Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Reinventing the wheel

By
July 12th, 2016



The Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki has for years been the collection point for plastic debris and litter, which in turn flows into the ocean, not to mention the site of the worst massive sewage discharge of 48-million gallons of untreated wastewater in 2006.

Now, three non-profit groups — Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, 808 Cleanups and the Surfrider Foundation — are hoping to bring the Trash Water Wheel to Honolulu's Ala Wai Canal. The solar-powered wheel, which a Baltimore, Md. non-profit brought to its Inner Harbor two years ago, has reportedly removed more than 350 tons of litter there.

Baltimore water wheel powered by solar panels and currents. Courtesy Sierraclub.org.

Baltimore water wheel powered by solar panels and currents. Courtesy Sierraclub.org.

It kind of looks like a covered wagon with a spinning wheel and array of solar panels on top. The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore says it is capable of picking up 50,000 pounds of trash per day using a combination of old and new technology. Two booms direct trash and debris toward the front of the water wheel, which moves it up a conveyer belt (powered by the water wheel and solar panels) and into a dumpster.

Hawaii's three non-profits recently launched an indiegogo campaign seeking to raise $6,500 to conduct a feasibility study (plus offer donors various perks). The goal has been surpassed in less than 10 days.

Kahi Pacarro, director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, says he has met with state and city officials, who agreed the project should be a priority for Oahu but requires a feasibility study first. All funds beyond the goal will go towards the actual water wheel. If the feasibility study ends up determining that the water wheel is not feasible for Honolulu, the funds will be split between the three non-profits for perpetuating their missions of cleaning Hawaii's coastlines.

The indiegogo campaign runs until Aug. 19.

Posted in Conservation, marine debris, Ocean, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Reinventing the wheel

Kupu out in force

By
June 23rd, 2016



These youth from Kupu Hawaii will be out in full force doing conservation work this summer as part of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps program. Photos courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

These youth from Kupu Hawaii will be out in full force doing conservation work this summer as part of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps program. Photos courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

This summer, several hundred students from Kupu Hawaii, a non-profit based in Kakaako, will be out in full force, doing conservation work throughout the Hawaiian isles.

They'll be participating in paid internships as part of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps that give them hands-on experience restoring fishponds and wetlands, removing invasive species from natural area reserves and helping to protect seabirds on Maui. Read some of their stories right here.

John Leong, executive director of Kupu Hawaii, said: "It's inspiring their potential toward green jobs and conservation opportunities in life, but also empowering them as people. To get a sense of kuleana for our state, for our communities."

Kupu Hawaii's Environmental Fair. Courtesy Kupu Hawaii/ Samuel Apuna.

Kupu Hawaii's Environmental Fair. Courtesy Kupu Hawaii/ Samuel Apuna.

Kupu Hawaii recently invited emerging environmental leaders to its 7th Annual Environmental Fair in early June at their Kewalo Training Facility in Kakaako.

Among the 150 partner organizations on hand at the fair were the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Lyon Arboretum, Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance, Oahu Invasive Species Committee and Hui o Ko‘olaupoko to speak with the prospective interns.

Three Kupu alumni — Molly Mamaril, Jayleen Marar and Ronnie "Keoni" Kikila shared stories of how internships lead them to real-life conservation jobs. The sound system was operated by Pedal Power Hawaii.

Nicole Fisher and Molly Mamaril, speaker, at Kupu Hawaii's Environmental Fair. Photo courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

Nicole Fisher and Molly Mamaril, speaker, at Kupu Hawaii's Environmental Fair. Photo courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

>Molly Mamaril, a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fellow with Kupu's RISE program in 2014, went on to work for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and master's in natural resources and environmental management, she writes for Green magazine and coordinates Hawaii Investment Ready.

> Jayleen Marar, a recent Farrington High School graduate who joined Kupu as a program member to get on-the-job training. Marr received the "MOst Outstanding Intern" award and worked with Opterra Energy Services, conducting energy audits at schools for the state Department of Education'sKa Hei program.

>> Ronnie "Keoni" Kikala, once a troubled teen, completed his Kupu internship with the Lyon Arboretum's Pahole Rare Plant Facility. He continues to work part-time at Lyon while pursuing a degree from Windward Community College. He has since found his calling and passion in life for conserving rare and native plants.

