Tag Archives: Rubbah Slippah Folk

Law of the Splintered Paddle & Today

Richard Ha writes:

Kamehameha's Law of the Splintered Paddle has modern-day application. To those who aspire to be ali’i as they point their fingers in the air and pronounce what we must do to preserve the past: do not forget the rubbah slippah folks. 

You who want to be our ali‘i, our leaders – I don't see you leading us forward, but only back. You want to keep everything the way it used to be, while we are marching into crisis.

The rubbah slippah folks have the right to disagree with the (self-proclaimed) ali’i if those "ali‘i" do not take care of the people.

Read this historical note, from Wikipedia about the "removal of chiefs" due to the mistreatment of common people intolerant of bad government:

It has been noted that Kānāwai Māmalahoe [the Law of the Splintered Paddle] was not an invention of Kamehameha I, but rather an articulation of concepts regarding governmental legitimacy that have been held in Hawaiʻi for many prior generations. Countless stories abound in Hawaiian folklore of the removal of chiefs – generally, but not always, through popular execution – as a result of mistreatment of the common people, who have traditionally been intolerant of bad government. As a shrewd politician and leader as well as a skilled warrior, Kamehameha used these concepts to turn what could have been a point of major popular criticism to his political advantage, while protecting the human rights of his people for future generations.

The price of oil is four times higher than it was ten years ago and the price of everything is through the roof (and still going up). More and people people cannot afford to live here; in fact, more Hawaiians live outside Hawai‘i than on these islands. Isn't that the same as losing our land?

How are you addressing that? How is trying to shut down our geothermal resource (which will substantially reduce our electricity costs), trying to outlaw our biotech options (which will substantially reduce our food costs), and trying to keep out the TMT (which will open up all sorts of new options), helping our people?

The world is changing. There is more and more homelessness. More than half of all Hawaiians no longer live in Hawai‘i. Young folks cannot find jobs. Farmers are getting older and older, because young people are not going into farming.

What will happen to the rubbah slippah folks in the face of finite resources? Those who aspire to be ali‘i, remember this: "You cannot be ali’i if you cannot feed the people."

  • Geothermal is a gift from Pele that will protect us from electricity and other costs that are spiraling out of control. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i want to take away this gift in the face of declining resources?
  • The Thirty Meter Telescope brings our young people great opportunity and inspiration, and it brings the island economic gain, jobs, and more than $50 million in cash to a fund for the education of our keiki. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take these opportunities away from our future generations?
  • Biotechnology is a tool that will safely feed our people. Why would anyone aspiring to be ali’i take  this tool away from farmers trying to feed the people? Farmers representing ninety percent of the farm sales on the Big Island favor using biotech tools. Why look to outsiders for advice when Big Island farmers are telling you what you need to know?

If it wasn't used in pre-contact time, it's bad? Is that really your thinking? Would Kamehameha agree?

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‘Behind the Plug & Beyond the Barrel’

Richard Ha writes:

I spoke on behalf of the Big Island Community Coalition (BICC) at the Hawai‘i Island Renewable Energy Solutions Summit 2014 on April 30th, which was titled “Behind the Plug and Beyond the Barrel," and here's what I said: 

BICC mission

Good morning. Thanks for the introduction. I will use just this one slide, and you can read our mission statement on it, which is to lower the cost of electricity. “To make Big Island electricity rates the lowest in the state by emphasizing the use of local resources.”

I would like to spend some time talking about who makes up the BICC.

Dave DeLuz, Jr. – President of Big Island Toyota.

John Dill – Contractors Association, and Chair of the Ethics Commission

Rockne Freitas – Former Chancellor Hawai‘i Community College

Michelle Galimba – Rancher, Board of Agriculture

Richard Ha – Farmer

Wallace Ishibashi – Royal Order of Kamehameha, DHHL Commissioner

Kuulei Kealoha Cooper- Trustee, Jimmy Kealoha and Miulan Kealoha Trust.

Noe Kalipi – Former staffer for Sen Akaka, helped write the Akaka Bill, energy consultant

Kai'u Kimura- Executive Director of ‘Imiloa.

Bobby Lindsey – OHA Trustee

Monty Richards – Kahua Ranch

Marcia Sakai – Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, former Dean of UH Hilo, College of Business

Bill Walter- President of Shipman, Ltd., which is the largest landowner in Puna.

These folks are all operating in their private capacities. I'm chair of the BICC, and the only person from Hawai‘i to have attended five Peak Oil conferences. I've visited Iceland and the Philippines with Mayor Kenoi's exploratory group.

