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Island Societies and Globalization:
Lessons from Hawai‘i and Japan

President David McClain’s remarks for the Neesima Lecture Series
October 25, 2007, Doshisha University, Japan

President David McClain shakes hands with Doshisha University President Eiji Hatta

President Hatta, members of the faculty, students, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: aloha, good morning, and konnichi wa.

In this centennial year of the University of Hawai‘i, we seek to honor our past, to celebrate the present and to create the future. It is therefore most appropriate, and my great honor and pleasure, to address you today as part of the rich tradition of lectures that bear your founder’s name, Joseph Hardy Neesima.

As tomorrow’s symposium will document in much greater detail, Doshisha University and the University of Hawai‘i have a long and rich history of partnership that spans nearly nine decades.

Indeed Doshisha’s connections to Hawai‘i reach back to 1909, when prominent Territory of Hawai‘i business and civic leader William R. Castle visited Doshisha and met your seventh president, Dr. Tasuku Harada. President Harada returned the courtesy in 1911, visiting Mr. Castle in Hawai‘i and giving a lecture to the Nuuanu Japanese School entitled "The Strong Points of Peoples East and West."

Nine years later, as the University of Hawai‘i was on the threshold of a transformation from an agricultural college to a full-fledged university, President Arthur Dean offered Dr. Harada a position of professor of Japanese studies. Dr. Harada accepted, and taught his first class at the University of Hawai‘i in the spring semester of 1921.

The University of Hawai‘i was not the first university in America to offer courses in the Japanese language, culture and history, but it was one of a handful; Yale, Stanford and Chicago, among others, began their curricula in the first two decades of the 20th century. As a public university, however, the University of Hawai‘i had a special responsibility to the community it served, and in 1920 the population of the Territory of Hawai‘i was more than 40 percent Japanese.

Dr. Harada’s contributions to the University of Hawai‘i and to the larger community in Hawai‘i during the next 12 years were substantial, and we will have the opportunity to speak of them in more detail tomorrow. Upon Dr. Harada’s retirement in 1932, he was presented with an honorary LLD degree by the University of Hawai‘i, only the second degree so conferred in the university’s first 25 years.

Measured against Dr. Harada’s achievements, I certainly feel unworthy of the Doctor of Humane Letters degree you have conferred upon me this morning. I accept the degree, however, on behalf of the remarkable faculty and students of the University of Hawai‘i and in recognition of the strong relationship between our two universities, one private, one public, which has spanned nearly 100 years.

Globalization and National Responses

At the time our relationship was formed in the 1920s and 1930s, our two universities, through our leaders, our faculty and our students, possessed information and perspectives that were clearly of global significance in the context of the turbulent and remarkable 20th century.

So it is today as well, in this first decade of the 21st century.

Then, in the 1920s, the value in our partnership was the promotion of understanding among Japan, Hawai‘i and the United States of different cultures and ways of thinking, in a world in which the first impulses of globalization were beginning to be played out.

Today, the technological advances of the last quarter century have essentially completed the globalization process. To be sure, these technological impulses would not have had their full expression were it not for the absence of conflict on a global scale among any of the great economic powers, and were it not for the adoption of more market-oriented regimes in China, India and neighboring nations. To be sure, more than a billion people still live in poverty today.

Nevertheless, Thomas Friedman’s 2005 characterization of the competitive global business setting as "flat" could not have been written in 1985 or 1995.

With the spread of globalization have come new concerns over its ancillary consequences and side-effects, particularly as resources become more scarce and evidence of climate change becomes more convincing.

In the foreign policy arena, the post 9/11/2001 security environment—in its own way another reaction to the internationalization of production and culture—has injected a new element of danger into global society.

In reaction to these concerns and in response to these dangers, some nations, notably the United States, have gone away from the multilateralism that characterized their economic and foreign policies for much of the last half of the 20th century, in favor of bilateral or even unilateral approaches.

Other nations, notably China, have insisted that that they should not bear the global climate and resource cost of their economic development, simply because their development occurred decades and even centuries after that of the nations of Europe, the United States and Japan.

