The day dawned clear and a brisk 19 degrees here in lovely Santa Fe, where I arrived yesterday for a visit with my eldest sister. It's great to be in the wide open spaces of the desert, framed by craggy, snow-dusted mountains. Though the temps are still cool, the cottonwood trees are sporting new green leaves and I saw four purple iris and a yellow-flowered forsythia, sure signs of spring.
Before I left, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned that the Hyatt is weighing in against the proposed dairy at Mahaulepu, expressing concerns about possible odors and water pollution — like the hotel and its golf course aren't releasing any pesticides and other crap (perhaps even literally) into the ocean.
And I thought of how bitterly the Hyatt and golf course were opposed, for a lot of good reasons: taking land out of ag, introducing tourism to the unspoiled Mahaulepu coast, nearshore water contamination, extensive water use, light pollution and losing yet another beach to hotel guests — not to mention iwi kupuna and obake.
The size alone — at 600-plus rooms, it was the largest resort on Kauai — and extensive footprint on the land freaked out a lot of people.
Mostly, though, it was perceived as giving Grove Farm a foot in the door. Once the Hyatt was built, many of us cautioned, other hotels, luxury condos and homes would eventually follow. Indeed, Grove Farm made no bones about its plans for resort development along the Mahaulepu coast. To my knowledge, it's never abandoned those plans, nor has it ever expressed any willingness to turn the area into any sort of park or reserve.
But Grove Farm is politically powerful, so despite opposition, it got the approvals it needed from the county and state and the Hyatt opened its doors in 1990.
Now here we are, 24 years later, and I think most folks view the Hyatt as generally an asset to our island, creating some of the better tourism jobs and hosting conventions that also boost the economy. Still, it has undeniably had irrevocable impacts on the coastline.
So it's just a tiny bit ironic that a resort we once fought, in large part because it was being built on agricultural land, is now fighting an agricultural use on agricultural lands. This is what happens, people, when you start mixing uses, as anyone trying to farm around gentleman's estates will confirm.
I've got my own questions about the dairy, which the Ulupono folks say they'll answer, and though I'm generally supportive, it's not as yet unqualified support.
Still, it rankles when I hear people bitch about the dairy for its possible impacts on tourism, as we see in a letter to the editor today from BJ Thomas of Koloa, who wrote:
We should say dairy farm versus tourism. The South Side depends on tourism, not milk. The impact will not be right away, but once the world hears about the smell and everything that comes with a diary farm, the beauty will be lost.
It rankles because many of us have resisted the explosion of tourism precisely because of our concerns that the rural character of the island, the tight-knit community, the laid back lifestyle, the beauty, the agricultural foundation, would be lost.
Which is exactly what is now happening as more land is developed and additional newcomers with no sense of history, no respect for Hawaii's deep agricultural roots, stream in — to the point where tourism is being held up as the god, while ag is denigrated as the despoiler.
Speaking of despoiling, I saw an article about how toxoplasmosis, a dangerous parasite spread by cats, is now being found in beluga whales in the Arctic, prompting a public health warning to the Inuit who eat whales. As The Guardian reported:
The most likely cause of the outbreak was infected cat feces washing into waterways and on to the sea, where fish and other marine organisms became contaminated and ultimately eaten by the whales.
And I thought, so what about all the gazillion feral cats here and elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands? We know that toxoplasmosis has killed monk seals. How might it be affecting turtles, dolphins, humpbacks, the fish and lobsters consumed locally? Could it be making people sick?
Has any widespread testing has been done? I doubt it.
Just something else to think about as we grapple with how to deal with the feral cat populations that also pose very real threats to endangered native birds.