I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon in the wind and salt spray, amid a colony of Laysan albatrosses doing their thing in what is now the nesting season. Lying on my belly on soft grass, I watched them soar, effortlessly, silently, fast, their orange feet acting as rudders, at times swooping right over me and on take off, their giant wings just feet from my head.
Being with the birds always causes me to wonder just why it is that humans have gotten into this mindset that we need so much. You don’t see any birds building giant nests to impress their neighbors or creating multiple nests that they don’t use or need or constructing warehouses to store up supplies of squid.
No, each pair claims just one small patch of earth, and using the materials at hand, crafts a little bowl of ironwood needles and soil in which they lay an egg.
This year their nests are higher than I’ve ever seen, some rising a good six to eight inches above the ground, almost like platforms above a moat, prompting speculation that perhaps they’re expecting a very wet winter.
While there, I saw two infertile eggs replaced with eggs taken from nests at Pacific Missile Range Facility. The Navy doesn’t like birds on the base — they actively discourage nene from grazing on the lawns, too — so the poor albatrosses that nest there (adults return to the place they were born to raise their own young) never get a chick. It’s just another one of the small ways we screw with nature.
But at least their eggs are moved elsewhere so the population increases on the North Shore, where they aren’t considered a nuisance or threat to national security. And the adults gracefully accept the new eggs and go on to raise the chicks as their own.
We have albatrosses here because we don’t have the mongoose, or at least not large numbers of them, although the Kauai Invasive Species Committee folks tell me they are certain that at least a few of these critters, which prey on ground nesting birds, are now established on our island.
The bad news is that controlling alien and invasive species is likely to be one of those programs hit hard by the hard times, meaning further degradation of Hawaii’s unique native ecosystems. It’s really unfortunate, but not surprising, that Gov. Lingle’s economic plan included no new initiatives for conservation projects to protect the environment that is literally and figuratively our bread and butter.
Environment Hawaii reports that the Lingle Administration has failed to implement a law adopted by the Lege that calls for a new cargo fee to beef up inspections on imported goods. Somehow she and her team still haven’t recognized that it costs far more to eradicate pest species — if such action is even possible, and it usually isn’t – than to keep them out in the first place.
Meanwhile, we’re trying to promote Hawaii as a paradise even as we’re importing the little fire ant (on Kauai, there’s already one infestation in Kalihiwai) and other pests and allowing the natural world that makes this place so unique and special to deteriorate.
And that’s just on the local scale. Globally, scientists are warning that the Arctic is warming at an unforeseen pace:
The US National Snow and Ice Center says temperatures recorded today weren’t expected for another ten to fifteen years. Researchers say autumn temperatures were higher because of the heat accumulation from increased melting in the summer. The process, known as Arctic amplification, could signify Arctic melting has hit a point of no return.
Do you suppose the kids in Greece are rioting not just because a cop killed a teenager, and the economy is flailing and they’re sick of the corruption that permeates their own government and others around the world, but because they recognize, at a much deeper level, that the future that’s being handed to them isn’t much of a future of at all?