by Bob Krauss
WAIMANALO - It's happening under the wall of green cliffs back of Waimanalo, an impossible dream that's less impossible now that it was a year ago. They call it the "Hawaiian Nation."
This "nation" is more complicated that just a controversy over sovereignty. Or the refusal of sovereignty activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele to pay income tax because it's "the collection of an illegal debt."
What else is happening under the cliffs is an attempt to create a new way of life in Hawaii. This is not a return to ancient times. This is the catamaran compared to the outrigger canoe.
Chris Belknap and Paul Ponthieux are architects. Belknap said he wasn't satisfied with designing tourist hotels. He believes Hawaii's environment must be sustainable or it won't survive. But developers aren't much interested in his ideas because high density is more profitable.
The Hawaiian Nation is giving him and Ponthieux a chance to design a sustainable community.
"We believe in this concept," said Kanahele. "I've known Chris for three years. Until we got the land, I wasn't interested. Not it gets real."
There there's Kiha Pimental, a general contractor in steel construction who isn't quite satisfied with the way Hawaii is going. He'd like to be part of something better.
There's also Uncle George Kamakahi, 73, from Waianae who drives all the way to Waimanalo every day to open up old taro patches up the valley. Why? "For the people," he said.
And there's also Patty Maukele, a resource teacher for the Hawaiian language immersion program at Koko Head Elementary School. She lives under the cliffs and holds a class there every Thursday night.
At the moment, there are fewer than 100 people living in shacks under the cliffs on 35 acres of land that members of this "Hawaiian Nation" claim as their own. They are there on agreement with the state.
How can 100 people create a new way of life?
The concept that Belknap envisions and that Ponthieux has drawn in three dimensions on his state-of-the-art computer is that of a self-sustaining community based on old Hawaiian concepts but making use of high technology:
HOUSES: People will live in round, two-story houses six units to a floor. The units will have one, two and three bedrooms to accommodate different-sized families.
If a grandmother of another relative wants to live with the family, the units can be opened to make larger ones.
COOKING: Each living unit will have a kitchen. There will also be community kitchens. (See accompanying story about living in the Hawaiian village.)
PARKING: Each house will have a covered garage for parking cars. On the roofs will be greenhouses for growing vegetables.
In this way, the parking space will not be wasted and the gardens will produce income for the village.
Roof space will also be used for panels that convert sunshine into electricity. "We wouldn't have to hook up to Hawaiian Electric," said Kanahele.
EDUCATION: Each house would have what Belknap and Ponthieux call a "vision center" - a unit where people can hold community meetings, where classes can be held, where information can be stored in books and tapes.
The science classes would be conducted outdoors, as the Hawaii Nature Center now conducts its classes.
ECONOMY: The goal will be for the community to be as self-sustaining as possible. Food would be grown not only to eat but to sell. Mechanics might fix cars. Other people might sew.
It is hoped such a close-knit community would create fewer traffic jams, would be more socially stable, would pollute less, would use fewer resources and would commit fewer crimes.
These dreams have brought a wide variety of people together, from Hawaiian activists to avant garde architects.
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