A Sustaining Experience

By Melissa Kelsey

Expanding hearts, minds and the capacity for hope, master navigator Nainoa Thompson shared his personal history with over 300 conference goers at last week’s sustainability conference. The keynote speaker emphasized vision, unity, and the love for nature, children and each other as key reasons to live sustainably.

For many people of Molokai, sustainability is a way of life. Last weekend’s Sustainable Molokai: Future of a Hawaiian Island conference provided a learning space for those who want to make sure it stays that way.

Raising voices in oli, the conference audience of hundreds of people chanted mahalo to Nainoa Thompson, the master navigator of the Hokule`a who spoke at the conference.

“You have to have vision, because if you do not, somebody else will,” said Thompson.

Thompson said he thinks there will always be people who plan and scheme to use the wind and the ocean for financial gain. However, he said he believes there is still time for the people of Molokai to ensure that Molokai does not become overdeveloped and unsustainable like Oahu.

“When we figure out it is about love, we have the most important gift we can give to the earth, and that is hope,” said Thompson.

While looking to the future, no one forgot the past. Event organizer Malia Akutagawa said her great-grandmother said there used to be so much fish on Molokai that one could “kick ‘em with your feet and grab what you catch.” She said her grandmother used to refer to the ocean as an icebox.   

“I realized that we have been talking about sustainability, but we do not know what it means,” said Akutagawa. “Their mindset was momona, more than enough.”

Forming a micro-community over the course of the last few months, event organizers paid attention to the details. From ono breakfasts created from locally grown produce to a composting system for waste, the event promoted green living. Some attendees went even further by bringing their own coffee cups and wearing recycled clothing.

“It brought a lot of us together just to put the conference on,” said event organizer Noelani Yamashita. “We had so much help from so many community members.”

The gathering was a time for people who do not live on Molokai to learn from Molokai.

“Molokai, we have been living sustainably for years. We live off the land, we live off the seas,” said community member Mervin Dudoit at the conference. “The young ones already know how to fish and hunt.”

Visitors from as far away as Slovenia and Korea came to gain knowledge from people on Molokai who are living sustainable lifestyles.

“I think Molokai is an example to Hawaii and the Pacific,” said event attendee Angela Fa`anunu, who is originally from Tonga and traveled to the conference on the Hokule`a. “Molokai has a good community to work together for the future.” 


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