Celebrating the `Aina
Molokai comes together for Earth Day festivities.
By Brandon Roberts
It is no surprise that Earth Day is one of Molokai’s biggest community celebrations. Malama `aina is more than words to most residents here; it is a way of being.
This year has been internationally dedicated as the year of the reef, and Molokai perpetuated that theme with “Momona ka papa ke e`ehu ka `aina”, (the reef thrives when the land is healthy). The environmental celebration held on April 18 at the Mitchell Pau`ole Center combined education and entertainment with an ohana atmosphere.
The event began 16 years ago with a group called Molokai C.A.R.E.S., an organization dedicated to recycling. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) grabbed the reigns in 1995, and now Molokai Earth Day has over 1,000 Friendly Isle residents attending annually.
“For Molokai, Earth Day is one of our big community and family events,” said Ed Misaki, TNC director. “It introduces people to many environmental aspects, and gets them excited about conserving our island’s resources.”
The educational aspect included over 30 different booths from governmental agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Americorps, to concerned community groups like Hui Malama O Mo`omomi and Ka Honua Momona.
Elaborating on this year’s theme, Kanoho Helm, a volunteer for Hui Malama O Mo`omomi, spoke about the watershed areas in the Kamalo area. Helm had the opportunity to construct a portion of an eight-mile fence to contain some of the destructive animals like pigs and goats near the summits.
“You can take all the pigs and goats out of one acre and then put a few of them back and they will be thriving in a couple of years. Take out one acre of rain forest and it can take 100 years to restore,” Helm explained.
“We need to care for the critical watershed areas before our reefs are buried with soil,” Helm said. “What happens on the land will affect our food from the ocean.”
Volunteer and co-emcee Kaui Manera dedicated her time to Earth Day because she believes in TNC’s mission to protect this land and its natural resources. Along with Brian “the Hawaiian” they kept the outdoor entertainment lively and rolling.
People enjoyed song, oli, and hula from Manuwai Peters and the Hawaiian Language Immersion School, as well as music from Kualapu`u fifth and sixth graders. Six Pac played a quick set to get the crowd movin and Moana’s Heiau closed the evening with an enchanting version of “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid. Keiki filled the front of the stage, cheering and giggling for the grand finale.
The night concluded with grand prize drawings for a mountain bike, tri-fin surfboard and a wood-grain long board. Prizes were won by interacting with the educational booths and acquiring colored stamps. Once the card was full, it was entered into the lottery.
Young Kolea Lono Yasso, standing around four feet, needed a little help to get his new nine-foot long board back to the vehicle. Yasso said he had his fingers crossed during the drawing, and luck definitely found this keiki.
Earth Day is more than a celebration; it is a way of life, of island sustainability and respect. Today it is the kuleana of every one to be pono, and keep a healthy balance with the `aina. The success of Earth Day represents Molokai’s dedication and acknowledgement that the bountiful earth relies on the careful stewardship of its residents.