Koko and I went out walking this morning on streets puddled with rain, beneath dove gray skies that promised more to come. At times it rained so hard in the night, great ferocious torrents roaring in from the east, that Koko jumped off the bed in fright.
I called a friend and left a message I knew would make him smile: “We love the rain.”
What’s not to love? It’s the life-giver, the life-sustainer.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and not for the first time, just why it is that we humans so often play an opposite role.
The other morning I was going to an interview when I passed a dead animal lying along the edge of a narrow country road. I wasn’t certain what it was, but the distinctive black and white coloring gave me a clue.
On my way home, I slowed, looked more carefully, and this time I had no doubt. It was an `A`o, a Newell’s shearwater. I couldn’t bear to leave it laying there, to be eventually flattened by traffic, so I went back and picked it up, supporting its lolling head, its feathers soft in my hands.
It was an obvious casualty of the utility lines: five lines running low and perpendicular to Waialeale, Makaleha — the interior mountains where these sea birds nest, flying back and forth all summer to bring food to their chicks. It’s a route they’ve followed, until fairly recently without obstruction, for tens of thousands of years.
KIUC and the other utility companies had a chance to underground the lines after Iniki, knowing full well the death sentence they regularly impose on Newell’s. But they opted not to, and so the fatalities continue.
It was too expensive, they said, as if money is the only factor to be considered in these equations.
I thought of others as I got out my shovel and buried that beautiful bird, which is officially listed as threatened, although many biologists believe its numbers have plummeted so low that it has reached endangered status.
I thought of its chick, waiting for food in its burrow beneath the uluhe ferns in the mountains, and its mate, conscientiously fulfilling its end of the food-gathering bargain, but unable, by itself, to provide enough food to sustain their single offspring, which ultimately will die of starvation.
I thought: “Well, that’s one nest that won’t be happening this year.”
And so one casualty turns into two.
A short time later I just happened to encounter an article about nine polar bears observed making these incredibly risky and exhausting long-distance swims, seeking stable ice or land, because by burning fossil fuels we’ve heated up the planet so much that the ice where they live is melting.
And why were the bears even noticed at all? Because Minerals Management Service had hired the federal marine contractor, Science Applications International Corp., to check for whales in advance of future offshore oil drilling.
We just don’t get it, do we?
We seem to think that we can keep killing off plants and animals, eliminating entire species, ratcheting up the global temperature by the same old thoughtless actions, and yet somehow we humans will survive the holocaust unscathed. It's a fantasy scenario we've all seemingly bought into.
In times like these, I’m often reminded of the quote from Starhawk, an environmental activist, who said of the world around us: “It’s all alive. It’s all connected. It’s all relatives.”
Indigenous people understood that interconnected web of life so much better than we. The other night I was reading “Native Planters,” a truly marvelous book by Handy, Handy and Pukui, and it was discussing how many plants and animals —even rocks — were viewed by Hawaiians as kino lau — the life forms taken by gods and supernatural creatures.
When you look at things that way, you just approach life differently. I know that indigenous people weren't perfect, and that they hunted some animals to extinction and altered habitat. But overall, they did a much better job of living in harmony with their environment, and most importantly, they understood their place in the overall scheme of things.
Now, it seems, nothing is sacred but money and convenience.
That's why I'm one of those who doesn't want the Superferry to ever come back to Kauai. For one thing, it's a speeding death ship just waiting to bang a monk seal or whale, which is totally unacceptable. For another, you've got the pillage mentality of people who ride it. That's not just a fear or suspicion anymore, either. It's been borne out by DOCARE's own statistics on Superferry inspections.
As the Save Kahului Harbor blog reported (and Andy Parx noted on his blog), Maui is indeed being plundered by Superferry passengers.
According to state DOCARE reports, over 400 pounds of reef fish were taken from Maui waters in a one month period, along with 250 pounds of limu and 49 pounds of opihi — a figure that increased to 75 pounds the following month. And that's just what they found. Remember, they don't inspect everything.
And why is all this happening? Quite simply, so that J.F. Lehman Co. can make money and folks can have a form of interisland travel that some find more convenient.
I'm sorry, but when you live on a place like Kauai, which still has so much to lose, and so much to offer, that "deal" just ain't worth it.