Thursday, September 27, 2007

Musings: Pigs and Spin Doctors

The harvest moon called me out of bed earlier than usual this morning, and I walked in full moonlight until it hid behind the clouds. Even then, it gave off ample light for me to navigate the narrow road.

Less than a mile into our walk, Koko and I encountered a few wild pigs, squealing softly as they squeezed under the guardrail and disappeared into a thickly-vegetated ravine. Most likely they were snacking on ripe guava that’s falling from trees that line the street.

Such sightings are not uncommon. I saw a dead piglet in the road less than a quarter-mile from Costco, which I have still not visited. I tend to get quickly overwhelmed in mega stores and immediately want to leave, so I’m not the ideal customer.

Hunter friends offer different theories on why the pigs are moving closer to “civilization.” Some contend the drought has left them with insufficient food in the mountains. Others claim the pigs are being displaced as people build homes in once wild areas. And some say it’s because too much land has been closed off to hunters, allowing the wild pig population to explode.

Only the pigs know for sure.

Another friend, suspicious that President Bush acted so speedily, and uncharacteristically, to give the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands the protection afforded a national monument, theorized that he did it in exchange for Hawaii accepting the Superferry.

This ties into a belief held by many intelligent and reasonable people of my acquaintance that the Superferry’s true purpose is not to help locals visit their ohana on other islands — a scenario repeatedly hyped by ferry boosters — but to quickly transport the Stryker brigade and assist other military operations in the nation’s most heavily militarized state.

To bolster that assertion, they point to the prominent role played by John Lehman, former secretary of the navy and now chairman of Hawaii Superferry, whose firm is the project’s largest single investor.

Only the politicians know for sure.

As the Legislature prepares to override any court decision unfavorable to the Superferry, the Lingle administration is ramping up the rhetoric, claiming now that harbor users will foot the $40 million bill for construction done to accommodate the ferry if it leaves the state.

It’s yet another ploy in the divide and conquer approach that the Lingle administration, aided by Oahu media and talk show hosts, has adopted in the Superferry debate. Environmentalists are portrayed as self-serving obstructionists. Neighbor Islanders are accused of being anti-Oahu. Superferry protestors are characterized as newcomer mainland haoles. Kauai residents are dismissed as rude and unlawful.

And now, according to Rep. Calvin Say, who scuttled a bill in the last session that would have required an EIS for the ferry, those who seek to delay Superferry operations are putting the state’s status at stake. "I think if we lose the Superferry, I think we go back to being a backwater," he is reported as saying in today’s Star-Bulletin.

Only the spin doctors know for sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Great new blog about Kauai issues, thanks for turning on comments. And this is a great post in particular.

About the pigs: as a hiker in the backcountry, I can say that I haven't seen much drought impact. It has been raining again the past 2 months, and there's guava all over, even in the lower scrubland.

I just did the Kaapoko Tunnel hike, and saw tons of ripe guava on the ground and floating in the streams. But I didn't see much evidence of pig activity, and I ran into a hunter who didn't catch any that day. Whether that proves there are less pigs, I don't know.

The other explanation not touched upon is that pig population might be expanding, and therefore so is their range. Alternatively, they may be drawn out of the wild areas by trash and fruit trees in the neighborhoods.

The hunter did say that hunters raise piglets and release them into the forest to keep the population up. To my knowledge, hunting units (areas) haven't changed in years, so I don't know what has closed. Maybe they mean outside of legal hunting units, but again, the only place I know that is fenced off for environmental reasons is near Waialeale summit, and even there the fences have been cut (alledgedly by hunters). Most of the recent development (Kealia, Kulana, Kukuiula, etc) is old farm land, not forested areas that the pigs prefer.

But the issue of pig hunting on Kauai is bound to create more friction in the future. There has been space for both local cultural "traditions" and environmental preservation so far, but with increased eco-tourism, increased population, increased development of ag-lands, and reduced wild lands, they will clash sooner or later, and there won't be any black-and-white answers.

I just hope politicians and spin doctors aren't multiplying in the wild and coming to our neighborhoods to gorge themselves on our fruit.