Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Editorial: draft Hawai'i 2050 sustainability plan fallling short

I wonder if I'm the only one deeply disappointed on reading the draft Hawai'i 2050 Sustainability Plan.

I read it in its entirely, then set it aside for a couple of weeks and re-read it to see if I'd missed some crucial aspect or direction.

The draft plan, while it identifies important subject areas, is astonishingly soft and fluffy, with no sharp edges, no firm resolve, no powerful new directions. Like so many other state plans, it is vague and broadly worded to the point of being impossible to implement and not particularly useful as a guide.

Before it is finalized it needs a shot of adrenalin, a sense of urgency, some specificity. For the plan to have meaning, and to respect the time and energy Hawai'i's people put into it, the bar needs to be set high, so we know what we're leaping for, rather than so low that any attempt at all is adequate.

Clearly a great deal of work went into it, but the draft reads more like a public opinion survey than a plan. I am not privy to the power struggles that led to this document, but all that work deserves a better final product.

In the words of one correspondent, “I want to know how are you going to do that, who's going to do that and by when are you going to do that.”

Gov. George Ariyoshi has been quoted on the importance of not creating a document that will be left on the shelf, as he said the original Hawai'i State Plan was. I'm not sure that standard is being met with the draft plan.

This document, if anything, is less forward-looking, less specific, less useful than the excellent 1978 Hawai'i State Plan, which still stands the test of time.

I'm not sure an expensive statewide meeting schedule was needed to reach the conclusion that the plan did—that the public would be willing to go green, as long as it didn't cost too much. Never mind that the cost later will be much higher if you don't.

Asking the lay public to guide a four-decade planning process may be a little like asking for directions from Kane'ohe to Kapolei from a person who has no map and has never been there.
Sustainability means taking people of this generation to places they haven't been before. Most won't be able to provide guidance out of their own experience.

Much of the draft says simply, "Here's a problem and somebody ought to do something about it." Missing are approaches that recognize known or anticipated problems and propose somewhat specific responses.

Here are a few examples that come to mind.

* COASTAL EROSION: Immediately plan for moving transportation and other crucial infrastructure mauka to ensure critical services are not disrupted by sea level rise. The state must identify inland transportation corridors. Such corridors should be planned for non-specific transportation technologies, since future preferred travel alternatives may be something other than cars, buses, trains and bicycles.

* RESTRUCTURE TOURISM: High fuel prices will raise the cost of travel, and the state must prepare to restructure the tourism industry to account for possible impacts on tourist numbers and demographics of dramatic airfare hikes and the likelihood high rates will persist.

* FOOD SECURITY: Fuel costs increase the cost of shipping of food and other goods to Hawai'i and create the potential of disruptions in transportation. Food security is key, and the Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Taxation, Land Use Commission and other agencies must immediately enhance public education to create a trained agricultural work force, build the infrastructure for agriculture, establish tax policies to promote agriculture, and ensure the availability of land for expanded agricultural production for in-state food use. Traditional agricultural lands, such as non-producing Hawaiian dryland farm areas and lo'i should be reviewed for restoration and use, even if they are currently in zoning categories that prohibit such uses.

The 2050 plan recommends the establishment of a council to enact the plan. But like the plan, the Sustainability Council would have no teeth. Its duties would be to implement the plan, collect data, review progress, publish reports, hold public meetings, revise the plan periodically, and “advocate for sustainability in Hawai'i's public policy arena.”

One benefit of the sustainability plan is that sustainability is, at least, being discussed. But Hawai'i needs more than this.

© 2007 Jan W. TenBruggencate

Don't take my word for it.

Read the draft 2050 plan at:

Read the 1978 Hawai'i State Plan at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes Indeed,
You read it right. I had the same impression. I think of it as 'the PLAN without a "plan".' It is all the 'fluff' you say it is. It also reads like a campaign speech, to me. Promises... promises...vaguer the better.

However, please study Section XII. That's where the real "plan" is. If the State Legislature approves the 2050 PLAN, a powerful "Sustainability Council" will be established...whose purpose is to " Hawaii navigate us towards a sustainable future." (page 66) [The grammar in this sentence is classic.]

According to Section XII, the Sustainability Council will be an un-elected "quasi government"; empowered by guaranteed tax revenues; exempt from state procurement laws (free to negotiate no-bid contracts); accountable to nobody; and staffed by the same people who brought you the "Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan." Not particularly reassuring...I think you would agree. (Note the state auditor is on the Task Force and that The Council will be housed in the Auditor's office. With all due respect to the Auditor...isn't that dangerous?)

Please forgive my indelicacy when I say, "this thing stinks of corruption." As "exibbit A": You'll notice that nobody actually claims authorship of the 2050 DRAFT...not by name anyway. The point is: these guys are dodging accountability from the very beginning.
By the Way....Happy Thanksgiving.