Saturday, October 3, 2009

Musings: Head in the Sand

We’re just a few days into October and it’s feeling fully fall-like, a condition I noticed late yesterday afternoon, driving to the beach with Koko beneath mottled gray skies and waning light, the water still warm, but whipped by the trades. Offshore, I heard a loud slapping sound, and looked out to see the flippers of a big green sea turtle working the surface of the water for reasons that were unclear, at least, to me.

And it felt like fall again this morning, with cloud-subdued light twinkling through the puka created as wind moved through the tree canopy, and the temperatures dropped down a notch from the recent scorching range as some rain drifted in.

It feels like a good day to lie around and read the Henry James paperback I picked up for 50 cents yesterday at the Lihue Library used book sale. I dropped by at 1:30, thinking I’d give Jan TenBruggencate, who was manning the sale, a bit of company. Ha! He was far from alone; in fact, he reported that people were waiting for him to open the door that morning, and he’d sold 2,000 books in about three hours.

So reading, it seems, is still alive and well, although I wonder sometimes how much longer the diversity of species on this planet will be. In browsing through the books, I noticed one by Gregg Easterbrook subtitled “the coming age of environmental optimism.” Written in 1995, it spoke of how nations would easily make the shift from oil to alternative fuels and we would have no problem getting a handle on climate change.

I mentioned it to Jan, wondering if Gregg wishes, 14 years down the road, if he could change his book, since his assertions have proven false, and that got us talking about climate change deniers. Jan has two recent good posts on the subject. One addresses the complexity of climate science, while the other is about the misrepresentation of a report by German ocean circulation and climate modeling expert Mojib Latif, who thinks there might be a short term cooling period within the overall global warming trend.

The concept of life-altering climate change is a lot to deal with, so it’s not surprising that most people either pretend it’s not happening, or deny it outright. It’s a head-in-the-sand approach that humans take frequently, but where has it gotten us? Just that much farther down a dead-end road.

That hit home when I was chatting on the phone this morning with a friend who’d been looking at her high school yearbook in preparation for her 30th reunion. She was struck to see the issues that were prevalent the year she graduated: tensions with Iran, the war in Afghanistan, the rising price of gasoline, which had topped $1 per gallon, prompting fears of shortages.

“It was like a giant déjà vu,” she marveled. “We’re right back where we were. We knew about all this 30 years ago. We’ve had time, but we didn’t deal with it. Now we’re in Afghanistan, instead of Russia.”

It made me think of the 31 years that have elapsed since Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment to protect ag lands. Yet we’re just now beginning our Important Ag Lands study, at a time when only about 5,000 of the 150,000 acres zoned ag are actually being cultivated and gentleman’s estates and vacation rentals are firmly entrenched.

And how meaningful will the process ultimately turn out to be, considering it’s “slightly politicized,” to borrow a friend’s understatement, by the fact that the mayor and county council will be appointing the task force that oversees the study?

While we’re on the topic of agriculture, the Maui County Council yesterday gave final approval to a bill that prohibits testing, propagating, growing or introducing genetically engineered or modified taro within Maui County, which includes Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. Seeing as how Hawaii County already passed such a ban, it seems likely attention will now be focused on Kauai, where about 75 percent of the state’s taro is grown.

And finally, The Advertiser is reporting that the HGEA and the state are close to a contract settlement, which includes furloughs. But the real screw is the Guv's planning to proceed with up to 1,100 layoffs, anyway, and hasn’t ruled out a second round:

Lingle indicated that the first round of layoffs would need to be carried out but said it was premature to be discussing a second round when negotiations were ongoing.

The governor said the proposed settlement "would mean that future layoffs would not have to be as severe because we've had labor savings from furlough days."

So how did it go, in just four months, from either layoffs or furloughs to layoffs AND furloughs? Seems the HGEA leadership has a bit of explaining to do about how it buried its head in the sand and lost all control of the issue.


Anonymous said...

Wish the genetic taro issue would get solved....We miss our Hanalei Taro Festival!!!

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Hanalei Taro Festival? It was so community oriented. So many families participated! What a great day!

irk said...

Gregg Easterbrook is way back in the lineup:

Anonymous said...

some other books to read and ponder about what our grandkids will have to solve:

Collapse / Jared Diamond

The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution with the Environment Paul and Ann Ehrlich.

The issues are bigger than banning plastic bags.

The joke is.......people running our government don;t have a up the Bar B Que and crack open a Coors Lite....and invite all your friends that voted for you.