Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hawaii Zoning Stops Barn Dances, Gathering and Voting

Dear Hawai’i,
So there is context to this piece please read the very first amendment in our Constitution of the United States.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that expressly prohibits the Congress from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion", prohibiting the free exercise of religion, infringing the freedom of speech, infringing the freedom of the press, limiting the right to peaceably assemble, or limiting the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Over six years ago a small group of people got together to dance in an environment of no alcohol, drugs or talking. It was popular enough that what began as six people eventually grew into a community of over three hundred strong with ties to the mainland. I gathered with them every Sunday morning to dance under a green house roof on a 90ft floor, and it was so much fun that visitors who came, went back to their own communities and started their own version of it. The dance attracted people from all over the island, it was that special. But this isn’t about the dance but the place that allowed it to occur. There were art shows, performances, movies, people socialized and voted there. I am referring to the, The Emax Pavilion at Kalani Honua. Not long ago a county official said, “No more, this space only for greenhouse purposes.” Here is bureaucracy of this county strangling the efforts of a community to peaceably assemble. On the mainland they are called ‘Barn Dances’ and do you think their officials are combing the countryside so they can tell people they can’t dance in their barns? A greenhouse is the “Hawaiian Barn” and restricting people from gathering there is not only impacting the quality of life in our neighborhood but seems to be unconstitutional as well. Any lawyers out there who can weigh in on this? I wrote a piece about the need to return to Villages so people can live rich and rewarding lives without the necessity of owning an automobile. Concentrate people in smaller areas and provide smaller scaled services in those areas that are accessible by bicycle or foot. The parking lots take up a lot of space. Look around Hilo and how much land is needed to drive/parks your car? Get it? Town villages use a square or plaza that is ringed with side walk cafes, galleries, etc. Reinstating the Emax Pavilion at Kalani Honua for dances, art shows, and community gathering enforces the village concept that is in a fledgling state for the LoPu (lower Puna) and Kehena Bay area. Neighborhoods and villages need gathering places. Like a town square, or a big greenhouse, or a Barn. It is time to change the zoning to create alternatives to our auto-centric existence. Build Villages!
Pahoa, Hawaii

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


American’s have a love/hate affair with their garbage. Clearly they hate it because they don’t want it around and can’t wait to get rid of it. However they clearly they love it because they keep making more of it. Garbage, trash, refuse, disposables, rubbish, junk, waste, debris; crap by any other name would still smell as sour. There is so much garbage created that the Fishkill Landfill, outside NYC is the only other manmade object visible from space after the Great Wall of China. Except the Great Wall was built about 1000 years ago from stone blocks not Diet Coke bottles and Pampers.
In Europe recycling is free however they charge you by the pound (kilo) when your trash is hauled away. But that is silly European garbage and doesn’t contain American culture. Yes, our culture is one of consumption and with everything consumed (unless it is a buffalo and you are an Native American Indian) there is garbage left over. That’s our culture; Earn, Buy, Consume, Dispose, Repeat.

According to the Clean Air Council:

Ø American’s in 2005 generated approx 4.5 lbs of waste per day. That is 1642 lbs per year or another way to look at it: 16, 420lbs per decades. That is more than 8 tons of garbage per person per ten years.

Ø Each year, Americans trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.

Ø Americans toss out enough paper & plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. (most of those countries than lie along the equator will have no use for those items, because they are starving to death)

Ø Almost 1/3 of the waste generated the U.S. is packaging.

Ø Every year, Americans make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
(This last statistic shows some promise of being useful because had this been done prior to 2000, there would have been a greater likelihood “W” would have stayed in Crawford, TX)

Ø The amount of glass bottles Americans throw away every two weeks would have filled both World Trade Center towers.
(All of those bottles may have stopped them from collapsing)

Ø Forty-three thousand tons of food is thrown out in the United States each day. In one year that amounts to 15, 695,000 (Fifteen Billion, six hundred ninety five million) of wasted food. (How long has it been since you heard the line, “Finish you dinner there are starving children in Africa!” It use to be china but not anymore)

Ø America is home to 5% of the world's population, yet it consumes 1/3 of the Earth's timber and paper; making paper the largest part of the waste stream at 37.5% of the total waste stream.

And America is only 300 million people.
If China's per capita resource consumption were the same as in the United States today, then its projected 1.45 billion people would consume the equivalent of two-thirds of the current world grain harvest. China's paper consumption would be double the world's current production. There go the world's forests. If China one day has three cars for every four people, U.S.-style, it will have 1.1 billion cars. The whole world today has 800 million cars. It would need 99 million barrels of oil a day. Yet the world currently produces 84 million barrels per day and may never produce much more.
Source: Lester Brown, American Scientist Online

Well it’s a good thing that America, which represents about 5% of the world’s population has been able to consume about 25% of the world resources otherwise that huge military build up would have been a waste of our money. As it is, we are ready to fight to the death, (or at least send our young people to fight to the death for us) to protect our right to consume as much as we want, as quickly as we can. We are discouraged to think. We are encouraged to consume. If the opposite was true we would see more educational programming than commercials, right?

