Pandemic brings us back to our human priorities

  • Contributed

    Fern Anuenue Holland

Some of the questions people are raising about this pandemic are answerable, and some aren’t.

Some are exaggerated based on assumptions, and some are genuinely concerning.

Some are on the verge of conspiracy, and this whole situation is so surreal no one can be sure there isn’t conspiracy all wrapped around it.

What I do know is that New York is one of the hardest-hit places on Earth. There are bodies stored in refrigerator trucks and people are still dying in large numbers.

The U.S. has not fared well in all this. Regardless of how it got here (it is at least six to 10 times more deadly then the flu from the different numbers I have seen, even incorporating error), it’s real and it’s here.

If you believe in survival of the fittest, this is simply a “cleanse of the weak,” sure. If you are OK with sacrificing weak in your family and circles (those who may not survive if all gates are opened), well, that is you, and that’s a hard one to even consider or talk about, and definitely not the view of many who are not willing to sacrifice those most at risk from this virus.

It’s a really hard time to be an elected official right now, just simply because of how hard these decisions would be to make.

I think a lot of people are grasping for answers right now. I get that. There are way more questions then answers, and us humans want to understand. We are often in search of someone or something to blame, and it’s our human nature.

What I do know is humanity has been living well beyond its means for a very very long time, and while all this is hard and surrounded in questions, I truly believe that we will come out of this stronger, with more stable economies (not so reliant on the world market and based in industries that are resilient and sustainable).

From a Hawai‘i perspective, we were functioning well above capacity for wayyyyyy too long. Our economy since the ‘70s has become completely tourism-dependent, and we have known for a long, long time that something would happen that would cut this line and we would be screwed, but most people in government didn’t make any adjustments for this reality, and now we are in the situation we are in.

It’s a crazy situation, but it is one that puts us back to our priorities as human beings. Food and clean water instantly more important and more valuable then oil and gas, for example.

We have been destroying our climate, ruining our fresh water, pillaging our resources, living above capacity, waging wars, bathing in gluttony, rejoicing in the collapse of our environment for the basis of profits and valuing things and statuses that aren’t real (false gods, dare I suggest?) for so long. Maybe all this is God checking us before we destroy the home we were given to steward.

I have a ton of questions, too, but I am only trying to answer the ones about what we do from here and what I possibly feel like I could have influence on. I’m not looking right now at how we got here, and I’m not looking at the fear and assumptions about what is going to come in the future, because how we got here is still ironing out and is so vast, and the uncertainty of the fears of what is coming so intangible. Instead, for me, the urgency is in the restructuring of our economy and society, and there will be many “rights” to fight for in the coming years.

For many reasons, protesting the stay-at-home order was not the right thing for me to do, while I strongly support the right of everyone to protest. I see it as a way of protesting the very thing that has worked for us. I see this as the thing that worked, and why Kaua‘i has no deaths from COVID-19 and very few cases at all. We took action immediately. We are a small community. We buckled down and we crushed the curve. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been worth it? I say yes. As of yesterday, restrictions have started to ease, and I assume will continue to.

Right now we are in the emergency, and in my opinion it’s not the time to focus on the assumptions of why we are here and who’s fault and conspired plan it was to get here. We all need to do what we can to get through it as a society and look at how we support each other through all this instead as we move forward.

It’s a time to focus on unity, especially as a small community, and focus on compassion. Let’s not break people down who are struggling to get through this and understand this (like those protesting), and let’s not break people down who are following the guidelines and taking it seriously (like those wearing a mask everywhere). Everyone is doing the best they can and what resonates with them as right and pono.

Let’s do what we can to lift each other up and work together to shape the future from here because, one way or the other, the world as we know it has changed.


Fern Holland is a Kapa‘a resident, ecologist, environmental scientist, advocate, community organizer and manager of Tahiti Nui Restaurant in Hanalei.

  1. Chris F May 10, 2020 9:12 am Reply

    people like this make the sheep strong and the real leaders weak.

    1. Debra Kekaualua May 11, 2020 7:36 pm Reply

      Agree, hundreds of unexposed “guilty stolen mailbox fraud”-ulaters. Lucifer teases God saying “I closed Vatican catholics and hawaii mormons, 501c3corporate nonprofit churches”! God’s response, “I opened a church in everyones home”

  2. Lawaibob May 10, 2020 9:18 am Reply

    Well said, Fern! Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and meaningful article. I feel like most of the Guest, Opinion, and Letters to the Editor that are published in this newspaper are based on the current us-versus-them culture thats become so prevalent in this country. The Garden Island should consider hiring you as a reporter/editor as your written communication style would fill some very large gaps in their day-to-day operation.

