The air was still and the sky was leaden when Koko and I took our walk this morning. Thick clouds were drifting in from the northeast and piling up over the Giant, cloaking his body in swirling gray mist, although Waialeale remained clear.
It was so nice walking on ground that was still saturated from yesterday’s big rain, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while, but hopefully will again today, as the small smatterings that dampened us on our return have now become a serious steady shower.
It’s a good morning for staying inside, which I wanted to do yesterday, but instead ending up spending the entire day and part of the night with do-gooders. Not that I use that word in any sort of derogatory context, as I believe strongly in doing good, although I often grapple with the best and most effective way to do it.
The day was devoted to do-gooders who act largely independently to achieve some personal vision of what will make their little corner of the world a better place, with actions that ranged from cleaning up Kealia Beach through chanting to monitoring violations in the Wainiha-Haena conservation district.
I felt good after hanging with these three individuals, all of whom I will write about, and it was obvious they were pleased with their efforts, even though they’d encountered resistance and setbacks.
But I left the evening do-gooder event with a decidedly different feeling, one that was more akin to frustration, annoyance, even despair.
While I know many of the people who attended the meeting are smart and caring, and committed to doing something meaningful for Kauai, I kept feeling like much of the effort expended on their various initiatives would come to naught.
Why? Well, for starters, as my neighbor Andy observed — it seems I run into him everywhere — while the faces were different than those he’d encountered at environmental meetings in the past “the complexion is the same.”
Even after all these years, the environmental movement has managed to engage only a small portion of the community, and one that has relatively little power at that. And so long as it’s largely comprised of haoles from the mainland, it’s simply not going to be effective.
That situation is compounded by the fact that some of the people in it are themselves part of the problem. This point was driven home when I heard a man speaking about the need to pass the proposed Charter amendment that would give the Council, rather than the Planning Commission, the final power to approve resort developments.
He was saying that if it didn’t pass, people should just stop complaining that Kauai was getting overdeveloped and rapidly turning into Maui. Yet this man happens to live right next to door to a good friend of mine in Hanalei, where he built the typical “all house, no lot” expensive home — the kind that has driven up property taxes there — replete with a formidable “don’t wanna interact with my neighbors” stone wall that didn’t meet county regs and now requires his previously shunned neighbor’s help to come into conformance.
He doesn’t seem to understand that he has already created for some existing residents the type of community he is now rallying against.
I see this giant disconnect over and over again, and it’s really at the core of the weakness of Kauai’s anti-growth/environmental movement. So many of its members want a certain kind of community, but they’re pursuing their objectives with no real understanding of what is already here, how the existing residents might feel about it, and the impact that they themselves are having.
Like I said, I believe in doing good. But first, I think, you’ve gotta make sure you really are.