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Environmental Fair speakers and Kupu alumni, Ronnie Kikala, left and Jayleen Marar, right. Photos courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

Kupu Hawaii's mission is "to empower youth to serve their communities through character-building, service-learning and environmental stewardship opportunities that encourage integrity with God (Ke Akua), self and others."

Paid internships as a Kupu Environmental Leader in Conservation, Environmental Education and Community Development are available, with benefits that include a monthly allowance of $1,300 or more, plus a $5,765 education award. Visit Kupu Hawaii's Facebook page to learn more.

Kupu Hawaii interns learning about the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Photos courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

Kupu Hawaii's summer interns learning about the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Photos courtesy Kupu Hawaii/Samuel Apuna.

Posted in Conservation, Green events, Green jobs, Green non-profits | Comments Off on Kupu out in force

Saving ‘ohi‘a lehua

By
May 30th, 2016



ohialehuaDLNR

New signs created by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources are aimed towards educating hunters, hikers, mountain bikers and others visiting state public lands about Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death.

Anya Tagawa and Jeff Bagshaw of othe DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife's Natural Area Reserve program are hoping the signs help prevent the spread of the fungal disease, which has decimated tens of thousands of acres of native ‘ohi‘a on the Big Island.

The fungal disease, also known as Ceratocystis Wilt, affects the vascular system of the tree. Once stricken, healthy, mature ‘ohi‘a lehua trees can die within a matter of weeks. The disease has the potential to kill ‘ohi‘a trees, which are the backbone of the native rainforest, statewide.

"It is critical that every person who goes into the woods or forest anywhere in Hawaii, takes steps to prevent this disease from spreading," said DLNR chair Suzanne Case in a press release. "Anya and Jeff's work along with a team of other outreach experts, is vitally important in getting kamaaina and visitors alike to be certain they don't inadvertently track the fungus from place to place."

Bagshaw, his staff and volunteers recently conducted surveys with visitors to the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve and found very few people had any knowledge about Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death.

"We hope hikers and all forest users will start to be conscious wherever they go, even if there's ‘ohi‘a there or not," said Bagshaw in a press release. "We're like them to realize that they could be taking something into the forest that affects our native ecosystems. ‘Oh‘a are the backbone of our native rainforest; they feed the honeycreepers, they protect the watershed. I can't imagine a Hawaiian rainforest without ‘ohi‘a."

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More than 50 signs are expected to be posted at every DOFAW trailhead on the Big Island as well as on Na Ala Hele trailheads on Maui.

The signs recommend that visitors to the trails:

> Clean gear before and after their visit by brushing off all dirt from shoes and gear and spraying with 70 percent rubbing alcohol, particularly if you have hiked on Hawaii island in the last two years.

> Clean vehicles by removing all soil and washing tires and undercarriages with detergent.

> Every hiker could be a potential carrier, so every hiker is responsible for taking the proper care not to spread the fungus.

ROD Trail Head Sign

Related Video:

Posted in Conservation, Forest, native plants | Comments Off on Saving ‘ohi‘a lehua

12 tons of trash

By
May 23rd, 2016



Overview of the marine debris pile collected from Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Overview of the marine debris pile collected from Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Located about 750 miles further northwest of Kauai, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It is home to more than 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian isles.

It's remote and the waters are pristine, except for the sheer amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter that land upon the monument's tiny isles, atolls and coral reefs.

From mid-April to May, a team of 10 NOAA scientists conducted shoreline marine debris surveys at Midway, Kure, Pearl and Hermes atolls, Lisianski Island and French Frigate Shoals. A total of 24,123 pounds — or about 12 tons — were removed from those shorelines.

Derelict fishing net and plastic debris at Midway Atoll, Eastern Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Derelict fishing net and plastic debris at Midway Atoll, Eastern Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Among the items were 1,843 derelict fishing nets or net fragments, 1,468 plastic beverage bottles, 4,457 bottle caps, 570 shoes and slippers (flip-flops), 535 cigarette lighters, 485 toothbrushes and other personal care products and 8,452 hard plastic fragments.

