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As we speak to community leaders, businesses, and residents, it is clear that the 2018 flood has exacerbated the pre-existing vulnerabilities and tensions present in this community. Much of the resources in this community have been spent on the betterment of the tourist experience while locals and natives have less access to essential resources for preparedness, mitigation, and rehabilitation. Assistance has thus been discriminatory in impact even if not intended to be so and has reinforced the social disparities that continue to systematically disenfranchise a community filled with hope, resilience and a love for this land like no other.

After witnessing how natives and locals have survived the horror of the flood I have realized that the emotions that permeate the atmosphere affect everyone so differently. Some have done everything they can to help other people while others have just shut down in a state of shock unable to fathom what has just taken place.

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In the past decade, responses to major natural disasters have been analyzed in hundreds of case studies and examined by experts from a variety of fields. Kauai is extremely vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Until the devastating floods of this past decade, the perception of risk from natural disasters in Kauai had been trapped in memories of the 1992 tropical cyclone Iniki that devastated the island. Since then, however, there has been a growing realization that Kauai is exposed to all types of disasters and that they are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity. This community now also has the privilege of having the only community disaster resilience plan in the state, which helped mitigate the relief efforts during the flood. However, lessons learned from this flood can be employed in subsequent crises.

                                Image from Kokee State Park

It is astonishing how the community has been able to use their capacity to produce things they need to manage their political and social lives as they desire and at the same time reduce their long-term vulnerabilities to events that threaten their socio-political existence. Modeling disaster plans around people’s participation is most effective because community members are the main actors and propellers and they also directly share in the benefits of disaster resilience.

This model also ensures priority for the most vulnerable groups, families, and people in the community whereas government-led plans would inadequately distribute funds to transient individuals who don’t have long-term social standing in the community. This empowers people as their capacities are increased due to more access to control resources and basic social services through concerted action. Participation in disaster mitigation and risk reduction develops the confidence of community members to participate in other development endeavors.

Photo from the Hanalei Watershed Hui, a non-profit environmental organization that strives to care for the Ahupua’a of Hanalei, Waioli, Waipa, and Waikoko guided by Hawaiian and other principles of sustainability and stewardship, integrity and balance, cooperation and aloha, cultural equity and mutual respect. 

To read the Hanalei to Haena Community Disaster Resilience Plan created by the Hanalei Watershed Hui visit the following link: