Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Musings: Call Out

Why, one might ask, would non-fishers who live in Kekaha and Kapaa begin advocating for a marine stewardship area off the Mahaulepu coast?

Well, when you consider that it's Gordon LaBedz, past president of Surfrider, a group staunchly opposed to the proposed dairy there, and Kalasara Setaysha, vice president of the whale advocacy group Kohola Leo, it's easy to connect the dots.
Though Gordon offers this rationale:

We picked the Maha'ulepu marine area because it is very windy and not used very much. Everything about this idea is non governmental. There is NO budget, no enforcement. It is a plan to bring the ocean user community together to see if there is agreement on limiting ourselves. If we can agree on little Maha'ulepu, maybe the idea might spread to other areas.

Southside kupuna Ted Kawahinehelelani Blake, who noted that none of those involved in the effort actually live in Koloa, isn't buying it:

Off the top, this looks like an anti-dairy initiative more than trying to preserve, protect and enhance the fisheries of Mahaʻulepu and Paʻa and the south shore.

This method of action is devious and upsetting. Coming thirteen ahupuaʻa away from his residence to cause pilikia in Koloa is a statement in itself. Reminds me of a line I heard by Val Kilmer in the movie Tequila Sunrise “I donʻt plant weeds in my yard so I can pull them.”

My attention was directed to four points that came to my mind after I read Mr LaBedz' meeting notice and his email thread:
  1. Is there a problem he is aware of here, that residents of Koloa know nothing about or is he just throwing his line out and hoping something bites the hoo?
  2. This is not place based but is driven by someone with poor and little knowledge of our area.
  3. Dumping his kukae in my yard then leaving, BAD MANNERS.
  4. Quote from his email, “We want the most passionate, opinionated fishermen we can find”. Why, cause empty cans make the most noise?

This type of irresponsible blow and go strategy has been going on too long.

Lyn McNutt then weighed in:

Ted pollution wise dairy is bad idea. Watershed already over acceptance levels and doesn't need more shit, so to speak. My parents lived in dairy country and leaks happened all the time. 

More concerned about fact that DLNR and others do not try to do anything about development and water diversions. Far far more pressing issue even for fisheries. Offshore getting stressed and fishers get blamed. Easy group to target but not main cause of declines. Voluntary rules are possible without NOAA inspired Makai Watch. What we gonna watch?  Sedimentation and pollution of reef from upstream pollution runoff from housing developments and lack of fresh water habitat due to water theft?

Though people like Lyn and Adam Asquith love to use inflammatory terms like “water theft” when talking about diversions, such as the recenty vandalized KIUC hydro diversion, the fact is that all the permitted stream diversions on Kauai are perfectly legal. What's odd is that Adam and his followers say nothing about the unpermitted diversions, like, say, the ones that Tom McCloskey created for landscaping purposes mauka of Kealia Kai.

Meanwhile, folks are continuing to take matters into their own hands. Just a few days ago, rocks were piled up to prevent water from flowing into an eastside irrigation ditch — one that is operating under a valid permit. Though no damage was done, farmers had their water flow temporarily disrupted.

As for attempts to stop the proposed dairy with claims it will pollute a “pristine” area at Mahaulepu — one that was cultivated in sugar for more than a century — Blake noted:

I trust the fact that 17 wastewater treatment plants, since the late 1980, with its 110 plus injection wells on the south shore, built from Lawaʻi Beach Resorts to the Hyatt Regency, specifically to handle sewage for all resort development, i.e., hotels, subdivisions,  condos, townhouses and vacation rentals (all marketed and bought by malihini) have added to the bacterial counts on the entire south shore from Mahaʻulepu to Lawaʻi Kai will be discussed in depth too.

I am not convinced, after touring the dairy site three times, armed with questions that were addressed and answered to my satisfaction, that the dairy would wreak havoc on the kahakai like many  assumptions already voiced. No tests has shown any evidence of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides (used by the sugar industry for over 100 years) in Mahaʻulepu Valley and throughout the entire ahupuaʻa of Paʻa and a majority of Weliweli too. As the soil is mostly clay in Mahaʻulepu Valley, one would expect to find evidence of the fertilizers and chem sprays in the ocean though that evidence never surfaced in the reports during the Dairy hysteria.

To prevent an Ag enterprise, on land classified as IAL [important ag lands] would be a “taking” and definitely require legislative action of at least 75% of the sitting legislature. Quite of a precedent for the Hawaiʻi Leg that is sure to be legally challenged by the Big 5.

