by Keri Kodama
On a bright summer day on the Island of Hawai‘i, the three ‘Io brothers packed their bags and got ready to leave for a well-earned vacation. They were on their way to visit their old friend ‘Apapane who lived by the ocean in Kapoho, and they were all very excited for it had been many years since they could visit.
“I can’t wait to go swimming!” said the first ‘Io brother, the most playful of the three.
“I hope the waves are good,” said the second ‘Io brother, who was the coolest.
“I remember there were many interesting fish to see,” added the third ‘Io brother, who was the cleverest.
The entire way there, they eagerly chatted about what they planned to do. However, when they arrived, they did not see the beautiful yard that they remembered but a giant puddle of water. It looked as though the house were floating! ‘Apapane stood on the porch, shaking her head sadly.
“‘Apapane! What happened?” cried the brothers. “Why is there so much water?”
“Oh, brothers!” said ‘Apapane. “It’s a bad time for a vacation. The high tide has flooded the yard again.”
“You mean this has happened before?” asked the third brother.
“Oh yes,” replied ‘Apapane. “Many times. Each year, the high tides have gotten higher. Soon the water will start to flood my house!”
“Let us help,” suggested the first ‘Io brother. The other brothers agreed, and together, they were able use sandbags to block the water from leaking into the house.
While they worked, they saw a strange sight. Honu was swimming up the road, which was covered in water! On her back were a rat and a dog.
“Hello, Honu,” the brothers called out. “Why are there animals riding on your back?”
“The road is flooded, and they cannot get into town,” answered Honu. “I’m helping everyone I can, but it is very tiring! I’ve been swimming back and forth all day.”
Just then, Monk Seal hopped up onto the sea wall around ‘Apapane’s yard. He looked very tired.
“Monk Seal, don’t tell me your home is flooded too,” said ‘Apapane.
“Yes, it is…Again!” said Monk Seal sadly. “I have to live close to the ocean, but I need somewhere dry and sheltered to sleep. If these tides keep getting higher, I will have to leave the neighborhood.”
“Not you too,” cried ‘Apapane. “As the floods get worse, more and more people are being forced to leave. Soon our community will be empty. I may have to move as well,” she explained to the brothers. “I love my neighbors and my house. I don’t want to leave.”
“There must be something we can do,” said the third ‘Io brother with determination.
The third ‘Io brother decided to call his friend Nene. She was a scientist. Surely, she could give them some advice.
“Ah, yes, tidal flooding,” said Nene. “It’s happening because of something called ‘global warming,’ and it’s going to get worse if nothing changes.”
“Global warming? What’s that?” asked the brothers.
“Well, the air that we breathe is part of what is called the atmosphere. It is made up of different types of gases, and it surrounds our planet like a shell and protects us from outer space. Some of these gases, like carbon dioxide, help to trap heat coming in from the sun so that it stays warm, just like a greenhouse. That’s why it’s called ‘the greenhouse effect.’ It’s very important. Without it, the Earth would be too cold for us to live,” Nene explained.
“But how does that make the ocean flood?” asked the first ‘Io brother, confused.
“Because now, the greenhouse effect is too strong! Because of pollution, there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” answered Nene. “Now the Earth is getting too warm too fast. This is melting the ice caps at the North and South Poles and adding large amounts of water to the ocean. This makes the sea level rise, even here in Hawai‘i.”
“The polar ice caps? Those are so far away,” said the second ‘Io brother. “How can we solve a problem so far away?”
“Well, it’s not the only problem,” said Nene sadly.
“The warming Earth is changing the weather patterns everywhere. Some places will have too much rain. Some places will not have enough. Many people might have to leave their homes if we don’t stop it,” Nene continued.
“This is a very big problem,” said the third brother. Even he looked troubled. “This is not something I can fix by myself. I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t give up, brothers,” said Nene.
“It will be difficult, but we can do it if we work together,” explained Nene. “Cars, planes, ships, factories, and power plants all add even more carbon dioxide to the air. Here in Hawai‘i, the power plants we depend on to power our cities all use fuel that makes carbon dioxide pollution. Also, we have to bring the fuel in from far away using ships that make even more pollution!”
“That’s not good!” exclaimed the third ‘Io brother.
“No, it’s not. That’s why it’s very important for Hawai‘i to become more sustainable. That means we must start using clean energy, such as solar or wind energy, to power our cities and avoid gas and coal which make more pollution.”
“Hawai‘i is so far away, that it is very important for us to become more resilient. That means we must be more independent, in case we cannot get things we need from outside, such as energy and food. Having food and supplies from local sources will be a big help in reducing our carbon pollution. It will also make our communities stronger. These are just some of the things we can do to make a change,” Nene told the brothers.
“Nene is right,” said the third brother. “We can’t give up.”
“But how?” asked the second brother. “It’s like you said, the problem is so big.”
The third brother thought for a while. “Maybe we should take things one at a time. First, we can help our neighbors.”
The brothers talked to ‘Apapane, and she gathered everyone in the neighborhood. After the tide went back down, the brothers stayed to help fix the community. They cleaned the houses. They installed solar panels to help reduce carbon pollution and made a new house for Monk Seal. They helped raise the roads so Honu wouldn’t have to carry everyone back and forth.
“Thank you, ‘Io brothers!” said ‘Apapane. “I’m sorry you had to do work on your vacation.”
“That’s okay! It’s more important to help our friends,” said the first ‘Io brother.
“What do we do next?” asked the second brother. “It’s great to help our neighbors, but I don’t think it’s enough to stop global warming.”
“Yes, we need factories and vehicles to stop making so much pollution, and we need to protect the environment,” agreed the third brother.
“We need more help. Let’s tell everyone we know about what we learned,” suggested the first brother.
“Great idea,” said the third ‘Io brother.
And so they did. They called their friends and family all over the islands and explained to them what Nene had said.
And then their friends and family told everyone they knew about what they learned.
Many people wanted to help. They all called their local leaders and asked them to build more clean energy and make laws to protect the land. They called the owners of the factories and asked them to stop polluting.
With so many people asking, it got harder and harder for the leaders and factory owners not to listen.
“This is a great start, brothers,” cheered Nene when she saw what everyone was doing. “Of course, we must keep going! We must always keep learning more about the Earth and telling everyone about what you learned. It can be very confusing to find helpful information, so always ask lots of questions. If you are ever having trouble or want to know more, you can always ask a scientist like me. Not everything will go back to exactly the way it was before, and it will be hard to solve this problem. But if we all help each other make change, things can get better.”
Soon, the brothers began to get messages and videos of people from all over the islands.
“We heard about what you are doing,” said one message. “We are trying to help everyone drive their cars less!”
“We are starting a community garden like Nene said,” said another message. “And our leaders are promising to support clean energy!”
“Wow!” said first brother. “Now that everyone is helping out, maybe things will start to change.”
“There’s still a long way to go,” said second brother. “There’s a lot more work to do.”
“But one thing at a time. We can do it,” finished the third brother.
“And so can you!”