How Prepared Are You?

by Becky Johnson

Nobody likes to think a calamity could hit them. Though every so often we get a reminder that a disaster could be just around the corner – such as the recent brush we had with several hurricanes. And after witnessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, it pays to be prepared.

Sometimes we put off preparation for a disaster because we do not like to think about the possibility of something bad happening. However, if we do not take preventative steps, we may wind up regretting it later.

There is the possibility that in Hawaii it may take longer for help to arrive in case of emergency, so extra food and water storage should be a priority – preferably a 7 to 10 day supply. And be sure to store food that is nourishing, tastes good and is easy to digest.

Here are some suggestions for healthy foods to pack in your emergency kit:

  • First and foremost: at least one gallon of water per day per person. Even though no one wants to fast during an emergency, if need be you can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.
  • Shop for healthy canned goods such as Amy’s organic soups and Healthy Valley vegetarian chili.
  • Ak mak crackers, Lundberg rice cakes and Ryvita crackers are wholesome and tasty.
  • Peanut butter and almond butter are high energy foods that can round out a meal or snack.
  • If you have a camping stove and a pot or two, you can also make things like rice and pasta. Instant soups are also warm and soothing, as long as you have hot water.
  • Cereals are good for breakfast and snacks and you can buy boxed soymilk or rice milk to go along with it.
  • Sports drinks and fruit juice are good for helping you to stay fully hydrated.
  • Don’t forget some bowls, napkins and eating utensils.
  • A good multivitamin and extra vitamin C will help your body get through a hard time.

Other important things to pack are:

  • Warm blankets or sleeping bags
  • At least one change of clothes, underwear, etc.
  • A first aid kit. (See article on “Natural First Aid” for tips on which natural remedies to include in your first aid kit.)
  • A nonelectric can opener
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries
  • Diapers, baby food and formula if necessary
  • Personal hygiene things like a toothbrush, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, etc.
  • Prescription medications or other special medical needs
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses
  • Extra cash
  • Photocopies of important documents such as credit cards, birth certificates, etc.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Iodine tablets, chlorine tablets or household bleach for disinfecting water
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Shovel and other useful tools
  • Compass
  • Map of the area
  • Pen, paper
  • Whistle.

Try to pack everything in an easy-to-transport waterproof container. If you don’t have a waterproof container, seal everything in zip lock bags. If gathering these supplies seems overwhelming, first focus on the water, then food and first aid, and then gradually try to add one or two items at a time until your emergency kit is complete. Remember, one well-stocked kit can be kept for several years, as long as you periodically re-stock expired food, water and medications, etc.

It is also a good idea to designate an out-of-state family member or friend as your emergency contact, so that if you get separated from family members, everyone knows who to contact.

Making the right preparations will help you remain in a calm, collected frame of mind in the event of an emergency. This way you can be of more help to yourself and others and ready to work on getting everything back to normal as soon as possible.

What’s Driving Record Food Prices? What Are Your Options?

by Mark Fergusson, Down To Earth CEO

Higher Oil Costs

Food costs have soared this year mainly due to increased oil prices which, in terms of food production, is affecting everything including the cost of fertilizers, food transport, and industrial agriculture. In Hawaii, the increased cost of food is aggravated by the higher cost of transporting the goods to the islands. Fully 80 percent of Hawaii's food products are imported via ship or airplane.1 From a larger perspective, manufacturers across all industries are being forced to increase prices due to higher energy and utility bills, gas, and shipping costs.

Trend Towards Biofuels

Another factor contributing to record food costs are Federal policies encouraging increased use of ethanol and other biofuels over oil for energy. Growers are now diverting large amounts of farmland from food production to corn-based fuel, which is creating a shortage in food supply. In fact, according to a confidential World Bank report that was leaked to the news media in early July, biofuels have been responsible for up to 75 percent of the increase in global food prices — far more than previously estimated. 2, 3 Without the increase in biofuels, says the report, global wheat and corn stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate. According to the news articles, World Bank says production of biofuels has distorted food markets in several ways. It diverted grain away from food to fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, public policy has encouraged farmers to set land aside for biofuel production. This has sparked financial speculation in grains, which is driving prices up.

