Sunday, February 13, 2011

Musings: Changing Landscapes

The air was thick with moisture when Koko and I went out walking on this still, suitably subdued Sunday. The ironwood trees were adorned with glistening raindrops and the blue-gray sky was painted with fine, feathery brush strokes of white. Great piles of gloomy clouds, headed northwest, were gilted — backlit by a sun that was slow to show itself, and when it did, it was a brief, through memorable, spectacle of gold upon pink upon pearl. In the distance, fog crept among the cinder cones and up the belly of the Giant, swirled among Norfolk pines that stood like sentinels in the misty blue-green landscape.

Evidence of the changing political landscape in Hawaii can be found in the House’s passage of the civil unions bill, with minor amendments that are likely to meet approval of the Senate and also our new governor. Yet the angst is far from over, as witnessed by the more than 366 comments that followed the Star-Advertiser’s cursory coverage, many of them left by fundamentalist Christians who simply cannot get past their religious blinders to see that this is not about marriage or morality, but civil rights.

And evidence of the changing physical landscape can be seen in Alaska, which has warmed at three times the rate of the lower 48 states since the early 1970s, according to a report by Reuters. The article looked at how rapidly melting glaciers and permafrost are causing mudslides, floods, fire, rampant vegetation growth, acidification of marine waters and coastal erosion.

Just a small wake-up for the climate change deniers — and a clear warning preview that likely will go unheeded by Kauai officials who proceed to build a concrete path along the coast and allow homes to be constructed within flood zones and far too close to an ocean whose levels are rising.

But hey, we’re not totally clueless. We banned plastic bags with handles!

I thought I’d used my last one the other day, but then found one in the vegetable drawer holding some collard greens that were turning into slime. In my oblivious past, I would’ve tossed the whole mess into the trash, but since the bags are now scare, they’ve gained value, so I carefully washed it out for re-use, while wondering whether the water pumped by imported fossil fuel shipped thousands of miles across the ocean created more of an environmental impact than the bag I was trying to save.

So hard to say, and so many trade-offs to be weighed, like whether it’s worth it to dam the Wailua River to generate electricity. KIUC is pushing the project by saying that it’s needed to wean us off oil. But as I shivered my way through frigid Foodland on an already chilly afternoon, I wondered whether we might not focus on conservation instead.

I mean, just who and exactly what are we generating all this electricity for? The super-duper laser project at PMRF? The lavish mansions on the North Shore, with their multiple Sub-zero refrigerators and landscape ponds that require the constant use of pumps? A friend was telling me of how actor Johnny Depp kept the AC cranked down so low when staying in one of those Kauapea Road ag land resorts last summer that the pipes were sweating in the walls and water was flowing off the slab, requiring extensive and expensive repairs.

But never mind. The movie industry and military, which are all about waste, pump millions into the economy. So their wastefulness is to be overlooked, ignored, forgiven.

As for the rest of us, shut up and wash out your plastic bags. That is, if you’re so politically incorrect as to still have some — and craven enough to still want some.


Anonymous said...

Those bags now replace peanuts when shipping stuff over here from the mainland.

Anonymous said...

It must be exhausting when every minor task is so fraught with such weighty political import and raises an endless deluge of choices among lesser evils.

Landscaping ponds from irrigation ditches don't require pumps, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Must be the trickling fountain from the statue of Venus.

Anonymous said...

What's the connection between Kauai's concrete coastal path and climate change deniers? If I have to appear clueless, mahalo for letting me remain anonymous! ;-)

Joan Conrow said...

The connection I meant to draw in that sentence was between the concrete coastal path and what's to come with climate change: rising sea levels, more intense storms and increased coastal erosion, all of which put the path at risk.

Anonymous said...

I had an idea on the brief mention of the civil union matter. I think it's time for the formation of a GLBT church. Then the matter could be transferred from civil rights, where it continues to have trouble gaining traction, to religious freedom where the far right would have more trouble complaining.

The battle could still rage, but arguments between religions on their disparate ideologies don't generally consume time and column space in the media. And perhaps then gay marriages done by gay clergy could be fully respected by the law rather than giving it a token of legitimacy with a permit from the Department of Health.

Hamp said...

To the previous commenter, there already are Gay/Lesbian churches and synogogues as well as churches of several denominations that perform committment ceremonies and would perform gay marriages. This means nothing to the fundamentalists opposing same-sex marriage. Their churches wouldn't have to perform same-sex unions just as their members would not be forced into same-sex marriages, nor would their children or anyone else. They want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else.