The dairy, meanwhile, is continuing to slog through the EIS process that activists demanded — even though they rejected the draft EIS that found the dairy would have no impact. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Musings: Extremists

As the election nears, questions are being raised about why the Kauai Sierra Club has failed to endorse Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, long associated with environmental issues.

It seems the dissing is due to Club member Judy Dalton, a longtime cat lady who isn't pleased with JoAnn's leadership of the feral cat task force. Advocates of trap-spay-neuter and release are irked that the task force is drafting an ordinance that severely limits managed feral cat colonies.

Judy's feral cat advocacy is in direct opposition to the Sierra Club's stance, which correctly views the critters as the invasive species they are.

Meanwhile, even as Kauai Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro celebrated her retirement party last Friday, Basil Scott, leader of the Kauai Community Cat Project, is getting in a few last licks. He's now pushing a petition that calls for altering the county's contract with KHS:

We, the undersigned, call on the County of Kauai to change the wording of the current county contract with the Kauai Humane Society from ‘animal control’ of the population by ‘disposal and disposition’ to ‘animal- friendly, pro-life’ wording in order to stop the needless killing of animals.

Come on, Basil. I know you're a fanatic, but do you really, truly believe that anyone at KHS is engaged in “needless killing of animals?” It's such a nasty slap in the face to the folks who make the hard decisions every day while Basil rags on them from the totally unaccountable sidelines.

Because here's the reality, Basil, whether you and Judy want to accept it or not: There simply are not enough homes for all the animals on this island, and some of them are too wild or too aggressive to make suitable pets.

The county has never paid its fair share, and the KHS has been subsidizing the shelter for years. So unless you personally plan to take in all the unwanted animals, quit making humbug for people who are doing the best they can with extremly limited resources.

Maybe Basil should step up and run the shelter if he thinks it's so fricking easy. He could even bring in his good buddy Gary Hooser, who is going to need a new job come December.

And anyway, as Civil Beat reports, nearly 70 percent of those polled on Oahu favor eradication of feral cats, not maintaining managed colonies. I imagine the sentiment is similar, on the neighbor islands.

Meanwhile, attorneys are preparing for next week's Honolulu trial against KCCC Warden Neal Wagatsuma, who is accused of retaliating against a female staffer by firing her after she reported he was subjecting female inmates to psychological violence, sexual abuse and sexual humiliation in front of male prisoners, as well targeting inmate Alexandria Gregg, who was subjected to the degrading treatment.

According to court records in the complaint filed by plaintiff Carolyn C. Ritchie, a former social worker at the jail:

Plaintiff alleges that, in 2009 and 2010, she observed that: the work furlough program for the Life Time Stand ("LTS") housing section of KCCC was limited to men; Wagatsuma psychologically abused female inmates by video-recording "counseling sessions" of female inmates, in which he forced inmates to discuss private sexual matters and watch the screening of sexually violent rape films; and these video-recorded sessions were publicly displayed and shown to other inmates.

Plaintiff made repeated verbal and written reports to DPS Mental Health supervisor Mark Mitchell ("Mitchell"), specifically that: the grillings were cruel and unusual; the work furlough program was discriminatory; Wagatsuma violated inmate rights under [HIPA]; and DPS denied basic mental health services to female inmates.

Wagatsuma allegedly made the women stand in front of male prisoners, including convicted sexual offenders, and describe in excruciating detail all the incidents of childhood sexual abuse and rape they had experienced. The men were allowed to question the women. 

The warden also showed extremely graphic and violent pornography to inmates as part of his deviant homespun therapy model, and reportedly required the female detainees to hold up provocative, sexual photographs of themselves as he called them “whores.” He also questioned them about

Wagatsuma maintains Ritchie was filed for just cause after breaking rules.

In dismissing some counts within the orginal complaint, U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi wrote:

It is not clear to the Court, in particular, from the pleadings that making internal reports of psychological abuse of inmates is, in fact, part of Plaintiff's job duties. While the Court recognizes that the inmates' general psychological health was her responsibility, reporting abuse at the hands of her superior is likely not, and certainly not reporting it to outside agencies.

So whose job is it, exactly, to file a report when the warden is abusing inmates?

The state also reportedly investigated Ritchie's complaints and told Wagatsuma to stop his rogue “therapy.”

But isn't subjecting the women sexual abuse victims in his custody to degrading and humiliating treatment a fireable offense? Isn't practicing therapy without a license a fireable offense?

Why is the warden being allowed to remain a position where he can continue to victimize people?

