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.
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Kumu Nalani Kanaka‘ole of Halau o Kekuhi, playing the pahu drum, left, and dancers from numerous renowned halau representing Hawaii island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai rehearsing Akahi Ka Mano, a migration chant in preparation for the IUCN World Conservation Congress opening ceremony Sept. 1. Courtesy National Host Committee for IUCN WCC Hawaii 2016.
With Akahi Ka Mano, a migration chant, the mano, or shark, begins the ceremony in a retelling of the ocean migrations of the native people to the Hawaiian islands. The pahu drums, with their reverberating, earth pulsing sounds, accompany the chant to honor the evolution of the landscape.
Then the journey begins, telling the story of how each island emerges, one by one, from the depths of the Pacific Ocean as revealed through Pele, the goddess who resides in the fiery pit of Halema‘uma‘u at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Halau o Kekuhi performing at Hoike, Merrie Monarch Festival 2013, demonstrating their popular, bombastic hula style. Star-Advertiser Photo archives/Dennis Oda.
The entire performance is in kahiko, or ancient-style hula, with a ceremonial building of a lele on which is placed particular native plants important to hula, according to Lalakea Foundation managing director Noe Noe Wong-Wilson.
"The things we will highlight on each island are sensitive and important issues like the preservation of our mountains, our water ways and access to water," she said. "Each plant represents a strata of the larger kuahu (altar) which is the healthy, native forest. Each plant also represents a characteristic which the dancer strives to achieve. Without the native forest, hula in this form could not exist."
Lava meeting the ocean, Hawaii island. Photo by Kim Wu/Endless Summer Photo Contest. Star-Advertiser archives 2016.
On Hawaii island, world-renowned Halau o Kekuhi under the direction of kumu Nalani Kanaka‘ole, Huihui Kanahele-Mossman and Kaumakaiwa Kealiikanakaoleohaillani perform a series of chants, beginning with Hulihia Ka Mauna, portraying the tumultuous upheaval caused by volcanic activity. Hawaii island's landscape continues to change as the active volcano creates layer up layer of new lava, destroying any living thing in its way.
Kumu Kanaka‘ole composed a new chant, Hulihua Ke Au Nee Ilalo Ia Akua, describing the Hawaii island environment dominated by Pele.
She wrote: "Vulcanism in its wholeness calls for a volatile relationship of extreme factors like fire and ice. Lines from two Awa chants from the mo‘olelo (stories) of Kamiki clearly indicates an understanding of this relationship. As Kanaka (native Hawaiians) we should control the outcome of all sacred places from Mauna Kea to Na Pali."
Kumu hula Keali‘i Reichel at Piiholo near Makawao on Maui where his proposed resource center will be built in January 2016. Photo by George Lee.
Continue on to Maui, where the mele (songs) will address areas of the isle affected by the restriction of wai, or life giving water to feed the lo‘i, or taro patch and the biosystem of plant sand animals in the streams. Dancers from top-placing Merrie Monarchgroups, including Halau Ke‘alaokamaile under the direction of kumu hula Keali‘i Reichel, as well as Halau Pa‘u o Hi‘iaka under the direction of kumu Hokulani Holt Padilla and Halau Hi‘iakanamakalehuaunder the direction of kumu Lono Padilla and Keano Ka‘upu will perform pieces which celebrate this life-giving water. The phrase "ka wai ola" means "water is life."
Kumu Niuli‘i Heine's halau Na Pualei O Likolehua practice for Merrie Monarch in Kaimuki in February 2016. Star-Advertiser archives/Krystle Marcellus.
Dancers from Oahu will celebrate the verdant Koolau mountain range and the wetlands of He‘eia, Waiahole, Waianae and other storied places. Ka Pa Hula o Ka Lei Lehua under the direction of kumu Snowbird Bento and Halau Na Pualei o Likolehua under the direction of kumu Niuli‘i Heine perform both traditional and contemporary chants highlighting the ongoing struggle on Hawaii's most populated island.
Kauai's Halau Palaihiwa o Kaipuwai under the direction of kumu Kehaulani Kekua perform chants and hula highlighting the beautiful Na Pali Coast, a fragile ecosystem of remote valleys home to unique flora and fauna under threat.
The message is clear. Hawaii is a sensitive ecosystem, each island unique for its own unimaginable beauty of flora and fauna created by millennia of isolation. The hulihia, or tumultuous change in our environment, plants, animals, people and culture that has occurred in just a little over 200 years since recorded Western contact, is irreversible. So where do we go from here?
