Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Musings: Black Out

Someone who got tired of waiting at the one-lane Hanalei Bridge apparently decided to take matters into his/her own hands recently. Signs that stated local courtesy allows 5-7 cars to cross before the other side gets a turn were blacked out at both ends of the span.
As I reported previously, there is a movement under way by some impatient motorists to eliminate this “local courtesy,” which was endorsed by the community in a 2008 survey. 
Photo from Ivy's Place website.
While state and county officials and community leaders discussed options, someone went rogue and vandalized the signs.

State DOT workers will try to repair the signs today. Has anyone crossed the bridge since the signs were blacked out? And if so, did you notice any difference in the traffic flow or motorists' moods?

Meanwhile, as the Kauai Feral Cat Task Force attempts to hammer out a cat control ordinance, a new scientific study shows toxoplasmosis spread by feral cats is a significant cause of mortality in endangered nene and alala (crows). However, emaciation and trauma (typically vehicle collisions and dog predation) were the primary causes of nene deaths.

In the first systemic investigation into the causes of death in nene, federal researchers studied 300 nene carcasses collected from Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Kauai between 1992 and 2013. Their findings, newly published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, show:

The most common cause of death was emaciation, followed by trauma (vehicular strikes and predation), and infectious/inflammatory diseases of which toxoplasmosis (infection with Toxoplasma gondii) predominated.

Causes of death varied among islands, with trauma dominating on Molokai, emaciation and inflammation on Kauai, emaciation on Hawaii, and inflammation and trauma on Maui.

The leading cause of inflammatory conditions was toxoplasmosis followed by omphalitis.

It concluded:

Specifically, although it might be difficult to reduce impacts of emaciation, the relative impact of human-induced trauma and toxoplasmosis could be decreased with management. Doing so might enhance recovery of Nene in their native range.

The draft State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) report also speaks to the deleterious effect that “non-native predators” such as cats, rats and mongooses are having on rare native forest, wetland and seabird populations. To help forest and wetland birds recover, it advises:

Critical conservation actions include protection of remaining native forest habitats from further degradation by ungulates and non-native plant species, control and eradication of introduced predators (primarily rodents and cats)...

For seabirds, it recommends:

Needed conservation actions are protection of existing habitat, eradication of introduced predators (cats, rodents, and mongooses) from additional offshore islands and known breeding colonies.

The report goes on to state:

Hawai‘i’s terrestrial animals evolved in the complete absence of mammalian predators and are extremely vulnerable to depredation by rats, feral cats and the small Indian mongoose. All of these species prey on eggs, nestlings, and adult birds.

Presently, high densities of feral cats, rodents, and mongooses are a major cause of mortality among native birds and may place similar pressures on native terrestrial invertebrates.

Feral cats are extremely skilled predators and are responsible for the extinction of birds on islands worldwide. In Hawai‘i, cats are widely distributed on all of the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) from sea level to high elevations. While a single cat can have a devastating effect on a breeding seabird colony, “cat colonies” pose an even greater threat to bird populations because of their concentrated numbers.

So why in the world would anyone who values native wildlife advocate for a trap-neuter-return program that actually supports and establishes feral cat colonies around the island? 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Musings: Loved to Death

Like a lot of places on Kauai, Ke'e and surrounding areas are being loved to death.

It's extremely popular with tourists because it's the “end of the road,” the trailhead for the 11-mile hike into Kalalau and a great place to snorkel and watch the sunset. As  a result, Haena State Park is the third-most visited park in the state system, with more than 740,000 visitors annually. It's also home to one of the state’s richest archaeological complexes, with a hula platform, heiau, cemetery, house sites and extensive taro lo'i.

Now, after years of community meetings, discussions and research, the Division of State Parks has developed a master plan and draft EIS intended to tame the crowds and improve conditions at the 65.7-acre park. It was created in cooperation and consultation with a 32-member community advisory committee comprising a wide range of interests.
Highlights include limiting park visitors to 900 per day — an estimated 2,000 visit currently — creating an educational and cultural center at the entry and building an elevated boardwalk with interpretive materials that will provide access to Ke'e Beach. Non-residents will be charged an access fee.

One aspect of the plan could include requiring visitors to attend an orientation session, as is done at Hanauma Bay, to educate them about safety, cultural significance and environmental protection with the idea of reducing their impact on the area.

The master plan and DEIS can be downloaded here (it's a big file, so it takes time) and public comments are being accepted through Sept. 8, with another public meeting set for Sunday at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei.

It's been a long, involved process that has relied upon the manao of Ha'ena families, cultural cultural practitioners and Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana (the group that has long managed the loi there), along with representatives from the Hanalei Watershed Hui, Hanalei Hawaiian Civic Club, Hanalei-Ha'ena Community Association, Hanalei Roads Committee, Limahuli Garden Preserve, Kauai Visitors Bureau, Kauai Northshore Business Council, Princeville Community Association, Kayak Kauai, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kauai County Planning Department and state Highways Division.

