Article

Dustin Barca Interview

The pro surfer turned activist is running for mayor of Kauai

| posted on May 20, 2014
After seeing the current mayor's corporate supporters, Dustin Barca decided to run for office. Photo: Hennings

After seeing the current mayor’s corporate supporters, Dustin Barca decided to run for office. Photo: Hennings

Last week, Dustin Barca filed the official paperwork to enter the upcoming mayoral race in Kauai. Barca, a former World Tour surfer and, in recent years, an anti-GMO activist, discusses what prompted his move into politics, what changes he would make if elected, and his plan to run around the entire island to raise support.

[Ed note: In the Outer Islands of Hawaii, mayors are elected to represent each island county as a whole.]

What made you want to run for mayor?

I’ve been pretty active in what’s happening on our island for the past few years, and I’m passionate about bringing positive change to our island. But the tipping point came recently. I drove to town to run some errands and I just happened to be there when our current mayor was announcing his run. There were about 20 to 30 people in the crowd and a lot of them were actually the bosses of the giant chemical companies tied to our GMO problems. These companies are actually suing our county and they’re rallying in support of our current mayor. I saw that and just lost it. I made up my mind that I couldn’t wait. I had to do something.

When was this?

About a month and a half ago. After that, I went out and called everyone to tell them I was running. It was on.

How has the feedback been?

So far, the feedback has been amazing. I feel like everyone over here wants change. We need change. If you look at what I’m advocating for, it’s hard to argue against it.

Can you break down your platform?

Sure. It’s based on four pillars. The first one is the restoration of Kauaian culture. For the past 100 years, the Hawaiian culture has been shoved under the rug. The language, our historical sites, anything that has to do with the culture has suffered. We want to bring those historical places back. We want to reinvigorate our culture. That means opening up the fishponds that historically fed the islands, that means restoring the heiaus (ancient Hawaiian temples), that means protecting our burial grounds. Culturally, that’s what we want to change. We think it’s crucial that we connect our next generation with our past. Additionally, when we restore the elements that make our historic culture, we’ll be giving tourists an opportunity to see something different, making this good for the economy as well.

The second part of our platform is sustainable agriculture. We import 90 percent of our food and that’s unacceptable, considering that we live in such a sustainable place. Reconnecting farmers to the land and being able to produce our own food for the island is really important. Recently, in the town that I live in on Kauai, we were able to finally get an agriculture center. It took 30 years to get that in place. We can create more projects like that, at a quicker pace, while creating new farming jobs for our people and becoming more sustainable. It’s not going to be easy, but we can do it.

Sugarcane was a huge industry in Hawaii for a long time and it took a toll on our soil. So we need to work to remediate our soil. We can do this by growing things like hemp. It’s a money crop and it’s good for the soil. The sustainable, environmental, and economical benefits are huge.

Restoring our waterways is our third pillar. A lot of our streams were diverted to irrigate sugarcane fields and that’s had a lot of negative effects over the past century. We want to restore the old waterways. This is huge to everyone over here. We’re losing a lot of our natural fish and shrimp from the diversions of these streams. Water is crucial to our livelihood and we want to fix the damage that’s been done. It’s time for us to get serious. We can’t keep going down this road. We have to change it and move it forward.

A lot of people aren’t aware but our streams are carrying chemicals from a lot of the big GMO fields and it’s literally killing our reefs. We have a reef disease on the north shore of Kauai that’s causing us to lose an inch of reef a day. This is a major problem for our island. On the west side of the island, we’re losing thousands of sea urchins out on the reef. In an ecosystem, when you see a species dying off like that, that’s a huge red flag.

The last pillar of our platform is addressing drug use on our island. It’s a major problem that needs to be addressed. We’ve lost too many people to drugs over here. Something needs to change ’cause what we’re doing now isn’t working. We’re proposing that instead of prison sentences for addicts—because anyone on this island will tell you that approach isn’t doing any good for anyone—we want to create a farming rehab center that allows addicts to reconnect with the earth and give back to the people. We don’t want to lock people away. That hasn’t worked. We want to heal them. This will not only give them a sense of purpose and responsibility, but it goes back into creating a more sustainable environment for our people where we’re producing more of our own food.

So when is the election?

August 9. We’re going hard. We’re grassroots versus corporate money. I’m going to be running as an independent. I vote based on the issue, not the party.

Did you ever envision yourself going from the cover of surf mags to the World Tour to running for mayor?

Never. Two years ago, I never thought I would do this. But I think God has another plan for me. I’ve never been religious, but I’ve always known right from wrong and had a feeling that I was meant to do something. And that’s what is pushing me to do this.

Can you tell me about your plan to run around the island?

It’s called Dustin Barca’s Run For Mayor. I’m gonna run around the whole island and pay my respects to all the people and cultural sites of Kauai. I’m going to sail on a Hawaiian canoe from the end of the road on the north shore to the west side [There’s no road connecting the entire island.] Then I’ll run around the rest of the island. It’s going to take three days and it’s a 90-mile trip. We’re going to do events along the way. We’ll set up voter registration booths. Talk to community members, and get the word out along the way.

If you want to learn more about Barca’s campaign, go to Barca4Mayor.com.

  • Phocas Surf

    How can anyone not appreciate and support what he is going to do for the Island? Good luck and Godspeed brother.

