Yesterday, I prepared to be on a French Canadian TV series about living in Hawaii. This series is not a fluffy travel show, but a documentary on what it really takes to live on an island and what are the pros and cons. The producer asked some very good questions about the issues impacting the quality of life here. So, I wrote a Facebook post that drew over 30 comments from Hawaii residents because I used the five hot button topics for living on this island:
- Food security
- Energy costs
- Cost and Availability of Housing
Here’s what I wrote:
I spent some time today talking to a Canadian TV producer about living in Hawaii, as her new TV series is based on what it’s really like to live on an island. We chatted about energy prices, housing affordability, health care availability, food security, and hurricanes. It made me realize all the various aspects of quality of life where we live. Feeling like I was not getting the positive side of the story out, I then started telling her about the concept of Ohana, the incredible variety of fresh fruits and veggies we have here, the fact that so many of our schools have gardens and children are being taught farming so they understand where their food comes from and what it takes to get it to their plates.
When you live on an island, everything you do takes on new meaning on how it impacts everything and everyone else. You look a little closer at your own actions and you buy your friends’ products, you recycle, and you think about that weed killer you use- (My husband is having the gardeners in our condo complex switch to an organic cinnamon oil). You also get frustrated with people (tourists) who have that “it doesn’t matter, I’ll never be here again” attitude…as you kick them off the coral or tell them to put that turtle down. Musing over.”
Here are a few of the responses I received:
- Lotus: Julie, it’s important to remember the financial burden it takes to live here. The population I work with has limited means with many living with no running water or electricity and no transport other than a bike or walking. Many have come here looking for a better way of life only to find themselves living on a lava lot paying half their income to the land and living in tarps and palletts. Most local families must live together in order to have a roof over their heads. People can live an organic, conscience and healthy life here if they can afford it.
- Steven: Julie, I think you need to do a bit more research on the produce situation here. We’re not as “green” as you think. We export close to 90% of what we produce, whether it’s fruits, vegetables, beef, fish, etc. We’re FAR from being self sustaining. If we were cut off the products that we import, we’d only have about 3 weeks of supplies on island to support the number of people here. I enjoy and love your passion for the Big Island though!
- Steven: (To my response about why we don’t have more farmers creating more local food for our residents and tourists) Farming is hard, but not impossible. To me, the hard part lies with the consumers. They determine what they’re willing to pay at the register. With economies of scale working against us, our farmers can’t produce at a price point low enough that they can sell to the middle man to make a profit. Hence our countries dependence on mass produced GMO food’s.
- Colin: I think what needs to happen is to shift the tide to educate the consumer that if the farmer can not sustain their business, they will fail. Consumer based economies in this model can fail. Note that part of our discussion stemmed from Julie’s meeting about research. We started talking about shipments stopping, basically our food sustainability. We can feed the entire island by educating people as to the importance of this effort. The first time the ships stop coming will be the wake up call. I am hoping that we do not have to see the worst to make the efforts.
- To which Denise replied: The first time the ships stop coming????? Try the fact that they HAVE STOPPED in the past. Guess you were not around for the port strikes of the past. More than a few local people remember that. If you’v ever worked at a state or county office you know how people bring in extra food from the trees in their yard. If you live in Puna, you know what we went through with Iselle and the prospect of losing the main road to the rest of the island. How thousands of us went without power for two weeks last year.
- Mark: Great conversation. You should send this conversation to the producer! Perhaps that famous liberal phrase should now be “It takes a village… On an island”
- Maureen: Living on an island requires resourcefulness, flexibility and nurturing/relying on ohana.
- Michael: I highly recommend the new book, Thinking Like An Island, by UH press, which addresses strategies for living here sustainably in a culturally respectful manner.
I received a comment on this blog yesterday from a gentleman who is moving here in November. He said he hopes it gets a lot cooler when he arrives. I wrote this post so folks considering a move can consider the issues we face here, and climate change will be rearing up as number 6 very soon. Living on an island can be exciting and rewarding, but it takes a keener sense of how you fit into the paradise picture.
And of note for you local peeps: The annual “Taste of the Hawaiian Range” is coming up on October 9th. Details: Over 30 Hawai’i chefs prepare culinary “tastes” using 100 percent pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb, goat, mutton and wild boar—plus fresh island fruit and vegetables. Attendees graze at culinary stations while visiting vendor booths to meet the farmers and ranchers who grow our food.
Folks on my comment stream were also discussing where to get pasture raised beef on Hawaii Island. Check it out on their website.
If you think you want to live on Hawaii Island, sign up for available homes in your price range!