Waypoints: Charting Hawaii’s Course For A Resilient Future - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Jeff Mikulina

Jeff Mikulina is the Executive Director of Blue Planet Foundation.

Melissa Miyashiro

Melissa Miyashiro is the Managing Director of Strategy and Policy at Blue Planet Foundation.

To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, change happens slowly, and then all at once. We’re now in the midst of “all at once.”

Although we are living through a dark time of economic hardship, systemic injustice, increasing climatic change and the upheaval of human health, we at the Blue Planet Foundation see an unparalleled opportunity to reshape and revitalize our collective future.

As we are all confronted with tough choices about how best to proceed, we have the incredible opportunity to reimagine what is possible for our islands and our future.

Blue Planet seeks to help chart a new course for Hawaii through “Waypoints,” a package of 50 specific actions designed to foster economic growth, create new jobs, ensure equitable access to affordable energy and accelerate our transition to 100% clean energy.

Building career ladders for clean energy jobs: Waypoint action No. 12 proposes expanding the clean energy jobs training offered by the University of Hawaii, particularly for those who’ve lost their jobs in the visitor industry. Courtesy: Blue Planet


The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated just how quickly and fundamentally our lives can be forced to change. It also portends another global crisis of our time: climate change.

Hawaii is acutely vulnerable to the destructive impacts of climate change. In 2019, the islands tied or broke over 270 high temperature records, and the waters surrounding the islands experienced record heat.

Higher temperatures and more moisture in the atmosphere mean heavier precipitation events. Two years ago, Oahu and Kauai were hit by a “rainbomb” that dropped so much water over Hanalei that it broke the local rain gauge — and broke the national record for the most rain over a 24-hour period: 49.69 inches.

Although it’s been almost 30 years since Hawaii last sustained a direct hit from a hurricane, that incredible good fortune (see: Douglas) may not last much longer; climate modeling suggests that hurricanes are likely to become larger, stronger and more frequent in the Pacific. Climate change presents a myriad of other challenges to Hawaii’s economy, way of life and very survival.

Getting There From Here

In many ways COVID-19 and climate change share similar trajectories — they have different timelines but the same plot structure. Three clear parallels have emerged between the two crises.

First, both have illustrated our collective responsibility to each other. This pandemic lays bare the truth that our fates are tied to our neighbors’, and their fates are tied to everyone else’s. The same is true with climate, where we all have our hands on the Earth’s thermostat.

Second, we have an incredible ability to adapt. It’s striking how a pandemic can disrupt seemingly entrenched social norms and habits. Humanity is learning to step up to make sacrifices that previously seemed inconceivable, and we are redefining what’s socially acceptable for the greater good.

Finally, crises amplify the already existing inequities in our society. The impact of COVID-19 — like the impact of climate change — discriminates. Pervasive and persistent systemic inequities mean that the more vulnerable, the more economically disadvantaged and the less privileged among us are the least able to protect themselves and are the hardest hit.

The disruption wrought by COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our economy and, in many ways, our way of life.

So how might we build an economy around resilience, equality and sustainability? How do we guide our recovery toward growth that is efficient and innovative? How do we generate meaningful jobs that pay a living wage? And beyond our own borders, how do we in Hawaii use our position to model the change that is needed globally?

Waypoints seeks to answer these questions by identifying policy and programmatic initiatives at the intersection of job creation, carbon reduction, equity and economic growth.

Kahauiki Village on Oahu is powered by solar energy that was financed in part through the Green Energy Market Securitization program. Waypoint action No. 14 proposes expanding the GEMS program with additional loan capital so more people can access clean energy options. Courtesy: Blue Planet

The proposals in Waypoints are unified by the following common goals and objectives:

• Play to our strengths: Hawaii has an abundance of talented people, strong community values and cultural diversity. We also have a surplus of renewable energy resources, yet not one drop of our own fossil fuels. Energy — for mobility, electricity, air travel — is the lifeblood of the islands’ economy. It makes good sense to drive systemic change from the transition to clean energy. Clean energy today is half the price of fossil fuel-powered energy. Energy efficiency is even cheaper. And now electric vehicles are more affordable to operate than gas cars. Technology has made incredible leaps and bounds, and Hawaii can now take full advantage of these changes for the benefit of everyone.

• Bust down barriers to accelerating our low-carbon future: Whether it’s the incumbency of legacy fossil fuel interests or economic and social roadblocks that prevent individuals and communities from accessing low-carbon solutions, our proposals aim to clear the barriers that stand between our current reality and the cleaner, more resilient future we seek to create.

Expanding access to electric vehicle charging: Waypoint action No. 22 proposes that all new parking stalls come wired to support the installation of an EV charger. Courtesy: Blue Planet

• Increase economic activity and quality job creation while decreasing carbon emissions: The urgency of climate change must guide all aspects of our planning for economic recovery and growth. Each proposed action, or Waypoint, is built around the core idea that our low-carbon future is not at odds with a vibrant economy, rather it’s a precursor for it. When we switch to our abundant renewable energy or energy efficiency resources, we are trading in carbon in favor of local labor and capital investment. Recent large renewable projects approved by Hawaiian Electric will invest over $3 billion in capital in our state and lead to the hiring of numerous workers.

• Ensure equitable access to our shared clean energy future: We believe that access to affordable clean energy is a right and not a privilege. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the critical need for deep structural and systems changes. The Waypoints actions provide an opportunity to re-boot and fix underlying inequities that have consistently left some individuals and communities behind.

• Serve as a model for the globe: Climate change, like COVID-19, is a global challenge — we are not truly safe until the world is safe. By making Hawaii a model of clean energy progress, we can inspire and catalyze climate solutions around the world. While we can theoretically close our doors to any outside travel, we cannot close our doors to climate. We can view this interdependence with resignation, or we can embrace the opportunity to help shape a future that serves all. Just as our first-in-the-nation 100% renewable energy law inspired other states to set bold clean energy targets, a low-carbon revival in Hawai‘i can catalyze innovative recovery efforts that empower communities globally to thrive.

Share Your Ideas

The pull to return to “business as usual” will be strong in the coming months and years. But there is another path — one in which we can shift our economy, build career ladders, ensure access and affordability, repower our mobility, reinvigorate public places, deploy low-carbon energy and rebuild smarter. We believe the regeneration of Hawaii’s economy should seek to anticipate the future instead of replicate the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “In each pause, I hear the call.” The “pause” created by the COVID-19 pandemic invites us to reflect on how we are living on this planet and with one another, how we have developed our economy and what we value. It calls on us to think deeply about the world we wish to create for our families and for our future. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to do it all at once.

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About the Authors

Jeff Mikulina

Jeff Mikulina is the Executive Director of Blue Planet Foundation.

Melissa Miyashiro

Melissa Miyashiro is the Managing Director of Strategy and Policy at Blue Planet Foundation.

Latest Comments (0)

      The Hawaii "Green New Deal" is enviro pie in the sky.  It costs a lot of money to switch electric power plants to solar farms and wind farms do not have community support in any area.  Electric companies will only do it when they can make big money from the process.  It's easy to say, now that we are nearly bankrupt let's go ahead and roll out a clean new deal that costs a fortune.  A reality check needs to take place.   

Kalli · 3 years ago

While I am a strong supporter of transitioning away from fossil fuels, I have been trained, as a scientist, to avoid making misleading statements. To say that "clean energy today is half the price of fossil fuel-powered energy" is doubly misleading. Firstly, this is only true of mid-day solar and windy-day wind power, only utility-scale, and ONLY in Hawaii and similarly remote locations because we burn imported oil for electricity production. Secondly, neither photovoltaic solar nor wind energy are "clean" because they are resource-intensive, generate a great amount of toxic waste during resource extraction and construction, and present an enormous, yet-unsolved decommissioning and recycling problem that is comparable in severity to open-cycle nuclear power. Battery storage is also rife in problems. Solar and wind power can and should be part of the solution but cannot sustainably replace fossil fuels on the global scale - only fusion power can. Ask your congressperson to support ITER.

Chiquita · 3 years ago

Jeff and Melissa also give us a good dose of environmentalism. Before anyone starts to chant save the children, we should all take a closer look at current renewable energy sources. Wind and solar are certainly not cheaper and that's with federal subsidies in place. Its also debatable as to whether is more environmentally sound. Both wind and solar energy sources take up out-sized blocks of land and solar itself needs large quantities of fresh water to keep the panels clean and functioning efficiently. Furthermore, both need extensive battery reservoirs..... the kind that contain toxic metals. Has anyone considered what mining and disposing of those metals will look like in our environment? There is one renewable energy source that doesn't have these drawbacks, ocean wave energy, and its there for the taking.

jas4446 · 3 years ago

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