It's built on the concepts of community-based management (CBM), and generally has strong support from the local people who live in and use that area.

Except for failed mayoral candidate, anti-GMO activist, chem trail believer, Mauna Kea-clingon and Kilauea resident Dustin Barca, who posted this on Instagram:
Another Mauna Kea situation? What, exactly, does Ke'e have to do with Mauna Kea? Must everything that happens in Hawaii now be compared to Mauna Kea?

As one local noted in an email to me:

hello it's a state park...they are not trying to take it over they already own it!!

Ke'e is already a zoo, with little oversight and guidance, and virtually no interpretation to inform visitors (and new residents) about its cultural and environmental significance. How is it to be sorted out, without some limits, new rules and revenues generated by the very same people who are now converging on it for free?

As for “boardwalks for tourist [sic] thru 'our sacred lo'i'” — have you ever so much as pulled a weed out there, Dustin? — the plan is supported by Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana, which manages those lo'i. Any tours would be led by cultural practitioners and stewardship groups.

Though Dustin doesn't know what he's talking about, yet again, and never participated in the planning process, he's now putting out the call to reject and disrupt.

Ironically, it's framed it as "give and get ideas on how we can #protectMakana” — the iconic peak that isn't in any need of protection. It's the coastal area that needs help. But that bit of reality doesn't work so well when you're trying to force a connection to Mauna Kea that doesn't exist.

It's enough to make you wanna scream #icantfuckinghandlealready when these johnny-come-latelys try to upend a process that they could have joined way back, but didn't.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Musings: Fact and Fiction

In following up on Terry Lilley's claim that military jets were dumping chemicals on school children in Kapaa, I asked Capt. Bruce Hay, commander at PMRF, to shed some light on the aircraft that were seen and their activities. 
Capt. Hay replied:

The aircraft is a P-3C Orion based on Oahu at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (formerly known as Kaneohe Bay MCAS). It is attached to Patrol Wing 2. When they are over here they sometimes conduct instrument approach training at Lihue. We do not have all the modes that the P-3 is capable of using. The aircraft is old, and the engines smoke. There are many reasons they are rapidly being replaced by the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

The stinger on the back of the aircraft is called a magnetic anomaly detector boom. It is solid with no fluid or exhaust capability. It is hard to tell from the photo but my guess is that the crew was doing multiple approaches. In the pattern, air traffic control directs their flight path and if they were indeed over Kapa'a, it was a sequencing spacer for either inbound or outbound traffic.

What, no “brown chemicals?” Not even any chem trails? No super secret mission to poison Kauai kids? Just boring instrument approach training in old, smokey planes?

Come on, Captain. You're not gonna attract an Instagram or Facebook following like the island's best self-promoting cranks with those dull explanations. Got to juice it up a bit, engage in some wild speculation and “creative” thinking — aka, fiction-writing.
I also asked Capt. Hay about Terry's contention that the military is testing microwave weapons on Kauai, and has some 14 microwave towers "as far as we know" from Kalalau to Anahola. Curiously, Terry claims that one is located at Lihue Airport:

These towers are in restricted air space so you cannot fly over them and take pics or count any new ones. We get the data about these towers from NASA because the towers effect air travel. They can cause an airplane to go down quite quickly.”

Gee. Wouldn't that would create kind of a conflict with all the public and private airplane and helicopter traffic at Lihue Airport?

Terry goes on to claim:

The microwaves are used by the military to dis able the electronics of a bomb, missile, all the way to a computer in China or a satellite in space. This is why the US military is producing so many microwaves in Kauai. We are the production island for world wide microwave war!

Wow. Ground zero for experimental pesticides and microwave war. It's amazing anyone is still left alive, much less happy and healthy, in this hellhole that attracts a million visitors annually. 

But if the microwaves can disable a bomb in China, why is PMRF bothering with that expensive “star wars” missile program? I mean, wouldn't the bombs be disabled by the microwaves before the missile has to be shot out of the sky? Probably best not to think too critically about such things.

According to Terry:

The problem is that the military did not test ahead of time the effects to the reefs, marine life, birds and people that are near the "death towers".

Mmm, so why does PMRF have some of the most abundant wildlife on Kauai, including 300 green sea turtle hatchlings this year?

Terry goes on (and on and on):

The military personnel are warned to stay over 2,800 feet away from the microwave towers while they are beaming and the war ships that are concentrating the microwaves.

Gosh, it must be tough to operate those big war ships and microwave towers from half a mile away. Do you suppose they're using aliens? Or maybe those folks who had their DNA altered by eating GMOs.

