If you take a drive, a walk, a bike ride, around Kauai, you will see amazing natural beauty. Spectacular sunsets, massive mountains and wonderful waves. It is a blessing, for sure.
Unfortunately, you will also see a lot of trash.
A receive trek on Saturday morning just around Lihue included sightings of two discarded washing machines, plastic bags of garbage, the usual litter that folks toss from their cars, clothes and shoes, vehicle tires and, yes, several abandoned cars.
While we like to blame all of Kauai’s woes on tourists (they’re crowding our roads and beaches and wearing out our infrastructure is the usual line), we can’t fault them for pushing washing machines from pickup trucks into the brush alongside dirt roads. We can’t blame them for rolling worn tires off to the roadside. And we can’t pin them down for flying their junk cars out here and leaving them in random places throughout the island.
Nope. That is all us, the people who live, work and play here; the people who call Kauai home.
One longtime resident, in a recent conversation, didn’t dispute there is a lot of trash being dumped out there. He didn’t dispute there are a lot of abandoned cars and that the county seems to take a long time to remove some of them. Sure, the county could do better.
What, he wondered, though, happened to personal responsibility? What happened to taking care of your own property and disposing of it in the proper manner? When did it become acceptable to just dump your trash and old cars for someone else (the county) to clean up?
It didn’t. Some people decided otherwise. And, frankly, that leaves a negative mark on the entire island. You’ve likely heard the jokes going around that Kauai is the “garbage island.”
We won’t lump everyone into one basket on this issue. It’s really just a small number of people who don’t care where or when or how they leave a mess behind. The majority of folks do things right, take responsibility and leave things better than they found them. They teach their children well.
What this resident was calling on was likely a pipe dream, but we’ll share it anyway. He was calling on everyone to simply take responsibility for themselves and for their property. To take care of their own trash. To take care of their own old appliances. To take care of their own broken-down cars. By take care of, he means to dispose of these things in the appropriate manner, and that doesn’t include leaving it on a roadside or in the bushes and driving away.
If we can do that, we won’t have abandoned cars decorating the island. We won’t have old clothes and trash at scenic lookouts. We won’t have trash bags piling up.
This particular resident has faith that all those living and working and playing on Kauai will rise to this challenge and treat this island like the special place it is.
We hope he is right.