I attended the Kilauea session of the county's Important Ag Lands meeting yesterday, and you can check out my full report at For Kauai.
I found the IAL meeting to be fascinating, primarily because of the profound questions about our island’s future being raised by this process. To me, the main one is this: do we really want to become food and energy self-sufficient?
Because as I found out, we do have the raw resources — land, water and sun — to make that a reality. So is that what we want? I’d love to see more island-wide discussions on precisely that topic. Because if we decide as a community that we do want it, I’m sure we can overcome some of the other obstacles, like farm labor.
But whether we’ll have such a discussion remains to be seen. A lot of people are pretty fixed on the idea that the boats and planes will keep coming and Costco will always be full of super-sized stuff.
For others, the thought that we might have to function independently and self-sufficiently, either as an island or an archipelago, is too scary to consider because it means, as one friend described it, “a total collapse of the system.”
But rather than take the doomsday approach, why not look at is as a chance to gain more control over our existence, to pursue true community-based development, to maintain the island’s rural lifestyle that so many of us cherish?
Because right now, we still have that option, and if the economy does rebound, and development resumes, that’s not going to be the case for long. On the other hand, if the economy tanks and we do have to fend for ourselves, it’s best we get started now.
At any rate, though we’re two years into the IAL process, it’s only at the beginning, in terms of the political process that will determine the ultimate outcome.
And while the maps and other documents that Dr. Karl Kim and the IAL team have compiled provide some way-cool planning tools, the IAL process has also raised a lot of tough questions.
Like, do Grove Farm and A&B get to keep all the water in the reservoirs that feed the acreage that they’ve set aside as IAL, since water is a key component of that designation? Or do they still have to return some of that water to the streams?
What role do seed corn, and even coffee, play in a self-sufficient future, seeing as how they’re our number one crops, in terms of acreage and value, but they don’t generate food or fuel for local consumption?
And how can we get more people involved in crafting answers to these questions, plotting our island’s future?