Anyway, I know it's hard to believe the actual base commander over a stellar, super-reliable source like Terry, but here's Capt. Hay's response, just for the hell of it:

We only have equipment at Makaha Ridge and Kokee. Anything else on island belongs to someone else. And, our equipment is only on when needed for training or a mission. Electricity is too expensive to leave it on all the time.  Most radars operate in a range that is considered microwaves as do cordless phones, cellphones and some wifi.  For that energy to do what Terry suggests, we'd have to assume transmissivity from air to water was happening and that the same energy could somehow make it through solid rock or bend towards the ground.  There is a reason your car radio stops working in a tunnel.

Oh, Captain. Why must you poke logical holes in a perfectly good fear-mongering strategy? You're no fun at all.
Terry Lilley showing his respect for marine life, which loves to be defaced and cuddled.
Meanwhile, in response to a reader's request, here is a link to Allan Parachini's critique of Christopher Pala's dangerously inaccurate article on Kauai seed fields — “Pesticides in Paradise” — published in The Guardian with still no corrections (or better yet, a full retraction) made. The Fund for Investigative Journalism, which funded Pala's trip to Hawaii, ostensibly for “research,” also has failed to respond to emails from Allan and me about the errors in Pala's piece. FIJ typically awards grants of $5,000, which is pretty good pay for a work of fiction.

And another reader sent me a link to an article about a Texas family that put its home up for sale after they were cited for barking dogs following a neighbor's complaints. It included the comment:

wonder if we could put up something similar to call out grumblers
It made me think of the letter from Sandra Makuaole of Waimea, who said she and her husband regularly hosed down their own dogs whenever they barked. And boy, that sure learned them. 

I mentioned this to a certified dog trainer, who raised her eyebrows and replied, “People are always saying how much they love their dogs and then they punish them all night and all day.”

The barking dog ordinance may have made some humans feel better, but in the end, it's always the dogs who suffer the most. Good riddance to that bad bill. 

Oh, and Council Chair Mel Rapozo, if you do decide to write a comprehensive noise ordinance, don't forget all those fighting roosters. Can't wait to see the public hearing on that one!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Musings: Desperate Situation

Though much is said about the “blue code of silence” that prevents police officers from speaking out against the misdeeds of their colleagues, virtually nothing is said about a similar code among journalists.

Which is why Christopher Pala, whose inaccurate and biased anti-GMO article in The Guardian was thoroughly excoriated on this blog Sunday night, began whining and sniveling about the criticism his piece received from journalists Jan TenBruggencate, Allan Parachini and me:

Note that I have never met or communicated with any of the three. Nor have I ever had colleagues, known to me or not, complain to my editors or to me about my stories. It’s simply not something real journalists do.

In Chris' world, “real journalists” keep their mouths shut when they see their fellow reporters completely misrepresent an issue, stack sources to unfairly weight a story, disregard information that contradicts the position they've taken and regurgitate the propaganda that is spoon-fed to them by activists and other partisans.
How is that reporters are supposed to expose the bad behavior of everyone in the public eye — except their own media colleagues? Why does Chris — who acknowledged on his Facebook page (right above the post where he sympathizes with the anti-GMO marchers in Waikiki)  that it's his first piece on pesticides — believe he should receive a free pass from those of who know the issue far better than he?

Chris was unhappy because Peter Adler, who is running the Joint Fact-Finding Group on pesticides, sent an email to The Guardian editors correcting errors that Chris made about the JFFG. Peter's email was sent in cooperation with Dr. Lee Evslin, who felt Chris had unfairly and inaccurately portrayed him as going rogue to conduct his own investigations independent of the JFFG, when in fact Dr. Evslin is working closely with the group.

Peter copied Jan, Allan, The Garden Island's Tom Hasslinger, Chris and me on his email, because he knows we've all been covering this issue.  l also had reached out to Dr. Evslin to get his take on Chris' story.  But to Chris, Peter's simple action of including us in a correction became “an organized attack on his good name.”

Chris' ego is so massive — on Facebook, he was gloating over how many shares and comments his Guardian piece had gotten — that he apparently couldn't possibly believe he'd been wrong, even when his errors were documented. No, we're all out to get him — even though he squandered his own good name on that POS story.

Chris went on to write, in an email to Peter, Dr. Evslin and the above-mentioned recipients:

But the fact that you copied all three to your own letter to the editor of the Guardian raises serious questions about your impartiality as a fact-gatherer on the GMO industry’s potential harm in Hawaii. All three individuals are widely believed here to be paid advocates for the industry, and I find plenty of evidence online to believe that myself.

Ah, yes. Ye tired olde shill accusation. In the small circle of anti-GMO activists that Chris interviewed, anyone who isn't fully on board with the anti-GMO movement, anyone who questions, criticizes or thinks for oneself, must be in the pocket of “the industry.” 
But the real kicker was how Chris copied Gary Hooser in on the email he sent to Peter and the rest of us. As I replied to Chris:

If we are to accept your reasoning — that one's impartiality is determined by whom one copies on emails — what does it tell us about your objectivity now that you've inexplicably copied Gary Hooser, leader of the anti-GMO movement, in on this email? To borrow your words, Chris, "It's simply not something real journalists do."

