Archive for June 2015

Renewable Hawaii 2045

June 30, 2015

Renewable Hawaii 2045

“The purpose of this Act is to update and extend Hawaii’s clean energy initiative and renewable portfolio standards to ensure maximum long-term benefit to Hawaii’s economy by setting a goal of one hundred per cent renewable by 2045.” Hawaii Act 97 (2015)

 

Earlier this month, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law House Bill 623, which requires all of Hawaii’s electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources by 2045. This would decrease Hawaii’s dependence on imported fuels and grow the local renewable energy industry.

 

What will Hawaii look like in 30 years? Here’s my glimpse of a realistic renewable-energy future:

 

At home…

* Hawaii will offer a tax credit for individuals who purchase solar power storage units and backup generators.

* We will have compact, affordable batteries to store solar energy safely.

* We will be able to recharge “AA” and other portable batteries using a solar power converter.

* We will wear light-weight, UV absorbing clothing and hats that can also charge our electronic devices.

* Revised building codes will require solar panel roofs or rooftop gardens, rain catchment systems, and a minimum amount of recycled or salvaged materials used for construction. There will also be an aquaponics requirement for larger lots or tracts.

* There will be a revived “movement” to design homes that blend into Hawaii’s natural landscape. Note: The Inspiration Green website has some fantastic photos of “earth sheltered homes” that conserve rainwater, are energy-efficient, and keep homes cool during the warmer months.

 

In business…

* Businesses will develop solar panels that can capture solar energy on overcast and stormy days.

* Businesses will develop affordable and compact wind turbines with built-in energy storage.

* Businesses will compete to produce high-capacity solar energy batteries and back-up generators.

* Hawaii will offer tax incentives to renewable energy generation and storage companies that open a manufacturing plant in the state. This will reduce our dependence on imported renewable energy products, and create jobs in the state.

* Hawaii will expand ocean rights leases to build solar energy, wave, and wind farms in the Pacific Ocean. This will create jobs in the state.

* Hawaii will create a public-private partnership to build and maintain marine aircraft carriers – ships with full-length flight decks and boat docks/lifts – in the Pacific Ocean. They would also function as hospital ships, search and rescue bases, and research vessels. This will encourage the development and use of solar-powered airplanes and boats, and create jobs in the state.

 

On the roads…

* Hawaii will implement a car buy-back program, exchanging gasoline-powered vehicles for compact electric vehicles, bicycles and/or a one-time tax credit.

* Hawaii cities will covert half of the roads into bicycle lanes, heavily promote a bicycle-sharing service, and encourage the use of Pedicabs for personal and business use. Portions of downtown, business districts, and heavily congested areas with narrow streets will be closed to cars.

* There will be higher vehicle registration fees; and a new electric vehicle surcharge to offset the costs of building and maintaining roads and charging stations

* Gasoline stations will be converted into electric vehicle charging stations. Hawaii will offer a tax credit for installing charging stations in rural areas. Hawaii will encourage privately owned charging stations in remote areas to be available to the public (either subsidized or through user fees).

* The number of gasoline-powered vehicles imported into the state will be limited to emergency and military use.

 

In our public spaces…

* Parks, schools, and beaches will have solar panel shade structures over restrooms, playgrounds, and fitness stations.

* Hawaii will install solar-powered charging stations for electronics devices at public parks, beaches, schools, libraries, and bus stops.

* Staffed district parks will offer a recreational bike rental program, in partnership with local businesses or organizations.

* There will be a new “renewable” land zone category for solar panels and wind mills. Some conservation and preservation lands may need to be re-zoned.

 

Do you think we will reach our goal of 100% renewable energy sources? How do you think Hawaii will change as we commit to renewable energy?

Sun safe and skin wise

June 23, 2015

Cumulative & Irreversible

Living in Hawaii, it’s hard to avoid the sun. When I was young, I didn’t worry about getting sunburned – aside from my annoying habit to burn and peel. Then my mom told me that damage from the sun is “cumulative and irreversible” – a phrase I remember to this day.

I don’t use sunscreen as often as I should, but I have changed what I do outdoors. I keep to the shade as much as possible. I cut down on beach-time. I try to avoid being outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. It hasn’t saved my skin – probably most of the damage was done when I was younger – but think that I’ve prevented further skin damage.

I’d like to take a few minutes to remind everyone to take sun safety seriously.

Did you know that… skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer among young adults aged 15-29 years old? One in five Americans will develop skin cancer? Read the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s “Just the Facts:  about Skin Cancer in Hawaii” (April 2014) for more Hawaii-specific facts.

