INDEX - ENERGY ID# 0517-08



POSTED: 31 July 2005 - 11:00am

There are alternatives to suburbia

Meditation pavillion at kauai Hindu Monestary on Wailua River: a planned community- for more click here

Living Simply in Paradise

by Linda Pascatore on 30 July 2005

You have probably heard of the “End of Oil”. Geologists and oil experts agree that world oil production is reaching it’s peak, and that the world’s supply of oil will be exhausted in about 30 years. Alternative energy such as solar and wind power, and even nuclear power, will not replace oil. Hydrogen still costs more energy to produce than it makes available. Without cheap, abundant oil, our current American lifestyle cannot continue: it is simply not sustainable. Most people don’t really want to think about this problem because it scares them and they feel powerless to do anything about it.

Well, let’s consider what the end of oil will mean for us here on Kauai. Gas and oil prices will continuously rise until the supply is depleted. Running a car will become increasingly expensive, which will change the lifestyle most of us lead with a need to travel by car daily to survive. Many people won’t be able to afford a car anymore.

Airlines are already feeling the pressure of high fuel prices, and tourism is bound to decrease dramatically. The cheap transport of goods around the world will no longer be viable, and we may feel it here first, where almost everything we use is shipped in. We will no longer be able to import cheap goods to be sold at discount prices at Walmart's and Costco. One of the most crucial effects will be the cost of shipping food over great distances. Here on Kauai, over 90% of our food is imported!

However, with a little foresight and wisdom applied now, residents of Kauai may be in better shape than most of America to meet this challenge. We have some potentially valuable natural resources in the form of solar and wind power and biodiesel fuel. As it is, we can live comfortably here without heating or air conditioning. The land and sea could provide enough bounty to easily feed our people. We have a rich cultural heritage of valuing family and the simple things in life like the early Hawaiians. We have the potential to have a self-sufficient, sustainable and pleasant lifestyle here.

However, we have a lot of work to do to reach that point. So what should we be doing to prepare for the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels? We should drastically change our priorities! Money spent promoting tourism and building more roads, resorts, and vacation rentals is money down the drain. We need to seriously work towards self-sufficiency on this island. A sustainable Kauai is possible if we begin to build it now!

First, we need to feed ourselves. We should be promoting and subsidizing small scale farming to grow diverse crops to feed our population. Existing cane fields which are no longer economically viable could be leased for the purpose, and I don’t mean to biotech or GMO companies. Biotech and large scale farming rely on machines (run on gasoline) and fertilizers (made with oil) which will no longer be available for those purposes. Small, local, labor intensive organic farming and backyard gardens are the answer. In thirty years, horses will probably take the place of tractors once again. Farmer’s markets and small local groceries will replace large supermarket chains which rely on cheap imported food.

We need to develop renewable energy sources; solar, wind, hydroelectric, and biodiesel fuel. Solar is already used commonly for hot water heaters, but we need to convert more homes to photovoltaic solar power. KIUC (Kauai Island Utility Cooperative) could institute a loan program to help people buy solar panels and pay back monthly as they would their electric bill. Puolo Point at Salt Pond Beach is a viable location for a wind farm. Biodiesel can be made from corn or cane, and used to run diesel powered vehicles and machinery. The Robinson family is beginning to develop ethanol technology, but that still requires a mix of gas and ethanol. Biodiesel is the way to go. On Maui they are converting used cooking oil from deep fry vats in restaurants into diesel fuel.
A related industry would be developing the technology to convert our cars and trucks to burn diesel.

Even with alternative fuels, we won’t be able to support the current number of cars and trucks on our roads. We should be expanding public transportation, and developing a comprehensive, reliable bus system. Bike paths should encircle the island. People need to work near where they live. Smaller towns and villages need to be revived to serve the daily needs of the people who live there. Small, local, diversified businesses and industries could supply Kauai with most of it’s needs without excess imports.

Our island population needs to be stabilized. We need to stop thinking of growth as good and healthy. We can let go of the inflated “American Dream” fueled by cheap fossil fuels; a rat race to own big houses and cars and more consumer goods, and the job stress and traffic congestion that goes with it. We should be putting our money and energy into building self-sufficiency and sustainable resources.

Our island has the potential to support our current population in a simple, comfortable manner. People are always nostalgic about the “Good Old Days”. Well, we may get them back, with some innovations that make them a bit easier. If we live simpler lives, we will have more time to enjoy our family and friends, create art and make music, and enjoy the beautiful natural paradise that surrounds us. We will be truly “Lucky We Live Kauai!”


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