Category Archives: environment

Maui’s Magnificent Climates

Shangri-La is a fictional place described as a mystical, harmonious valley in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton, and has become synonymous with any earthly paradise ~ a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world.

Like Shangri La the Hawaiian Islands may be the most isolated archipelago on earth, yet contain all the earth’s terrestrial biomes, except for tundra.

The climate of a region determines what plants will grow, and what animals will inhabit it. All three: climate, plants and animals are interwoven to create the fabric of a biome. A biome is a large geographical area in which life is adapted to that particular environment.

The major terrestrial biomes in the world include: Desert, Tundra, Chaparral or Scrub, Taiga or Coniferous Forest, Temperate Deciduous Forest, Grassland, Temperate Rain Forest, Tropical Rain Forest, Land Caves, and Wetlands.

For such a small area Hawai`i has a wide variety of biomes  due to a variety of factors including topography and locations. Each biome consists of many ecosystems whose communities have adapted to the small differences in climate and the environment inside the biome.

Hawai`i’s main biomes are: Coastal, Dry Wood Forest, Mesic Forest,
Rainforest, Desert, Sub-Alpine Grass/Shrubland and Alpine Desert.

The island of Hawai`i are rather dry and were it not for their
large mountains that catch precipitation, these islands would be noticeable

KARESANSUI ~ Rocks Into Water

It is estimated that the typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water above and beyond rainwater each year.     ~U.S. Geological Survey

There are a variety of water-efficient gardening and landscape designs.  One of the oldest is the Japanese rock garden or dry landscape garden, often called a Zen garden, that dates back to the 11th century.  Karesansui suggests mountains and water using only stones, sand or gravel and, occasionally, plants. 

The name translates literally as dry mountain water. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, the term indicates a stone arrangement in a part of the garden without water. A karesansui garden is a living work of art in which the plants and trees are ever-changing with the seasons.

Unlike other traditional gardens, there is no water present in karesansui gardens. Using neither ponds nor streams, it makes symbolic representations of natural landscapes using stone arrangements, white sand, moss and pruned trees. There is gravel or sand, raked or not raked, that symbolizes sea, ocean, rivers or lakes. Water is symbolized both by the arrangements of rock forms to create a dry waterfall and by patterns raked into sand to create a dry stream. Though each garden is different in its composition, they mostly use rock groupings and shrubs to represent a classic scene of mountains, valleys and waterfalls inspired originally from Chinese, and later Japanese, landscape paintings.

These gardens require careful maintenance from those skilled in the art of training and pruning. Part of that art is to keep the garden almost still, like a painting…and like paintings, the gardens are meant to be viewed from a single, seated perspective.

In addition to water conservation in gardens and landscaped areas, karesansui adds artistic and spiritual elements that evoke nature, balance, peace, and serenity.

Maui’s Roads Less Traveled

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
– John Muir, Naturalist

Waipoli Road begins just southeast of Kula, Maui, off the Kekaulike Highway (377) at mile marker 9.  It takes you up the slope of Haleakalā, to the summit ridge of Maui’s massive 10,023 foot dormant volcano. 

The ten mile road is steep, bumpy, and dominated by switchback turns. Its surface devolves from macadam  to single lane paved, to gravel then graded dirt.  At times it is so treacherous the forest service will block off the last 2 unpaved miles leading to the crater. 

About 6,200 feet above sea level, situated in the magnificent 21,000 acre Kula Forest Reserve, is Polipoli Springs State Park. Amidst towering trees this Upcountry park offers nearly ten acres of recreational area and amazing views of the Maui lowlands and the neighboring islands of Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe.

Located in the cloud line thousands of feet above sea level and often fog-bound Polipoli includes a maze of crisscrossing hiking and biking trails that require you to be alert to “false trails.” For many Mauians, the reserve’s greatest attractions are wild pig and pheasant hunting and, between May and July, picking tasty Methley Plums. 

Dense with exotic native Hawaiian trees such as plum, cypress, sugi, and ash, Polipoli is noted for its mature forest of redwoods, some standing over 100 feet tall and nearly six feet wide at the base!

From January 23 to February 5, 2007, a wildfire burned about 2,300 acres of forested lands within Kula Forest Reserve. In terms of size and intensity, this wildland fire event was one of the most devastating to have occurred in Hawaii for many decades.

The burn area was dominated by mature closed canopy forest composed primarily of pines, cypresses, and redwoods. Approximately 1,800 acres were so badly burned there was little remaining live vegetation. Further damage from a severe storm in December, 2007, closed the area for several months while the State, with the help of community volunteers, cleared and secured trails, seeded over 1,250 acres of mountainside with grass mix, and planted 132,572 tree seedlings.

