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Living on the Shores of Hawai`i

Living on the Shores of Hawai`i: Natural Hazards, the Environment, and Our Communities

Charles Fletcher
Robynne Boyd
William J. Neal
Virginia Tice
Copyright Date: 2010
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    Living on the Shores of Hawai`i
    Book Description:

    Rarely a day goes by in Hawai'i without the media reporting on environmental issues stemming from public debate. Will the proposed housing development block my access to the beach? Is the rising sea level going to cause flooding where I live? How does overfishing damage the reef? Is the water clean where I surf?Living on the Shores of Hawai'idiscusses the paradox of environmental loss under a management system considered by many to be one of the most stringent in the nation. It reviews a wide range of environmental concerns in Hawai'i with an eye toward resolution by focusing on "place-based" management, a theme consistent with-and borrowing from-the Hawaiianahupua'asystem.

    After describing a typical situation in Hawai'i where a sandy beach is lost because a seawall has been built to protect a poorly sited home, the authors step back in time to trace land-use practices before and after the arrival of Westerners and the increased tempo of destruction following the latter. They go on to discuss volcanoes and the risk of placing homes in locations vulnerable to natural hazards and the potential dangers of earthquakes and tsunamis to a complacent public. Water issues, including scarcity, flooding, and pollution, are surveyed, as well as climate change and the possible outcomes of projected sea rise for Hawai'i. The authors explain coastal erosion and beach loss and the problems of overfishing and ocean acidification. Later chapters assess residents' risks to hurricanes, offering mitigation techniques, and provide a summary and some management conclusions.

    As tensions increase because of conflicting standards, misunderstandings, and contradictory ideals and actions, we put our economy and quality of life at risk. Sound decision-making begins with asking the right questions. This book addresses these questions within the context of sustainability and thus their influence on the future of Hawai'i.

    124 color illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6090-5
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Hawai‘i’s beauty is not subtle. Towering peaks, deep gorges, and azure waters paint stunning scenes. These mirror a biological diversity that reflects the unique setting of the land, ocean, and climate. Island beauty extends from mountaintop to coast and plunges into an equally exquisite underwater world. The people of Hawai‘i, also, are known for their open hearts, welcoming and generous attitude, and for sustaining an integrated and unified multicultural society unrivaled on the planet. Yet Hawai‘i is not vast, and almost half the land and nearly every community lies within 5 miles (8 km) of the shoreline. Indeed, no point...

  5. CHAPTER 2 History of the Land
    (pp. 12-25)

    The early settlement history of Hawai‘i is still not completely resolved. Some believe that the first Polynesians arrived in Hawai‘i in the third century AD from the Marquesas and were followed by Tahitian settlers in AD 1300 who conquered the original inhabitants. Others believe that there was only a single, extended period of settlement.¹ Regardless, it was more than 1,500 years ago that voyagers in large double-hulled canoes set sail (probably from the Marquesas Islands), crossing more than 2,000 miles (3,220 km) of unforgiving open ocean. The reward for these explorers was an isolated homeland of fertile islands in the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Volcanism among the Islands
    (pp. 26-42)

    In Hawai‘i, humans live in a border area between the land, the sea, and the sky. We are vulnerable to hazards from all three of these environments, but it is the land we live on that is closest to the home we make, the job we hold, and the places our children go. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and other geologic hazards are earthly events that may kill people and destroy livelihoods. When they occur, the world becomes a terrible place: the solid ground is suddenly no longer trustworthy, as if the very pillars of Earth were crumbling.

    In European culture...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Earthquakes and Tsunamis
    (pp. 43-65)

    The largest locally generated Hawai‘i tsunami in modern times was triggered by violent shaking on the south shore of the Big Island during a magnitude 7.2 earthquake (some geophysicists argue that the earthquake was larger, perhaps 7.7)¹ on November 29, 1975. Thirty-two campers at Halapē experienced the earthquake and tsunami firsthand. The campers were able to stand during the initial violent shaking caused by the earthquake but soon lost their balance if they did not cling to trees or large rocks for support. A deafening roar rose from the steep cliffs above Halapē as rockfalls rumbled downhill. Many campers, frightened...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Hurricanes
    (pp. 66-92)

