Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Musings: What a Shame

The field of candidates running for office on Kauai remains sparse, with just a handful of hopefuls declaring their intent to run, according to the latest candidate report.

Only Councilman Mel Rapozo has officially filed for re-election, though JoAnn Yukimura has pulled papers. So far, it appears Felicia Cowden is the only person from the “red shirt” movement to be actively mulling a Council run. She just took leave from her KKCR talk show — candidates can't host shows — and was last seen sitting in Glenn Mickens' chair in the Council chambers.

And yesterday I got an email from a guy seeking to raise funds for Gary Hooser, though he hasn't yet announced that he will run.

His son, Dylan, meanwhile, is actively campaigning for Rep. Jimmy Tokioka's House seat. Neither man has submitted papers formalizing his candidacy. Dylan, who hasn't previously held office, released a one-minute video in which he gave no specifics about his campaign, goals or values, other than to say he wants to be part of all the “positive” things that are happening on Kauai.

Which perhaps includes the way he traveled to Honolulu to hold a SHAME banner in front of Tokioka's office at the Legislature earlier this year. Very effective, that. And so upbeat!
Shame seems to be a popular theme among the self-appointed “green” crowd on Kauai, with Surfrider's Gordon LaBedz happily acknowledging it's the primary tool that his group and Zero Waste Kauai are using to push businesses to use “biodegradable" take out containers.

As dutifully regurgitated by Chris D'Angelo in The Garden Island today:

“We’re trying to shame people into doing the right thing. We’re not embarrassed to say that.”

Which assumes, of course, that Gordon and Pam Burrell of Zero Waste Kauai are arbiters of “the right thing.”

Personally, I can't stand Styrofoam and never use the stuff myself. Still, there's more than a little irony in the fact that many of these biodegradable containers are made from — you guessed it — the very same GMO corn and industrial agriculture practices that Surfrider reviles.

What's more:

The largest producer of PLA in the world is NatureWorks, a subsidiary of Cargill, which is the world’s largest provider of genetically modified corn seed.

Once again we're seeing the real players duking it out in the "environmental" wars: big oil vs big chem.

As for its biodegradability, as Elizabeth Royte wrote in Smithsonian (emphasis added):

PLA [polylactic acid, a plant-based industrial resin] may well break down into its constituent parts (carbon dioxide and water) within three months in a “controlled composting environment,” that is, an industrial composting facility heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes. But it will take far longer in a compost bin, or in a landfill packed so tightly that no light and little oxygen are available to assist in the process. Indeed, analysts estimate that a PLA bottle could take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.

I know we all want that perfect panacea, that snug soundbyte — like Styrofoam-free Kilauea (never mind the foam surfboards, ice chests, peanuts, etc. in people's homes and carports) — but things are just a little more complex than that.

Actually, the guy at Lighthouse Bistro got it right when he said they'd stopped take-outs altogether, to encourage folks to sit down and eat. Because simply substituting containers doesn't eliminate the many detrimental effects of our on-the-go, throw-away culture.

I've got no problem with people pushing for alternatives, encouraging businesses to change their practices, exerting consumer pressure. But when the shame game starts coming in to play, it oozes sanctimony, that holier-than-thou mentality that grates most of us the wrong way.

But we're likely to see more, because they're on a roll. First it was single use plastic bags, now it's Styrofoam, next it's bottles. As TGI reported in its interview with Pam:

If it were up to her, she would get rid of not only plastic containers but also plastic water bottles across the island.

“I don’t want to stop,” she said of the movement. “I just see so much waste. It’s just needless waste — without thinking.”

And all I could think was, what a shame that Pam didn't see the light earlier, before she and her husband, Rex, generated all that plastic sheeting, all those styrofoam peanuts and pellets, all that cardboard and construction waste, while merrily operating their interior design and contracting businesses, shame-free.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Musings: WTF is the Problem?

After hearing a few cries of alarm about the proposed beach access through Falko Partners' Kahuaina Plantation, I decided to check it out. Because there's nothing like actually seeing something for yourself. And I took pictures, so you can see, too.

The access begins off Koolau Road, north of the dirt road that leads to the Larsen's Beach trailhead. You drive through a gate, onto a concrete driveway.
And park in a lot that will be graveled, with space for 20 cars.
Leaving your car, you take a 15-to-20-minute walk along a grassy, 10-foot-wide access. It's quite level, with lovely mauka-makai views and seabirds and nene flying overhead.
At the end of the grass, the trail goes down a gentle slope.
It stops first at a little triangle of land shaded by ironwood trees. It's an area I've walked through many times, not realizing it was privately owned. Falko is proposing to dedicate this triangle to the county.
You can walk through the triangle to reach Waipake Beach.
Or, you can go through a rock outcropping and drop onto the coastal trail that connects Waipake Beach with Larsen's (Lepeuli) Beach.