It will take decades to completely erase the fire and storm damage, but the aggressive efforts undertaken by the State have already returned life to the affected areas. The Kula Reserve Forest remains a Maui treasure.

Maui’s Waipoli Road truly transports you to another world!

(Advisory: Polipoli Spring State Park is remote, wet, and cold. It rains frequently. You need rain gear and warm clothing. And remember that hikers share the trails with mountain bikers.)


The natural processes of the ocean provide a denser, more concentrated form of energy than either wind or solar.  

~ Electric Power Research Institute

Hawaiians have a long-standing relationship with the ocean.  Not only because of the islands’ isolation in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, but through millennia of voyaging, fishing, pond farming, recreation, sport, and cultural practices.  Today Hawaiians are closer than ever to embracing the power of the ocean as a renewable source of energy.

It is estimated that more than 100% of Maui Nui’s power needs can be produced with just 5-10% of the ocean energy lapping our shores.

Ocean energy is captured directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations and currents below the surface. While all wave energy technologies are intended to be installed at or near the water’s surface, they differ in their interaction with the waves and in the manner in which they convert wave energy into other energy forms, usually electricity. 

Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity. (A terawatt is equal to a trillion watts.)

Environmental and Economic Challenges

Wave power can’t be harnessed everywhere. Wave-power rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States.  In general, careful site selection is the key to keeping the environmental impacts of wave power systems to a minimum. Wave energy system planners can choose sites that preserve scenic shores. They also can avoid areas where wave energy systems can significantly alter flow patterns of sediment on the ocean floor.

Economically wave power systems struggle to compete with traditional power sources.  However, the costs to produce wave energy are coming down, and once built, they have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use—seawater—is free.

Oceanlinx, either directly or through its subsidiary SPVs, has interests in AUSTRALIA:  Victoria, King Island;  EUROPE:  Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain;  NORTH AMERICA: Hawaii (USA), Mexico.  Oceanlinx’s work in these areas is at varying levels of maturity.  Oceanlinx Hawaii LLC, has developed a leading edge technology for harnessing the energy in ocean waves that produces clean, predictable and affordable renewable power.


Papahānaumokuākea: Protecting Our Marine Places

This year the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  inscribed Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as one of only 26 mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Sites in the world.  The inscription of this remote oceanic expanse is a win for the United States on its first nomination of a site in 15 years. 

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument covers an area of nearly 140,000 square miles, encompassing the islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands — stretching some 1,200 miles northwest of Kaua’i — and the surrounding ocean. 

Papahānaumokuākea’s globally significant natural attributes incorporate its living, indigenous, cultural connections to the sea––where modern Hawaiian wayfinders (non-instrument navigators) still voyage for navigational training on traditional double-hulled sailing canoes; an aspect of inscription unique to Papahānaumokuākea. Additionally, World Heritage status places this traditional skill, which was used to navigate across the world’s largest ocean––one of the greatest feats of human kind––onto the world stage and obtains global recognition of Hawai‘i’s special attributes.

“This inscription elevates Hawai‘i in the eyes of the world and underscores our responsibility to protect our culturally, naturally and spiritually significant places for future generations, as our ancestors would want,” said Haunani Apoliona, Chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.

The near pristine remote reefs, islands, and waters of Papahānaumokuākea provide refuge and habitat for a wide array of threatened and endangered species and is one of the last predator-dominated coral reef ecosystems on the planet; manō (sharks) and ‘ulua (jacks) dominate the underwater landscape. The region also provides critical nesting and foraging grounds for 14 million seabirds making it the largest tropical seabird rookery in the world.

Extraordinary Dominance of Hawaiian Fishes Discovered on Deep Coral Reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

After 30 days at sea, NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai returned to Honolulu this past August with ground-breaking new discoveries on the marine life of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  Foremost among these discoveries is the finding that deep coral reef fish communities, well below depths normally visited by scuba divers, are dominated by endemic fishes found only in Hawai‘i.

“Unique Hawaiian endemic species comprise over 90% of the fish communities at these depths,” said Dr. Randy Kosaki, Chief Scientist and one of the technical divers on the cruise. “This is the highest level of endemism recorded in any marine ecosystem on earth, and this discovery underscores the importance of the protected status brought to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands ten years ago. These reefs are a global treasure trove of biodiversity.”

Discovering Ancient Corals

Papahānaumokuākea’s extensive coral reefs — truly the rainforests of the sea — are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Scientists have identified seven new species of bamboo coral in the deep waters of Papahānaumokuākea, six of which may represent entirely new genera.

