The Week in Review
January 03, 2008WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26
Let's start off the week right: by poking a small but well-defined hole in the increasingly popular world of "LEED Certification." Standing for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," LEED is a rating system designed by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for architects and land developers. Builders and environmentalists are fast adopting LEED as their favorite buzzword—mega-developer Everett Dowling of Dowling Co. constantly advertises his new projects as LEED certified, and former state Representative Brian Schatz wrote in the Dec. 18, 2007 Hawai'i Island Journal that, "every state, county, and federal building should be built meeting the LEED… standards." The problem, as an article written by Daniel Brook and posted today on Slate.com makes clear, LEED is mostly just greenwash for big, otherwise non-green corporations. "The point system creates perverse incentives to design around the checklist rather than to build the greenest building possible," Brook wrote. "Installing a $395 bike rack is worth the same under the LEED checklist as installing a $1.3 million environmentally sensitive heating system." While Brook points out that the USGBC is working on the LEED checklist, he also adds that the real goal here should be making "green communities"—not just green structures. But if that were the case, developers like Dowling would have a very hard time convincing people that projects like his building super-condos for the super-wealthy on the very sensitive Makena shoreline was in any way "green."
|Everett Dowling's LEED-certified office in Wailuku|
THURSDAY, Dec. 27
So the Alakai cancelled its voyage to Maui today because of "high sea conditions," according to Hawaiisuperferry.com. The boat didn't sail yesterday either, for the same reason. And the company just announced that bad weather will force the boat to stay in port tomorrow as well. Let's recap: with heavily discounted fares, low passenger interest, voyages to Kauai indefinitely on hold due to intense residential hatred and trips to the Big Island still at least a year away, another ferry under construction, $180 million in federal loan guarantees, a $40 million barge-thing in Kahului to pay off and now weather cancellations, the Superferry doesn't appear to be in a particularly strong financial situation, even with the state Legislature rescuing it from the perils of our own environmental laws. But it's still got "super" in its name, right? And nothing that's super ever fails, right?
FRIDAY, Dec. 28
Now, today—nearly 65 years after the fact—the National Park Service is starting to investigate how best it can preserve the internment camps that held Japanese-Americans during America's involvement in World War II. According to an Associated Press story in today's Honolulu Advertiser, Congress has approved but not yet appropriated the grand sum of $38 million (about what this country spends on the Iraq War every four hours) to save "what is left of the camps" and "develop educational programs." What's even funnier than that is the following quote from a high school teacher named John Hopper, who's trying to teach people about a camp near his school in Granada, Colorado: "I think it's important for this country to try to understand the mistakes that we've made." Mr. Hopper, try not to be disappointed if few agree with you. Anyway, the story is mainly concerned with those large-scale camps erected on the mainland, but for a time during the war, Maui also had a prison. Basically a temporary gathering camp, soldiers herded Japanese-Americans on the island there, where they stayed until they could be shipped over to larger camp on Sand Island on Oahu (see the Aug. 2, 2007 Maui Time story "The Camp" for more on this). Of course, there's not much the National Park Service can do about the Haiku camp—it's long since vanished completely from town. Mr. Hopper of Granada, Colorado might consider that one of our society's mistakes, but to me, it was much more of a choice.
SATURDAY, Dec. 29
Just heard that the Molokai Princess left port today, but the Alakai—she stayed in Honolulu Harbor. Go figure.
SUNDAY, Dec. 30
Maui may not have a lot of evidence of its Japanese-American internment past lying around, but it does have plenty of ultra-luxurious hotel rooms and timeshares available for those of us—okay, you—who are so rich you're just drowning in money. And that makes perfect sense. Our society values the whims and desires of super-rich hedge-fund managers more than those of high school teachers, right? Today's Maui News has all the evidence you need: on Jan. 7, the recently remodeled Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua will reopen to the public. Among its new additions: 107 "residential suites" that "people" can buy for between $895,000 and $6 million. The hotel rooms are now a bit pricier, too, with nightly rates going from $599 all the way to $8,000. And who, pray tell, will be buying and paying for these rooms and suites? Correct: "The hedge-fun managers of the world are all in their 30s and 40s, and they're the ones who have the income we're looking for," Michael Masterson, the Ritz-Carlton's sales and marketing director, said, according to The Maui News.
MONDAY, Dec. 31
Identity theft! It's the hot, actually fairly old trend that's sweeping the nation—and the world—and the State of Hawai'i still has no way to stop it! There's "an absence of comprehensive administrative, technical and physical safeguards covering privacy and security of personal information," says the 23-member Hawai`i Identity Theft Task Force, according to an Associated Press story in today's Honolulu Advertiser. Guess the bright side is the situation will probably get so bad everyone's identity will be stolen at some point, which means we can all get new identities. Yay!
TUESDAY, Jan. 1
And now, on the very first day of 2008, let's talk a bit about energy. Specifically, on a brief Pacific Business News story that came out a few days ago. "The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism [DBEDT] said Friday that Hawaii residents are using 19 percent less energy per person than they did 36 years ago," PBN reported on Dec. 28 on its website. And yes, little gimmicks like LEED do have something to do with our growing energy efficiency. But as is usual in the case of stories like this, such good news was tempered with even worse news: "the [DBEDT] report noted that nearly 77 percent of the state's electricity and more than 99 percent of its transportation fuel is still dependent on petroleum." This is indeed awful, but not so awful that we need to hand a big company like BlueEarth Biofuels license to start turning Southeast Asian rainforests into palm oil plantations. We may now be in the seventh year of the 21st century, but for Hawai'i at least, this is still very much the Age of Oil, which I guess is why we probably won't see the war in Iraq end any year soon.
Anthony Pignataro is now available in Twitter form at twitter.com/apignataro. MTW
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