KAHULUI - "If you talk to a hundred visitors, they all want to go into the ocean. The ocean is a beast, but they don't see it as a beast. We try to protect them from the beast."
These provocative words of wisdom came from Archie Kalepa, legendary waterman who was the first to stand up paddle from here to Oahu and is in charge of Maui's lifeguards. He and 17 others recently spoke at TEDx, perhaps the thinking man and women's event of the year here on Maui.
Nearly a thousand Mauians and visitors turned out to hear spirited talks by filmmakers, artists, teachers, environmentalists and even a physicist. The event that is tied to an an international organization whose purpose is dissemination of "ideas worth spreading" was put together by the talented Katie McMillan, social media expert who runs a successful public relations business.
A good number of the presentations at TEDx (standing for Technology, Entertainment, Design) had to do with preserving what we have - not only in the nation but on Maui. Lots of progressive, perceptive, sometimes inspirational ideas, but few answers on how to turn them into policy.
One of the shining successes noted: Maui generates more wind and solar energy per capita than anyplace on Earth.
Here is the best of what some of the brightest had to say.
"Sharks kill four people around the world each year," noted Paul Atkins, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker. "People kill 70,000. Who should be feared the most?"
Atkins showed a graphic close-up photo of a shark's mouth filled with frighteningly sharp teeth. "With a mouth like that, you've got a public relations problem," he said.
Hawaii has more indigenous plants that anyplace on Earth, but it took eons for them to get here - one new arrival every 50,000 years, the filmmaker continued. His major point, however, was that "maybe global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism."
Graham Hill, founder of treehugger .com, reviewed how "America has become the home of the big - big cars, big houses, big Cokes (from eight-ounce servings to 20). We use four times as much energy as we used to," he observed.
"Life is NOT about stuff. It is NOT about shopping. We need to make physical things disappear... Everyone wants to come to Maui. Do they all need a house with a garage? We can do better as an island. We need to take up less space," Hill said.
Hill has designed a 200-square-foot home. By day, a desk or dining table pull out of a wall. By night, they both go back in, and a bed pulls out. Have guests? A curtain deploys with sleeping space on both sides.
In a talk called "Parenting as Social Activism," Sherry Lynn, who runs a Pono parenting program on Maui, said that with kids, we need to emphasize the positive. On a test, a student gets 17 answers right and three wrong. We need to praise the 17 right answers as a great accomplishment and not dwell on the three wrong ones. Positive feedback builds children up. "We need to empower our children (in this way), for they will save the world," she said.
MAUI CONNECTION: President Barack Obama, Hawaii's favorite son inaugurated Jan. 20, had parents with a Maui connection. On Feb. 2, 1961, two brilliant University of Hawaii students - Barack Obama Sr. and Kansas-born Ann Dunham, daughter of an Oahu furniture salesman - eloped to Maui and and the courthouse in Wailuku to marry.
The future president of the United States was born later that year. The account appears in "Barack Obama: the Story," a fine book by David Maraniss. The book offers up in great detail about the Punahou High grads' life in Hawaii and early career in Chicago before he got into politics. Still there at the school is his name on a concrete sidewalk, scratched there by a classmate who was trying to get him into trouble.
IS ANYBODY PAYING ATTENTION? Though this column often gets compliments from people seen about town, it never gets a letter - even when an controversial idea like making Moku'ula into a grass field instead of restoring it is presented ("Voices of Maui," Oct. 4). Please do not be bashful. This column has a policy of printing readers' letters when appropriate and commenting upon them, but there are never any to print. Dialogue is good.