Social Issues and Psychology:
Psychology & The Environment
Fall, 1997

Values as Sources of Economic and Cultural Conflict
  Jim Berling, Mary Krebsbach & Mike Kurka

Please Note: These materials may be used for research, study, and education, but please credit the authors and source.

    To develop or not to develop, this is the question. The island of Maui, especially the07H.jpg (4536 bytes) area known as North Beach, has found itself in an uproar due to the proposed development of hotels and tourist resorts.  Differing opinions on the matter have caused conflict between those who favor the development and those who contest it. On one side are the Native Hawaiians who oppose development and argue that areas of significance culturally, historically and environmentally are being jeopardized by further growth in North Beach. On the other side we have the developer, Amfac, who claims development of tourist facilities are necessary in order to increase tourism and thus revitalize the struggling economy of Maui. We will attempt to analyze these opposing views with the aid of value and ethic systems in an effort to better understand where they are rooted. We then undertake the task of developing recommendations and suggestions to both parties based on our findings. We hope our work will be able to help reduce the turmoil surrounding the clash between cultural significance and the economy concerning development in Maui. [photo from hypertext guide to Hawaii by J. Bisignani]


Cultural Significance

    Those who are opposed to the development stress the significance of North Beach culturally, historically, and environmentally. Historically the Hawaiian people have had a 2tropical.jpg (6549 bytes)very strong bond with the earth. They feel as though the environment should be placed in a position of respect. For them, all of the development that has taken place over the last forty years has been detrimental. In addition, further development on North Beach has the potential to threaten many remaining historical and sacred sites. The developers are not concerned about the land and its significance. What matters most to them is profit. In other words, more hotels and businesses will bring in more money. What they fail to see is that many places of cultural and historical significance to the Native Hawaiians may end up being compromised. For example, North Beach is home to burial mounds, the sacred cave of Ke Ana Pueo, and the Battle of West Maui. The Hawaiians are trying to protect their culture and heritage. These are not sites to be dismissed in lieu of money-making hotels, but rather sites to be respected for the place in Hawaiian history they occupy. [photo from hypertext guide to Hawaii by J. Bisignani]

    North Beach is one of the last areas in West Maui possessing sandy beaches and open space.  Development has taken over the coastline leaving it inundated with businesses. Another hotel would just add to the clutter, engulf more land and threaten existing sites of04H.jpg (9717 bytes) cultural significance. The Native Hawaiians feel development is not necessarily the answer. They stress the importance of caring for the environment in which we live. For them everything in the world is connected with each other. Nothing is separate and therefore everything we do has some effect, whether big or small. In other words, we can not forgo the beaches for business without some cost. For the Native Hawaiians the cost is growing as their culture and traditions are threatened due to the higher value placed on developmental needs and desires. [photo from hypertext guide to Hawaii by J. Bisignani]


The Economy

    Since the 1900's the Hawaiian Islands have become an increasingly attractive area to hawaii_map.gif (6854 bytes)visit. Although in the last few years Maui and much of the rest of Hawaii has been experiencing a decline in tourism. Up until this time tourism was the backbone of the economy. Massive hotels, condominiums, restaurants, shops and other tourist orientated businesses support the area. Additionally, they also provide jobs for many residents. Since 1990 Hawaii has been experiencing a recession, which has been exacerbated by the fact that many Japanese investors and visitors have decreased the amount of money they are giving to Hawaii's economy. One of the proposed solutions to this problem is to increase the number of resorts in an effort to increase tourism once again.

    One developmental company, Amfac/JMB Hawaii Inc., has proposed building another resort on Maui's West coastline. They feel as though this new hotel will attract more visitors to the area and thus help the economy. Amfac is not as concerned with the environmental preservation and decreases in ocean front access as much as they are worried about the decline in number of visitors to Maui. Their goal is to increase tourism so that all of the money they have invested in the economy will not be lost. Additionally, they feel as though this new development is what is needed in order to put Maui's economy on the rise again.

