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In the first week of the 2011 Legislative Session, the priorities for achieving a more sustainable future in Hawai‘i are already apparent. Ending Hawai‘i’s over-dependence on imported food and oil, as well as basic respect for indigenous knowledge and traditional practice as a component of environmental protection dominated the latest meeting of the Environmental Legislative Network (ELN).

“The time is now to make fundamental changes,” said Marti Townsend at the ELN meeting. “This year Hawai‘i has a real opportunity to finally flip our dependence on imported food and energy and embrace culturally appropriate management paradigms.”

As the longstanding roundtable of Hawai‘i-based organizations involved in environmental policy, ELN convened this forum at the State Capitol to hear the priorities of more than 20 groups, citizens, and agencies tracking legislation this session. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party highlighted the need for a system to promote and encourage local agriculture.

The Hawai‘i Farmers Union and Hawai‘i School Garden Hui echoed the need for more agricultural education and resilience in Hawai‘i’s food systems. “Agriculture is alive in the hearts, minds, and hands of Hawai‘i’s youth who are experiencing nature through school gardens and other outdoor, applied learning opportunities,” said Hui member, Lydi Morgan Bernal. “They are the future farmers and pono stewards of our lands, waters, and communities.”

ELN members recognized that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices is key to sustainable development and proper management of Hawai‘i’s environment. Accordingly, ELN members prioritized proposals that addressed fundamental concerns for the rights of Hawai‘i’s indigenous people.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs identified three environmental priorities, including tightening of the requirements for the sale of state lands; establishing basic training for appointed officials on the rights of Native Hawaiians; and setting minimum requirements for all cultural impact assessments included in environmental impact statements or assessments.

“OHA is committed to safeguarding Hawai‘i’s land and cultural resources,” said Clyde Nāmu‘o, OHA’s chief executive officer. “This benefits Native Hawaiians and all of the people of Hawai‘i.”

In addition, groups at the ELN forum highlighted the need to continue support for land conservation funds and to find additional dedicated funding to address invasive species. “These funds and programs play a direct roll in protecting the state’s forests and fresh water supply, and prevent invasive species from doing further harm to our economy, environment and quality of life,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Mark Fox. “We ask the Legislature to continue to recognize that a healthy economy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is dependent on a healthy environment.”

Also at the top of the list for legislative initiatives this session were: reducing plastic bags, improving invasive species controls, protecting endangered species, greater shoreline setbacks, and funding for the Climate Change Taskforce. All of the issues presented at the ELN forum are included in the attached summary of legislative priorities.

ELN members will be using the new Capitol Watch system as a method of tracking bills and resolutions throughout this legislative session. “We know the legislative process can be opaque to most people,” said Robert Harris of the Sierra Club. “The Capitol Watch is intended to demystify the process so people can follow their passion this legislative session.” The Capitol Watch system is open to the public and available at: http://www.sierraclubhawaii.com/capitol-watch.

______________________________

ELN Participants

Conservation Council for Hawai‘i
Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party
Friends of Lana‘i
Hanalei Watershed Hui
Hawai‘i Audubon Society
Hawai‘i Farmers Union
Hawai‘i School Garden Hui
Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends
KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance
Life of the Land
Livable Hawai‘i Kai Hui
My Organic Mom
Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
PONO
Pono Aquaculture Alliance
Progressive Democrats
Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter
Surfrider Foundation
The Green House Hawai‘i
The Nature Conservancy
Trust for Public Land
Voter-Owned Hawai‘i
Windward Ahupua‘a Alliance

See attached list “2011 Legislative Priorities,” Hawai‘i Environmental Legislative Network.

2011 Legislative Priorities
Hawai‘i Environmental Legislative Network

Conservation Council for Hawai‘i
Marjorie Ziegler, Director, http://www.conserveHI.org

1. Remove take restrictions on public hunting of game mammals. This modernizes the game program so that hunters can take more animals for food, and prevents the State from protecting these introduced animals at the expense of native Hawaiian species, essential watersheds, cultural sites, and agricultural lands.

2. Increase funding and identify permanent sources of funding for agricultural inspections at ports of entry and for invasive species control, research, and outreach on each island. Invasive species threaten public health, quality of life, the environment, the culture, watersheds, agriculture, and the economy.

3. Defend the Natural Area Reserve Fund, Land Conservation Fund, and Rental Housing Trust Fund against funding cuts and raids. These funds – supported by the conveyance tax – promote wildlife conservation, watershed protection, land acquisition in the public interest, and affordable housing.

Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party, Food Security and Sustainability Subcommittee, Juanita Kawamoto

1. Support establishment of a co-op livestock feed mill
2. Promote agricultural education through the development of school gardens and farms
3. Establish task force to better support farmers on agricultural leases

Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party, Energy and Climate Subcommittee, Charles Ice

1. Improve the Barrel Tax
2. Establish a Smart Grid
3. Encourage a better bicycle system

Environmental Caucus of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party, Natural Resources Subcommittee, William Sager

1. Improve Invasive Species Quarantine:
– Adequately fund the Invasive Species Committees rapid response teams.
– Resolution to improve quarantine inspection system that will minimize the introduction of alien pests, including joint federal-state inspection facilities at ports of entry like Honolulu International Airport and Honolulu Harbor.

2. Ban the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam food containers in Hawai‘i.

3. Establish a 2,000-foot conservation easement coastline setback on all state-owned lands on the Big Island.

Friends of Lana‘i
friendsoflanai@gmail.com, http://www.friendsoflanai.org

1. Reject any proposals that sidetrack or “streamline” the EIS process for any industrial power plant project. Considering the age, impatience and history of the Mainland developer for the proposed industrial wind power plant on Lana’i, it is very possible that Castle & Cooke, DBEDT and other state agencies, will try again to fast-track permit approvals, the EIS review process and/or other oversight provisions for renewable energy projects; e.g., DLNR attempting to change their conservation use district rules.

2. Insure that all public meetings with agendas that could impact Lana’i include at least one meeting on Lana’i. The recently announced list of public meetings for the DLNR’s review of conservation district rule changes includes visits to every island EXCEPT Lana’i.

3. Increase the number of Department of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) officers on Lana’i from one to three. It is impossible for one individual to effectively police this island of 90,000 acres.

Hanalei Watershed Hui
Maka‘ala Kauamoana, Executive Director

Defend and build the capacity of community-based stewardship programs to ensure long-term management of natural resources by those who rely on them most.

Hawai‘i School Garden Hui
http://hawaiischoolgardenhui.org

Form public-private partnerships to strengthen pre-kindergarten through post-secondary agricultural education and farm-to-school programs.

Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends/League of Women Voters
http://www.Hawaiis1000friends.org

1. Ensure best possible mass transportation system for Oahu
2. Ensure system-wide improvements to the Honolulu Sewer System

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance
Marti Townsend, Program Director, http://www.kahea.org

1. Promote public access to the beach by establishing a “citizen suit provision,” which would allow individuals to enforce existing public access rights.

2. Encourage the development of sustainable food systems, including proper regulation of open ocean aquaculture and commercial fishing, strict limitations on genetic modification of food, and support for local farmers.

3. Prevent the weakening of Hawai‘i’s environmental review requirements (Haw. Rev. Stat. §343).

Life of the Land
Henry Curtis, Executive Director, http://www.LifeoftheLandHawaii.org

Improve transparency in public utility rates. After the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a power purchase contract, the cost figures should be made public. Ratepayers and taxpayers deserve to know how much different sources of electricity cost. Renewable energy companies would gain certainty understanding cost parameters.