Overall Cost Increases

Prices have increased even more due to higher costs of commodity items including agricultural products (oils, sugar, potatoes, onions; coffee and tea; rubber and spices, etc.), metals, and electricity and so forth, as food manufacturers raise prices to recover production costs. The increased cost of healthcare is another significant factor driving prices upwards, as businesses recover increased costs by raising prices for the services they provide. Combined, all of these factors are having a cascading effect on the economy as businesses and industrial companies pass on their increased costs to consumers. Trend Towards Increased Meat Consumption In Developing Countries Adding pressure to increased food costs is the trend in developing nations towards more meat consumption. Higher incomes have made hundreds of millions of people rich enough to afford meat and other foods with meat ingredients. As people eat more meat, more land is required to grow crops that are cycled through animals rather than fed to people directly. Calorie for calorie, you need more grain if you eat it transformed into meat than if you eat it as bread: For example, it takes 6.6 pounds of cereals to produce 2.2 pounds of pork, 17.6 pounds for 2.2 pounds of beef. So, a shift in diet is multiplied many times over in the grain markets. Since the late 1980’s an unstoppable annual increase of 1-2% in the demand for feed grains has ratcheted up the overall demand for cereals and pushed up prices.4 Therefore, another cause for the food crises is the increased amount of meat being eaten around the world due to people adopting the western diet as they grow wealthier. Ironically, virtually all the prominent scientific organizations and government agencies throughout the world have confirmed that a meat-based diet is worse for one’s health. So, transitioning to a western, meat-based diet is leading to higher disease rates in developing nations.

The Vegetarian Solution

Nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance, so eating meat is an unnecessary “luxury” rather than a necessity. At Down to Earth, all vegetarian, organic and natural foods are available at affordable prices and they offer great value for several reasons:

  • Eliminating or reducing meat from your diet cuts one of the most expensive items from your food bill.
  • Natural foods often cost less than conventional alternatives because they are not promoted with expensive advertising that drives up prices.
  • A wide range of foods in bulk supply allows customers to buy the amount of their choice without having to pay for expensive advertising and packaging that drives up the cost.
  • Local organic produce typically costs less than imported conventional produce because there are little or no shipping costs. Even imported organic produce is comparable in price to conventional produce.

Down to Earth helps keep food costs affordable for Hawaii’s community by regularly offering thousands of items at promotional or every-day low prices, and we constantly look for great deals to offer our customers. So, as you think about ways to survive the current crisis in food costs while maintaining a healthy diet for yourself and your family, consider this reality: Contrary to popular belief, eating a healthy vegetarian diet based on organic and natural foods does not cost more than conventional foods, and is often less expensive As always, thanks for shopping at Down to Earth.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Political debate rises along with gas prices,” Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 13, 2008: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/06/13/news/story04.html
  2. “Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis,” guardian.co.uk, July 4, 2008: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/jul/03/biofuels.renewableen...
  3. “Biofuels blamed for food price crisis,” MSNBC, July 4, 2008: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/25530583/#.WSsI2mjys2w
  4. “Food prices rising due increases in meat consumption and biofuels,” Resilience Science (Reprinted from the Economist, Dec 6, 2007): http://rs.resalliance.org/2007/12/09/food-prices-rising-due-increases-in...

Vegetarian Diet is Healthier, Greener, Compassionate

by Mark Fergusson, Down To Earth CEO

What if you could take a pill that would improve your health, save the environment, and awaken your spirit of compassion ...would you do it? The idea is not as far fetched as you might think. One of the most effective means to achieve all this is by adopting a vegetarian diet. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so it is a good time to reflect on the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. The personal health benefits alone are huge, and the benefits of a shift towards a vegetarian diet by society at large are staggering.