UV Index

According to the National Weather Service, Honolulu is consistently rated an 11 (Extreme) on the Ultraviolet (UV) Index. The UV Index forecasts the amount of skin-damaging UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface at the time when the sun is highest in the sky. It can range from 0 (at night) to 15 or 16 (at solar noon in the tropics at high elevations under clear skies). The higher the UV Index, the greater the dose rate of skin damaging (and eye damaging) UV radiation, and the smaller the time it takes before skin damage occurs.

There’s an easy way to remember to protect your skin. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention reminds us to “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap” when we’re outdoors. That means slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen (choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every two hours), slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses (with UV protection). Even on overcast days, there’s a risk of sun exposure, so stay in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 am and 2 pm.

Did you know that polar bears have special eyelids that act like sunglasses? Or that elephants use dirt and hay to protect their skin from the sun? Head to the zoo and teach kids about animals and sun safety at the same time. The EPA has a fun fact sheet about “sunwise” animals, as well as coloring pages that reveal how hippos, pigs, turtles, meerkats, and camels protect themselves from the sun.

Are you taking care of your skin? How do you stay safe in the sun?

6 things you can do to prepare for an emergency

June 16, 2015

Emergency - 6 Things

The first hurricane I experienced was Hurricane Iwa in 1982, when I was in grade school. My strongest memory was that school was closed early and my father had to pick me up. I don’t remember whether my parents make special preparations for the hurricane, because we were always prepared. In our household, my grandparents stocked a closet full of toilet paper, pantry shelves full of canned goods and saimin, and a car gas tank that rarely strayed below half-full. Though they didn’t talk about it, looking back, I think that World War II rationing and the 1949 dock strike really affected them.

Now it’s my turn to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 1 in Hawaii. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects 5-8 tropical cyclones.

There is a lot of information about being ready for disasters and emergencies, but it doesn’t hurt to review your plans and preparations one more time.

Here are 6 things you can do to prepare for an emergency:

  1. Review your Emergency Plan at least once a year. It should include emergency shelter locations, out-of-state emergency contacts, designated meeting places in case you are separated from your family. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has a one-page plan that includes an emergency checklist and information about Hawaii’s primary radio stations. If you have pets, know which shelters are pet-friendly.
  1. Put together an emergency supply kit. Plan a 3-7 day supply of non-perishable food and water (one gallon per person or pet, per day). You may want to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle too, in case you get caught on the road. Remember to pack baby supplies for infants, kid-friendly activities, medications, and pet supplies. The American Red Cross has a good emergency preparedness checklist that anyone can use. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has helpful emergency checklists for parents and children.
  1. Make backup copies of important documents, such as identification and passports; medications, including prescription, dosage, and allergies; legal and financial documents, including wills, deeds, contracts, and bank records; insurance policies; household inventory; and family photos, documents, and albums.
  2. Identify ways to protect your home. A good resource for Hawaii homeowners and home renovators is the “Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards” (2014) by Dennis J. Hwang and Darren K. Okimoto, prepared through the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program. There is an overview of tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, and flood hazards in Hawaii, emergency procedures, and information about building and remodeling/retrofitting homes.
  1. Pay attention to the radio, television, text alerts, and news updates. Check the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center for forecasts and warnings and the Hawaii State Civil Defense for the latest news.
  1. Take a disaster training class and volunteer to help your community during an emergency. The American Red Cross in Hawaii offers free non-certificate personal preparedness courses. The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii offers natural disaster awareness for caregivers of senior citizens and community leaders.

Are you ready for an emergency? How can you help others be more prepared?

Looking back at third grade

June 9, 2015

Looking back at 3rd Grade

My son just finished third grade at a Honolulu public school. He had two wonderful teachers and opportunities to do more creative projects. This past year, he’s become more argumentative and opinionated – we joke that he would make a great lawyer. He also showed more initiative, signing up for school activities without asking for our advice.

I’d like to share our third grade school year experience. How does it compare with your third grade memories?

Reading. Hawaii public elementary schools are all using the “Reading Wonders” workbook. I didn’t have a chance to browse the workbook, but I have seen the spelling lists and related vocabulary. The spelling words were chosen phonetically and were easy; the vocabulary words were chosen by unit theme (for example, natural resources) and were more challenging.

Several times a week, my son did reading comprehension activities on Achieve3000.com (sometimes called KidBiz). The site is easy to use, with interesting nonfiction articles and opportunities to think about the articles in different ways – through questions, polls, open-ended “thought” questions, and math. It even keeps track of students’ points and completed activities, and questions get harder as students improve.

Math. Hawaii public elementary schools are all using the “Stepping Stones” math workbook and practice book. I’ve only seen the practice workbook, which is easy, colorful, makes math fun with puzzles and riddles (it reminds me of a Kumon workbook), and wastes paper by printing on only one side of the page.

