Friday, March 13, 2015

Musings: Paradise vs Utopia

Is anyone else weary of the “Kauai as paradise” myth?

Especially when it's being used to advance such non-paradisiacal ventures tourism, at the cost of agriculture or any other sustainable endeavor.

Case in point: Today's letter to the editor from a “common-sense visitor” who knows all about what's best for Kauai because he loves it, and has visited often enough to convince himself that it was created to be a “paradise on earth.” Which means it's unfit for dairies or anything but accommodating the adoring hordes.

What's so ironic is the writer — David Boruta — doesn't realize his attack on the dairy could just as easily be applied to the tourist industry:

It is beyond any reasoning to plan a dairy operation of the scale planned for Mahaulepu considering what will happen to our paradise. “Paradise lost” is something no one should take lightly. There isn’t a single reason to build the dairy here other than financial motivations for a few individuals. This will be at the expense of everyone else. More than the expense is the compromising of our most precious asset — Kauai’s paradise.

My favorite line:

The land does not belong to anyone, it belongs to everyone.

Well, except that land owned by folks like David Collison, who recently opined that the diary “will also certainly impact my property values and those of my neighbors as well as detrimentally affecting the tourist industry of the area which is, of course, one of the primary engines of Kauai’s economy.”

David Boruta ends his misinformed missive with this:

Congratulations to the Kauai planning board for taking a responsible stand on the new Coco Palms Resort project. This $135 million dollar project will celebrate paradise while employing thousands of locals.

Because paradise is all about perpetuating illusions like “Blue Hawaii” and all those smiling natives who just live to share the aloha spirit, and every blessed inch of their island, with ever-increasing numbers of wealthy white folks.

Meanwhile, Friends of Mahaulepu (FOM) is ramping up with the rhetoric with their "green ambulance" chaser, Oregon attorney Charlie Tebbutt, who is publicly posturing over plans to sue Hawaii Dairy Farms, Grove Farm and Mahaulepu Farm, LLC — the important ag lands — for alleged clean water violations.

The rhetoric, and intent to sue announcement, mimic the legal strategies employed by the other foes of Hawaii agriculture: Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, which rely heavily on similar scare tactics.

Still, it's puzzling how Surfrider, FOM and other dairy opponents keep talking about how “pristine” Mahauelepu is, even while releasing data showing it has the island's most polluted stream.

Mmmm, how can you have it both ways? And if it's still pristine, even as the island's most continuously polluted water flows through the valley and into the ocean, is there a problem?

Meanwhile, those who love to talk about sustainable farming have a chance to put their money and muscles where their mouth is. The Agribusiness Development Corp. is looking for tenants to lease 740 acres of former sugar cane land, with water, on the Mana Plain in Kekaha.

That should come as welcome news to the KKCR crowd, which is talking about growing kenaf as an alternative to the seed companies. Perhaps this would be a good place for them to put their model to a test. I'm sure they'd have no problem competing economically with China, USSR, Thailand, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico and Cuba, which also grow it.

Except I'm not sure how they would justify growing kenaf, which is used for fiber, after they so roundly rebuked the seed companies for failing to grow anything they could actually eat.

Kenaf is also useful as a forage crop, but since they're dead-set against a dairy, it's unclear who might be able to use it for that purpose, especially on the scale that would be required to support tens of thousands of acres in cultivation.

And since no one wants anything “industrial” in paradise, they'd likely run into opposition from their friends if they tried to process the fiber into cardboard or newsprint on-island.

But no worries. If that doesn't pan out, they've still got a chance to create utopia at the Kilauea ag park. Though Keone Kealoha has never really accomplished anything of note, the ADC just gave $120,000 in public money to bring that 20-year-old pipe dream to fruition.

In other words, taxpayers are subsidizing the dreamers so they can compete against real farmers who made it all by themselves in the private sector.

Hmmm. Perhaps paradise still exists on Kauai after all.


Anonymous said...

Joan- Tourism is the best economic engine of the large industries. Of the industries that employ the world, Ag, Mining, Forestry, Seafood, Oil/Fracking, Factories/Mills,Office services and Government. Of the Major employers and businesses on earth, TOURISM, pays good wages, is safe for the employees AND leaves the smallest environmental footprint.
We get confused on Kauai since we have so few people actually working.
Where will the people work? If Kauai found a wonder crop that would employ at decent wages, all of the people....we would still have the Antis and dust and noise etc. It is easy to condemn tourism as one smells their Sunscreen or crowd the roads....but the FACT is tourism is Kauai. You can take ALL of the dollars from ag, all the chemicals, workers, dust and overspray...and all of the cost with it...and this money is less than the amount of TIPS swept off the tables by Hawaii's food servers. Yes, Tips are a larger economic factor than Ag....and these tips pay for housing, food and childcare....tourism is the part of all of our lives, so love your friendly tourist.
It is all a joke. Tourism makes money and employs does Ag....why compare them We should respect and embrace Embrace all labor, embrace opportunity.
The real evil and the biggest economic, environmental and mental drain on our lives is the Government...from the cops to the planning department, name it. The Gov will get you.
Your articles are great...I especially love the comments from the former husband of Kauai's worst Senator...both of them together would be challenged on the procedures on how to tie a shoe lace.

Anonymous said...

Keone is a great salesman, farmer, not so.

Anonymous said...

120,000 divided by $3.oo sales =40,000 kales,

Anonymous said...

These letters are plants.

Anonymous said...

Kenaf is excellent for soil remediation, soil which has been degraded through bad farming practices. We definitely need soil remediation on Kauaʻi. Sugar cane and pineapple plantation practices completely degraded the soil with monocropping and use of pesticides/herbicides. Also, the oil from the seeds contains omega3, omega6 and omega9 which promote healthy hearts and reduce cholesterol.

Unknown said...

There are a couple of items in your blog that struck me as odd. The first was the "planned" lawsuit for pollution of Mahaulepu Stream. How can there be a lawsuit when nothing has yet been done with the property to establish the dairy? Will there be baseline data that will accurately compare pollution before and after the dairy starts? Or will it be that the stream will only be sampled for pollutants after the dairy starts and any such pollutants discovered will be attributed to the dairy? I am having great difficulty understanding the thought process (or lack of it) that is being applied to this issue.

The other is a proposal to grow kenaf. 20 years ago I grew small plots of kenaf at the HARC station in Kunia on Oahu. There was a lot of excitement about the potential for that crop at that time that is similar to what you describe in your blog. What we discovered is that kenaf is an outstanding host for root-knot nematode. The galls that were produced in the kenaf roots by the nematodes were the biggest I have ever seen both before and after that project. Once the galls starting forming the crop stopped growing, started dropping all of its leaves, and then died. Since root-knot nematode is pretty much everywhere in these islands we gave up on that project. If there are those who still want to push ahead with their kenaf plans I would suggest that they try some small test plots first before investing too much resources. Of course there are chemicals that can be used to prepare the soil so that it is relatively nematode free before planting but the use of the chemicals would not be consistent with the "sustainable" ag model that is being promoted. Perhaps there are root-knot nematode resistant varieties of kenaf that are out there somewhere. I think that it would be a worthwhile investment of someone's time to determine if that is a possibility before going full speed ahead on kenaf. And then, of course, are all the reasons you describe for not growing kenaf since the discussion all along has been that Kauai farmers need land and water to grow food crops, not another non-food crop.

Dawson said...

Joan wrote:
...Because paradise is all about perpetuating illusions like “Blue Hawaii” and all those smiling natives who just live to share the aloha spirit, and every blessed inch of their island, with ever-increasing numbers of wealthy white folks.

Exactly right. The myth that colonialism is dead is alive and well on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever have a single post that you don't try to connect back to CFS and Earthjustice? You're obsessed.

Anonymous said...

Tourism may have a smaller impact than fracking or mining, but what of the carbon footprint (flying over the Pacific Ocean, renting a car to drive all over the island, staying in an air conditioned hotel or tvr, swimming in an energy sucking pool, etc.) of tourism? And then you have the thousands who end up moving here. If economic opportunity is the only goal, let's legalize gambling, drugs and prostitution.

Anonymous said...

To 9:33
Let's have someone developed a GMO root-knot nematode resistant variety of Kenaf. The KCCC folks would love it.

Kevin said...

Good ones 9:41 and 1:48!!
So true!

Anonymous said...

Sugar itself generally did not rely on pesticide or herbicides. It is tough. Herbicides were used to keep the ditches open. The loi were around one or two boundaries of the fields. There was a single application of a weak general fertilizer a few months after the planting, sometimes supplemented by a second, more specific application such as lime. Old cane land is perfectly healthy. Pineapple is another matter.

Anonymous said...

2:36, you are misinformed,and obviously never lived here then. the atrazine in the islands comes from sugar and guess what else? All the cane was sprayed with the restricted use pesticide Paraquat to kill the sugar before harvesting and processing. It is a dessicant and was sprayed before the burning took place to dry the greens. So first a restricted use pesticide was used on the cane and then it was burned.
Paradise has not been paradise ever since the missionaries and big sugar barons took over. Herbicides were never used to keep ancient ditches open til modern times.

Anonymous said...

Sugar cane fields and loi's did not mix, where'd you get your notions?

Anonymous said...

Loi were what we called the ditches. When you were in sugar, what did you, 3:38?

Anonymous said...

You lose "paradise" as soon as a human arrives and they upset the natural balance.
Missionaries arrived a thousand years after these "pristine" islands had been modified for human needs.

Anonymous said...

6;55, the loi were not and are not the same as ditches.get your facts right.

Anonymous said...

Or one could use cover crops that suppress nematodes prior to planting whatever.

Anonymous said...

Ah, freedom of expression. We can say whatever we want even if it's not based in reality. Loi as ditches for cane fields and aloha for everyone who leaves a good tip.

Anonymous said...

When you were in sugar, what did you, 3:38?
I grow kalo, not sugar, and none of my ancestors ever grew kalo in the cane fields.

Anonymous said...

joan, gotta check out da new kaua'i hhsc guy

Anonymous said...

ditches are auwai, not lo'i, you lolo!

Robert Zelkovsky said...

unknown 9:33 - there has been grading, grubbing, creation of ditches and ponds on the HDF property. Stream and surrounding waters have been tested once a month by Surfrider and twice by DOH. Results are worst in State. This is the baseline, can't imagine how much worse it can get, hence, lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Agriculture land is allowed to grub and grade, and the pollution source is not identified but most certainly is not from the dairy.
Robert get real.

Robert Zelkovsky said...

G&G allowed on ag land provided it does not pollute. Look at the numbers above/below HDF. They are polluting, no NPDES permit. I am real, you are anonymous.

Anonymous said...

3:34 PM--you are the one who is misinformed. Paraquat is NOT used to dry the sugar before harvest; glyphosate (as in Roundup) is approved and used for this in Hawaii and on the mainland where sugar is grown. And it's not a restricted use fact, many, if not most people in Hawaii use it in their yards.

And yes, it would be nice if utopia existed but, as you would know if you tried to grow anything to make a living, herbicides are usually needed to outcompete all the invasive weed species that have inundated Hawaii in "modern times." Missionaries and sugar barons have nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Paraquat WAS used to dry the sugar before harvest, nowadays sugar is mostly gone from Kauai.

Marjorie Ziegler said...

I am not commenting on the merits or other specifics of the propose dairy lawsuit, but only on the process. Certain federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, require a 60-day notice of intent to sue so that defendants have a chance to remedy or addressany legal issues and violations. The 60-day notices are not scare tactics, but are required before filing suit. I think they are a good thing to help avoid litigation when possible. Now, if a plaintiff does not have a legal cause of action and still files a 60-day notice, that might be considered a scare tactic and even irresponsible.

Again, I am not commenting on the dairy matter, just hypothetically. When I worked at Earthjustice as a resource analyst for the attorneys in Honolulu, we resolved some issues by sending the required 60-day notice of intent to sue and without having to file suit. I also know that public interest law firms, such as Earthjustice, do not send 60-day notices without being confident in their legal arguments and committed to following through with litigation if necessary. They do not use these notices lightly and certainly not as a scare tactic. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

6:40 PM Thank you for explaining it. I never thought of Earthjustice as backdooring pro-development with 60 day threats.
I am now a new supporter of Earthjustice. I have always wanted a lot for a nice home and a couple of horses out there on GF land.
Maybe now thru the the anti-AG efforts of the South Side and their minions I can get one. I'd pay $800,000 for a ten acre lot. I can build my house later after I save some more money. Thank you

Anonymous said...

4:47 AM

Before you make a final decision to support EarthJustice you may want to check The 2014 GreenBiz NGO Report - put together for the purpose of ranking 30 leading NGO's.

Earthjustice landed on bottom tier "The Uninvited", a group comprised of NGO's "which have chosen to focus primarily on name and shame actions rather than develop working partnerships with companies."

Download a report at

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of information out there folks, and considering the issues at stake critical reading and understanding your new sources are a must...

Here's a good link to "Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the US Prestige Press".

"This paper demonstrates US prestige-press coverage of global warming from 1988 to 2002 has contributed to a significant divergence of popular discourse from scientific discourse. This failed discursive translation results from an accumulation of tactical media responses and practices guided by widely accepted journalistic norms. Through content analysis of US prestige press—meaning the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal—this paper focuses on the
norm of balanced reporting, and shows that the prestige press’s adherence to balance actually leads to biased coverage of both anthropogenic contributions to global warming and resultant action."

Anonymous said...

I wonder how an out of work chiropractor who is now a wedding videographer (9:54) thinks he knows more about agriculture than actual farmers and ag landowners? Must be that "Dr" he uses.

Roibert Zelkovsky said...

Thanks Joan for hosting such a safe place for discussion and exchange of ideas without anyone getting personal, while hiding under anonymous moniker.
See ya Joan. See ya Chuck.
BTW Joan, some news coming out of Kauai Surfrider soon so you'd better sharpen your poison pen and update your anger thesaurus.

Joan Conrow said...

And thank you for practicing what you preach, Rob.