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More Than Leis And Luaus: Hawaii's Fascinating History Of Sustainability

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Ancient Hawaiians could teach our high-tech world a thing or two. These hardy souls managed to survive and thrive on islands with limited resources without depleting the soil or negatively impacting plant diversity. If you plan to travel to Hawaii, you should seek out some of these sites of ancient wisdom for yourself.

The alupua system.  

This pre-colonial division of land was not about property ownership but about the fair and equitable allocation of resources. Islands were divided and subdivided, with the actual alupua unit being a wedge-shaped slice of land extending from the mountain to the sea.

Each alupua was further subdivided into community and family units, and every alupua had access to some form of all of the island's resources whether that was food plants or ocean fish. The alupua system ensured that every member of the tribe, from the chief to the smallest child, had enough water, food and plant medicine.

Other principles of the alupua system were intensive soil management, safeguarding biodiversity, and providing easy access to spring water. These practices kept soil from eroding while growing crops to feed a growing population. You can see some of the remnants of these ancient land divisions and visit a sample on the island of O'ahu.

Fish to feed the masses.

In another remarkable feat of sustainability, Hawaiians developed fish ponds all over the islands which they stocked with fish, including milkfish, mullet, shrimp, eel, and amberjack. These ponds might measure an acre to 500 acres.

Fishing in the ponds was far safer than fishing in the open sea. The ponds guaranteed a food source to the Hawaiians when times were lean or when bad weather prohibited fishing on the shore or at sea.

The highest concentration of fish ponds was on Moloka'i, There were many rules concerning behavior while at the ponds, such as no cursing or spitting. These food sources were considered spiritual as well as material bodies of water.

Preserving plants for medicine.

The responsible stewardship of the ancient people of the Hawaiian Islands has left many of their ancient medicines still growing in abundance on the mountainsides and in the lush forests.

Ancient Hawaiians used coconut shells, gourds, and mussel shells to measure the herbs and mix up their concoctions. Turmeric, mulberries, and taro were commonly used in healing ceremonies, with taro being considered a very sacred plant.

There are several places to take guided tours through nature where you will learn about the cultivation and uses of Hawaii's rich botanical medicine chest.

Hawaii is clearly the destination for people interested in sustainability, both past and future. Along with historical sites, Hawaii has many places to visit where modern methods of sustainability are being used. Consult with your travel agent to plan your itinerary, as they are experts on Hawaii and its many amazing resources and attractions. To learn more, speak with a business like Rainbow Travel.


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