Truth from the Youth
Why We Must Act to Address Climate Change
Aloha. As a high school student growing up in today’s environment, it is nearly impossible to ignore the countless consequences of climate change that burdens so many aspects of our life. One such consequence continues to weigh at the back of my mind - the Ala Wai Canal.
The Ala Wai has always been in the background of my day to day life. I pass by it every time I go to and from school, and our cross-country team regularly runs by the Ala Wai Canal on out-runs. However, besides the occasional jokes I shared about the dirtiness of the canal, (how it was radioactive, how anyone who so much as touched the water could die a fatal death), it was never truly something that entered my mind. In fact, I only understood until recently how these seemingly frivolous jokes held some truth. While surfing the internet, I came across an article on Civil Beat by Joel Lau. The title was striking, and quite frankly, terrifying: “Flesh-Eating Bacteria in the Ala Wai Canal May Triple Due to Climate Change”.
What I learned was cruel, yet unsurprising. In the midst of our increasingly warming climate, the Ala Wai has become the perfect incubator for all types of harmful bacteria. A recent study by UH researchers found that the population of Vibrio vulnificus, a fatal, flesh-eating bacteria, would triple in the canal in coming decades due to the climate’s rising temperatures. Though the infection rate is relatively uncommon, its fatality is alarming, with 80% of victims being sent to the hospital and 30% dying. What is even more worrying, however, is that this problem is not limited to the canal. Rainfall causes these bacterial blooms to leak into surrounding beaches, making it no coincidence that Hawaii is home to the highest rate of non-cholera Vibrio infections in the nation. In one devastating result of this, Oliver Johnson, an injured man who fell into the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in 2006, died from a Vibrio vulnificus infection.
It may sound cliché or repetitive, but the truth must not be disregarded: if we do not make a difference now, it will be my generation that will continue to suffer these intensifying consequences in the future. The biggest threat to our environment is not climate change, but our inaction. In fact, it is the fuel and foundation to much of our problems that persist today. That is why we, as youth, must not give into resignation and abandon our futures. We are already equipped with the most powerful tool: our voices. I hope to use my own as part of the Climate Future Forum, and in the process, teach other youth the importance of their voices too. -Chisato
Aloha, I have been living in Hawaii my whole life, and so have witnessed the effects that climate change has already had on our state. When I was young, I would surf with my dad at Waikiki beach on the weekends, waking up early to ride on our family longboard at sunrise. I have fond memories of surfing with my dad and watching the sunrise. However, when I visit the beach now, there are stark changes. The effects of heightened sea level and accelerated erosion on the shoreline are easy to see, such as exposed concrete that was previously concealed with sediment and groins composed of sandbags required to protect other parts of the beach. It almost feels like a different place altogether. What worries me most is that this is not even close to how much the area will deteriorate over time. If climate change continues on its current path, the land will flood and the beach will be destroyed. Our pride and joy, sullied by the effect of something we have the power to change. I want future generations to have the opportunity to have a childhood like I did; I want to preserve my generation’s future. I want to care for the land the way it has cared for me. Being a part of Climate Future Forum and working in the legislative process for climate change has given me this opportunity. Working with others who have similar mindsets allows me to grow change in my community that can change our future. -Logan
Aloha, up until the summer of my fifth grade year, though I was aware of climate change, its effects never really felt tangible. Every time we learned about it, it just seemed like another boring school topic that didn’t really apply to us, like some melting ice thousands of miles away. In fifth grade, however, I did my own research project on coral bleaching and found myself incredibly intrigued by this issue. Learning about coral bleaching really helped to show me just how close to home these issues are. Our islands are surrounded by coral reefs, and they help make Hawaii the special place that it is. Though I never really liked the beach itself, I had always adored marine life. When I discovered that changing temperatures force coral to expel their algae and drive away entire ecosystems, I was heartbroken. I finally realized that climate change is more real to me than I could have ever imagined. Not only me, but organisms of all kinds, all over the world are suffering in one way or another. Our actions affect the whole planet, including what lives on it. While the effects of climate change may be negative, we still have a chance to work towards bringing about a positive change for the future, and being a part of the Climate Future Forum is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. -Tamara
I am originally from Northern California, famed for its fair weather and beautiful bay. However, every October, for as long as I can remember, I would exit summer, only to be drowned in the orange haze of wildfire season: evacuations, black-outs, and all. Although wildfires specifically may not be Hawaii's greatest plague, the threat of a major increase of natural disasters is very real, and I joined the CCL in hopes of joining the wave of activists, especially youth activists, who want real change in climate related sectors. Now that I spend most of my time in Honolulu, I have gained so much from the land, swimming in the ocean, hiking the coastal features, and simply indulging in its beautiful weather.
I am partaking in the Climate Future Forum so that we do not destroy these opportunities for future generations - and simultaneously, we do not destroy the work done by our ancestors, who truly cared for the land. I hope that generations to come can forever find beauty in their homes - and homes away from homes, just as I have. - Audrey
Aloha, while I’m relatively new to a lot of climate concerned organizations, I’ve been aware of climate change for what feels like at least half my life. I don’t know if there has been a year since 4th grade where the climate crisis went unmentioned in school.
My family loves the water and we spend a lot of time surfing and hanging out along the south shore. However, the beach I remember most vividly wasn’t on the south shore, in fact it wasn't on the island of Oahu at all. It was on a small private beach connected to a family friend's vacation home on Hawaii island. I remember my dad dragging me out to snorkel in the chilly water insisting that it would be worth it. Even though it’s been almost 5 years now, I can still remember the way my eyes flew open at the rainbow I saw beneath me. It was then that the reality of the climate crisis really sunk in. I started noticing the foggy water and endless trails of invasive seaweeds at the beach. I stopped thinking of the huge flooding downpours or significantly hotter summers as random events but rather effects of the bigger issue at hand. However, it was a half a quarter long class on being a solutionary that really spurred an interest in doing my part to promote and endorse an effective change. That class helped me to realize that a better future isn’t brought about by people who sit still and are simply satisfied with the world we’re in.
Change makers are the kind of people who look at the world through an honest lens and ask themselves how can I fix this problem. Not just for myself, not just for my family, but for the future. I am involved with the Climate Future Forum in hopes that my actions could make a greater impact. The climate crisis is real and it’s bad and it’s only going to get worse which is why we need to work with lawmakers to enact policies to address climate change. -Lei