Categorized | Education

HPA’s Sims award-winning APEC essay


Zoe Sims, a junior at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, is one of the five grand prize winners of the APEC 2011 High School Essay Contest, sponsored by the APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee, in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Education and the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

Students composed an essay answering the question, “Why is sustainability important to you, Hawaii, and APEC?” More than 500 essays were submitted from students throughout the state for the competition.

Sims, along with Alexander Bitter of Waiakea High School, Ben Chao of Iolani School, Matthew Matasci of St. Anthony Junior/Senior High, and Shane-Justin Nuuhiwa of Kamehameha Schools, will have the unprecedented opportunity to hear from President Barack Obama, President Hu Jintao of China, and other world leaders and global chief executive officers attending the APEC CEO Summit.

The five outstanding students also received an Apple iPad and will have their essays placed on the APEC Hawaii Host Committee website at

“The high school essay contest was created to engage our local youth by providing them with the extraordinary opportunity to take part in APEC,” said Peter Ho, Hawaii Host Committee chair, who presented the awards at a special ceremony in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

“We were extremely impressed by the caliber of writing and thoughtfulness of Hawaii’s next generation of leaders,” Ho said.

The panel of judges included Lt. Governor Brian Schatz; Michael Broderick, executive director, YMCA of Honolulu (and former Family Court Judge); Maya Soetoro-Ng, educational consultant, East-West Center and assistant professor, College of Education, University of Hawaii; Susan Essoyan, writer, Honolulu Star-Advertiser; and Jill Takasaki-Canfield, executive director, Pacific and Asian Affairs Council.

The APEC 2011 Leaders’ Week will take place in Honolulu on Nov. 7–13 with the Leaders’ Meeting on Nov. 12-13, and is the culmination of a series of events held throughout the year in the United States. The Leaders’ Meeting is expected to attract approximately 20,000 attendees including the leaders of the 21 APEC member economies, ministers, business leaders, and news media.

Following is Sims’ essay in its entirety:

Green Equilibrium: APEC, Hawaii, Humanity, and the Search for Tomorrow’s Solutions

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American proverb

Immerse yourself in the ocean. Slip into the mountain rainforest. Sit beneath the vast snow-dome of sky and watch infinite blue fade into Impressionist sunset and then twinkling night. Submerge yourself in Hawaii’s natural wonder; let it seep into your skin until you are drenched with vibrant colors, scents, and sensations. Lose yourself, and find an underlying urgency: these places, the hearts of Hawaii’s sacred wilderness, must be preserved.

Sustainability calls for protection of the natural world for generations to come – this has always been the challenge of environmental stewardship. The promise of my generation is to right some of our wrongs against nature, to learn to work together to seek common solutions, and to move forward embracing a new brand of sustainability: that of the future.

The environmental issues we now face include rising temperatures and advancing oceans, habitat destruction and urban sprawl, emissions and extinction, encroaching pollution and expanding populations.

In the economic realm, we also face the most significant financial challenges since the Great Depression. These issues require a twofold sustainable ideal in which we protect the environment while also growing economic prosperity.

We must strike a balance between revering nature and supporting human quality of life. This equilibrium is crucial for us as individuals, and an imperative for Hawaii, APEC, and the world.

First, sustainability requires this balance of us as individuals. The 21st Century brings us bountiful food, modern medicine, and technology. It brings education that prepares us for
tomorrow’s world. It is because of the innovations of others that I am able to have this education, be vaccinated for potentially deadly diseases, and live without fear of famine or thirst.

Yet I can also personally attest to the wonder of walking on a dew-laced rainforest trail and swimming over a pristine coral reef. It is because of the forethought of others that I am able to experience Hawaii’s natural magnificence.

I want my children – and their children, for generations to come – to be able to say the same. It is for this reason that I believe sustainability is my responsibility: to myself, to my ancestors, and to my children.

In Hawaii, economic and environmental choices often go hand-in-hand. The Islands’ reputation as a natural paradise brings tourists who, in turn, bring economic prosperity to the state.

However, striking the right balance can, at times, be a challenge. Should we build affordable housing, or leave the land intact? Do we permit construction of a hotel that would bring tourism, money, and jobs, but also intrude upon a pristine public beach? Should we have permitted the Hawaii Superferry, a project that would perhaps have been an economic boon, but could also have spread invasive species and harmed Hawaiian humpback whales?

These are difficult dilemmas, but they are choices that we must make, nonetheless.

The isolation of islands – literal and figurative – is a way of the past. As the power of technology grows, our ties to each other become stronger, transportation and communication swifter, and we, the human race, come closer together across cultural, linguistic, economic, and national boundaries.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation builds economies, but true economic strength does not come without environmental stewardship. The Asia-Pacific economy must grow based on green consciousness, realizing that the only solutions that will bring long-term prosperity are those that take into account nature’s needs as well as ours.

In turn, strong economies fuel the education, innovation, and entrepreneurship needed to foster a truly green future. APEC has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to lead the region and the world towards sustainable solutions.

Sustainability is a challenge, perhaps the greatest challenge facing my generation. Yet I believe we will rise to the occasion. Scientists around the globe are working to improve renewable energy sources: windmills, solar panels, wave power, and more.

We are learning how to better use water, soil, and nutrients to soften our footprint on the planet. Technology rockets us onward into a paperless world, an emissions-free world, an interconnected world.

As APEC strives for this delicate balance, this careful compromise, these new responsibilities and opportunities will fall to my generation.

We recognize that sustainability is a necessity and a right for us as individuals, as a state, as a region, and as a planet.

We stand ready to join the search for the sustainable answers our world needs.

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