POSTED: 12 DECEMBER 2006 - 3:30pm HST

Part Two: Kauai -2007 to 2029

Food line in Hale'iwa on Oahu

[Editor's Note: The events between 2007-2029 are already upon us. We tried to be as specific as possible... maybe too specific. This future history was written at the end of 2006 and some predictions were too early - beginning shortly after 2008. For example, predicting the collapse of Big Box stores by 2009 was obviously dated too soon. We think the underlying themes of future events still pertain.]

End of tourism through the Special Period
by Juan Wilson on 15 December 2006
Revision 2.4-091015 (grammer and typos corrected)

Losing the war in Iraq will have profound effects on the American psyche, with similarities to what happened over thirty years ago when the US withdrew from Vietnam in failure.

Our sense of America's goodness and fairness was damaged then. We were perceived as an arrogant clumsy giant who bullied smaller nations. In 1973 we were bungling losers.

Not long after withdrawing from Southeast Asia we faced economic tough times.  OPEC was determined to extract a higher cost for its oil from those who used the most of it.

Then, oil prices doubled overnight. Gas prices followed. It was not long before there were guns fired over places in long gas lines. The American economy  entered into "stagflation". It was a period of rising prices in a stagnating economy. It was something new and unpleasant for us. This will be worse after Iraq. Much worse.

American troops coming back from Iraq will face an economy on the downturn. Home buying has stalled. This will affect the purchase of all those Big Box Store items needed to fill them up. That will slow construction even further damping down income and job opportunities, particularly in the south and and southwest.
Hawaii will be sensitive to a shakeup of the economics of air travel in 2007.

2007: Tourism Stumbles
There will be a consolidation of air carriers flying to Hawaii. The major mainland carriers to Hawaii are American, United, Continental, Delta, and Northwest. At least two are likely to be taken over or allowed to fail, with the first major tick upwards in jet fuel costs. Consolidation and bankruptcy means layoffs, reduced service and higher prices. Flight frequency will further diminish.

Already increased security and regimentation has made it more difficult to fly anywhere. When petroleum climbs over and stays above a hundred dollars a barrel, it will be more expensive and not much fun to fly, even to Hawaii. Middle income people will not fly to Hawaii as a casual vacation destination. They will be too worried about making the next mortgage payment. Those that can take a vacation will drive to Orlando. Those who can't will take a bus to Vegas for one chance in a million to break even on their credit card debt.

The Hawaiian airline tourist industry will begin a continued decline from which it will never recover. All the businesses that are attached to this industry will falter as a result. This domino effect will begin at the rental car counter and go on to effect everything else.

There are several locations on Kauai with concentrations of small businesses fully dependent on middle tourist dollars. These include Koloa Town's main street; Hanapepe's historic district; Kapaa, Waimea and Spouting Horn's craft fairs, as well as the Port Allen boat tour industry.

The bottom will begin to fall out of the tourism based Kauai economy by 2008. Soon this will be unavoidably apparent. The disappearance of the middle class tourist on Kauai will be the beginning of the reduction in number of middle class residents on Kauai.

2008: The Wealthy Bunker Down
Only the very rich will be left as "visitors" to Kauai. They won't be interested in the trinkets offered the tourists.

In fact many of the mainland rich don't want to visit so much as reside. They already perceive Kauai as a retreat from the places where they made their fortunes. They suspect that their mainland homes will be unlivable in the near future. Population growth, overdevelopment and environmental degradation have made where they are unpalatable. As this group retires or cashes in they will be looking for a place to bunker down for the hard times ahead.

That is what is driving the conversion of thousands of acres of agriculture land on Kauai to five acre MacMansion's today. This process will accelerate as the economy flattens and the rich seek cover. Real estate prices for "right location" on Kauai will stay in the stratosphere after the real estate markets the rich left on the mainland are in shambles.

The self interest of the very rich will help finance some alternative energy development on Kauai. The rich will continue to want to power the telecommunication and entertainment technology they have become used to, even if other tasks have to be performed with manual labor.

They will encourage efforts like Apollo Kauai to achieve some level of energy independence for generating electricity using solar and wind sources. Those that can afford to so will continue to live much as we do today, only off the grid generating their own power.

2009: The Middle Class Retreat
Unless they adjust, these small tourist businesses will be blown out like candles in the wind before 2009. The surviving craft fairs will operate as flea markets. Towns like Hanapepe and Koloa will have to start selling useful things to island residents and Port Allen will have to become a fishing harbor.

As the decade ends and the middle class contracts further, operations like the Big Box stores will become more tenuous. The profit in shipping a plastic bottle of Gatorade across the ocean for consumption on Kauai will evaporate. K-Mart, Macy's and Sears, which are marginal operation today, will be gone from Kauai before 2009.

This middle class will continue to yearn for the benefits of affluence of the bunkered down rich, even though the newly arrived rich will be disappointed by the diminishing shopping opportunities and entertainments available on a small isolated island in a shrinking world economy.

They will refuse to awaken from a lost American Dream. They will continue to yearn for a suburban westcoast lifestyle even after it has been proven not to work by Californians who face recession, water wars, illegal aliens, raging firestorms and mudslides.

Middle class workers look to the only games left on Kauai for employment - the military sub-contractors, the GMO agribusiness and the County. These jobs pay well with great benefits. But, there are a limited number of them which creates a mafia-like nepotism in their control and distribution. This will only get worse.

Kauai's struggling middle class will be even more divided from those below them on the socioeconomic ladder. Some perceive those who chose, or are forced, to revert to outdoor living, living off the land, living off charity, as rejecting suburban values, as a scourge of homeless dead enders. Most will realize that they themselves are closer to the edge than they ever thought possible, and that their friends and family will be joining the needy.

After tourism falters the economy on Kauai will limp along for a few years. We'll be looking for subsidies, handouts or whatever we can get by on. Increasingly desperate plans will be proposed to "jump start" the economy. Coal fired ethanol plants; Garbage burning power plants; More genetic experimentation; More research and development of high tech weaponry. Some ideas will be stupid. Some will be dangerous. Some will be scams.

In the wider world however, the energy spending frenzy of the previous decades will have peaked. Human carbon dioxide contributions into the atmosphere will begin to nose down as the world economy cools.

2010: Calm before the storm
We will see some positive results of the failure of tourism by 2010. Low and middle cost housing will be available. There will be thousands of units of vacation time shares, hotel rooms, and other accommodations that used to house as many as twenty-thousand tourists a day. Moreover, there will be thousands of fewer cars filled with tourists roaming the highways.

This accommodation to diminishing wealth will continue for a short time like the weightlessness at the top of the arc of an inter island jet flight. The effects of efforts by groups such as Apollo Kauai will play a crucial part at this time. How we spend the last of the cheap oil money getting prepared for the future is critical.

Then there could be a sharp economic break when it becomes obvious to Americans that the restrictions resulting from a Post Peak Oil economy are permanent. A crash as sharp to the one in October 1929 is in the cards and could happen at any time. Attempts to delay or avoid financial disaster will be a top priority for the United States, but such efforts will only delay solutions that could be put in place and make the eventual collapse less painful.

Cuba's "Special Period"
The one place to look for as a preview of what we face is Cuba. It went through its "Special period" for about four years during the first half of the 1990's.

Cuba had much in common with Kauai. It is a tropical island with a failed sugarcane business in its recent history. Cuba was totally dependent on a far off imperial nation for oil, food, manufactured goods and technology. One day that imperial nation disappeared. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1989 it left Cuba with no food or fuel imports. So began the Special Period.

What Cuba did to survive the Special Period will prove instructive. Among other things, they began a vast and historic conversion to permaculture and urban farming. Cuba became one of the first modern self sustainable economies in the world.

Back in the 1980's Cuba, and the world, could not anticipate how fast the Soviet Union would unravel. The USSR's support for Castro was gone almost instantaneously. The US ban on business with Cuba added fuel to the fire. The Cubans ran out of fuel and fertilizer. They had to adjust to no future importation of manufactured goods, no fuel imports, and no fertilizer and pesticide imports. Besides economic collapse, they faced malnutrition and starvation.

In one way, the authoritarian and centralized organization of Castro's Cuba was an advantage: They could dictate solutions to problems. Large state agriculture programs were rebuilt for small scale organic farmers. Permaculture experts were consulted and widespread urban farming began. The centralized university system was broken up into over fifty community colleges that were spread across the island.

Another source of expertise that has been developing over the last decade are WWOOFs. These are Willing Workers On Organic Farms. WWOOFs are generally young people interested in travel and agricultural/ecological sustainability. They act as interns and apprentices on alternative technology farms (organic, permaculture e.g.) and generally settle for room and board. They have become the backbone of many marginal farming operations around the world. They are learning to be the farmers of the future.There have been many WWOOFs who have worked the organic farms of Moloaa on Kauai.

Teenagers sit in front of the abandoned Waimea Sugar Mill on Kauai

2011: Kauai's "Special Period"
The delicacy of our situation in Hawaii lies in our dependence on that far off US economy. The financial stumble Kauai makes when tourism tanks will only be a prelude to life after cheap oil. Things will get dark when the US economy moves past a failure of confidence and moves into an extended depression sometime around 2011.

Then we will be facing our own "Special Period".

For Kauai the Special Period is likely to begin when it is uneconomical to fly a head of lettuce by jet plane to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for consumption on an island that can grow its own lettuce. Over 90% of our food is imported, and we have only about a week's food supply.

We will also suffer when the regularly scheduled tanker barge deliveries of JP4, diesel and gasoline become irregular. KIUC's Hanapepe power plant will at times not be able to deliver all power required. Steady uniform power 24x7x365 will be only a fond memory.

The average home will live without air conditioning or even regular refrigeration. Those who have hooked up photovoltaic panels or small windmills with storage devices will be envied. They will have lights and satellite TV. The rest of us will entertain ourselves telling stories around a fire and playing instruments. KIUC will be dissolved and a true owner operated cooperative effort will replace it.

As Iniki illustrated, things can fall apart in a day, and be dark for a while. Iniki brought Kauians together, but Iniki was a local condition. We could get outside help from the State and Federal government. Volunteers flew in from around the world to help out. In the Special Period we will have to rely on ourselves.
Unlike Cuba, Kauai does not have an authoritarian centralized government that can dictate "solutions" effectively. What we do have today is a few years in which to prepare. The question is, will we?

Historically, without the force of economic necessity or military dictate, such efforts are rare. Certainly, the preparation for providing food to our whole population will not be accomplished by the time it is needed. But good examples can be set. That may be the most important thing to be done before the Special Period is upon us --experiment and test examples to be followed.

If we are organized and disciplined we might be growing our own food in four or five years. In the meantime things will be very tough. Children will go hungry before 2011.

Kauai will not be alone; as in the case of Cuba, permaculture consultants, organic farming associations and the help of WWOOFers with tropical experience will offer help. Their knowledge will be valuable in educating our future farmers in increasing local food production by more than an order of magnitude.

2012: Oahu's redistribution
All hell will break out on Oahu. The military response to the situation will be critical. Martial law will be imposed if things get out of hand. There will be rebellions. There will be suppression.

The hunting and fishing community on Kauai will play an important part in surviving the Special Period. They will supply critical food supplies as well as develop into an organized force to maintain discipline on the island. Their wisdom of the forest and sea will will be essential. They will have to ration the resources available to sustain us through rough times.

The various elements of the sovereignty movement will gain strength and be effective in isolated communities, particularly on the outer islands. Local authority in communities like Anahola will become increasingly important. Hunters and fishers will forge deep connections with the sovereignty movement. Bringing back the old ways will be a high priority for them. But they will have to deal with a new influence... the redistribution of population. Due to anticipated rising seas, a priority will be moving people near shorelines that will be threathened by rising seas to mauka sections of other islands.

The Superferry will be a vector for redistributing population from Oahu to the outer islands for relief and food production. By 2012 it will be operated by the US military.

It is not clear that sustainable agriculture on the outer islands could support the population of almost a million people on the island of Oahu. A new way of living and giving will need to be formulated to get through the hard times.

So many people will be an onerous burden. One that requires strict production and distribution regulations across the islands. The high-rise tourist, office and residential lifestyle of Honolulu will have to be abandoned. Some of Oahu's population will have to be redistributed to the outer islands, further reducing available agland. Each of the outer island populations will nearly double to reduce Oahu's population to 500,000. That would mean a population on Kauai of about 125,000.

To save Oahu and its inhabitants the other islands will have to give up much.
Many who stay in the islands who are not involved in food production will have to rethink their careers. Probably about 25% of the population will have to be involved full time with food production. Another 50% will need to have a lesser involvement. Permaculture advisors recommend the average person supply as much as 50% of their own food requirements in a sustainable system.

2015: Kona Administration Prefecture (KAPU)
Kauai, like Cuba, could pass through the Special Period within four or five years. It takes years to build up soil, or bear fruit from a newly planted trees. Rice, taro and breadfruit production will have to grow by an order of magnitude. The Special Period will last through 2015. By then, with its responsibility to Maui and Oahu, the food production of the Garden Island be barely self-sustaining. At least the worst malnutrition will be over.

The Navy will try to install and operate a small nuclear plant at the PMRF to supply itself power before 2015. In a depressed US economy the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) will likely lose its funding to experiment with Starwars and Deathray research. The base will barely survive the 2015 US Military Base Realignment evaluation. Some recommend simply closing the PMRF and moving its assets to Oahu. As a result the Navy and its attendant private corporations will seek new purpose and security.

The Navy, in partnership with the DLNR, will create a consortium of its military industrial partners (ITT, Raytheon etc.), the GMO interests (Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta) and the subsidized ethanol companies (ADM, Cargill) to take over administration and operations of the westside of Kauai. The 25 year lease with the Navy will be transferred and its area enlarged. It will be dubbed the Kona Administration Prefecture (KAPU) and becomes what is in effect gated community that includes all the land west of Waimea and north to Kokee. This will be deeply resented by the local people on Kauai and serious conflicts will be the result.

