The 22nd annual Hawaii Conservation Conference continued today with keynote speaker Dr. Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio stressing the need for unity among all Hawaii residents to effectively deal with the hazards of climate change.

“We cannot do this on our own,” said Osorio, a Hawaiian Studies professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The environmental problems facing Hawaii — sea level rise, fresh water depletion, invasive species — are bigger than class, culture and racial divisions, Osorio said.

“The solution to the ugly and brutal economic inequalities in this world is not simply a class warfare that replaces one elite, one profiteer for another,” Osorio said.

John Osorio

John Osorio gives the keynote address at the 22nd annual Hawaii Conservation Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Franz Schmutzer

He also emphasized the importance of integrating Native Hawaiian knowledge into environmental conservation planning.

“In song, poem, story and published scholarship, we are now, and have been telling the story of how a million people could live in these islands, sustained by its produce and the genius of good management,” Osorio said, “We must raise the consciousness of those around us as we have raised our own, to understand the full sacredness of our world and our relationship to it.”

Osorio said that both a spiritual and scientific understanding was needed to approach the global issue of climate change.

As an example, Osorio noted Mauna Kea saying that ancestral Native Hawaiians regarded the mountain as sacred because they knew it could affect the climate.

“It is sacred because rare and vulnerable species inhabit its summit, it is sacred because its mass creates its own wind and rain patterns affecting the climate and the water resources of the land below and our ancestors treated that summit with great respect,” Osorio said.

The composer and singer then played an original piece he wrote about Mauna Kea.

The conference, held at the Hawaii Convention Center, brings together researchers, scholars and conservationists from throughout the state to share strategies, findings and solutions to some of the environmental issues facing Hawaii.

Thursday marks the final day of the conference, which will begin at 8:35 a.m. with a plenary panel that is said to include Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii Rep. Chris Lee.


About the Author