Lee Cataluna: In going green, the devil is in the details
This whole business of making Hawaii eco-conscious and politically environmentally correct has lofty goals. Who could argue against saving the aina and saving the planet?
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This whole business of making Hawaii eco-conscious and politically environmentally correct has lofty goals. Who could argue against saving the aina and saving the planet? Well, anybody can argue anything these days, but most can agree that caring for the environment is a good thing. But there is a scattershot, almost faddish approach to green initiatives, where a new ban or a new law is suddenly all people care about, and as soon as the victory is claimed, the moment passes, and people move on to be riled up by something new without thinking through the issue they just “won” all the way down to the end points. There is also the underlying possibility that much of new environmental law in Hawaii is being pushed forward to win political points for elected officials and to get “Hawaii is the first in the nation …” headlines in national news outlets.
So now the Honolulu City Council has passed a ban on plastics, which follows Maui County’s ban a few years back but gets extra points for being even more restrictive. Honolulu’s ban will do away with plastic utensils, straws, plates and foam plate lunch containers at restaurants, takeout counters and even for purchase at grocery stores for home use.
Great. Fantastic. Yay us. Hawaii should not be contributing to that massive floating garbage patch or the baby fish that eat plastic or the mounds of trash collecting in the bushes at our local beach parks.
But how will we eat a bento without the plastic bento container or a plate lunch without the foam lidded plate?
Don’t worry. There are new products that are biodegradable that will fill the gap.
And what are those new non-petroleum-based biodegradable containers made from?
Which means Hawaii can supply its own alternative to the problem of importing plastics! Yay!
Oh, wait. Hawaii doesn’t grow sugar cane anymore. The last sugar operation in Hawaii was shut down due to economic concerns and the constant attacks by … oh, this is awkward … environmentalists.
So all the biodegradable products will have to be shipped here from somewhere else. That’s not so eco-friendly.
Similar snarls exist in other efforts to go green: yay renewable energy until someone is putting in windmills in Kahuku or a solar farm in Wailea or starting up geothermal again. Yay recycling until years later it suddenly dawns on local government that it costs too much and uses too much fossil fuel to ship all our recyclables to China or the mainland to be processed. Yay turning glass bottles into glassphalt to make roads until it becomes terribly obvious that it’s too expensive a process for an inferior product.
Environmentalists seem to control local politics, except they do it piecemeal, pushing one initiative and then another without a macro look at the issues. It’s not enough to act now and figure out the details later. Figure out the details now. And maybe figure out a way to use all that former sugar land on Maui for making plate lunch containers instead of growing kindling for brush fires, because those aren’t great for the environment either.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.