During the school year, my son alternated between math workbooks, worksheets, and online practice at IXL.com. The site is well-designed, tracking the number of problems solved, the time spent on each practice test, and the number of practice tests completed. It even gives students “prizes” on a prize board. And there are many reports for teachers and parents to check student progress.

International Baccalaureate (IB). My son’s school is an IB candidate school for the Primary Years Programme. Only a few public schools in Hawaii have signed up for this voluntary accreditation program. It incorporates six transdisciplinary themes into the curriculum and encourages teachers to coordinate lesson plans across multiple subjects. Each of the six units culminates in a final project. For example, in the “Where we are in place and time” unit, students created a 3D model of our community using boxes, paper, and cardboard. There are also 10 IB “learner profiles” that emphasize character and attitude. The most challenging part of the program was asking students to reflect on what they have learned.

Enrichment classes and activities. There were 7 “enrichment” classes: Art, Computer Lab, Hawaiiana, Library, Mandarin, Music, and Physical Education. For some reason, third grade is the year everyone learns to play the recorder. I have one suggestion: turn one of the Computer Labs into a typing class. Students also participated in a winter assembly and a May Day program, and could join band, a garden club, the Junior Police Officer (JPO) program, a speech club, a library club, and the Student Council. A question for parents and educators: what is the best balance between academic rigor and well-rounded children?

Standardized tests. This school year was the first time that Hawaii public schools used the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test, aligned to the Common Core standards. I realize that it is a new test with harder questions, and students need to be familiar with it, but I was concerned by the amount of time they spent preparing for it. I wondered how much instruction time might have been lost because of the additional test preparation. I was dissatisfied with the practice test because students don’t get immediate feedback; they don’t know which questions they missed and why. Maybe an alternate solution would be “Test Prep Saturdays” or “SBAC After School,” so that test preparation wouldn’t interfere with classroom time and could be more relaxed.

My son felt overwhelmed by the training and practice tests. At the start of spring break, he expressed a lot of anxiety. “What if I get a DP [developing proficiency] or a WB [well below proficiency]? Will you be mad?” he asked me with a worried frown. I told him, “As long as you try your best, we won’t be mad.” A week before the test, he admitted, “I’m scared to take the SBAC.”

School fundraising. For the parents of children in public and private schools, fundraising has become a big part of life. At my son’s school, parents raised funds through a bake sale, keiki carnival and silent auction, fitness run, and two dine-and-donate events. The fundraising events were fun and helped us meet other parents. But there seems to be a growing cycle – the more parents give, the less schools receive in funding, and the more parents are asked to give.

Do you have school-age children? How did you decide between public and private school? Were they the same factors that influenced your parents? What has been your experience with common core and standardized tests?

“Raising Happiness” by Christine Carter

June 6, 2015

Raising Happiness

I want my son to be smart and curious, do the right thing, have good manners, try new things – and be happy. I truly believe that we can choose to be happy. We can make a decision to look at the positive things in life and try not to dwell on the negative things. It’s something that I’d like to teach my son.

So I really appreciated the focus of Christine Carter’s book, “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for Joyful Kids and Happier Parents” (2010). Carter is a sociologist, commentator, and executive director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Upbeat and encouraging, “Raising Happiness” shows us how to “foster the skills, habits, and mindsets that will set the stage for a wide range of positive emotions in childhood and beyond” (page x).

“Raising Happiness” offers two insights for parents: First, instead of feeling guilt or angst over parenting mistakes or things out of our control, we need to focus on what we can do right. And second, happiness is a skill that we can teach our children.

Carter backs her recommendations and insights with scientific research (though I have to admit that I glossed over the studies). The sample conversations were helpful and practical, and so was the feeling that I am already doing things that build happiness.

Here are 10 simple steps to teaching happiness:

