As folks marched through Waikiki yesterday calling for “aloha aina” — narrowly defined as the demise of biotech seed crops and no new telescopes on Haleakala and Mauna Kea — a much more powerful force of change is already at work in the Islands.
It's called money. Really big money. According to a Bloomberg News article:
“The next migration of wealth and development is now moving to Kauai,” said Chris Fair, president of Resonance Consultancy, which produces reports on travel and leisure spending by affluent Americans.
It seems a “record number” — 23, to be exact — of $20 million-plus homes are now up for sale in Hawaii, catering to the big bucks from Northern California's Silicon Valley.
The article quotes Matt Beall, the North Shore Kauai-based co-owner of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers:
It’s certainly a higher number of very high-end sales in recent times than at any other time in Hawaii.
Hawaii Life, you may recall, is the luxury real estate company that donated handsomely to the campaign of Dustin Barca, the anti-GMO candidate who made an unsuccessful bid for the Kauai mayor's seat.
And Beall's wife, Elif, is the acting executive director of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, the anti-GMO group headed by Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser. HAPA was a sponsor of Sunday's “aloha aina” march, as was SHAKA, which is headed up upscale Maui Realtor Mark Sheehan.
Do you suppose it's all just a coincidence, this ongoing close connection between high-end Realtors and the anti-GMO movement?
In a blog post titled “Why I March For Aloha Aina,” Hooser wrote:
The Aloha ‘Āina Unity March is to express political views regarding issues that are impacting the management and use of land and natural resources in Hawai`i.
At the forefront of these issues are the construction of TMT on Mauna Kea, regulation of pesticide use and genetically modified organisms on agricultural lands in rural communities throughout the state, and mismanagement of agricultural lands across the State.
Yet even as they obsess over agricultural land, he and the rest say absolutely nothing about its continuing gentrification, which takes it out of meaningful production forever. And though state studies showed urban areas on Oahu have the highest concentrations of pesticides, they are concerned only with pesticide use in rural areas. Why?
Hooser goes on to blast the Agribusiness Development Corp. for leasing land to the seed companies:
ADC...is focused on the revenue generated from the high lease rents paid by these large chemical companies.
As opposed to, say, his Realtor pals who are focused on the revenues generated from the high sales prices paid by these well-heeled individuals.
And the rich guys just keep selling to other rich guys, for more and more money.
For example, the article cites this sale:
Actor Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, sold their home on Kauai’s North Shore in 2011 for $20 million to a trust linked to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva. Last month it was listed for $29.5 million. The 28-acre property boasts an ocean view; a gym, pool and adjoining hot tub; and an orchard with avocado, grapefruit, star fruit, banana and orange trees, according to the listing.
Yes, that's what's happening to agricultural land in Kilauea, while all the North Shore anti-GMO activists are screaming about the westside seed crops.
Gary, who has fed off the public trough for decades now as a politician, and before that sold real estate, fails to grasp a very basic concept here: ADC has to earn lease money in order to manage the 15,000 acres of ag land under its jurisdiction, which includes developing ag parks and maintaining ag infrastructure for small farmers.
And in his typical hypocritical fashion, Gary dings the very same government he works for:
Instead of seeking first to protect and preserve via Aloha ‘Āina and embracing the precautionary principle, our government leans increasingly toward a cost/benefit analysis. The sad part is that the people and the environment are paying the costs and the corporations and their enablers are reaping the benefit.
So tell us, Gary, how do you justify missing so many of the Council meetings that you're paid to attend with taxpayer dollars?Or having your HAPA group further screw the taxpayers by claiming a nonprofit tax status when you're actually engaged in political advocacy and lobbying? Aren't you reaping the profits while the people pay the costs?
Speaking of hypocrites, musician Neil Young is among the property owners now cashing in. Beall's Hawaii Life has listed Young's three-acre property on the Big Island's Kohala Coast for $24.5 million. It's got 830 feet of ocean frontage, a five-bedroom beach house and two guest cottages. He bought it in 1997, no doubt for considerably less than the current sales price.
Young most recently enriched himself by pandering to the anti-GMO movement with his anti-Monsanto songs and tour. But did he ever, say, host a benefit concert for the homeless in Hawaii? Help some small Island farmers with start-up money? What's his contribution to "aloha aina" aside from the anti-ag agitprop?
At least Realtor Shawn Smith is working with Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg, who reportedly spent $100 million on North Shore Kauai land last year, to develop a local giving program, continuing a tradition that began with Larry Bowman and Falko Properties. What has Matt done, besides blow money on Dustin?
Gary ends with:
This is not about being for or against science, or GMOs or telescopes or even development. This is about putting the values of people and the environment first.
Mmm, yeah, sure. But first, which people are you talking about? And whose values?