In reaction to globalization and its consequences, then, we find nationalism resurgent. Some of this resurgence is a natural reaction to the threat to sovereignty and culture that is posed by globalization, climate change and attempts to control and regulate them.

More worrisome, however, is this resurgence of nationalism among the great continental powers, America and China.

These continental powers, and indeed all nations, need to understand that the worldwide context in which they are operating is no longer one in which the relative separation of cultures and economies provided by oceans and by large lightly-populated land masses is possible.

The Emergence of "Island Earth"

Rather, with all the globalization of the last quarter century, and with the continued expansion of population going on in the less developed world, we are entering the age of what I will call "Island Earth"—an age of extraordinary interdependency unlike any that our populations, and the governments they have created, have experienced.

In this 21st century Island Earth setting, all the challenges we face are inherently global, and the response to them needs to be taken by the global community acting as one. The intensity of the individualism, unilateralism and nationalism which characterized nations’ behavior in the 19th and 20th centuries, and even within the last decade, is no longer appropriate.

For example, as the United States was developing in the 19th century, the settlers on its frontier could always move West across the North American continent if they didn’t get along with their neighbors. The presence of a large external margin of unexplored land amplified the individualism that is so much a part of the American tradition.

The scale of the unexplored American continent also permitted an attitude toward the environment that was not one of stewardship, but rather one of exploitation and moving on.

Island societies—societies like those in Hawai‘i and Japan—have never been so cavalier about relations among people and the relationship between people and their environment.

Island societies know instinctively that resources are scarce, and must be conserved and renewed.

Island societies know that if matters don’t work out among their inhabitants, the option of "moving West," of leaving the island, isn’t really available.

Accordingly, the inhabitants of island societies naturally place a greater premium on community and on respect, on getting along with one another and addressing their challenges collectively.

This is precisely the sensibility needed for nations and cultures living on Island Earth today.

Lessons from Hawai‘i and Japan: Values

At the University of Hawai‘i, our vision for the university has changed in this decade from what it was for most of the last century.

During most of the 20th century, the University of Hawai‘i saw itself as a bridge between East and West, as indeed did the entire Territory of Hawai‘i and, after 1959, the State of Hawai‘i.

But with all the globalization that has occurred in the last quarter century, there are now many, many bridges between East and West. Because of our unique multicultural history, Hawai‘i remains an interesting and unique bridge; but we are hardly the only one.

Today the University of Hawai‘i’s strategic vision is based on the fact that we are the only public university in America’s only island state. Our vision for the 21st century, our second century, is based on the values of island peoples generally, and on the values of the first inhabitants of our islands, the Native Hawaiians. To quote from our strategic vision:

Ancient Hawai‘i was organized in ahupua’a—land sections extending from mountain summits through fertile valleys to the outer edge of the reef and into the deep sea. The ahupua’a sustained the people, and the people revered and cared for the sacred source of their resources.

The University of Hawai‘i embraces the Native Hawaiian ethic of sharing, collaboration, and conservation. It is the basis of our vision.

Working together for the betterment of all the diverse ethnic populations now a part of Hawai‘i, the University of Hawai‘i system will help ensure the survival and prosperity of Hawai‘i’s people and these beautiful islands for generations to come.

As this audience well knows, this holistic aesthetic, emphasizing the interconnectedness of time and place; of earth, sea and sky; of generations past, present and future, also finds expression in traditional Japanese values and culture.

It is precisely this holistic vision which is essential for addressing the physical, social and economic challenges we face with the extreme interdependency we have now on Island Earth.

We are trying to "walk the talk" of a holistic approach to current problems. For example, the University of Hawai‘i has launched a number of initiatives intending to promote a more sustainable and climate-neutral environment.

The UH Manoa campus, in partnership with our local electric utility, intends to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2012 and by 50 percent by 2015. UH Manoa’s climate change commission participates in national university initiatives to increase awareness of the issue, and the "Sustainable Saunders" project aims to minimize Saunders Hall’s carbon footprint.

UH Manoa is also restructuring its Water Resources Research Center, its Environmental Center, its Sustainability Center and its Aquaculture Center into a more cohesive and interdisciplinary unit.

