Maui’s Future: Paradise or Dystopia?
On Maui, we are at a crossroads where our future can go toward a replication of the Waikiki model or we can go in another better direction.
The Waikiki model began in another era and is a story of land exploitation, dispossession of local Hawaiian lands, draining wetlands, sand mining beaches, shoreline hotels, and an imported economy. And all that is now becoming a forest of aging hotels, disappearing beaches, property loss from sea-level rise, overcrowding, and unsustainability. The tourism-based economic business model is also vulnerable to the vagaries of air travel and is heavily dependent on cheap fuel and cheap flights.
The Paradise model is one that Hawaiians have been working towards for hundreds of years. One that observes and understands nature, and appreciates protects, and preserves the natural systems, and works within nature’s rules. The Paradise model is self-sufficient and mostly independent of outside supply lines and external support.
We know that the Waikiki model has already done tremendous damage to the environment. Swampy wetlands and taro fields were taken away from Hawaiians, and filled in to raise the grade. Then the canal system was dug to drain the swamp and create lands for development. They used fill, and used sand to make a concrete jungle. This sandy swamp they built on is however going to be one of the first casualties of SLR and is already suffering from coastal erosion. Impounded sand can no longer replenish lost sand, and pollution is damaging the protective coral reefs.
We are going down a very similar path on Maui, in fact, we are getting a deliberate spillover on Maui from overcrowded Oahu. We already have more tourists per capita on Maui, and more tourist accommodations per capita than Oahu. People are migrating here, and interisland construction companies travel between the islands, and interisland developers also create projects where they see openings and opportunities. These developers have no responsibility to protect natural resources or protect the environment. They do not respect the rights of the land or the sea. They are looking out for their pocketbooks and creating busy work for construction workers. Unfortunately, Maui is ripe for exploitation and will be built out and overexploited very quickly if we let it.
We can and must try to change our course and trajectory onto a more sustainable path that is more closely aligned to cooperation with nature, and the natural systems around us. We must reprioritize our values so that we can preserve the natural systems that sustain us.
Watershed: We must recognize the inherent value of our watershed and the services it provides the environment as well as the island’s inhabitants (not just man). We must protect and preserve streams, gulches, wetlands, springs, and the aquifer. These are the veins, arteries, heart, and kidneys of our island’s lifeblood (water). We must protect and preserve water and the watershed. We need to preserve catchment zones, and prevent soil contamination of stormwater coming from ranchlands.
And we must protect the ocean from harm. We must stop polluting the ocean with raw sewerage, and we must stop polluted stormwater reaching the ocean and killing our reefs.
We must reduce or eliminate the use of toxic agricultural chemicals on farmland and landscaping. We must stop dumping sewerage from boats and cruise ships.
We must stop the overfishing, and overharvesting of the ocean. No aquarium fishing, no spearfishing of beneficial herbivorous fish, no coral collecting.
We must recognize and protect the shorelines, and stop building on beaches, and shorelines. We must allow shorelines to function according to natural cycles. We must allow for managed shoreline retreat and stay off the shorelines.
Protection and Preservation Measures:
- Moratorium on Shoreline building.
- Create soil preservation projects on farmlands/ranchlands.
- Protection for streams, gulches, floodways, springs, and wetlands.
- Protection for beaches.
- Protection for coral reefs.
- Protection for ocean water.
- Watershed management and protection.
- Drainage infrastructure should be as “green and natural” as possible.
- Better utilization of Wastewater, diverting it from injection wells,
- Using R1 water for food production,
- Create Food Forests, for example, “ULU Orchards”, with permanent ground cover, that will stabilize soils.
- Upcountry “green” buffer zones that create soil-loss buffers.
- Fencing for ungulates to keep them excluded from gulches and gulch setbacks.
- Reforesting upcountry and all suitable open spaces for Carbon sequestration.
- Reduce the carbon footprint of all island activities, and interisland activities.
- Create a Carbon Tax on all tourism-related activities, to offset air travel pollution and carbon production.
- Tax all imported goods, that can be produced locally.
- Create a carbon offset fund for Reforestation, Carbon reduction, and environmental preservation efforts.
- Protect and preserve cultural sites, Iwu Kupuna, and cultural activities.
- Promote and nurture cultural wisdom and knowledge regarding the management of natural assets and systems on land and in the water.
- Create Ahupua’a Councils for the oversight of each Ahupuaha, Mauka to Makai from the point of cultural preservation, natural protection and asset management.
- Create jobs in the restoration, preservation work, that are beneficial to the environment and engage the community in its own self-sufficiency.
- Act 61, S.L. 1896, lays the basis for the compulsory filling in of low-lying wetlands in the district of Honolulu. Owners of wetlands in Honolulu, which includes Waikiki, are required to bring their lands up to a specified grade, to create dry land, if the Board of Health judges their lands to be “deleterious to public health.” https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/30397/waikiki_02.pdf
- Research shows that synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers quickly make their way from land to ocean. These chemicals can accumulate in fish and inhibit reproduction in both fish and corals. https://www.mauireefs.org/what-we-do/pesticides/
- SMWP-FINAL-December-2019.pdf (page 146) For these reasons, feral ungulate fencing has been assigned high priority. Fencing should begin on ranchlands directly mauka of the Kihei-Wailea-Makena urban corridor in 2020 and continue throughout the next twenty years as needed until feral ungulate populations are under control. https://health.hawaii.gov/cwb/files/2020/07/SMWP-FINAL-December-2019.pdf
- SMWP-FINAL-December-2019.pdf (Page 14) The primary source of water pollutants identified by this Plan is sediment contaminated stormwater runoff. Turbidity measurements in exceedance of State of Hawaii water quality standards were observed at each of the sampled sites within the SMWP. https://health.hawaii.gov/cwb/files/2020/07/SMWP-FINAL-December-2019.pdf
- SMWP-FINAL-December-2019.pdf (Page 43) First, wetlands act as natural flood retention basins during stormwater events.
- Studies have found the wastewater soon reaches the ocean and has damaged a coral reef near a Maui beach. https://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2020/04/maui-county-loses-supreme-court-case-over-sewage-plant-injection-wells/
- THE NATION’S HIGHEST COURT has sided with clean water advocates in a decades-long legal dispute involving a wastewater treatment plant, its pollution discharges, and a partially dead coral reef in Hawaiʻi. https://earthjustice.org/features/supreme-court-maui-clean-water-case
- HAWAII VISITOR AIR TRAVEL EMISSIONS AS CONTRIBUTOR TO GLOBAL WARMING https://climate.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Public-Testimony_04072021.pdf
- Maui County focused on water reuse, not wastewater injection https://www.mauinews.com/opinion/columns/2018/02/maui-county-focused-on-water-reuse-not-wastewater-injection/