Water 1

Hawaii’s Fresh Water Future: the essence of life

Any sustainability conversation must include water, and all of its forms and uses.  Taking this vital resource for granted has serious consequences for the future of Hawaii and its livability.  As Dr. Richard Bennett explains, “…water is the essence of life and the media upon which our world and communities are entirely dependent.”

With a focus on Hawaii Island, the authors sum things up this way… Hawaiʻi Island has a long history of drought episodes.  We have dealt with these short-term events with various site-specific mitigations, however, any changes in how water is managed, allocated, and used, remain elusive and are often controversial.

BeyondKona is pleased to present Richard H. Bennett Ph.D. and Rhiannon R. Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao, Esq. of Waiwai Ola ʻOhana, and their analysis of all things water for Hawaii…

Adding to the County of Hawaii’s Sustainability Conversation:  Water, Law, and Policy

This paper advocates for a comprehensive approach to water use policy for Hawai‘i Island.

Water resource and use policies are scattered among several county departments and agencies without requiring the policies to be congruent or coordinated.

When we discuss sustainability, we look out into our future and ask what must be sustained if the natural world, our lives, and our economy will thrive without significant external inputs of money, energy, and resources.

Any sustainability conversation must include water and all of its forms and uses. Water is the essence of life and the media upon which our world and communities are entirely dependent.

This article is a conversation starter for a more comprehensive policy discussion of our water resources, no matter the source.

Changing Climate:  There is an international scientific consensus that our climate is changing rapidly.  The changes are attributed to human activities that have added insulating gases to the earthʻs atmosphere.  How this change will impact specific locations is a matter of considerable scientific uncertainty. However, the recent historical record for Hawai‘i portends significant rainfall declines coincident with sea-level rise.

Many authors stress the issue of water resource sustainability, notably:  “Given that approximately 70% of the annual rainfall happens during the wet season, Hawaiʻi is expected to face an overall reduction in annual rainfall leading to a decline in sustainability of groundwater recharge” (Burnett and Wada, 2014).

Rainfall for the state has declined about 14% overall.

Confounding this observation are drier and wetter trends for specific communities on all islands.   Hawai’i Island’s leeward or Kona side appears to be drier than any statewide trend may suggest.  Wisdom and prudence declare that we must assume the worst-case scenario and plan accordingly.  We will be pleasantly surprised should heavier rainfall occur from year to year.  In contrast, being shocked and unprepared when protracted drought occurs might inspire emergency restrictions that serve only as band-aids.

Fresh Water:  Our water reservoir is a finite underground bubble that floats on the more dense seawater saturating the fractured rock beneath the island.  This bubble or lens is rainfall and dew dependent.   There is no underground river of fresh water that flows underground, as occurs in some states and aquifers of the mainland.

Our rainfall dependency is also confounded by the time of a rain event until that water joins the lens.   Unlike a lake reservoir, this latency of the water volume can make effective water use planning difficult and provide an illusion of water abundance. This raises the question of how best to determine the sustainable yield and limits of our water resource.

Home Water Use:  There are many options for reducing in-home water use.  Most of these are structural, such as low flow fixtures and appliances.

The most significant use of water in the home is landscape irrigation.   Plant species selection and effective irrigation management can save 30-50% of the water used outside the home. The Board of Water Supply for the City and County of Honolulu states that with the proper choices, a homeowner can save 30 to 50% of the water used on landscaping (2021 Board of Water Supply, City and County of Honolulu). This option conserves water, reduces the family water bill, and addresses multiple crucial sustainability issues.

Irrigation water conservation programs must be an essential component of any sustainability effort for Hawaii.   Water conserved for other domestic demands will be far less expensive than increasing pumping capacity, and the energy to drive that capacity, for additional water.

Home Water Use.Redirecting the best quality wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines can replace 30 to 40% of the water needs for landscaping. Many nations and communities in the arid parts of the world reuse water by necessity and mandate.

The challenge for Hawaii County is how best to achieve sustainable policies and water conservation education.  The Department of Water Supply is not noted for progressive water conservation policies or effective public education. A change in policy and programmatic efforts will likely require enlightened leadership and engagement from the Mayor Roth and the County Council to effect significant water conservation measures. However, the most significant impediments to greywater reuse are state and local regulations that are onerous, out-of-date and not science-based, and, in some cases, make greywater reuse illegal.

Wastewater Reuse:  Hawai‘i Island has several wastewater treatment plants.  Some are public; most are private.  By statute, our communities may have a typical sewer system into which all wastewater is combined.  Toilet water is mixed with sink, shower, and laundry water, and as such, it all becomes “Black Water.”  This water must be treated to reduce its pollutant loads and disinfected to reduce the prevalence of presumptive disease-causing microbes.  This treatment process is expensive to construct and operate.   The proper disposal of the treated wastewater is costly and especially problematic for an island in which sewer connections are more the exception than the norm.

Water inexorably flows downhill to the sea.   On the Hilo side, about 212 rivers and streams flow continuously, allowing people to see the hydrologic cycle in action.  The Wailuku River in Hilo is a dramatic example.  Its watershed is a vast mountainside.  Heavy rains create a torrent of brown water carrying dirt and fine sediments into Hilo Bay.  Less apparent are the urban drainages of the Waiākea and Wailoa rivers.  A drive through Hilo town reveals many storm drains and gutters that convey street rain runoff to these rivers and the bay.

Kona Estruary

In figure 3, Kona’s Subterranean Estuary is depicted as a model of the water flowing from land-to-sea.

There is only one storm water channel in the Kona area that drains Holualoa mauka.  Most rainfall runoff migrates underground and joins the subterranean estuary that flows under the entire Kona plain.

University of Hawaiʻi hydrologists suggest the brackish ground water flows into the sea at the rate of about 2.5 million gallons per mile of coastline, per day (Peterson 2009).

As apparent in this illustration,  all water eventually flows into the sea.  In some cases by design, and others by default, as is the case with Hawaii Island’s wastewater plant injection wells.  In both situations, the law requires all such disposal to be subject to disposal permit requirements to ensure that the nearshore waters are not impaired.

