Thursday, June 12, 2008

Musings: Talking Story

Clouds had settled in thick and low over the interior mountains, where rain was thankfully falling, when Koko and I went walking this morning. The ground was wet from showers that had drifted through overnight, and when the sun rose as a dim orange sphere, it cast the interior in a sort of silvery-purple sheen.

Along the road I picked handfuls of yellow waiwi (guava), which I enjoyed, although Koko wasn’t pleased with the small showers that fell upon her each time I pulled down a branch, releasing the rain that had collected on the leaves.

Ran into farmer Jerry, whose smiling face adopted a worried expression as we discussed the important ag lands legislation — still awaiting the guv’s signature — and his concern that it will turn into a feeding frenzy for realtors and developers.

After all, Hawaii has some 1.9 million acres of ag land, and if only a quarter of that total is set aside as “important,” as some estimates project, does it mean open season on the rest? Of course, the Board of Realtors and vacation rental associations did support the bill, so you’ve gotta figure they expect to get something out of it.

One concern is that under the bill, big landowners could set aside 85% of their land for the gentleman estates variety of ag, and still get to develop the other 15%. Or worse, Jerry said, the 85% will be used for tenant farming “and there will be no land reform. We’ll never get a chance to buy it. The big guys will stay in the saddle and still ride us like they did in the plantation days.”

We also encountered my neighbor Andy, whom I hadn’t seen in ages. Koko gave him the kind of enthusiastic greeting that only dogs can get away with, and I was happy to see him, too.

I told him I’d recently interviewed a 90-year-old woman who said that when she attended college, the only professions open to women were teaching, nursing and secretarial. I found it remarkable that we’d seen such a dramatic shift in just 60 years, and Andy observed that social restrictions had eased for everyone in that time, largely because of the efforts of liberals.

Then he told me his father — the late O.A. Bushnell, a noted Hawaii writer and UH professor — had said that Andy was born in the best of times, as things were never going to get any better, and were likely to get quite a bit worse. Andy said he often wondered if it was his father who had been born in those “best of times,” or perhaps it was the part of their lives that had overlapped, as it seemed some of those bad times weren’t too far off.

That made me think of another interview and conversation I had this week with Adam Asquith, a scientist, conservationist and “peak oil” theorist who is now devoting nearly all his time to growing taro and running a biofuel processing plant. It was sort of a doom and gloom talk, but when I followed up with a phone call the next day, we agreed that neither of us felt gloomy.

With fuel prices rising, we’re going to experience some major social and economic adjustments. Adam said, but with them will come opportunities to restructure our society in ways that could make our lives more meaningful. And a lot of Kauai’s problems related to the rapid pace of development will solve themselves as the economy slows way down.

Meanwhile, a friend who works construction called last evening to report that Ted Burkhardt has walked away from the Joe Brescia job in Naue, where he was supposed to build an oceanfront vacation home on a site with more than 30 ancient burials.

Apparently at least one other contractor was recently asked to bid, but didn’t want to touch the project with a 10-foot pole.

What contractor in his right mind would want to take on a job where attempts to bless the property and start construction have already failed in the face of protests? Moral issues aside, my friend said, “it’s bad for business.”

Seems like the pressure exerted by Ka`iulani Huff and others is having some effect. Because one thing's for sure: if they hadn't been out there to say no, construction would already be under way.

35 comments:

Andy Parx said...

You mean even Randy Weir won’t do it? Is he going soft in his old age? Or maybe he started taking his medication again. (couldn’t resist).

It never ceases to amaze me how time turns every good idea and effort around 180 degrees. In ‘78 when the idea of identifying “important” ag lands came up it was because the LUC and counties were rezoning ag land at an alarming rate and “diversified ag” was going to save the state from a tourism based economy.

It seemed straightforward. We’d give extra protection to those ag lands that shouldn’t be developed at all, ever. But then in the intervening years developers decided if there were important ag lands there were necessarily unimportant ag lands and sold that idea legislators by filling their campaign coffer and buying their ear or buying the ones who bought this fallacious thinking. Now we’ve got a bill about to be signed that will not just identify but guarantee the development of those “unimportant” ag lands.