Plastic cigarette lighters picked up from Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Plastic cigarette lighters picked up from Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

The team brought the marine debris back for a sorting event for schoolchildren at the NOAA Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Students in third to sixth grade helped sort plastic bottles, bottle caps, toothbrushes and other non-hazardous debris. The NOAA Marine Debris team and its partners hope to educate Hawaii's youth on the negative impacts of consuming single-use plastics and to become the leading example for future generations.

Plastics brought back from Papahanaumokuakea will be recycled for use in art displays and manufactured goods, while the fishing nets will be sent to Hawaii's Nets to Energy Program to be repurposed as fuel.

NOAA has been removing marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands since 1996. Over the past 20 years, agency staff and partners have removed a total of 848 metric tons (or 1.9 million pounds) of derelict fishing gear and plastics from Paphanaumokuakea.

Marine debris team at work, Midway Atoll, Sand Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Marine debris team at work, Midway Atoll, Sand Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Layson albatross and chick examine plastic debris. Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Laysan albatross and chick examine plastic debris. Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Elementary school students help sort plastic debris gathered at Papahanaumokuakea at Ford Island headquarters. Courtesy NOAA.

Elementary school students help sort plastic debris gathered at Papahanaumokuakea at Ford Island headquarters. Courtesy NOAA.

Posted in Conservation, marine debris, Papahanaumokuakea | Comments Off on 12 tons of trash

Racing Extinction

By
March 7th, 2016



Academy Award-winning film director Louie Psihoyos exposes the underground world of the endangered species trade in his new film, "Racing Extinction," which was screened for a Honolulu audience on Friday evening.

The director of "The Cove," which exposed the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, and his team from the Oceanic Preservation Society focus this time on the underground market of shark finning in China and covert offering of whale meat at The Hump, a now closed-down sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.

Footage includes the precious clip of the last (and now extinct) male ‘o‘o bird singing for a female on Kauai, which is stored in the archives of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Grasshopper Sparrow may be next to go extinct.

Vulcan Productions and the Hawaii Wildlife Coalition hosted the free screening on Friday evening at Blaisdell Concert Hall in celebration of World Wildlife Day.

"Each year about one in a million species should expire naturally," said Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist from Duke University in the film. "In the next few decades, we'll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than they should be."

In 100 years or so, we could lose up to 50 percent of all species on earth, according to the film. No surprise, humans are the driving force of this mass extinction.

The film focuses heavily on the shark finning and exotic animal trade in China. It also looks at the killing of manta rays in Lamakera, a remote fishing village in Indonesia, for their gills, which are being touted as a Traditional Chinese Medicine cure.

While "Racing Extinction" covers a broad swathe, addressing a range of issues from ocean acidification to carbon emissions and their impact on the earth, it does not delve into the world of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa or other parts of the world.

It offers beautiful, underwater footage of blue whales, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and manta rays.

After the screening, actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderated a panel including race car driver Leilani Munter (whose mother is from Kona and who is in the film), Jeffrey Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Elly Pepper, policy advocate of the Land & Wildlife Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

ExtinctionPanelists

Actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderates the panel discussion following the film's screening at Blaisdell Concert Hall with race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter, Jeffrey Flocken of IFAW and Elly Pepper of NRDC. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal is on the screen behind them. Seals are not featured in the film.

Hawaii is the third largest market for ivory in the U.S., behind New York and California, according to a brochure from the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. The latter two states now have laws in place.

The council urged support for HB2502 and SB2647, which would prohibit the trafficking of any part of protected animal species in Hawaii, including any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, Hawaiian monk seal, shark, ray, sea turtle, walrus, narwhal, whale, lion, pangolin, cheetah and more. For the full list, see the bill.

The bill mentions that Hawaii, as host of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress in September, should demonstrate leadership in endangered species protection.

A House vote on HB2502 is scheduled for Tuesday.

Despite the gruesome discoveries, the film concludes with a message of hope that we can save animals from going extinct.

"If we all lose hope there is no hope," said Jane Goodall, who is seen in the film, releasing a chimpanzee back into the wild. "Without hope, people fall into apathy. There's still a lot left worth fighting for."

"Racing Extinction" was broadcast on The Discovery Channel on Dec. 2, but is also available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

Posted in Conservation, Endangered species, Marine Life | Comments Off on Racing Extinction

Saving the ‘ohi‘a

By
March 3rd, 2016



The ‘ohi‘a lehua is in trouble due to a fungal infestation called "Rapid Ohia Death." UH Mano's Lyon Arboretum has launchd a GoFundMe campaign to collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds. Photo courtesy UH.

The ‘ohi‘a lehua is in trouble due to a fungal infestation called "Rapid Ohia Death." UH Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign to collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds to preserve them for future forest restoration. Photo courtesy UH.

In an effort to save the ‘ohi‘a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign last month.

The goal is to raise $35,000 to help scientists collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds for the arboretum's Seed Conservation Laboratory. As of this week, roughly three-fourths of the goal has been reached.

The native ‘ohi‘a is under threat by a fungal infestation, called Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death, that has decimated more than 34,000 acres of the ‘ohi‘a forest on the Big Island. Across the state, the ‘ohi‘a trees occupy about 865,000 acres.

Once an individual tree is infected, it dies within a matter of weeks. Its leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been infected by the blight, and there is no known treatment for it.

Once infected, the ‘ohi‘a lehua die within weeks. Leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Courtesy UH.

Once infected, the ‘ohi‘a lehua die within weeks. Leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Courtesy UH.

Considered by many to be the most important tree in Hawaii, the ‘ohi‘a plays a central role in Hawaiian culture and mythology as well as in the state's forest ecology. Native birds and tree snails live and feed on them. Their canopy protects smaller trees and native shrubs, creating the watershed that recharges our water supply.

"There is an old Hawaiian proverbial saying, he ali‘i ka ‘aina, he haua ke kanaka, the land is chief and the people are its servants," said UH Hilo professor Kalena Silva. "And so we remember, that the ‘ohi‘a doesn't need us. We need it."

The ‘ohi‘a lehua are among the first plants to grow after a new lava flow. Courtesy UH.

The ‘ohi‘a lehua are among the first plants to grow after a new lava flow. Courtesy UH.

The Seed Conservation Laboratory has been storing native Hawaiian seeds for more than 20 years and currently banks more than 12 million seeds from over 500 native species. Marian Chau, lab manager, said the funds will help staff collect ‘ohi‘a seeds from at-risk areas of the Big Island as well as ‘ohi‘a seeds endemic to Oahu for long-term storage in the seed bank.

Visit gofundme.com/ohialove to show some ‘ohi‘a love.

The rewards are as simple as a hug from the staff for a donation of $10 to a beautiful print of "A Dozen Lehua" by Joey Latsha for $100 or a private, docent-led tour of Lyon Arboretum and an OhiaLove T-Shirt for $1,000.

Related videos (courtesy University of Hawaii):

Posted in Conservation, native plants, plants | Comments Off on Saving the ‘ohi‘a

Caring for Ka Iwi Coastline

By
January 22nd, 2016



Volunteer cleaning up along Ka Iwi Shoreline on Earth Day 2011. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Volunteer cleaning up along Ka Iwi Shoreline on Earth Day 2011. Star-Advertiser file photo.

The Trust for Public Land and Ka Iwi Coalition may have raised $500,000 to keep the Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline protected from development last year. But how about the trash, pallets, nails — and destruction — left behind by careless bonfire revelers?

That's another issue that requires more than fundraising.

Tomorrow, starting at 8 a.m. (Jan. 23, 2016), volunteers from 808 Cleanups, Kaiser High School and other organizations in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources will spend the morning cleaning up the debris and restoring it to its natural state by removing the fire rings.

To volunteer, you can register at dlnr.ivolunteer.com/kaiwi_removal_001 or call Paul Balazs at 808-738-7954.

Pallet fire debris left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi have been a recurring issue for years. Just recently, some folks not only left behind a huge mess, but did significant damage to the native plants that conservationists had planted in the area, according the Michael Loftin, co-founder of 808 Cleanups.

Logs, debris and trash left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.

Logs, debris and trash left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.

Some volunteers from 808 Cleanups have regularly cleaned the site for the past year, hauling out the pallets and picking up the nails and pieces of glass that children and others could potentially step on. The destruction to the native plants is particularly disheartening.

"It's times like this where you take a few steps back," said Loftin, "and you realize we need to keep persisting with restoring it."

