Forget Hurricane Lester, the World’s Best Environmental Conference is in Honolulu
The IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center is the Super Bowl of environmental science and culture, with amazing speakers and exhibits to educate and awe the entire family.
The IUCN World Conservation congress conference kicked off with a lavish and moving opening ceremony.
Photo: David Croxford
It’s the peak environmental event in all the world, attracting the planet’s top scientists and strategists, stewards and green warriors, politicians and even business leaders, but the IUCN World Conservation Congress has thrown its doors open to the public, too. The nine pavilions and many displays—including a number by Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and one by Google that has techies drooling in anticipation—opened Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
You’ll be rubbing elbows with the green elite, ranging from Gorillas in the Mist conservationist Jane Goodall to our own UH researchers and our own North Shore eco-troubadour Jack Johnson, who played a closing set to the opening day festivities. You’ll also see many of the world’s most dedicated and far-flung activists, from places ranging from Palau to the Kivulini Valley of Kenya—it’s a bit of an international folk fashion show.
MEMBERS OF THE HALĀU HULA OLANA GREETED IUCN DELEGATES, SPEAKERS AND DIGNITARIES ON THE ROOF OF THE CONVENTION CENTER THURSDAY NIGHT.
Photo: Don Wallace
Gov. David Ige made news at the opening ceremonies in his welcoming speech with a Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative, including three specific commitments: 1) “to protecting 30 percent of our highest priority watersheds by 2030”; 2) “to effectively managing 30 percent of our nearshore ocean waters by 2030”; and 3) “to doubling Hawai‘i’s food production by 2030.” He also reiterated the goal of 100-percent renewable energy use by the year 2045 (although he did qualify it with “in the electricity sector”).
Logistics: Parking at the Convention Center is limited, so you might want to plan on doing a drop-off, walking from a pay lot or street parking, or showing your commitment to the earth by taking TheBus—or bike. The public exhibits will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Monday, Sept. 5, and include formals talks and ongoing, informal interaction. To find out more about the pavilions and exhibition, click here and here. Don’t let the limited descriptions, technical jargon and panel titles put you off—this is fascinating stuff.
PHOTO: DAVID CROXFORD
The opening day’s action kicked off on the sands by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. A blessing was held, although a scheduled canoe landing was scratched by weather concerns. From there the festivities proceeded to the Neal Blaisdell Center, where the 9,000 delegates and 400 media witnessed an impressive Polynesian welcome, led by Native Hawaiian chanters, hula hālau, singers and master of ceremonies Kamana‘opono Crabbe Jr., CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Also present were IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng, Sen. Brian Schatz, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Palau president Tommy Remengesau (whose speech more than lived up to his reputation as the environmental movement’s leader in national conservation policies), His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Monaco and Norway’s Erik Solheim, newly appointed executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. Solheim’s ringing conclusion—“We can all be environmental heroes!”—seemed a fitting inaugural. Although Jack Johnson’s closing song at the evening reception struck a Hawai‘i note: “We can be so good together.”
President of Palau Tommy Remengesau is widely credited as a global environmental leader for his country’s 30/20 sustainability initiative.
Photo: David Croxford
Enjoying local restaurant fare on the Convention Center’s rooftop: Scott Atkinson of Conservation International; Robert Richman, director of UH Mānoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory, which hosted the recent International Coral Reef Symposium; and William Kostka of Micronesia Conservation Trust. Kostka is famous for the Micronesia Challenge of 2007, which resulted in the “30/20” pledge. The goal, to seek management control over 30 percent of the nation’s nearshore resources and 20 percent of its watershed, has since become a global standard—and, as of Friday’s announcement by Gov. Ige, Hawai‘i’s as well.
A living symbol of the unity of cultural and traditional practitioners, several members of the Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories spent a week on Maui with traditional Native Hawaiian practitioners before the conference. Here they come together with NGO supporters: Ali Ibrae and Molu Galgallo, from Kenya’s Kivulini Trust; Jettie Word, executive director of The Borneo Project; Melchior Ware of the Dongan Village, Papua New Guinea; Jennifer Castner, director of the Altai Project, which deals with preservation of land and fauna, including the snow leopard; and Danil Mamgev of the Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology, who is from the Altai, in southern Russia.