I was on a hike along a rugged lava field on the coastline of the Island of Pico in the Azores. I met Paulo along my walk. He was a lighthouse keeper, a person who has long studied the seas. His words about the impact of climate change on the Azores follow.
Paulo, Age 50s
Interview conducted on Nov 02, 2019
Mantenha, Pico Island, Azores
What is you most favorite part of living on Pico?
I only work on Pico and live on Faial. I like that all the islands are so different and unique.
What is you least favorite part?
It is difficult to make a living. All we have is cows and fish. We are trying to build out tourist economy but not to big because it is important keep it a natural place for people to visit.
Do you see changes in the weather?
Yes, Hurricane Lorenzo came very close to hitting the Azores. The harbor in the Flores was badly damaged and is currently being rebuilt. We have had tropical storms from time to time, but Lorenzo was unusual, very large. If the storm would have tracked closer there would have been mass destruction. It would have been devastating to the tourism based economy we are working hard to build.
We are used to winds. They blow very strong here sometimes in the winter, but the storm surge and the waves were incredible. The were like nothing I have ever seen before. Storms are different now. The sea level is going up and we will see more and more in the future.
Do you feel man’s activities have contributed to storms getting stronger ?
Yes, it is a consequence of the industrial revolution and we will all have to pay.
“Paulo comments about paying for the industrial revolution are ringing in my head. Humankind has made great technological strides in the last ~300 years. In life I have learned that nothing is all good or all bad. There is no black or white, it is always some shade of grey. I do not claim to know what price humans and our beautiful planet will pay. I remain optimistic about our species ability to innovate and create solutions, but hope we will not have to wait for hardship the most motivating of teachers.”
Update. 11/8/2019. A few days after the interview we stumbled upon evidence of the storm surge the lighthouse keeper described. Huge boulders, weighing tons were thrown onto a walkway leading to a natural swimming hole for children.
Farther up the shore, about 50 feet above sea level, a rock wall around a picnic area was destroyed. Flotsam was present even high at around 60 feet suggesting that waves had carried ocean debris that high during the storm. The seas were angry that day.