Kamakani (wind): Cultural resource or commodity?

| January 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Brandon Roberts

‘Aha Ki’ole challenged to take an equal seat at the table for wind farm process.

Molokai’s renowned winds have Oahu charged for more power and residents asking if this is a blessing or a curse.

Walter Ritte — community organizer and Wednesday evening’s kukakuka (discussion) facilitator — issued a challenge to the public to get involved in the future of Molokai. Kupuna, keiki o ka `aina, kama`aina and malihini alike responded by filling the Mitchell Pau’ole Center.

Walter Ritte blows the pu, protocol for all to come together, to work together and to get informed.


Kamakani (the wind) was still as the meeting commenced, much like a gentle southern Kona, as if the room were holding its breath — anticipatory, speculative, eager, hopeful, fearful.

Logic is a sail in these winds; slacked and tacked, taut but adjustable. Two canoes departed, one from Oahu one from Molokai, each sail set into the wind, each believing in its course, purpose and destination.

Ritte’s resounding pu was an invitation for the community to come together and participate in the discussion and the sharing of information. It may be ironic, but Ritte’s call for lokahi (cooperation) does not extend to the State of Hawaii’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement process. Ritte has called for a boycott/protest of this process.

“Each and every one of you is now burdened with the kuleana of protecting our resources for our future generations,” he ordained.

For Ritte it is simple. He wants a Hawaiian process. He has no faith in the state process. Within this logic there lies no irony. Through a lifetime of studying and participating in this process, Ritte has shown — love him or hate him — that he is an icon of successful resistance.

That is where the evening’s first presenter fit into Ritte’s strategy. The `Aha Ki`ole, a legitimate, state-recognized council has been charged to “work in harmony” with the DLNR, according to council representative Opualani Albino.

“I hope the [council] will take this on as a challenge,” Ritte said. His formula is easy to follow. Boycott the state process and urge the people of Molokai to get involved in the `Aha Ki`ole and thereby create and validate the Hawaiian process. This way the conversation cannot bypass the community and allows Molokai control of its destiny.

The banner "Hawaiians Ku`e" (resist, oppose) was a focal backdrop to the evenings discussion.


“Its not a commodity called the wind, it is a cultural resource called kamakani,” Ritte said. As of now, he says “a`ole” (no) on wind farms. “We have a statewide process [`Aha Ki`ole] that can help us save our resources for the future. We need to get Hawaiians involved in this process because it is your kupuna’s process.”

“By the time we finish tonight, we will have some understanding on how we are going to protect our natural resources, and it is based on traditional land management of the Hawaiian people.” Ritte framed the kukakuka as “historic” when an island starts to take control of its resources. Ritte said the `Aha Ki`ole is one of the better vehicles of hope and empowerment.

Molokai has taken the lead in this traditional resource management model, partially by bucking the policies of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. According to Ritte, the DLNR interim chairman William Aila Jr. did not attend the meeting due to illness.

Another honorable absentee was Peter Nicholas, CEO Molokai Ranch, who had another meeting scheduled in Maunaloa. Ritte warned of the time constraints placed on the state to conduct and conclude their scoping and PEIS, which is March and the urgency this atmosphere blusters.

He used a well received metaphor of scoping in hunting terms.

“I know what a scope is. I use one all the time. And I don’t like when somebody is scoping me … it is dangerous.”

By a show of hands, four attendants out of at least 150 said they knew what the scoping process was. “We are trying to come together so we are one voice,” Ritte said, comparing the 7,000 people on Molokai to the million who “need something we have.”

The chain of causality that is linked to the necessity for the kukakuka is not secret and it was retold through the community comment, “Oahu has grown beyond its means.” “What are they doing to take responsibility?” It is an Oahu created problem and Molokai should not be held captive to alleviate their overextended resources. “How much will they give. How much will they stop taking … stop growing beyond the island’s means.”

`Aha Ki`ole representive Karen Poepoe explains the flow of information within the organization's model.


What is also true is that Molokai has the “most abundant, consistent wind source on the planet,” according to Josh Strickler, a facilitator within the Energy Planning and Strategic Industries Division for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Kekoa Kaluhiwa, Director of External Affairs for First Wind, the wind developer that first came to Molokai in 2006 to put a finger to the air and gauge the community. “The writing is on the wall.

“We have been looking at Molokai Ranch.” He said, as of now, First Wind does not have a site secured on Molokai.

A banner hung reading, “Hawaiians Ku`e (oppose, resist), Honor your kuleana,” serving as a backdrop to the speaker’s podium. Referring to this banner, Kaluhiwa asked Molokai residents to stay involved as part of the process. To “take the “e” and the okina off of ku`e and ku, stand up. Get educated … Please participate.”

Malama Minn with DBEDT debated that Oahu has championed infrastructure (refineries, hospitals, schools and universities) that is to the benefit of all Hawaii and reminded Molokai of its dependence on Oahu for supplying these invaluable resources.

