Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Musings: Calabash

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho is asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that found he did not have the right to discipline the police chief.

In July, the Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled the mayor had no authority to suspend Police Chief Darryl Perry in February 2012. Though the police commission voted to reinstate Perry after the seven-day suspension, the mayor refused to allow him to return to work. The commission sued and lost in Circuit Court, but won on appeal when the ICA found that the police commission's power to discipline the chief is implied in its sole authority to hire and fire him.

The request for the high court review argues that the ICA “failed to properly contextualize the legal issue” when it focused solely on powers set forth in the County Charter and did not acknowledge the administrative limitations of the commission and the mayor's “authority to exercise direct supervision over” the department and chief.

So if the mayor supposedly has authority to directly supervise the department, why would you even need a chief and commission?

Grove Farm is using its September newsletter and website to state its side in the planned closure of an access road to Mahaulepu:

Over a year ago, complaints made by Surfrider's Kaua'i Chapter prompted the State of Hawai'i Department of Health's (DOH) Clean Water Branch to conduct numerous water sample surveys as part of their Sanitary Survey process in the Maha'ulepu watershed.

While the complainants speculated that the bacteria was caused by ongoing improvements to the area by Hawaii Dairy Farms (HDF), the State found no significant impact to the Waiopili Ditch from any activity that can be attributed to HDF or other lessees in the area.

The proposed dairy area is over a mile away from the beach and while previous cattle operations had leased the area for well over a decade, to date HDF has not brought in a single head of their cattle.

At the direction of the DOH, Grove Farm’s affiliate, Maha‘ulepu Farm LLC (Maha‘ulepu Farm), has closed its private road leading to Maha'ulepu as the DOH conducts additional testing to better determine the source of bacteria in the area. Maha‘ulepu Farm is willing to assist DOH, and will temporarily close its private roads to Maha‘ulepu to the public until DOH’s testing can be completed.

Upon completion of the testing at the end of November, Maha‘ulepu Farm intends to reopen its private roads to the public.

While fisherman access will remain unchanged, the area will be closed in an effort to preserve the quality of the testing and to ensure that test results are not compromised.

It's been fascinating to read some of the paranoid conspiracy theories circulating around this, including attempts to blame it on the Dept. of Ag seeking revenge against Surfrider. Uh, sure, right. WTF does DOA care if the road to Mahaulepu is open or closed?

And I'm still waiting for Surfrider's PR director, Robert Zelkovksy, to explain why, if the group is “anti-pollution,” and “not anti-ag,” as he claims, the group's most aggressive actions have been directed toward the dairy and seed companies, neither of which have been documented to be polluting.

In its coverage of campaign funding today, The Garden Island offered an inaccurate picture of Councilman Gary Hooser's finances. The paper reported that “Hooser has raised a total of $59,193.09” and “spent $64,542.97.” 

What it failed to note is that Hooser also took in $9,603 from “other receipts,” including matching funds, and a loan of $7,250, bringing his total receipts to $76,046. Then there's the additional $6,216.84 eligible for matching funds that was collected since the Aug. 13 disclosure report was filed.

Which brings Hooser's total receipts for this County Council campaign to a whopping $88,479.68. That's double Derek Kawakami's total of $43,775.11. And Derek came in first, while Hooser got ninth.

Guess there are some things that money just can't buy.

Hooser and Councilman Mason Chock are featured in Civil Beat's candidate profiles, with Hooser curiously neglecting to mention his presidency of the anti-GMO HAPA advocacy group under “community organizations.”

Chock, meanwhile, opines:

Our community deserves critical thinking and healthy conflict that will result in the best possible outcomes for the county.

No shit. Instead, we've gotten the exact opposite.

He then devolves into near-gibberish:

I am a leadership development facilitator by trade and believe change is best achieved through the art of mobilizing people towards a shared vision and outcome that they agree should occur. At the Council level, this requires independent thinkers who are willing to disagree in the spirit of seeking a common outcome through intense problem solving and dialogue and then commit to the direction set by the collective voice.