My Organic Mom
Routh Bolomet, info@myorganicmom.com

1) Healthy Hawai‘i First act: A) Ban any chemical, food additive, ingredient, practice or procedure that will diminish the nutritional value or biological balance of our people’s health, threaten our food supply or resources that we use to grow our food in: water, air, soil. B) Regulate chemical trespass and chemical transformation due to Hawai‘i’s tradewinds and temperatures that exceed 76 degrees. Enforcement funded by fines and food import tax.

2) Sustainable Hawai‘i — Green Reward Incentive tax reduction programs: A) All new building permits must require new buildings or developments to be at least 75% self sustainable. All materials and systems brought into Hawaii must be reused or recycled without additional cost to the State or Counties. B) Upgrade State and County power generation infrastructure; C) Make these green systems available to the public for residential infrastructure reduction thru a mass purchasing facility (State Sustainability Depot).

3) Food Sustainability: A) Encourage backyard gardens — lessening the need to import food items and encouraging the consumption of food with higher nutritional values. B) Establish organic agricultural parks to support farmer success. Housing must be made available to the farming families on part of the land in a residential complex away from the fields. Funded by food import tax and 10% of food sales.

Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation
Alan Murakami, http://nhlchi.org

1. Establish a private attorney general right of action to impose penalties for violation of the burial protection laws and to clarify the breadth of available legal remedies to protect ancient Hawaiian burials from desecration by development.

2. Demand greater accountability for the production of homestead awards and begin to make adequate funding available to the DHHL, starting with an appropriation to pay for the installation of a water system to support pastoral homesteading at Honoka‘a.

3. Appointment of a cultural monitor to oversee and report on the implementation of programs to recognize and respect the ability of native Hawaiian prisoners in private prisons on the continent to observe religious/cultural practices while incarcerated without interference from prison officials.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs — Environmental Legislative Priorities
http://www.oha.org

1. Remedy the inconsistent quality of cultural impact assessments (CIAs) by codifying minimum requirements for assessing the impacts of a proposal on cultural practices; names OHA as the accepting authority for CIAs.

2. Require all council, board, and commission members that have an obligation to protect Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights and related resources to attend a training course on their public trust responsibilities to Native Hawaiians.

3. Amendments to laws regulating the sale of state-controlled land to better enable decision-makers to assess the proposed sales and determine whether or not the lands were part of the public lands of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i or not.

PONO
Keiko Bonk, Director, http://www.oahurcd.org/pono

1. Pursue adequate state funding for the recovery of Hawai‘i’s 439 endangered species with focus on Hawai‘i State being out of compliance with ESA and MMPA laws for the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal (ie. Gillnets and no required mitigation plan). Urgent need for funding for seal outreach and education for resident & visitor population.

2. Ban on Hawai‘i’s reef wildlife taking for sale by the international aquarium trade. Strong focus on endemic Hawaiian species for sale in this novelty industry.

Pono Aquaculture Alliance
http://www.ponoaqua.org

Encourage sustainable open ocean aquaculture by establishing minimum requirements for all open ocean aquaculture operations in state waters.

Sierra Club, Hawai‘i Chapter
Robert Harris, Executive Director, http://www.sierraclub.org/hawaii

1. Establish food sustainability standards that lay out Hawai‘i’s vision for the amount of local food it will produce and create metrics to determine our success in achieving these goals. Our state policy should encourage growing pono and eating ono.

2. Continue to reduce Hawai‘i’s opala (waste) addiction by reducing the number of paper and plastic bags sold, requiring recycling of CFL bulbs, and creating a mandatory “opt-in” requirement for the distribution of telephone books.

3. Require the use of native plants in public landscaping to ensure our government takes a leadership role in protecting indigenous plant species throughout Hawai‘i.

Surfrider Foundation
Stuart Coleman, surfrider.org/oahu

1. Ban single-use plastic bags (following the lead of Kauai and Maui) or establish a small fee for each single-use plastic or paper bag used to reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills and encourage people to use reusable bags;

2. Create a pilot program to promote water recycling and the re-use of gray water (from washers, showers and non-kitchen sinks) for 10% of Hawai‘i’s homeowners, saving money for individual owners and the counties by reducing the amount of water going into our wastewater treatment plants.

