Spring is a time of flowering, renewal, hope, and great promise, as the longer, warmer days arise out of the dark and cold of winter. Since 1970, Earth Day has taken this time to pause to rally for the environment, to love and honor our planet, and to imagine what it may take to reverse the degradation wrought upon our once-pristine ecosystems.
When Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed “a national teach-in for the environment” those 50 years ago, he accomplished a rare bi-partisan feat, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats. Last year, Earth Day was celebrated in events throughout 193 countries. Yet, the number of environmental challenges our planet faces continues to escalate.
So, perhaps there is value in bringing the spiritual renewal message of Easter together with the pure love of Mother’s Day, and applying that sentiment to the holiday sandwiched in between them. What if we really thought of the Earth as our mother? (She is!) Would we, maybe, take the planet to Sunday brunch? State of the world as it is, what would we say, and what should we do?
These voices from our islands and beyond didn’t disappoint us. Here are their Earth Day messages to us, and to the Mother Earth.
Kupuna, Cultural Advisor, Canoe Paddler, and Founder of Kimokeo Foundation
Na poe kalani,
Na poe ka moana,
Na poe o honua,
People of the heavens,
People of the ocean,
People of the land,
I give you my heavens, ocean, and land. Take care of it as I have done.
Pass it on to the generations to come, as they deserve quality of life as we.
Mahalo ke Akua. We thank God.
Mahalo na aumakua. We thank our guardian angels.
Mahalo na kupuna. We thank our ancestors.
Me ke alohapumehana,
With the greatest love of all,
A hui hou. We will always see each other in the land, in the ocean, or in the heavens.
Mahalo nui loa.
Dr. Art Medeiros
Program Manager of Auwahi Forest Restoration Project
You know, in some ways, I feel we haven’t even really started to know each other yet. And in some ways that seems only natural. We’ve heard you’ve been around a long time, but we’ve only been getting to know the place for the last couple of thousand years or so. It’s my hope in the next stretch of decades that you and I come to know each other a little better – not just for today’s Earth Day but for all the tomorrows we’re going to have together, all the Earth Days to come. And knowing each other better, I know, will create more genuine love for each other and knowledge of how to take greater care of each other. We recognize in our hearts there is no us without you, and you are the basis for all that can make us shine and excel, and all that can make our children and children’s children shine and excel. If we do a better job of knowing and caring for each other, there is hope for us. There is always a time for new beginnings.
DLNR Maui District Land Agent
I would simply tell my mom sorry for not paying attention, and commit to being maka‘ala and more present in mind, body, and spirit as an adaptive and mitigative measure. I would also commit to working hard to change old habits: Pick up trash, remove invasive species, ride bike more, eat fresh produce, drink plenty water, show up at meetings, promote unity by working hard, provide servant leadership, and keep on doing projects that malama ‘aina and malama honua.
President of Natural Capitalism Solutions, 2015 & 2016 Maui Energy Conference Keynote Speaker
You must be so disappointed in us, your supposedly brightest children, who just can’t seem to comprehend how our survival depends on your own. The ‘aina is not just our home, but our life support system, and any harm we do to it, we do to you and to ourselves.
Please bear with us, as so painfully slowly we are learning this, learning how to slake our insatiable greed with genuine well-being and belonging, rather than the accumulation of things ripped from you. But we are learning. States like Hawai‘i have pledged to meet our energy needs from the abundant sun and wind you give us, not the dangerous and dirty coal and oil stolen from your body. Executives that once insisted they could only prosper from degradation, now seek regeneration, and communities like Hokunui Maui show how your bounty can feed us as it sequesters carbon in an ever healthier soil. Ventures like Bio-logical Capital’s Hana Ranch have much to teach newer ventures like Mahi Pono, just as our neighbors at the Ulupono Initiative show how we can deliver prosperity sustainably.
As Maui caught the sun and could have killed it, we humans can now destroy life as we know it. But clever Maui made a deal with the sun, and so must we, your children, learn to live in harmony with you. It will take time for your wisdom to enlighten us, but as Alex Steffen writes in his Talk Given to A Conservation Group a Hundred Year From Now describes, we will learn this lesson. This is my Earth Day pledge to you.
Greenleaf Farms, Earth Steward
We are one with all life… there is no separation.
We have the intellect to rebuild soil health, and clean the water and air.
Aloha is a way of life that is about sharing not owning. If replicated globally we would truly be one village.
Maui can become a model of food sovereignty with aloha – the new setting on our compass.
Cultural Advisor of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
Dear Mother Earth and Father Sky,
Please forgive your prodigal sons and daughters who are unable to recognize the relationship between nature and mankind. We hope for their return to your spirit and recognize just how fragile we are. Like good parents, you send us messages and signs for us to pay attention. But, just as in real life, some children will not take heed until the consequences are literally at their doorstep!
Hawai‘i should be the ultimate poster child for energy self sustainability and agricultural development. The more we continue to damage this place, the more we will become dependent upon others. We live on an island where water and land are finite. We have to make the most of what we have, for the greater good of our culture, its people, and the very survival of all that we cherish. Grow food. Protect the ocean and its resources.
‘Aina First, Carbon Drawdown Solutions
The threat of climate crisis can no longer be ignored. In the coming months, Food Security Hawai‘i, a Maui nonprofit, will be leading community action to begin to prepare our island for any disruption to our food supply. There is a great deal that a dedicated group of citizens can do, and Maui is blessed to have an active group of people that understands the need for this preparation.
18-Year-Old Co-Founder of Bye Bye Plastic Bags from Bali, Indonesia
Our generation demands change. I believe the entire education system needs to become more relevant, make students feel more connected to the issues that we are facing, and empower them to take action. Our generation is the one that will face the most dramatic environmental changes to our everyday lives. Therefore we are demanding it, loud and clear. We do not have the luxury to wait.
