The way I see it – What does Hawaii offer besides tourism?

Hawaii’s economy is often said to be based on tourism, and while tourism is important, there are other important aspects as well. Forty to fifty thousand military salaries are substantial. Astronomy employs several thousand more, especially during construction and deconstruction. A soundstage would attract more filmmakers and could have other uses, such as an indoor shooting range. It seems like half the people I know are retired and spend their pensions or savings here, some with two homes. The latest building codes imposed by the state legislature may make moving here prohibitive for

the foreseeable future.

Coffee exports are certainly significant with Hawaiian regional varieties considered premium brands. Only the legislator can protect them. Who does the legislature work for? Other agricultural products could be significant exports if the USDA did not have a bilateral inspection policy. Hawaii imports about 60,000 pounds of avocados a year, while a similar amount rots on the ground. Dozens of varieties grow here, but exports are insignificant.

Historically, Hawaii has exported many different goods. We do not know if pre-contact Hawai’i exported, off-chain, but the island of Hawai’i sent basalt from salt and glue to the other islands. European ships consumed provisions at first contact, food and whatever you call it, entertainment from women. Sailing ships needed rope by the mile and charcoal by the ton. The diet of sailors at sea was very limited and anything they could keep was in demand, including meat, first pork, on the hoof or salted in barrels. Later beef. Citrus juice was sought after its prevention against scurvy was discovered. The wooden ships needed repair timber, especially for the spars, but none of the local trees were suitable. The Royal Navy planted Norfolk and Cook pines throughout the Pacific in the hope of establishing supplies, but the wood proved useful for all but the greatest need, masts.

Captain Vancouver brought cattle to Hawaii, hoping to add variety to the diet. Kamehameha put kapu (protection) on them for years to increase the size of the herd. Beef has become a major economic industry, the largest in terms of land use. Forests were burned to increase pastures. The beef is first sold to ships to feed the crews. At the end of the 19th century, the value was mostly in hides, then in lout. Much of the meat was left to rot and may have been the cause of the past spread of alala, Hawaiian crows. Ravens are opportunistic omnivores.

One of the surprising exports was sailors, adventurous young men enlisted on ships of adventure. So much so that it created a shortage of husbands and many married immigrants.

Sandalwood was so valuable that it destroyed the original Hawaiian economy. At first only the king exported it, but the aliyah demanded a share and soon the kananka (people) were so busy cutting and loading sandalwood for the aliyah that the farms were left untended, creating a food crisis.

Stephen Dole brought pineapple here and planted Lanai from coast to coast. Most Americans think of Hawaii when they see a pineapple, even though most pineapples are grown elsewhere and are not native to Hawaii.

Sugar was the largest product by tonnage, a million tons, two billion pounds a year. Some say sugar can’t support US wages, but it’s still being produced in Florida, Texas and Louisiana. Landowners see more profit in luxury hotels.

Hawaii has been self-sustaining for over a thousand years. Humans have had the world’s most advanced culture since the Stone Age. They made everything they needed from available natural materials. Instead of metal they had wood, stone and bone.

Hawaii also brought Polynesian culture to the world. Hula, surfing, and the Portuguese-introduced ukulele, whose Hawaiian name translates to “jumping flea.”

Tourism has become, by some measures, the largest industry in the world. Unfortunately. He is very fickle. When money is tight, it’s the first thing to drop. Hawaii needs more revenue generators. Located midway between San Francisco and Tokyo, Hawaii could be an attractive location for a financial center. A commodity-based economy is fragile, but Hawaii has a lot of potential, some of which has been abandoned or minimized for no good reason.

Ken Obensky is a forensic engineer, now an advocate for safety and liberty in South Kona. He writes a bi-weekly column

for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to [email protected]

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