Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Musings: Passing the Buck

The moon was just over half full and lined up, roughly, with Venus and Jupiter in a mostly clear sky when Koko and I went walking on a morning so chilly I wore sweatpants instead of shorts.

Waialeale and all the other mountains appeared as mere hulks in the pre-dawn landscape, then came sharply into view as the rising sun rimmed the eastern sky in gold. It’s so enchanting, that scene of night giving way to day, as roosters beat their wings and crow and all the birds start singing.

Still, Spring is on her way, despite the nip in the air, with a friend this morning delivering a bag of heavenly gardenias. The water has dropped a few degrees, too, as I’ve noticed recently on my afternoon swims. It’s hard at first to plunge in, just as it’s hard sometimes to leave a snug bed in the morning, but I’m invariably glad I do.

While driving to the beach yesterday I heard a man on the radio talking about GMOs, saying what’s the big deal; people have been altering and cross-breeding plants and animals forever, and that’s why we have so many different types of fruit and other crops.

His is a common misconception among those ignorant of the technology.

Genetic engineering is not akin to either the processes of hybridization or natural selection. Instead, it involves taking a gene from another organism — typically an entirely different species — and forcing it into an unreceptive cell. That’s done through use of a virus that invades the cell, or electronic bombardment that weakens the cell so the alien gene can slip through.

In this way, it crosses a barrier that Nature herself created precisely to prevent this type of transgenic propagation. But as usual, humans think they know best and have figured out ways to get around this ancient safeguard.

There ain’t nothin’ natural about genetic engineering, and it’s never been done at any time in the known history of the world. It’s a giant experiment, with the ecosystem — including us — as guinea pigs.

And here in Hawaii — the world capital of GMO open field testing — we’re not even allowed to know what the biotech companies are growing, or where. Anyway, if you want to learn more, I did a piece a while back on the technology and controversy for Honolulu Magazine.

I see it as one of the key issues of our time, because it has the ability to affect life as we know it on the planet. As Dr. Lorin Pang, Maui’s state health officer, has often noted (although not in his official position, as his views aren’t shared by the pro-biotech state administration): Once these organisms get out into the environment, as they do daily, wherever they’re grown, there’s no calling them back.

Got a couple of emails regarding the proposed ag subdivision moratorium. The moratorium is temporary, until the inventory of important ag lands is completed. This could take 10 years, and according to an email from Councilman Mel Rapozo, who was questioned by Jimmy Torio: “This is definitely beyond the legal parameters of a moratorium.”

However, Mel goes on to state that the bill came to the Council without a legal overview, so I’m not sure where he came up with the idea that a moratorium can’t last for 10 years.

He also thinks there needs to be “scientific data” to justify the moratorium, and “the crisis has not been adequately defined and supported.”

I guess Mel is not alarmed by our own planning director’s observation that 80 percent of our ag lands are not owned by farmers.

What will constitute a sufficient crisis to protect ag lands, Mel? We already import nearly all of our food and three-acre ag lots in Kealia are selling for $500,000.

Meanwhile, the big land owners and speculators are salivating at the prospect of turning yet more of our ag land into lucrative estate housing for part-time residents.

Mel continues with this bit of buck passing: “Finally, the Mayor once told me that his job was to send over a vision to the Council. It was the Council's job to work out the details. This is totally irresponsible in my opinion. He has access to all the legal advisors, the department heads, the statistics, and the historical data required to properly draft a bill. To expect the Council to do all of the legwork for his vision is simply not acceptable. “

Yes, Mel, it would be nice if Mayor Baptiste did a better job of drafting the bill. But to even get a vision out of the guy is pretty darn good. You on the Council also have access to legal advisors (who give you opinions you don’t share with the public) and all the other county resources.

If the mayor isn’t showing leadership, can’t the Council? Or do we just keep losing ground — literally and figuratively — until somebody is willing to stop passing the buck?


Anonymous said...

had a chance to see some of the proceedings this am with mel and bryan guys trying to understand the issues better. jay furfaro was surprisingly combative. ron was also jumping on the bashwagon. mayor baptiste tries but falls short(again). mel's points were well taken and even jay pointed out the futility of it all. there are county processes and state processes that are not in alignment. joanne grilled the mayor as well but offered some hopes of amendments to the bill. mel's fear of creating a rush to cpr the lots instead of subdividing seem valid. if you stop the subdivision of ag lands then landowners will just cpr the property instead. no public input because cpr's do not require the planning dept approval like subdivisions do. not that the planning dept/commission listens much to the many residents who provide testimony. my issue is why does jay f complain but not propose any alternatives? why doesn't mel offer an amendment to restrict cpr's of ag lands? there is so much dysfunctional politics at play makes you want to disengage from the process and advocate for anarchy. maybe bob marley had it right- total destruction's the only solution. no one can stop us now!

Mel Rapozo said...

Just to let all of you know, I am looking at legislation that would limit the density on CPRs. I am looking at the Big Island's current law that may address the CPR issue here on Kauai. Thank you for all of your input.

Mel Rapozo