In other words, we are being given the exact same coastal trail we've been happily and safely using for years, though one alarmist termed it the "precipice of death."
Only now, we'll also have a mauka-makai access, so we can get to this beautiful beach without having to walk all the way from Larsen's.
Which means this remote, still wild beach, where monk seals pup and turtles bask, is going to get more use, a thought that gives me a little pang, because it's so special, so remarkable. And what we humans use, we tend to destroy.

So why would anyone in their right mind want to encourage even more use, by pushing for vehicular access right to the bluff and a paved trail that would funnel people into a relatively pristine area with no bathrooms, no lifeguards and dangerous ocean conditions that have already resulted in numerous drownings and near-drownings?

Which brings us to a group that is small in number, but loud in voice. It includes Richard Spacer, whose sole agenda is nude beaches; David Dinner of 1000 Friends of Kauai, a membership-less group that doesn't do anything anymore except show up to say no to perfectly reasonable proposals; and Hope and Tim Kallai, who want to also squeeze a bluff top path out of Falko, which they claim is an ancient ala loa.

But that ain't gonna happen unless the county condemns it, because the beach along here is always usable, even in big surf. Under state law, the sand is our lateral shoreline access. And while I sympathize with their desire to establish the ala loa, the route remains unresolved on the bordering properties — owned by Waioli Corp. and Pflueger — and is possibly facing litigation on the Waioli side. It's highly unlikely the state would arbitrarily assign a route through the Falko lands at this point.
As for the beach access now on the table, I thought it was wonderful, one I would love to use because it feels like old Kauai. And the dozens of local fisherman who testified in favor of keeping it a foot path at the planning commission are happy with it, too.

Which is why, at the end of our walk, I turned to Shawn Smith of Falko Properties and said, "So WTF is the problem?"

If it's unhappiness about the 375-acre "ag subdivision" that this access goes through, well, that boat has already sailed. It's been approved as a15-lot subdivision and through the CPR process, got the maximum density of 75 homes, with no guest houses or vacation rentals allowed. It is now on the market, and someone will either buy it for a private estate, or sell it off as "gentleman's estates."

That unfortunate fact isn't going to change, because the county has already approved the subdivision, and it doesn't have a history of enforcing the farm dwelling agreements required for all houses on ag land

The only question now is whether the County Council should accept the proposed beach access through the subdivision. And the answer is yes, it's a good'un.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Musings: Be It, Live It

My friend Kaimi stopped by to visit the other evening and saw, atop a pile of old clippings I was sorting through, a story I'd written about his family losing their taro farm lease in Hanalei. It was dated August 2005.

Wow, he said. Nine years already, and I still never get back on the land.

He's planted and harvested a lot of taro for other people in that time, at Anahola, Hanalei, Haena, Limahuli. He's trying to maintain his varieties as best he can, with huli banks here and there, including my yard. But he's never been able to secure his own loi, primarily because he's a young guy living hand-to-mouth, with no money, no credit, no business plan and no connections to those who own land.

Just lots of hands-on experience and practical knowledge about how to grow, hunt and catch food that is local, sustainable and healthy. In other words, he actually knows how to achieve the rhetorical ideal of the Kauai “sustainability movement.” Yet he's completely unsupported.

And I was reminded, again, of how much time, energy and money is regularly poured into pro- and anti-movements with very little to show for that tremendous investment, aside from ever-more polarization.

So in response to the folks who have asked, "well, what's your solution?" consider this: Instead of seeking political “solutions,” which are typically more akin to a bandaid than a cure, what if we focused on practical solutions? What if we focused on shared values, instead of conflicting (and often shadowy) agendas?

Take, for example, the oft-promoted goal of reducing imports and increasing food security. 

Under a political solution, people waste hours in the acrimonious dead zones of the County Council and Facebook fighting over a pesticide/GMO disclosure bill that does nothing to reduce pesticide use, promote small farms or improve the availability of land. Special interest groups fund opposing sides; money is wasted on advertising, lawsuits and jetting to other islands to protest or testify; conflict increases, divisiveness grows. Ideologies are bitterly defended, the community weakens and fractures. No food is produced, food security remains illusive.

Under a practical solution, folks mobilize for work days to clear, open and plant loi. People get exercise, learn useful skills, gain an understanding of land, water and culture, meet neighbors, build community and feel a sense of pride every time they look at that loi, or harvest from it. Money is invested in buying tractors, fixing water systems, securing leases. Healthy, indigenous food is produced.

And the island moves closer to achieving a widely shared value:  food security.

Let's pause for a moment and reflect on the past year. Think of how different things might be right now if all the passion, idealism and discontent that birthed the anti-GMO movement had been channeled into scenario B, as opposed to scenario A. 

