Purple may be the official Kauai color, but it seems that green and gold are the hues I most frequently see, such as the gold-infused light that caused the green grass of the pastures and green uluhe fern on the slopes of Makaleha to glow as the sun rose in a broad swath of gold in a patchwork quilt sky of pink and blue when Koko and I went out walking this morning.
My usually busy mind was silenced by the trills, tweets, warbles, chirps and coos of birds singing in the bushes, on telephone lines, atop trees, in the fields. It was the sound of life and joy, quite unlike the scene in the Gulf right now, where so many birds are suffocating in oil. Larry Geller posted the link to these extremely disturbing photos on his Disappeared News blog yesterday.
I’ve been avoiding visual images about the oil spew’s impact on wildlife because I knew they would upset me. It was bad enough reading the transcript of wildlife author Carl Safina’s report on Democracy Now! last week about the long term ecological effects of releasing that much oil into the ocean and then mixing it with a chemical dispersant banned in Europe. As Safina noted:
Well, the dispersant is a toxic pollutant that has been applied in the volume of millions of gallons and I think has greatly exacerbated the situation. I think the whole idea of using a dispersant is wrong, and I think it’s part of the whole pattern of BP trying to cover up and hide the body. They don’t want us to see how much oil, so they’ve taken this oil that was concentrated at the surface and dissolved it. But when you dissolve it, it’s still there, and it actually gets more toxic, because instead of being in big blobs, it’s now dissolved and can get across the gills, get into the mouths of animals. The water below the floating oil was water. Now it’s this toxic soup.
That’s what the birds and marine life are living in right now. So while it’s disturbing, it’s good to take a look and be reminded, yeah, this is the really ugly side of oil, the side that we like to pretend doesn’t exist because we enjoy the freedom of driving our cars and switching on an electric light so much.
Meanwhile, in another expression of our deadly addiction, a new study shows the amount of ice covering the Arctic Sea is smaller than it has been in 5,000 years, and shrinking fast.
"The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades," the study states. "This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and [is] unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities."
And you know that's affecting more than a few species — perhaps even pushing them into extinction.
Interestingly, another study of low-lying Pacific Islands indicates that islands may have “a natural ability to respond to rising seas by accumulating coral debris from the surrounding reefs.”
But the two scientists said islanders still faced serious challenges from climate change, particularly if the pace of sea level rises were to overtake that of sediment build-up.
The fresh groundwater that sustained villagers and their crops could be destroyed. "The land may be there but will [the islands] still be able to support human habitation?" Prof. [Paul] Kench said.
That's no small point for us living here in Hawaii, and it seems it's the point that’s so often missed in our abstract, intellectual, detached discussions (and denials) of global warming.
The planet won’t be destroyed. But its ability to support life as we know it — and us — very well could be.