As a “real journalist” friend of mine noted:

It's a pathetic dodge of the real issue, to wit: Is there any hard epidemiological evidence proving that the pesticide practices of seed companies on Kauai have caused birth defects in children? And the answer, to date, is that there is no such evidence. That is not to say that some future findings might point to a causative relationship between pesticide exposure and human health issues on Kauai. But, at present, no such evidence exists. We have only speculation. And that's the flaw in his reporting. Period.

In retweeting my post rebutting Chris' article, Dr. Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard's Belfer Center, posted this graphic and wrote:
The situation is getting desperate.

Indeed. Bullshit, all across the ideological spectrum, is enjoying a heyday.

Which offers a perfect segue to Terry Lilley, the Kauai “scientist” who is trying to set policy while engaging in massive fear-mongering on this island. Much like the anti-GMO movement has done. As Terry posted on Instagram (you can click on images to enlarge):
If you ever had any doubts about Terry's credibility, that post alone should confirm them.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Musings: Christopher Pala's Hit Piece

A friend texted a link early this morning with the comment:

Tripe in an otherwise usually responsible news source.

The otherwise usually responsible news source is the The Guardian. The tripe is Christopher Pala's hit piece, “Pesticides in paradise: Hawaii's spike in birth defects put focus on GM crops.”

Gosh, I thought. Has the state finished updating its birth defect study and found there really has been a spike?

Nope. There is still absolutely no evidence of a spike in birth defects. Pala opens with horrific anecdotal stories about birth defects and sick babies, but never bothers to check with the Hawaii Department of Health or federal officials to confirm or deny his report. 

According to the most recent data on the Hawaii Birth Defense Surveillance Report, the rate of birth defects in Hawaii has been trending down, although it is clear that study goes on.

Pala also makes no mention of the public statement issued by westside ob/gym Dr. Graham Chelius to quell the speculation: 

There is not an increased rate of cardiac defects of any kind on the Westside of Kauai.

Pala suggests the Aloha Aina March in Waikiki Aug. 9 was an anti-GMO march, when it was clearly dominated by sovereignty and anti-TMT activists.

Pala claims Waimea supports its economy on tourism, when PMRF and the seed companies are the largest employers in the area. He says that perhaps 200 people work full time for the “chemical companies” on Kauai when the actual number is about 400, and 1,500 statewide.

He says the companies “spray 17 times more pesticide per acre (mostly herbicides, along with insecticides and fungicides) than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland.” Actually, he got this from the Center for Food Safety — hardly an impartial source — and even then mischaracterizes the source’s assertion (it only refers to restricted use pesticides, not all pesticides). Pala also fails to mention that even CFS admits the use is less than three ounces per acre per year.

Pala uses the oft-discredited Gary Hooser claim that the seed companies applied 18 tons of restricted use pesticides in 2012, when Bill 2491 itself states the seed companies and Kauai Coffee together used 5,477.2 pounds, and 5,884.5 gallons of RUP for 2012. Disclosures under the Good Neighbor Program show they used 5.15 tons in 2014.

He also falsely claims that the pesticides used are “mostly atrazine, paraquat (both banned in Europe) and chlorpyrifos.” A purview of the Good Neighbor Data indicates otherwise; and in fact, it's Kauai Coffee that's using the paraquat.

Pala blames seed companies for people with respiratory symptoms who sought medical treatment in Waimea, but never mentions that the state Department of Health conducted an extensive study and issued a report that found the cause—and it wasn’t pesticides.

He also falsely claims that both cultivated and fallow lands are “sprayed frequently, sometimes every couple of days,” because the companies need “sterile land,” which is ridiculous. They want fertile land, which will give them healthy crops that produce healthy, viable seed. Much of their fallow land is in cover crops, subleased as pasture or just let go wild.

Pala repeatedly asserts that the companies don't disclose their pesticide use when they clearly do, with the data — type and quantity applied, active ingredient and parcel size — all reported monthly on the Good Neighbor website.

He also claimed they don't give any pre-notification, when in fact they offered every resident within 1,000 feet of their fields an opportunity for pre-spraying notification. Only a few residents requested such notification. All schools and hospitals within 1,000 feet of their fields are given pre-notification of pesticide applications.

Pala talks about “three years of failed attempts to force the companies…to create buffer zones,” without mentioning that the companies do so voluntarily. Under the Good Neighbor program, they agreed to provide at least 100-foot buffer zones, with Syngenta maintaining a 1,700-foot buffer zone between its fields and Waimea Canyon Middle School.

One of Pala's biggest whoppers was the contention that “the amounts and toxicities of pesticides were much lower” in the days of sugar plantations. Many of the chemicals used decades ago on the plantations have been banned because of their toxicity, like DDT, and some plantation sites are brownfields or Superfund sites today.