3. Create an initiative that offers qualified homeowners low-interest loans and/or tax incentives to upgrade from cesspools to septic tanks to reduce leaching sewage and water pollution, especially in rural and coastal lands.

4. Establish a 2000-foot shoreline setback on all Big Island state land from Ulupo Point to Volcanoes National Park to protect the historic Ala Kahakai Trail and preserve public access to the coast.

The Green House Hawai‘i
Betty Gearen and Gabriela Orante, info@thegreenhousehawaii.com

1. Reduce the environmental footprint of schools
2. Promote environmental education in schools.

The Nature Conservancy
Mark Fox, Legislative Coordinator, http://www.tnc.org

1. Defend the Natural Area Reserve Fund, Land Conservation Fund, and Rental Housing Trust Fund against funding cuts and raids. These funds – supported by the conveyance tax – promote wildlife conservation, watershed protection, land acquisition in the public interest, and affordable housing.

2. Increase funding and identify permanent sources of funding for agricultural inspections at ports of entry and for invasive species control, research, and outreach on each island. Invasive species threaten public health, quality of life, the environment, the culture, watersheds, agriculture, and the economy.

3. Support planning and resilience in our natural and constructed infrastructure to the effects of climate change. Ultimately, a small portion of the barrel fee (5-10%) should go to addressing the inevitable effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. A good start would be to actually fund and organize the Climate Change Task Force created by the Legislature.

Trust for Public Land
Lea Hong, Executive Director, http://www.tpl.org

Defend the Natural Area Reserve Fund, Land Conservation Fund, and Rental Housing Trust Fund against funding cuts and raids. These funds – supported by the conveyance tax – promote wildlife conservation, watershed protection, land acquisition in the public interest, and affordable housing.

Voter Owned Hawai‘i: Working for Fair Elections
Kory Payne, Executive Director, http://www.voterownedhawaii.org

Support improvements to the outdated partial public funding program by supporting the Big Island public funding pilot program, which gives county council candidates the chance to qualify for a competitive amount of money to run for office.

Windward Ahupua‘a Alliance
Shannon Wood, Executive Director, http://www.waa-hawaii.org

1. Re-establish the CLIMATE CHANGE TASK FORCE – ACT 20 Special Session 2009 whose funding was never released by Governor Linda Lingle after her veto was over-ridden. Thus, its objectives – to identify current & potential impacts of global warming & sea level rise, to estimate the costs to mitigate damages caused by them & to suggest legislative & administrative policy changes primarily at county & state levels – were never carried out.

2. Create a temporary task force comprised of representatives from state & county public agencies, private sector businesses, non-governmental organizations, academic researchers, legal experts, and legislators to examine and evaluate Chapter 205 – Land Use Commission to identify sections which need legislative modifications reflecting 21st century social, cultural, environmental & economic shifts in policies & standards – especially section 205-17 – Land use commission decision-making criteria.

3. Establish a voluntary tax refund check-off fund ($3 to $5 per refund check) to provide additional financial support for the Natural Area Reserve Fund, the Land Conservation Fund, and Rental Housing Trust Fund. Hawai`i taxpayers already have set up similar check-offs for domestic violence programs, school repairs & maintenance, publicly-funded elections, and the state library system.

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From Marti:

This legislative session didn’t turn out to be as bad as it could have been for our natural and cultural resources.  By mid-session this year, there were proposals to drastically weaken our EIS law, transfer 54% of the Division of Aquatic Resources to HIMB for groundskeepers (really, Dr. Leong? You know, City Mill has a sale on lawnmowers), and grant corporations extended leases to exploit our ocean. Thanks to the advocacy of so many, none of these proposals passed.

Not only that, legislators did manage to pass some good bills (in addition to HB 444). Sitting on the Governor’s desk for approval right now are laws that make it a felony to intentionally kill Hawaiian monk seals, require solar water heaters on new homes, and prevent beachfront landowners from using naupaka to block public access to and along the shoreline. It’s about time! Thanks also to your efforts, an audit will happening for Mauna Kea–albeit a self-audit. And while we still believe a self-audit is really no kind of audit at all, we do see it as a step in the right direction by the legislature. A very small, very weak and very tentative step, but a step nonetheless.

Mahalo to all those whose late nights, phone calls, petition gathering, and committed advocacy helped keep this 2010 legislative session from going off the rails.

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From Alana:

As a result of many letters being sent to state representatives, Rep. Mazie Hirono has decided to co-sponsor the “Offshore Aquaculture is not Fishing Act of 2009”. The bill asserts that under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Secretary of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and regional fishery management councils do not have the authority to permit or regulate the commercial ocean fish farming industry, because it is not fishing. 

The federal law that gives the Gulf Council and NOAA authority to regulate fish and fishing region-by-region was not intended to govern risky industrial enterprises like ocean fish farms.

This is a step in the right direction for the regulation of offshore aquaculture, which might soon happen in the Gulf of Mexico, and expand in places like Hawaii.

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From:  Andrea

Just last month, Act 155 was passed in the Hawaii Legislature, amending Hawaii’s renewable energy law.

One of the highlights of this amendment was the strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (often abbreviated as RPS).  These standards are binding for electric utility companies, which must satisfy the specified percentage of their net electricity sales with electricity generated from renewable energy sources by the specified date.

Now, Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards are as follows:  10% by 2010; 15% by 2015; 25% by 2020; and 40% by 2030.  The two standards that Act 155 changed are the two later dates:  the 2020 standard was increased by 5%, and the 2030 standard was a new addition.

This strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards was a wise move by the Hawaii Legislature.  Hawaii should be a predominant leader in the renewable energy realm, considering that it is the most oil dependent state with over 90% of its energy needs met by imported fossil fuels– a doubly detrimental impact with carbon footprints from long-distance importation and burning.  The context of climate change and sea-level rise heighten Hawaii’s energy vulnerability.

Yet, Hawaii is also ideally situated to move the ball forward with renewable energy due to the high availability of solar, wind, wave, and tidal energy.  Thus, the Legislature’s addition of the long-term standard, 40% renewable-created electricity by 2030, is in line with Hawaii’s position of great need, vulnerability, and opportunism.

However, the short-term standard could be a bit more aggressive.  Although a five-percent increase to 25% by 2020 is an improvement, a few other states have more stringent short-term standards.  For example, California is requiring 20% renewable-created electricity by 2010– double Hawaii’s 2010 standard.  And, Maine has a 2017 standard of 40%, Hawaii’s standard for 13 years later, while New York has a 2013 standard of 24%– 9% greater than Hawaii’s 2015 standard.

Regardless of the precise standards, the definition of “renewable energy” sources must be amended.  While creating more stringent standards in the short-term is ideal, amending the definition of “renewable energy” to only encompass those sources that are truly clean is a must.

As it stands now, the definition of “renewable energy” does not contain any qualifications.  For example, it includes “biofuels.”  Such an unqualified authorization allows utility companies to meet the standard with, say, palm oil, which fits the broad definition of “biofuels.”

What’s the problem with palm oil qualifying as a renewable energy source?  This “biofuel” implicates a significant carbon footprint due to carbon-emitting land change.  After the deforestation, heavy fertilization, and peatland burning required to produce the palm oil, the production of this “biofuel” actually contributes more to global warming, opposed to ameliorating the crisis.

Renewable energy sources and, thus, renewable portfolio standards for utility companies should authorize only clean renewable sources in life-cycle terms.  Renewability should be just one requisite for clean energy sources; the holistic footprint, including emissions, land change, and other environmental impacts, also must be taken into account.

