We’re smack in the middle of Hawaii Conservation Week, and if you hadn’t heard about it, or about the big related conference in Waikiki, that’s probably a good sign. For sure, the Hawaii Conservation Conference is an impressive gathering of economic and ecological minds, local and global policy experts, cultural practitioners and others, and as recently as a few years ago, a celebration like Conservation Week would have been impossible for sustainability-minded folks to miss. But these days it seems like Oahu is host to a major “green” every month, from academic events to keiki-friendly gatherings to film festivals. The week wraps up with a day-long fair at the ING Direct space on Kalakaua on Saturday from 10am–4pm, with appearances by green race car driver Leilani Münter, Blue Planet Foundation’s Jeff Mikulina and others, along with music by Waipuna.
There’s no doubt that a new level of environmental and cultural awareness has taken hold in Honolulu. On the other hand, the past couple of weeks have brought a couple of reminders that we have a long way still to go.
Last week, the environmental and cultural organization KAHEA filed suit against the Department of Land and Natural Resources over what it says is DLNR’s failure to conduct environmental impact assessments in the permit-granting process for research in Papahanaumokuakea, as required by law. KAHEA Program Director Marti Townsend says the mess started after DLNR delayed delivery of a cumulative impact assessment that would have looked at the impact research was having in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands in the two years since former President George W. Bush declared a National Marine Monument in the area.
“In June, it became clear that they weren’t going to produce that statement,” Townsend says.
Then, an employee fired by DLNR filed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging that the department had not even been going through the motions of filing paperwork related to environmental risks. DLNR spokeswoman Debbie Ward says the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Townsend said. “And it’s really disappointing, because the state waters [in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands] are the most precious and fragile, and it was the state that had the highest obligation, the highest standards of resource management.”
On the cover this week, we take a look at the resuscitation of an old proposal to build what amounts to a new community in Malaekahana. The effort has been billed as a kind of grassroots “visioning” process by Laie residents but is clearly driven by economic considerations at Brigham Young University Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center. It’s also true that the people who live and work in Laie have a legitimate beef when they point to the astronomical housing prices in the area and fret about their ability to remain in the community they call home.
At the same time, that’s true all over these islands. We have a plan for growth, and at least at this point, it doesn’t involve building Waimanalo-sized towns along our rural highways. Depending on the outcome of two community meetings over the next week, and on Honolulu Hale’s commitment to directing growth away from Koolau Loa, that could change.
And finally, some good news. On the facing page, former Weekly editor Curt Sanburn reports from last week’s SustAINAble Molokai conference, where a rising generation of community leaders listened to the received wisdom of its elders and explored visions for the future of that troubled but hopeful island. With few options other than starting, as Sanburn puts it, “from scratch,” Molokai residents will no doubt have a lot to teach the rest of us in the coming years.