Alae ula: Common Hawaiian Moorhen

SUBHEAD: This endangered species has a distinctive bright red bill.

By Linda Pascatore on 7 March 2009 for Island Breath 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/03/alae-ula-common-hawiian-moorhen.html
 
Image above: Illustration on Common Moorhen showing huge legs and feet. From http://whatbird.wildbird.com/obj/464/_/target.aspx
 
The Alae ula is a bird in Rallidae family, and stands about 13 inches tall. It is a slate gray color, with black on the head and neck. There are white markings on the flanks and under the tail. Most of the bill and and upper shield are bright red, with a small yellow tip. Unlike ducks, the moorhen does not have webbed feet. It walks on long separated toes through marshy vegetation. Legs and feet are a light greenish color.

Males are larger than females, and they have chicken-like cackles and croaks. The scientific name is gallinula chloropus sandvicensis, and it is also called the Hawaiian gallinule or Hawaiian Common Moorhen. The Alae ula is a subspecies of the Common gallinule found in North America and Eurasia.

 While very similar to these relatives, the Hawaiian species has differentiated from its relatives, and no longer migrates. Historically, the bird was found on all the main Hawaiian Islands except for Lanai and Koho olawe. The Alae ula is now found in elevations under 400 feet on most commonly on Kauai and Oahu.

There have been reported sightings on the Ke anae peninsula on Maui, and on the Big Island. On Kauai, they are found most often in the Wailua and Hanalei river valleys, in irrigation ditches and taro fields. The birds live around fresh water ponds, marshes, reservoirs, and taro fields. Diet consists of water plants, algae, insects, snails, and grasses.
 
 
Image above: Adult Common Moorhen swimming from http://www.birdsofoklahoma.net/Commonmoorhen.htm 

The Alae ula often makes it’s nest in shallow water. It builds platform nests on floating vegetation or flooded reeds. Breeding season is March through August, and appears to be related to water levels. The moorhen lays five or six eggs, which hatch after 22 days. Chicks are covered with black down, and have the bright red beak.

They can swim shortly after birth, but are dependent on their parents for several weeks. Immature birds are olive to grayish brown, with a yellow or brown bill. In Hawaiian Mythology, the Alae ula performed a great service to the people. In the old days the Hawaiians did not have the secret of fire to cook or warm themselves.

The Alae kea, or white beaked alae, took pity on them. He flew to the home of the gods, the volcano. There he stole a burning torch and brought it back to earth. During the flight, the bird’s white forehead was seared by the fire, and has been a bright red ever since then. From then on the bird was known as Alae ula because of the red mark from the fire. This bird was honored as an amakua, or guardian spirit of individual families. It was also considered by some to be a bad omen.

image above: Common Moorhen feeding chick from http://www.browardaudubon.org/Young_Birds.html
This bird is endemic to Hawaii. Endemic species are native and occur nowhere else. Alae ula was common at the turn of the century, but is now endangered. The average number of individuals counted between 1993 and 2003 was just under 300 individuals. However, the species is secretive and an accurate count is difficult.

This species has suffered from habitat loss. Most of the coastal wetland plains in the state have been lost in recent years. There has also been a shift from wetland agriculture to other crops. Predators include many introduced species: dogs, cats, rats, mongoose, cattle egrets, and bullfrogs. There are several introduced plant species that reduce their habitat, including pickleweed, water hyacinth, and mangrove.
Image above: Common Moorhen chick from http://www.birdspix.com
Conservation efforts include wetland restoration and preservation and prohibiting hunting of the bird. There have been reintroduction of the moorhead to Molokai, with future reintroduction to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii planned.
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Nature Listing  

or go to "Hawaiian Nature" from "Archives Menu"

Pawns With Lawns

SUBHEAD: Lawns are a luxury we can no longer afford.
By Mickey Z on 05 March 2009 in Countercurrents.org
Image above: A perfect American lawn by www.TurfTech.com
The single most irrigated crop in the United States is…( drum roll please ) lawn. Yep, 40 million acres of lawn exist across the Land of Denial and Americans collectively spend about $40 billion on seed, sod, and chemicals each year. And then there's all that water. If you include golf courses, lawns in America cover an area roughly the size of New York State and require 238 gallons of (usually drinking-quality) water per person, per day. According to the EPA, nearly a third of all residential water use in the US goes toward what is euphemistically known as "landscaping."
We have become a nation of pawns with lawns. Food comes from the drive-thru, entertainment is televised, the concept of play exists on hand-held computers, democracy is a reality show every four years, and that tiny parcel of land we allegedly share with some bailed out bank is inevitably set aside to be a lawn.
As described by Ted Steinberg, author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn , when it comes to lawns, social and ecological factors often work in coordination. "Perfection became a commodity of post-World War II prefabricated housing such as Levittown , NY , in the late 1940s," writes Steinberg. "Mowing became a priority of the bylaws of such communities."
Lawn mowers produce several types of pollutants , including ozone precursors, carbon dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (classified as probable carcinogens by the CDC). In fact, operating a typical gasoline mower produces as much polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as driving a car roughly 95 miles. Since some folks are legally required to maintain a lawn (more about that shortly), here's a suggestion or two: human-powered mowers or try using your bicycle .
Besides the air and noise pollution of mechanized mowers, there's another form of toxicity directly related to America 's lawn addiction. " Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland ," writes Heather Coburn Flores, author of Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community . "These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects."
“If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials,” wrote Rachel Carson almost five decades ago, “it is surely because our forefathers…could conceive of no such problem.”
We now produce pesticides at a rate more than 13,000 times faster than we did when Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. The EPA considers 30% of all insecticides, 60% of all herbicides, and 90% of all fungicides to be carcinogenic, yet Americans spend about $7 billion on 21,000 different pesticide products each year. "Prior to World War II, annual worldwide use of pesticides ran right around zero," says author Derrick Jensen . "By now it's 500 billion tons, increasing every year." As a result, about 860 Americans suffer from pesticide poisoning every single day; that's almost 315,000 cases per year.
As mentioned above, maintaining a noxious and unproductive lawn isn't just a simple case of one-size-fits-all conformity in the face all logic and evidence; it's often the law.
In October 2008, for example, Joseph Prudente of Beacon Woods, Florida , was sentenced to jail for failing to sod his lawn as required by the local homeowner covenants. Before you label Mr. Prudente a modern day insurrectionist, take note that the reason he failed to live up to his suburban obligation was predictable: he couldn't afford to replace his sprinklers when they broke. "It's a sad situation," said Bob Ryan, Beacon Woods Homeowners Association board president. "But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself."
I'm guessing Mr. Ryan has never heard of Food Not Lawns .
Imagine, as the folks at Food Not Lawns do, each house not with a lawn but instead with a small organic "Victory" garden from which the family is fed. Imagine those without a lawn joining their local community garden to re-connect and grow their own. Or perhaps you'd like to imagine them engaging in some green graffiti and/or seed bombing.
(For the uninitiated, seed bombs are “compressed balls of soil and compost that have been impregnated with wildflower seeds. Jettisoned onto barren, abandoned, or otherwise inhospitable land, including construction sites and abandoned lots.” Liz Christy—who started the "Green Guerillas" in 1973—coined the alternative term, seed grenades. Smaller versions are commonly called seed balls. No matter what you call them, seed bombs are part of the ever-increasing international trend of guerilla gardening and you can find kindred spirits here .)
"The vast expanse of forever-green American lawn is not only the most resource intensive agricultural crop in the world," writes Tobias Policha in Green Anarchy , "but also an obscene icon to our arrogant privilege and total alienation from a life in harmony with nature."
The sterile lawn—complete with its requisite sprinkler, chemical cocktail, bug zapper, and "keep off the grass" sign—is an ideal symbol for America's cookie cutter culture . Lawns, writes Ted Steinberg, are "an instrument of planned homogeneity." He asks: "What better way to conform than to make your front yard look precisely like Mr. Smith's next door?"
To which we must reply: Fuck homogeneity and fuck conformity .
Why don't more people step away from the coast-to-coast mall mentality? Once reason is the looming Green Scare , a term which refers to “the federal government's expanding prosecution efforts against animal liberation and ecological activists, drawing parallels to the “Red Scares” of the 1910's and 1950s.”
The answer to this tactic, as always, is more solidarity. More of us need to embrace ideas like d umpster diving, off the grid living, wwoofing, billboard liberation, monkey wrenching, radical love , bartering, freeganism, veganism, transition towns, and other forms of the DIY ethic. We need organic vegetable gardens, not lawns. We need two wheels, not four. We need food not bombs. We need immediate courageous collective direct action, not "hope and change." We need comrades, not pawns with lawns. And we need it all now.