By 2015 energy consumption across the island will have will have been reduced to what can be generated from island resources alone. Wind power and photovoltaic generation will play the central part keeping some lights burning at our libraries and community centers.

2017: Kyoto Protocol
The twentieth anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol will be noted in places by people old enough to remember that voluntary effort to curb global warming. Not much will have been accomplished and the people of Hawaii will begin to seriously feel the heat.

Coastal erosion and higher seas combine with more variable weather to make obvious incursions into areas that for generations have been heavily populated. A great cost in relocating human infrastructure will be required to deal with this aspect of climate change throughout the world, and certainly in Hawaii.

The related effects of climate change will make the stresses on coral reefs and breeding areas of birds and fish greater. Die off will continue. The shoreline will become a more extreme environment for a while with less beaches and gentle coastal conditions. It will take the lifetimes of several generations of future Hawaiians before natural improvements to Kauai's coastlines yields significant changes to the bio-diversity and health of reefs and wetlands.

2020: Kauai population peaks
High energy consumption appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines will have to be abandoned by the average Kauai household. Fortunately, they are not absolute necessities in our climate.

An industry of repair and replacement for critical industrial products will flourish. Abandoned equipment, reused wiring and scrap metal will be valuable and find their way into still usable technology.

There will be ad hoc solutions to rising problems. County roads will be mixed use roadways everywhere. Alternative vehicles like horse drawn carts, bikes and photovoltaic recharged electric carts will become common on our highways. The county will operate a widespread shuttle system of biodiesel buses. Personal gasoline fueled cars will all but disappear.

We will be "using down" the products of a previous industrial economy, but at least we will not be dependent on new influxes of Walmart junk to survive. We will need be clever enough to discover new ways of creating needed items with what the natural environment produces as the old industrial materials wear away.

Isolation, change in lifestyle and diminished expectations will weigh heavily on some residents transplanted from the mainland. Many of those will return to the mainland to make a final stand with their families in familiar places.

By 2020, many of those that stay, and who were born into the baby boom generation will pass away through attrition. The population of Hawaiian Island will be under one million by then. On Kauai the peak population of 125,000 will begin to ease.

2025: Strategic shift underfoot
For the survivors, America's superpower dominance will be a faint memory. By the time the youngsters born after 9/11/2001 will be past twenty-one and their identification with mainland US culture will barely exist. In fact the young will think of themselves first as Hawaiian.

The strategic importance of Kauai to the military will diminish as well. Most of the foreigners "threatening" the USA would likely walk there and not be in need of intercontinental jets flying over the Pacific Ocean to reach their destination.

The Department of Defense might actually have to live up to their job title. By 2025 the US military will be reorganized much like the Japanese, as a homeland defensive force to deal with local problems.

Much of open field GMO testing will have been proven unsound. Most of the GMO corporations efforts will be withdrawn from Kauai and relocated to mainland laboratory experiments. Some serious efforts to rebuild the Mana Plain fisheries and bird sanctuaries on what were wetlands and recently filled-in to grow cane and later mutant GMO species.

The last vestiges of large scale mainland economics will be vanishing from the island. The plantations - gone; the tourists  - gone; the GMO's - gone, the county government mafia - gone; and the suburban sprawl - bankrupt. Past occupations in those fields of endeavor will have been replaced by food growing; small scale repair and manufacturing; personal services and neighborhood shops.

2029: We are on our own
In 2029 the KAPU's lease arrangement on west Kauai will expire and will not be renewed. Most of the remaining military and corporate personal will leave with their organizations, although some of them have come to love the island too much to leave.

The nuclear plant will be shut down. sealed up and quarantined; its fuel rods removed and left on Johnston Island. Much of the area around the nuclear site will become a buffer zone that will be surrounded by a reestablished natural wetlands in Mana. Fish ponds will abound and Pueo owls will hunt the vast the westside marshes again.

After 2029 Kauai will turn to the future still under great stress, but with a new skills, and new goals.

For Part One and Three of this series see below
Island Breath: Part 1 - 2050 Introduction

Island Breath: Part 3 - Kauai 2030 to 2050

A PDF version is available at:
Island Breath: 2007-2050 PDF

for info about Hawaii 2050 and your vision statement contact:

or contact:

Carol Taniguchi
Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs
ASB Tower, Suite 1132
1001 Bishop Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Telephone: (808) 585-7931 (ext. 101)
Fax: (808) 585-7932

check out:
Island Breath: Kauai 2050 Meeting
Island Breath: Hawaii 2050 Background

Island Breath: Hawaii 2050 Conference
Island Breath: No growth feasible
Island Breath: Cuba shows how

see also: