Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hawaii: Asking about Global Warming

I just got back from the island of Maui, in Hawaii. We enjoyed perfect weather – cool all morning because of the fabulous trade winds that blow fine mist and the scent of the sea and tropical flowers into obscure corners of the island. There were two fires in the week and a half we were there, which snarled traffic and blackened large sections of hills. Meanwhile, while we basked in cooling winds and 85 degree highs (still slightly brutal to Seattleites), the home front has had warmer and nastier days. We’ve heard on the news that major cities have been opening “cooling shelters.” This is new vocabulary for Seattleites, and I’m hopeful we won’t have to get used to it.
When I travel, I often like to ask local people about the signs of global warming. Not always scientists, but normal people, too. When my parents and I took a hiking day, we asked about the fires at the nature center on the way up to Iao point. We heard that Maui was having a drought which had already lasted over two years. Days later, I was out accompanying Katie, my partner’s ten-year-old, on a parasail ride. I asked the guys that drove the boat what signs of global warming they saw in Hawaii. They said the weather had been warm a few years, but who can tell if that’s global warming? They truly didn’t seem too concerned. Except one of them looked over just after he two people up into the clear blue sky strapped to a bright gold and green parasail. “But the one thing they say might happen to us is we could lose the trade winds.” He did look a bit afraid at that. Me too. The winds were what made Hawaii habitable, at least for us.