Vol. 2 – Topside / 2014—ongoing
In 2014 I began documenting the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai, which for over a century served as a prison and then as a refuge for those suffering from Hansen’s disease in the Hawaiian Islands. In this accompanying series, the focus shifts to the other side of the 2,000-feet-high sea cliffs that surround Kalaupapa—an area referred to locally as “Topside.”
For decades Molokai powered the native Hawaiian movement as a center for community based environmentalism, resource preservation and restoration. The community has often been criticized for sacrificing economic growth in exchange for protection of their environment, cultural traditions and way of life. Molokai is the least developed out of the all the Hawaiian Islands; there are no stoplights, skyscrapers, malls or fast-food chains. The Cell and Internet services are intermittent and power shortages occur regularly. Thousands of Molokai residents depend on the government for basic services such as food stamps, health care and unemployment benefits. However, the sacrifice of modern expansion has allowed the island to remain rich in cultural traditions, pristine natural environments and ancient Hawaiian sites.
Molokai has always had deep roots in native Hawaiian activism and for the past 40 years inhabitants have fought to protect their lands from over development, resource depletion and economic exploitation. With the rising effects of climate change, neighboring islands are facing the consequences of severe resource depletion, positioning Molokai to be a leader in the integration of traditional indigenous knowledge and new technology that will foster a sustainable future for the Hawaiian Islands.