Friday, October 22, 2010

Musings: Only Ourselves to Blame

The moon, which will be full upon rising tonight, was high in the sky and almost perfectly lined up with Jupiter when Koko and I stood beneath its light last night, me petting the horses, she sniffing the scent history of the place.

This morning, as we prepared to walk out into the waning darkness, a barn owl screeched and I realized I haven’t heard one single Newell’s shearwater this season. I used to hear their distinctive wheezing-braying calls often, right after sunset or in the pre-dawn hours, but this year, nary a one.

I’ve found several dead ones, though, including as recently as a week ago when I passed one lying between the cones of the contra lane on Kuhio Highway. Like all the others I’d seen, it was lying beneath a death trap of a dozen utility lines strung between poles.

It was a sight that filled me with deep sorrow, but might have made Rich Rapozo happy. He’s been getting a lot of publicity, thanks to his oh-so-clever “Buck the Firds” tee-shirt and ugly warning, printed in a widely distributed AP story, that some people won’t pick up the fallen fledglings this month and next because they’re angry about Friday night football games being cancelled.

Hey, Rich, I realize you and the other football families are unhappy and I sincerely do sympathize. I know, from seeing the impact on a friend of mine, that the cancellation has been a drag, a disappointment and even a hardship. But please, don’t take it out on the birds. They’re just doing what they’ve been doing for millions of years, long before people came to Hawaii and greatly disrupted their way of life. If you want to lay blame, lay it where it belongs: on KIUC, the county — heck, even you and me, since we're the consumers of those services.

KIUC has known for more than 20 years that its power lines are killing birds, but it just blew off the problem until it finally got sued, as did the St. Regis, which recently settled by agreeing to reduce its nighttime glow and contribute about $150,000 to habitat restoration projects around the island.

Similarly, the county was warned more than five years ago to shield the stadium lights. It also blew off the problem, flagrantly flouting federal law until prosecutors put the county’s feet to the fire this year.

But rather than publicly acknowledge and accept responsibility for its own foot dragging, the county threw the birds under the bus. Friday night football games were cancelled — something that state and federal wildlife officials had never requested — and so began the backlash against the birds.

It’s a part of a backlash against native species that extended as well to reviewing the management plan for the Hawaiian Humpback Whale Sanctuary and a proposal to possibly add turtles, monk seals and corals to the list of species protected in it.

Suddenly you had people like Greg Holzman — a bottom fisherman whose industry keeps pushing Wespac for higher fishing quotas, even as scientists warn the stocks are crashing — whipping up hysteria by claiming that the feds were going to impinge on folks' ocean-going freedoms.

He was joined in his crusade by another free entepriser, Scott Mijares, who recently hosted a KKCR radio show in which he railed against federal plans to “take away our culture." I can only assume he was referencing his own transplanted Southern California Republican surfer culture.

Both he and Holzman, who also moved here from America, complained bitterly that “people from outside Hawaii" would have a say in what happened in the sanctuary, because public comments were being accepted from around the world.

As a result of these widely publicized hysterics, a friend approached me last week with a petition to sign. It stated that the undersigned supported the educational functions of the sanctuary, but not any expansion. He’d been motivated to seek signatures after being told the feds planned to ban all shore fishing on Kauai — no diving, no pole fishing, no net fishing, no nothing.

I tried to convince him his information was wrong, but as a fisherman who often feeds his family with his catch, he wasn’t taking any chances. And besides, that’s what he’d heard.

“What’s next?” asked another friend who was listening to our discussion. “Communism?”

I imagine many hundreds of signatures were collected in such a manner. Yet I have to wonder what value they have, what weight they'll carry, seeing as how they were gathered under false pretenses.

I understand animosity toward the feds, especially here in colonized Hawaii. Still, it wasn’t enough for Holzman and his tour boat buddies to blast the feds and the sanctuary and moan about losing their “rights.” They also began talking stink about the animals, spreading shibai like monk seals — one of the world’s most critically endangered marine mammals — are plentiful and humpback whales, which don’t even feed here, are becoming so abundant they’re threatening to outstrip the local food supply.