    Few phenomena in nature compare to the destructive force of a hurricane. Called the greatest storm on Earth, a hurricane is capable of annihilating coastal areas with sustained winds over 100 miles (160 km) per hour, intense areas of rainfall, flooding ocean waters, and huge waves. In fact, during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs.¹ In Hawai‘i, although hurricanes are not common, when they do approach and hit an island the results can be catastrophic. This is largely because we have not taken sufficient steps to protect ourselves, to factor in the...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Climate and Water Resources
    (pp. 93-132)

    “Born of the heavens, embraced by Mother Nature, entrusted to us to preserve for future generations, water for life—Ka Wai Ola.” This is the opening message on the Web site of the City and County of Honolulu, Board of Water Supply.¹Wai(water) is the lifeblood of the Hawaiian people. Woven into their existence and etched into daily life, this precious resource enabled ancient culture to thrive. Without fresh water life would simply not exist; it is essential to all living beings and becomes ever more critical on land surrounded by a salt-saturated sea.

    Water’s natural character and flow...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Stream Flooding and Mass Wasting
    (pp. 133-163)

    It is no fluke that one can usually predict Hawai‘i’s daily weather: “Today’s weather will be partly cloudy, with passing showers windward ormauka,and temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s.” This balmy climate provides one more reason why Hawai‘i’s moniker is “paradise.” At sea level the warmest daytime temperatures in summer infrequently exceed the mid-90s, and the chilliest nighttime temperatures in winter rarely fall below the high 50s. The difference in average daytime temperature at sea level throughout the year is only around 11°F (6°C), making the Hawaiian Islands home to Earth’s most temperate climate. But as you...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Sewage Treatment and Polluted Runoff
    (pp. 164-202)

    Human waste is not a subject discussed with ease or finesse, yet it is an unavoidable by-product of human existence that can contaminate the surrounding environment and water systems if not disposed of in a safe and deliberate fashion. Within traditional Hawaiian culture, the disposal of human waste was treated with extreme care, associating it with a number ofkaputo protect the purity of Hawai‘i’s water. It was forbidden to relieve oneself in any of the natural water sources, including streams, wetlands, and the ocean. So, on long outrigger canoe voyages, detailed ceremonies were performed to absolve the travelers...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise
    (pp. 203-248)

    The Sun’s energy heats the atmosphere and Earth’s surface, thus driving the weather and climate. In turn, Earth reflects and reradiates a portion of this energy. Some goes back into space, and some is trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and others). If greenhouse gases increase in abundance, the amount of stored heat also increases, warming the atmosphere. Without this natural effect, Earth’s average surface temperature would be a chilly 0°F (-17.8°C) instead of its current 57°F (13.9°C),¹ and life as we know it would not be possible. This is known as the greenhouse...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Beach Erosion and Loss
    (pp. 249-275)

    Early in Hawai‘i’s history, government recognized the need to protect certain valuable resources: beaches were not among them. Watersheds were set aside to protect our source of water. Reefs were set aside to protect nearshore fisheries. Forests were protected for their ecological and climate functions. But beaches were never designated as a special environment worthy of protection. This was a mistake, because now beaches are being lost on every island due to seawall building and overdevelopment along our coastline, exacerbated by two centuries of sea-level rise. As a result, local communities and government agencies are engaged in a struggle to...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Reefs and Overfishing
    (pp. 276-314)

    Aptly named the rain forest of the sea, reefs are rocky marine structures (made of a combination of coral and a hard form of algae)¹ that support one of Earth’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. Although a large and interdependent life force relies on reefs for survival, they occupy a mere 0.2% of the world’s oceans.² Not only are these underwater habitats crucial to supporting the ocean’s biodiversity, they are home to 25% of all marine species.³ But reefs also support the economy for those of us on terra firma. Within the United States, the ocean economy is generally proportional to...

  15. CHAPTER 12 A Responsibility to Nurture the Land
    (pp. 315-330)

    In a traditional Hawaiian approach to conservation, humans play a central role in managing resources that are taken from the natural world. People are not viewed as a problem; rather, they are viewed as part of the living universe. Communities have a responsibility to nurture the land in a reciprocal and sustainable manner. The land is typically used, not left alone, unless for reasons related to the use. The Hawaiian attitude boils down to establishing a relationship between people and their lands. For Native Hawaiians, these islands are theone hānau,the “birth sands,” and so it is a responsibility...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 331-366)
  17. Index
    (pp. 367-372)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 373-374)