The white moon was bigger than half and ringed with a golden halo, thanks to the wisps and swirls of clouds that surrounded it, when Koko and I went walking this morning. The mountains were hulking masses, visible, but not sharply distinct in the hazy air, and when the sun prepared to rise the sky turned first pink and then orange and then lavender as all the stars disappeared.
The hot and muggy weather continues, and when farmer Jerry and I were talking prior to the radio show on KKCR yesterday, his observation, after spending the entire day working outside, was: “I am so ready for summer to be over.”
By the time the radio show was over, I was left wondering why, when water is so crucial to every aspect of our lives, state legislators have given it such a low funding priority. The state Commission on Water Resource and Management was under-staffed even before the layoffs and furloughs were announced, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees this essential element, is right down there at the bottom — alongside the Department of Ag — in terms of manini allocations.
Things sure have changed since the Hawaiians had nearly all the cultivatable land in taro, with konohiki overseeing and constantly monitoring the stream diversions and ditches, which the men cooperated in cleaning in order to keep the water flowing.
They were all aware of the critical need to carefully manage water because they were united in a common purpose: producing food.
Two centuries later, we’re still eating, and crops still need water, but most of us have a giant disconnect from that resource, unless the pretty stream flowing through our yard dries up or a favorite swimming hole gets shallow.
When we’re not directly involved in its care and maintenance, and have the luxury of turning on the tap and always finding low-priced water, we tend to devalue it as a commodity, forgetting the centuries it took to fill our aquifers and the labyrinth of pipes, ditches, tunnels, flumes and reservoirs that deliver it to us.
Just like we grouse at spending $2.50 for a head of lettuce that is a product of a demanding process of growing and picking and packing, and all too often, being shipped thousands of miles to our favorite supermarket.
We call this process of specialization and separation progress, but I’m not at all convinced that it is. Instead, it’s made us lazy, spoiled, demanding and complacent. Worst of all, it’s made us wasteful. I remember hearing stories of the old rice farmers in Hanalei who never wasted a grain because they knew, from their own backbreaking labor, just how hard it was to grow it.
And that brings me to another topic. Farmer Jerry recounted how he had picked some of his nicest longan — now we’re talking the choicest specimens of what is already a delectable fruit — and delivered them to a local health food store, hoping they’d want to stock it.
Instead, he said, “They acted like I’d set a case of Spam down on the counter. They didn’t look at the fruit, or try it, or ask me about my farm, or where it was or what I grew. They just said it didn’t sell.”
Aside from being a perfect example of the culture clash that we all too often see between locals, who are all about building relationships and connections, and haole newcomers, who don't have a clue about the importance of that process, it made me wonder if all the talk about eating locally and supporting farmers is just a bunch of hype.
It seems that people who frequent health stores have some sort of consciousness about food, and they often embrace alternative lifestyles. They’re the sort of folks I often see beating the drum for local food, a resurgence of agriculture and reducing our carbon footprint.
But if they’d rather eat apples shipped here from thousands of miles away than fruit at the peak of its season grown just miles from the store, what future do the local farmers have? Talk about a disconnect. Maybe, instead of putting all the emphasis on growing food, we need to focus some attention on teaching people to want and value the food we can produce right here.
Finally, I found it ironic, after writing about the newly approved bill barring retail establishments from distributing plastic bags , to see several plastic bags gusting alongside the road when Koko and I went walking last evening.
They were blue bags, the kind that once contained The Garden Island shopper. And they appeared to be the same kind of bag that is shown protruding from a turtle’s mouth in the photo on the action alert distributed by Malama Kauai.
As I picked them up, because they’re excellent for collecting doggie doo doo, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was OK for TGI to be tossing thousands of these bags onto driveways each week, but it was not alright for the Menehune Mart to use one to package somebody’s six-pack.
It seemed to be yet another one of our many disconnects.