The sweet crescent moon was the highlight of last night’s sky, where I saw rising in the east the constellations that this morning were setting in the west when Koko and I went walking for the last time in this neighborhood.
Venus was glowing over the ocean, above a band of clouds huddled along the horizon, and the sky turned first robin’s egg blue, then pink, then yellow, in colorful homage to the rising sun.
Koko and I will both be happy to get back to the higher ground, literally, of our old neighborhood, where I’ll just naturally happen upon my neighbor Andy some mornings, without having to make an appointment for a walk, and farmer Jerry can stop for a roadside chat on his way into work.
It’s a neighborhood that’s far more pleasing to my aesthetic sensibilities, too, and as I told Jerry, I’ll be waxing way more poetic when I move back to the land of mists, minimal streetlights and unobstructed mountain views.
Being on the radio yesterday, and hearing voices that are familiar to me call in, I was reminded of what a small place Kauai is. That point was driven home the other morning when I was talking to a friend on the cell phone and reported that I was following a pick-up that sped over the Wailua bridge, belching diesel smoke and bearing the bumper sticker: I’ll take my guns, money and freedom. You can keep “the change.”
“That sounds like Randy Weir,” my friend said. And sure enough, when I pulled up alongside the truck in preparation for a turn, the arch-conservative contractor was at the wheel.
Somebody, it seems, is always seeing what you’re doing, and talking about it, even if you’re oblivious to the scrutiny.
Our radio discussion on the bike path proposed for Wailua Beach, as well as the greater issue of encroachment on the shoreline by both development and nature, in terms of the rising sea level and more intense storms associated with global climate change, attracted numerous callers with differing points of view.
Dr. Carl Berg, who is putting on the free climate change conference at KCC from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, raised the question of whether we’ll be pushed to fortify the entire island with seawalls to keep the ocean from lapping up and over all our shoreline development.
Now that kind of armoring, which we're already seeing along the eastside and northshore, would create a true “concrete choker” around Kauai, to adapt a great phrase that one caller used to describe the Path.
As I listened to the views expressed by the callers, I was struck by how the issues around the Path are the same ones that have played out repeatedly in the years I’ve been on Kauai: gentrification, commercialization of public resources, cultural disrespect and degradation, locals vs haole newcomers, natural vs artificial, general development.
One person in comments noted that Kauai is the “last bastion” of strong opinions. I don’t think that’s true. Folks on the other islands have very strong opinions about what’s happening in their communities, too, and they also take to the streets, council chambers and courtrooms to make their opinions known.
But it is true that Kauai has long been resistant to the kind of future charted out for us by the visitors’ bureau and real estate industry, and in my view, that’s a good thing. Look how over-developed Maui and Oahu got, all in the name of building their economies. Yet they ended up in the toilet, too. So if it doesn’t actually provide immunity from the ravages of recession, what, really, is the point of paving everything over?
Uncle Nathan Kalama, one of the cultural practitioners who organized last weekend’s vigil at Wailua, called in to say that if the Path was created to help the kupuna enjoy the shoreline, it failed. He was pushed in his wheelchair along the segment between Kapaa and Kealia, and found it uncomfortable.
“It was too hot,” he said. “There was no shade.”
Yeah, remember how the little pavilions along that stretch were supposed to be topped with large, leafy trees, rather than the roofs that were installed without permits or Council permission?
It does seem the Path has been plagued since its inception with planning and public communication problems, as numerous callers noted. But that’s nothing new on Kauai, either.
What I do wonder is whether it’s possible to take a new approach to addressing some of these long-standing core issues, instead of re-hashing them on each and every project, which takes a tremendous amount of energy and engenders a great deal of ill will. The General Plan is supposed to be one instrument for doing that, but it doesn’t seem to be a very effective or reliable guide.
Or are the values held by the opposing factions just too divergent to reconcile? How do you sit down and talk things out with people who think cultural concerns are all artifice, the natural world is for dominating?
Maybe it will take a greater threat, like a three-foot rise in sea level, to help us find some higher common ground.