Anonymous said...

I doubt walking off the job under pressure from local protesters is considered "good business" by the people who actually hire contractors.

Joan said...

No, it probably won't go over well among off-island developers who build spec houses for vacation rental purposes on conservation land covered with burials.

But it could be viewed by others as an act of integrity.

As my friend observed, "oh, Brescia will find some slime ball to do it." Guess we'll just have to wait and see which one steps forward.

Larry said...

Ted Burkhardt may face legal action because of his decision. I hope people will find a way to support him and recognize the value of his sacrifice in the name of doing what's right.

Anonymous said...

I'm am pleased that the County (finally) passed a vacation rental bill that will stop "off-island developers who build spec houses for vacation rental purposes on conservation land."

Katy Rose said...

Hey, I'm all for seeing that Burkhardt doesn't get sued by Brescia, but why reward him? What about the many many builders, like my husband, who never would have taken such a job in the first place?

Anonymous said...

I'll bet your husband, Katy, has built on more kupuna bones than you and he will ever know. You can't avoid it here where the Hawaiians buried their dead just about everywhere and left no markings.

Katy Rose said...

I hope not. That would make him very sad.

People of conscience try to avoid stepping on others' toes.

What's disappointing to me is that there are also many people who seem to relish the idea of building over bones, or at the very least believe that their own class's property interests outweigh the legitimate grievances and concerns of Native peoples.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? You probably live in a house built on bones!

Anonymous said...

Ted has been on Kauai a long time and is a good guy. Did Brescia tell Ted all that he knew about all of the burials?

Katy Rose said...

That's a good question - I wish I knew.

And to anonymous 5:28, I live in a house owned and built by Kanaka Maoli who have had this place in their family for a very very long time - I believe that they knew what they were doing, and that they did it with respect.

Anonymous said...

oooohhhhh...Kanaka Maoli...oooohhhh
may I touch the hem of your garment?

Referee said...

Anonymous 9:27 -> Red card

Katy Rose said...

Yeah, my comment sounded really stupid and self-serving, but that's not how I meant it. I'm pointing out that you are jumping to conclusions and that in this case, I really believe you're wrong. I think it's kind of pointless to try to find these little "gotcha" moments - a la Bill O'Reilly - instead of sticking to the principles being discussed. In this case, it's a question of how to respect a tradition of respect for iwi kupuna.

However, I led myself right into it, and I should have known better!

I regret having brought into this conversation outside people - my husband, my landlords- to make a point, and I hope we can return this dialogue to a higher level.

Joan said...

Just to clarify, Ted Burkhardt did tell me when I interviewed him at the Naue site on June 3 that he did not know there were any burials on the land when he bid on the job.

Anonymous said...

Geeezzz, Katy! Don't you think it is your obligation to make sure that your house isn't built on Kanaka Maoli bones? I think that's the only right thing to do if you don't know for sure. Look at the disrespect and sacrilege you may be perpetrating every day scraping your feet on the graves of the deceased.

Katy Rose said...

Anonymous 7:59:

What is your point? You may very well be trying to raise a legitimate point of debate about these larger questions, but it's lost in the language of elementary-school taunting.

Are you asking a larger question about the way each of us relates to a bigger struggle through our own individual ethical choices? Are you implying that anyone who can be shown to live with some level of contradiction in their lives (in other words, everyone) is summarily disqualified from engaging in the search for greater social justice? Help us help you, friend!

Argue the points, not the person. None of this hurts my feelings, it just disappoints me to see that people arguing a different point of view allow themselves to be such flabby opponents.

Critical dialogue and debate can help us all find solutions to significant social problems....so I'm all for it.

And I think once you give it a shot, you might find you don't need to post anonymously anymore because you will grow into having the courage of your convictions.

Anonymous said...

I think what the anonymous commenter is trying to point out is the absurdity of insisting that it's disrespectfull to build over bones, on an island strewn with bones from one end to the other. The only reason we even discover we're building over iwi nowadays is because we dig into the ground for utilities and footings. There's nothing inherently disrespectful about living over the bones. We leave them where they rest, treat them with respect when we encounter them. Living above them is a blessing to us, not a curse to them.