As you can imagine, the BICC has strong support all across political parties and socioeconomic strata. People get it in five minutes.

Oil and gas are finite resources, and prices will rise.  One note about natural gas: the decline rate of the average gas well is very high. Ninety percent of the production comes out in five years. This is worrisome.

Hawai‘i Island relies on oil for sixty percent of its electricity generation; the U.S. mainland only two percent.

As the price of oil rises, our food manufacturers and producers become less competitive, as we all know. Food security involves farmers farming. And if the farmers make money, the farmers will farm.

What can we do?  By driving the cost of electricity down, the Big Island can have a competitive edge to the rest of the world.

Since rising electricity rates act like a giant regressive tax, lowering electricity rates would do just the opposite. And since two-thirds of the economy is made up of consumer spending, this would be like "trickle up" economics. If the rubbah slippah folks had extra money, they would spend and everyone would benefit.

 The lowest-hanging fruit:

1. Geothermal. Allows us to dodge the finite resource bullet. It is the lowest-cost base power. The Big Island will be over the hot spot for 500,000 to a million years.

2. We throw away many lots of MW of electricity every night. Hu Honua will probably throw away 10 MW for ten hours every night. PGV, maybe 7 MW for ten hours.

3. Wind, too.

Maybe HELCO will allow us to move the excess electricity free. They don't make any money on the throwaway power now, anyway. What if we used it for something that won't compete with them? Then people could bid for the excess, throwaway power for hydrogen fueling stations, to make ammonia fertilizer, and to attract data centers. Hawaii could become the renewable energy capital of the world. People would love to come here and look at that. As airline ticket costs rise, the walk around cost in Hawai‘i would not.

The BICC call for lowering electricity costs could leave future generations a better Hawai‘i.  And that is what we all want.

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Ruderman’s Support for Board of Ag Reappointment

Richard Ha writes:

I very much appreciated Senator Ruderman’s support for my reappointment to the Board of Agriculture.

From Big Island Video News (video here):

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The reappointment of Hamakua farmer Richard Ha to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture was confirmed by the State Senate on Friday.

The unanimous vote was not without some initial controversy. Puna State Senator Russell Ruderman, adverse to Ha’s support of GMO farming, devised an email and social media campaign against Ha’s return to the ag board when it first came up for a vote.

Ha received a flood of support from across the state.

Eventually Ruderman changed his tune. There was even a meeting between the two at the Capitol in which the two bonded over Ha’s support of organic farming and even Ha’s tomatoes, which Ruderman purchases for sale at his Hawaii Island market chain, Island Naturals.

On the floor of the Senate during the final vote, Ruderman rose to clarify his position and his apology to Ha…. See the rest

When Senator Ruderman and I met and talked, I made it clear that my agenda is always about what happens to the rubbah slippah folks.

It’s also important to note that my agenda is not “pro-GMO,” as Ruderman states. I am pro-science, and I will go wherever science takes us.

One of his concerns, he told me, was regarding supporting organic farmers. I wrote about this, back in February, in my blog post Why Organic & Conventional Farmers Need Each Other:

…Both organic and conventional farmers in Hawai‘i are at a disadvantage. And we need to work together to lower each other’s costs, not fight about methods and labels and all that. Read the rest

I appreciate Senator Ruderman’s positive vote and I look forward to working with him.

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GMO Facts? Or Fiction?

Richard Ha writes: 

State Senator Russell Ruderman used his own company’s letterhead when he submitted anti-GMO testimony recently to the Hawai‘i County Council. He owns Island Naturals, the natural foods markets.

It certainly seems to be a conflict of interest for him to be supporting the Big Island’s anti-GMO movement, and he should recuse himself from all discussions and votes regarding GMOs. Submitting testimony on his company’s letterhead does not help lessen this impression of his having a serious conflict of interest.

Letter
 

He also wrote an article for Big Island Weekly recently, titled GMO Facts and Fictions, which he says is the first in a series of installments.

What’s most interesting are the comments that follow his article, like this one from Karl Haro von Mogel, Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics, UW-Madison, Chair, Biology Fortified, Inc. Von Mogel is highly educated on issues regarding GMOs, and he wrote this:

I applaud State Senator Ruderman's desire to clear up confusion about genetically engineered crops, but in this 
opinion piece, he has made a great number of outright falsehoods that 
further confuse the topic and muddy the waters. I am a plant
 geneticist who studies this topic very closely and is building a 
database of all peer-reviewed scientific studies on genetically 
engineered crops, so I am very familiar with this field. I will attempt 
to correct the most egregious of Ruderman's errors.

