The Future of Industrial Ecology Hawaii

Morning Start at Sand Island Bridge
Morning Start at Sand Island Bridge © 2006 – 2016 Christopher Smith

The Future of Industrial Ecology: Hawai’i

Christopher Smith

March 10, 2014


            Hawai’i an abundant of resources and possibilities, but recently the trend for local resources has been abandoned. A look into the industrial ecological of Hawai’i could show why the sudden shifts and the effects it has on the local economy and environment. The Kohala center on Hawaii Island, Hawai’i (Big Island) has done an intensive study on this subject.

Basic materials of trade and interest

                  In the early History of Hawai’i, the islands used resources of the islands. Very little trading among outside countries was happening.

            According to “Recognition Of Hawaiian Independence” (2014), “On July 6, 1846, U.S. Secretary of State John C. Calhoun, on behalf of President Tyler, afforded formal recognition of Hawaiian independence. As a result of the recognition of Hawaiian independence the Hawaiian Kingdom entered into treaties with the major nations of the world and established over ninety legations and consulates in multiple seaports and cities” (para. 5).

            This act has helped in the importing and exporting of goods to support not only Hawai’i but also the other countries involved. In 1875, a new trade agreement was made with a stipulation that the agreement was only good for 7 years. This treaty allowed for trading of almost all resources between the two countries, although the treaty is expressed with specifics in items. The United States was after two main things, sugar and the use of Pearl Harbor. Sugar was one of Hawaii’s biggest industries for world trade.

            According to Fish  (2014), Arrow-root eastor oil; bananas; nuts, vegetables, dried and undried preserved and unpreserved; bides and skins undressed; rice; pulu; seeds, plants, shrubs or trees; muscovado, brown, and all other unre-fined sugar, meaning hereby the grades of sugar heretofore commonly imported from the Hawaiian Islands and now known in the markets of San Francisco and Portland as “Sandwich Island sugar;” syrups of sugar-cane, melado, and molasses; tallow” (para. 4).

            The trade agreements started the change seen in Hawai’i. With the over thrown of the Hawaiian Islands, trade also changed. The sugar plantations became the center focus, and slavery of many cultures from all over the world was brought to Hawai’i. After many different American wars against indigenous cultures on American soil, it became apparent American needed a security in goods and a military strategic point in the pacific to maintain their investment. Hawai’i gave this with Pearl Harbor and the local agriculture; thus the forced annexation began.

Basic materials

            By the 1990’s, the globalization of trade and economics left Hawai’i behind with the lack of diversity set by the missionaries and the overwhelming presence of the American military. Most of the past businesses had collapsed. The sugar industry was on its way, as well. According to Sahagun  (2014),After 118 years, the Hamakua plantation is scheduled to shut down Sept. 30–the first in a wave of closures that will decimate the industry that helped build Hawaii. Three other plantations on the islands of Hawaii and Oahu will close in 1995” (para.3). After the millennium Hawai’i now is dependent on importing. 76% of the materials used in Hawai’i are imported while the 24%, which comes from Hawai’i, is used for construction. Tourist industry and the military are the big businesses here in Hawai’i. Placing Hawai’i as a third world nation filled with the rich and poor. Both industries need construction; many of the materials are imported in to provide jobs for overseas companies and military personnel from outside of Hawai’i.

Energy flows analysis

            Locally the energy flow of resources is not high. Significant material inputs for local cattle consist of sunlight, water, and a minimal amount of fuel to run the vehicles. The changes that have occurred made the process much more material hungry. With the lack of government subsidies, it became much more profitable to ship off the young cattle. As the meat is processed and shipped back to the islands and else where in the world the fuel consumption has dramatically raised. This accounts for the increase in prices of the product to the consumer.

            Macadamia nuts are another industry, which still survives on the islands. The largest producer of the product has significantly decreased the material input for the product by recycling the nut husk for energy. The draw back to the industry is the length of time it takes to grow. This does not help much in employment. The lack of employment for the industry causes the government to subsidize the population. This type of subsidy only contributes to other resources to be used with no net gain. With running shelters, food drives, and government services that supply help to those who need it the state has found it next to impossible to keep a balanced budget, which causes more cut backs.

            Construction on the islands is seen as a booming industry. Although it should be noted the industry is made up of outside companies for most of the process. This adds little to the sustainability of the islands. According to Houseknecht  (2014), “Major inputs to the construction industry include concrete, steel, brick, wood, glass, and other metals (such as copper for pipes), as well as water for concrete production and fossil fuels used to power heavy equipment” (Construction). It is estimated one company alone to make concrete uses two million gallons of water. A big portion of the concrete is also imported to the islands from Asia to Honolulu, then to Hawai’i Island. The amount of resources and energy to produce an industry for outside companies is making water hard to find at an affordable price.

Renewable and nonrenewable sources

            Hawai’i is blessed with many renewable resources for both alternative energy and production of products. The issue is not the lack of, but the cost in obtaining these sources. Hawai’i has tried several times with wind energy and wave energy. The issue comes from the lack of a production industry. So all products rely again on outside companies. The cost of the products and the transportation of the product increase the prices drastically. Each time a company comes in to try, they go under because of the shear cost factors. There are many wind farms that no longer work in Hawai’i. One such wind farm is located at South Point, Hawaii Island. It is known as the wind farm bone yard, except there is no recycling process. The area is a sore thumb for most of Hawai’i and fears of adding more complicated the process as other wind Farms goes out of business around the state.

            Solar technology is solely based outside of Hawai’I, and it comes with a premium price. The industry is taking shape, but all the cut backs in the city and state services has made the waiting process for permitting and hook up to almost a year long struggle for home owners. So homeowners are not so willing to buy into the program when having to pay a bill on a product that cannot be used to save money.

            Biotechnology is also another technology that is springing up on the islands. The use of sugar cane for fuel went out of business, and now we see algae for fuel. The problem with the resource is it is not native, and the eco system of Hawai’i is too sensitive to allow a possibility of another evasive species to attack the environment. All algae are grown in tanks, and only a minimal amount is made that has yet to show and chance of continuing. The main issue for this type of product is transportation and energy cost. Land and energy are very expensive on the islands due to the oil dependency and the fuel needed to ship.


            Hawai’i is set on a destructive path as the main industries of the islands extract resources, which cannot be replenished or used for local sustainability. The use of shipping is placing a high degree of contaminants in to the ocean, hurting other industries like fishing. The lack of government support makes it hard for local industries to start or mature into a viable business to offset the negatives of the current situation. There are many possibilities for improvement through out Hawai’i even with the current occupation of America. As the population is set in survival mode locally, its hard to get local input in to the government, so the government runs rouge furthering the demise of a once tropical paradise.


Recognition of hawaiian independence. (2014). Retrieved from

Fish, H. (2014). Convention Hawaiian Islands. Retrieved from

Sahagun, L. (2014). Bitter end to hawaii’s ‘sugar life. Retrieved from

Houseknecht, M. (2014). Material flows on the island of hawai‘i . Retrieved from


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