Rep. Mina Morita's Blog

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Posted in Education,Environmental Protection,Events,General,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on November 6, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier a ride to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  Although on sabbatical this year, he is feverishly organizing to launch a volunteer drive to typescript Hawaiian -language newspapers to make the entire collection word-searchable.  No language skill is necessary and forgive me for not using okina and kahako in my blog.

I don’t have a scanner so I’m going to practice my typing and accuracy, the desired skills needed for this project, by retyping parts of the brochure describing the project:

Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed from 1834 to 1948, equaling a million or more typescript pages of text.  Perhaps the largest native-language cache in the western world, the newspapers were an intentional national repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progess as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2% of that collection has been integrated into our English-speaking world today.

75,000 of the newspaper pages have been converted to digital images.  15,000 of which have been made into searchable typescript, but 60,000 pages remain unsearchable.  For a decade we have used OCR and paid operators to make quality searchable text, educating every person connected with the process.  The 15,000 pages showed the world the importance of this resource, but funding has continually dwindled.  We face closure of the project or export of the work to Asia.  Instead, we are enlisting an army of volunteers to type those pages word-for-word and make them all searchable.  We plan to liberate knowledge from the archival dust because knowledge liberates everyone.

Volunteers Needed – Be a part of this historical Hawaiian legacy effort

No Language Skill Necessary!

Mounting a locally-based volunteer drive will be a massive effort, with thousands of volunteers and a central coordinating hub to engage volunteers and guide production for reliability and accuracy.  The cost is higher than exporting the work and the effort is daunting but this allows for community engagement, personal investment in Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaii-centered kuleana in the product, supported by hands around the world.

Ike Kuokoa launches on November 28, 2011 (La Kuokoa since 1843) and will finish 60,000 pages on/before July 31, 2012 (La Hoihoi Ea).  Up and web-searchable by La Kuokoa 2012.

For pre-registration and more information go to:

My understanding of the volunteer effort is that a volunteer will “check-out” a newspaper page.  The volunteer will then typescript each article and return the page to the archive when pau.  The articles from the page will be reviewed for accuracy and, if necessary, returned to the volunteer to make corrections.  When completed the typescripted newspaper page will be credited to the volunteer as an acknowledgement of the volunteer’s participation and the volunteer may then “check-out” another page to be typescripted.

Puakea tells me that the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Classes, hula halau from around the world are among the groups challenging each other to amass volunteers for this effort.  He estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers are needed.

Most importantly, this cache of over 100 newspaper publications helps to reveal various viewpoints of Hawaiian life during a 100 year period.  Such insight has been invaluable.  For example, of particular interest to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) are articles touching on marine ecosystem management in Hawai‘i, traditional and introduced fishing practices, climatic conditions, and storms and other significant weather events.  Read more about this particular project here.

I excitedly signed up, hope you will too.

Pilgrimage of Compassion – 2011

Posted in Events,Kauai,Sustainability by Mina Morita on August 7, 2011

Lawai International Center

Today I participated in the eleventh annual Pilgrimage of Compassion, as I have done for the past three years at the Lawai International Center.  Many of the sentiments I shared came from others and deserve to be repeated and their wisdom remembered each year.  Many of the participants have asked that I post what I shared today, which is below, and the link to the blog I posted last year.

Ano ai me ke aloha kakou, e na hulu mamo like ole.

Greetings, with aloha, among all of us, birds of many feathers. I think this is the 3rd time I have participated in this pilgrimage and each time I have opened with this greeting, which I learned from Puanani Burgess, a community builder and poet from Waianae. She learned this formal greeting from Pilahi Paki who was instrumental in giving Lynn guidance and the foundation to restore this area.  Puanani, who is also a Buddhist priest, told me she thought that this greeting demonstrates the Hawaiian mindset perfectly. The kaona, or hidden meaning, of this formal greeting is that even though we may look different we are all the same. And, scientifically, this is true. Through the human genome project we now know that 99.9% of humans are genetically the same but unfortunately, most conflicts focus on our differences be it race, gender or religion.

Respect for nature, universal human rights and a culture of peace. These are the kind of values we share and these values can be embodied in a single word, Aloha. Aloha is what brings us together today.  Aloha guides Lynn Muramoto and is the foundation of Lawai International Center. It is Aloha that allows this puu honua, this place of refuge, to transcend through generations.

