I enjoyed reading Mark Doo’s essay on civic pride. He makes many excellent points that I agree with.

In light of that, I wanted to share my take on how we can all work together and take action today to grow civic pride. Together, we can solve the many problems that affect everyday people in the islands.

As a volunteer, co-founder and executive director of 808 Cleanups, an environmental nonprofit, it has been my honor and privilege to work alongside so many community volunteers.

The year 2017 saw 5,688 volunteers actually go out and remove over 135,024 pounds of rubbish. That is just the volunteers we know about; there are countless others. Imagine how things would look if everyone in the community just stopped cleaning! Imagine if all those volunteers did nothing but complain.

Volunteers with 808 Cleanups hard at work.

Courtesy

Although our actions are primarily cleanup related, our intent is to create leaders. Civic pride is based on taking action, not waiting for “someone else” to take the lead.

What is there to wait for? Maybe you are waiting for someone to call your civic pride “bending the rules”?

Or perhaps you are waiting for someone else to take action first, someone who is just as busy, if not busier than you are? Although the big picture may seem overwhelming, every effort great and small is an essential piece of the puzzle in solving the community issues.

Stop Blaming Others

When each of us takes action in the community, we become a force multiplier for good. We create more leaders. We build a decentralized yet cooperative movement where we amplify each other’s strengths and balance out our weaknesses.

You begin that long and noble process of showing younger generations that taking positive action should be the rule, not the exception. Together, we can put more energy into the forgotten people and places that have suffered quietly for far too long.

The first thing we can do is stop blaming some “other” group for the garbage strewing the islands. The problem does not rest solely with one group of people. Even if it did, what does blaming and shaming solve?

I am most proud of the fact that we have locals and new residents coming together at these cleanups — joining forces, making new friends. We need to focus our energy on solving the negative actions themselves.

The key element to building civic pride is building those personal connections. If everyone takes a manageable piece, not only do you get more work done with more hands involved, it becomes easier for everyone.

You learn from one another what strategies work best. You have situations where a litterbug changes their ways because they learned that auntie or someone else from their ohana cleaned up!

A dangerous complacency infects the political establishment, and we the people must offer the cure at the polls.

When it comes to politics, I will say there are many instances where the community and public agencies can and do work together very well. I have nothing but great praise for select individuals at the city, state and federal levels who give real active support to the community. Key to this is a community that takes action when it is capable, and speaks up whenever necessary. 

Civic pride also means that we need to take a good look at those running for political office. Who has taken the time to get out into the community and work with people in the field? Who has gone beyond the empty rhetoric and promises and actively encouraged civic pride?

A dangerous complacency infects the political establishment, and we the people must offer the cure at the polls. Never forget that you, the people, are the bosses to the political establishment. They make the laws, but we hire and fire them!

If you are not happy with the way Hawaii is going, I am certain we will see you at the head of the line come election day.

Deep-Seated Realities

Hawaii experienced a net loss of 13,527 people in the last year. For all the rhetoric about how the islands are paradise, this is the reality: We have deep-seated problems that we all need to tackle hard and fast. We need to start fixing every single one of these issues so that the people of Hawaii know that they have a long-term future in their islands again.

Now is the time to stand up for your families, your homes, and your futures. The forces that are acting against you will not stop until you take action.

This will not be easy. It will be hard, and you will question progress every step of the way. Yet it is a necessary and noble cause to restore civic pride, and to build a better foundation for future generations.

The least I can do is my part to make sure you and your family can enjoy a park or a beach without dodging syringes or pallet bonfire nails. It is everyone’s right to a clean and safe public space but it is also everyone’s responsibility to take action and make it so.

I warmly invite everyone to join us at 808 Cleanups — a place where you can connect with others for community stewardship. Mahalo nui loa for breathing life into civic pride, in whatever way that motivates you.

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