Otherwise, we may simply displace the impact to another medium.  Without amending the law to reflect this crucial qualification, the renewable portfolio standards may end up perpetuating the very problem that they are intended to improve.

Want Hawaii to lead a meaningful renewable energy transition?

Contact your representatives in the State Legislature and voice your opinion!

Here’s contact information for our House representatives:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/house/members/members.asp

And, here’s contact information for Senate members:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/senate/members/members.asp

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From Alana:

On Thursday night, a film entitled A Sea Change, was shown at the Bishop Museum. It addressed the much ignored by-product of climate change, ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is, arguably, the most dire consequence of adding ridiculous amounts of carbon dioxide to the air. 

For years, the ocean has been absorbing extra CO2 from the air, a total of 118 billion metric tons of it. Adding 22 billion pounds of CO2 to the ocean each day is severely changing the chemistry of the water. But what is wrong with the pH of the ocean lowering by .1, or .01, or even .001? It may not seem like much to us, but any change affects what all life depends on most: the creatures at the bottom of the ocean food chain, namely pteropods. Pteropods are moth-like, transparent creatures, that seem to fly in the deep ocean. They are the food for a myriad of creatures, which in turn are the food source for hundreds of other creatures, that humans then feed on. Increased amounts of CO2, though, are causing the pteropods’ calciferous shells to disintegrate. This threatens the entire food chain.

Scientists have underestimated the magnitude and haste of climate change. They  assert that we are past the point where we can stop the extinctions that will come with the disappearance of pteropods and coral. This situation is so extreme that within a few centuries humans could be all but extinct as well. As one scientist simply exclaims, “we’re screwed”.

 The thing that disgusts me most about all of this, though, is that we could have solved it by now. It would only cost TWO PERCENT  of our GDP to solve the energy crisis. It can be argued that 2% of GDP is a lot of money, but I think it might be a good asking price for ensuring the continuation of our survival as a species, and the survival of the animals we depend on. To put this in perspective, enough photovoltaic cells could have been built to power the entire United States with only $420 billion–HALF of the Iraq war budget.

A big hurdle that the public has to face is simply realizing how much we rely on the ocean, and that it is in fact possible for us to change something that big. Most people accept the fact that the ice is melting, but continually deny that life is endangered because of human activity. One woman in the film says,

“We are a very visual species. What is below water is invisible to us. What we can’t see, we pollute… because it doesn’t exist to us.”

So what can we do about this? The main thing to do is just analyze your lifestyle and make sure that what you do doesn’t add to this serious problem. Venture capitalists have the choice of going down the alley of exploitation as easily as the alley of sustainability. The government owes it to everyone to do something about this. This type of problem will threaten national security, the world food supply, etc, so when is anyone going to do something about this in terms of strong legislation– or creating an actual plan of action?? Depending on your age, you may not see the effects, but it is real. It is not going away. I know that there will not only be a sea change in my lifetime, but a world of change.sea_change_a

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From:  Andrea

Most people are familiar with our inalienable natural rights, as John Locke summed up as life, liberty, and property.  But what about nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve?

These are the inalienable legal rights that the town of Shapleigh, Maine, voted to grant to nature last February.  Now, in the town of Shapleigh, population 2,326, natural communities and ecosystems are endowed with these inalienable, fundamental rights, and any town resident has “standing” to bring a lawsuit on behalf of natural communities and ecoystems.

Read the Boston Globe article here:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/07/19/should_nature_be_able_to_take_you_to_court/?page=1

Shapleigh is on the right track.  While critics may argue there are too many potential litigants, ranging from the Kukui tree to the Waimea River, there exists an entire planet of species and ecosystems deserving of the right to exist.  And, sadly, counts of these potential litigants are diminishing.  See:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N01296862.htm

The above article, published July 2, reports that more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the last five-hundred years, with almost 17,000 threatened with extinction now, according to a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature report.  The track record shows that we are failing at conservation.  Endowing nature with the right to exist may bolster our efforts at conserving biodiversity.