Food Growing Proposal

SUBHEAD: Proposal for a food growing resource coordination for Kauai.  

By Arius Hopman on 7 March 2009 for Island Breath 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/03/food-growing-proposal.html)

 
Image above: City of Honolulu Parks Department Community Recreational Gardening Program. Photo by Juan Wilson near Diamondhead, Oahu.

 [Author's note: Aloha All: Here is the outline of a proposal that could help us coordinate home food growing on Kauai. Let's move the project along. This could turn into a grant proposal and may fit into the stimulus package specs.This is a Draft Proposal, and your input is much appreciated. Electronic copy is available. Contact Arius Hopman at ahopman@earthlink.net or telephone (808) 335-5616]

The economic collapse of Wall Street and the economic uncertainty world-wide now gives Kauaians much incentive to grow our own food. The present obstacle and threshold is the lack of coordination of all the resources needed and the information/prototype demonstration island wide. With a coordinated and collaborative effort between State, County and residents, we can shift from over 90% dependency on imported food to a surplus of food production on the island. Historically, the Garden Island exported its’ surplus to other islands.

THE OPPORTUNITY:
All organic soil amendments are available on island, albeit scattered around and sometimes inaccessible. We are blessed with three growing seasons that overlap geographically (too wet vs. too dry/hot). Ka Wai, “The Water” has more abundant water than any other island, per capita. With proper coordination it can serve our food needs as well as our water needs. Kauai being the oldest inhabited island also has the deepest and richest soil profile. We are well positioned to grow our own. The County has already made major strides by introducing the green-waste/composting program, available to citizens until recently. As we reach the limits of our global capacity to grow food, and simultaneously reach the peak of oil and an economic recession/depression, it benefits us to take control of the source of our food and water. The incentive created by these calamities is an opportunity that we dare not miss. Time is of the essence. It takes several years to establish rich organic growing soil suitable for food cultivars. Family sized gardens provide much more than food: They re-connect people with the aina and with each-other in collaborative teamwork to insure their very survival. Gardening could again become an essential component of education, both in families as well as in schools.

BARRIERS:
There are also several barriers to growing our own food: apathy and habit; the convenience of going to the store for every need; TV and other advertising; lack of gardening skills; insufficient community examples of fun gardening; the cost of water and inaccessibility of some of the basic soil amendments. These barriers are primarily institutional; they are addressed in this proposal. The main thrust is to coordinate access to water, soil amendments and supplies (irrigation supplies, fencing, organic seeds etc.).

EDUCATION:
A series of articles in the newspaper and interviews on Ho’ike are proposed to galvanize the issue and facilitate the collaboration of officials and departments. The need for inter-departmental collaboration and public participation will be emphasized. A coordinated, island-wide Food Growing Plan will be brainstormed and coordinated with all participants. Public hearings can be helpful to introduce the concept, hear concerns and identify key players. Several Grow Centers around the island are envisioned that could have soil amendments on hand, that would also send information links by email to participants or hand out information fliers to those without computers.

WATER:
At present water is too expensive for most people to consider gardening seriously with County water. This is an institutional problem, not a physical one. The demise of sugar has opened up the opportunity of abundant irrigation water in selected areas. With County and State cooperation this irrigation water could be made much more accessible to the average resident. The Dept. of Water (DOW) accepts invoices of the sale of food grown as evidence of serious farming, and reduces the cost of water to the farmer. This agreement must be better defined and confirmed. Hand-driven wells and solar- or hand pumps are feasible in bottom lands for small growing operations.

VITAL MINERALS:
Kauai is blessed with abundant essential minerals for growing food. The black sands of Hanapepe and Waimea now clog the river mouths and are a “problem” that is a vital nutrient solution for farmers. They supply potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), silica (Si) and many other trace minerals. Coordination with County and State departments is necessary. Government could identify coral sand around the island that could be removed without harming beaches. It provides calcium (Ca), necessary to balance soil alkalinity (pH). Huge volumes of coral sand have accumulated for millennia in sand dunes from Polihale to Kekaha. Some could be removed from west of Kekaha without destroying any beaches. It would be a cost-effective use of tax dollars for the County to truck sand to the (four?) Grow Centers around the island.

OTHER SOIL AMENDMENTS:
Nitrogen (N) is available abundantly on Kauai in the form of green plant matter. All leguminous plants fix N. Especially shredded albesia or other leguminous trees from tree farms could be sold as a by-product and also made available at Grow Centers. Bill Cowern of Hawaiian Mahogany Farms is planning to make albesia hay available in bales. Green matter can be supplemented with agricultural grade spirulina from the Big Island. Grasses make superb green manure. Composted green waste and chips are available from the County or from private vendors.

DISTRIBUTION:
One of the main obstacle to making organic gardening feasible island-wide is the convenient availability of all soil amendments and supplies in several locations.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING:
Now that we know the power of community organizing, we can use it to promote organic farming. There are many aspects: Demo Gardens, work day demonstrations, word of mouth, talking up the convenience and health benefits of organic food. Etc.

THE CO-ORDINATOR:
All these proposed initiatives will require considerable organizing, coordinating and collaborating. We are dealing with resources, education/information, residents with individual interests, various soil and climate types and two governments with various departments that may or may not coordinate well with each-other. It is essential that a coordinator be found who can represent the interests of the residents who want to grow organic gardens anywhere on the island. It would be considerably more efficient for one individual to coordinate between departments and sources, rather than each potential grower to reinvent the wheel by doing this work individually. The coodinator would be the hub of the food growing incentive and would function as the primary initiator of activity to bring about food self-sufficiency. 
.