Over twenty years ago another person that helped to give Lynn guidance is Alvin Shim, a Hawaii visionary and peacemaker and who was a mentor to many of Hawaii’s leaders.  Several weeks ago I was having dinner with his son, Pono Shim.  Pono continues his father’s legacy of social justice to spread the meaning of living with Aloha.

Pono told me, “you know Mina, we don’t have cultural diversity in Hawaii, what we have is a cultural hybrid.”  Pono explained to me that he viewed cultural diversity as being together in a defined area but still identified through our differences.  To Pono, cultural hybrid was more suitable in describing what we have in Hawaii – that we strive to blend the best qualities from each culture and bind them together through our shared value of Aloha.

Pono, a practitioner who stresses the importance of native storytelling to describe Aloha, compared the concept of a cultural hybrid to lei-making.  We all know that a lei is very special.  Many times a lei is a symbol and a gift of Aloha.

Kui Lei

We are all familiar with the kui lei, the most common type of lei making where we take similar flowers and with a needle poke through the center of the flower to string the flowers together.  Pono said this describes cultural diversity.  We have lots of beautiful kui leis but it’s usually all the same kind of flowers held together on a string.

However, the more traditional lei is either wili or haku, where you weave multiple lei materials held together with a strong backing and light cordage.  Pono explained that with a haku or wili you bring together many different types of materials, flowers and foliage, to create a lei.  If the backing and binding is done right the flowers and foliage will hold together no matter how hard you shake the lei.  However, if not bound correctly and tightly, the lei falls apart.  Similarly, without the backing and binding of Aloha our communities fall apart.

Haku Lei

At the 2009 pilgrimage, I shared how Hawaii became known as the Aloha State through Reverend Abraham Akaka famous statehood sermon in 1959.  To close, I want to share an excerpt of that timeless sermon with you again.

Kahu Abraham Akaka

We do not understand the meaning of Aloha until we realize its foundation in the power of God at work in the world. Since the coming of our missionaries in 1820, the name for God to our people has been Aloha. One of the first sentences I learned from my mother in my childhood was this from Holy Scripture: “Aloha ke Akua” – in other words, “God is Aloha.” Aloha is the power of God seeking to unite what is separated in the world – the power that unites heart with heart, soul with soul, life with life, culture with culture, race with race, nation with nation. Aloha is the power that can reunite when a quarrel has brought separation; aloha is the power that reunites a man with himself when he has become separated from the image of God within.

Aloha consists of this new attitude of heart, above negativism, above legalism. It is the unconditional desire to promote the true good of other people in a friendly spirit, out of a sense of kinship. Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached. We do not do good only to those who do good to us. One of the sweetest things about the love of God, about Aloha, is that it welcomes the stranger and seeks his good. A person who has the spirit of Aloha loves even when the love is not returned. And such is the love of God.

Aloha does not exploit a people or keep them in ignorance and subservience. Rather, it shares the sorrows and joys of people; it seeks to promote the true good of others.Today, one of the deepest needs of mankind is the need to feel a sense of kinship one with another. Truly all mankind belongs together from the beginning all mankind has been called into being nourished [and] watched over by the love of God. So that the real Golden Rule is Aloha. This is the way of life we shall affirm.

Let us affirm [for]ever what we really are – for Aloha is the spirit of God at work in you and in me and in the world, uniting what is separated, overcoming darkness and death, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.

Aloha ke Akua.  Mahalo for allowing me to share this message with you.

Setting Our Sights As We Begin A New Year – The Blue Economy

Posted in General,Sustainability by Mina Morita on January 1, 2011

As the new year begins, we will continue to face the many challenges of a struggling economy which will no doubt be exacerbated by rising oil prices. Unfortunately, from my past experience, when the economy is weak expectations are set pretty low at the Legislature for the upcoming session.  However, on the bright side, we have a new Governor.  Governor Abercrombie’s inaugural address portends the sense of hope and optimism as we set our sights on this new year in establishing Hawaii’s future direction.  Here is an excerpt from the address:

This morning the sun rose in paradise, bringing a new day.  What becomes of this day is in our hands—as stewards of our land and water, providers for our families, and citizens of our beloved Hawai‘i.

On this day in Hawai‘i we begin our work on building a sustainable prosperity that can be enjoyed today and for generations to come, we will make investments in the capabilities of our people, and we will build strong communities based on our core values of compassion and unity.

