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From Alana:

From “Hawai’i has a lot to gain from open ocean aquaculture” in today’s Honolulu Advertiser:

Just as we need to be off imported oil, we need to be off imported seafood. This opportunity can be an economic engine for Hawai’i, and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.Let’s not stand in our own way. There’s  a lot to gain for everyone.

Absolutely.

The amount of seafood that we import is really astounding. It is upsetting, though, that in the wake of a very large aquaculture operation, which would export up to 90% of its ahi products, statements like the above, are used to defend it.

The article, by Jay Fidell of ThinkTech Hawaii, goes on to say that:

There are anti-aquaculture groups who don’t want “greedy” corportations to make a profit and export aquaculture products to outside markets. Those groups don’t acknowledge andvancements in the technology, and regularly diseminate disinformation about the industry. They’ve been pulling out all the stops, apparently bent on wiping out open ocean aquaculture in Hawai’i. Theyre’re completely wrong. Without open ocean aquaculture, Hawai’i would have to depend on foreign unregulated producers and overfished wild stocks. Those options are not nearly as secure or sustainable as the development of homegrown open ocean aquaculture.

I do not think of myself as entirely “anti-aquaculture”, I just think it should be done right. My cause is not to “diseminate disinformation”, it is to let people know that there are serious implications that multiple aquaculture ventures could have on Hawaii’s marine ecosystems. It is also to open peoples eyes to aquaculture in other parts of the world, and to how it has affected those places. This article makes it seem like there is some hidden agenda beneath fighting these giant open ocean aquaculture projects. But really, I have nothing to gain from this. I have neither read nor heard anything pro-open ocean aquaculture, aside from the people who would benefit direcly from it.

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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:  Andrea

Last night at the public hearing on the Draft Science Plan for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, held at the monument office in Hawaii Kai, a troubling consequence of the lack of environmental review was elucidated.

One of the Science Plan authors stated that research activities that have already been permitted are assumed to have gone through a “rigorous” review by management.  The problem?

Actually, there could be quite a few from this muddy statement.  For one, this statement suggests that research activities that have already been permitted will not be scrutinized- nor, certainly, environmentally assessed- in the future.  It sounds like grandfathering-in existing and previous permits, meaning some activities that have been permitted in the past will be continuously assumed to pass muster, despite never actually being environmentally reviewed.

Clearly, grandfathering-in research activities so that they never undergo environmental review creates informational ravines that make cumulative impact analysis impossible.  Cumulative impacts, the incremental impacts of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future action, must be assessed.  The managers need to understand the big picture, especially when making seemingly small decisions like permitting.

Secondly, what is this “rigorous” review that the manager mentioned?  There has been no environmental assessment on any permits nor the entire permitting system nor the Science Plan, so it clearly was not environmental review.  If this rigorous review were undertaken via the prioritization system of the Science Plan, that, too, is problematic.

As I have blogged before, the Science Plan has two tragic flaws:  (1)  the prioritization scheme that doesn’t actually prioritize permit activities (To prioritize permit activities, it asks, pros and…pros?, leading to 97% of potential research activities to be ranked as “critical” or “high” in importance.) and (2)  the lack of environmental review.

But, the environmental assessment did not come with the Science Plan.  The managers argue that this is the draft plan, so environmental assessment is not appropriate now.  However, they also proclaim the plan to be an evolving document- not problematic necessarily.  The evolving nature of the plan is problematic, however, for lack of environmental review because, if it is meant to evolve, when would the managers consider environmental review appropriate? There could always be an argument that it is not truly finalized yet if it’s an “evolving” document.

On the other side, if the monument managers, in fact, conduct an environmental assessment for the Final Science Plan, which is the next step after last night’s public hearing, the decision on permitting prioritization will have been made.  And, environmental assessment is legally required to take place prior to decision-making.  The whole point of environmental review is for decision-makers to be informed of environmental impacts before they make final decisions.

So, either the Science Plan truly is an evolving document, in which case an environmental review is likely to be put off forever.  Or, the Science Plan will be finalized in the next step, the Final Science Plan, which frustrates the point of environmental review taking place before decisions are made.

Confusing?  Yes.  But it need not be.

KAHEA urges the monument managers to take the straightforward approach by conducting environmental review of the Science Plan, which guides the entire permitting process, prior to finalization of the plan.  KAHEA also urges environmental review of all permits- no grandfathering-in.  Each proposed permit should be looked at with a fresh eye, through the lens of cumulative impacts, which inherently change over time.

Let’s hope that public comments are indeed incorporated into the Final Science Plan, whenever that may be.  Otherwise, the one-sided prioritization system will continue to rank most activities high, leading to excessive access and impact in a fragile, irreplaceable ecosystem.

What can you do?  Speak up!