Kealakeke Wasterwater Plant North KonaThe wastewater of the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant is a glaring example of water resource mismanagement and nearshore pollution.  For over 20 years about 1.8 million gallons a day of partially treated wastewater is dumped in a pit 0.7 of a mile from Honokohau Harbor.   At least ten scientific studies document how this water flows seaward, in our subterranean estuary, polluting the harbor and the ocean.   A plan that was funded by the EPA in 1993 required the reuse of the water for irrigation.

Over 20+ years, 13 billion gallons of wastewater were indirectly dumped into the sea while government agencies looked the other way.   The water could be used today to irrigate the recreation areas at the Old Airport.  Our limited freshwater is used instead in what is nothing more than multi-agency myopia.

Water Policy:  The sustainability of our water resources is the kingpin for just about every other sustainability issue.  The County of Hawaii and the DWS (water department) must coalesce to implement a whole range of sustainable water policies and practices.  Without ample high-quality water for all, at affordable prices, sustainability becomes moot.  It is time to become proactive, pick the can up and fix these problems, rather than continue to kick the can down the road of climate resiliency.

In aggregate, storm water runoff and cesspool leachate are the most significant pollutant loads that impair the coastal ecosystem. We must also redesign our communities to manage these waters effectively. Thinking outside the box is not enough. The box itself must be redesigned.

Public Trust:  Article XI, section 1 of Hawai‘i’s Constitution establishes that “all public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people,” and Article XI, section 7 of Hawai‘i’s Constitution specifically references water and includes the directive “to protect, control, and regulate the use of Hawai‘i’s water resources for the benefit of its people.”  Article XI, section 7 also establishes the State Commission on Water Resource Management (Water Commission), which is currently housed within the Department of Land and Natural Resources.   As provided in our State Constitution, all of the state’s resources shall be managed in the “Public Trust.”

Today, “the people of [Hawaii] have elevated the public trust doctrine to the level of a constitutional mandate.”[1]  Pursuant to the Constitution, Water Code, and common law, the “state water resources trust” applies to “all water resources without exception or distinction.

[1] Waiāhole I, 94 Hawai‘i 97, 131, 9 P.3d 409, 443 (2000).

The counties and the legislature have largely ignored this doctrine while enacting its business.  Embracing this “Trust” will carry us effectively toward a sustainable future.

Sustainability means designing the future from the future, and nothing is more important than water.  This is the place to begin.

Eo Wilson

Edward O Wilson; the real Ant Man

…his insights will be missed

Edward O Wilson, a US naturalist known to some as the “modern-day Darwin”, died on Sunday at the age of 92 in Massachusetts.  Alongside the British naturalist David Attenborough, Wilson was considered one of the world’s leading authorities on natural history and conservation.

Wilson had warned many times that humans can not continue to use the land and resources of the planet absent of environmental and social consequences. 

The insightful  biologist was caught up in controversies at times during his career. Nevertheless, he warned that “we live in a delusional state” if we do not understand the burden that the western way of life imposes on Earth. A warning that rings true, especially as the consequences of human-induced climate change continue to increase.

Plos wilson.jpgWilson has been called “the father of sociobiology” and “the father of biodiversity” for his environmental advocacy. Among his contributions to ecological theory is the theory of island biogeography (developed in collaboration with the mathematical ecologist Robert MacArthur), and has served as the foundation for conservation area design, as well as the unifying theory of biodiversity of Stephen P. Hubbell.

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”  E.O. Wilson

Wilson came to think of nature as his favorite companion and spent hours prowling forests, streams and swamps, observing wildlife. A childhood fishing accident left his vision so impaired that he could not observe larger animals from a distance. Instead, he concentrated on smaller creatures, and foremost, ants. Wilson’s studies and findings revealed how nature’s smallest of creatures exist, and how their social hierarchy resembled humans in some ways, but also greatly differed in other ways, especially in living in balance with their natural environment.

There are thousands of different species of ant, no one is sure since most of them are unknown to science, and perhaps a hundred million billion of the creatures are alive at any one time living in colonies of elegant social complexity.  Humanity still has lessons to learn from Earth’s smallest of creatures, and one outstanding lesson is working together to ensure the survival of the colony.

Yellow Tang

Hawaii’s Reef Fish – Wanted Dead or Alive

Breaking News Update – July 13th

A coalition of conservation groups, Native Hawaiian fishers, and cultural practitioners took legal action today to require the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources to protect West Hawai‘i’s reefs and coastal areas from commercial extraction of fish and other wildlife for the aquarium pet trade. 

In the complaint filed on their behalf by Earthjustice, the coalition is challenging the Board’s failure to reject the latest environmental impact statement submitted by trade representatives, which the group says violates state environmental protection laws.

In the past decade science finally caught up with what many divers and avid snorkelers already knew, that Hawaii’s reef fish play a vital role in the health of state’s reef system.

A pair of two yearlong studies by University of Georgia and Florida International University show that reef fish contribute more nutrients to their local ecosystems than any other source; enough to cause changes in the growth rates of the organisms at the base of the food web.

That contribution to the health of near shore marine ecosystem is dependent on a diverse and robust fish population, but is presently threatened by multiple stressors, e.g., climate-driven bleaching events, coral acidification, over fishing and other human impacts.

Coral reefs are important ecosystems where up to 8,000 species of fish live.

These reefs provide many services to humans. For instance, they protect shores against large waves and provide a food source for the fish humans eat, but most of all represent both irreplaceable environmental and economic assets to Hawaii..

Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystem, because of its isolation, has more than 1,250 unique species of marine life that can be found only on Hawaii’s reefs. Hawaii’s reef fish the ecosystem of which they a vital role are endangered by multiple 21st century stressors ranging from global heating impacts to manmade mismanagement — the latter most recent example is BLNR, and its enforcement arm DLNR, in their duty to protect Hawaii marine environment assets, beginning with native reef fish.

The Hawaiian Islands have 410,000 acres of living reef in the main islands alone, more than the landmass of Oahu, and for the fish extraction trade in aquarium trade is mostly off limits, except of Hawaii Island’s West Coast reefs — a policy formulated by Oahu-based bureaucrats.

The Oahu based state board that governs certain decision making processes over the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), in a tie decision left open the possibility of legally admitting the Aquarium trade back in to business in West Hawaii.

With one Board member absent, this resulted in a 3-3 “no decision” tie vote. The Hawaiʻi state environmental review law dictates that a tie vote is automatically deemed as accepted after 30 days, July 8th in this instance.