There needs to be a new plan put into place as we are ‘greening’ the planet which involves people no longer being able to ‘send out’ their trash but will have to live with it as long as it remains solid waste, once it has dissolved you can simply flush it down your toilet, nobody will know. But as long as it is solid it needs to stay with you, at home, in the car, at the office, on vacation….the trash stays with you! Soon people will be looking for ways to compost those old items that you can’t give away.

Since you have already got that burial plot picked out, why not do the planet a favor and bury your garbage in the hole, while you get cremated and fed to the gold fish. That second home may soon be the primary dump as people will be looking for creative ways to do something with their trash. Storage units are a big business these days as people have more stuff than will fit in their homes, but trash units will need to be ten times the size of the current lockers because we throw away more than we keep. But since we will no longer be able to throw anything away, ever again it will change the way we live. It will be consider a gracious and loving act to steal from people and they will thank you for making their loads lighter and their apartments roomier.
The rich will be able to hire the poor to keep their trash for them thereby increasing gainful employment for those who have lived without but are now not going to be given the choice. Since there are more poor than rich, the poor will be competing with each to get the business of keeping the trash of the rich. They will impress upon their prospective clients that they are poorer and therefore will have fewer things to buy and less trash of their own. These people will have lots of empty space that can be filled with the garbage of the wealthy which will in turn give the rich more space of their own, that allows them to consume more things. Since the poor are most likely the ones making the stuff the rich are buying doesn’t it makes sense that it goes back to them in the end? Now that is what I call recycling.
© Michael Marlin 2007

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Prisons, Artists and Putting Things in their Place

America is dealing with both a financials and social crisis that has reached a point of boiling over into the very streets of our country. Due to funding shortages communities have to close prisons and either release the inmates onto the streets or ship them elsewhere. The criminals and prisons are no longer going to get the funding they need because the America people can’t get the funding they need. It cost about $45,000 every single year to house one criminal. Turn that into a ten year mortgage and you have a house worth half a million bucks. It is an indignity that all of the money went to rent when it could have gone into equity or better yet never left the pocket of the tax payer where it belongs in the first place.
Take all the hardened criminals, the ones who are violent repeat offenders, and offer them a choice, “Life behind bars or the Prisoners in Pacific Paradise Program.” Easy to see which they would choose. They will live able to watch the sun rise and set into the ocean. Swim at the beach, fish, and sit under the shade of a palm tree. Sounds idyllic right? And perhaps the reader is outraged that they aren’t suffering for their crimes. Thing is, this island is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the only people on it are the criminals. There are no stores to rob, no innocent bystanders to gun down, no children to influence or harm. The places they live have no locks because there is nothing to steal except your neighbors fishing pole or cooking pot. The inhabitants are taught to forage, fish and farm for their food and they will be so occupied by that, just like our ancestors were that there will be little time to get into trouble.
It could descend into a “Lord of the Flies”, and become tribal, clannish and there would be turf wars and killings. But how is that different than what goes on now? One costs over hundreds of billions of dollars and creates environments which could hardly be called humane. Perhaps it is time to try something other than suppression and containment as a business plan. Sending criminals to far flung regions to fend for themselves is nothing new and is how Australia started with their first guests arriving in 1788 at Botany Bay. (Star Trek Episode #22, 2.16.1967 “Space Seed” & 1982 “Wrath of Kahn”, SS Botany Bay) But in real life here on earth the first free settlers came to Australia to join the convicts within five years and they turned out to be right nice mates.
Now there are empty prisons that are something skanky and awful. The remedy is to give them over to artists who are poor and will live any place they can so long as they can make their art. Artists have such a passion for making things beautiful that they have the capacity to change entire districts in cities. Soho is an example of how artists in community can change the value of real estate in a place like NYC. Let a few hundred artists move into the prison and do their thing. Murals, sculptures, performance art and all manner of expression will spill forth and attract people to this new live/work/entertain domain.
Before long it will attract people with money like the doctors and lawyers. They will see how trendy and cool it is to live there with all the bars and will slowly but surely force out all of the artists who worked so hard to create a desirable living space. The rents will start to creep up and overnight it will no longer be affordable for artists. Just like Soho in NYC. Before long it will be only the doctors and lawyers who can pay the price and there will be outrage and cries of foul by community activists. But this time it won’t matter because now we have them where we can keep an eye on them. "Who had the key last?"

© Michael Marlin 8.13.09