Learning to live within our capacity means energy and food independence for Hawaiʻi.
Hawaiʻi imports 90 percent of what it eats at great environmental cost. In 2014, Hawaiʻi also imported 90 percent of the energy it consumed, mostly as petroleum and, in 2015, the state had the highest electricity prices in the nation. Becoming self-sufficient through sustainable agriculture and renewable energy production is a matter of security, sovereignty and, potentially, survival for the most isolated, inhabited island archipelago in the world.
In terms of energy independence, YPDA Hawaiʻi supports the goal of the Hawaiʻi Clean Energy Initiative to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2045. By collaborating with thought leaders and committed groups and individuals, we will build upon the dynamic, ongoing work of public and private organizations at the national, state and county levels to achieve the following key objectives:
- Define the new infrastructure needed to move Hawaiʻi to a clean energy economy.
- Foster and demonstrate innovation in the use of clean energy technologies, creative financing, and public policy to accelerate our transition to clean energy.
- Create economic opportunity by developing and diversifying Hawaiʻi’s economy so all of us reap the benefits of a sustainable energy policy.
- Establish an “open source” learning model that supports other island communities seeking to achieve similar goals and makes Hawaiʻi a world model for clean energy-based economies.
- Build our workforce with new skills that will form the foundation of an energy-independent Hawaiʻi.
Land reform at the state and county level can create affordable opportunities for interested farmers to live and farm long-term. We need to keep our best agricultural lands zoned for agriculture and continue to develop water infrastructure. Our institutions must develop educational programs that actually train young people to farm; counties must work with farmers to recycle the communities’ organic waste, which will increase soil health and farm profitability; the Cooperative Extension Services must offer non-toxic solutions to pests and disease and assist communities with knowledge for developing community and home gardens; the University of Hawai‘i must develop open-pollinated seed varieties of both fruits and vegetables adapted to our tropical environment; the Rural Economic Development Boards must support direct marketing of agricultural products at farmers markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture) and schools, which should purchase fresh produce from local farms for improved student health. Supermarkets must buy local produce, and restaurants must feature fresh foods from area farms for visitors and locals alike.
Working together, these programs will create a new paradigm in local agriculture. And it can happen fairly quickly: creating a sustainable, local food economy doesn’t take global agreements or even require new legislation. Each time we buy food from a local farmer who grows in ways that respect the land, we are voting for a safer, economically vibrant and more delicious food system and way of life in Hawai‘i.
We have incredible potential here with our vigorous year round growing environment. We can grow valuable high-end tropical fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers for specialty markets. We can feed our families and our communities; we can focus on diversified niche markets and value-added farm products; we can assist our farmers to procure small grants for value-added processing machinery, and development of business plans; we can be the center of tropical agricultural research and program application for farmers in the tropical countries of the world.
Instead of using our land as a laboratory, we can connect to the ancient sustainable and profitable farming systems that have been practiced here in Hawai‘i for thousands of years. We can demand that our institutions be responsive and responsible to our communities and land, rebalancing our farming and energy systems in the ecological/sustainable ways of the future.