In such cases when environmental resources along with traditional and customary Hawaiian rights and practices are considered, and where uncertainty exists, it can be legally argued that the state’s duty (the DAR, DLNR, and BLNR) in executing their duty as a public trustee, includes public resource protection.

If the board’s tie decision and default to proceed if legally challenge, it is likely the plaintiffs will argue the inadequacy of the trade’s EIS report submission.  The Hawaii branch of the Sierra Club and or perhaps the Hawaii-Pacific division of EarthJustice will be up to the public defense of this misguided agency decision, which allows the return of an  unwarranted extraction trade of Hawaii Island reef fish and the corresponding impact from that extraction to the island’s marine ecosystem.

The aquarium trade applicants’ preferred alternative would allow seven permitted fish extractors to collect only yellow tang, kole, orangespine unicornfish, potter’s angelfish, brown surgeonfish Thompson’s surgeonfish, black surgeonfish and bird wrasse within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area (WHRFMA), which spans nearly the entire coastline of West Hawaii Island.

Yellow Tang


Kole Tang

Kole Tang







Orangespine Unicornfish                                               

Orangesoine Unicorn

Potter’s Anglefish

Potter's Anglefish

Brown Surgeonfish

Brown Surgonfish

Thomson’s Surgeonfish

Thompson's Surgeonfish

Black Surgeonfish

Black Surgeonfish

and last, but not least … 

Bird Wassel

Bird Wrasse

A special thanks to Robert Culbertson of Reef Keepers for his contribution to this article.














Bees 2

Loss of bees causes shortage of key food crops

Hawaii agriculture potential, and its growth and diversification in order to address home grown food security and sustainability, may be threatened by a loss of  worldwide loss of pollinating bees.  Bees

 New research appears to confirms earlier scientific findings that pollinating bees are on the decline worldwide.

  • Bees affected by loss of habitat, pesticides and climate crisis

A total of 131 crop fields were surveyed for bee activity and crop abundance by a coalition of scientists from the US, Canada and Sweden.

Species of wild bees, such as bumblebees, are suffering from a loss of flowering habitat, the use of toxic pesticides and, increasingly, the climate crisis.

A lack of bees in agricultural areas is limiting the supply of some food crops, a new US-based study has found, suggesting that declines in the pollinators may have serious ramifications for global food security.

Managed honeybees, meanwhile, are tended to by beekeepers, but have still been assailed by disease, leading to concerns that the three-quarters of the world’s food crops dependent upon pollinators could falter due to a lack of bees.

Of seven studied crops grown in 13 states across America, five showed evidence that a lack of bees is hampering the amount of food that can be grown, including apples, blueberries and cherries.

The researchers found that wild native bees contributed a surprisingly large portion of the pollination despite operating in intensively farmed areas largely denuded of the vegetation that supports them.

Wild bees are often more effective pollinators than honeybees but research has shown several species are in sharp decline.

The rusty patched bumblebee, for example, was the first bee to be placed on the US endangered species list in 2017 after suffering an 87% slump in the previous two decades.

Swaths of American agriculture is propped up by honeybees, frantically replicated and shifted around the country in hives in order to meet a growing need for crop pollination.

The US is at the forefront of divergent trends that are being replicated elsewhere in the world – as farming becomes more intensive to churn out greater volumes to feed a growing global population, tactics such as flattening wildflower meadows, spraying large amounts of insecticide and planting monocultural fields of single crops are damaging the bee populations crucial for crop pollination.

The research recommends that farmers gain a better understanding of the optimal amount of pollination needed to boost crop yields, as well as review whether the level of pesticide and fertilizer put on to fields is appropriate.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the amount of crop production dependent upon insect and other pollinators has increased 300% over the past 50 years. Pollination shortfalls could cause certain fruit and vegetables to become rarer and more expensive, triggering nutritional deficits in diets. Staple foods such as rice, wheat and corn won’t be affected, however, as they are pollinated via the wind.

“The crops that got more bees got significantly more crop production,” said Rachael Winfree, an ecologist and pollination expert at Rutgers University who was a senior author of the paper, published by the Royal Society.

“The trends we are seeing now are setting us up for food security problems,” Winfree said. “We aren’t yet in a complete crisis now but the trends aren’t going in the right direction.  Our study shows this isn’t a problem for 10 or 20 years from now – it’s happening right now.”

The Great Realisation

A post-pandemic bedtime tale that has captured the hearts of millions

The Great Real 2Tomos Roberts, London based filmmaker, released on YouTube, “The Great Realisation”.  It has been viewed tens of millions of times, and since translated independently into multiple languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian.

Set in an unspecified future, the poem looks back on pre-pandemic life and imagines a “great realization” sparked by COVID-19.

Roberts tells his viewers about pre-pandemic life — “a world of waste and wonder, of poverty and plenty” — that falls apart when the virus hits, and yet in the end initiates something better: a society in which people are kinder and more mindful, and spend more time outdoors and with their families than on screens or at the office.

It’s a simple rhyming tale which takes on heavy themes — corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic — and somehow comes up with a happy ending.

Watch and listen: https://youtu.be/Nw5KQMXDiM4

Tomos Roberts: I kept hearing people say, “I hope things go back to normal.” And I thought, wouldn’t it be even better if instead of going back to normal it went to something that was even better than before? I think that would be infinitely more interesting.

Editorial — Pandemics, Pollution, and Politics


Three-quarters of new or emerging diseases that infect humans originate in animals, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it is human activity that multiplies the risks of contagion.

Humanity’s “promiscuous treatment of nature” needs to change or there will be more deadly pandemics such as Covid-19, warn scientists who have analysed the link between viruses, wildlife and habitat destruction.

Deforestation and other forms of land conversion are driving exotic species out of their evolutionary niches and into manmade environments, where they interact and breed new strains of disease, the experts say.

Roger Frutos, a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier, said multiple studies have confirmed the density and variety of bat-borne viruses is higher near human habitation.

“Humans destroy the bats’ natural environment and then we offer them alternatives. Some adapt to an anthropomorphised environment, in which different species cross that would not cross in the wild,” he said.

