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Living the Dream on Hawai’i Island

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The Lava has come and gone, as it has for millions of years. Some folks are heading back to the mainland or Alaska after losing their homes to the will of Pele, goddess of lava. Many farm families shrug off the inconvenience of access roads to markets that are still blocked by lava.  They continue planting and harvesting, bringing papayas and avocados, rambutan and coconuts to the farmer’s markets. Everyone in the farming community hopes the local authorities will rebuild all major roads instead of routing dump-trucks, short-bed trucks and cars along narrow forest tracks better suited for bicycles and pedestrians. Surely, the roads will be repaired as in other disaster areas in the United States. Change is part of life; everyone copes.

People still dream of living on this mostly rural island and they are snapping up property. The Island of Hawai’i attracts newcomers and people from other parts of the state because of its relatively lower cost of living compared to Honolulu and Oahu. Puna, the southern district on Hawai’i Island affected by the 2018 lava flow, is said to be one of the fastest growing area on Big Island. The skies are clear again, the lava gone, quakes finished and the living is easy.

Some families are leaving the island, selling their dream houses and businesses.  Others changed their lifestyle and moved closer to Hilo, trading fire ants for fine arts.

One friend is headed back to Europe.  She is selling her gorgeous one acre estate with splendid house and many ornamental trees, notably a mature Bismarckia palm.

Bismarckia nobilis is a slow-growing majestic tree named for the first chancellor of the German Empire Otto von Bismarck. The is particularly poignant to me because with considerable effort, I dug the hole for my own small Bismarckia palm a few years ago. The space needed for my young palm and its bulbous root system was about 61 cm (24 inches) deep by 61 cm across which I excavated through dense lava rock from the 1955 lava flow.

Bismarkia nobilis

Alas, my Bismarckia perished in 2018 because of poisoned air during the lava inundation.  Lava didn’t smother or burn it, the noxious VOG , a by-product of the eruption, killed the palms, ornamentals and other trees.

A few photos of my friend’s piece of paradise are below and the listing is here.  I wish I had the resources to buy her house with the thriving Bismarckia nobilis in view of the lanai.

 

House and palmsBismarckia nobilis from lanaiBismarckia from bath

 

 

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After the Lava Sleeps

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lava-magma-volcanic-eruption-glow-73830-e1545088920980.jpeg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On December 10, 2018 a group of displaced Puna residents met at Nanawale Community Association longhouse to hear about the future of Highway 132 from representatives of the County of Hawai’i, the government entity for the region.  Approximately 25-30 people attended from the 50 or more households with no road access to their properties surrounded by the lava flow that started in early May, 2018.
Residents were forced to evacuate under pressure of advancing lava by the end of May.  Many lost everything.  While County of Hawai’i Civil Defense monitoring was robust when the volcanic eruption captured worldwide media attention, County action on rebuilding and recovery could now be characterized as listless and sporadic.

 

The county representatives began with a presentation about how they wanted the meeting to proceed. But the group would have none of that and in unison boomed out, “We want to know when will Route 132 be rebuilt! “
Many called out,  “What’s the county doing to work with the geothermal plant contractors already pushing through lava to their facility?” Again and again, people spoke out,  “When will we be able to get to our homes and farms?”
I had arrived early for the meeting and spoke with a representative of the County, learning that one of the goals for the evening was to “get people’s stories about the disaster.” This is part of an effort to reanimate news coverage and tourism after the lava flow that made countless people homeless and consumed acres of productive agricultural land, pastures and public recreational areas.
Individual stories, heartfelt examples of what the disaster has wrought on the community, families, individuals and institutions could be presented to state legislators, the county council or even the U.S. Congress to explain the extent of loss and begin to quantify needs to restore economic viability and human stability.
The greatest need from the perspective of people whose farms and homes were cut off from road access by the lava was repeated often: “We need the public roads repaired and replaced for access to our land and homes!”
The County participated in the talk story meeting with those profoundly disadvantaged by the lava inundation to ask affected residents about how visitors — tourists — could better understand the impact of the lava and show respect for local culture and Hawai’ian traditions of respect. The county is gathering thoughts from school-age youth and local residents to create a Pono ethics code for the Hawaii Tourism Authority to convey to tourism industry stake-holders and their customers.
By communicating to visitors the challenges faced by locals during and after the lava flow, officials anticipate that tourists will have a better understanding of local people’s priorities and possibly reduce potential conflicts due to lava viewing or lava tours for visitors that stray onto local family land. The County of Hawai’i website now provides facts for potential tourists to the island of Hawai’i (aka Big Island).
I was reminded by a Kama’aina friend today that Pono is not an elastic term or concept, but a specific Hawaiian word meaning ‘righteous.’ Is this righteous advice to tourists or an expression of the righteous behavior that Hawaiians expect of tourists?
How to finance repairs of the roads and how to best manage the influx of tourists in search of lava viewing thrills are the thorny questions for which no answers were offered during the meeting.

