President John F. Kennedy, on his visit to Hawaii in 1963 said, “Hawaii is a special place” but failed to explain what he meant by a special place, explained former Governor John Waihee at a gathering in Kailua-Kona for Gov. David Ige on July 29.
Is Hawaii a special place, because of our multi-ethnic backgrounds, our climate, our mountains, our beautiful foliage or our oceans?
My short answer: Hawaii is a special place, because we have an island mentality. A person develops an island mentality when he knows that whatever they do, as a people, will affect their neighbor, family, islands, country, and the world. We essentially become so rooted in the aina, the land we call Hawaii, that we inevitably understand the term sustainability in the true sense of the word.
Ige spoke about island mentality in terms of aloha aina from the local, national and worldwide perspective. And, I was inspired by his presentation.
Ige emphasized the need to manage our watershed and oceans better. Acknowledging three hurricane storms in 2015 and how climate change affects our oceans, he stated, “We drink the water, get our food, exercise and our enjoyment from the oceans I grew up in — that’s what makes Hawaii special.”
We need to take care of our watershed and and protect the water we drink and manage our watershed, oceans and reefs better. Further, restoring water access to farmers and restoring the coral reefs is essential.
We are the first in the United States to ban oxybenzone in sunscreen to protect the health of our oceans which has been killing our coral reefs. There is also an active statewide effort to restore fishponds. Fourteen fishponds have been restored. This is a step toward local food production.
Ige’s goal is also to be the first state in country to have 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 by to moving toward solar, wind, wave, clean energy, and biofuels without the dependency on oil.
As a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, In July 2015, Ige rejected the controversial NextEra bid of 4.3 billion to acquire Hawaiian Electric because the company’s long-term policies did not protect the public interests and most importantly did not align with the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal.
The goal is to invest in our community and create clean energy jobs, by reinvesting in ourselves rather than elsewhere. This is sustainable Hawaii.
“It is absurd that we spend so much money importing food,” he said. “We need to double our food production.”
Subsequent to President Trump withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change agreement in 2017, Ige, in efforts to the alleviate the impact on the environment, met with other governors and formed partnerships with Jerry Brown and Canada to address climate change. The governors agreed to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2045.
Hawaii was the first state in nation to adopt the Paris Climate agreement, which was a major achievement in the Obama Administration.
Ige’s steadfast policies on protecting our aina include, in September 2016, organizing the Hawaii ICUN World Conservation Conference in Honolulu. This was the largest gathering of conservationists on the planet. For the first time ever, Hawaii was the host. At the conference, President Obama announced the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea conservation area expansion, and advocated that Hawaii co-manage this protected resource with the federal government.
In summary, as a Native Hawaiian, I was raised with this island mentality, to respect this beautiful land we call Hawaii, as well as the people who live here. I want to be clear, this narrative is not meant as an endorsement for Ige, it was just enlightening to know at the close of the evening that this governor has an island mentality.
We’re the first state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. We are an ocean community impacted by global warming and climate change everyday. Fight climate change for a clean, renewable future.
Waihee set the tone for the evening. The evening was relaxing and, with all politics aside, it was with a deep sense of sincerity.
Lei Kihoi is a resident of Kailua-Kona.