Door now open for sustainable, self-sufficient Molokai
The swiftness of Molokai Ranch's closure is a shock, but the shutdown itself is not really a surprise. Molokai Ranch has finally shown its true colors. Since it couldn't shove its unwanted development down the throat of this community, it will now take it out on its own workers, while blaming the development opposition for the "need" to do this.
Indeed, the ranch states in its press release: "Unacceptable delays caused by continued opposition to every aspect of the Master Plan means we are unable to fund continued normal company operations." But this is simply not true. The community did not object to "every aspect" of the plan; rather, the community objected to the La'au development aspect of the plan. Indeed, we have been consistent from the start in saying the there are many good parts of the plan (which the community itself put a lot of work into creating), but that developing La'au is simply unacceptable.
We also have been consistent in saying to Molokai Ranch and plan supporters, let's all come back to the table and find solutions to this issue. Let's find real alternatives to this development, and other types of economic engines besides development -- ones that all or most can agree on. Let's find win-win solutions, rather than the win-lose ones like La'au Point or this current crisis.
But Molokai Ranch chose not to listen, and chose to try to ramrod its project through. Wrong idea. And now it is bringing its oft-promised/threatened "doomsday scenario" down on this community -- by laying off its workers and starting to sell off its lands. What a mean-spirited and cruel reaction to not getting its way ("I'm taking my ball and going home!").
Molokai Ranch, of course, says the shutdown is merely a "business decision" -- one it was "forced" to make due to all the "unacceptable delays" regarding its proposed La'au development. But let's be clear here: All these "delays" were caused by Molokai Ranch's own decisions:
» by deciding to make this whole issue into an "all or nothing," "take it or leave it" scenario (either accept the plan with the La'au development, or else no plan and no ranch);
» by choosing not to listen to this community saying 'a'ole La'au (no to La'au!) over and over again for years; and
» by voluntarily withdrawing its shoddy environmental impact statement after massive community (and Land Use Commission) opposition to it. (It was this choice to withdraw that returned the ranch to a draft EIS stage with its associated public commentary process).
Molokai Ranch also was seriously "delayed" by two recent Supreme Court decisions -- one that took away its permitted allocation of potable water (Well 17), and the other that neutralized its preferred method of transporting it (the Molokai Irrigation System).
In addition, a new Maui County ordinance (No. 3052) was enacted in December that requires verification of water supply before a subdivision is approved, while a February U.S. Geological Survey comment letter was highly critical of Molokai Ranch's statements regarding water issues (in the EIS) as being misleading and/or inaccurate.
Yet, despite all of this, I don't hear Molokai Ranch blaming USGS, the county, the LUC or the Hawaii Supreme Court. No, it simply blames the activists, without ever taking a good hard look in the mirror.
As one of those many people who have been working to help save La'au, I can state clearly that the sentiment I have observed in the activist community during the past few days is that we feel deeply for the workers who have lost their jobs, and we will support them in whatever way we can: by helping to find them new jobs; by helping create new jobs with better economic engines; or by helping to provide food during this challenging time. No one will go hungry while trying to transition -- Molokai takes care of her own.
But at the same time, we see this as a great opportunity to bring stewardship of this island back to the people of Molokai. We were already working on various potential solutions before this happened: from investors with more appropriate endeavors, to a proposed windfarm, to conservation buyers, to buying the entire ranch, to a combination of all of the above. Now we are pushing to bring those kinds of things to fruition.
It has definitely been a historic week, but now, with your support, Molokai might be able to make history. Instead of foolishly pursuing so-called sustainable development (as La'au was promoted as being), Molokai could become a model of sustainable agriculture. It could become a much-needed example of food and economic self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship and energy independence. With culturally appropriate business endeavors, Molokai could not only be a continuing piko (center) of Hawaiian culture and aloha, but could also become a sustainable and self-sufficient community.
We can "Ho'i i ka Pono!" (Return to Pono.) And we can "Keep Molokai, Molokai!"
Adam T. Kahualaulani Mick is a member of the Save La'au ohana. He lives in Kawela, Molokai.