 

Can the state and county redirect a portion of the tourism promotion budget to support Puna area institutions?  Can a donation website and a Kickstarter funding platform be created to fund the road repairs and rebuild some of the Pahoa area recreational facilities damaged or obliterated during the lava flow?
Will advertising aimed at visitors feature stories of Puna residents affected by the lava? Are local institutional needs and road repairs enumerated anywhere?
Is it appropriate to encourage more visitors to the devastated area when dozens of families have no secure homes and cannot return to their property?
A social media platform where locals could share their disaster stories might illuminate the extent of loss and future needs. But how are these stories reported? Is accuracy and truth verified?  Some may not want their personal experiences publicized to attract philanthropy or curious visitors.
During the talk story phase of the evening, I heard participants around the tables offer compelling and detailed accounts of divided families, financial loss, upset, expense, sadness, great loss, as well as mental and physical exhaustion.  No one that I heard expressed that their lives have been improved by this experience and the outcomes. Many felt they’d been overlooked and ignored by the County of Hawai’i either as individuals, as families or property owners, or as a distinct group affected by the lava.
I wondered if the representatives from the various social assistance agencies who wrote notes as people shared their stories actually get the facts. Will the individuals have a chance to review their stories before they become human-interest examples to attract budget increases?  Were the oral stories accurately reported?  If these stories become part of a proposed social media platform showing how affected residents are building resilience, will individuals be able to review the content before it is made public or used in appeals to state or national legislators? As one mother stated, we residents are already demonstrating the strength and resilience described in branding phrases I noticed on handouts and other materials: Puna Pono and Volcano Eruption Recovery.
In the end, nothing concrete was offered regarding the rebuilding of Route 132 except that a Risk Assessment will be done by the Univ. of Hawaii Manoa.  The “risk” being the potential liability of the road-builders on the Route 132 area. Will they encounter hot zones, active lava, lava tubes, re-eruption, and other hazards.
I hope the Risk Assessment team are not just keyboard desk jockeys with spreadsheets working on another island.  I hope they consult onsite vulcanologists 
Old settled lava.
and geographers and social scientists and community-based psychologists.  There is more at risk than what the lava presents.
It’s time for an end to the slow-walking and expecting residents to solve their own access problems. Distracting the affected people with platitudes and soft strategies like story telling, identifying community needs, or school involvement,  instead of providing direct leadership and specific actions. Public road building is the responsibility of the local government.

Are Railways in Peril?

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National Rail Networks :: A Look Back in Time

The world’s first national rail networks were constructed in Britain, with the first inter-city line connecting the industrial midland city Manchester with the port of Liverpool in 1830.

So, are you wondering, which country forged a national rail network next?  France? Sweden, the United States?

It was Egypt. The Egyptian rail system connected ports on the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. Egypt’s rolling stock is still on track.  A recent issue of Future Rail magazine reports on Egypt’s recent purchase of 1,300 new carriages.

 

U.S.A.

In the 21st century some countries like the United States of America are not keeping up a commitment to passenger rail systems.

That’s a shame because rail travel offers faster, more efficient and ecologically favorable long distance travel than commercial airlines or private vehicles. Assuming, of course, the nation-state or region maintains and supports its railway systems.

