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On The Green Road: Post-Hawaii Musings

2008 July 15

About the author: As Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoyed a recent vacation, he sent along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

We’ve been back home now for a few weeks. Hawaii was a pretty incredible way to spend our 15th anniversary. Aside from a sense of wonder, a couple of things struck me while I was there that have stayed with me.

First, it amazed me how little air conditioning is used in Hawaii. Between the trade winds and the magically low humidity (I mean, it’s a tropical island!), it was remarkably comfortable even in the upper 80s. And I get hot here in DC when it breaks 75. What’s funny is that when I’ve brought it up to friends who have also visited, they say they were also surprised.

The Honolulu airport was mostly open to the outside. Actually, some gates have air-conditioned spaces, but not the main terminal. I wonder how they decide where to put it? And then there’s the Kona airport, which really goes without AC:

small thatch-roofed buildings bordering an open-air courtyard


You check in under a series of open-air pavilions. Once you’re though security, there is no concourse. Instead, each gate area has its own pavilion, and you walk across an open-air courtyard to get to your gate.

My first hint that’s how it would be came when making reservations, and every place mentioned ceiling fans but not AC. In fact, the only place with AC was our Waikiki hotel. I wonder if that’s a heat-island effect, or it’s just that there’s little airflow through a high-rise hotel room. Or maybe it’s that tourists expect AC, so hotels there include it.

Hawaiians seem in tune with their environment in a way that I envy. And in this case, they save a lot of energy by relying on their special climate to keep things comfortable. If only we could import it here. When we landed in DC at 10:00 pm, it was only 73 degrees but about 20 times stickier.

coqui frogThe other thing I wanted to mention is the coqui frog. You may remember Lina Younes asking people in Hawaii not to eradicate this Puerto Rican favorite. I’ll leave the debate about whether to eradicate them in the comments on that post.

But Lina commented on my first Hawaii post asking whether I’d heard the little songsters. Did I ever! North of Hilo, we heard a single frog, and I can understand Lina’s fond memories of “co-kee, co-kee” lulling her to sleep.

But south of Hilo in the forest, they were so loud we could hear them through the car windows (yes, we were hot, so we put on the AC). So for Lina, I recorded them: Hawaiian coqui (MP3 sound file, 20 seconds, 550 KB, transcript).

Now I understand why people commented on Lina’s post that the coquis had destroyed their peaceful evenings!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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42 Responses leave one →
  1. Lina-EPA permalink*
    July 15, 2008

    Finally, I was looking forward to your blog on the coquí! The Hawaiian wall of sound was somewhat louder than in Puerto Rican urban areas. Have never spent the night in our rain forest, El Yunque, where I imagine the amphibian cacophony might have been similar to that in the South Pacific. I still believe it has a musicality of its own, but I’m prejudiced.

    On other issues–like the use of the air conditioning and architecture in Hawaii versus Puerto Rico, I must confess that Puerto Rico is much more humid and we have become too dependant on air conditioning. We no longer build our houses in a way to take advantage of the tradewinds. The high ceilings, wooden structures are a thing of the past. That might be related to the threat of Caribbean hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
    So kudos to Hawaii for preserving their Island paradise.

  2. Doug Vincent permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Jeffrey, thank you spending your hard earned vacation dollars in the 50th state. A couple of comments from an almost kama’aina (23 years in the 50th state). As for air conditioning, in most government buildings, except for the airports, you mentioned, there is air conditioning. In some cases, the buildings are “over” air conditioned. Even though the humidity is perceived to be as high as Washington DC in the summertime, humidity is a problem as it promotes mold growth. So to combat the mold growth, buildings are air conditioned. For example, on the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus (in the Manoa valley of Honolulu), we had a flash flood that damaged our campus in 2004. In several of our buildings, we had extended periods when our AC was off due to damage to the infrastructure. Because we could not open up our building’s windows, we had an extraordinary amount of mold growth in the 4 to 6 weeks of interrupted AC. So much so that scientific instrumentation was damaged due to mold growing in circuit boards and in computers. The trade winds do cool most of our homes but most commercial buildings have AC.

    I’m glad you mentioned the coqui. The coqui has devastated the Island of Hawaii. It’s not so obvious on the Kona side of the Big Island but on the Hilo side of the Island, especially south of Hilo, where it was first introduced, it has had enormous impact, with no mitigation in sight. Largely in part because when it was first introduced, many people didn’t take the introduction seriously. “What could this little frog really do?”. There are data that indicates that property values for areas with coqui are reduced significiantly. It is something that has to be disclosed when property changes hands. Yet there are those who wish to stop the mitigation/control efforts. Go here to find information about the “pro” coqui in Hawaii: http://www.hawaiiancoqui.org/aboutcoqui.htm and go here to find efforts about controlling the coqui in Hawaii: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/coqui/