Coastal plants at Ka Iwi include naupaka kahakai, ‘ilima, pa‘u o hi‘iaka, ‘akulikuli, pohuehue, ‘ohai, uhaloa and more.

Photo by Robbe Ripp/ Courtesy Manoa Heritage Center.

Photo of ‘ilima by Robbe Ripp/ Courtesy Manoa Heritage Center.

Meet at Erma's (the Sandy Beach end) of the shoreline. Bring water, a hat and sunscreen. 808 Cleanups will be providing cleaning supplies for volunteers. Optional potluck lunch to follow. You can also email 808cleanups@gmail.com.

808Kaiwi

 

Posted in beach cleanup, Conservation | Comments Off on Caring for Ka Iwi Coastline

Every Kid in a Park Hawaii

By
November 12th, 2015



 

Every fourth-grader in Hawaii should have the opportunity to visit national parks under the Every Kid in a Park Program, thanks to a $100,000 donation for field trip grants from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative, which President Barack Obama announced earlier this year as a way for young people to connect with the outdoors, allows every fourth-grader nationwide to obtain a free pass for entry to more than 2,000 federally  managed lands and waters nationwide for a year, starting Sept. 1, 2015.

"Thanks to Jack Johnson's generous support and commitment to conservation, Hawaii's fourth-graders will be able to visit the federal lands in their backyards," said Deputy Secretary Michael Connor in a press release. "Through new and innovative partnerships like the one with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, we're helping as many fourth-graders as possible to get outside and build connections with their public lands and waters."

The Foundation, run by singer Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim Johnson, aims to reach all 17,000 fourth-grade students in the state of Hawaii. The partnership between the Foundation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was announced at a celebration at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu's North Shore this morning.

James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, features wetland habitat that is home to four of Hawaii's endemic water birds, all of which are listed as endangered species. It is also a site where tons of marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washes ashore.

Posted in Conservation | Comments Off on Every Kid in a Park Hawaii

New home for chicks

By
November 4th, 2015



 

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

A total of 10 endangered Hawaiian Petrel chicks now have a new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, thanks to humans who care.

The chicks were flown by helicopter from their montane nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence at the refuge as part of a historic translocation project more than 30 years in the making, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

More than a dozen people were involved in the translocation as part of a collaboration between the American Bird Conservancy, DLNR, the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Pacific Rim Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Early in the morning, two teams embarked on to the mountain peaks in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. They were dropped by helicopter so they could locate 10 nest burrows that DLNR had been monitoring throughout the breeding season — each with a large, healthy chick.

The chicks were carefully removed by hand, according to DLNR, and placed into pet carriers, then hiked to the tops of the peaks where helicopters picked them up. The chicks' holding boxes were even seat-belted to ensure their safety. They were flown to Princeville Airport where an animal care team assessed their health, then driven to the 7.8-acre Nikoku area at the Refuge, their new home.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

Michael Mitchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acting Kauai National Wildlife Refuge complex project leader said the translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauai.

"Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species," he said. "Translocating the birds to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children's children."

Endangered Hawaiian Petrels, or ‘Ua‘u, are one of two seabird species endemic to the Hawaiian islands and found nowhere else on Earth. Their population decline is caused by introduced predators, including cats, rats and pigs, as well as collisions with man-made structures during their nocturnal flights from breeding colonies in the mountains to the ocean, where they search for food.

Petrel chicks imprint on their birth colony the first time they emerge from their burrows and see the night sky, and typically return to breed at the same colony as adults. So these chicks are expected to emerge from their next boxes and return to Nihoku as adults. They will be hand-fed a slurry of fish and squid and monitored until they are ready to leave their new nest burrows and fly out to sea.

Next, the state is hoping to translocate a colony of Newell's Shearwaters to predator-proof locations.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Related video courtesy Hawaii DLNR and American Bird Conservancy:

Hawaiian blessing of the chicks' new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

 

Posted in Conservation, Endangered species | Comments Off on New home for chicks

Q&A Chipper Wichman

By
September 18th, 2015



 

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics ranging from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit www.fb.com/2016wcchawaii for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...

iucn_2016_logo_h_en_colour_high_res

Posted in climate change, Conservation, Endangered species | Comments Off on Q&A Chipper Wichman

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