Bush's Bum Lawyers

SUBHEAD: Recession-Proof Jobs Shelter Bush’s Bum Lawyers. By Ann Woolner on 6 March 2009 in Bloomberg News http://www.bloomberg.com
Image above: Jobless seekers line up at MYC work fair. Photo by Daniel Acker for Bloomberg As hundreds of thousands of laid-off workers sign up for unemployment each month and major employers head for bankruptcy court, many Americans would find it oh-so- nice to land a job guaranteed for life. The U.S. has no kings or queens. But it does have federal judges and tenured professors. There are good reasons for making those jobs safe. Judges should follow the law, not the whims of voter opinion. Professors should be allowed to speak without fear of dismissal should they offend their school’s major donors.
I get that. But the release this week of certain government memoranda written by lawyers now guaranteed a lifetime of paychecks makes me wonder whether exceptions should be made. These are legally sloppy, single-minded memos from high- level Bush administration lawyers who rationalized widespread abandonment of bedrock constitutional principles. They said the president essentially had no restraints on him in time of war. So wrong were these opinions that in its final days the Bush Justice Department felt compelled to disown the ones it hadn’t previously discredited. It now turns out that the same lawyers who condoned torture also claimed that the president could legally suspend free speech, the free press and freedom from unreasonable searches. They wrote that the president could lift international treaties without consulting Congress. And they said he could dispatch detainees to foreign countries that use torture to make them talk and needn’t worry about congressional interference in treating terrorism suspects any way he wants. Warrantless Wiretaps And as for warrantless wiretaps on Americans, no need to bother with the law that restrained the president from doing that, either, they said. Most of the memos, released this week by Attorney General Eric Holder, were written by John C. Yoo and Jay Bybee when they worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel beginning in 2001. Fortunately for these men, they found other jobs before their work saw the light of day. Yoo is a tenured law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, of all places. I’m all for academic diversity and robust debate on campus, and surely Berkeley could use some conservative balance. But I worry what a man with so little regard for the Constitution teaches lawyers-to-be. For now, he is teaching it at Chapman University in Orange County, California, as a visiting professor while on leave from Berkeley. Judicial Appointment Bybee sits on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to which his patron, George W. Bush, appointed him. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic Senate confirming him if the memos had come out earlier. The courts of appeal are one rung below the U.S. Supreme Court, each setting precedent for vast regions of the country. Like Berkeley, the 9th Circuit needed more right-leaning weight for ideological balance. But if Bybee’s memos are any indication, the court got a radical, not a conservative. Their jobs don’t offer the big bucks that, say, running an investment bank into the ground used to pay. But they carry high prestige and they promise lifetime work, barring ill-health or some sort of horrific misconduct. It’s true that these lawyers wrote the memos as the Bush administration was working around the clock to figure out every legal means available to prevent another terrorist attack. Out of Mainstream Nonetheless, these opinions are so far out of the mainstream that more level-headed attorneys in the Bush administration spent years correcting them. You don’t have to take my judgment. Rely on Bush’s last deputy assistant attorney general, Steven Bradbury. Five days before leaving office, he wrote to make it clear that those memos were just plain wrong. To use his words, this one is “not sustainable” and that one contains “doubtful” legal reasoning. Some are “not persuasive” and at least one is flat out “incorrect.” Bradbury said so in a memo on Jan. 15 to make sure that no one would still take these writings seriously. He pointed out that some had long ago been “withdrawn,” meaning discredited. In some cases, they were defanged by Supreme Court rulings or congressional act. Yoo and Bybee are smart, articulate men, richly credentialed professionally. To be sure, the fear unleashed by the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and the awesome responsibility to help prevent another one weighed heavily on them. But those who wrote the Constitution and its Bill of Rights knew something of war, too. They had fought one against great odds to win the very freedoms that these men would have diminished. And yet these two will never have to worry about where their next paycheck is coming from. They’re now ensconced where they can pass along their extreme views through court rulings and law classes for years to come, long after their memos are buried in history’s trashbin.

End of Retirement

SUBHEAD: Multi-generational family security could be the only retirement option. By John Michael Greer on 04 March 2009 in Archdruid Report - http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2009/03/end-of-retirement.html Image above: "The Perfect West Coast Golf Retirement Community". From http://www.americanlandlease.com/blueheron I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the flurry of responses to last week’s Archdruid Report post on the twilight of investment. “Men will forgive the murder of their fathers sooner than the loss of their patrimony,” Machiavelli wrote a long time ago, and the principle can be applied more generally: if you really want to rile people, threaten the money and property they think is securely theirs. Unfortunately the word “security” can be applied to any financial asset in today’s economy only in the most ironic of senses. The entire system of economic value that underlies the possibility of investment broke down completely in the speculative excesses of the last thirty years, drowned in a flood of unpayable debts – public, corporate, and private – that were mistakenly classified and then sold as financial assets. The face value of these paper debts vastly exceeds the value of all human economic activities on Earth; the huge majority of them can thus never be paid off, and so they are effectively worthless.
That awkward fact, if honestly faced, would likely bring the world’s economies to a shuddering halt. Thus we can be confident that it will not be honestly faced. Instead, governments around the world are playing a high-stakes game of make-believe, pretending that the global economy is not bankrupt in the hope that the losses can be spread out over years rather than hitting all at once. For all I know, they may succeed – but even so, the downside will not be pretty.
One aspect of that downside was on many of my readers’ minds last week, to judge by the comments and emails I fielded. People nowadays invest for many reasons, but one of the most common is retirement. Ever since the American pension system and its government equivalent, Social Security, began to shed their reputation for stability and adequate funding, a growing number of Americans – pushed that way by large and lavishly funded ad campaigns – have placed their hopes for a comfortable old age on investments. The result is a huge fraction of Americans who are emotionally as well as financially invested in the hope that a big payoff from their assets will enable them to have the retirement of their dreams.
If you are among the people who cling to that belief, I’m sorry to say I have bad news. Over the next decade or so, the huge overhang of paper wealth that now floods the world economy is going to lose nearly all its value. As it goes, it will take your retirement funds with it.
It’s anyone’s guess exactly how the process will play out. One possibility is a long deflationary spiral in which markets slump, bankruptcies soar, and the legacy of bad debt suffers the death of a thousand cuts. Another is hyperinflation, in which the dollar value of the bad debt still holds good but a cheeseburger costs US$150,000 and workmen take their salaries home in wheelbarrows. Another is a credit crisis in which efforts by governments to fund deficits via borrowing exhaust the world’s dwindling pool of credit, and nations are forced into default. Still another is a political decision on the part of a major debtor nation to default on its foreign debt, leading to panic selling of offshore assets and the collapse of international trade and investment.
What makes this devastating for those who hope to retire on their current investments is that most current asset classes are part of that overhang of unpayable debt, and the rest are priced at levels that assume that much of the unpayable debt is still boosting the global economy’s net worth. One way or another, those assets will sooner or later move toward their real value, which in the case of most financial assets is nothing, and in the case of most nonfinancial assets is a lot less than they’re worth on paper right now. This means that no matter where you put your investments, you’re likely to lose most of your money.
Interestingly, this is likely to be true even of commodities such as crude oil which are subject to declining production curves for hard geological reasons. Last year’s price spikes in oil and other energy resources were only partly a product of geological limits on production. The soaring demand growth of an overheating economy, and speculative money flooding into any asset that was gaining in price, both played major parts. Prices collapsed when the speculative money flowed back out, and slumping demand has helped keep prices low since then. As the economy unravels further, the chance of further downside action can’t be dismissed. It has, I think, too rarely been noticed in peak oil circles that there are at least two ways to price oil out of the market; the first is for the price per barrel to soar out of reach, the second is for the economy to contract so sharply that even a modest price per barrel is more than most people can pay.
For the next decade or so, then, there’s unlikely to be any asset class that will give prospective retirees the income they’ve come to expect. Nor will private pensions, most of which are dependent on investments and vulnerable to corporate bankruptcies, far much better during that time. Nor are government pensions immune; most governments are hemmorrhaging red ink right now, adding to unsupportable debt loads, and the pool of credit available for government borrowing is far from limitless.
What about after that, when the overhang of debt has been cleared one way or another and this crisis, like all economic crises, finally comes to an end? Well, once again, I have bad news.
Retirement as a social habit was entirely a product of the zenith of the age of abundance now sliding backwards in our collective rear view mirror. For a brief window of time – rather less than a century – it made financial and political sense for nations in the developed world to pay their elderly citizens to stay out of the work force, in order to keep unemployment down to politically bearable levels. All this unfolded, in turn, from an industrial economy so lavishly supplied with cheap energy that human labor was worth replacing with machines wherever the state of technology permitted, and so greedy for new markets that every part of human life was made subject to market forces.
Before that period began, something less than half of all economic activity even in the industrial world had anything to do with the market at all. Most women, and many men outside the age of regular employment, worked in a household economy governed by custom and intrafamily exchange rather than market forces. This included essentially everyone who would be eligible for retirement by the standards of the age that has just ended. Outside the market but not outside the demand for skilled human labor, elderly people typically provided household goods and services to a household somewhere in their extended family. That was their full-time job; by contributing the value of their labor and skills, they earned their keep.
The end of the age of cheap energy means that such household economies will once again be viable. It also means that they will once again be necessary. When the limited energy and resources of a contracting, deindustrial society have to be prioritized for urgent needs, takeout meals and convenience foods will sooner or later draw the short straw; in their absence, most food will once again be made at home from raw materials. When the energy cost of the global network of sweatshops that keeps Americans clothed can no longer be met, a great deal of clothing will once again be made at home from raw fiber, as it was not so long ago, and so on. All this requires human labor. Thus a society no longer supplied with nearly unlimited amounts of cheap abundant energy will have every incentive to keep elderly people in the household labor force, and neither the incentive nor the resources to keep them in comfortable idleness.
Now of course it’s true that we will not be landing in such a society overnight. It’s also true that the clout of the retiree lobby in most industrial nations is such that public and private pensions will be gutted only when every other option has been exhausted – though in the United States, at least, the vast tide of red ink currently flooding out of Washington DC is likely to bring about this eventuality sooner rather than later. Still, it’s quite possible that at least some of today’s retirees and soon-to-be-retirees will manage to cling to that status, at least for a while.
If I were asked for advice about retirement, then, it would probably go something like this. If you’re already retired, or within a few years of retirement, it’s probably worth your while to try to get any investment money you have left into a stable investment, if you can find one. Still, it’s probably unwise to assume that your investments will be worth anything in the long terms, and having a Plan B in place would be a very good idea. If you’re more than a decade or so out from retirement, having a Plan B in place is essential. If you’re thirty years out or more out, as I am, forget about Plan A for now; you can look into the options for investment later, once the wreckage of the last few decades has been hauled away and a new economic order has begun to take shape, but you probably will never retire.
What sort of Plan B might work best for you depends on so many local and personal variables that specifics would almost certainly be misleading. If you’ve got a large family with whom you’re on good terms, bone up on your home ec skills; ten years from now, when four of your grandkids, their spouses, and their children all live in one rundown McMansion, having Grandma and Grandpa there to cook the meals, tend the children, and keep the garden going will likely be worth much more than your keep. If you don’t have a family or can’t stand them, cultivate relationships with younger friends, or get ready to take up a second career that you can continue into advanced old age.
No matter what you choose, it’s not going to be as fun as sitting on a lawn chair in a Sun Belt trailer park. Still, history is under no obligation to give the options we’d prefer, and a great many pleasant options are going away for a time, or forever, as the industrial age draws to a close.

