Honolulu, January 16th, 2193
Click here to download this as a printable PDF:
It’s sunset, at the end of another beautiful day in Honolulu. The high tide is arguing with the seawall, which was raised another metre last year to protect the Capitol Building – but what’s new? They’re still not on good terms with each other.
My name is Ben Danner-Pualani, and tomorrow I will give the biggest speech of my life in front of all my peers. They say it will be broadcast to every schoolchild. I’m 87, and for my sins I have been granted the pomposity of being a Senator, so I’ve seen a bit, but this has the butterflies crawling all over my poor weak heart, under my great grandfather’s ancient robe.
A hundred years ago tomorrow, Hawai’i became independent. Three hundred years ago tomorrow, Queen Liliʻuokalani was deposed by a bunch of greedy sugar-planters, backed by the US marines. It wasn’t just our royal lineage that was deposed: it was our culture, our cosmology, our soul. Tonight, I sit here and think back over the past two hundred years, while my soul absorbs the akaʻula, the golden-orange sunset, and seeks guidance from within. May the thoughts I’m recording sharpen my memory and do justice to my ancestors, my nā kupuna, to whom I owe so much.
My seventh generation grandmother, Lily Pualani, was born two hundred years ago. She is the seed of my inspiration, the flower of my heart, the fruit of my memory. She was proudly mā.hū, mixed in body, mind and spirit, neither female or male. It was she, when living in the Pu’uhonua o Waianae Refuge, a homeless encampment 30 miles outside Honolulu, who overcame her cocaine addiction, supported by the matriarchs of the camp who took her under their wing as a hanai, a child in need of love. It was she, with her two-year-old daughter Chloe on her back, who helped organize the Rebellion of the Homeless, leading five thousand homeless people including many keiki and kupuna (children and elders) on their Pilgrimage of Hope to the Kukaniloko Birth Stones, where they set up camp. “This is our cry from within,” she proclaimed. “Why are we, the children of our land, become the exiles, the lost, forced to wander without a home? Where is our people’s akahai, our kindness?”
It was she, when elected to the Senate five years later, backed by tens of thousands of determined followers, who introduced Hawai’i’s historic Homes For All legislation, ending homelessness forever through the Rolling Justice Tax, which is levied on all buildings at a rate sufficient to guarantee the construction of new affordable homes, backed by zero interest loans from our public bank. When no-one is in need, the tax falls to zero. When there is need, it rises to a level sufficient to finance new building. In Lily’s day it helped finance the construction of 35,000 beautiful affordable passive homes, and trained many of the builders who were among the homeless.
Lily also worked with the US federal government to enable the 29,000 native Hawai’ian families who had been on the homestead waiting list to build homes and villages on lands set aside for them in 1920, which had been colonized and mismanaged by the haole settlers, depriving them of access. Many of the new homes were built in ecovillages by the Lokahi Housing Cooperative, on land owned by the Aloha-‘Ãina Community Land Trust, ensuring that the land would be removed from the market forever. The descendants of the founders, my family included, still own our homes today, with gratitude.
When her daughter Chloe was five, Lily was active with the Sunrise Movement’s voter registration drive, persuading a hundred thousand lower-income Hawai’ians to vote for the first time. Working within the Hui Pono Network, which united so many housing, poverty, justice and environmental organizations into a single powerful force, including the Popolo Project, which spoke for Hawai’i’s black community, the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action, and Uplift Hawai’i, which was founded during the 2020 pandemic, they enabled the Progressive Caucus to win a majority in the State Legislature.
Among other changes, they passed the Green Hope Law, Omaʻo Manaʻolana. Combined with a steadily increasing carbon tax, it ended our dependence on imported oil and gas and it enabled our island grids to operate fully on renewable energy by 2030, thanks to big investments in offshore wind turbines, aerial SkySails, rooftop solar, offshore floating solar farms, and deep storage batteries. It was their leadership that enabled Hawai’i to go electric for all our transportation, including the ferries and flights between the Islands – all except the long-haul flights, the cruise ships and ocean freighters, which did not convert to green hydrogen until the 2040s.
