Back in my day, invasives had a different meaning

On occasion, I get to sit and have conversations with my grandchildren whose ages range from 9 through 18 years. Of course, on these occasions, I demand that they first turn off their cellphones. Very often, the conversation is initiated by some story that was printed in the West Hawaii Today. Inevitably the conversation switches to “How things were when I was their age.”

Today, I was reminded about such a conversation after reading about the little fire ant situation on this island. Newcomers and the young are totally unaware of the paradise that some of us seniors remember Hawaii to be. In those days, the bad kids were those who took papaya leaves, dried them up then crushed it into tobacco like material, rolled it up in Bull Durham paper and smoked it. We were sure that they were on their way to hell.

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As a kid growing up in Ka’u, fruit ripened on the tree and was always available. You could count on not finding any fruit fly maggots when biting into any tree ripened fruit. Ripe guava, mango, or vivee (yvee), however you learned to pronounce it, were seasonal but always available. Honey was always available from the wild hives that were commonly protected as a resource. There was no fear of climbing any tree and confronting some insect like the little fire ants we read about today. Sure, calling a friend outside of your local “five party line group” was a long distance call that would cost a few cents more, but it was commonly accepted that most stories or incidents that merited being repeated could wait until the the next school day.

Invasive species was a term not yet in common use as it was limited to those who we referred to as haoles. It was not meant to be a derogatory term, but a term to clarify that the individual was new to our community. Of course, as time changed, the hippies of the ’70s blew it for those associated with the haole invasion and the term haole and invasive species became associated in some cases as synonymous.

However, going back to the invasive species, it seems that our state today is more interested in preventing invasive species, once established here, from spreading elsewhere. Hawaii as paradise is fast becoming the resting place for all invasive species. There is even an effort, as we now see, to make Hawaii into another sanctuary state. Is that something that we really want?

It seems that our state government is incompetent in its effort to keep out the invasive species in spite of having the 3,500-mile ocean barrier. Does our state believe the meme going around of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi saying in her eight-hour speech that building a wall will violate the rights of millions of illegals? Does our state believe that invasive species have a right to free entry into the state but once here, should not be allowed to leave? At the rate of increase in invasive species, Hawaii as paradise will soon be a thing of the past.

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In my conversation with the grandkids, they get all riled up and express a desire to preserve Hawaii from harmful invasive species. This conversation seems to bother them until they are allowed to turn their cellphones back on. Judging from the increasing number of invasive species invading our paradise, I wonder if our representatives in government are just as concerned as my grandkids?

Leningrad Elarionoff is a resident of Waimea.