Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Holistic Agriculture

By Henry Curtis

The World Congress on Zero Emissions was an unusual conference in that it was sponsored by a business entity – Enterprise Honolulu – but gave a platform to those who are and have worked against major business interests.

The 30 member Enterprise Honolulu Board of Directors is chaired by Robbie Alm (HECO), and includes Kirk Belsby (Kamehameha Schools), Blenn Fujumoto (Central Pacific Bank), James Ajello (HECO), Alan Arizumi (First Hawaiian Bank), Dennis Francis (President & Publisher, Honolulu Star Advertiser), Kitty Lagereta (Communications-Pacific), Colbert Matsumoto (Island Insurance Company), Susan Matsushima (Alluvion), Jeffrey Overton (Group 70), Patrick Sullivan (Oceanit), Keith Yoshida (Mid Pacific Petroleum), and Bruce Coppa.

Enterprise Honolulu is financed by prominent entities including: Ameron Hawaii; Carlsmith Ball; Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties; D. R. Horton - Schuler Division; Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel; and the University of Hawaii Systems.

Enterprise Honolulu sponsored the World Congress on Zero Emissions held at the Hawai`i Convention Center, from September 13-17, 2010.

The Congress featured a dozen Native Hawaiian panelists.

Panelists included those who are fighting for the return of water diverted by the sugar and pineapple plantations on both O`ahu and Mau`i.

The focus on sustainable agriculture was not just limited to Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians).

Grant McCargo is a fourth generation real estate developer who prefers to build and own, rather than building quickly and cheaply and flipping the property to someone else before the construction is complete. His new company -- Bio-Logical Capital – is seeking to be a master planner for a sustainable agricultural project within Hawai`i. He said he does not need capitalization. He can commit $B if they can find the right property and develop the right relationships.

A company run by Grant McCargo is the master planner for a new multi-billion dollar University of California campus.

Chad Adams, the Bio-Logical Capital Vice President for Sustainable Development, did not sound like the typical capitalist: “The fisheries of these islands are largely dead, as a direct result of the plantation economy, and the soils clogging the reef systems.

In the past century, 1/3 of all soil on the planet has gone from the land into the oceans. There is a natural cycle where soil goes into ocean, it feeds nutrients, not nearly at that kind of rate. Another thought, nearly half of the soil that's on the planet right now, 46.4%, is a massive decline in productivity because of being on this liquid NPK [Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium]. Remember the meth. This is a meth head type situation, it needs more and more and more in order to keep producing and it’s becoming weaker and weaker and weaker.”

Mr. Adams discussed beef steak from a holistic perspective. The average steak from a cow is produced using over 14 gallons of oil. But in addition, if you look at the best producing corn fields in the Midwest, it takes “roughly 241 pounds of soil that's lost to make the corn to feed that cow per steak that is on your plate.”

Many assume that heavily industrialized agriculture is the answer. But according to Mr. Adams, industrialized agriculture accounts for only 30% of all the food that people eat around the world.

This occurs mostly in the industrialized west where there is lower density of people. In the crowded areas of Less Developed Countries, sustainable agriculture is used.

Often there are studies that show how productive industrialized agriculture is. But these studies are point to point and are published and financed by industrial agricultural interests.

Mr. Adams noted: Take a modern industrial rice production systems and measure it head to head against a, let’s go with southeastern Asian traditional cultural system for producing rice. Who makes more rice? I guarantee you it’s the industrial system. ...However, what about the ducks, and their eggs, and the talapia, and the bok choy, and the arugula, and the nutrient rich water that is being used in the next system. ...The industrial system is giving as a result, an unhealthy crop, that's polluting the land, eroding the soil, using tremendous amounts of energy, with none of those other benefits.”

William `Aila Sr. serves as a Kupuna Agricultural Consultant for Ma`o Farms. He focused his presentation on the Big Picture, looking beyond narrow studies that analyzed situations by imposing artificial boundaries on what is examined.

“The social capital that we're talking about at Ma`o [Farms], when you, when you think of it in terms of government, there's no value for social capital, they that don't assign x amount of dollars per every kid you save from going to jail, there, there's no computation to do that, there should be, we should have somebody working on that right now. How much does it cost to keep a kid out of jail versus how much does it cost to keep an adult in jail, or the property damage, or the vandalism. Because when you include those total costs then a system that keeps kids involved a system, that teaches kids that we have a reciprocal relationship with the `aina, and with the ocean, and with our parents, and with our extended family and with the community, is a system which has less of those additional costs.”

Paul Reppun, a Waiahole farmer, talked about how water is a major limiting factor in restoring ahupua`a to productivity. He noted that water is a major limiting factor worldwide.

According to Paul Reppun, in the great water fight fought on O`ahu, the Waiahole Ditch fight – the old sugar and pineapple plantations sought to maintain water flows to central O`ahu by creating large centralized diversified agriculture farms in central O`ahu. They leased the land to farmers under the condition that the farmer would testify in favor of the urbanization of the land when the landowner wanted to urbanize it. In addition, the farmer would have to pay a substantial financial penalty if they opposed the urbanization.

As Paul Reppun stated: “They wanted big corporate type farms, industrial agriculture, what to us is big ... the Sou Brothers have 3000 acres, that's immense, ...they have 150 workers, whoa, lots of jobs right?, 150 workers most of them from Mexico, they brought them in, not to provide jobs for our people, but to increase our population, and increase the load on infrastructure, because they work for cheap, or [from] Thailand.”

Neil Hannahs, Director of the Land Assets Division for Kamehameha Schools, spoke on the Governance Panel.

He stated: “I think 15 years ago, this was set up to be the squirming panel, because you had a beautiful panel of grassroots people before us, and there would have been all these institutional guys up here trying to explain themselves in the face of all this mana`o and rich, rich sense of values coming from the grassroots. We could have sold tickets and filled the house back then ...

But the beauty of it is, I think were far more aligned these days. It’s not perfect but there’s a tremendous sense of alignment and there’s a story there about governance, and the importance of and the value of sustainable self determination in how we came to be aligned at least for, from Kamehameha’s stand point.

I think others had a less tortuous path to this ephifany. ...At that time Kamehameha’s a bit of a poster child ... we were sideways with Paul [Reppun] and the whole Waiahole gang, the Hou’s [Calvin] and so forth because of Waiahole Ditch. ... And I think of others who came on panels before Kapua [Sproat] who kicked our expensive attorneys ʻōkoles all the way across town and back.”

These panels looked at a whole new (or old) way of looking at agriculture, and integrating it into the larger economy. This discussion was sponsored by Enterprise Honolulu, which is seeking to guide this new approach forward.

Henry Curtis is a web blogger and community televsion producer/director. He can be contacted at ililani.media@gmail.com


Enterprise Honolulu is the Oahu Economic Development Board. The point that you mention, though, "Enterprise Honolulu is financed by prominent entities including: ...Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel...," is interesting. Enterprise Honolulu put out the contrived economic study presented to the Legislature (2004) to get their approval on some early resolutions in favor of the Superferry. Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel were the Superferry's lawyers. It guess that's how it's done. The only problem was that later Act 2 had some legal and logical errors in it. Otherwise the legal aspect might have worked, even if the logistics of the economics never did make sense.

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