Environmental Justice Bill of Rights for the People of Waiʻanae
"Environmental Justice" is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."
"Fair treatment" is defined by the EPA as a condition where "no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies."
"Meaningful involvement" is defined by the EPA as conditions where “(1) people have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health; (2) the public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency's decision; (3) their concerns will be considered in the decision-making process; and (4) the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected."
A Vision Statement for the Waiʻanae District
As residents of the Waiʻanae Moku, we share a vision for a future where kūpuna, the elders and grandparents, and their moʻopuna, their grandchildren, can live in an environment that is not harmful to our health and which sustains our well-being. As largely Kanaka ʻŌiwi residents of Waiʻanae, we bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from landfills, illegal dumping, and noxious industries in Waiʻanae, and we want a future where, instead, people will recognize the abundance that we have in Waiʻanae.
We want clean water, and we want to see changes that will restore our waterways, the wai, fresh waters, the kai, salt waters, and the muliwai between, the blending of the salt and fresh waters, all being able to travel from the mountains to the seas, remedying the concrete channelization to restore the muliwai as estuaries for the pua, the baby fish, and the ocean forms of life like types of limu that have disappeared with channelization. We want greater accountability regarding our waters so that we can see our springs and other water sources restored. We want to be sure that Oʻahu’s only municipal landfill follows environmental safety guidelines so we do not see our beaches polluted. We want to see our watersheds replenished through reforestation.
We want to have clean air to breathe, protection from fugitive dust arising from the only construction and demolition landfill on Oʻahu that is sited in Lualualei and from the adjacent cement recycling plant. We want to be sure that any waste materials permitted for dumping in Waiʻanae does not make its way to our oceans and streams.
We want to see the ʻāina, that which feeds us, protected. We want to see sustainable farming that does not use pesticides that poison the land. We want access to our mountains, valleys, streams and seas, especially when they are necessary to our customary and traditional practices as Kanaka ʻŌiwi.
Most importantly, we want to see these protections enforced. We do not simply want the palapala, the documentation of our rights. We want to see any violation of these rights acted upon so that our vision of the future can become a reality. We rely on state institutions, such as the Environmental Court, established by Act 218 signed into law by Governor Abercrombie in 2014. We look to the Environmental Court to help us to realize this vision of the future.
All of this we want for Waiʻanae and all of its abundance, including our elders, ourselves, our children and future generations, for the next seven generations to come.
Waiʻanae Environmental Justice Bill of Rights
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health. In Waiʻanae, we need environmental justice. We bear an unjust burden of the negative environmental consequences of landfills, namely Oʻahu’s only municipal landfill at Waimānalo Gulch and the only construction and demolition landfill at PVT Landfill, and noxious industries like the HECO Kahe Power Plant, the largest carbon polluter in the state of Hawaiʻi.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to an environment that is not harmful to their well-being. The environment has an inherent and intrinsic value, and people have a responsibility to care for and steward that environment. Our well-being is dependent on the conservation and protection of the land and her historical, cultural, and social histories. The well-being of a people, then, includes the integrity of their culture as it is remembered in land forms and features. The moʻolelo, histories and stories, of these wahi pana, celebrated places and wahi kapu, sacred places, is not “ephemeral,” as developers have told us. They are collective memories sustained over time, many dating back to the Kumulipo, composed in 1700 but based on much earlier genealogies.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to clean water. This includes the kai, the ocean salt waters, the wai, the fresh waters, and the muliwai, the blending of the fresh and salt waters. All three are necessary for life and a healthful environment. On the one hand, we recognize the need for flood mitigation and control, but we also believe that the channelization of streams has been a more expedient solution rather than a sustainable one, and in particular, has had an adverse impact on the muliwai, which serves as the estuaries and nurseries for the pua, the baby fish and the life systems in the ocean, including limu. The Waiʻanae Watershed Managem\ent Plan includes a Concrete Flood Channel Redesign Program, and we would like to see either the concrete channels broken up or the planting of indigenous plants in the concrete channels to help restore the estuaries.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to a protected watershed. The Waiʻanae Watershed Management Plan includes implementation strategies for ecosystem restoration programs, like the forest restoration program, wetlands restoration and protection program, and the stream conservation corridor program. We also believe that implementing a “slow-growth” policy for Waiʻanae aligns with the rural character of Waiʻanae envisioned in the Waiʻanae Sustainable Communities Plan. This means opposing industrial or urbanization projects that would put undue strain on our water resources.
The people of Waiʻanae have the right to know the kinds of pollutants that affect clean water and understand the sources of those pollutants.
