My interview with Earth Justice Official Counsel Kapua Sproat is no longer available online at the Honolulu Advertiser site, so I’ve printed our full, never-before published interview below for your pleasure.
What I’m Reading | Kapua Sproat
Assistant Professor UH Law School, Center for Excellence and Native Hawaiian Law / Official Counsel, Earth Justice
Q&A with Christine Thomas
Honolulu Advertiser Nov. 2007
–What are you reading?
I’m in the middle of two books right now. I started reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Palan. And then as part of my work, I started doing some research and reading “Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore, and Environment,” by Handy and Handy.
A lot of people I know have read [The Omnivore’s Dilemma]—my sister, best friend—and they just loved it. So, I was looking for plane reading and that’s how I picked that up. The other is just a cornerstone for anybody interested in Hawaiian history, and what this place used to be like before.
–What do you like about them?
[The Omnivore’s Dilemma] is a natural history of four meals–it basically looks at where our food comes from and it traces different kinds of meals, and just talks about the social, ethical and environmental impact of where we get the food we eat and the impact that has on the global market and society. It really takes on the idea of industrial agriculture and where our food comes from, and I think that’s really important for people in island communities, like people in Hawai`i. We have limited resources here and everything we use comes from some place, and there’s a cost associated with it–it makes you think about the footprint we’re leaving on the planet.
Especially in the work I do, agriculture has a big part in that and also our quality of life in Hawai`i, and that also relates to “Native Planters.” I actually come from a family of fishermen and farmers on Kaua`i’s North Shore. I’m just a simple girl from the country. I was really fortunate to grow up in late ‘70s and early ‘80s during a transitional time from plantation agriculture to a tourism economy, to grow up in a Native Hawaiian family that valued our natural an cultural resources, and really lived close to the land. It gave me an interest and an appreciation for where we get the food we eat and the impact it has in the world and on our community here at home.
As a kanaka maoli I’ve also been very interested in how our ancestors lived in this place before. It’s really neat to be able to look at the cultural landscape and how people lived in places that in this day and age have been really modified and are very different.
–Are you drawn to these because you also see the way forward as bringing foundational perspectives to environmental stewardship decisions?
I agree with that completely. I just read what I’m interested in and never really thought about how what I’m reading now reflects on the work I do or what is important to me. As a kanaka maoli it’s very important to recognize the culture, and the value and significance of this place and really honor that in the work we do. That’s something a lot of my family and the work we do includes, and also my work at Earth Justice and here at the law school. It really gives us a sense of place, as an educational tool but also as a way to inform how we live now and the way our life and work impacts this place. And I think Hawai`i, like many other places throughout the world, is really in a time of transition and the decisions we make now about how we live in this place will have a huge impact on generations to come.
–So it’s bringing the Hawaiian, cultural perspective to local but also global environmental stewardship?
Hawaiian culture is a state of mind, it’s a way of life, it’s not just what’s written in “Native Planters,” but our culture and traditions continue to live and grow into the present. So it’s important to look at how we live our lives now and how that impacts our future generations.
Photo linked to Earth Justice.