  3. Mayra Troche-Matos permalink
    July 16, 2008

    I heard the sound of the Hawaiian coqui that Mr. Levy recorded. Even when you don’t hear that they do the so famous “Ko-Kee” sound, I think they are actually coquies. By the way, in Puerto Rico only two of the more than a dozen diferent species of the coquies say “Ko-kee”. Some sounds like a “kee, kee, kee” others like “clics”, “tweet-tweet”, etc. Only the males are the ones who sing and no matter how they sound, the meaning of the “magical” song is to mark territory and call the female. I’m a boricua living in the US mainland and one of the things that I really miss from my “enchanted island” is that beautiful sound, to the point that in my nostalgic moments, I play my coqui CD, close my eyes and feel like if I’m in my little Island.

  4. Jeffrey Levy - EPA permalink*
    July 16, 2008

    @Doug: interesting points about AC. Since all I saw were airports and private homes (in the form of Bed & Breakfast places where we stayed), I didn’t experience office buildings. It makes sense they’d have AC, of course. I sympathize about the mold – yuck! I hope it didn’t cause any health problems. Mold can be a very serious issue after flooding. Thanks also for the links about the coquis. Lina’s original post has triggered one of the most interesting, and long-running, discussions in Greenversations.

    @Mayra: thanks to you, too, for sharing your knowledge and affection for the coqui. I’ve learned how much Puerto Ricans love this frog. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of another group so enamored of a wild animal, actually. I mean, across the US, there are groups who love wolves, eagles, etc., but this one frog clearly has a massive group in PR that loves it dearly. A friend of mine on a photography Web site even asked me about it!

  5. larry czerwonka permalink
    July 16, 2008

    as someone who has lived in both puerto rico and hawaii i am amazed at how two different cultures react so differently to the same frog. it reminds me of a fact around most homes: grass growing in the yard is loved and cherished while grass growing in the garden is a dirty old weed. the coqui now is loved in puerto rico and hated in hawaii even though it is still the same animal. in puerto rico it sings and in hawaii it screeches.

  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    July 17, 2008

    Larry,
    Glad to hear from someone who has experienced both settings. Just wonder if the invasive PR coquis without natural predators might have grown excessively or mutated that their once melodious song has grown out of proportion. I must add that some of the Hawaiian sites portray an amphibian larger than most of the varieties seen on the Puerto Rican islands.

    Doug–Thanks for both coqui sites.

  7. larry czerwonka permalink
    July 17, 2008

    Lina

    i have not seen any coquis here that are any differnet from what i saw in puerto rico … as for “natural” predators, i see lots of articles saying that snakes in puerto rico keep the population down, in 4 plus years of living in puerto rico and seeing coquis i never once saw a single snake or even heard of anyone seeing a snake … i think the difference in hawaii is that there are more areas with lots of moisture and thus thick foliage for the co

  8. larry czerwonka permalink
    July 17, 2008

    Lina

    i have not seen any coquis here that are any different from what i saw in puerto rico … as for “natural” predators, i see lots of articles saying that snakes in puerto rico keep the population down, in 4 plus years of living in puerto rico and seeing coquis i never once saw a single snake or even heard of anyone seeing a snake …

  9. Lina-EPA permalink*
    July 17, 2008

    Larry,
    Personally, I never saw snakes, but I have heard of people who’ve seen snakes in my old neighborhood and a mountain nearby. I never new the snakes feasted on the coquies, though. Thought the main culprits for invading the coqui landscape were humans.

  10. larry czerwonka permalink
    July 18, 2008

    Lina,
    one of the reasons given in hawaii for the coqui population explosion is the lack of snakes here. i think it has more to do with the abundance of perfect coqui habitat. just behind our house is 2 acres of trees and bushes and across the stream is 40 acres of the same which connects with forest for another 20 plus miles. that is a lots of habitat with 120″ of rain a year, it’s coqui paradise.

    the one “predator” that does make a dent in the population around people’s homes in hawaii are chickens :).

  11. Satyagraha permalink
    July 18, 2008

    The coqui HAS morphed in Hawai’i.
    It is much larger than it’s cousin guys in Puerto Rico.
    Larger size must have made larger “voice”
    It is nearly as loud during the day now which as I understand is also a change in behavior
    It has no predator here except maybe chickens and on the Big Isle
    the rock makes for nice hiding
    I don’t have them at my home but visit family that do and they are so loud you must raise your voice to overcome their noise.
    I would not shed one tear if they vanished tomorrow.
    Sorry I’d rather have more mosquitoes.
    If we are ever going to rid ourselves is unknown but unless Gov. Lingle gets to experience them first hand at her home or the capital she won’t help with what many would like and that is eradication

  12. larry czerwonka permalink
    July 18, 2008

    Satyagraha:

    i have 50 plus coqui’s around my house and none are larger than those i had around my house in puerto rico. here they vary in size just as they do in puerto rico.

    i would prefer they were not here on the big island too. i like their sound but i prefer it in their homeland and not in hawaii.

    in puerto rico coqui’s call day and night, not just at night, if they are in shade and that is what they are doing here in hawaii. calling during the day is not a new trait.

    the problem now is they have inhabited hawaii to such an extent that getting rid of them has become impossible on the big island and all people can hope for is to limit their habitat, sort of like controlling cockroaches ,but it must be done in a manner that does not pollute the environment.

    now we all need to find a safe and environmentally friendly way to reduce their numbers and that is where money needs to be spent, not on spraying more chemicals into the environment where they kill more than just the coqui’s.