No doubt Wagatsuma has, in the past, done worthwhile things at the jail. But he went way over the edge with this latest perverted gambit. It's time to move him out of a position where he has direct control over women, especially those who are incarcerated.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Musings: Water Diversion Vandalized

Shortly after two Kauai residents circulated inflammatory emails about a new water pipeline, a dam diverting water to two Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) hydro plants was vandalized.
Because the action targeted a utility — KIUC Chief Executive Officer David Bissel termed it “a deliberate sabotage of Kaua‘i’s electrical infrastructure” — local law enforcement officials are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism. They have called upon the FBI to investigate.

Given the extent of the vandalism, police suspect more than one person was involved. They apparently used a jackhammer or impact drill to chip a hole about 10 feet wide by 1 foot deep in the concrete, so that water flows through the dam, rather than over it and into a ditch. They also made multiple vertical cuts across the face of the dam.
In the process, concrete rubble and other debris was allowed to fall into the north fork of the Wailua River.
 Metal cables and rebar were also left exposed, creating a safety hazard.
“The entire diversion is compromised,” a utility official told me. “It could cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair, and the tab will be picked up by KIUC's members.”

A company that regularly monitors KIUC's hydro infrastructure reported the damage on Oct. 18, and believe it happened in the two weeks prior.

On Sept. 27, Adam Asquith, a taro farmer and Seagrant employee working with Waipa Foundation, sent state aquatic biologist Don Heacock an inflammatory email. It greatly mischaracterized the county Department of Water's plan to construct an 18-inch water main from Kapaia Reservoir to Grove Farm's surface water treatment plant (SWTP):
Heacock then sent the email on to others. Former mayoral candidate Dustin Barca posted the materials on Facebook, calling it a “a threat TO ALL OUR LIVES!!! This is WAR on our people! Everybody get ready to KU'E!!!!"

Dustin's post solicited a slew of comments, including threats and calls to action:
KKCR also got into the act, with Felicia Cowden hosting Asquith and Debbie Jackson, another misinformed water activist, on her show. At the 71-minute mark, Felicia takes a call from a man who says:

There's gonna be hundreds of people going to destroy all their water diversions and restore the natural flow. There are people on this island that are not going to let this diversion because of people and big business and everything and all the county council and all of that. They're not going to wait for that. If the river doesn't start flowing soon, people are gonna destroy the diversions. Local people who have culture that want to do their natural Hawaiian you know...

At this point, instead of denouncing the action, counseling against criminal property damage or cutting the guy off, Felicia interjects, “to correct the stream flow.” To which the guy replies, “Yeah, yeah." Felicia then ends the call with, “Thank you for that important piece. I appreciate that.”

As a bit of background, the water diverted from the North Fork flows into a ditch that supplies the two hydro plants. It's then returned to the South Fork of the Wailua River, some of which goes into the Kapaia Reservoir. The reservoir provides water to taro, flower, vegetable and fruit farmers, and cattle ranchers, as well as the SWTP.

Lihue Plantation created the diversion in 1926 to irrigate its sugar fields, and built the two hydro plants to generate electricity to run its mill. When it went out of business, the electric utility acquired the two hydro plants and maintenance of the ditches above them.

Though KIUC has a state permit that authorizes the diversion, it has been controversial because it can take 100 percent of the North Fork flow at times.

But observers said the vandalism was misguided for a number of reasons, besides its illegality. 

First, the diversion is allowed under a month-to-month revocable permit. Due to a recent court ruling, the state is now requiring all those permit holders to apply for a water lease, which includes conducting environmental and cultural studies.

Second, a Kauai resident who met with staff members from the state Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) last week said the agency was already planning to direct KIUC to alter the diversion so it didn't take 100 percent of the stream flow. Due to court rulings and CWRM decisions, the agency was moving to limit diversions to no more than 50 percent of the median low flow.

Third, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is currently in the process of setting instream flow standards for East Kauai streams. That's the first step in determining how much water can be diverted without causing environmental harm.

In short, the diversion issue was being sorted out through the state permitting process, which provides extensive public involvement.

Don and Adam were aware of this. So why did they feel the need to fan the flames to create the kind of hysteria that led misguided “aloha aina warriors” to take matters into their own hands? 

And when will the KKCR board start paying attention to the rhetoric of its programmers?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Musings: Another Day in Paradise

Out walking the beach behind Coconut Markeplace, in that time between night and dawn. All the hotel pools are lit up, though it's Newell's shearwater season, and the pre-dawn, post-dusk times are when they're the most vulnerable to light attraction. And why the hell do they need to illuminate their pools all night, anyway?

