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Editorial | Island Voices

‘Embrace a sustainable life’

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IN OUR 21st-century island society, our cultural kipuka and highly valued customs and life ways are threatened with ruin by dynamic forces of change.

The phasing out of agribusiness in the late 20th century created unemployment in rural communities and left large tracts of land open for development. While diversified agriculture developed in some of these areas, resorts and subdivisions attracted more investment and higher profits. This led to the development of resorts featuring hotels, time-share units, luxury homes, mini shopping malls, and golf courses along pristine shorelines .

Such development transformed the way of life for nearby longtime families. Traditional subsistence gathering and fishing grounds were ruined, and access to these areas was limited or blocked altogether. These developments increased property values and taxes, not only for the properties themselves, but also for the properties of surrounding neighbors. Exorbitant property values and taxes made it difficult for Kanaka Oiwi families to hold on to their ancestral lands. The high price of land and housing makes it difficult for young families to start out on their own in these rural communities.

Kuleana: responsibility of stewardship

Those who live in and enjoy our islands need to work together to reconnect with and care for the land and water resources of our individual islands, beginning with our own ahupuaa and moku (district and region). I believe that living on the lands of Hawaii engages us in a relationship of stewardship that connects us to those who lived on the land before us. This involves a respect for the indigenous spiritual knowledge of the land, and for the Kanaka Oiwi ancestors who provided stewardship for the land. Each part of our islands requires stewardship unique to its natural resources and cultural history.

We need to embrace a sustainable approach to our lives and livelihoods to offset and reverse the dramatic transformations of the natural and cultural landscapes of urbanized Oahu.

Living in our islands also places us in a relationship of community with our neighbors who live on and care for the land today. We need to pay attention to what’s going on in our neighborhoods, and look after the well-being of our community.

The recently published book "Kailua" is an excellent model of an Oahu community working together to document the natural and cultural history of their ahupuaa as a step toward assuming collective stewardship of their district. There are several Kailua organizations working together to restore the cultural and natural resources of their ahupuaa .

Together they are working to restore Kawainui and Hamakua wetlands, Ulupo Heiau, Na Pohaku o Hauwahine, and the Maunawili Valley watershed.

Davianna Pomaikai McGregor is a professor and a founding member of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


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