UH’s Maui Community College has begun the Sustainable Living Institute on Maui, with partnerships with Earth University in Costa Rica and the Maui Land and Pineapple Company. New buildings under construction by the university all have the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

On the technological front, Coral Industries Professor of Renewable Energy Resources Michael Antal has created the patented Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute Flash Carbonization™ process, which quickly and efficiently produces charcoal from all kinds of biomass, and which has the potential to make a real contribution to global energy demand. Flash carbonization technology has been licensed to several U.S. companies and is being evaluated by several others, both in and outside the U.S.A.

This technology holds tremendous promise for helping to meet Hawai‘i’s, and the world’s energy needs with a clean, renewable fuel. Charcoal is the sustainable fuel replacement for coal, the combustion of which is the most important contributor to climate change. Coal combustion adds about 220 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for every million BTU of energy that it delivers; whereas crude oil adds 170 pounds per million BTU, gasoline adds 161 pounds per million BTU and natural gas adds 130 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere per million BTU of delivered energy.

In contrast, the combustion of charcoal, sustainably produced from renewable biomass, adds no CO2 to the atmosphere! Thus, the replacement of coal by charcoal is among the most important steps we can take to ameliorate climate change.

Indeed, UH’s Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute has become an acknowledged international leader in the energy field and has broadened its expertise to encompass the development of technologies that will enable us to tap our oceans for energy, food, minerals and other resources.

For example, HNEI has led the way in spearheading the discovery and use of geothermal power in Hawai‘i…coordinating the first comprehensive wind surveys of the Hawaiian archipelago that furnished the data needed for the location of wind turbines…testing a variety of electricity generating solar devices and systems…conducting major studies on ocean thermal energy conversion…developing the technology to use biomass for energy, charcoal and high-value chemicals…and testing biomass-derived fuels as a replacement for conventional transportation fuels.

HNEI has established the most comprehensive hydrogen program of any university in the nation, a standing attributable to pioneering research on the production of this gas through solar electrochemical advancements using thin semiconductor films, gasification of biomass and genetic engineering of hydrogen-producing marine organisms…and supporting marine-related research on deep-sea minerals mining, open-ocean fish farming, very large floating platforms, artificial upwelling of deep ocean water and the disposal of greenhouse gases in the ocean.

Many other universities also are focused on sustainable development, but we are doing our part.

Lessons from Hawai‘i and Japan: Limitations of Island Societies

While island societies have some advantages in understanding what needs to be done to address the challenges of globalization, climate change and extreme interdependency, this is not to say that island societies with their holistic approach are perfectly adapted to the challenges of globalization.

In particular, the group-consciousness of island peoples, and the small scale of most islands, has the side effect of making these societies at times too intolerant of the new, too averse to taking risks, with the result that they create less than their share of new technologies and depend too much on others for increases in their standard of living.

At the same time, the small scale of island societies means that in a biologic sense, as my friend David Cole has noted, new influences are "expressed" more quickly throughout the society.

This applies both to the impact of globalization and to pilot efforts to counter its impact.

Cole, the chief executive officer of the above-mentioned Maui Land and Pineapple Company, an international expert on sustainable development and, I’m proud to note, a University of Hawai‘i alumnus, is transforming his firm from a company losing market share in the global canned pineapple market into a firm competing in the production and export of fresh produce grown in a setting which emphasizes sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities.

The history of island societies provides continental societies today with a perspective on how difficult it is to respond to external forces of change while trying to maintain traditional and familiar values.

Japan’s experience in the Meiji Restoration, and indeed the personal experience of your founder Joseph Hardy Neesima, suggests the complexity of response required in the face of the tide of modernization.

Japan in the second half of the 19th century saw that keeping a closed society was not an option, and sought to modernize rapidly.

In a remarkable transformation, within less than half a century, Japan was considered one of the great powers, alongside another island society, Britain, and continental powers Germany, France and the United States.

To be sure, this transformation caused great stress with some traditional Japanese values. In the unstable international climate of the 1920s and 1930s, the search for secure resource supplies led Japan into conflict on a global scale. One could argue that Japan’s response to the imperatives of modernization went too far and relied too much on military means to accomplish the nation’s goals.

