Saturday, June 06, 2015

 

No sand in Waikiki, no economy folks



A 2008 economic impact analysis of the potential complete erosion of Wai­kiki Beach suggests the economic impact on hotel revenues could be as much as $661.2 million annually, with hotel industry job losses of 6,352 and lost visitor expenditures reaching nearly $2 billion.—
Star-Advertiser, Hui officials meet on sea-level rise, 6/6/2015


by Larry Geller

I love the “precision” of reports like this. 6,352 jobs are to be lost. Not 6,300 or 6,400.

Never mind.

The point is that a prominent newspaper article is recognizing that our tourism industry is at risk.

Now, a hit from a strong hurricane or two could wash away that sand, or much of it, in an instant. Even if that does not happen, then just wait, and the sand, those jobs, and the viability of our economy are predicted to erode within the lifetime of many island residents here today.

So great that a group (the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee) composed of state agencies has been formed to address the problem.

"We know sea level is rising. We won't be able to stop that," state Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kai­lua-Lani­kai-Wai­ma­nalo) said Friday at a news briefing about the group's undertaking.

"This is something that's going to get worse with time, so we have to decide very quickly how we're going to invest our resources, which beaches to protect" to preserve the state's economy and way of life, Lee said.

Despite being the nation's only island state, Hawaii is among the last to develop such a plan to deal with climate change, he added.

[Star-Advertiser p. B1, Hui officials meet on sea-level rise, 6/6/2015]

I’m not surprised that we are among the last to develop a plan (any plan). Planning is not something this state is very good at. There are plenty of examples, but again, never mind.

Our tourist economy is vulnerable, and there is, to date, no replacement in sight.

That ought to spur some more planning. And there’s no need to wait for the sand to wash away. We ought to be working at diversifying the economy as fast as we can. Sand will be washing away everywhere, not just in Waikiki, so each island’s economy is at risk.

In fairness, island economies don’t do very well. We’re darn lucky to have a vibrant tourism industry. Without that, we’d be trading with stone money. We have no guano to sell, and whalers don’t need a mid-ocean port to refuel any more. Airplanes overfly Hawaii all the time. What alternatives are there?

Without tourism, we’re nothing. Telescopes on mountain tops generate pitifully little revenue.

So I hope this hui, or some other group, gets busy brainstorming a replacement for those 6,352 jobs.

It’s not going to be easy, and there’s nothing saying that the jobs really can be replaced.

In that event, we’ll need a plan to deal with the inevitable escalation of poverty and out-migration.



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