Before ending on a note of insight:

Maybe if voters were to elect people into office who value listening to all points of view rather than a specific mindset or agenda, we would experience more openmindedness and objectivity from elected officials.

Guess that rules out Hooser.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Musings: Agreeing on Facts

A recent contentious post prompted a comment from a reader lamenting, “where's the center?” in conversations about GMOs and pesticides.

It's a good question, and one that's certainly relevant as Kauai, and hopefully the rest of Hawaii, begins the process of healing from the social rift and community polarization caused by pesticide/GMO activism.

In responding, one of the first things that came to mind was a recent guest editorial in the Star-Advertiser by Joni Kamiya, who wrote that we need to “start to agree on the facts.”

Yeah, the facts are a really good place to start. So in this and upcoming posts I'm going to be scrutinizing claims and facts, in hopes the reasonable among us can find some agreement.

Because right now we have people saying really extreme stuff like, “the chemical companies are totally unregulated and the GMO crops are poisoning people.” Most recently, that ludicrous claim was revised to assert that they are having "an unjustified disproportionate and adverse effect Native Hawaiians.”

In fact, according to the state Health Department, the number one cause of poisoning fatalites in Hawaii is drugs, which “caused almost all (93%) of the poisonings, including 37% from “sedative-hypnotic and psychotropic drugs”, and 29% from “narcotics and hallucinogens”. Pesticides are way down the list, and they are associated primarily with home use, not agriculture.

These graphics from the state's Poison Prevention Hotline annual report offer more detail:
We also hear a lot about how we have to protect the keiki from ag pesticides,with mandatory buffer zones the most frequently touted remedy. But what is really poisoning Hawaii keiki?
And again, products found in the children's homes are the most likely to cause harm.

Though a Center for Food Safety "fact sheet" asserts that "there have been at least six episodes of pesticide-induced illness at schools since just 2006," it leaves out the good part: not one came from agriculture. In fact, there have been 16 such episodes since 2006, with the culprits identified as a school janitor, a turf company and household pesticide use.

The seed companies, like anyone who uses pesticides, are indeed regulated. They're regulated by the state, which issues their pesticide applicator license, and by the EPA, which sets the standards for pesticide use. You may not think the regulations are sufficient, and no doubt some will claim that the EPA has been infiltrated by the chemical companies. None of that changes the fact that they are regulated, and those who violate the law are subject to both civil and criminal penalities.

As I've previously reported, the seed companies in Hawaii are actually subjected to far more rigorous and frequent oversight than agricultural entities on the mainland. Because there are so many growers on the mainland, they may encounter a pesticide inspector only once every five years, compared to several times annually in the Islands — or more often if people are complaining.  

We also hear “pesticides are poison.” It's a favorite tactic of groups like Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice to pad their complaints and literature with all sorts of scary data about pesticides.

No one is disputing that pesticides are poison. They are designed to kill insects and weeds. That's why they are so carefully regulated. But when it comes to health, there are two issues at stake: Are people being exposed to pesticides from agricultural operations? And if so, is that exposure occuring at harmful levels?

Thus far, we have seen absolutely no indication that either is occuring. Indeed, every study that has been done — even those by the antis — detected pesticides at only trace amounts, far-far below federal safety standards. 

Though people like Joint Fact Finding facilitator Peter Adler are trying to build a case for harm from chronic, low-level exposure, those threshholds have not yet been set by the federal government, which is the responsible entity, not the state. 

So when Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff claims, "The public is at risk and the Department of Agriculture is asleep at the wheel," he's telling a bald-faced lie.

We also hear often hear that "no exposure/residue is acceptable." Again, that's a belief system. 

In fact, the EPA conducts a lengthy, science-based review, based on federal safety standards, before manufacturers can sell pesticides in the United States.  As a result of this process, the EPA determines applicable buffer zones for the product, whether it can be used indoors, the safe re-entry time, acceptable exposure levels for human and environmental health and many other factors. 

