Audience Choice Award!!!

Eugene Environmental Film Festival

AUDIENCECHOICE-EugeneEnvironmentalFilmFestival-2018.png

I had a great experience screening the film at the Eugene Environmental Film festival. It was one of the coolest festivals I’ve been too in a while. It felt like the community really came together to make it happen. The Q&A was great. I got a couple complex questions from the audience, which made for a lively discussion on the role of permaculture in a Hawaiian context.

One Third of Moloka’I Is for Sale and the Local Community Is Eager to Attract the Right Buyer

In 1848 Moloka’i was changed for good. For hundreds of years, locals lived off the island in harmony with its natural bounty and rich heritage. But that all changed during the Great Mahele, when the islands lands were privatized and outsiders, largely protestant missionary families, took control of massive stretches of land. Pineapple plantations sprang up, along with other industrial farms and ranches, affecting the islands ecology. Many of the vital stream beds dried up and the fish ponds that were part of the ancient Ahupua'a land management system were filled with silt.

Why does all of this matter? Well almost a third of the entire island is up for sale and its going for $260 million. This real estate sale is no joke and the local residents aren’t laughing. For them, it could change the entire future of the island for better or for worse.

To understand the full scope and importance of this land, we must address its history. In 1908, over 50 years after the Great Mahele, a protestant missionary family from New England, The Cooke’s, purchased over-2,000-acres of land. This became Moloka’i Ranch. While the land has transitioned between several different foreign owners starting in 1978, the Cooke’s maintained ownership of Moloka’i Ranch for almost 80 years, growing pineapple and ranching cattle. During this time, they expanded from 2,000 acres to almost 60,000 acres, using the land not only for ranching and agriculture but also to develop properties, including a golf course, hotel and lodge. Additionally, part of the land has been leased to companies like Monsanto, who grow and test GMO corn seeds on the island. All of these factors have contributed to the environmental deterioration of the island that local residents have been fighting against for well over a decade.

 The land in black is owned by Moloka’i Ranch.

The land in black is owned by Moloka’i Ranch.

In the documentary Abundant Land, local residents discuss how erosion from ranching and mismanagement of the land have gradually deteriorated the soil, impacted the islands climate, and damaged the islands reefs. From pineapple plantations to ranching to growing and testing GMO corn seeds using large quantities of chemicals, thousands of acres of the islands topsoil has been stripped of life, creating barren fields. “These farming practices are kind of the antithesis of sustainable agriculture,” says local resident Karen Holt. As a result, the windy island has become prone to dust storms causing worry among residents who don’t want to be exposed to chemicals in the dust. The limited supply of freshwater on the island has been drained from the streambeds and dust and silt runoff have entered into the ocean, affecting the islands reefs and fish ponds.

In the words of Malia Akutagawa, a Moloka’i local, “One of the things that marks us as Hawaiians on Moloka’i is that we fight for this land” (Abundant Land). The locals on Moloka’i, with their long history of activism and community engagement in the islands agricultural and environmental politics, are eager to be proactive about what happens with the land and find a buyer that understands and respects their vision. In a community meeting hosted by the We Are Moloka'i Pule O'o group in October, speaker Matt Yamashita discussed the issue. “How do we attract a buyer that makes sense for this island? And what makes sense for this island?” He asked. “The residents of this island have been creating plans…[that] look at what the future should be for the island, what makes sense for us culturally?… environmentally?… economically? And when we look at all the plans we see that there is a common vision.”

Having that common vision is essential if the land is to be successfully run in a way that supports the local community, promotes sustainable agriculture, benefits the natural ecology,  and reestablishes Moloka’i as “the land of plenty.” That is exactly what the We Are Moloka'i Pule O'o group are trying to do through their community meetings, Unity walks, and outreach. And they do have a plan, detailed in a report that surpasses 800 pages and includes the Community-based Master Land Use Plan for Moloka’i Ranch, as well as various surveys, reports, impact assessments and mitigation measures. (The Document can be found here: http://files.hawaii.gov/luc/dockets/a06764molokai/a06764deisa.pdf)

The community is prepared. They know what they want. Perhaps that is why multiple listings for the property have a buyer beware notice- buyers know that they’ll have to butt heads with the local community if they don’t comply. In the same October meeting, Matt Yamashita gave a warning. “We want to let potential, prospective buyers know that if you’re thinking about buying Moloka’i Ranch, you’re not just buying a piece of property, you’re coming into a community… a community that knows exactly what they want and exactly what’s good for us... And we will fight if it’s wrong. We have a long history of fighting for what is right.”


