By Jan TenBruggencate

Aliomanu Road in Anahola has been reduced to a one-lane road due to erosion caused by the ocean years ago. Photo by Ruby Pap

We are often scared of the wrong stuff.

As we go through life, many of us take comfort in things that aren’t really helping us, and are frightened of things that aren’t real threats.

Here’s a real threat. Rising sea levels associated with climate change are going to put large parts of coastal areas under water. Kapa‘a will be awash in a few years and Hanalei town may be isolated by deep bays along the Hanalei River and Waioli River lowlands.

Coastal roads in some areas (think Hanalei-to-Ha‘ena, Kealia, Wailua, Waimea, Kekaha) will be washed away — and there are no adequate alternative routes. If you want to see the future, try the Aliomanu road, where one lane is already gone.

This means, in part, that we’re going to be required to spend a great deal of money building new routes, building new communities, or armoring coastlines to protect our infrastructure from inundation. Much of our community’s wealth will be spent fixing things — and the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

But this is a comparatively slow-moving catastrophe, so we don’t panic. In most cases, we don’t even take such long-term threats seriously. We can deal with them once they become a crisis.

The Waipouli shoreline in front of Kaua‘i Kailani during king tide event Aug. 9. Photo by Ruby Pap

Many folks take other issues more seriously because they’re right there, imminent.

Vaccination is one. It’s a needle poke that happens right now. It’s a possible allergic reaction that could be here tomorrow. There’s some guy on the Internet who says there is a good chance you will die. Oh, my!

Take a dozen steps back for perspective. Why did 90 percent of the Hawaiian Islands population die of disease in the first 100 years after Captain Cook? And why did the vast majority of the Native American population die in the years after Columbus and subsequent European arrivals?

The answer: Lack of immunity to new diseases — for many of which vaccines weren’t yet available. The world would be a very different, far more ethnically diverse place if vaccination had been available and people had used it.

Some folks are afraid of flying, afraid of dogs, afraid of sharks, afraid of walking under ladders. Giving in to a lot of these fears doesn’t cost you much. You get certain comfort to giving in to them.

If you’re deathly afraid of sharks, you don’t swim in salt water. If you’re afraid of walking under ladders, you don’t walk under them. No big deal.

Many fears make little sense, but fear is a protective mechanism. Fear of being burned keeps you careful around a hot stove. Fear of a serious car accident makes you get your brakes fixed when they get mushy. Fear of being hacked makes you keep your passwords strong.

Fear is only a problem if it puts you at risk of something worse than what you’re afraid of.

  • Jan TenBruggencate is a Kaua‘i based writer and communications consultant.

Discover more from ForKauaiOnline

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.