The ecosystem on a small island can be unstable and easily disturbed, especially if the island that is a long distance away from the mainland. I wrote about Iceland’s ecosystem approximately two years ago (click here to read), Iceland must sustain on its own by using Geothermal energy to produce heat. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce 30% of the country’s electricity. However, the Hawaiian Islands are a different story. On a trip to Hawaii, I learned about their environmental protection laws and the ecosystem.
The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is far away from the mainland of the United States. Unlike Iceland, Hawaii’s climate is warm and wet, not as brutally cold as Iceland. Because of the mild weather and rich soil, plants such as bananas, pineapples, mangos, and some vegetables are prosperous in some part of those islands. Food resources are not a problem for people on these islands. Compared to Iceland, Hawaii attracts about nine million visitors last year while Iceland had about two million.
So, what did Hawaii do to protect their environment and ecosystem?
The National Park Rangers at Big Island created a legend about the fiery volcano goddess would punish people that took the volcano rocks away to prevent visitors from keeping them as “souvenirs”.
One of the most important ecosystems in Hawaii is the marine life around the islands. They have such beautiful and abundant marine life in the middle of Pacific, take the Hanauma Bay as an example:
The Bay was formed million years ago by the erupt of an active volcano, water slowly corrosion the outside boundary and flow inside, coral reef growing on those rich volcano rock sediments and make Hanauma Bay a perfect snorkeling area. In addition, the natural shaped topography protected coral reef in this bay and current so it’s safe to swim in it. Due to the number of visitors that come to the bay every day, the park is closed on Tuesday to give the natural elements time to recover.
Hawaii’s coral reef is facing increasing challenges these years because of runoff soil, chemicals, and human’s contact. People who visit Hanauma Bay must use reef-safe sunscreen and no bug spray is allowed. Visitors have to watch an educational video about the ecosystem at Hanauma Bay, including warnings and tips for snorkeling.
The rainforests also play an important role in Hawaii’s fragile environment, especially for the native animals. When you get off the plane in Hawaii, you have to submit a customs card that states all your belongs that might disturb the environment, such as other vegetation and live animals. Snakes are banned on the islands!
I was surprised that I did not get a single mosquito bite on this trip. After talking to the hotel receptionist, we learned that this island is really doing a good job with mosquito control by using enclosed trash cans and keeping the coast clean. The fine is expensive for people who are caught throwing trash in the wrong place.
On this trip, I could tell how hard Hawaiians are working to protect their fragile ecosystem and the beautiful environment. As a visitor, I do want to help in this process, because we are trying to protect the beautiful ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.
Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.