It was hard to walk this morning because I kept looking up — at the waning moon, Orion, Makalii, Venus, Arcturus, the Big Dipper , a sky chock full of stars and constellations. The dew was thick and the air was downright cold. Winter, Kauai-style, is here.
Ever since I was on the HPR program the other day, I’ve been thinking of one Hawaiian woman who broke into tears during her call as she recounted the many places on Oahu lost to fences, development, other people.
I felt like crying myself, just listening to her, and I’m sure others did, too. There’s a lot of grieving going on in Hawaii, both for what has been lost, and what is still going, going, gone.
As a friend, born and raised in Kilauea and now deceased, once told me: everybody comes here with their ideas of what Hawaii could be, and the locals just mourn what was.
A recent post on the Poinography! blog included floor comments by Rep. Caldwell in favor of the Superferry bailout bill, in which he noted: “Whether you agree with him or not, Maui Council Chair Riki Hokama summed it up this way in Monday’s House hearing: “When are we saying enough is enough?” and “Who are we building for?”
On Kauai, aside from bit of affordable housing required under resort project approval, we’re primarily building for people who don’t live here.
In Princeville, a massive new hotel and rows of condos all alike are springing up to cater to the timeshare visitor trade, while in Koloa, some 3,000 units are underway, geared to the second home/vacation rental market.
Our agricultural lands are being consumed for lavish gentleman estates, and our coastal bluffs are crowned with mansions. Only two wild beaches — and by that I mean those unmarred by human development — remain on the North Shore, and I won’t name them here, because to use the words of writer Brian Doyle, whatever we look at, we destroy.
In nearly all these newly constructed dwellings, the lights are on — both inside the houses and illuminating the landscaping — but no one’s home, because the owners don’t live here. And many of them never will because they look at these houses as investments, spec properties they’ll spin when the market is right, not homes in a larger community.
Sure, these projects provide construction jobs now, which are often filled by imported workers because the local labor force is maxed out, and later they’ll generate more employment for those who clean the yards and homes.
But we don’t need more of this kind of employment, just like we don’t need more super-sized houses or folks who move here solely for the lifestyle and climate and are dismissive of the land and culture — people who contribute nothing to the community and indeed, often hold themselves apart.
And we definitely don’t need more Hawaiians crying and locals leaving because they no longer have or can afford a place in their own home.
What we do need is to ask, and answer with honesty: when are we going to say, enough is enough, and who are we building for?
Because it's a myth that the destruction is inevitable, and that we have to go on this way.