He goes on to correct many of what he calls Ruderman’s "outright falsehoods" in detail. It's a very long comment.

Ruderman responded with this:

As mentioned in my column, I will be addressing these studies in more detail in future columns. I look forward to discussing the Seralini study, which, in addition to showing serious effects from GMOs, illuminates the aggressive tactics of biotec companies in suppressing science it doesn't like. These studies point to the need for long-term follow-up studies, which have not been done. I will also clear up the confusion of how Bt affects humans by disrupting our essential gut bacteria, which is not understood by some of the previous commenters.

And then von Mogel, who is highly educated on the science of biotechnology, responded with this:                              

Mr. Ruderman, you have made a series of very outlandish and false claims about Bt that you did not support with any evidence. This comment of yours would have been the time to at least give us links to the studies that you say exist, or to correct the record. Saying that you are putting off supporting these claims with evidence until some future column suggests that you don't have such evidence. Indeed, I was very direct in saying that for some of the claims you made, there is not a single study that even remotely suggests anything like that – such as your claim that the genes have transferred to our gut bacteria.
By bringing up the Seralini study, you are changing the subject. Seralini's (now retracted) study did not involve Bt at all, so it does not support any of the arguments you have made. Indeed, there have been long-term feeding studies with Bt. There have been feeding studies that look at effects on gut bacteria and conclude that there are none. As I said, I am intimately familiar with the scientific literature on this topic, and I can help you find answers to your questions. 
As a State Senator, it is your duty to consult with scientific experts – especially those in Hawaii who work for the state that you represent – so that you can make decisions based on established scientific facts. Hawaii needs leaders who can represent both the concerns of the population and duly weigh the evidence to make informed decisions. Will you be that leader?

We need to hold Senator Ruderman to a higher standard than he's holding himself to, because he's our elected official and making decisions on behalf of all of us.

There are other interesting comments there, as well. They’re by far the most interesting thing about that article, in my opinion. Read them all here.

I have asked Senator Ruderman many times how his stance, which does not even seem to be supported by science, will help the Big Island and its food security status. How will it help the rubbah slippah folk in his district? I have never received an answer. 

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‘La La La La La’

Richard Ha writes:

Farmers and other Ag and business people on the Big Island are in disbelief – to put it mildly – that Mayor Kenoi signed Bill 113, the anti-GMO bill, last week, without first putting together a group to research the science and investigate the serious, unintended consequences we know will result.

But farmers are very practical and play the position that exists on the chessboard, not the position they wish they had. Most of us are moving into strategic contraction mode now.

For example, we had an application in to the USDA to dedicate 264 acres of our farm into agricultural land for perpetuity. We had been going through the vetting process over the last two years and had already been told we were among the top three state projects, as determined by a Department of Land and Natural Resources subcommittee.

I just received a letter Friday asking for more information about our application, with a comment from the Western Region director stating that our project had the highest priority.

I wrote back saying we are withdrawing our application. Nothing personal; just playing the position that now exists. Instead, we will subdivide the property so we have options as we go forward into a future that has some new uncertainties.

If there’s an upside to the mayor signing the bill, it’s that maybe now we will finally take a real look at the current Peak Oil crisis and how it affects the Big Island’s food self-sufficiency situation, and come to grips with finding long-term solutions.

Being open to safe scientific advances when needed (a.k.a. biotech or “GMO”) would have been a way to decrease our dependence on petroleum products, such as pesticides and fertilizers, and increase our island’s food self-sufficiency.

Geothermal energy is another no-brainer that will protect us from rising energy costs. Utilizing geothermal energy – which according to geophysicists will be available to us for at least 500,000 years – we can have stable electricity at an affordable price. As another benefit of geothermal, we can take the currently “curtailed” (collected but unused) electricity and make hydrogen for ground transportation; and by combining it with nitrogen in the air, we can make fertilizer that doesn’t depend on petroleum products and continue to get more and more expensive.

But Senator Ruderman doesn’t see this and wants to kill geothermal energy.

Why? Where is he steering our ship? It feels rudderless.

These are turbulent times. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was on CNN yesterday saying that despite dumping money into the economy, businesses are sitting on a lot of cash and not investing, and banks are not lending because it’s too risky. 

He said that the level of uncertainty is like it was during the Great Depression. The next Fed chair will have to manage the interest rate, and too high an interest rate will roil the stock market. He said, “It’s hard to manage psychology.”

