Thursday, February 26, 2009


The Nation: Surfers vs. the Superferry

by Larry Geller

Hawaii’s own little controversy has hit the big time. The March 16 issue of The Nation magazine includes the article, Surfers vs. the Superferry, chronicling the battle over the Superferry.

It’s pushed our local politics into the national spotlight:

Environmentalists demanded an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its Hawaii equivalent (HEPA). But the Hawaii Superferry Company, with strong support from Governor Linda Lingle, the ambitious right-wing Republican lately famous for introducing Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, refused.

And our drama and bravery:

A key moment in this saga came in August 2007, on the small island of Kauai, called the Garden Island by tourist agencies for its folded green cliffs, cascading waterfalls and aloha spirit. But on this occasion about 1,500 locals--including a high percentage of Native Hawaiians, joined by people of Japanese and Filipino descent and a contingent of New Age haoles (recent white settlers seeking Shangri-La)--showed up at Nawiliwili Harbor to protest the Superferry's maiden voyage from Honolulu to Kauai. Several dozen surfers also played a catalytic role.

When the protesters saw the oncoming speeding colossus on the horizon--bigger than a football field, four stories high and capable of carrying as many as 866 people and 282 cars--the outrage grew. The anger had been magnified a few days earlier when Governor Lingle and Lehman's Superferry company indicated they would disregard a 5-0 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the boat suspend operations until it completed an EIS. As it approached, dozens of surfers and swimmers leaped into the water. Ignoring strident Coast Guard threats, they headed out under the Superferry's terrifying catamaran blades, stopping the ship dead in the water. It created a sort of Tiananmen Square standoff in the waters of Kauai.

Yes, world, Hawaii has what it takes to stand up to injustice when it happens.

The article, By Jerry Mander & Koohan Paik, authors of The Superferry Chronicles: Hawaii's Uprising Against Militarism, keeps our governor Lingle centered in the crosshairs:

Lingle's goals surely go beyond providing a useful local ferry. They certainly seemed to have far more to do with getting closer to powerful Republican Party figures--notably Lehman, slated, as the New York Times reported, to have been John McCain's chief of staff, had he won.

The Chronicle’s book events have attracted attention on the West Coast and elsewhere. Maybe the timing is right for them, since our president hails from Hawaii. It’s likely that our state will not be able to enjoy the relative obscurity that distance from the continent has granted it until now. To anyone still writing their book on Hawaii, hurry up, while the aura is still shiny.

Each newspaper or magazine article, such as this one (and particularly this one in The Nation), focuses a spotlight on us as never before.

The Superferry saga continues, only now, maybe its no longer something we can hide from the rest of the country.




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