Our first task is accelerating our recovery by restoring and creating good jobs, capitalizing on new opportunities, working smarter and more creatively, and building partnerships to optimize results. We can no longer spend precious time and energy fighting to gain a political edge. Instead we must focus all our efforts on Hawai‘i’s future and our respective roles in it.  Each one of us has important work to do—as laborers and managers, business owners and innovators, public and private sector leaders, educators and caregivers.

We will face challenges, but we will not let these become excuses.

Yes, I am excited to get to work with a leadership team that is focused on aspirations, innovation and values to reshape our economy to one that truly reflects our desire to be prosperous in every aspect of our  lives.

The Enterprise Honolulu (the economic development board of  Oahu) website opens with a photograph of a voyaging canoe in a vast ocean asking, “Will we ever trust our senses again?  No signs, no milemarkers, no GPS.  They knew where home was.  They knew where they wanted to go.”  We are the legacy of “they”, and, hopefully, well embedded in our na’au are all our senses to guide Hawaii to economic and environmental prosperity to enrich our quality of life.  I cannot think of a better way to start of the new year with the hope that the following video will help to stimulate discussions and action on the numerous innovations awaiting to be tapped into in redesigning how we think and do business in Hawaii.

No Fishes, No Fishermen

Posted in Environmental Protection,Issues,Kauai,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on October 15, 2010

Reacting to the convoluted discussion surrounding the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary management plan review, a fisherman asked me if I was for or against fishermen.  My simple answer to that question is I am for the fish – no fishes, no fishermen.

I understand that fishing is a significant factor in keeping our island lifestyle and culture but this important resource is dependent on maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem.  Unfortunately, indiscriminate fishing, the absence of comprehensive marine management and sensible regulations and enforcement have put our marine resources in jeopardy not only in Hawaii but throughout the world.  Kupuna Louis “Buzzy” Agard describes the situation we now face:

In our oceans today, too many people are fighting over a diminished resource. I have been fishing in Hawai‘i for more than 60 years. I remember when there were dense schools of fish in Hawai‘i. But I can tell you from experience, times have changed. Our food fish are now a commodity, and when a limited natural resource becomes a commodity, you have the tragedy of the commons – everybody keeps taking, but nobody takes care. If we learn to take care, and to take only what we need in a responsible manner, then maybe we can be proud of the future we pass on to our children.

Our best efforts have to be brought forth to ensure a thriving fishing community.  It was not long ago that our nearshore waters were managed through a konohiki with strict rules and serious consequences.  Our Hawaiian ancestors truly understood that having a thriving fishery was a matter of survival and responsibility.  Rebuilding our fisheries can only happen through a thoughtful discussion and acknowledging our kuleana as an island community dependent on our ocean, not through rumors, fear and speculation.  Hopefully, the Hawaii Humpback Whale Sanctuary management plan review can be seized as an opportunity to redirect federal and state resources not to focus solely on target species but to identify what it will take to restore a thriving and diverse marine ecosystem to enhance the quality of our island lifestyle.

Navigator Nainoa Thompson says, “It’s time for us to recognize the value of our ocean, and understand that we are in a time of decline . . . We must rebuild a culture of an ocean community. This will require a partnership among scientists, government, and those who use and love the ocean like I do. It’s about values and responsibility, and is truly a matter of survival.”

Examining the Perils of Mining to Make A Case for Recycling

Posted in Environmental Protection,Legislation/Capitol,Sustainability by Mina Morita on October 13, 2010

Years ago I visited two Hewlett-Packard electronic recycling facilities, one in Nashville, Tennesse while attending the National Conference of State Legislatures and another in Roseville, California while on a vacation.  The concept of “above ground mining” – removing precious metals from discarded products to be recycled for manufacturing new products – was proving to be a cost-effective concept and alternative to mining for virgin materials at these facilities.  This was my impetus to move forward in the legislature an electronic recycling bill after passing the bottle bill.

