Friday, October 9, 2009

Musings: Disconnects

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.


Anonymous said...

There is a guy on the island - a realtor at C-21, forgot his name, who has been complaining to the GI newspaper for years about those bags and the pollution they leave all over the island - like banging his head against a wall. Good for you to call them out. There are potentially more GI blue bags than there are foodland bags littered around the island. Poor turtle. Hopefully he won't next walk through an area where KISC sprayed acid to kill the frogs.

Anonymous said...

I was informed by my well meaning neighbor that I am destroying the planet. For years our family has dug deep holes with the post hole digger then put the dog waste in the hole--adding dirt each time--when almost full we planted a tree. Note we do not live near a waterway. There is always someone who knows better

Anonymous said...

"They just said it didn’t sell."

-- how is that a culture clash? they should stock it no matter their view of how it will sell? seems unrealistic

"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."

-- great point

young_atheist_male or dwps aminland mentality

Anonymous said...

Joan said: "to see several plastic bags gusting alongside the road when Koko and I went walking last evening."

I call them "land jellyfish"

Anonymous said...

Perhaps TGI could wrap the paper in a Ti leaf so it could be composted!

Anonymous said...

Water is the second most precious resource to sustain us on the planet. A few days without it and you are dead. Air is the first without it you are dead in a matter of minutes.

Anonymous said...

Was glad to hear a caller talking about Kauai Springs and that the issue is not forgotten and done with. How they ever got away with that is unbelievable.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Aptly Named Mainland Mentality:
The culture clash is not about expecting someone to stock something that they believe will not sell. It's about failing to take the time to talk to the farmer who brought the item in, to look beyond the product at the person -- and not just because building relationships is what small communities are all about. If you don't take the time to talk story even a little bit, you will not learn what else they could be growing that you might want to sell, or who they are in the community, which could work for or against you, depending on the kind of impression you make and how they might later discuss the incident and with whom.

Anonymous said...

- how is that a culture clash? they should stock it no matter their view of how it will sell? seems unrealistic"
You are just a shallow kind o guy.

Just heard Longan sells for $60 a ziplok in Chinatown.

Anonymous said...

You have to know your market opportunities. If that veg sells big time in some markets, exploit them.

Who knows...maybe selling them to resort chefs would reap big profits.

As to newspaper bags, wouldn't it be ironic, in a sad way, if the newspaper headline "Single Use Plastic Bags Banned in Kauai" was delivered in a single use plastic bag.

ps - I'm the guy in favor of Breasa and loving the position my money buys me in "life's grand pageant" wherein the "great unwashed masses" pass beneath me.

But I do love turtles.

The rest of you can to go to.....

Anonymous said...

Did yoyu and Jerry discuss saltwater intrusion into the fresh water aquifer?
There is a potential for serious disruption of island life and culture.
It is already happening on some of the larger rivers on kauai.

Anonymous said...

i dont buy it, sorry. and i could find many reasonable people who dont either. you can call the non-interest of the store owner stupid, short-sighted, etc as to blowing off what might be a nice new market for them...but ultimately it is their call as to how much time / interest they exhaust in reviewing a potential new product

is the claim they are not doing their part in developing social capital with every joe blow that walks through the door with something? eh, ok. fine

it still strikes me as less than some sort of "clash." and the business owner is entitled to organize their time as they see fit, and to have thier judgment govern their internal operations

plus, hurt feelings does not automatically equal wrongdoing (my observation at least)

and they are bad guys b/ they did not want to "talk story"...please

things often catch up to consistently objectively impolite people and/or organizations. aside from a "no" (hopefully a "no thank you") and not "talking story," if they were actually rude -- then ya, shame on them and name the store so we can avoid it

"How they ever got away with that is unbelievable."

-- the permit for the bottling, or the water in the first place? if the latter, how so? they got the water from a landowner, yes? pls expand, thanks


Anonymous said...

Where did this guy come from? Heʻs got to get back on his meds.

he can write a book of petty pursuit.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the plastic bags. Look at all the rubbish and junk and chemical stuff that gets dumped or tossed any old f--ken place and it goes down the drains and into the ocean or just lays there on the side of the road and you pass it every day and it just makes you p-ssed off. And the people who do it are just plain ignorant or really don't give a f--k about anybody else.

Anonymous said...

Look at all the rubbish and junk and chemical stuff that gets dumped or tossed any old f--ken place
Do you mean look at all the pesticides the state government sprays all over our highway. Waited in traffic for a long time yesterday due to roadwork, and then there was the sign"Roadside Spraying Monday -Friday. So its not enough for the state to expose us all while we are driving, but to make us sit for long periods of time in the poison just sprayed by DOT irks me far more than seeing a plastic bag on the road. No wonder Kauai has so much cancer, ,

Anonymous said...

I love Round-Up. Use it all the time.

Hmmmm...friken, folken, falkin, firken...I hate it when people put in fucken dashes out of some lame sense of "correctness".

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Anonymous said...

I f--ken meant what I said. People who dump or spray their sh-t without thinking about the consequences are dumb a--es.

Anonymous said...

"Say what you mean, mean what you say."

If he did, it would be removed from the site...uh duh

Anonymous said...

I did, and I wasn't removed.

Anonymous said...

You're special.

Anonymous said...

I am special, even thought I'm a farging icehole.

OK tribute I just gave?

Anonymous said...

OK...time's up. The movie was Johnny Dangerously.

You people have to get out more.