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The Value of Hawai`i

Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future

Craig Howes and Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo`ole Osorio

Publication Year: 2010

How did we get here? Three-and-a-half-day school weeks. Prisoners farmed out to the mainland. Tent camps for the migratory homeless. A blinkered dependence on tourism and the military for virtually all economic activity. The steady degradation of already degraded land. Contempt for anyone employed in education, health, and social service. An almost theological belief in the evil of taxes.

At a time when new leaders will be elected, and new solutions need to be found, the contributors to The Value of Hawai‘i outline the causes of our current state and offer points of departure for a Hawai‘i-wide debate on our future. The brief essays address a wide range of topics—education, the environment, Hawaiian issues, media, tourism, political culture, law, labor, economic planning, government, transportation, poverty—but the contributors share a belief that taking stock of where we are right now, what we need to change, and what we need to remember is a challenge that all of us must meet.

Written for a general audience, The Value of Hawai‘i provides a cluster of starting points for a larger community discussion of Hawai‘i that should extend beyond the choices of the ballot box this year.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

A Note on the Text and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-8

The striking cover of this book brings into focus the themes and the ambitions of its contributors. The main photo shows a Hawai‘i classroom, probably in the 1950s. Cut out numbers and the letters of the alphabet run along the walls just below the ceiling, but someone—probably the teacher—has written the word ALOHA in even larger letters on the blackboard. The two...


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Reinventing Hawai'i

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pp. 9-14

As we in Hawai‘i start the next “X” number of years of U.S. statehood, most will agree the original invention is in trouble. We hear cries of pain throughout the state of Hawai‘i, but we hear no real discussion of how we got to this pass or how we might find our way to better times....

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Hawaiian Issues

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pp. 15-22

In her 1989 book From a Native Daughter, Haunani-Kay Trask said that the modern Hawaiian movement began when some fifty families living in Kalama Valley protested the eviction notices served by the Bishop Estate in 1967. Their resistance to a new suburban development, and the loss of one more productive working community, has grown over forty years later into a...


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The Economy

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pp. 23-30

In the decade after statehood (1959–1969), Hawai‘i’s economy boomed, with real per capita output (GDP) rising at an annual rate of 4.1 percent. From 1969 to 1989, per capita GDP continued to grow, but at the slower rate of 1.7 percent. The last twenty years have not been as kind, with per capita GDP increasing annually by just 0.3 percent. The slow growth has led to numerous...

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pp. 31-38

What is the future of this thing we call “tourism”?
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is the world’s fastest growing economic sector, is a major player in international commerce, and has become a main source of income for developing nations.1 This global spread of tourism outproduces other industries...

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pp. 39-46

Here are the global and the local problems: a growing population, increasing urbanization, degraded farmland, and destruction of important ecosystems for more farmland. On a global and a local level, we need to control population growth, or at least not encourage it by pushing urbanization, especially of farmland, and we need to farm in more sustainable ways. The old slogan,...

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The Military

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pp. 47-52

The U.S. military is the second biggest industry in Hawai‘i. While the military has a lengthy history here, its growing presence over the last half century is due primarily to the enormous political influence of Senator Daniel Inouye. Born in 1924, and elected to the Senate in 1963, the man known simply as “The Senator” has been the primary promoter of all things military. Given his...

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Race / Ethnicity

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pp. 53-60

Racial and ethnic relations in Hawai‘i are good, but far from perfect. In the early twentieth century, Hawai‘i was touted as a “laboratory of race relations,” and since the 1980s, the islands have even been proposed as a “multicultural model” for the world. No single racial/ethnic group makes up a majority in the islands. The rate of interracial marriages outpaces that of anywhere in the...

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pp. 61-68

What does the mythical person on the street think of when she visualizes labor in Hawai‘i? Angry construction workers in hard hats and torn T-shirts brandishing picket signs and obstructing traffic? Scowling backroom bosses pounding conference room tables with angry fists? Slothful government bureaucrats coddled by antiquated civil service rules? Quite possibly all of these images leap to mind....

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pp. 69-76

Hawai‘i has suffered from a serious lack of transportation planning. With projects such as the H-3 or the Superferry, and the repeated failed attempts to build rail transit in Honolulu, it is evident that there have been gross miscalculations, political machinations, and weak analysis of alternatives. The H-3 highway and fixed rail for Honolulu will have been the largest capital projects...


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pp. 77-84

Political leaders have been fodder for ridicule for millennia, and Hawai‘i’s modern-day pols are certainly not exempt. But when the State Legislature and governor’s office become punch lines on a near daily basis, as has been the case in recent years, something is wickedly rotten in Honolulu....

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Law and the Courts

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pp. 85-92

Hawai‘i’s modern legal history has been an attempt to reconcile our past with our present—to reconcile Hawai‘i’s status as an independent sovereign nation with our history as an American possession and territory; to reconcile our indigenous heritage with our immigrant and now western-dominated culture; and to reconcile a unique island worldview with a worldview shaped by national...

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Public Education

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pp. 93-100

Our sneakers were squishing in the mud as we followed our 7th grade science teacher up the Ko‘olau ridge, hunting liverwort. Our assignment: situate liverwort in the scientific systems for classifying life on earth. The picture is held for a lifetime. Green, flat, branching fingers extending over a piece of rotting tree. Even though it had no leaves and looked like fungus, it was a plant, because...

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University of Hawai‘i

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pp. 101-108

To survive the present budget crisis and the lean years beyond, the University of Hawai‘i has to deal successfully with two questions: (1) revenue—where is the money going to come from? and (2) reorganization—how can UH reorganize fairly and sensibly to deal with these new realities? For years UH has had trouble dealing with these issues. If these questions are not addressed...

