Visitors flock to the Hawaiian Islands for sun-soaked holidays filled with silky beaches, turquoise water, lush green hillsides — and naked palm trees missing their leafy crowns?
That possibility has state officials worried because Hawaii’s iconic swaying palm trees are under attack. Their nemesis is the latest in a long line of invasive species to arrive here: the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
Much as the Asian long-horned beetle attacked maple and elm trees on the East Coast, the coconut rhinoceros beetle could devastate Hawaii’s palm trees and move on to bananas, papayas, sugar cane and other crops afterward. Adult beetles burrow into the crowns of palm trees to feed on their sap, damaging developing leaves and eventually killing the trees.
At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible.- Rob Curtiss, incident commander for Hawaii’s coconut rhinoceros beetle eradication program
Concerns that the thumb-sized pest, named for its curved horn, could hitch a ride to California or Florida and attack thriving palm oil and date industries there have prompted federal and state officials to declare the beetle’s discovery in Honolulu a pest emergency.
One year into the fight — Dec. 23, 2014, was the anniversary of the beetle’s discovery on coconut palms at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam — state officials are cautiously optimistic.
“At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible,”
She’s baaack, and it’s not good news for science literacy, farmers and food-minded Hawaiians.
I’m referring to Vandana Shiva, the Indian anti-GMO crusader who kicked off a five-day blitz through Hawaii with a talk-and-music fest at the Capitol Building on Wednesday.
It’s a grand tour, marked by private fund-raising pitches to wealthy locals and wannabees from the mainland who view the limited role of biotechnological research in modern agriculture as an anathema–Hawaii is a world center because of its favorable climate.
Campaigns like this tour aimed at shutting down nursery centers, most based in Maui, could send the seed giants fleeing to Puerto Rico or the Philippines, costing Hawaii hundreds of millions of dollars and hurting the cause for sustainability in the process.
Shiva’s tour caps off with a Sunday afternoon rally at the Seabury Theatre on Maui with headlined demands for what the prime organizer–Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS)–calls “home rule.” While polls show a majority of Maui farmers and residents oppose the effort to shut down the seed nurseries and research labs, anyone but diehard opponents of modern agriculture will be personae non grata at this rally.
Shiva is reprising her 2013 tour, also led by CFS, which oversees scheduling of her $40,000-a-pop promotional speeches. A Brahmin who professes to stand with women and the poor, Shiva maintains her goal is “giving voice to those who want their agriculture free of poison and GMOs.”
On her arrival two years ago, Shiva was an exotic unknown–an “eco warrior goddess” and a “rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds,” in the words of journalist Bill Moyers. Here in Hawaii, she was treated as a foreign dignitary. No one dared criticize her.
Now, two years later, as more details of her philosophy and background have emerged, a darker picture has emerged. She leverages her claim as an expert at every stop. “I am scientist… a Quantum Physicist,” she claimed, until recently on her website and in many books, a claim repeated by journalists, even prominent. But she’s not. Her degree was in humanities–she’s a philosopher of science, but has no professional hard science background or writings.
To her followers? Details, Details.
WAILUKU >> Coffee growers on Maui are bracing for a destructive beetle to eventually make its way to the island.
The coffee berry borer has been wreaking havoc on the Big Island for years. The pest made its way to Oahu in December.
“I’ve been a farmer forever, and I know the reality of these kinds of things, so I expect that at some point it will show up here,” said MauiGrown Coffee President Kimo Falconer. “But we’re ready.”
Preventative measures include some farmers restricting access to their orchards, the Maui News reported Tuesday.
“We’ve had to put signs up trying to reduce the amount of people walking through our fields, but really they can just walk right up there, and maybe they were in Kona yesterday doing a farm tour, and there’s dirt on their shoes,” Falconer said.
Falconer said his farm checks traps regularly and has trimmed back trees that are close to roads.
Some farms that used to offer educational tours no longer do so, said Sydney Smith, president of the Maui Coffee Association and owner of Maliko Estate Coffee. “The beetle is so tiny it gets spread by people coming from the Big Island from dirt on their shoes or their clothes,” Smith said.
The tiny beetle bores into the coffee cherry, and its larvae feed on the coffee bean, reducing its yield and quality. Farmers may not discover them until after harvest.
It’s unknown how the beetle, native to Central Africa, arrived in Hawaii.
“We’re the last coffee growing region on Earth to finally get it,” Falconer said.
The state Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine order that requires a permit to transport unroasted coffee beans, coffee plants and plant parts, used coffee bags and coffee harvesting equipment from Hawaii Island to other islands that are not infested with the coffee berry borer.
The coffee berry borer can cause yield losses of 30 to 35 percent with 100 percent of berries infested at harvest time, according to the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.