On the beach, tourists stand and sit, cameras in hand, waiting to record the birth of the sun, but in the meantime, they're watching the sleek black head of a monk seal, bobbing as it traverses the shoreline, in shallow water, looking to come ashore.

When it does, it's rushed by the tourists, intent on recording the event. It takes one look at the throng, turns around and flees toward the sea. You guys, I tell the tourists, it's trying to come ashore so it can rest, and now you've scared it off. It's actually illegal to approach the seals. 

They give me the 'fuck you' look and I trudge on, morning walk ruined now by the growling in my head, the seal well ahead of me, attempting once again to land, only to meet the same fate, and then I see it heading out to deeper waters.

The feral cats, meanwhile, are lining up near the oceanfront units, obviously accustomed to hand outs.

So where is the education, the enforcement? Where are the environmental groups?

Oh, they're busy trying to take down fishing and farming, which they have deemed some huge threat. Kauai Sierra Club's Judy Dalton is advocating for trap-neuter-release and feral cat colonies, though certainly she must know they prey on native birds, like the shoreline nesting wedgetails, and the taxoplasmosis in their doo-doo has killed monk seals.

Over on Oahu, Sierra Club director Marti Townsend is protesting against the hiring practices of the longline fishing fleet, taking a slightly different tack than the unceasing lawsuits filed by its lawfirm, Earthjustice, but all working toward a common goal: destroy the fishing industry. She's quoted as saying:

“It’s really about strict regulations and third party oversight. Everything that’s happening on these boats is legal. It’s just immoral.”

If the Hawaii Sierra Club is so worried about morality, why has it aligned with fear-mongerers and liars, like the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, Gary Hooser's HAPA (of which Marti's hubby, Ikaika, is a board member) and dishonest people like the University of Hawaii's Hector Valenzuela, who is using his job and public funds to rally against GMOs?

As the Genetic Literacy Project reports, Hector told PR Watch (in an article co-written by paid anti-GMO activist Paul Koberstein) this wild lie:

I am not an anti-GMO person, and I have never served as a spokesman for any anti-GMO group.

Yeah, it's just a coincidence that he shows up at all the anti-GMO rallies. Like, as the GLP points out, a protest organized by Occupy Monsanto, in which he addressed the crowd.vGLP continues:

Valenzuela also appears to be actively engaged with Babes Against Biotech, plastering their posters on his office door.

And even as Hector whines and moans about the ongoing harassment and intimidation supposedly directed at him — while never actually filing a formal grievance — it turns out Hector had compiled (using his UH email account) a 32-page dossier on Kevin Folta, the University of Florida horticulture chair and science educator. GLP reports:

Much of the information was cherry-picked from comments made by Folta on social media and blog posts going back several years. GMO Free USA appears to have used a lot of Valenzuela’s information to create memes encouraging its followers to harass Folta. Quite often notes appear to have been taken verbatim from Valenzuela’s dossier and posted to GMO Free USA without disclosure.

In the classic hypocrtical style of the antis, they even called on the University of Florida to fire Folta, using a made-up allegation and branding him a liar:
And call the university, they did. According to, “the university was so inundated with requests to fire Folta that it changed his office number and asked the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force to remain on alert.”

The harassment did not stop at just complaints to his university. The blog Skeptical Raptor described how ruthless some of these people were. In one email that Folta received, the writer described the location of where the Professor’s wife liked to bike, terrorizing her enough to become afraid of staying home alone. They even went to Craigslist:

One of the most vile personal attacks was from some cowardly and anonymous Craigslist poster who invoked Dr. Folta’s deceased mother to attack Folta’s reputation. And used childish and ridiculous language like calling him a “Monsanto whore.”

Professor Folta wasn’t surprised to learn of Valenzuela’s involvement:

He can’t take on science in the spirit of acceptable scholarship, so he gets in line with vile activists to defame legitimate scientists. I heard him on the radio on Kauai. I could not believe I was hearing someone claiming to represent a Land Grant University and a science-based perspective. He was pushing claims we know are not supported by evidence.

Yet somehow Marti and the Sierra Club and Earthjustice and Hawaii Center for Food Safety have drawn a line that places themselves among the “vile activists” — with their lies, intimidation, fear-mongering and overheated rhetoric — on the side of morality, and the fishing fleet and conventional farmers among the immoral.

I still don't get it.

While we're talking about the self-proclaimed moralists and Messiahs:
Yeah. Everybody better Realize what's going on here!! 

But it ain't what Dustin thinks.

Ah. Just another day in paradise.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Musings: What It Is

One of the best things — perhaps the only good thing — to come out of the presidential campaign has been a renewed focus on how women are treated and viewed in America.

