Category Archives: environment

New wave damage at Kualoa Park

A letter in the Star-Advertiser this morning points to graphic evidence of the effects of sea level rise.

The letter by Paul Brandon includes a link to his YouTube video of Kualoa Regional Park on Sunday, following high surf and high tides. The drone video clearly shows areas between the shoreline and the parking area where waves surged during recent weeks and covered large parts of the lawn.

As former residents of nearby Kaaawa for nearly 30 years, this hits home.

Brandon writes:

As a regular walker in the park for the past 32 years, I have watched the coastline get chopped away bit by bit and watched the sand cover more and more of the lawn. This year, for the first time, the ocean overflowed the large lawn of the park during high surf a few weeks ago. There is every reason to expect that this phenomenon will occur regularly during high east surf.

Brandon fears we’re not doing enough to respond to climate change and sea level rise. I’m afraid he’s right.

Hetch Hetchy Valley c. 1909 (Photos)

With national news reporting on the potential for catastrophic failure of the Oroville Dam in northern California, other water projects in California are also getting increased attention.

One of those is the O’Shaughnessy Dam, at the center of the Hetch Hetchy Water Project.

The dam, built in the 1920s, transformed a beautiful valley into a reservoir that has delivered drinking water to San Francisco for nearly a century.

There was an extended political battle over the planned dam, but the need for water eventually won out. Protests continue today, with some advocating the removal of the dam and restoration of the valley.

My sister, who died in October 2016, worked as a training officer at Hetch Hetchy for nearly three decades.

I found a DVD among her papers and possessions containing five photographs of Hetch Hetchy Valley in about 1909, before it was flooded. They were copied from versions held by the Yosemite National Park Research Library.

Click on either photo to see a larger version.

Before the reservoir

Before the reservoir

And here’s what the same area looks like now.

Before the reservoirMay 2002 Photo by Daniel Mayer

Playing in the clouds

PBS broadcast an excellent documentary on Rachel Carson last night, which appeared as an episode of their series, American Experience.

Her 1962 book, Silent Spring, brought public attention to the environmental impacts of unfettered pesticide use, which eventually led to the banning of DDT and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The broadcast brought back a childhood memory of growing up in Honolulu, which I’ve found is shared by many people who grew up here back in the 1950s. It’s pretty disturbing in retrospect.

I remember the excitement when we heard the sound of the sprayer truck on nearby streets. This was the small truck with a pump mechanism of some kind that periodically drove up and down the streets of Oahu, spewing a thick cloud of DDT behind it. That fog was unusual, as Honolulu doesn’t experience fog. So kids would run out into the street behind the truck and play in the cloud. A friend across the street and I were regulars. We were probably somewhere between six and eight years old.

Of course, we knew nothing about DDT and its many potential harmful effects. Our parents probably thought it was just cute, and likely didn’t consider it dangerous.

From today’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine this happening again.

Well, it would have been hard to imagine until the Trump administration took over and started censoring its scientists and blocking the distribution of scientific information information.

What happened to the sparrows?

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve started feeding birds in our yard many afternoons, sometimes leftover rice, sometimes stale bread, sometimes seed from a large Costco-size bag. It’s something I did as a kid, here in this same yard.

I was out there earlier this week and it suddenly hit me that the mix of birds is now very different than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, most of the birds that come down are doves, sort of evenly split between the small doves, which I’ve seen referred to as as zebra doves, and the larger, ring-neck or spotted doves. There is one pair of Brazilian cardinals, grey with the red heads. There’s a pair, possible two, of bulbuls. And there are a few mynahs, usually just three, sometimes four, that hang around in the background. We do have a single kolea, or golden plover, that visits our yard most days in the late afternoon, but doesn’t mix with the other birds.

That’s about it.

That is very different than when I was a kid.

In those days, there were many sparrows, and and lots of mynahs. Also small finches, or linnets, with colorful breast feathers. Both Brazilian and Kentucky cardinals (the ones with full red body feathers) were common. There were doves, but they were far from the dominant birds. It was also common for some mejiro, or white eyes, to flit through, checking out what was available to eat. Sometimes we would see a family of Java sparrows, with their different plumage and beaks. I think the Shama thrush, with its beautiful song, came later. We saw them relatively frequently in Kaaawa, but I don’t recall them in Kahala.

It appears that most of those are gone. I think I’ve only seen a sparrow once, and I haven’t seen a Kentucky cardinal since we moved in. Linnets? Occasionally, not often. Mynahs, which used to often congregate in groups on the lawn, are much less in evidence, although they are still raucously in evidence in the banyan trees near the Waialae Country Club.

In general, a far less diverse feathered population, at least in this part of the island.

Does the feeding location makes a difference. I’ve been putting food out in front of our house, on the street side. I wonder if moving into the back yard, more sheltered, would make a difference? Perhaps I’ll experiment.