As some folks continue to speculate on possible health risks associated with local ag pesticides, virtually nothing is said about documented public health problems in the Islands, including leptospirosis.
This bacterial disease, transmitted via the urine and feces of rats, wild pigs, goats and other mammals, is present in fresh water throughout the Islands, as well as taro loi. A new study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, found the disease affects as many as 1 million people globally, killing nearly 60,000.
And that data is based only on the most severe cases, which account for less than a fifth of all infections, study authors say. Lepto data is sparse overall, with many cases unconfirmed.
I've often wondered how many kayakers and hikers return home feeling lousy due to lepto exposure in waterfalls and streams, where they're often taken on guided tours.
Meanwhile, as environmental activists embrace tourism over agriculture in Hawaii, and treat research like a dirty word, developing island nations are being warned away from tourism and into research. As SciDev.Net reports:
A study released in advance of the UN summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this month argues that far too many small island developing states are focusing their economies on areas that will prove unprofitable in the long term, as the industry is prone to natural disasters and changes in trends. Its author, Carlisle Richardson, an economics affairs officer at the UN, says tourism is a volatile sector that does not generate enough income to ensure economic prosperity.
[M]ore home-grown research and technological innovation can give poorer island nations a competitive advantage while also preparing them for challenges brought about by things such as climate change, demographic change and industrialisation.
In Hawaii, where there's no real heavy industry, efforts to conduct agriculture on a viable scale, using modern technology, are invariably denounced as “industrial.” Locally, we've seen that term used to disparage the proposed dairy at Mahauelepu. Though opponents have played upon the fear of odor and water pollution, there's another reason for their rejection: wresting water away from ag.
The petition that Friends of Mahauelepu (FOM) and Sierra Club — Surfrider claims it had no part, despite assertions by FOM and The Garden Island to the contrary — presented to Gov. Ige last week states unequivocally, and before the EIS is even pau:
HDF [Hawaii Dairy Farms] must not be permitted to operate a dairy at Maha’ulepu.”
It also includes this revealing tidbit:
Grove Farm is leasing the proposed site to HDF and has promised the dairy 3 million gallons of water per day, as a term of the lease, from the Waita Reservoir. The waters of the Waita, the largest reservoir in the State, are collected via the Huleia river diversion, a 1957 sugar cane diversion created for cane irrigation. Once the State Waters ceased to be used for the Koloa Sugar Plantation [actually, it was McBryde] after its closure in 1996, the Waita Reservoir captured the diverted river and stream waters.
We, the undersigned, call on you and all government officials to protect and preserve these waters pursuant to Article 11 of the Hawaii State Constitution and the Public Trust Doctrine. It is our position that these waters do not belong to Grove Farm, as recently decided by the Hawaii State Supreme Court.
For starters, Waita has been capturing surface waters since well before 1957. Waita reservoir was created between 1903 and 1906, and originally supplied with the Wilcox Ditch, first dug in 1869. The Koloa ditch was constructed in 1915, delivering water from the Wai'ahi and Ku'ia areas to the reservoir. Both ditch systems were replaced with the Ku'ia-Waita tunnel, built from 1960-65.
According to an agricultural land assessment submitted to the state Land Use Commission in 2012, Waita reservoir currently serves some 3,700 acres of ag land, either through irrigation or as a source for livestock water. It's also leased by Kauai ATV for commercial fishing and kayaking tours. It's not just supplying the dairy.
Of course Grove Farm does not own water — no one owns water in Hawaii — but it does have a permit to divert it. Indeed, that acreage was designated Important Ag Land in large part because it has Waita reservoir. Does anyone seriously believe that particular resource will be abandoned, and the diverted streams restored?
Or are they hoping to divert the water into urban and resort uses?
And why is it OK to divert millions of gallons of water a day, via pumping, to the hotels — none of them locally owned — but not OK for farmers to use diverted water for agricultural production?
Sounds like the old ploy: Get rid of the buffalo and you get rid of the Indians; stop the water and you stop farming.
Is it any wonder, considering how much more lucrative hotels can be? Well, so long as there's no natural disaster, economic hiccup, airline strike or other industry disruption. Reflect for a moment on this newly released state report that estimates the 2104 farm gate value of Hawaii's vegetable and melon crops at a measly $39.8 million. Compare that to the $11.4 billion in visitor spending and $1 billion in tax revenues generated by tourism.
Though the anti-GMO crowd keeps calling for more local food production, we're not making any headway — in part because the movement is based on rhetoric, rather than action. Land under cultivation in veggie and melon crops dropped from 5,565 acres in 2013 to 5,095 in 2014. And that can't be blamed on the seed companies.
Still, as the report shows, there were a few bright spots:
Most vegetables showed a decrease in production compared to the revised figures for the previous year. However, kale showed an increase in production of 186% from the previous year to 630,000 pounds, while head lettuce showed a 95% increase in production to 1.25 million pounds.
But man cannot live on kale and lettuce alone.
And without reservoirs and irrigation systems, Hawaii ag is pretty much dead in the water. We're playing for high stakes here.