POSTED: 17 APRIL 2007 - 9:00am HST

TGI #1: Introduction to Ho'okahi Kauai

Lonely reef along the isolated Na Pali coast on the north shore of Kauai

[Editor's Note: The contents of this article have been used produce a column in Kauai's Garden Island News that is titled "Island Breath" scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the newspaper. The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. Moreover, the copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already]

Island Breath: Ho'okahi Kauai
by Juan Wilson on 25 March 2007

This is the first in a series of articles about Kauai. When my wife, Linda Pascatore, and I began writing a Kauai-based website a few years back, we selected the domain name "Island Breath" is also the name of this column.  Why Island Breath? 

The motto of the Hawaiian Islands is "Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka `Aina I Ka Pono".  According to the Online Hawaiian Dictionary (, that translates to "The life (Ke Ea) of the land (O Ka `Aina ) is preserved (au mau) in righteousness (I Ka Pono)."

As is so often the case, Hawaiian phrases translate with multiple meanings. Sometimes these are wildly different meanings, creating some pretty amusing situations. But even within a single definition there is significant variation of meaning.

• "ea" can mean: sovereignty, life spirit or breath

• "aina" can mean: country, land or island

• "pono" can mean: righteous, goodness, well-being or prosperity

We thought a variation of "Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka `Aina I Ka Pono" might mean for Kauai that the "The life-breath of the island has well-being forever".

I hope we can all share in the "pono" of  "ea o ka 'aina" - Island Breath.  

What subjects will this column deal with? The answer involves another Hawaiian word –"Ho'okahi ".

•  "ho'okahi" means: "alone, oneness, separately, solitude, together as a unit, at the same time, or to make one

The focus of this column is "Ho'okahi Kauai". "The solitude, separateness and oneness of Kauai". We are a very isolated place now, and I think the future will make it even more so.

Why, in this era of the global economy, the internet, cellphones and the iPod would we have to concern ourselves with the solitude, separateness, and the isolation of Kauai?  The answer lies in one word, "OIL-LESS-NESS".

“My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a plane. His son will ride a camel.”- Anonymous Saudi Sheik – 1982

It took millions of years of high temperature and pressure to convert organic matter into petroleum. Consequently,the oil we are burning today is a once in a lifetime opportunity. After the bulk of it is gone there will not be more. Moreover, there is not enough of any clean handy substitute to maintain the lifestyle we have today. Oil has powered the phenomenal economic and population growth of the last century. As a result, the rate of oil extraction and use has grown exponentially throughout that century.

Oil expert and investment banker Matthew Simmons claimed in 2005 that when Saudi Arabian oil production peaks (enters the unavoidable state of permanent production decline) the world oil production, categorically, will have peaked.

Simmons’ book "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy" uses publicly available technical reports, written by Saudi-Aramco’s own reservoir engineers, to document declining Saudi production. His portrayal of their situation is dire indeed. 

After assessing the production data from several independent reporting agencies, the  website claims that Saudi production in 2006 is down 8% from its 2005 numbers. The Oil Drum asserts that Saudi Arabia has now officially peaked and that the pace of production decline there is likely to accelerate. The 2006 numbers may confirm Simmons’ 2005 prediction and that we are in a worldwide oil production decline. 

The peak plateau of cheap oil production we have reached is about 85 million barrels of oil per day (MBPD).  This production level may be maintained for a few years, but many analysts claim that we will not be able to hold production at 85 MBPD for long or ever increase it over 90 MBPD.

Going forward oil production will get harder and more expensive. Having reached "Peak Oil" production, from now on oil production will face an inevitable decline. Reaching "Peak Oil" does not mean we have run out of oil, but that we have run out of cheap oil, the easiest to extract. 

In our worldwide economy, petrochemicals are the foundation of most manufactured goods and prepared foods. Oil is the basis of the material, processing, assembling, packaging and distribution of everything from a corn chip to a computer chip.

These commercial products will be required in increasing amounts to meet higher population levels and rising expectations. As a result, oil prices will be ratcheting ever upwards until all the oil is used. It will not be just the United States and Europe trying to secure oil assets. To live in peace, eventually, all people will have to learn to live with significantly less oil per person than Americans do today.

As we glide over the top of the peak of oil consumption, we will see the demand for oil outstripping its production. Our present course of oil usage will lead us into an endless conflict with with rest of the world to maintain our "way of life". Our problems with Iraq and Iran are symptomatic. Face offs with China, and others, over remaining oil reserves are predictable.

Our leaders act as if there are only two alternatives: Continuing on a path of growing oil-based consumerism and the resulting social catastrophes, or reversing our economic growth and crashing our civilization. They have chosen the former.

However, there are people looking for an alternative way to smooth our descent and provide a soft landing. They are considering alternative courses that would dramatically decrease our oil dependency and profoundly change our lifestyles. Abandoning the global economy for a local one is part of that plan.

Richard Heinberg is another expert on the Peak Oil crisis.  In his book "The Oil Depletion Protocol", Heinberg calls all countries to agree to reduce their oil consumption by 3% per year to keep demand below the ever falling rate of expected production.

This would create a framework based on a measure of fairness and equity. And although it would mean a worldwide acceptance of shrinking economic opportunities, reducing our consumption of oil, especially for fuel, it would produce many beneficial effects:

• Limit catastrophes like wars and conflicts over resources

• Slow the rate of climate change, and improve the environment

• Save some petroleum for such precious uses as electronics, chemistry and medicine

Obviously, to embrace the Oil Depletion Protocol would be to redefine our basic values. We certainly would no longer define ourselves as consumers. Incessant growth would no longer be the measure of our success.

Dick Cheney has said that in this "War on Terror" our "lifestyle is not negotiable". On the contrary, Mr. Cheney, the only way to survive the "Oil War Terror" is to find alternative lifestyles. James Kunstler, the author of "The Long Emergency" ( has coined the term "Making Other Arrangements" to describe how the oncoming failure of  American consumerism will force us to change our lifestyles.  Whether by plan or necessity, I suggest that is exactly what we are about to do.

About a year ago, I was talking to Bicycle John in his Lihue shop. He said that suddenly, when gasoline hit $4 a gallon, people he had never seen before were coming in, interested in buying a bicycle.  His business doubled overnight. At some critical point, ($4.00 gas) something changed in people's mind. All of a sudden it was a good idea to buy a bicycle.

Something like that can happen at a larger scale too. There will come a time when jet fuel reaches some crucial milestone. Maybe it will be when oil is $100 a barrel. Whatever that price point, all of a sudden it won't make business sense to ship an avocado, orange or tomato from Florida to Hawaii. At that point, for the average suburban family it won't make sense to fly a 10,000 mile round trip for a week at the beach in a Kekaha vacation-rental.

When that happens, we in Hawaii will experience an economic sea change. Things we took for granted will be gone. Things we ignored will be important.

As oil production declines, to succeed on Kauai, we will have to grow about ten times as much food as we grow now.  In a simplified sense, for us to keep our civilization we will have to find a way to "keep the lights on", or at least some of them. That will mean slowing down a bit and harvesting sustainable sources of local power derived from sun, wind and water.

We will have to find another engine than tourism to pull our economic train. And that will have to be an economic model not so dependent on the outside world. We will be more on our own, more isolated and more together –  In other words more  – 
"Ho'okahi Kauai"

Needless to say, the better prepared we are, the better it will go.

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI

Our life in a Petri Dish on Kauai 4/8/07 Smart Growth - No Growth: are they the same thing?