Habitat destruction is an essential condition for the proliferation of a new virus, he added, but it is only one of several factors. Bats also need to pass the disease on to humans. There is no evidence of this being done directly for coronaviruses. Until now there has been an intermediary – either a domesticated animal or a wild animal which humans came into contact with for food, trade, pets or medicine.

In the 2003 Sars outbreak in China, it was a civet cat. In the Mers outbreak in the Middle East in 2012, it was a camel. Scientists have detected about 3,200 different strains of coronavirus in bats. Most are harmless to humans, but two very closely related sarbe-coviruses found in east Asia were responsible for Sars and Covid-19. The paper says future sarbecovirus emergence will certainly take place in east Asia, but epidemics of other new diseases could be triggered elsewhere.

South America is a key area of concern due to the rapid clearance of the Amazon and other forests. Scientists in Brazil have found viral prevalence was 9.3% among bats near deforested sites, compared to 3.7% in pristine woodland. “With deforestation and land-use change, you open a door,” said Alessandra Nava, of the Manaus-based Biobank research centre.


A Harvard University study has linked dirty and polluted air to the worst coronavirus outcomes, and it has quickly become a political football in Washington.  Presidential candidates, agency regulators, oil lobbyists and members of Congress from both parties are using the preliminary research to advance their own political priorities — well before it has a chance to be peer-reviewed.

The stakes are high because the study’s tentative findings could prove enormously consequential for both the pandemic’s impact and the global debate over curbing air pollution. The researchers found that pollution emanating from everything from industrial smokestacks to household chimneys is making the worst pandemic in a century even more deadly.

The consequences and public health costs of Air Pollution before COVID-19, associated with elevated exposure to NO2 …

  • Hypertension,
  • Heart and cardiovascular diseases,
  • Increased rate of hospitalization,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Significant deficits in growth of lung function in children,
  • Poor lung function in adults or lung injury and
  • Diabetes

A second and collaborating European study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may be “one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus” around the world.

The study looked at COVID-19 fatalities in four of the countries that have been hit hardest by the virus – Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It found that 78% of deaths had occurred in just five regions in northern Italy and Spain.

These regions, the report notes, have the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant harmful to human respiratory systems, while their geography means these areas also suffer from downward air pressure, which can prevent the dispersal of airborne pollutants.

Trump administrations environmental rollbacks will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

As economies across the world are halted and millions of people abide by stay-at-home orders in the effort to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19, many are observing similar unintended consequences: cleaner air and water in some of the most polluted cities on earth.

  • Impacts of the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) could contribute to a near 8% drop in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Global energy demand is expected to drop 6% this year, due to both the coronavirus and to countries seeing warmer-than-average winters. That 6% decline is seven times higher than the drop brought by the 2008 financial crisis. Alongside that decline in energy demand, IEA predicted demand for coal could fall by 8%, while oil will also see a downturn. But renewable energy sources may see an uptick in demand.
  • IEA said emissions are likely to rise again once economies reopen and recover, unless countries try to invest in clean energy and renewables. In a tweet, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol called for “structural emissions reductions.”

If you lived through the Nixon years you may have thought you’ve seen it all.  From enemy lists to break-ins. But this current administration has demonstrated there is no limit to massive abuses of power and privilege.

The 21st century Republican party and its leadership, culminating in the actions and events leading to Trump’s impeachment, without consequences, and the obstruction of evidence in due process, speaks to the current system of governance which has broken the checks and balances within the Federal government.

Since assuming power, the Trump Administration has, and is, reversing nearly 100 environmental rules designed to protect the public health and the environment.

Epa Reversals

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas, limiting wildlife protections, and in policy partnership with the EPA, eliminating air and water pollution rules and protections.

The GOP controlled White House and Senate has taken gerrymandering, court stacking, influence peddling and profiting to a whole new level.

Unlike the days of Nixon, Trump and his party have a nation media empire which not only has their backs, but engages daily in misdirection and conspiracy theories and serves as a state propaganda machine the envy of even Russia’s state run media.

In U.S. cable and digital media markets, specifically, that’s influence which translates into effective mind control of the 30% of the population — (their) truth without facts, science as fiction, and serves as a policy feed-back loop for the President of the United States who gets his daily briefings from Fox, not the nation’s intelligence community.

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

None of this will change until the GOP leadership is standing in the unemployment line come this November.

Ocean Heating Graph2

A Long Hot Summer is Over – Or Is It?

As the days wore on and spring became summer, Hawaii’s air temperatures stayed high, breaking daily records in the 90’s, island-by island, and across the state. Mid-October temperatures continue to set record highs, and the shorter solar days of fall have thus far mostly failed to fully delivery fall’s cooler temperatures — is this the new climate norm?

Hawaii’s higher temperatures are beginning to match what is happening in other climate regions around the world today.  Global higher temperatures, a by-product of rising global CO2 emissions, also delivered a devastating blow to Hawaii with a 2015 super-charged coral bleaching event that wiped out nearly 90% of West Hawaii’s coral (comprised primarily of the Pocilloporidae family) and created doubts as to if West Hawaii’s reef would ever recover.

Hopeful signs of some recovery were reported in a West Hawaii Today article last year.  It painted a highly optimistic outlook for coral recovery.  Divers and snorkelers reported sightings of “baby” coral sprouting up within areas of Hawaii Island’s reef system.

This spring, Hawaii’s waters resumed their seasonal heating.  This fall, preliminary observations of last year’s reported coral recovery were being replaced by an acknowledgement that “there are further signs of bleaching and coral death”, with the statements of a coral recovery now silent.  Young Coral Die Off North Kona

How are our local reefs fairing in these new higher temperature norms?

What has and is being observed in our local ocean are random and limited areas of new coral growth, once healthy, now being observed as baby coral turning an unnatural bright pink, and other young corals freshly bleach white – a total absence of color.

This fall (2019) researchers observed and recorded in the West the hardy Porites Lobata — the mostly survivable and heat tolerant coral, aka smooth yellow and purple corals, these too now are beginning to show signs of abnormal stress.

These are signs of a dead and dying coral reef — signs of the changes to a local marine environment that is worth more than all Hawaii Island’s west side hotels.

Overall, Earth’s oceans are becoming hotter, more acidic, and less oxygenated.