Last public hearing on the Science Plan  is in Hilo tomorrow:

Hawai‘i, July 23th, 6-8 p.m.
Mokupapapa Discovery Center,
308 Kamehameha Ave, Suite 203, Hilo, HI, 96720.

All written public comments must be received by the monument managers by or before August 10.

• U.S. Mail:
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Attn: Science Plan Comments, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy, Suite 300, Honolulu HI, 96825

• E-mail: nwhicomments@noaa.gov.

To read the plan:

http://papahanaumokuakea.gov/research/plans/draft_natressciplan.pdf

(It takes a few minutes to download, but once you’re there, skip to page 10 for the prioritization chart.)

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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

The U.S. Coast Guard removed 32 tons of debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over the Fourth of July weekend.  Much thanks to the Coast Guard for ameliorating the health of our oceans!  See the Honolulu Advertiser article:

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090713/BREAKING01/307130004/U.S.%20Coast%20Guard%20removes%2032%20tons%20of%20debris%20from%20Northwestern%20Hawaiian%20Islands?GID=e/Si+j1sOYkNlMXAMxQScaqw1wgB5/Nurtn+5iNvNh8%3D

While I am glad that efforts to clean up marine litter are taking place, especially in such an  irreplaceable, nationally protected locale, 32 tons is only the tip of the iceberg.  The scale of this problem is vast.  Marine litter filling our oceans is a global problem affecting all people and nations.  Marine litter, of which 80% are plastics, harms marine life, degrades human health, and results in tremendous social, economic, and cultural costs.

The United Nations Environment Programme recognizes this immense ocean dilemma that affects everyone.  In April 2009,   the UN Environment Programme released a report titled “Marine Litter:  A Global Challenge.”  Find the report at:

http://www.unep.org/pdf/UNEP_Marine_Litter-A_Global_Challenge.pdf

“There is an increasingly urgent need to approach the issue of marine litter through better enforcement of laws and regulations, expanded outreach and educational campaigns, and the employment of strong economic instruments and incentives,” the report says.

The report also notes that the “overall situation is not improving.” Thank you, Coast Guard, for your part.  But, we must do our part, too.

What can you do to help reduce marine litter?

  • Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and storm drains free of trash to prevent washing trash into the ocean and waterways.
  • Take reusable items- and less trash and throw-away containers- to the beach.
  • At the beach, be sure to recycle what you can and throw the rest of your trash into trash cans.  Do not leave trash or anything else, like plastic toys or containers, at the beach when you leave.
  • Pick up debris that other people have left; recycle what you can, and throw the rest away in a trash can.
  • When fishing, take all of your nets, gear, and other materials back onshore to recycle or dispose of in a trash can.
  • If you smoke, take your butts with you, disposing of them in a trash can.
  • When boating, stow and secure all trash on the vessel.
  • Participate in local clean-ups.  Here’s one resource:  http://www.adoptabeachhawaii.com/
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Serve as an example to others.

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From Alana:

Last week in the Honolulu Advertiser there was an article about the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is supposed to “prevent overfishing, minimize bycatch, and protect fish stocks and habitat” in federal waters in the Pacific. The council was found to be less than accessible in terms of releasing public documents.

At a time when most public agencies routinely put their documents
online, the council requires a visit to its office to inspect or copy
most of its available records, the report said. In addition, a citizen
must file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain anything “not normally made available to the public.”

And although there is no proof, some people speculate that their secrecy is because of misspent federal money or illegal lobbying that might show up in the records.

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From:  Andrea

Kahana residents have not ceased their tireless fight to stay in their homes.  Since their homeland was condemned as a state park in the ’60s, the people of Kahana have had to battle the State of Hawaii to stay in their homes.

And, now, after the State found illegal the law passed in ’93 to allow long-term leases for pre-existing residents in Kahana State Park, legislation has been proposed to ameliorate this unsettling situation for now.

House Bill 1552 presented Kahana residents an interim solution from being forced to leave their homes.  Public process gave them a way to voice their interests within the decision-making arena.  Reflecting Kahana residents’ input, the bill would help Kahana residents in the following ways:

  • Authorize Department of Land and Natural Resources to issue long-term residential leases to Kahana residents;
  • Establish planning councils to develop a park Master Plan; and
  • Establish a 2-year moritorium on evictions of Kahana valley residents.

But, now, Governor Lingle has voiced her intent to veto the bill, apparently under the guise of prohibiting illegal activities in Kahana.  If that’s the case, go after the illegal activities as the government would do so anywhere else!  The State should not perpetuate the suffering of long-time Kahana residents who are not participating in illegal activities because some residents are breaking the law there.

Want to support Kahana residents in their fight to protect their homes?

Oppose Governor Lingle’s intent to veto HB 1522:

Wednesday, July 8, 11 a.m.

Demonstration at the State Capitol

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