Sustainability: Hawaii vs the Philippines

We share our roots, but how can we compare how we are dealing with sustainability issues today? Can we learn from our common ancestors that died on Easter Island?

Easter Island

Over 3000 years ago, the Polynesians left the Philippines, journeyed island to island to Palau to Guam, then travelled south towards Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, north towards Hawaii and finally east towards Easter Island, until they could go no further.

As each group settled and separated from each other, they had to discover how to make the most out of their new lands efficiently and sustainably. In Hawaii for instance, the Polynesians applied their connection to their surrounding natural landscape to growing taro effectively. They developed the “auwai” system that would divert river water to their fields in a slow stream that would deposit its particles and fertilize as it seeped through. The taro fields would also have fish and so serve as a multi-use facility. By the time the water reached the other end, it was filtered.

When we talk about sustainability today, the main difference between the Philippines and Hawaii is that the Filipinos take a more resourceful approach, often out of necessity and cost. In the Philippines, the cost of used materials are significantly lower than the cost of new materials. Therefore it is much more feasible to reuse and repurpose for building than in Hawaii and the rest of the modern world. In the US, the practice of reusing or upcycling building materials is still a very tedious and costly process. In addition, culturally the US is a more production-oriented country. However, sustainability in reusing and repurposing is still acknowledged in Hawaii in the practice of producing and using renewables - like trees that grow fast, steel that can be recycled, or glass products in place of plastics.