A Facebook friend recently asked why revelations about Donald Trump's sexual escapades have garnered more coverage and outrage than Hillary Clinton's foreign policy.

That's easy. Far more women can relate to the denigrating experience of dealing with a man's unwanted sexual advances than the political affairs of another nation. And then, of course, there's America's fascination with anything sexual.

I've seen many women use social media, opinion pieces, radio interviews and other venues to share their own stories of being groped, fondled, kissed, grabbed, and otherwise sexually assaulted by strangers and familiars. It's invariably an upsetting, degrading, frightening and humiliating experience.
And though it's centered around sexual actions — and in the case of Trump, minimized as run of the mill “locker room talk” — it's really not about sex at all. Nor is it about how “hot” a woman may or may not be.

It's about power and control — the same dynamics at play in domestic violence. When men make unwanted sexual advances toward a woman, and she is unable, for whatever reason, to denounce or stop it, the man gains power over her, and thus control. Which is why it's a tactic so often used in the workplace and other professional settings, as well as against young girls.

If the woman speaks up, she risks making a scene, drawing attention to herself, getting fired or demoted, or being scrutinized for her own supposed culpability. If she says nothing, the man knows he has secured the power and control he seeks, and he moves on to other victims.

It's only by talking about this behavior openly — identifying and condemning it for what it really is — that we can free women from this burden and help their reclaim their own power.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Musings: Get a Clue

I was reading a Washington Post article the other day about the effect of stress on pregnancy:

Studies have shown that when women experience stress, anxiety and depression, it affects them as well as the developing baby. According to the March of Dimes, prolonged exposure to high levels of stress can cause health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, and may increase the chances of having a premature baby.

I couldn't help but wonder how the intense fear-mongering about chemicals and pesticides affected some of the women who were pregnant during the Bill 2491 process and its aftermath.

And then I wondered how any person in good conscience could continue to stoke those fears even though all the studies conducted to date — including those by the anti-GMO groups — have shown that pesticide drift from the seed fields is non-existent to negligible, and none of the claims about purported birth defects have been substantiated.

A comment posted yesterday perfectly expresses the wrong-thinking that is so prevalent around agriculture and food production, especially among well-fed westerners:

Best way to feed billions is to inspire billions to grow food- not to depend upon foreign corporations, many of whom profit immensely off of pesticides and herbicides and other kinds of poisons. Best way is to revitalize traditional and cultural methods of seed saving and agriculture that are proven to work well, and other methods not driven by profit. "Feed billions" is a propaganda term straight out of the mouths of these corporations, which value profit first over all else. If everyone in Hawaiʻi planted one breadfruit tree (1.4 million trees), then we would be well on our way to feeding ourselves.
First, it's apparent this person has no understanding at all of how “traditional and cultural methods of of seed saving and agriculture” are actually playing out in developing nations. As one example, consider sub-Saharan Africa, where drought regularly wipes out maize crops, leaving farmers with no food to eat, no seed to save and no crops to sell to pay for things like an education for their children.

In recent years, through the introduction of drought-tolerant hybrids, farmers have been able to grow enough to feed themselves and make a profit, which is helping them escape poverty. It's been possible through a public-private partnership that involves Monsanto, African NGOs and deep-pocket philanthropy by Gates, Warren Buffett and USAID. Africans control the seeds.

There isn't one nation on Earth where people aren't counting on others to grow at least some of their food for them. The idea that each person can become food self-sufficient is unrealistic, especially in Hawaii, with the bulk of the population lives in Honolulu. While breadfruit is great, much of what is currently grown goes to waste because many people have no taste for it. 

There's a reason why farmers comprise just 1 percent of the population in the U.S., and that's because the other 99 percent either don't want to farm, or live in cities where they're unable to produce their own food.

The same is true throughout the world, where young people are leaving rural communities for cities. They're leaving because they can't make sufficient profit from what are often tiny farms to support themselves and their families. They're leaving because climate change is affecting the arrival and intensity of the monsoons, provoking prolonged droughts, drying up streams, increasing the salinity of the soil. They're leaving because of war and civil unrest. They're leaving because they're seeking better opportunities.