Recently, the risks and environmental problems of mining have been highlighted by the Chilean miners rescue and the Hungarian bauxite sludge disaster. The “wasting” of non-recycled aluminum cans is discussed in this Massachusetts Lowell Sun Editorial, tying mining with recycling.  For many years Massachusetts bottle bill advocates have been trying to expand their deposit/redemption program to make it similar to Hawaii’s:

That wave of red sludge is the environmental cost of man’s quest for bauxite. Bauxite is usually strip-mined (surface-mining) because it is almost always found near the surface. Bauxite ore is heated in a pressure vessel along with a sodium-hydroxide solution at a temperature of 150 to 200 Celsius. At these temperatures, the aluminum is dissolved and the toxic red sludge becomes a byproduct. For each equivalent of alumina produced, an average plant produces 1-2 times as much red mud. The red mud cannot be disposed of easily. In most countries where red mud is produced, it is pumped into red-mud ponds. These “ponds” are simply wastelands full of red mud. Due to the process used, the mud is highly basic with a pH from 10 to 13. Lake water is normally at a pH of 7. Red mud presents a problem as it takes up land area and can neither be built on nor farmed, even when dry.

About 95 percent of the world’s bauxite production is processed first into alumina, then into aluminum by electrolysis. Yes, that’s aluminum… The same aluminum can that some of you might have considered throwing away as opposed to recycling.

Too much of the “recycling movement” has been focused on issues of landfill space and waste-to-energy facilities. That is only a secondary issue. Recycling is about supplying manufacturers with the feed stocks that they need to make new products. By doing so, we can reduce the energy-intensive and too-often environmentally destructive extraction of natural resources — such as mining for bauxite ore.

Aluminum is one of the most easily recycled commodities. As we all know, making new aluminum cans out of recycled cans takes 95 percent less energy than using virgin bauxite. An aluminum can has 68 percent total recycled content, the highest of any beverage package material.

By recycling or returning our cans for redemption, hopefully we can work toward reducing these sorts of tragic accidents in the future. That is why folks are out there pushing for increased recycling and expanded bottle bills. Forty-one billion cans are wasted annually! In a recent editorial, Roger Guzowski (the recycling manager at Five Colleges Inc.) asked the question “It’s only one can though, right?”

According to statistics from Hawaii’s beverage deposit and redemption program, in fiscal year 2010 413,119,202 beverages in aluminum cans were sold in Hawaii.  329,896,576 cans were recycled.  With a recycle rate of close to 80%, almost 83,000,000 aluminum cans were “wasted”, probably ending up in landfills.  Besides the “wasting” of this important metal, there are significant energy savings when using scrap aluminum.  A can made from recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy than a can made from virgin aluminum.

Prior to passing the beverage deposit and redemption program law, Hawaii’s recycling rate was less than 25%.  Although there is still much work to be done to address Hawaii’s solid waste issues, here’s the impact of the Hawaii’s bottle law which includes aluminum, glass, plastic and bi-metal containers:

Containers Sold

Containers Redeemed

% Recycled

FY 2006


628,818,330 68%
FY 2007




FY 2008




FY 2009




FY 2010




TOTAL 4,612,057,087 3,334,718,624


  • Over 219,960 tons of beverage containers diverted from Hawaii’s landfills and channeled to recycling markets
  • Helped to stabilize and revitalize Hawaii’s recyclers
  • Created 300 jobs statewide
  • Lays the foundation for new businesses to be developed utilizing glass and plastic as resources

In Memoriam – Dr. Stephen Schneider

Posted in Clean Energy,Education,Environmental Protection,Sustainability by Mina Morita on July 20, 2010

Typically, climate change is not a top of mind issue for me because if we keep to the implementation of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative objectives we can anticipate greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 38.7% below 1990 target levels by 2020 (GHGTaskForceworkplans).  But today I found two climate change concerns disturbing and sad.

First, I heard this story on Poison Ivy Growing Faster, More Virulent because of rising carbon dioxide levels and forest disruptions.

Second, climatologist Dr. Stephen Schneider died yesterday.  The brilliance of Dr. Schneider was his ability to explain the science and political complexities of climate change in plain English.  I first met Dr. Schneider when we were both participating in a 2007 conference convened by Blue Planet Foundation at Ko Olina.  By chance, the night before the conference started, I sat next to him at dinner not knowing anything about his background or accomplishments.  Had I known I probably would have been too intimidated to carry a conversation with a Nobel Prize winner.  He was funny, delightful and unassuming.  His presentation on climate change risk management and its solution reflecting our value judgement was practical and thought provoking and has helped me to better frame energy/environmental issues.  I could not find his video on the Blue Planet website but I did find a similar presentation without the powerpoint on YouTube.

