I spent the first part of the week in San Francisco at the big BIO conference, where thousands of people gathered to discuss the latest in biotechnology, much of it with medical applications. Despite opposition, this technology is becoming ever more entrenched.
In my scant free time, I wandered the streets of a city I had loved as a child and teen — attending concerts at Winterland, visiting museums and theaters, learning to parallel park and hold a car on the steep hills through a careful balance of clutch and gas.
But sadly, this time it left me cold, though the sun was mostly shining. Like so many cities, it's losing its charm to commercial homogenization, a widening gap between rich and poor — think Cartier and the stench of human urine on sidewalks — and mass tourism.
Though travel is reaching record levels, Americans still remain shockingly ignorant about geography and the world:
I got to wondering, as I passed the shops, who comes up with the tacky crap that's sold to tourists as mementos? Why do they buy it? And how much of it ends up in the landfill not long after the purchasers return home?
Yes, tourism generates revenue, but it comes at tremendous social and environmental costs that are rarely considered by policy makers.
I thought about that when I saw Kanoe Ahuna's Facebook post announcing her candidacy for the Kauai Senate seat, followed by her comment in today's The Garden Island:
Although tourism is great and it’s the economy that helps us survive here, in order to keep that a value for us, we need to keep value within our own community. Our priority should be us first because we live here and we’re the ones who want to be able to accept and encourage tourism and be able to greet them with that aloha.
She makes a good point, and I'm glad to see a candidate address Hawaii's sacred cow. But why do people with zero political experience make a bid first for state Senate? How about cutting their teeth on the Council first?
Getting back to cows, just as I predicted in yesterday's post on the Mahaulepu dairy draft EIS, the opponents who demanded the document will not be satisified with its findings Instead, they'll attempt to discredit it as biased. Sure enough, we've got Bridget Hammerquist of Friends of Mahaulepu (FOM) making that very claim to TGI today:
How could anybody conclude that an independent EIS has been conducted if prepared by the same company who prepared HDF’s dairy plan?
Uh, maybe because that's the company that actually knows the specifics best? And who did FOM think was going to draft the report? Surfrider?
Since the report showed that their claims about water pollution, flies and odors were overblown, Bridget and her pals are now questioning whether the cows will have sufficient shade in the pastures. Ya know, if they're truly concerned about that, maybe they should start looking at how some of the horses and dogs are tortured on this island, staked out without water, left broiling in the back of some donkey's pick up truck.
But of course, it's all just a ruse for their opposition to the dairy, which will not be assuaged by any means.
While we're on the topic of animal welfare, a new peer reviewed study published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases has found widespread contamination of Toxoplasma gondii — a parasite transmitted by cat feces — in nene habitat.
The study found T. gondii is the most-commonly encountered infectious disease in endangered nene. Endangered monk seals and alala (Hawaiian crows) also have been killed by T. gondii, which is excreted into the environment through cat feces. A single cat may excrete hundreds of millions of infectious eggs (called “oocysts”) in its feces.
Molokai had the highest infection rate (48 percent), followed by 23 percent on Maui and 21 percent on Kaua‘i.
According to Dr. Dr. Thierry Work, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist who is the study's lead author:
Recent studies also suggest that animals and humans are more prone to trauma when infected with T. gondii. Trauma is the chief cause of death for Nene, and infections with T. gondii may be making them more vulnerable, but confirming that will require additional studies.
Residents and visitors are also at risk. Ingesting or even inhaling oocysts may result in miscarriages, fetal abnormalities, blindness, memory loss or death.
As a 2013 study by scientists from the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University found:
Because cats are now so ubiquitous in the environment, one may become infected [with T. gondii] by neighboring cats which defecate in one's garden or play area, or by playing in public areas such as parks or school grounds. Indeed, as cats increasingly contaminate public areas with T. gondii oocysts, it will become progressively more difficult to avoid exposure.
But hey, no worries. Only agriculture poses a threat to people and wildlife in the Islands. The kitties get a free pass.
Speaking of free pass, I was amused to see that Civil Beat, the vanity press of billionaire Pierre Omidyar, is moving to a nonprofit model and taking down its pay wall. Translation: the web-based publication was dying, with a pathetic 2% market penetration, so it had to come up with something in a desperate bid to achieve relevance.
I found it especially interesting because Pierre is adopting the approach of the nonprofit activist-advocacy groups he funds: pretend like you're all about education and community service, as is required to attain nonprofit status, when in fact you're advancing a specific political and social agenda.
Though Civil Beat editor Patti Epler disingenuously claims that her publication isn't "partisan" because it doesn't endorse candidates, it frequently uses its editorials — and articles — to influence political issues. Which makes it even less likely that Civil Beat will ever investigate the misdeeds of nonprofits similarly engaged in political activities.
In the end, it comes down to this: a billionaire is using the federal tax system to subsidize his vanity press. How can that be right, just or fair?