They're also leaving because it's getting harder and harder to pursue “traditional” agriculture. Rural farmers aren't keeping so much livestock, so they have less manure for fertilizer. It's also difficult to find, and afford, laborers willing to weed and harvest manually.
Additionally, it's inaccurate to assume that “traditional and indigenous” methods of farming are inherently sustainable and environmentally friendly. Consider the work of World Food Prize Laureate Bram Govaerts, who helped frame the Mexican government’s major initiative known as the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture:

His component is “Take It to the Farmer," which “focuses on integrating technological innovation into small-scale farming systems for maize and wheat crops, while minimizing detrimental impacts on the environment. Under this extension-style program, farmers on over 94,000 hectares switched to sustainable systems using MasAgro technologies, while farmers on another 600,000 hectares are receiving training and information to improve their techniques and practices.

Using cell phone technology and social media, YouTube videos and educational events, his work has led to impressive achievements in the adoption of his integrated technologies by farmers, policy changes at the governmental level, and institutional alignment for the implementation of conservation agriculture.”

His research and field application in conservation and sustainable agriculture has focused on the benefits of improving long-term soil quality in both irrigated and rain-fed regions through leaving surface residues on the land and reducing tillage activities while diversifying crops. Evidence gathered during his research has shown that when farmers used this method, crop yields increased on average in the rain fed areas by 30 to 40 percent and production costs fell by 10 percent in irrigated systems, resulting in a positive impact on household income.  

“Feed billions” is a term of compassion expressed by the countless scientists — both public and private sector — around the world who are sincerely working to improve food systems in many different ways. I've never heard anyone involved in biotech claim that it alone will feed billions. It is invariably presented as one plant-breeding tool in the toolbox.

The real irony is that anti-GMO lobbying has led to such a rigorous approval process for biotech that only the big corporations can afford to play. Activists are actually working to give big corporations more control over food development.

I do agree that it's important to inspire people to farm. But you're not going to inspire many to willingly assume a life of povery and drudgery by insisting they employ only “traditional and indigenous” agricultural methods.  As Dr. Govaerts noted:

“The best recognition of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy is to be conscious and shout out loud that farming is the future. It is our moral duty as researchers to bring pride back to the fields by harnessing the existing innovations of farmers and other value chain actors and fostering capacity and application of science and technology.”
It's fine if people want to hold erroneous, simplistic beliefs. The problems arise when they try to turn these misguided views into policies, and work to stifle technological advances in agriculture, and limit farmers' choices and prevent farmers and researchers from gaining access to innovation.

We're facing some serious challenges in the world, especially around agriculture. While I understand that many would love to turn back the clock to a time they imagined was more ideal, that's not going to happen, either through edict or choice.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Musings: From There to Here

As anti-GMO activists engage in the theatrical charade of the “Monsanto tribunal” — a kangaroo court intended to try the company for "human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and ecocide" — a voice from Hawaii is among those being raised in opposition.

Joni Kamiya, who writes the Hawaii's Farmer's Daughter blog based on her family's experience growing transgenic papaya, is one of four speakers giving farmers a voice in defense of agricultural technology. The others are Ganesh Nanote, who grows Bt cotton in India, Olly Harrison, a cereals farmer in the United Kingdom, and Dr. Willi Kremer-Schilling, who raises sugar beets and oilseed rape in Germany.

Way to go, Joni! As noted by the Risk-Monger, which organized the farmers' voices event:

The Monsanto Tribunal is a fake trial organized and funded by the Organic Consumers Association (who donated 200,000 USD to pay the speaking fees for organic industry lobbyists like Vandana Shiva). The point of their expensive stunt is to increase the rage against agri-technology and undermine the public trust in conventional farming.

Other funding came from Dr. Bronner's, Mercola and donations from the sheeple.
Meanwhile, as yet another reminder of how outside groups are influencing the Hawaii anti-GMO campaign — and local elections — high-end outdoor clothing maker Patagonia posted this on its Facebook page, with a link that goes straight to full on propaganda by the Hawaii Center for Food Safety:
But when the comments started blasting the so-called “research,” the video was hidden from Patagonia's Facebook home page. Patagonia is one of the earliest and more generous funders of the anti-GMO movement, including CFS.

Despite gathering more money than any other Kauai County Council candidate, the campaign of anti-GMO politician Gary Hooser appears to be floundering. As a result, he's appealing to his core base, in hopes they'll actually show up and vote:
As one observer noted:

Hmm…he needs serious medical help…he thinks he is GOD – appearing to Moses to bring the people to the Promise Land! AND, having an event in a Church??? Isn’t that an ethics/campaign violation?

It seems the messianic complex is often at work with the anti-GMO forces:
The Environmental Defense Fund has a good piece on the many misperceptions about "big ag," which tend to ignore the diverse ways that agriculture is changing — including "big ag's" move toward sustainability. The author writes:

Change won’t occur overnight. But it will never occur if we stay entrenched in political ideologies.

