Monday, February 2, 2009

Musings: Cashing in on Kauai

A friend and I were driving through Kapaa yesterday afternoon while the Super Bowl was being televised. It was like a ghost town, with virtually no traffic, either pedestrian or vehicular, prompting my friend, born and raised on Kauai, to proclaim: “Wow, it’s like before time kine.”

Stopping into a store, the cashier asked, “Where is everybody?”

“Yeah, the town is totally deserted,” I replied.

“They all watching television!” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

It is kind of amazing how a televised sports event can have the same effect as a neutron bomb.

Not that I’m complaining. The beach was nearly empty, save for two guys setting net and a couple of surfers, as was the Laundromat, where a car parked out front bore the bumper sticker: If you hate the Hawaiians, why the f*** did you move to Hawaii?

Spotted another bumper sticker that expressed a similar sentiment: No fo get fo go home.

I think that’s how more than a few folks feel about Kauai Springs owner Jim Satterfield, who last week got his permits to keep operating a water bottling company that turned a public resource into a private one for his personal profit. According to The Garden Island:

Environmental activist Elaine Dunbar said the water bottling operations “constitute the taking of a public resource,” and that allowing the company to sell the water for profit would open the door for companies such as Coca Cola’s Dasani brand and Pepsi’s Aquafina label to come to Kaua‘i and “suck it dry.”

Of course, for Satterfield it’s all about cashing in on Kauai:

During a break prior to the agenda item, Kaua‘i Springs owner Jim Satterfield said he “came to see if they were going to do what the court told them to do” and that the permits, which he expected to be approved, would open the door for him to court investors to help him take his operation to faraway places like Japan.

Meanwhile, another `aina exploiter, Pioneer Hi-Bred, is whipping up some media attention for itself because it installed solar panels out at its Waimea Research Center.

It kind of shows you just how perverted — and meaningless — these “greening” initiatives are when you have a chemical company that grows GMO crops using intensive chemical agriculture on so-called “ceded lands” stolen from the Hawaiian Kingdom getting a big back pat for, as Chamber of Commerce President Randall Francisco described it, joining “Kaua‘i’s ever-growing list of businesses and residents who believe in the benefits of renewable energy and a sustainable Kaua‘i future.”

Hmm. But is it really a sustainable future it’s embracing, or the estimated $200,000 to be saved yearly on the electric bill?

Even Mayor Bernard Carvalho joined in the fawning, saying:

“I believe a project like this is just a stepping stone for many other projects throughout the island,” Carvalho said. “What a great example for us to look forward to.”

Yes, Bernard, let’s all jump on DuPont’s wagon, a prospect that’s even more amusing when you check out the press release and discover:

DuPont offers the broadest portfolio in the solar energy market with eight essential products. DuPont is a leading material and technology supplier to the photovoltaic industry with more than 25 years of experience in photovoltaic materials development.

Just think: you, too, can save the earth by buying solar panels made from petrochemicals and toxic chemicals (and what kind of environmental footprint does their production and shipping create?) while supporting a giant corporation that wants to control the world’s seed supply and brought us such great cancer-causing products like Teflon.

Gosh, I feel better already.


Anonymous said...

so what do i need to do to think like this?

Anonymous said...

Go back to school, for starters.

And this time lose the comic books.

Anonymous said...

so what do i need to do to think like this?

Question authority and everything else!

Anonymous said...

i guess you would suggest the "industrial society & its future"

big john zerzan fans huh? sweet

Anonymous said...

. . . as I type on my organic, biodegradable keyboard and stare at my non-toxic screen with the CPU made with union labor and powered by hamsters fed with organic pellets, before driving in my bio-fuel vehicle with non-petroleum tires to the store made of local rocks and trees (no AC) to buy all locally grown food to give me energy to paddle my canoe to the neighbor islands and beyond . . .

Anonymous said...

i believe the clinical term is "anarcho-primitivism"

anywho, its an interesting subculture, esp for psychologists i bet

February 2, 2009 12:16 PM
February 2, 2009 2:26 PM

Katy said...

The TINA (There Is No Alternative) crowd strikes again here on the comments page. Instead of ridiculing the critique of unsustainable practices, why not jump on board and do something useful?

Joan, thank you for your valuable post.

