Friday, 22 May 2009

Field Trip Day

We visited the Lyon Arboretum and was welcomed by Dr. Christopher P. Dunn, the Director and also a Scientist. Lyon Arboretum is the only university-owned tropical rainforest botanic garden in the United States which covers and area of 78.3 hectares in the Manoa Valley. It is said that nearly 300 native Hawaiian plan species are threatened or endangered. In addition, there are 1700 native species in Hawaii where 90% of them are endemic, meaning they occur nowehere else on earth. This is due to the location of the island which is issolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and far away from other lands. However, the biological diversity our Hawaii is under enormous threat due to the introduction of invasive species and climate change. The natural resources of a place are very important as they support the cultures which are living there. So, if the natural resources are threatened, the cultures that they support are also threatened. Due to the cultural diversity and biological richness in Hawaii, it have become a potential to be a research centre for biolcultural diversity. The Arboretum is uniquely positioned, with an association with the university, its plant conservation research, and its plant collection to be a majot force in engaging reserachers, policy makers, and the public in deriving solutions to the biocultural diversity crisis. We had also beeing briefed by the scientists which are working at the labs on their works and what they do. It is amazing that the arboretum actually imported many foreign species to the botanic garden including from Malaysia, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand and several other tropical countries to be planted at the garden. This is to support their research on the tropical plants but they have to control the growth of the species so as not to threatened the native species. The plants bank have thousands of collection from different organisation including the army, state government and others which store their seeds at the arboretum's lab before they decide when to use it.

The second place that we visited was the Manoa Heritage Center. It is a non-profit organisation established since 1996 which aims to promote thoughtful stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Hawaii. The historic site consist of Kuku'o'o' Heiau (an ancient spiritual site), a native Hawaiian garden, and the historic home of the Kuali'i. The center is committed to preserving and interpreting the garden, the historic home, and the natural and cultural history of Manoa Valley for future generation. The historic house was built in 1911 by Charles Montague Cooke Jr. using the stone quarried on the site. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is still a private home and not open for tours. The Heiau at the back of the house is the only one that are left and the Cooke has taken the initiative to restore it physically and culturally to its use in the year 1993. Historical evidence suggest that the Heiau eventually became an agricultural temple for the mapele class dedicated ti the rites and rituals surrounding food productivity. Surrounding the Heiau is a Native Hawaiian Garden featuring the endemic and indigenous plants as well as Polynesian introductions. The Polynesian introductions are the plants that were brought by the Polynesians on their voyage to find a new land which include the coconut, taro, ricegrass and others. This is because they are unsure whether the new land will have foods so they bring along with them the seeds which can cultivate foods. However, when they found and settled in Hawaii, they also have found good uses for the native plants especially for medicine purposes.

The final destination for the day is the Hanauma Bay. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii, is enjoying the benefits of over a decade of moves to reestablished its prestined marine ecosystem. Recognising the damage done by years of neglect and abuse by allowing around 3 millions visitors anually, the City and County of Honolulu in 1990 laid out a plan to restore Hanauma Bay to a clean, healthy state by reducing the number of visitors, establishing an education program, and instituting supportive restriction ( We were given a briefing by the park's volunteer on the background and how they do things. Before entering the park, the visitors must watch a video clip on the things not to do on the bay which include not to feed the fish because the fish will become more aggressive and not very healthy as well as attracting too many fish to come than what the bay can handle. They also limited the number of people on the bay by providing only a certain amount of parking lots and each vehicles can only have a maximum of 3 people. They also limited to only 300 stalls to prevent more people to come. Other than that, the tour agent must get a permit to bring in tourist and they only have limited number of tourist that they can bring. Those without the permit are only allowed to bring in the tourists for 15 minutes to take pictures and enjoy the scenery and then leave. The park also uses several chickens to control the bug population including cocroaches at the bay. They had also changed the use of septic tank to centralised sewerage treatment plant to prevent leakages into the water. In addition, the park keep a close eyes on the food chain at the bay to ensure that the marine ecology is sustained.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Advocating Traditional Values for Environmental Stewardship

On Tuesday, we have a talk by Ramsay Taum again. He was talking about engaging environments from the traditional perspective of the Hawaiian culture. It is an eye opener to be in USIE where we can get more understanding about the local community and what do they think of the tourism industry which the tourists won't know. The locals have realised that the current development of the state which brings in millions of tourist each year have depleted their environment. The total number of tourist in Hawaii at one time is larger than the total number of the local population. The tourists are not only using their resources such as water which are scarce in the island but also are damaging to the envirionment and produce more rubbishes. Thus, Hawaii is not self-sufficient right now as what they are in the past. They have to import their bottled water and foods and at the same time export their rubbishes.