All these trends will continue through the end of the century, the IPCC (UN) reported.  For more than the past 150 years, and since the industrial revolution, concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have increased in sync with a growing global energy dependency on burning of fossil fuels.  Translated, we humans created a climate heating problem for local and global fisheries and marine ecosystems, and we are ignoring the opportunities to course-correct at our own peril.

The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of all CO2 released into the atmosphere, and as levels of atmospheric CO2 increase so does the water level of the ocean.  With oceans absorbing about 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere a day, seas have already become warmer and 30 per cent more acidic over the past two centuries.

Ocean acidification is affecting the entire world’s oceans, including coastal estuaries and waterways. Many economies are dependent on fish and shellfish and people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein — NOAA.)  Changes in ocean chemistry is affecting the behavior of non-calcifying organisms. Certain fish’s ability to detect predators is decreased in more acidic waters. When these organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk.

Shell-forming creatures from oysters to types of plankton are increasingly at risk from the changes, which have been called the “evil twin” – acidification combined with  higher temperatures from climate change. Carbonate ions are an important building block of structures such as sea shells and coral skeletons. Decreases in carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton.

The climate crisis now unfolding in the world’s oceans and ice caps with outcomes is something we humans are only beginning to understand; e.g., melting permafrost venting massive amounts of methane, the acidification of ocean water, dwindling marine life at all levels, and last, but certainly not least, water temperatures on the rise are generating more intense storms with more costly storm surge impacts.  These rapidly developing cause and effect impacts no longer afford us all the luxury to deny, ignore, or forestall meaningful and needed corrective actions.

Hawaii we will find itself staring down a Cat 5 Hurricane in the not too distant future, and we are presently ill prepared for the consequences. But far worse is the need for urgent action to address the source-problem, significantly reducing and then eliminating global fossil fuel emissions (here, there, and everywhere).

A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC and its 193 member nations) concluded that “all people on Earth depend directly or indirectly on the ocean” (a fact we are most familiar with here in Hawaii), and that ice caps and glaciers regulate the climate and provide water and oxygen.

The IPCC report also finds unprecedented and dangerous changes being driven by global warming (heating), with sea level rise and coral bleaching at the top of the cause and effect list.

In fact sea level rise is no longer relegated to a future prediction but is now happening.   The sea level around Hilo Bay, Hawaii, has risen by 10 inches since 1950. Its speed of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by about 1 inch every 4 years… (sea level is measured every 6 minutes using equipment like satellites, floating buoys off the coast, and tidal gauges to accurately measure the local sea level as it accelerates and changes).

Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts within the next 20-30 years, no matter whether climate heating (fossil fuel) emissions are curbed or not, according the world’s scientists. We are now on the track of mitigation and preparedness, and not the full reversal of the global warming impacts already in the pipeline.


Noaa 2018 19 Coral Bleaching Graph

A general scientific consensus concludes: “The current biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

The IPCC climate data on sea level rise, projects a worst case scenario of more than 13 feet (4 meters)rise.  An outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people and our island state residents, economy, and environment which are now in the cross-hairs of an emerging climate crisis.

Far worse than these state-wide signs of warming impacts, would be to ignore, deny, or just talk story empty political platitudes.   All of the world’s scientific validation and warnings are useless if we fail to act meaningfully, and fail to effectively address what scientists are calling our current path to the “sixth global extinction”.




“Land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being, including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.”




Plastic Reef Bottle

Our Oceans are Drowning in Plastic

While Ocean drownings continue to be one of the leading causes of death in Hawai’i, the Pacific Ocean is also drowning… in plastic.

More than 11 billion items of plastic were found on a third of coral reefs surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region – and this figure is predicted to increase to more than 15 billion by just 2025.  Plastic contamination raises the risk of disease outbreaks on coral reefs by 20-fold, according to research..

“Plastic is one of the biggest threats to the ocean environment at the moment, I would say, apart from climate change,” said Dr Joleah Lamb of Cornell University in Ithaca, US.

“It’s sad how many pieces of plastic there are in the coral reefs …if we can start targeting those big polluters of plastic, hopefully we can start reducing the amount that is going on to these reefs.”

Plastic Beach TrashPlastic bags, bottles, plastic fishing gear and numerous other plastic containers are among the common items found floating in the ocean between Hawaii and West Coast and commonly associated with the so-called floating island or Great Garage Patch.

What is less obvious and not seen are microplastics particles, the tiny fragments left over when larger plastics break down. Most remarkably, the highest concentrations of microplastics were found between 650-1,000ft depth – four times more plastic than was found in samples at the surface. That’s on par, or higher, with quantities found at the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Last month a study was done in Monterey Bay, a marine sanctuary and haven for sea life including whales, otters and sharks. “We did not expect to find this much pollution at these depths,” says Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who co-authored the new paper. The implication: microplastics could be widespread – even concentrated – in the deep ocean around the world. “This is making us realize that the problem is far more extensive than we thought, and not constrained to the surface of the ocean.”

The Deep Blue

The prevalence of ocean pollution makes it more or less a certainty that every part of every island will be impacted by consumer plastics and marine debris to one degree or another. If what you can’t see can’t harm or help you, this may explain the public perception of the deep ocean as a far-off alien world is at odds with reality and ignores how much human society can affect it. “We rely on what happens on the deep sea every day,” says Choy. “It provides a lot of commerce, substance and protein, and it makes us think about how our day-to-day habits and activities impact the deep ocean.”

Anela Choy, is a biological oceanographer, and has been noticing something odd while studying the diets of tuna and other deep-diving fish. Though they lived at average depths of 1,000 feet, their stomachs routinely contained bottle caps, trash bags, and light sticks. “It was so strange,” says Choy, who works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. “We were seeing recognizable pieces of human society.”

Microplastic pollution has been found on almost every part of the planet, but the scientists say this is the first rigorous study of microplastics distribution at varying ocean depths. Plastic was thought to stick to the surface; Choy wanted to examine everything from the surface to the ocean floor (known as the “water column”) and see how the concentration of plastic changed as animals traveled up and down.

Plastic Pollution

Scientists carried out their research using unmanned submarines, and sampled water at two locations and at depths ranging from five to 1,000 meters. They also sampled two marine species – pelagic red crabs and giant larvaceans (tadpole-like creatures) – both of which are filter-feeders that move from the surface to the deep on a daily migration.