After the Ko Olina conference, Dr. Schneider made several other trips back to Hawaii to lecture and had hoped to vacation on Kauai.  His passing is a huge loss for humanity.  Here is an excerpt from Peter H. Gleich, Co-Founder & President of the Pacific Institute, post:

But his contributions extend far, far beyond his superb science: Schneider was perhaps the most important communicator on climate science issues to the public and to policymakers. Steve was committed to challenging those who deny the realities of climate change because he understood that their abuse and misuse of climate science threatens the health of humans and the planet itself . . . He taught me and many others he mentored to understand and honor the science, but he also taught us the importance of speaking up in defense of the integrity of science and the public interest.

Pilgrimage of Compassion – 2010

Posted in Events,General,Kauai,Sustainability by Mina Morita on July 12, 2010

At the foot of the path.

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving remarks at the 10th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion at the Lawai International Center.  In preparing to speak before a large group I like to put everything I say in writing and try to edit what I say as much as possible so I can be up at the mike for as short as a time possible.  I tried all week to write and the pressure was building.  I woke up yesterday morning with nothing in mind and had to leave the house in a couple of hours.  I am not a religious person, nor do I think of myself as spiritual but  my life has been enriched by people I have met like Ramsay Taum, Pono Shim, and Puanani Burgess, who all perpetuate the wisdom of kupuna and practice and share Aloha.  (click here to see a video of Ramsay sharing the meaning of Hawaii, read Pono’s statement to the State Senate and hear Kupuna Paki share the meaning of Aloha)  Suffice it to say, that once I started to focus on their stories to sharing their words for the pilgrimage  it became easier to write.

Pilgrimage of Compassion - 2010

One of 88 shrines.

Many people at the pilgrimage asked for the text of my remarks and given the wonders of WordPress, I can now retell the story here with pictures and special links below.  Also, here is a link to my 2009 remarks  which talks more about Pilahi Paki and Kahu Abraham Akaka’s famous statehood Aloha Ke Akua sermon. LawaiInternationalCenter

Kaua & the Lotus Blossom

Last week I watched my lotus plant flower for the first time.  I wasn’t familiar with the significance of the lotus blossom in Buddhism so went to look it up on the internet.

The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the flower blossoms high above the water, reaching for the sunlight. The movement of the stem and bud through the mud represents the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. And, although there are other water plants that bloom above the water, only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, rises about a foot above the surface of the water.

Learning this reminded me of the Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo where existence begins in darkness and muck.  This is how Kumu Hula, Pualani Kanahele, from Hawaii Island, describes the Kumulipo.

“The Kumulipo is a mele ko‘ihonua (genealogical chant). It is a remembrance from the lipo (dark depth) of our deep past to the lipo of our unknown future. It heralds existence from dawn to dawn or the numerous beginnings and endings. The Kumulipo acknowledges the walewale as the earthy matter from which all forms have ascended. The fundamental images, thoughts, forms and shapes from walewale evolved and increased into familial patterns. It is the organic inception of all family systems . . .

The Kumulipo is the reality of our dim past, the foundation for our present and the pathway into the future. It is a cognizant reminder of our ancestors, their intelligence, failure, defeat and conquest. This chant is a gift which encourages the warrior within us to awake to the contests and challenges, which continue to confront us today, by using ancestral intelligence and experiences with our own intelligence. It is the genealogy which connects the Native Hawaiian to land, sky and ocean.”

A very important part of our heritage that connects Hawaii’s physiological existence to our psychological being is the concept of Aloha.  And, the Lawai International Center’s foundation is embedded in the concept of Aloha.

It is unfortunate that the word Aloha is often misunderstood as only a simple greeting or as just love.  Aloha is a way of being, it is a way of life.  When the word Aloha is broken down into two parts, Alo means to be in the presence of, to join or connect with.  Ha is the breath, the spirit, the essence of one’s being.  So to say Aloha is to be in the presence of, or to join the spirit of the person you are acknowledging.  Aloha also speaks to the notion of connecting to the other life forces, however you define them – god, nature – to live in balance with those forces.  It is the concept of giving and receiving – not giving and taking.  It is the notion that the more you put in, the more you will receive.  It is the notion of leaving people and places better than you found it, leaving people whole, leaving places whole.  Aloha is the essence of our being that connects us to all life forces and humanity.

