Death is our most constant companion. From the moment of birth we fence with it, challenge it, avoid it, push it away, but ultimately surrender to it’s irresistible force. In Greek mythology the three Fates were responsible for the length of life. Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who determines how long one lives, by measuring the thread of life; and Atropos, the inevitable, who chooses when someone dies by cutting the thread of life with her shears. The ancients believed that when your predetermined time ran out your life would end, regardless the cause or circumstance. Hence the root of our word fatal.
Through the years I’ve been impacted by the death of family, friends, acquaintances, respected leaders, businesses and industries. Being fired, downsized, divorced, widowed or orphaned are all painful experiences, but when an industry dies the ripple effect is much greater. America’s rust belt is evidence of the effects of once powerful industries being shuttered, towns and cities falling from economic strength into the depths of poverty, employees abandoning their homes to seek their fortunes and futures elsewhere and small businesses closing their doors as their patrons depart.
In a large environment connected with highways, moving to a new location can be accomplished with relative ease, but consider the effects of a major industry closing operation on a small island in a remote archipelago. Such is the immediate future facing the people of Maui. The production of sugar in Hawaii is now a part of history. Visitors arriving have been greeted for more than one hundred years by thousands of acres of sugar cane waving aloha in the trade winds. Thirty three thousand acres are now about to become fallow ground and more than seven hundred and fifty families are staring at being jobless. The economic ripples on Maui threaten to rival a tsunami, and the effects don’t end here, but reach to California where the output of the Puunene mill is refined at Crockett.
Maui is a small community which has survived economic change in the past and will discover how to survive this death as well. In the past twenty-five years the Pioneer Sugar Mill and it’s thousands of acres of cane have disappeared from Lahaina, the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar (C & H Sugar) mill at Paia has been dismantled and sold, and now the last vestige of the industry that built modern Hawaii is being dismantled. It is sad to see an iconic landmark fade away, but HC&S has been planning for the final harvest for several years. New crops will be planted, new products will enter the local market place, and new employment opportunities will grow as well, but the time required to establish these new ventures will be painful for many Maui residents. Tourism will continue to carry the majority of our economy, with visitors arriving daily to bask in our tropical climate and enjoy the beauty of our island.
In time they will also witness the rebirth of the lands that have sweetened our lives for more than one hundred years.