I try to never take for granted or underestimate the unsurpassed beauty and power of Hawaii.
In a world of diminishing sustainability and vitality, Hawaii stands as one of, if not the crown jewel of planet earth. Geographically isolated . . . tiny dots of land in the middle of the world’s largest ocean . . . the Hawaiian islands are as much out of range of the massive pollution and toxic discharge of continental mainlands as distance permits. Of course, there is no complete escape. Toxic pollutants are distributed globally by atmospheric and ocean currents. We catch some but are relatively distant from the sources. The Hawaiian islands remain as one of the few places still existing on planet earth where nature manifests in lush, healthy, flourishing natural habitats.
Again, not to be taken for granted. Nothing is assured and the future is completely unpredictable, if not unknowable.
Politicians and industry leaders try their best, in most cases, to safeguard Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem but ultimately their priorities are economic. MONEY.
The key industry that calls the shots and dominates the economy of Hawaii is tourism. Greed and indifference to eco – sustainability in industry leaders’ decisions and operations are fortunately tempered by the awareness that the health of Hawaii’s natural land and aquatic habitats is perhaps, the most valuable element in Hawaii’s appeal and attraction to visitors.
The viability of tourism as the primary pillar of the Hawaiian economy has been severely tested by the covid pandemic. It scored low.
We have entered an era of rapid, unpredictable environmental free – fall. Climate change / instability resulting in catastrophic weather events and consequent societal disorder, i.e. floods, draught, massive fires are familiar daily news. Social and political upheaval / disintegration and global, highly contagious disease outbreaks (pandemics), resulting in large scale lockdowns and travel restrictions . . . all happening and accelerating – now.
To interpret what currently might be a lull in the storm as a return to a past, normal and feel that things have gotten better is nothing short of wishful thinking, approaching delusional. If anything, recent events are a preview of what is coming.
The question of wether or not tourism is a viable platform for the future of the Hawaiian economy seems to answer itself. Rethinking and reshaping a different future is indeed, daunting. However, burying one’s head in the sand and clinging to the current situation may be an act of grand scale suicide.
Several scenarios come to mind that may bear consideration.
First and most obvious is to make Hawaii self sufficient.
Energy – Hawaii abounds in the primary sources for sustainable non-fossil fuel based energy production: solar, wind, ocean, geothermal.
Food – Rich volcanic soil, fresh water, year round growing season, abundant, sustainable, relatively clean (mid Pacific) fisheries.
A world center for environmental solutions – Why not position Hawaii as a research destination with limited, controlled eco – tourism instead of a full – on tourist resort? Surely, as the environmental crises that the world experiences continue to mount, the need for a global epicenter for research and development of coping strategies and solutions becomes paramount. The disparate and token efforts of governments . . . their pathetically weak attempts to honor multinational agreements to curb and limit climate change have amounted to nothing. If a new International Center were to consist of members drawn exclusively from the private sector, political neutrality and profitability would be feasible. Progressive environmental development could be very profitable and eventually surpass highly vulnerable tourist economies.
An extensive, functioning, base platform for research currently exists with U of H and several other Hawaii based universities. The East – West Center already has well established international standing. There would be no shortage of long and short term housing with the plethora of hotel rooms that could be available.
Why not? What better place for a global environmental sustainability research center than a location which has itself, established a high degree of renewable sustainability, has basic, expandable research facilities in place and is regarded as one of the world’s most desirable destinations?
Joseph Carlisi – Biography
Born and raised in New York City, he earned BA and MA degrees in Philosophy at Hunter College of the City University of New York and then continued his graduate studies in Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology working under the mentorship of Marvin Minsky. Joseph worked as a part time content and copy editor for Harvard University Press (science and medicine) while attending M.I.T.