Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Musings: Wrought From Devastation

Smoke from a forest fire to the north tinted the crescent moon an eerie orange last night, turned today's dawn sky into a blazing palette of scarlet, yellow, pumpkin, pink. Though wrought from devastation, the spectacle was no less beautiful.

I was watching the sky as I walked through the narrow, sometimes unpaved, streets of old Santa Fe, the original part of an ancient town that had its roots in agriculture and trade, and now wholeheartedly embraces upscale tourism.

City regulations require building permits and redevelopment proposals (with the dates of the associated decision-making meetings) to be prominently posted in front of each structure, making it easy for neighbors to know what's happening and discouraging unpermitted projects.

The signs, both construction and real estate, tell a story I learned well on Kauai — a story of gentrification, of taking old, low-cost houses and gutting them, expanding them, buffing them out, so that they suit the tastes and requirements of the transient well-heeled.

They will never be affordable again, and the middle class and poor who used to live here have been pushed south, to the edges of town, or completely out of it. I encounter them on my morning walks, driving their pick up trucks and worn cars to the luxurious houses where they perform construction, landscaping, cleaning, yard care, alarm system maintenance for the owners, many of them absentee.

They do not look happy, or content, and neither do the owners. It is an achingly familiar scene, changed only by the high-desert setting.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse, through open gates, of the lavish compounds hidden behind the thick stucco or adobe walls that allow private residences to function as a gated community of one. And I am reminded anew of the great wealth that is spurring this transformation in so many places across the globe. But to what good purpose, what righteous end?

I follow a road that borders an ancient acequia, a communal irrigation ditch that today is running briskly, fed perhaps by a mountain cloudburst. It is all that remains of the robust agriculture that long-ago sustained the inhabitants of this town. Once an essential component of desert agriculture, it now functions more like a water feature, adding quaint charm to a neighborhood of expensive art galleries, shops, homes.

Later, listening to the car radio, I hear a report about economic indicators, mixed messages that suggest the ongoing recovery from the 2008 recession is less-than-robust. An economist opines: “Going forward, the biggest challenge is to sustain the rise in income growth which will drive consumption.”

In truth, our system is based not just on consumption, but over-consumption, a mindset that is inherently unsustainable, and thus destined/doomed eventually to fail. And then what? Agricultural lands that once supported much smaller local populations have been developed, paved over. They cannot be resurrected any more easily than the farmers who once tended them, the rivers that once nourished them.

Through our frenzy of consumption we have made ourselves increasingly vulnerable — communities disrupted and demoralized, agriculture relinquished to the factory farms and corporations that serve up food cheap, irreplaceable resources squandered to supply another quick fix.

I have watched this scenario play out repeatedly in America, and now Asia, India and Africa are adopting the same perverse values, making the same mistakes, sacrificing land, people, ecosystems on the altar of consumerism.

It may be a different flavor there, but it's definitely the same Kool-Aid, with its lure of “ever-more” hiding a reality of bondage — to debt, to the haves, to the market, to wars inevitably waged to feed the greed.

Meanwhile, the fire keeps burning, makes a run to the southeast, fueled by dead wood, brush piles, live trees. When it's finally extinguished by firefighters, or more likely rain, it will have opened the forest for new growth, ushered in a new cycle of life.

Will the same be true for the human race as it rages unchecked, out of control, consuming everything in its path, all the while lulling us into complacency with the beautiful/ugly things wrought from devastation?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

The question is not whether consumerism to the point of self-destruction happens, but why. What is the driving force?

Anonymous said...

“But to what good purpose, what righteous end?”


When does everything have to have a “righteous end”? Can one not simply enjoy the fruits of one’s labor after a life of productivity without feeling guilty for those who extended their childhood and their financial irresponsibility well into their adult years? When did a comfortable and bountiful retirement become a social crime? Beautiful places where redevelopment occurs become so because their surroundings have more intrinsic value than other places. This is what’s happening to Hawaii as in other spectacular places. Those who are unhappy are those who have fought change throughout their lives rather than seeking adaption and improvement. Must we always be subject to the dogs in the manger? Sometimes productivity and adaption require relocation. It all depends on the individual’s initiative and drive. What is sad is when the ones with initiative are pulled down by the other crabs in the bucket. However, it is just as sad when the new crabs seek to change or eliminate, often inadvertently, the components that comprised the intrinsic value that originally attracted them. As you have witnessed, gentrification does tend to drive out agriculture. Agriculture: The only economically viable protection against redevelopment because there isn’t enough “other people’s money” to buy the land and contribute it to the Nature Conservancy. Large agricultural lands must produce wealth that can be accumulated so that the entity can afford to pay the inevitable death taxes which at time have reached 77% of the property’s value. Leasing lands to small farmers will not generate sufficient revenue to accomplish that. If not underwritten, small farmers cannot afford the rents that larger scale commercial farms can pay. So when, not if, death taxes are assessed, the open ag lands will be sold off to the highest bidder, broken up and redeveloped. It is ignorant and jealous taxing principals that are the real long term threat to agriculture and preservation of the rural way of life.

Anonymous said...