  1. Put on your oxygen mask first: Take care of yourself and your marriage first. Children’s happiness depends in part on the happiness of the people around them. So go out with friends, do things you love, and exercise.
  2. Build a village: Happiness is linked to strong relationships. Teach children how to make and keep friends (build rapport with eye contact and positive emotion), how to resolve conflicts (teach them to state what they want, express their feelings, and come up with solutions), and be kind. Encourage “other mothers” and “other fathers” (aunts, uncles, grandparents, close friends) to build lasting relationships with children.
  3. Expect effort and enjoyment, not perfection. Praise hard work, passion, and dedication instead of focusing on “natural” talent and achievement. Criticize behavior or performance (such as “Are you happy with how you did?” or “What can you do differently next time?”). Let children make mistakes; let them know it’s okay to fail.
  4. Choose gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism: Practice gratitude (keep a gratitude box or journal, write gratitude letters), forgiveness (ask kids to identify and talk about their feelings), and optimism (try to avoid pessimistic comments).
  5. Raise their emotional intelligence: Teach children how to express and cope with negative emotions. As a parent, be present, pay attention, be responsive, and be consistent. Induce happiness with smiles, laughter, music, and exercise; end the day on a positive note.
  6. Form happiness habits: Instead of threats and rewards, encourage good behavior with empathy, positive reasons (“Please brush your teeth so they will feel clean and healthy”), and choices (“It would be helpful if you…”). Change bad habits one at a time, taking small steps.
  7. Teach self-discipline: Be authoritative (strict yet warm). Teach children to self-regulate their behavior – give them a task so they won’t misbehave, distract them from something tempting, and have realistic expectations.
  8. Enjoy the present moment: Practice mindfulness (living in the present moment) through meditation, mindful parenting (notice what is happening and accept what is going on without judgment), play, and savoring experiences.
  9. Rig their environment for happiness: Limit daycare and preschool. “High-quality care makes your child more likely to have higher standardized math, reading, and memory scores, but only through the third grade” (page 155). “Center-based child care increases the chances that kids will be more disobedient and more aggressive and have more conflict with their teachers” (page 156). Curb kids’ materialism, limit TV time.
  10. Eat dinner together: Model healthy eating, social skills, and manners. Eating together can also expand their language and vocabulary, and create a family “ritual.”

If you’re ready to make happiness a priority in your life, visit Christine Carter’s website for free printable worksheets. I especially recommend the “Habit Tracker” worksheet that helps us take “turtle steps” to changing our habits.

“It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got,” sings Sheryl Crow in “Soak Up the Sun.” What does happiness mean to you? What are your happiness habits?

Balancing screen time and life

June 2, 2015

Technology Think

As we head into summer, I’ll have an even bigger battle with my 8-year old son about “screen time” – watching TV, using the computer, and playing games on a smartphone, tablet, or console. Sometimes it’s easier just to say “yes” because I’m cleaning up, getting ready, or working. Sometimes I don’t realize how much screen time our family indulges in – until I look up, and we’re all looking down at screens.

To get some ideas about how we can balance “screen time,” I turned to “Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices” (2015) by child and adolescent psychiatrist Jodi Gold, MD. “Screen-Smart Parenting” offers a thoughtful approach to parenting with digital technology, combining pediatrics, psychiatry, and parenting. It gave me a good starting point for dealing with technology in our family.

Here are three things we can do to balance screen time and life:

1. Make a family technology plan. We need realistic ground-rules about technology. In our family, the most important ground-rules are: children should ask permission to use technology; family computers and devices should be kept in public spaces; and technology time should be limited to 20-25 minutes (one TV program) at a time. Sometimes my son seems to bounce from TV to computer to tablet and back again. Sometimes we break the rules ourselves. But we try to stick with them.

My son is starting to send messages to other gamers in his “alliance,” I want him to be careful about what he posts. Having a written “agreement” can help parents and children set limits. Common Sense Media has a one-page “Family Media Agreement” for different age groups. It emphasizes being safe online; thinking before texting, posting, or believing; and maintaining a balance between online and offline relationships and activities.

2. Encourage online resilience and etiquette. The Internet is a giant marketplace of ideas and content, and we can’t protect children from everything they might see or read. We can help children learn to cope with negative online experiences, such as mean comments, cyber-bullying, or inappropriate messages. They need to be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, identify stereotypes, and decide for themselves whether a website is credible. And before they write anything or send any photos, children need to decide whether it’s appropriate, truthful, and kind.

I really like the “Kids’ Pledge” on SafeKids.com, that emphasizes online safety, etiquette, and talking with parents if children come across anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. I want my son to know that he can talk to me if he is confused or upset, about anything.

3. Promote digital citizenship. Technology is a part of our lives, and we need to use technology responsibly and appropriately. At the heart, digital citizenship is about being responsible and respectful when we communicate with others, offline and online. It is also about using the Internet and social media to spread kindness and stand against social injustice.

DigitalCitizenship.net takes the concept of digital citizenship even further, identifying nine elements of digital citizenship that encourage us to respect (etiquette, digital access, and law); educate (communication, literacy, and commerce); and protect (rights and responsibilities, safety, and health and welfare). There is a “Family Contract for Digital Citizenship.”

How do you balance screen time and life? Do you use technology too much – and if so, are there ways you are willing to cut down your screen time? How long could you go without using your smartphone/computer/tablet?

Note: The awesome graphic in this post is from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, based on an acronym created by Teachthought.com. It’s a good guideline for all of us.