These keiki will inherit the Earth and all the conservation issues that come with it. Star-Advertiser photo by Dennis Oda.
Time and time again, conservation leaders at the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress emphasized the need to cultivate the next generation of conservationists — for it is they who will inherit the Earth. The greatest hope is that the IUCN summit leaves a legacy behind, inspiring the next generation of youth to take action.
The energy was palpable at the International Union for Conservation of Nature's inaugural Students' Day: Hawaii Youth Challenge 2020 on Tuesday, Sept. 6 as more than 1,000 middle and high school students and teachers from throughout the isles packed the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
"It's really an event to empower youth and the next generation to take action," said June Chee, program manager for Kupu Hawaii, "and let them know, at this point in life, they can make change."
Students came from as far as Kaunakakai, Molokai as well as from Honolulu's private, public, charter and home schools.
Their challenge was to create solutions to environmental challenges through an “interactive, design thinking experience.” Students from different schools were placed in groups of five to answer questions like: "How might we as students take care of our island home called Hawaii?"
This project, drawn up by team "Arsenic Snakes," addressed the question: "How can students learn about nurturing nature rather than exploiting it?" The team suggested building a garden for every school. Photos by Nina Wu.
Are today's students interested in conservation? The answer is yes.
For Sharmaine Allas, Edna Felix and Tara Sumida, 11th graders at Waipahu High School, there’s not necessarily a need to be labeled as “conservationists.” At the same time, they’re definitely worried about global warming “because it’s going to affect not only us, but our children and our children’s children.”
All three signed the giant, communal “Show the World That #WeNeedNature” board with simple phrases: “Love Nature,” “Aloha Aina” and “Nature is Life.”
Mid-Pacific Institute teacher Sumoha Jani, who teaches project inquiry, was thrilled to be able to bring her students to the conservation congress — a part of history, given that it's the first one to be held in the U.S. — to practice the "design thinking" approach she encourages in her class. In the past, students have used the same approach to design water catchment systems and a solar oven.
Mahealani Bright-Wilhelm of Kaunakakai School, Molokai, posed for a photo with Wisdom, the world's oldest Laysan albatross from Midway Atoll.
Jaquelino Lopes Varela, Caretta Caretta Environmental Association, Cape Verde, wrote: "Nu ten ki djunta mo!" which means: "We're in this together."
Brandon Maxwell, 6, drawing a shark, his favorite "friend."
If anything, technology is one way to get students interested in conservation. That much was clear as students explored the nine different themed pavilions on the exhibition floor.
Students had fun exploring Google Expeditions, a virtual reality platform, at the Oceans pavilion, learning about NASA satellite models as well as experiencing Conservation International’s virtual reality tour of "Valen’s Reef," the story of how this previous area at Raja Ampat in the Bird's Head Seascape of Indonesia was saved. They also got to watch NOAA’s maps ever-evolving maps of storms, coral reefs and even the migration of sea turtles on a giant globe called “Science of the Sphere” (which, by the way, is also available at Bishop Museum).
Musician Jack Johnson also sang for the students.
Keiki as young as two years old took a virtual reality tour into the crystal-clear waters of the ocean as well as above it while learning of how conservation efforts helped save Raja Ampat in Bird's Head Seascape, Indonesia.
NOAA's Science On a Sphere.
Primatologist Jane Goodall, who was sought-after for selfies with kids and adults alike, spoke often at her engagements of how important it is to nurture the next generation of conservationists, part of the mission of her non-profit, Roots & Shoots.
At her final IUCN presentation with the World Resources Institute, Goodall said: "One of my greatest reasons for hope is the youth of the world."
Related video by Hiki No, Sacred Hearts Academy (Students from Kupu Hawaii remove invasives at Makiki, with help from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell):
The IUCN Red Listwas updated earlier this week at the World Conservation Congress being held in Honolulu from Sept. 1 to 10. It now includes 82,954 species, of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.
