Aloha, Land Use Commissioners,
Land Use Commission planning and decision making for Hawaii must take into consideration the long-term interests of the people and environment of our islands. In recent decades our needs have become predominately dependent on imported of goods, services, energy and food.
We now rely on the Mainland for approximately 90 percent of our food. This overdependence on far-off places extends to our sources of energy, and our sources of consumer and industrial products.
On top of that, the economy of Hawaii has need for tourism for income that is fragile and fickle. Obviously our isolation from all other land masses in the world will be a factor of planning for the future if those importations are threatened.
So, if ever there was a time that self-sustainability was a top priority for planning the future of Kauai — now is that time.
The proposed Kokua Place advertises its plan as “sustainable.” But they use the word only as a talisman. This project is quite the opposite of “sustainable” planning. It’s more of the kind of development that makes us vulnerable to food riots within weeks of any serious disruption of Matson Line container ships from California.
The plan is car-centric. It will require getting in your car to do most anything. This will be place where people have to commute to work and commute to find food. The plan requires new roads, parking and accommodation for high-density multi-story living. Three- quarters of the land is used for multi-unit housing, requiring extensive parking lots; the rest is suburban single-family sprawl on cul-de-sacs.
There will be little opportunity to grow food, pick fruit, raise chickens, keep goats or house hunting dogs in this development.
The proposed density of the project is needed only to cover the debts and maximize profits to the speculators and investors promot- ing it — and from that springs the necessity to change it to an Urban District. In tomorrow’s rearview mirror, that will be seen as shortsighted and impoverishing to Kauai.
Unfortunately, the wasteful use of fossil fuels, and the resources needed for the extravagant consumer lifestyle the modern world has become accustomed to, has brought us to situation in which we are facing real declines in sources of cheap energy and resources.
Since 2008, we have been living in a collapsed world consumer-based industrial economy that faces negative growth forecasts. Although characterized as a financial collapse, the crash in 2008 was largely driven by having reached world peak oil production at that time.
Cheap, plentiful fossil fuels to “grow the world economy indefinitely” will not recur again. As a result there is little reason to believe that the technology and industry supported by cheap oil will persevere. This would include affordable world-wide shipping across oceans of containers filled with consumer products or packaged and refrigerated food.
In Hawaii we already face some of the highest consumer costs in the world. It is certain that we in Hawaii will face ever increasing costs to import food and all other industrial products to our islands.
But even more tragic is that the by-product of modern industrialism and food production has been the ever-increasing CO2 content of our atmosphere. This “greenhouse” gas is wreaking havoc with the climate of the Earth and driving worldwide temperatures higher.
In Hawaii we are already seeing impacts on the environment. The jetstream has become more erratic. Here on Kauai our regular northeast tradewind has become irregular and supplanted by drier, polluted Kona winds.
Climate scientists at the University of Hawaii have found an association with rising ocean temperatures and the elevations of the clouds over Hawaii. On Kauai rainfall on Mount Waialeale has been falling for decades. Much of Kauai is now in a moderate drought.
Climate change and global warming are identified with the state-wide extreme drought in California that is quickly returning the Central Valley to desert conditions. Less snowfall in the mountains of California will continue due to global warming and has doomed agriculture there. And desert is what much of California was before the last unusually wet century and the diversion of Colorado River.
Up until 2014, more than half of America’s vegetables, fruits and nuts were grown in California. That will no longer be the case.
As California returns to the “old normal,” we will see the end of the recent cornucopia of fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets of America and Hawaii.
Why is this relevant to the LUC decision on Kokua Place to convert the land it sits on from an Agricultural District to an Urban District?
In one simple word, it is patently “UNSUSTAINABLE!” And we need to be self-sustaining in Hawaii. Not only will Kauai have to provide the food for its residents, but all the Neighbor Islands will have to contribute food to Oahu with its overburden of hundreds of thousands of people.
All agriculture land in Hawaii should now be viewed as a lifeboat to the future. We now know that industrial mono-crop farming requiring high energy inputs, synthetic fertilizers and massive pesticide use and will not work in Hawaii.
Sustainable food growing practices such as organic farming, permaculture and food forests as well as some traditional farming, pasturing and orcharding should be practiced. We need to find what works as quickly as possible.
In general, I would suggest that the LUC evaluate proposals in Agricultural Districts with a strict set of criteria regarding an increase in local food production, and avoiding increased automobile dependence, population growth and suburban sprawl.
If any changes in designation of mauka Agricultural Districts is contemplated it should be to either Conservation or Rural Districts. To sustain water resources we will need more forestation and to meet our food security requirements we will need more residents on small farms.
And projects on designated Rural Districts should be required to be at least self-sustaining in the production of such things as fruits, vegetables, chickens or eggs.
How else shall we live on Kauai in the future?
Mahalo for your considerations of this matter.
Juan Wilson is architect/planner, executive committee member of the Kauai Group of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club.