Hawaiian CERT – Day 3 “Learning about early Hawaii”

Well, I hope you had an enjoyable Valentine’s Day yesterday.  As candy is a main staple of Valentine gifts, here in Hawaii we enjoyed some chocolate covered macadamia nut candies.

When you see the view of the local mountains that greets us each morning here on base, it’s no wonder people love to come to Hawaii.  Here’s a few pictures of what lies very near to where we are staying.  Each day the clouds seem to always hang right around the tops of the mountains.  As the sun shines through the clouds and on to the green foliage it makes it appear almost iridescent green!  It really is a view that is awesome.

Well yesterday was another very busy day in class.  As is typically true, we covered a lot of information in an effort to prepare our students to teach the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) curriculum.  The day was spent working on both instructor development skills and reviewing the basic training material.  Hands-on activities included students delivering (instructing) a limited topic of choice in the CERT curriculum.

Continuing on in the exploration of the Polynesian culture, one of our students (“Bill”) took the time to write the following and asked that I share it with you.  I think what Bill wrote reflects the sense of “resiliency” that we strive for in emergency management today.  I hope you find it as interesting as I did when I first read it.

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated large population in the world.  Hawaii is 2500 miles away from the nearest landfall or civilization.  As such, if you live in Hawaii, you can’t simply go over to the next state or country for support.  That is life now, and that was definitely life in the past.

In ancient times (up to the 1800’s), Hawaii needed to be totally self-sustainable for its food, water, construction material, infrastructure, industry, etc.  When Capt. Cook landed on the Kona Coast in 1787, it was estimated that approximately 350,00 lived on the Kona Coast alone.  It is estimated that the population of Hawaii then rivaled that of Hawaii now.  The irony of this is Hawaii now, imports some 95 +/- of (its) consumer, construction, infrastructure, food, fuel, etc. but with the same size population Hawaii sustained its population of 1,000,000+ for hundreds of years with absolutely no input/import from abroad!  How did they do this?  How did Hawaii feed its large population?

There existed, riveted into the day-to-day business at hand, a resource management system called
“aha ‘puaha” (ah-hah-poo-ah-hah).  The easiest way to explain how this system functioned (works) is; visualize a pizza pie cut into wedges.  Now, overlay that shape and slices over an island and that is basically how Hawaiian islands were divided.  The uniqueness of this land division model was that it maximized local resources and aligned them with the communities (caretakers, stewards at large).

This system worked very well.  As a matter of fact, with a population well over 1,000,000 natives, there was so much food at times that excess surplus would be unintentionally generated and would constantly spoil and end up wasted.

In the 1700’s, established on Hawaii Island was “Parker Ranch”.  Parker Ranch, up into the 1990’s, was the biggest/largest private cattle ranch in the entire U.S. – larger than any private cattle ranch found in Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond.

In the 1800’s, there was so much food in Hawaii that when the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 occurred, their population grew by over 500% in two years,  out stripping California’s ability to feed its surging population.  As that being the situation at hand, California turned to Hawaii to help feed “the cornucopia of the world”; California.

A Honolulu newspaper ran an article at that time expressing the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce’s relief that now Hawaii had a way to sell their surplus food rather than have it spoil in the field and orchards.  But, with the overthrow of the nation of Hawaii in 1893 by a group of U.S. businessmen backed by the U.S. military and organized religion, the land was carved up into rectangles, the  “aha ‘puaha”  system was unintentionally destroyed, and now Hawaii imports nearly everything it uses at a high premium as importing is a monopolized industry.

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