On the eve of the 2020 Legislative Session, and as we confront another year rife with crises at home and abroad, here are 20 local reasons to be hopeful in 2020.

No. 1 No panic, we’re growing a lot of organic: Nothing gives me more hope for our future than MAʻO Organic Farms. This non-profit social enterprise tackles so many issues at once: climate change, houselessness, economic development, youth empowerment, cultural connection. They are growing over 80 tons of organic produce per year (you can find it at many local grocery stores). Every year they support their youth farm corps with a training and mentorship program, college tuition, and support to achieve academic success and become community leaders.

Even more exciting, a recent study coming out of UH Manoa found that after a year of working on the farm, 60% of the youth had significantly reduced their risk of diabetes, thanks to changes in their microbiome driven by their consumption of more vegetables. In 2019, MAʻO secured the purchase of 257 acres of land, growing their footprint tenfold. Ultimately this will yield 1,400 tons of organic food annually and facilitate participation by more than 450 youth per year in their training and educational programs.

No. 2 Community-driven solutions to houselessness. Puuhonua O Waianae is a village of approximately 250 people living unhoused on the leeward side of Oahu. A majority of residents are Native Hawaiians. It is an inspiring community-first approach to houselessness that: 1) is self-organized at nearly zero cost to taxpayers, 2) gets people the help they need: medical care, social services, food security and permanent housing, and 3) provides safety, healing, and purpose.

The Hawaii Legislature opens Jan. 15 with much work to be done. The Senate chamber is pictured. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2018

No. 3 Civic engagement at the Legislature: In 2015, when Rafael Bergstrom started Civics is Sexy, it was already everything I thought Hawaii needed as a lobbyist working on food and ag issues in Hawaii. Back at it this March, having attended fellowship at Citizen University’s Civic Seminary, Bergstrom has redesigned the program to give the seemingly drab policy process a much needed glow-up to get people involved with the right tools and attitudes.

No. 4 Legalization or decriminalization of nature and plant medicine. Inspired by recent initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, this year the Legislature will consider the therapeutic use of psilocybin to treat anxiety and depression. More tools, more clarity.

No. 5 Innovation around climate adaptation: We’re always talking climate mitigation through greenhouse gas sequestration and emissions reduction but it’s time to start seriously thinking about adaptation. In 2020, Veronica Rocha of Essential Leap along with PICHTR will be taking the lead to bring stakeholders together to chart the path forward.

No. 6 Commitment to community-led stewardship of our public lands. I continue to be inspired by the on-going community engagement around Mauna Kea and the important questions they are raising about who has the right and authority to determine the use of our public lands, particularly when we take our colonial history seriously. With thousands of multi-generational Hawaiian speaking families in the lead, the future of Hawaii lies in their hands.

No. 7 Investigative Journalism! The growing success of Civil Beat gives me hope that we can all make informed decisions for 2020.

No. 8 Plastic Free Hawaii: Thanks to the tireless, multi-year efforts of groups like Sustainable Coastlines, Kokua Hawaii Foundation, Zero Waste Hawaii, Surfrider Foundation, and others, we have finally moved the needle on the flow of garbage into our oceans and onto our beaches. The city’s Bill 40 is the strongest in the nation and makes us a leader, yet again, in environmental protection.

No. 9 More sharing, more caring. The HNL Tool Library, Biki and Hui Car Share, are all important players in Hawaii’s emerging sharing economy. With finite space for resources, sharing is our future.

No. 10 More locally grown food in schools and institutions. In 2018, the Department of Education finally started its pilot in Hawi, in partnership with HIP Agriculture. More farms feeding kids feeding our economy is a win-win-win for 2020.

No. 11 Innovations in philanthropy: All over the U.S. philanthropists like myself are thinking differently about the role we should play in creating change. Locally, the Next Gen Donor Hui, Resource Generation, and Hawaii People’s Fund are asking hard questions about wealth and inspiring innovations in giving.

No. 12 Youth-led solutions for our future: In 2019, Parley.tv launched Parley Ocean School on the North Shore of Oahu. This program brought youth leaders from across the world into Hawaii to develop their solutions to the problems that older generations have left them. They’re building a network of youth around the world, ready to tackle issues like plastic pollution, indigenous guardianship, industrialized fishing, and climate change.

No. 13 Could Hawaii be the best place in the world for women? Yes, we can. With organizations like Safe Spaces & Workplaces working to end workplace sexual harassment, Hawaii Children’s Action Network fighting for paid family leave, and the new Planned Parenthood clinic on Beretania providing women access to affordable health care, we’re making progress towards this goal.

No. 14 The best medicine is prevention. Innovations in integrative health and happy microbiomes are helping cancer survivors like myself stay healthy and vibrant. Hawaii is a part of this growing movement, with functional medicine practitioners like Dr. Nicole Gesik leading the way.

More farms feeding kids feeding our economy is a win-win-win for 2020.

No. 15 Start Up, Incubate, Accelerate, and Thrive. While we might never be Silicon Valley, organizations like Elemental Excelerator, Mana Up, Hawaii Investment Ready, and Blue Start Ups are creating a vibrant culture for sustainable local economic development in Hawaii.

No. 16 Movement towards Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Social Governance. Companies across the globe are recognizing that they cannot take an extractive approach to their operations. Local corporate social responsibility strategies include opportunities for staff to volunteer, reductions in waste in the workplace, and an employee giving program to support local nonprofits.

No. 17 Not Yo Mama’s 401(k)? Our invested assets, through our savings and retirement, has a profound impact on our world and local leaders like Michael Kramer with Natural Investments and Noel Brown with the Conscious Wealth Management Group are making environmentally and socially responsible investing easy for busy people like myself who don’t want to see my investments creating the problems that my work is trying to solve.

No. 18 Young people running for office: “Ok Boomer!” is transforming into “Watch out Boomers!” as millennial frustrations with the pace and spirit of government are resulting in a new wave of youth leaders running for office. Locally, I am particularly inspired by the graduates of the Kuleana Academy who are flipping critical power dynamics at the county and state level.

No. 19 Pesticide free parks and schools! The counties of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island, are set to take action this year to limit the use of pesticides on county land. This follows on the 2019 DOE announcement that they would not allow the use of RoundUp on school campuses. Keiki: consider yourself better protected.

No. 20 Be the change. Progress is impossible without the hope, conviction, and dedicated action of our community. I am inspired every day by the work of all of the above organizations and many more that I didn’t list here. I am also inspired by the many people who live their daily lives with a commitment to minimizing their footprint and maximizing what they give back to others.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author