In What Many See As Kauai’s Fight For Survival, Dustin Barca’s Leading A Charge
An interview with “Aloha Aina Warrior” Dustin Barca, on the new documentary premiering today at the Newport Beach Film Festival
Dustin Barca is leaning on the banister overlooking Off the Wall, Backdoor, Pipe, on the second story of the RVCA house.
In the backyard below Herbie Fletcher is beginning the process of herding cats, the Wave Warriors flag flying proudly above him, for the annual gathering and photo op.
Barca projects a certain tough calm, the hardened figure of a street fighter gone straight, but not narrow. For the last five years, Barca has been using his platform as an ex-World Tour surfer and world class MMA fighter, to launch a PR war against the multinational industrial agriculture companies that have flocked to Kauai’s fertile lands the last decade, and their use of the area for chemical testing of new pesticides.
And his cause is gaining traction.
“It’s easy to motivate people when you start talking to them about things that matter,” Barca says. “Family and resources are all we have. When you start seeing that threatened, with our morals and our values—protecting the environment and our families—it’s not an abstract thing for Hawaiians. You can see the issues in front of you.”
According to Outside, over 16,000 acres of land have been leased to DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, Syngenta, and Beck’s.
“Tiny Kauai has become ground zero for the global debate over genetically modified food and the spraying of their attendant chemicals on cropland,” McKay Jenkins wrote last year. “It is a place where, for years, multinational agrochemical companies have developed the GM seeds that circulate around the globe, but kept their experiments secret from the people who live just down the road—especially their use of pesticides to test the resilience of GM seeds to chemicals… The corporations chose Kauai because its tropical climate enables them to work their fields year-round. Company workers can plant experimental fields three seasons a year, which can cut in half the time it takes to develop a new genetically altered seed. They plant these seeds, then spray them with a wide variety of chemicals that are designed to kill weeds and insects. When they find food crops that can stand up to these toxins, they begin the process of taking them to market.”
For the last several years, the filmmakers at Change For Balance have been documenting Barca’s efforts, staging protests, guerrilla documenting questionable, industrial practices and literally running for Mayor—circumnavigating the island on foot trying to get voter’s attention and raise awareness, and the film, Aloha Aina Warrior premieres today at 5pm, in Newport Beach, and will see broad release soon.
So how long has the film been in production, and what made you want to work with the Change For Balance guys on this documentary?
They’ve probably been shooting for five years now. I put on a bunch of marches on Kauai, in March, four years ago. We called it “The March on March.”
They’d been in touch and told me they were really interested in what I was doing in Kauai, so when I put on my first march, I hit them up. I’d never met them. They showed up and we just connected. They were so positive, and such hard-working guys. They’ve been following me through every march we’ve held. They followed my mayoral race. My run around the island. All these different events in between. It’s like a collage of different parts of my life, and my story.
The mayoral race was a big deal, made national news, etc. Here’s this ex-pro surfer, MMA fighter, coming at the government and at these big companies. How long had you been concerned with those issues, and what set you off?
A lot of people who would have been interested in politics were just sort of disheartened. But we’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on on our island for a long time. Just not really going to, you know, meetings or whatever.
We started going to County Council meetings for a couple years. And just seeing how corrupt it was and how it works—who’s getting favors—we just thought, Holy shit. This is bullshit. No wonder our island’s like this.
I’ve seen how fractured and messy local governments can be, but I can imagine the complications of being this tiny place, this island so removed from international media attention, with all this outside international corporate interest coming in… They must see it as the easiest place to take advantage of and sort of manipulate.
Hawaii is like a third world country, our politics are run by somewhat of a mafia. You know, money talks. And good things walk, really. What they’ve done is see opportunity and take advantage of it to the fullest. It’s about making money.
The same people that took over the agriculture on our islands, are the ones that put the Queen in prison and who overthrew the islands.
That same neocolonialism that’s been going on for 125 years. And it’s through our politics that it’s been able to keep going. Those same families and bloodlines that were a part of that, they’re still involved in these decisions. But now it’s happening in our face.
Like I said, family and resources are all we have, and when you start seeing that threatened, Hawaii’s history if agriculture and fishing.
For Hawaiians, it’s always about flowing with your resources. Using our water, knowing when it flows back into the river, that it flows out and feeds the reefs, and this whole circulatory system, that Hawaiians have understood for thousands of years.
Whatever happens on land, effects the ocean. Whatever goes out into the ocean, gets picked up in the rain and put back on land.
I can imagine it’s hard for people outside of Hawaii, who have never lived somewhere with this really robust, but still incredibly fragile set of resources, to wrap their heads around the situation.
It’s how societies have lost their spiritual connection to their past, to their history, for centuries. Hawaiians believe our ancestors are guiding us, and if you can hear those voices in your head, you can make decisions in your life with that in mind.
So a lot of the blowback from your fight has been over the whole GMO debate, which seems like a red herring—what Hawaiians seem most concerned with are the pesticides and the chemical testing. Which, man, those scenes in the film, the health issues people are facing, children getting sick, cancer rates disproportionately high—it’s just so unbelievable fucking heartbreaking.
It isn’t about GMOs, which people can argue about all day long, and we can debate the good and bad forever. This movie explains how our fight has always really been about pesticides being sprayed by these companies pushing GMOs. That’s always been the major issue.
And the GMO thing can deflect attention from that, and that’s not the point. You can’t tell me that spraying 17x more pesticides per-acre is good for anything.
“I started going to all these rallies,” Barca says of his early days getting radicalized. “I thought, ‘Where’s the Hawaiians?!’ It was all just hippies, which God bless them, but the people that I know would just brush them off, just,’ What the fuck do these hippies know?’ But it’s easy to motivate people when you start talking to them about things that matter to them.”
So what can people do to help the cause?
It starts with Education. I eat organic food, and I spend a lot of money so that my family can eat well, because I’ve educated myself to read labels and to know what we should be putting in our bodies.
Nobody knows, unless you go out and tell them. Once I was educated, I was motivated because I felt threatened. So I looked at the histories of every company. I looked into every company that was on my island, and researched where they’d been before, and what people had sued them for…
And they were getting sued for poisoning communities all over the world.
There was a blueprint, right there, showing us what was going to happen to our home.
Don’t miss the Newport Beach premiere of Aloha Aina Warrior today, 5pm.
Rio Waida Has Been Surfing Onshore, Oversized Bells Alone
...and he might not go home all year.
John Florence Releases Long-Form Piece On The 243km Great Ocean Squiggle
Tourism Victoria going, ‘he just did our job for us’.
Japanese Rice Farmer Enjoys Frightening Sumatran West Bowls
Kaito Ohashi is on his best behavior.
Watch: When People Like This Speak, We Listen
Raw, extended conversations with Clyde Aikau and Eddie Aikau winner Luke Shepardson.
Diamond Tail = Diamond Hands?
We'll explain everything in the Rusty D-Min Joyride.
Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*
May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.
An Unordinary Life Structured Around A Tidal Bore
Long Read: The life and times of Pete Beachy.
Sun Room: The Overnight Success Of A Young Surf Band
What's it like touring the world and living off of McDonald's?
How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 6
An instructional manual for the modern professional surfer
Globe Pulls Out Of The Apparel Game
…and, Taj Burrow and Dion Agius are now looking for new main sponsors.
Owen Wright Announces Retirement From Competitive And Heavy-Water Surfing
But will surf final CT event at Bells.
Fancy An Ale, Some Good Music, And A Bunch Of Tubes?
Ballet's minimalist full-length will satiate your needs.
Take Stab’s 2023 Audience Survey, Win A 3-Board Quiver
Stab towels and Premium subscriptions also up or grabs.
Jessi Miley Dyer On The New Challenger Series Schedule And More
Did you know that you could miss the mid-year cut and still theoretically win the…
Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.
Already a member? Sign In
Want to join? Sign Up