Thursday, November 8, 2007

Musings: Turnstones and Easements

The moon was a no show on this almost sultry morning, but Venus blazed brightly, and though the Sleeping Giant was shrouded in clouds, Waialeale’s full hulking mass was visible through the haze. Mist collected in the pockets of the last rolling pastures that remain on this road, and in one of them, a solitary horse whinnied for companionship.

I think one reason why I enjoy my dawn walks so much is I’m always reminded — visually and viscerally — that the world continually begins anew. Each morning, the day is different, and we are, too. We don’t have to remain stuck in our old ways.

I was at Kauapea Beach with some friends at evening time, astonished that big north swells still hadn’t swept the sand away, and that the sea was flat and the air was warm — almost balmy — despite the November date.

We spotted several flocks of ruddy turnstones and marveled that these small, pretty birds make an annual migration from the Arctic, flying non-stop for a couple of days to winter in the Islands.

What’s going to happen to them when the Arctic loses its ice? I asked, but none of us knew the answer. We could only be certain that such an event would affect all of us humans, too, not just the birds and polar bears.

And then we all drove home, contributing to the global warming that’s melting the ice. I long ago determined that the most insidious aspect of modern material culture is that it forces us all to be complicit in our own destruction. There’s no way of living in the Western world without having a major impact, even if you’re riding a bike and eschewing plastic — a feat that is itself nearly impossible.

All we can do is minimize, and be willing to live with less.

On a positive note, North Shore resident Caren Diamond has been appointed to Kauai County’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission. Caren has been very active in many planning issues, especially public access, including a landmark state Supreme Court case that required the Department of Land and Natural Resources to change the way it was approaching shoreline setbacks.

I wrote about Caren’s long struggle in that case, in which one Haena landowner threatened her with a chainsaw, for both Honolulu Weekly (one of their cover stories that is not archived, unfortunately -- hey, mahalo to Larry Geller for finding that story's link!) and the Kauai Island News.

Caren isn’t easily intimidated, knows the process and gets things done. Perhaps now we’ll see the commission — created by the voters in 2002 and funded by a half-percent of the county’s real property taxes — actually do something with the $1.2 million in its coffers to preserve open space and acquire public easements, both mauka and makai.

Of course, we’d have more easements if the county hadn’t let so many go through negligence in filing them in a timely manner, favoritism toward certain developers and worries about maintenance and liability. Once lost, they're always much harder to regain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding how our society is set up for its own destruction, I don't buy that one bit. It's the choices that we make that lead to environmental destruction and poor quality of life. The American Dream is so elusive it should be called the American Delusion.

Europeans have a much more civil society, living in denser towns with better services, enjoying more open spaces, using much less energy, and generally being healthier and happier. They have plenty of social ills, but at least on this one issue, they are much more in balance.

When I moved from France to San Jose, CA, I chose to live downtown so I could walk to restaurants and the movies. I biked 6 miles each way to work, and took the light rail in the worst weather. Here on Kauai, I spent one year renting in the Homesteads before getting tired of driving all the time up and down Kuamoo/Olohena.

Now I'm in the Houselots, still wishing there were nice neighborhoods in downtown Kapaa or Lihue (behind the Lihue library is actually good). Except for old town Kapaa that has been turned over to tourism, both of those are unlivable patchworks of business and vacant lots. Puhi has some density, so of course they had to put the industrial park nearby--at least a few people have a short walk to work.