Better for Your Health

Consider health. Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases is increased by consuming a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients. These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet. This result is best achieved by adopting a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of organic produce and natural foods. A vegetarian diet is not only good for one’s personal health; it’s also good for the nation’s economy. Just five diet-related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy a staggering $864 billion each year! This is an estimate of direct medical costs and the indirect impact of productivity losses due to illness and premature death associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. This is an annual outlay of nearly one trillion dollars! By comparison, it makes the one-time $700 billion Wall Street bailout seem small. If we worried about our health as much as the bailout, perhaps we would all have healthier and happier lives and help the US economy!

Better for the Environment

In contrast, the negative consequences of a meat-based diet are playing out dramatically on the environmental front. In its stunning 2006 report on global warming, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 When emissions from land use are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human-related activities, but produces a larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases.2 Livestock generates 37 percent of the total methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2 produced by human activity.2 It also generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. Most of these gases come from animal manure and belching!3 Adopting a vegetarian diet could reduce greenhouse gases from this source by 100 percent with little negative impact.4 Similar cuts in carbon dioxide are virtually impossible without having a potentially devastating impact on the economy. Even with implementation of the most ambitious strategies, emissions would be cut by less than half. Furthermore, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years so lowering methane emissions would translate to cooling the earth quickly. The root issue causing global warming is over consumption. A modest American household consumes [as a standard] far more natural resources than the world can support on a sustainable basis.5 The spread of such a lifestyle to the rest of the planet is not feasible. This is particularly true of a meat-based diet, which damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. In contrast, plant-based diets have a low environmental impact because they use fewer natural resources, so they are better for the environment. Nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance, so eating meat is an unnecessary luxury rather than a necessity.

For the Sake of the Innocent Animals

Each year in the United States, multi billions of animals are inhumanely raised in hellish factory farm conditions and approximately ten billion land animals are cruelly and brutally slaughtered for human consumption. Given the horrific suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the cruel slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong. Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet, farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions. In this regard, a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our innate spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them. For all these reasons, I submit that the single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet contributes to better health and a cleaner and safer environment while causing less pain and suffering for the innocent animals. Down to Earth’s slogan is “Love Life!” -based on the idea that it is good to love animals, not eat them.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Earth Save, EarthSave Report: A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  5. “Energy and Sustainable Development,” Berkley Energy Center, City of Berkley, CA: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/energy_and_sustainable_development/

Teenage Tidal Wave

Out in the not too distant sea of eating, the food industry caught sight of a swelling wave moving towards the shores of the consumer market. Those in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association tried to say that it was nothing, just a passing trend. Now, as this tidal wave of change is breaking, America's beef producers are shaking—in their cowboy boots. America's youth is quickly losing interest in supporting an industry of slaughter and suffering and the numbers of those embracing a vegetarian diet is on the rise, particularly among teenage girls.

The younger generation, no doubt one of the greatest influences on consumerism, is vying for politically correct food choices. Gone are the days when grabbing burgers or going out for pepperoni pizza was just innocent fun. Due to the work of many concerned people making public the atrocities occurring daily in the meat industries, many teens and college students are making the switch to vegetarianism out of concern for the animals. Another contributing factor is seeing 50% of the population suffering from chronic diseases like heart problems, various types of cancers, diabetes and obesity. Surely this is making its mark in the minds of young people.

College campuses are finding that between 15-20% of their students are requesting vegetarian foods on the menu. Even high schools across the country are catering to students who would like to eat without meat. A pole from Teenage Research Unlimited reported that one out of every four teens thinks vegetarianism is 'cool'. Because vegetarianism has become more wide spread and accepted, parents are able to find ways to work out a family menu that suits everyone. Some nutrition experts concur that adopting a vegetarian diet does promote health consciousness, something often not found in teenagers. With the plethora of information available on the web, through books, and even local doctors, it has become easier than ever to learn about and maintain a vegetarian diet.

Down to Earth is currently sponsoring a television show airing on Oceanic Cable channel 16 at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays called "Tasty and Meatless." The show provides tips on how to cook simple and tasty meatless meals, where to shop for meatless products, which restaurants offer vegetarian fare, and what health experts have to say about eating meatless. This show can definitely help anyone wanting to know about a meatless lifestyle for themselves or for the youngster in their family!