Yes, politicians will tell you scenario A is the only way, because it feeds their ego and increases their power. But that old conflict and control model doesn't serve our community well in any way, shape or form. We can do things differently, ya know. It's fully our own choice.

As Dawson wrote in comments a few days ago:

People can work through differences of opinion and values, given a bit of empathy and some feeling for the long-range (both future and past). But not when they're running with the pack and high on the self-serving emotional rush of Good vs. Evil. Then their humanity goes cold, their brains turn tribal, and they become territorial. 

I was struck by his use of the phrase “their humanity goes cold.” It seems to me that's where we're at on this island, in this world. We're eager to vilify and label, madly pointing the finger at others to avoid looking at ourselves. Because really, that's where all change begins: within each and every one of us. There's simply no escaping the fact that we — yes, all of us — created the problems that face humanity. There is no convenient bogey man to scapegoat and blame, only ourselves.

As Luke Evslin wrote in comments:

We have a massive, structural, enemy-less, multi-faceted problem on Kaua’i that we are all complicit in. How are we going to fix it?

It seems one place to start is by actively embracing cooperation and rejecting the intransigence that seems to characterize social and political movements. I think of that often when I watch bee and ant colonies, which function as single organisms, though each individual has a specific role. What if we put as much energy into working things out, as we did into plotting the destruction of those with different beliefs? Especially since the global problems we're facing affect all humans, as well as other species.

I know that some people take extreme positions in hopes of ending up in the middle, but what if we started in the middle, where most folks naturally gravitate? What if we dropped the idea of an “out there” enemy, be it developers or chem companies, and faced the fact that we have met the enemy and he is us? Because really, no one on Kauai can claim he or she is exempt from culpability. Each and every one of us is having a major impact simply by virtue of our existence.

And that leads me to the elephant in the room in Hawaii — colonialism. As an anonymous commenter wrote:

Its easy to fight the newcomers but no one wants to touch the marginalization of kanaka that have been disenfranchised from their ancestral lands. There is deep seated anger that has festered for generations and continues today. That is the perspective I come from and don't want to be caught up in the fight between those who call themselves "locals" and newcomers.

Which brings me back to that pile of clips I was sorting through. One of them was a 1994 piece I wrote for “In These Times.” In it, the Rev. Kaleo Patterson shared his view that our environmental problems won't be solved until the citizens of industrialized nations face the spiritual consequence that stem from centuries of subjugating the world's indigenous peoples:

You cannot talk about the environment and the integrity of creation without also talking about justice and the systematic oppression of communities and poor people. And you can't talk about justice without an analysis of what's going on with the land. We have to make the connection between land and the environment.

Unfortunately, as Kaleo pointed out, that link is difficult to achieve in a Western belief system that grants humans dominion over the natural world. Such a worldview makes it easier for folks to oppress other people, mistreat animals, plunder the Earth. Isn't that the core of the ugliness we're confronting?

Fortunately, world views can be changed, and it seems to me that's the fundamental first step here. Until we honestly examine our belief systems and abandon those that don't serve us or the planet,  we're going to keep walking the same path, repeating the same mistakes, pursuing the same solutions that are not solutions.

As the old saying goes, think globally, act locally. And nothing is more local, more under your control, than what's inside your own heart and head. Just as nothing is more revolutionary, or more challenging, than truly being the change you want to see in the world. Not preaching it, imposing it, wishing for it or waiting for somebody else to implement it. But actually being it, living it, and setting an example for others to follow. 

In closing, I'd like to say mahalo to the folks who have clicked on the Donate button and sent contributions to my post office box (PO  Box 525, Anahola, 96703). I've been touched by your generosity, and also by the thoughtful notes that have accompanied some of the donations  The fund drive continues, and if you value Kauai Eclectic, I hope you will support it. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Musings: Fooled Again

It occurred to me, as I stood in the starry darkness, watching a crescent moon consort with Venus, that the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii is not unlike the “war on terror.” Under the guise of fighting an enemy, we're being pumped with fear so our Constitutional rights can be stripped away.

Except the folks who want to permit warrantless property searches, convictions without proof, are supposedly “progressives.” I laughed aloud at the irony and a Newell's shearwater — first of the season, flying overhead — laughed, too. 

Gee, the old Who song — “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” – is still appropos today. Except instead of brown shirts, or black shirts, they're wearing yellow, and red. Shucks. Looks like we did get fooled again.

So who is backing the decidedly regressive charter amendment that would establish an all-powerful environment czar answerable to no citizen, with broad authority to trample civil rights, ban a wide range of commercial and governmental activities?

Well, Makana, making like a farmer in his spanking new overalls. And Councilman Gary Hooser, whose goal from the beginning was to pass a “mellow” ordinance — Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — as a lead up to “the next step:” ramming through a Draconian charter amendment.
Then there's Wai Koa Plantation — the tree farm that is helping 1%'er Bill Porter dodge property taxes while he waits to sell all his ag CPRs behind Kilauea mini-golf — and Kauai Fresh Farms, the hydroponic lettuce grower it subsidizes.

