Every now and then, the Planning Commission throws a small bone to we the people who care about this island — and not in terms of how much money we can make off it — to keep us from sinking into total, abject despair.
Yesterday was such a time, when the Commission voted against giving Inter-Island Helicopters a permit to land at a waterfall. It wasn’t just the denial that was significant, but the reasons as reported in The Garden Island’s coverage of the meeting: landings are noisy, offensive operations that should properly be confined to industrial-zoned areas; the impacts can’t be adequately mitigated; and the applicant’s promise to remove invasive species rang hollow.
Equally significant was the Commission’s willingness to go its own way, despite both a staff recommendation in favor and planning director Mike Dahilig personally arguing for the permit using the kind of smarmy, waffling language — “nothing is 100 percent compatible or incompatible” and “there are curves on the use that can be implemented in order to make this use compatible” — that serves to remind us he is an attorney, not a planner, regardless of his job title.
Moving on to other, related issues, someone left this comment on Monday’s post, which addressed a bill that would allow bingo on Hawaiian Homelands and how gambling has caused some culture clashes on native lands elsewhere:
Just how does one avoid being poor if all you do is subsistence farm/fish? Same old Joan, glorifying 1750 without bothering to address the reality. Nothing is stopping OHA or the Bishop hoard or any of the other Alii trusts from spending to put Hawaiians on their land except that the royalty new and old have no real interest in anything but themselves. No wonder they're Republicans.
Although the comment makes a false assertion that requires correcting — fulfilling the mandate of the Congressionally-created Hawaiian Homelands program is not the fiscal responsibility of any Hawaiian organization or trust, but the state — it caught my eye because it allows me to make a point about how we as a society define wealth and poverty.
It’s been on my mind ever since I read this in an article and ripped it out and tucked it away on my desk for future use:
The word “prosperous” meant “according to one’s wishes” long before it meant “rich” and it has long-standing associations with magic.
Using that definition, a person who is able to make his/her way in the world through the self-directed, self-sufficient means of subsistence farming and fishing is indeed far more prosperous than someone who is striving to accumulate cash and stuff in a hated/evil job, trying to beat the odds through gambling or a functioning as a pawn in that house of cards known as the stock market.
Or as I noted in a piece I wrote a while back and published as the very first post on this blog:
Prosperity isn’t even a word in the Hawaiian language, Ka`imi said. It’s an entirely Western concept, that idea of making good in a way that sets you apart from others; accumulating possessions with an eye toward achieving status; attracting money and material things to be stored up, hoarded.
But there is waiwai, she reminded him, the word used interchangeably for water and wealth, and she’d experienced it herself at Aliomanu, just recently. Walking to the beach, after a month of heavy rains, she’d noticed naupaka leaves, plumped and swollen; ironwood needles, a tender pale green; springy moss, clinging thickly to gray pohaku.
The red soil had darkened deep brown with a surfeit of wet; heliotrope seedlings had sprung boldly from the sand.
It was suddenly all so rich, so plush, so luxuriant, that drought-parched patch of east Kauai coastline, restored to vibrant life by rain alone.
That’s when she saw with her own eyes, she told him, that waiwai truly is wealth. Because everything in that moist scene was so lushly abundant, it seemed wholly ludicrous to value anything more than water.
And you can call the rain, he reminded her. You can evoke the water; you can turn the trickle into a torrent. Isn’t that prosperity?
Just a little something to bear in mind now that, as Business Week reports:
[t]he stigma against conspicuous luxury seems to be fading further, says Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. For those who can afford it, "it's en vogue to spend money," he says. "They don't need to hide their luxury anymore."
Perhaps they’ll even throw a bone to the 9.4 percent of workers who have no job — and no subsistence hunting or fishing, either.