Minn fell prey to a pack of metaphor monsters when she began with us “looking down the barrel of a gun” which represented our petroleum-soaked palate and the potential disasters of coral and coastline drizzled in crude.

Hawaii is the most oil dependent state, with over 75 percent of all energy consumed coming in carbon chains compared to a mere 10 percent in renewables and a state mandate to use 40 percent renewables by 2030. Some attendees balked at what they felt was fear mongering and being taken hostage with doomsday discussions.

The next monster at Minn’s heels was comparing Oahu’s need for subsidized energy with an earthquake on the Big Island and she recanted the echoes of isolationism.

“Oahu bears the burden for many islands,” Minn said. “We can talk about isolation but what about when someone needs help.”

The failure of this comparison is that one is a natural disaster, which does not require a planning and permitting process to develop. It does not allow for public input or state scoping. Oahu’s current needs are human created and began with a plan and a permit.

However Strickler’s mango tree metaphor was picked apart during the public input that concluded the meeting. He spoke of a mango tree in “your” backyard. “We need your mangos.”

“What is the best way to ask you for these mangos,” he began. “What is it you need? … What is it you want? … If we take these mangos back to Oahu? This is your home. This is your backyard and we are asking to come here and have a big impact on your life.”

“True Hawaiian style is not, ‘You can have my mango, if you get something for me.’” One Molokai resident responded. “True Hawaiian values, if you good, you welcome … This is a good thing? Then it’s good … If it’s not … you’re not welcome.”

“We can’t get to where we need to get to on our own, we need to work with you all,” Strickler said. “On this island you have one of the best wind resources in the world … its phenomenal. If we do it the right way, the wind from this island can power Oahu and then we can send benefits back to Molokai.”

What will kamakani bring this time? The question at the piko of this discussion. Will it be a blessing or a curse? Hawaiians have long known the wind’s many personalities, and kamakani o Molokai’s front is just forming. The first gusts of a storm building above lands proposed for a 200-400 megawatt wind farm are drying eyes and disheveling hair.

A single 400-plus foot windmill can generate only a couple of megawatts. It would be safe to allow for three megawatts, equaling roughly 66 or 133 turbines relative to the megawatts designated for the area.

Lanai is currently Molokai’s lone geographic competitor for Oahu’s energy subsidy. They happen to be a few months advanced from Molokai’s position with a proposal already offered to the community. A model that will surely be reflected in the package presented to Molokai.

Some potential benefits, depending on the lands in question, include stewardship, energy efficiency and lower rates, temporary structures and monetary funds, to name a few.

Molokai resident and kukakuka presentor Karen Holt’s Powerpoint was about an island that said “no” and the benefit or consequence of saying “yes.” She commenced with Molokai’s current and potential environmental changes and concluded with the “Buy the Ranch” proposal. This plan involves First Wind or another wind company to purchase the land currently under the stewardship of Molokai Ranch, give it to the community and then lease it back at a fair market value to the tune of Holt’s estimates of $3-5 million a year.

Some potential controversies, depending on the lands in question, include stewardship, energy efficiency and rates, looming structures, etc. One attendee asked if a windmill could be power designated for Molokai?

Currently the proposal is for equalizing rates with Oahu. Molokai currently pays 45 cents per kilowatt hour to Oahu’s 22 cents. It is a stretch to think energy efficiency has a correlation to energy reduction. The Jevons Paradox hails from William Jevons, an Englishman alive in 1865, who roughly said that making energy more efficient does not lead to a reduction in the amount of energy used. It has a rather opposite effect. It drives down prices. Increases demand and subsequently consumption increases as well as the potential acceleration of development. This Paradox has yet to be proven false over the span of human history.

A crucial question that presently permeates all aspects of Hawaii is land stewardship. The current lands “owned” by Molokai Ranch are recognized in our modern system. Prior to the Kamehamehas and the later Great Mahele, or land division, of the 1840s established by Kamehameha III, Molokai’s West End was under the ali`i and konohiki.

The Great Mahele incorporated the West End into what eventually became the Bishop Estate. The sale of these lands to private parties have stewardship of 66,000 West End acres in Singapore currently with Guoco Limited, parent company to Molokai Ranch.

“Tonight there is hope for the Hawaiians because of what their kupuna is passing down to them about how to survive on these islands. Be proud of our kupuna … and we have to stick together,” Ritte said.

The representatives of Molokai’s six moku within the `Aha Ki`ole are: Ko’olau — Judy Caparida and Ruth Manu; Halawa — Anakala Pilipo Solatorio; Mana`e — Duke Kalipi; Kawela — Mervin Dudoit; Pala`au — Wayde Lee; Maunaloa — Byron Espaniola.

These representatives are the disseminators of information, organizers and gatherers of mana`o from residents within the moku and messengers between these residents and the council, which then relays to DLNR.

The state scoping meeting on the PEIS will be held Feb. 3 at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center at 6 p.m.

Category: Hawaiian Culture, News, Sustainability

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