Pala quotes Gary Hooser as saying the companies don't pay excise taxes, when of course they pay them just like everyone else on every product they buy in Hawaii.

Pala also writes that “local schools have been evacuated twice due to pesticide use” when a state Department of Agriculture study found not one case of school evacuations in all of Hawaii has been caused by agricultural pesticide applications. The two evacuations on Kauai were due to a homeowners' misuse of pesticides.

Pala also badly bungled his reporting about the Joint Fact Finding Group and mischaracterized Dr. Lee's Evslin's work, prompting JFFG facilitator Peter Adler to issue this statement:

His piece will surely circulate widely on Kauai and elsewhere in the state where people are keenly interested in GM agricultural issues. Whatever the respective merits of the rest of his piece may be, however,  the article had several unfortunate mistakes and some important omissions that need a response. This is being sent to The Guardian, The Garden Isle, and to other writers and journalists who are following the work of the JFF.
The Joint Fact Finding Study Group is not a “commission”. It is a special fact-finding group composed of Kauai citizens who have different sets of technical, medical and scientific expertise and who volunteered to do the very hard work of thoroughly examining as much available factual evidence as is possible during a year long project. Both the State of HawaiĘ»i Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Mayor, County of Kauai, jointly fund the project.
More important, the article misconstrues and conflates statements made at a meeting with some Waimea residents on August 6th by Dr. Lee Evslin, one of the nine members of the Study Group, and myself. I stated that the job of the JFF group is to gather together the best available factual information about the seed company’s agricultural and pesticide footprints and any possible evidence of human or environmental health harms. In that context, I explained that we have not yet concluded our work, are not yet ready to issue findings or opinions, and are not conducting “original research”.

Mr. Pala then wrote: “Lee Evslin, plans to do just that. “I want see if any health trends stand out among people that might have been exposed to pesticides,” he says in an interview. “It won’t be a full epidemiological study, but it will probably be more complete than anything that’s been done before.”

As juxtaposed in Chris Pala's article, this muddied the definition of “original research” and made it appear as if Dr. Evslin is conducting research in opposition to the JFF group. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact (and this point was made clear to Mr. Pala by Dr. Evslin), the JFF group is very much on the same page and working together. All data collection efforts, examinations, and analyses are coordinated through the Study Group and a part of the broader mandate  to look at critical pesticide use patterns and possible health and environment implications.

To clarify: the Study Group is a neutral forum and remains apolitical and committed to the discovery process that will lead to greater factual clarity in the sometimes difficult debates over pesticide use on Kauai.  It should be obvious that part of our mandate is to look at health trends, including birth defects data, which we are doing. 

Virtually no part of Pala's story is accurate. It is a one-sided hit piece, top to bottom, without even the hint of an attempt at balance.

I contacted his editor at The Guardian, Nicole Flatow, and pointed out just a few of Pala's errors. Her response:

I've gone over each of the points you raise with the writer and haven't identified inaccuracies that merit a correction. However, we are always grateful for feedback and will keep your perspective in mind moving forward. Quite an interesting issue.

Yes, it is an interesting issue. Sadly, The Guardian has done its readers a terrible disservice by presenting a deeply flawed report of it — and failing to retract the article, or even issue a correction, when its many errors were pointed out.

Just a little something to keep in mind next time you peruse The Guardian or see a piece by Christopher Pala.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Musings: Crackpots and Cranks

Why does The Garden Island keep giving valuable space and credence to people who don't know WTF they're talking about?

First we had the kayak operators speculating wildly about some mad diversion project surreptiously siphoning water from their “Secret Falls” tourist attraction, and absolutely refusing to believe the falls dried up to drought.

Now we have the same reporter, Brittany Lyte, treating Hanalei crackpot Terry Lilley as a credible source even when he's been repeatedly proven wrong.

Yesterday, Brittany gave us the “news flash”  that Hanalei River was full of dirty water and there was a brown water advisory issued for the Bay. While this may be a revelation to that newbie reporter, it's old hat for the North Shore after a rain.

Brittany quoted Lilley as blaming a Hanalei River restoration project for the dirt. Yet even after state officials checked out the site, found no wrongdoing and determined “[s]heeting piling installed prior to the recent rainstorms appears to have prevented the flooding of Hanalei River from eroding a soil stockpile and other features at the work site,” today she  gives Lilley space to repudiate those findings, without offering any evidence of his own:

At least one environmentalist — Hanalei biologist and videographer Terry Lilley — isn’t buying what the state is saying, however.

Who cares whether Terry buys it? The guy's a total flake, which his own words confirm:

Lilley, who compared the sediment event to the Ka Loko Dam break that killed seven people in 2006 when a wall of water washed them out to sea, said he plans to file a complaint for violation of the Clean Water Act.

Really? Comparable to the dam break? What an idiot.

Yet TGI gives his rantings the same credibility as two inspectors from the state's Clean Water Branch and civil engineers. Just as it gave speculations by kayak operators full weight, without even attempting to contact the folks who actually operate the water system.


