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Thinking Like an Island

Thinking Like an Island: Navigating a Sustainable Future in Hawai`i

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Thinking Like an Island
    Book Description:

    Hawai'i is a rare and special place, in which beauty and isolation combine to form a vision of paradise. That isolation, though, comes at a price: resources in modern-day Hawai'i are strained and expensive, and current economic models dictate that the Hawaiian Islands are reliant upon imported food, fuels, and other materials. Yet the islands supported a historic Hawaiian population of a million people or more. This was possible because Hawaiians, prior to European contact, had learned the ecological limits of their islands and how to live sustainably within them.

    Today, Hawai'i is experiencing a surge of new strategies that make living in the islands more ecologically, economically, and socially resilient. A vibrant native agriculture movement helps feed Hawaiians with traditional foods, and employs local farmers using traditional methods; efforts at green homebuilding help provide healthy, comfortable housing that exists in better harmony with the environment; efforts to recycle wastewater help reduce stress on fragile freshwater resources; school gardens help feed families and reconnect them with local food and farming. At the same time, many of the people who have developed these strategies find that their processes reflect, and in some cases draw from, the lessons learned by Hawaiians over thousands of years.

    This collection of case studies is a road map to help other isolated communities, island and mainland, navigate their own paths to sustainability, and establishes Hawai'i as a model from which other communities can draw inspiration, practical advice, and hope for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5416-4
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Business, American Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)

    As I read through the chapters within, I was transported back to one of the many Saturday morning “talk story” sessions that I was privileged to have with Aunty Pilahi Paki, a well-known teacher and advocate of Hawaiian language and a “keeper of Hawai‘i’s secrets.” As I read about the advances in renewable energy technologies and accessing wave energy as a preferred source of energy in the future, I recalled a par tic u lar day when I asked her aboutna pōhaku(the stones) that were located around herhale(home). “These are mypōhaku lolo. . ....

    (pp. 1-6)

    Sebastian Junger’s 1997 best sellerThe Perfect Stormdescribes the events that led to the loss of the Massachusetts fishing vesselAndrea Gail:the economics of off shore fishing, the risks inherent in the enterprise, and the traditional New En gland culture that continues to encourage, and even romanticize, working at sea. Half a globe away, the same themes are at work in a different way: in Hawai‘ i, a “perfect storm” of economic need, resource opportunity, and a resurgent culture has led Hawaiians to forge a new, more sustainable future for the world’s most geographically isolated landmass. Beset by...

  5. ONE Hawaiian Culture and Its Foundation in Sustainability
    (pp. 7-27)

    As the ancestors of the Hawaiian people moved across western Oceania, they consistently met the challenge of living sustainably on geographically limited islands by forming strong and enduring familial relationships with the lands and ocean that supported them. Over the millennia, this developed into a worldview that required the careful protection of natural resources to perpetuate the life of the community. Hawaiian sustainability was founded upon this island worldview, which places an intrinsic value on the interdependence of all life, with a sense of the sacred permeating the entire natural world. The Hawaiian connection to the land and ocean and...

  6. TWO Food Security in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 28-45)

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life” (2009, 8). Food insecurity can take many different forms. This essay explores three broad concerns for Hawai‘i: overall food supply, disasters, and poverty. Each of these broad categories covers a variety of specific issues. For example, overall food supply is about food quantity and quality now and in the future, under various contingencies. It would include consideration...

  7. THREE Searching for Sustainable Agriculture in Hawai‘i
    (pp. 46-78)

    Sustainable agriculture is a common turn of phrase. What does it really mean, particularly in an island context? This chapter explores how the concept of sustainable agriculture is being defined and redefined or, one could argue, restored in Hawai‘i, through the traditions and resurgence of kalo (taro;Colocasia esculenta) farming, the first, oldest, and culturally most significant food crop in the state.

    Themóokuáuhau(genealogy) of agriculture in Hawai‘i is one that can be described as beginning with the sharing of ha (breath) between farmer and a living landscape and arriving in the present to a place largely out of...

  8. FOUR Lessons from the Taro Patch
    (pp. 79-124)

    The revitalization of traditional agriculture, particularlykalo(taro) farming, in Hawai‘i is viewed by some as a step back in time and by others as a return to center, especially when it comes to food self-sufficiency. Chapter 3 of this volume makes clear thatkalofarming was serious agriculture that rivaled the sugar industry and put food directly into the calabash¹ of hundreds of thousands of people. In the growing ofkalo,Hawaiians also retained a strong understanding of the big and small currents that affected the sustainability of food production in the islands. This chapter examines the mole (foundation)...

