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.


Anonymous said...

And they all wonder why they are labeled "environmental terrorists!"

Anonymous said...

Why are they always promoting themselves? Kilauea only has a couple of restaurants, so what.

Anonymous said...

The GMO free zone signs are made out of styrofoam! lol

Anonymous said...

Shame can be a motivator for individuals to change behavior. Publicly pointing out hypocrisy, the difference between ones words and actions, may create cognitive dissonance in the person which is often a precursor to action to reduce the uncomfortable dissonance one feels in being at odds with oneself. Of course shaming has limited value in changing behavior. It is useless against corporations or psychopaths as they are incapable of feeling emotions.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy the Scarlet Letter has come to Kauai. There isn't a single person on this island who hasn't contributed to these environmental so-called evils. Our society is slowly evolving toward a cleaner path.
The nutjobs who try to deprive one person from putting a little rice in their bowl while their bowl is filled with friendly Foie gras is the real crime.
Every human endeavor leaves residue.
If there is shame it is on the Kauai individuals and especially the politicians who use fear, loathing and self-righteousness to pursue their glorified agendas.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.....oh wait, that is an evil Christian thing.

Anonymous said...

No one wants to be on council as it has become toxic

Anonymous said...

PR stunt for Surfrider

Anonymous said...

May 1, 2014 at 6:36 AM said, "No one wants to be on council as it has become toxic"

Why don't you run? Why don't all you naysayers and objectionists run for office? I know why. Because you couldn't win. Because your shallow minds are not with the majority. You rather sit back and criticize everything but are not willing to stand up and run. Go home!!

Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that there is less plastic or do we just now buy plastic bags, even if it is just to put garden produce or frozen bananas in or line a trash can or whatevers?
Styrofoam, what about all the cheap Styrofoam surfboards, coolers and crap tourists buy? Let's be real about the problems we face. This sounds like they have stock in those companies, very creative to sell the same products they call toxic ,corn and sugarcane, in a recycled manner that is now advertised as being environmentally correct, eco friendly. The green solution really does create heaps of green money for those that pay triple for compostable products that go in the trash and disintegrate slower than paper.

Anonymous said...

My 12 year old is one that definitely feels we need to protect and preserve our environment, and takes small steps to do so in his own way. Since he was 5, he's been telling visitors at the beach not to take the pretty shells if there's a creature in it. "If somebody's home, leave it alone." (a direct quote from my boy). He prompted a discussion with me about GMO corn, and in so many words pretty much explained how people may not like it, but that corn produces many products we need for many things we use in every day life. He also stated that with all the billions of people in the world, "we need a lot of corn for a lot of stuff and that's why they have to make it GMO or we won't be able to grow enough for everything we need." That made me wonder, how much do we really NEED. I think everyone needs to take individual responsibility for what they do, and how they impact the environment. If 6 billion people were individually environmentally conscious, that would make a huge impact collectively. I know it's a naïve thought, and many will bash it as being unrealistic and will probably start going off about how the people with money won't care, etc. True, we can't control others, but we can control ourselves and what we contribute to making a difference. It may be a small impact, but an impact nonetheless. My family may not save the world, but I feel better every day knowing we are doing small things in our own way to try and make changes for the better. Don't get me wrong, we are huge consumers, but slowly, we are learning and teaching ourselves to live more simply. It will take time, it will take patience, but ultimately we hope it will rub off on others. My 12 year old is one to lead by example, and shares what he's learned with others in hopes of making a difference. I've seen it work on a small scale when after speaking with him, someone admires a shell then puts it back, or smells a flower without picking it. That may not be a big deal to some, but it makes me hugely proud of the person he has become, and will hopefully inspire others to be. My point is, small changes can make a huge difference. Mutual respect and understanding speaks louder than yelling, screaming, and shaming. Negativity only breeds negativity. If my 12 year old can share his message with a smile on his face and aloha in his heart, I'm sure we "grown ups" can as well.

Anonymous said...

Chief Perry and Shaylene want to be on the council. Tim and Mel. Good times!

Anonymous said...

"No one wants to be on council as it has become toxic"

True that. Council is a place for thuggish bullying and where you get eaten if you cross either faction. The lack of civility is staggering. Just look at the way they speak to and about each other.

Plus the pay is sh#t.

Luke Kambic said...

Here's a fun fact about styrofoam: it's named after the levant styrax tree, where styrene was first discovered.

Styrax liquidus, another styrene-rich species:
". . 31 compounds representing 99.8% of the total oil were identified where styrene (81.9%), cinnamyl alcohol (6.9%) and α-pinene (3.5%) were identified as the major components."

Anonymous said...

Education is the key to making sound choices. As an an American citizen, I cherish the fact that we have freedom of choice. What I don't appreciate is the fact that people like Gordon LaBedz hides behind a "non-profit" organization and tries to cram his agenda down everyone's throat! It's a form of terrorism that has no place in our community or Country. I am a lifelong surfer, but do not support the ways and means by which Labedz carries himself! People that jump on this sort of "band wagon" must have the same DNA characteristics of the Jim Jones followers.
Educate yourself and make sound choices for you as an individual. Stay out of everyone else's business!

Luke Evslin said...

Sorry, I know I'm a few days late to the conversation. While I resonate with the gist of your argument, I don't think it's fair to criticize those (like Pam) who are fighting to minimize harm within our current system. Banning styrofoam is like driving a Prius. It doesn't address the root of the problem (in the case of styrofoam, a culture of convenience in the case of the Prius, a car-centric fossil fuel driven society) but it does help to minimize harm. And, since we are all complicit in this system, shouldn't we all be fighting to minimize harm (by driving fuel efficient cars and banning styrofoam etc..etc.) while at the same time acknowledging that those aren't solutions to the problems, those are just attempts at minimizing impact? If our objective is "sustainability," then I think we need to fight from both ends. Minimize harm within the current system while acknowledging our complicity and working to change the system.

Joan, I do appreciate the fact that you are always looking at the bigger picture, but I strongly feel that people like Pam deserve credit for the work that they are doing.

*As a disclaimer-- I own a company that produces a tremendous amount of waste (including foam) while manufacturing composite goods. And I drive an inefficient 20 year old Toyota truck (while my wife drives a Prius). Does that inherently eliminate me from any conversation or efforts towards "sustainability"?
I hope not.

Joan Conrow said...

I would not want to eliminate anyone from the discussion, Luke, least of all you! I do applaud Pam for getting involved and we should all try to minimize harm. I think my reaction primarily was to the shaming, and overstating the significance of the action by incorrectly proclaiming the town Styrofoam-free.

Anonymous said...

Funny movement, does anyone else see the extreme hypocrisy here and why honest discussion is so hard?Is it whether one has a good or bad intention in receiving the dreaded Styrofoam? As long as your solar panels come in Styrofoam, that's cool
By Juan Wilson on 1 May 2014 for Island Breath -
The panels themselves are well-made and produce more than the rated amount of juice. They arrived intact, sandwiched in slabs of styrofoam. I am happy with them. The voltage regulator works. The wiring, fan-in dongle, etc., are all reasonable. Everything else that came with the order is non-recyclable toxic waste - do with it what you will...I bought this system (nine times over the years) and added better controllers and inverters and additional batteries over the next couple of years.
Total for refrigeration $5,000
Running total to 2013 $10,990