Thursday, June 26, 2003

Hawaii is urged to find
alternative sources of energy

An organizer of the first Earth Day
issues the state a challenge

An organizer of the first Earth Day issued an environmental challenge to Hawaii and other islands: Make yourself a world expert on solving a problem, such as finding clean sources of energy.

Denis Hayes told the 22nd Annual Pacific Islands Environment Conference in Waikiki yesterday that the islands could focus on renewable energy sources -- the sun, the sea, wind and thermal -- to reduce their vulnerability to global warming brought on by burning fossil fuels.

Island nations and states that adeptly handle their needs for fresh water, waste disposal and clean energy can become world role models, said Hayes, also chief executive of the Bullitt Foundation, a conservation organization in the Pacific Northwest.

"Homo sapiens are already overshooting the long-term carrying capacity of Earth," Hayes said at the conference, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the city. "New models are desperately needed."

Hayes was the national coordinator for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, which was created to focus attention on the environment.

He said the challenge could be something as simple as finding environmentally friendly ways to farm fish.

Humans have long thought of the ocean as limitless, but it is not, Hayes said, citing recent scientific reports that 90 percent of large fish in the ocean have been depleted.

Ocean trawlers destroy sea floor habitats just as completely as clear-cut logging destroys an old-growth forest, Hayes said.

"But it's invisible, he said. "It's underwater. You don't get people chaining themselves to the sea floor (to stop fishing)."

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris expanded on the theme in a luncheon address to the group, which concludes its conference tomorrow.

"We can't keep spending natural capital," Harris said. "Eventually you have to pay the piper."

"Honolulu is certainly not the best example of how to do it right," Harris acknowledged, but he added that he wants to try to use natural resources wisely and efficiently to preserve them for future generations.


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