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The Life of the Land

July 11, 2013
Michael Howden - Olinda , Maui Weekly

I read with interest a commentary entitled "Islandwide responsibility taken seriously," (The Maui News, June 23) written by the general manager of HC&S.

I would like to comment both as a permaculture designer and as a health professional, as there were numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations throughout the commentary.

First, this impressive gathering of land and other resources represents a taking of the major water resources of the East Maui watershed--for more than 130 years--to the detriment of both the watershed itself and of native tenants and other residents of rural East Maui. It represents a dewatering of numerous ahupua'a and the loss of traditional agricultural practices that defined this region.

The original leases, signed by King Kalakaua, specified that the rights and interests of native tenants not be infringed upon. This has clearly not been the case. In addition, the later DLNR leases specified that the integrity of these watersheds be maintained.

No real effort has been made to that effect, and the East Maui watersheds are in a state of significant decline as a result.

The author points out that HC&S has "become a provider of water." The fact is this water is a pubic trust taken from the watersheds. The waters used by HC&S, if metered and charged agricultural rates by the County of Maui, would amount to a subsidy of about $58 million on a yearly basis.

That much of the power generated by the Pu'unene Mill is non-renewable and highly polluting is shown by the use by HC&S of more than 90,000 tons on coal per year. Just drive by and look at football field-sized piles of coal stored behind the mill.

That the general manager of HC&S dares to assert that HC&S is committed "to the health of our community at all levels" is astonishing to me. Take the time to drive through the hundreds of acres left barren from the recent harvest of sugarcane, with oversized machinery further compacting the subsoil, whilst clouds of fugitive dust (mixed with residual chemicals) are carried into the air by our trade winds.

Surely no one considers the effects of burning cane to be a health benefit, given the plastics and chemicals that are consumed in these fires, with aerosols persistent well beyond the actual burn itself.

The industrial, large-scale agricultural practices used by HC&S are by no means sustainable and lead to both a deterioration of the soils and the fouling of our air.

If our community wants to "advocate for a green Maui," we had best not leave this to HC&S.



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