After nearly 10 years of writing Kauai Eclectic, it's time for a change. I'm in a very different place — literally and figuratively — than I was when I started this blog. My muse was crying out for a new venue, and here it is:
Please visit my new site, where I will be writing about science, agriculture, GMOs, tourism, philosophy, politics and whatever strikes my fancy. Thanks so much for reading Kauai Eclectic, and to those who have offered words of support and donations, a special mahalo nui loa! A hui hou!
Grafitti was discovered on rocks atop
Mauna Kea late last month, prompting the Hawaii Department of Land
and Natural Resources (DLNR) to launch a criminal investigation.
Rocks were found with spray-painted
messages in both the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve and
“various areas” property managed by the UH Office of Mauna Kea
Management. One message was “stop bombing,” apparently in
reference to the live-fire exercises at the Pohakuloa Training Area,
while the other seemed to be “ke akua.”
This totally inappropriate behavior
brings to mind the way Palikapu Dedman brought in iwi (bones) from
Ka'u to place on an altar atop Mauna Kea last fall to draw attention
to claims by TMT (thirty-meter telescope) opponents that the area was
an ancient burial site.
But what struck me were the two
comments left on a press release rewrite masquerading as an
Associated Press article that was picked up by the Washington Post:
This reflects the kind of “ends the
justify the means” mentality that is becoming increasingly common
among faux-gressives. Not to mention the underlying ignorance, since
the bombing is under the authority of the Army, not the DLNR.
The AP sent out the rewrite with a
headline that identifies Mauna Kea as a “revered mountain” and a
closing paragraph that states:
Mauna Kea is considered a sacred
mountain by many Native Hawaiians because it is thought to be the
home of deities.
So I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow
when I saw an NPR piece reference grits, azaleas and sweet tea as
“three sacred staples of the South.”
Seems that sacred truly is in the eyes
of the beholder these days.
The NPR article was about about a beef
in South Carolina over how much water Google should be allowed to
cool its energy-sucking data center. Funny, how the Internet — and Hawaii tourism — is
everyone's sacred cow, and impervious to any of the criticisms over
resource consumption leveled against every other industry, especially
Speaking of criticisms, anti-ag folks
love to claim that agriculture is giving people cancer in the
Islands. But a new Centers for Disease Control report shows that
Hawaii has some of the nation's lowest rates of cancer cases, cancer
deaths and new cancer diagnosis:
Meanwhile, agriculture in Hawaii took another hit when the Legislature approved HB2, which allows tiny homes on Big Island farm land. Here comes the proliferation of shacks and shanties — sketchy rental housing — under the guise of farm worker housing.
And finally, I couldn't help but smile when I read that Maui Rep. Joe Souki, ousted from his position as Hawaii House Speaker, is seriously considering a run for lieutenant governor. as the Maui News reported:
“I still have some teeth,” he said.
“I’m not dead. I can still contribute.”
Then why join Josh Green in eying the lieutenant governor post? Oh, yeah. It pays $154,812 a year and you don't have to do anything.
Earlier this week I wrote about Hawaii
Community Foundation, and how undisclosed donors can funnel money
through such entities to gain tax breaks and discretely influence
As a friend noted:
What's going on at HCF is reflective
of a massive national trend. A lot of new wealth philanthropists are
dumping money into community foundations. It saves them the bother --
and accountability -- of starting up their own foundations and the
more activist types quickly grasp that their donor-advised giving
affords them anonymity. Meanwhile, the working press has been very
slow to catch on to the "new politics" of using NGOs rather
than political parties to advance their causes; hence, the
philanthropy game eludes attention and public understanding. All this
furthers the hard right and hard left and the various forms of
disinformation and silo communities they create and nourish. It's bad
juju and our friends in Russia have figured out that it's also a
platform for creating havoc.
Yesterday, President Trump waded into
the issue by signing an executive order that prevents the IRS from
expanding its restrictions on political activity by religious groups.
