Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Musings: Trailer Trash

Watching the evening sky, I see Jupiter is moving ever closer toward Venus.

And watching the latest piece of anti-GMO propaganda, I see that Kauai is moving ever closer toward apocalypse — unless we let folks like Don Heacock save us.

I'm talking about the trailer for “Aina,” described by one promoter "as an "amazing fact-based film." It will hold its July 26 premiere on Kauai, which an unidentified man on camera unequivocally proclaims as "the hot spot on the planet for pesticide exposures."
Really? Hotter than Indian farmers applying paraquat with backpack sprayers and no protective gear? Hotter than the migrant camps of California's Central Valley? Hotter than the South American farms where folks use empty pesticide containers to carry water?

So much for those “amazing” facts.

The film was brought to my attention first by Anonymous, and then by Jason Donovan, posting under the misnomer "just the facts." Jason followed up with a repeat of his first comment, and then a third comment, inquiring, "are you going to post my comments?” 'cause I guess I hadn't been snappy enough in letting him use my blog to promote the movie.

Who is Jason Donovan? I wondered, as my fingers typed his name into Google. Oh, Lordy, what a surprise. He's a Realtor with Kauai Tropical Properties, "an eco-brokerage" in Hanalei. And not just any Realtor, mind you, but one who has "closed on more than $40 Million worth of Kauai real estate transactions" and is also "responsible for creation of Sustain Kauai brand of eco-friendly real estate.”

Eco-friendly real estate? WTF is that? Though I get how real estate sales sustain Jason — and the anti-GMO movement — I can't quite see how they sustain Kauai. And how, exactly, can the Tropical Paradise website claim "the environment on Kauai is pristine" if it's also the world hot spot for pesticide exposures? 

I think we need some of those "amazing" facts to reconcile that one.

With an ominous score, sweeping visuals and artsy close-ups, the “Aina” trailer includes the title card, “one small island in the Pacific is at the mercy of the world's largest chemical companies.” Victimhood, sadly, still sells.

Previously published pap — “Students evacuated from Waimea school and about 60 were hospitalized,” though the incident had no link to pesticides, and the speculation that “this could be one of the most toxic chemical environments in all of U.S. ag” or, it could not — is presented as fact in other title cards.

Btw, this is how that works, folks. The anti-GMO movement, via the Media Consortium, paid “reporters” like Paul Koberstein to write one-sided, inaccurate articles for sympathetic publications like Earth Island Journal and The Cascadian Times. Then those articles grew legs and became gospel, reprinted and repeated without question elsewhere, even as their contents were disproved by real facts.

Clever how propagandists build the foundation for more propaganda. And you thought this wasn't a well-funded, well-orchestrated campaign!

One of my favorite bits was Heacock's quote, delivered in a scathing tone: “They're not farming. They're doing research.”

Gee, I thought Heacock used to be a scientist. Since when is research a dirty word? And why are research and farming mutually incompatible, or somehow scary when paired?

Still, I don't disagree with every point made in the trailer. David Sproat is right when he says land is a resource, not a commodity, though that won't earn many commissions for Jason and his pals. And who can argue with Sabra Kauka that “many of us feel the need to do our share to malama” Kauai — including seed company workers?

Sadly, the teachings of these wise kupuna lose value when conveyed in the context of a film that is pure political propaganda. And they lose credibility when used out of context to promote the film through sensationalism.

The capper was Heacock saying,” We need to teach a whole new generation about holistic thinking, critical thinking, the truth. The truth will prevail.”

One can only hope. But neither critical thinking nor the truth will be found in either the anti-GMO movement or this film, if the trailer is any indication.

Or as Sabra intoned: “It's very important that we know and be aware of all that is going on around us.”

Yes, and that includes the promotion of propaganda and efforts to demonize the very real people — many of them kanaka or lifelong residents — who work for the seed companies. Because though they're owned by multinational corporations, they're staffed by local people who also love and cherish Kauai, and are very much concerned about stewardship and sustainability.

They are not “the other,” and they do not deserve to be characterized or treated as such by people who hold no claim to moral superiority much less "the truth."