That's certainly something to keep in mind during this bitter presidential election.

In closing, I wanted to draw attention to medical marijuana, and efforts to organize and professionalize this burgeoning industry. The first-ever Hawaii Medical Marijuana Training and Certification Conference is set for next Thursday in Honolulu, offering to give people a chance to learn about the business and network with others.

It seems that at least some of the dispensaries, including Green Aloha on Kauai, intend to be union shops, with their workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The training session is sponsored by the UFCW and Clover Leaf University. Those who are interested can register here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Musings: Thank the Farmers

In honor of National Farmer's Day, I salute those who are producing the food, fuel and fiber that support us all. 

Less than 1 percent of the population lists farming as an occupation, according to the US Census Bureau, which also reports that 87 percent of the nation's farm are owned and operated by individuals or families. Partnerships own 8 percent.
It's a tough job, with farmers facing weather challenges, price fluctuations, fickle and demanding consumers, ill-informed activists and numerous regulations.

In Hawaii, some of the small water users are now dealing with an expensive, lengthy and unclear process in shifting from revocable permits to long-term leases.

I just wrote a blog post for the Hawaii Farm Bureau, which you can read here, about the difficulties confronting the East Kauai Water Users Cooperative as it embarks on that process. 

Though activists were targeting A&B and its use of water from East Maui streams, small farmers are paying the price for the court ruling on revocable permits.

The Moloaa well, which serves the small farmers in that area, is also on a revocable permit. Unless Jeff Lindner is willing to pick up the tab for securing a lease, water users there may see hefty increases in their costs. Because it ain't cheap to do all the studies required to get a lease.

It seems that those involved in litigation and activism don't often consider the full consequences of their actions. That's why I've spoken so strongly against efforts to target the seed companies. It's not because I'm a corporate shill or a pesticide-lover, since I'm neither.

It's because rules and regulations imposed on the big guys — stuff like real time pesticide disclosure and buffer zones — end up falling on the shoulders of the small guys, too. And they typically don't have the financial and other resources to easily comply.

Last night, someone left this comment on my blog, in response to Nebraska farmer Bradley ‪Choquette, who frequently offers intelligent comments about real-life farming:

Your agriculture system is like an athlete on performance enhancing drugs, it's good for a short period of time and then it comes crashing down. I looked at your Facebook pictures. Your land is played out. You need the "performance enhancing drugs" to compete. Without them your worthless. My land is full of life and thriving. Hundreds of people rely on the fruits and veggies grown on my land that's only getting better. True, my land can't feed the world. Nor, can yours. If everybody on Kauai turned to organic permaculture on whatever size piece of land they owned our island could feed itself. Your wastelands days are numbered. All you can hope for science to figure out how to save what you destroyed.

I've had the pleasure and honor of visiting many farms, in different parts of the world, and I've never heard farmers talk like this about other farmers. There's much more of a mutual respect, a live and let live philosophy at play.

I'm reminded of a comment by Dr. Ted Radovich. Though he's the CTAHR specialist in sustainable and organic farming, he's not wanting to shut anybody down, or talk stink about conventional and biotech ag. As he said, "Everybody just needs to focus on their own farm and not what anybody else is doing."

There's room in Hawaii, and on the planet, for all types of farming. Organic, permaculture, homesteading, indigenous, biotech, conventional — they're all tools in the agricultural toolbox. Farmers should have the right to use whatever method serves their own situation best.

Let's focus on co-existence, supporting all agriculture, while expressing gratitude to those who can successfully pull off a crop.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Musings: Bridge at Hanakapiai

In an action that seems inconsident with a wilderness park, the state is proposing to build a bridge across Hanakapiai Stream.

According to a notice in the Office of Environmental Quality Control bulletin:

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, through the Division of State Parks and the Engineering Division, proposes to install a 4-foot wide, 82-foot long aluminum truss pedestrian bridge across Hanakāpīʻai Stream and construct approximately 50 feet of new trail approximately 50 feet long and 4 feet wide, to be created along the hillside to connect the bridge to the existing Kalalau Trail in the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, on Kauaʻi Island, Hawai‘i. Approximately 200 square feet of vegetation would need to be removed, including one native hala tree.
The estimated total project cost is $506,000, including abutments, micropiles, trail improvements, helicopter installation, construction and $106,500 for the bridge itself. Work is projected to begin in early 2018 and would 10 weeks or 50 working days.