For some, vegetarianism is about health, for others it comes from a place of ethics and compassion, for the younger generation they can see that it encompasses both—and it is their opportunity to better the world, one bite at a time.

Saving the Reefs

by Tracy Rohland

Coral reefs are known as the “Rain forests of the Ocean.” Countless varieties of marine life depend on them for their survival. And as they are dwindling away, it is important that every person respect the reefs and do what they can to help. While one person cannot single-handedly reverse the effect of global warming, there are many small things you can do to reduce your personal impact on the reefs. According to Environmental Defense marine ecologist Rod Fujita, "Corals are sensitive but also very resilient – if conditions are right. If we can reduce some of the other direct stresses from human activities on coral reefs, like pollution from non-point sources, perhaps that may also enable reefs to cope better with indirect threats like climate change." Oceans Alive, a group dedicated to protecting and preserving marine ecosystems, suggests the following tips in regards to beach and ocean care.

  1. Keep the beach clean. Pick up after yourself -- and recycle, reduce and reuse. Help organize or join a beach clean-up day to remove trash and debris that can harm wild life.
  2. Follow marked paths to the beach, rather than walking across sensitive sand dunes and other natural shoreline areas that provide food and shelter for wildlife. The beach is a living ecosystem on which many plants and animals depend. Foot traffic erodes the sand and wears down vegetation that holds sand in place, degrading habitat.
  3. Follow regulations when you dispose of pollutants like automotive oil and antifreeze. Refrain from using pesticides and fertilizers in your yard. These wash into bays and estuaries and contribute to dead zones where there is barely any sea life left. Even if you live in a landlocked state, remember that your everyday actions affect what runs into rivers and streams and eventually ends up in the ocean.
  4. Get involved in local development and land use issues if you live on or near the coast, and make your voice heard. Building roads, hotels and housing developments in coastal areas often destroys coastal habitat and pollutes bays, estuaries and coastal wetlands -- ultimately reducing fish population in these areas.
  5. Educate yourself, your friends and family on how human actions can affect the shoreline environment. Learn about marine sea life and its habitat. Find out how human actions like beach dredging (often called "beach re-nourishment") can harm reefs and other fish habitats.
  6. Eco-tourism is a major industry in Hawaii and other coastal regions. It is important to be extra cautious in activities like diving and boating, especially around coral reefs. Oceans Alive advises the following: Get your diving certification. Two major certifying associations are the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) -- both reputable organizations that teach eco-friendly diving practices. Learning to dive properly will allow you to enjoy the spectacular underwater scenery without damaging coral reefs and other sea life habitat.

Curbing Global Warming - Your Everyday Choices Make a Difference!

by Michele McKay

Burning fossil fuels (oil and petroleum) releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Here in Hawaii over 90% of the energy we use for electricity and transportation is produced by burning oil!

Reducing CO2 emissions can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but the choices we make in our everyday lives can help curb global warming. If you think you can’t make a difference, check out the results of taking these seven simple actions:

If all the readers* of this article would..

  • ...eliminate one pound of meat from their diet each week
    we would save 41,184,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...unplug their electronics when not in use
    we would save at least 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...reduce their driving by one mile every day
    we would save 1,752,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...turn the air conditioner thermostat up by 2 degrees in summer
    we would save 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...wash their clothes in cold water
    we would save 2,400,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...line-dry one load of laundry once a week
    we would save 836,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    we would save 730,000 pounds of CO2 per year

And if every reader took all seven actions we would save 56,392,000 pounds of CO2 per year!

Your actions do make a difference! Get started today… our planet will thank you.

For additional information from Hawaii on global warming visit www.climatecorps.org

Footnotes: 

* Based on 4,800 monthly recipients/readers of Down to Earth’s e-newsletter and website. To sign up for our free e-newsletter, visit www.downtoearth.org

The Great Diaper Debate

by Michele McKay

Cloth diapers vs. disposables... which is the more environmentally responsible choice? We all know that cloth diapers use water, while disposables use landfill space. But when you look a little closer, you will find other factors are involved.