Today interest in controlling scarce resources continues to lead nations into conflicts that, though regional in nature, surely have global implications and reverberate back onto the nations themselves in negative ways.

America’s involvement in the War in Iraq has these overtones.

Native Hawaiians too realized that maintaining a closed society was not an option after Captain Cook first made landfall in 1778. Cook’s contact, and the introduction of Western weapons, led to an attempt by Kamehameha I of the island of Hawai‘i to unify the Hawaiian islands; this attempt met with success in 1810.

Kamehameha I died in 1819, just two years before the arrival of Christian missionaries in the islands. Throughout the 19th century, foreign powers had designs on the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, many of the native inhabitants of which succumbed to diseases brought by the missionaries and whaling ships that visited the islands.

Chinese immigrants arrived in mid-century, as a byproduct of the Gold Rush in California. In 1885 the first officially-sanctioned wave of Japanese immigration began to serve as labor in the sugar cane fields (some Japanese arrived as early as 1868).

The United States Tariff of 1890 made Hawaiian-grown sugar less competitive on the U.S. mainland and led the Western business community to instigate the overthrow of the Queen, Lili’uokalani, in 1893. With the coming of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and its connection to the Philippines, Hawai‘i became a territory of the United States and continued to import labor from Asia. Korean immigrants first arrived in 1903, and immigrants from the Philippines in 1906, one year before the establishment of the University of Hawai‘i.

If the lesson of the Japanese response to modernization is that militarization can go too far, the lesson of the Hawaiian response is that diplomacy is an insufficient defense in the face of a strategic location in the mid-Pacific and a primarily agricultural economy.

The Way Ahead

In today’s Island Earth era, the era of extraordinary interdependency between peoples and nations around the globe, a competitive economy and a holistic mindset are both requirements for national survival, and for true global prosperity.

Development of both requires education focused on values and a relentless pursuit of the advancement of knowledge, precisely the missions of Doshisha University and the University of Hawai‘i.

This education and this pursuit of knowledge must occur in a climate of freedom of inquiry, as was so nobly stated by your founder, Joseph Hardy Neesima, who said, "Freedom is my living motto."

The Island Earth era will test humankind in unforeseen ways. As the discussions over the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and the difficulties in successfully completing the Doha Round of global trade negotiations suggest, nations will be increasingly reluctant to cede sovereignty to multilateral bodies, even though the challenges in question inherently cross national boundaries.

In addition, problems of differing initial conditions, first mover effects and domestic political considerations always complicate negotiations, but they will be more severe in this new era of extraordinary interdependency.

It will be important to strike the right balance of national initiative and international regulation of the process of adaptation and adjustment. Enough play must be given to market forces, for example, to provide the incentives to develop new technologies needed to cope with climate change, which is the physical signature of this new extreme interdependency.

Clearly, however, the market alone has proven insufficient to address the externality of climate change brought on by rapid globalization and the resulting surge in global growth.

Island societies, because of their smaller scale and more fragile ecosystems, do permit influences to be "expressed" more fully and more quickly, so can provide some early guidance—and a measure of realistic caution—in negotiating the thicket of risks and opportunities of extreme interdependency.

Ironically, climate change will increase the stress on many islands themselves, as sea levels rise between one-half and a full meter over the next century—and this may increase the influence of island societies in the formulation of the global response to climate change.

Japan and Hawai‘i provide two case studies of island societies whose holistic values and history of adaptation to external influences can provide a template for behavior and response for use by continental nations unused to the stress inherent in a flat world of extreme interdependency.

The rich histories of Doshisha University and the University of Hawai‘i, our longstanding partnership and our relentless focus on values-based education and the pursuit of knowledge in a climate of freedom of inquiry, can and will serve as a sources of encouragement, inspiration and solutions to our national governments and indeed to the global community.

It is truly an honor to speak before you today. Doomo arigato gozaimasu for your recognition, via the conferral of this honorary degree, of the University of Hawai‘i’s centennial and of our longstanding partnership. Thank you for your attention, best wishes and aloha.