We've also got the Vandana Shiva-backed Friends of Navdana, which discloses little about its activities, and SHAKA, the realtor-backed movement from Maui. And then there's the pro-2491 contingent: GMO Free Kauai, Ohana O Kauai and Surfrider, which has sadly aligned with Kauai Rising to support “rights of nature” initiatives intended to promote a “new island order” characterized primarily by litigation. Mmm, isn't that the old island order?  

Kauai Rising is the creation of Michael Shooltz, a retired East Coast banker who is also worried about smart meters and chem trails, which is how I happened upon the Kauai Sky blog, which lists the supposed health impacts of chem trails:

Aching joints, acute gastrointestinal ailments, adult onset asthma, autism, excruciating headaches fungal infections, heart problems, inability to concentrate, lower body temperatures, nosebleeds, pneumonia, sore necks [from looking up at the chem trails?], sudden extreme fatigue, twitching eyelids, upper respiratory ailments and vertigo.

And I thought, gee, those are awfully similar to the symptoms attributed to smart meter exposure:

Headaches, weakness, sleep disturbance, emotional instability, dizziness, memory impairment, fatigue, and heart palpitations.

As well as pesticide exposure, according to the alarmist new Surfrider pesticide brochure that helpfully directs folks who suspect they've been dosed with drift to call Earthjustice and join a lawsuit:

Flu-like symptoms, spacey, drunk, hungover, nauseous, low energy, asthma, allergies, diarrhea, headaches, itchy eyes, irregular periods, nosebleeds, irregular heartbeat, forgetfulness, scratchy throat, skin rash, leaky gut syndrome, cancer, early puberty, miscarriages, birth defects, ADD/ADHD, OD [?], gout, obesity.

So how do you finger just one culprit?

But getting back to Michael Shooltz, it was this piece that made the movement's strategy so clear:

In spite of the illusions of complexity presented by our corrupt, elitist system, the solution to the poisoning of Kauai is in reality quite simple. We the People just say "No", this poisoning will no longer be allowed on our island. Period. Later we can dance through laws, or lawsuits, or whatever spasms the dying System tries to foist upon us.

In other words, it really doesn't matter, as Gary has said from the start, whether the law is ever enforced, or whether you pass a bill or a charter amendment that is just, reasonable or defensible in a  court of law.

It's all about wishful thinking, getting your way, throwing tantrums, saying no. Kind of like a two-year-old.

Hey, I believe the System is dying, too, and that we desperately need change, fresh ideas, new solutions. But I don't wanna replace one crappy regime with another, which is why I haven't been able to muster an appetite for the anti-GMO movement, despite my deep concerns about pesticide use and many aspects of biotech.

Because the only thing on its menu is the same old power and control entree served up daily by the existing patriarchal system.

Which brings me back to that Who song:

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Musings: Simple Simon

In the context of the anti-biotech war being waged in Hawaii, I got an email from an earnest reader who shares my frustration at the inability, or unwillingness, of people to look at the bigger picture. He wrote:

Because most people don’t have the time or the desire to dig deeper, maybe we all want a clear and simple message fed to us?

I thought of his words when a friend told me she'd been asked to sign a petition to get Kauai Rising's 18-page anti-ag charter amendment on the November ballot. Did you read it? she asked the signature-seekers. No, they replied.

They had, however, read the large-print summary, with its clear and simple message spelled out in red: Let the People Decide.

I thought of his words again when I read Chris D'Angelo's abysmally simplistic article on the charter amendment in today's The Garden Island. He, too, apparently read only the summary. Otherwise, surely he would felt compelled to report on the actual “meat” — though it's more like pink slime — of the proposal.

Crazy, absurd stuff like this (emphasis added):

[P]rohibiting activities and practices that result in the intentional or unintentional introduction into [terrestrial and aquatic] such systems of GMOs or toxins that may endanger, or may reasonably be suspected to, endanger or threaten the existence, survival, productivity or natural diversity of organisms comprising such systems, or the ability of organisms naturally present in such systems to thrive.

So right off the bat, we're talking no more chlorinated water. No more prescription drugs, or even coffee, because that stuff isn't removed from treated sewage. No more treated sewage because it uses chlorine. No more cesspools, or even septic tanks. No more cars, because they drip antifreeze and oil. Oh, and no organic pesticides, either, because don't they also endanger the “natural diversity of organisms,” e.g., insects?

But let's back up just a minute. The amendment is a weird, self-contradicting hybrid that's part bill of rights, part ordinance, part administrative rules and part pure bullshit. What it does — and this comes from the actual amendment, not the sugar-coated summary — is create an Office of Environmental Health under the sole purview of the County Council.