Lily died during Hurricane Elsa, which took the lives of so many people on Kaua’i. Her funeral was attended by thousands, and to this day her bones lie hidden in a high cave, facing the sunrise. Over the years the climate crisis has caused so much grief, so much pain. Torrential rainstorms would come out of nowhere, devastating businesses, homes and farms in the catastrophic flooding that followed. In 2043 Oah’u had 59 inches of rainfall in a single day in April, killing many. The rise in sea-level has been equally traumatic. It is good that the worst is finally behind us.
Lily’s son William was a wild one. He was big, aggressive, and sweetly loving. He won a silver medal in the Sunset Open Surf Championship when he was sixteen, and he was an active member of the Oah’u Surfriders when they dumped a truckload of expanded polystyrene on the floor of the Capital Building while the Senate was in session, demanding that Hawai’i’s No-Plastic Wastes law had some proper teeth. He was a troubled one. His mother’s fame and his inability to find his way in life gave him an exaggerated sense of self-importance. He was banned from the state surfing championship for his abusive attitude to women. He was thrown out of the Surfriders for disrupting their meetings, and he lost custody of his three adopted children after he assaulted his partner. He was the biggest cause of grief in Lily’s life. After she died, he got the help he needed to get to grips with his problems, and he rebuilt his relationship with his children.
It was his sister Chloe, my other sixth generation ancestor, who inherited her mother’s determination to change the world. She was a big woman. She wore her hair back under a headband, and you would often see her with her arms crossed, showing all her floral tattoos. The housing crisis was ending, but the poverty crisis remained. Many of Hawai’i’s children were stuck in poverty. Communities were struggling, and our vulnerability to global supply chains had become critically disruptive.Hawai’i’s millionaires and billionaires, meanwhile, were sipping their mai tais on their tax-avoiding mega-yachts.
Chloe completed her degree in economics just when neoclassical economics was collapsing and the new paradigm was replacing it based on the centrality of Nature, the co-existence of the social, market, public and community economies, and the behavioral choice we each must make, whether to be a dominator or a cooperator, to use our agency for selfish purposes, or for the wellbeing of all.
Following graduation Chloe worked with the ‘Ãina Aloha Economic Futures Initiative, which had been established to inspire Hawai’i’s transition to an economy based on the native values that had sustained the Islands for centuries, emphasizing a deep and abiding love for Hawai’i’s communities, love for Nature, local resilience, a future without poverty and unemployment, and decreased dependence on tourism. It started out quite mainstream, but Chloe used her understanding of ecological and community economics to persuade its leaders to tackle the biggest obstacles to ‘Ãina Aloha’s progress: corporate power, the expectation of profit maximisation that was still held by most business owners, and the weakness of public banking and community investment.
To achieve these changes they worked in partnership with the Hawai’i Community Reinvestment Corporation, the Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust, labor unions, a coalition of community-oriented businesses, and the Progressive Caucus. Together, they achieved three paradigm-busting changes that shaped the Hawai’i we know and love today.
The first was the Social Purpose Charter, which required every business and bank in Hawai’i to adopt a new corporate charter within ten years, committing it to social and ecological purpose as well as financial purpose, and to consider the interests of Nature, workers, community and other stakeholders, its larger ‘ohana (family), not just its owners and investors. The Republicans had a fit when the proposal came out, but over time it became widely embraced, and Hawai’ians became proud of their leadership. Today, it’s unthinkable that a business would operate in any other way, whether it’s a small mon-and-pop or a big automated enterprise like Kala Pono, which uses AI and digital printing to make cars, computers and kitchenware.
Their second big achievement was the bundle of legislation that laid the foundations for our Aloha Aku economy, our economy of kindness. It contained six components. This may read like a nerdy background paper, but it’s important for us to understand how many crucial changes happened during those years that allow us to live the way we do today. From my reading of history, I have learnt that it was because people avoided making these kinds of changes for so long that we got into so much trouble as a world.
The first was the strengthening of the public Lokahi Bank that was set up to address the housing crisis, and the network of Kūlanakauhale community banks that is so fundamental to our economy today.
The second was the 5-R Tax – Repairable, Re-usable, Recyclable, Regenerative and Resource-friendly. It was designed to transform our economy from its wasteful ways to the circular economy it is today. The tax on a product fell to zero when it met the 5-R standard, a process that took some thirty years to achieve. The R-for-Regenerative also drove the removal of the chemical contaminants that used to cause so much cancer, Parkinson’s and other ailments, and the collapsing sperm count that made it so difficult for couples to have children.
The third component was the tax on wealth and inheritance, which began the long task of reducing the outrageous inequality that used to exist. The Republicans were once again indignant. They proclaimed it would drive successful Hawai’ians to emigrate, causing the economy to collapse, but nothing of the sort happened. Their love for Hawai’i, it turned out, was stronger than their desire to keep all their money.
Next there was the Kālā Apo, the Circle Money we use to track the ways we help each other when we are in need. It’s based on the Japanese tradition of Fureai Kippu, which means ‘caring relationships’, and among other things it has transformed the way we support each other in our old age. I accumulated Kālā Apo when I was younger by volunteering to help my kapuna (elders), and now I’m cashing them in.
The fifth component was the Good Job Guarantee, which enables our municipalities and non-profits to create a job for anyone who needs one, on the reasoning that it is better – and cheaper – to keep people motivated and in command of their agency than to lose them to the spiritual destructiveness of unemployment, hopelessness, and the addictions of despair.
Finally there was CPR, Community Public Renewal, which trained people to build the community economic institutions that are so central to our local economies today – the cooperative development centers, the sharing economy initiatives, the land trusts, the housing cooperatives, the community banks, the Kālā Apo. Together, they have made the development of community wealth our goal, rather than individual wealth, transforming our selfish hearts.
The changes were big, but they were small compared to their third big achievement, their assault on the dominating monopolies through the legislation that shut down the hedge funds, outlawed corporate share buy-backs, put a hefty penalty on all forms of tax evasion, and put limits on corporate power that last to this day.
The big real estate, tourism and meat companies formed a coalition to fight the changes. In the old days, they would have bribed legislators with campaign contributions to sabotage the legislation. With that door closed, thanks to the Restore Democracy Act, they took to threatening their employees and using dirty tricks to undermine members of the Progressive Caucus.
They went after Chloe, posting deep-fake videos of her mocking her teenage daughters and saying outrageous things about them, causing them to leave home and move in with their father until the fakes were revealed for what they were. They were undone when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that a Hawai’ian hedge fund had obtained a fat government contract, used the money to leverage the purchase of shares in dozens of small businesses, stripped their assets, driven them into bankruptcy, and hidden the gains in a secretive South Dakota Trust. In the wave of anger that followed the Fair Play Economy Act was passed, forcing all oligopolistic companies to offer their subsidiary units to their workers, who turned them into workers’ cooperatives with loans from the Kūlanakauhale banks. All’s well that ends well.
My fifth generation ancestor was Kahiau Pualani, the second of William’s three children, who came of age in the 2070s. When all but one of Hawai’i’s military bases was closed in the wake of the Beijing Global Peace Accord, his foster parents had to find new jobs. They took their compensation package, sold their home, and bought a farm on Kaua’i. This is where Kahiau developed his love of nature. He also benefitted from the way Hawai’i’s education system changed, placing nature at the heart of everything and teaching so many classes in the fields, creeks and forests.
By this time Hawai’i had developed a strong and resilient Aloha Aku economy, but the global climate emergency was still causing grief. We had been running on 100% renewable energy since 2030, and our transportation and heat all ran on clean electricity, but countries like China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia had continued to extract and sell fossil fuels long after the climate warning flags had been frantically waving.
In consequence, the global sea-level was rising steadily. The climate activists in the Sunrise Movement had installed danger posts throughout downtown Honolulu, warning people of what was to come, but people found it hard to understand that Waikiki beach would disappear entirely, that 20% of the homes in Honolulu would need to be abandoned and demolished, that the State Capitol would need to be protected by a two metres high hempcrete sea wall, or that Hawai’i would soon be welcoming 100,000 climate refugees from Tokyo, Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands, who would settle in newly built ecovillages on higher ground, whose descendants have contributed so much to the Hawai’i we love today.