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pp. 109-116

The last decades of the twentieth century saw the United States embark on an unparalleled increase in the use of incarceration. As a result, the number of inmates in state and federal prisons increased nearly seven-fold. We incarcerated less than 200,000 people in 1970, but by 2008, we were incarcerating over a million and a half prisoners (1,518,559). An additional 785,556 are held in local...


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Social Services

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pp. 117-124

I broke my finger playing softball in Canada one summer and went to an emergency room. As a visitor from Hawai‘i, I was concerned that I would need cash to get my finger set, so I kept waving around my wallet and frequently repeated, “I can pay.” The consistent response I received from the hospital staff was “Go get an x-ray. Go to the exam room. Don’t worry about...

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pp. 125-132

Our land was our home.
In pre-contact times, Hawaiians enjoyed community living, where individuals shared sleeping spaces and living spaces as families. With a lack of motorized transportation, most travel required people to sleep out beneath the sky. We made do in nature’s many elements. Our intimate relationship...

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Domestic Violence

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pp. 133-140

I moved to Hawai‘i as a teenager, and have lived in many different neighborhoods— first in Wai‘anae for several years, later ‘Aiea, Hawai‘i Kai, and Kailua—and now in Honolulu. Each neighborhood I’ve lived in had its own unique subculture—all have been tight-knit. I knew my neighbors and they knew me. We watched each others’ houses and knew each others’ kids. If...

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Health and Healthcare

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pp. 141-148

The intense partisan national debate over healthcare has, ironically, tended to obscure some of the history of efforts within the U.S. to provide it. During his first term as president, Richard Nixon, consistent with then-Republican Party ideas that the states rather than the federal government should take the lead in various aspects of social policy, advocated for expansion of healthcare coverage...

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pp. 149-156

Can we imagine Hawai‘i without the arts? We would be living in a nonsensical, internally gray environment, with sounds of cars and jackhammers. Yet we are constantly challenged to make a case for keeping the arts at the core of our society. Yes, we are blessed with an extraordinary natural environment that deserves honor and protection, but the arts are a necessary part of healthy...

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pp. 157-162

Hawai‘i joined the dismal revolution that has been sweeping the nation’s news business with this year’s sale of the Honolulu Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, to its smaller rival, the Star-Bulletin, and the planned merger of the two into a single publication. At the time of this writing, the deal is expected to result in the layoffs of several hundred newspaper employees, and a...


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Terrestrial Ecosystems

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pp. 163-170

To save Hawai‘i’s terrestrial ecosystems, save Hawai‘i’s forests.
Of course, it’s important to reduce solid waste and recycle, keep pollutants out of our water supplies, develop and carry out sound land use planning, and foster conservation and renewable energy resources. But protecting and expanding Hawai‘i’s forests is of paramount importance. Nothing else...

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Climate Change

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pp. 171-178

Hawai‘i’s climate is changing in ways that are consistent with the influence of global warming. In Hawai‘i

Air temperature has risen

Rainfall and stream flow have decreased

Rain intensity has increased...

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pp. 179-186

In the late nineteenth century, Hawai‘i energy and electricity systems were based on locally available resources, including biomass, bagasse (sugar waste), and hydropower. The twentieth century was the fossil fuel era, both in the U.S. and in Hawai‘i. Reliance on petroleum, coal, and natural gas became the backbone of the economy. That changed in 1973, during the fourth...

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pp. 187-194

The mounting challenges facing Hawai‘i’s natural and cultural resources provide a perfect opportunity to ponder a timeless question: “Aia i hea ka Wai a Käne?” Where are the waters of Käne, the waters of life? “He Mele Nö Käne,” an ancient song from the island of Kaua‘i, explains in poetic detail that fresh water permeates all aspects of life in Hawai‘i. These waters rim...

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Sovereign Ground

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pp. 195-200

Protests erupted over the excavation of an ancient Hawaiian burial site at Honokahua, Maui in October 1988; by December of that year, Governor John Waihee halted the digging. Honokahua was the first time that massive desecration and destruction of a burial site had been stopped. The disturbed remains of 1,100 individuals, which archaeologists estimated represented about...

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Historic Preservation

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pp. 201-208

One small State agency—the State Historic Preservation Division—is at the nexus of historic preservation and development, both large and small. By statute, SHPD is responsible for providing “leadership in preserving, restoring, and maintaining historic and cultural property,” standards that are squarely in the public interest. The SHPD fulfills two mandates in historic preservation—...

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Hawaiian Sustainability

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pp. 209-216

Even as Pele claims and recreates the forest, she leaves intact whole sections or large oases of the forest, with tall old-growth ‘öhi’a, tree ferns, creeping vines, and mosses. These oases are called kïpuka. The beauty of these natural kïpuka is not only their ability to resist and withstand destructive forces of change, but also to regenerate life on the barren lava which surrounds them....


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pp. 217-228

Hā‘ena, an ahupua‘a—a traditional land division, often extending from mountains to sea, and central to the system of ordering these islands—on the island of Kaua‘i, is a land richly endowed by Native sensitivities. Its attributes have been chronicled from antiquity. Today, its sheer physical beauty has attracted many newcomers who now occupy most of it, greatly outnumbering the aboriginal...

Notes and Further Readings

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pp. 229-250


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pp. 251-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780824860417
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835293

Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Quality of life -- Hawaii.
  • Hawaii -- Social conditions.
  • Hawaii -- Economic conditions -- 1959-.
  • Hawaii -- Politics and government -- 1959-.
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