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Forever Country

Forever Country
O?ahu has reached a historic crossroads ? the inevitable consequence of its split personality.

It?s capital, on the leeward coast, is a bustling metropolis - the sixth densest city in the USA, growing by 10,000 new residents every year. With more highrise buildings than San Francisco, Houston or Miami, Honolulu is the heart of economic, political and academic life for Hawai?i. The city is home to a million of the state?s 1.3 million residents - and to the most congested freeways in the nation.

Meanwhile, the windward side and the north shore of the island have, until now, escaped the worst impacts of a half-century of unbridled development. They retain much of their unspoiled rural character: the slow pace, natural beauty and close-knit communities that make the spirit of aloha more than just a bumper sticker.

But today those communities, collectively known as The Country, are threatened. With the lowest home ownership rate in the nation, a large stock of decaying wooden homes over-occupied by multi-generational families and a large and growing homeless population, there is a desperate need for affordable housing. The cost of living is high, good paying jobs are scarce and parents complain that their ?keiki? are forced to move to the mainland after graduating.

The answer, say some, is to continue to build sprawling suburbs over virgin farmland and more hotels on virgin beaches, to boost construction and tourism employment. Since statehood in 1959, that development model has paved-over more than half of O?ahu?s farmland, making the state more dependent on imported food and fuel than almost anywhere in the nation. As urban sprawl chews through the countryside, tourists increasingly complain that the island is losing its beauty ? development is eating the very seed corn of Hawai?i?s biggest industry.

Opponents of this pattern of sprawl argue that development should instead remain focused in the traditional urban core. Rural areas should be preserved both to revitalize agriculture and boost food resilience, and as a scared trust to ensure that the natural beauty and self-sustaining lifestyle that are the essence of Hawai?i can be passed down to future generations.

Today those competing visions face-off over plans to build several hotels, hundreds of luxury vacation homes and even a brand new town on a famous old ranch in the least developed corner of the island. As they gird for battle, a loose alliance of more than two-dozen community organizations has come together to preserve The Country. They confront rich and powerful organizations, including the secretive Church of Latter Day Saints.

Some of the stewards of the land are: Jim Anthony, Dee Dee Letts, Creighton and Cathy Mattoon, Choon James, Kent Fonoimoana, Robert Harris, Mark Cunningham, Larry and Blake McElheny, Tim Vandeveer, Kathleen Pahinui, Peter and Doug Cole, Bill Racoma, Lea Hong and many, many more. We will spend months documenting their efforts.

"Forever Country" is the story of their fight to keep the North and Windward Shores just that - Forever Country.
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SKU SKU17773
 
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