The Council would set the agency's budget and pick its administrator, who would be appointed for an initial term of five years, and then allowed to serve indefinitely, removed from office only by a two-thirds vote of the Council. This administrator would implement and enforce all county environmental laws, including Ordinance 960, which is now under the domain of the mayor's Office of Economic Development.

The administrator, essentially untouchable and unaccountable, would have broad powers to enter and inspect the premises of any “commercial agricultural entity” and order the production of records and reports. It also could accept grants from “public interest foundations and research institutions to implement studies, monitoring and investigations related to the protection of human health and the health and sustainability of natural systems.”

The Council also would appoint a seven-member Environmental Health Advisory Committee that would join the Administrator in deciding whether a commercial ag operation seeking to use GMOs or restricted use pesticides had provided “acceptable proof” that their activities aren't harming the environment.

The Administrator, in turn, would have authority to convene “expert panels” — whose members could include mainland groups like the Pesticide Action Network — that would impose elaborate environmental monitoring protocols.

As one example, to get a permit, ag operations:

[M]ust provide evidence demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt, to the satisfaction of Kaua`i County, that any toxin, or any combination of toxins, proposed to be used will not be released from or transported beyond the boundary of the terrestrial or aquatic domain under the control and management of the commercial agricultural entity that proposes to engage in the use of such toxin(s).

Well, that's pretty much an impossibility in this land of big wind, heavy rain and frequent natural disasters.

Let's look at some of the other provisions (emphasis added):

Strict liability. Any action, activity or conduct, or failure to act, that violates this Charter Amendment is an offense without requiring proof that the defendant knew or intended that such action, activities or conduct, or failure to act, would cause or contribute to the violation.

Wow. Super scary stuff, that. Kind of like the Inquisition, or the Salem witch trials.

Kaua`i County, or any resident of Kaua`i County, may enforce the rights, duties and prohibitions of this Charter Amendment through an action brought in any court possessing jurisdiction.

In other words, anybody can go after anybody. And even if you lose, you can recover all costs, including attorney's fees and travel expenses for those mainland lawyers to come and represent you:

Such costs shall be awarded if significant objectives of the action are achieved without requiring that plaintiffs prevail by obtaining favorable decisions or an order granting relief.

Which I assume includes such significant objectives as trying to delay an application, or bankrupt a farmer.

Compensation for the cost of restoring contaminated waters, soils or ecosystems shall be paid to Kaua`i County as trustee of the protected resources to be used exclusively for the full and complete restoration of the waters, soils, food sources, ecosystem or natural community.

Is full and complete restoration even possible, much less economically quantifiable? I mean, look at Kahoolawe.

Prior approvals not a defense. Actions, activities or conduct authorized by any applicable local, state, or federal permit, approval or registration shall not be lawful if prohibited by this Charter Amendment. Any such permit, approval or registration shall not be a defense to an action for enforcement of any requirement under this Charter Amendment.

This alone guarantees this amendment, if approved, will end up in court.

I especially liked this grandiose provision:

Through the adoption of this Charter Amendment, the people of Kaua`i County call for amendment of the United States Constitution to recognize the right of each person to a clean and healthful environment free from governmental pre-emption, nullification by corporate “rights” or any priority for economic interests established pursuant to the interstate commerce clause or by confirmation or ratification of international trade agreements.

Yes, Kauai shall exert its will upon the nation. .

Returning to my earnest correspondent, yes, people do want clear, simple messages, because so many simply can't be bothered to think. Which is why groups like Kauai Rising and Malama Kauai are gaining signatures on their petition drive.

So here is my clear, simple message, with a nod to Rage Against the Machine

Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

And reject this crazy, totalitarian amendment. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Musings: War by Proxy

Is it possible for the uber-rich, the 1%, to “do good” with their money? Of course. But that's not what happened when they began bankrolling the anti-biotech movement in Hawaii.

They could have used their immense wealth to support any number of positive initiatives — environmental and health studies on the impacts of seed companies, community dialogues on concerns surrounding biotech, organic ag parks, farmer training, small farm start-up loans.

Instead, they chose to wage war, financing groups that furnished a manifesto, targeted an enemy and served up charismatic personalities eager to vilify, dehumanize and promote “group think.”

It started with the January 2013 statewide Hawaii SEED tour, featuring Andrew Kimbrell, Makana, Walter Ritte and Vandana Shiva. She was the one who characterized the seed companies — and by extension, all their employees — as pure evil and issued a decisive call to action: expel them from your Islands.

And it's ending, as expected, in the courtroom, with no actual or concrete gains yet realized, and the very real possibility that none ever will be.

Like all wars, it has produced a battlefield strewn with casualties, survivors suffering from PTSD, a highly polarized population and deep, lingering hatreds and mistrust. Like all wars, it was carried out by commoners, many of them passionate, highly idealistic and young. And like all wars, it was orchestrated by powerful players who use others to implement their political agendas while they remain safe, standing in the shadows.