In our daily lives Aloha is the foundation of all of our actions to make our family, work, communities – local or global – sustainable.  While the western concept of sustainability is balancing people, the planet and profits, I believe the human thoughts and actions required for sustainability are what I call Hawaii’s triple bottomline.  First, Aloha – meaning compassion, respect and reverence for each other and other life forces.  Second, Malama Pono – to do what is right and just.  And, third, Kuleana – acknowledging and taking responsibility.

Like the symbolism of the lotus blossom, Aloha is the spirit of enlightenment at work in you and in me and in the world, overcoming challenges, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.

Shakuhachi Grand Master Riley Lee

Aloha is the guidance Lynn Marumoto has relied on in the establishment of the Lawai International Center.  She and members of the Lawai International Center ohana have a tremendous kuleana (responsibility) to malama (protect and perpetuate) this special puu honua (place of refuge) so that the seeds of aloha may be planted with each step along the hillside during this annual pilgrimage of compassion and to blossom and propagate aloha when we leave this special place today.

Clean Energy Transformation Takes More Than “Green” Jobs

Posted in Clean Energy,Kauai,Sustainability,Uncategorized by Mina Morita on July 2, 2010

Yesterday The Garden Island ran an article about the Kauai Planning & Action Alliance’s annual meeting where I gave a presentation at last Thursday.  While I understand the challenge to write an article on an issue as complex as the clean energy economy and its focus on green jobs, I thought the article missed the gist of my presentation, Hawaii’s Clean Energy Transformation, Creating & Identifying Green Jobs (KPAA62410finalnotes).

Throughout the article were snippets in quotes which did not fully convey and may have inadvertently misstate what was actually said.  For example, went I used the term “energy junkies” it was in the context that we really needed to broaden outreach to include all sectors of community, not just preach to the choir which I described as the “energy junkies”.  And, I use that term in an endearing way as these are the clean energy advocates I can count on to be involved and who already understand the importance of a clean energy economy.  But in order for a clean energy transformation to occur the reach has to be far beyond the choir and immediate congregation.

In my presentation I reference the essay The Death of Environmentalism and the book that resulted from that essay, Break Through.  I bring these two references up because both are provocative in pointing out that the stakes are too high to continue with a business as usual scenario and environmentalism alone will not save the planet.  However, reframing issues to engage a larger stakeholder groups can lead to greater buy-in and participation demonstrating a good solution has multiple benefits.

A Hawaii clean energy economy transformation is both technical and social engineering at its best.  And, unless we can gain confidence in this long-term strategy from a broad base of Hawaii residents and businesses a transformation will be almost impossible to bring to fruition.

House Bill 1808 Now Act 160, SLH 2010

Back in April I posted an update on House Bill 1808 when it passed the Legislature.  This morning Governor Lingle signed House Bill 1808 into law as Act 160.  This is the bill that will prohibit an adjacent property owner from planting and cultivating salt tolerant plants to block lateral shoreline access or pushing the vegetation closer to the sea to manipulate the shoreline certification process.

For more than a decade, concerned community members have been painfully aware of the abuses happening along our shorelines.  In previous sessions I introduced similar bills to clarify the definition of shoreline and to prohibit planting in the shoreline area without success.

The new law requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to maintain beach transit corridors by prohibiting land owners from planting vegetation that interferes with the corridors.  It also establishes access to the corridors as a policy within the Coastal Zone Management Program.  Notice will be given to property owners adjacent to the corridors if vegetation from their property blocks access to the shoreline.  The department has the authority to take enforcement action if the issue is not resolved after 21 days.

The passage of this bill will help to enforce Hawaii’s long standing policy to protect as much of the beach as possible as a public trust resource, and to maintain the dynamic nature of our beaches to prevent shoreline erosion.  I cannot thank enough dedicated Kauai community members like Harold Bronstein, Caren Diamond, Beau Blair and Evelyn de Buhr who challenged so many shoreline certifications all the way up the Hawaii Supreme Court to keep this issue at the forefront and people like Lucinda Pyles, Carol Wilcox and the Kahala Neighborhood Board who patiently met and worked with various governmental agencies, as well as beach experts, to help address this issue through legislation.  Senator Clayton Hee helped to carry the ball on the Senate side and my House colleagues, Representatives Ken Ito and Sharon Har and Speaker Calvin Say, allowed me to chair the House-Senate conference committee as the deadline approached.  Representatives Barbara Marumoto worked with her constituents in the Kahala area and Cynthia Thielen worked with her constituents in the Kailua area and helped to stress the importance of this bill to Governor Lingle.  There were so many environmental groups and individuals who came to the Legislature to testify on this issue and lend their support.  It was a team effort.  Mahalo.

