What’s in Store for Lanai?

Remember that billionaire who bought 98-percent of Lanai a few months ago?

That’s pretty much the last time we heard from Larry Ellison, leaving many – including the approximately 3,200 residents – wondering what will become of the Pineapple Island. Ellison finally spilled the beans yesterday during a CNBC interview in San Francisco; it’s the first time he shared his future plans for Lanai with the public. I’m sure Lanai had been “all ears.”

Ellison told the reporter that he envisions the recently-acquired Hawaiian island becoming a “little laboratory” for more environmentally-friendly ways of living. In addition to seeing more electric cars on Lanai, the L.A. billionaire wants to convert seawater into freshwater and increase the island’s fruit exports abroad.

I got a little weirded out when Ellison referred to the island as a “very interesting project” in his interview; he continued by saying it’d be a model for sustainable enterprise with solar photovoltaic and solar thermal – ambitions that’d be simplified because, “I own the water utility; I own the electric utility,” he said in the interview.

Of course, who wouldn’t want to go green in today’s society? I know Hawaii’s all for it with a push on neighbor islands for geothermal and solar. But if he had been conscientious of how he worded his answers (and also of his eagerly listening audience), then it wouldn’t have sounded so much like a “billionaire with a Master Plan” scheme. I’m not sure how happy the people of Lanai are after hearing their new owner call the island a “project” or a “laboratory.” Sounds too much along the lines of the distopian society from the Aldous Huxley’s book, Brave New World . I think of guinea pigs and lab rats when I hear the word, “laboratory.”

Ellison did, however, mention that he wants to support the local people. And by supporting the locals, it’d be by helping them start up the businesses mentioned in his grand plan. A sustainable isle sounds great and all, but did he ever discuss this with the residents? Not to my knowledge. Maybe before he hypes up his future endeavors for Lanai to the rest of the world, he should start by getting to know the people, their needs, their wants and how he may help make life better for them.