In setting exposure rates, it builds in a large safety buffer. The EPA also has a science-based risk-assessment process, with a robust public comment process, to assess and set pesticide tolerance levels for each crop.

After hearing Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety and Councilman Gary Hooser make a big hoo-haw about chlorpyrifos, I actually waded through the EPA's risk assessment on the product. I came away reassured that the EPA looks at these products carefully, and convinced that it would be nearly impossible for anyone on Kauai to be exposed to chlorpyrifos through drift from the seed fields, as the antis have alleged. And county tests showed it's not in the water. 

So it's highly unlikely anyone on Kauai is even being exposed to ag uses of chlorpyrifos, much less harmed, even though critics can point to a long list of bad things that can happen to people who are exposed.

We see another example of intentional dishonesty with Kimo Franklin's  letter to the editor, published in Sunday's Star-Advertiser. The Maunalua-Hawaii Kai activist writes: 

The problem is, seed-crop companies and all the land they occupy in Hawaii don’t grow one ounce of food for local consumption. Properly managed diversified agriculture should be the agricultural priority for Hawaii. Bottom line: Grow food for Hawaii’s population first. Then Hawaii can decide how to help feed the rest of the world.

The fact is, there is plenty of land available for growing food, and whatever people want to grow. As I pointed out just last week, the seed companies control roughly 10,000 acres, about half of which are actively planted. This represents but a tiny fraction of the 2 million acres of ag land available in Hawaii today. What's missing are farmers, markets, an economically competitive crop.

What's more, the seed industry is defined as diversified agriculture, and its efforts to preserve irrigation systems and other ag infrastructure support all farming. So it's totally in keeping with the state Constitutional directive to “conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable land” — even if Kimo wants to pretend otherwise.

It's patently false to claim that the seed industry is somehow taking away any effort to grow food for Hawaii's population. Indeed, it's actively supporting food production, as I discovered when I toured Pioneer's Waialua farm and saw all the ways it's helping local farmers. 

Though I've been called a chemical company shill, I have no real interest, economic or otherwise, in the agrochemical companies operating in Hawaii. I got into this issue primarily because I saw a lot of fear-mongering lies being treated as fact to promote Bill 2491. 

And that's when I started drilling down to find out what's real.

At the time, I found a video, based around a song parody, that had been produced by a UC-Davis livestock lab that uses both conventional and genetic engineering breeding. As one lyric goes, "Tiny lies, turn to big, suddenly they're known as truth."

That's exactly what I saw happening on Kauai, and elsewhere in the GMO debate, and it reaffirmed my own commitment to look for the facts. They're an ideal starting point for reasonable, rational discussion, and the best hope for reaching some sort of agreement. 
So can we agree on these facts? 

1) The seed crops and other pesticide users in Hawaii are regulated. 

2) There is currently no evidence of human or environmental harm from seed company operations. 

3) Homeowners are the primary source of pesticide poisonings. 

4) Drugs, not pesticides, are the primary source of poisonings in Hawaii. 

5) The seed companies are not a deterrent to food production, and in some instances are actually supporting it.

If you disagree, please be prepared to present some facts to back up your claims.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Musings: Kick 'Em

The Grove Farm road that allows public access to Mahaulepu beach will be closed for two months during bacterial studies in the Waiopili Ditch and Poipu-Koloa watershed area, the state Department of Health announced yesterday.

The news comes as no surprise — DOH indicated last May a beach closure was likely, though the proposal then was for four months this past summer. Now it's Sept. 26 to Nov. 30.

Nor is it any surprise that Friends of Mahaulepu and Surfrider are desperately trying to distance themselves from the action their endless complaints precipitated. As The Garden Island reports, “some locals” — FOM's Bridget Hammerquist and Surfrider's Carl Berg — “are questioning the motives” of DOH.

