Word Count: 1575
Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina I ka pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. It in its simplest form sustainability is how biological systems remain productive over time. Sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being. Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of all organisms. When we hear the word “sustainability,” we tend to think in terms of the environment and natural resources. But sustainability principles are equally relevant to other parts of our lives, including our health, happiness and collective well-being.
As time passes by, I often think of what has become of life on Earth. What has happened in the past that has shaped things in our present state of reality? Why are things the way they are? Ignorance is bliss they say but others declare knowledge is power. These thoughts in mind compelled me to research just where my ancestor’s roots came from.
I am of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Hawaiians of old had a saying that encompassed the meaning of sustainability. [Thesis] Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina I ka pono which translated means “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. [Thesis] Through research I found history states that Native Hawaiians were a maritime people from the Marquesas Islands. They were called the Lapita. These travelers voyaged on double-hulled canoes for miles over open-ocean until they found the most isolated Island chain in the world. They then settled around 300-500 A.D. Hawaiians had a completely different mentality of the earth compared to today. Things were taken care of with love and respect.
Growing up I attended school at Kamehameha. It was a private school in which children who were of Hawaiian decent could attend. During my attendance at Kamehameha I learned of several different areas of Hawaiian culture. Of all that I had learned during my education, learning the history of Hawaiian culture and their ancient practices of ahupua’a had opened my eyes to just how different today is from yesterday.
Ahupuaʻa is derived from Hawaiian Language. Ahu, meaning “heap”, and puaʻa, meaning pig. The Ahupuaʻa consisted most frequently of a slice of an island that went from the top of the mountain (volcano of that area) to the shore. These sections of island often followed the boundary of the areas stream drainage. Each ahupuaʻa included a lowland mala (cultivated area/garden) and upland forested region.Ahupuaʻa varied in size. The boundary markers for ahupuaʻa were traditionally heaps of stones used to put offers to the island chief. The offerings would usually be a pig. Each ahupua’a had a community within it that would provide the land with all the love, respect, and dedication possible.
As the native Hawaiians used the resources within their ‘ahupua’a, they practiced certain Hawaiian values. These values were aloha (respect), laulima (cooperation), and malama (stewardship). This resulted in a desirable pono (balance)”. The Hawaiians believed that the land, the sea, and all of nature were all interconnected. This is why they used all of the resources around them to reach the desired balance in life. Sustainability was maintained by the people as a whole to ensure survival for future generations.
When early settlers arrived to Hawaii they described the land as breathtaking. They claimed that the Hawaiians had achieved a level of perfection when it came to agriculture and aquaculture. “In Hawaiian ideology, one does not “own” the land. One merely dwells on it. The Hawaiian mentality is that, the land is immortal (in the sense that it doesn’t go away), and gods are immortal, therefore the land must be godly. Since man isn’t immortal, man isn’t godly. So how can something ungodly control something that is. The Hawaiians thought that all land belonged to the gods.”
But all that changed once they experienced western contact. First they were occupied, then the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy occured, after came disease. Like a domino effect one after the other contributed to the downfall of the Hawaiian race. Over time development took place worldwide which led to global habitat degradation. Due to this, native endemic species of animals, birds and plants became extinct. Automobiles were produced leading to pollution which has become a growing problem. Future advancements in technology led to inventions that made tasks simpler and life easier. This allowed for people to not learn for themselves and rely upon others.
Change brought convenience but unforeseen consequences. The generated pollution has created a huge problem called global warming. Chemicals are released into the atmosphere breaking down the ozone layer which filters solar UV rays. Global warming over time has contributed to the polar caps of the earth to melt at a rapid pace. It has also pushed several species towards extinction and sea levels on a global scale to change. There are predictions that certain bacteria that provide for the food chain in nature might eventually be extinct in time. These tiny bacteria are the building blocks to the food chain present in nature.
The world has developed into a place where people are dependent upon others. Today it is common to earn money to purchase food, clothes, medicine, transportation, water, etc. In days of old it was up to the individual to provide these things. Venture out in the world to hunt food for nourishment. Gather ingredients to provide medicine for illness. Sew fabrics together to make clothes to wear. Head out on a journey to find a water source when thirsty. All these things needed to be done to sustain their lives, to ensure survival to see another day of life.
The basic question of sustainability is this: Can you keep doing what you’re doing indefinitely and without ill effect to yourself and the systems on which you depend or are you on a road to eventual suffering and destruction? We can all make a difference when it comes to helping save the environment. Global warming and all the other environmental issues we are facing took some time to build up and to get rid of these messes it is going take a lot of work, but this doesn’t mean we should get discouraged because it’s more than the big things that are going to make the difference, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.
In the recent years there has been a significant rise in people’s concern for the environment. We all affect the natural environment, but we are often are unaware of how much we affect it. How our carbon footprints impact the world as a whole. There is no part of the earth that does not remain affected by our actions. Our actions have continued to be a threat to the health of our planet, the land we live and work on, the water supply, the ozone layer, the animal species as well as the health of our species. With this it is easy to say “The problem is too great and what can we do now?” Well, we can first remember and believe that we can make a difference. We can start with making a commitment to do a few things to save our environment.
There are a number of major ways of reducing our negative human impact. The first of these is environmental management. This approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. The second approach is management of human consumption of resources, which is based largely on information gained from economics.
When we reduce our impact on the earth, or more specifically, on Hawaii, we recognize a more sustainable path. We lower gas prices, we offset our daily carbon footprint, we reduce emissions and we begin the process of paying off a lifetime of environmental “debt.”
Some choices that might slightly reduce our impact: One, reduce our incomes. The amount of resources a person uses is mostly determined by a person’s income. If a person cuts back on his/her income, he/she will use less. Trying to cut back within the same income is less effective, because the money a person doesn’t spend one place is likely to be spent somewhere else. Two, plant some food crops. This is about as good as we can do. If perennial plants are planted, it is possible that others will benefit as well. Animals, birds, and insects may also get some benefit from the crops.
These solutions bring me back to the knowledge which I gained during school at Kamehameha. Imagine if life had continued through the methods created by the Hawaiians; cultivating agriculture and aquaculture to a level of perfection ensuring sustainability for future generations. Global warming would be a term unknown to anyone, sea levels at normal and no holes in the ozone layers. Species would still be flourishing without the threat of extinction.
A sustainable person recognizes and embraces their interdependent relationship to life. When we get our energy from controlling external circumstances we’re bound to collapse in time. But when we’re connected to our inner knowledge, we can be much more effective. By doing things that replenish our world and not doing things that needlessly deplete resources we access and conduct the energy we need to make and sustain positive changes in the world. We perpetuate the land in righteousness just as Hawaiians would. [Thesis] “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina I ka pono.” [Thesis]