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.