Microplastics were present in all the specimens’ digestive tracts. Most of it was PET, the type found in single-use bottles and food containers. Researchers also concluded that plastic particles had been in the ocean for a long time, and that the majority came from land sources rather than fishing gear.

Small animals such as those sampled, as well as ocean water patterns, may be part of the reason that buoyant plastic is reaching such depths, explains Choy. “There can be physical mechanisms like vertical mixing, wind, waves and biological mechanisms like an animal eating plastic at the surface and pooping it out at depth.” Meanwhile, the buildup of bacteria or tiny creatures on the plastic itself changes its buoyancy and weighs it down.

As animals move up and down, they circulate materials around the ocean. “The greatest migrations in Earth are not birds to the tropics,” says Van Houtan. “The largest are the vertical migrations in the ocean, as creatures travel up and down the water column, to the deep and back. That’s why we should be concerned about these findings.”

A Precious Resource not limited to Hawai’i

As an island population, Hawaii is part of the more than 275 million people who rely on coral reefs for food, coastal protection, tourism income, and cultural importance.

Beyond plastic pollution, coral reefs face many threats, including ongoing coral bleaching caused by global warming of the oceans and changes to the water chemistry due to CO2 loading into world’s oceans.  As a result, coral polyps loose algae from their tissues, which drains them of their color, something witnessed in Hawaii’s local reef system.

Coral may recover when climate-driven fluctuations heat and then cool water temperatures, but so far  coral recovery for some of West Hawaii’s reef system since the last major bleaching event of 2015 has been sporadic or too selective to indicate a wide scale recovery – which would be reversed within short time period of time with further warming which has already documented this summer. The trend towards warmer and warmer water and air temperatures is not encouraging for coral recovery  in what is normally a process measured in decades.

The waters off West Hawaii are no exception and are not exempt from dangerous pollutants, but plastics pose a much greater threat to the marine food chain.  Hawaii state officials, boat captains and residents have all noticed an apparent uptick in marine plastics and debris ranging from derelict fishing and cargo nets to consumer plastics all in West Hawaii waters.

Long-time commercial fisherman, claim that plastics and other trash are more or less constant 20-40 miles offshore. Where he’s noticed the increase in debris is at 1,000 fathoms, where nets are the primary problem, and what local fishermen referred to as the Ono Lane, located roughly 40-50 fathoms out from the shoreline.

Carried by the currents, the problematic presence of excess debris both in the water and on the shoreline has plagued Hawaii Island’s entire leeward coast.

In the study, published in the journal Science, international researchers surveyed more than 150 reefs from four countries in the Asia-Pacific region between 2011 and 2014.Plastic Pollution Graph Plastic was found on one-third of the coral reefs surveyed. Reefs near Indonesia were loaded with most plastic, while Australian reefs showed the lowest concentration. Thailand and Myanmar were in the middle.

Scientists have found in their studies big rice sacks or draping plastic bags smothering coral and especially corals with a lot of complexity like branches and finger-like corals that are eight times more likely to be entangled in these types of plastics. It’s thought that plastic advances diseases that prey on the marine invertebrates that enable coral reefs to flourish. Branching or finger-like forms of corals are most likely to get entangled in plastic debris.  These are important habitats for fish and fisheries, the scientists say.

In the case of diseases, organisms attack coral, leading to likely death. Previous research has found that plastic debris can stress coral through blocking out light and oxygen, thereby giving pathogens a chance to take hold.

Based on projections of plastic waste going into the ocean, the researchers suggest that the number of plastic items snagged on Asia-Pacific corals may increase from 11.1 billion to 15.7 billion plastic items by 2025.

More than three-quarters of this plastic is thought to originate on land, and so, the ocean is full of fish, and more recently in course of human history… garbage.


What to do with all that Plastic, look to India…

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Hawaii’s Endangered Coral Reefs Add Value

Coral Reefs Provide Flood Protection Worth $1.8 Billion Annually — Key Reasons Hawai’i Must Protect This State Asset

For anyone who visits or lives in Hawai’i, and who dives or snorkels Hawaii’s various island reefs, it’s obvious the reef has been in trouble for some time.   This has been especially true since the supercharged El Nino climate event of 2015-16, which hit the islands hard and precipitated a major coral die-off.  By some estimates, there now is a 90% loss of coral — especially hard hit is Hawaii Island’s west shoreline.

The once robust and dominant reef cover of Hawaii’s brain coral is now mostly dead, but with some recently reported isolated signs of minor recovery.<

2019 – outer reef wall off of Kakapa Bay, Hawaii Island

A new UN report released this week, compiled by hundreds of scientists from 50 countries, concluded that the Earth is losing species faster than at any other time in human history.  And, thanks to climate change, coastal development and the impacts of activities such as logging, farming and fishing, roughly 1 million plants and animals are now facing extinction.  The UN report calls for rapid action at every level, from local-to-global, to conserve nature and use these finite resources sustainably.

The report’s good news is that many ecosystems now at risk can (should) be protected, preserved, and can become sustainable contributors to the local economies dependent on these natural assets.

The biggest obstacle to investing in natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and reefs, is that experts until now have not figured out how to value the protection that these habitats provide in economic terms. But a new report published by the USGS addresses that problem by focusing on Hawaii’s and the planet’s most bio diverse ecosystems: coral reefs.

This USGS report shows that coral reefs in U.S. waters, from Florida and the Caribbean to Hawaii and Guam, provide our country with more than $1.8 billion dollars in flood protection benefits every year. They reduce direct flood damages to public and private property worth more than $800 million annually, and help avert other costs to lives and livelihoods worth an additional $1 billion. Valuing reef assets and their benefits to society is the first step towards mobilizing resources to protect them.

USGS estimates the value of reefs in terms of flood protection, but the agency fails to consider the environmental values and the economies of scale which are derived from Hawaii’s marine assets — more specifically, Hawaii’s tourism, fishing, and near shore marine food supply. 
Califlower Death Widespread Shallow Reef To Open Ocean]

Breaking Waves and Blocking Floods

In 2017, tropical storms alone did over $265 billion in damage across the nation.

Reefs act like submerged breakwaters. They “break” the force of waves and drain away their energy offshore, before flooding coastal properties and communities.