Andy Parx said...

Where do malahini get their misinformation? And more importantly why do they cling to these stupid notion they had when they came here instead of learning the stuff that people here learned growing up in school.

There are not “bones everywhere”. Pre-contact burials were in certain proscribed areas, usually makai- either kahakai (beach) or very close. The sites are pretty well known if you ask kama`aina- or consult a Hawaiian History, Hawaiiana and local archeology texts.

Anonymous said...

You are the one who is misinformed - or who is trying to misinform us. We are too familiar with you. We know you say whatever you please to be right. We don't believe you. Prove what you say.

Anonymous said...

Right then. So, as I was saying, it's not disrespectful to build and live over our kapuna. It is a blessing to live over them. Only the shallow and the self obsessed try to draw our kapuna into these political disputes over land.

Andy Parx said...

You people are hilarious- the first response is 5th grade I’m rubber and you’re glue and the next tried to sound like you’re Hawaiian and write about your “kapuna”... you crack me up... why should I bother

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't because you obviously make it up as you go and all you do is call people names and make up falsehoods that serve your agenda. And then when you get called out you call people names and make up falsehoods again. One trick doggy.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

Ka'iulani should't count her chickens just yet.....

Anonymous said...

Parx should post anonymously. His postings might then have a bit more credibility.

Anonymous said...

seriously, does anyone actually think it's such a horrible thing to have a house built on iwi? Only people with a grudge against building houses do. The rest of us who recognize that houses have to be built, and the iwi themselves, are much more understanding. The iwi don't share the politics of the left. They don't give a shit about the left's or anyone else's politics.

Anonymous said...

Katy said, "...there are also many people who seem to relish the idea of building over bones...."

There you go again, Katy! Please name one person who seems to relish the idea. Just ONE please.

Katy - Twisting your opponent's words into a meaning that was never stated is a disingenuous form of debate.

Anonymous said...

Nobody "relishes" building over iwi. That doesn't even enter into it. But certain activists do try to turn it to political advantage. Which are the opportunists? The activists who callously press the iwi into the service of their politics.

Katy Rose said...

Joe Brescia apparently cares more about profit than he does about the legitimate concerns of people who have a cultural and geneological tie to the burial site.

He seems to "relish" the money he makes by building houses in Haena and selling or renting them out as vacation rentals.

That's one person.

On Oahu, WalMart, not a person but a corporation, is doing the same thing. So has the US Military.

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that people, or corporations and institutions, who put profit before people don't care about, rather than relish, building on sacred sites.

I'm not sure if there's much difference in the net effect.

Either way, the actions flow from assumptions about the value and importance of people, in this case Kanaka Maoli, compared to their own interests.

Anonymous said...

Again, nobody "relishes" building over bones. It's more expensive to deal with them in the respectful manner dictated by state law and experts who are on site directing the work around the bones. The idea that someone cares more about making money than the concerns of some people is just self serving spin. Building over the bones and respecting the bones are not mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

"Building over the bones and respecting the bones are not mutually exclusive."

Where are your ancestors buried and when can we begin building on their graves?

Anonymous said...

800 year old bones that no living person can possibly claim anscestry with and were long forgotten until construction found them? Be my guest.

Anonymous said...

If it's such a big deal to Ka'iulani and her buddies, they should petition the Burial Council made up of her fellow kanaka maoli brethren to have them moved and reinterred someplace where they can feel they're being properly care for. Sorry, but that’s the law, that’s what’s fair to all involved. The big hoopla is all because of who Brescia is and the perceived wrongs you, Joan and your ilk, think he’s committed by building homes and renting them to tourists. If it were a kanaka who was building there, you wouldn’t be making this stink. Obviously, you’re using the kanaka maoli for your own anti-development purposes. But that’s OK, they’ve been used lots before by better than you.

Anonymous said...

Brescia submitted a mitigation plan that would have involved moving the 6 or 7 of the remains that will be under the house, but the burial council said no.