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Sunday, May 17, 2015

IS HAWAII SHRINKING AWAY FROM PROGRESS?

Hawaii was once a pioneering state for new legislation, such as healthcare and land use, and has been a relative haven for human progress.  Mind you, it took the tragedy of World War II to shake us out of paternalism, but with statehood came an enterprising spirit of progress.

We are special, being an island state, and only one with an Asian plurality, the most isolated populace, well-endowed with natural energy resources and blessed with incredible beauty and ideal weather.  We have the highest life expectancy of any state at 80 years.  Interestingly enough, the native Hawaiian population was at around 400,000 in 1778, when generally well-meaning aliens came, reducing the total population to 54,000 in 1876.  Today, the total number of people in Hawaii is approaching 1.5 million, with 10% being Hawaiian/Polynesian, but only 0.3% being truly native Hawaiian.  A little more than 7% of us here are millionaires, #4 in the nation.

Our taxes are high (second to California), the cost of living is the highest in the country and Forbes keeps telling us we have the worst business climate.  Further, there is serious potential for hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.  If the price of oil ever escalates to $150/barrel and higher, though, we will become the first community to enter a prolonged state of depression, for our economy is almost totally based on tourism.

All in all, though, while I still maintain a sense that I'm lucky to have been born here and can live out my life in this "Paradise," I worry that we have become a community attempting a return to the past rather than advancing into the future.  

That book to the right was written more than a third of a century ago, and you can still get a hard cover edition from Amazon, but for $141.96.  Kind of reminds me of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, a book I co-authored with Andrew Trenka.  Amazon has three used copies for only $99.99, each.  Actually, nothing much has changed in this field, and this two-decade old text remains reasonably usable.

This is hardly a complete list, but:
  • In the 1970's University of Hawaii geophysicists indicated that the Big Island had 500 MW of geothermal potential.  A motley crew of environmentalists, rain forest advocates, Pele worshipers, local residents who recently move there from the mainland and marijuana growers prevailed, abetted by Judge David Ezra, and less than a tenth of that hope is being produced, while the state contemplates shifting to a liquid petroleum economy.
  • The Hawaii Superferry came in 2003 and went in 2009, stymied by legal issues pressed by local protests about the environment, mostly on Kauai.
    • On the Big Island, the Thirty Meter Telescope advanced through all the legal requirements, but just before construction began, Hawaiian groups said no and occupied the site on Mauna Kea.  The thinking began 15 years ago to build this largest telescope to see the beginning of our Universe.  No matter, actually, because the European Union took advantage of all these delays and is already building a 39.3 meter telescope, called the European Extremely Large Telescope (right), on top of Cerro Amazons in Northern Chile.
    Do you get the impression that Hawaii is fiddling away our future by choice?  On the other hand, here is a headline article from a year ago:


    Can you imagine that happening on Mauna Kea?  Maybe the Hawaiians have a point.

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    Typhoon Dolphin, now weakened to 130 MPH, is sliding far east of Japan towards the Aleutians:


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