Cloth Diaper Facts:

In the 2 ½ years from birth to toilet training, a baby will need a total of 3-6 dozen cloth diapers and around 25 diaper covers.

Benefits:

  • Cloth diapers use fewer raw materials than disposables
  • They generate much less solid waste
  • Fecal material goes into appropriate sewage systems, rather than into landfills
  • Handing down to other babies or recycling into rags provides many years of use

Negative impacts:

  • Laundering uses water, detergents and sanitizers

Disposable Diaper Facts:

Between birth and toilet training, a baby will use over 6,000 disposable diapers. 18 billion disposable diapers are used in the US each year, making up 30 percent of all our non-biodegradable landfill waste.

Benefits:

  • Disposables use less water than cloth diapers

Negative impacts:

  • Disposables require more raw materials than cloth diapers
  • They generate much more solid waste than cloth diapers
  • Each disposable diaper takes 500 years to decompose
  • Waste from disposable diapers could leach disease organisms into water supply
  • Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known, is produced by the chlorine gas used in the manufacture of most disposables

Conclusion

There are several factors to consider when trying to make an environmentally responsible choice between cloth and disposable diapers. For many parents, using a combination may be the best option. Here in Hawaii, the best choice can vary from island to island – some areas may have a solid waste and landfill crisis, while others may have water or sewer shortages. One choice is clear: if you purchase disposables, make sure they are not treated with dioxin-producing chlorine. Chlorine-free diapers are available at Down to Earth stores.

Ocean-friendly Gardens

by Michele McKay

Gardening in Hawaii can be a joy and a challenge. Our perpetual growing season allows us to cultivate plants year-round, but it also puts our green thumbs to the test by allowing pests to thrive and soil to become compacted. In its Ocean Friendly Gardens program, the Surfrider Foundation points out that even if you don’t live near the ocean, your garden – and how you manage it – impacts the health of Hawaii’s marine environment.

Your property and its soil affect the ocean through the quality and the quantity of water that runs off the yard and into storm drains. In times of heavy rain or over-irrigation fertilizers, pesticides, oils, cleaning solutions, and debris wash into the street, into the drains, and ultimately, into the sea. Harmful run-off can be prevented by watering appropriately, landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, and using natural products to fertilize and augment soil.

Chemical fertilizers that find their way to the sea cause rapid growth of destructive algae. Alternative, natural fertilizers such as compost will help to build the soil and increase its permeability. As permeability improves, so does the soil’s ability to hold water and prevent run-off. How you choose to manage weeds, bugs, and animal pests will determine whether harmful pesticides are swept off your property by rain or over-irrigation. To help prevent damage to aquatic life, avoid all toxic pesticides. Be lenient with certain pests and use eco-friendly alternatives against others. Landscaping with bug- and disease-resistant plants is an excellent way to deter pests.

What you can do

  • Avoid over-watering in order to reduce run-off and pest infestations such as mold and mealy bugs. Watering properly, using correctly adjusted sprinklers, and using drip irrigation will help the soil soak up and retain water.
  • Use compost and natural fertilizers to build the soil, rather than degrade it.
  • Avoid using harmful pesticides and chemicals around your home.
  • Introduce landscaping that is drought- and pest-resistant.
  • Replace lawns with an attractive alternative. Most lawns require a lot of water and produce run-off that is loaded with fertilizers and herbicides.
  • Increase soil permeability by reducing pavement in driveways, paths, and patios.
  • Learn more from Surfrider Foundation’s web page on Ocean Friendly Gardens: www.surfrider.org/ofg or contact Rick Wilson, Coastal Management Coordinator at rwilson@surfrider.org or (949) 492-8170 Visit https://oahu.surfrider.org/, https://maui.surfrider.org/ and https://kauai.surfrider.org/ for additional issues and news from the Oahu, Maui and Kauai chapters of the Surfrider Foundation.

