Collective Wisdom

SUBHEAD: Collective wisdom of those who raise animals and food is lost because it's not being passed down from parent to child.

By Joan Conrow on 8 January 2013 for Kauai Eclectic  -

Image above: Don Zasada, right, and his 4-year-old son, Micah, head for the house after a round of chores. From (

Venus and a crescent moon made fleeting appearances on this cloudy, damp day when the dogs and I were accompanied on our walk, as we sometimes are, by a solitary shama thrush. Hopping and flitting, it led the way, always careful to remain about 15 feet ahead, until it eventually flew off, leaving us with a song. Was it escorting us through its territory, or simply being interactive, the way shama often are in the garden?

I've reconciled myself to the fact that there are some things I will probably never know.

Still, I did learn two interesting bits of information recently. One came from a neighbor, who told me if you're raising pigs, you always want to have two, because solo pigs have a tendency to become picky eaters. But if you have a pair, they get jealous, which makes them greedy, so they eat heartily and “come more nice,” she explained. “That's how my mother taught me and it's true.”

And I wondered what will happen to us, as a society, especially a society that has recently started speaking in earnest about topics like sustainability and food self-sufficiency, when the collective wisdom of people like my neighbor, who have spent a lifetime raising animals and food, is lost. Because it's not being passed down, as it traditionally has been, from parent to child.

As Farmer Jerry often tells me, “We've lost an entire generation of farmers.”

Then there is new information, which is disseminated but not heeded, like the little tidbit I gleaned from Dolan Eversole, a UH Sea Grant coastal hazards specialist, in his remarks at last Friday's special Council meeting on the decision to put the concrete Path along Wailua Beach.

He had been asked, by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, how global warming might affect the risk of erosion at Wailua Beach, and he replied that scientists aren't yet certain exactly how that will play out, especially in Hawaii. Still, published scientific studies do show that for each 1 foot of sea level rise, we might reasonably anticipate 100 feet of erosion horizontally, or inland.

“So if we're expecting 1 foot of sea level rise by 2050, we might generally expect 100 feet of [shoreline] position change,” Dolan said.

As I've traveled around the windward side in recent days, gone to various beaches, driven through Wailua, I've thought often of how dramatically this coastline will be altered by erosion extending in 100 feet. Because despite what the deniers say, sea level rise is already under way. It's happening now. What we don't know yet is how high, and how fast.

Each new scientific report seems to move up the date, and the collective wisdom of scientists I interviewed for a Honolulu Weekly article is that the changes likely will accelerate once the cumulative impacts come into play. They're only now starting to assess the synergistic effects of climate change, and work that data into their models.

Ironically, some of the scientists and state planning director Jesse Souki lauded Kauai County for its shoreline setback bill, which they viewed as a sensible, pragmatic, even pioneering approach to climate change by ensuring that structures aren't built too close to the coast.

Except, it turns out, a $1.9 million stretch of concrete path along the already eroding Wailua Beach. Which we are apparently proceeding with not because it makes sense, or enjoys widespread public support, but because it will cost too much to back out now.

So when I hear people talking about how the Wailua section of the Path — indeed, the entire Path — will be enjoyed by people for generations to come, and that our “leaders” will be congratulated for their foresight and vision in ringing the coast with concrete, I just kind of shake my head and laugh.

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