Town strips corporate "rights"

SUBHEAD: Asserts local water rights and strips corporations of personhood. SOURCE: Lisa Long angelsfortruth@earthlink.net By Jamilla El-Shafei on 1 March 2009 in AfterDowningStreet.org http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/40335 Today the citizens of Shapleigh, Maine voted at a special town meeting to pass a groundbreaking Rights-Based Ordinance, 114 for and 66 against. This revolutionary ordinance give its citizens the right to local self-governance and gives rights to ecosystems but denies the rights of personhood to corporations. This ordinance allows the citizens to protect their groundwater resources, putting it in a common trust to be used for the benefit of its residents. Shapleigh is the first community in Maine to pass such an ordinance, which extends rights to nature, however, the Ordinance Review Committee in Wells, Maine is considering passing one in their town. These communities have been under attack by Nestle Waters, N.A., a multi-national water miner that sells bottled water under such labels as Poland Springs.
Video above: Public vote in Shapleigh, Maine. From (http://youtu.be/gchtM_HCeSc) Communities have opposed the expansion by Nestle Waters, but the corporation will not take no for an answer. The town of Fryeburg, Maine has been in litigation with Nestle for six years. Nestle wants to expand and the town's people say no to the tanker trunk traffic which has disrupted their quiet scenic beauty, so Nestle's tactic is to wear them down, and break their bank. Nestle is the world's largest food and beverage company and has very deep pockets. However, we won't back down, we are the stewards of this most precious resource water, and we want to protect it for future generations. Activists in Maine are well aware that the Nestle Corporation is not just interested in expanding for the purpose of filling their Poland Springs bottles today, they are interested in the control of Maine's abundant water resources for the future. They are expanding in many parts of this country from McCloud, California to Maine. Nestle is positioning themselves to capitalize on the emerging crisis of global water scarcity. The right to water is a social justice issue and we believe that it should not be sold to those who can afford it, leaving the world's poorest citizens thirsty. Citizens will do a much better job of protecting this resource than a for-profit corporation. The concept of a rights-based ordinance was pioneered by environmental attorney Thomas Linzey, founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund of Gettysburg, PA. Linzey has assisted the town of Barnstead, New Hampshire with their rights-based ordinance, which was passed in 2006 and with another in Nottingham, New Hampshire, which passed in 2008. To date there have been no legal challenges to these ordinances. Linzey also crafted Ecuador's new Constitution, which also gives the ecosystem rights. Ecuador is the first country in the world to protect its natural resources from corporate exploitation. Activists have learned the hard way that trying to protect their communities and the environment by going the route of fighting a typical regulatory ordinance, which is written by corporate lobbyists, will fail to protect communities from harms done. The multi-national corporation's allegiance is never to the communities where they do business, as that could conflict with their fiduciary responsibility to make a profit for stockholders. People throughout the country are saying "enough is enough, large corporations have too much power." Constitutional Rights were granted to corporations from the bench in the 1800's and it is time to rectify a wrong! People are saying let's dismantle the neo-colonial corporate power by starting with their right to personhood. In Maine, we are tired of Nestle behaving as if they are a Colonial power with a right to our water resources. We decided that we will behave as if we have the power and ignore the naysayers who said that people will never vote to take rights away from corporations or to give rights to nature. We want to encourage other communities join us. The time is now! Copies of the The Shapleigh, Maine Town Warrant calling for a special town meeting and The Shapleigh Water Rights and Local Self-Government Warrant are available from the Contact Person, below. For more information on attorney Thomas Linzey and the Community Environmental Defense Fund, please visit: http://www.celdf.org For more information about the battle to protect ground water in communities in Maine, please visit: www.soh2o.org . Click on the LEGISLATION tab and go to ORDINANCES to read the important new Shapleigh ordinance. CONTACT PERSON: Jamilla El-Shafei Save Our Water steering committee member and organizer steering committee member of the Maine Water Allies (state-wide coalition) 603.969.8426 jamillaelshafei@gmail.com

