Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Musings: Weird Experiments

Makalii, Triangle, Orion and the rest of the stars, two of them falling, blanketed the heavens when Koko and I went walking this morning in air that had a slight — and welcome — chill. I like watching the sky turn from black to various shades of blue as dawn approaches, and today it arrived with apricot-colored puff balls and a bold streak of orange above the ocean, which was roaring.

Yesterday a friend and I watched a north swell build as tourists did classic dumb tourist things, like standing with their back to the ocean and walking on rocks drenched from an earlier set of waves. Two came to ask us to take their picture, and when we expressed concern about their safety, they brushed it off. You can’t tell people anything, but then they whine and/or sue and/or badmouth Kauai when they get hurt.

Fortunately, they were just the sideshow. The main event was a wedgetail shearwater colony, which always satisfies. One good thing about the Wailua Bridge widening — heck, perhaps the only good thing — is they’re going to underground the utility wires. So hopefully, we won’t see any more dead Newell’s shearwaters on the bridge. Like most rivers, Wailua a major flyway. Maybe one of these days they’ll underground the wires at Kealia, another death trap.

I was glad to read in Monday’s Garden Island article that the county is FINALLY asking people to turn off the lights at the ball parks and tennis courts by 8 p.m. during the shearwater fledging season. Still, it’s sad it took them so long to get with the program, and they only came on board to “mitigate their risk of fines of up to $25,000 for each ‘take.’”

As we watched waves and birds, my friend was telling me about a book she’s reading, ”Providence of a Sparrow,” that gets into just how smart and on it birds are. The author maintains that caging a bird is the absolute worst, because it deprives a bird of flight, and flight is the essence of bird.

I don’t think any creature does well in a cage. None of us evolved like that, yet when you look at it, a good deal of recent human effort has been devoted to perfecting ways of caging ourselves and others, and calling it progress.

I think about that when I go walking, and in so many houses, their sunrise is the same as their sunset: the flickering orange and blue of the TV screen. We’re engaged in a weird experiment that doesn’t bode well for the human race or the other creatures we impact.

While we’re on the topic of weird experiments, GMO crops just suffered two setbacks. On the national level, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture unlawfully approved Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets, and required the agency to do a full EIS. The big issue here is pollen drift. In the order, Judge Jeffrey S. White found that:

“[a] federal action that eliminates a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food, is an undesirable consequence,” and that “[a]n action which potentially eliminates or .. greatly reduces the availability of a particular plant ... has a significant effect on the human environment.”

Finally, someone with authority is getting at the crux of the matter.

A press release sent out about the ruling contained another interesting nugget:

Monsanto has been the subject of increasing speculation that the Department of Justice's antitrust division is scrutinizing the biotechnology company's control of the markets for GE crops, and for commodities such as corn, soy and cotton.

And locally, the Maui County Council gave initial approval to a bill prohibiting genetically modified taro in Maui County.

While some expressed concerns about how the ban would be enforced, all nine councilors said they were moved by testimony from Native Hawaiians and supporters, and believed taro's cultural and spiritual significance was more important than any other factor.

"The legacy of the host culture and the value of the kanaka maoli must be protected, and it starts now," said Council Chairman Danny Mateo.

Gee, what a concept.

To end on a bright note, the visit to the wedgie colony resulted in this photo, which my friend sent with the comment:

And it doesn't even know when and if a meal if coming, when and if a cat is coming. The least we can do is smile back!

U no dat. So smile! And turn off those outside lights.


Anonymous said...

very interesting case. great find. it is an easy and informative read; hope people at least scan over it. thank you for showcasing it


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the adorable picture of the bird smiling.