Sunday, February 23, 2014

Musings: Different Standards

Why is agriculture the only economic enterprise under scrutiny on Kauai?

In a letter to the editor today, Jose Bulatao writes:

A summit meeting bringing all interested parties to the table to discuss the following must be scheduled:

1.) What basic requirements must be met by all those engaged in agricultural activities on our island(s) that will meet “malama aina” practices and principles?

Why only agriculture?

What about construction, with its tons of treated lumber, its endless sheets of plastic, its toxic solvents, paints and glues, its rainforest woods, its tremendous impact on the landfill, its materials that are almost 100 percent imported?

What about tourism, with its irreversible damage to the environment and indigenous culture, its carbon-producing airline flights, its gasoline-guzzling rental cars, its electricity-sucking resorts, its 25,000 visitors per day who require vast quantities of imported food, booze and other supplies, use our finite water, and leave behind their pee, poo and mountains of trash? 

What about the military, with its top-secret operations, its beach closures, its toxic missile launches, its fossil-fuel-intensive training exercises, its extensive occupation of so-called ceded lands?

What about high-end real estate, with its gentrification of agricultural lands, its catering to the second- and third-home crowd that engages in uber-consumerism, its constant luring of new “residents” who take up space, use up resources and move on with their profits?

What about pest control, with its restricted use chemicals that are released into the atmosphere each time a house is tented for termite, its routine spraying of high-end homes, hotels and businesses?

Why no call for a meeting to impose basic requirements that all these economic enterprises must meet to achieve “malama aina” practices and principles? Why is only agriculture under the microscope, under the gun?

Similarly, agriculture is the only economic enterprise on this island that folks say must be sustainable — which is defined all too often by people like “Sustainable Kauai” founder Megan Pittsley-Fox, an East Coast transplant whose husband is a cook at Merriman's, a high-end restaurant that depends on unsustainable tourism and the unsustainable super rich buying at A&B's unsustainable Kukuiula development.

But wait, the sustainability requirements aren't applied to all agriculture. The organic guys who import chicken manure, soil amendments and inputs, plastic irrigation, plastic pots, plastic sheeting, plastic hydroponic supplies and a stready stream of indigent “woofers” to live in the Moloaa mud — they get a free pass, even though their operations are no more sustainable on this remote island than anything else.

Now the focus is on the proposed pasture-raised dairy at Mahaulepu. The Koloa Community Association and Malama Mahaulepu, having declared it “industrial agriculture,” are hosting an informational meeting Thursday night with the folks from Hawaii Dairy Farms. That entity is an offshoot of Ulupono Initiative, which gets its money from Pierre Omidyar and has funded pro-sustainability groups like Malama Kauai.

Personally, I don't really care if we have a dairy on this island. I don't drink milk, and it seems like a lot of cows for a small area. It especially bothered me to learn they won't have any shade in that hot southside sun, because cows wisely tend to gather under trees. But then their manure piles up there, rather than being spread evenly across the pastures. And with climate change bringing us more Kona storms and flooding, it's certainly possible and plausible that run off could occur.

So no, I don't have a problem with people asking questions, voicing concerns, and yes, I believe we should live on the land as lightly as we can and embrace the concepts of malama aina.

But I do object to agriculture being held to a higher and different standard than other enterprises on this island. Especially when it's being done by people who have no idea what farming is all about, and hypocrites who are not living sustainably or otherwise practicing what they preach.


Anonymous said...

Why??! Because People are getting paid to bash ag. Thats why!!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the essence of all business and government is to assist all people achieve a healthy fulfilled life.
Lots of yakking people sitting on a ton o' cash, trust funds, Mommy money, government jobs or government handouts have lost the reality of the hierarchy of needs. Food, clothing, shelter being the basic.
Many vocalites are immersed in their own self-actualization and the sky is falling enviro-cause du jour, that they have forgotten, that Kauai is made of many good people.
Most Kauaians are living day to day providing for their families, getting fulfillment out of work, love and sharing life. The daily routine.
Not to get too far out in the ozone, but in recent history many governments attempted to create harmony out of the ideas of a few "enlightened ones". The Third Reich, Stalinist Russia and Mao's cultural revolution are three examples. The results of the enlightenment were not so good.
Somehow history has proven, people have greater freedom, health and well being by allowing themselves to pursue their own endeavors.
If very many of the BIG IDEAS spouted by the enlightened antis become a reality, say bye bye to pertneer every job on Kauai.
By the way, the evil capitalist John D. Rockefeller saved more whales then any environmental group, an unintended circumstance, but save the whales he did.
Perhaps the job killing politicians, wonderful patchouli oilers and others of the "OMG America is so bad ilk" should be without a buck or 2 in Amerika for a while or better yet, go to many parts of Asia and really smell the reality of a bad economy. Oh shucks, just go to the Marshall Islands or Tijuana. Or, if the nuts have their way, go to the westside in a few years, there are not that many big buck newcomers, that can fill the void left when PMRF and Ag are gone.
We are fortunate to have a Mayor that is part of Kauai and cares for ALL Kauai people, their families and their jobs. Live and let live. Namaste.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more! For a community that claims to support agriculture why are we always looking for ways to shut it down? Ag is not a "clean" industry, but law abiding farmers that work with the community should be supported. Do we want more homes on our Ag lands??? Get real people.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I absolutely agree! Why???

Anonymous said...

What an excellent letter to the Editor!

Anonymous said...

