Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Musings: Collective Wisdom

Venus and a crescent moon made fleeting appearances on this cloudy, damp day when the dogs and I were accompanied on our walk, as we sometimes are, by a solitary shama thrush. Hopping and flitting, it led the way, always careful to remain about 15 feet ahead, until it eventually flew off, leaving us with a song. Was it escorting us through its territory, or simply being interactive, the way shama often are in the garden?

I've reconciled myself to the fact that there are some things I will probably never know.

Still, I did learn two interesting bits of information recently. One came from a neighbor, who told me if you're raising pigs, you always want to have two, because solo pigs have a tendency to become picky eaters. But if you have a pair, they get jealous, which makes them greedy, so they eat heartily and “come more nice,” she explained. “That's how my mother taught me and it's true.”

And I wondered what will happen to us, as a society, especially a society that has recently started speaking in earnest about topics like sustainability and food self-sufficiency, when the collective wisdom of people like my neighbor, who have spent a lifetime raising animals and food, is lost. Because it's not being passed down, as it traditionally has been, from parent to child.

As Farmer Jerry often tells me, “We've lost an entire generation of farmers.”

Then there is new information, which is disseminated but not heeded, like the little tidbit I gleaned from Dolan Eversole, a UH Sea Grant coastal hazards specialist, in his remarks at last Friday's special Council meeting on the decision to put the concrete Path along Wailua Beach.

He had been asked, by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, how global warming might affect the risk of erosion at Wailua Beach, and he replied that scientists aren't yet certain exactly how that will play out, especially in Hawaii. Still, published scientific studies do show that for each 1 foot of sea level rise, we might reasonably anticipate 100 feet of erosion horizontally, or inland.

So if we're expecting 1 foot of sea level rise by 2050, we might generally expect 100 feet of [shoreline] position change,” Dolan said.

As I've traveled around the windward side in recent days, gone to various beaches, driven through Wailua, I've thought often of how dramatically this coastline will be altered by erosion extending in 100 feet. Because despite what the deniers say, sea level rise is already under way. It's happening now. What we don't know yet is how high, and how fast.

Each new scientific report seems to move up the date, and the collective wisdom of scientists I interviewed for a Honolulu Weekly article  is that the changes likely will accelerate once the cumulative impacts come into play. They're only now starting to assess the synergistic effects of climate change, and work that data into their models.

Ironically, some of the scientists and state planning director Jesse Souki lauded Kauai County for its shoreline setback bill, which they viewed as a sensible, pragmatic, even pioneering approach to climate change by ensuring that structures aren't built too close to the coast.

Except, it turns out, a $1.9 million stretch of concrete path along the already eroding Wailua Beach. Which we are apparently proceeding with not because it makes sense, or enjoys widespread public support, but because it will cost too much to back out now.

So when I hear people talking about how the Wailua section of the Path — indeed, the entire Path — will be enjoyed by people for generations to come, and that our “leaders” will be congratulated for their foresight and vision in ringing the coast with concrete, I just kind of shake my head and laugh.


Anonymous said...

Yep Joan you got that right. It annoys me that Joann and Tim are hell bent on pushing that thru. Joann who is suppose to be our environmental voice on the council. They hear only what suits their agenda. Screw the kanaka for which Wailua was the center of our chiefly government. Why in the world they don't address the decaying eyesore that was once Coco Palms? Again, catering to developers and the hotel industry. As a compromise, they should condemn it and give back to kanaka in exchange for that stupid path.

Andy Parx said...

Watching the meeting I found it distressing that Eversole, Ruby Pap and Chip Fletcher (who was absent but apparently concurred) all seemed to downplay any possible permanent changes in Wailua due to climate change. Rather they seemed to have a "don't worry, the beach will come back to historical levels" attitude. The "100 to 1" was never adequately explained to viewers in terms of saying one foot of sea level rise means the ocean will be 100 feet inland. In other words, assuming the changes in Wailua are the result of climate change and are sort of permanent, when sea level goes up another foot the ocean will be breaking in the lobby of Coco Palms.

Anonymous said...

Is it any surprise that county officials waste huge sums of taxpayer $ on the path? They themselves are exorbitantly overpaid.

Anonymous said...

Ruby and Dolan were pathetic to watch. The conclusion that constructing the path in the erosion zone is scientifically supported is laughable.
Worthless dribble out of their mouths.

Anonymous said...

so we pay "experts" from elsewhere that neva saw Wailua Beach through the years try tell us it is accreting, when it is plain in your face that the beach is gone. More Bull

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of silly nonsense. Can you please find something other than a unlikely sea rise to explain Wailua's demise (and recent accretion)? I was raised near this beach. This is plain haole BS.

Anonymous said...

If you think sea level rise is haole BS I suggest you talk to the Pacific Islanders who are currently experiencing it.

Anonymous said...

January 9, 2013 6:46 AM
Find me one.
Kauai and Oahu are actually rising as they drift from the depressed seabed of the hot spot that created Hawaii. I find it interesting how many experts on radical BS we have here. It is like net.

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief, the anti path weirdos are out in force again.

The path is the most heavily used recreational facility on the island. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than that money pit golf course and lets not get started on all those perfectly manicured ball parks that sit idle 90+% of the time.

If the sea takes the path, the highway is toast too .....

Anonymous said...

8:50 p.m. "Find me one."

The Marshall Islands, specifically Namdrik Atoll, and the Solomon Islands.

As for Oahu and Kauai "rising," that is happening over thousands of years. Sea level rise is much faster.

But go ahead and keep your head in the sand, or up your okole. same same.

9:58 -- You are the ill-informed weirdo. Way more people use the parks than the Path. You must not have any kids that play sports.

Anonymous said...

When National Geographic started sounding the alarm, you know it's serious.


Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.

Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth's surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat.

The rise in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by this ongoing global climate change:

Thermal expansion: When water heats up, it expands. About half of the past century's rise in sea level is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.

Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps: Large ice formations, like glaciers and the polar ice caps, naturally melt back a bit each summer. But in the winter, snows, made primarily from evaporated seawater, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting. Recently, though, persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater-than-average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs. This imbalance results in a significant net gain in runoff versus evaporation for the ocean, causing sea levels to rise.

Ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica: As with glaciers and the ice caps, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated pace. Scientists also believe meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland's and West Antarctica's ice sheets, effectively lubricating ice streams and causing them to move more quickly into the sea. Moreover, higher sea temperatures are causing the massive ice shelves that extend out from Antarctica to melt from below, weaken, and break off.


When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats. As seawater reaches farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, flooding of wetlands, contamination of aquifers and agricultural soils, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

When large storms hit land, higher sea levels mean bigger, more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path.

In addition, hundreds of millions of people live in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Higher sea levels would force them to abandon their homes and relocate. Low-lying islands could be submerged completely.

How High Will It Go?

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London and Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

That recreational path serves the Kapaa area. People on the rest of the island don't drive there to use the path. To say its the most heavily used recreational facility is a stretch. County/state beach parks and sporting facilities get way more usage over the year. For those climate change deniers, get your head out of the sand that will be covering your bloody path in a short matter of time. All that money down the shit hole. That's what our County does best...waste money. Who needs a concrete path for excercise anyway. Running on sand is better for you and gives a better work out than some manmade path.