I told a friend recently that I was getting too old to fight for incremental change, only to settle for a study or a task force. Frankly, I am tired of having state legislators (of which I used to be one), council members (of which I am one) and members of Congress (of which I once tried to be one) tell us all the reasons why nothing can be done.

I am tired of watching big corporations cause irreparable harm to our health, our natural environment and our planet itself, while our government stands on the side and does nothing or actually facilitates the injustice under the guise that the offender is actually in “compliance” with the law.

Government will tell us these large, multi-national billion-dollar corporations are “following the rules,” but fail to remind us that these same entities fund the politicians that make those same rules.

And so I march.

Aloha Aina Unity March demonstrators head down Kalakaua Avenue with flags and signs. 9 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Participants in Sunday’s Aloha ‘Āina Unity March head down Kalakaua Avenue

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Aloha ‘Āina is not about checking off a box on a permit showing the applicant has minimally complied with some provision on a list.

As my friends in the Aloha ‘Āina movement have taught me, Aloha ‘Āina is understanding that stewardship is not a burdensome impediment to development but a joyful responsibility that should be embraced and celebrated.

Aloha ‘Āina is about core values and pro-active advocacy on behalf of those values.

The Agribusiness Development Corporation is an entity whose members are appointed by the governor of Hawaii and is responsible for the management of over 15,000 acres of state-owned agricultural lands. These are state/public/crown lands. The vast majority of these lands are leased to the largest chemical companies in the world, not to grow food for local consumption but to grow experimental genetically modified crops that eventually end up somewhere else in the world as cattle feed, high fructose corn syrup or ethanol.

These companies sell and use tons of highly restricted pesticides throughout Hawaii — many of which are banned in other countries. These same companies are involved in lawsuits against Kauai County, Maui County and Hawaii County that have attempted to regulate their actions.

These large corporations do not pay general excise tax on their production and their operations are subsidized by county property tax laws. They operate shrouded in secrecy and they refuse to disclose both the amount and types of pesticides they use and the type of experimental crops they are growing.

Even though an agency of the World Health Organization has declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, these companies have refused to disclose the amount of glyphosate they are using each day in our community.

As my friends in the movement have taught me, Aloha ‘Āina is understanding that stewardship is not a burdensome impediment to development but a joyful responsibility that should be embraced and celebrated. Aloha ‘Āina is about core values and pro-active advocacy on behalf of those values.

The ADC, which manages these state/public/crown lands, is focused on the revenue generated from the high lease rents paid by these large chemical companies. The ADC has refused to require soil testing for pesticide residue as these companies exit their leases, even though there is clear evidence of heavy use of restricted use pesticides on these same lands. The ADC is now seeking an exemption from a required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in order to save money and avoid the higher standards of clean water reporting required by the federal government and state Department of Health.

Operating under the spirit and values of Aloha ‘Āina would mean this agency responsible for managing public lands would seek the highest level of protections for health and the environment, not seek exemptions and minimal protections.

This is only one example, but it extends metaphorically throughout government agencies at almost all levels.

Instead of seeking first to protect and preserve via Aloha ‘Āina and embracing the precautionary principle, our government leans increasingly toward a cost/benefit analysis. The sad part is that the people and the environment are paying the costs and the corporations and their enablers are reaping the benefit.

The Aloha ‘Āina Unity March on Sunday was organized by a wide array of organizations from throughout our community to express political views regarding issues that are impacting the management and use of land and natural resources in Hawaii. At the forefront of these issues are the construction of TMT on Mauna Kea, regulation of pesticide use and genetically modified organisms on agricultural lands in rural communities throughout the state, and mismanagement of agricultural lands on all islands.

Regardless of how one might feel about the various individual battles and issues presently going on in Hawaii, one thing is clear: The decisions that are being made by government with regard to managing these issues are not based on Aloha ‘Āina.

This is not about being for or against science, or GMOs or telescopes or even development. This is about putting the values of people and the environment first.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author