Yes, we understand Surfrider and FOM don't want to take any heat for being responsible for the lengthy closure of a popular beach. And we realize their real agenda has always been stopping the proposed dairy, not protecting public health.

But when you've been publicly bitching for months about how DOH is falling down on the job and Grove Farm is allowing its tenants to pollute the wai and kai, it rings a bit hollow when you start to question why DOH and GF are now doing exactly what you've been screaming at them to do: accurately determine the cause of high bacteria counts at Waiopili.

The beach closure is yet another example of the “unintended consequences” of activism by groups eager to target any possible source of pollution — save for tourism, and themselves.

And is anyone else tired of the self-proclaimed water quality experts at Surfrider and FOM acting like they know best how DOH should operate, when their own anti-ag biases are manifest? Not to mention the way TGI laps up their every word, without question.

Speaking of lousy reporting, the low standards at Civil Beat dropped yet another notch with publication of a secretly recorded video showing Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi offering a drunken, profanity-laced toast to Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho in a privately-hosted reception at the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials.

Though the video has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and isn't even entertaining, reporter Chad Blair justifies it because “Kenoi has been accused by criminal prosecutors of using taxpayer money to buy, as the prosecutors put it, “exorbitant amounts of alcohol.”

Uh, except that's totally irrelevant, since no taxpayer money was used to host the after-hours Kauai Hyatt hospitality suite where the toast occurred. And I think we already know Billy has a drinking problem.

"Kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down..." 
Yeah, yeah. I know. I shouldn't talk. But I wouldn't have tried to pass that off as news. And it gives me a chance, during this horrible Presidential election, to post Don Henley's great song.

Though CB branded the video like it was its own, it was actually lifted from the Facebook page of Jonathan Scheuer, a member of the state Land Use Commission. So curious, that CB fails to note the one thing that actually is interesting about this shtick: a public official secretly taping other public officials.

To his credit, Scheuer deleted the two videos he'd taken at the event, and issued a FB apology:

First, the regular folks at the party did not expect to be videoed, even if the videos were not primarily of them. Second, the videos may have given some people the wrong impression that all we do is drink and party at this conference. This was one after-hours gathering at a three-day conference that is digging deeply into many substantive issues that face our islands. I am friends with many, many people at this conference, and many planners around the state, and they are some of the most dedicated people I know. I really regret having posted the videos for those reasons, and apologize to my planning colleagues for the harm this may have caused. I am sorry. :(

But too late. CB had already picked it up. No doubt Jonathan will experience a few cold shoulders and closed doors after this.

While we're on the topic of kicking failed politicians, Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser has managed to scrape together $8,837 in donations eligible for matching public funds. Thus far, he's the only Kauai Council candidate to report post-primary donations and seek matching funds for the general election.

That gives Gary another $17,674 to tamp down a rat hole — on top of the $64,543 he already blew in the primary. 

Hmm. Do you suppose $82,217 can buy him a Council seat that pays $56,000 a year? (And untold undisclosed perks from his HAPA nonprofit. Switzerland, anyone?)

So interesting to see sleazes like Hanalei boat king Joe Pascal and cat fanatic Basil Scott, who has been leading the vicious attacks against Kauai Humane Society director Penny Cistaro, among Gary's donors. 

And more than 20 percent of the total ($1,959, to be exact),  came from off-island folks — including Josh Stanbro, program director of environment and sustainability at Hawaii Community Foundation.

As I've noted, the decidedly opaque HCF has stepped up funding for the antis in recent years. Now we see why. 

Go, Josh! And I mean that literally.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Musings: Iwi on Mauna Kea

Native Hawaiian burials have long been a political and cultural hot button in the Islands, where numerous disputes have raged over the discovery and disinternment of iwi kupuna during development.

