The Project

Background on Wild & Free research

Rising gas prices and dependence on imported goods/food/oil create a volatile economy on the Hawai’ian islands. Oil supplies 90% of the energy for the island chain, but many other sources are available. Hawai’i cannot sustain itself on oil forever, but the fossil fuel is not going away over night. The transition will be easier and quicker if island communities can work together to solve their problem.

From the Los Angeles Times, 2010:

This tropical paradise is an energy beggar that depends almost solely on [imported] oil to fuel its vehicles [and planes] and stoke its power plants. That’s left the state, which doesn’t produce a drop of crude oil, vulnerable to spills, price swings and geopolitics. Hawaii residents already pay the highest pump prices and electricity rates in the country.

“We really are the canary in the coal mine,” said Jeff Kissel, chief executive of the Gas Co. of Hawaii. “What’s happening to us with oil is going to happen to the rest of the country.”

The goal is to transform the nation’s most energy-dependent state into its cleanest and most sustainable.

Comments from Hawaiian residents:

One thing is certain: We can’t continue burning oil to make electricity.”

“We have solar, wind, and possibly tides for energy. But I don’t imagine that any of it will ever be big enough to support a large population.. it won’t be for the faint of heart to exist this way on a rock in the middle of the Pacific.”

“In the short-term the prospects for Hawaii would seem to be worse than for much of the mainland, but [eventually] that may reverse precisely because of this early onset of troubles.”

“Hui Mauli Ola is an exsisting group of Hawaiian healers that lives and teaches traditional Hawaiian knowledge as a guide for daily activities. They are the future and a real solution.”

Where will the transition begin?

Ultimately, the residents of Hawai’i will determine their future. If given the responsibility to direct local energy investments and social change; what would they want to see? What would they support and help move forward?

To find out we will conduct interviews and focus group discussions with local citizens all around the island and, hopefully, beyond (travel is dependent on funding). Residents within and outside the energy industry will be contacted.

  • Problem: How can local communities be engaged in a conversation about energy technology?
  • Solution: Reframe local conversations in a way that is tailored to the needs of the audience.
  • Plan: Ask the community!!

Who will be heard?

Everyone willing to talk with us, share their story or opinion. We will record conversations and visits to energy sites around the state, starting with a wind farm on the south side of the big island.

Why does this matter?

Our first goal is (1) public awareness and support. Our second is to build a foundation for (2) collaborative social engagement between individuals and communities.

Everyone with a stake in the well-being of the island community benefits from understanding how different Hawai’ian social groups access the issue of energy. Additionally, residents of the mainland and non-US countries can learn from the experience of Hawai’i.

We will share all of our content online. Some interviews will be used to write short news articles which will be submitted to outlets in Hawai’i and across the nation. Karyn, our research director, is a contributing write for where she also writes about her experiences with the Wild and Free Project.

Hawaiian energy: What options will be explored?

Volcanic geothermal energy will be a focus (read about what Iceland is doing here). Some residents think this may be the greatest solution available to the island, but traditional culture demands caution. Pele – the Hawai’ian goddess of fire, wind, lightning and volcanoes – is considered to be especially hostile to the theft of her energy.

We will visit the various sites in which energy potential has been noted. Geothermal, solar, wind, wave, hydro and biomass energy are all available on the Big Island. Only a few are present sources of power. There is a potential for 40% of the island’s energy to come from renewable sources and efficiency efforts are major part of that change. Right now, Oil supplies 90% of all energy for the Hawai’ian Islands as a whole.

What will we write about on the blog?

Just about anything related to green living, environmental philosophy or politics, energy, public opinion, and current events. Karyn is a trained social scientist with an MS in Environmental and Forest Science, she also holds a BS in Political Science and Psychology. Jeremy has a BA in French with a focus on comparative literature. He is interested in the field of eco-criticism. Our expertise guides our content.

Volunteer Opportunities

We do consider content from outside writers on a volunteer basis. If you are interested in writing about a topic, please contact us at

If you would like to take part in our project by participating in an interview or focus group, please visit this link.

Please share your thoughts, all are welcome and will receive a thoughtful response.

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