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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 13, 2001

Hawai'i's Environment
Hawai'i 'Green' but not 'Gold'

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Columnist

One of the assumptions about measures to improve the environment is that they come at a cost, often to the health of the economy.

That assumption is plain wrong, says the Institute for Southern Studies.

In its Green and Gold Report, available at the Web site southernstudies.org, the organization finds that many of the states with the highest environmental standards also have the best economies.

But Hawai'i isn't one of them.

"Gold" in the report refers to a list of 20 economic indicators, including a state's tax fairness, the adult unemployment rate, number of workers in toxic or hazardous industries, high school graduation rate and number of business startups.

"Green" is the list of environmental indicators, such as air quality, energy consumption rate, pesticide use, hazardous waste generated, toxic chemical discharges and state spending on the environment.

Hawai'i ranks high on the environment and lower on economic indicators, which won't surprise many people.

Among the 50 states, the Islands were third in the environmental ranking. Our energy consumption is low compared with states that need heat in winter. We don't have much sprawl. Our industries are generally clean, and, by comparison with other states, we don't produce much hazardous waste.

Our economic indicators aren't so hot, although nowhere near the bottom. The Islands rank 17th.

Hawai'i was dead last in both employment growth and the youth unemployment rate. In unemployment duration and adult unemployment rate, we were near last.

Our economy does well on environmental factors. We ranked first for fewest workers in toxic industries, and near the top for having few jobs associated with a high risk of disease.

Vermont, Rhode Island and Minnesota ranked in the top six on both the Green and Gold lists. Colorado, Maryland, Maine and Wisconsin were in the top 15 on both lists.

That suggests it is possible to have a healthy, vibrant economy and also a healthy environment, the Green and Gold Report says.

But the opposite is also true, it says. The states that did poorly are led by Louisiana, which was 48th on the Gold ranking and 50th on the Green ranking. Not much better were Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky and South Carolina.

The report singled out Hawai'i and Oregon, which was 23rd for economy and eighth for environment, for their lack of balance, despite being healthy places to live.

"The strong environmental records of Hawai'i and Oregon could not offset these states' sub-par economic performance," the Green and Gold Report says.

Jan TenBruggencate is The Advertiser's Kaua'i bureau chief and its science and environment writer. You can call him at (808) 245-3074 or e-mail jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.