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The Value of Hawai`i

The Value of Hawai`i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future

Copyright Date: 2010
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    The Value of Hawai`i
    Book Description:

    How did we get here? Three-and-a-half-day school weeks. Prisoners farmed out to the mainland. Tent camps for the migratory homeless. A blinkered dependence on tourism and the military for virtually all economic activity. The steady degradation of already degraded land. Contempt for anyone employed in education, health, and social service. An almost theological belief in the evil of taxes. At a time when new leaders will be elected, and new solutions need to be found, the contributors toThe Value of Hawai'ioutline the causes of our current state and offer points of departure for a Hawai'i-wide debate on our future. The brief essays address a wide range of topics-education, the environment, Hawaiian issues, media, tourism, political culture, law, labor, economic planning, government, transportation, poverty-but the contributors share a belief that taking stock of where we are right now, what we need to change, and what we need to remember is a challenge that all of us must meet. Written for a general audience,The Value of Hawai'iprovides a cluster of starting points for a larger community discussion of Hawai'i that should extend beyond the choices of the ballot box this year.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6041-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Craig Howes and Jon Osorio
    (pp. 1-8)

    The striking cover of this book brings into focus the themes and the ambitions of its contributors. The main photo shows a Hawai‘i classroom, probably in the 1950s. Cut out numbers and the letters of the alphabet run along the walls just below the ceiling, but someone—probably the teacher—has written the word ALOHA in even larger letters on the blackboard. The two children are staging a display of Hawai‘i’s status as a separate place, with its own history, and as somehow part of the American union. The little girl holds up a silhouette of George Washington, who’s looking...


      (pp. 9-14)

      As we in Hawai‘i start the next “X” number of years of U.S. statehood, most will agree the original invention is in trouble. We hear cries of pain throughout the state of Hawai‘i, but we hear no real discussion of how we got to this pass or how we might find our way to better times.

      Perhaps that is a possibility of this book—to get a group talking about the reinvention of Hawai‘i. I’m not pretending to have the answers, but let me take my turn at the conversation.

      As a marker in time, let us try to imagine...

      (pp. 15-22)

      In her 1989 bookFrom a Native Daughter, Haunani-Kay Trask said that the modern Hawaiian movement began when some fifty families living in Kalama Valley protested the eviction notices served by the Bishop Estate in 1967. Their resistance to a new suburban development, and the loss of one more productive working community, has grown over forty years later into a dynamic political, cultural, and social movement that has come to be a large part of the way that Hawai‘i defines itself to the world.

      It is difficult to identify any aspect of life in Hawai‘i that does not reflect some...


      (pp. 23-30)

      In the decade after statehood (1959–1969), Hawai‘i’s economy boomed, with real per capita output (GDP) rising at an annual rate of 4.1 percent. From 1969 to 1989, per capita GDP continued to grow, but at the slower rate of 1.7 percent. The last twenty years have not been as kind, with per capita GDP increasing annually by just 0.3 percent. The slow growth has led to numerous economic problems. State and County governments have struggled to provide services desired by Hawai‘i residents or mandated by federal legislation. College graduates have struggled to find jobs in Hawai‘i that pay salaries...

      (pp. 31-38)

      What is the future of this thing we call “tourism”?

      According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is the world’s fastest growing economic sector, is a major player in international commerce, and has become a main source of income for developing nations.¹ This global spread of tourism outproduces other industries like oil, food, and auto production. It is credited with providing economic and employment benefits in related industries like construction, agriculture, and telecommunications, while being touted as a source of greater wealth and success. The question is for whom?

      In the five decades since statehood, tourism has...

      (pp. 39-46)

      Here are the global and the local problems: a growing population, increasing urbanization, degraded farmland, and destruction of important ecosystems for more farmland. On a global and a local level, we need to control population growth, or at least not encourage it by pushing urbanization, especially of farmland, and we need to farm in more sustainable ways. The old slogan, Think Globally, Act Locally, is still relevent. See and understand the big picture, how we are part of it, and work for changes at a local level.

      In 2008, when a middle school class came to our farm, the current...

