The patter of rain on the roof served as a pleasant lullaby all night long, and continued into the morning, punctuated by gusting winds and trilling bird song. Birds love the rain, because they know it brings the landscape to life. And I always feel so happy seeing the `aina getting quenched, because water, really, is what it’s all about.
Some people, however, still don’t seem to grasp the basic elements of life — you know, oxygen, food, water. That became clear when I talked to a couple of friends who attended Friday night’s “Template for Lihue’s Tomorrow” event, which was intended to result in a planning model based on sustainability and "smart growth" principles.
Seems that during the break-out sessions, where folks were asked to identify the basic needs of Kauai residents, one person named jewelry. Now that wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t also a former member of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
“People just don’t understand the difference between wants and needs,” observed one friend.
And therein lies both the root of the problem we face in trying to attain sustainability and the reason why those attending — the Lihue Veterans Center was standing room only — were unable to reach agreement on either the definition of sustainability or the means for achieving it.
“There was zero consensus because there were two different communities in that room,” said another friend.
One is the community that understands that sustainability is, to use UH Professor Luciano Minerbi’s definition, any development that benefits Hawaiian ecosystems and improves the socio-economic conditions of its residents, especially its indigenous people.
The other is the community that wants to go beyond that and rake in extra cash so they can buy jewelry — and not the sustainable kind, which would be made with Niihau shells.
Given the existence of those two very different communities, it’s no surprise that Grove Farm — the largest landowner in the Lihue region — represents both the greatest opportunity, and the greatest barrier, to achieving sustainability in that district.
So where is Grove Farm on the issue? Well, at Friday’s meeting, company vice president Mike Tressler reportedly said Grove Farm had “tried some of this sustainable urban design stuff, but it’s just too costly.”
Yet he was singing a different tune in a TGI article promoting Grove Farm’s new 180-acre project between Hanamaulu and the courthouse, which is expected to add about 440 homes on the Hanamaulu side, and a theater, restaurant, shops with apartments above them, assisted-living facility, child care center, supermarket and business traveler hotel on the Lihue side:
What’s different about this project is its emphasis on smart growth and its target audience of current Kauai residents, says Mike Tressler, a Grove Farm vice president.
The project, unlike many started in the development boom of late, seeks to create a walkable community for kamaaina.
Tressler said the development is also aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, the highest standard for “green” building and design.
OK, so the kamaaina get a community where they can walk to the multiple jobs they hold to pay that “affordable” mortgage. That’s great. But do you suppose that will prevent Grove Farm from creating luxury gentleman’s estates on agricultural land far away from all the riff-raff living in that dense (440 units in 52 acres) “smart growth” urban housing?
No. And why? Because that’s where the big money is, and Grove Farm wants its jewelry.
If we’re ever to achieve any semblance of sustainability here in Hawaii, we need to look at the model that was in place when Captian Cook arrived “and the economy was f….g thriving,” a friend said. “People had food, they had shelter, they had so much free time they went surfing.
“Economy,” my friend pointed out, “doesn’t mean money.”
And that’s true. It means:
Definition 1: Activities related to the production and distribution of goods and services in a particular geographic region.
Definition 2: The correct and effective use of available resources.
Now when you’re looking at creating a sustainable economy from that perspective, it takes on a whole new meaning and seems, suddenly, achievable. But if you’re all hung up on wanting your jewelry, well, that’s the dominant paradigm that’s created the completely unsustainable economic mess that now confronts us — the mind-set, held by so many of those in positions of power, that sees more of the same as the only way out.
Which one do you think is going to prevail in creating a template for the Lihue, and the Kauai, of tomorrow?