Cynthia Thielen

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Eco-nomics or green jobs, jobs, jobs

By Hawaii Representative Cynthia Thielen (R)

While the effects of the economic crisis are far reaching in all of our lives, the financial meltdown provides us the opportunity to rebuild our country with a green thumb. Our environment and our economy are interconnected. Realizing this link and working to create a symbiotic relationship is the viable solution to our financial woes. "Eco-nomics," the fusion of environmentalism and economics, has the power to spur a sustainable revitalization. Real recovery from our mammoth financial meltdown depends upon the application of "eco-nomics" to government, business and our daily lives. We as citizens should take advantage of this opportunity. Now that our economy appears to be at rock bottom, we have the opportunity to rebuild our system from the ground up. We have the chance to use our current crisis as a catalyst for green economic growth, and the potential to be part of a historic shift from short-term thinking to long-term management. From state lawmakers promoting environmental policy to citizens choosing not to drive to work once a week or buying local produce, we all have the opportunity to set the course to sustainability. By applying "eco-nomics" to our recovery plan we can change the global energy culture, preserve natural capital and promote a renaissance of sustainability.
By investing in renewable energy and green business, we can ensure a stable future for Hawaii, our country and our planet. As declared by President Obama, progressing toward a clean energy future would create entirely new industries and millions of new jobs.
Myriad wind, wave and solar energy sources have the potential to fulfill our energy needs and provide new opportunities for sustainable innovation. Wind farms on Maui, wave power projects off Oahu and the solar installation on Lanai all serve as a model of green growth that the world is encouraged to follow.
Our economic recovery depends also upon the health of our "natural capital"; water, forests, soil and air. We must transform our country to one that both values and respects our natural resources. We not only need these resources to thrive, we need them to survive. Trouncing our natural capital is no longer solely of environmental concern - it directly affects our economy and any hope for its revitalization.
An intact and flourishing ecosystem provides endless possibilities for growth. We have the opportunity to simultaneously preserve and employ our natural capital. Our powerful Pacific Ocean waves can create clean energy, our healthy Kau Forest Reserve on the Big Island can combat global warming and our nutrient-rich soil of Hawaii can produce organic agriculture.
It is imperative that we instill a sustainable approach to utilizing our natural capital in order to promote long-term ecological viability and the success of a green recovery plan.
Sustainability is no longer a buzz word; it has become a necessary way of life. As defined in 1987 at the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
This is very similar to the Native American Iroquois philosophy of the "seventh generation," in which one must consider the effects of one's actions on one's descendants seven generations in the future. The repercussions from the economic crisis have yielded an opportunity to apply a sustainable approach to our recovery.
Sustainable "eco-nomics" present solutions for both now and later; new jobs now and environmental security for the future. It is not only the responsibility of our government and business leaders to implement a sustainable "eco-nomic" recovery plan, but a responsibility of everyone.

Cynthia Thielen, a Republican, represents the 50th District (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay Drive) in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

Save Kailua Beach, before it disappears

By Representative Cynthia Thielen

I can remember when my husband and I, and our four children, would play touch football on Lanikai Beach in the 1970s. We could walk along the shoreline from the Kailua end of Lanikai all the way to the Waimanalo end of the loop.

That was before shoreline erosion took its toll.

In its present state, Lanikai Beach is cramped — with canoe clubs, fishermen, paddlers, sunbathers and swimmers all crammed onto a tiny stretch of shoreline that is a pittance of what it once was. Swells now slap menacingly against seawalls throughout much of Lanikai, creating backwash and providing an example of what happens when we fail to recognize and address coastal erosion.

Just around the corner from Lanikai is Kailua Beach — a unique jewel within the Hawaiian Island chain, as one of only a few accreting, urban coastlines that is entirely unarmored. Kailua Beach's development history, with large open areas makai of beachfront homes, has allowed the beach and dune system to remain intact and healthy while residential lots have been used to their highest and fullest potential.

This has created a win-win situation where private property owners and the general public each enjoy full use of this beautiful coastline. With erosion beginning to threaten this natural treasure, it is imperative that we act this legislative session to protect Kailua Beach.

The southern (boat ramp) end of Kailua Beach is eroding. This most heavily utilized portion of the beach is eroding at the alarming rate of 2-3 feet per year. The area includes Kailua Beach Park, which is used by large numbers of tourists and local residents alike. The area between the mouth of Ka'elepulu Stream and the Kailua Boat Ramp used to be a wide, sandy beach, where tourists could spend a day picnicking, swimming, or reclining.

That beach is no more. Cinder blocks and rebar - once buried deep under sand - protrude, and waves eat away at the dune system, exposing the roots of pine trees. To make matters worse, the erosion is propagating northward along the beach, toward beachfront homes and the widest areas of Kailua Beach.

For the past year, I've worked together with shoreline specialists from the University of Hawai'i and other government agencies to assess and identify the best course of action in dealing with erosion on Kailua Beach. In analyzing the rates of erosion and northward propagation along Kailua Beach, and the potential for degradation of property values, we determined that an interim moratorium on construction makai of existing structures was in the public's best interest.

Eight other members of the House Committee on Water, Land, and Ocean Resources and I have co-sponsored House Bill 593. The bill establishes an interim coastal construction line that temporarily restricts new construction makai of existing structures on beachfront properties in Kailua. It directs government agencies to assess the resource, giving special consideration to the natural processes of accretion and erosion that are unique to Kailua Beach.

Rules will then be determined regarding shoreline setback and the mauka extent of shoreline conservation districts in Kailua. The bill sunsets upon the adoption of rules, or in 2011, whichever is sooner.

It's important to note that some recent beachfront construction degrades the views of several existing homes and has generated backlash from the public. The makai footprint of one of these homes under construction rests on sand that at one time was under the shoreline surf.

Property values of beachfront homes are largely a reflection of their open view plain, a vista that is enjoyed by the thousands of people who use Kailua Beach for daily recreation. House Bill 593, in addition to protecting the value of existing properties, will prevent new development in areas that may be threatened by the recent erosion problem.

The Kailua shoreline is one of our community's most valuable resources. The wide, sandy beach is not only a community treasure — it is the reason that property values are so high along the shoreline. By supporting House Bill 593, we are preserving a natural resource for community use, and protecting property values for owners of beachside residences, while acting to ensure that this natural resource will be available for future generations.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen represents the 50th District (Kailua-Kane'ohe Bay).