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Blue Hawaii getting greener every day

 Posted by on October 28, 2009
Oct 282009

“Steam is a very potent form of energy,” Kimura says. “You can use it to produce electrical power or create air conditioning, or to take sea water and make it into drinking water.”

According to Blue Planet Foundation’s news release touting Kimura’s recent award, Sopogy and his other companies “together employ and support hundreds of green collar jobs and have kept over $500 million in Hawaii’s local economy through energy savings. In addition, his (Kimura’s) work has off-set over 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of eliminating the consumption of 4.6 million barrels of oil.”

That started with one person’s ideas. So much more is percolating in Hawaii, and if the Aloha State is a stage, all the world’s its audience. Hawaii is determined to show other states (and countries) how it’s done – and to epitomize an unlikely independence: A series of islands that is truly self-sustaining. Locals, besides actually saying “Mahalo!”, also tend to say, “If we can do it, anybody can.”

All this is not to imply that Hawaii is largely populated by altruists and nature-loving engineers. But the plethora of action and innovation in the U.S.’s 50th state does hint at a certain underlying mindset; some would call it a native Hawaiian mindset.

“There is a connection to the land in Hawaii,” says Punahou School’s Carri Morgan, who has worked at the school for 16 years and whose husband and children attended there. “I often describe it to people who are not from here when I tell them about Punahou School… that the students aren’t made to wear shoes until the 8th grade.” That policy, as old as the school, speaks to a deeper quality in the classic Hawaiian psyche.

“Here, you’re really rooted to the land,” Morgan says. “If you’re out in the ocean or nature, with the smells and the birds and the flowers and the food, I think all that gives you a sense of place, that this is where you came from – and that creates a sense of responsibility for your environment. This place just lends itself to that. Also, the history of the Hawaiian people is that they lived in relation to the land. They’d farm and fish and they shared with the community. The native Hawaiian lived in harmony with the land.”

Blue Planet Foundation’s Jeff Mikulina feels very tied to the land and his environment, but he offers a word of levity about Hawaii and its outlook.

“I’d like to think that Hawaii has that sort of altruistic drive that supports clean energy advances, and there is some of that, but I don’t think that is a complete characterization of the current push. Now, I think there is strong support for clean energy…but it is not clear what that motivation is. Behavior is something else. … I think folks generally support environmental issues, but many in Hawaii take the environment for granted – ‘it’s so nice, and we get fresh air and water everyday; what could go wrong?’

“… I’ve been doing environmental advocacy work for almost 12 years in Hawaii and I see support for environmental protection and clean energy but also a lot of resistance to change. But (the state) is also known for pulling together when times get tough – that is deep in the culture. …”

Obviously, something in that ancient, almost-lost culture is welling back up and calling out for a sustainable and clean-energy future.

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