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Story by Rita Goldman

akaka bill“Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.” Mark Twain may or may not have been the author of that quote, but there’s no disputing its relevance to the story it appeared in, in Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi Magazine’s Spring 2004 issue. Michael Stein’s “Water, Water . . . Where?” was our first exploration into Hawai‘i’s struggle over water rights — the stream diversions that began in the 1800s to irrigate Hawai‘i’s sugar plantations. Such diversion put in jeopardy a wide constituency of water users, from taro farmers to indigenous fish species. The controversy was unresolved when Paul Wood returned to the subject in his July/August 2008 story Nā Wai ‘Eha,” the collective name for the four streams that pour from West Maui’s mountain into the Central Valley; it remains so today, even as the state’s last sugar plantation readies to harvest its final crop.

Over the past two decades, Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi has reported on an array of island issues, from the struggle for Hawaiian self-determination (“Paths toward Hawaiian Sovereignty,” Spring 2000), to vacation rentals (“Short-term Aloha,” Jan/Feb 2008), to the risk of sonar to humpback whales (“Song Vs. Sonar,” Summer 2000).

Sometimes we’ve seen progress. “Saving Honolua” (Sept/Oct 2007) went from a story headline to reality when the bay became a marine sanctuary. “The Future of Kalo” (Sept/Oct 2007) reported on the University of Hawai‘i’s plans to genetically modify this staple food plant, considered the older brother of the Hawaiian people — research the university later agreed to stop. And many volunteer hours have gone into reclaiming Kaho‘olawe from its history as the overgrazed “target island” since our first visit in “Island in Waiting” (Winter 1996/1997).

Other times we’re reminded that, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Recent discord over planned construction of a thirty-meter telescope atop Mauna Kea, on Hawai‘i Island, echoes our story about the Advanced Electro-Optical System telescope at the summit of Haleakalā. Tom Stevens’s article “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” appeared in our Spring 1998 issue—MNKO’s second year. “Seeds of Controversy” examined genetically modified organisms back in Fall 2005; we were still talking about GMOs in Mar/Apr 2015 (“Rooting for the Wrong Side?”) when Mauians voted for a moratorium on such crops, a moratorium whose legal status is still pending.

Regardless of outcome, our goal for every Island Issues story has stayed constant these past twenty years: to thoughtfully explore the topics that matter to the people and environment of Maui County, and hold to our commitment to impartiality in print, even when we hold strong opinions of our own.

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