Walking on the mountain trail, ground wet from last night's rain, air sweet with the smell of fermenting guava, Koko happily following pig scents, Paele at my heels, where he usually is, we reach a high spot just in time to see the sun rising like a jack o'lantern from a cloud bank hovering over the sea. The fern-cloaked pali lights up, pale green, draped in strands of pink that pour off the back of Waialale like waterfalls plunging into a stream.
In the front of my mind, thrilling me, is the news that Alice Munro, my favorite writer, has won the Nobel prize for literature. I have read everything she's ever published, some of it more than once, awed always by her ability to perfectly portray the human shadow side, without graphic violence or gratuitous sex, but instead through a masterful recounting of our inner lives. She has been my inspiration to write honestly, and from the heart.
In the back of my mind is the news — poorly covered in Hawaii, though it originated here and will impact the tropics first — that we are pushing the Earth quickly toward unprecedented high temperatures.
The Star-Advertiser, which has pretty much ignored climate change and its impacts on the Islands — perhaps because it doesn't compliment our tourist-dependent economy — published a weak compilation of wire reports under the banal headline, “say aloha to balmy weather.”
And in typical Honolulu-centric style, it's as if the rest of the archipelago doesn't even exist:
In 2043, Honolulu will probably be off-the-charts hot — permanently. Oahu’s residents and its unique, fragile ecosystem will likely enter a scorching new reality with grave impacts to the natural environment.
But Forget the Star-Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times did a much better job of covering the story than our local media, as did The Independent:
“The results shocked us. Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming sooner. Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past,” said Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature. “On average, the tropics will experience unprecedented climate [change] 16 years earlier than the rest of the world, starting as early as 2020,” Dr Mora said.
What that means is our already imperiled native species and coral reefs will find it even harder to survive. Because when you live on an island, there's no place else to go.
“This work demonstrates that we are pushing the ecosystems of the world out of the environment in which they evolved into wholly new conditions that they may not be able to cope with,” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California.
“Extinctions are likely to result. Some ecosystems may be able to adapt, but for others, such as coral reefs, complete loss of not only individual species but their entire integrity is likely,” Dr Caldeira said.
But with everything dark, there's a bright side: All of our angst over monk seals, vacation rentals, tourism, biotech — heck, the future of agriculture period — may soon be moot as we grapple with sheer survival.