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UHH
Anthro 499
Spring 2002
hearthstone at myway-com
subject: 499

Indigenous Hawai'ian Culture 
and 
Ecological and Social Sustainability.  

 


Keywords.

Sustainability, ecological, social, "ecological sustainability", "social sustainability", sustainable,  "ecologically sustainable", "socially sustainable", indigenous, Hawai'ian, culture, design, model.

 

Abstract.

The mounting ecological and social problems that humanity is experiencing today might force a sincere cooperative effort in, hopefully, not too a distant future, in order to solve those problems. No matter what the results of such a cooperation might be, for them to be satisfactory, any such result will have to be a design of a world that would be ecologically and socially sustainable.

Most of the knowledge and means necessary for an actualization of such a sustainably balanced world is already available. There is enough known about ecologically sustainable technologies, however -  only a very few widely known ideologies that would foster the establishment of a truly ecologically and socially sustainable future are widely enough known today. Such ideologies will have to be found and developed. One possible source for development of such ideologies could be cultures that used to live in balance with their environment and with their neighbors. 

This paper essays to find if there are any explicitly stated ecologically and socially sustainable ideologies in the indigenous Hawai'ian culture, and whether it would be possible to transfer those ideologies from the context of the indigenous Hawai'ian culture into the now pre-dominant global culture.

 

Text.

That humanity as a whole has become the enemy of itself and of most other life around on the Earth has become axiomatic, - one only needs to see the vital statisticcs and follow the news to see this. If quality of life might be said to be improving, this might be true only in some localities and for, proportionally, a very small number of people, and it can be shown invariably that this happens at the expense of other parts of the whole Earth system.

If the trends observable today in the world could be taken as indicative of the world's future, then the future of the world would be one of increasing misery for most life on Earth. Any hopes to the contrary would be unfounded. Any measures meant to heal the plight, either currently implemented or contemplated, can only result in slowing down of the destruction, because the ultimate goals of any such measures are not the achievement of a true environmental and social balance, but only to achieve a temporary, limited relief. Only by aiming for a true environmental and social balance (those two go hand in hand: there can be no social balance without living in a balanced ecology - the anxieties about resources would not allow it, and there can be no ecological balance without having resolved intergroup conflicts - people who fight do not have the leisure to bother with environmental problems) on Earth can any effective and lasting results be achieved. Since different people have different ideas about what the ideal future of the world should be, they have to overcome their differences, sit down around a virtual round table, design a world that would be ecologically and socially balanced (a world that would be ecologically and socially truly sustainable), and proceed to find ways that would result in achieving of such a world.

The knowledge and the means for doing so is mostly available, and if not available such knowledge would have to be found. There already is a great amount of knowledge concerning ecologically sustainable technologies. However, as of now, there are virtually no widely enough known ideologies that would foster ecological and social sustainability and state so explicitly, even though there were many (or, perhaps, there still might be some, marginally surviving) cultures that might have lived in balance with the ecological processes and in harmony with other peoples. The purpose of this paper is to try to find any such ecologically and socially sustainable ideologies (that would be stated explicitly) in the indigenous Hawai'ian culture, with the hope that those ideologies could be adopted in designing of a sustainable world.

Since anything connected with the production of this paper is constrained by the very short time-span allowed (this current semester - Spring 2002) the methodology employed is very simple: a several individuals presumed to have some knowledge of the indigenous Hawai'ian culture were approached by the means of electronic mail, the results to be briefly analyzed for the purposes of this paper and then used in farther research. The message to those randomly selected informants-hoped-to-be (from various lists of Hawai'ian organizations and from people known to the author) was as follows:

Dear people!
I am an undergraduate at the UHH, my Major is Anthropology, and my main interest is the Design of Ecologically and Socially Sustainable Communities. I am interested in finding ideologies that would support the establishment of ecologically and socially sustainable communities. I would appreciate if you would read the following, and see if you could help me in any way. I will be interested in any constructive input. With the increasing degradation of the world's environment and with the decreasing quality of life of most of the world's humanity, it is only a question of time that really effective, and really sincere solutions for the problems of the world will have to be sought. The most expedient solution to the most of world's problems would seem to stop creating problems, and start undoing the damage done in the past. The simplest and easiest way to accomplish this could be for humanity to strive to live in harmony with the ecological processes of the Earth and in harmony with the social processes - to live ecologically and socially sustainably. There is already a fair amount of knowledge of ecologically sustainable technologies, however - as of now, there are only a few philosophies that would foster ecological and social sustainability, and state so explicitly. Maybe there are such explicitly stated philosophies still surviving in cultures that used to live in harmony with their environment and in harmony with other peoples, and maybe those philosophies could be used in the present day need - the members of the now dominant global cultures are in many cases many generations distant from the times when those cultures might still have been living in harmony with their environment and in harmony with other peoples, and have, by now, no (or a very little) memory of those distant times. I understand that there might be many sustainable (ecologically and socially) ideas in the indigenous Hawai'ian culture that are implicit, however - are there any ecological and social ideas in the indigenous Hawai'ian culture that would be explicit, so that it would be, perhaps, possible to transfer such ideas into other cultures, most importantly - into the now prevalent global culture, without the need to transfer the whole of the indigenous Hawai'ian together with those ideas? 
Thank you, sincerely - Mr. Jan Hearthstone.

The message that I emailed to the various individuals and organizations that I presumed to be knowledgeable about the indigenous Hawai'ian culture, brought a very little response, and not a single person who replied would come with an idea that would be possible to use out of the Hawai'ian cultural context. This lack of positive results leads to many speculations, which, in turn, might form a basis for further research. Some of those thoughts and speculations:

1) It is possible that the difficulty in answering my query lay in the vagueness that the terms "ecological sustainability" and "social sustainability" evokes. A better, more practically useable definitions of "ecological sustainability" and "social sustainability" should be formulated.

The term "sustainability" has a wide range of meanings to different people, and thus elicits a widely disparate responses. This should not be surprising, - to date there have been rather too many attempts at defining the term, especially when the term is meant to be used within the context of human ecology, and many of the definitions are being formulated on ambiguous and arbitrary basis. It is obvious that unless a definition of "ecological sustainability" is arrived at on more satisfactory basis , one that would be based on some universal, axiomatic, widely acceptable ecological principles, no meaningful progress can be expected to start in the field of modeling of an ecologically (and socially) sustainable world.

2) It is possible that the need for global-wide solutions to global-wide problems is not widely enough perceived. It is conspicuous that although the globally expanding culture is effecting progressively more and more aspects of everyone's life in the whole world, the response to this culture negative aspects is not globally coordinated. It could be said that there is a lot of local response to the negative features of the global development, but no global ideology that would make the local responses globally united for them to be really effective. Thus there are many locality based groups that profess an opposition to global expansion, however - most (if not all) of any such locality groups operate on principles that basically can never threaten "globalization" seriously.  There are many movements for political and culture independence among peoples who were formerly exploited by colonizing nations, however - their agendas (for most), if not all) are based on gaining political independence, while the issue of becoming also ecologically sustainable (something that would mean real independence) is absent. Witness all the formerly colonized nations that are now "independent" politically, while in reality they are fully depend on outside commerce and handouts. Closer to home - in Hawai'i the independence movements do not promote any ideology from the past that would stress the tie between land and the people who live on it (read - ecological sustainability) in any clear detail as much as they stress the importance of gaining political and cultural independence first - something that does not challenge economical dependency of Hawai'i on international power brokers. To mind comes the ancient dictum of "divide and conquer" - there are many groups in the world today that actively support the powers of globalization by depending on its economic support, while struggling for political and cultural independence. This observation is supported by the absence of any detailed models of an independent Hawai'ian nation that would show any degree of ecological and social sustainability (an indicator of real independence from the global economically dominant powers).

Conclusion.

In order to be able to use any ideas from indigenous cultures that might have been ecologically and socially sustainable in designing of an ecologically and socially sustainable world model, it would be necessary to find experts on indigenous cultures that used to be sustainable ecologically and socially, experts  who would also be interested in designing of a sustainable world model, and who would see the necessity of a global approach to global problems that globalization presents. There, no doubt, might be such experts somewhere, but I failed to find them in Hawai'i. I myself am not qualified to decide whether it would be possible to use any ideas from Hawai'ian indigenous culture in designing of a sustainable world model.

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