Monday, June 1, 2009

Hawaii Needs "Genuine environmentalists ... separately from the 'CAVE' people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)"

A professor and environmentalist at the University of Hawaii, discusses the problem of "single issue environmentalists" in Hawaii in today's Star Bulletin.

His editorial concludes that
. . . legislators and regulators and politicians tend to pay more heed to groups that speak with a loud voice rather than getting advice from organizations such as the Hawaii Association of Environmental Professionals, retired scientists and engineers, as well as applying critical thinking, considering history, and stopping long enough to use just plain common sense. These are the factors that all of the above as well as citizens should think over before rushing to join the PC, "green" bandwagon. The intent is good; the means may not be.
Effective and comprehensive environmental policies hamstrung by reactionary, CAVE campaigns can also undermine Hawaii's environmental regulatory system.  For example, existing processes under Hawaii EIS law, historic and cultural preservation laws, and coastal zone management laws do work to preserve Hawaii's resources. But all too often, the process is set askew by emotional, reactionary responses to a particular project. Once politicized, decisionmaking is unhinged from valid scientific analysis. Instead, outcomes are based on the wishes of a small group of vocal opponents rather than on a critical assessment of whether impacts from a project can be mitigated or avoided.

From a legal perspective, reactionary law making can have terrible long-run consequences by creating unnecessary complexities in the law, losing focus of the intent of an environmental law, and creating conflicts with other law that work in concert with particular statutes. For example, some legislators were thinking of removing secondary impacts from Hawaii's EIS analysis solely because of one company's experience with the Hawaii EIS regulatory process (which has been in place since the mid-1970s). See Environmental Review Without Secondary Impacts Analysis—Is Hawaii About to Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater? If adopted, this would be a fundamental change to Hawaii's EIS law and inconsistent with similar national EIS laws.

As the author of the editorial wrote, "we need genuine environmentalists [who base their work on "valid scientific input"]...and we need to urge our legislators to call on them and listen to them."

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