      (pp. 47-52)

      The U.S. military is the second biggest industry in Hawai‘i. While the military has a lengthy history here, its growing presence over the last half century is due primarily to the enormous political influence of Senator Daniel Inouye. Born in 1924, and elected to the Senate in 1963, the man known simply as “The Senator” has been the primary promoter of all things military. Given his long incumbency, remarkable political skills, and iconic status as a war hero, it is highly unlikely that any other representative will be able to maintain a similar supply of federal resources to our state....

      (pp. 53-60)
      JOHN P. ROSA

      Racial and ethnic relations in Hawai‘i are good, but far from perfect. In the early twentieth century, Hawai‘i was touted as a “laboratory of race relations,” and since the 1980s, the islands have even been proposed as a “multicultural model” for the world. No single racial/ethnic group makes up a majority in the islands. The rate of interracial marriages outpaces that of anywhere in the United States. And oh yes, Barack Obama—the son of a white woman and an African man who met in Honolulu in the 1960s—is now President of the United States. “Race” does not matter...

    • LABOR
      (pp. 61-68)

      What does the mythical person on the street think of when she visualizes labor in Hawai‘i? Angry construction workers in hard hats and torn T-shirts brandishing picket signs and obstructing traffic? Scowling backroom bosses pounding conference room tables with angry fists? Slothful government bureaucrats coddled by antiquated civil service rules? Quite possibly all of these images leap to mind.

      Though perceptions like these are inevitably rooted in one’s own experience and exposure, there is a forgotten and heroic history of labor in Hawai‘i that shaped the fundamental contours of current society, and has the potential to do so again. Anyone...

      (pp. 69-76)
      KARL KIM

      Hawai‘i has suffered from a serious lack of transportation planning. With projects such as the H-3 or the Superferry, and the repeated failed attempts to build rail transit in Honolulu, it is evident that there have been gross miscalculations, political machinations, and weak analysis of alternatives. The H-3 highway and fixed rail for Honolulu will have been the largest capital projects undertaken in Hawai‘i. The current price tag on the rail system is $5.5 billion dollars. Ignoring cost overruns, this amounts to approximately $4,583 per person in Hawai‘i. If paid on a per capita basis, a family of four could...


      (pp. 77-84)

      Political leaders have been fodder for ridicule for millennia, and Hawai‘i’s modern-day pols are certainly not exempt. But when the State Legislature and governor’s office become punch lines on a near daily basis, as has been the case in recent years, something is wickedly rotten in Honolulu.

      One of the sharpest observers of Hawai‘i politics, columnist and blogger David Shapiro of theHonolulu Advertiser, has been milking laughs for a year or so now on how members of the Democratically dominated State House and Senate recently gave themselves hefty, salary commission-approved pay raises even as they postured to cut expenses...

      (pp. 85-92)

      Hawai‘i’s modern legal history has been an attempt to reconcile our past with our present—to reconcile Hawai‘i’s status as an independent sovereign nation with our history as an American possession and territory; to reconcile our indigenous heritage with our immigrant and now western-dominated culture; and to reconcile a unique island worldview with a worldview shaped by national boundaries thousands of miles away across an ocean and a continent.

      This essay examines the role of law and the courts in addressing the historical claims of the Native Hawaiian community to land and sovereignty. It suggests that, to a large extent,...

      (pp. 93-100)

      Our sneakers were squishing in the mud as we followed our 7th grade science teacher up the Ko‘olau ridge, hunting liverwort. Our assignment: situate liverwort in the scientific systems for classifying life on earth. The picture is held for a lifetime. Green, flat, branching fingers extending over a piece of rotting tree. Even though it had no leaves and looked like fungus, it was a plant, because it used photosynthesis. We decided this, because it was green.

      I had no occasion to use liverwort knowledge until writing this essay, but it is an example of the thousands of bits of...

      (pp. 101-108)

      To survive the present budget crisis and the lean years beyond, the University of Hawai‘i has to deal successfully with two questions: (1) revenue—where is the money going to come from? and (2) reorganization—how can UH reorganize fairly and sensibly to deal with these new realities? For years UH has had trouble dealing with these issues. If these questions are not addressed properly, UH will offer less quality for more money. The answer to the revenue question will by default be “the students,” while the answer to the reorganization question will be “there really is no sensible and...

