Notes From The Field: Editor Blog 2

Flying into Kauai


This month I returned to the Garden Island of Kauai. Four years had past since her sweet warm air and thick white sands had last caressed my skin. It felt like a homecoming; wonderful to see many old friends, make new ones, and have that feeling of Ohana, or family, once again in this tropical heaven.


While many things have stayed the same on this island, perhaps more have changed. When I was here last, I participated in a work party to sheet mulch what is now a thriving community food forest. In just four years, trees have turned from sprouts to thriving abundant food sources.

Paul tours the ever-growing food forest

On an island that often feels like Peter Pan’s Never Never Land, a few things have actually matured. Including myself. A friend and I recognized that we have truly become women in these four years of our separation. I know that Permaculture Magazine, North America has helped a great deal in stepping up my game to evolve from a butterfly flitting on the wind to one on a mission.


The first week I was on the island, I was a guest on two different shows on the local community radio station, It was fun and a great way for me to tap back into the community, island culture, and the ongoing struggle between sustainable agriculture and mainstream development. One of the topics discussed on the radio regarded a proposed dairy operation near a prominent tourist beach on the south shore. When I posed the question on Facebook seeking permaculture solutions to nitrate pollution from such operations, it was wonderful to see so many responses suggesting innovative and nature-based approaches. However, like all of permaculture, solutions are site specific. Bottom line is this is just not a good location for such an operation – for so many reasons. Hopefully, the judge in the legal complaint will come to this conclusion as well.

Paul and Tammy on KKCR

The Hawaiian Islands, especially the west side of Kauai, are considered by many to be a “ground zero” in the battle with GMOs. During her community talk show, Soap Box, Felicia Cowden asked, what that term means to me. I interpret it as a way to bring attention to the fact that people on Kauai are becoming actually sick from agri-chemicals: the workers of the large industrial agriculture projects and research stations, the children at the neighboring schools, and the residents who live downwind from these fields. These chemical hazards blow to other areas as well. How greatly is it affecting plants and animals, as well? Scientific testing indicates the level of some chemicals in children tested far exceeds the permitted allowance. A health practitioner from a local hospital shared her concern for the large number of people being treated for chemical exposure, yet all too often, these instances do not get reported as such.


This is ground zero because people aren’t philosophizing about the effects of intense pesticide and herbicide use, they are living and suffering the consequences first hand. The companies using the agri-chemicals levy lawsuits against the local governments if restrictions are applied. To the people living with the health effects, this island paradise can feel like a war-zone.


Four years ago, I participated in a large rally against GMOs being established on the island. The people here are concerned, and have a right to be. In the last few years, I am sorry to say, it seems to have gotten worse. The movie Island Earth does a good job looking at this issue from a variety of viewpoints while trying to grasp the full story. While some people work with GMOs because they believe science can truly feed more people, I believe permaculture and other regenerative agriculture practices can provide alternatives that aren’t laden with dire consequences.


On an island known as the “Garden Island,” it’s a sure bet that permaculture has a plethora of solutions that can benefit all; not just make a few corporate interests even richer. From the community food forest to an ever increasing number of home permaculture systems, it warms my heart to see so many people now talking about permaculture. The permaculture system of solutions has grown deep roots since I was last here. It is exciting to think that like a food forest, given time, permaculture will just become more and more abundant. Here’s to that being true for us all.