But the issue has taken a bizarre new twist with the revelation that a Big Island activist intentionally placed bones on an ahu atop Mauna Kea in an effort to derail the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
Mauna Kea sunrise, as seen from Hilo.
According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

Palikapu Dedman, who is facing potential criminal charges, told the Tribune-Herald he placed iwi, or bones, belonging to an ancestor on the stone altar last September and then again earlier this month after realizing the first set of bones went missing.

He declined to provide details for how he got the remains but claimed they belong to relatives and that they are from Ka‘u, his ancestral home. Dedman said he has more.

He said he wanted to show the area is a Hawaiian burial site, a claim made by some opponents of the proposed telescope.

“It’s a traditional process,” said Dedman, an activist involved in geothermal and Native Hawaiian issues. “I had a right to do it.”

His actions were condemned by both telescope proponents and some cultural practitioners, who contend Dedman's use of iwi for political purposes was inappropriate, and thus tantamount to desecration. 

According to a statement issued by Yes2TMT and signed by Amber Imai-Hong, Chris Stark, John Evans, Naea Stevens. Niki Thomas, Thayne Currie and Veronica Ohara:

While protest is a critical component of living within a free democratic society, this disrespectful and culturally inappropriate action is beyond the pale and far outside the bounds of respectful protest or socially conscious civil disobedience.

Our deceased loved ones’ remains should be revered, not used as political pawns. Disinterring a grave to promote a lie about the TMT site does not "protect Mauna Kea". It is not "kapu aloha". It is desecration: any TMT protester who assisted in this heinous act likewise has participated in desecrating Maunakea.

Traditionally, only the bones of chiefs were placed in such high places. It's unclear whether Dedman has royal lineage.

Though the 2010 EIS conducted for the TMT project identified five burials and 24 possible burials within the entire Mauna Kea Science Reserve, none are within a mile of the proposed telescope site, prompting a finding that the TMT would not adversely impact either burials or burial blessing practices.

Nevertheless, as the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports:

Harry Fergerstrom, a participant in the contested case for TMT’s land use permit, recently submitted a “notice of burial claim under the proposed TMT site” as part of the quasi-judicial hearing. He said a relative told him that there are remains of his ancestors near the access road for the project.

Others noted that Dedman's tactics served to undermine the authority of Island Burial Councils, which are charged under state law with approving a burial plan for the relocation of any Hawaiian remains.

What I found especially disturbing was how Dedman's actions give ammunition to those who have criticized burial preservation efforts, claiming that kanaka have been “using” iwi kupuna to slow or stop development.

It also raises an ethical issue that has troubled me about GMO opponents and other activists whose behavior seems to reflect a belief that the ends justify the means.

The Yes2TMT statement also raised that point:

The TMT is a complicated issue for Hawaiians and Hawaii residents. We can respect those who oppose TMT on principled grounds and with honorable actions, even if we strongly disagree. This act, however, is unprincipled and dishonorable, communicating that the ends justify the means and the truth does not matter.

Thus far, TMT protesters have either been silent on this act or, incredibly, have supported it. No doubt, at some point the full truth of what happened will be revealed to all the island’s residents. But for now we call on upon those in opposition to TMT to join us in publicly condemning this desecration and challenge any others who participated in it to come forward and publicly apologize.

Curiously, an article posted on the KAHEA website reports Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the petitioners seeking to stop the TMT through the legal process, as saying:

"We have actual evidence that accounts for archaeological sites and burial grounds. Thirty more burials have been found since the [2011 BLNR] hearing. It is the burial ground and the place of our most sacred ancestors. The whole mountain is a burial site, and they haven’t even done a burial treatment plan.”

If that's the case, then why did Palikapu feel the need to import iwi from Ka'u?

According to Hawaiian scholar and educator Mary Kawena Pukui:

In the pre-Christian creeds of Hawaii, man╩╗s immortality was manifest in his bones. Man's blood, even bright drops shed by the living, was haumia (defiled and defiling). Man's body, when death made flesh corrupt, was an abomination and kapu (taboo). The iwi survived decaying flesh. The bones remained, the cleanly, lasting portion of the man or woman who once lived. The bones of the dead were guarded, respected, treasured, venerated, loved or even deified by relatives; coveted and despoiled by enemies.

