Archive for July 2021

Learning about Earth Overshoot Day

July 27, 2021
Image source: WWF Japan and Global Footprint Network;
Ecological Footprint for Sustainable Living in Japan

A few months ago, my 14-year old son completed a sustainability project. He concluded two things: that planting trees is not enough to reduce carbon emissions; and that plastic is our most pressing problem.

His project inspired me to do some research of my own, and I gained a new perspective about how we are over-using our natural resources.

You may be familiar with Tax Freedom Day, the day when American taxpayers have worked enough to pay their taxes, and can begin working for themselves. (In 2019, Tax Freedom Day for Hawaii taxpayers was April 23).

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources (fish and forests, for instance) and services in a given year exceeds it’s biocapacity, or what Earth can regenerate in that year (such as replenishing resources and absorbing waste such as carbon dioxide).

In 2021, Earth Overshoot Day falls on July 29.

This is the day when the Earth has worked as much as it can to sustain us for the entire year, and must endanger itself to continue working for us.

The United States’ Country Overshoot Day fell on March 14 – 137 days earlier.

To calculate Earth Overshoot Day, Global Footprint Network looks at changes in our Ecological Footprint, which measures the amount of biologically productive land and sea resources required to provide for the demands of our population. This includes the areas for growing the food, fiber, and timber we consume, the space we occupy with our houses and roads, and the storage needed to capture carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel.

The main drivers were the carbon Footprint (increased 6.6% from 2021) and a decrease in global forest biocapacity (reduced 0.5% from 2021).

Sometimes, we see facts that are too slow or small to relate to (such as changes in average temperature) or too large to comprehend.

Earth Overshoot Day gives us a perspective that’s hard to ignore. Every day for the rest of the year, we are using resources meant for future generations.

In his essay, my son wrote, “Instead of pledging to plant trees, countries could commit to their pledges by promoting plant-based foods and supporting carbon capture programs.”

What one thing can you start doing – or do less of – to “move the date forward”? What can your family do to create a more sustainable future?


“Death by Dumpling” by Vivien Chien

July 20, 2021

I saw myself in “Death by Dumpling.”

Well, not exactly. I’m not a half-Chinese, half-British twenty-something who recently quit her job and her boyfriend, working in her parents’ Chinese restaurant in Ohio while she figures out what she wants to do.

But there was something about Lana that felt real, that made me relate to her – and made me feel that maybe she could understand me too.

“Death by Dumpling” (Noodle Shop Mystery #1) by Vivien Chien is an enjoyable, quirky, cozy mystery with killer dumplings and amateur sleuths. It’s a murder investigation about family loyalty, food bringing people together, appreciating people while they are here, and moving forward with your life.

After Lana delivers Mr. Feng’s fatal last meal, she and her best friend Megan uncover secrets, bypass the law with a break-in, and go to a strip club to search for the truth. They are roommates and friends who are more fearful of getting arrested by a detective than getting caught by a killer.

Lana investigates with friendly nosiness. She seems comfortable with who she is and with balancing her Chinese and British heritages. She has a sense of honesty and naiveté about her, and she wants to see the best in people. Through her eyes, we are surprised by the secrets they keep, but not judgmental.

Asian Village is a Chinese microcosm in Ohio –a close-knit community of people who have been together almost from the opening of the mall. It’s a little like Hawaii among the other states, accepting and insular at the same time.

With a light touch, Chien slips in commentary about “Oriental” stereotypes, parental expectations to be successful, and the pressure to date and get married. But Lana is too focused on investigating the mystery and uncovering secrets to be bothered for long.

Do you enjoy mysteries? Who is your favorite detective? And just for fun: what is your favorite dumpling recipe or restaurant?

Writing a gratitude poem

July 13, 2021

Saturday morning, I gave myself a gift of time to be creative.

I attended a webinar, “Creative Coping: Poetry” with Destiny Sharion, MSW (@destinysharion87), who was part of the slam team that represented Hawai’i at the National Poetry Slam Competition in 2017 and 2018. The webinar was hosted by Samaritan Counseling Center Hawaii and NAMI Hawaii.

Sharion said that poetry can facilitate mental health, wellness, and healing.

Writing and poetry can help us reflect on our experiences, validate our feelings, and promote self-disclosure (receptive/perceptive). By identifying what we feel, we can start to understand why we feel it and how we can encourage healing.

It can help us tell our story and give us a sensory connection with our emotions (expressive/creative). Sharing our story can help us connect with other people and show

And it can help us express meaning and purpose (symbolic/ceremonial). Through prayer, eulogy, and storytelling, we can make sense of the world around us and events out of our control.

Sharion revealed that gratitude can help us alleviate anxiety and promote mental and emotional well-being. She encouraged us to write our own gratitude list poem, which can be spoken like a mantra to remind us of our blessings.

The poem starts with, “Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for…”

Then write down three things we are grateful for, explain why we’re grateful for them, and thank each thing, individually.

The poem ends with, “Today and always, I am infinitely grateful you are here.”

Some poems followed the list, others varied the format or added more imagery. Here is what I wrote:

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for my family, for accepting me as I am and being my champions. Thank you, family.

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for my body, for giving me freedom of movement, independence, and connection to others. Thank you, body.

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for home, providing me with shelter, safety, and belonging. Thank you, home.

Today and always, I am infinitely grateful you are here.

Writing and sharing poetry, listening to people express themselves freely and honestly, is a beautiful way to start the day.

What three things are you grateful for today? What does poetry reveal about your thoughts and emotions?

Reflections on finding where we belong at work

July 6, 2021

Building teamwork and creating a shared sense of mission has been on my mind recently.

Now that we have more confidence in the future and are settling into a new normal, I’ve been thinking more deliberately about finding people who value an organization’s mission and finding an organization that values people’s contributions.

I work for a nonprofit mental health counseling center. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an increased need for services, and also an outpouring of help. Our staff has grown, and so has our board of directors and volunteers.

What I’ve learned is that organizations must fill the needs of its employees and volunteers, as much as employees and volunteers must fill the organization’s needs.

Organizations put a lot of thought into describing their mission and working toward a vision of what Hawai‘i could be. But the organization is made up of people. And we all want to find someplace where we belong, a job that brings us meaning, lets us use our skills, and can give employees some financial stability.

It’s not only about financial compensation. People want to volunteer their time – and are now more selective about how they want to help. If a volunteer doesn’t feel a connection with the organization’s mission, or isn’t interested in the ways to volunteer, they will quickly look elsewhere.

And that’s the right thing to do. It’s not personal. It’s not a reflection on the organization or the organization’s mission. It’s about finding where people belong.

It’s taken me a while to accept that people moving on can be a good thing. It can lead to new opportunities for them. It can lead to a different career, a new challenge, or greater personal satisfaction.

For the organization, it’s an opportunity to redefine that person’s role and responsibilities. It also helps the organization create a stronger network of people connected with their mission.

Sometimes people walk alongside an organization for a short time, and sometimes their values and goals align with the organization for a longer time.

Choosing employees and volunteers is about being good stewards of people’s time, talents, and energy. When organizations and people choose each other, it makes everyone stronger.

As a manager, what hiring challenges do you face? As an employee or volunteer, what keeps you connected with an organization – and what could be improved?