As a sustainability advocate, I was very interested in Dr. Burney's theory that mankind has a habit of decimating a great deal of the flora and fauna that it comes in contact with. In this respect, I compare Burney book to the writing of Jared Diamond in the book Collapse, where strong parallels between mankind's dietary and farming habits result in extinction of species and ruination of the land. Although the indigenous Hawaiian people did not extinct themselves, unlike the Rapa Nui Islanders or the Anasazi tribes, it is evident from Burney's research that a great number of species of bird, duck and owl existed in the Kauai coastal area along with endemic trees and plants that ceased to exist as the population of Hawaiians increased. This is not to say that the Hawaiian people were not good stewards of the land. Indeed, the Hawaiians had many admirable agricultural practices that we are trying to recreate in modern times in the taro fields of Hanalei and Makaweli River valley. The population so successfully flourished on Kauai, that -- in order to feed the increasing number of Hawaiian people -- they used the nearest available resources.
As a participant in the early digs at the sinkhole with Lida, Dave Burney,their children and Stors Olsen, I was privileged to have taken a glimpse of this rich and colorful history of the island I call home. I remain privileged to be friends with such great people as the Burneys and fellow members of Malama Mahaulepu, and I have watched in amazement over the years as the area around the sinkhole transformed from a dense tangle of scrub weeds, kiawe and Haole Koa, into a beautifully landscaped outdoor arboretum of endemic, indigenous and native Hawaiian plants and trees. The Burneys are living treasures on this island, which has greatly benefitted from their tireless endeavors. Everyone should read this book as an inspiration to take responsibility for a small corner of the place they call home: to nourish the land on which they live, and the land, in turn, will nourish the soul.