  13. ALFONSO CRUZ permalink
    August 18, 2008

    HAWAIIANRICAN COQUI

    SHOM MA SHOM PA! QUE TRISTE SOLEDAD LA NOCHE TRISTE ESTA
    AY BENDITO! EL PARRANDERO TROVADOR NO QUIERE CANTAR YA
    MIGRANTE COMO LOS ABUELOS A TIERRAS POLINESIAS PARTIO
    Y ENTRE MEDIO DE CAN~A Y MALANGAS CONPUSO SU CANCION

    OYE LOLO OYE? QUE ESCUCHAS!HAWAII NO SOLO ES PLAYA SI NO
    HULAU DE DESTRUCCION MIRA EL DOLOR QUE CAUSAS AL GUAJON
    SOLO CUMPLE SU DEBER !JUGLAR! POR EXELENCIA EL COQUI ES
    LOLO MUCHO RESPETO! CUIDADO CON EL SIMBOLO DE MI NACION

    MIRAD SU NOBLEZA CORTEJANDO A SU AMADA DE FLOR EN FLOR
    COMO EL JIBARO DE LA CORDILLERA GALANTEA A SU GRAN AMOR
    EL COQUI HACE DANZA DE SU ARTE PARA LLAMAR LA ATENCION
    ES UN SENOR CABALLERO DEL JARDIN,EN LAS NOCHES PASION

    CORAJE AL VER QUE MIS ANTEPASADOS TE ENTREGARON SU SUDOR
    A UN VIAJE SIN RETORNO LAGRIMIANDO AL DESTIERRO DE SU NACION
    HACIA PARADISIACA ISLAS QUE CON GRAN AMOR TUS TIERRAS CULTIVO
    BORICUAS RECUERDAN ESE HIMNO COQUI,COQUI QUE PARTE CORAZON

    DE ALFONSO MA CRUZ VILLAFANE # 019

    [ This is a Spanish poem about the plight of the Puerto Rican coquí that was transported to the South Pacific isles of Hawaii where it has met an unfriendly fate. -ed. ]

  14. d s permalink
    November 23, 2008

    I don’t know about the coqui as I live on the dry west side of Oahu. But everytime a new creature is introduced to this finite piece of land, another’s niche is taken away.

    Your observation that the Trades work to cool us is a no brainer that should be utilized more in our architecture. It urks me that this government wastes and acts in such ignorant ways, i.e. purposely ignores the obvious probably for corrupted reasons!!! We have MANY buildings that are OVER ‘AC’d’ and energy pits to boot!! Kids leave SOME schools cold to the bone and others can hardly concentrate from the lack of ac. One school leaves their administration’s office FRONT DOOR OPEN to warm up???!!!

    FINALLY, the Department of Education has asked schools to limit personal fridges and microwaves that some teachers have in their classrooms and to turn off things at night (that’s always been an obvious no brainer to me). It’s taken the economy NOT the planetary catastrophy to force people to act (perhaps a hidden blessing). I’ve lived here for 40 years plus and the mentality hardly changes.

  15. Rob permalink
    January 10, 2009

    I still have plenty of relatives living in Kona – they still
    work the coffee farm. I’m surprised you left out the small detail of it being one of the most breathtaking places on earth…

  16. Robert permalink
    January 23, 2009

    According to the scientific literature, the frogs in Hawaii are still smaller than those found in PR and even though coqui are primarily nocturnal, you will still have some calling during cloudy days. There’s always exceptions to the rule. But I am glad that someone has experienced and now understands the plight Hawaii residents face with the coqui. Not only does it affect our nightly activities (sleeping mostly) but also has the potential to affect our very finite resources of native species unique only to Hawaii. Coqui are very, very interesting animals and resilient as hell here, but we have to choose to either perpetuate a single species of a common frog or perpetuate multiple species of rare and unique species. Sadly, we can’t have both.

  17. caribbean dating permalink
    April 22, 2009

    the frog is certainly famous… to go to hawaii is an experience but to get close to coqui’s are amazing…

  18. Lina-EPA permalink*
    April 23, 2009

    Interesting. This little frog and such a large reputation.