Man-made defenses, such as sea walls, can damage adjoining habitats and harm species that rely on them. In contrast, healthy reefs enhance their surroundings by protecting shorelines and supporting fisheries and recreation, from diving to surfing.

The flood protection benefits that reefs provide across the U.S. are similar to those in more than 60 other nations. In a separate study, Nature Communications reports that the global cost of storm damage to the world’s coastlines would double without reefs.

Local Flood Protection Value

USGS employed a study model of more than 60 years of hourly wave data for all U.S. states and territories with reefs — a total area of over 1,900 miles — we developed flood risk maps projecting the extent and depth of flooding that would occur across many storms, both regular and catastrophic, with reefs present and then without them. They calculated these values in grid cells that measured just 100 square meters, or about 1,000 square feet — the footprint of a small house.

They also overlaid flood risk maps employing the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify people and properties at risk — and benefiting from the presence of reefs — in each location.

It is well known that coral reefs are under heavy stress from climate change, which is warming oceans, causing coral bleaching. Pollution and over-fishing are also doing serious damage.

As the UN report on biodiversity loss notes, Earth has lost approximately half of its live coral reef cover since the 1870s. And that trend leaves 100-300 million people in coastal areas at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection.

The USGS report was also able to identified economic benefits reef systems provide. For example, Florida receives more than $675 million in annual flood protection from reefs, and Puerto Rico gets $183 million in protection yearly.

In Honolulu alone, USGS found that the local reef provides more than $435 million in protection from a catastrophic 1-in-50-year storm.

Investing in Natural Defenses

First, applying Federal disaster recovery funding to proactively address natural coastal defenses.

Nationally, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, only about 1% of recovery funding went toward rebuilding natural resilience, despite subsequent research showing that marshes in the Northeast can reduce flood damages by some 16% annually.

More than $100 billion has been appropriated to recover from hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. It certainly would make economic sense for the Federal government to become proactive in addressing climate change impacts and by not only recognizing, but spending on rebuilding protective reef systems.

In a promising move, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has created opportunities to include ecosystem services such as flood protection and fishery production in official benefit to cost analysis calculations to support flood mitigation funding.

Second, the Insurance Industry is an important economic stakeholder in offering incentives and supporting investments in nature-based defenses for risk reduction.
Insurers have warned that climate change could make insurance coverage unaffordable for ordinary people after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for $24 billion of losses in California’s devastating 2018 wildfires.

“The insurance sector is concerned that continuing global increases in temperature could make it increasingly difficult to offer the affordable financial protection that people deserve, and that modern society requires to function properly,” …Nicolas Jeanmart, the head of macroeconomics at Insurance Europe, an association representing Europe’s major insurers.

Insurers are starting to consider coastal habitats in industry risk models and to create opportunities to insure nature. Thus reefs could be re-built if they are damaged in storms or even restored now based on their proven flood protection (i.e., premium saving) benefits.

Third, Federal Government agencies have incentives to invest in reefs as protection for critical infrastructure. Reefs defend military bases located along tropical coastlines, as well as shore-hugging roads that are the lifeblood of many economies from Hawaii to Florida and Puerto Rico.

The Army Corps of Engineers is making more use of natural solutions to minimize flood risks, a sometimes controversial undertaking here in Hawai’i.  The U.S. Department of Transportation is analyzing ways to protect coastal highways with nature-based solutions, such as marsh restoration.

Clearly, we have a locally-connected global challenge in Climate Change.  Ignoring that challenge is a luxury we can no longer afford. Just talking about it without affirmative steps towards addressing the core problems of pollution, over-consumption, and the absence of stewardship when ti comes to managing and living in the natural world.

Like so many other climate change impacts now underway, it will take consensus building and a whole community effort — with participatory partnerships of government, private sector, and private citizens in order to make a much needed difference.

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2018, A Big Island Year To Remember

The 2014 movie “Interstellar” was based on the theory of traveling through a blackhole, bending time, and experiencing intense gravity with strange outcomes.  Living in Hawai’i recently seems like our island spaceship cannot escape the intense gravity of world events, yet we are continually reminded of the paradox that Hawai’i is uniquely isolated, but globally connected.

Kīlauea’s summer vacation

This year began like any other, until the Kīlauea’s east rift zone erupted on May 3, 2018.  This latest eruption is believed to have been connected to the larger volcanic eruption that began on January 3, 1983, and blessed the Kona side of the island with smoggy (voggy) skies and poor visibility for the next 35 years.  The May 2018 eruption (considered to be the most destructive since the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980) took its toll on island residents, especially those residents previously living in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

On the positive side, waking up one summer morning and suddenly discovering something missing was an understatement.  Without any fanfare from Kilauea, the volcano just decided that enough was a enough and it was time for things Sunset 1to quiet down for while – an unexpected gift and well received by the Island’s local residents.  Since 1984, it took a swift in the trade winds, or perhaps a heavy rainfall the night before to temporarily clear the sky of volcanic haze (vog aka volcanic smog).

But by early August this past year the eruption had almost completely subsided, and the lull in volcanic activity continues to keep the air mostly clean and clear for island sunsets that are unbelievably beautiful. For now at least, skies are crystal blue, and stunning ocean views are unobstructed to the horizon, and night skies now rival any planetarium show that even impresses lifelong residents.

At the peak 2018 eruption, it was estimated that 50,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and other poisonous gases were filling local island skies and beyond. Gas mask sales soared across Hawaii Island.  But since dropped to an average of 1,000 tons of SO2 gases a day, 1/50 the volume at peak eruption earlier this year.

The current “pause” in volcanic activity state has yielded only very minor signs of vog production wafting across Kona skies, with nothing much getting in the way of breathing deep and enjoying a wonderful and joyful sunset – for as long as it lasts…

The sun energizes most of life on Earth, and Hawai’i is no exception

(updated Jan. 17th, 2019)

Hawaii’s tropical location provides abundant sunshine, producing energy, abundant agriculture, deep suntans, sunsets and a night sky (away from city lights) that will take your breath away.

All this sunshine depends on a nearby star, our Sun, which serves as the ultimate (fusion) nuclear reactor, creating high temperatures through the  fusion of hydrogen at its core, and in turn, warming the Earth to livable temperatures from millions of miles away.   Most of Earth’s life depends on the sun, and we human are no different. In the history of human civilization, energy (in one form or another) has been basic to human survival, and sun plays a most important role in Earth’s energy matrix.