“We found live, 4,000- year-old corals … meaning 4,000 years worth of information about what has been going on in the deep ocean interior.”  ~ Rob Dunbar, Stanford University



He who plants a garden plants happiness.  If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden.  ~ Chinese Proverb 

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture poster promoting victory gardens. ~ 1942

VICTORY GARDEN is not only PBS’s longest running gardening show on television.  During World Wars I & II, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, these were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort.  These gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” because gardeners felt empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown.

In 1943, 20 million private and public gardens were producing 8 million tons of food.

Today food travels thousands of miles over many days from farm to table, and the cycle of planting, fertilizing, processing, packaging, and transporting our food uses enormous amounts of energy and contributes to global warming.

Hawaii has less than a seven day supply of many foods, especially perishables. Some 90% percent of our food is imported.

Drawing from the rich history of World War I & II Victory Gardens, there is a growing movement giving a new meaning to ‘victory’.   ♦ fresher, healthier food consumption    ♦ independence from corporate food systems    ♦ self-sufficiency, sustainability, and good stewardship    ♦ more people involved in the natural environment


 43 million American households are expected to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries this year.

That’s up 19 percent over last year, according to a survey conducted in January by the National Gardening Association.  About a fifth of gardeners this year will be new to the activity, the survey says. Most — 54 percent — said they will garden because it saves them money on food bills.  A slightly larger group said they garden because homegrown food tastes better.

In recent time the self-sustainability movement has brought back the good sense of home gardening, and today ‘recession’ gardens spotlight the value of gardening during tough economic times.  Thanks to Hawaii’s mild, year-round climate, it is a fertile place that sustains many types of crops.  New gardeners should start out slow, learn as you go, and seek advice from neighborhood growers who can be most helpful when it comes to learning about the local environment.

A family that spends about $100 on a garden will save $860 -$2,500 in grocery bills over the course of a year.

HOME GROWN mo’ bettah!


  • are fresher and taste better
  • are available year-round
  • have much less environmental impact
  • preserve green space & farmland
  • promote food safety
  • support our local economy
  • provide variety
  • create community

By eating foods that are grown and raised locally, with the same air and water that we breathe and drink, we connect to this unique environment and become part of the local ecosystem.

Think you can’t taste the difference between lettuce picked yesterday and lettuce picked last week, factory-washed, and sealed in plastic?  You can.  And fresh food lasts longer too.  The fewer steps there are between your food’s source and your table the less chance there is of health-threatening contamination.  And don’t forget that those thousands of miles our food imports are shipped creates a big carbon footprint.


If a home garden is not for you then buy local.  Almost 60% of MAUI COUNTY land is in agriculture with 1,096 farm and livestock operations producing cattle, hogs, eggs, honey, aquaculture, sugar, pineapple, vegetables and melons, fruits, coffee, macadamia nuts, and taro.  The highest vegetable crop production per pound is cucumbers, followed by cabbage, onions, taro, Italian squash and romaine lettuce.  Other diversified crops including flowers and nursery products are rapidly expanding and account for about 70% of farm revenue.

When buying locally produced foods we’re not only eating healthier, we’re benefiting our community, environment, and lifestyle.


The Flowers of Maui Nui

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”  ~Indian Proverb

Flowers are integral to the cultural tapestry of Hawai’i. These are na pua o Maui Nui — the flowers of Kaho’olawe, Lanai, Maui, and Molokai.

Hinahina (heliotropium anomalum) is the plant of Kaho’olawe. The leaves are somewhat succulent and often grow in rosettes towards the tips of the stems. The small, white, tubular flowers are sweetly fragrant. Don’t confuse hinahina with Spanish moss or Pele’s hair. In pageantry the Spanish moss is almost always substituted for the native hinahina to represent the island of Kaho’olawe, since it is easier to get Spanish moss than it is to get the native heliotrope.


Lanai’s flower Kaunaoa (cuscutaceae) is not really a flower, but a rare yellow and  orange air plant. Lei makers take the thin, light orange strands of this vine and twist them together to form lei. Legend says that the goddess Pele fled to Lanai from her angry sister Namakaokahai, the goddess of the sea, and dropped her Kaunaoa lei at the beach, where golden vines started growing.

The pink Lokelani (rosa damascene) is the official flower of Maui. Native to Asia Minor it was brought to the New World by the Spanish and introduced to Hawai’i in the early 1800s. The Lokelani is prized by gardeners for its beauty and fragrance and is the only non-native plant to be recognized as the official flower of any of the Hawaiian islands.

The white Kukui blossom (aleurites moluccana) is the flower of Molokai. It is the blossom of the very useful Kukui tree. The flowers, leaves and the nuts are often used in lei. The nuts are used for their oil, can be eaten, and contain a black dye that is used for tattooing. The wood of the Kukui tree was used for making canoes and the leaves were chewed to relieve sorrow.