Look at both sides of dairy debate

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “a measure of intelligence is our ability to hold two opposed ideas in our minds at the same time.”

Consider the Maha’ulepu/Ulu Pono Dairy project conflict. It is obvious that there are good intentions on both sides.

Those unfamiliar with the deep cultural respect we have for the ‘aina, which is so much more than raw land, see simply resources that can be used for profit. They have no idea of the rarity of the natural resources they are seeking to use.

An island has limited resources, and we share and accommodate for the benefit of community and future generations. This is enlightened self-interest.

Kauai is one of the gems of the planet. It is one of the most remote and tiny, inhabitable ecological treasures on earth. There will never be another like it. Small changes deflect the course of the future; and once our water, our land, our reefs, and our fish populations are gone, they will not be replaced.

On the surface, locally produced milk benefits our community. More ag jobs are a definite plus. Using 2.86-million gallons of water daily from Waita would seem to compete with Pioneer and other ag usages, and our Water Department may struggle to keep up with residential use. Currently the fees for water use and meters are increasing. Drought years are a concern.

A dairy in a barren, near desert environment, where water leaches out in six hours, seems water wasteful. To spray raw sewage on fields upwind of a major visitor destination the Grand Hyatt Regency, as well as prime recreational lands in Po’ipu; seems hazardous in such a windy environment.

To add huge amounts of nitrogen to the watershed, already under threat, will increase coral bleaching, reduce fish populations and threaten the whales, snorkeling, and tour boat operations.

Not all nitrogen will be absorbed into the kikuyu grass when porous lava rock lies beneath the soil.

The UN environmental report states that increasing nitrogen is a major pollutant, threatening the ozone layer, the oceans, and increasing the speed of global warming. In the last two years, the planet’s temperature increased by 0.5 degrees. That is very fast, and bad for island communities. Shoreline communities will be impacted.

How do we protect Maha’ulepu? It is a unique, pristine geological, archaeological, and natural history conservation area. It is one of the world’s wonders. Senator Daniel Inouye was in the process of trying to protect it as a national park. Should we go against his plan?

How do we encourage a positive economic venture, (for Ulu Pono is primarily an investment company), to innovate in ways that do not damage our community? We need to offer some alternative measures to preserve the life of the land.

One solution would be to plant large swathes of albizia, nitrogen fixing trees, where they could trap nitrogen runoff, and at the same time improve the microclimate for reduced water evaporation.

The rapidly growing trees, 12-20 feet per year, would also capture the sewage spray of raw effluent from the cattle that is windborne. It would create a circular, green buffer walls to protect visitor destinations, human populations, and reduce impacts on the watershed.

Excess albizia could be harvested for the biomass power plant in Puhi. More power from renewable resources, recycling nitrogen, protecting our communities and the very special area of Maha’ulepu.

Thinking outside the box will eventually lead to positive solutions. It isn’t you or me … it is us, working together; Aloha making us great.


Virginia Beck has lived on Kauai since 1971. One of KCC’s first RN graduates, she was a nurse practitioner here, and in the Stanford community, a Certified Trager Practitioner, and a childbirth educator. A rich educational experience in European countries, Pakistan, and the mainland were good preparation for our multicultural chop suey Kauai life.

A wellness coach and writer, at Healthy by Design Hawaii, she helps her clients erase stress and design “Lives they Love.” She can be reached at (808) 635-5618


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