Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Musings: Fuel-Sucking Tourists

Brrrr is the operative word this morning, which is feeling delightfully wintry, despite the sunshine.

After working all weekend, I have a bit of a respite, so Koko and I headed over to a trail where she can run free and chase chickens and I can walk far enough to escape all sounds of humanity.

I was watching worms move across the trail in that way they have of curling up into a ball and then flinging themselves forward, which I guess is faster than creeping, and all around me were uluhe ferns and birdsong and even a few ohia trees were blooming.

And then along came a helicopter, on the sunrise flight over Waialeale. It got me wondering, as the state moves forward with its 2050 sustainability plan — touted on its website as the “people’s plan” — about how much fuel is used in this state to entertain the tourists.

Just think of all the fuel being sucked down in the helicopter flights, boat rides and movie site tours. And that doesn’t include the AC and hot water in the hotel rooms, the gas in the rental cars. Tourism is the giant gaping puka in the state’s sustainability plan.

Surely Russell Kokubun, the smart, well-intentioned Senator from the Big Island who chairs the 2050 Task Force, recognizes that it’s inherently unsustainable to have 7 million people jet over to these islands every year to consume, consume, consume.

Yet somehow we think we can continue to have tourism and militarism — two of the most wasteful industries on the planet — as our economic mainstays and achieve some modicum of sustainability.

If we were really serious about sustainability, we’d be saving every speck of ag land and creating incentives for people to farm. We’d also be doing everything we can to support taro — the one food crop that we know can support a large population in the Islands.

The county’s ag moratorium is a start, but some on the Council — Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, Mel Rapozo and Jay Furfaro — are trying to kill the measure without any public discussion.

Councilman Tim Bynum yesterday sent me a copy of his views on the issue, which is running today as a guest commentary in the Garden Island.

The issue is coming before the Council again tomorrow, on what is already a packed agenda, with a presentation on the 2050 sustainability plan, a bill requesting money to FINALLY begin development impact fee studies (a system that many other states adopted some 25 years ago) and a resolution supporting SB 958, which imposes a 10-year moratorium on developing, testing, propagating, cultivating, growing and raising genetically modified taro in Hawaii.

Koohan “Camera” Paik, the woman who made the Discover Kauai video, sent me a link to her latest youtube video, which addresses the push to stop GMO taro research.

In the video, Kauai Rep. Mina Morita, who lives in Hanalei Valley, the center of taro production in the state, notes that kalo “is the symbol of sustainability.”

Camera’s video prominently features Chris Kobayashi, a Hanalei taro farmer who overcame her shyness and reluctance to speak out and became a major force in this issue. Way to go, Chris. Nobody can address the topic better than somebody who spends time in the loi.

While all GMO crops are controversial, the modification of taro is especially contentious because it has such tremendous cultural significance. Hawaiians believe they are descended from Haloa, a taro plant conceived by the gods.

“Without Haloa, we’re pau,” Mina said.

Yet the University of Hawaii has been pushing forward with its GMO research even though taro farmers have not requested it. If the state wants to help taro farmers, it should move to address the apple snail problem, water diversion issues and long-term taro land leases, and quit fiddling around with genetic engineering.

Finally, a couple of readers sent me a link to a story that reports Washington state didn’t get even one bid on the MV Chinook, a high-speed passenger ferry it’s trying to sell.

Maybe the Hawaii Superferry folks would be interested. It doesn’t carry cars, but presumably it is operational, which is more than can be said for the dry-docked, rudder-damaged Alakai.


Anonymous said...


You envision a Hawaii where the military presence and tourism is down, maybe, 90%, all people here live on taro as a mainstay (it reminds me of the Gump movie line where the guy goes on and on about all the different ways to serve shrimp) and progress of all types is hindered by people who think they are desendents of vegetables.

And probably not part of the USA anymore.

Roll it up in a ball and it looks like 18th century Hawaii.

It will never happen. But, it's always good to dream drug-free visions of unreality.

Katy Rose said...

Instead, let's just keep going until we've depleted all our resources. Then we can all "roll up in a ball" and die.

Much more sensible!

Joan Conrow said...

Better to dream "unreality" -- which it isn't, anyway, as it's a way of life that's worked before -- than live it, as we are now.

As for your usual insulting comments toward Hawaiians, you really need to educate yourself on the progressiveness of their culture. I don't think your ancestors could navigate the Pacific solely by the stars.

At any rate, the good thing about holding such "dreams" for Hawaii is that people like you would have fled back to America.

Anonymous said...

No need to flee...America is here and will only get more "American".

What our ancestors did in the way-back times is irrelevant...I would imagine the Chinese were light-years ahead of the Hawaiians at that time period, and look at them now.

Hawaiians, as a group, then, haven't done much for us lately.

I'll stick to being the wealthy land owner "expat" (so to speak) living my realized dream here in western-most part of our great empire.

It will last for many decades to come. It will outlast me, and that's all the "future" I care about anyway.

Anonymous said...

When the foreigners came to Lahaina in the 1700s they wrote that they had never seen such engineering that ran the limited water supply from Kahoma Stream through auwai to irrigate all of the foods that were grown in the shade of sustainable ulu tree. My ancestors were way more intelligent than stupid people like Gadfly who have to depend upon Costco in order to survive.
Talking about the military and tourism, when the 2050 team held its last meeting in Kona we told them "military and tourism are not sustainable". They nodded and went right ahead and incorporated it into the plan anyway. The 2050 plan is a farce. Josephine

Anonymous said...

Therefore, "sustainable" is not considered important.

Military, Tourism and Costco are.

And that is how it should be and will continue to be, 2050 and beyond.

Anonymous said...

chris kobayashi is fellow graduate of UH manoa college of tropical agriculture

Anonymous said...

and her outlook and perspective is so much more enriching than our friend gadfly. it's amazing that we've made as much progress in our world with anchors like that. returning to the roots is the path for our future. touristas and the military junta cannot sustain themselves. the disappointment for gadfly is the future will be here sooner than anticipated. selfishness and selflessness are worlds apart. you stay in yours gadfly, i'll stay in mine. peace

Larry said...

I wonder whether the gadflys will inherit the earth. "Hawaiians, as a group, then, haven't done much for us lately" is clearly racist; you can hire your own servants I imagine.

While reading the comments I remembered that Iolani Palace was electrified before the White House. There was no shrinkage away from modern technology. Again, a racist assumption is that modern day Hawaii would be grass huts if the US government had not taken over.

The military occupation and tourism are cancers growing on the islands. Not just Hawaii, by the way. I think Guam is more than 50% military by area, but I haven't looked that up recently. It can't be far off.

The problem is the power of these cancers and the lack of an alternative model. Ala Moana Center here on Oahu has grown like a cancer, adding stores beyond reason, few of which are aimed at residents. In Waikiki, the latest Hilton building is similarly a blight on the landscape. That cancer can be profitable as it grows does not mean we should welcome it.

Gadfly sides with the cancer, not with the cure. As a parasite, he hopes to prosper before the organism dies. And he smirks in blog comments.

That's sick.

Joan Conrow said...

Aaron, I emailed a Kauai ag expert and your info is not correct. Here's what he said: "It has yet to be determined how much of it is prime. The 1987 con-con mandated that these lands be identified and protected. Despite this constitutional mandate it's never happened and there are forces at work trying to prevent it from ever happening. I'm glad you put quotation marks around " not important " ag lands. Any land that can produce food is sacrosanct.

Anonymous said...

The local "world" enbodied by Oahu will grow and spread to all other islands...it's only a matter of time. Maui first, Big Island second, maybe. Or, maybe Kauai. The second largest shopping center in the state is going up as we speak on the Kona Coast. Personally, I can't wait!

I wouldn't mind the BI becoming much like Oahu.

90% of all goods will still come from out of state, because that's what the majority of people want. If you think you can change the majority of people who live here full or part time, plus the tourists, an unstoppable force, then you're truely tilting at windmills.

Anonymous said...

Joan, okay you probably didn't even bother to look at any of the links I
provided. Which is fine with me. You can continue to espouse your opinions without basing them on facts.

Agricultural Lands of Importance to the State of Hawaii (ALISH)


Your contact is wrong. They've classified all the agriculture lands statewide as either prime and non-prime agriculture lands based on soil composition.

They are in the process of re-classifying some of these lands
as Important Agriculture Lands.


Here is the maps backing up my comments.

Anonymous said...

And what is "non-prime" ag land going to be used for???



Joan Conrow said...

Aaron, I looked at all your links and could not find one reference to back up your assertion that "75% of the Agriculture district on Kauai (145,000 acres) is classified as non-prime (or not important agricultural lands).
In fact, your map link appears to indicate that nearly all of Kauai’s ag land is “prime or unique (taro lands).”

I am aware of the A-E classification for ag lands; however, there has been no determination of what is important, which is why — as you note — the state is in the process of identifying that. So you can’t possibly argue that any of Kauai’s ag lands are “not important.”

The proposed moratorium is temporary, until that Important Ag Land study is pau.

Anonymous said...

This based on data compiled by Forsee Consulting Inc.They got this data straight from Kauai County officials. So if you don't want to believe me, you can always inquire with the Kauai County planning department.

In my view, it is very premature to
say all agriculture land is important. Thus enacting any moratoriums on developing ag land would do very little in protecting these lands.

Take for example that proposed Senate bill I cited. It would place
a statewide ban on developing any
ag land with an A or B composition
for five years. The problem with that is this. Most ag land statewide is classified as non-prime (C, D,E, or U).

This "problem" is most acute on the Big Island. A whopping 96% of the agriculture district is classified non-prime soil(over a 1 million acres). This despite the fact that like in Kona they grow Kona Coffee in non-prime soil.

Anonymous said...

one thing does seem clear; identifying ag lands is on everyone's plate. whether we utilize that new info for food or fuel production or for affordable housing is another matter.
i missed out on the kauai council discussion but the political solution is not forthcoming. the answers are to be found in the values espoused by folks like gadfly and his ilk and the forward thinking individuals who envision a just and sustainable hawaii. military operations and urbanization of the outer islands is clearly not sustainable nor desireable. gadfly's opinion that people want the 90% of imported stuff is off base; people consume this stuff because it is what is available. the haves and have nots will be outbid by the have mores 24/7. when that time comes i'm not sure how glad our fly friend will be.

Anonymous said...

Your fly friend will be very glad, I assure you, my capital-letter-impaired friend.

Anonymous said...

According to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, roughly 600,000 visitors spent roughly $1.1 billion in January, 2008, alone.

Business. Economic development. Tourism. $1,100,000,000.

You want to give that up??

Apparently the folks who run this place don't. Neither do the folks who visit here. Some moving here. Most of them wanting the conveniences they left behind combined with a tropical setting. Very few move here to "downgrade" to a third-world personal agronomy lifestyle without their "toys".

Anonymous said...

hey fly guy, remember to turn off the lights-kinda wasteful for leave'em on