Much of the debt being accumulated is due to financial mismanagement and the uncontrolled desire to acquire the trappings of wealthy when one’s productivity and income is insufficient to do so. It’s big cars and costly technological advancements (over-consumption) that sap one’s income that the older generations had the foresight and discipline to save and accumulate. It is these accumulated earnings that enabled many in the current generation to improve their financial status above their parents, yet in so many case has also caused them to forget the guiding principles of frugality that enabled their improved status to begin with. And when the parents aren’t able, or willing, to assist their own children, then these children tend to look to the government to fill their needs and desires so that other people’s parents can be charged for the welfare that the children’s own parents have failed to generate. Government should be charged with assisting the truly needy (through no fault of their own) and not those who are selfish and fail to meet their own individual responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Same up here in northern CO. A once quiet college town and ag center is now the northern most suburb of Denver. Tacky housing streching across fields that once produced sugar beets and corn.
Luckily most have not found the wild and scenic river I play on.
The birds hve returned with owls and egales nesting along the river banks.

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine you sputtering if some tourist spent a couple of days driving around Kauai and started rhapsodizing on their blog about the overall contentedness of Kauai residents.

While you're visiting, you should educate yourself on the history and industry of Santa Fe. Historically, it's value has been derived from it being on the way to someplace else and it's tourism. It's been like that since about 1900. And all these discontented people you see cleaning, gardening, fixing alarms and renovating houses? Those are called jobs and without tourism, visitors and retirees, there'd be no work a lot more discontentment. How dare you pretend to know what jobs these people should be doing? Do you ask them? Maybe they'd be happier if hey moved to Kauai.

And I'm sure, if there's one thing the working people and the retirees of Santa Fe enjoy, it's one more Californian tourist decrying the ruination and gentrification of the area during their weeklong stay.

Anonymous said...

At least in Santa Fe, as the new rich ones move in, the displaced can move down the road. There ain't no down the road on Kauai.
On Kauai, thanks to Joann Yukimura and the mindset of her many friends, there ain't no place for displaced locals to go. Many multi-generational households, many working a few jobs just to pay rent...as electric bills ( the real bugaboo) go up, taxes on rentals go up, water goes up etc.
Sure, no one wants big time development, but when the mindset of the Council stop simple houses for regular people to be built....housing continues too be out of reach.
Loosen up some land, let a local kid own his house....Kick out - Joann (against ag-condos and development, but made millions for herself on one sale and CPR'd Kalihiwai), Gary Hooser (against any building, after he did his developments and made big dough), Mason Chock (who is void of ideas, butt follows Gary H and Tim B so closely that they have to warn him if they had beans for lunch) and finally the biggest BSer of all, Jackpot Bynum (against Ag-condos, even tho' he owned one himself, sues the County and gets big dough from his co-Council family)...we voters are responsible for the direction the island takes. Hypocrisy and greed seem to be the key for some Council members, it is OK for them to make a buck or two, buy and sell houses, but it is not OK for you to even own a little dinky crackerbox.
It would be a good thing if at least one Council person put their neck on the line and promoted single family homes for the locals....it will never happen with these 4 well heeled hypocrites. Open up land, let the locals have a house......

Anonymous said...


Kealia was being looked at to be divided into 5 to 10 acre farms with local housing before Cornerstone scooped it up and took the best farm land out of any possibility. Nice soil there too, and I would much prefer my small home and farm to be there. But it is the looked up entitlements and we a[[arrantly are entitled to a hard working life and no possibility of home ownership, almost no homes at all for normal people.

kokuaguy said...

"Well heeled transients ...." It's an insightful and well crafted term. I predict the time will come when these folks are the majority and call the shots entirely in our Hawai`i Nei. I have long believed that the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement provides the only realistic alternative to this bleak scenario.

Anonymous said...

John Nicols has written about this transformation in his books from 20-30 years ago.

The history of this area is rich and belongs to the Native Americans and Mexico...now over run by developers, hippies, and movie stars.

Zero Seven

Anonymous said...

You guys (above) have it right. Restricting development only pushes up the prices making Kauai even more unaffordable. The reason so many "gentleman farms" are being created is that conventional subdivisions are virtually impossible to get approvals for. The County Council has made the process onerous (to say it kindly) and has tacked on so many extractions, including a 40% "affordable housing" mandate, that no one in a right mind would invest in it. So it merely encourages the development of ag condos which are controlled more by less onerous State rules than County ones and voila we have gentrification! This is the result when you have uninformed idealogs in control of the County who haven't a clue about economics and development financing. Yukimura's "workforce housing" mandate in particular has slammed the door on the very development she wanted to encourage. So Kauai struggles as more local families leave for the mainland because of the lack of housing and jobs due primarily to the folks the people of Kauai elect into office. But don't think it will get better with the even more oblivious idealogs that are trying to replace the incumbents. Folks like Barca and Hooser Jr. are even worse than what we have now. Let's not jump from the frying pan into the fire.

Anonymous said...

"there ain't no place for displaced locals to go"

I remember when the county and cops came to Anahola with guns and bulldozers and got people off the beaches and plots of land they were homesteading...
I doubt this county will be building "simple homes" for locals.

