“We’re Not Scared”: Hawai‘i confronts next wave of climate change

Western society doesn’t have all the answers for the climate challenges confronting Hawai‘i and the rest of the world. But island voices can help.

“We need to expand who is at the table,” Oceanography associate professor Rosie Alegado said Tuesday in a packed auditorium at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

She was one of six women serving on the opening panel of the 26th Hawaii Conservation Conference. The hourlong talk, moderated by Kealoha Fox, a state Climate Commission member and executive manager to the CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, centered on their perceptions of climate change from a traditional Native Hawaiian cultural lens. 

Alegado, a member of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission, and the other panelists — scholars and scientists Aurora Kagawa-Viviani, Haunani Kane, Kalei Nu’uhiwa and Noelani Puniwai — brought an empowering rather than defeatist attitude about the climate crisis.

“It’s not that we aren’t taking it seriously — we take it really damn seriously — but we’re not scared,” Alegado said. “We don’t have climate angst.”

She attributed this to an island mentality, in the sense of the role survival has long played. The need to always be prepared, be it for periods of political or environmental strife, and knowing that it truly takes a village.

There is no separating love of the land and love of science for Haunani Kane, who finished her doctorate in Earth Sciences in between sailing around the world in the Hokule‘a traditional voyaging canoe. “It’s hard for myself to separate a cultural lens and scientific lens because it’s all the same,” she said.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Civil Beat.