With or without ╩╗unihipili [deification] rituals, there was a feeling that the spirit might yet be hovering near the iwi. If the bones were desecrated, the spirit was insulted. Even the living descendants of the profaned dead were shamed and humiliated. So the Hawaiians believed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings: Rumblings and Grumblings

Over in the murky world of anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca, amid the conspiracy theories, chem trails, anti-Semitism and other inchoate ramblings, emerged a distinct note of discontent:
Hmm. It seems the target of his grumblings is Gary Hooser's HAPA and the Center for Food Safety.

Could it be that even the rank among the file are discovering that these groups, and their leaders, are self-serving demagogic shams? 

Or is Dustin just pissed because they're getting money, and he isn't? 
Actually, I try to avoid Dustin's postings, because it's so sad to think of people living their lives in deep fear and ignorance, absolutely convinced they're the victims of a vast conspiracy aimed at wiping out their insignificant selves, poisoned from the sky via chem trails and through their food via GMOs:
And through it all, never realizing their paranoid, ill-informed belief system is what's truly toxic.
Returning to reality, not enough attention has been paid to economist Paul Brewbaker's new report on the seed industry in Hawaii.

First, there's the total annual economic value, which is currently estimated at $323 million. That's down from its peak of $500 million, due to the global drop in commodity prices and subsequent shrinkage of seed operations. The companies generated some 2,694 jobs in 2015 — 927 of them on Kauai.

As Beth-Ann Kozlovich noted on HPR's “The Conversation,” that means the seed industry must be the dominant sector in Island agriculture. To which Paul replied: “News flash. It has been for the last 10 years.”

When Beth-Ann brought up the oft-made claim that seeds are squeezing out food production and other diversified ag, again Paul pulled no punches.

“I don't even know why there is such a discussion,” he replied, noting that the seed companies have control of 10,000 acres, about 5,000 of which are actively planted. Most of it is fee-simple land that the companies own.

The seed holdings represent but a tiny fraction of the 2 million acres of ag land available in Hawaii today. “Nothing is preventing everyone from going out and growing other crops,” he said.

Except, perhaps, for the will to actually do it. As the Hawaii Farm Bureau observed in a guest commentary on local food production published in Sunday's Star-Advertiser:

Though we hear a lot of talk about farming, it’s not translating into committed bodies on the land. Instead, we hear romanticized ideas about how we should be farming that don’t match the reality of food production in the islands.

In another guest editorial on the same topic, Joni Kamiya, who writes the Hawaii Farmers Daughter blog, noted:

Farming is one of the oldest professions in society and yet it has become so demonized by those with no attachment to it. When social media is filled with terrible things that farmers allegedly do, where’s the incentive for anyone to raise their hand to take on that challenge? We can’t cultivate more farmers if we continue to have a disregard for facts and truth about agriculture.

Which leads me to the oft-made claims about Roundup, or glyphosate. First, we have this from Michelle Miller — aka the “Farm Babe” — who raises lambs, beef cattle and almost 2,000 acres of row crops, such as corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa in Iowa:
Roundup is applied at a rate of approx. 22 ounces per acre, (just over half a liter, or 650 ml) which is less than 2 beer cans worth over an area of land the size of an American football field. One acre plants 35,000 corn seeds which yield on average, say... 220 bushels or over 12,000 pounds (6 tons) of grain. Since the active ingredient glyphosate makes up 41% of this with an LD50 value of 5600 mg/kg and is sprayed before the edible part of the plant is present, trace residues are parts per trillion. Therefore, 86 tons of grain (about 14 acres) would be an approximate calculation to pose alarm in humans.

Then there's the latest from the EPA, which has conducted three reviews of the controversial herbicide in response to new studies. Its most recent determination:

“Not likely to be carcinogenic.”

