An open letter to Pierre Omidyar

Dear Pierre,

Aloha and welcome to Kauai, the island of sunny beaches, fairly stress-free lifestyles, pristine landscapes, waterfalls and rainbows.

This lovely island has for a long time been a place apart, a place of respite, healing and relaxation. Those of us who have lived here for a long time have valued these attributes of Kauai highly and have neglected personal economic increase and ambition to maintain and uphold these intangible treasures for ourselves and future generations.

We have succeeded rather well. Recently, however, the open spaces and the beauty of this land has attracted people to this state who have been in the avant-garde of new technologies and have earned unimaginable fortunes in the process. They, and you, are welcome to enjoy the loveliness and tranquility of this aina.

Yet, some of us are worried that your progress, expertise and zeal for financial profit will not let you rest, relax or enjoy the pristine landscapes, waterfalls and rainbows without forging ahead with plans and designs to alter the very foundation of our peaceful rural tradition.

Our local government (mayor, County Council, Planning Commission, etc.) has been unable to keep in step with the demands of our growing population. Roads, energy procurement, clean water, clean soil and clean agriculture, general sustainability are concepts that keep them indecisive and non-committal.

One thing that will affect you personally, that has been postponed, deferred and tabled with no resolution on the horizon, is the landfill, detritus of daily life. Our so-called “landfill” in Kekaha has been mounting for the last few decades leading slowly into the near-ocean aquifer, poisoning both land and sea. Not even methane that percolates freely through the brew to the top is harvested.

The next “landfill” is slated for Kalepa Ridge, 300 feet above sea level. The underlying aquifer spread far and wide from there … but not to worry, the Kekaha “landfill” mountain is not scheduled for closure until 10 years from now. (More details are available via www.kauai.gov/publicworks, click “new landfill”). Pushed off for future administrations.

By now you may wonder, “Why is he telling me all this?” It is because I feel that you want to do something for the island, but we don’t really need a new hotel or a dairy farm. While I personally enjoy a glass of farm-fresh milk from time to time, I don’t need a whole dairy to get it.

What we need for the island is a state-of-the-art recycling plant: a factory into which all the stuff (detritus) can go, one that creates new raw materials and commercially viable products with minimal carbon footprint! I am sure that with your proven business acumen and the worldwide web, such an undertaking could be just as, if not more profitable than some exploited bovines with sore udders trampling an archeologically significant land. The population would carry you around on their shoulders and pay you unending respect.

Sometimes, at the very inception of a plan something goes wrong and the first idea pushed by the desire to do something good happens to be the wrong idea. Still, it is adopted with happy consensus, drawn up, thought through, planned, lots of energy and manpower expended, calculations made, feasibilities weighed, outcomes projected, etc. Yet, the foundation of it all was the wrong idea. The only thing one can do is to stop immediately and use all those resources for the right idea. Paradigmatic shifts. Alas, flexibility and creativity are rarely found in such processes.

What needs to be found is benevolent support for inadequate infrastructure as we cannot expect or hope for the local authorities to come to the fore. What needs to be found are people who, despite their financial power, stay calm and relaxed, and not turn our island into their private trough, and folks who are able to control their inclination for predatory “progress” and keep those sentiments off this special place of respite, healing and relaxation. Maybe we can find it in eBay.

You are welcome with aloha and nobody will grumble if you build your personal hale of 20-30-50,000 square feet and pull up a chair in the sand, come fishing, surfing, have a beer … or Château d’Yquem.

With aloha, sincerely yours.

••••

Friedemann J. Bender is a resident of Kilauea.

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