As modern civilization evolves, so has our modern day adoption and use of energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy.  In the 21st century, our planet economies are becoming increasingly electrified, along with a corresponding increase appetite for energy.  The emission by-products of these energy-dependent processes are now impacting Earth’s climate, ecosystems, and most life on Earth.

The last 150 (fossil-fueled) years has produced accumulative CO2 emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere and is now placing  life on Earth in 21st century into a death spiral for what scientists are calling the “6th great extinction event”.  Driven by many human factors, human-caused global temperature rise is creating disastrous impacts on ecosystems and the species dependent on them – Hawaii is no exception, with one the most notable impacts, coral bleaching and the death of near shore marine ecosystems.

There was a time in Earth’s history comparable to today’s climate crisis (minus humans) — that was 252 million years ago, when up to 96% of all marine species and more than two-thirds of terrestrial species perished. The mass extinction, known as the “great dying” marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Scientists now believe the Earth has entered its 6th mass extinction event, a ‘biological annihilation’ of populations of animals that have been lost in recent decades. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn

Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current climate crisis is almost entirely caused by us — humans. In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.

As for Hawaii’s energy sector, the nexus of energy and climate change-extinction is obvious to an increasing number of policy makers.  The state has begun to transition to locally produced and (for the most part) clean and emissions-free renewable energy, while capitalizing on Hawaii’s abundant solar energy options. Solar  power, within Hawaii represents he highest per capita growth rates in the United States.

Putting environmental, social, and climate change impacts aside from burning fossil fuels, Hawaii’s imported dirty energy represents the most costly for the importation of petroleum and coal — a cost factor that is three to four times higher than the mainland fuel prices.  Imported energy costs further mount with factoring in environmental, climate, and public health cost factors that are absorbed by the public from burning those fossil fuels.  In effect, Hawaii has both strong environmental and economic motivations to become a world class leader in energy self-sufficiency through solar and wind and energy storage as primary replacements of imported and costly, polluting fossil-fuels.   Solar Pv Sun Image

In 2015, Hawaii was the first state in the United States to reach grid parity for photovoltaics.  Previously, solar energy represented just 0.07% of Hawaii’s total electricity generation back in 2007. But by 2015, solar energy fulfilled 6% of Hawaii’s total electricity needs, and thermal solar (hot water systems) further reduced Hawaii’s energy demands.

Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (HRS 269 -92) mandates 100 percent renewable energy in the electricity sector by  2045, and solar will continue to play key role fulfilling this goal.  In 2017, Hawaii’s energy mix for renewables stood at 27.6 percent, more than 12 percent ahead of the interim statutory 2015 target of 15 percent, with plenty of room for future growth of both rooftop residential and business installations, combined with utility-scale solar and solar-storage installations, all together, ending Hawaii’s dirty imported energy dependency.

New Arrivals to the Big Island discover a 21st century paradise, but not without challenges

Between 2012 and 2016, the Big Island lost an estimated 2,362 people annually to the other three counties in Hawaii, while adding just 1,654, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Not in this past census data was the recent impacts of the 2018 Kilauea eruption and exodus of some long time residents who had enough health issues and uncertainties to overcome the joys of paradise.

For recent Mainland (move-in) arrivals to the Big Island, many quickly discover that island life has its challenges and rewards. 

Is there a doctor in the house?   Leaving “living the good life” descriptions to the state’s well-funded tourism brochures, daily Big Island life too often means living with a chronic shortage of doctors and essential medical services. The only real full service medical system on Hawai’i Island is Kaiser, and even the big K is feeling the pain of a chronic shortage of qualified medical practitioners, and as outer island populations grow, their legacy of a strategy for lowering operating costs by flying their members in need to Oahu for many medical services and labs, based on a big Island with small population is failing to meet demand.  Doctor Shortages

Forget our local hospitals, you may be better off taking a life-flight to Oahu or the mainland. The discovery of the absence of medical choices leaves newcomers to the island dumbfounded for what they took for granted – medical options that were easily and conveniently available on the mainland, are now a day trip or longer away and come at a higher cost.

Then there is Big Island living at the end of the state’s supply-chain, which too often requires being your own personal Costco in order to ensure that what you want is available when you need it.

All in all, it takes only one beautiful sunset, ocean swim, monarch butterfly, and fresh year-round produce to soon forget, at least for a moment, the challenges of island life.

Onward and i luna, next stop Mars?

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation is an analog habitat for human spaceflight to Mars.   For the first time ever, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project, which tests how humans would endure the isolation of a Mars mission, will include participants from four different countries of origin.  HI-SEAS is located in an isolated position on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii.  Mauna Loa offers Mars-like features, and an elevation of approximately of 8,200 feet above sea level for the habitat to further the unearthly Earth bound experience.

Mars Habitat On MkThe first crewed Mars Mission plans sending astronauts to Mars, orbiting Mars, and a return to Earth, and it is scheduled for the 2030s.  One year after Elon Musk announced his big vision plan that expects to transport a million people to Mars via Space X, he expects Mars colonization to be in less than 25 years.

Sustainability is foremost in the minds of dreamers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and adventurers who plan to settle on Mars.  Basics like oxygen, water, a radiation shield, and no food are just some of the things we take for granted here on Earth, but absent on Mars. At recent scientific conference hosted by Mars colonization enthusiasts and advocates, the key speaker painted bleak picture for the future of human survival on Earth, but simple stating …‘extinction is the new norm,’ …which begs the question, really?

So some uber-rich billionaires are betting their riches on building their own lifeboats to escape Earth, as they see it as a sinking ship and look to a journey to Mars as humankind heads for extinction on planet Earth.

Human extinction is not a scientific or social foregone conclusion.   But a prescription for extinction of life on Earth starts with unsustainable living, and the wasting and pollution of Earth’s life-sustaining assets: clean water, breathable air, and upsetting the balance of the atmosphere by loading massive amounts of  human-generated CO2 emissions, methane, and other greenhouse gases that all together are rapidly raises planetary temperatures.

When global changes occur in the Earth’s temperatures, natural, self-regulating systems, change as in climate change. Add in the wasteful absentee management of over-harvesting the Earth’s life-sustaining food chain, and humans soon find themselves on a path on of no return.