By Ruby Pap
Last month left me questioning everything I thought I knew. The morning after the national election, many of us woke up to a very uncertain and frightening reality on a variety of fronts. As this is a science column, the reality I focus on here is one where scientific evidence may have no place with respect to addressing climate change.
That morning, I was scheduled to have my annual work review, in which I was to discuss my accomplishments and plans for the next year, much of which involve climate-change planning. Luckily, after a few emotional starts I was able to re-schedule the review. I needed time to take inventory, grieve a bit, and think.
True to form, I spent the rest of the day planning my grief period. I stocked up on beer and ice cream. I worked on my frown. I spent time on social media soaking in the negativity. But then a funny thing happened. My spirit revolted. I just don’t like to feel depressed, no matter how hard I try. I found my thoughts changing to stoic acceptance, with a desire to be fully aware of and open to new ideas and strategies, and a drive to take inventory of what I know. It turns out that’s quite a lot despite a new leader who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax.
The Earth and oceans are heating up, the ocean is expanding, polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, beaches are eroding, flooding from marine and terrestrial sources is increasing, our streamflow is decreasing, the ocean is becoming more acidic, wildlife habitats are shrinking and moving, and human health issues, such as heat related illnesses and vector borne diseases are on the rise. I still know all this and I will continue to learn more about it.
Most Americans know this too! According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s “Climate Change in the American Mind” project, 70 percent of Americans think global warming is happening, 58 percent are “somewhat” or “very” worried about the issue, and by a 3 to 1 margin 76 percent support teaching children about global warming in school.
The fact is we all depend on a healthy planet to survive, no matter our political, religious, or racial backgrounds. We get this.
Yes, it is possible that national government resources will dry up and the planet really has no time to waste. But I also know that the human resources we have on Kaua‘i and the rest of the state are second to none. We are a motivated, tight-knit community that values unity over all else. I will be relying on this unity more than ever over the next four years.
Together we can accomplish a great deal locally. The draft 2035 Kaua‘i County General Plan update (Kaua‘i Kakou) released last month takes a very forward and factual look at how we can combat and adapt to climate change impacts over the next 19 years. Please read it and send your feedback to the County Planning Department.
More than a thousand people have participated in the planning process in one way or another last year. They are the dedicated Citizens Advisory Committee members and the ongoing community meeting attendees who have poured over maps and documents, hashing out the issues, and asking questions, all of which have resulted in a more informed document. Others have simply responded to the call for comments and the online survey. Please see how you can participate at plankauai.com.
While we were blessed with some certainty and consistency in our national leadership in the past, now is an opportunity to be more vigilant with our knowledge seeking. This is my commitment to myself and to you. Mahalo nui loa, Kaua‘i! See you next year!
- Ruby Pap is a Coastal Land Use Extension Agent at University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.