When protesters blew conch shells on Ka`anapali Beach July 29 to demonstrate against a controversial trade deal being negotiated there, they hoped to break the Guinness World Record for the most conch shells blown at one time. Looks like they did that; estimates range as high as 400 people simultaneously blowing conch shells, and the previous record was 297 in Brazil.
They also hit their real goal: capturing the world’s attention. One possible reason for the choice of Ka`anapali for talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that the Hawaiian Islands are too isolated for a lot of protesters to make their way here. That left the protest duty to a homegrown coalition of advocates for the environment, labor, health and native Hawaiians.
Conch Shells to the Rescue
How to make their voices heard on a beach in front of the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, where 12 TPP trade ministers were holding a four-day meeting? Draw on Hawaiian culture, colors, chants and conch shells to create a unique event attractive to international journalists covering the talks. (Or whatever they could find to cover; one of the complaints about this TPP deal is that it’s being negotiated in secret, so no one knows exactly what it’s getting us into.)
At any rate, the tactic worked. A quick Internet search showed news stories, videos and photos from major outlets like Reuters, MSN and the Associated Press, plus from news outlets in China, Malta, India and Canada.
This event demonstrated the growing organization of protesters on Maui, perhaps beginning with the GMO campaign before the last election and now drawing on an infrastructure and experience to stand up on other issues, from cane burning to telescopes. I don’t agree with the protesters on everything, but I have to say, they’re certainly getting more sophisticated. Maui’s never seen anything like it.
And, by the way, the negotiations were unsuccessful. There still is no agreement on this mysterious trade deal.