Thursday, July 28, 2005

Notes from July meeting: "Should the State Import Invasive Species When It Spends Forty Million Dollars a Year to Eradicate Them?"

Kat Brady and Henry Curtis, representing Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei - The Eyes of Our Hawaii - spoke at our last meeting about the Board of Agriculture's approval of the importation of seven strains of genetically engineered algae to be grown in an unpatented system called 'photobioreactors' at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island.

On July 8, 2005 Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei filed a request for a contested case hearing to challenge the Board's vote. This fledgling hui of organizations, churches, and caring citizens came together when the Board ignored the concerns of the community and those of many scientists, including Dr. Malcolm Brown who has studied algae in Hawaii over forty years.

Some of the concerns expressed by Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei are:

• these biopharm algae strains have never been introduced outside of a laboratory,
• the lack of information given to the Board to help them make an informed vote
• the lack of information provided to the scientists reviewing the application
• Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei is still waiting to hear if their petition for a contested case hearing has been granted.

Questions from the audience: Why grow this outside, shouldn't it be done in a lab?
Yes, they must.

Mera Pharmaceuticals said they could grow the algae on a rooftop in San Diego without a permit, why don’t they?

It appears the company was invited here. The state wants to make Hawaii a center for biomedical industry.

Postscript: Article in the Star Bulletin, August 3, 2005: GROUPS SUE OVER ALGAE IMPORT PERMIT. "The suit claims the state board granted the permit without conducting an environmental assessment as required for activities on state or county land."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

President's Letter: July 2005 - A Deafening Silence

President's Letter, Larry Geller

The little frog was thinking of moving to Hawaii. Several of her relatives had made the trip, jumping on an airplane from their little Caribbean island and hopping off in Paradise. She knew that they were having a great time, she could hear their raucous voices in the background every evening when she called.

What kept the little frog from giving up everything (which wasn't much, 'cause she was a frog) and flying off to Paradise was that she was familiar with the Boiling Frog Syndrome, which is roughly: “If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you place a frog into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, it will boil to death.” Actually, most every frog has heard of this, including of course her relatives living it up in Paradise. It's an old story.

She had read about the spiraling inflation in Hawaii, and how frog ponds were being paved over with asphalt and concrete. She knew that it was already too expensive to fly to another island. She marveled at the high cost of gasoline (expected to rise further), huge tax increases planned for all islands, higher electricity rates, even higher charges for the long-distance calls that connected her to her family. Medical insurance is becoming unaffordable. She knew that the $5 lunch joint would soon be charging $6.50 for a smaller plate, if they hadn’t raised prices already. She knew that if she flew to Hawaii, like the frog dumped into boiling water, she would quickly be on another plane back.

The interesting thing is that her relatives in Hawaii also know the story of the Boiled Frogs, but they had clearly grown accustomed to their lifestyle and were content to simply wait things out. In fact, that's what makes the Boiled Frog Syndrome a "syndrome" after all. Another of her uncles, who had spent time in a monastery in the East, called it "frog-nature." He, too, was now enjoying the serenity of the islands (and allegedly the loud parties at night). For he, of course, was a frog and so possessed that "frog nature."

This tale has no moral. I seem to have my share of "frog-nature," as most likely do you. So I would not dream of suggesting that any of us behave differently. I enjoy thrashing around in the pool as much as the next guy. I know, and you know, that rising costs and rampant development are rapidly eating away at “Paradise” and that nothing seems to deter our leaders from taking us with them as they raise the heat under the pot we all share.

They know that we are frogs and we know we are frogs. So enjoy Paradise while you can.