As NPR noted, this finding joins others:

The European Food Safety Agency convened a group of experts who concluded that glyphosate probably does not cause cancer. So did the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

I know, I know. The EPA and everybody else is in bed with Monsanto. Which is a curious belief system when you consider that groups like Earthjustice keep calling upon the EPA to exert more influence in Hawaii.

Still...
Oh, and you know how yesterday I mentioned that folks love to talk about sustainability, but actions are in short supply? Consider this, from the Kauai Surfrider's PR person:
Yeah. Enough of that. Laters.

When even those who are telling others what to do, don't want to do it, is it any wonder that it isn't getting done?

So can we please drop the holier-than-thou, pure-as-the-driven-snow rhetoric that frames so much of the talk about agriculture, economic development, sustainability, water, food and just about everything else?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Musings: Talking a Blue Streak

In endorsing Hawaii as the site for the recent International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shindig, President Obama wrote:

After successfully hosting APEC, “it is appropriate that Hawaii now turn its focus to the intersection of economic development and environmental sustainability.”

So what did Hawaii do? It navigated straight to the well-traveled intersection that has supported its economy for the past half-century: tourism.

In the exact same manner that has generated trillions over decades, Hawaii opened its arms to some 8,000 IUCN delegates and attendees who flew to Oahu Hawaii from points around the globe and stayed in the high-rise hotels of Waikiki.

We know that tourism has been an effective form of economic development for the Islands. Hawaii has that part down pat.

But there is no road to environmental sustainability from the tourism-economic development intersection. Tourism in Hawaii is inherently unsustainable. 

There is nothing green, save for money, in flying 8 million people annually to the most remote inhabited land mass on earth, cooling and transporting them with imported fossil fuels, feeding them imported food, selling them imported trinkets, decking them with imported lei, washing them with water pumped, via fossil fuels, from the finite sources of underground aquaducts.

Yeah, you might opt not to have your hotel towels and sheets washed daily. You might select a menu item prepared from locally-sourced greens. But at the end of the day, it's all window-dressing.

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who worked to land the convention for the Islands, was reported as saying:

What ultimately influenced the selection was that Hawaii is a “textbook operation” in confronting the very issues that the IUCN is focused on. They include water conservation, protecting endangered species, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and developing clean, renewable energy sources.

So why didn't Hawaii become a “textbook operation” on how states and nations must grapple with the immense challenge of transitioning from an inherently unsustainable form of economic development, which includes nearly all enterprise — without driving people into poverty?

The closest they got, apparently, was when Katherine Novelli, the U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said:

“Economic activity and environmental sustainability have to go hand in hand. You can’t tell people that their alternative is to starve to death.”

Yes, that we already know. But how, exactly, do you do you achieve that? For modern humans, that's proven an elusive goal. We have yet to figure out how to build that particular intersection.

As for the IUCN itself, what about the elephant in the room? By which I mean how tourism impacts all of the issues — conserving water and endangered species, reducing fossil fuel consumption — that it seeks to address? Where was the discussion on the environmental, social, cultural and political impacts of tourism (and that includes ecotourism)?

Some 16 years, I wrote a piece about a Sierra Club lawsuit that sought to force the Hawaii Tourism Authority to conduct an environmental assessment of the visitor industry's impact before spending $117 million over three years to promote tourism.

Though the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit, the HTA tried to smooth things over by saying, “the Sierra Club's concerns are being addressed in state studies that look at each island's tourism 'carrying capacity' from social, cultural, environmental and economic perspectives.”

In the decade-plus, have you seen that carrying capacity identified, much less enforced?

Meanwhile, the number of tourists has grown steadily, from 7 million when the lawsuit was filed to an estimated 8.8 million for 2016.

Roads are congested; beaches, trails and parks are overwhelmed; long-term rentals have been lost to the thriving legal/illegal vacation rental business; homelessess is on the rise; substance abuse is worsening; and locals are leaving for greener pastures, replaced by starry-eyed newcomers in search of paradise.

