A tribute to the life and legacy of Mark Sheehan
On Sept. 9, my dear comrade in so many causes, Mark Sheehan, graduated into his soul’s next big adventure. Sept. 9 also happened to be my 75th birthday. Thirty years of that time, I had the privilege of sharing Mark’s friendship. And on that day, in Maui’s dry season, the skies opened, and the waters of heaven poured forth.
Mark was first of all a wonderful friend. He had grown up with hard times in his early years, which deepened his compassion for others. Mark regularly helped so many to succeed, and did it quietly. He saw a need and tried to help. His kokua might be a lead for a job; an invitation to a good meal; a connection to a new home; or a shared thought to bring a bit of inspiration.
Mark was truly an inspired human being. It was the way he lived. It was the way he faced the end of his life on earth.
Mark could imagine whole new worlds and ways of caring for our planet and ourselves. He shared these ideas though his writing. Maui was blessed with the optimism, hope and practical solutions that emanated from the articles he sent to Maui Vision Magazine and other local publications. He could clearly see visions of a better world, and he was skilled at sharing those visions and inspiring others.
And so many of those visions have succeeded.
Mark was among a dedicated group of people who envisioned the sweeping sands of Oneloa (“Big Beach”) Makena being protected forever as a wilderness park. Mark decided the legislators in Honolulu would pony up the funds to purchase the land, if they only could see its natural beauty for themselves. He showed up with a few spectacular photos—blown up big enough to tell the story. The story was heard. Makena State Park is not a luxury housing development, as was once planned. Instead, Oneloa is Maui’s most popular and treasured public beach park and an iconic image of Maui’s natural wonders, known throughout the world.
Mark was also a dedicated clean energy advocate. He inspired a small group of us Maui Tomorrow volunteers to file a complicated intervention at the state Land Use Commission in 1998. We had no attorney, but we shared Mark’s vision that we needed to present the story of a different future for Maui, one built on clean power solutions. We lost that Commission vote, but the story reached many ears and renewable energy is now common on Maui, and gaining ground every year.
Mark lived by a stream in Ha’iku. He saw the stream flow, and he saw it drained artificially dry. Over time, he became a passionate voice for our streams and the return of natural life-giving flows to the communities of East Maui and Nā Wai ‘Ehā. He testified at hearings. He wrote editorials in the papers. And he worked hard to help raise around $100,000 to cover 20 years of heroic legal efforts by environmental attorneys on behalf of the streams and the communities who depended upon them. He lived long enough to see many of Maui’s beloved streams flow.
Over a decade ago Mark was educating about food security and the benefits of regenerative agriculture. Now these discussions are mainstream on Maui, but the full implementation is a much longer pathway. One I’m sure Mark is cheering on.
One of Mark’s most dazzling visions is yet to come: the “Forever Worlds Fair.” He could see the emerging reality clearly: “Maui, Hawaii will become the perpetual home for an exhibition of advanced sustainable technology.”
Mark could picture the central plains of Maui, green and healthy, but with a new purpose of inspiring humanity and providing solutions. He created a webpage to share this most far-reaching vision: foreverworldfair.com. It lives beyond him.
“The Fair itself could sprawl out across the Central Maui plain—-while reclaiming the soil and water in the process, he wrote. “You could rent the newest electric vehicles to cruise around the fairways of low-rise pavilions. An enormous variety of inspiring projects would display and demonstrate sustainable technologies from Karachi to Kirabati: permaculture, natural farming, biodynamics, indigenous systems and innovations from science and new community experiments.
“More than mere displays of healthy forests and their benefits, there would BE forests of bamboo as well as hemp and the oxygen-free furnaces that generate energy plus biochar to clean up the land. In the same spirit there will be various plazas of innovative buildings— eco domes, straw bale and hemp houses, thatch huts and bamboo villages along with the craft workers demonstrating their skills.
“Large-scale visionary projects draw great talents to them; they attract serious problem solvers and visitors who want to go beyond the farm tours and standard attractions to see the new and amazing.”
No words could better sum up Mark Sheehan’s life purpose. He came here to help us see the new and amazing ways our lives can be lived. A hui hou, dear friend.