What Happened at US Supreme Court

SUBHEAD: Both The Hawaii Attorney General and OHA made fools of themselves. SOURCE: Lanny Sinkin lanny.sinkin@gmail.com By Leon Siu on 27 February 2009 in Washington, D.C., USA Image above: Composite graphic with head of Mark Bennett on Stephan King's "IT" clown shoulders by Juan Wilson. Reading the newspaper accounts of the State of Hawaii v. the Office of Hawaiian Affairs oral arguments at the Supreme Court I asked myself, were they in the same courtroom that I was? Hawaii papers put a phony, positive spin on what actually went down. The stories were written with the kind of provincial slant… home-town-team, win-or-lose, they’re-our-boys and we’re-darn proud-of- ‘em and we-love- ‘em. Well, we do love ‘em, but those of us who were there saw a very different picture than the hometown news reported. The fact is, the state and OHA choked.
Hawaii’s little league ball teams do much better in rallying and coming through in the clutch in their world-series encounters. But the State and OHA got dirty lickins playing in this big league, world-series- level of court. They performed like a bunch of amateur scam artists, but in nice suits. In essence, the Supreme Court justices appeared not just skeptical, they seemed to be downright annoyed at the state's convoluted arguments and manipulative efforts to have the federal court undo the results of 14 years of dragging through the state courts. The justices took their line of questioning way outside the expectations and comfort zone of both the state and OHA. Neither party was prepared to (or wanted to) address the issue of title except to reinforce the state’s claim to so-called “perfect title” as “a given.” So they did some fancy footwork to try to dodge the title issue; which did not amuse or make any points with the court. Neither was the court pleased when the state and OHA tried to steer the justices back to the actual narrow question on deck about state’s rights. The state's whole case is built upon the premise that the State of Hawaii has "indisputable perfect title” to the “ceded lands.” Well guess what? If their title was “indisputable” and “perfect” why are they in court? And why have they been in court over this issue for 14 years? Because there is a dispute! There is a question of title! The injunction leveled against the State of Hawaii by the State Supreme Court in January 2008 caused the State to run crying to the U.S. Supreme Court saying, “No fair, no fair! The Apology Law would force us to give Hawaiians back the lands stolen from them over 100 years ago! It’s ours fair and square because the U.S. gave it to us! The Apology means nothing. We have “perfect title!” [Ironically, this is the very Apology Law that the state embraces in their support the Akaka Bill. But that’s another story.] The Apology Law undermines the state’s “perfect title” claim. The State Court ordered the injunction because the Apology Law clearly shows that there is a dispute -- a big one! The Apology Law flatly says that the seizure of Hawaii was illegal and that the native Hawaiians never gave up their claims (title) to the lands of Hawaii. These two glaring admissions of fact, framed within this federal Apology Law (USPL 103-150) don’t merely suggest a problem of land title; they cast serious doubt on the very legitimacy of the State of Hawaii. How can something that results from an illegal act now be considered legal, or in this case, perfect? The illegality of the initial act (the seizure of the lands of Hawaii) means that anything else based on that illegal act is likewise, illegal; and that means the State of Hawaii and its construct, OHA are illegal entities. That means the only valid, lawful claimant to the lands and jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Islands is, after all these years, the still-existing Hawaiian Kingdom. That is why the state claimed right off the bat that it had “indisputable” “perfect title.” The state was desperately trying to keep the court from inquiring about any other option regarding title by eliminating that, first off, as a point of contention. But the court’s refusal to wear such blinders was unnerving to the state. You could almost hear the state attorney general saying to the court, “focus! focus!” But just because the state took a beating, doesn’t mean OHA fared much better. Probably the most egregious action that day was by OHA when it chose to agree with the state’s "perfect title" position and by doing so, failing to present the Native Hawaiians' un-relinquished claims as a challenge to the state. They virtually abandoned the Native Hawaiian land claim implicit in the Apology Law! By doing so, they virtually abandoned the Native Hawaiians; the clients they purport to represent! At best it was a stupid legal maneuver; at worst it was a shameful betrayal. OHA never challenged the state’s “perfect title” claim and argued instead that according to state laws, the state had a “fiduciary duty,” sort of a moral obligation, to take care of the Native Hawaiians. That led Justice Ginsburg to ask, “The Native Hawaiians -- they do get 20 percent of the proceeds, correct?” And the OHA attorney to answer, “That's correct…as a matter of State law they get 20 percent of the revenue from the ceded-lands trust…” (we all looked incredulously at each other…since when?) Then he clarified, “…though the amount of that revenue has itself been the subject of protracted and unresolved litigation.” Oh, so we get 20%, but not yet! The check’s in the mail… Later, Justice Kennedy stated to the OHA attorney: “Your whole case rests on a cloud on the title in favor of your clients. But you -- you ignore the cloud on the title that has been entered against the State.” So, OHA’s strategy is: don’t press for the Native Hawaiian’s outstanding claim on the land, but instead, shift to begging for handouts from the state because, according to “state law,” the state has a “fiduciary duty” to take care of Native Hawaiians. OHA in essence was making a pitch (in the Supreme Court of the United States!) for a welfare claim, not a land claim! In my opinion, both the state and OHA were way out of their league in this court. But you can’t blame them. They had a flimsy case to begin with; one in which they are trying to defend a situation that resulted from a long series of illegal actions. It’s very hard to defend a string of lies. Two good things came from this: 1) the state and OHA have proven they have nothing to stand on, and 2) there is now a gaping doorway for the Hawaiian Kingdom to walk through, assert itself and claim its rightful title the lands of Hawaii.
see also:

GMO Action Alert

SOURCE: Judy Dalton (dalton@aloha.net) SUBHEAD: Both GMO-Preemption and Ban on GMO-Taro bills to be heard.
By Vickey Takamine on 29 January 2009 in Island Breath
Image above: Masthead of the Kahea.org website.
THIS WEDNESDAY, March 4th- Please submit testimony and make phone calls now! Click Here to Take Action to Stop Statewide GMO-Preemptionu Click Here to Take Action to Ban GMO-Taro You can make a big difference just by clicking here and easily submitting your testimony in support of protecting natural taro!
HEWA! DANGER- The GMO-Preemption Bill HB1226
will be heard by the House Committee on Agriculture- WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4th, HAWAII STATE CAPITOL 9:00AM RM. 312.
If passed, this dangerous bill would:
• Allow biotech and GMO activities to happen in Hawaii without any public, state or county oversight or regulation. • Deny citizens of our right to know and choose what is in the food we eat and what experimental crops are grown in our communities. • Deny our state and counties of their "home-rule" or ability to decide what agricultural activities and protocols happen in their own communities. • Prevent independent monitoring or oversight of the effects that GMOs have on our communities and aina.
PLEASE SUBMIT TESTIMONY NOW!

Department of Homegrown Security

SUBHEAD: Rethinking national security on an overburdened planet.
By Chip Ward on 26 February 2009 in TomDispathch -
Now that we've decided to "green" the economy, why not green homeland security, too? I'm not talking about interrogators questioning suspects under the glow of compact fluorescent light bulbs, or cops wearing recycled Kevlar recharging their Tasers via solar panels. What I mean is: Shouldn't we finally start rethinking the very notion of homeland security on a sinking planet?
Now that Dennis Blair, the new Director of National Intelligence, claims that global insecurity is more of a danger to us than terrorism, isn't it time to release the idea of "security" from its top-down, business-as-usual, terrorism-oriented shackles? Isn't it, in fact, time for the Obama administration to begin building security we can believe in; that is, a bottom-up movement that will start us down the road to the kind of resilient American communities that could effectively recover from the disasters -- manmade or natural (if there's still a difference) -- that will surely characterize this emerging age of financial and climate chaos? In the long run, if we don't start pursuing security that actually focuses on the foremost challenges of our moment, that emphasizes recovery rather than what passes for "defense," that builds communities rather than just more SWAT teams, we're in trouble.
Today, "homeland security" and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that unwieldy amalgam of 13 agencies created by the Bush administration in 2002, continue to express the potent, all-encompassing fears and assumptions of our last president's Global War on Terror. Foreign enemies may indeed be plotting to attack us, but, believe it or not (and increasing numbers of people, watching their homes, money, and jobs melt away are coming to believe it), that's probably neither the worst, nor the most dangerous thing in store for us.
Outsized fear of terrorism and what it can accomplish, stoked by the apocalyptic look of the attacks of 9/11, masked the agenda of officials who were all too ready to suppress challenges by shredding our civil liberties. That agenda has been driven by a legion of privateers, selling everything from gas masks to biometric ID systems, who would loot the public treasury in the name of patriotism. Like so many bad trips of the Bush years, homeland security was run down the wrong tracks from the beginning -- as the arrival of that distinctly un-American word "homeland" so clearly signaled -- and it has, not surprisingly, carried us in the wrong direction ever since.
In that context, it's worth remembering that after 9/11 came Hurricane Katrina, epic droughts and wildfires, Biblical-level floods, and then, of course, economic meltdown. Despite widespread fears here, the likelihood that most of us will experience a terrorist attack is slim indeed; on the other hand, it's a sure bet that disruptions to our far-flung supply lines for food, water, and energy will affect us all in the decades ahead. Nature, after all, is loaded with disturbances like droughts (growing ever more intense thanks to global climate change) that resonate through the human realm as famines, migrations, civil wars, failed states, and eventually warlords and pirates.
Even if these seem to you like nature's version of terrorism, you can't prevent a monster storm or a killer drought by arresting it at the border or caging it before it strikes. That's why a new green version of security should concentrate our energies and resources on recovery from disasters at least as much as defense against them -- and not recovery as delivered by distant, fumbling Federal Emergency Management Agency officials either. The fact is that pre-organized, homegrown (rather than homeland) networks of citizens who have planned and prepared together to meet basic needs and to aid one another in times of trouble will be better able to bounce back from the sorts of disasters that might actually hit us than a nation of helpless individuals waiting to be rescued or protected.
Imagine redubbing the DHS the Department of Homegrown Security and at least you have a place to begin.
Editor's Note: for the entirety of this article, "Homegrown Security for a Cantankerous Future", click here: www.tomdispatch.com