Currently, a tax-exempt group can lose its exemption if it is found
to have endorsed or actively opposed a candidate for political
office. Though his order does not change that prohibition, it
prevents the IRS from expanding the restrictions
Though the actual order is more
symbolic than substantive, evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore
was already pushing for more:
"The very fact that religious
freedom is part of the conversation and religious freedom is being
affirmed I think is a step in the right direction. Now obviously if
this is the end of the story, I'm really disappointed, but I think we
ought to hold out the hope that this is just the beginning and that
there are more steps to be made."
Meanwhile, a new report shows that the
cultivation of biotech (GMO) crops has reached an all-time global
peak, with nearly 90 percent of the crops grown by small-holder
farmers. Developing nations planted 54 percent of the total. As I
wrote in a blog post for the Alliance for Science:
Biotech crops also have achieved
significant environmental benefits, according to the report. These
include cutting herbicide and insecticide use by 19 percent; reducing
CO2 emissions —largely due to reduced tillage — equal to annually
removing approximately 12 million cars from the road; and conserving
biodiversity by sparing 19.4 million hectares of land from
agriculture in 2015.
I also found it interesting that GE
crops also expanded in Europe, which is often touted as anti-GMO.
Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovakia increased their
cultivation of biotech maize by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Further GE crop expansion is expected
with the recent approval of two potato varieties and the Arctic
Apple, which is now being sold as packaged slices. In Africa, field
trials are under way to develop pest- and disease-resistant varieties
of cowpea and banana, two important subsistence food crops.
And though Earthjustice has been busy
taking credit for putting water back into the Waimea River, its
recent Star-Advertiser commentary and last night's Kauai community
presentation has been scant on actual details. Here's what the
mediation settlement allows:
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative
(KIUC) will assume responsibility for the operation and management of
the Kokee Ditch system up to the Puu Moe Divide if it is able to
execute a land agreement with the state Agribusiness Development
Corporation (ADC). Kekaha Ditch will remain under the management and
operation of Kekaha Agriculture Association (KAA).
KIUC is allowed to divert a rolling
average of 11 MGD at the diversions, and will be charged with
delivering irrigation to farmers on ADC mauka lands, tenants on
Hawaiian Homelands Puu Opae mauka lands, and farmers on ADC land on
the Mana Plains, as well as providing storage for these irrigation
users at both Puu Lua and Puu Opae Reservoirs.
The Waimea Mauka hydro will continue
operations, but with reduced water being diverted. Waiawa may be
rehabilitated with a smaller capacity and continue operations, but
with vastly reduced water volumes. Both facilities will continue to
be operated by ADC/KAA.
KIUC has an agreement in principle
for its pump storage hydro project, which includes renovating three
reservoirs, adding two power houses and associated equipment. But it
still must execute final agreements with DHHL, ADC, and DLNR before
it can proceed. The project also needs environmental, historic
preservation and other permits and approvals, and it must prove to be
economically viable for KIUC and its members. KIUC spokeswoman Beth
Tokioka noted, “We anticipate roughly two years of study and
permits before KIUC can make the decision to proceed with the
Finally, Time magazine has a troubling
report on our lack of preparedness in dealing with the next global
From Ebola in West Africa to Zika in
South America to MERS in the Middle East, dangerous outbreaks are on
the rise around the world. The number of new diseases per decade has
increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years, and since 1980, the
number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled.
Research groups are working
feverishly to predict the next pandemic before it even happens.
They’re cataloging threats and employing next-generation
genetic-sequencing tools to speed the discovery of new or mysterious
viruses. They’re helping identify and track outbreaks as they
But microbes evolve about 40 million
times as fast as humans do, and we are losing ground. “Of all the
things that can kill millions of people in very short order,” says
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, “the
one that is most likely to occur over the next 10 years is a
Speaking of risks, one police
department found a humorous way to build traffic on its Facebook page:
It's easy to hate on the Hawaii State
Legislature. Shoots, everybody has their gripes about what did and didn't get
But what's with the epic fail shame
strategy advanced by the Young Progressives Demanding Action, Sierra Club, Center
for Food Safety and Gary Hooser's HAPA as they march on Miller Street this morning?