The people of Waiʻanae have the right to report sources of illegal pollutants to the correct authority
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to clean air. Fugitive dust has been an urgent health issue for people in Waiʻanae who suffer from high rates of respiratory diseases. The difficulty for our community has been in establishing a cause-and-effect correlation between conditions generating dust and the health of neighboring communities. Our kūpuna have taken action to plant Native plants along places like Lualualei Naval Access Road to mitigate the dust in the area from the hundreds of trucks that pass through that road each day. We want to see more of a green belt graded around landfills and noxious industries to minimize the fugitive dust that gets into our homes.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to know if and what kinds of chemicals are used on plants and the land to control insects and weeds. We have a right to know the lasting effect of these chemicals on the land, people, plants, and animals as well as on the reefs and oceans systems from the run-off. We have a right to know the protocol of the clean-up of these chemicals.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to see agricultural land preserved so that we can produce and buy healthy food. Waiʻanae is well-known for its truck farms, two-acre farms on deep parcels of land, and that kind of farming is the most sustainable. We vigorously oppose “urban spot zoning” that enables “urban creep,” a condition where developers purchase cheap agricultural land and speculate on rezoning for profit. Once a spot as been rezoned, other developers purchase adjacent properties, arguing that their proposed industrial or urban uses are consistent with existing uses on the rezoned spot. Urban spot zoning also leads to what the State Department of Agriculture calls “the Impermanence Syndrome.” If banks and other loan institutions do not see a future in farming, they will be hesitant to lend farmers money for expensive machinery or buildings. We believe in preserving low-density population and preserve the panorama of open space. We also believe that implementing a “slow-growth” policy for Waiʻanae aligns with the rural character of Waiʻanae envisioned in the Waiʻanae Sustainable Communities Plan.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to be informed of any plans that may change and / or pose threats to the health of the land, water, air and all life. As a community, we need to be informed prior to such planning, and we need time to weigh the impacts of any proposal. For example, although many resident of Waiʻanae would like to shut down the Waimānalo Gulch municipal landfill, the reality is that that would mean the opening up of a landfill closer to residential communities in Waiʻanae.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to be informed prior to degradation of or change to the environment through the use of public funds, such as taxes collected for the City and County of Honolulu’s illegal dumping of concrete in the Māʻiliʻiliʻi Stream.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to pono and healthy ecosystems that are publicly recognized as interdependent, from the mountains to the sea. We want any development project to recognize that impacts do not stop at boundary lines but extend past them. We have a right to know that our descendants and others in our community will inherit a “whole” place, a place that is pono, balanced and healthy, and that supports a healthy community
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to educate themselves and others about any harmful activities happening on the ʻāina. The better educated people are, the better able they will be to defend and protect the ʻāina.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to raise their keiki on the ʻāina of their ancestors. We have a right to live as Kanaka on our ko pae ʻāina, our archipelago. Developers tell us that it is “unrealistic” for a family to live on the same land their ancestors lived on, but we have strong connections to our ancestral lands, and we want to maintain this connection to the kulāiwi.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to sustainable energy, but that sustainable energy must remain in balance with our other concerns, such as the preservation of celebrated and sacred places, prime agricultural lands, protection of indigenous species, and the health of our people. Although solar farms may sound like a clean energy source, proposals to build solar farms on prime agricultural lands lack foresight. Another proposal for renewable energy outlines plans to build windmills 12 miles off Kaʻena Point, but high voltage DC lines may have devastating effects on ocean life, sea birds, fishing, sharks and migratory fish, and drag anchors may entangle whales and dolphins. Moreover this project failed in Denmark, so this raises other questions about the implementation of this project in Hawaiʻi.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to voice our concerns to those in government entrusted with the responsibility of permitting change in land use. Environment and people’s health is paramount over corporate profit.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to access places for Hawaiian traditional and customary practices.
The people of Waiʻanae have a right to meaningful involvement, to be consulted about environmental decisions and development projects, and to be involved in the enforcement of environmental protection laws and policies. In 1973, the Neighborhood Board System was established to ensure community participation in decision-making processes of government that affect them. The Neighborhood Boards enable important discussions to take place between community members, government officials and developers. We are concerned, however, that the City Department of Planning and Permitting often approves permits without consulting the community, as in the case of solar farms recently permitted for A and B rated agricultural lands. The City and County of Honolulu Ordinance states that a solar farm is not an acceptable use on A and B lands, can only occupy 10 percent of C and D lands, and is permissible on E lands, so the DPP approves permits in ways that violate City ordinances. In these cases, we insist on community consultation, and we also believe we need to be able to enforce laws protecting the environment, a role that is much more than the advisory one that Neighborhood Boards currently provide.