Can the protesters and supporters of American Safari Cruises find a sustainable balance between economic development and preserving traditional culture?
By Clare Mawae
I take some deep breaths as I feel the closing of 2011 and look back on the past decade.
Recently, I watched those that I love, respect and care about protest the yacht ‘Safari Explorer’ as it came to our shores. As a business owner and a resident of Molokai, I consistently seek the balance with how I conduct business. I know I am not the only business owner in this community that seeks this, as we all treasure what our island holds for her people. Change is always scary and the fear of the future is no different, but as I reflect on the past decade it is hard to dismiss the economic hardships, which continue to burn a huge scar into the hearts of people worldwide.
Just over 10 yeas ago for Molokai, Kalauakoi Hotel closed its doors and laid off many people within our community. Eight months later the mark of a worldwide change commenced with 9/11, followed by the bombing of Afghanistan and onto the invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by soaring fuel costs. It was in 2008 that Hawaii felt the predictions of a major global recession in line with The Great Depression, with Aloha Airlines shutting its doors after 61 years of service, along with ATA. And for Molokai, the closing of Molokai Ranch in 2008.
Unemployment rose in Hawaii and this was just the beginning of what was about to come. Over the years light has shone in some places, people have found strength where it was thought to be lost, and creative thinking and imagination has found pockets of hope in the continuance to survive while turning an economic sputtering engine in a forward motion. Locally, on the island of Molokai, families left the island in search for work, and those refusing to turn to the system continued to move forward in creative avenues in hopes of an economic and balanced resurgence.
Small businesses have and continue to struggle for survival over the past decade and 2012 is not looking much better. Unemployment is rising, state and federal programs are being cut back, the safety of government jobs, whether state or federal, still hang in the balance and the small business scrapes the pennies to make it through another month. Life has not been easy for so many people worldwide.
On Oct. 25, 2011, the Safari Explorer came to the shores of Molokai for a blessing of the boat. Six years of planning with many discussions with local elders/kupuna, businesses and individuals were done with a process considered right that would help kick-start a sputtering Molokai economic engine. Molokai had surely suffered with the knocks that the people had taken over the decade of change.
To so many in the community, the yacht is a blessing because of the opportunities that it can create to not just those 20 businesses immediately involved, but to the expansion of jobs and to other branch out effects that commerce can bring to the community. No one project can benefit the entire community instantly but as time passes the next person benefits, and so forth. Creative ideas and entrepreneurial start-ups occur and that is what helps with the circle of life in this economic world boiled down to simple terms.
Somehow, I am resilient to verbal attacks of quotes in the paper and online against the business owners as I treasure the many familiar faces waving the signs in protest. They have all been part of my 18 years on Molokai and involved in the raising of my children through school and other places. We can go back and forth on what is the right protocol, but pointing fingers is not the answer. A solution is present along with constructive talk and discussion. Please bear in mind that commerce and keeping a healthy economic cycle is an important component to keeping our community alive.
If grant money runs out, and welfare, state and federal programs were taken away, would the opinions shift? For sure, subsistence living and farming would work, but as long as technology exists and the world is connected, opportunities will be sought elsewhere.
The common ground between both protestors and supporters of this new venture is the saying, “No cruise ships” as that would surely offset the balance of economics, rural and cultural beauty that Molokai holds. No locally-owned business on Molokai can handle huge numbers, but this venture brings a balance that is sought within the business community, so it can serve its community.
It has to be remembered how 9/11 set a change in motion, and the world is changing and will continue to change as advancement is made with technology. However, no matter the change, the ability to flex, bend, flow and seek the balance in all that is done is crucial if anyone is to survive in this world. What has happened in the past is gone but everyone can learn and take that bit of knowledge forward to build on a better future.
Perhaps Molokai, too, can do the same. Take the culture, both past and present, perpetuate, preserve, but in the same breath, use this in helping to keep the island alive in both a sustainable economic and cultural environment. Many want balance and perhaps this opportunity can help us settle future protocols for the last time, with equal input from both sides of the line.
So perhaps we as a community should say, “Isn’t it time to find the balance, haven’t we had enough grumbling already?”