Tourism Column: Time to end extractive and un-Hawaiian tourism business 08/08/2021 / Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! The sign reads “Tourists Not Welcome.” It’s a half sheet of plywood held to the ground with metal stakes as close as legally possible to our only highway. Everyone sees it because it’s just outside of Kaunakakai in Kapaakea Homestead, one of the oldest Hawaiian homesteads in Hawaii. The sign, which has actually been there for a few years, has recently had a fresh coat of paint and grammar correction, pluralizing “tourists.” It now features a solar spotlight for convenient evening viewing. While the sentiment might not be shared by all, Hawaii’s whiplash return to tourism is a pain-in-the-neck that’s being felt by many. The conversation on Molokai is not at what level is tourism acceptable, but how soon will the industry be replaced or removed. To be frank, tourism by Hawaii’s standards is completely un-Hawaiian. For most of us who live here, tourism is extractive. It’s an opportunity for people who don’t live here to come and do what they like at the expense of our environment and communities. And for our incoming tourists, wow, these guys pay out the nose for a Hawaiian “experience” that is becoming increasingly less tenable by the day. This relationship is extractive for our tourists, too. The real Hawaiian experience is working together to steward and fortify this amazing culture and ecosystem that exists nowhere else on the planet. It is extending the hand and inviting others to share knowledge and experiences for the sake of community building. The past 10 years, which have been without major controversy on Molokai, has afforded many of us the space to transition from reactive to proactive. To dream what a better future might look like for our children. Right now on Molokai, a grassroots volunteer community group is succeeding in a nearly-30-year struggle of allocating and safeguarding adequate amounts of drinking water for Hawaiian homesteaders. They are also petitioning the Commission on Water Resource Management to assess Molokai Ranch’s diversion of surface water in the rainforest mauka of Kaunakakai and Kauwela areas. This would be the first study of its kind in this area where the ranch has been diverting rivers for more than 100 years. Similar volunteers groups have formalized an energy steering hui and separate renewable energy cooperative to plan and build Molokai’s renewable energy future, starting with a 2.75-megawatt community-based renewable energy project to benefit our renters, small businesses and others who deserve access to renewable energy. In ag, our nonprofits are empowering our small farmers with grants and intern programs to help invigorate gardens, food forests and farms and get local produce to market and directly in the hands of our people. This small community of 7,000 people, 60% of whom are Hawaiian, are making a concerted grassroots effort to elevate and live their culture while maintaining their kuleana of safeguarding and stewarding resources for future generations. This idea that Hawaiians are a host culture and somehow placed here like a doormat to welcome the world is utterly disrespectful and probably racist. Being Hawaiian is about supporting nature, revering nature because it is our life support system. We need to transform Hawaii to become the conservation capital of the world with culture taking the lead. I’m talking about building a homegrown industry around conservation. Let’s give our kids a proud reason to come home, and pay our men and women who are risking their lives in conservation the heroes’ wages they deserve. If you’re going to share something here in the islands, let’s show off how culture can be a powerful tool in battling climate change. Let’s champion social justice, energy justice, aloha aina. Build equity and pride in our people. If our state continues to brand and measure itself by its potential as a subservient travel destination, we will continue to be overrun. Maybe the sign in Kaunakakai needs to be updated yet a third time: ‘Tourism Not Welcome.” Todd Yamashita, a fourth-generation Molokai resident, is a Hokulea Worldwide Voyager, publisher of the Molokai Dispatch, and community engagement specialist for Hawaii Marine Animal Response.