Posted tagged ‘Climate Change’

Climate change, home, and mental health

March 12, 2019

I’ve been thinking about home recently. The land I grew up on is still there, but the home is gone, replaced by a house that overwhelms the land. Though I didn’t live there anymore, it still makes me feel a sense of loss whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

And how much stronger would that sense of loss be if the land were gone?

The 2018 “Sea Level Rise and Climate Change” Final White Paper, prepared by the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program, is an alarming summary of the effects of climate change on Hawaii’s environment, communities, and overall well-being.

There are environmental impacts, like more frequent heat waves, worsening air and water quality, rising sea levels, changes in rainfall patterns, changing ecosystems, and more frequent weather effects.

There are corresponding health impacts, like increased respiratory illness, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney disease. And climate change impacts us as neighborhoods and communities, like our ability to travel within and without the islands and our access to food and freshwater.

Beyond the environment and our physical survival, climate change affects our mental health.

How can we thrive with the threat of displacement, the threat of losing our homes and our connection to the ‘aina? How can we address mental health concerns in our disaster planning and community resilience efforts?

In 2018, 700 homes on Hawaii Island were destroyed during the Kilauea eruption, and over 2,000 people had registered to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Pacific Business News (7/9/18).

Also in 2018, more than 100 people lost their lives, and over 17,000 homes were destroyed by California wildfires, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported The Weather Channel (3/11/19).

As small Pacific island nations become inhabitable due to sea level rise, lack of fresh water, or other factors, an increasing number of climate change migrants may come to Hawaii because it is similar to the home they left behind. How can we help them thrive in Hawaii? What can we learn from their experiences with the loss of place and loss of their connection to the past?

I’m feeling a little nostalgic about my childhood home. What are your thoughts about maintaining or regaining mental well-being in the face of losing a home?

How connected do you feel to your home? Do you live in a flood or tsunami zone? Are you prepared for a sudden disaster or a slow rise in sea level?

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How would you plan for climate change?

October 30, 2018

If you have the chance, attend one of the Climate Action Plan public meetings that are happening across Oahu. Sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, the community events focus on the impact of climate change and how we can become more resilient.

 

Hawaii will always face disasters. The neighborhoods that bounce back from disasters are the neighborhoods that know each other, chief resiliency officer Josh Stanbro said. It starts with us.

 

Most of the meeting is spent playing the Emissions Reduction Game.

 

The game is a way for community members to think about how we should build a clean economy. It asks us to think about the long-term – what needs to happen in 2025 and 2035 to reach our goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. Where should Honolulu focus its resources? And just as important, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint in Hawaii?

 

We gathered around tables set up with large “game boards” and placed strategy tiles on the board. For each of the target years, we had a limited number of projects that we could choose. The projects are all pre-selected, in five sectors: electricity, on-site energy, on-road, marine/off-road/waste, and aviation. The projects include Walk/Bike/Transit, Renewable Fuels, Building Energy Efficiency, Solar Farms, and Carbon Offsets. They are achievable and can successfully lower emissions.

 

The game encourages us to think strategically – the big picture, not the details. But it doesn’t take into account the City’s finances. So we didn’t consider project costs, either in direct costs (fees and taxes) or opportunity costs (projects that may not be funded).

 

We were supposed to think of our end goals, but I found myself wondering if we can afford to reach our goal by 2045. Are there cost-savings or crucial health and safety benefits from moving aggressively? Could a slightly longer time frame save us money and allow for new technologies to be tested that could help us reach our goal, making up for the time delay? I have to believe that the Resilience Office considered this, and felt that the 2045 target date is the most effective, efficient, and affordable choice.

 

One draw-back is that the projects were all pre-determined. There were no “write-in” tiles. We couldn’t suggest our own strategies or “jump ahead” to strategies that are only available in later years. For example, one strategy that was missing is limiting the number of people who can live in or visit Hawaii. This goes against the aloha spirit, could spell economic disaster, and may even be unconstitutional. But just as there are occupancy limits set by the Fire Code and a maximum capacity at Disneyland, limiting the number of people is an option.

 

In the end, what really struck me was realizing that we have the power to influence government. We can help government set priorities and policies, instead of waiting for government to tell us what to do. Whether it’s at a community meeting, public hearing, or our polling place, we just have to show up.

 

For more information about public meetings, community events, and resources, including a meeting about the City’s Multi-Hazard Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan on November 3, 2018, visit Resilient Oahu at http://www.resilientoahu.org.