Tipping Point

Posted in Clean Energy,General,Legislation/Capitol,Sustainability by Mina Morita on May 14, 2010

There has been a whirlwind of energy announcements over the past two weeks beginning with Nissan announcing Hawaii as a launch site for the Nissan Leaf electric car.  The next announcement was CT&T, a Korean electric car manufacturer, siting Hawaii as an assembly site creating as much as 400 jobs.

On Wednesday, I drove a fuel cell/hydrogen vehicle as the GM-The Gas Company partnership was announced.  Visionary, Dr. Patrick Takahashi, Emeritus Director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and one of the early drafters of hydrogen research and development legislation in Congress for U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga covers our shared experience in his May 13 blog.

Yesterday, I participated in the press conference where Hawaii Energy (for electricity customers serviced by HECO and its subsidiaries) and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (Kauai residents) announced their cash for clunker refrigerator rebate program.  The program will begin on May 24 and last as long as the ARRA grant monies hold out for qualifying refrigerators and proper disposal of the old refrigerator.  The second part of the press conference was an announcement from the Energy Division of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism of its electric car and recharging system rebate as well as its request for proposals for a systems management approach for the recharging of electric vehicles.

In August 2002 I gave one of my first major speeches at a   Hydrogen Partnering Meeting on the Big Island.  The following month I was quoted in Hawaii Business that I would hope for the day when people would say “hydrogen” and “Hawaii” in the same breath.   That certainly happened this week.  Although I have become a little bit more pragmatic in my approach to a hydrogen economy, I still strongly believe the marriage of renewables and hydrogen can be a pathway to peace.  But more importantly, in the short-term, Hawaii is pushing the envelope in integrating its electricity and transportation sectors in its clean energy policy and incorporating energy efficiency.  That’s a huge tipping point.

Hydrogen Partnering Meeting
Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel
Hawaii State Representative Hermina Morita
Chair, House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection
Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The renewable energy, hydrogen and fuel cell technology expertise in this room is overwhelming. I am honored to be here and included; however, I couldn’t help but notice that I am the only politician on the participant list. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I do not presume to have the academic, technological or business expertise to contribute anything significant and I have spent the past week trying to figure out how I can best participate. I have come to the conclusion that I am here for a somewhat obscure purpose — so obscure that the only way they could fit me in was to make me the dinner speaker. However, with the audience mellowed by a few cocktails and a glass of wine at dinner any politician can sound pretty good — perhaps even purposeful and palatable.  But, before everyone gets too mellowed out I hope you are ready to hear about my personal quest to have the words, “hydrogen” and “Hawaii” said in the same breath when anyone speaks of a hydrogen-based economy. When this happens, I know I will have been successful as a politician and in carrying out my obscure purpose. And, I, along with you as partners, will have shaped a preferred future for Hawaii that the rest of the world will model to gain economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and social justice and equity.

My presentation is based on a talk given by Hawaii futurist Dr. James Dator before the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, which I Chair. His message played a pivotal role in my personal development as a Legislator.  Here is a story worth retelling. More than a generation has passed since the Hawaii 2000 Project.

In the late 1960’s, an era typified by the anti-war message of love and peace, mellowed perhaps by an herbal substance, Hawaii’s future looked extremely bright. The Future Studies program at the University of Hawaii, initiated by the Hawaii State Legislature, forged critical links between futurists and decision-makers and decision-makers and Hawaii’s citizens. Funded by the Legislature, Hawaii took an impressive step in “Anticipatory Democracy” – as communities statewide planned their preferred future for the year 2000.  Through this unique partnership progressive legislation flourished – zero population growth, family planning services, the preservation and protection of our natural and cultural resources, universal health care, becoming the first state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and establishing the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute are just some of the few bold steps of the Legislature.

