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Sovereign Sugar

Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawai'i

Carol A. MacLennan
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Sovereign Sugar
    Book Description:

    Although little remains of Hawai'i's plantation economy, the sugar industry's past dominance has created the Hawai'i we see today. Many of the most pressing and controversial issues-urban and resort development, water rights, expansion of suburbs into agriculturally rich lands, pollution from herbicides, invasive species in native forests, an unsustainable economy-can be tied to Hawai'i's industrial sugar history.Sovereign Sugarunravels the tangled relationship between the sugar industry and Hawai'i's cultural and natural landscapes. It is the first work to fully examine the complex tapestry of socioeconomic, political, and environmental forces that shaped sugar's role in Hawai'i. While early Polynesian and European influences on island ecosystems started the process of biological change, plantation agriculture, with its voracious need for land and water, profoundly altered Hawai'i's landscape.MacLennan focuses on the rise of industrial and political power among the sugar planter elite and its political-ecological consequences. The book opens in the 1840s when the Hawaiian Islands were under the influence of American missionaries. Changes in property rights and the move toward western governance, along with the demands of a growing industrial economy, pressed upon the new Hawaiian nation and its forests and water resources. Subsequent chapters trace island ecosystems, plantation communities, and natural resource policies through time-by the 1930s, the sugar economy engulfed both human and environmental landscapes. The author argues that sugar manufacture has not only significantly transformed Hawai'i but its legacy provides lessons for future outcomes.Carol MacLennan is an anthropologist who has visited Hawai'i extensively for over thirty years. She teaches at Michigan Technological University about industry and the environment, with a focus on how large-scale industries such as sugar cane and hard rock mining affect environments and communities. She has published on Hawai'i's sugar industry and North American mining.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-4024-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Fly across the Pacific Ocean to Hawai‘i in the early twenty-first century and you will come upon what appears from the air to be peaceful, carefully tended, rural landscapes alongside pockets of intense urban high-rise settlements. Wide sectors of green-sectioned acreages on gradual slopes crawl up to forests on the craggy volcanic peaks of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. Maui and Hawai‘i present gently sloping high volcanic mountains with aprons of fields, pastures, and forests. Some island shorelines and port towns sport tall buildings and resort complexes that indicate Hawai‘i’s tourist economy. Then there is the military presence, apparent as you approach...

  6. ONE Waves of Influence
    (pp. 12-35)

    The human footprint on Hawai‘i’s landscape stepped into an already changing ecology characterized by its remoteness in an ocean world. The islands had been evolving well before Polynesians first landed. Hawai‘i’s environmental history begins with the evolution of the Hawaiian Ridge—a chain of volcanic mountains above and below the sea in the middle of the Pacific. For thousands of years, the high islands of the southernmost part of the range (from Kaua‘i to Hawai‘i) have hosted living organisms that colonized these islands. Human arrival began about 1,000 years ago, and the islands have continued to evolve. Human presence, however,...

  7. TWO Sugar’s Ecology
    (pp. 36-51)

    Hawai‘i’s experiment with sugar agriculture parallels the era of industrialization in Europe and North America. Hawai‘i enters the stage as sugar production goes global and when beet and cane sugars from both temperate and tropical climates compete for an international market. As refined sugar finds an increasing appetite within the industrializing world, it spreads its tentacles beyond the typical tropical islands and coastlines and into the sugar beet landscapes of European and North American farmlands. The result is a very competitive industry that quickly becomes a heavily capitalized and corporate-dominated business—especially in the United States. In this global economy,...

  8. THREE Four Families
    (pp. 52-80)

    Modern ecological change in Hawai‘i begins with money and law. Hawaiians altered the island landscape with their agriculture. Europeans and Americans did it through their institutions of capital wealth. But the financial networks established by five merchant houses and four missionary families fueled profound and permanent changes in Hawai‘i’s lands and waters. A system of plantation agriculture remade island ecologies and human communities, and its consequences engulfed the entire island chain from sea to mountaintop.

    One hundred years after the first missionaries landed, Hawai‘i was a tight economic empire composed of interlocking companies run by descendants of a few missionary...

  9. FOUR Five Companies
    (pp. 81-102)

    The organization of missionary family wealth into the powerful corporate system known as the Big Five is at the core of Hawai‘i’s massive environmental change from Hawaiian agriculture to the mono-crop makeover of island landscapes. Investment in sugar production in the Pacific and Caribbean followed a similar path in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of corporate agriculture.¹ However, Hawai‘i’s specific path is marked by development of a corporate lock on economic and political power rather unique in the history of sugar. Two other economic colonies, Cuba and Fiji, experienced the totalizing impact of sugar production on their landscapes...

  10. FIVE Agricultural Landscapes
    (pp. 103-122)

    Hawai‘i’s encounter with sugar capitalists produced an island archipelago landscape rewritten in the language of industrial production. What did the land look like at the beginning of this history? How did the early sugar business get its start? What gave the plantation a foothold on the Hawaiian landscape? We start this chapter with a tour of the inhabited islands in the 1840s and 1850s, describing the diversified economy that sustained its population of primarily Hawaiians, and a few foreigners, with food and goods. This is the landscape that disappeared as sugar claimed its territory. We then turn to the first...

  11. SIX Plantation Centers
    (pp. 123-144)

    The twenty years in which Hawai‘i’s economy turned toward sugar were pivotal. The plantation as an agricultural model of production expanded its grasp on the economy. Basic features of rural factory life were established. Hawai‘i’s king and legislature committed extensive resources to the success of sugar export and looked outward toward taking a leading role in the Pacific island community of small nations. Forests, mountain waters, and pastures above the growing cane lands were increasingly drawn into the sugar cycle and served plantation needs above those of others. Whaling, vegetable trade, pulu, and hides—all having provided the nation with...

  12. SEVEN Sugar’s Industrial Complex
    (pp. 145-169)

    The industrial plantation formed the core of a vast sugar-making complex that spread throughout the islands. Beginning in the 1880s, it changed a mixed agricultural and trade-oriented landscape into one organized by the needs of sugar. Fifty years later, this dominant industrial system drew heavily from the forests and waters of interior island ecologies. It populated cane (and pineapple) growing districts largely with communities of noncitizen workers. And to a great extent, it directed the natural resource policies of the territorial government. How did this happen? We start with the plantation and then investigate how it drew from forest and...

  13. EIGHT Plantation Community
    (pp. 170-200)

    The plantation community is an ecological community of plants, animals, and humans sustained by soils, rains, and technology. Carved from a tropical environment of indigenous species and human communities, Hawai‘i’s plantations were artificial creations planted on the landscape and managed from the top through minutely sequenced decisions and actions. The managers and owners were temperate-climate and continental people, either born or educated in Western nations. The workers were from different ecological zones and cultures of Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North America. As a landscape of production, the industrial plantation created a living rhythm to the tune of a global...

  14. NINE An Island Tour: 1930s
    (pp. 201-219)

    A visitor arriving in Hawai‘i in the 1930s for the first time would see the islands at the peak of their production for export agricultural products: sugar, pineapple, and hides. All available land was harnessed toward this economic activity, even the forests, which supplied the necessary irrigation waters. Human activity also organized itself completely around plantation agriculture, ranching, and the necessary support services and industries. We have covered the shifting physical and human landscape from the early commercial plantation to the industrial plantation community. A look at the ecological impact of sugar’s reach into Hawai‘i’s land, forests, and water is...

  15. Color maps
    (pp. None)
  16. TEN Planters Organize
    (pp. 220-248)

    A 1930s tour of environmental change in Hawai‘i’s islands leaves us with a question: How did sugar’s stamp become so pervasive on the landscape? Important clues lie in the history of sugar planter cooperation on business, environmental, and political matters. In the 1890s they captured the reins of political power with the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani. In the early twentieth century the advantages of collaboration paid off in their virtual control over territorial resource policies and their scientific approach to sugar production. It took decades of business organization and cooperation before the total effect of the plantation economy on Hawai‘i’s...

  17. ELEVEN Resource Policy
    (pp. 249-274)

    Sugar requires vast amounts of land and water to succeed in the global market. The early sugar planters relied on government resource policies to build their enterprises and empires. By 1940, one hundred years of policy that set the government rules for land use, water diversion, and forest protection had evolved into a system of virtual private control over public resources. The history of natural resource policy in Hawai‘i is best told as a story of policy capture in which the sugar industry created the conditions for its access to natural resources.

    The evolution of natural resource policies can be...

  18. Conclusion: Sugar’s End
    (pp. 275-282)

    Hawai‘i today mirrors a landscape of sugar’s touch, but without the sugar. There is strange irony in the fact that little sugar leaves the islands for the refinery in California, and yet so much of the natural environment is the industrial product of sugar’s plantation economy. Only on Maui do we find the expanse of cane lands, the cane fires marking harvest season, and small remnants of the plantation world. Not too long ago, Hawai‘i’s sugar industry was a vibrant presence on the landscape, organizing the economy and people’s lives.

    In 1970, industry reports hinted at a darker future for...

  19. APPENDIX 1 Vegetation Zones
    (pp. 283-284)
  20. APPENDIX 2 Sugar Crop Acreage, Yield, Production, and Employment, 1836–1960
    (pp. 285-286)
  21. APPENDIX 3 Major Sugarcane Producers in the Pacific and North American Markets, 1880–1940
    (pp. 287-288)
  22. APPENDIX 4 Missionary Land Purchases of Government/Crown Lands, 1850–1866
    (pp. 289-291)
  23. APPENDIX 5 Intermarriage of Second-Generation Missionary Families
    (pp. 292-292)
  24. APPENDIX 6 Percentage Increase of Largest Plantations’ Sugar Crops, 1920 and 1930
    (pp. 293-294)
  25. APPENDIX 7 Subsidiary Companies Organized, 1880–1910
    (pp. 295-295)
  26. APPENDIX 8 Plantation Centers, Acreage in 1867 and 1879
    (pp. 296-297)
  27. APPENDIX 9 Major Water Development Projects
    (pp. 298-300)
  28. APPENDIX 10 Crown and Government Lands Leased for Sugarcane
    (pp. 301-305)
  29. APPENDIX 11 Ranches in 1930
    (pp. 306-310)
  30. Notes
    (pp. 311-352)
  31. References
    (pp. 353-366)
  32. Index
    (pp. 367-378)
  33. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-381)