Coco Palms stands as a legacy from which to learn and to grow. How will the
community of Kaua’i allow this unique piece of land to be used?
like to suggest that Coco Palms become a learning vehicle where those of us who
live here go deep inside of ourselves to discover the direction our island is
Kaua’i and Coco Palms are the last frontiers in the effects of
tourism. How much do we understand tourism beyond our emotional reaction and
our hope to be fed by our visitors?
I share my experience and life in
tourism. I’ve lived in Jamaica, New York City, Michigan, and on Oahu and Miami
Beach—all places heavily reliant on tourism. I’ve traveled the world as a
tourist, in my work, and as a spiritual seeker. Now I’m a permanent Kaua’i
I’ve seen tourism elevate South Miami Beach and devastate
One woman bought an old South Beach building and renovated it,
encouraging others to also buy and renovate buildings with intrinsic value as
art deco architecture. She breathed fire into a disinterested local government
and attracted international investors. South Beach now has a unique livable and
artistic culture. There is little resentment of tourism.
As a developing
country, Jamaica was left open to the invasiveness that tourism always brings.
Land developers built resorts which brought unimaginative tourists with simple
taste and little imagination who left little money. The resorts provided only
service jobs. The restaurants barely used local food, importing meats and
produce. Locals felt very separate from the tourist and gave much pig eye to
Grassroots tourists came to Jamaica seeking culture, Bob
Marley, reggae, and new philosophy. They lived with the locals. Barter as well
as money was a means. Cultural exchange, friendships, even partnerships began.
Visitors brought boat motors, tools, clothes, sewing machines, toothpaste.
Jamaicans provided food and rent. These tourists came in search of culture to
learn and live within. They called Jamaica their second home.
developers moved in on the towns of grassroots tourism. The locals felt
exploited and angry. Jamaican culture like all island cultures, vulnerable in a
big world, was ruined rather than loved.
I’ve seen that the more tourism is
built by foreign developers, the more it destroys a culture. Timeshares, club
memberships, cruise ships, chain hotels are exploitative and invasive.
first, the small guy sells out to the big guy. They sell willingly or
disinterested, selling their jewels for the monetary gratification of quick
cash. Government, business, and neighboring landowners are willing to settle
for a temporary solution sending a sensitive culture down the river.
tourism is a lack of love and generosity. This cannot be underplayed. Industry
is valid only if rooted in love and care, which comes if you live in the
What next needs examination is who is the kind of person is you
have invited to share your turf.
Around the world the small countries,
particularly, the world’s islands are begging for developers, for tourism. They
do not seek less dramatic solutions, but instead are seeking a fast killing,
gambling their culture and land away.
What needs to be examined is the way
the world is going. Hard drugs have replaced soft drugs; plastic replaces the
natural materials and is left behind. The visitor is there only a few days,
looks out at the beautiful vista, takes a picture, visits the beach then
retreats to the poolside. The way and taste of the average tourist.
at Coco Palms. A gentle form of tourist retreat is now being bought by a hard
Token money goes to the island. The land ends up in
the hands of uncaring foreign investors who say, because they have to, that
they care about the island. Tourism is leaving a sour taste in the mouth of the
local, at best an ambivalence that wants resolution.
Only the people who
live here can resolve the issue of tourism. This begins and ends with
creativity. Living in many cultures, as a photojournalist and filmmaker, I have
seen that it’s a lack of creativity that causes the sell-out to land
developers, especially islands with beauty and gentle cultures that resist
developing themselves because they have a history of being taken care of or
provided for or invaded by the bigger guy.
To change the path that is being
trotted in the Hawaiian chain requires what has been shown consistently around
the world: one or a few women who decide to be creative, imaginative, and by
the strength of their love will take on a place like Coco Palms bringing forth
a new vision.