Haven't they learned yet that silly
tactic doesn't work with the Lege, or elicit sympathy from the
I understand they're trying to build
participation by allowing folks to indulge their narcissim. But
soliciting selfies with the hashtag #HiLegFail really falls flat.
Because truthfully, nobody really cares
if Hawaii Center for Food Safety's Kimiko LaHaela Walter is unhappy
about the fate of HB 790 and HB 1580. Or anything else:
Well, the effect achieved is just silly. And what's with the
banana? (Which looks like something imported from the despised
corporate plantations in Central America. She couldn't find a
Center for Food Safety jumped on this
bandwagon with its usual simplisitic view of the world:
So many bills that would have
benefitted everyday people and the environment died this legislative
session because our lawmakers continued to serve the interests of
Come on. It's not that black-and white,
cut-and-dried. If you're trying to lead a political movement, much
less a revolution, you really need to grasp both the nuances and
complexities of the legislative process. Especially when your own organization is funded by the heirs of large corporations, as CFS is.
As I noted in the comment section of
Hooser's Civil Beat column excoriating the Lege and urging folks to
join his shame-blame game:
Actually, Gary, it looks like HAPA
"failed" to convince lawmakers of the value of its agenda,
which was replete with poorly written bills, fear-mongering testimony
and a "my way or the highway" refusal to negotiate or
compromise. And you got this poor result despite spending thousands
of dollars on advocacy (undisclosed lobbying). Maybe you need to look
within, instead of playing your usual blame game.
Hooser was trying to make the case that
the Legislature's failure to approve bills he supported “should
hasten the movement for new leadership.”
So why aren't the Young Progressives
and their supporters — one woman aptly dubbed them faux-gressives —
presenting a proposal on how they would have funded and implemented
all the stuff they demand/desire?
Instead of “demanding action” from
others in their usual self-entitled way, why not be the
action? Recruit some viable candidates, run for office, do a good
job. But maybe start with articulating a solid platform that includes
how they expect to pay for it. Yeah, that's the tough part. So
easy to dream and demand. Do much harder to do the work and foot the
In any case, Hooser's Kuleana Academy
candidates mostly fell flat, as did he, despite spending more money
than any other candidate in the history of Kauai elections. That
ought to tell him people's appetites just aren't whetted by either
his menu or its execution and presentation.
As one commenter observed:
HAPA seems more like a one-man band
than a competent movement.
Of course, if Hooser hadn't indulged
his own narcissm and ego, he might still be in the Lege, where he
could be working his will on his colleagues and making his
faux-gressive dreams come true. But instead he abandoned a powerful
post as Senate Majority Leader to make doomed runs for Congress and
Lt. Governor. With his tail between his legs, he returned to the
Kauai County Council, sold out to the anti-GMO movement, and in the last election, was rejected there,
The voters have repeatedly given Hooser
a failing grade. So how is it that he thinks he can now sell them on
Organic farming is often idealized —
and commercially promoted — as producing a better product and
treading more lightly on the land. Indeed, folks pay a premium to
indulge this perception.
But two recent articles are casting
doubt on those beliefs.
The Washington Post has a lengthy piece
on organic dairies, which may be much larger and less bucolic than
some consumers imagine. It focuses on the Aurora Organic Dairy in
Colorado, which has some 15,000 cows producing enough milk to supply
Walmart, Costco and other big box retailers.
It was interesting to read that “the
USDA allows farmers to hire and pay their own inspectors to certify
them as “USDA Organic.” It was also ironic, considering how many
of the Hawaii anti-ag folks dissed the seed companies' voluntary
disclosure of restricted pesticide use as insufficient.
Basically, the article is saying that
the coveted “organic seal,” which boosted annual sales from $6
billion in 2000 to $40 billion in 2015, is based on “an unusual
system of inspections” that are pre-announced and funded by
You mean, it's really all kind of a sham/scam? As the article concludes:
The growth of mega-dairies that may
fall short of organic standards and produce cheaper milk appears to
be crushing many small dairies, some analysts said.
“The mom and pop — the smaller
traditional family dairies — who are following the pasture rules
are seeing their prices erode,” said [Pete] Hardin, the Milkweed
editor. “It is creating a heck of a mess.”
You mean, consumers who have bought the
organic marketing speil, but balk at paying a premium, are
undercutting the very system they claim to cherish?
My sister, who lives in Portland, likes
to buy Tillamook because she sees their cows grazing on her way out
to the coast. But it claims neither to be organic nor GMO free. In
response to a consumer question, a dairy spokesperson noted:
organic feed for organic farms is extremely difficult to verify as
GMO-free because of cross-pollination.
Maybe it's time to revisit the organic
standards, and re-assess consumer attitudes. Are consumers truly
looking for organic, or do they actually want pasture-raised? Of
course, even pasture-raised doesn't pass muster for some, as we saw
with the opposition to the proposed rotational-pasture dairy farm at Mahaulepu. (Btw, I ran into this piece about how very little manure leaves well-managed pastures.)
Do people even know what they want? Or
like the barn-raised dairy cows that had forgotten their natural
grazing instinct, are we so manipulated by marketing that we've
forgotten how to think, how to assess our true needs and desires?
Meanwhile, a columnist with the Daily Camera is writing a multi-part series on the GMO crop ban recently
adopted in Boulder, a Colorado county where the sensibilities are
akin to North Shore Kauai. The ban was passed, despite unanimous
opposition from county open space farmers, including the organic
Columnist Mara Abbott, who spent five
months researching the debate, starts by citing a 2015 briefing paper
that Colorado State University developed for county commissioners
considering the ban on planting GMO crops in the county's open
[O]rganic crops on six Nothern
Colorado farms used 10 times more water, five times more pesticides
and released six times more sequestered carbon from the soil than
genetically engineered crops.
I was paralyzed. I had always
self-identified as a good Boulder environmentalist, and figured that
meant that non-organic was a non-starter (and the organic definition
excludes GMOs). Now where was I supposed to buy my kale?
After all, the ban's loudest
supporters claimed to be fighting for reduced pesticide use and more
sustainable cropping methods. Commissioner Deb Gardner specifically
cited researching carbon sequestration as a top priority of the
It also turns out that "organic"
doesn't mean "pesticide-free." The pesticides just come
from natural rather than synthetic sources — and apparently some of
those are harmful to honeybees, too. Given that the purpose of an
herbicide is to kill weeds, and an insecticide to kill insects, any
crop protection practice won't be completely benign. Some natural
pesticides are less effective, requiring more frequent applications,
and higher overall life-cycle toxicity.
This isn't to brush off the value of
organic, but it is to say that agriculture is rarely black and white
— and that's actually why diverse approaches are important. Really,
the only way to know what is being put on your food is to know the
farmer who grew it.
"It's just such a complicated
web in agriculture," third-generation county farmer Scott Miller
told me. "You can't just say you're going to block one thing and
that is going to fix it."
Once again, we're
reminded that the world is so complex. Try as we might, we can't
contain it into neat little boxes of good-bad. There are no silver
bullets, no one-size-fits-all solutions, especially when human nature
comes into play. We want to blame the corporations, but the
corporations are also us. We want to return to the good old days, but
there's no turning back the clock. All we can do is move forward, and
try to be honest about the issues and our own choices.
In closing, I'll
leave you with this amusing little call to action from the Maui Babes
Against Biotech, which typifies the simplistic, reactionary approach
that underlies so much conflict:
Yup, nothing says
home rule like an email blitz from thousands of miles across the
Newly released tax returns offer a look
at the spending priorities, staff salaries and steadily growing
coffers of the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Islands' largest
The foundation closed 2015 with net
assets of nearly $460 million — successfully soliciting some $45.6
million in grants and donations that year, according to its 2015 federal form 990.