Kahiau became one of our champions in the Great Carbon Drawdown. It was not until the 2020s that most climate activists realized that 100% renewable energy would not be sufficient, since the climate emergency was not caused by our emissions but by our cumulative emissions – the three hundred surplus gigatonnes of heat-trapping carbon that had accumulated in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age. The popular net zero emissions goals were a policy disaster, since they gave permission for corporations like Shell, Exxon and Saudi Aramco to continue extracting coal, oil and gas, while planting trees to supposedly absorb their emissions. When he was eighteen Kahiau landed a job with the Hawai’i Environmental Restoration Corps, and he stayed with them one way or another for his whole life, raising five children with his partner in the forest ecovillage that was their home.
By the 2070s the Progressive Caucus was sharing governance with the Green Party and the Hawai’i Restoration Party, thanks to the new system of proportional voting. It was Kahiau and his friends who persuaded them that Complete Ecological Restoration was essential, not just to contribute to the carbon drawdown but also to preserve Hawai’i’s watersheds, restore biodiversity, generate shade against the increasing heat, regenerate the bees and other pollinators, and slow the spread of invasive species like the strawberry guava and Pilau maile. When I was young I spent two years working as a volunteer with the Hawai’i Conservation Corps. I remember camping in the forest, removing invasive plants, fighting off feral pigs, planting ‘ohe seedlings, learning the legends from our elders, exploring sex, falling in love, and getting to know our native trees, plants, birds and butterflies. All without our devices, except during holidays.
The process of ecological restoration that started on thirty small acres in the Keau’ohana State Forest Reserve has today become a way of life for everyone, thanks to our ancestors like Kahiau. Our regional governance is organized by watersheds, following the traditional Ahupua’a way of managing land and water. Our backyards are full of native plants. Our smaller communities have removed all their streetlights and are embracing the dark. The extent of our island forests has increase tenfold, compared to their low point in the 2020s. It was during this period of our history that most people began to let go of the old belief that humans were a plague on the planet, destined for a tragic dystopian future, and began to embrace instead the realization that we were building a new ecological civilization, in which fairness, kindness and harmony with nature would prevail.
Kahiau and his wife Mahina’s youngest boy Edward – my father – fell in love with the botanist Manal Danner, my mother, my fourth generation ancestor. When Manal published her Ph.D. on phyto-ontology she found herself on the front line of a huge scientific battle. On the one hand there were the objective materialists, who believed that life had evolved by chance, there was no such thing as free will, and the universe was destined to end up as a cold disorganized mess due to the implacable law of entropy. On the other hand there were the subjective ontologists, who understand that all life has agency, all existence has some form of proto-consciousness, and rather than being ruled by entropy alone, the universe is also ruled by syntropy, through which all conscious existence strives for health and wholeness through effortful self-organization, defying entropic collapse.
In her book The Inner Life of Plants my mother honors the twenty-first century botanists Stefano Mancuso and Monica Gagliano, and the inspiration she drew from her Polynesian ancestors, before the era of royalty. Today, thanks to her influence, and others who thought the same way, we know that the animals, plants and trees speak to us, and that our kahunas can help us to communicate with them. That for so many years we treated them as objective things, lacking being or agency, that we exploited and destroyed them to satisfy our selfish desires – for this, we ask forgiveness.
When I was seven our mother took us to visit the four sacred kapaemahu stones, which had been moved from Waikiki beach to higher ground in a powerful ceremony. She told us the legend, how they embodied the ancient powers of spiritual healing.Today, most people know that when we are ready, our kahunas can help us to awaken the ho’omana, the spiritual life-energy that exists within each of us, and that when we are in distress, we can find peace through the gift of deep listening, and the daily practice of gratitude and forgiveness, which dissolves separation and releases the healing mystery of wholeness.