Concern with the current development of the state and their future, the Hawaiian are looking back to their traditional Hawaiian culture which have a strong relationship with the environment.The lifestyle of the traditional culture have pictured many sustainable concept in their everyday life where they will always leave something for the use of other people and give time for the nature to reproduce the resources before they start to harvesting again. The Ahupua'a concept itself is a sustainable living concept. Ahupua'a is a system of system. It is about land and resources management as well as behaviour management. Each Ahupua'a are divided in a piece of cake shape from the mountain to the river so that each Ahupua'a have the same resources which covers from the jungle on the mountain to the lowland for cultivation and the sea for fishing and leisure. And each community of the Ahupua'a are restricted to enter and use the resources in other Ahupua'a without permission. Thus, they must be self-sustained to survived and the land division of Ahupua'a is fair enough to give the chance for each Ahupua'a to get the same resources. Their time is also based on the natural time as opposed by the artificial time that we use today. Natural time is the time required by nature to revive. For example, the chief of the Ahupua'a (a district) will go down to the sea and determine whether it is the season for harvesting or not. If someone defies the restriction to catch the fishes out of the harvesting season, he will be punished which means death. This is because the chief wants to ensure that they will not overfish and give time for the fish to breed again. Other than that, the traditional Hawaiian culture also believe that to get water, they must plant trees which is true enough. They just have a close relationship with their environment where they can even predict if the drought is coming before starting to ask the people to cultivate tapioca for the drought season. They just know what to do and when to do it. There are several other concepts of the traditional Hawaiian culture that are very related to the environment as well. Ramsay was also refering to planning which can be REAL. This includes several values and aspects that have to be consider which are Responsible, Respectful, Relevant, Ecological, Ethical, Economical, Apropriate, Accurate, Authentic and Local. He also stressed that there is a flaw in the system now where people who makes money from the nature did not pay a single cent to the nature. For example, tourism agency which uses the natural beauty for their marketing did not pay a single cent to the nature back which can be used for restoration and preservation projects. Instead they can make money with a minimum capital and make a lot of profit.

The evening session was filled by a talk from the Blue Planet Foundation. The foundation is actively lobbying for the State Capitol of Hawaii to enact clean energy bills which promote clean energy and reduce the GHGs emission. This include for all sectors that are involved in energy usage including transportation, power generator, residentials and others. Currently, Hawaii is dependent on fossil fuel power plant where they have to import the oil from other countries. They also have the wind turbine and bio-thermal powerplant but it is only producing a small percentage of the energy generated in Hawaii. They are also promoting the use of electric vehicles where they are only about several hundred electric cars already operating in Hawaii. The city council has also provided several parking lots that have the charging point for the electric vehicles but it is still not sufficient. They said that people are unwilling to change to electric car because of the insufficient charging point provided while the city council and businesses are also not willing to provide the charging point because there have low demand. So, it have become a challenge for them to promote the use of the electric cars where they have to persuade either one party to take the risk first and use the electric car or provide the charging point.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

State of the World

On Monday, we were given a lecture by Dr. John Cusick. He is an Associate Specialist at the University of Hawaii Environmental Centre which is attached to our program. Dr. John was covering about the overall environmental issues in general that are becoming a concern of the world today. This include the protected areas, laws and governance aspect, rights and conservation as well as bio-cultural diversity and indegeneous peoples and several others. Among the debate that he brings is the anthropocentric as oppose to biocentric. Anthropocentric is human-centered while biocentric is being centered on nature rather than human. He took and example as what is being said by Scott relating to western environmentalist who came to China and ask the farmers to take care of the environment because they said that the cow's life is more valueable than their children's life. This has upset the local people as they also have the rights to improve their quality of life and why should they sacrifice their future while at the same time the western environmentalist can continue to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle at their home country? How about anthropocentric? How can it contributes to saving the environment?