Small farms can make it, but one has to have an Education in farming beyond what they know now. Organic is in high demand on the mainland, and what seems to be working financially (will not make you rich)small farms that raise organic eggs, pork, vegetables, and fruits. Grow more than one crop, and sell animals for meat. People complain about how expensive Whole Foods is (Honolulu)yet, the place is always packed with people! (Looking for better health)


Successful farming needs
The problems here....
1.) GMO pollens floating around the island and the pesticides in much of the water
2.) Getting certified organic on this Island
3.) a place to slaughter the animals humanely and cleanly (sanitation and environment)
4.) Good land and soil and a clean water source
5.) environmentally correct waste water management, fly and pest control without the use of a lot of chemicals

Growing only taro (Hanalei) or coconut trees (Kealia Kai) will not make it financially in the 21st century

Whereas, buying agricultural lands and developing them for "da rich" does and will make money. Driving force here is making money and f...k the locals.

The consumerism is driven by marketing, and people feeling they are "missing something in life". (Could it be Love?)

Buy more....feel better?

Eat fast food... be satiated but not satisfied completely, so Eat More! (Cheap eats?)Die faster.

Looking "fo'a da One"...living from one broken relationship to another? (Demi Moore...You complete me.)

People live in "fantasy land" trying to "make It happen" by watching TV and the commercials.

What fantasy can you afford?

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Dr. Shibai - FYI, Makaweli Meat just opened their Westside state-of-the-art slaughter house last November and you can buy their grass-fed, no antibiotic/hormone, all natural meat in Big Save. It's becoming so popular they're challenged meeting the demand.
http://www.makawelimeatcompany.com/

Anonymous said...

Little farms can maintain a subsistence income..if you can get the land AND house at a right price, until you get too old and the thought of a shovel makes you cringe.
An Ag subdivision can be done in 2 shakes. Joann Yukimura's (it was a secret) deal with water department decades ago which pushed water department to use all their "opinions" on water source to eliminate as many houses as they could, regardless what the zoning allowed....between water and Joann (I got mine), Gary (I got mine) Hooser, Chock (what does Gary want me to do?) and Bynum (who really got his Jackpot size) there is no hope.....today after Joann's (push the locals into shitty apartments "housing extortion"), sidewalks, a planning commission that focuses on manini impacts as strange as "how many kukai will be flushed"..And the absolute torture and expense of getting you entitlements (it takes years, folks)..The regular old local family who makes a good income is fuc*ked. These families can afford house/lots at 450K or so, but the only stuff available is sub-par and going fast to mainland buyers who have the dough to fix 'em up.
As far as da Haole running things in the future....wake up, da Haoles (or Haole style) is running the Council now. Look at the 4 on the council that really are against local housing....Joann, who long ago forgot the locals and the plantation "help each other days", - Gary, who is in the pocket of the mainland anti-Ag, love your unicorn groups, -Jackpot Bynum, who acts as an enviro, but is purely an ego centrist who will sell his soul for bucks, - and Chock, who doesn't have a clue, until the Hoos or Bynum give him the secret wink on what to do.
I hope this election will sweep Council of all the 4 anti-Ag, Anti-Local housing, anti anything that will help the locals.....Vote with your heart, but maybe think a little and get some good ol' local boys in there, locals who won't forget about the Tutu kane, Tutu wahine, the cuzs and the regular working folks......if you want Kauai to be in local hands (as Schatz said) errrrrr maybe you should vote for real locals. (not coconuts or bananas or haoles who tink they be one local, li' dat)
Jumpin' Jiminy, Gary's kid, who is well versed in Police and Court systems (but with no community service experience or real job skills) even promotes his own self as "local roots" in his virgin thrust into politics.. Whhhhhaaaattt the F*ck......beam me up Scotty, I am in a strange land.....move over, Rover, da Haole, he be taken' over. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Comments in this blog always make me laugh. Really? The #1 problem on this island is GMO pollen floating around and pesticides in this water? Oh yea, that one is HUGE! We're all gonna die!!!!

idiots. every single one of you are easily distracted, non-thinking morons.

More focused on imaginary gmo pollens then the meth, the alcohol, the irresponsible teenage pregnancy and behavior, the hatred, and all the so much more immediate tangible downfalls of this island's community.

Get your head out of your asses and start getting your ass-backwards priorities straight. GMOs? unbelievable

Anonymous said...

Wowee !! we got some good bloggers! So COMICAL!! but seriously thanks for the truthfulness let's just move on we are just wasting valuable time chasing chemtrails and rainbows. Let's just get to the reality of things...you're not gonna die by eating GMO'S. What'a fu*ck if you don't wanna eat it..than don't Grow your own garden! Let's just vote these Anti-Ags out the door!

Anonymous said...

12:48 PM

YOU GOT IT RIGHT! You the BEST!

Dawson said...

12:48 PM said:

"...the hatred..."

Q.E.D.

KamaKele said...

12:48

U da man. We have so much bigger problems that nobody wants to try to fix or don't know how to fix, so they distract us with this sideshow called GMO.