Friday, November 20, 2009

Musings: Higher Ground

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.


Anonymous said...

giving ones self credit for having strong and poorly reasoned opinions against public works projects like parks and bike paths while area youth continue to fall behind the rest of the world, sustainability opportunities are squandered, and cronyism governs. nice


Anonymous said...

aloha joan,
nice post; great show. glad you're inspired to seek higher ground. thnx for sharing, peace,......jt

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, remember how the little pavilions along that stretch were supposed to be topped with large, leafy trees,"

I never saw trees on the plan.
Which large leafy trees would survive the coast.
Only ironwood and false kamani two invasive trees that actually harden the shore.

i guee we could add some pavillions with out picnic tables for the wheelchairs.

Unknown said...

Nice post. Sounds like a helpful meeting.

I often hear people use Maui as a cautionary tale for Kauai. I think ignoring things like paths and parks will produce something much worse than Maui. Maybe our choices today decide between two futures: denser communities like Maui or sprawling shopping malls like Aiea?

Anonymous said...

dwps -- your comment makes no sense.

Mokihana Calizar said...

Good post. My husband has been a long time regular follower of your musings and finally I have linked you to our blog place.

The issue of how to bring opposing opinions together to create some common ground is a goal worth holding dear. Though the reason I site (to follow) might seem out in left field, from the old view of life in the commons it is really getting in sync with the cosmic plan. The reason: the planets, in particular PLUTO and SATURN are squaring off in the sky. A very lay translation is 'big things such as realigning human-made systems to be more practical AND pono are demanded.' Attending to the ways in which kanaka (all humans) inter-relate to 'aina (all that sustains) is the order of these days. Pluto will be in the sign of CAPRICORN (the goat the steady and sure-footed) for the next 12 yrs.

I notice how often your musings include your eyes on the sky. I enjoy that constancy about your word pictures. The thing about including the sky and astrology into the mix is more than airy-fairy; it is a respect for the forces that ARE where humans attend to them or not. Like you concluded, high water rising is all about HINA taking back what we have not (yet) seen as important.

Maybe someone like Kalei Tsuha (whose kuleana is the sky & Hina in particular ... from Maui) could offer insight.


Anonymous said...

oh god....another wingnut.

Pete said...

A name less Oh god I'm a wingnut
No need call my wife hardware.
Dean Peter Little

Dawson said...

"oh god....another wingnut."

I feel for ya. It's terrifying when people express views other than your own. Worse when they express them civilly.

Soused with adrenaline, the long-practiced reaction is anger. Physical assault being impossible in this situation, and illegal in any event, the next best thing is to mock, scorn, deride and belittle. It's the perfect pill: threat banished, ego restored, all is good.

Who says we can't revisit those glory days of junior high, when everything was clear and simple? When we knew who the a-holes were -- and weren't.

Anonymous said...

We still do.

And the are wingnuts.

My astrologer told me so.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Mokihana,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment and perspective, and to you and Pete for reading.

Yes, it's very important to be aware of the forces that ARE, whether humans currently attend to them or not!

I appreciate the referral to Kalei Tshua.

And thanks for linking to me from your blog. I enjoyed checking out all your blogs.

Unknown said...

> dwps -- your comment makes no sense.

It was admittedly poorly described.

My point is that proper planning and investment in things like the bike path make communities stronger and more livable. Ignoring these investments does not stop development, it simply makes it more destructive to the community.

I summarized this by pointing out the false dichotomy of "no development vs. Maui-style development". Assuming there will be some development, the more proper choice is "Maui-style vs. Aiea (or Pearl City or other strip-mall town)-style" development. With that choice, Maui doesn't seem so bad...

Mokihana Calizar said...

Aloha, Joan

Kalei Tshua is doing important and educational work as an enthoscientist and kahuna in the best definition of these words. I have added a video of Kalei speaking at the UH Hilo back in 08, to the blog. The thing that is very important to me here, on this thread, is the discourse that can/could add to the value of information.

See a wingnut has its place from one perspective ... it holds down all that would screw.

The astrological perspective is the same as science called astronomy. With the life my husband and I have today, the small and the big are important and learning about the debating/contesting on Kauai is relevant. We have left the islands forced out by choices made in the name of greed and solutions with short-vision and out of sync with Kaulana Mahina.

Nameless commentary is manini stuff, bait for the bigger fish.


Anonymous said...

Casey your comment did make sense. I was referring to the comment left by dwps.

Anonymous: November 21, 2009 7:54 AM

Anonymous said...

Mokihana said: "The astrological perspective is the same as science called astronomy."

Not since the 17th century (the age of reason)!

Since the 18th century they have come to be regarded as completely separate disciplines. Astronomy, the study of objects and phenomena beyond the Earth's atmosphere, is a science and is a widely studied academic discipline.

Astrology, which uses the apparent positions of celestial objects as the basis for psychology, prediction of future events, and other esoteric knowledge, is not widely regarded as science and is typically defined as a form of divination.

Anonymous said...


The position of Uranus is aligned with a Black Hole.

To think any of this is taken seriously in the 21st century.

Takes all kinds, I guess.

Anonymous said...

By the way, ass-trologers...welcome to the blog.

Put on your helmet, elbow and knee pads since it could be a rough ride, especially given your WTF beliefs and mindset.

But all are welcome here, evil bastards to sock puppets.

Anonymous said...

Believe what you like of the stars as long as you don't use it as basis to make decisions that affect anyone outside your immediate family.

Try dragging that heavenly baggage to a political or scientific forum and see how you are recieved.

Anonymous said...

"The astrological perspective is the same as science called astronomy"


Not even a little bit.

Anonymous said...

Astrology is to astronomy as cosmetology is to cosmology.

Uranus in the house of Venus equals a bad hair day.

Anonymous said...

OK...we've given them the kind of welcome 2 new suburban kids would get on their first day at a tough inner city grade school if they showed up in cute little "Jack & Jill" outfits.

Maybe they'll come back. This board's like NYC...if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Wow...that dated me, the "board" thing rather than "blog".

Hearkens me back to the old BBS (bulletin board system) days a loooong time ago when that was state of the art.

I was an evil bastard then, too.