"We're hoping the message we relate is not only the delicate nature of our own indigenous plants and animal species, but our native Hawaiian people, our culture and our environment," said Wong-Wilson. "Without the native plants, hula doesn't exist...Without the sacred places we as a people would be hard-pressed to maintain our identity, culture and language."
The opening ceremonies for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress at the Neil Blaisdell Center. This is Halau Palaihiwa o Kaipuwai from Kauai. Photo by Dennis Oda. Sept. 1, 2016.
Dancers of Halau O Kekuhi take the stage during the closing performances in the IUCN World Conservation Congress opening ceremony, Blaisdell Center arena, Sept. 1, 2016. Photo by Bruce Asato.
Dancers of Nakinimakalehua Consortium (with Halau Ke'alaokamaile, Pa'u O Hi'iaka, Halau Kamaluokaleihulu and Halau Hi'iakainamakalehua) take the stage during the closing performances in the IUCN World Conservation Congress opening ceremony, Blaisdell Center, Sept. 1, 2016. Photo by Bruce Asato.
Dr. Pualani Kanahele, right, and Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, during a panel discussion on Native Intelligence in Modern Times at the East West Center in Manoa. Star-Advertiser 2012 archives. Photo by Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Dr. Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, or "Auntie Pua," as some fondly call her, is retired from the University of Hawai‘i and Community College system as well as former president of the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation of Hilo, which became one of the newest Hawaii-based members of the IUCN. She is also a retired kumu hula and Hawaiian spiritual leader.
Kanahele, 78, went back to get her PhD from the University of Hawaii at Manoa at the age of 69, and has a lifetime of knowledge of the forests, mountains, volcano and ocean of Hawaii from a native Hawaiian perspective and shares some of her wisdom through poetry. She will be part of a high-level discussion with other world spiritual leaders from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 5 entitled "Connections: Spirituality and Conservation."
Along with Kanahele, the discussion will include Rabbi Sergio Bergman, Minister of the Environment, Argentina; His Eminence, Imam Professor Dr. K.H. Muhammad Sirajuddin Syamsuddin, Indonesia; Rev. Peter Harris, Anglican Minister and co-founder of A Rocha; Mrs. Masami Saionjiof the World Peace Prayer Society. Moderated by Sally Ranney, president of the American Renewable Energy Institute and co-founder of WECAN.
Kumu Hula, Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele and Nalani Kanaka'ole of Halau o Kekuhi, perform at the Ho'ike held at Kanaka'ole Stadium. Star-Advertiser photo archives. Photo by Ken Sakamoto.
The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Dr. Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele about the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress.
PK: I'm very conscious of the fact that we live on an island, and the island has a limited amount of land space and I think that those of us that live on these islands need to be conscious of that because if we run out of land space, we have no place to live. I would like us to be conscious of the land, the environment and what the land has given to us...There has to be some kind of reciprocation between ourselves and the land...
People have to be able to be conscious of that and learn that, and in some way, give back...then in their consciousness will always be the fact that the land is like a kin, and you never do anything that erodes that kinship...Hopefully the conference will serve as a spiritual enlightenment...
GL: Is there a spiritual side to conservation? Has there always been a spiritual side, for you?
PK:Very much so...It's the way we believe, yes, but it's not just the fact that we believe it. It's the fact that a lot around us provides life – water provides life, the ocean provides life, the sun provides life...This is a consciousness that people should have, not only because it's part of Hawaiian culture, but because we live on an island. We have to be conscious of where our water comes from, the cycle of water, the importance of the sun, the mountain and the trees in the forest. All of this is part of our life cycle...
GL: What is a Hawaiian spiritual leader and what is your role in conservation in Hawaii, and in the world?
PK: My family and I teach Hawaiian ceremony. We taught it to a lot of people within the last 40 to 50 years...and we've taught people how to chant. Chanting has to do with the way you address the elements (of nature) and reciprocation of the elements to you. In that way, it's kind of a spiritual movement...
GL: Are you still very much involved with the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation, which just became a member of IUCN, even though you retired as president?
PK: I'm still very involved in the foundation because it's a family foundation, so we're all involved in it...(Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation was founded in 2000) It's what gives us strength to do what we do, so we shore up each other but we also allow it to move outside of our family circle...Conservation of Hawaii is important to us as Hawaiian practitioners. If you're dancing hula, the forest is an important entity. That's where you get all your lei. Anything in hula is about Laka and you should know something about the forest. We're taking from the forest so we have to be able to give back, so there's always a reciprocation...The whole idea of conservation comes out of that upbringing....
There's always a reciprocation...you can't just take and take, you have to feed it back...It's the whole idea of aloha. You know, aloha for some people, it means to always give, but aloha also means for them to give back...Aloha means I'm giving you my breath; Eventually, you have to give back, otherwise I'm going to run out of breath...
