It’s so stunningly beautiful here that I’ve forgotten several times today that it’s my birthday. I can hardly believe this place exists!
It’s not just the natural beauty, the cool ocean breeze, the enchanting chorus of so many songbirds, or even the fact that I can see several mangos ripening on the tree just a few yards in front of me. The real allure is in the eyes of so many beautiful people here. Even in the big city of Honolulu everyone seems to have a soft contentment in their eyes.
It could be so easy to loose myself and become spoiled and complacent in an environment like this. I’ve already discovered how easy it is to adapt to swimming in the ocean and exploring lush rainforest daily (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!). It might be considered fortunate (to some) that I’m too much a glutton for punishment and damaged eco-systems to stay here.
That is not to say the islands don’t have their problems. Like any place, Oahu struggles with poverty, gentrification, poor public schooling, media consolidation, crime and a litany of other issues that the unsuspecting tourist may never catch wind of — but the issue that most concerns me is that of food production.
As it turns out, the Hawaiian Islands, despite their ideal soils, year round growing seasons and ample rain fall, is currently importing 80 – 85% of all their food. This is astounding!
It seems even paradise has a long road ahead when it comes to food security. At current consumption, the islands only have enough food for ONE week should the supply chains from the mainland ever become disrupted. This is very bad news.
The good news? Well, much like Cuba who recently weathered a rather extreme example of what an island community can do with they become cut off from the rest of the world, Hawaii stands a very strong chance of being able to transition back toward a more sustainable balance in consumption vs. production.
It’s as much about the climate here as it is about the community. Many folks already understand the dire situation they’ve come to find themselves in and are working to change it. The private schools are even making it their first priority to help improve the standards in the local public schools.
I feel very confidant in the island peoples ability to begin to change their circumstances and recognize the amazing gifts that are these stunning islands. It wasn’t long ago that the entire island chain was entirely self-sufficient. Using a system of land division and management known as Ahupua `a the people of Hawaii were able to produce everything needed.
These days, with an expansive population and disruption of many natural ecologies… it’s going to take a lot more than Ahupua `a to feed the islands. On several islands, permaculture is starting to become more ubiquitous and shaping a new way that the islands can rediscover their self-sufficiency.
Next weekend I’ll be hopping over to the Big Island to visit my Aunt Chris. I’m very excited as I credit her as my earliest influence in gardening. Growing up in Northern Idaho, I spent much of my childhood in her household snapping green beans, watering the garden, brushing and feeding the horses, throwing rotten chicken eggs… ahem, well that wasn’t exactly her influence.
Until then… Aloha!