Our Living Reefs

by Michele McKay

Coral reefs, and the waters they shelter, are closely tied to our lifestyle and cultural traditions in Hawaii – and they are home to roughly 7,000 varieties of marine life, many that exist nowhere else on Earth. Coral reefs are huge, hard, and sharp… but, amazingly, they are created by delicate life forms: tiny algae and polyps working in partnership.

Dan Polhemus, Administrator for the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources, says that coral reefs provide countless benefits, including the surf we ride and the beaches we enjoy. “They also serve as nature’s breakwaters, protecting us from the destructive power of the sea. In more ways than we might realize, our island lifestyle depends on our coral reefs.”

The Living Reef, a 24-page booklet recently published on the internet, illustrates the biological, economic, and cultural significance of Hawaii’s “rainforests of the sea” with beautiful color photos. A project of The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and the DLNR, in cooperation with Malama Hawai'i and NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program, The Living Reef can be viewed and downloaded from www.nature.org/hawaii.

The booklet explains how our coral reefs are endangered by r un-off, sedimentation, debris, invasive species, destructive fishing practices, recreational overuse, and climate change. B ut it also describes constructive solutions to these threats:

  • Funding community-based marine management for near-shore areas
  • Funding and staffing marine resource enforcement
  • Investing in systems for sewage treatment and land-based pollution prevention
  • Adopting the recommendations of the 2003 State Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan to protect against invasive aquatic plants and animals
  • Reforming fishing policies and practices
  • Creating nursery areas for fish to grow and reproduce without being harvested

What you can do:

Remember that our land and ocean are connected – in Hawaii everything eventually flows into the sea. Practice good environmental stewardship in your everyday life:

  • Dispose of all car fluids (motor oil, gasoline, everything!), detergents, chemicals, grass clippings, and dirt sweepings properly. If left on the ground, these contaminants will go down our storm drains with the next big rain.
  • Throw your trash where it belongs.
  • Control sediment flow from construction and agricultural areas.

Get involved with The Nature Conservancy by contacting Janice Staab at (808) 587-6232 or by email at jstaab@tnc.org or volunteerhawaii@tnc.org

Protecting the Islands from Environmental Disasters

by Michele McKay

We can not prevent hurricanes any more than we can fool Mother Nature, but we can anticipate their enormous force. And though environmental damage is inevitable from a large storm, we can minimize the man-made environmental disasters that often follow.

Natural Disasters

Tropical storms and hurricanes naturally sweep the Pacific Ocean, generating high winds, huge swells, and heavy rainfall. They also carry the potential for severe environmental damage when they encounter land. When Hurricane Iniki ripped across Kaua’i in 1992, the destruction included massive beach erosion and v egetation damage. Trees, shrubs, and ferns were broken and stripped of leaves, native forest enclaves were destroyed, and ridges were scoured to bare rock.

Beaches are particularly vulnerable. Waves and heavy rain can quickly erode the sand, and storm surges can cause coastal overwash or penetrate inland. Some beaches may be totally stripped of their sand, leaving rock outcrops exposed. The sand that disappears may move inland of offshore. Coral reefs, normally protecting beaches by acting as natural breakwaters, may be damaged, resulting in beach erosion for years after a hurricane.

A wide beach is the best protection against hurricane-generated waves and storm surges. Measures that help to protect beach or dune areas, such as erecting new buildings back from the wave impact zone, conserving natural beach and dune vegetation, and preventing the mining of beach sand, will help to preserve the beach as a natural storm barrier. After a hurricane, beaches should be given time to recover naturally. Walls or other hard structures should not be constructed, as they may actually impede beach recovery. Sand that has washed onto beachfront property should not be sold or removed, but should be returned to the beach to aid its process of regeneration.

Man-made Disasters “Waiting to Happen”

The natural force of a hurricane has the potential to trigger an enormous man-made crisis in urban and industrial areas. Enforcing strong environmental regulations and planning/development codes before a disaster strikes is our best defense against the contamination of water, the release of oil, gas, sewage, and toxic chemicals, and the spread of disease. While stopping a hurricane in its tracks is impossible, we can protect our Islands from becoming, like the Gulf Coast, a man-made disaster waiting to happen.

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