  9. FIVE Ecological Design for Island Water Systems
    (pp. 125-142)

    Over 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, yet only a small amount of that water is available for human use: approximately 96 percent of it is salt water, and less than 1 percent is accessible fresh water (Shiklomanov 1993). Over 900 million people around the world lack access to clean water, 2.5 billion people have inadequate sanitation facilities (UNICEF/World Health Organization 2008), and over 3.6 million people die annually from water-related diseases (World Health Organization 2008). These facts are compounded by climate change and corresponding shifts in hydrological cycles. Failing water infrastructures may mean that mounting...

  10. SIX Saving Island Water: Strategies for Water Reuse
    (pp. 143-158)

    In Hawai‘i, Maui County’s Wastewater Reclamation Division (WWRD) is recognized as a water-reuse leader. The objectives of Maui’s water-reuse program are to supplement Maui’s limited potable water supply and to reduce the use of injection wells for effluent disposal. Recycled water is reused from all five of the county’s wastewater reclamation facilities (WWRFs), and significant distribution systems have been constructed in South and West Maui. Recycled water is now used for a wide variety of purposes, including landscape irrigation, agricultural irrigation, cooling, fire control, composting, toilet flushing, environmental enhancement, and construction purposes. Key components that contributed to the success of...

  11. SEVEN Catching the (Energy) Wave of the Future
    (pp. 159-173)

    Ocean waves offer a unique and promising opportunity to capture renewable energy for islands and coastal communities worldwide. In fossil-fuel-dependent Hawai‘i, where 85–90 percent of energy needs are met by imported oil, more and more renewable energy options are gaining momentum. Wave energy is currently being tested and explored as aviable alternative.

    Ocean waves exhibit considerable energy, which can be captured and converted to electricity to meet the needs of coastal populations. Although much wave energy exists in deep seas far away from the coast, the high cost of construction, maintenance, transmission, and storage makes it preferable to install...

  12. EIGHT Green Building: Integrating the Past with the Future
    (pp. 174-197)

    Only a few centuries ago, housing for traditional cultures around the globe had a fairly low environmental impact or, in today’s terms, was “green.” This “greenness” of houses was born out of necessity rather than choice. Local materials were used because that was what was available. Placement and construction of houses were tailored to local environmental conditions that worked with the wind, sun, and topography of the area. Houses were generally small, and communities were compact and walkable because of the lack of cars (Hawaii-History. org, n.d.; HawaiiAlive. org, n.d.; National Park Ser vice 2001).

    The traits that we associate...

  13. NINE Shades of Green in the Tourism Sector: Sustainability Practices and Awareness in the State of Hawai‘i
    (pp. 198-215)

    Global economic change in the first decade of the twenty-first century focused attention on the volatility that results from economic dependency on a single sector, such as tourism. Increasing concern for the environment has also resulted in a significant shift worldwide towards addressing the challenges that tourism poses to maintaining the sustainability of the host region. As a result, visitors and residents in Hawai‘i and other popular tourist destinations are now encouraged, for example, to steward natural resources, to buy and serve local products, to promote energy and water conservation, and to buy carbon off-set credits as a means of...

  14. TEN Successful Sustainability Movements in Higher Education
    (pp. 216-233)

    For anyone who scratches beyond the surface of the typical tourist’s experience, Hawai‘i has many surprises in store. The Native Hawaiian influence and deep community fabric permeate all aspects of the culture. Most conferences and public events begin with a Hawaiian prayer or chant, and when meetings end, many participants hug each other warmly. The deep and intricate interconnections of people and organizations lead to only a few degrees of separation. There is also an undying spirit of community, belief, vision, and support. Among many diverse stakeholders, there is surprising unity in a shared vision and desire for energy and...

  15. ELEVEN It Takes a Village: Reflections on Building an Island School Garden
    (pp. 234-254)

    On any given day at Kihei Elementary School, there is something special happening in the heart of the campus. This school, located on the island of Maui, Hawai‘i, is home to a thriving garden filled with Polynesian canoe plants and a variety of European, Filipino, Latin American, and Native American fruits and vegetables—all planted and cared for by more than 700 students, teachers, parents, and volunteers.

    Working side by side with their students in this living classroom, teachers translate science, math, social studies, and language arts into hands-on lessons. During recess, students stroll through the strawberry patch in search...

  16. EPILOGUE: Living Like an Island What the World Can Learn from Hawai‘i
    (pp. 255-262)

    Sustainability is frequently defined as the triple bottom line, meaning a focus on social and environmental as well as economic concerns. The triple bottom line is often illustrated with a Venn diagram, as shown in figure 12.1. The three aspects of the triple bottom line overlap in only one region, and that one region, interpreted as “true” sustainability, is very small relative to the sizes of the circles themselves. The Venn diagram shown in figure 12.1 also represents the inherent tensions within sustainability conversations and demonstrates the need for compromise with regard to one of the three circles if we...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  18. Index
    (pp. 267-277)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 278-279)