My idea of environmental movement is that it should be anthropocentric. This is because we want a sustainable development. But what is sustainable development? As define by the Earth Summit in Rio de Jenairo, Sustainable Development is a development that can meet the demand of the current generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their's. Or, we can just say that we want the development to be continous. Why we want the development to continue? Because we want to keep on improving the quality if life of the people. But how can we ensure that the development will not stop? By taking care of our environment and not using our resources more than what can be produce naturally by the mother earth. So, by being anthropocentric, we are actually being closely linked to the environment as well. After all, it is a human rights to have a better quality of life but the attitude is the actual culprit that is destroying the environment. Its the attitude of being greedy, wasteful and ignorance. We choose to be ignorant because we are afraid to face the truth of what is becoming of our future or we could not care less.

In conclusion, being environmentally motivated does not mean to be an extremist or a tree hugger. It does not neccesarily to be in love with the environment. But, to some people it is a matter of ethic and value that we should adhere to. We must be ethical in performing our duties not only to the professional body or our clients but also to the environment as it serve as the base of all the things that is happening around us. We are using it to improve our quality of life so we should be considerate and take care of it. As the Hawaiian idegeneous people says, don't just take, give back.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Weekend Tours

Tour Places:

Saturday - Diamond Head - Farmer's Market - Beach (Saturday)

Sunday - Pearl Harbour (USS Arizona Memorial Park - USS Bowfin Submarine - USS Missouri Battleship - Pacific Aviation Museum

Sunday, 17 May 2009

What an Experience for Yesterday

Sorry I was too tired to update the blog yesterday. So, I will just write the yesterday's entry today then I'll write the today's entry afterwards. To be honest, I just don't fully understand the class yesterday. It is about imagining future by Dr. Scott Macleod, a very interesting and hilarious gentleman and he really looks like Bruce Willis. He was with us since the first day we arrived. Anyway, the main idea of the the class was to visualise what is the prefered future that we would like it to be and find some drivers and actions to be taken to achieve it. There's a technique of imagining the future which uses axis to divide into four areas and define the scenario that may happen and it's opposite on for each axis (positive and negative). Then discuss what might happen in each quadrant which refers to two scenarios from the axis that meet together. This technique was used for development of Hawaii where they define their prefered future and find out the actions that need to be taken to achieve it. Quite neat, that's a new technique that I learned which can be used in Malaysia.

Ok, done with the class. A group of us joined a hiking trip to hmmm..... I don't rember the name of the place. But, it is quite interesting. We were lead by Dr. Samuel M. Gon, a Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor at the Nature Conservancy which explained to us so many things about the forest. He is also a traditional chanter. I came to know many more things about the forest in Hawaii which I has wondered from the very beginning I saw the forest from the valley. We can see the difference in the colur of the forest on the mountain where the area closer to the town is brighter than the one further inside which means it have different species of trees. True enough, when we arrived at the mountain I was shocked to see pine tree forest because I never thought that Hawaii will have it because of the tropical weather. So, I asked Dr. Samuel and he says that the pine trees was imported from the mainland as a reforestation efforts many years ago. It happens when the westerners which came to the island open up huge cattle ranch and cleared up the lands while the cattles eat all the vegetation, has been proven to destroyed the watershed and causes frequent flash flood at lowland. So, they decided to import the pine trees as the tree is fast to grow and they are deperate. However, the pine trees is so fast growing that it became and invasive species which conflicted with the native species. It has also causes many native birds to extinction as it can't suite with the new environment. Thus, they are working on conservation efforts to ensure the native species will be preserved and control the expansion of the invasive species. Their efforts have bring on hopes as the native birds thought to be extinct had come back to the lowland. Another thing that amazed me is the chant that was performed by Dr. Samuel. He says that the forest on the mountain is the god's resting place. So, they usually perform their prayers before they enter the forest. However, since the development has claimed many areas of the forest on the mountain, they only perform the chant when they first see the native trees enter the forest on the mountain. I also get to know a new fact that is not known to many people that they went into the mountain to get the leaves for the hula skirts. There is so many things that can be learned from the indegenious people of Hawaii as their ancestors was practising sustainable living.

At night, the Fijian hosted an event for all the participants called the Sevusevu Ceremony. It is a ceremony perform by the Fijian for receiving visitors or when they come to a new place. Apart from learning the Hawaiian culture, we get to know the Fijian's as well. It is very uniqe and amazing how they hold on to their culture until now even at foreign land. Then we have our dinner. They cook Halal food for us so that everybody can eat. It's delicious. Robbie and Christina also managed to join us. What a day.