Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Musings: There and Back

Whenever possible, I sit on the left side of the plane when flying into Kauai so I can catch that breathtaking view of Haupu, which always makes me happy to return. When I came in late yesterday, I was dismayed by the construction that's underway at Kauai Lagoons. It appears there's virtually no setback for the buildings that are being framed right on the edge of the bluff.

Coastal hazards? What coastal hazards?

After spending a week in Oregon and visiting Portland's opulent farmers' markets — we're talking artesianal cheeses and beers, charcuterie, fish, game, eggs, bread, preserves, flowers, fruit and veggies galore, all at reasonable prices — I was reminded anew of how little food we produce in Hawaii, especially on Kauai.

Instead, we grow luxury estates, golf courses, resorts and seeds.

Still, our lack of edibles can't be blamed solely on those particular land uses. Kauai hasn't fed itself for 50 years, in part because it's cheaper to ship stuff from places like Oregon than grow it here, where land ownership is highly centralized and farming implements and inputs are virtually all imported.

It was great to gorge on apricots, cherries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, marion berries, strawberries that are red through and through, vine-ripened tomatoes, artichokes, sweet corn and other seasonal goodies that are grown in the surrounding countryside. Much of it was being hawked by earnest young people, some of them from longtime family farms, a sight that gave me hope. 

Portland is a neat city because it's so green, both figuratively and literally, but it's also odd because it's so white. The lack of cultural diversity was striking, with people of color apparently pushed to the urban fringes through a process of relentless gentrification.

Not that we've got any lock on cultural harmony just because people of different races are living together here in Hawaii. A letter to the editor today on the George Zimmerman verdict noted “that stereotypes, and likely their second cousin prejudice, are alive and well, even in the Land of Aloha.”

I would say especially in the land of aloha. The newest arena where stereotypes and prejudices are rearing their ugly heads is in the debate over the proposed county ordinance that would require pesticide use disclosure, buffer zones and an EIS for the chemical/seed company operations.

A friend said he sat next to the mother of a seed company official on a flight to Honolulu and she expounded upon how “it's these trust funders on the north shore that never worked a day in their life trying to put us out of business.”

Then there was the comment that an anti-GMO activist left on a pro-GMO Facebook page about how “you haoles are making money off poisoning the land.”

Meanwhile, I've heard other comments about how westsiders, locals, Filipino field workers are “ignorant of the facts” and “brainwashed” by their employers, like they don't have the ability to access information and make independent judgments, and so need to be "educated" by the anti-GMO forces.

Ugh. Can't we just focus on the issue, which is contentious enough, without bringing in all the stereotypes and prejudices, too? Because from what I've seen, there seems to be support and opposition among all different races and socio-economic groups.

On another topic, I was reading an article in The Oregonian about how bees are the new chickens, in terms of urbanites wanting to raise something and commune with nature at home. Though like the rest of the mainland, Oregon beekeepers lost some 40 percent of their bees over the winter, a decline that has not been reported in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the backyard poultry trend has turned out rather badly in some cases, with animal shelters and sanctuaries reporting a dramatic rise in unwanted chickensIt's unclear what will happen to these cast-off flocks, especially since some shelters impose strict “adoption” guidelines, including a promise to treat the hens and roosters like pets. 

Portland is a very dog-friendly city. You'll see water bowls set out on sidewalks, dogs sitting with their owners at sidewalk cafes and restaurants with signs welcoming canines. It was the only place I've ever seen fresh pet food for sale in refrigerated cases in mainstream grocery stores, and dog tethering posts outside public restrooms.

But I didn't see any dogs like Koko and Paele.  Like the Islands, our poi dogs are unique. 


Anonymous said...

It is a fact that many Northshore crystal gazers are heavily involved in anti-GMO, anti-Hotel, anti-Development..."I got mine, raise the drawbridge, we are ever so sophisticated and we have a very worldly viewpoint and must teach these locals how to behave, they have a plantation mentality, poor things"

Anonymous said...

The amount and toxicity of pesticides being used by these companies is alarming and that's only based on what they were forced to disclose. Setting aside the GMO issue, do you trust DuPont, Dow and all of these mega chemical companies to consider our health and welfare as a priority? Would you live next to the fields where these pesticides are being used?

Anonymous said...

As someone who participated in the march and watched the county council testimony, I saw a diverse crowd of protestors and speakers, not only "North Shore crystal gazers" The testimony that had the most impact on me was the Hawaiian fireman who lives adjacent to the fields in Kekaha with his ohana and witnesses the daily early morning spraying next to his house. I'd be extremely worried about the chronic exposure to RUP's if I were in his shoes, not to mention the entire Hawaiian Homes subdivision that lies adjacent to these GMO fields. Or the entire Kekaha and Waimea communities for that matter. Maybe some in those communities are conditioned to the spraying from the plantation era and don't see the problem. Whatever the case maybe, this is an issue that impacts us all and its not about labeling and lumping people into categories, we need to focus on the issues and how these agrochemical companies are creating a divide on our island. We want our families to have jobs and so we must look at filling that need as an alternative to the seed companies. At the bare minimum, buffer zones, disclosure and no open field experimentation are the least these companies can do for the communities they say they care about. The status quo is no longer acceptable.