I am sitting in a chair in the air, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands of Kauai and Oahu. I am headed to Maui for a short getaway, and I am writing this on a wireless keyboard using the Notes app on my iPhone4.
While sitting at the Lihue Airport waiting to board Hawaiian flight #508, I received a phone call from my friend Pat, who lives on a sailboat at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor on Oahu. I checked my Facebook account to read about her cat’s morning swim in the harbor. I tweeted about the three birdwatchers sitting next to me, pouring over their bird books and plotting their birding adventures on Maui. (Hosmer Grove, I leaned over and whispered.)
Last week, in Waikiki, Dr. Richard Kelley, son of the company’s original owners Roy and Estelle, gave a keynote address at Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Leadership Conference. In his late 70s, Dr. Kelley is on Facebook. He writes a weekly blog column. And when it comes to computers, he prefers an Apple. He may be retired, but he’s not retired.
Some 145 years ago, Mark Twain arrived in Hawaii on the second passage of a new mode of travel—the steamer ship. Twain made Honolulu Harbor from San Francisco aboard a new-fangled ship that relied on steam instead of wind for power, reducing the previous three-month journey to just a couple weeks. The high-tech invention made travel for pleasure (but not necessarily pleasurable travel) to Hawaii possible. It also ushered in the advent of travel writers. Twain himself arrived in Hawaii carrying a letter of assignment from the Sacramento Union.
Technology has come to define travel. I can’t even make a two-day trip to Maui without stowing two cell phones (one work; one personal), a laptop, SLR, compact camera, Kindle and all the cords and chargers that each require.
During Dr. Kelley’s talk last week, he highlighted the technological advancements his family has witnessed since they opened their first hotel in 1947 when 25,000 visitors made Hawaii their destination. Whereas his mother once mailed reservation confirmations with a hand-written note tucked into an envelope on which a .3 cent stamp was affixed, we now send emails that arrive in something like three seconds. Whereas visitors used to arrive by ship that took four to five days to cross the Pacific, they now arrive from the West Coast by jumbo jet in five hours. Whereas the WATS line made taking reservations by phone possible, we now take reservations by something called the world-wide web. And last year, 7.1 million people visited the 50th state.
Last week, I wrote about endangered species in Hawaii. How plants lose thorns, because they no longer needed thorns to protect themselves. How birds stopped flying, because they no longer needed to take to the air for food. These adaptations have made many of these species defenseless
Dr. Kelley concluded his speech last week with the quote, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent; it is the one most capable of change."
Dr. Kelley was, of course, referring to Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. And he’s right. But businesses aren’t the only creatures that need to continue growing and changing in order to survive. Hawaii’s endangered flora and fauna do, too. Unfortunately, many are not doing so fast enough. Technology in all forms, electronic and biologic, advances at a blinding pace.
Sometimes, we need to lend a helping hand.
Earlier this year, a four-and-a-half-mile, animal-proof fence went up along the Alakai plateau, stretching from the high ridges of Waialeale to Wainiha, in an area often called “the wettest spot on Earth.” The Alakai is 1800 acres at the heart of Kauai’s watershed and home to more than 200 native plant species, numerous Hawaii forest birds and seabirds and dozens of native invertebrate species. Unfortunately, many of these species are threatened due to invasive ungulates—pigs and goats—and weeds.
On Oahu, a predator-proof fence now surrounds more than 59 acres of coastal land at Kaena Point, where the threatened Laysan albatross nest and endangered Hawaiian monk seals haul out.
Here on Maui, similar efforts to remove alien species and give the natives a chance are taking place on the slopes of Haleakala at the Waikamoi Preserve, a native forest, known as the last stronghold for 63 species of rare plants and 13 species of birds, seven of them endangered. And as a result, maybe, if they have their binoculars poised at just the right time, my new birdwatching friends may get to add the rare `akohekohe (crested honeycreeper) and the kike koa (Maui parrotbill) to their life list.
And, now, it's time to stow all electronics, check to ensure my seat belt is snug and low and prepare for landing.