When it comes to the natural world, ignorance abounds and is intentionally disseminated by those — like Rich Rapozo and his simplistic “Buck the Firds” shirt — who just want to do what they want to do, without looking at the bigger picture.

What the bigger picture shows us is that far too many creatures have already been pushed to the fringes of their habitat, the brink of extinction, and if we keep pushing, they’re going to be gone.

I'm sure a lot of folks don't care if the animal world is reduced to pets and cloned livestock. But diminishing biological diversity has an affect on humans, too. Everything has a place and a role in the web of life, and as species decline and disappear, the overall ecosystem functions less and less efficiently.

We really don’t know where the tipping point lies, that place of no return where it all falls apart. But if we keep on pushing, we just may find out.

And we won’t have anyone but ourselves to blame.


Anonymous said...

Birds and Bones Blog.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Joan. Ignore the fatuous comments (as above) posted by little joey and his minions.

Anonymous said...

Scott wishes he was from CA.
The boy is a Fla. transplant. Invading after fleecing the retiree's from the upper east coast.

Anonymous said...

Humans a) don't like change and b) can't see themselves beneath the birds or fish on the evolutionary ladder. So, they do the same thing over and over (not learning) and also kill off the weaker species, which is all of them except homo sapien, which they do sometimes.

It's gonna take a HUGE event, nothing we can fathom now, to change our thinking. Look at New Orleans: they re-built in the same spots that got blasted by Katrina!

Humans are both the smartest and dumbest animals to ever walk the earth.

Anonymous said...

Like Sam Kinison said about the people starving in the desert:


I loved him.

S Chapin said...

Bird story on MSNBC website.

Anonymous said...

As a mother of two sons who played Pop Warner and High School football I can't see the big deal. How are the children isn't life or death for the kids as it is for the birds. Are we that jaded that the continued slaughter of these creatures is okay as long as humans aren't inconvenienced in anyway?

"He alii I ka'aina he kauwa ke kanaka" (Land is chief; man is its servants). In other words the aina has no need for man but man needs the aina.

In Hawaiian culture all living creatures had a place in order for things to be pono or in balance. Some are considered family guardians. A better lesson to teach our keiki is respect for all animals and how to live along side them.

Anonymous said...

Finally today the GI has a story on the birds. What is clear is the county could have continued friday night football, all they had to do was change the lighting and downshade the lights.Instead they played hard ball, blaming the birds for the counties incompetance . Obviously they wanted to pit the environmentalists against the jocks, when it would have served everyone far better to change the lights and continue friday night games.
The morning's are quiet, the sound of the Newells is absent , dramatic change from previous years where every morning i heard them in the predawn hours. The population is way way down.The county should just get with changing the lights.

Anonymous said...

Joan, Joan, Joan, This is not about conservation vs non conservation, this is about our states rights vs federal rights. We all want to protect our marine wildlife. I was on the front line, in the water protesting against the Superferry.
What is happening before our eyes is the federal takeover of Hawaii'a coastal waters and beaches in the name of conservation. The feds already took over the northwest Hawaiian Islands (Papahanaumokuakea National Monument) in the name of conservation and have left the US Military there unchecked.

I encourage everyone to do a litte research. Go to our website Read the proposed vision, read the 2010 condition report. Read the "Guiding Principles" outlined in the Kohala Connection Publication distributed by NOAA. Then tell me we need to forfeit out more state lands to the US Govt. We can manage the marine habitat much better here locally than politicians and special interest groups can do from Washington.

Joan Conrow said...

Scott, I did read your website and it was like re-reading the arguments that the bottom fishermen made against creating Papahanaumokuakea National Monument. This is not about state vs fed rights, it's about wanting no regulations at all, and knowing that the state is always softer on enforcement than the feds.