Credit Card Crunch Coming

SUBHEAD: It may be time to wrap up your credit card purchases.

by Juan Wilson on 3 March 2009 for Island Breath


You may have noticed - credit card companies are cutting back on credit available to customers. They are raising interest rates. They are raising minimum payments. They are offering small rewards for customers who quit using and pay-off accounts.

Basically those who offer credit cards are terrified that they heading toward a massive failure of the consumer credit business in America. They think that danger is immanent.

A few super-banks, such as Citi-Bank and Bank of America, handle most of the VISA and MAsterCard consumer credit. They are now being called "zombie banks" because they are operational only by hundeds-of-millions of dollars in bailouts from the U.S. Government. These banks are insolvent, and they think you will be too.

I have three credit cards. An American Savings Bank VISA, an American Express Gold Card and a CaptialOne MasterCard. The VISA card is a debit card and is not yet threatened, but the other two are a bit wobbly.

American Express recently announced it would offer $300 to customers you did not use the card enough, or had too much unpaid balance. It would also reduce limits and raise interest charges. In other words, AmEx is looking for people who don't use the card too much or too little - and wants to charge them more to everybody. See "AmEx and Chase cut limits" at bloomberg.com.

I have had a card with CapitalOne for years. It had a $15,000 limit. I have maintained a good record with the account and by interest was only 4.99%. I just received a Terms of Service notice stating new my interest rate (backdated to January) was 13.99% and that if I screwed up a payment the interest rate would be 29.99%... unless I closed the account.

Your Buying Strategies

You may be in the same boat as I, or are about to be. The credit card companies are not going to give you any warning before changing your status. It'll be a done deal when it happens.

My suggestion is that you think about what you would do if your credit cards were not available in the near future. Many of us in Hawaii, and particularly on outer islands like Kauai, depend on internet shopping and express shipping that usually require credit card transactions.

There are some work-arounds you might consider. For now I am only using my Amex Gold card that requires full balance payments every month (at no interest). Otherwise, I have opened a PayPal account that can be fed from a conventional bank balance to make internet purchases. I do some shopping on Ebay and many vendors are set up to do business by US Postal Money orders. That is not as convenient as credit, but it works.

As soon as CapitalOne notified me about the Change of Terms on my account, I signed onto Amazon.com and bought two new solar panels. Those babies maxed out my credit, but are part of my personal stimulus plan and infrastructure improvement program. Afterwards, I closed my CapitalOne account.

Longer term, I imagine online efforts like CraigsList/Kauai, and attempts to establish a local currency will play a part as well. 
See also:

Kauai Chocolate

SUBHEAD: Local chocolate provides a delicious and valuable agricultural product.
Image above: Kauai grown cacoa, source gardenislandchocolate.com
By Andy Kass on 27 February 2009 in A Kauai Blog - (http://great-hikes.com/blog/kauai-chocolate)

I was catching up on some of the other Kaua’i blogs, and North Shore Kauai covered a topic I’ve been meaning to write about: locally grown chocolate. The article in question comes from The Garden Islandnewspaper and covers the dream of Koa Kahili, a Hanalei guy who wants to launch the third chocolate crop in Hawaii, the only place in the US where chocolate will grow.

To summarize the article, Koa has been promoting chocolate as an organic, sustainable crop around Kauai. I don’t think he has the capital to start his own farm, but he has the experience to promote, advise, and plant for those who do. He has been raising saplings in pots and tending the trees he has planted over the years. And at the same time, he has been experimenting with the processing of the first cacao beans he has grown, discovering the best way to ferment the beans in Kaua’i’s climate. The idea, I gather, is to have some sort of co-op, where farmers and people with the land to grow an orchard provide the raw fruit and he would turn it into a high-quality chocolate.

His website is promoting the planting and harvesting of cocoa, with some great arguments about sustainability and food independence for Kauai. It has lots of pictures of the trees and beautifully colored fruit, if you’ve never seen them before:

I know Koa (I’ve mentioned him before), and I have been following his chocolate enterprise closely, though mostly out of self-interest. You see, ever since living in Europe, I’ve been hooked on good, dark chocolate, usually 70% cacao and above. I try not to be snobbish about it, but certainly like tasting all the subtle difference in various brands of dark chocolate from around the world. And I also like locally grown products, so I had really been looking forward to tasting Koa’s chocolate.

Last summer I finally got the chance when he brought some of his first batches to a potluck, and that stuff was delicious. He had made enough to sell me some of his first real chocolate bars, a dark chocolate and a goat’s milk chocolate pictured below (still over 60% cacao). The flavors were excellent, even the slight tartness of the goat milk went very well with the chocolate. And knowing it was grown organically, right here on Kauai, was like the cherry on top.

image above: Kauai chocolate products

And now I see he has been processing larger batches and selling it in stores. The website lists 2 flavors, and places around the island where they’re available (Papaya’s, of course, and others):

Source: gardenislandchocolate.comIngredients: Organic Kauai-grown cacao, organic Kauai-grown macademia nuts, organic evaporated cane juice, organic Kauai coconut, organic Kauai-grown vanilla beans.
Ingredients: Organic Kauai-grown cacao, organic Hawaiian sugar, organic shelled hemp seeds, organic Kauai-grown vanilla beans, mint oil Source: gardenislandchocolate.com

And come to think of it, one of my Kauai neighbors planted some cocoa trees recently, so I’ll have to ask him how they’re growing and when he’ll have some chocolate to share…

  • While researching this article, I found that Mars, Inc, the candybar maker, is the self-proclaimed “global leader in cocoa science” and is working with IBM to sequence the cacao plant genome. Somehow, I don’t think much good will come of that, and certainly not better chocolate.