GL: You're on a panel with an interesting group of other spiritual leaders. What do you hope to share with other religious world leaders at the congress?
PK: Each (of us) will have our own ideology of where we come from. I think each of us has something to add to the idea of conservation, so we should take as much as we can from any practice or belief...It's interesting being on a panel like this. It's a first.
I think we need to teach each and every one that lives on this Earth something about this Earth so they can develop a kinship to that and become conscious of it...We need to actively develop that, whether in our education system or our government.
Orange koki'o, or hibiscus. Courtesy David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.
The colors of the plants burst out from a black background — a glorious, orange kokio, the silverish blades of a Ka‘u silversword and delicate, white petals of a na‘u, or gardenia brighamii.
Then there are the varied, shiny stripes on kahuli tree snails, their shells resembling jewels; the comical face of an ‘o‘opu fish, mouth agape, swimming to you; and the regal eye of an alae ula looking at you, its colorful red and yellow beak cocked aside.
The Green Leaf caught up with fine arts photographer Susan Middleton for a Q&A.
GL: What inspired you to photograph endangered native Hawaiian flora and fauna for "Remains of a Rainbow"?
SM: I collaborated with David Liitschwager on four books and companion exhibitions from 1990 to 2005, focusing on rare and endangered flora and fauna...While working on "Witness" we visited Hawaii to complete fieldwork for the project. Known as the endangered species capital of the world, Hawaii was home to more than 25 percent of species on the Federal Endangered Species list, yet it comprised only one-tenth of one percent of the land area of the United States.
Two weeks of fieldwork stretched into five weeks while I witnessed the splendor of the native Hawaiian flora and fauna simultaneous with its tragic decline...This experience galvanized me into devoting the next 10 years to the Hawaiian archipelago, first in the main Hawaiian islands and then the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands...
Hawaiian 'alae 'ula. Courtesy David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.
GL: As you were photographing individual flora and fauna from Hawaii, did anything strike you in particular about Hawaii itself? Were the flora and fauna from the main Hawaiian islands as fascinating as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands?
SM: What I noticed, for the first time in my life, was how evolution actually works. On islands, particularly ones as isolated as the Hawaiian archipelago, it's easier for biologists to witness and understand evolutionary relationships — how some of the early plants and animals arriving on the islands were able to take hold and colonize, and then adapt to their new surroundings, changing and diversifying gradually over time into the wondrous array of flora and fauna that exists nowhere else on Earth.
I do think the flora and fauna of the main Hawaiian islands are as fascinating as the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, for sure! Of course the Northwestern Hawaiian islands are less impacted by human presence, and when there, I felt as if I was visiting someone else's home; wildlife reigns in the NWHI. But there is far more native plant diversity on the main Hawaiian islands. Much of it has been lost, but much still remains. Hence, the title of the exhibition at IUCN — "Remains of a Rainbow: the Hawaiian Archipelago."
GL: Do you have a favorite individual image (I know it's hard to choose). If you could only choose one image for this exhibit, which one would it be?
SM: My favorite individual image in the exhibit (right now, it changes) is the ‘o‘opu alamo‘o (Lentipes concolor), the Hawaiian native stream fish photographed at the NTBG Limahuli Stream on Kauai. This beautiful, little fish can scale 1,000-foot waterfalls, from the sea to high in the mountains. Its habits are perfectly adapted to its habitat, yet it is defenseless against agricultural runoff and non-native species introduced into its native streams. The picture shows two fish — one swimming upward with its partially gold color on full display; the other is hunkered down looking straight at the camera with a striking face. Voluptuous lips with tiny teeth!
'O'opu 'alamo'o, Lentipes concolor. Courtesy David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.
GL:What message do you hope to get across with these images at the IUCN World Conservation Congress?
SM: The images in this exhibition have been specially selected to illustrate the spectacular profusion of life native to the Hawaiian archipelago on the occasion of the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress...Most IUCN participants won't have a chance to witness Hawaii's native flora and fauna firsthand, so my hope is that the exhibit will give a vivid impression of Hawaii's national treasures.
GL: Why is conservation important to you as a fine art photographer?
SM: I am a photographer and artist first, but early on I fell in love with what I was photographing, which were endangered species of California. And once you fall in love, you care about your loved ones. I attached myself to scientific experts to guide my fieldwork and learn about what I was photographing. And once I understood how imperiled and rare so many species are, and how human impact affects their survival, I became a full-on conservationist. And then I witnessed how the images can raise awareness toward conservation.