This represents a dramatically upward
trend of undisclosed mainland philanthropists parking money at HCF,
where they are allowed to discretely engage in donor-advised giving.
In 2011, HCF reported gifts, grants and contributions of nearly $16.7
million. That figure increased to $23.9 million in 2012, $27.7
million in 2013 , $30.5 million in 2014 to $45.6 million in 2015.
However, HCF cut the total amount of
grants it awarded by $573,897 between 2014 and 2015.
Overall, HCF spent $13.8 million to
award grants of $29.4 million in 2015.
In 2015, HCF spent some $6.7 million on
salaries, up $266,447 from the previous year. Kelvin Taketa, HCF
president and CEO, was paid $359,792 plus $149,129 in additional
compensation from HCF and related organizations, for a total of
$508,921. HCF's top 11 employees, including Taketa, received
compensation totaling $2.3 million in 2015.
HCF spent $3.2 million on fundraising,
$725,225 on conferences, conventions and meetings, $120,256 on
advertising and promotions and $106,563 on travel.
The foundation's giving pattern also
indicates a receptivity to funding organizations that talk about
alternative approaches to farming, as opposed to actually advancing viable agriculture.
For example, it gave a whopping $476,670 to the Kohala
Center — a Big Island group that reported income of $5.2 million
in 2014, with little to show for it. The Center's School Garden
Network is directed by anti-GMO activist Nancy Redfeather.
Malama Kauai, another do-nothing faux
ag group, was awarded $100,000 by HCF — more than a third of the
$274,846 the organization reported as income in 2015. The group spent
$121,598 to deliver fruit and veggies to after-school programs and
Kauai food banks, and $35,077 on its community garden and “food
forest.” But what, pray tell, was the value of the food it actually
Similarly, HCF gave $80,000 to the
Center for Food Safety — ostensibly for “environmental”
programs — while Gary Hooser's Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action was given a $52,500 grant for “public policy and advocacy.”
Yet just today, Hooser published a Civil Beat column bemoaning HAPA's
complete failure to advance any of its objectives in the state
Legislature — while blaming lawmakers, of course.
HCF also gave $12,500 to the Kauai
Community Cat Project (KCCP), which engaged in a vicious cyber-bullying campaign against former Kauai Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro
and is now suing Kauai County to stymie its efforts to develop an
ordinance aimed at controlling the island's feral cats. Furthermore, the KCCP spent $80,000 to manage just 510 cats.
And inexplicably, HCF gave $10,000 to
SHAKA, which mounted an anti-GMO moratorium in Maui County that was
later thrown out by the courts. Though SHAKA's 2015 tax return has
not yet surfaced on Guidestar, its 2014 return showed income of
$329,056. It ended that year with just $46,053, having spent $87,931
on “management,” another $84,243 on advertising and promotion and
and $30,321 on legal fees.
Uh, so what, exactly, was the public
charitable purpose that SHAKA provided with its money? And none of
its funding sources were disclosed, either.
Why is HCF funding groups that are
decidely opaque, and actively working to undermine agriculture and
sow discord in Hawaii? Especially when its mission is “investing in
community well-being” and “strengthening Hawaii's communities.”
Now compare the grants given to those self-serving groups with their very narrow agendas to the amounts
awarded to organizations that serve a broad sector of the public:
$116,295 to Aloha United Way; $62,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters;
$78,600 to American Cancer Society; $85,403 to American Red Cross
Hawaii Chapter; $50,000 to Polynesian Voyaging Society; $55,888
National Tropical Botanical Garden; $10,000 Hawaii Meth Project.
Something seems out of kilter here.
I do give HCF kudos for listing all of the grants it made. However, in the name of public interest and transparency, it would be even more revealing to see where it's getting the money that is being used to effect change in Hawaii, and what sort of strings the donors have attached.