We Endorse Sullivan for KIUC Board

SUBHEAD: Island Breath thinks Ben Sullivan is the only candidate with the vision we need to lead our COOP.
By David Ward on 1 March 2009 for Island Breath
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/03/endorsement-of-sullivan-for-kiuc-board.html)
Image above: Photo of Ben Sullivan
The energy decisions faced by our community and our COOP are urgent today. Whether it be a Kaua'i family struggling to pay an electric bill, our community addressing spriraling energy cost, or, on the broadest scale, society trying to change course to avoid global climate change, it is time for Kaua'i to put these issues firmly on the table and address them together. Although the actions of the utility are only one piece of this, our COOP is in a position to stand up and galvanize Kaua'i around ending our severe oil dependence. - Ben Sullivan
Enough said. Please vote only for Ben Sullivan. None of us who understand the real risks we face can afford more time lost in a business-as-usual fantasy that has crippled the thinking of most of the other wise intelligent people running for the KIUC Board. This thinking threatens our planet and condemns us all to an unpleasant future.
THE KIUC Board Candidates Forum was held on February 26 and filmed by: Hoike Stream provided By: Hawaii Stream crew. To view the form online:http://www.hawaiistreaming.com/play/index.cfm?fuseaction=embstay&id=12157F04F8&vsize=3&resize=1&SClipID=-1 A coalition of Kauai business, sustainability and student organizations has formed to bring attention to the Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) Board elections. There is heightened concern and community discussion about our Island's vulnerability, as we are so heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels to generate our electricity. Moving towards a sustainable energy future is no longer seen as an option, it is understood to be a necessity. How can KIUC continue to provide a reliable level of electricity to our community and make this transition to energy sustainability? The speed and ease of this transition will rely upon good leadership, beginning with our KIUC Board of Directors. The KIUC Board, through their decisions, policies, and contracts, will be responsible for determining our Island�s energy future. Serving on the board is a position that requires serious commitment and an astute understanding of the issues. In order to assist co-op members to make informed voting decisions, a candidates forum was held on Thursday, February 26 at the Kaua`i Community College The forum will also be aired on Ho`ike. For a schedule of showing times, visit MalamaKauai.Org. KIUC Board elections will take place during March. Ballots will be mailed out separately from electric bills. All completed ballots must be returned to KIUC by March 28. KIUC candidates debate energy conservation By Coco Zickos on 01 March 2009 in The Garden Island http://www.kauaiworld.com/articles/2009/03/01/news/kauai_news/doc49aa37d836232757973457.txt

Based upon many of the questions asked at this week’s Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative candidates forum, the main topics on everyone’s minds are energy and economic efficiency and how the potential board members for the electric company would strive to obtain them.

Each candidate presented different opinions on the matters except for Dane Oda and Ray Paler — both current board members — who were absent from the event Thursday at Kaua‘i Community College.

Questions were generated beforehand by representatives from each of the co-sponsors such as Apollo Kaua‘i and Malama Kaua‘i, and the audience was able to participate too by writing down their own questions for specific candidates to address.

While the field of candidates disagreed on several issues, one thing they almost all agreed upon was not permitting a tiered rate program in order to support social and conservation goals.

Candidates were, on the other hand, in favor of implementing more conservation propaganda, including educating the public about ways in which to preserve energy usage in order to cut down on cost.

“There should be some type of instruction to decrease electric usage,” said Stu Burley, program manager for projects at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana. “Everyone should be charged the same thing all the way across the board.”

“It’s about public awareness,” said Steve Rapozo, a 32-year veteran of Hawaiian Tel, GTE and Verizon. “Everybody is going through economic times, everybody is learning to sacrifice, everybody is learning to buckle down. If you’ve got a person in dire need to pay their electricity maybe they need to go to a government agency for their support, but I don’t think they should go to KIUC.”

The only opposing candidate on the issue was Ben Sullivan who is in support of creating a “lifeline” rate system.

“I think that there are people in this community that are struggling tremendously to keep the lights on in their house and I think that they deserve to have lights,” said Ben Sullivan, small business owner and former chair of Apollo Kaua‘i. “There are some things that need to be looked at carefully when we implement lifeline rates. ... It should only be for a baseline amount of energy — you get enough electricity every month at a very low rate so that you can keep your lights on and your refrigerator running, but you don’t get to blast the TV and have the Nintendo going 24 hours a day.”

Sullivan received a round of applause after mentioning that those who participate in wasteful acts of energy usage, such as running air conditioning with open windows, yet complain about their high electric bills, should be charged even more as a part of the proposed tiered structure.

“That is not only hurting us, it’s hurting the whole planet,” he said. “You’re going to work harder at conservation if you start paying more incrementally as you use more electricity.”

Each candidate had different ideas as far as what types of renewable energy would be best suited for the island.

Milton Chung, who served 30 years as a firefighter on Kaua‘i and 20 as chief, is an advocate of hydro-electricity and burning trash for fuel.

“Right now we have more water than we know what to do with,” he said. “We’re wasting tons of water without utilizing it for our own good.”

Burley agrees in burning trash with high-energy heat and also believes that KIUC should be more involved in harnessing the powers that Kaua‘i naturally holds, such as ocean current.

“If there was a way to harness the ocean current that flows between Polihale and, let’s say, Waimea, the current is a steady 1.7 knots and you could produce quite a bit of electricity,” he said. “Ocean power is 800 times more than wind power; wind power is variable.”

Another critic of wind power is Chung who said that he “would like to keep our island as pristine as possible without those big, white monstrosities blowing in the wind.”

Joanne Georgi’s thoughts on renewable energy tended to lean towards nuclear technology. One reason she supports this type of energy is because everything is “all about the money.”

“It’s inexpensive and we can bury it right in the ground, right where we have the transmission lines already,” she said. “So, basically, all it would take would be four of these on our island and it would take care of all the needs of our island.”

She also reflected on the expenditures KIUC is currently making on items she deems unnecessary and “wasteful,” such as certain mail-outs members receive on a regular basis.

Sullivan is especially an advocate of changing the way the cooperative does business and said there are several ways energy can be conserved, such as reconsidering the necessity of air conditioning units on Kaua‘i as well as the inclusion of solar water heat.

“We do not need air conditioning here, it was brought here only 20 or 30 years ago, we never had it before, we don’t need it now,” he said. “There are plenty of natural ventilation techniques we can employ and put into the building code that would make a huge difference.”

Whether or not the candidates could agree on specific methods of energy use, one thing they could agree with, according to Pat Griffin, president of the Lihu‘e Business Association, is that they “are together and unified in wanting the best for our island.”

“If we don’t work together to accomplish a common goal, nothing will get done,” said Rapozo. “We have to come up with a common solution as a team.”

“We can get everything we need from clean sources of energy. We’ve got to change,” said Sullivan. “If you look at a picture of the Earth from outer space, it’s finite, so the notion that we can just continue to generate waste is really just saying let’s let our children and our grandchildren deal with it and I don’t subscribe to that.”

Beginning Saturday, KIUC members will be receiving ballots via mail and should have them completed and returned by noon on March 28.To watch the forum online, visit http://www.hawaiistream.com

Island Breath: Kauai Clean Energy Initiative 2/11/09

Island Breath: Water Security is Critical 2/1/09

It's Not the Economy Stupid!