Four out of six great ape species, including the eastern gorilla, are now critically endangered, which is one step away from going extinct.
The Eastern gorilla's population has declined more than 70 percent in 20 years to fewer than 5,000 due to illegal hunting. The other critically endangered great apes include the western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan.
"To see the Eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide towards extinction is truly distressing," said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general in an press release. "We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet."
The Eastern gorilla is now endangered on the IUCN Red List. Associated Press photo.
> Giant Panda, from endangered to vulnerable. The panda population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation efforts by the Chinese government. Climate change, however, is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.
> Tibetan Antelope, from endangered to near threatened. Rigorous protection of these antelopes, which were commercially poached for their underfur, or shahtoosh, used to make shawls, has helped the population grow back to 100,000 to 150,000. The population of these antelopes was once about one million, but declined to 65,000 to 72,500 in the 1980s and early 1990s.
> Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, from endangered to vulnerable. Endemic to Australia, this once common species declined due to the impacts of invasive species and habitat loss. They are now on the road to recovery, thanks to a successful translocation conservation program establishing new populations within protected areas.
>> Plains Zebra, moved from least concern to near threatened. The population has gone down by 24 percent over the past 14 years to just over 500,000 animals. They are threatened by hunting, especially when they move out of protected areas.
>> Koala, moved from least concern to vulnerable. Koalas, formerly common throughout eucalyptus forests of Australia, are threatened by habitat destruction, bush fires and disease. The population has declined about 30 percent over the past three generations (18-24 years) and is expected to decline further due to climate change over the next 20 to 30 years.
>Psychedelic Rock Gecko, entered the list as endangered. This species, which is only known to live on two small, offshore islands in southern Vietnam is endangered due to illegal collection for the commercial pet trade.
Among the 85 motions adopted by the IUCN's members on Wednesday following an inaugural electronic vote, are a ban on gill net fishing, which threatens thevaquita porpoise, which is listed as critically endangered, as well as restrictions on the trade of pangolins, which range from vulnerable to critically endangered in Asia and Africa. All eight species are protected under national and international laws, but increasingly victims of wildlife crime for their meat and scales.
Members of the IUCN adopted a motion restricting the trade of pangolins. World Wildlife Fund photo.
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, joins Franklin Hoevertsz, managing director, Utilities Aruba, Dutch West Indies, Utu Abe Malae, executive director, American Samoa Power Authority, Spencer Thomas, energy economist, government of Grenada, Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Ambassador to EU for Climate Change from the Republic of Palau, and others for a discussion on strategies leading to 100-percent energy. Race car driver, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, electric vehicle advocate, will also be on the panel.
Following the workshop, at 1:15 p.m., leaders from Tonga, American Samoa and other island nations join Blue Planet Foundation founder Henk Rogers for an announcement regarding their shared vision for a 100-percent renewable energy future at the center's main lobby fronting Atkinson Avenue. (Rogers also speaks on an Oceana panel from 5-6 p.m.).
Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, by a power plant in downtown Honolulu. Star-Advertiser Archives/ Cindy Ellen Russell.
The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Jeff Mikulina.
GL: Why is it significant for the IUCN WCC to be held here in Hawaii? How can Hawaii contribute to the conversation this year?
JM: It is a remarkable privilege for Hawaii to be hosting the 2016 World Conservation Congress...It is also very timely and appropriate. The title of this year's Congress, "Planet at the Crossroads," reflects the urgent need for climate and conservation leadership. Here, Hawaii has the clear opportunity to demonstrate solutions.
Hawaii island has long been at the forefront on climate science, hosting the longest-running carbon dioxide sampling experiment on Earth. Hawaii is also a global leader in aggressive clean energy policy, enacting a law in 2015 that requires 100-percent renewable energy. Blue Planet Foundation believes that islands are serving a key role in accelerating clean energy innovation, policy and progress. The World Conservation Congress gathering in Honolulu will be our opportunity to help illuminate a sustainable path forward.
