Obenski column: Kona’s Green New Deal message jumbled at best

I’m not a member of an organized political party but was invited Oct. 8 to attend a Democratic Party Green New Deal Town Hall being held the next day. There was no detail other than referencing the internet, but I took a chance to see some people of influence or vision and went.

The organizers revealed their naivete by a random assortment of liberal causes like anti-Hu Honua power, GMO, food imports and internal combustion engines. There were also some positive causes like free education and sustainability. There was no attempt to correlate those very different objectives.

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There were two videos. The first showed some visionary thinking — it was actually informative. The second must have been embarrassed to be seen, because it seemed unwilling to cooperate. The presenters finally got it to play, but frankly it was not a worthwhile effort, unless the program was intended for a third-grade course, which, of course, it was not, not at 7 p.m.

The speaker acted like Hu Honua Power was pointless rather than needed to generate baseline electrical power. Asking “Would you rather burn Diesel fuel?” the response was one word, “Solar,” as if solar did not have limitations of its own, like night and overcast weather and a power grid that was not configured for distributed generation.

Sustainability was a big issue. Meaning everyone grow their own food like a 19th century family farm! In reality, those parts of the world that rely on field to fork economies produce little and lose half to vermin and spoilage. Many subsistence farmers have a very limited diet like rice and beans. Someone proposed that there could be 40,000 farms on the Big Island. Where do you get 40,000 farmers, or would that be a mandate, like Stalin in reverse? What kind of farms? Are they thinking 40 acres and a mule? I’ll get my food at ChoiceMart and KTA, thank you.

Hawaii had an agricultural economy based on sugar. We did not have 40,000 1-acre farms, but multiple plantations of a 1,000 acres, more or less, benefiting from the economy of scale.

Unfortunately, the owners saw more potential in leasing off the land than modernizing production. They were still harvesting with machetes while Brazil harvests sugar with John Deere combines. These Facebook farmers need to visit California or Iowa to see how modern farming produces the low-cost food that we enjoy here so cheaply that even with the added shipping cost it’s competitive.

There was a lot of complaining about no real improvement in wages in the last n years, pick a number. Ten years ago, did you have WiFi, a smartphone, a 60-inch flat screen, a 4-wheel drive truck? How about all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables year-round, organic, of course, with gluten-free options, working from home, streaming movies, and YouTube? Most of those things we take for granted were not available at any price. It sounded like they want everyone to be a subsistence farmer, and everything social for free.

Suddenly, half way through, a loud unintelligible voice from Party Headquarters in Honolulu interrupted. Apparently, the proceeding was live streamed, but incompetently, 20 people left and Honolulu was told to just butt out.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green appeared and updated us on the homeless situation here. Frankly, it seemed only distantly related to the program. It was good to see him back in Kona though. Homeless people are attracted to places where you can’t freeze to death, “Goin’ where the weather suits my clothes.” In South Dakota they say, “Twenty below keeps out the riff-raff.”

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Some good concepts like universal education and medical care get branded socialism, (or Green New Deal) but market-driven capitalism generates the wealth to pay the bills. Diversity of opinion looks like chaos, but the essence of a federalism is trying new things and keeping those that work, like public education. No wonder conservative friends get confused by the disconnected liberal rhetoric.

Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to obenskik@gmail.com.