You guys still read books, right? I hope so, because University of Hawaii Press has just released one that has a great deal of importance to everyone who lives on and visits Maui. Written by anthropologist Carol A. MacLennan, Sovereign Sugar describes in fresh detail all the might sugar plantations’ environmental and socio-economic impacts on Hawaii over the last century.
Ah, sugar. Given the importance the industry had on the development of post-Contact Hawaii, it’s hard to believe Maui is the last remaining island with a working sugar plantation (that would be Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, which employs 800 works and farms about 37,000 acres of sugar cane). But here more than any other island today, we can see the power of Big Sugar, even as it defends itself against charges of environmental pollution.
Sovereign Sugar is not the public relations history of sugar in the islands that comes from the big mills. Instead, the book offers real analysis from a researcher whose spent decades here.
“The interesting story here is not the rise of the sugar industry as an overwhelming economic influence,” MacLennan writes in the book’s introduction. “That story has been told before. What is historically important is the complex tapestry of social and natural forces that shaped sugar’s history, often altering its direction and dictating its dynamic.”
The book discusses ecological influences that came before Hawaii’s industrial agriculture, the rise of the plantations themselves, the economic, ecological and human effects brought on by devoting tens of thousands of acres to sugar growing and production and, finally, “the ability of the sugar capitalists to use organization, science, and technology to set the policy agenda that remade the natural and human world.”
Sovereign Sugar is available in hardbound format from UH Press for $39. Click here for more information.