Meanwhile, Gary Hooser is moving ever closer toward desperation. Hawaii interest has been so lackluster that he's now recruiting for HAPA among “Deadheads” — the cult-like followers of The Grateful Dead. Which actually makes them ideal candidates for the lockstep anti-GMO movement.

Gary and his wife spent the weekend manning the HAPA table at two of the Dead's “final” shows in California, offering Deadheads “limited edition postcards,” in exchange for vowing allegiance to a single action: “Protest the impact of pesticide & GMO research with social media.”
Because it's all about numbers, the perception of support, even if those protesting don't know WTF they're talking about and have been fed a bunch of baloney.

Gosh, if only Gary would put half that energy into working for Kauai, and the taxpayers who pay his benefits and salary....

Friday, June 26, 2015

Musings: Disconnect

Has anyone else noticed the schizophrenia of Hawaii's agri/enviro activism?

On the one hand, we have the Sierra Club suing to prevent the reclassification of 1,500 acres of ag land on Oahu for the 11,750-unit Hoopili housing project. It is arguing, in part, that the state isn't doing enough to designate Important Ag Lands, and this land meets all the criteria.

On the other, we have the Sierra Club and its attorney, EarthJustice, actively working with self-proclaimed “green” groups and “aloha aina warriors” to destroy agriculture on acreage already classified as Important Ag Land.

Through lawsuits and direct action, they are aggressively targeting seed operations on all islands, a proposed Kauai dairy and Maui's HC&S — the largest farm in the state.

So what, exactly, do they want? I mean, other than agriculture that yields sufficient food to end Hawaii's import-dependency without using any pesticides, chemical fertilizer or water, producing any dust or smoke or generating any waste.

Here's an example of how they want to reshape ag to fit their bucolic fantasies: “completely organic and self-sustainable...what do you think that would do to the tourist industry? You'd never be able to get a hotel here. Everyone would want to come.”

Is it any surprise these “green” movements have succeeded primarily in attracting greenbacks from high-end Realtors?

Welcome to the black-and-white, simple-minded, short-sighted delusional world of the “new locals” — folks who have all the answers, all the facts, and don't want any conflicting opinions to shake their fast-held views.

A case in point: last night's “sugarcane burn moratorium” meeting on Maui. Here's a shot of the “locals for local change” crowd. 
Looks an awful lot like mainlanders who chose to buy homes in Kihei knowing HC&S was burning cane, but now they want it stopped.

The meeting was hosted by “community leaders and field experts,” but they failed to invite anyone from HC&S who might actually have first-hand knowledge about cane burning operations, alternatives the company has pursued or the fields green-harvested at great expense to minimize impacts on neighborhoods.

Similarly, though folks from the Department of Health's clean air branch traveled from Honolulu to attend, at the group's behest, they were not allowed to share their mana'o, only listen.

But Sen. Josh Green, a Big Island emergency room physician and political foe of Maui Sen. Roz Baker, was invited to speak, as was Maui Community College physics teacher Joe Ritter, who just so happens to be the boyfriend of Terez Amato, who is challenging Baker for her Senate seat.

Yes, Maui has its political demagogues, too — folks who cravenly try, like Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, to build a voter base among the newcomer-mom-greenie crowd by deliberately distorting facts to create an agricultural demon and fan the flames of fear. For the keiki, of course.

Speaking of Gary, his pal Lance Collins has been hired to sue HC&S, with his fee to be paid through a crowd-funding campaign. Lance, you may recall, came to Kauai to make humbug over the use of pro bono lawyers to defend the pesticide/GMO Bill 2491. He dropped his complaint at the last minute, after wasting county money and time.

Though they protest against cane smoke, their tactics are smoke-and-mirrors. And as they rally against perceived poisons, they spread the poisons of propaganda and community divisiveness.

Yet all the while they remain oblivious to the contradictions in their words and deeds.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Musings: Sandbagged

Back in December 1996, a very high surf event caused extensive erosion along a stretch of shoreline in Haena, threatening three houses.

Kauai County and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources allowed the  landowners to install a sandbag revetment in front of five contiguous oceanfront lots. The county issued a Special Management Area emergency permit for what was supposed to be a temporary fix. 

Condition #5 of the permit clearly states that “[t]he emergency shoreline protection measures shall be temporary [emphasis added] until acceptable permanent measures, which may include relocation of the structures, are approved through normal permitting procedures

The state also issued an emergency permit, with conditions that specify (emphasis added):

[t]he expiration date shall be December 12, 1997; and the permittee during the one year timeframe for this authorization shall prepare a shoreline survey and work to resolve the shoreline emergency through the appropriate permitting process:”

“The emergency shoreline protection measures shall be temporary until acceptable permanent measures, which may include relocation of structures, are approved through normal permitting procedures by the planning commission/department and other appropriate agencies.”

“Within one year of the date of this approval, the applicant shall submit a report prepared by a qualified professional, containing an assessment of the projects effectiveness, impacts on the shoreline, and recommendations for additional action. Should the measures be found to adversely impact the shoreline or other SMA resources, corrective action shall be identified and implemented, which may involve the removal or destruction of the sea bags.”

Yet here it is, nearly two decades later, and the sandbags remain in place, degrading the dune, hindering the natural movement of sand and potentially jeopardizing the county's adjacent Haena Beach Park.

The ocean has continued to eat away at the revetment, and in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2006, a bulldozer covered the exposed sandbags with sand pushed up from the fronting and adjacent beach. 
To its credit, the DLNR denied a fifth request to excavate the beach to cover the sandbags, telling homeowners:

…sand pushing/scraping can destabilize the beach profile and actually increase beach loss and coastal land loss. This can, in some cases increase the steepness of the beach profile and accelerate erosion processes. 

In March 30, 2009, Sam Lemmo,  administrator of the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, advised property owners to "remove the temporary structure, or apply for a CDUA [permit] for permanent shore protection so this matter can be resolved.”

The county also weighed in, advising the owners it would be carefully scrutinizing the CDUA permit.

Meanwhile, the sandbags have been deteriorating into rubbish that creates an eyesore on the beautiful beach and poses harm to marine life. 
Other sandbags were dislodged from the revetment and trapped between the reef and rocks.
The beach has also become steeper, making it harding for endangered monk seals to haul out and rest in this marine conservation area.

And still the county and state allow the landowners to drag their feet as they upgrade their houses and repeatedly sell the multi-million-dollar properties. All five lots have changed hands — some of them multiple times — since the temporary sandbag revetment was installed.

One of the owners is Neal Norman, who acquired a lot for $1.35 million in 2000 and then sold it to his trust for $3.5 million at the end of 2008. How much of that increased value was due to the protective revetment, and the loss of the public beach?

In the midst of this mess, the state has approved construction of new houses on the two vacant lots behind the sandbags, imposing these conditions, among others:

This action by the board in no way legitimizes the sand bag groin on the seaward side of the property and the DLNR has the right to ask for removal of the structure should the landowner fail to comply with the County of Kauai Emergency permit (E)-97-03 declarations; or if it is determined that the structure is causing harm to the public beach.”

Condition #19 “No shoreline hardening, sandbags or other structures be allowed to artificially fix the shoreline for the life of the development. This condition shall be incorporated into the conditions for approval and filed with the Bureau of Conveyances.”

Longtime Haena residents Caren Diamond and Chipper Wichman have had enough. They're asking DLNR to order landowners to remove the sandbags and restore the beach to its natural condition. In an April 12, 2015 letter to Lemmo, they wrote:

In short, this has become a serious environmental problem - a problem that should have been rectified many years ago. While removing the revetment could have long-term stability consequences for the existing homes all of the current owners bought this property knowing that shoreline erosion at this location was a major issue and that the temporary revetment would have to be removed and that the permanent hardening of the shoreline would not be allowed as it is in conflict with the shoreline management policy of both the State of Hawaii and the County of Kaua‘i.

Our community is committed that this important public beach should not be armored but should be kept in its natural state.

The state, however, has punted to the county, saying the county needs to revoke its temporary permit before the state can act.

And all the while the bags keep falling apart, the sand keeps getting swept away and the properties keep increasing in value as the public beach pays the price.