“Too many people!”

My mother—pretty much until the day she died at age 93—was always able to cut through the B.S. and put her finger squarely on the nub of the problem. And especially in her later years, she thought the cause of most all our  troubles—whether galactic in scope or some neighborhood dispute—was simply that there are too many people.

When my mother was born in 1914, the population of the United States was 99 million. The year she died, it had more than tripled . . . to 307 million.

Here in Hawaii—specifically on the Island of Oahu—local residents have been complaining for years about the deteriorating conditions at Hanauma Bay, a relatively shallow U-shaped cove loaded with live coral which meant the clear water was loaded with colorful tropical fish. Hanauma Bay has been a favorite spot where local families took their kids for languid days of swimming, snorkeling and picnicking.

And then, probably 50 years ago, the tourists discovered Hanauma Bay and began going there in ever-increasing numbers. Tour companies began offering Hanauma Bay as one of their tours, which included snorkeling gear and a brown bag lunch.  

A Japanese company, catering to Japanese tourists, took things to another level by showing up with two and three busloads of tourists. While their clients were paddling around in snorkeling gear provided by the tour company, folding tables were bring set up and—Voila!  How do you say “Lunch is served” in Japanese?

While all this was going on, the City of Honolulu was doing everything possible to protect this unique attraction. The maximum number of people, whether visitor or  local was agreed upon and enforced. And all visitors were required to watch a video about the environmental importance of the bay. Still the crowds kept coming with attendance peaking at 3,000 people a day. An entrance fee of $7.50 per person didn’t help.

And then the coronavirus arrived.

After the danger became apparent—and with cases of the virus popping up among visitors as well as locals— Haunama Bay was closed to everyone. That was seven months ago and all that time there were no swimmers and snorkelers and waders all lathered up in sun screen paddling around.

But did it work? Marine biologists and City staff have reported that Hanauma Bay is now 64 percent clearer than it was before it was shut down by the pandemic.

And so, of course, the City of Honolulu has just announced that the Haunama Bay Nature Preserve will reopen, but with higher entrance fees and lower limits to the number of people permitted access. 

Here’s an idea: How about banning all tour buses and requiring the driver of every vehicle entering the Haunama Bay Nature Preserve to have a Hawaii Driver’s license?  

After all, the problem is obvious: Too many people!