By Juan Wilson on 4 February 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
PRETENDING IT'S ALRIGHT
Here we are, at the midpoint of a long cold winter that marks the end of our old way of doing things. The old way had gotten awfully comfortable for many of us. But now we are suspended between what was and what will be.
Recent news reports indicate Americans are living in a peculiar state of denial. This winter many mall owners have been allowing lease holders to go without paying rent, in hopes that things will improve more quickly if their facilities don't look like ghost towns. Both the lessees and lessors know that this can't last long.
Many homeowners, underemployed and underwater, are now squatting in their own homes - while mortgage holders look the other way. The banks know that it would be worse to foreclose on them, and thus rack another loss onto their books. Barring a miracle, both parties know this frozen momentary situation will break up with the spring thaw.
image above: Tiki Gods" by Mark Bryan at http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/tiki_gods.html
Here in Hawaii our tourist economy is withering on the vine. High unemployment and huge debt will put the kibosh on jetting off for expensive family vacations in Las Vegas or Hawaii. Check this out...
• Luxury casino operator Steve Wynn on 2/3/09 announced plans to cut hours, salaries, bonuses and 401(k) contributions for thousands of his Las Vegas employees in an effort to stave off layoffs. http://www.lvrj.com/business/38930834.html?numComments=26
• Kauai occupancy was off 8.7 percentage points to 58.6 percent, while room rates shrunk 11 percent to $194 for the week ending 1/17/09. http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2009/01/19/daily54.htm
• Hawaiian Airlines says it plans to add a third flight between Honolulu and Las Vegas starting in February 2009... The new service will depart from Honolulu in the mornings and return the same evening. The airline says it added the flights in response to customer demand. http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_11238955
It is a strange moment in time. It reminds me of that moment at the top of the first and tallest crest of a roller coaster ride. Until now the ride has been a smooth, even climb to the top. Strapped into our seats, we know we have to come down again, and we can see some of the wild and twisty ride ahead. At the peak of that first crest there is a hesitation and silence as the butterflies gather in our stomachs. Then we become weightless as we drop into the abyss, praying that our coastercar will stay on the tracks.
It may be that our new administration in Washington will get a lot accomplished in a frenzy of effort to relieve pain and suffering in this transition. There will certainly be titanic attempts to get the economy growing green. Hawaii has been singled out as a place to see if such an economy might work. President Obama has an interest in Hawaii succeeding. However, the writing is on the wall. Any economy dependent on "growth" (whether smart or dumb) will end in the continued die-off of planet Earth. The old way is over, and we need to be planning on setting an example for a "Smart Contraction". In such an effort maybe Hawaii could be that poster-child.
As for those who rely on day trips from Honolulu to Las Vegas for fun and entertainment - you are in for a rude surprise. So are those who have relied on traditional modes of activism to move things in a progressive direction in Hawaii.
I suggest those who have toiled in endless planning commission meetings, legislative battles and county charter improvements efforts - you will find your efforts bearing little fruit as ever more frantic efforts to "jumpstart" the economy demand compromises on the environment and social justice.
Air conditioned conference rooms are not where the real battles will be fought. If you have to drive to where you do your "good work" consider the likelihood that its return on investment will diminish. The real struggle will be in your back yard, neighborhood and village street.
I'm sure if you are a regular reader of this blog, all this sounds familiar. But I think these things worth repeating. Here are some priorites.
• Start growing as much food as you can (flowerpot, garden or field). It requires at least a little work everyday.
• Work, barter, and share with the people who live closest to you. Offer food abundance, trade what you don't need for what they don't need, share tools, help out with projects.
• Find work in your village that is useful. At first it may be as a volunteer, but if it is really useful to the community, you may be paid for your effort. If you can afford it, get rid of your day job, if it requires a lot of driving. Re-adjust what it means to "afford it".
It is my opinion that a lot of efforts by government to regulate, control and micromanage our lives will fail. Building permits, medical marijuana licenses, and seat-belt fines will take a back seat to keeping tap water flowing and sewage out of our gutters. We will be much more on our own.Getting potable water and handling the waste-stream will be everybody's job.
We are going to see a revolution on the landscape as people move onto ag-land to grow food. This may not be be ideal, but it will happen out of necessity.
I would bet that by the end of this year Kukui Grove will not be the place everybody shops on Kauai. Note that on Monday the Macy's chain announced 7,000 job cuts. http://www.abcnews.go.com/Business/CEOProfiles/story?id=6787461&page=1
If you don't live within walking distance to a shopping village either build one or relocate. It's going to be a bumpy year.