Imported chicken manure! Gosh a few laying hens provide this locally. Additionally we could easily farm bamboo for all types of construction materials locally. Last I checked 2000 acres of sub-marginal sugar cane land could supply a bamboo processing factory 24/7/365.everything from engineered tresses to 4x8 dimensional lumber, flooring, furniture, etc. could be produced right here.

Anonymous said...

My neighbor starts a smelly old tractor up every now and then. It has fumes and is loud. He uses Roundup and has many hunting dogs. This disturbs the many tenants in my Ag TVR.
I tried to talk to him about the environmental impacts with Roundup, his dogs and to put a muffler on his tractor. I called the cops and county agencies. They will not help me.
Now he parks the tractor in my view plane and I think he is moving his kennel right on the property line closest to my house. Something must be done about these types of people.

Anonymous said...

Edward coll go for it! We need actual farmers not poeple who just talk about it or how others should do it. And please let the organic farmers know where you are hiding all of those chickens and give them the manure. I'm sure they never thought it would be that easy and just shelled out all of that money shipping it in, if only they would have known!

Joan. Keep up the good work. Love the big picture perspective. Thank you for keeping my dream of a rational Kauai alive. I starting to think hooser's little fisties had beaten it to death.

Anonymous said...

Because less than 2% of our population grow food for the other 98% we're an easy target for those who know we can never match their numbers if they mobilize against us.
As farmers we can only take comfort in the realization that food is about to get very expensive and there's no way for them to feed themselves without us.

irk said...

even carpenters don't drive it home with one hit all the time!

Anonymous said...

Well now that the cheering squad has weighed in, I will try to bring the conversation back to some type of realistic dialogue. The reason farming is getting so much attention, when all of the other problems you listed are very important as well, is very simply that all of the other industries you mentioned are attempting to move toward more sustainable practices overall. The construction industry has strict grading and NPDES requirements and uses much less toxic materials and safer practices and more efficient and renewable building materials than a decade ago, while the chemical industry continues to expand its use of toxins. The problems are definable and they are not a secret like the chemicals gmo ag is using.

Anonymous said...

7:58 hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Really 8:57?

You haven't noticed that ag also has been moving toward more sustainable practices and has MUCH stricter regulations than in the past?

As for secrets, you don't know what any of those other industries are using and there is no mechanism for disclosure there.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the tourists are now going to come over on sailboats or paddle over in canoes. And they're going to walk all over Kauai like Caine in Kung Fu. And they'll only eat organic, non-gmo food grown locally.

Anonymous said...

“I don't drink milk, and it seems like a lot of cows for a small area. It especially bothered me to learn they won't have any shade in that hot southside sun, because cows wisely tend to gather under trees. But then their manure piles up there, rather than being spread evenly across the pastures. And with climate change bringing us more Kona storms and flooding, it's certainly possible and plausible that run off could occur.”

Joan – Hopefully you will have your questions answered at the meeting. But to me, a layman, I can see that if here are no trees, then one builds shelters. When poo mounts up in shelters, one has machines to harvest it and spread it out evenly over the green pastures. So it’s really a question of educating oneself as you certainly have on other issues here. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Right on, Joan! Yes, bashing agriculture is biting the very hand that feeds us--ALL of us. It appears all to easy to bash ag when we are well fed. We have the luxury to do whatever we do for our livelihoods BECAUSE our agricultural food supply provides us the sustenance and security to do so. What a reality check! Write on, Joan!

Without our modern agricultural food system, our diets would be quite meager. Whenever you eat a meal, consider where it comes from, and what it takes to produce it and bring it to you, then consider what it would take us to do that. Who is "us?" Well, the very people who say that we should grow our own food; the very people who say that we should grow our own lumber. I'd certainly love to see someone carry out the "vision" to grow all our construction material by growing bamboo. Great thought - tough reality . . . just like the albizia tree farm idea!

Yes, we do need to acknowledge the shortcoming of "corporate" agriculture, but we will not solve the problems by biting the hand that feeds us, and throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We do not live in separate (nor parallel) universes.

So, is it a good idea to produce organic milk (or any kind of milk) on Kauai? Ulupono is certainly putting their money where their mouth is. Or is it just a $17 million exercise to "prove" that agriculture cannot work there, and is not supported here, so the alternative is to develop it? Watch out what you wish for.

Ahh, reality checks in life! Was it George Carlin (or was it William Blake) who said, "Life is a contradiction?"

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, 11:05, one could build shelters, but none were included in the plans I saw. As I understood it, the idea is to have the animals naturally and evenly spread manure as they graze, rather than constantly manage it with equipment. That's why they don't want to create places where the cows will congregate, other than the milking barn.

Anonymous said...

The fact that I can't tell whether February 23, 2014 at 7:58 PM is speaking tongue-in-cheek speaks volumes about both Kauai and Joan's commenters.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you can't tell does speak volumes about someone . . .

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Joan. You are right, why is Ag always being singled out? Have you ever taken a look at the local sustainability initiatives, for example the Ho‘ouluwehi- The Sustainable Living Institute of Kaua‘i Community College and the credentials (or rather the complete lack of credentials) of individuals claiming to be sustainability experts? Not surprisingly, these so-called sustainability "experts" are always someone with zero credentials who clearly know nothing about agriculture or what sustainability even is. Their ideas about "sustainable ag" amount to a fantasy that is completely out of touch with reality, which demonstrates ignorance of agriculture, and in actuality is the complete opposite of anything remotely sustainable.

Anonymous said...

February 24, 2014 at 8:57 AM, or should I say Andrea?
I think you must have slept through a lecture or two. The ones that covered the changes in farming practices that have occurred in the last, oh, few decades. The changes that have, say, led to better soil conservation and safer pesticides.