Is it any wonder that Kauai residents are so horribly misinformed? They may as well get all their "news" from Facebook or Andy Parx's blog.

As a friend observed:

For all the money these rich guys piss away on dairies and other hobbies in this town, what a great thing it would be to buy TGI and install a professional staff. I guarantee the paper would flourish.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Musings: Forwards and Back

The other day, I spotted this meme on Facebook:
It's appealing, in that simplistic way of memes, but what does it really mean?

Don't most, if not all, of the activities that humans engage in — driving, flying, eating food, drinking water, ordering from Amazon, using computers and cell phones, having kids, taking vacations, furnishing homes, burning energy (be it cow dung or oil), to name but a few — contribute in some way, large or small, to destroying the planet, killing other human beings?

Is it even possible for us to simply exist — 7-plus billion strong and growing — without destroying our planet or killing people?

We can't blame technology for our plight, because slash and burn agriculturists, and even hunter-gatherers, had their own impacts on the planet. Nor can we blame religion or politics, because our behavior pre-dates all of that, and those are human constructs, anyway.

It's the combined sum of our activities over the 200,000 years that humans have occupied the planet. We're all in this together, in terms of both the problems and the solutions.

I thought about that when I read Jan TenBruggencate's Raising Islands blog post on Hawaii's beautifully-patterned land snails. Some 95 percent of the species have gone extinct, a systematic extermination that began with the arrival of the Polynesians and accelerated with the arrival of westerners, massive land clearing for agriculture and the introduction of invasive species.

It's a process that's been repeated around the world and continues today as we precipitate the “sixth extinction,” which is also the title of a book by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. As Kolbert notes in an interview with National Geographic:

There are very few, if any, extinctions that we know about in the last 100 years that would have taken place without human activity.

The sort of fundamental question is, can 7.3 —going toward 8, going to 9 billion people —live on this planet with all of the species that are now still around? Or are we on a collision course, in part because we consume a lot of resources that other creatures also would like to consume? That’s a question I can’t answer.

There are two questions that arise: One is, OK, just because we’ve survived the loss of X number of species, can we keep going down the same trajectory, or do we eventually imperil the systems that keep people alive? That’s a very big and incredibly serious question.

And then there’s another question. Even if we can survive, is that the world you want to live in? Is that the world you want all future generations of humans to live in? That’s a different question. But they’re both extremely serious. I would say they really couldn’t be more serious.

There's another question, that is also very serious: How are we altering humans in the course of altering the planet and all of its other species?

A friend recently sent me a link to an article that ran last year in The Atlantic about toxic chemicals that are blamed for widespread cognitive and behavioral problems. A former teacher, he wondered if this could explain the changes he saw in his students over the years, most notably the advent of ADD and ADHD. 

The chemicals include methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, ethanol, lead, arsenic, and toluene, manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, tetrachloroethylene, polybrominated diphenyl ethers and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.

Still, as the article's author writes:

I found that the real issue was not this particular group of 12 chemicals. Most of them are already being heavily restricted. This dozen is meant to illuminate something bigger: a broken system that allows industrial chemicals to be used without any significant testing for safety. The greater concern lies in what we’re exposed to and don’t yet know to be toxic. Federal health officials, prominent academics, and even many leaders in the chemical industry agree that the U.S. chemical safety testing system is in dire need of modernization. Yet parties on various sides cannot agree on the specifics of how to change the system, and two bills to modernize testing requirements are languishing in Congress.

Could these exposures also be contributing to the increased rates of dementia and degenerative brain disease we're seeing? After all, Boomers are the first generation to be exposed to so many toxins, frequently before regulatory schemes were developed.


It seems we're all participants in a grand, largely unplanned experiment that is changing life and the planet as we know it. Still, some risks and fears are real, and others, like genetically engineered products, are perceived, even manipulated, by special interests. It behooves us to discern the difference if we want to take meaningful steps toward change. 
Because there is no "going back."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Musings: Follow Ups

To follow up on yesterday's post, representatives from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, state Division of Parks and Commission on Water Resource Management came to Kauai and met with the kayak operators about the “missing waterfall.”

They toured the area above the falls, checked out all the ditches, and guess what? They determined Uluwehi Falls dried up because of the drought, just as the state had been saying all along. Nobody is “stealing the water” or doing anything sinister to mess with a tourist attraction that the kayak companies relentlessly promote as "Secret Falls." 

Meanwhile, three inches of rain fell in the area and the falls were partially restored yesterday— by nature. Folks might also have noticed that the same rain turned Opaekaa into a respectable waterfall again.

As a friend noted, “So .can we label people who don't believe that a drought can turn off a waterfall 'climate change deniers?'"

Hopefully, some of the kayak operators will use this opportunity to learn more about Kauai watersheds and stream flow patterns so they don't make ignorant comments like, “Makaleha had falls so Uluwehi should be running.” Makaleha feeds Kapaa Stream, which is quite a ways from the Wailua River.

In following up on Council Chair Mel Rapozo's quest to audit the Kauai Humane Society, I learned the nonprofit agency already provides the county with full detailed financials on a quarterly basis, as well as statistical program information. It also submits a yearly outside audit. 

So what, exactly, is Mel looking for, if he doesn't want to get into how many cats are being euthanized? Or was he just responding to pressure from the folks who want to save all the feral cats and turn KHS into a no-kill shelter?

The Hawaii County Council, meanwhile, rejected a proposal from Councilwoman Margaret Wille — the same politician who pushed through the GMO ban that was overturned by the court — to stop using glyphosate and a number of other herbicides in county facilities.

As West Hawaii Today reports, the bill was facing certain death when Wille yanked it from discussion. The public works department had estimated a glyphosate ban would add $2 million to $5 million to its annual budget for keeping roadsides and ditches free of weeds.

In other news, the Kauai Planning Commission last week removed a condition that would have prohibited Shredco, a composting company in Kekaha, from processing green waste from the seed companies.

Chair Angela Anderson had pushed the condition requiring Shredco to keep seed company green waste separate and ensure the public received none of the mulched material. But Shredco's attorney, Lorna Nishimitsu, asked for a reconsideration, saying there wasn't room on the 12-acre site to segregate materials and the owner has no way of knowing whether materials brought in by others might also contain genetically modified organisms.

Nishimitsu also noted that “restricting materials from seed companies is beyond the scope and jurisdiction of this commission” because there is “no federal or state prohibition on growing GMO organisms” and the company's pesticide use is similarly in compliance with the law.

Angela defended the condition, saying it's “our duty to protect the public trust, protect our ground water” and “make sure the public is aware of possible pesticides and contamination in the [compost] they receive. The public has a right to know what's going on. If these materials are co-mingled, there would be no way to trace where this particular toxin came from.”

Well, if you're using that logic, then you'd need to also separate green waste brought in by golf courses, resorts, the county, landscapers and others who use pesticides. And you'd have to impose similar conditions on other compost operations.

Councilman Gary Hooser predictably supported the condition, claiming that compost produced from the green waste could “contribute to inadvertent and unwanted contamination of other crops.” He also thought the material should be tested, and include public disclosure. Gary once again submitted testimony that reflected the position of his nonprofit group, HAPA, but was typed up by county staff on county letterhead.

Gary also thought the topic should be reposted because language on the planning commission agenda “does not provide the general public sufficient notice as to what action is actually being considered.” In other words, it slipped by the anti-GMO folks, who didn't have time to get all fired up.

The commission, with the exception of Angela, voted to remove the condition from the permit.

And finally, Lisa Arin, who recently left her job at the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, plans to challenge Prosecutor Justin Kollar in the 2016 election. Lisa faces an uphill battle, since she's a political neophyte and Justin has gotten amazingly well-connected. And unlike his predecessor, Shaylene Iseri, Justin has no scandals to exploit.

Still, it's always good to give people a choice of candidates. Oh, and note to former deputy prosecutor Melinda Mendes – you might want to nix that Facebook picture of you wearing one of Shay's lei if you plan on stumping for Lisa.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Musings: Cry Me a River

The latest bit of fear-mongering to hit Kauai involves water theft.

I'm talking about unfounded claims that the seed companies and other farmers and ranchers are "stealing" water from the streams, causing the waterfalls to run dry.

The so-called “public affairs” programmers at KKCR have been promulgating this agitprop for a while, because of course they're all hydrology experts now, and it feeds their anti-GMO agenda. 

Then today, The Garden Island weighed in with an article about how Secret (Uluwehi) Falls has dried to a trickle. And — gasp — that does not please the tourists.

Though the article includes a quote from the state correctly attributing the situation to drought, it gives more weight to the vague conspiracy theories spouted by Wailua River kayaking proprietor Will Leonard:

But Leonard said he’s not sold on the idea that the waterfall’s dry spell is the result of a drought.

Other river users have seen a tractor at the top of the falls as well as a pump system that appears to be diverting the water that ordinarily pools above the falls, Leonard said. Leonard hasn’t seen it himself, but he’s seen cellphone video footage of the purported pump.

“To me it’s a question of, is the water being diverted and does somebody have a right to do that,” Leonard said. “It was drier this winter than it was in the last month and a half, and the falls was good all winter.”

Here's that video, the so-called “smoking gun":
video
Uh, Earth to Will Leonard and the KKCR propagandists: Do you really think a 1.5-inch pump can dewater a stream?

Here's what's actually going on.

The rancher in question is using 600 gallons per week, whereas the average household in Hawaii uses 600 to 800 gallons per day. So there's no way he's having any impact on the falls.  

And don't you think it's better to pump water to cattle, than to have them drink directly from the ditch, where they can trample the banks and make doodoo?

