Streaks of pink were reaching out to a cloud-topped Waialeale when Koko and I went walking this morning. The grass and road were wet from a heavy rain that fell in the night, and the neighborhood was quiet, save for singing birds and the steady drip, drip, drip from the trees.
Ah, Sunday. A great day to relax and catch up on a few news items that caught my eye, but I couldn’t get to during the week.
Like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a law making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana an infraction on par with a traffic ticket. Prosecutors and the state court system also backed the measure. Perhaps Hawaii, facing its own financial woes, will soon get with the program and stop wasting money fighting a plant.
And the really disturbing report that Hawaiians comprise a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, including a whopping 50 percent of the kids in the juvenile justice system and 85 percent of those in the women’s correctional facility. And it’s not because they’re committing more crimes or using more drugs than other ethnic groups. They’re just more likely to be sent to jail, and for longer terms. It certainly reflects what I’ve seen every time I’ve been in the halls of Babylon.
What was almost as concerning, though, was the way both officials quoted in the Star-Advertiser story and readers in the comments section rejected the notion that racial discrimination was a factor. There’s a whole lot of denial going on…..
But I did see one comment that made me laugh, because it’s so true, especially in regard to Hawaii:
The biggest criminal is the person we all love - uncle sam. book 'em danno...
Then there was the little buzz about Duke Aiona’s admission that he doesn’t get flu shots, even though he pushes them to the people. While his hypocrisy is notable — and the only real issue here, since he’s a candidate for governor — some made a bigger deal out of his personal decision not to get immunized, maintaining that those of us who refuse to be good little sheep and annually subject ourselves to the government’s latest brew, which may or may not protect you against the flu, are “’free riders’, failing to do their part in supporting the public good.”
Hey, if you want to get a flu shot, fine. But don’t be making like I’m some kind of a slacker because I don’t want to sniff or inject a concoction produced by a government that’s supposedly protecting public health as it meanwhile subsidizes crops that directly contribute to obesity and diabetes, views genetically modified and cloned food as essentially the same as the real thing, routinely sprays herbicides on our public roads, caters to the pharmaceutical industry, emphasizes disease treatment over prevention and allows numerous toxic chemicals to be released into the environment. There’s a little bit of a trust issue here, if ya know what I mean.
On a related note, as the FDA ponders whether to approve a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon that gets three times bigger than its natural counterpart in about half the time, the Union of Concerned Scientists has published a survey of FDA employees that shows 38 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that "public health has been harmed by agency practices that defer to business interests."
GMO activist Jeffrey Smith lays out the industry-agency connection clearly in this article, which also delves into some of the possible environmental impacts of superfish. Fortunately, the FDA’s advisory committee has required AquaBounty to conduct more thorough testing of its product. Seems it used a sample size of only six fish, prompting Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, to remark:
"The data and analysis of food safety risks from the AquAdvantage Salmon are so sloppy and inadequate that, if this were an undergraduate paper, it would get a failing grade. No self-respecting scientist could conclude that these data demonstrate that AquAdvantage salmon are safe to eat."
Meanwhile, some are rightly concerned that these engineered fish could escape into the wild — as we’ve already seen with GMO crops — and wipe out wild salmon, which are an important cultural food for many Pacific Northwest tribes.
I thought about that as I watched a performance by Spakwus Slulum, the Squamish Nation Eagle Song Dancers from Vancouver on Friday night. With their dances, masks and songs, they paid homage to the eagle, beer, raven and wolf, while talking about how their culture is built on a relationship to cedar trees and salmon.
I attended with some Hawaiian friends, including one who paddled canoe with members of the Squamish nation in the summer of 2009. We talked about how rituals that acknowledge and respect animals and the natural elements dramatically affect the way people view the world by underscoring our interconnectedness, and how those rituals used to be a big part of the Hawaiian culture and are now being resurrected, in part through the work of people like kumu hula Kehau Kekua.
My canoeing friend, Kaimi, told of how the indigenous culture was so much more intact in Canada than Hawaii, in part because the native people continue to practice nature-based rituals and also because they have longhouses where they can gather for ceremonies, discussions and fellowship. Hawaiians don’t have the same kinds of meeting places where they can convene, he said, and it works to keep them separate, divided.
When he took the stage to present gifts to the dancers, he cried a little when he talked about how he had been struck by the strength and unity of the Squamish people.
“It made me realize how much work is still left to be done here in Hawaii,” Kaimi said.
Perhaps that's partly due to the fact that so many Hawaiians are conveniently locked away.