Environmentalists have turned away from scrutinizing tourism and are now focused on agriculture: fighting ag users for water, opposing GMO seed fields, suing to stop a pasture-based dairy, celebrating the demise of Hawaii's last sugar plantation.

Their focus now is on “organic farming,” “pure food,” “true food,” “food self-sufficiency,” as if the bat guano and neem oil, the weedblock and tractors, the GMO grain that Louisa Wooten feeds her goats to produce organic [correction; it is not marketed as organic] cheese isn't brought in from somewhere else, at significant environmental cost.

No doubt many of them were at the IUCN, speaking earnestly about the need to stop this or save that, without ever looking very closely at their own belief systems, expectations, activities — aside, perhaps from clutching a refillable coffee cup.

One of the organizers of the Hawaii IUCN was Chipper Wichman, a man I deeply respect, both as a human being and for his lifelong devotion to walking the talk of conservation. As Civil Beat reported:

Wichman said that a major benefit of hosting such a prestigious conference here is that it can influence local policy decisions, from City Council members to Gov. David Ige. He hopes that the conference will also capture the attention of the average Hawaii household.

“When we look at the return on investment in terms of impact on conservation, not only for Hawaii, but for the world, it’s incredible,” Wichman said. “It’s going to be catalytic.”

Yet the event itself was superficially reported, and a Star-Advertiser poll showed that most people had no interest in the proceedings. 

Shortly afterward, this comment was left in an article about the IUCN:

They said the event would bring at least $50 million in tax revenues to the state as well as allow Hawaii to showcase its commitment to environmental sustainability and renewable energy to a global audience.” So 13 million nets us 50 mill, for a profit of 37 million. I’ll take that deal every time.

And so does everybody else. Which is why we keep passing through the same intersection, blinders on, without ever looking very seriously for any side streets, any other way out, while talking a blue streak about going green.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Musings: My Way

Nine years ago today I launched Kauai Eclectic.

It was intended primarily as a way to finally discover, in middle age, my own voice. As a journalist, I'd been trained not to have one. And as a woman, and a child growing up in an abusive, alcoholic family, I'd been discouraged from expressing one.

But what is a writer, a person, without a voice? So I was determined to at least try and let my own emerge through Kauai Eclectic, as well as highlight issues that I felt needed to be covered.

The result has been 2,200 posts, each one reflecting what I considered interesting, pertinent and/or musable, expressed in whatever fashion seemed most appropriate for the mood and topic.

It's a process that has cost me, from the very beginning. I lost work. I lost connections. Frequently, I lost my temper.

It's a process that has benefitted me, from the very beginning. I gained my voice. I developed as a person. I learned a lot. I forged new connections.

I've been excoriated, scolded, cursed, lectured, prayed for, gossiped about, slandered, deemed a shill, likened to Hitler. 

I've been lauded, supported, shared, liked, republished, cheered, likened to Joan of Arc. 

I've been praised as a truth-teller, denounced as a liar.

All along, I've just been me.

Over the years, many of my views have changed, and not just about biotechnology. I've experienced significant shifts in my belief system as a result of education, reflection and personal healing, and some of that transformation has found its way into Kauai Eclectic.

I never dreamed when I began this blog that it would spur such intense reflections, such profound personal changes, but I'm so happy that it has. As Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Or as Bashar, “a channeled, multi-dimensional being, a friend from the future” might put it:
Some people think I've sold out, gone crazy, joined the dark side. I just laugh, because it's my journey, so I know it best. I've never felt happier, more solid, more authentically myself. I've lost all fear of speaking up.

Thanks for reading, and for being part of the process. And that goes even for my critics, who serve the contrarian role of providing me with motivation. I'm privileged to be a voice for the community.

I'll leave you with Sinatra (though don't take it too literally, cause I ain't going anywhere), or my preference, Nina Simone:

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

Yes, it was my way.