Oh, and btw, there are no diversions taking water from the eastside to the seed fields. There is one diversion that moves water from Blue Hole down to Puhi, where it's run through a ditch for tourist tubing activities.

The tractor, meanwhile, is engaged in clearing albezzia and planting trees for the Green Energy project. Which is a good thing, because albezzia is destroying island watersheds.

If activists are so concerned about protecting Kauai's water, they could go out and clear some of that albezzia themselves and/or do other watershed restoration projects. But no, they'd rather bitch about non-existent water theft. 

Or in the case of KKCR Djs Kaiulani Edens and Donovan Cabebe, tacitly encourage people to engage in criminal property damage by destroying the pump. Uh, doesn't KKCR have any standards for its programmers?

Curious, to see yet another iteration of this unholy alliance between so-called environmentalists, Hawaiian independence activists and tourism, which has done more to co-opt the culture and harm the environment than other industry.

Anyway, since some of the kayak companies filed a complaint, guys from state parks and the Commission on Water Resource Management are coming out to take a look today — just as they did when drought dried up Uluwehi Falls in 2010.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Musings: Here Kitty, Kitty Part IV

Though The Garden Island did a decent job yesterday of laying bare the myth that the Kauai Humane Society can become a no-kill shelter, it ignored the elephant in the room: feral cats.

Most of the animals euthanized each year on Kauai are not dogs, but wild cats. And with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 feral felines on the island, there's simply no way they can all find forever homes, or continue to roam without having a serious impact on native birds.

Cats also carry toxoplasmosis, a protozoan usually spread through their feces that has been linked to monk seal deaths. Native Hawaiians also have objected to the ongoing desecration and pollution of sacred sites with cat urine and feces.

So what to do with all them furry, four-legged critters? 

The Kauai Feral Cat Task Force will begin meeting today to hammer out a county ordinance aimed at controlling wild cats and regulating actions to maintain feral cat colonies.

In its final report, issued in March 2014, the Task Force identified the need for the county to:

[P]ass a comprehensive animal control ordinance that sets a goal of zero feral, abandoned and stray cats on the island by the year 2025.

The Task Force also called on the County Council to amend the cat licensing ordinance to:

Enforce penalties for owners of stray cats that are captured away from their own properties or on properties where permission has not been granted; fund additional humane officers at KHS to “seize and impound feral, abandoned, and stray cats” and issue citations; impose stiff fines for cat abandonment; redefine cat owners to include colony caretakers.

The Council has shown a willingness to repeal the barking dog ordinance and conduct a financial audit of KHS. Will it now exhibit some leadership in dealing with the hordes of feral cats?

It's important for a number of reasons, including the county's possible liability if cat colonies maintained in county parks and facilities kill endangered species. The Kauai County Attorney’s office did issue an informal opinion advising the County to ensure that “no actions [are] taken in support of any program that would return cats back into the wild where they could prey on legally protected animal species.” Others, however, question the county's liability in such circumstances.

In any case, the Task Force says no cat colonies should be maintained on county or private property without the owner's written permission, which can be revoked with 10 days' notice. It also calls for rigorously registering, certifying and monitoring cat colonies. It goes on to recommend:

Colonies must be properly maintained with a minimum 90% spay-neuter rate and overall goal of 100%. Sick or injured cats would be removed; new arrivals and new litters of kittens would be removed and made available for adoption or euthanasia.

Second phase: Five years after the cat ordinance is amended, all cat colonies must be located on private property, completely fenced, registered, certified, and monitored. Caretaking of TNRM colonies will be conducted by private individuals and not reliant on County funding.

The Task Force also recommended sterilizing any cats allowed outdoors and said the county should offer a free-spay neuter program through the end of 2016.

Australia and New Zealand, which like Hawaii have unique and rare endangered species, are taking drastic steps to reduce and eliminate their own feral cat populations, primarily through poisoning, trapping, shooting and otherwise culling the animals.


In Australia, researchers are checking cats for DNA evidence linking them to endangered species deaths, and euthanizing “problem predators.” They're also developing “toxic microchips” that would be embedded in the skin of an endangered species and break open during the an attack, poisoning the predator. 

In the face of this international effort to control the destruction wreaked by cats, there's a large, well-funded effort to push for the longterm management of wild cat colonies, rather than reducing or controlling numbers through euthanasia. Hawaii wildlife officials have said a trap-neuter-return program is insufficient to control the large numbers of wild cats on Kauai and protect endangered species.

Groups that oppose euthanizing feral cats, and want instead to manage them in large colonies, have already begun their attempts to derail the work of the Kauai Feral Cat Task Force by launching an attack on Humane Society director Penny Cistaro, as I've previously detailed.

It's important for average citizens to pay attention to this issue and urge the Council to place the needs and interests of Hawaii's rare birds over those of feral cats, which are, after all, an introduced invasive species.