The Permaculture Research Institute USA has partnered with Sust`ainable Molokai to embark on the bold mission of permeating the Hawaiian Islands with permaculture goodness. Traditional Hawaiian agricultural systems, before the arrival of Europeans, were ingenious and sustainable. Indeed, their ahupua`a systems, known as high island ‘Ohana’ systems to permaculturists, are one of the few truly sustainable agricultural systems ever known — an awesome legacy that should instill pride and purpose in modern-day islanders. Unfortunately, the last century, in particular, is seeing multiple major threats to the island state’s unique ecology — soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and Hawaii has become Big Biotech’s GMO test capital of the world (see video at very bottom of post).
But permaculturists are fighting back, as you’ll see:
Seeing millions of tons of topsoil muddying Hawaii’s shoreline was shocking for me to see. It represents centuries of sustainable land use — now getting washed away through ignorance and malpractice. If this remains unchecked, Hawaii could well become a desert island….
Reawakening an appreciation for traditional systems and adding in modern permaculture techniques could go a long way towards improving what is a very vulnerable food security situation in Hawaii. Like many places that were once fully self-sufficient in foodstuffs, Hawaii is today almost completely dependent on imports. Given the domino effect of collapsing economies, high energy (and hence, food) costs, and increasing unrest in our currently highly globalised world, Hawaii seriously needs to rethink its current trajectory and start phasing industrial agricultural systems out entirely.
The good news is Hawaiians have their own constitution on their side (see quote below), and the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture itself should be a great ally, if their own statements are indeed sincere:
Hawai‘i is located approximately 2,506 miles from the continental United States. Between 85-90% of Hawai‘i’s food is imported, which makes it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that might disrupt shipping and the food supply.
The Constitution of the State of Hawaii, Article XI, Section 3, says, “The State shall conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands.”
Increasing food self-sufficiency in Hawai‘i will require sound public policies, the best available science, an efficient industry, and a public willing to support local agriculture. It requires protecting agricultural land and water, enhancing food safety, investing in agricultural research, and addressing rising costs for labor, energy, and transportation. — A Hawai`i Department of Agriculture White Paper, December 16 2008 (PDF)
Let’s give all the support we can to the efforts of the Permaculture Research Institute USA and Sust`ainable Molokai. Watch the PRI USA’s course listing for courses you may wish to attend.