Leilani

Have you ever been someplace and felt overcome with a sense of amazement or peace? People often say that about places of grandeur like Machu Picchu in Peru or Stonehenge in England. During my senior year at Roosevelt High School I was able to go to Notre Dame in Paris. When I crossed the threshold into that grand cathedral I felt the years of emotion that had taken place during its long history followed by peacefulness. The connection I felt will forever be in my memory. However, that is not the only place I’ve felt such a connection or strong sense of place. I feel it in nature, experiencing  various aspects of Hawai`i’s unique environment: on a familiar hike surrounded by ginger and laua`e, being greeted by the large Kukui Nut and Mango trees upon returning home to my family’s property in Nu`uanu Valley, being embraced by the ocean as I swim or surf.

This sense of place and love of nature and culture led me to get a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. To summarize my 25 years of life experience and schooling for you I would simply say,  everything is interconnected. We are innately tied to the environment, whether we see it or not. Famous Anthropologist Margaret Mead put it nicely, “we won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.”  Hawaiian wisdom also imparts, “take care of the `āina and it will take care of you.” Quite possibly in order to preserve our environment and thus ourselves we need to begin with connecting or reconnecting with our surroundings. Once we have a sense of place and gratitude for all that the environment provides we can begin working together to address the environments current state of degradation and pressing matters such as climate change and invasive species. I believe it will take a multiplicity of gifts and perspectives to really make a change.  Fortunately, here in Hawai`i we not only have current science and all its advantages, but we also have invaluable traditional Hawaiian knowledge. By combining all available resources, we can begin taking care of Hawai`i’s unique environment and people.(For those of my generation, think of it as “…with our powers combined…,” you fill in the rest!)

It is with those sentiments that I am very excited to begin my journey as a Marine Fellow with The Nature Conservancy! I am very grateful for the investment that the senior staff at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NOAA Pacific Services, and Hau`oli Mau Loa Foundation has made in myself and my fellow Fellows. I look forward to gaining hands-on experience addressing issues with the communities TNC works with and learning more about the science of conservation and how to convey that to community members and other groups. I hope to also delve deeper into Hawaiian culture and tradition and see how it can accompany western science on various matters. As different questions and challenges reveal themselves I will be keeping in mind the words of a very poignant, thoughtful conservationist; I hope you will consider them too!

“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
-Aldo Leopold

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