GL: Do you think Hawaii is at an energy crossroads, given the Public Utilities Commission's recent decision not to go through with the NextEra merger and our need to meet our 100 percent renewable energy goals?
JM: Hawaii is certainly at a crossroads for how we produce and use energy. The decisions we make today about our energy system cast a long shadow on the future. Our existing electricity system is aging and outdated. It was built for a different era — an era when oil was cheap and the climate wasn't changing. In fact, the largest power plant on Oahu today was running before Zippy's existed. This old system is being pushed to its limits with the addition of new clean energy sources, like the almost 80,000 rooftop solar systems helping to power our state today. We need to re-envision our energy systems to accommodate our clean, renewable sources of power.
Our 21st-century system will likely be more flexible, more distributed, more reliable — and more affordable. But we need to make those choices today. The utility is currently going through its long-term planning process. The energy landscape is changing more rapidly today than any other time in Hawaiian Electric's 125-year history. The plans must accommodate the quickly evolving technologies, disruptive ideas, and new business models to accelerate our 100-percent renewable energy future.
Similarly for transportation, which is increasingly intertwined with our electricity system. How do we enable new transportation options, such as electric and hydrogen vehicles, bicycles, and shared transit, that don't rely on fossil fuels? To solve our increasingly urgent climate crisis, these are questions we need to answer today.
So we are at a turning point technologically, socially, and politically. Ten years ago we were almost 100-percent dependent on fossil fuel for electricity. Today it is down to about 75-percent dependent, and we've passed a law bringing it down to zero within a generation.
GL: Do you think there are any lessons we can learn from other island nations? What’s a good example?
There are many lessons that we can learn from and share with other island nations. Since islands are not connected to a larger energy grid, they must "go it alone" and develop ways to match energy supply and demand on the small island system. This makes islands the perfect testbeds for new technologies, policies, and programs to demonstrate 100-percent renewable energy.
Examples can be found around the globe. Iceland put its abundant geothermal and hydroelectric resources to work decades ago to rid itself of fossil fuel. Today they produce more renewable energy than they use on the island, enabling new, energy-intensive industries, such as aluminum production for export.
The island of Tokelau off of New Zealand was one of the first to go 100% renewable using solar with battery storage. In overcast weather, they use backup generators that run on local coconut oil, providing power while recharging the battery bank.
El Hierro in the Canary Islands uses an innovative wind and energy storage system that began operations last year. Their energy storage system works by pumping water uphill when they have excess wind power. That water is then used to run a hydroelectric generator when they lack enough wind power. Lessons like these can be found on islands everywhere — it's up to us to develop the right set of clean energy solutions for our home.
NW: Do you see great potential for community solar projects in Hawaii?
JM: Community solar has the potential to make our clean energy revolution accessible to all families and businesses. Over the past decade, a new solar system was installed every hour in Hawaii. But most of those systems were installed on single-family homes. Most renters, businesses, nonprofits, and residents who live in condos or multi-unit dwellings simply don't have the option today of going solar. Community solar, or community renewables, changes that. Anyone –regardless of where they live on the island — will be able to participate in and benefit from solar and other renewable systems, even if those systems weren't directly on their property.
Community solar — which has been too long in coming — brings some equality to our clean energy policy. Everyone should be able to participate in Hawaii's clean energy future, not just those fortunate enough to have a big roof over their heads.
Community solar also allows residents to "hui up" to find energy solutions. For example, several condo owners in different buildings may collectively install solar panels in another location with spare rooftop capacity. Even larger communities can join together to install renewable energy in ways that are most effective and efficient for their particular community. Or public agencies, such as schools, colleges, universities, and local governments will have more flexibility to access renewable energy across their systems.
Getting to 100-percent renewable energy is important. But it's equally important how we get there. Community solar lets everyone participate in the power of our shared energy future.
Related Video: Monster Tajima's Run for the Record, Pikes Peak (2014)