“The Value of Hawaii” edited by Craig Howes and Jon Osorio

“The Value of Hawaii: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future” (2010) edited by Craig Howes and Jonathan Osorio is a collection of 28 essays focusing on what is valuable about Hawaii to us.

The book is not a repair manual or a shared manifesto, Howes cautions. “These essays encourage the entire community to enter into discussions about Hawaii’s future” (page 4). Howes identifies three themes throughout the book: 1) We must come fully to terms with Hawaiian claims to land and sovereignty; 2) We require a certain number of government services and planning to preserve our society and environment; and 3) Government and private-sector partnerships are essential.

While I am disappointed that there is only one perspective on each issue, the editors have done an amazing job of gathering short, general essays from a wide variety of writers, who offer us a historical perspective and recommendations for our future.

Here are just a few of the issues that challenge us in every generation:

* Agriculture: Charles Reppun (Hawaii farmer) writes a thought-provoking essay about food self-sufficiency, warning that “If the world is made of up many ‘islands,’ each ‘island’ is in trouble when the food production and distribution systems they rely on are unsustainable” (page 45). He offers us a starting point with school, backyard, and community gardens; building permits requiring garden spaces; and historic Hawaiian fishponds restoration.

* Government: Chad Blair (reporter, author, and educator) proposes specific and reasonable ways to streamline government, such as a unicameral assembly, term-limits, nonpartisan elections, and an end to nonbinding resolutions; and states that “Political parties can’t solve Hawaii’s problems. It takes hard work, respectful argument, and ultimately, compromise” (page 82).

* Education: Mari Matsuda (author and educator) tells us that standardized tests, blaming teachers and unions, and restructuring doesn’t improve public education; asserts that “In the good school, the students, the teachers, and the parents own the school” (page 97); and offers 10 suggestions to save public schools, such as raising teacher salaries, ending unfunded mandates, introducing wrap-around social services, and measuring success by more than just test scores.

* Energy: Henry Curtis (Executive Director of Life of the Land) writes an informative introductory essay about seven possible paths towards energy independence: Macro/interisland grid, biofuel, ocean, battery, Micro/small grids, high tech, and energy efficiency; and declares that “Hawaii has every natural resource to create our own energy, and an abundance of human resources and technological know-how to design innovative systems” (page 186).

* Hawaiian Sustainability: Davianna Pomaikai McGregor (professor and historian) discusses cultural kipuka (rural communities largely untouched by Western society); emphasizes that “A sense of community and the sharing of resources and responsibilities for childrearing and kupuna care are parts of the lifestyle valued by longtime residents of cultural kipuka” (page 210); and encourages us to renew our ties to the past, such as respecting place names, creating cultural area reserves, and creating community-based subsistence fishing management areas.

I hope that you will read this book and think about the challenges facing Hawaii today – and tomorrow. What can we do to uphold and protect what we value about Hawaii?

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