I also read one of the letters you posted that clearly outlines the kind of false information you guys are intentionally spreading at public meetings:

I attended the meeting at KCC on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 at 6 p.m. regarding the proposal to make Kaua‘i a sanctuary. NOAA is the responsible party and I am very upset to find out they already had 23 meetings without informing the residents of Kaua‘i. I was happy to see there were over 500 people who attended last night’s meeting by word of mouth, although we need everyone on Kaua‘i to get involved and write a letter because they want to stop fishing, crabbing, diving, throwing net, laying net and all ocean recreation.

You know darn well all the scoping meetings were properly noticed, and that there is no such plan to stop all the activities mentioned above. It's the deliberation distortion and deception that bothers me.

Btw, since when have you been concerned about the military in Hawaii (or anywhere), other than when access to surf spots is blocked?

Anonymous said...

Right on Joan. Keep um honest. Whenever for profit is involved you have to question their motives. A whole lot of hysteria was whipped up by commercial interests. I got a problem w/ tour boat operators who are a big part of the impacts along Na Pali leading the charge against the sanctuary. Btw I don't like the patronizing way he addressed you.

Anonymous said...


Have you read any of the documents produced by NOAA? I am not saying that the meeting were not announced, they were. It was the agenda of the meetings was what was not well publicized. Very few, if any, of our community leaders were aware of the agenda, including the Mayor.

You are coming down on the wrong side of this issue and if you think local families are supporting your position you are wrong. Increased federal control over our state waters is not the answer. No one is saying "no regulations" as you suggested. We already have a framework of laws that are in place to protect our ocean resources. Lets use them and maintain control within our boarders. We have all seen what can happen when the federal government takes control of a resource.

It is no accident that NOAA has received over 80% of their comments regarding the expansion of the National Marine Sanctuary from outside of Hawaii. A National Sanctuary gives everyone in the Nation a say in what beach you can go to or where you can fish. Do you see the inherent danger there? Do you really think John Doe in Ohio cares if your family has been managing the fishery in your ahapuah'a for the past 200 years?

You can take shots at me if you want but my record as a community advocate is well document and will hold up against your scrutiny. So lets try to stick to the issue at hand.

What we need to do is work together and educate people about this issue. We all want the same thing.


Joan Conrow said...

Scott, the side of the issue I’m coming down on is honesty and accuracy, and I’m just not seeing that in how you guys are “educating” people about this.

If you and your cohorts truly support local, indigenous management of marine resources, get on board with the independence movement. Because that sure ain’t gonna happen under the state.

Anonymous said...


I do not know how you can be more honest than having NOAA on the radio live to discuss the issues. They were pleased with the interview and we have an ongoing productive dialog.

As you know I have been very supportive of the Hawaiian Independence movement. I have donated time, money and other valuable assets to the movement. Greg Holzman engages in similar activities on the west side.

That is an entirely different issue.

Allowing more state lands to fall under the control and jurisdiction of the federal government does nothing to improve the position or cause for Hawaiian independence. Especially coastal waters and beaches.

Maybe that is why Mehelani Silva (Kanaka Maoli) asked our group to present her testimony to both gubernatorial candidates on her behalf.

Like I said, lets work together.


Anonymous said...

I thought when you see an endangered species dead or alive you are to pick it up and turn it in either to the fire station or dlnr or other authority. If you don't you face a fine/penalty. So let me understand this, you saw a dead shearwater and didn't turn it in?

Andrew said...

Enjoy your post and the comments. I referenced it in an article I wrote called Birds And Kauai Football.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Andrew. You've got a great blog!

Anonymous said...

The Un Natural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts reports on the condition of fishing and our dwindling fishing stocks world wide.

Ignorance of the ecosystems, greed, and dams built to supply major metropolitan cities are wiping out our fish stocks. If we don't put some limits on our fishing practices, we will slit our own throats instead of the fish we catch.

Enjoy your fish while they last, your grandchildren will have to buy synthetic instead of Pacific salmon.

Dr Shibai