By Sofia Daniels, Abundant Land: Soil, Seeds and Sovereignty


Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission Signs off on Molokai Renewable Energy Project

The Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission has approved and signed off on a 2.64-megawatt project, which includes a 3-MW battery energy storage system, which will be owned and operated by Molokai New Energy Partners, who will then sell the electricity to Maui Electric Company. The project is expected to be in service towards the end of 2019.

The project's approval stems from the committee's expected belief that the project is expected to provide savings to the island's 3,200 customers every year of the 22-year contract. The project will deliver clean, solar-powered energy at about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is less than the present cost of diesel energy generation. More-so, Maui Electric Company makes no mark-up and takes no profit on electricity purchased from independent power producers like MNEP.

"As this solar and battery project moves forward, we recognize there is still much to be done in our efforts to reach 100 percent renewable energy on Molokai," said Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui Electric. "We'll be seeking more affordable renewables to power the island and look forward to continue working with the Molokai community, policy makers and renewable energy developers to achieve this ambitious goal."

The residents of Molokai continue to reconnect with their traditional practices and the natural ways of maintaining their land, as depicted in Abundant Land. As admirable as that is, it is also just as promising that eco-friendly technology and government initiatives are also being established to restore the island of Molokai to its best shape.

By Sanak Miriyala, Abundant Land: Soil, Seeds, and Sovereignty

Hawaiians Win Greater Transparency from Agrochemical Corporations

On Wednesday, June 13, Governor David Ige signed Senate Bill 3095, signaling the passage of landmark legislation for residents and activists throughout Hawaii. "10 years ago we could not even get a hearing for our concerns, so we took to the streets…” says Moloka’i resident and activist, Walter Ritte. “Thousands of us marched on each of the islands, a march each weekend for the month of March.” For almost a decade, this passionate group of residents and activists have fought for transparency on the chemicals being sprayed in fields by agrochemical companies like Monsanto. At a state legislative hearing in Honolulu back in 2013, Moloka’i resident, mother, and activist Mercy Ritte spoke out. “I’m really pushing for laws so that this information will become public,” she said.  “I feel that residents and schools that are in the area need to know what it is that’s going into the air and being released into our atmosphere.” 

Mercy’s efforts alongside the Mom’s Hui Group she founded and other Moloka’i residents like Walter Ritte emerged with a larger grassroots effort that began growing throughout Hawaii in 2013. These mounting pressures led the board to pass bills on GMO crops and pesticide use and achieved increased transparency from Monsanto. Monsanto began releasing an annual report of the restricted-use pesticides used in its fields but did not disclose when and where the pesticides were being used.

Of course, this information is critical.  As professor and crop specialist, Hector Valenzuela said in Abundant Land, “Say you are living on Moloka’i and then there is a spray drift that is coming up… you want to know what is being sprayed at that specific time and that’s, of course, a big question mark, if the companies are willing to release that information.”

The passage of Senate Bill 3095 marks an important moment in Hawaii’s fight against the practices of large agrochemical GMO seed companies. The bill:

  1. Prohibits the use of the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, which has been found to be dangerous to the developing brains of children. The ban will go into effect in January 2019.

  2. Restricts pesticide use near schools by prohibiting the use of pesticides within 100 feet of schools during their instructional hours (7am-4pm).

  3. Requires agricultural companies to disclose when, where, and in what quantities they will be spraying restricted use pesticides in regular reports. This will allow the community to access the information so they can make more educated decisions about their health and safety.

This bill shows how a community of passionate people moved to protect their families, their health and the land they live on can affect major change. “Finally, we get a crack in the dike with this bill, now we need to full court press and get even more meaningful protection from these Chemical Corporations now on our farmlands,” Walter Ritte concludes. There is still more work to do, but for the activists who have been tirelessly pushing for better legislation can finally take a breath and feel hopeful about the future of Hawaii.

By Sophia Daniels, Abundant Land: Soil, Seeds, and Sovereignty