    Due to the fact that Maui's economy is so dependent on its tourist industry there are also many jobs on the line. In order to build and staff a huge hotel there are numerous people involved from the contractors and builders to the management and staff. It is important to remember that many of residents of Maui depend on the tourist industry for their livelihood. In fact, "one of three jobs" (Kasindorf, 1997, p. A17) in Hawaii is connected in some way to tourism. If Maui's economy does not improve many of the residents of Maui may be at risk of losing their jobs. Additionally, in an area, which is so tourist centered, they may have a difficult time finding subsequent positions. "In the last two years, out migration from sunny Hawaii exceeded in migration by about 4,000 people" (Kasindorf, 1997, p. A17). Therefore, the efforts to strengthen the economy are extremely important and significant not only to the businesses, but also to the residents of Maui.


    Both sides of the developmental conflict posit reasons for their views and support them with seemingly sufficient vitality. Who is to say which party is right and thus determine the fate of developmental growth? Is one side more correct compared to the other? These questions take on a moral tone in which answers can only be determined by individual values.  Value systems shape our attitudes and beliefs and create differences in our perspectives on significant issues. These shared beliefs within a group can influence what is seen as the most logical course of action. The discord of development in Maui is no exception and requires an in depth look into how differing values systems determine clashing opinions.

    Milton Rokeach defines values as "an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end state of existence" (Rokeach, 1973, p. 5). These modes of conduct Rokeach refers to are illustrated by the differing viewpoints concerning whether development should take place on the island of Maui. At one end we have the position of those who oppose development and stress protection of cultural, historical and environmental significance. At the other end we have those who favor development and stress it as a necessity for boosting the economy. From this standpoint we can see the emergence of deviating ethical orientations. For example, the ethical orientation of the cultural significance camp seems to take on an ecocentric value system which judges acts according to their effects on the biosphere (Gardner & Stern, 1996). The Native Hawaiians who hold this view oppose development in an effort to preserve cultural and historical sites in Maui. Also of concern to this group is the environmental protection of flora and fauna   contained in the areas of proposed construction. They are not only concerned with conserving areas of cultural significance but are also concerned with areas of importance for the survival of non-human species. The ecocentric ethic held by the cultural significance earthx.gifgroup shows a high level of concern for the protection of land in the case of both human and non-human species. They are willing to make sacrifices for the environment in order to prevent its degradation and to benefit the entire biosphere. In contrast, those who favor development in Maui base their argument on the revitalization of a falling economy. This "economy camp" is thinking of their own well being and fails to take into account the effects on non-human species. This is a characteristic of what is known as the homocentric value system, which holds the good of the human species above other values. In addition, it also opposes any human sacrifice for the sole good of non-human species (Gardner & Stern, 1996). People who have a homocentric view of the world are only concerned with advancement of Homo sapiens.

    The economy camp can also be seen as holding what is known as an egocentric value system. Within this system the pursuit of self-interest is placed above other values including all those which go against what they desire (Gardner & Stern, 1996). For example, those who want to build hotels and resorts to spark tourism and thus increase the economic situation in Maui are looking to benefit no one but themselves. They are not concerned with people who have different value systems, which may seek to protect sites of ancestral heritage. As long as their needs are met, what happens to others' desires is not of concern. Needless to say, the ecosystem means little to nothing to these people.

    How can there be such a large variation in value systems of these two groups? How can these people who live on the same island vary so much in their views? The answer to this question stems from how we learn our values.  Milton Rokeach says that values are learned through a socialization process and the individual values each person holds are influenced by personality development, personal experience, social context and culture (Rokeach, 1973).  All of these variables come into play when individual value systems are developed. The strict differences held by the two opposing sides concerning development in Maui is an exemplification of how unique one's life can be.

