Sunday, August 24, 2008

Musings: Worshiping at the Altar of Money and Convenience

Koko and I went out walking this morning on streets puddled with rain, beneath dove gray skies that promised more to come. At times it rained so hard in the night, great ferocious torrents roaring in from the east, that Koko jumped off the bed in fright.

I called a friend and left a message I knew would make him smile: “We love the rain.”

What’s not to love? It’s the life-giver, the life-sustainer.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and not for the first time, just why it is that we humans so often play an opposite role.

The other morning I was going to an interview when I passed a dead animal lying along the edge of a narrow country road. I wasn’t certain what it was, but the distinctive black and white coloring gave me a clue.

On my way home, I slowed, looked more carefully, and this time I had no doubt. It was an `A`o, a Newell’s shearwater. I couldn’t bear to leave it laying there, to be eventually flattened by traffic, so I went back and picked it up, supporting its lolling head, its feathers soft in my hands.

It was an obvious casualty of the utility lines: five lines running low and perpendicular to Waialeale, Makaleha — the interior mountains where these sea birds nest, flying back and forth all summer to bring food to their chicks. It’s a route they’ve followed, until fairly recently without obstruction, for tens of thousands of years.

KIUC and the other utility companies had a chance to underground the lines after Iniki, knowing full well the death sentence they regularly impose on Newell’s. But they opted not to, and so the fatalities continue.

It was too expensive, they said, as if money is the only factor to be considered in these equations.

I thought of others as I got out my shovel and buried that beautiful bird, which is officially listed as threatened, although many biologists believe its numbers have plummeted so low that it has reached endangered status.

I thought of its chick, waiting for food in its burrow beneath the uluhe ferns in the mountains, and its mate, conscientiously fulfilling its end of the food-gathering bargain, but unable, by itself, to provide enough food to sustain their single offspring, which ultimately will die of starvation.

I thought: “Well, that’s one nest that won’t be happening this year.”

And so one casualty turns into two.

A short time later I just happened to encounter an article about nine polar bears observed making these incredibly risky and exhausting long-distance swims, seeking stable ice or land, because by burning fossil fuels we’ve heated up the planet so much that the ice where they live is melting.

And why were the bears even noticed at all? Because Minerals Management Service had hired the federal marine contractor, Science Applications International Corp., to check for whales in advance of future offshore oil drilling.

We just don’t get it, do we?

We seem to think that we can keep killing off plants and animals, eliminating entire species, ratcheting up the global temperature by the same old thoughtless actions, and yet somehow we humans will survive the holocaust unscathed. It's a fantasy scenario we've all seemingly bought into.

In times like these, I’m often reminded of the quote from Starhawk, an environmental activist, who said of the world around us: “It’s all alive. It’s all connected. It’s all relatives.”

Indigenous people understood that interconnected web of life so much better than we. The other night I was reading “Native Planters,” a truly marvelous book by Handy, Handy and Pukui, and it was discussing how many plants and animals —even rocks — were viewed by Hawaiians as kino lau — the life forms taken by gods and supernatural creatures.

When you look at things that way, you just approach life differently. I know that indigenous people weren't perfect, and that they hunted some animals to extinction and altered habitat. But overall, they did a much better job of living in harmony with their environment, and most importantly, they understood their place in the overall scheme of things.

Now, it seems, nothing is sacred but money and convenience.

That's why I'm one of those who doesn't want the Superferry to ever come back to Kauai. For one thing, it's a speeding death ship just waiting to bang a monk seal or whale, which is totally unacceptable. For another, you've got the pillage mentality of people who ride it. That's not just a fear or suspicion anymore, either. It's been borne out by DOCARE's own statistics on Superferry inspections.

As the Save Kahului Harbor blog reported (and Andy Parx noted on his blog), Maui is indeed being plundered by Superferry passengers.

According to state DOCARE reports, over 400 pounds of reef fish were taken from Maui waters in a one month period, along with 250 pounds of limu and 49 pounds of opihi — a figure that increased to 75 pounds the following month. And that's just what they found. Remember, they don't inspect everything.

And why is all this happening? Quite simply, so that J.F. Lehman Co. can make money and folks can have a form of interisland travel that some find more convenient.

I'm sorry, but when you live on a place like Kauai, which still has so much to lose, and so much to offer, that "deal" just ain't worth it.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know how often you travel inter-island, but I've been flying frequently for decades. It is a common experience to see people carrying their fresh caught sea plunder back home in ice chests. It's happening regardless of the HSF and with air travel, its totally unregulated. At least they're trying to do something about it on the ferry. I'm sure they'll get better at it as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

Luckily, in the long run it doesn't matter what a handful of malcontents thinks about any business venture. The consumer, not the activists, will ultimately determine the fate of the superferry. If it fails it won't be due to the anti-consumer attitude of a few.

Anonymous said...

I really don’t understand the rationale of this “me, me, me, my island, our island” thing going on here. How can someone on Kauai justify trying to prohibit or restrict someone from Maui or Oahu from fishing and gathering in Kauai waters and mountains? When did the waters and mountains of Kauai leave the State of Hawaii? Any citizen of the State can go anywhere in the State and is free to hunt and gather just like the residents of a specific island. For native Hawaiians this was been established in court in a major way by Pele Defense Fund vs. Paty (Pele) – 1990. In this case, the court affirmed the right of native Hawaiians to access properties beyond the boundaries of the ahupua’a in which they live for purposes of exercising “continuously exercised access and gathering rights necessary for subsistence, cultural or religious purposes. It’s even less of an issue with citizens of the State as citizens from any island have the same rights as those from another on each others’ island. If you can fish here, then so can I.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Is it illegal to take reef fish, limu, or opihi? If so, then the problem is with enforcement and banning convenient forms of inter-island travel is a stupidly restrictive way to enhance enforcement. If it's not illegal then your beef is with the law and banning the superferry is just a way to foist your opinion on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, and here come forth the worshippers, vigorously defending their faith.

Anonymous said...

notice how superferry opponents can't field cogent, logical arguments. They try to write them down to "defenders of faith."

Anonymous said...

My theory is that malcontents in general gravitate west. Look at the history of CA for example compared to NY. It used to be said that someone lifted the country on the east coast and everything "loose" rolled into CA.

Now, Kauai being the westernmost part of the USA and an island at that, the malcontents are making their "last stand".

It will fail in the long run, of course, but it's all they have left to do. They claim "squatters rights" to the island as if they pooled their money and bought the whole thing.

It's fun to watch. Kinda like an extinction of a socio-political species.

Anonymous said...

How dare you stop me from riding the Superferry to Kauai. Who do you think you are? You don't own Kauai.

Anonymous said...

> The consumer, not the activists, will ultimately determine the fate of the superferry. If it fails it won't be due to the anti-consumer attitude of a few. <

> How can someone on Kauai justify trying to prohibit or restrict someone from Maui or Oahu from fishing and gathering in Kauai waters and mountains? <

> If it's not illegal then your beef is with the law and banning the superferry is just a way to foist your opinion on the rest of us. <

> Now, Kauai being the westernmost part of the USA and an island at that, the malcontents are making their "last stand". <

> How dare you stop me from riding the Superferry to Kauai. Who do you think you are? You don't own Kauai. <

The truly astonishing thing about these responses is how they parrot the same core beliefs preached by megaoil companies and big box corporations and hotel congolomerates and superferries -- the religion of Consumerism.

From corporate CEOs to local consumers, they actually believe it is sustainable -- literally that heaven is here, and they're in it, and you lefties are trying to kick them out!

But in the heavenly choir of Consumerism, they're not hearing the message of the Musing: we are the birds strangling on our own wires; we are the bears stranded on our melting islands of ice.

Anonymous said...

Why would you even want to ride the Superferry to Kauai, what with the corrupt politics and double-dealings, the circumvention of environmental review, the evidence that vessels travelling over 13 knots are severely life-threatening to whales, or that the owner is quoted as having said that it is always best to strike first in nuclear war?

Yuk!!

Anonymous said...

the religion being preached here is the central control socialism discredited over and over again whenever and wherever it is imposed. We neither need nor want our rights decided by people who set themselves up as morally and/or intellectually superior. If you don't like the superferry then don't ride it. You have to accept that most of us don't see it as a surrogate battleground for you socio-economic beliefs and your hand-wringing strikes most of us as a bunch of idiocy.

Joan said...

But in the heavenly choir of Consumerism, they're not hearing the message of the Musing: we are the birds strangling on our own wires; we are the bears stranded on our melting islands of ice.

Thank you, Anonymous. I'm so glad somebody got it.

Anonymous said...

We neither need nor want our rights decided by people who set themselves up as morally and/or intellectually superior.

Yeah, we want our rights decided by someone who is morally and intellectually inferior, like George Bush!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, we get it. You want the superferry to stand for everything you find ideologically distasteful. We unwashed, unenlightened masses just happen to think it's a bunch of idiocy.

Anonymous said...

"we want our rights decided by someone who is morally and intellectually inferior, like George Bush!"

Oh, sure. If you disagree with us then you must like George Bush. Gawd you people are shallow.

Anonymous said...

If these activists had such great ideas they could run for office and then pass ordinances to their hearts' content to ban whatever they want and make the world conform to their higher beliefs. Sadly, for them, things more or less roughly reflect a fair democratic outcome based on the varying opinions and views of everyone - not just the self-anointed.

Anonymous said...

> Luckily, in the long run it doesn't matter what a handful of malcontents thinks about any business venture. <

Good Lord. No wonder we've had two terms of Alfred E. Newman as President.

Anonymous said...

"...the owner is quoted as having said that it is always best to strike first in nuclear war?"

Ahhh...I'd sure hate to be in second place.

Anonymous said...

uh, hello.... second place? strike one, two, three... you're outta here!

Anonymous said...

"...the owner is quoted as having said that it is always best to strike first in nuclear war?"

...and this is relevant how?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andy K said...

I once saw an 'alae 'ula (Hawaiian Gallinule, with the red head) hit by a car near Waimea. I later called the Fish and Wildlife Refuge and they said they would've like to have the dead animal for research. I suppose they can tell how the individual was faring before it died (enough food, diseases, etc.).

That and reporting kills of endangered birds will force companies to seek an incidental take permit. That gives them immunity from the $25,000 per dead animal fine in exchange for taking concrete measures to reduce their take. I believe KIUC has one already, hence all their outreach about the birds, but still it's best to count every fatality.

So please give them a call and keep the bird in a box or something for them. I think their number is 828-1314 (Administration of the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex).

Joan said...

Thanks, Andy, for caring about the birds and reminding me about the reporting process.

Actually, Kilauea Point doesn't deal with the pick up of downed Newell's. KIUC was doing it, but I just found out they've farmed out the actual bird pick up to the Humane Society. A woman named Mary Ellis -- 635-5117 or 632-0610 x109 -- is in charge.

She wanted me to dig it up and take it the fire station. They don't have the shearwater boxes up yet, but they do have kennels for birds found in the "off-season," which I guess they characterize as other than the active fledging season.

I asked her how she thought the bird would be after being buried 4 days and she said, probably pretty yucky, and changed her mind about digging it up. But said she would make a notation of where it was found in the report. Not that all these notations have ever resulted in KIUC ever having to do anything but run its PR and pick-up program, but at least there's that.