I do not see people paying attention to this, so let me extrapolate from what he’s saying: As a result, regular folk are not earning as much money. As a consequence of that, the government will not be able to tax people at a level needed to keep services going, such as maintaining roads (which, of course, requires products made from petroleum).

How far will this go on before we can no long maintain our infrastructure the way we are accustomed to, or take care of our poor people who need help?

What Alan Greenspan is talking about is serious business, and he’s certainly not the only person saying it.

This all boils down to the cost of energy, and how we utilize our resources in a smart and efficient manner.

I’ve gone to five Peak Oil conferences now, and have learned that experts there are all, consistently, saying that the net energy available to society is decreasing as it gets more difficult to get the energy. The consequence of this is less growth, which means less money for the government to perform the services we need to continue living the way we live. Where will the money come from?

Another expert who is highly respected is actury Gail Tverberg. She is as credible as anyone I’ve heard, and she too says it all boils down to the cost of energy. Not availability, nor how much oil still exists, but how much it costs to obtain it – and we all know those costs are only going higher. She writes

Oil and other fossil fuels are unusual materials. Historically, their value to society has been far higher than their cost of extraction. It is the difference between the value to society and their cost of extraction that has helped economies around the world grow. Now, as the cost of oil extraction rises, we see this difference shrinking. As this difference shrinks, the ability of economies to grow is eroding, especially for those countries that depend most heavily on oil–Japan, Europe, and the United States. It should not be surprising if the growth of these countries slows as oil prices rise…. Read the rest

Using GMOs to help leverage our year-round growing season was a workaround, and in my opinion, it was much less risky than what Alan Greenspan, Gail Tverberg and other experts say is coming.

We need to take action and prepare for these changing conditions. If it turns out they were wrong, no harm/no foul. If they are right, using GMO's to avoid petroleum costs in fertilizer and pesticides would have helped us immensely; and using geothermal energy will improve our lifestyle measurably.

Note that I’m not just talking about this – the whole situation scared me enough that we went and put in a hydroelectric system for the farm.

This is not about the sky falling. It’s about common sense. It’s all a matter of how much risk we are willing to take.

We need to decrease our dependence on petroleum, and our energy costs. Rising electricity costs affect the price of our food, and they take away discretionary income from the rubbah slippah folks. Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of our economy.

It’s foolish for us to put our thumbs in our ears and our fingers over our eyes and sing, “La la la la la,” but that’s what seems to be going on around here. 

We’d better have a clear-headed discussion about our future.

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The Wheres & Whyfors of Hamakua Springs

By Leslie Lang

The other day Richard gave some of us a tour of Hamakua Springs Country Farms in Pepe‘ekeo, and its new hydroelectric plant, and wow. I hadn’t been out to the farm for awhile, and it was so interesting to ride around the 600 acres with Richard and see all that’s going on there these days.

Most of what I realized (again) that afternoon fell into two
broad categories: That Richard really is a master of seeing the big picture, and that everything he does is related to that big picture.

Hamakua Springs, which started out growing bananas and then expanded into growing the deliciously sweet hydroponic tomatoes we all know the farm for, has other crops as well.

tomatoes.jpgThese days there are farmers leasing small plots where they are growing taro, corn, ginger and sweet potato. These farmers’ products go to the Hamakua Springs packing house and Hamakua Springs distributes them, which speaks to Richard’s goal of providing a place for local farmers to farm, wherethere is water and packing and distribution already in place.

As we drove, we saw a lot of the water that passes through his farm. There are three streams and three springs. It’s an enormous amount of water, and it’s because of all this water that he was able to develop his brand new hydroelectric system, where they are getting ready to throw the switch.

The water wasn’t running through there the day we were there because they’d had to temporarily “turn it off” – divert the water – in order to fix something, but we could see how the water from an old plantation flume now runs through the headworks and through a pipe and into the turbine, which is housed in a blue shipping container.

hydro.jpg

This is where the electricity is generated, and I was interested to see a lone electric pole standing there next to the system. End of the line! Or start of the line, really, as that’s where the electricity from the turbine is carried to. And from there, it works its way across the electric lines stretched between new poles reaching across the land.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.17.00 PM

He asked the children who were along with us for their ideas
about how to landscape around the hydroelectric area, and also where the water leaves the turbine to run out and rejoin the stream.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.17.00 PM

“We could do anything here,” he said, asking for thoughts, and
we all came up with numerous ideas, some fanciful. Trees and grass? A taro lo‘i? Maybe a picnic area, or a water flume ride or a demonstration garden or fishponds?

