Hawaii's sustainability

Has Hawaii exceeded its carrying capacity? On May 20 the Star Bulletin reported on the views of Andrew Hashimoto, Dean and Director of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) on Hawaii's growth:
In recruiting faculty members and talking to others, he said, most feel Hawaii has exceeded its carrying capacity. They are concerned about energy, traffic congestion, food production and stressed families, he said.

"How do we sustain Hawaii?" asked Hashimoto, stressing that the economy, environment and communities must be in balance to be sustainable. "The real question for decision-makers is, what do we do about it?"
In 2005, the Legislature passed SB 1592, CD1, which became Act 8, Special Session Laws of Hawaii 2005, creating the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force and requiring the Task Force to submit a report (pdf, 32pp/244kB) to the 2006 Legislature and the Auditor to submit the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan to the 2007 Legislature, "to aid in the future long-term development of the State." (In 2006, the Legislature passed HB 2805, CD1, which became Act 210, SLH 2006, extending the deadline for the Auditor's submission of the sustainability plan to 2008.)

This year the Task Force has published a book of "thoughtful papers and research background on various issue areas which the Task Force identified as important for Hawaii's sustainable future....a fact-based foundation for public discourse about our future." -- Senator Russell S. Kokubun, Chair of the Task Force

Hawaii 2050: Building A Shared Future
     Report (pdf, 119pp/2.2MB)
     Summary (pdf, 17pp/164kB)

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State flowers at risk

An AP article May 19 reported on the publication of The Gardener's Guide to Global Warming (pdf, 40pp/1.54MB) from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). According to the report, global warming threatens 18 state flowers and 17 state trees.
Shifts in average temperatures, precipitation patterns, and other changes due to global warming will mean that many native and iconic plants may no longer find suitable climate conditions in major portions of their historic range. In fact, many states across the country may lose their official State Trees and State Flowers. Imagine Kansas without the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and Ohio without the Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra)!
"Maybe in 100 years the Texas bluebonnet will be the Kansas state flower," a horticulturist commented in the article. NWF has provided a map showing the vulnerable states. Fortunately for Hawaii, the yellow hibiscus is not threatened.

Yellow hibiscus (pua ma'o hau hele; Hibiscus brackenridgei); photo courtesy of State of Hawaii, DBEDT

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Doc, tell me something I don't already know

The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation promoting "a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency," published a study today on America's poor but expensive healthcare system:
Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries.
America ranked last or next to last compared with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom in the five areas Commonwealth considers important to high performance health care: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.
The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes. The inclusion of physician survey data also shows the U.S. lagging in adoption of information technology and use of nurses to improve care coordination for the chronically ill.
...the U.S. scores particularly poorly on its ability to promote healthy lives, and on the provision of care that is safe and coordinated, as well as accessible, efficient, and equitable.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care
(May 2007, pdf, 40pp/522kB)

Executive Summary (html)



Children's health insurance

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has published a report on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), as Congress considers its reauthorization this year. SCHIP was established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, P.L. 105-33 (pdf), Title IV, Subtitle J, chap. 1 (111 Stat. 552 et seq.), which provided funding for SCHIP from 1998 to 2007.

According to the report, SCHIP provides medical coverage to children in families with income that is low but too high for Medicaid. It is federally and state funded and administered by the states within federal guidelines. In 2006, SCHIP covered 6.7 million children, at a cost of $4.8 billion in federal funds.

CBO lists possible changes to SCHIP for Congress to consider in reauthorizing the program:
  • Intensifying efforts to enroll uninsured, eligible children
  • Redefining the target population
  • Changing the allocation formula for state funding
  • Modifying the rules for redistribution of unspent funds
  • Changing state matching rates
  • Modifying benefits states are required to provide

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (pdf, 31pp/1.9MB), May 2007

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Greenhouse gas emissions

Two reports on greenhouse gas emissions issued last month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), one on state actions and the other from an international perspective, were provided on Open CRS.

According to the report on state actions, since there is no federal program mandating greenhouse gas reductions, many states have addressed this issue. However, California and several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have taken "the most aggressive actions." CRS devotes the first part of its report to California and the second part to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a collaboration of 8 states - CT, DE, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, and VT - to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. From January 2009, the initiative will begin a mandatory cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide, setting a cap on emissions and allocating credits among individual sources. (The concluding section of the report reviews issues for Congress presented by these state actions.)

In the international report, CRS discusses the interactions of three variables in measuring greenhouse gas emissions: population, income, and intensity of emissions. The report refers to three initiatives addressing climate change and the growth in greenhouse gases: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); the Kyoto Protocol (Wikipedia); and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP). CRS notes the great divide between developed and less-developed nations. While developed countries may practice conservation and energy efficiency, population and economic growth increase total energy use. In less-developed countries, increases in emissions result from energy expended for economic development.

Greenhouse Gas Reductions: California Action and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, CRS Report RL33962 (pdf, 21pp/148kB), April 13, 2007

Greenhouse Gas Emission Drivers: Population, Economic Development and Growth, and Energy Use, CRS Report RL33970 (pdf, 36pp/280kB), April 24, 2007

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Continuing barriers define disability

The future of disability in America will depend on how well this country prepares for and manages the demographic, fiscal, and technological developments that will unfold during the next two to three decades.
So described The National Academies Press (NAP) their newly released prepublication evaluating "principles and scientific evidence for disability policies and services." Authored by the Board on Health Sciences Policy (HSP) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the almost 700 page report analyzes the barriers restricting "the independence, productivity, and participation in community life of people with disabilities."

Finding some progress has been made since earlier reports, the book states:
This progress includes a growing understanding that disability is not an inherent attribute of individuals. Rather, it results from interaction between individuals and their physical and social environments...advances in mainstream electronic and information technologies - combined with regulatory requirements for accessibility features - have been liberating for many people with disabilities.
However, little progress has been made in adopting earlier public policy and practical recommendations. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), though adopted in 1990 and still helping to increase awareness of the concerns, has been disappointedly enforced and implemented.
This report argues that concerted action - taken sooner than later - is essential for this nation to avoid a future of harm and inequity.
The Future of Disability in America
(Uncorrected Copy - Prepublication Available, 2007, 680 pp/Open Book, NAP)

Report Brief - April 2007 (pdf, 4 pp)
Executive Summary (pdf, 31 pp)