  • Steve Moore

    If I could vote there I would give you a contribution. Stay Strong and keep to your guns.

    • Joi Bonaparte

      Steve you can still make a contribution on Dustin’s web page barca4mayor.com
      Even $5.00-$10.00 would help!

  • LD

    Go get ‘em Mr. Barca! May God bless you in your pursuits. Your love for others will shine God’s light and make a difference.

  • http://www.grindtv.com Justin Cote

    Go Barca!

  • Suckamofo

    Go son! One island at a time and here in NZ we are fighting a very similar battle (although our protection of Maori culture is arguably way ahead). Respect.

  • Gbd

    Awesome. I hope you win, man. Keep charging..

  • Trogan Fan

    Sounds great until someone asks him to balance a budget. Education’s a wonderful thing.

    • Joi Bonaparte

      Trogan, Our own Mayor does not even balance a budget, it takes a team in place to accomplish managing a community. Budgeting for roads ect..The platform Barca has stated is a wonderful start to moving forward on an island that has depended on Mono cropping which does not work. We need smaller scales organic farms to supply our markets and families which healthy food…anyway

  • Cutslash

    go Barca !!!

  • Hutch

    Yeah Barca Go!!! Epic. Love it!

  • castawayconcepts

    So awesome! We need more soldiers in the conscious army and this a serious General.

  • korduroy_admin

    Love the 4 Pillars. BARCA FOR MAYOR!

  • t

    FYI, Barca would represent Kauai and Niihau. That’s the county of Kauai

  • whamo

    Gee’vum. Barca has some great ideas. I hope everybody on Kaui gets behind him.

  • Bryan Van Derhyden

    What Dustin is proposing here is an extremely bold and necessary move that if successful can be a model for a positive step in the correct direction at this point in time on planet Earth. The colonial model is divide and conquer. Remove the peoples connection to the land by disconnecting them from their food supply, as well as their waterways, infiltrate the community with dangerous drugs which are criminalized and create the conditions that put much of the marginalized population behind bars, ruining the family structure and community. This has been a very successful model that the colonial/corporate powers have used to gain their present day situation of unchecked power. To see a well thought out alternative to this is so nice to see. As for Trogan’s ignorant and demeaning comment about ‘balancing the budget, saying ‘education is a wonderful thing’ nice try bud. Are you saying that Dustin just has a bunch of cute ideas that won’t really work because of his lack of ‘education’ (indoctrination)? Establishing a sustainable community creates a sustainable and abundant economy. The current day corporate culture in this country would not exist if it were not for the massive subsidies that are paid for by citizen tax money to support industries that would not be profitable with out them (subsidies). Dustin’s proposed model is smart economics that actually makes sense. A healthy economy is one where all people benefit not just a few.

  • Tom Mortimer

    Great Guy–Great Candidate

  • Cazart

    SOMETHING has to change somewhere. Kauai sounds like a perfect place to start. Get after it, Dustin.

  • North Shore Paddle

    Passionate and putting his money where his mouth is. Good for Kauai. Not sophisticated enough to understand much less manage the underlying issues. Not Good for Kauai. (Ignorance on the topic is why the county is being sued). Shake things up a little and see what happens!

  • North Shore Paddle

    Is he still sponsored by Muscle Milk?

  • JMD

    Dustin… Way to be a voice in action for the change that desperately needs to happen not only on the island of Kauai, for the entire planet! It’s all rooted in how we feed ourselves, a highly diverse thriving ecosystem is what allows life to express itself. Corporate interests have got be stood up to! Keep fighting… you are a gift to your homeland.

  • someguyfromlorne

    I admire this initiative and I hope he gets elected. There are no easy fixes for the world but the good thing is that an island is effectively self contained. Get it to work in Kauai and Niihau and export it to other places. All the best!

  • Mik

    You’re going to win Justin. Because if you do, Hawaii will win. The GMO mafia needs to be pushed out. I think that the people who are living in Hawaii because they love it will get behind you in a major way… And they have money too. The surf industry should help you. A natural Hawaii is good for the ocean, and good for surfers.

  • Mik

    By the way if u need graphic design skills you can get my e-mail from Surfer. I will donate my time, from California.

  • Barry Elliott

    The most encouraging news out of Kauai for a long time! (Don’t live here but would love to – need a Green Card first) I’ve only just begun to realize what a hold the chemical companies have on the islands and was very dismayed. Then there has been the proposed development on Hanalei River ridge – which would be the death knell for Hanalei and the north shore, because Hanalei is the frame we view the north shore through.
    Good luck, Dustin and much respect. Love your ideas.

  • Cindy Amolsch Gray

    JOKE!! the people of Kauai deserve a real mayor that will be professional and benefit the people. This idiot has some skeletons in his closet, and the people of Kauai deserve to know that he nearly killed my husband when he attacked him in a bar about 7 years ago, then ran back to Kauai instead of paying for the hurt and suffering he caused. he actually went as far to say.. I DIDNT DO IT!!! I witnessed it with my own eyes jerk-HOLE – This man is a coward – and a loser. you do not need him as your mayor – MOVE on Dustin Barca, you know nothing on how to be a mayor.

  • Wailuanuiahoano Watershed

    Mahalo, bravo young man for taking on the HEWA. every fb post gets an accompanying BARCA4Mayor. Onipa’a