It's hard to understand why Hawaii wanted to host the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress meeting next month.
It's not exactly like the Islands serve as a great role model for effective and meaningful conservation strategies, though there are some bright spots. Indeed, when you consider that Hawaii is the endangered species capital of the world, it offers far more compelling examples of what not to do.
And does anyone else see the irony of having hundreds of people fly to Oahu to ponder such topics as climate change and sustainable development? As the conference promo claims:
Hawaiʻi is one of the few islands with the capacity to host an event of this size.
Except, it really doesn't have the capacity. As a new report on the state of the environment, He Lono Moku, points out, Hawaii is consuming water and energy at unsustainable rates, in large part to support its economic drivers of military and tourism.
But the report doesn't address at all the concept of economic diversification to help wean the state's economy off these unsustainable industries. It doesn't even question them.
Perhaps most striking is Hawaii's cavalier consumption of water, which is nearly double the national average for non-ag uses.
With tourism on the rise, and rainfall down 22 percent in recent decades, the Islands' water supply is threatened, the report states.
Reducing public daily consumption is necessary to allow Hawaii's water to go further. To that end, the state aims to double the area of priority watersheds under active management by 2030.
One sobering statistic: The United Nations estimates that in nine years, two-thirds of the world population will be living under water-stressed conditions.
In regard to energy, the state is challenged in meeting its mandate of generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The report states:
Communities must come to terms with hosting large-scale energy projects in their backyards, and developers in turn need to appropriate a fair package of community benefits with each project.
The report makes no mention of the socio-economic impacts associated with rooftop solar systems, in terms of who should pay to maintain a grid that supports poor people, renters and others unable to purchase a home system.
And while it touts a bike-share program on Oahu, it says nothing about reducing the tourism-driven airline traffic to the Islands, which accounts for 27 percent of the state's petroleum use.
Other intriguing tidbits from the report: Hawaii is the only coastal state that does not mandate saltwater fishing licenses; 60 cents of every $1.05 from Hawaii's oil barrel tax is diverted to the general fund, rather than to engery and agriculture as was intended; and cesspools release 55 million gallons of untreated sewage into the ground each day.
Here's one from those who own oceanfront properties: Coastal erosion rates are projected to double by 2050.
Sounds like a good time for the state to get super conservative on shoreline setbacks.
Though activists like to portray Kauai as a toxic waste dump poisoned by agricultural pesticides, the report lauds the island for its achievements in using renewable energy to produce electricity and adopting a community-based model of traditional marine conservation.
In fact, the report makes no mention of pesticides or agriculture adversely impacting Hawaii's environment. Indeed, it calls for the state Legislature to dramatically increase funding for both the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture.
DLNR gets just 1 percent of the state budget, even as it's charged with managing 30 percent of the state's land and water resources. And despite all the hue and cry for more local food, the DOA gets a measly .4 percent of the state budget, operating on a paltry $49 million annually.
The report notes:
In 1900, more than half of Hawai's labor force worked in agriculture. Today just 1 percent of the state's workers are in farming, and 90 percent of its food is imported.
Now, try as some folks might, you simply can't blame that scenario on the seed companies.
Shockingly, Hawaii wastes 237,000 tons of food annually.
The report continues:
New magazines like Modern Farmer and the soon-to-debut reality show Yardfarmer suggest a golden age of agriculture may be dawning. However, from 2007 to 2012, the U.S. lost about 100,000 farms and 7.5 million acres of farmland, and Hawaii is trending in the same direction.
Gee. I wonder why.