en·vi·ron·ment noun

  1. the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; surroundings; milieu.

  2. Ecology. the air, water, minerals, organisms, and all other external factors surrounding and affecting a given organism at any time.

  3. the social and cultural forces that shape the life of a person or a population.

It’s easy to associate “environment” with only tree huggers. But the more over-arching definition of “environment” covers the aggregate of our surroundings. It’s imperative that we educate and fully embrace “environment” as defined above, in its broadest sense.

If we define “environment” as such, and many of us do, then it’s very easy to understand why former Governor Ben Cayetano is causing “strange bedfellows” to lie together in the same bed, like that of the new ad-hoc Hawaii Environmental Coalition.

Hawaii has many pressing “environmental” issues, including the Honolulu Rail Transit Project. The public’s vexations towards the assaults on Hawaii’ environment go deep into the na’au. The list of assaults on the environment is long. I will highlight some:

The Physical Environment:

—The visual pollution of the controversial Honolulu Rapid Transit grates against what we hold dear about Hawaii. The massive cement structures make locals gasp. These jarring pockmarks will scar Oahu’s complexion and cannot simply be hidden by plants. Locals believes there are better alternatives than trying to copy-cat New York City.

—The noise pollution from the steel on steel rail will compound urban tensions and grate nerves along the 20-mile corridor and its vicinity. It’s estimated that the noise can be heard within a 3- mile radius. Scroll to the end to hear the noise. Are there any alternatives to this noisy beast?

—Agriculture-zoned land are disappearing. Ho’opili, the fight to preserve 1554 acres of fertile farm land, and Koa Ridge Projects were approved by the stacked Land Use Commission. Food security was thrown under the train.

—Open space and public lands are threatened. The 3.4 acre Haleiwa PUBLIC Beach Park is on the books to be auctioned off to selected developers.

—Kailua is embroiled in the controversy over the public beach park use that pits the mayor against the Honolulu City Council and neighbors against neighbors.

—The hostile takeover of public land through newly-formed conduit Public Land Development Corporation(PLDC) is brewing contention. Mainstream observers see a systematic stacking of pro-development friends on boards and commissions that cuts ordinary citizens out of the decision-making process.

—Water fights between water rights and public trust against big developers and big government raised its ugly head again this past session. Big government and big money won, again.

—Basic Infrastructure concerns –Waimanalo does not want to be the armpit of Oahu. Who does?

The Cultural Environment:

—Hawaiians and supporters are protesting against government arrogance and ignominious treatment of Hawaiian values and history. Example: The Hawaii Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) plows ahead in spite of unknown and unmitigated ‘iwi kupuna along the rail corridor.

—The once sustainable ahupua`a where stewardship over resources is shared is now hijacked by planning “experts” into “ Ahupua’a of Tomorrow” with shopping retail shops, hotels, resort-residential dwellings, as described in the proposed expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort on north shore Oahu.

—Who can forget Moloka’i and Lanai’s battle for its cultural sense of place?

—Hawaii prides itself with “Live Aloha” and “Be Pono”. Yet, these values are twisted by groups like Pacific Resource Partnerships which bring out the worse in local politics.

—The Plantation Lunas are baaaack! Titular heads jump into the I Mua Rail bandwagon to protect their corporate agenda.

The Political Environment:

—Calvin Say, House Speaker and Donovan Dela Cruz lobbied hard to exempt environmental review laws for their special developers and contractors.

—The due process of public engagement and fair play is tenuous. Citizens protest manipulated public hearings only to be told to put their questions in writing to paid consultants and facilitators.

—Political mischief in office is no small matter as evidenced in the birth of the steel on steel rail during the Hannemann administration:

“First, we (the city) hired Parsons Brinckerhoff executive Wayne Yoshioka to be the City Transportation Director. Then we contracted with Parsons Brinckerhoff to plan the rail line. We then contracted with InfraConsult LLC to watch over PB. (Three senior PB officials had formed InfraConsult prior to its contract with the City).

—The pay to play politics and blatant disregard for taxpayers’ hard-earn contributions is evident in recent auditing of HART:

The Social Environment:

—The government and its elite hui’s push to concentrate population along the rail corridor is Segregation déjà vu to da max. The poor gets to live next along the noisy steel on steel rail corridors. How kind and progressive.

—Cuts and changes for basic bus services are exasperating the lives of the working class, seniors, and students. Ironically, Move Oahu Forward’s co-chair Constance Lau recently announced the addition of Anthony R. Guerrero, Jr., the chairman of the board of Oahu Transit Services (dba TheBus) to their board of directors.

The Economic environment:

—Politicians pontificate about creating economic opportunities but they raid coffers of the treasury which in turn, create economic hardships on residents and businesses. Or they ram through fiscally questionable projects by the sheer might of government power that create further hardships for its citizens and businesses. Then there are the pay cuts, furloughs, and pension issues.

—Uncertainty is not good business when entrepreneurs and private property owners/lessees have no long-term certainties, especially along the rail corridor. Private property rights is an integral part of free enterprise.

—The government’s push to develop half a mile radius of Transit-oriented Development at twenty-one stations is a significant ratio of land mass in our 597 square miles island. How pono is it to seize private properties to turn them over to other private corporations because big government and its experts think it knows how to utilize your real estate better.

—-To top it all, billions of dollars in contracts have been awarded. HART did this with no official commitment for full federal funding or regard for the pending lawsuit or an experienced fiscal hawk becoming the next mayor.

In light of the many assaults on Hawaii’s environment, at all levels, it’s no wonder that Hawaii gravitates towards Cayetano who is “pissed off” enough to forgo comfortable retirement and get into the mayoral race.

Cayetano‘s na’au reaction to stand up and fight is perhaps his greatest weapon. Many observers have turned activists and pushing back the various assaults on Hawaii’s environment. The ad-hoc Hawaii Environmental Coalition of strange bed fellows is simply one of many responses to a government gone amok.

Are YOU mad enough yet?

Go Environmental!

Take the government back!

Enough is enough!

About the author: Choon James is a real estate broker for over 20 years. She is a member of the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Committee and Save Oahu Farmlands Coalition.