Throughout the drama driving Kauai's Bill 2491 and Hawaii Island's Bill 113, I kept hearing people say, it didn't have to be like this. We didn't have to launch a war before we gathered any evidence of wrong-doing, sat down to talk with the alleged perpetrators. We didn't have to deeply shame local people who are working in agriculture by accusing them of poisoning the aina, sickening their neighbors. We didn't have to indulge the holier than thou sanctimony that arises when one group is labeled totally wrong, even evil, by another group that presents itself as pure, pono, righteous.

But some folks wanted war, and Councilman Gary Hooser, with his million little fists, his outreach to the Center for Food Safety, was most certainly one of them. And now we're discovering, through the identification of wealthy mainland funders, some of the others.

I'm bringing this up not to bruise or bash, but in hopes it will get people in our community to start thinking, questioning and healing, rather than marching in ideological lockstep, engaging in the “group think” of totalitarianism that promises only more ugliness and pain.

Is it right for offshore money to assume such a compelling role in shaping Island politics, without ever being identified? Is it right for anti-GMO crusaders like Nancy Redfeather, Walter Ritte, Jeri Di Pietro, Nomi Carmona and others to function as lobbyists, without ever registering as such with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, or disclosing their sources of funding?

And lest you question whether they have played that role, just check out this clip of Andrew Kimbrell, director of the Center for Food Safety, who congratulates Nancy for being an "incredibly effective lobbyist in the Legislature. She has done amazing, amazing effective things on that.”

Is it proper for groups like Hawaii SEED — and the mainland foundations that support the anti-biotech movement — to engage in overt political activism, while still maintaining the tax protections of a 501-c-3? Should all the political activities of big money be scrutinized equally, or only the right-wing Koch Brothers?

Is it appropriate to demand total transparency from biotech and its well-funded pool of lobbyists, lawyers and PR flacks, when Hawaii SEED hasn't even filed a 990 return since 2011? And that was submitted two years late. Or that unofficial groups like Ohana O Kauai, SHAKA, Babes for Biotech and all the others should be collecting money for political activities without ever disclosing any of their funding sources, revealing how much they brought in, or how it was spent?

In other words, it is OK to operate under double standards that allow the full truth of this  situation, any situation, to be obscured?

Is it acceptable to wage war by proxy? Is that what this community really wants?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Musings: Dirty Money

In seeking to strike down Kauai's new GMO/pesticide regulatory bill, seed company attorneys are arguing the law “is simply hodge-podge legislation, linked only by the fevered imagination of self-proclaimed environmental activists.”

The claim isn't far wrong, with tax records revealing the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii has been bankrolled not by grassroots greenies, but fortunes derived from big oil, big industry, big pharma and big banks.

A major player in the Hawaii anti-GMO movement is the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helped write Bill 2491, which became Ordinance 960. A federal judge recently allowed CFS and Earthjustice to represent national groups like Pesticide Action Network and Surfrider Foundation, along with a new Kauai organization, in defending the law from the seed companies' lawsuit.

CFS receives the bulk of its funding from the Rockefeller clan. Other significant support comes from funds and foundations endowed by the scions and former spouses of oilman J. Paul Getty, chemist George Merck of Merck Pharmaceuticals, General Motors executive Charles Stewart Mott, industrialist and banker Andrew Mellon and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

The 990 form filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS) shows total revenues of $7.2 million in 2012, with $3.8 coming from grants and contributions — up from $2.8 million in 2011. It listed total expenses of $5.3 million, with $1.3 million spent on legal fees and $1.5 million on salaries. Andrew Kimbrell, who is part of the legal team defending Kauai's law, was paid $222,540 to serve as CFS executive director in 2012, with another $25,194 listed in compensation from that and similar organizations.

Kimbrell also received $31,000 in 2012 compensation as director of the Cornerstone Campaign, whose tax return lists the same address as CFS. Additionally, he earns income from the International Center for Technology Assessment, an anti-nanotechnology group that shares the same office. It paid him $30,525 for working just eight hours per week in 2011.

Cornerstone, whose officers include Mary Rockefeller Morgan and Abby Rockefeller, is the largest source of support for CFS. The two heiresses, along with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Inc., donated at least $8.8 million to the Cornerstone Campaign between 2002-11. But since the IRS does not require gifts from charitable remainder trusts to be disclosed in tax returns, it's impossible to determine the full extent of contributions by Rockefeller heirs.

Kimbrell also apparently uses Cornerstone to write off substantial expenses that are missing from the CFS tax return, including $18,608 in travel, $62,691 in lodging and $15,115 in meals and entertainment for 2012 alone.

