And quickly is what we'll need to deal with significant global climate changes that are already in our face. It's become apparent to me in recent months that a lot of folks have the future on their minds, in a wondering, waiting, sometimes worrying, sometimes optimistic, sort of way.
Perhaps we've been set on edge, forced to go beyond the superficial, by the summer's news: raging forest fires; suffocating heat; Olympics games that look like preparation for Armageddon; another massacre in Colorado with legally purchased guns; a Presidential election financed primarily by 196 super wealthy people; live-fire Navy “war games” that yesterday turned another old ship into a toxic wreck littering the ocean floor around Kauai.
Meanwhile, we are seeing the Midwest — the nation's meat and bread basket — shrivel up in drought and heat, with food prices already on the rise and farmers now fighting over whether corn should go to livestock or ethanol.
Will we get to the place where the disgustingly inhumane feedlots, the triple-decker bacon burgers, the high fructose soft drinks, the meat at every meal mentality, will become too damn expensive to continue? And wouldn't that, in terms of human and environmental health, living pono, be a good thing?
I was thinking the other day about a Japanese woman, now gone, who worked the rice fields in Hanalei, and so would eat every grain of rice in her bowl, because she knew the labor involved in its production. In less than three-quarters of a century, we have gone from a place of respect and even reverence for what we consume to blatant gluttony, to producing an entire class of food characterized as junk. Will we be forced, by global climate change, ocean acidification, into re-evaluating, re-inventing our relationship with food, and could that possibly turn out to be a good thing?
And what of our relationship to the earth, the land and sea? I see an article in today's paper about a new documentary that “focuses on Kauai as a sustainable living leader” and I think, if this island is being touted as a leader in the sustainability movement, then the world is in deep doodoo.
Because nearly everything we consume — energy, food, building materials, stuff — is imported, and our economy is based on tourism and the military, two industries that are the antithesis of sustainability.
We aren't even close to being able to take care of ourselves, and nearly every step we take is in the wrong direction, which is why so much of our ag land has been turned over to revenue-generating pesticide-drenched GMO seed crops and luxury homes rather than the production of food that we can eat right here.
I remember hearing one KKCR programmer say, “We'll be fine if they cut the line,” and I thought, what dream world are you living in? Aside from obvious immediate shortages in food, energy and medicine, can you imagine the social disruption that would result from all the smokers, tweakers, pill poppers and boozers suddenly being forced to go cold turkey? Not a pretty picture.
Citizens aren't the only ones residing in the la-la land of denial. Too many of our government officials and pro-business groups reside there, too. According to an article in today's Civil Beat, even though the state has finally developed some “policy guidelines” for dealing with the impact of climate change, they're essentially toothless, feel good measures that lag well beyond efforts being taken by other coastal states, such as California and Washington.
Efforts to toughen them up were fought by people like Dave Arakawa, executive director of the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii, who said taking factoring a one-foot sea level rise by 2050 into planning decisions would adversely impact development.
Here on Kauai, the supposed “sustainable living leader,” planning director Mike Dahilig says we'll “consider” climate impacts during the General Plan update. He is then quoted as saying:
"From a planning standpoint, I do think we need to be on top of it and be more proactive in integrating it into our planning theory," he said. "But what this will look like from a functional planning standpoint, we don't know right now."
While the science is starting to coalesce among generally accepted theories, Dahilig said inconsistencies remain.
"When it comes down to zoning land, I don't know whether I'm dealing with a sea level increase of 1 foot or 100 feet. We need the science on it," he said. "But generally, we can still make some plans. Things on the shoreline should be elevated and more minimalistic. Our infrastructure should be closer to the mountains."
As Mike waits for more science, I imagine those oceanfront properties will continue to be developed, and millions of dollars will be dumped into concrete coastal paths and highways.
Because even though so many of us can see what's ahead — and it ain't gonna take another 40-50 years to get there — even though so many of us already recognize that we desperately need a new paradigm, a new world view, a new consciousness to guide us into this new terrain of a world reshaped by climate change, old habits and old belief systems die hard.
But eventually, they will die. In the meantime, it's up to those of who can see and feel a different way of being to manifest that new reality through our actions, and through our thoughts. Which is not the same as wishful thinking.