Your Views for September 4

Not sustainable

Supporters of the Honua Ola wood-burning power plant in letters to the editor and in company advertising argue that the East Hawaii eucalyptus forest represents a sustainable harvest opportunity with only 10 years for replacement trees to reach maturity.


The idea is that in a one-decade harvest cycle the tree carbon burned and released as carbon dioxide contributing to global warming will be recycled into new tree growth for a sustainable harvest. This argument ignores other problems.

The existing eucalyptus forest plantings have been growing for not one, but many decades, and the trees are upward of 2 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall. This standing crop biomass, when cut down and burned, will not be replaced in 10 years. That carbon dioxide emission will have to be taken care of elsewhere by someone else.

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide production, now properly called air pollution, has brought the world to a tipping point for irreversible climate change. The influences of modern global warming include ice cap, glacial and permafrost melting, sea level rise, extreme drought in many places, excessive storm flooding elsewhere, coral reef bleaching — the list of trouble for humanity and global ecosystems goes on and on.

The timeline for arresting these changes by reducing global carbon dioxide emissions is a matter of years, not decades. Furthermore, focus on the carbon cycle by the advocates of Honua Ola’s wood burning ignores the nitrogen cycle and other forest nutrient and micronutrient cycling.

Because of the relative youth of Big Island volcanic soils, they are notoriously poor in plant nutrients, and native forests species grow slowly. Small farmers and backyard growers compensate for this fact by buying chemical fertilizers to include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other micronutrients. Otherwise, the soils become depleted and the growing gets harder.

Does Honua Ola propose industrial-scale chemical fertilization of the forests to sustain the future of 10-year cycles of harvesting eucalyptus trees? As far as the nitrogen cycle goes, Honua Ola proposes including some albizia trees in the replanting while admitting that albizia is an invasive species.

Albizia is a nitrogen-fixer species that brings nitrogen from the atmosphere into the plant tissue biochemistry. This is why albizia was originally planted in Hawaii, and we now know from tropical storm tree falls and albizia forest overrunning native ohia forest why albizia is indeed an invasive species.

So how much albizia is Honua Ola going to plant among eucalyptus to support nitrogen cycling, and how much of its pollen and seed will disperse to adjacent properties?

In sum, the Honua Ola wood-burning power plant looks more like a soil-nutrient and first-cut tree-mining operation than a sustainable silviculture harvest.

William Mautz


More drop boxes

Why can’t the county place more secure lock boxes around the island for the general election?

The county eliminated polling places but did not replace them with anything. Why not place secure lock boxes at the various post offices — locations governed by federal laws?

This makes ballot drop off more convenient for everyone not close to Hilo, Kona, Waimea or a designated police station.

Seems like a cheap and cheerful solution. The current process, with expected delays from the post office, suggests that late votes won’t count, and no one knows how long the mail will be delayed.

How hard can this really be? How expensive can this really be? Come on, everyone. We know the answer.


Paul Dolnick


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