There are interesting plans for once the hydro system is operating, including a certified kitchen where local area producers can bring their products and create value-added goods.

Other plans include having some sort of demo of sustainable
farming, and perhaps ag-tourism ativities like walking trails going through the farm, and maybe even a B&B. “The basis of all tourism,” he said, “is sustainability.”

Hamakua Springs is also experimenting with growing mushrooms
now, and looking into several other possibilities for using its free
electricity.

As we stopped and looked at the streams we kept coming
across, which ran under the old plantation roads we drove upon, Richard made an observation that I found interesting. In the Hawaiian way, the land is thought of as following the streams down from mountain to sea. In traditional ways, paths generally ran up-and-down the hill, following the shape of the ahupua‘a.

“But look at the plantation roads,” he said, and he pointed
out how they run across the land, from stream to stream. The plantation way was the opposite. Not “wrong” – just different.

Richard has plans to plant bamboo on the south sides of the
streams, which will keep the water cool and keep out invasive species.

At the farm, they continue to experiment with raising
tilapia
, which are in four blue pools next to the reservoir.

June & Tilapia.jpgJune with a full net

The pools are at different heights because they are using gravity to flow the water from one pool to the next, rather than a pump. Besides it being free, this oxygenates the water as it falls into the next pool. They are not raising the fish commercially at present, but give them to their workers.

Everything that Richard does is geared toward achieving the same goal, and that is to keep his farm economically viable and sustainable.

If farmers make money, farmers will farm.

Continuing to farm means continuing to provide food for the local community, employing people locally and making it possible for local people to stay in Hawai‘i: This as opposed to people having to leave the islands, or their children having to leave the islands, in order to make a decent life for themselves.

The hydroelectric system means saving thousands per month in
electric bills, and being able to expand into other products and activities. It means the farm stays in business and provides for the surrounding community. It means people have jobs.

This is the same reason why, on a bigger scale, Richard is working to bring more geothermal into the mix on the Big Island: to decrease the stranglehold that high electricity costs have over us, so the rubbah slippah folk have breathing room, so that we all have more disposable income – which will, in turn, drive our local economy and make our islands more competitive with the rest of the world, and our standard of living higher, comparably.

When he says “rubbah slippah folk,” Richard told me, he’s always thinking first about the farm’s workers.

This, by the way, is really a great overview of how Richard describes the “big picture.” It’s a TEDx talk he did awhile back (17 minutes). Really worth a look.

It was so interesting to see firsthand what is going on at the farm right now, and hear about the plans and the wheres and whyfors. Thank you, Richard, for a really interesting and insightful afternoon.

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Spoke to the Hawaii County Council’s Energy Committee

Wally Ishibashi and I gave a briefing to the Hawai‘i County Council Energy Committee yesterday. We are co-chairs of the Geothermal Working Group, which submitted its final report in time for this legislative session. Wally briefed them on the Working Group report, and I briefed them on the four Peak Oil conferences that I have attended.

People testifying commented about public safety such as evacuation plans and gas emissions, as did council members. As co-chairs, Wally and I are strongly in favor of addressing safety issues. Nothing is more important. The Working Group suggested streamlining procedures, but never at the expense of public safety.

Although the working group was not required to abide by the sunshine law, Wally and I believe in transparency, so we operated in the spirit of that idea as we worked on the Geothermal Working Group report.

We’ve had about 25 meetings with the community and we strongly believe that we must continue to “talk story.” The discussion must start from the ground up, and we encouraged the council members to arrange opportunities for us to engage their constituents.

The council members expressed support for energy independence, and for geothermal in particular. They are very aware of the vulnerability we face because we are located in the middle of the Pacific, where we rely on fossil fuels to sustain most of our lifestyle. It is about safety: physical, economical and societal safety.

I shared my perspective after having attended four Peak Oil conferences. The most significant thing that has changed recently is that the price oil is now being driven by increasing demand, rather than abundant supplies. For the past 150 years, it has been driven by abundant supplies.

That’s why we now have oil that costs $100 per barrel, even in a recession. If world economic activity increases, the price will go even higher. The changes that will come from this will be profound, and the effects will have human consequences. The rubbah slippah folks understand this clearly.

I offered my opinion that we do not have the luxury of waiting 10 years. I think that we may be lucky to have five years to make meaningful change. It is clear that we are moving too slow in terms of safeguarding the well-being of our people.

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