  3. Gary Duerst May 10, 2020 10:02 am Reply

    Getting back to the basics means realizing that there is value in having people living on enough land to grow a garden and maybe raising a few animals, not stacking them as close as possible to each other to reduce auto mileage a little bit…

    Getting back to basics means we realize that some people (farmers) need to have access to enough land to employ economies of scale – not weeding, planting, harvesting by hand, but by mechanized means.

    Getting back to basics means realizing that pigs, chickens, and milk cows need to be on the island like they used to be, and that can’t happen if everyone keeps playing the NIMBY game…

  4. Michael Zieman May 10, 2020 2:49 pm Reply

    Lets take a look back at what has worked. Certainly the drastic steps taken in early March were successful in not just limited the virus but actually eliminating it from Kauai. Initially little was known about the virus and their was an extreme level of fear, notwithstanding the WHO at one point telling the world that the virus could not be transmitted human-to-human.

    Today we are much wiser. We know that the aged with underlying condition are the most at risk; over half the deaths in states like NY and NJ were people who were living in nursing homes and similar facilities thus taking extreme measures to protect such people are paramount. Based on antibody testing which have shown a large number of asymptomatic cases, we now know that the actual death rate is closer to 0.1 to 0.3 percent, still serious but not so scary. We know that being outdoors, without a mask while social distancing is very safe, unless of course an infected person sneezes in your face. We know from a recent NY study that most people who get the virus get it indoors, not outdoors. Given these facts and many more why are we still pushing a stay at home order?

    Given the advantage of hindsight we now know that many of the measures initially taken to control the virus, measured which have caused sever economic damage to our economy, businesses and many individuals, were misguided and overly broad, though well meaning at the time. Per Mayor K not only were our health care facilities not overwhelmed but emergency room admittances were down over one-third in March and over one-half in April; traffic accidents were down 57%, etc. It is now clear, that the restrictions initially put in place were extremely overly board. Many of the recently lifted restrictions should been removed weeks ago. Many of the remaining restrictions should be lifted immediately. Failure to do so is causing needless damage to people in many forms and the blame for such damage lies squarely on the shoulders of our governing officials should they continue to fail to act based on what we now know.

    In the future should a few cases show up on the island we do not need to go back to a total lock down. The rest of the world is not taking that approach and to do so will ultimately destroy even further life as we know it. The goal should not be to keep Kauai COVID-19 free but rather to take a reasoned and measured approach which restrict the virus while at the same time returns many of our freedoms.

  5. Jeff S. May 10, 2020 6:17 pm Reply

    Very nicely put Ms. Holland. When it comes right down to it, everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and you’re not going to change mine nor will I change yours. My wife and I look forward to visiting our condo in Koloa on July 4th. I hope that the quarantine restrictions are loosened by then and if not we will follow whatever guidelines are set forth. Mahalo for not writing such a one sided article.

  6. Jai May 11, 2020 2:29 am Reply

    100% except one little detail… official action was not ‘immediate’ nor was the response clear in the beginning. Fortunately, the delay by County and State to implement key measures has shown they acted soon enough tho without testing and tracing, we have been playing a game of chance in the blind. Mahalo to our community for acting on those official measures immediately with commitment, Kauaians deserves a lot of credit for getting it right. Be safe!

  7. manawai May 11, 2020 9:33 am Reply

    I’m surprised that the author apparently doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than”. I was always told that if you don’t check your work and you allow typos to remain, that it brings everything you say into question.

    1. Steven McMacken May 12, 2020 3:40 am Reply

      I’m surprised that you apparently don’t know that in American English periods always go inside the quotation marks, not outside. I was always told that if you don’t check your work and you allow typos to remain, that it brings everything you say into question.

  8. IKUDIAS May 11, 2020 8:58 pm Reply

    Manawai, give her a break, she probably neva had the chance to go Kapaa high and learn proper english. You gotta go with the flow….(shaka sign)… we hav the largest demographic now, and its time to give us the respect we want when tansplanting to a new community, or in 5 years, you will be ousted to the wayside by the influx of many more like minded “locals” like me. Remember, we know whats best for the aina

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