Human: A Guide to Life” (2013) written and illustrated by The Gecko, the Geico mascot and spokeslizard, offers “some inspiration as you make your way through life. Or at the very least, provides you with a bit of entertainment in the loo” (page 4). It’s eclectic, amusing, and a quick read.

The Gecko’s writing is witty, down-to-earth, and humorous, skipping from adaptation, curiosity, and effective spaceship captains, to manners, pie and chips, and top secret billion-dollar inventions. There are colorful and funny illustrations (I especially like the sauces Venn diagram, green celebrities by height, and The Thinker — boxers or briefs?).

On talking animals: “The bigger question is, what do you have to say worth listening to?”

On dreaming big: “Dreams are like a pair of trousers. They should be a size or two larger than you need so you can grow into them” (even if you show your bum).

On work: “The trick is to find that one thing you love more than anything else. And make that your profession” (though no one will pay you for eating jam and biscuits).

On inspiration: “Walk softly and carry a big notebook. When inspiration strikes, make sure you capture it.”

On GPS: “Sometimes not knowing exactly where you are can lead to great adventures. So be open to getting lost on occasion.”

On tattoos: “They’re permanent.”

To read an interview with The Gecko, visit For more information about the book, or to watch the book trailer, visit