Saturday, August 23, 2008

My ranting and raving letter to the editor

A letter I wrote to the editor was featured in the Hawaii Tribune Herald last Saturday.
Why do you care so much about the Strawberry Guava you might ask? Why does it seem as though Sunny thinks the world as we know it will end with the introduction of this new bug. I mean geeeze, what difference will one more bug make right?

Unfortunately, I can't really answer that question very well. It may have something to do with the family drama that I mentioned. I was thinking about all the more important things in my life as I sat in the County Council meeting regarding the guava and the invasive bug. As I spent hours waiting to testify at the public hearing, listening to one boring scientist after another blab on and on about how evil the Strawberry Guava is, I wondered if I had indeed lost it. There are things in my life right now that I wish would change, but I have no control over, and this guava crisis is something I can rant and rave about publicly with out fear of family backlash. Here is the letter:

Why are we spending tax dollars to eradicate a food source on the Big Island?
I was born on Oahu, but grew up in Puna. As a girl, I spent many hours after school in the forest, climbing trees, hiking, and collecting fruit. Instead of eating candy or cookies, I would eat guava. My mother made jam, jelly, chutney, and even spaghetti sauce out of Waiawi. I have prepared Waiawi for breakfast in the morning, baked in the oven with butter and brown sugar. My children eat Waiawi, and as an islander, I know that Hawaiians, and many other people of diverse ancestry eat Waiawi too.

We all know that there is a food crisis going on in the world, so why are we wasting money trying to get rid of a food source? Close your eyes for a moment and think about how thousands of children die each day of starvation while the State of Hawaii wastes time and our tax dollars coming up with ways to destroy a food source.
There are many things wrong with that picture. Maybe those scientists who study the invasive insect could instead, cook up some Waiawi spaghetti sauce to add to our island food bank? Could the U.S Forest Service instead of releasing insects to damage a tree that provides food, fuel, and building materials, maybe smoke pig with Waiawi wood instead, and add it to our island food bank? Maybe the Forest Service and the Big Island Invasive Species Council could partner with the Housing Department and use the wood to build houses for our homeless people here in Hawaii?

Each year on our island we have flooding problems, and if the Waiawi is eradicated, will our flooding problems be worse? Forests with Waiawi use 27 percent more water than forests without Waiawi. Could this be because Waiawi most commonly grows in forests where there is more rainfall? This could also mean the Waiawi is saving our flood zones from property damage, crop damage, and road closures. If the Waiawi is missing, will we have 27 percent more flooding? Furthermore, without Waiawi, the forests might have more puddles which will produce more disease carrying mosquitoes.

Has anyone thought of how ugly the Big Island will be with all the damaged and dying Waiawi everywhere? We must think of the residents first who will no longer have beautiful hedges and natural privacy screens, instead, there will be shriveled brown Waiawi that will no longer provide fruit. I live in Hawaiian Paradise Park, and will not enjoy seeing its natural beauty further damaged. I met a man in Hawaiian Paradise Park who shapes his Waiawi nicely with a hedge trimmer, around the edge of his property. His neighbors were picking the lovely fruit from the Waiawi that were near the road while we talked. We can’t be sure about every outcome from the release of this invasive Brazilian scale insect, but we can be sure that it will make our island ugly. Who will pay for the property damage when our landscaping is ruined? Will tourists want to come back when they see the ugly damaged foliage along our roads, highways, and valleys?
Has anyone forgotten that we the people of Hawaii still rely on tourism as one of our main sources of income in our economy? People come to Hawaii because it is a beautiful paradise.

The Waiawi has been a food source on the islands for animals and humans for almost 200 years. In the light of the world food crisis, and the many benefits the Strawberry Guava provides in Hawaii, I think we should not waste anymore time and tax dollars to eradicate it. Destroy those invasive insects that are being tested at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quarantine Facility before they are accidentally released. Don’t even bring invasive insects to our islands to test. Let us instead find ways to use the Strawberry Guava to benefit the people of Hawaii.


Michael said...

The problem when you introduce a bug is always that there might be consequences beyond our scientific opinion and all they do after wards is shrug their shoulders and say "Well we couldn't foresee that. We are sorry." I think the possibility to do something useful with the guavas is great, although scientists might be too complicated to grasp that.

Claudia said...

Good letter and comments today. I think there are probably more important things, but maybe not, as a principle is involved here. Also, it points up the extreme amount of wasted government spending going on.
I'm glad you're speaking out.

Sunny said...


Texas Mom said...

That was a great letter! I had NO IDEA that this was going on. I will have to do some research on this. Keep us posted on developments. I'm surprised this isn't BIGGER NEWS. Keep up the good work! EVERY voice is needed!