Though founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Cornerstone Campaign functions only to disperse grants to groups active in the anti-biotech movement, including Friends of the Earth, Genetic Engineering Action Network, Organic Seed Alliance, International Forum on Globalization, Californians for GE Free Agriculture and Earthjustice.

In the decade spanning 2002-11, CFS received 90.5% of its funding from foundations and trusts, as opposed to individual, grassroots donors. One of its funders is the Ceres Trust, which has pumped substantial money into Hawaii SEED, the anti-GMO umbrella group. 

The Ceres Trust was created by Judith Kern, apparently derived from her family's business, Kern Generator Co. The 2012 tax returns for Ceres show it awarded Hawaii SEED $228,550 for a pesticide drift-catcher project that, as I previously reported, failed to detect any significant amount of toxins, prompting the group to shift its focus from evidence-based activism to fear-mongering.

Other major funders of Hawaii Seed are The Sacharuna Foundation, which was founded by money inherited from industrialist and banker Andrew Mellon; the Merck Fund, which was based on pharmaceutical fortunes; the Cornerstone Foundation and Ho Oli Foundation, a Delaware company with a Hawaii Island address. Overall, four anti-GMO groups in Hawaii received $931,840 in grants between 2002-12, with the bulk awarded in 2011-12. 

However, reports are not yet available for 2013, the year that fierce anti-biotech political battles were waged on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui. So we don't yet have a clear idea just how much mainland money was poured into a movement that organizers claimed was "local grassroots." 

Meanwhile, the foundations and funds that are supporting anti-GMO groups in their supposed fight against “big chem” have invested their assets in the very same corporate giants that are reviled by activists as the gouging, oppressing, polluting pillars of industrial capitalism. In other words, the “antis” who have cloaked themselves in self-righteousness and claimed the moral high ground are themselves running on dirty money that is "green" only in color.

I point this out not merely to highlight the hypocrisy, but to underscore this reality: There is no good guy vs bad guy in this crazy game, no David vs Goliah scenario at work. 

At core, it's just big money fighting big money, with the citizens of Hawaii being intentionally polarized and played as pawns.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Musings: Everyday People

Spent the better part of yesterday having my faith restored in human nature as I collected donations for the Hawaii Foodbank – Kauai Branch at Kukui Grove and saw folks smile, share, give — even those who looked like they could least afford it.

Perhaps it was because at one time they'd been on the receiving line themselves, which always increases empathy and compassion.

We were just about to close up when a man who appeared to be a tourist, given the cleanliness and design of his tee-shirt, walked up pushing a shopping cart packed full of groceries from Times.

I'll make you a deal,” he said, and removed a small bottle of dish detergent, a tube of toothpaste, from the bags. “I'll keep these and you keep the rest.”

It was so generous, so surprising — emotions that no doubt played across my decidedly non-poker face — that he burst into laughter, as did I. And I felt happier than I had in a long time.

On the way into town, I'd chatted on my cell phone — hands-free, of course — with Farmer Jerry, who had marshaled 50 guys on Thursday to set up the Garden Fair and was gonna be there all day on Saturday, until it was time to break it down again.

And I was reminded anew that when it's not scrapping, this community shares a lot of its heart and soul, which is why, on the way home, I found myself singing exuberantly along with the radio, “We are family....” Though as is true with my own large family, there are some I like better than others, some I'd prefer to avoid. But still, there's no denying that we're all connected.

Which got me thinking, this morning, of another song:

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can't figure out the bag I'm in
'Cause I am everyday people

In recent months, as I've criticized the anti-GMO movement, found a few things to like about KIUC, declined to denounce the dairy and called to task and account politicians I previously favored, I've had folks express bewilderment, even fury. One woman, who has perhaps exchanged a dozen words with me, said she could only surmise I'd suffered a brain injury, I was so changed. A man said that more and more of his friends — though not mine — were “increasingly distraught” that I seemed to have gone over to the “dark side.” Another woman left a flaming attack comment that ended with the query: “What have you done with Joan Conroy? [sic]”

What I have done with Joan Conrow is allow her mind to continually question, open, reflect, ponder, broaden — a process that makes it painful for me to keep living in the duality mindset of me good-you bad, me right-you wrong, me pono-you hewa. We are all — every single one of us — complicit in the problems we face, the “ecocide” we are currently waging against Earth. And we are all responsible for the solutions, or lack thereof.

We can't blame government, or even corporations, because they are merely a reflection of us. We've created them through our belief systems, our voting, our consuming and lifestyle choices. Nor can we expect those entities to fix anything for us. We've got to engage in the hard, dirty work of conscious change ourselves.

As Luke Evslin states so well in his thoughtful blog, which always inspires me to be better and kinder:

We're in this together. We need a true dialogue. We need a solutions based conversation. We need a vision for the future and we need to pave a path forward. The status-quo isn't working and the quality of life on Kaua'i is steadily declining.

Though he references this little world onto itself that is Kauai, his message encompasses all of humanity, the entire planet. It's up to us, and the more we know about the big picture, different points of view, the better our solutions, the clearer our path, will be.

This blog has always been, and will continue to be, an independent, informed voice. Despite assertions to the contrary, I've never taken any money from biotech, KIUC, Ulupono or any other corporate interest, and in fact, none of them have offered.

But I hope that you, dear Reader, will. I've added a PayPal donation button to this site. Or if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can send a contribution to PO Box 525, Anahola, 96703.

Mahalo for reading, for the words of encouragement and support that always seem to arrive when precisely when needed, and most especially, for caring. Because if you didn't, you wouldn't be on this site. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Musings: Different Mind Sets

Is it better to have more restrictive public access to protect a still-pristine beach? Or should the most generous access be required in exchange for the right to develop a 76-lot luxury “ag subdivision” along the coast?

That's the question the Kauai County Council is grappling with as it decides whether to accept a beach access the planning commission approved for Falko Properties' Kahuaina Plantation subdivision, off Koolau Road.

Waipake Beach is currently reached only via long walk from the Larsen's (Lepeuli) access — unless you know somebody who will let you drive across private property to reach the beach, as some fishermen do.

Because it is relatively inaccessible and unused by humans, it's a place where you're likely to find sea turtles and monk seals, often with pups, basking on the beach. Albatross nest on the hillsides above.

Both the developer and beach-goers are using the presence of these protected species to advance their positions. The developer has offered a vertical access through the 360-acre property that also requires a long walk and ends at a pile of rocks, arguing that wildlife will be harmed if it's too easy for folks to get there. Except, of course, for the people who are wealthy enough to buy the lots.

Beach-goers like Peter Waldau, Richard Spacer and Hope Kallai, however, claim the public needs a better vertical access as well as a lateral access through private property in order to stay mauka of the monk seals that pup on that beach. They're pushing to delay the project until the long-contested ala loa — coastal trail — issue is resolved, which most likely will require litigation.

However, Clinton Bettencourt objected to Kallai testifying that it was "her sacred trail. The trail belongs to the kanaka. It always did and it always will. I don't care who owns the land."

Councilman Gary Hooser said state law requires lateral coastal access in areas where steep cliffs or rocks prevent access during high surf times. But Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung clarified that public access extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves, and the county would need to go through the condemnation process to create a lateral access mauka of the shoreline.

Bettencourt, who has been fishing that stretch of coastline for 50 years, testified to the Council that Shawn Smith has been doing a good job of managing the land for Falko Properties, and the beach is “pristine because there's very little people that go there to throw their opala and then go home. We'd like to keep it the way it is.” However, he noted that it is becoming increasingly used by nude sunbathers, who are moving northward from their usual hangout at Lepeuli Beach. “This area should not be desecrated in such a manner.”

Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa both expressed their alarm about the presence of nude beaches on Kauai, with Mel saying it's against the law and Ross expressing concern “when our keiki has to see that we cannot enforce the laws on our beaches.”

JoAnn shared her experience with the “complexities of public access,” noting she had tried to get Mahaulepu protected via the Trust for Public Land, but “the community was ambivalent, afraid it would get overrun by tourists if it was turned into a park, discovered and on the map.” So TPL acquired 130 acres by the Kilauea lighthouse instead.

Some of the concerns about access need to addressed by the general plan,” JoAnn said. “It's about the carrying capacity of this island, the resident and visitor population.” She spoke of the halcyon days when Kauai had just 30,000 residents and unrestricted beach access.

Now we have a clash of cultures, people with different values, and some of them don't fully appreciate the local culture or the Native Hawaiian culture,” she said. "Public access when not well managed is a double-edged sword."

Councilman Tim Bynum noted Kahuaina Plantation was supposed to be the county's last agricultural subvision. “The General Plan in 2000 told us to end this practice. But we're still creating these mansions in isolated communities with people pretending they're farming.”

Ben Ferris testified that he has a five-year lease on 10 acres there, where he grows ginger. He said a new water line is being installed, which he thinks seems to the permanence of farming.

Falko attorney Dennis Lombardi said that as each lot is sold, the owner will be subject to the caveat and requirement to engage in active farming for revenue to satisfy the farm dwelling agreement. “We have no mansions, but we have a farm,” he said.

Mmmm, yeah, but no lots have been sold, so nobody has had a chance to build a mansion yet.

Earlier this month, Shawn posted this ad in The Garden Island:
Councilman Mason Chock said that "eliminating people is just kind of stopping what is inevitable because people are going to find a way to get there. It's about education. There is a way. It's the mind set we're working against. It's not whether we should block people off or not."

The Council plans an April 30 site visit to the property to check out the proposed access.