In terms of climate change, the last thing Hawaii needs is another visitor inside of her. Yet, along with tens of thousands of others, here I am. As I write I'm perfecting the look of a beached whale dying of humidity poisoning. I'm told the weather is relatively cool right now. Tell my blowhole that.
For Hawaii, tourism is the Big Kahuna. Just like the global insurance industry, the world's tourism gurus generally accept and deeply comprehend the implications of what's coming. The thought of losing money, rather than making tons of it, does rather tend to focus the collective neoliberal mind.
Accordingly, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority funded a study called "Climate Change Impacts In Hawaii: A Summary Of Climate Change And Its Impacts To Hawaii's Ecosystems And Communities." Among the lowlights, of which there are plenty, the study projects that higher average temperatures will cause a surge of heat-related diseases such as dengue fever and cholera, along with higher levels of invasive species.
A decrease in trade winds will disrupt rainfall patterns creating both drought and heavy flooding, while warmer oceans and higher ocean acidity will trigger coral bleaching, marine migration and markedly affect the ocean's circulation.
Many of these processes are well underway. Sea level rise is already impacting all the islands, and famous Waikiki Beach. Predictions are that the hotel strip will be lost to the sea within the next few decades.
So, just like New Zealand, the very industry that is their biggest earner - tourism - also relies on the exact same industry that is, relative to its size, disproportionately contributing to climate change: aviation. Yet it's the one thing that of many us do - me included - without so much as backward glance at the emissions we're helping to create. I literally bounded on to the shiny new Dreamliner with great glee and gusto, holding thoughts of sun and sand firmly in my little, child-like mind. We all do it.
I don't believe the claim by many airlines that they are reducing their carbon footprint with technological innovations such as aircraft design and biofuels. These have achieved virtually nothing. Airlines have also successfully rejected taxation or regulation on their emissions.
I'm perfecting the look of a beached whale dying of humidity poisoning. I'm told the weather is relatively cool right now. Tell my blowhole that.
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To be fair, 190 airlines have now signed up to an accord at the recent Paris climate conference. Of course, "accord" is just another word for voluntary - Russia and India haven't signed either - so expecting anything to radically change would be naïve. Aviation experts are united in their view that this is essentially a free pass for the industry. Indeed, this new standard is lower than what the industry is projected to achieve in the next decade anyway - with the Boeing 787s and Airbus 350s already exceeding the new efficiency target. In other words, it's business as usual.
Which means we all get the benefit of cheap holiday deals, so we're not likely to protest with our feet any time soon. The emotional power of travelling the globe is massive. Flying everywhere, all the time, for any reason is our absolute right, isn't it?
I covet my Air New Zealand air and status points. I imagine my next journey, and the freedom to suddenly be lying on a beach in Hawaii sipping a Mai Tai. Who doesn't? Yet, in our heart of hearts we know that this whole thing is a circular sham. New Zealand and Hawaii need travelers arriving by air for, you know, the economy. However, aviation emissions are responsible for a sizeable chunk of climate change impacts, and with 50,000 new large planes to join the global fleet to meet increasing demand, climate change effects will not be stopping any time soon.
Environmentalists are often criticised for regular air travel necessary for their work. My partner works for the Department of Conservation and manages a freshwater science team scattered around the country. She is a conservationist to her core. Week in and week out she is sitting on a plane. Her carbon footprint is huge. Does this make her a hypocrite? No, it makes her a person caught up in this ridiculous net of life where we all need to work to survive and flying is part of the job. Are we hypocrites for going on holiday in warmer climes after a long winter? No, we are human beings doing what we can to feel reinvigorated. Because this is what this new world of neoliberalism does to people. Cogs in the machine, money is everything, resources are there to be taken before they're all gone, ironically.
Conveniently, I suspect, the capitalist slash corporate paradigm we're all living in wants us to give up on climate. Technology has yet to solve the enormity of the problems we're facing, yet it's relentlessly implied it will. It won't.
Now. Back to my Mai Tai.