Photo of the endangered na'u, or Gardenia brighamii, to be on exhibit at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016. Courtesy David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton.
Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho`ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.
Among them are prematurely weaned pups, including Niho‘ole, pictured above, as well as YK56, an extremely underweight five-year-old.
"Even though the five-year-old Hawaiian monk seal is older than our typical patients from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, she is much smaller and thinner than the others in her cohort," said Michelle Barbieri, wildlife veterinary medical officer. "She has generally declined in condition over the past two seasons, and appeared to decline even more dramatically this season."
The monk seals underwent physical exams and blood work aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette, and have begun a treatment regime, including oral electrolytes, fish-mash tube feedings and antibiotics. They were shuttled by small boat to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital in Kona as part of the final mission of a 24-day research cruise.
NOAA researchers transport Hawaiian monk seals in need of rehabilitation from the Oscar Elton Sette research vessel to a smaller boat that can bring them ashore to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.
Since Ke Kai Olaopened two years ago, the hospital has provided another option in the islands for malnourished monk seals that would otherwise perish at Papahanaumokuakea. So far, the hospital has rehabilitated and returned 15 Hawaiian monk seals to the wild, including seven last year.
The Hawaiian monk seal, or neomonachus schauinslandi, is endemic to the Hawaiian islands, meaning found nowhere else, and typically hauls out on beaches to rest during the day. While most live in Papahanaumokuakea, a growing number of pups are being born in the main Hawaiian islands. Their population has been in decline for decades, with only an estimated 1,300 left in the wild.
Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho‘ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.
Interested in learning more about Hawaii's wildlife? The IUCN Forum presents a Knowledge Cafe, entitled "Wet and Wild: Promoting Sustainable and Responsible Ecotourism Experiences with Marine Wildlife" from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 in Room 311-4 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Meet with representatives from NOAA Fisheries for a discussion on how to balance sustainability with tourism when it comes to whales, dolphins, manta rays and Hawaiian monk seals. Wildlife managers, marine ecotourism operators, cultural practitioners, travel industry representatives, scientists and others welcome. A followup discussion will be held off site from 1 to 5 p.m. at the OHANA Waikiki East Hotel, lobby conference room, 150 Kaiulani Ave. RSVP to Adam Kurtz, email@example.com by Sept. 6.
Hawaiian monk seal pup Niho‘ole playing with plastic debris at Laysan.
This public service announcement plays on Hawaiian Airlines' in-flight video:
Dr. Sam ‘Ohu Gon III, courtesy The Nature Conservancy.
A Hawaiian chanter, senior scientist and cultural advisor for The Nature Conservancy, Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ohi‘a Gon III bridges the western and native Hawaiian worlds.
Gon, who has more than 40 years of experience in Hawaiian ecology, is hosting a workshop at the IUCN World Conservation CongressForum on integrating indigenous cultural values and perspectives into conservation on Sept. 3. He will be at the opening of the #NatureForAll pavilion and moderate a presentation on bright spots in conservation across the isles.
"If you were going to think about any place where conservation issues are a high priority, and conservation challenges felt very strongly, it would be Hawaii," said Gon. "We have more endangered species than any other state in the U.S. We've got finite island ecosystems."
"The lessons of these islands to earth is the same as a canoe to an island. When you're on a voyaging canoe thousands of miles to an island, your entire world is on the canoe. You need to rely on the people in that canoe and the resources you have to survive. Decisions are never made lightly. You're always thinking about supplies, the direction and your goals."
"We know we have limited land area, so you can't behave as if you have an infinite supply of resources...so that same lesson applies to larger islands such as continents, and of course, to the largest island we have, which is the planet."
The practitioner of Hawaiian chant and protocol graduated from revered kumu John Keolamaka‘ainana Lakeas well as with a PhD in animal behavior from the University of California at Davis, and is as comfortable talking natural science as he is Hawaiian. He lectures about the Natural History of Hawaiian Islands at the University of Hawaii at Manoa In addition, he knows Hawaii's mountains and forests intimately.
Danny Donlin, left, and Dr. Samuel ‘Ohu Gon III from Na Hanona o Ka Halau Hula Pa Ola Kapu (under the direction of kumu hula John Keolamaka'ainana Lake) at the 27th Annual Prince Lot Hula Festival at Moanalua Gardens. File photo by Dennis Oda 2014.
Whether in the Pacific islands or forests of the Amazon, indigenous peoples who have a relationship with the places where they live offer valuable insights into the management of natural resources.
"The time is emerging when all people need to start looking at their places, lands and water, and sustain them with a bit more respect," said Gon. "It becomes clearer to us that human impacts are being seen from pole to pole and there's no place on Earth that hasn't seen the impact of humanity...It's no longer, let nature take its course because we have modified the course nature has run."