Apparent in many facets of our social structure, we have consistently valued profit above nature.  After all, corporations have long had the legal status of a “person” and the corresponding rights, including ability to sue.  If corporations are “persons” in the sense of legal status and rights, then what is the problem with nature possessing rights to exist?  Nature is fundamental to our own existence, quite unlike corporations.

We are behind the time in recognizing nature’s rights.  Notwithstanding the dire situation of lost biodiversity, concepts of an ethical relationship with nature have been around for at least 100 years.  Aldo Leopold, an early environmentalist, wrote about his “land ethic” in A Sand County Almanac.  Based on the idea that ethics should be expanded to encompass nonhuman members of the biotic community, Leopold summed up his land ethic as follows:  “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  If we humans were on board with this profoundly simple land ethic- and had been during our last couple hundred years of pillaging-, then perhaps we would not be in the situation of having to pass town ordinances to grant nature the right to exist.

But, alas, so is human nature.  Our attempts at control have led us to a precarious precipice:  here, at the edge of continuing to diminish biodiversity, we have a choice.  The town of Shapleigh recognized this watershed moment and stepped in the direction of preservation.

If my town votes for a similar ordinance, you bet I’ll holler aye.  And, when critics question, “how do we know what nature wants?” and argue that the interest is actually ours, I’ll have my response.

Sure, we humans may be the ones instituting this groundbreaking regime of granting legal rights to biota.  But in reality, the idea of humans bringing these suits on behalf of nature is not so far-fetched.  After all, people serve as trustees to bring suits on behalf of incompetent people and trust beneficiaries.  Human implementation of nature’s rights is requisite:  the law is our system, and our impacts and attempts to control ecosystems thus far have led to the gross loss in biodiversity.

Humans- but not corporations- are a part of the planetary ecosystem.  We are not the operators behind an enormous control panel, like we have long been masquerading.  As a single species, we should make room in our legal and socioeconomic structures for the other species to survive, lest we deprive them all of their right to exist.

We should be celebrating and wholeheartedly codifying nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.  Without nature, without Earth, homo sapiens would not exist.

Ho’okahi No Ka ‘Aina A Me Na Kanaka.

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From:  Andrea

Sparked by curiosity about the legal procedure for chemical spills and releases, I have been researching the Hawaii Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act.  After days picking apart the details of this Act and  related regulations, I am left to wonder where I may find the “Community-Right-to-Know” aspect.

It seems like it should be called Department of Health-Right-to-Know.  Nowhere in this Act is there a mandate for notifying the public when there is a chemical release or spill.  Facilities that store hazardous and extremely hazardous substances over a threshold amount are bound to report their chemical inventory and releases or spills to the Department.   But, what about notifying the public of this danger?

As discovered by a call to the Hawaii Office of Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response, the Department of Health is not bound to notify the public.  The Department decides, within its discretion, whether to notify the public through a general statement about a chemical release in the community.

When I started researching this law, I expected to find public notification requirements about what hazardous substances are present in the community and when they are accidentally released.  The only public right-to-know is the ability to request records on particular facilities from the Department of Health.  But, this policy does not truly inform the community because members of the public must know exactly what they are looking for in order to request that information.

If the apparent goal of the Act is the community’s right-to-know about the presence and release of hazardous substances within the community, there should be a provision binding the Department of Health to notify the public.  In other words, the Department should make records on these hazardous substances more accessible to the public, actually informing the community in a meaningful way.

As it stands now, the Hawaii Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act requires notifying the Department, but there is an essential step missing in the process:  notifying the public, rather than requiring the public to specifically request information that is not generally public knowledge.  The onus should be on the Department, the information-bearing party, not the public.

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