By Mililani Trask
POSTED: 12:30 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2013
~~<div>It has become too easy to just say "aloha" or speak of being "pono" or promise to "malama aina." but lip service is no service when it comes to addressing the challenges Hawaii faces. </div>
It has become too easy to just say "aloha" or speak of being "pono" or promise to "malama aina." but lip service is no service when it comes to addressing the challenges Hawaii faces. One of the biggest is doing something real and genuinely game-changing about our dangerous dependence on imported oil without endangering the environment or Hawaii's people. "Real and genuinely game-changing" is what the community-based model of Innovations Development Group (IDG) for geothermal development aimed for when it first introduced it to the Maori tribes in New Zealand. As IDG's consultant on indigenous matters and as the attorney who represented Native Hawaiian practitioners and the kupuna of Puna who were arrested when geothermal was first broached in the 1990s, I recognize the full weight of our responsibility as we embark on doing geothermal right this time. The model we have created is based on indigenous human rights. It has worked for the Maori tribes and is the model we will be using here. Let's start with some basic facts. >> The people — Native Hawaiians and the public at large — own Hawaii's geothermal assets. This is a reality affirmed by law. It is only right, therefore, that everyone benefits from Tutu Pele's great gift, one that will keep on giving if we ensure it is developed and used in a sustainable way. >> Our young people and residents need jobs, and small businesses in places like Puna need affordable energy. Hu'ena Power, the development arm of IDG, envisages producing geothermal energy in such a way that there are avenues for our residents to get trained and find jobs that pay enough to support their families without having to go elsewhere. As in New Zealand, Hu'ena Power anticipates that ancillary steam from the geothermal plant can be made available to small businesses at a far lower cost than what these businesses now have to pay for power. This will also encourage the start-up of new agro-related ventures. After two years of "talk story" sessions, we know one thing for sure: Anyone developing geothermal ignores the community at their peril. The community remembers being wronged, having their places of worship and traditional practices disrupted, and being made to feel like trespassers on their own land. They remember precious native plants and cultural places being endangered. None of this would have happened if there had been a genuine effort to work with the community to share benefits, respect culture and the environment and support food security and agriculture. Hu'ena Power sees malama aina (care for the land) as an integral part of the permitting process. The international team of experts it has assembled from Japan, Iceland, New Zealand and the U.S. will use leading edge, clean and safe technology and bring pioneering best practices here to ensure public safety. People cannot be forced to trust. Trust starts with seeing that promises are fulfilled and good practices are implemented. We have a second shot now at making a "real, game-changing" effort at developing geothermal. Tapping into this firm-power alternative to fossil fuels and using it in concert with other forms of renewable energy can turn Hawaii into a model for how a small place in the middle of the Pacific can do big things to secure the future. Are we capable of thinking this big? The recent decision by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to invest in Hu'ena Power is one promising indication that we are. Having risen above our differences, we are poised to do what is right and beneficial for all of us — and those who will come after us. This is no time to stop.
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