What Are We Waiting For? Our Islands Are In Peril - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Richard Ha

Big Island resident Richard Ha is president of Sustainable Energy Hawaii and author of “What Would Our Kupuna Do?”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the sky is falling.

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I’m not the only one saying this. Although it’s obvious that exponential growth on a finite planet is not sustainable, we continue to grow exponentially.

We are increasingly warned of the very real problems by credible scientists, but we’re not doing much about it. We just keep drawing down the world’s resources — and we’re in more danger than most of us realize.

Especially here, on an island in the middle of the world’s largest ocean, where we sit at the end of the supply chain and rely on outside sources for 85% of our food.

The decline in fossil fuels is a major part of the problem. It impacts everything from the price of gum all the way up to the conflicts with Russia and China, which are simply fights about the resources and who gets to use them — who has the advantage.

There are solutions, but we need to move on them now. Not in a generation, when our children and grandchildren are already experiencing even worse economic problems and declining lifestyles because of it. Already, more of our youngsters leave the islands when they grow up than stay because they’re looking for work.

What are we waiting for?

We are very fortunate to have two amazing resources here on Hawaii island.

The first is geothermal. This island will sit above the “hot spot” that creates our geothermal resource for one to two million years. We should be using that geothermal energy as our primary energy source.

It costs less than half of any other renewable energy alternative to produce, provides stable power, and generates revenue for the state. It’s a no-brainer.

‘We Have The Resources’

Our second amazing resource? The stars above Mauna Kea. It’s not only the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the sea bottom, but it’s also known as the best place on the globe to view the stars.

Establishing this island as an epicenter of astronomical research and science — as opposed to a place for sun and surf tourism, which brought 1.7 million people to Hawaii island in 2019 to run all over our land — would benefit our children and future generations, not to mention our aina.

The stars are also a tremendous resource to bring together culture and science to help educate our keiki, teach them about science and pride, and give them a sense of their place in the world.

We propose creating Mauna Honua: Culture and Science Center Above the Clouds, not at the summit but on land identified at the Hale Pōhaku level.

Large enough for meaningful work, this substantial, thoughtfully designed center would allow present and future Hawaiians to research and practice cultural preservation, education, language, science and ecology. There would finally be a place on the mountain where Hawaiians are represented and where we can rebrand our island as a place of top-level science and quality.

Lava flows from Kilauea are often destructive, but geothermal energy is an underutilized resource. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2018

Hawaiians have always been scientists. In pre-Western times, Hawaiians matched resources with their needs, and they did so with guardrails set up, so it worked. I remember when I heard Haunani Kay-Trask say Hawaiians operated with a gift economy — the more you gave, the more you received. Hawaiians developed a system of reciprocity where they took care of their resources and then matched them with needs.

We need to meet our needs, and we need to start doing that right now.

That was back before the market economy kicked in. But even in a market economy you need to balance your resources and needs.

We have the resources: geothermal and the stars above Mauna Kea.

We need to meet our needs, and we need to start doing that right now. We really can’t wait any longer.

As the great-great-great-grandson of Kamahele Nui, one of many who signed the 1897 Kū‘ē petition protesting the U.S. annexation of Hawaii, I say we need to start now to use these resources smartly and efficiently. Not only for our own benefit, but also so our grandchildren and their grandchildren — something I talk about more in “What Would Our Kupuna Do” — can live their lives here on Hawaii island, as our ancestors did, and thrive.

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 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.

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About the Author

Richard Ha

Big Island resident Richard Ha is president of Sustainable Energy Hawaii and author of “What Would Our Kupuna Do?”

Latest Comments (0)

If you read the reports on climate change critically, you would realize as I do that sadly it's too late to take action to reverse the problem AND protect the 7.5 billion humans here. Climate change and population are intrinsically intertwined. There are far too many people on this planet and they cannot be sustained with the amount of land we have. While the reckoning will not come in my lifetime, or that of my children, it's not that far off. Promoting "Hawaiian solutions" to the issues we have with planet sustainability are a waste of time. Much like the recycling of cardboard and plastic that we are hectored about routinely. We needed to turn away from fossil fuels in 1950 to have had any meaningful change.

WaimeaDude · 1 year ago

Mr. Ha. The 21st century indigenous practice that which hitherto indigenous types successfully practiced since time immemorial: Adroit cognitive flexibility, extemporaneous opportunism while simultaneously applying calculated adjustments that ensure environmental stasis. Your writ explicates as much. Still, in light of the fact that civil discourse continues to be desecrated by identity politics, cognitive dissonance, bias conformation, false consensus effect, dunning-Kruger effect and prevalence induced concept change, coupled with conspicuous consumptive consumerism, how do empiric deductions, reason, plow the sustainable path? Hominids and their vices have unleashed Naquoqatsi onto Pachamama - Ao Honua. Gaslighted conspiratorial fantasies plot to supplant the evidentiary predicates that have been empirically derived. With everyone manufacturing their own silo-truisms how does one unify the masses that then agree to build sustainable relationships with limited resources? Ultimately, climatic cataclysms will force an equilibrium that is sustainable.

gaslitU · 1 year ago

With being relatively 4.5 years new to Hawaii, I have not fully understood how the land rich in knowledge, wisdom and life was Not being sustainably, utilized across all sectors?Why is the ocean not a means of fuel? It is a travesty to have turned this beauty into just another mainland state. It is not only the next generation that is being driven away, there are some very intelligent generations now who are also being driven away.

Nikki1555 · 1 year ago

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