Archive for the ‘Molokai stories’ Category

Idle No More Rally in Honolulu

Mahalo to Connie for sharing this video with me, it’s another video of the rally that Vandana Shiva was speaking at – from the perspective of some in the Idle No More movement. It’s so inspiring to see this movement make such big waves in this short time!

Advertisements

the energy of this island

Yesterday I experienced firsthand the colourful and dynamic community on Molokai, famed for its seeming love of controversy. The day did not disappoint. Connie and I went to the Energy Festival in Kaunakakai, the main town on the island. The organizer was I Aloha Molokai, a grassroots group that seems to be a voice for a myriad of development concerns, including plans for an industrial scale wind turbine project. But wait–isn’t wind a progressive, “clean” renewable energy? Well, along with problems like noise pollution, endangerment of native species and sacred sites, increases in electricity rates, and decreases in property values, the main issue on Molokai is who controls the development, and who will ultimately benefit. It turns out that the energy would not be destined for this island at all, but for powering Oahu’s bright lights in the tourist hub of Honolulu. No wonder the locals are pissed.

Here’s what their response looks like: a cheery group of people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds wearing grass leis and Hawaiian shirts, engaged in passionate, articulate discussion about Molokai’s energy future and the sovereignty of the Hawaiian people. I discovered that the entire island’s electricity is produced by a giant diesel generator! No wonder people are looking for island-based solutions. A guy from the Big Island recounted the horrors of industrial geothermal development in his neighbourhood. In short, don’t try to build a ‘closed-loop’ system full of heavy metals and toxic gas beside a residential neighbourhood in an area of constant volcanic activity (in Canada, steam geothermal doesn’t pose the same risks, but it’s salient to remember that a one-solution-fits-all energy policy just won’t work).

One of the talks was a group from the Quechan Native American tribe, who discussed their experiences challenging a big wind farm slated to be built on the graves of their ancestors. As the Idle No More movement gains steam on the mainland, I have to reflect that from a historical perspective, it’s only very recently that panels of Indigenous movement-builders would talk openly about the occupation of their lands and the need for education and the reclamation of their culture, and that a crowd full of haoles (white people) would show up to listen with nodding heads. Though there is a long road still ahead when it comes to justice for Indigenous peoples, we have to stop and celebrate such successes. There seems to be a complicated tension here between Indigenous Hawaiians and haoles that I’m only just beginning to understand, but parallels can be drawn with the challenges in the territories I’ve resided in over the years. Poverty, abuse, and addiction live here–as they do in every community, but like back home, their cruel touch seems to be more pronounced among the Indigenous population. The destructive legacy of colonialism is alive and well here, but there are a lot of inspiring native Hawaiians I listened to yesterday that are motivated for change–frequently using words and concepts from their own language, they are serious about keeping their culture alive. And there does seem to be a lot of haoles who are committed to changing the dynamics of this relationship for the better.

In fact, there’s something everyone seems to be able to agree on: solar energy. If there’s one thing Hawai’i has in copious amounts, it’s sunshine. Even the smallest homesteads by the highway have rickety solar panels on the roof. Although solar is not without its problems, the technology is moving incredibly fast, and many on the island are poised to take advantage of this. At the festival, we examined a working homemade solar hot water heater, built with salvaged parts. From what I heard there, the major appeal of solar is that it empowers people. Instead of giant wind farms or dangerous geothermal plants owned by people who don’t have to live with the local consequences, solar allows people on the island to become more energy independent. A few speakers hit on a subtler effect of this kind of independence: the will of an individual and of a community gains strength, and becomes a more difficult force for outside interests to trample on.

I promised pictures, and I figure it would be fitting to share some of Molokai’s glorious sun. Here are some favourite sun shots from my beach adventures this week.

 

This is Pohaku Mauliuli at sunset (I mistakenly called it Kephui beach in my last post)

Image

 

These are from Mo’omomi Preserve at sunrise. The world’s highest coastal cliffs are just barely visible in the background.

ImageImageImageImage

Image

ImageThis is Papohaku beach, Hawai’i’s longest white sand beach.

Image

Image

ImageImageImageImage

a beach tale

The past two days have been full of adventure and connection with the wild beauty of Molokai. I’ve been to the beach three times in 24 hours! Photos coming soon. One of the wonderful perks of being an intern at the Hui is that we get invited along on photography forays with the retreat guests. On Wednesday, we piled into the rental cars and headed to Kepuhi Beach on the western edge of the island. For hours, we snapped photos of the crashing waves, unique lava rock formations, and a delicate sunset. I did yoga in the soft sand. Yesterday we returned to the area for another sunset, this time to Papohaku Beach. The 3-mile stretch is one of the largest beaches in the state. But unlike many of Hawai’i’s beaches, there was hardly a soul to be seen.

There’s a reason why the throngs of tourists were absent. I’ve heard Molokai called by many people “the real Hawai’i.” With a population of only 7,000 and the highest proportion of Indigenous Hawaiians, Molokai has a history of strong resistance to the kind of commercial tourism development that other parts of Hawai’i have succumbed to. The views of the locals about land management and other political issues are starkly visible on colourful painted signs by the roads. Back in 2008, the island’s major employer was partway through building a huge luxury golf resort on the west end when local resistance became so organized that it retaliated by closing all of its operations, including restaurants, hotels, and the island’s only movie theatre. Now, Molokai has Hawai’i’s highest unemployment rate. Although some of the properties we passed on the way to the beach had been converted into condos and sold, many of the buildings are boarded up. Mauna Loa, a name perhaps familiar to those who have never been to Hawai’i, is actually a ghost town. Walking to the beach, we crossed the remnants of a golf fairway being reclaimed by the red clay earth.

It’s not very often you hear a story of small-town success in the face of distant, faceless business interests. But the people have been here at least 1,700 years. I reckon their sense of time has a much wider scope than the fiscal quarter of the investing world, whose language of money just doesn’t translate their connection to the land.

Efforts to restore and protect the native ecosystems of the island have not been without their controversies, either. Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of waking up at 5am to share a spectacular sunrise with the photographers at the Mo’omomi Preserve, on the north side. We passed a sign that read “Mo’omomi to be gated illegally.” We had to go through two locked gates, but as I learned, anyone can access a key most of the year, except when the seabirds are nesting. The problem was that local residents would drive their 4X4’s on the sensitive dunes and leave trash and beer cans behind. And this is not just any beach, either. Twenty-five years ago, the Nature Conservancy acquired the lands from private ranchers. Molokai is overrun with invasive, non-native species, and the western half of the island is highly degraded due to grazing and poor land management practices. Mo’omomi is now the most intact coastal beach strand and sand dune area and one of the last remaining strongholds for native coastal plants and animals in the Hawaiian islands. This breathtaking beach is surrounded on both sides by sharp lava rock and native grasses. The landscape looks more like Scottish highlands than what most people would envision when they think of Hawai’i. It’s being stewarded by Molokai Land Trust, which is also running the major native plant restoration project right here at the Hui (more on that later…)

We drove back along the bumpy dirt road, the staff standing in the box of the Tundra pickup, singing songs from the ‘80s. Grabbing the frame, we ducked quickly as the thorny branches of kiawe (an invasive tree) narrowly missed our heads. Turning at Coffees of Hawai’i, we climbed up the hill for another mile before turning into the Hui to begin another sunny day in the garden.

%d bloggers like this: