Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Zombie Style!!

2009 was a difficult year in many ways. Happy New Year to all, and hopes for a better 2010. Like last New Year's Eve, I'll be watching zombie Dick Clark usher in the new year.

SPOILER: He screws up the countdown. Honest to God, isn't it time to call it quits? Haven't they squeezed enough out of the franchise? After he dies, are they going to have him stuffed and wheel him out for another "Rockin" New Year?

It's not that I have anything against old people. Hell, I'm 62 myself. But having a surgically-enhanced cadaver try to sell me on a "rockin" new year creeps me out. I think it's the combination of the stroke and the cosmetic surgery that makes him look like what he really wants in 2010 is a reliable source for sweet, sweet brains. Ugh.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Two Fires Still Burning, Still Choking Kona

As I drove to Hilo early this morning I could see the south wind pushing smoke around the back of Hualalai, hazing up Waikoloa and Waimea. I confirmed with Hawaii County Civil Defense that both the Honomalino fire and the Hokukano fire are still burning. According to both HCCD and Hokukano Ranch, the Hokukano fire is too remote and in too rugged country for ordinary fire-fighting equipment. Both Hawaii Fire Department and Hokukano bulldozers are being used up there to create firebreaks. So another night, at least, of itchy eyes and noses. Too bad, too, about the native forest being consumed.

UPDATE: Make that three fires, according to WHT.

UPDATE 2: A commenter suggests that the fires were deliberately set, and that the fire department is letting them burn. According to WHT, Fire Chief Darryl Olivera said the fires were "likely" due to "natural causes." Aside from lightning, what would those causes be? Olivera also said that it's "more economical" to just let the fires "burn themselves out." Another item for the "your county government cares about West Hawaii" file.

UPDATE 3: According to Damon and WHT, the county is not just letting the fires burn themselves out, but is actively trying to extinguish them. Perhaps our non-stop whining blogging about the fires and smoke prodded the county to issue the press release, but in any case, good on them. No smoke smell yesterday (12/29), but that was apparently due to the north wind, because the smell is back this morning (12/30).

UPDATE 4: The Advertiser says that while lightning is suspected in the Kealakekua Ranch and Yee Hop fires, the causes of the Hokukano Ranch fire (property owned by the Pace family with a history of questionable land practices) is "under investigation."

UPDATE 5: Fire Chief Olivera apologizes and assures us that they are "trying to extinguish the fire as quickly as possible." Still a smoke smell in the air, though (12/31).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As the smoke from the Pace family fire continues to burn our eyes, let us turn our thoughts from the furtive deeds of rapacious landowners to more pleasant things, like Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pace Family Fire Continues - Smoke-kukano

The eye-burning smoke from the Hokukano Ranch Fire was back today, and word is that the fire is still smoldering. As Chuck noted in a comment at Big Island Chronicle, the fire will only increase the flood danger down-slope of the Pace's property.

We don't know, at present, that the Pace's history of allegedly bulldozing large stands of native sandalwood, and excessive flood-causing grading created unnatural clear areas at the 500o foot elevation, causing the fire. But the history presents a very cohesive narrative to that effect.

The forest areas that the Pace family bulldozed are gone forever, probably, and the fire they set the stage for has taken more.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Waterspouts and the fire

I return from Kaua'i to find I missed the most exciting weather Kona has had certainly since I've been here (1991). Some of the reports say there were several waterspouts. Damn!

Following up on the previous post about environmental criminals, I did not miss (but was prevented from blogging about it by computer problems) the nasty, heavy, eye-burning smoke from the Hokukano Ranch fire (I wanted to call the post "Smoke-ukano Ranch" - gettit?). There is supposed to be (or was, until the Pace family got the land) large stands of sandalwood up there. While early reports indicated that the fire was still confined to the large areas where the native forest has been cleared (either by the Paces or the Greenwells who preceded them) for cattle ranching, the latest Advertiser story calls it "a forested area" which could mean that the rare sandalwood forests (the ones not bulldozed and sold to China by the Pace family) are indeed burning. Since the fire without doubt adversely affected the health of Kona residents, there should be an investigation to see if bad management practices by Hokukano Ranch played a part in this health and environmental fiasco.

The Pace family placed the ranch on the market earlier this year. Over years, Hokukano Ranch and its owners have been accused of causing flooding with their grading activities (in 2004) and of bulldozing native sandalwood forests and selling the sandalwood (in 1988). An article in the Hawai'i Island chapter of the Sierra Club's magazine claimed that possible a million dollars worth of sandalwood had been shipped from Kona to China in a very short time. The Pace family admitted selling large amounts of sandalwood to China, but denied reports of large-scale clearing, saying that they were merely reclaiming already-bulldozed piles of old trees, and claiming that the profits were a mere $40,000. The article cited discusses the history of the exploitation of Hawaiian sandalwood, noting that the Pace family is merely continuing a sad tradition.

Although they've styled themselves environmentalists, (for example planting stories issuing press releases in 2002 about "blending nature with development" and promising to re-forest the land and to develop not more than 1,000 acres), Hokukano Highlands these days is selling 6400 acres (!) of "ranch properties" with that "wide-open" (i.e. not forested) feeling. The photos show huge tracts of cleared land (though not when the land was cleared). Hopefully, there will be an investigation to figure out where the fire started and why.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Greetings fellow environmental criminals

The EPA has classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant. That means that I am emitting a pollutant as I type this as are you the (theoretical) reader, as you read it. Fortunately, most observers agree that fees for permits that allow individuals to emit CO2 are "years away," and that "in all probability" already-living individuals will be "grandfathered in" without having to apply for a permit to exist. Good news.