      (pp. 109-116)

      The last decades of the twentieth century saw the United States embark on an unparalleled increase in the use of incarceration. As a result, the number of inmates in state and federal prisons increased nearly seven-fold. We incarcerated less than 200,000 people in 1970, but by 2008, we were incarcerating over a million and a half prisoners (1,518,559). An additional 785,556 are held in local jails, for a total of 2.3 million of our citizens under lock and key.¹ As the Pew Center on the States noted in 2008, we now imprison one out of every hundred of our citizens,...


      (pp. 117-124)

      I broke my finger playing softball in Canada one summer and went to an emergency room. As a visitor from Hawai‘i, I was concerned that I would need cash to get my finger set, so I kept waving around my wallet and frequently repeated, “I can pay.” The consistent response I received from the hospital staff was “Go get an x-ray. Go to the exam room. Don’t worry about paying.” As a teacher of public policy for over thirty years, I often begin my lectures with a discussion of why this wouldn’t happen in Hawai‘i (or in any other state),...

      (pp. 125-132)

      Our land was our home.

      In pre-contact times, Hawaiians enjoyed community living, where individuals shared sleeping spaces and living spaces as families. With a lack of motorized transportation, most travel required people to sleep out beneath the sky. We made do in nature’s many elements. Our intimate relationship with our Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and Sky Father, Wākea, granted us exemplary knowledge about navigating the land and utilizing it to survive. To sleep out on the land was to sleep in the bosom of our Mother, and since the dawn of time, humans have known no greater or more comforting rest...

      (pp. 133-140)

      I moved to Hawai‘i as a teenager, and have lived in many different neighborhoods—first in Wai‘anae for several years, later ‘Aiea, Hawai‘i Kai, and Kailua—and now in Honolulu. Each neighborhood I’ve lived in had its own unique subculture—all have been tight-knit. I knew my neighbors and they knew me. We watched each others’ houses and knew each others’ kids. If someone moved in or out of the neighborhood, we all noticed immediately. Newcomers were greeted, and information about them circulated through the neighborhood quickly.

      I have also worked in many capacities with victims of abuse and violence....

      (pp. 141-148)

      The intense partisan national debate over healthcare has, ironically, tended to obscure some of the history of efforts within the U.S. to provide it. During his first term as president, Richard Nixon, consistent with then-Republican Party ideas that the states rather than the federal government should take the lead in various aspects of social policy, advocated for expansion of healthcare coverage for “the rest” of the population. This movement followed up the creation of Medicaid and Medicare during the Johnson presidency. Alone among the major industrial countries of the world, the U.S. lacked some form of universal healthcare coverage, and...

    • ARTS
      (pp. 149-156)

      Can we imagine Hawai‘i without the arts? We would be living in a nonsensical, internally gray environment, with sounds of cars and jackhammers. Yet we are constantly challenged to make a case for keeping the arts at the core of our society. Yes, we are blessed with an extraordinary natural environment that deserves honor and protection, but the arts are a necessary part of healthy surroundings in our future.

      There are many wise kumu and kūpuna who speak eloquently about Hawaiian culture—how it is integral to life in Hawai‘i, central to its history, and essential for the survival of...

      (pp. 157-162)
      IAN LIND

      Hawai‘i joined the dismal revolution that has been sweeping the nation’s news business with this year’s sale of theHonolulu Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, to its smaller rival, theStar-Bulletin, and the planned merger of the two into a single publication. At the time of this writing, the deal is expected to result in the layoffs of several hundred newspaper employees, and a corresponding decline in the amount of original news reporting being delivered to island residents. Honolulu’s experience is, unfortunately, not unusual. More than 140 daily and weekly newspapers across the country stopped publishing in 2009 alone,...


      (pp. 163-170)

      To save Hawai‘i’s terrestrial ecosystems, save Hawai‘i’s forests.

      Of course, it’s important to reduce solid waste and recycle, keep pollutants out of our water supplies, develop and carry out sound land use planning, and foster conservation and renewable energy resources. But protecting and expanding Hawai‘i’s forests is of paramount importance. Nothing else matters if we fail in this.


