Why is agriculture the only economic enterprise under scrutiny on Kauai?
In a letter to the editor today, Jose Bulatao writes:
A summit meeting bringing all interested parties to the table to discuss the following must be scheduled:
1.) What basic requirements must be met by all those engaged in agricultural activities on our island(s) that will meet “malama aina” practices and principles?
Why only agriculture?
What about construction, with its tons of treated lumber, its endless sheets of plastic, its toxic solvents, paints and glues, its rainforest woods, its tremendous impact on the landfill, its materials that are almost 100 percent imported?
What about tourism, with its irreversible damage to the environment and indigenous culture, its carbon-producing airline flights, its gasoline-guzzling rental cars, its electricity-sucking resorts, its 25,000 visitors per day who require vast quantities of imported food, booze and other supplies, use our finite water, and leave behind their pee, poo and mountains of trash?
What about the military, with its top-secret operations, its beach closures, its toxic missile launches, its fossil-fuel-intensive training exercises, its extensive occupation of so-called ceded lands?
What about high-end real estate, with its gentrification of agricultural lands, its catering to the second- and third-home crowd that engages in uber-consumerism, its constant luring of new “residents” who take up space, use up resources and move on with their profits?
What about pest control, with its restricted use chemicals that are released into the atmosphere each time a house is tented for termite, its routine spraying of high-end homes, hotels and businesses?
Why no call for a meeting to impose basic requirements that all these economic enterprises must meet to achieve “malama aina” practices and principles? Why is only agriculture under the microscope, under the gun?
Similarly, agriculture is the only economic enterprise on this island that folks say must be sustainable — which is defined all too often by people like “Sustainable Kauai” founder Megan Pittsley-Fox, an East Coast transplant whose husband is a cook at Merriman's, a high-end restaurant that depends on unsustainable tourism and the unsustainable super rich buying at A&B's unsustainable Kukuiula development.
But wait, the sustainability requirements aren't applied to all agriculture. The organic guys who import chicken manure, soil amendments and inputs, plastic irrigation, plastic pots, plastic sheeting, plastic hydroponic supplies and a stready stream of indigent “woofers” to live in the Moloaa mud — they get a free pass, even though their operations are no more sustainable on this remote island than anything else.
Now the focus is on the proposed pasture-raised dairy at Mahaulepu. The Koloa Community Association and Malama Mahaulepu, having declared it “industrial agriculture,” are hosting an informational meeting Thursday night with the folks from Hawaii Dairy Farms. That entity is an offshoot of Ulupono Initiative, which gets its money from Pierre Omidyar and has funded pro-sustainability groups like Malama Kauai.
Personally, I don't really care if we have a dairy on this island. I don't drink milk, and it seems like a lot of cows for a small area. It especially bothered me to learn they won't have any shade in that hot southside sun, because cows wisely tend to gather under trees. But then their manure piles up there, rather than being spread evenly across the pastures. And with climate change bringing us more Kona storms and flooding, it's certainly possible and plausible that run off could occur.
So no, I don't have a problem with people asking questions, voicing concerns, and yes, I believe we should live on the land as lightly as we can and embrace the concepts of malama aina.
But I do object to agriculture being held to a higher and different standard than other enterprises on this island. Especially when it's being done by people who have no idea what farming is all about, and hypocrites who are not living sustainably or otherwise practicing what they preach.