(1) We would love to see more serious climate action being done to ensure that we stay below 1.5 degrees temperature change. (2) We would stop plastic consumption and replace it with more circular, sustainable products for the environment. (3) Stop the mass deforestation that is happening throughout the world and especially Indonesia.
Sometimes, when you look at issues that we are facing like climate change or plastic pollution, it can feel huge, and you start to doubt your one action. But it does matter.
Do research to best understand local practices being done in your area that contribute to saving the environment. And just start today, start leading by example. Make that difference: one bag, plastic bottle, and straw at a time.
We have to tackle the problems on a global scale by starting locally.
Certified Arborist, Farmer and Rancher, Retired UH Educational Support Specialist
I’m sorry, and I’ll help by bringing some common sense solutions. People need to change if they plan to co-mingle with Mother Earth, both individually and collectively. If we are going to provide landscape forms, then we need to do just that, realize what it involves, and really follow through with proper care. We need to be practical and work with Mother Nature, rather than against her and ourselves. If we can’t, then maybe we should just leave her alone.
Author of Cows Save the Planet and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth and Water In Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World
I would tell Mother Earth we are waking up and beginning to see ourselves in all of her creatures rather than standing aloof from them. I believe that this shift – recognizing that we humans are part of the community of life – is the change that needs to happen. I encourage people to explore the many efforts to work with nature and nature’s processes. On Maui, one example is Haiku Aina Permaculture Initiative (Hapimaui.com). A growing global movement is Ecosystem Restoration Camps (Ecosystemrestorationcamps.org), whose tagline is: “Together We Can Restore the Earth.”
The Loam Ranger, Kupa‘a Farms
Dear Mother Earth,
Love you! Some of us are doing the best we can to take care of you… and we are working to change the rest of us. We need to have an integrated view of ourselves that puts us not above or below other components of our planet/Mother Nature but within, reconnected. Eco-driven versus ego-driven. We are the most highly evolved and intelligent of species; we need to look at compassion and interconnectedness.
Climate change can be managed by utilizing our collective intelligence to use plants and agriculture as a way to preserve our soil and atmosphere, and in the process: ourselves. We must pursue regenerative agriculture and burying atmospheric carbon dioxide in the soil. The byproduct of saving our climate will be resilient farms with delicious, nutritious food. Build soil, plant trees, make compost.
Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator for NOAA
I work for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary’s mission focuses on the conservation of humpback whales and their habitat. It represents the efforts that our sanctuary ‘ohana, working with others, even with a particular kuleana, have towards protecting our ‘aina – Earth, that we and other species rely upon. I think it will be the efforts of individuals working collectively, within their disciplines, capabilities, and opportunities that together will provide a groundswell of combined efforts that will ultimately make a difference at the broader global scale.
I am proud to be a part of our response to entangled large whales in Hawai‘i. Entanglement is a major threat for many animals, and I help coordinate a community-based effort, working with our state and federal partners, to free large whales from life threatening entanglements. The effort is possible and successful due in large part to the dedication and support of the on-water community, especially the tour boat operators, fishermen, and researchers. They help find, report, assess, document, monitor, and, in some cases, directly free the animals. They are the foundation of the effort, and along with the aloha ‘aina spirit so indicative of Hawai‘i, represent a prime example of what people working as a team can do to protect individual animals, and gain information to reduce broader scale threats for the future.
SHAKA Movement, SAFE, Maui Cannabis Guild
We are finally awakening to your plan for us. So sorry to have been so short sighted for so long. We are now ready for the long-range view of history.
-The Human Race
Co-Founder of Na Wai Eha, President of Ka‘ehu Nonprofit
Now I understand why we are who we are.
What happened to the for real because now it is unreal.
We have lost our senses of feeling, smelling, seeing, tasting.
We are blind to our environment, its feelings, its smell, its taste.
The only way to stop the destruction of Mother Earth is to stop the greed.
Founder of HINA, Hawaiian Indigenous Natural Agriculture
He ali‘i ka ‘aina; he kaua ke kanaka.
Land is the chief; man is its servant.
I would like to think that the voyage of the canoe Hokule‘a and its Malama Honua sail around the world to remind everyone to care for the Earth was not a wasted campaign. Mankind has a lot of work to do.
HINA is a growing group of farmers, gardeners, and growers of food and medicine that have raised their hands to improve the health and wellness for all by following and using the Hawaiian pule, chant, protocols, and procedures of Hawaiian natural farming.
May there never be a last aloha ‘aina warrior.
Author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and Sacred Commerce, Founder of 350.org, 2018 Green Room Speaker
This Earth Day finds us in a climate moment, with concern finally breaking through the surface of our political life. Given the rapid heating now fully underway, this is not a moment we can waste – it may be our last real chance to break the momentum of global warming.
Scientist, Ecologist, Narrator of “The Nature of Things”
We are creatures of the Earth, and everything we learn about the Earth teaches us about ourselves… When we forget that we are embedded in the natural world, we also forget that what we do to our surroundings we are doing to ourselves.
Councilmember and Chair of Maui County Council, Vice President of Pacific Biodiesel
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. This report has led to a growing angst among our younger generations that their future has been usurped and the situation seems hopeless. While we cannot accurately predict the exact weather disasters we will experience due to refusal to embrace climate change solutions, for the sake of our keiki, it’s time to go beyond verbal support and take real action. As President Obama says, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.”
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is more than a popular Jack Johnson song, it is the antidote to doing nothing, and it will make a tremendous difference if everyone participates. Let’s all come out for Mother Earth this month – do a trash pick-up event, plant a tree, buy a renewable fuel vehicle, teach a child about recycling. Do something!