Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hawaii's Growing Pains

Since becoming a state in 1959, Hawaii has grown substantially. The main area of growth has been in the tourism industry. According to an article posted to “The Economist” online on September 20, 2007, some people believe that the tourism industry in Hawaii is eroding natural resources, the local culture and the infrastructure. The latest addition to the tourism industry connects the busiest island with two smaller and less crowded ones, Kauai and Maui.

Tourists in Hawaii last month witnessed an unusual display of marine life: not sea turtles or a rare monk seal, but a line of surfers and swimmers preventing a ferry from docking at Kauai. The Superferry is the first big passenger boat to link Oahu, Hawaii’s most crowded island, to two less developed ones, Kauai and Maui. Some say such a link is sorely needed. But critics object that the ferry, which can hold more than 800 people, may interfere with whales and other wildlife, and worry about the asses traffic, fishermen and cheap labor it will bring.

Hawaii is currently one of the most expensive states to live in and also to do business in. With high levels of tourism and vacationers, there are also high rental and living costs. By creating a new route for tourism via the new ferry they are creating an increase in building high priced vacation homes for tourism, and possibly making the current cost of living more expensive for people who already live there. New building of homes and businesses will also diminish the amount of open space on the islands. The problem is two fold. There is a creation of new jobs and possibly some new industry, but it comes at the expense of higher prices and less open land. Some people suggest that a better way of encouraging economic growth is by encouraging more agriculture which is often very environment friendly. Others would contend that the best way to protect the land is to ensure that it is developed it in an efficient way. In considering the issue and growth it is important to look at the environmental implications. Too much tourism over time will certainly have negative and positive effects on the state as a whole. What is the best way to deal with the growth that will allow for more growth over time and not have significant negative long term effects?

On September 22, 2007 a group of civic and political leaders are meeting for the “Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Summit” to determine a long-term growth plan. Many people are at odds on the issue, but it is obvious that there is not just one simple solution to the problem. Subject/cfm?storyid=9833

Jenna Cluley

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