Joni Mitchell's famous line is "they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot," but just before that she sings an older sentiment, that we don't know what we've got till it's gone.
There is a clear reason for this and it's something we can change, but it requires a collective willingness to do some homework and think strategically.
There are wins and losses in the game of saving what we feel is part of our paradise. "Save Sandy Beach" succeeded. The hotel proposed there was defeated and it looks like we've got a good shot of saving a little bit of rugged wilderness from Sandy Beach to Makapu'u Point forever. Excellent.
Wow. I'm looking a huge frigate bird floating over Wild West Waikiki. He seems to be eyeing the fish in the Ala Wai. Now... where was I?
Sometimes we drop the ball. The grand old organ and the beautiful theater front in Waikiki were removed with almost no objection (the Palace Theatre in Hilo got the organ, fortunately).
The Natatorium, we have been told, is beyond repair. Everyone would like to save it, but it may not be feasible. There are sixtysomething locals who can remember learning to swim there and being warned not to touch bottom because of the erosion of the facility, and that was in the 1960s.
The underused Queen Liliuokalani Elementary was rightly closed - we should spend school funds on students, not buildings, and keeping every underused school open for the convenience of neighborhood parents is a disservice to the many more students attending other schools, diverting money that should really be spent on education. But the good news is that the historic building will be saved, as it should.
More cherished landmarks and scenic areas would be saved were it not for the fact that almost no one makes an effort to save them until there is a group ready to do the opposite.
It would be easier for citizens, easier for officials, even easier for developers, if we could identify what we care about before there are development plans, and get those places set clearly off-limits.
The North Shore has a number of tracts of land like this. You do gore someone's ox if they hope to sell their land for a lot of money one day so the new owner can develop it - but the goring is more merciful than if you wait until they have a purchase agreement in hand.
And at such an early stage you are more likely to be able to enlist allies. In the case of the North Shore you can probably find allies among adjacent land owners, including the Army, which has forthrightly confirmed its own interest in the least possible development adjacent to its lands up on the hills.
A peculiar but wonderful aspect of life in Hawaii is that there are sound business reasons for business people to be tree huggers. So long as a particular hotel owner isn't itself committed to a development project, it has a vested interest in preserving scenic tracts. The key is to build the coalition early so you're not fighting a lot of money.
What would you like to save?