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Group hopes to see new economy emerge based on Hawaiian values

A new group that wants to reboot Hawaii’s tourist-based economy in the era of the new coronavirus announced a four-step plan Tuesday to come up with ideas by August based on Native Hawaiian cultural values.

The ‘Aina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration, which was sent to Gov. David Ige, is the first part of an effort to create a different island economy based on centuries of island-based values. It is posted at ainaalohafutures.com.

The declaration was authored by 14 members of the community who want “to reboot the entire operating system of our economy,” said Kamanamaikalani Beamer, associate professor of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Hawaiian Studies in the Hui ‘Aina Momona Program, who also has a joint appointment in UH’s Richardson School of Law and the Hawai‘inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

By the end of the process in the next three months, Beamer and other organizers said Tuesday that they hope community members participate in urging decision-makers to write a new economic road map “to lead us into the future. … What we want is a better life for our aina and for each of our islands.”

Organizers said they hope to have comments and suggestions by May 31, followed by webinar sessions on specific issues such as agriculture and education through July, concluding with a policy plan sometime in August.

So far, the overall concept has been endorsed by more than 550 individuals and organizations.

No specific ideas were presented Tuesday.

“Nothing is carved in stone,” one of the organizers, Noe Noe Wong-Wilson of Hilo, said Tuesday at a video news conference.

In a statement she said, “We heard over and again sentiments like ‘we can’t rebuild the same economy that produced the problems we’re facing. Everyone agreed that we need to re-establish an economy that puts the well-being of our ‘aina, our food and energy sustainability, and the interests of our Hawai‘i residents at the forefront.’”

She added in her statement, “We have a kuleana to manage our resources in a way that accomplishes these goals, and we need to hold our leaders accountable to do so.”

A new island economy needs to be based on values “that have sustained life in these islands for centuries,” Beamer said.

A post-COVID-19 economy should provide “meaningful work and sustainable wages … that works for the many and not the few,” he said.

Asked for examples, Beamer said Germany, Copenhagen and parts of China are adapting to a “circular economy” — unlike “linear” economies that “extract resources as cheaply as possible,” perhaps to the environment’s detriment, to produce expendable commodities such as flat-screen TVs that end up in landfills.

Instead, Beamer said, parts of the European Union produce products that can be repaired instead of discarded.

“It’s happening all across the world,” he said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Hawaii was looking at another year of “10 million people marching across our land,” said Joseph Lapilio, president of the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve let it get away from us,” he said.

Aside from Hawaii’s reliance on tourism, other questions linger, Lapilio said, such as “how do we fuel our cars, our homes?”

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