By Uma Sivanathan

Kaua‘i shows its beauty every day to each of us, such as this golden sunset at Kalapaki Beach. Photo by Léo Azambuja

Beautiful Kaua‘i has seen a unique evolution of mankind since the first humans set foot on her ‘aina. During much of Kaua‘i’s history, natural resources from the mountain to the sea, were carefully managed for survival. The well-being of the land and sea supported the well-being of the people — a vital inter-connection of mankind with nature.

From a birds-eye view over Kaua‘i today, we see too many gasoline-powered automobiles stuck in snarled traffic jams. One of the greatest world issues is that the fossil fuels needed to run most of our automobiles and gasoline-powered equipment are running out. More than 95 million barrels of oil are used each day by the world’s population to fuel a billion vehicles.

This demand is outstripping the fossil fuels supply from inside Earth. Additionally and most importantly is that the burning of fossil fuels has caused and continues to cause undeniable changes in Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in climate change.

Helen Cauldicott, in her book, “If You Love This Planet,” tells us the era of the solar powered electric car is upon us. She explains that in the works, there are all-electric cars powered by solar alone, called vehicle to grid (V2G). Their newly developed lithium-ion batteries can be recharged 10-15 thousand times. They can be charged at a solar-powered plug-in parking lot in the day and driven home. Then the batteries can be plugged in to provide power to illuminate the house at night. The battery has enough stored energy to get the vehicle to a charging station the next day.

Ms. Cauldicott also talks about the success of bicycle-only cities around the world, especially in tourist-laden places, such as Amsterdam and the Matterhorn area in Switzerland.

My dream is that our little old Kapa‘a Town could be one such great example, having only bicycles (possibly solar powered) used throughout town with a simple bus system for Elders and the disabled. The bypass road would be used by those needing to drive to other sides of the island. Parking lots on both sides of the town would be provided for resident and tourist vehicles, while bicycles are ridden. There would be bicycle pick-up and return stations at a number of locations in town.

Our Kapa‘a food stands and grocery stores would only supply biodegradable take-out containers and food packaging. There would be designated bins for the waste steam throughout the town. Solar panels would give energy to all of our businesses during the day, with energy to spare for our town’s pretty nighttime lighting.

Being on a small dot of landmass in the vast Pacific Ocean, we are very vulnerable to world issues, such as depletion of fossil fuels and climate change. What would we do if, without warning, some world event stopped the barge system to Kaua‘i, cutting off food, gas and daily supplies? How would we provide for the needs of our families?

I recently viewed the documentary, “Living the Change; Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future.” A number of New Zealand communities are shown addressing these world issues in a successful local way. Members of their communities chose to use Earth’s resources as little as possible. A big wave of change is on the horizon. We can ride the crest of that wave by creating a new, wisdom-based economy here.

Learning from the example of farsighted ones on Kaua‘i who are already nurturing food forests, I feel confident the land on Kaua‘i can feed all of our people and animals here, if cultivated in a regenerative way. This way encourages biodiversity based on the holistic approach of permaculture. Through this approach, not only is there an abundance of food produced, also bees and wildlife are attracted to the forest as well as birds for their song, beauty and pest control.

This food system will greatly support local organic farmers with more farmers markets in walking and bicycle-riding distance within each community.

Community Supported Agriculture is another option, where residents pay a member fee to a farmer, committing to their purchase each month of organic veggies.

To feed our residents (including all Kaua‘i’s creatures, big and small) more food forests would need to be created using native trees and hardwoods along with mango, avocado, breadfruit and macadamia nut trees as the top canopy. The next level of the canopy could be bananas and papayas, with lower bushes of poha berries and vines of passion fruit binding the forest together. Dryland taro, sweet potatoes, olena and edible ginger can be grown in the semi-shade of the forest floor. The possibilities are endless. This design makes for the least amount of maintenance needed with gas-powered equipment.

In addition, paths through the forests could be created for island guests to learn how to help to feed the communities they come from.

Uma Sivanathan

If our food is grown here, we don’t need to buy it packaged from the big box stores. So much of the food imported to Kaua‘i is packaged in plastics, called clamshell, that are not recyclable. I feel if the big box stores are held responsible for the waste stream they are creating, their corporate offices will move towards more biodegradable or recyclable alternatives.

I am aware our landfill is bulging. The daily cumulative waste stream on Kaua‘i from residents and tourists is creating too much of a footprint on her delicate ecosystem.

The momentum to change must begin within our communities. Given the inspiration, our youth will lead us, for they are the future caretakers of this ‘aina.

May we all be in love with Kaua‘i.

  • Uma Sivanathan is the founder of Mana’olana Center for Health and Healing. She can be reached at