Monday, September 12, 2016


By Koohan Paik, Nelson Ho and Tom Luebben - September 8, 2016

...While Hawai`i truly is (or was) one of Earth’s greatest natural treasures, its lands and waters have been ravaged for every possible commercial gain since the arrival of Capt. James Cook in 1778.

Its endemic forests have been largely destroyed for pastures and sugar cane plantations; its reefs and nearby pelagic waters depleted of fish.

The military destroyed one whole island (Kaho`olawe), and occupied and militarized 21 percent of the state with attendant contamination (over 400 toxic sites) and destruction.

Botanists, ornithologists, entomologists, evolutionary biologists and many other natural scientists have marveled at Hawaii’s unique biodiversity and evolutionary history.

When Cook arrived, Hawai`i had a 98 percent endemicity rate — almost every lifeform was unique. No one will ever know how many endemic species that inhabited Hawai`i in 1778 are now extinct, but we can be sure it is in the thousands.

Hawai`i is a bellwether of Earth’s future. Hawai`i is indeed “the ideal setting” (per the Star-Advertiser’s editorial) for a tough, depressing discussion of what is really happening in Hawai`i and on Earth — and not because of the thousands of hotel-rooms rented.

True, the nene goose is fine, the ‘alala (Hawaiian crow) is extinct in the wild but captive bred birds will be re-introduced, and silversword patches persist on Haleakala and Mauna Kea.

But consider the endemic birds, plants, and countless other known and unknown creatures driven to extinction by relentless economic exploitation and development. Hawaii leads the nation in threatened and endangered species, 437 officially....

...There is expansion, rather than restraint, on transoceanic and interisland agricultural trade that spreads invasive species.

The DLNR, and related federal and state agencies, have done a poor job of protecting Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna.

Irreplaceable koa forests are dying of old age because DLNR prioritizes livestock grazing. Mauna Kea’s endemic mamane forest continues to diminish because DLNR won’t eliminate invasive ungulates; the endemic palila bird, totally dependent on mamane, goes with it.

Put simply, this spectacular island archipelago is in the late stages of ecological destruction....
Koohan Paik is a Hawai`i island resident and project director of the Asia-Pacific program at the International Forum on Globalization; Nelson Ho is a Hawai`i island environmental activist; and Tom Luebben is a Native American rights and environmental attorney.