Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan
Goal 4: Community and Social Well-Being
Our community is strong, healthy, vibrant and nurturing, providing safety nets for those in need.
Quality of life encompasses safe, caring, and engaged communities; healthy, sustainable surroundings; quality job opportunities for present and future generations; access to quality education, housing and health care; adequate, well-maintained infrastructure and governmental services; access to recreational facilities and leisure activities; and positive interaction and respect among the citizenry.
With Hawai‘i 2050, we have a unique opportunity to identify the kind of society we want – where people live with dignity and respect, and the basic requirements of food, shelter, health care, safety and education are not only met but are exceeded.
We are fortunate that our diverse and multi-cultural community currently provides a strong foundation for such a quality of life. The aloha spirit is still pervasive, and there is respect amongst our cultures. Living on an island has created a culture of collaboration and working together. We have the makings of a community that when determined can achieve great things.
Addressing social impediments now
Over the years, however, it seems that we run into the same issues and challenges that impede our ability to provide for a high quality of life. Our unmet social challenges tear at the fabric of our communities, and undermine our economy, communities and environment.
For example, at an average price of $650,000 for a single family home, our housing is among the highest in the United States. Our household median income in Hawai‘i is approximately $51,400, which means that unless conditions change, the average family won’t be able to buy the average house, and they will be lucky to find an affordable rental.
Our quality of life is also impacted by how our educational system prepares us for the job market and for dealing with life’s complexities and challenges. Excellence in education is especially important in this increasingly technology-based and globally competitive world. A mediocre system presents unacceptable risks for all of us. While we’ve made progress in terms of educational attainment – 88% of residents over 25 have a high school degree and 27% have at least an undergraduate degree – we lag in terms of basic proficiency. In 2007, only 22% of our eighth grade public school students met proficiency standards for math, and 20% for reading.
Caring for our youth, families and the elderly
How society treats our youth, families and the elderly is reflective of the overall health of our community. Hawai‘i’s elderly population is growing faster than our ability to provide quality care and housing. We have a dire shortage of nursing home beds, with 24 beds per 1,000, compared to a national average of 43 per 1,000. We must begin to treat elderly care as an urgent economic, social and moral issue.
Likewise, we must ensure that our families and youth are supported and nurtured. For example, after-school programs, sports, musical and other extracurricular activities beyond the school day help keep kids out of trouble; provide expanded learning opportunities and interests; and enhance social skills that make for well-rounded citizens.
The choices we make today are essential for tomorrow
The quality of our lives in 2050 will depend on choices we make today. We can choose to be a place where jobs, productivity, wages and educational achievements grow and economic disparities are reduced.
We can choose to make our transportation system more efficient and create a sufficient quantity of affordable housing. We can choose to prevent abuse and discrimination, and end poverty. We can choose to be a compassionate society. Or we can choose not to. Now is the time to boldly confront these social issues – once and for all.
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