I'm particularly concerned about water privatization. So far, the fight against Kaua'i Springs has been taken up mostly by Kanaka Maoli, as far as I can tell, but we all have a stake in protecting natural resources from privatization schemes like this. Kaua'i Springs might seem like a nice little mom-n-pop business, but these things always start innocently enough. I really worry about what kind of door is being opened with the granting of those permits.

Anonymous said...

This is just plain ignorance. The "spring" at Mt Kahili is not a placid pool gentle Kanaka Maoli can tiptoe to and dip their bucket. There is no access for you and I or anyone. Access comes via Grove Farm Corp. who drilled deep into the mountain and built (then upgraded pipes in the 90's) the infrastructure for the water then used for agriculture and livestock all the way to Koloa. The users, which now include Kauai Springs, have business deals over decades that include Grove Farm, landowners Knudsen Trust, and an ever changing number of users which very much includes Kahili School and Mountain Park where I lived for many years, a 30 minute hike from where the pipe exits Mt. Kahili. Those users have never given away the proceeds of their water use, be it agriculture, livestock, students, or bottled water, because they are capitalists in a capitalist system and/or, like Grove Farm, want to make back the investments made in the infrastructure that distributes this water. This is the best tasting water I've known. At Kahili Mountain Park, it came right out of my tap. Kauai Springs is a means to share it with the many. I'm happy to be able to be able to purchase and taste it once again. I am one of just a few people who even know where that pipe exits the mountain. The pipes are 99% underground. Even if I took you there, who could not gather so much as a drop. Runoff from the mountain form a couple of well known creeks. They are also used along their way to Koloa. Those creeks have absolutely nothing to do with the spring deep inside Mt. Kahili. These objections are based in ignorance.

Anonymous said...

"Instead of ridiculing the critique of unsustainable practices, why not jump on board and do something useful?"

too busy to critique (tho that does take little time, effort, or thought...and you feel good afterwords, so i understand the attraction). too busy working on tangible sustainable / green projects and tools (ie, products) in the areas of electricity usage and transportation that can have a measurable positive impact (tho im in it for the $)

anyways, im w/ noam chomsky - anarcho-primitivism and its ilk is not well thought out at all

but yes, it is interesting that the water bottling operation is able to engage in what is technically manufacturing given they dont have such permits. a couple of folks i know in the planning dept still shake their head at that one

Anonymous said...

It's hard to live in the modern world and not be a part of the "problem". I recycle, drive an "economy" car, have a solar water heater, etc., but I still cause more pollution than most third world villages. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

it is interesting that the water bottling operation is able to engage in what is technically manufacturing given they dont have such permits.

It's no more manufacturing than putting veggies in plastic bags and shipping them off to market. Maybe planning dept people dopey enough to be shaking their heads over something so inherently uncontroversial are just thinking too hard about it.

Anonymous said...

"It's no more manufacturing than putting veggies in plastic bags and shipping them off to market."

id agree it may be a matter of degree (ie, that coca-cola is more of a "traditional" bottling operation - hense "manufacturer" - relative to the koloa one). nor do i know the regulatory and/or operative definition of "manufacturing."

perhaps it has to do with operating machinery which "make" and/or "assemble" a product? any machines moving around adding labels and/or filling and/or capping bottles? i would think so. and that is not to imply that one cant "manufacture" by hand in some way that triggers regulations

or maybe they are trying (or successfully have) fit into some sort of "agricultural activity" definition

i dunno. but your analogy is not applicable

Katy said...

There is an important piece on Kaua'i's water security posted on the Save kaua'i site:

I think this lends context to concerns about Kaua'i Springs.

Anonymous said...

Other than the Ben Sullivan article uses the word: "water," your link is so not made.

I do believe the following can be said: Joan Conrow, Katy Rose, Elaine Dunbar, Puanani Rogers, and a bunch of others, know absolutely nothing about how the water under discussion gets from Mt. Kahili to Koloa and what happens to it along the way. These folks make big assumptions and form big and negative conclusions, and are wrong, wrong, wrong. No matter though, who remembers, they don't suffer from it, it's easy to be extreme when you aren't affected personally...then it's on to the next politically correct cause.

Anonymous said...

Please go back to Alaska, where they kicked your ass for selling the water there. I have no respect for your lack of respect when you started your business without any permits, (including building). The only thing I am glad about is when your business keeps you and your noisy (drumming) kids out of the surf.

Anonymous said...

Oh irk, you've so persuaded me to change my mind on this issue. Of course, I'm also strongly influenced by angry drunken teenagers.