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    October 29, 2009

    I wish I can visit Hawaii sometimes next year..

  20. Nick Matyas permalink
    January 5, 2010

    Very good posting . Really i enjoy it.

  21. Mike permalink
    March 8, 2010

    I have been to Kona and absolutely loved it!My wife and I flew in a chopper over the active Lava flowing Volcano. It was breathtaking.

  22. dinar iraqi permalink
    July 21, 2010

    the frog is positively renowned… to go to hawaii is an understanding but to find close to coqui’s are wonderful…

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    August 1, 2010

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    August 12, 2010

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  26. Vietnam dong permalink
    September 16, 2010

    Finally, I was looking to the fore to your blog on the coquí! The Hawaiian side of jingle was fairly louder than in Puerto Rican city areas. assert by no means tired the hours of darkness in our shower forest, El Yunque, where I picture the amphibian cacophony might grasp been like to with the purpose of in the South Pacific. I still consider it has a musicality of its own, but I’m prejudiced.

    On extra issues–like the use of the air conditioning and architecture in Hawaii versus Puerto Rico, I must confess that Puerto Rico is a good deal more clammy and we take part in turn into too dependant on air conditioning. We no longer physique our houses in a way to reserve gain of the tradewinds. The far above the ground ceilings, made of wood structures are a mechanism of the past. with the intention of force be interconnected to the hazard of Caribbean hurricanes in Puerto Rico.
    So kudos to Hawaii for preserving their Island paradise.

  27. Juan permalink
    September 27, 2010

    I’m happy you enjoyed your anniversary here =) but just a few things…

    We have 11 of the worlds 13 climatic zones and as a whole is considered sub-tropical and have a huge variation in weather and climates over very short distances (Where I live gets around 30″ of rain a year whereas a few miles mauka “upland” they get 200+”), Temperature can change by 20-30+ degrees over just a few miles, and so can humidity, wind, and other factors…and yes air conditioning is common especially in the areas inundated by mainland people (Waikiki, Kahala, Kona, Kailua (O’ahu), etc..) and like the posts above me have mentioned, it is often wasted in situations when people could just simply open a door or window.

    Hawaiians= native Hawaiians normally. Many people here on O’ahu are by no means in touch with the environment, look at what this place has become…. Waikiki was a marshland that was one of the most productive pieces of land in the islands..don’t let me get started on this…

    The coqui is a menace to our ecosystem, an ecosystem unparalleled in all the world and one in great danger. We have a 90% endemism rate of plants and also are the endangered species capital of the world. The coqui does have a negative effect on our ecosystem. Lina Younes is just playing on her latina roots to try to politicize the coqui that ironically doesn’t see itself as “Puertorican” (And for those who would like to call me racist, I’m of Hispanic ancestry and speak Spanish and Portuguese).

    She is trying to incite emotion, anger, and action on part of the hispanic reader yet interestingly she has never been here, She has never lived here, she obviously has very little knowledge of our native biota and environment, so before she can even begin to think of making a judgment call to “preserve” an invasive species here in Hawai’i, maybe she should open here eyes and realize that maybe she is no better than those who have destroyed this land and it’s people. They may not be the miconia of the animal world, but each small threat to our ecosystem hurts and in the end, all the species here suffer.

    p.s. for those of you who want to hear the beautiful serenade of a thousand lawn-mowers and alarm-clocks together, go anywhere from honomu, through Hilo down to Mountain View in the evening. The Hawai’i Community College campus in Hilo is a wonderful place to hear the noise which can be deafening. For the daytime and easy access, try the Akaka Falls trail, it’s paved and you can definitely hear a few in the daytime.

  28. how to get a six pack permalink
    October 1, 2010

    I like hawaaien music too :D
    The great rythm and synthesizers!

  29. Centre recyclage permalink
    October 6, 2010

    as a big shot who has lived in in somebody’s company Puerto Rico and Hawaii i am amazed at how two detached cultures respond so in a different way to the equal frog. it reminds me of a verity here principally homes: field growing in the yard is loved and loved even if pampas evolving in the piece of land is a soil old weed. the coqui now is loved in Puerto Rico and hated in Hawaii equal all the same it is chase away the devoted animal. in Puerto Rico it sings and in Hawaii it screeches.

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    October 20, 2010

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  33. Window Blinds permalink
    November 15, 2010

    That frog is cute!

  34. House Cleaning Service permalink
    November 20, 2010

    I hope you are having a great start to the week! I’m currently in New Haven, CT this time for less than 24 hours (!). Craziness! I got to use a really nice kitchen tonight in the hotel, and the day in food went really smoothly. But honestly, I really need to get a good night’s sleep! I was starting to nod off periodically on the road down from Boston.

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    May 11, 2011

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    And in this case, they save a lot of energy by relying on their special climate to keep things comfortable..!

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