During Manal’s youth, before I was born, Hawai’i achieved its long-sought independence. America had been steadily moving towards a more loose federal structure, and while Texas’s attempt to achieve independence was defeated when Texans realized that it was just another an attempt by their plutocrats to grab more power, across America the desire for greater democracy and decentralization continued to grow. Independence gave us a federal structure similar to Switzerland’s, and to this day few people outside Hawai’i know who our President is. This is one of the many benefits of having a true participatory democracy.
Independence gave us our own currency, the puka, and our central bank, which enables us to cope with emergencies by printing money instead of borrowing, which used to push us into debt. When I read about the old practice of charging interest on the loan of money, and how it was such a driver of inequality, I feel grateful that it has been abolished. Between our central bank, our public Lokahi Bank, our Kūlanakauhale community banks and our Kālā Apo circles, there is no shortage of money. Today, when a person or a business wants to borrow for a community-approved purpose they just pay a transaction fee, which includes insurance against loss. All of our money is now created for public purpose, no longer as a source of profit for private bankers.
My third generation ancestor, Honalei Morimoto, my half sister, is Manal’s daughter by her second husband. My love for her is enough to fill the Waimea canyon. She was born two years after me, and we shared the most magical childhood, accompanying our mother into the forest as she listened to the plants and trees. Our father was a farmer who built our home in one of the many cooperative ecovillages on Kaua’i’s homestead lands. Honalei met Emma when Emma had travelled to Kaua’i from Holland to volunteer on our farm. They fell in love like two entwined hibiscus flowers. They married, and they remained together all their lives, farming the land with love. They grew a huge variety of intermingled flowers, fruits and vegetables, including ʻulu (breadfruit) trees, kalo (taro) for poi in the wetlands, sweet potatoes on the slopes, and hemp that they sell to the Kaua’i Hempcrete Cooperative to be made into building materials.
Our ecovillage has some thirty acres of land. Half is forested, the rest is farmed. The village itself is a cluster of some fifty homes around an open center, which we use for dancing, sports, ceremonies, and general mingling. Our roofs are pili-grass thatched, and we generate our energy from an array of tracked solar on the higher south-facing land. We share five vehicles, which we charge locally, and we store our energy in a series of deep-cycle batteries. The solar panels and batteries are made by a cooperative on Oah’u. Our great singer IZ Kamakawiwo’ole would be happy here, if he were still alive.
In Lily’s day, Hawai’i imported almost all of its food, adding fire to the climate emergency because of all the diesel and jet fuel that was required. When the pandemic of 2033 disrupted global supply chains there was an urgent need to become more self-sufficient. By the time Kahaiu was born we had more or less achieved this, using intensive organic regenerative farming, restoring the degraded soil of the sugar plantations and cattle ranches, rebuilding the loko fishponds which trap fish from the sea, and harvesting limu (seaweeds) to make some of our favorite dishes. Today, most of the ocean around Hawai’i is protected in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine Monument. There was a huge hakakā (fight) when this happened, but it led to a huge regeneration of local fish stocks, and the rebuilding of the coral. Most of my friends are pisci-vegans, and the big ranches that used to support cattle are now a mix of smaller farms, growing a wide variety of fruits, roots and vegetables.
My second generation ancestor is my nephew Kukane, Honalei and Emma’s son. He loved to surf, which gave him an early love of the ocean. When he was twelve I took him with me on a work trip to China, and the captain invited us onto the bridge, where Kukane asked endless questions about the sails, the solar, and the hydrogen thrusters. That sparked his interest and led to his working his way up to becoming a sea captain on a passenger liner that brought tourists from China. He had – he still has – a sparkle and charm that people find very attractive. It also led to his downfall.
Unlike the larger businesses on Hawai’i, which are required to have majority worker governance, this never applied on the ocean, where the old traditions of mostly male hierarchical leadership continued. Being away from home so often, and in the company of so many good-looking female sailors, he lived a double life, one with his wife Liliha and their children and another at sea. I really don’t care about the details – the scandal concerning the Chinese Ambassador’s wife, the complaints from the crew about the way he treated them, his explosions of anger, his gold-smuggling, his secret bank account in one of the world’s last remaining tax-havens.
The reason I think about him now is that he had the misfortune to live out the oldest of our human stories – our ancient impulse to self-importance and abusive power. It is a well-known fact that when people believe themselves to be special, and better than others, they are more likely to cheat on their partners, to break the rules of social conduct, and to do whatever it takes to advance their power. One of the central themes of the new ecological civilization we are building is the importance of community. To sustain this we need to be on the constant look-out for self-importance, which is the precursor of dominance, and so destructive of our desire to respect the uniqueness of all beings, regardless of age, sex, religion, achievement or skin-color. Historically, this has been the cause of so much war, cruelty, suffering and grief.
Kukane persuaded himself that he was descended from a relative of Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa, who was a descendant of Queen Liliʻuokalani. In his eyes this made him an ali’i, deserving subservience from others and entitling him to take as many wives as he liked. Our history is very colorful, with its royal traditions, its ali’i, its kahuna (priests), its maka’āinana (commoners) and its kauwa (outcasts and slaves), but it’s also cruel, the complete opposite of the cooperative world we are working to build today. Kukane’s corruption trial was the talk of Hawai’i, and the contrasting arguments between the rights of the ali’i versus the rights of commoners became a very public history lesson. In the old days, the kapu laws were so hierarchical that if a commoner allowed so much as his shadow to fall on an ali’i’s shadow he could be put to death. Kukane went into his trial full of charm and bluster, but he came out a very different man. He was given a suspended sentence, ordered to pay restitution to the many people he had abused, and required to do a thousand hours of community service, teaching our children about the dangers of self-importance and bullying, and how to bring the impulse to dominate back within the fold of respectful behavior through the skilful use of teasing and social ostracism.
This brings me to Makana, Kukane’s daughter, my beloved grand-daughter, my seventh generation ancestor. When she had her Maikaʻi Wahine ceremony at the age of 16, on becoming a woman, I took great delight in the hula that was held in her honor. I composed a mele (song) for her, recalling her ancestors and invoking the spirit of ha‘aha‘a (humility), in the hope that it would diminish her beauty and save her from the trouble it might otherwise bring. While I look backwards, she looks forward to a future I will never know.
What is that future? Our islands are politically stable, and our maka’āinana democracy has deep roots in our thousand villages and our city pono anainas (wellbeing gatherings). Our progress as an independent nation is good. We produce all our own food, and most of our manufactured goods. From what I saw of Makana’s schooling, it is a thing of delight, providing a deep grounding in the realities of Nature and the land, a good awareness of the never-ending struggle between those who want to dominate and those who want to cooperate, and a deep understanding of Big History, from the beginning of being to the end of eternity, encouraging a healthy spirit of enquiry. That’s good, because none of us really has a clue where we’re headed, in the long run.
Our tourists are for the most part respectful. They come seeking healing through our aloha culture and our deep relationship with Nature, and for the most part, they find it. Our forests have recovered from the two-hundred-year onslaught of colonial capitalism, and our native species are flourishing once again. Even the long-extinct ō’ō, our black honey-eater bird with its beautiful yellow feathers, is singing again, thanks to the magic of genetic regeneration.
As I wrap up, my thoughts reach back to Lily. To think that she had no home: today, that is so unthinkable. And yet what courage, what leadership she offered, that set us on the path to where we are today. That is why she is the seed of my inspiration, the flower of my heart. So this is my wish to our ʻō.pio, our youth:
May your hearts be strong,
Your memories long.
And when your hiamoe loa arrives, your time to go,
May your children honor you with song.
ʻO wau nō me ka mahalo,
 Hawai’i Homeless Camps: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/22/Hawai’i-homeless-camps-puuhonua-safe-zones
 Honolulu sea-level rise, 2100: https://earth.org/data_visualization/sea-level-rise-by-2100-honolulu/ and https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/02/six-feet-above-where-to-draw-the-line-on-sea-level-rise/ and https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/honolulu-mayor-orders-preparations-for-sea-level-rise/528322/
 Phyto-ontology: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00141844.2019.1627478
 Papahānaumokuākea Marine Monument: https://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/visit/welcome.html