Hawaii is a group of islands located in the centre of the Pacific Ocean that became the 50th state of the United States of America in 1959. The 130 islands are of volcanic origin. Only seven of the eight major islands are inhibated :Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Hawaii’s Big Island…
GEOGRAPHY Hawaii is the most remote island chain in the world, over 2,000 miles from the nearest landfall. Distance makes for splendid isolation – these Polynesian islands are removed from all else but one another.
Hawaii consists of eight major islands plus 124 minor islands, reefs and shoals, strung like a necklace across the Pacific for over 1,500 miles. The eight major islands (which make up over 99% of the total land area) are Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (known as Big Island), Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe (uninhabited) and Niihau (privately owned).
Each of the major islands has an identity all its own. Oahu is as different from Molokai and Maui as Kauai is from Lanai and the Big Island – each as varied and colorful as the official state flower, the hibiscus. With their collective mass of 4.1 million acres or 6,450 square miles, these islands form the fourth smallest state in the United States.
GEOLOGY Hawaii’s story is the story of creation – islands born from the Pacific depths some 40 million years ago. Hawaii has been shaped by the capricious forces of fire, magma, rains, and winds – and now, most recently, by man.
About 30 miles southwest of the active volcano Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii, the newest island in the chain, Loihi, is forming – the newest land on earth. Stretching toward the northwest from Loihi are the other major Hawaiian Islands: Big Island, and then Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau.
BIOLOGY The Hawaiian Islands have a wide variety of plant, marine and animal life. Vegetation zones include: coastal, dryland forest, mixed open forest, rain forest, subalpine and alpine. More than 90 percent of the native plants and animals living in Hawaii are found nowhere else in the world, and a greater variety of fish exist in Hawaiian waters than elsewhere. The humuhumunukunukuapuaa is the unofficial state fish.
Hawaii is sometimes called the Endangered Species Capital of the World. At least one third of all the endangered species in the United States are found in Hawaii including the Nene Goose (official state bird), the Humpback Whale (official state marine mammal), the Pacific Green Sea Turtle and the Pueo (Hawaiian owl). The exotic species, man, poses a greater threat than nature to Hawaii’s native flora and fauna.
CLIMATE The Hawaiian Islands have only two seasons: „summer“ between May and October and „winter“ between October and April.
ECONOMY Hawaii’s cost of living is one of America’s highest, its per capita personal income below average. In fact, Hawaii’s cost of living for a family of four is estimated to be approximately 27% higher than the U.S. average for a comparable standard of living. In 1999, Hawaii’s average per capita personal income of $27,544 was 3.5% below the U.S. average – the price of living in Paradise!
EDUCATION The University of Hawaii (UH) consists of ten campuses statewide: three are university campuses (UH Manoa on Oahu, UH Hilo on the „Big Island“ of Hawaii and UH West Oahu) and seven are community colleges. In the Fall of 1999, a total of 46,479 students were enrolled throughout the system. Of these, 17,612 students were enrolled at UH Manoa, 2,790 were enrolled at UH Hilo, and 687 were enrolled at UH West Oahu. The remaining 25,390 students attended the community colleges located throughout the islands. Three private universities also operate in Hawaii with a 1999 enrollment of 13,539 students (excludes extension programs of mainland and foreign schools).
GOVERNMENT From their „discovery“ by Captain James Cook in 1778 – at which time each island was a separate kingdom – the Hawaiian Islands passed through several stages. These included the status of a United Kingdom under Kamehameha the Great, a Republic, and then a U.S. Territory until, finally, in 1959, Congress passed the bill that made Hawaii the 50th State of the United States.
Today, Hawaii has only two levels of government: state and county. Counties perform most services usually assigned to cities and towns. There are no separate municipalities and no independent school districts.
Some members of the growing Hawaiian sovereignty movement classify Hawaii as „- an occupied territory due for decolonization“.
POPULATION „- Hawaii’s real flowers are its people.“
The Hawaiian Islands have attracted human migrants in waves, first the Polynesians, then the whalers, the sandalwood merchants, the missionaries, the sugar planters and ranchers, the multi-ethnic traders and laborers, and finally the tourists.
With a resident population (1999) of 1.2 million, Hawaii has an average population density statewide of approximately 200 people per square mile. Island living is a test of tolerance.
Hawaii is probably the only place in the United States, if not the world, where every single racial group is a minority – one of the world’s most harmonious gatherings of people. At least a third of the population is of mixed ancestry. According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the
last study conducted in 1984 estimated that there were only 8,244 pure Hawaiians – about 0.7 percent of Hawaii’s total population – a vanishing race. Today, in 2005, some think the number could be as low as 5,000.