      Forests are, above all, the source of our fresh water. Desalination may provide a trivial amount in limited areas, but it is expensive and energy-intensive. Allowing our mountain slopes to capture water, having it percolate into our precious aquifers, and withdrawing...

      (pp. 171-178)

      Hawai‘i’s climate is changing in ways that are consistent with the influence of global warming. In Hawai‘i

      Air temperature has risen

      Rainfall and stream flow have decreased

      Rain intensity has increased

      Sea level and sea surface temperatures have increased

      The ocean is acidifying

      If these trends continue, scientists anticipate growing impacts to Hawai‘i’s water resources and forests, coastal communities, and marine ecology. As a result, there is a compelling need for sustained and enhanced climate monitoring and assessment activities, and for focused research to produce models of future climate changes and impacts in Hawai‘i.

      Should they continue, these trends point...

    • ENERGY
      (pp. 179-186)

      In the late nineteenth century, Hawai‘i energy and electricity systems were based on locally available resources, including biomass, bagasse (sugar waste), and hydropower. The twentieth century was the fossil fuel era, both in the U.S. and in Hawai‘i. Reliance on petroleum, coal, and natural gas became the backbone of the economy. That changed in 1973, during the fourth Arab-Israeli war, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) launched the Arab Oil Embargo. The oil price shocks propelled energy issues onto the front burner around the world. Visionaries, exploring new heights, laid out bold new initiatives based on energy conservation,...

    • WATER
      (pp. 187-194)

      The mounting challenges facing Hawai‘i’s natural and cultural resources provide a perfect opportunity to ponder a timeless question: “Aia i hea ka Wai a Kāne?” Where are the waters of Kāne, the waters of life? “He Mele Nō Kāne,” an ancient song from the island of Kaua‘i, explains in poetic detail that fresh water permeates all aspects of life in Hawai‘i. These waters rim the horizon from where the sun rises in the East to where it sets in the West. They are found on mountain peaks and in river bottoms, at sea and on land in the forms of...

      (pp. 195-200)

      Protests erupted over the excavation of an ancient Hawaiian burial site at Honokahua, Maui in October 1988; by December of that year, Governor John Waihee halted the digging. Honokahua was the first time that massive desecration and destruction of a burial site had been stopped. The disturbed remains of 1,100 individuals, which archaeologists estimated represented about half the number of those buried there, were reinterred at the site, and out of that sacrifice, Hawai‘i’s burial protection law was born.

      Honokahua was not the first large-scale disturbance of a sand dune burial site, given the penchant for building hotels on Hawai‘i’s...

      (pp. 201-208)

      One small State agency—the State Historic Preservation Division—is at the nexus of historic preservation and development, both large and small. By statute, SHPD is responsible for providing “leadership in preserving, restoring, and maintaining historic and cultural property,” standards that are squarely in the public interest. The SHPD fulfills two mandates in historic preservation—State and federal—and though many of their requirements are parallel and even overlap, State law contains additional responsibilities.

      The division’s mandates, however, bring it into direct conflict with development forces—both public and private—that view historic preservation as a hindrance, and the office...

      (pp. 209-216)

      Even as Pele claims and recreates the forest, she leaves intact whole sections or large oases of the forest, with tall old-growth ‘ōhi’a, tree ferns, creeping vines, and mosses. These oases are called kīpuka. The beauty of these natural kīpuka is not only their ability to resist and withstand destructive forces of change, but also to regenerate life on the barren lava which surrounds them. From these kīpuka come the seeds and spores carried by birds and blown by the wind to sprout upon and regenerate the forest on the new lava, sparking a new dynamic cycle of coming into...


    • HĀ‘ENA
      (pp. 217-228)

      Hā‘ena, an ahupua‘a—a traditional land division, often extending from mountains to sea, and central to the system of ordering these islands—on the island of Kaua‘i, is a land richly endowed by Native sensitivities. Its attributes have been chronicled from antiquity. Today, its sheer physical beauty has attracted many newcomers who now occupy most of it, greatly outnumbering the aboriginal people and longtime residents, the descendants of immigrants from earlier historical times. All who come to Hā‘ena see and experience it through the cultural lens of their own experiences, the history of their homelands, and the unique sense of...

    (pp. 229-250)
    (pp. 251-256)