A love and respect for land, sea and the resources therein is a huge part of Hawaiʻi's natural heritage. So is a deep appreciation for open space, which seems to be in the very DNA of people born in the islands. For many of us, development is hard to stomach, especially the kind that creates exclusive spaces for the highly wealthy and ignores the needs of everyone else. Many new homes are nothing like the humble "plantation style" houses we know and love. Agricultural zoning used to be for actual farmers, but now high-priced parcels with lavish homes and a token banana patch or citrus grove somehow slide through as "ag lots" with cheaper water and lower tax rates. This is a far cry from the rural, agricultural lifestyle that is part of our collective history. Where is the balance point? This design asks landowners, developers, and policy makers to prioritize affordable housing and diversified agriculture and balance this with our need for open space (think about the 36,000 acres of A&B lands on Maui that will no longer be sugarcane). This design also invites people building their own homes to think about what makes Hawaiʻi unique and strive to maintain that. I wahi ōpū weuweu no kākou - Let us have a small clump of grass (a humble home).
The endemic ʻōpae ʻula, a.k.a. Halocaridina rubra, is found in the anchialine ponds of Hawaiʻi and Maui (and in other habitats on Molokai and Oʻahu). The ponds are fed by underground connections to the ocean, freshwater, and other nearby ponds. ʻŌpae ʻula eat algae, bacteria, and diatoms, helping to maintain the health of the ponds (90% of of which have been destroyed by coastal development and invasive species). ʻŌpae ʻula make great bait for catching ʻōpelu, hīnālea and other fish, and add lots of flavor to saimin broth and other dishes. ʻUʻuku ke kino, nunui ka ʻono - Tiny body, huge flavor. Several types of ʻōpae (shrimp) are found in a various habitats throughout Hawaiʻi. Traditionally, they were caught using a tightly woven cone-shaped basket (hīnaʻi ʻōpae / ʻāpua ʻōpae) made from the aerial roots of the ʻieʻie (Freycinetia arborea). A famous saying applied to great accomplishments goes: "I kōkī o Wailau, i ke alapiʻi a ka ōpae" - At the top of Wailau (Molokai), at the ladder of the shrimp. ʻAiʻai (also Aʻiaʻi) had his parents (Kūʻula and Hinapukuiʻa) send the ʻoʻopu and ʻōpae there after seeing throngs of people in Wailau take them carelessly. Ke-alapiʻi-a-ka-ʻōpae is also a famous fighting stroke in lua (Hawaiian martial arts).
Hawaiʻi has five species of freshwater fish called ʻoʻopu (a.k.a. gobies), four of which are endemic. As an important food source for many Hawaiians, they understood that the life cycle of these unique creatures encompasses both the stream and the ocean, and knew the importance of maintaining a healthy connection from uka (the uplands) to kai (the ocean). The coolest part of the ʻoʻopu is the suction disk on their bellies that helps them climb up waterfalls and scale difficult stream areas during their return to the mountains from the ocean as juveniles. ʻOʻopu ʻai lehua (lit. lehua-eating ʻoʻopu) is a poetic description for ʻoʻopu seen in upland streams where lehua blossoms fall in.
This iʻa (or food from the sea) is a nutritious and highly sought after delicacy. Mary Kawena Pukui talks of Hawaiians removing the middle of the ʻopihi and mixing it with poi to feed to babies - a seriously nourishing and mineral-packed combination! There are 3 types of ʻopihi that are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. ʻĀlinalina, or the yellow foot limpet, lives at the low tide mark and its shell is used as a scraper. Makaiuli, the black-foot limpet, lives highest up on the rocks of all ʻopihi. Kōʻele, a.k.a. giant limpet, is the species that is always submerged in the ocean and its shell is often covered with limu and barnacles. Living in or near the intertidal zone often means rough water and ʻopihi have the ability to suction themselves down onto the rocks so as not to be swept away. This is probably the reason for the commonly heard saying "My little ʻopihi" in reference to a clinging child.
Most of the plants central to the well-being of our ancestors were brought to Hawaiʻi on canoes, but olonā was already here when the first people stepped onto the shores of the islands. Known to scientists as Touchardia latifolia, the strength of the fibers in the body of this endemic plant rival that of most other fiber plants known to man. Hawaiians originally found this species growing in valley streams and wet upland areas, but once they discovered its utility they began to cultivate it extensively. They became experts in extracting these fibers by the thousands and making them into cordage of varying widths. These cords were used for lashing or binding all manner of things, for fishing line and traps, and to make a variety of nets (for both fishing and carrying). The koʻi (adze) was made by lashing a piece of ʻalā (dense basaltic rock) to a wooden handle with olonā cordage, enabling our ancestors to fell trees and turn them into canoes. So crucial were these fibers to everyday life that they were collected during Makahiki along with the other items given as ʻauhau (goods contributed to the aliʻi by the makaʻāinana; also the name for the stem or body of plants such as olonā and wauke). Olonā was used in the manufacture of ʻahu ʻula (feather capes), ahu laʻī (rain capes), and kāhili (feather standards) among many other things. Not only was it an important item of trade among Hawaiians, but also became a powerful tool for bartering with foreign sailors who found the fiber superior for rigging as it was stronger than hemp and did not deteriorate in salt water. ʻAʻole e loaʻa ka lawa lua o ka ʻāloa - The strength and binding power of olonā fibers has no equal.