Lehman, Mander, Hawaii and the Superferry
23 Corporate Crime Reporter 11(12), March 16, 2009

What Jerry Mander, John Lehman, Hawaii and the SuperFerry have in common?

Jerry Mander is the head of the International Forum on Globazliation and author of the now famous Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.

John F. Lehman is former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, a neocon campaigner for John McCain, and now a financier.

Hawaii is our gem in the Pacific.

And the SuperFerry?

Well, Lehman’s company bought a Hawaiian ferry company and stacked its board of directors with retired military brass.

The idea – build a SuperFerry that would connect the islands – transporting tourists and their cars from one island to another.

At first, the public loved the idea.

Then they heard the details.

These are not your regular ferries. They are giant ferries – more than a football field long, four stories high and capable of carrying as many as 866 people and 282 cars.

They travel at 40 mph through waters that are home to endangered humpback whales, dolphins and rare sea turtles.

When the SuperFerry got started, Mander got a call from Koohan Paik, an environmental activist on the islands. She wanted Mander to get involved. He did. And they have just published a book about the SuperFerry, the military implications behind the company that runs it, and the indigenous resistance to it.

The title of the book: The SuperFerry Chronicles: Hawaii’s Uprising Against Militarism, Commercialism, and the Desecration of the Earth (Koa Books, 2009).

Sierra Club and other environmental groups wanted the company to issue an environmental impact statement. The company refused.

The groups sued and in 2007, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-0 decision, that the company did have to issue an environmental impact statement.

But the company still hasn’t.

And the Republican Governor – Linda Lingle – has sided with Lehman.

One SuperFerry is now making daily runs between Honolulu and Maui.

The second ferry started making daily runs between Honolulu and Kauai.

But something funny happened on the way to the docking in Kauai.

“On August 27, 2007 when the boat shows up in Kauai, it is greeted by 1,500 protesters at the harbor,” Mander explained to Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview. “Here comes the boat zooming in on its gigantic catamaran blades. And the protesters started jumping in the water. Surfers started jumping in. Dozens of surfers head out right to the boat and go right in under the catamaran blades. The boat has to stop. It was sort of like a Tiananmen Square in the waters of Hawaii. And the boat does stop. It was a dramatic moment. They stop the boat. They are active for hours.”

“Finally, the Coast Guard moves the protesters out of the way. And the boat does get into the dock. But the people on the boat are scared to get off of it because there are 1,500 people on the dock shouting at them.”

“Then the boat goes back. And the next day, the boat comes back. And this time there are more surfers in the water. And the boat never does dock. It turns around and goes back to Honolulu. And since then, it has never come back again.”

The second ferry is now inactive – and rumor has it that it is up for sale or lease.

“Kauai is a very small island,” Mander said. “You can drive around this island in 45 minutes. It has a total population of 45,000. Everybody knows everybody. It has one local radio station that is very active – KKCR. It has been very open to hearing people complain about the SuperFerry. It has helped build a movement on that island – Kauai.”

“People were calling into the radio station and saying – hey the boat is coming – let’s get down there. It was spontaneous. It wasn’t like Sierra Club and a bunch of organizations saying – we’re going to have a demonstration. It was all done within 48 hours.”

“The New York Times ran a story about it. The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle ran stories. It is not good for business for the passengers on the ferry to be greeted by protesters when they get to shore.”

“This protest was an extraordinary event. These are a bunch of surfers, people on a beach in Kauai – it wasn’t taken seriously enough. It was an amazing and inspiring action. And in our book, we have individual testimony from the protesters. Linda Lingle later went to Kauai to talk to the people there. She told them that if they protested again, she was going to invoke the terrorism laws. They would be subject to $5,000 fine and five years in jail. The people got really angry at that. There were three hours of beautiful testimony at that meeting. And we have a chapter of the book filled with that testimony.”

“It’s a statement about how local people can do something about the interventions of big outside corporations. Lehman has no relationship to the local community. There was no attempt to find out what people want. No effort to follow local environmental laws. It is a testament and statement about how people can engineer resistance successfully. It’s a big deal. And it was done by non-political people. It was done by guys who just wanted to surf. And they were horrified to see this thing coming into their harbor.”

The Hawaii Supreme Court is now hearing a second lawsuit over the non-existent environmental impact statement. A decision is due soon.

For his part, Mander is planning on leaving the International Forum on Globalization soon.

He’s starting a project called post-capitalism – that will look at “the inherent drives of capitalism, how that is making the ecological crisis unsolvable, and the relationship between the ecological crisis and the financial crisis.”

“We are also going to do an exploratory meeting on the relationship between population and climate change,” Mander said.

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Jerry Mander, see 23 Corporate Crime Reporter 12, March 16, 2009, print edition only.]



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