In a letter to OEQC Director Scott Glenn, state parks Administrator Curt Cottrell submitted the draft Environmental Assessment with an anticipated finding of no significant impact. The EA offers this rationale:

State Parks has identified a need to reduce the risk posed by flash flooding of Hanakāpīʻai Stream to hikers on the Kalalau Trail and to the County and State personnel who respond to hikers needing emergency assistance. The purpose of the project is to reduce this risk and the need for emergency missions to rescue stranded hikers.

In recent years, the number of hikers becoming stranded by Hanakāpīʻai Stream flooding has increased, as has the number of air and ground rescue missions.

Yeah, that's because there are way too many ill-prepared, ill-informed people hiking out there. According to the DEA, “Visitation to Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the Kalalau Trail has increased from 1,000 to 2,000 visitors daily.” That's insane, and the proliferation of pedestrian traffic is degrading both the environment and the experience.

The state has created a free-for-all along the Kalalau Trail, with its lack of education and enforcement. But rather than deal decisively with the overuse, it wants to start making it even easier for people to get back there. Why not continue to close the trail during flash flood and heavy rain events? Hapless hikers are still going to run into problems walking on the trail during torrential rains, with the bridge giving them a false sense of security that it's OK to be out in such conditions.

The DEA notes:

Additionally, KFD observes that stranded hikers are less likely to remain on the far side of a flooded river if rescuers are not going to retrieve them immediately, and instead attempt to ford the flooded stream. Previously, responders would immediately attend to stranded persons who were injured or in imminent danger, then wait for the flooding to recede to help the hikers out of the valley. Recently, however, an increasing number of hikers do not wait for the water to subside and have attempted to cross the flooded stream. These unassisted crossings puts the hikers in great danger and increase the number of ground and air rescues mounted by KFD to safely assist the stranded hikers.

Uh, this is a wilderness park. It doesn't include on-call rescues. No rescue personnel should be risking their own lives to pluck non-injured people out of the valley just because the stream is high. If people decide to stupidly risk their lives crossing a flooded stream, that's their choice. What's next? Paving the path so their white tennies don't get dirty?

According to the DEA, “The pedestrian bridge … is not expected to increase the current usage and visitation of the park.” Yet it offers nothing to back up that assertion. We all know the easier it is to get somewhere, the more people are gonna go.

The DEA continues:

In the case that the proposed bridge causes an increase in the number of visitors, the issue of managing park visitation is already being addressed by the Division of State Parks through the Hā‘ena State Park proposed MP and associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted in July 2015. In the MP, Division of State Parks cites an increasing number of visitors over the past 30 years which could have detrimental effects on the natural and cultural resources in the area (see Table 3-1). In response, Hā‘ena State Park proposes for the first time to impose limits on the number of visitors allowed to enter the park to 900 people per day. Because hikers have to pass through Hā‘ena State Park to reach the Kalalau Trailhead, access to the trail and Hanakāpīʻai would be limited to 900 daily visitors as well. (DLNR Division of State Parks 2015). Because the timeframe of getting the MP approved and then implemented is longer than that of this bridge approval and construction, there would likely be a period during which the bridge exists but the limitations do not. 

But persons who participated in the Haena master plan process said the state never mentioned it intended to build a bridge at Hanakapiai. If it had, some of them would have withheld their approval of the plan. Instead, the first anyone heard of it was the OEQC notice.

[Clarification: Apparently some people who worked on the Haena State Park master plan were also working on a master plan for Na Pali State Park, so they were aware of the Hanakapiai bridge proposal. But the issue was not brought up as part of the Haena plan.]

The DEA continues:

Additionally, the twomile hike from the Kalalau trailhead to Hanakāpīʻai is rigorous, and unprepared and inexperienced hikers are likely to be deterred and limited by the difficulty of the trail as opposed to being attracted by a bridge.

Huh? The difficulty of the trail certainly hasn't deterred anyone, hence the need to rescue more people who don't know WTF they're doing.

The DEA acknowledges that there will be a visual impact. But don't worry, they're gonna make it look like it belongs:

Dark brown powder coating will be applied to the aluminum bridge structure to better assimilate the
structure with the natural landscape. Plastic wood composite decking will be laid on the walkway of the bridge to better match the natural aesthetic of the site.

Yes, plastic wood and aluminum should fit right in.

The state needs to start reducing the numbers of people going into Hanakapiai through education, a permitting system, rangers — whatever it takes, and right away. Even with a bridge across the stream, the fragile valley can't handle that many people tromping around. Once again, we're seeing what was once an exceptional wilderness experience dumbed down to the lowest common denominator in a never-ending effort to please the almighty tourist.

Enough already.