A close look at an inventory of Amtrak rolling stock looks like an old used carriage auction block.  Check out the fancy Amtrak advertising videos promising sleek, fast locomotives in the northeast corridor of the country, the most reliable profit center. Don’t wait in line or online for a ticket because it’s fantasy at this point. Why aren’t the U.S. leaders embarrassed by their poor showing compared to the lightning speed trains of Japan, France, Germany and other European countries?

USA Civil War Era Rail Lines

Compare the dense network of railways in Northern states with sparse unconnected railways in the South. Image: etc.usf.edu

Back in the mists of time, the northern states of the U.S. had established a robust network of rail lines that connected with existing waterway transport and ports before the American Civil War.  The southern states also built railways, but the lines dead-headed inland rather than featuring radiating lines that used hubs to interconnect with other railways.  The absence of a connected rail network in the south was a factor in  defeat.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act into law on July 1, 1862.  This progressive action authorized construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  American continental railroads, built by immigrant laborers, usually under cruel and dangerous conditions, were instrumental in opening the western wilderness to travel and trade.

 

FRANCE

I’ve spent more time and kilometers riding the SNCF railway system in France than any other country.  My first rail trip there was in 1966 on the boat-train from Calais (or was it Boulogne?) to Paris.  The wider-gauge British trains left passengers at the ferry dock and after the Channel crossing, you’d walk to the French carriages for outward bound destinations.  In the past I would ink my train travel routes on a map of France but the lines crossed and recrossed over the years to the point of obliterating the journeys and connections.

 

French rail network in the 19th c.

Image from Wikipedia.

France built short rail lines to serve the mining industry. Agricultural communities resisted rail development arguing it would infringe on France’s well-organized transport network of canals and other waterways.  Construction of long distance rail systems for commercial and consumer use started after 1842 with a network that could move goods for long distances overland.

RUSSIA

Russia, with distances far greater than the U.S.,  opened a single railway line from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1851. With more land distance than the U.S. to cover, and few or no western and southern ports, Russia understood the value of connecting the capital and to ports in the Far East. Russia opened the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1916, though portions of the railway were functioning as early as 1903.

MEXICO

My experience with Mexico’s Railway Network  is limited. During the early 1980’s, possibly 1981, my friend Don Tito and I boarded the Mexican railway by taking a Greyhound or Trailways bus from San Diego to El Centro, California and walking across the frontier to a train station in Mexico. I should consult a travel diary from that year to report the distances and ticket cost. I do not recall seeing a border wall at that time. The Pacific and Southwest Railway Museum in Campo, California owns carriages and locomotives of the San Diego and Arizona Railway that resemble the historic rolling stock we rode south through Mexico in 1981.

planetware.com-mexico-long-distance-routes-by-road-rail-and-ferry-map.jpg

We boarded the Mexican long distance train at a town just steps across the border that took us all the way south to Mazatlan, a gritty seaport opposite the tip of Baja.  I do not need to see again.  The train ride took two days and nights.  Or maybe it just seemed that long. It slowed to a long halt at towns so locals boarded to sell tamales, soft drinks and chiclets out of plastic buckets lined with heated towels to keep the food warm.

Source-_Alamy stock_north-america-mexico-guanajuato-state-guanajuato-woman-buying-hot-CYKCD0

Decades later, I lived in Mexico City and wanted to explore the country by train, but during the 1990s, the government had consolidated or terminated most passenger rail systems. Apart from a couple of tourist trains that run limited, scenic routes and a commuter rail system serving the capital city, Mexico’s passenger rail service is a distant memory.

Occasionally, proposals arise to create new passenger rail lines or high-speed rail links between major cities. But proposals are not reality.  Until some future date, the inter-city express bus service is adequate, sometimes stellar, but environmentally inefficient.

Ride on, rail enthusiasts!