    Rokeach also suggests that members of a society share the same pool of values and only differ in their rank ordering of these individual values (Rokeach, 1973). Abraham Maslow suggests that values change due to the satisfaction of needs by the individual which in turn determines what value systems are held (Gardner & Stern, 1996). These two explanations for differences in value systems can also explain how a shift can occur within these organizations. For example, Ronald Inglehart believes that the public has shifted away from materialistic values and are more interested in pursuing nonmonetary goals (Gardner & Stern, 1996). An example of this can be seen with the cultural significance sacred.jpg (5632 bytes)camp concerning development on Maui. This group is more concerned with maintaining areas of significance and the environment instead of the pursuit of money and material objects. Inglehart claims this nonmaterialistic ethic has been found to be dominant in as many as twenty-five different countries between 1970 and 1988 (Gardner & Stern, 1996).

    In comparison, the economy camp can be seen as just the opposite of the cultural significance's  post materialistic values. The concern of reboosting the failing economy of Maui is evidence of a materialistic value system, which is more interested in pursing monetary goals. Such people see the economic state of the island as more important than conservation of Native Hawaiian culture. They stress the financial standing as being of great importance and see the need of economic growth as sitting at the apex of what Maslow called the hierarchy of needs (Weiten, 1992).

    The clash of different value/ethic systems has illustrated how they are able to bring conflict to other areas such as the case of proposed development in Maui. One immediate question and possible solution to any disagreement in value systems may be why people do not simply change or alter their values in order to resolve the problem. Gardner and Stern answer this question by explaining how hard it is to modify ways of thinking about human-environment relations in adults (Gardner & Stern, 1996). They emphasize how values are long lasting and how for this reason, any change or shift in the dominant values or ways of thinking in a society will be a slow, generational process (Gardner & Stern, 1996). Any hope for a quick change in values and beliefs as a solution for the problem in Maui is very slim.

    As we have shown, value systems play an important part in determining behavior. Whether your value system is ecocentric or egocentric can have a great influence on where you stand on issues such as in the conflict of development on Maui. Changes in these beliefs are slow and difficult and are not means for a quick fix. Gardner and Stern stress that although shifts in value systems are not sufficient means of changing behavior they can still play a critical role in long term solutions (Gardner & Stern, 1996). In interest of the developmental conflict on Maui, our opinion is that other possible solutions should be sought in order to come to a resolution that will be agreed upon by both sides.

    To develop or not to develop, this is the question, but what is the answer? Differing opinions have caused a clash between opposing value systems and drawn the battle lines between ecocentrism and egocentrism/homocentrism. We have suggested three ways of bringing the outcome of this situation to a peaceful and compromising end without harm to either side. Although admittedly, no one solution may work by itself, in conjunction with one another, we believe they have very promising features. We expand Gardner and Stern's philosophy on value system changes as solutions (Gardner & Stern, 1996, p.70) to fit the situation at hand: Individually our three recommendations for solutions can bring about little change in behavior and environmental improvement but together they are strong enough to play a critical role in the solution to the developmental conflict facing North Beach and the state of Hawaii. We hope the battle will conclude with the uniting of one-time enemies as a single Hawaiian alliance that will flourish in the future.

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[photo from hypertext guide to Hawaii by J. Bisignani]

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    Gardner, G.T. & Stern, P.C. (1996). Environmental Problems and Human Behavior. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

    Henn, A. et al. (1997). Development and economy. Psy 412 Web Page. Retrieved November 19, 1997 from the World Wide Web:

    Kasindorf, M. (1997, November 7). "Hard Times in Hawaii". USA Today, pp. A17-A18.

    Robert, K.H. (1991). Educating a Nation: The Natural Step. The Natural Step Web Page. Retrieved November 6, 1997 from the World Wide Web:

    Rokeach, M. (1973). The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press. Weiten, W. (1992). Psychology: Themes and Variations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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Psy 412 Miami University. Last revised: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 17:25:05. This document has been accessed 1 times since July 15, 1997. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman . Also See: Social Psychology at Miami University