Civil Beat’s newsroom turned into a community meeting room Thursday night. The space where we usually gather around a long table to eat lunch was transformed into a civic square where three writers talked about their vision for Hawaii’s future.

In a matter of minutes, the office filled with people like never before, all there to hear about a new book, “The Value of Hawaii: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future.” I bumped into people from all corners of the island and of all ages, from 18 to 70. There was Randy Roth, editor of “The Price of Paradise,” the 1990s precursor to “The Value of Hawaii.” There was Hawaii Pacific University Lindsey Appleton. Andrew Laurence of the environmental group, Malama Maunalua. Mari Matsuda, one of the essay authors. And water lawyer Bill Tam. What they all had in common was their interest in and passion for their home and community, Hawaii, the heart of the book. Craig Howes and Jonathan Osorio, the co-editors, happily signed copies. Aiko Yamashiro had to go back to her car to get another box of books to meet the strong demand.

We also had guests who tuned in online via our live-stream from places as far away as Kenya, New York and Alabama. They were chatting with me as I was commenting on what was being said in the forum. It was fascinating that problems they were witnessing in their communities seemed so similar to what we were discussing. They talked about economic and environmental sustainability issues, the same points that Osorio was making about Hawaii. But Osorio made it clear that Hawaii is different.

“When you live on an island you have to share resources and maintain them, because they will not last,” Osorio said.

I’ve embedded the video of the event. To watch the video on the site, press the play button in the lower left corner of the video player.

Common Themes About Hawaii’s Future

Howes kicked off the event by telling the audience that none of the authors knew what the others had written, but that common themes emerged.

  • All issues are Hawaiian issues. Regardless of the issue being discussed, “When you look at the dynamics of the discussion or the debate you will see Hawaiian faces.”

  • We have regulations in place in Hawaii that cover land, water, and historical perseverance, but we’re not using them. That has to change.

  • The dichotomy of public vs. private is only limiting our progress in creating a better Hawaii. One can’t do it without the other.

  • Osorio, Howes and Civil Beat’s Chad Blair, who wrote the chapter about government in the book, talked about serious topics regarding Hawaii’s future. Osorio even acknowledged that his talk of Hawaiian sovereignty frightened some and amused others.

Leadership

During the Q&A, a state representative, Della Au Belatti, said she wanted more people to run for office. One member of the audience talked about why he didn’t run. Andrew Laurence said he had thought about it, but felt he needed to have a good answer to the question: What is your vision for Hawaii? Laurence said he didn’t have a good answer, but that when he asks politicians that same question, they don’t seem to have an answer either. That seemed to resonate with the audience and prompted a lively dialogue, ending with 1st Congressional District candidate Rafael del Castillo winding into a campaign pitch. And then it was time for snacks, more than two hours after the first guests arrived.

Looking Forward

We’ll be doing more of these Beatups and learn something new every time. Some of our online participants fell victim to the sounds of my typing because the mic was a little too close to my hands. (Sorry about that.) We’ll work on some better audio logistics for next time, or at least invest in some fashionable gloves. We also learned that more people equals more heat, so the air conditioning could have used a little boost. Most people didn’t seem to mind though; a small group of guests even stayed an extra hour or so and helped us clean up.

This was just the start of “The Value of Hawaii” Beatup series. We’re also planning a bunch of other Beatups. To find an archive of past Beatups as well as to learn what Beatups are on the calendar for the future please check out our Beatup page.