During that same period Hawaii’s own — the late United States Senator Spark Matsunaga — promoted not only renewable energy but laid the ground work for the discussion of hydrogen in Congress. We are so fortunate to have this vision and legacy carried on our present United States Senators Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye.  Hawaii’s Legislators took risks. They thought bold and acted on it. Their primary purpose was maintaining the quality of life for all Hawaii residents.  Then, Hawaii lost its vision and lost its nerve.

First the oil shocks of the 1970’s. In the 1980’s, Hawaii was enticed by Japanese money. This time Legislators boldly reached out – with their hands. They offered little or no resistance to new development and seemingly never met a developer they didn’t like. Despite high interest rates, construction and real estate sales boomed. These activities provided everyone with a false sense of security but created a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots. By the mid-1990’s we, reluctantly, realized that along with boom periods come the bust. The Legislature struggles to just balance the budget.

The year 2000 has come and gone. The great efforts of Hawaii’s citizens in the Hawaii 2000 Project have fallen to the wayside. Instead of living up to the project’s slogan, “Somebody better care about tomorrow”, many decision-makers have been guided by the mantra, “Somebody check out the next poll”. And, I do not believe this is trend is unique to Hawaii. Unfortunately, with this breakdown in the critical links between futurists, decision-makers and Hawaii’s citizens, we have seen a dismantling in not only anticipatory democracy but also participatory democracy. Once we were known for our innovation and daring as a community. We have stopped dreaming and live for the here and now with little regard for future consequences. And, this too is not unique to Hawaii.

So, in these difficult times what should be the role of the Legislature be? What is our obscure purpose?

Dr. Dator puts it succinctly. He says, “Legislators need to become futurists — the applied futurists for our society. As such, they should enable citizens to identify significant trends and emerging issues, to understand the long-range consequences of their actions so as to anticipate alternative futures and to envision preferred futures. And then they must enact legislation.”  He continues, “Politicians should provide strong leadership and vision, not by pretending they know all the answers, but by becoming the social experimenters, by trying out different responses to various problems and opportunities on the basis of the community’s preferred vision. They should be open to change on the basis of experience, new problems and new opportunities.”

In the midst of the Great Depression — and these words should guide leaders today — Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The country needs, and unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it, if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But, above all try something.”

I believe the temper of the community I represent, which, hopefully, will be validated by the results of the General Election in November, is a community that desires a clean, renewable energy source based on the principles of sustainable practices. I believe that this temper is not unique to the community I represent but is one shared statewide, nationally and internationally.

However, I am an advocate for a hydrogen economy for a selfish reason. I am Hawaiian and I cannot bear the thought that the Hawaii I knew as a child will be different for my grandchildren. I view the transformation to a hydrogen economy as the only means to protect the natural and cultural heritage of my identity. I am convinced that this is the only answer to sustain Hawaii’s fragile environment and to stabilize and diversify its economy.

Much like Mayor Harry Kim and Senator Dan Inouye in their visions for the Gateway Project, I want the experiences and lessons that Hawaii will learn in this transformation to be a model for the rest of the world. I believe we must move forward because it is the only moral and ethical choice we have. The very existence and survival of many island nations and their people are dependent on this progressive transformation. Island nations, including Hawaii, are the canaries in the mine, gauging the adverse consequences of climate change.

A hydrogen economy that utilizes renewable energy resources captures the basic principles of sustainability in promoting environmental stewardship, economic prosperity and social justice and equity. In Hawaiian we say that this is “pono”, that it, this is right and just.

Hawaii is at a critical juncture. We are all on an outrigger canoe trying to catch a wave. We are dependent not only on an expert steersman to guide the canoe but each paddler doing his or her part to stay just ahead of the breaking wave. With all our combined efforts we can catch that wave to for an exhilarating ride. With the help of my legislative colleagues like Senator Lorraine Inouye, I hope to cultivate the political will to catch that wave on the first attempt. But if not, I and many of my colleagues will definitely try again and again, to do our part to help rebuild a bold Legislature of vision and nerve.

However, in this room, our collective passion for a hydrogen economy is one of the few ways to reestablish the critical partnership between the future, politics and humanity. In this room, our collective passion for a hydrogen economy can rekindle the hopes and desires of all citizens of the world in shaping the preferred future.

But most importantly, in this room, we are not just politicians, scientists, technicians, civil servants or business executives but we are partners in an extraordinary humanitarian effort to build a better future. In this room, we are the somebodies that care about tomorrow.

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