The definition of corporate social responsibility: “Corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. The term generally applies to company efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.”
Under a unusual combination of philanthropic and capitalistic endeavors, Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative, and specifically Hawaii Dairy Farms, turn to areas of legislative weakness. They find areas, which, when needing to decide whether to let their proposed operation in, have few resources, understanding, or skills for evaluating their proposal. The decision is then put before agencies such as the planning and zoning office or the county council and mayor, all of whom must rely for guidance on ordinances that were not written to control the kind of operation they are proposing.
No Hawaii office, be it federal state or local, has been confronted by a like concept or of the experimental dynamics their dairy project on the South Shore would bring. Residents of Kauai are also generally unaware of these measures, and became easy targets for HDF public relations pros, promising to meet their needs, sooth their anxiety, nourish their children with Hawaii grown milk. This public relations barrage can be overwhelming.
For example the touting of “sustainability.” No demonstrated unmet need can be conceived that this dairy concept will change. Hawaii has price support regulations that are among the highest in the USA. By the time the HDF shipment of raw milk gets to Oahu, pasteurized, sent back to Kauai, and priced the same as any other Meadow Gold milk, no one will be able to taste a difference in that milk from milk of a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) in Tulare, County California. Nor will the quality or availability be different.
Sustainability should also have a “lasting” quality. As some may have forgotten, and as HDF ignored, Kauai made international news with the “Easter” flooding of 2006. Mahaulepu and the valley below is a shallow dish tilted toward the ocean.
Water ran from the leeward side below Ha’upu, and as one rancher has stated “getting as high as the fence posts” as it rushed down to the ocean and beyond to the Hyatt and other areas.
Their described dairy, if existing at that point, would not have survived and a mixture of millions of gallons of manure and effluent would have been swept down over the reef, into the cave and ocean, causing irreplaceable damage. In a very short number of hours, the area, cave, beach, and ocean would have ceased to be a tourist attraction or a desired residential area.
HDF has attempted what now is called “green washing; spending more time and money claiming to be what they are, through advertising and marketing, rather than showing respect by entering sensible, interactive dialogue. When faced with expert data that pointed out their possible environmental impact, has at a significant level, resulted in an increasing loss of community support. More than 3,000 people have signed petitions against it being at Mahaulepu.
The unpredictable direction of hurricanes and tropical storms is a meteorologist’s nightmare. In just 43 years — not 100 — between 1950 and 1993 there were 25 hurricanes that hit the islands, an additional 33 tropical storms rain events occurred statewide.
Keep in mind that only on the first day of the dairy beginning will the ponds be empty and that emptying them when a rain event is approaching only empties to a larger area that will shortly be saturated.
Likely after a hurricane arrives or tropical comes on site there will be a power outage, and as most of the farm soil will already be saturated to the point of flooding, it couldn’t effectively take in additional effluent if more was pumped onto it.
The inability of most of the soil to percolate, the limited capacity of the ponds to hold a true measure of what rainfall could bring, and the sustained and periodic rain events which last for days or weeks, will create an uncontrolled release of polluted matter.
Ronald John is a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah