Some Day We’ll Be Underwater

Graphic from the U.S. Geological Survey

The Hawaiian Islands are slowly crumbling into the sea. The aphanitic igneous rock that created our high islands can’t sustain the weight. Plus there’s wind and rain erosion. If we could stick around long enough, we’d see our eight islands vanish underwater like the seamounts to our northwest.

The immediate problem is rockfall and sliding soil. We see that in upper Kalihi, on Diamond Head Road, out by Makapuu and on the Honoapiilani and Hana highways.

Our development permitters ignore long-term inevitability in favor of short-term quotas for housing. We’ve seen the results of that in boulders rolling down hillsides.

Our city permitters gave the green light to that Dowsett Highlands development in Nuuanu, basically saying, “Don’t worry about it, everything will be OK,” in an area of heavy rainfall and little forestation. If they underestimated the stability of the soil, it could have disasterous consequences for the homes downhill. Resident Malcolm Ing said in this filing against the development:

“Following the initiation of the Laumaka (Dowsett Estate) development by the Nan Construction Company, both associated with prominent developer Patrick Shin, the residents of the Dowsett Highlands area have witnessed extensive deforestation and uprooting of natural land cover. The natural land cover for steep slopes has been replaced by large areas of planted grass land on dirt mounds, ponding, basins and large retaining walls.”

Our government constantly approves development on not-so-stable hillsides. Remember that Hahaione Valley disaster after one monster rain on New Year’s Eve of 1988?

Everything is crumbling. It’s the nature of volcanic islands. It’s why Diamond Head Road is a problem. The crater is basalt and dust and water mixed as a not-everlasting paste.

There’s elementary geology at work, but it’s being ignored.

I’m probably one of the few who thinks the hoorah about the Dalai Lama is overdone. He’s a very nice and inspirational figure, but really – who is he?

He’s the former religious leader of Tibet. He relinquished political standing of his own volition. Why journalists use the term His Holiness escapes me. It was invented by the 1988 Tibet Independence Movement, which the Dalai Lama does not support. We don’t use that term when writing about the pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury, so why with a fellow who’s just Tenzin Gyatso in Tibet?

He’s a smart and charming man of the Yellow Hat branch of Tibetan Buddhism – which survived a very violent confrontation with other sects in the 1500s.

Reincarnated or about to be at age 90? That’s not in the science of human existence, believe what you may.

Journalists should treat him as they do any other interesting character on the world stage.

He’s an interesting, charismatic man. That’s it.