Anonymous said...

The issue is so not who owns the infrastructure, it's who owns the water. It's a public trust resource and agriculture, Hawaiians and native ecosystems are supposed to have top priority for water use, not some outsider's money making scheme.

Katy said...

All over the world, water privatization, and hence, water security, which is the topic of Ben Sullivan's article, is becoming a critical problem.

Shall we simply privatize everything, including air? I'm sure if air were scarce, the first thing some would do would be to find a way to bottle it and sell it, and then claim it's their "right" to do so.

The "right" to profit does not come before others' rights to an adequate supply of clean water. Kaua'i may be a rainy spot, but there are problems with our water system which impact our water security. Laying the groundwork to sell off the water is a terrible investment in the future.

I am looking forward to seeing the film FLOW: For The Love Of Water
( to learn more about this question.

I understand that the producer of this film will be interviewed on the Malama Kaua'i program on KKCR on Friday, Feb. 20 at noon.

Anonymous said...

You don't get it. The issue is about who owns, invests in, operates, and uses the infrastructure; because without it, nobody could access a single drop from the Mt. Kahili source - it wouldn't exist. An argument about who owns what doesn't exist is a meaningless argument. You've created a new cause, a water cause, and you're trying to fit the Mt. Kahili source into the cause. IT DOESN'T FIT!!!

Anonymous said...

KR, Ben Sullivan's article does not mention water privatization at all. It's main theme is our vulnerability to water infrastructure that uses petroleum generated electricity. All points made (eg potential cost) relate directly to that main theme. The link to privatization exists strictly in your imagination and desire for it to link.

Anonymous said...

Your argument that it wouldn't exist if it couldn't be tapped is evidence of the stunted mindset that resources have value only if they can be exploited by humans. All water is connected on an island, whether it's feeding a stream or an aquifer.

Katy said...

I know it got anonymous a little agitated to mention an article by a sustainability advocate which is related to the larger question of water security, but I can repeat myself and point out that the article helps provide some context for the question of water privatization.

Access to clean drinking water is on the cusp of becoming a critical sustainability issue on kaua'i as it already has around the world. The small actions we take here, now, can have have huge implications not far down the road.

For that reason, I applaud all who are refusing to allow water issues such as the Kaua'i Springs question, go unexamined.

Handing permits to operate to someone whose sole motive is to bottle and sell Kaua'i water around the globe is simply not the most obvious course of action, regardless of who laid which water pipe where. The world has changed since the days when any old capitalist could take what he wanted from the earth without a fight from those who are impacted by his actions.

Nowadays, it's become clear again that we have to think ahead to protect our limited resources, and respect the communities - and future generations - dependent upon them.

Anonymous said...

The fight in the planning department and the court has nothing to do with any of Katy's points. It is over permits and has nothing to do with anti-capitalist or sustainability sentimentality. It's fine to indulge in this fringe, off-topic navel gazing while the real events play themselves out, but it's only mental masturbation.

Anonymous said...

Thank God we don't live in a system where someone's lofty rhetoric is enough to destroy someone else's business.

Anonymous said...

KR, I looked back over my 1/4 11:27 comment directed to you. I do not see any sign of agitation whatsoever. It was a rather matter of fact rebuttal just like this comment.
I will also say again that you did not pick a citation that specifically supported your point. It wouldn't matter so much except that people often do this to add weight to their comments knowing readers are too lazy to check it out...that's called a snow job. I check everything and I own a jacket.

Anonymous said...

im not saying that koloa water operation is legit, but it does seem they have beat down the county pretty well on it

and aside from the permitting thing (and i still suspect the "manufacturing" definition application is questionable), the majority of the other points they raise seem pretty reasonable, and sometimes pretty powerful

i dunno, i think a person could go either way on it if a few operative facts change

but thanks for the posts, several were quite instructive

February 2, 2009 12:16 PM
February 2, 2009 2:26 PM
February 3, 2009 12:46 AM
February 3, 2009 11:27 AM
February 3, 2009 4:37 PM

Anonymous said...

Read this on water globalization.

Anonymous said...

It falls from the sky, for God's sake! Institute a massive catchment program!

It's very popular on the Big Island, where substantial parts of the island do not have county water and where many thousands of people rely on properly filtered catchment systems for drinking, etc.

Even Volcano Natl Park relies on catchment. They have a system which catches and stores something like 2 million GL.