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com) SUBHEAD: Our academics and intellectuals are failing to educate the public By Dan Bednarz on 28 January 2009 in Helh After Oil - (http://healthafteroil.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/%E2%80%9Cit%E2%80%99s-not-the-economy-stupid%E2%80%9D/) As societies throughout the world wobble on the edge of socioeconomic chaos, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert avers, “The economy is obviously issue No. 1.” Well, that’s the proximate problem, but what else is going on? What has made the continuing decline so massive? Why is it that “...the current economic crisis has totally scrambled the intellectual assumptions of almost every policymaker”?(1)
Behind the decadence, greed and folly of financial institutions and those charged with regulating them is, in a word, overconsumption. In detail, our culturally coded pursuit of economic expansion has pushed us into The Bottleneck(2) of ecological limitations and dilemmas. Petroleum -- peak oil -- is the first major resource constraint; further, we have climate change, fresh water scarcity, dying oceans, species extinction, overpopulation, soil erosion, and other problems narrowing our options to align our economy with obdurate ecological realities. President Obama arrives promising “change,” yet he and his Clinton throwback advisors betray a yearning for the status quo ante. He pursues Keynesian demand creation because he believes this worked seventy years ago for FDR, when the age of oil was dawning and not entering its dénouement. The added debt -- already vast in the public and private spheres -- and associated risks must be accepted, so goes this gambler’s reasoning, to preserve “our way of life,” as if this way of life has no role in creating our predicament. The ecological question, “Is growth sustainable?” would lead to integrative and forward-looking problem solving, but it is absent from Obama’s recovery lexicon, let alone guiding policy. To bring this full circle, many financial institutions may be bankrupt and colluding with or deceiving governments, including the US Treasury, hoping that the economy can rebound -- especially housing prices -- to make them solvent or far less debt-ridden. Failing this improbable event, they want a taxpayer bailout. Commitment to growth as much as money-based politics and cronyism, I suggest, explains the government’s silence about investigating and exposing insolvency. In other words, if these institutions are drenched in debt, belief in limitless growth is cast into radical doubt. Therefore, solvency is a taboo topic, as is an airing of the implications of peak oil. We should remember that public policy and business strategic planning posit an expanding economic pie. How often have we heard, “We’ve got the resources, we just need the commitment ”? If growth as we have known it is no longer possible because oil production has peaked, then pressing social issues, in addition to the havoc energy descent is now beginning to wreak, make it imperative to begin a national dialogue about realistic options for overhauling our way of life: credit, consumption, travel, agriculture, education, healthcare -- you name it. Redesigning society to function with less energy, which translates into less consumption, should be our national mission -- it’s qualitatively and quantitatively more threatening than terrorism. Indeed, Mother Nature is rearranging our lives now as, for example, colleges impose hiring freezes, lose large portions of their endowments, and propose “no frills education;” automobile and many other consumer goods sales plummet; states cutback on services and furlough workers; healthcare is more expensive and less available; Obama hints at reducing entitlements; millions lose their jobs; and in a thousand other ways our society contracts. An aside: Overconsumption presents an irony because many Americans are not ostentatious consumers; they are hard working yet struggling to make ends meet or are mired in or sliding into poverty. They could, I believe, accept massive de-consumption and a reduced standard of living if they knew they were spared destitution and sacrifices were introduced in across-the-board fairness. (This is, by the way, Obama’s ace in the hole when his legitimacy comes into question.) This urgent public discussion is absent because it requires a political and cultural transformation similar to what Thomas Kuhn(3) calls a paradigm-shift in science. Kuhn describes paradigm shifts as governed by political struggle and sociological processes. His controversial core thesis is that scientific evidence itself is paradigm-dependent for meaning and even its recognition as evidence. Michel Foucault(4) has written in a similar vein of the “episteme,” which operates at a meta-level to regulate social constructions of “reality” by proscribing thought, knowledge, and notions of morality and judgment to serve current arrangement of power, status and propriety. Foucault describes it as the non-consciously operating yet functionally “strategic apparatus” determining which statements may be regarded as reasonable, obvious, true, etc. and which other statements are considered absurd, illogical, irrelevant, and unworthy of consideration. Those who toil in the peak oil vineyards know that most people unwittingly rely on the dominant episteme -- “growth and technological progress are natural, unbounded and will save us” -- to reconfigure or dismiss “the facts” of peak oil geology and, more generally, The Bottleneck dilemmas. Blessedly, this episteme is beginning to “rupture,” as Foucault phrases it, because it is unable to provide soothing, controlling and cohesive explanations of our disintegrating social-empirical world. Similarly, Kuhn refers to a paradigmatic “crisis” as when scientific “anomalies” accumulate to the point that they inhibit the workings of “normal science.” During a scientific crisis the dominant paradigm’s adherents check their data and instruments and search for hidden “intervening” variables to account for anomalies; but only under duress as a last resort do they -- if ever -- question the validity of the paradigm itself. Alternative paradigms offer radically different accounts of these anomalies, as in: the economic crisis is rooted in reduced net energy flowing into society -- that’s why none of the common “stimulus” tools are working. In this way competing paradigms and epistemes “talk past” one another and lead to differing problem formations, policies and actions. To illustrate, at a PBS NewsHour seminar held in Pittsburgh in April 2008 on the burgeoning subprime loan crisis, the economist on the panel told the restive retirees in the audience battering him with questions not to worry about their losses in the market because, “Growth overcomes many blunders and misdeeds … and I assure you we’ll grow our way out of this crisis.” I then raised the question of oil scarcity as a front-end trigger to the spreading financial crisis and, most important, as disallowing a return to growth. He became exasperated and said, “Well, that’s just wrong. We’ve got lots of coal and nuclear power to switch to; energy’s so plentiful it’s not a concern; that’s just basic economics.” It is basic dominant episteme economics, rooted in the premise that we can never exhaust the earth’s resources. This episteme has inspired the monetarist, Keynesian and Marxist traditions of economics. In 1975 heterodox economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen characterized this episteme as “anchored in a deep-lying belief in mankind’s immortality.”(5) He wrote “Energy and Economic Myths”(5) to systematically and with humor expose orthodox economics’ profound misunderstanding of resources, the environmental costs of economic activity and, most pointedly, how the laws of entropy over the long-term invalidate perpetual growth. For example, he comments on Nobel economist Robert Solow’s incredible contention that we could substitute “other factors for natural resources” should we ever need to do so: One must have a very erroneous view of the economic process as a whole not to see that there are no material factors other than natural resources. To maintain further [as Solow does] ‘that the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources’ is to ignore the differences between the actual world and the Garden of Eden. So it is that mainstream analyses of the current financial/economic crisis proceed as if human existence is non-corporeal. For example, two prominent economists(6) argue: “The world's fundamental economic problem today is a staggering loss of business confidence.” Ugo Bardi, writing about the parallels between the end of the whaling era and today’s blindness to peak oil, observes of a book written in that twilight period: …we never find mention that whales had become scarce. On the contrary, the decline of the catch was attributed to such factors as the whales' "shyness" and the declining "character of the men engaged". [The author] seems to think that the crisis of the whaling industry of his [nineteenth century] times [could] be solved by means of governmental subsidies.(7) Such is the power of episteme to obfuscate the obvious -- until it ruptures.
References 1. VandeHei, Jim and John F. Harris. “Seven reasons for healthy skepticism.” Yahoo News, January 21, 2009. news.yahoo.com. 2. Wilson, Edward O. “The Bottleneck.” Scientific American, February 22, 2002. sciam.com. 3. Kuhn, Thomas. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1965. 4. Foucault, Michel. The archaeology of knowledge & the Discourse on language. New York: Pantheon books. 1972. 5. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. “Energy and economic myths.” Southern Economic Journal, V 41, N 3, January 1975. www.dieoff.org. 6. Ackerlof, George and Robert Schiller, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2009. 7. Bardi, Ugo. “Crude oil; how high can it go?” The Oil Drum: Europe. May 15, 2008. europe.theoildrum.com Dan Bednarz has a website, healthafteroil.wordpress.com, and has written several articles on Culture Change: Note from Brad Parsons: I would further add to Mr. Bednarz's points that the vast majority of intellectual leaders in academia along with policy makers in the public and private sector are failing society right now by clinging to old and incomplete theories that do not mirror reality. Especially in the case of public policy makers, many of them appear to lack the personal intellectual self confidence to see and understand what it really happening. As Mr. Bednarz alludes, this includes Mr. Obama.