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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: February 2012

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce

February 2012

UH Hilo and the state collaborate on energy and food sustainability

Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce LogoOne of the goals in the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s new Strategic Plan is to foster a sustainable environment on campus, one that gives students, faculty and staff the best possible place in which to study, work and live. One of the key components of this sustainability goal is responsible stewardship for Hawai‘i’s precious natural resources by providing leadership in recycling, sustainable resource use, food production, “green” building design, and use of renewable energy sources on campus.

We already are making great strides in these objectives with the installation of photo voltaic on several of our buildings and promotion of “local first” days in our campus eateries. Our newly re-formed Sustainability Committee is currently discussing new initiatives on energy and recycling. During winter break, our campus community participated in our Green Days initiative, in which many facilities and offices on campus were closed, saving $68.5 thousand in energy costs.

A statewide initiative that dovetails in part with UH Hilo’s sustainability goals is the work of the Hawai‘i EPSCoR Statewide Governance Committee, of which I am co-chair. EPSCoR is a multi-million dollar federally-funded statewide initiative called the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Taking the lead from Governor Abercrombie’s “A New Day in Hawai‘i” roadmap, in which the governor emphasizes the urgent need to infuse technology and innovation into the economy, the EPSCoR committee is providing leadership for development of the Hawai‘i Statewide Science and Technology Strategic Plan. The committee recently drew up a proposed guide, “Sustaining and Improving Quality of Life for a Prosperous Hawai‘i: A Statewide Framework for Science and Technology,” including a section on energy and food sustainability.

The plan, still in draft form, is meant for state and local governments, businesses, and the education sector and “provides a pathway for sparking conversations and actions that will bring to bear the latest knowledge and technology to grow, diversify and strengthen a resilient state economy, and improve the overall quality of life for Hawai‘i residents.” The plan advocates four key objectives: 1) strengthen the sci-tech talent pool; 2) foster synergies between Hawaii’s sci-tech businesses and institutions; 3) advance sci-tech for a healthy state; and 4) invest in sci-tech for a resilient, sustainable island state.

Objective 4 addresses the current model in which the state imports 90% of its energy (through oil) and 85% of its food need; the EPSCoR committee expresses concern that Hawai‘i is therefore exposed to increased risks relating to energy and food supplies. “Investment in scientific and technological research to help Hawai‘i produce more of its own energy and food for domestic use and exportation will help to ensure that the state is protected,” the draft plan states.

I’ve placed as one of my priorities the advocacy of initiatives that bring us closer to a truly sustainable campus, island, and state. Governor Abercrombie’s New Day roadmap, UH Hilo’s strategic plan, and EPSCoR’s draft sci-tech guide all encourage discussion and collaboration to advance the objectives I’ve discussed above. In last month’s column, I wrote about convening the first UH Hilo Community Vision Summit with leaders from our local community—representatives of education, health, technology, business, local government, and community non-profits. Among the most prevalent topics at the summit was UH Hilo’s focus on energy and agriculture. “UH Hilo has to focus on the new trends where jobs are and communicate this to the community,” said one participant. “This will produce the ‘fire in the belly’ for motivation in education.”

More community vision summits are planned for the near future. I look forward to working with the chamber and its members to advance sustainable initiatives and practices for the benefit of our island and state.

For more news from the Office of the Chancellor, visit my blog.

Don Straney

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