 

Cross Creek, Florida

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I ate Miz’ Rawlings grapefruit this morning.  Sweet and juicy, a far cry from the thick skin commercial varieties sold in grocery stores.  The best tasting Florida citrus are thin skinned and crack open when they hit the sandy turf. The fruit from Cross Creek was chock full of seeds too, obviously not bred for travel to faraway markets.

“Nutmeg grapefruit is the breed,” says Lee, a tour guide at Cross Creek,

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house. Cross Creek State Historical Site, Florida. image from Wikipedia.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house. Cross Creek State Historical Site, Florida.
image from Wikipedia.

author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ farm in north central Florida.  He wandered barefoot through the writer’s house and citrus grove, leading a dozen tourists through the historic property.  “Sand sticks in running shoe crevices, not to bare feet,” he says, dusting his soles against his tattered pants legs. Lee’s aw-shucks, gee-willikers style brings to life Rawlings’ backwoods characters in popular books like The Yearling and Cross Creek.

Rawlings won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for The Yearling. Beloved by many young readers, the novel tells of local boy Jody Baxter’s coming of age in Florida’s hard scrapple northern pine country near Ocala Forest.  Her novel displayed contemporary realities in realistic voice and bridged subject and stylistic antipodes. The 1938 Pulitzer book, John P. Marquand’s The Late George Apley, hewed closer to 19th century novel forms and subject matter, while John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, the Pulitzer winner in 1940, was a thoroughly modern novel rooted in vernacular voice and character.

When she came here in 1928 with first husband Charles Rawlins, both journalism graduates from the University of Wisconsin, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was a neophyte Floridian who thought she could live off the orange grove.  The farm was planted with pecan trees, which she ordered cut down to plant citrus.

 

Written by patwa

20/01/2014 at 8:21 pm

Can’t Evict an Idea

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OccupySydneyBoxInstallation©LPeatO'Neil2012 Police evicting Occupy Sydney©LPeatO'Neil2012 OccupySydneyPoliceTruck©LPeatO'Neil2012 OccupySydneyPoliceCar©LPeatO'Neil2012

Occupy Sydney during 2011-12 defined their points with recycled cardboard boxes on Martin Place, a pedestrian area in downtown Sydney.

 

On this rainy day, I watched while police systematically dismantled the OccupySydneyPoliceRemoval©LPeatO'Neil2012cardboard box barricades and the Occupy Sydney team responded by hastily shifting position, moving their cardboard space definers to confound the police.

 

Occupy Sydney Installation Feb 2012

Occupy Sydney Installation Feb 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Photos of the police “evicting” Occupy Sydney protestors from a public plaza in Sydney ~

OccupySydneyPoliceStandoff©LPeatO'Neil2012 Occupy Sydney Jan2012©LPeatO'Neil2012 OccupySydneymoving©LPeatO'Neil2012 Occupy Sydney Women©LPeatO'Neil2012 OccupySydneyPolice OccupySydneyPolicevehicles©LPeatO'Neil2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three months earlier, in November, 2011, I’d visited the Occupy London semi-permanent base camp of tents around St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Occupy tent camp St Paul's Cathedral Nov2011©LPeatO'Neil2011

Occupy Camp London fromSt Paul's CathedralNov2011©LPeatO'Neil2011

 

 

 

 

 

During 2011 and through the winter until June, 2012, Occupy DC protesters in Washington, DC settled in tents or tarpaulin structures in McPherson Square. By Spring, the Occupy DC movement had built wooden structures on the public park.OccupyDCprotest©LPeatO'Neiloct2011

OccupyDCmcpherson-sq©NBCnews

 

See: Amendment 1, The Constitution of the United States of America.  Freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Forced removal of Occupy DC in 2012.OccupyDCend©ABCnews

Staycation

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Staying home to conserve fuel and financial resources?

You’re on a Staycation.

cartoon of a woman sitting on patch of sand behind a house

New Yorker Cover February 25, 2008
©CondeNast.com

This summer — or winter– take the time to explore your own backyard, walk through a local park, or tour the county historical society museum.

No need to book out-of-town on a carbon-hearty expedition.

Written by patwa

14/07/2008 at 12:29 pm

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