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The Life of the Land Part 1 of 7

By G.T.Larson

“Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono – The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

This, the state motto of Hawaii, is one of the few if not only state mottos that alludes to man’s integral relationship to the natural world. This series will explore the Molokai’s life of the land with a brief history, both natural and human – its ample strengths and clear fragility, our diverse cultures and our common bonds. In our first part we will examine where we are in the broad expanse of the universe.

In the vast limitlessness of space, there is a galaxy…and in that galaxy, a solar system… and in that solar system, a planet…and on that planet an ocean…and in that ocean, a group of islands…and in that group islands… Molokai. Being blessed with clear air and few lights, Molokai is ideal for star gazing. Go out some evening away from the streetlights, television and computer screens, and look up. On these fall evenings, notice the faint glowing band arching north to south across the starry expanse of the western sky. This is our neighborhood, commonly called the Milky Way. It is approximately 100,000 light years across. As a practical demonstration and a fun family activity to illustrate what a light year is, take a flashlight outside and shine it in the night sky. The beam of light from your flashlight travels out into the darkness at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per second. If it were January 1, 2010 when your flashlight beam started its journey, on January 1, 2011, it would have travelled approximately six trillion miles or one light year.

Our starry neighborhood is an immense, beautifully spiraled disc of one hundred billion stars or suns like our own, all swirling together to form our galaxy. Our galaxy is but one of hundreds of millions of galaxies in our universe. We are 93 million miles from our Sun, the source of light and life to our planet. The next time you look at the sun shining on a flower or glinting off the ocean’s surface, take a look at your watch. That beam left the Sun approximately eight minutes ago, and a sunbeam that left the Sun when you looked at your watch will reach you in eight more minutes. Even at 186,000 miles a second, it takes that long for the light making up that sunbeam to travel the distance from the Sun to the Earth.

The ancient Polynesians had an understanding and kinship with the heavenly expanse worthy of admiration even in our so-called technologically advanced age. The early navigators who discovered Hawaii were familiar with scores of stars and their courses across the heavens. Take a few minutes one evening and go out, gaze upon and become acquainted with our beautiful neighborhood.

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