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What about contemporary Hawaii? How is sustainability being addressed?

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In today’s world, immigration has greatly affected the population of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are one of a number of ‘minority’ groups within a very diverse culture.

Hawaii now supports the international monetary economy, relies on continuous international travel and trade, and concentrates large populations in urban areas. But the effects of these practices are straining local resources.

Reconnecting to the Native Hawaiian respect for resources, new approaches to water protection, transportation, energy production and land preservation are being implemented.

> The State’s renewable energy commitment is one of the strongest in the U.S.
> Allocation of water is considered a matter of public trust, not just for private profit.
> Increasing awareness of Native Hawaiian culture offers many models for sustainability.

There is an urgency on these islands to act before it is too late, and good sustainability leadership is at a premium.

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And what about Maui makes it of interest?

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On Maui, sustainability is necessarily in the minds of residents, leaders and business groups.

Maui’s strongest economic driver, tourism, is based upon attracting people to what is always voted among the most attractive islands in the world. There is an underlying vested interest in the high quality of the beaches, reefs, land development, transportation and energy systems and available water supply, just to name a few.

> In a two-year span, Maui increased its renewable energy production from below 10% to over 30%.
> Waste and wastewater practices have been challenged and require innovation.
> Efficient transportation alternatives are near-term priorities.
> With 85% of food imported, local food production is a critical need, but must resolve water, land, and workforce supply issues.

Maui is a hotbed of sustainability discussion, ideas and innovation, catalyzing national and global leadership in sustainability science.

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What is the role of technology in our future?

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Technology is the most significant distinction between our human species and the rest of the world as we know it. Technologies can create efficiency, increase production and even build carrying capacity.

Some say technology will be the key to sustainability, and clearly it will be a part of our future. But others say technology is the root of our unsustainability, as clearly a fact of our past.

Sustainability science will allow us to measure and determine the net benefit of technologies, and facilitate designs which leave less impact.

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What is Sustainability Science?

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Sustainability Science: The rigorous application of critical analyses via scientific method and systems thinking, across all disciplines relevant to a contemporary issue, in order to identify values and design solutions which reinforce the coexistence of both human societies and natural systems in perpetuity.

Historically, scientific inquiry pursues knowledge for its own sake, using scientific method to ensure a rigorous search for new fact. Other disciplines like philosophy, humanities or politics may seek to determine wherein lay our values, or what ‘should be’.

Sustainability science bridges these concepts, applying the rigor of scientific method to determine both the facts of our circumstances and what ends we should pursue; in other words our values. Focusing on the interactions between humans and the ecosystems on which we rely allows us to derive facts and values intended to sustain our natural systems and meet critical human needs in the face of change and increasing complexity.

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What is renewable?

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It’s about understanding the limits of our resources, and how to protect them.

It has become customary that we label various things as ‘renewable’, then stop thinking about them. Have you ever thought about what makes something ‘renewable’?

Sure the sun’s rays may seem to be endless, but are there other limits on our capturing them?

We used to think oceans, oil supplies and water were all endless. Now, we know these are all limited and need protection.

Really, it is not about designating something as ‘renewable’, it’s about its degree, or limits of ‘renewability’.

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What is sustainability education?

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Applying systems thinking to real-world problems.

The 1970s United Nations Tbilisi Declaration challenged sustainability education to consider seemingly disconnected areas of concern. But more importantly, it requires the collective consideration of relevant elements of any circumstance, as an inter-related system. The wisdom of this approach leaps out as we consider complex issues like climate change, sustainable economic development or even transportation.

Sustainability Education:
> Develops expertise in recognizing relationships among diverse elements
> Focuses on holistic, problem-driven solutions, rather than isolated answers
> Seeks continuous improvement through feedback

Systems thinking, carrying capacity analysis, transdisciplinary knowledge, sustainability indicators, adaptive management, and other tools provide the mechanisms for success in these practices.

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