Still, people need to be part of the solution because people are part of the natural system.
"The great revelations of this century are going to be the awareness of the global implications of our actions. We need to take action as individual countries and as a global country to minimize those things we understand are not in the best interest of the world's ecosystems or ourselves."
Chris Farmer, Hawaii Program Director, American Bird Conservancy at Nihoa island. Courtesy Chris Farmer.
Gone is the Kauai O‘o bird, which was endemic to the island of Kauai. Its songs can no longer be heard in tree branches, with all that remains being a recording at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Its last song was heard in 1985.
Before that, we lost the Oahu ‘akepa (1893), the Laysan honeycreeper (1923) and Lanai creeper (1937). Today, many native Hawaiian birds continue to live on the brink of becoming extinct due to invasive species, loss of habitat and mosquito-borne diseases.
Chris Farmer, Hawaii Program Director of the American Bird Conservancy, said roughly a third of all endangered birds in the world are native Hawaiian. Being on isolated islands, conservation work here is more challenging due to the small, geographic location and lack of funding.
"Hawaii's native birds are one of the biggest conservation needs in the world," said Farmer. "I do feel we're at a crossroads. A lot of these birds are in serious shape. We know it needs to get done. If we take action now, we can save these precious and endangered species found nowhere else in the world."
A Hawaiian honeycreeper, or ‘i‘iwi, is at risk of extinction. Photo by Robbey Kohley/American Bird Conservancy.
Native birds such as the ‘akikiki, ‘i‘iwi and Maui parrotbill are at risk of declining quickly. The ‘i‘iwi, or Hawaiian honeycreeper, was once one of the most common native forest birds in the Hawaiian archipelago but is in decline due to avian malaria. Climate change is another threat.
Yet Farmer, who has been dedicated to saving Hawaiian birds since 2004, remains optimistic.
The translocation of endangered millerbirds to Hawaii's Laysan island is a success story. In 2013, the population of the millerbirds there had doubled to more than 100 after 50 were translocated from Nihoa in previous years. Last year, 10 endangered Hawaiian petrel chickswere flown by helicopter to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where they are protected by a predator-proof fence, on Kauai.
In April, biologists released more than a dozen puaiohi (small Kauai thrush) from captive breeding programs at a wilderness preserve on the Garden Isle. Hawaiian crows, or alala, are also being bred in captivity and doing well, with a dozen to be released in September.
"The problems are serious, but the hope is there," he said. "If we act now we can save these species."
Farmer and George Wallace (vice president of oceans and islands) from the American Bird Conservancy will be at the following World Conservation Congress events:
The IUCN World Conservation Congress is expected to bring between 6,000 to 8,000 leaders from around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center in September. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA. NOV. 28, 2015.
Let's face it – traveling itself, via jet planes, staying at hotel accommodations and consuming food and drink on the go are not exactly the best way to reduce carbon emissions in the world. After all, travelers leave a carbon footprint just by jetting to Honolulu from the other side of the world.
> Offset carbon emissions. First of all, participants can offset their carbon emissions from air travel by contributing to the IUCN Congress Carbon Mitigation Fundwhen registering for the Congress. Proceeds will be go to the Cordillera Azul National Park Project in Peru.
> Use alternative transportation. Upon landing, participants are encouraged to stay at hotels adopting green business practices nearby and to take TheBus, walk, bike, carpool or request a hybrid or electric car from rental agencies.
> Go plastic-free. No plastic water bottles or plastic bags, cups, straws or packaging are to be distributed or sold at the center. Water stations will be available around the convention center for free refills. Only drinks in aluminum cans and glass bottles will be available for purchase.
> Go digital. There will be no printed program. Instead, the Congress encourages registered participants to use the official IUCN Congress mobile app (free) to reduce paper waste. Participants are encouraged to go digital, as well, for documents.
> Eat local and compostable. As much locally sourced food as possible will be sourced for the menu, which of course, can not feature any threatened species. All kitchen scraps and food waste will be collected, along with the compostable plastic tableware, to be converted into compost at local farms.
On a side note, the guidelines also request that only endemic, non-endangered, potted plants be used for decoration and only environmentally-friendly cleaning products be used on the facility.
It seems as if the Hawai‘i Convention Center, placed up on a world conservation stage, is taking pioneering, large-scale measures to make this congress as sustainable as possible. Perhaps these are measures that will set the standard for future events going forward.
The Hawai‘i Convention Center in Waikiki will adopt sustainable practices when it hosts the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA