That sufficiently dramatic for you? Good reporters stick to reporting, but I’m going to draw from my nearly six years of living on Maui and make some pretty big conclusions about the future of this island. I’d like to say this place has changed dramatically since I arrived, but it really hasn’t. And that’s a big problem.
The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks hit tourism–and by extension, Hawaii–pretty good. Then the tourists began returning, but of course, the state did nothing to move the Hawaiian economy away from being so dependent on airline flights. That the state seems to be in much the same immediate post-Sept. 11 woes today would seem to indicate that, despite Governor Linda Lingle’s focus on growing high-tech industries here, most residents still make their living selling goods and services to visitors.
And yeah, Maui is still paradise and all, but how much longer is it going to stay that way? Land developers keep building giant, ugly condos, timeshares and “neighborhoods” jam-packed with dull, cookie-cutter houses–all linked by shoddy roads choked with cars and, here and there, still-weak public transportation. And if people like James Howard Kunstler are correct in their predictions of the impending end of relatively cheap oil, it’s all doomed.
The big gamble seems to be what’s coming first: death by energy strangulation or by climate change. Global warming is happening, and it’s going to raise ocean levels. That will swamp virtually all of Maui’s priciest private property and will consign the word “beach” to the history books (check out this webpage to see what’s going to happen to Waikiki). And God help the islands if the Trade Winds get disrupted…
So I guess the status quo lovers are right: bring in the tourists now, while we still can. And while we’re at it, let’s still grow (federally subsidized) sugar on a few thousand acres. I mean, we can always rip it all out and plant fruits and vegetables to feed us later, right? And the voters should by all means keep electing their pro-development, pro-tourist industry buddies to the the Maui County Council. And the Department of Liquor Control–you go right ahead bringing the hammer down on locally owned bars and restaurants, while largely steering clear of the big Wailea and Kaanapali resorts.