I hadn’t heard them for a while, a couple of weeks, at least, but the Newell’s shearwaters were back today in the wee, wee hours of the morning, wheezing and honking their way to Makaleha, where albezzia trees are rapidly encroaching on their nesting grounds.
It made me think, as I walked beneath bold Venus in the stubborn, sullen grayness of a thickly clouded dawn, about an article my sister sent from the travel section of The New York Times about how Kauai is “an Eden for rare birds in Hawaii.”
Toward the end of the piece, after the writer had exulted in the conquest of checking off “new birds on my life list,” he told of standing at the Kilauea Lighthouse and tuning out naturalist Dr. Carl Berg because his ears had “grown weary” of listening to the many perils our native birds face. Then a nene – one bird species pulled from the brink of extinction -- caught his eye:
“How many people know that so many birds on this island are dying out?” I asked Mr. [sic] Berg.
“Look around you,” he told me. We were in a herd of baseball-hatted tourists, many snapping photos of birds. “You’re probably the only one here who knows.”
The better question would have been how many, even if they knew, would care? I mean, once they’d checked them off their life list.
What’s almost as sad is how little is done to educate tourists about what is truly, distinctly and uniquely Hawaiian, especially now that it’s on the ropes, which may in part explain why tourism is on the ropes.
And it is, according to Richard Lim, the new director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. As the Star-Advertiser reported:
Lim, who has been running DBEDT for six months, outlined a gloomy economic picture for the islands and said tourism has essentially remained stagnant for the last 20 years and can no longer be relied on to move the economy into a prosperous future.
It’s the same thing that Council Chairman Jay Furfaro has been saying as he seeks to resuscitate some of Kauai’s ailing hotel properties that have big debts, declining occupancy rates and obligations to union workers that they’d rather not honor.
Which is why it was kind of disconcerting to read someone like Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics and chairman of the state Council on Revenues, saying: “This is the first time I’ve heard any of this.”
But while Lim stunned his business audience by finally acknowledging that the goose that laid the golden eggs has been cooked, which renders false all those rosy DBEDT predictions of steadily growing visitor counts, he stunned us regular folks with this disturbing comment:
Businesses also need to lobby legislators and push back against community opposition that killed projects such as the Hawaii Superferry, Lim said.
“Ten surfers and a couple of well-heeled NIMBYs can wipe out economic development in the state,” Lim said, referring to “not in my back yard” opposition.
Aside from the fact that HSF died because it was bleeding copious quantities of cash, never had a viable business plan and the state had intentionally usurped its own environmental laws, it’s extremely troubling to hear a member of Abercrombie’s cabinet say, essentially, screw the community, man, just fucking steam roller any opposition, even if it has totally legitimate concerns.
Of course, that’s what most activists have always suspected the state – under any governor – and most business owners believe, even as they go through the motions of "seeking consensus" and "listening to community concerns." Lim finally came right out and said it.