Thanks be to Kaua‘i legislators and the Kaua‘i mayor for their actions to ban polystyrene foam food containers and disposable plastics. These actions will extend the life of our current landfill. Perhaps more importantly, they contribute to a global project to save the humpback whales by discontinuing dumping eight million tons of plastic into our oceans each year. Whales swallow too much plastic, it blocks their digestion, and then they die.
Please see the documentary, “A Plastic Ocean,” describing how our whales are getting killed off from ingested plastic. Other sea creatures are being killed at high rates by ocean plastic. The albatross mothers feed their babies pieces of plastic, mistaking it for small fish. The baby albatrosses with stomachs full of plastic die.
The EPA reports six Asian nations are responsible for most of the plastic being dumped in the oceans. However, the U.S. exports about a third of its recyclable plastic to such nations, which can then dump it in the oceans.
Research proves plastic floating in the ocean breaks down from sunlight and wave actions into microplastics. These pieces of microplastic get consumed by fish which get consumed by humans.
Another problem for our Kaua‘i legislators to help solve is the rapid global coral bleaching. The Independent paper reported March 13, 2017, “The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years. Scientists are now scrambling to ensure that at least a fraction of these unique ecosystems survive beyond the next three decades. The health of the planet depends on it: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species, as well as half a billion people around the world. Even if the world could halt global warming now, scientists still expect that more than 90 percent of corals will die by 2050. Without drastic intervention, we risk losing them all.”
When the ocean temperature raises a few degrees, coral bleaches or dies. It is caused by global warming from excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil-fuel burning. NOAA Climate.gov reported, “On May 9, 2013, the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawai‘i, where the modern record of observations began back in 1958. It should be noted that ice core records show CO2 levels never exceeded 300 ppm during the last 800,000 years until the early 20th century. Now, having exceeded 400 ppm, we are in uncharted territory.”
A warmer atmosphere heats up the ocean slightly , which kills the coral. Also, excess atmospheric carbon dioxide causes the top layer of the ocean to become more acid. This also causes coral bleaching (death of coral). Kaua‘i needs to become energy self-sufficient by creating enough solar panels.
Once solar panels are operating, the energy from the sun is virtually free energy. This can replace fossil-fuel burning on Kaua‘i. The world will be inspired by our champion Kaua‘i legislators and mayor, and take similar actions: 1) banning plastics, especially banning dumping plastic into the oceans, to save the whales; and 2) converting destructive fossil-fuel burning to solar energy to prevent further coral bleaching and loss of dependent species like the Hawaiian green sea turtle.
Will Davis is a resident of Lihu‘e.