Presentations

Navigating Humanity Towards a Sustainable Future


Public Webinar Descriptions:

The Unique Physical Environment

“Mid-Oceanic Volcanism: the formation of the Islands”

Hawai‘i’s volcanos are not of the type most people are familiar with.  Mid-oceanic volcanos rise from a thin spot in the Earth’s mantle and build gradually, without the explosive eruptions that characterize other volcanos.  Consequently, they do not grow into steep conical shapes like Mt. Fuji, but rather in broad, gentle rises that are much, much larger, often pocked with small cones.  In this presentation, you will be walked through the stages in the life cycle of Hawaiian volcanos and how these result in the formation of each island.

“Shaping the Islands: Erosion and Reef Growth”

As soon as a Hawaiian volcano breaches the surface of the ocean, wind, rain, surf and other erosional forces begin acting upon it.  These forces act differently in different places due to weather patterns, altitude, rainshadow effect, and other mitigating factors.  From the smooth dome of Kilauea to the amphitheater valleys of Kaua‘i, erosion carved each island into its unique shape. Meanwhile, reefs take shape around the islands, and experience their own life cycles.

“Climate and Water”

Yes, the climate is “tropical,” but what does that mean exactly, and how does it manifest in different locations around the islands?  This presentation explains the rainfall pattern across the islands, and the different types of weather we receive here.  Once the rain falls, where does the water go?  Water is our most valuable resource, and you will learn about how it is regenerated, where it is stored, and how we access it.

“Ecosystems, Plants and Animals”

Because Hawai‘i is the most remote group of islands on the planet, it was very difficult for plants and animals to arrive here.  Once they did, many of them evolved into entirely new species to take advantage of the different environments.  As a result, over 95% of Hawai‘i’s native plant species and 80% of the native birds were found nowhere else on earth.  Because of climatic variations, these—as well as newer, introduced species—are unevenly distributed around the islands.  Many native species are already extinct, and more are threatened or endangered.

“Island by Island Overview”

Each Island in this archipelago is unique.   This presentation gives you a guided tour to understand each island’s physical landscapes, weather patterns, and ecosystems.  This will enable you to understand and appreciate why certain human activities take place in certain locations.

“Natural Hazards and Safety”

The Hawaiian Islands are subject to all the major types of natural disaster: droughts, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and more!  In addition, there are many potential hazards for the unwary traveler.  We will explain the circumstances of each major natural disaster and how to mitigate their effects, and also highlight some key points for personal safety.

Hawaiian Culture:

The settling of the Island Pacific over 1000 years ago is one of the greatest adventures of human history. Using double-hulled voyaging canoes built with stone-age tools, and navigating by stars and swells, Pacific Islanders journeyed as far as 2500 miles to find tiny dots of land in the middle of an ocean covering one third the surface of the planet. Then they traveled back, and forth, and back, and forth to settle those islands. With no maps, instruments or written texts, how did they do it? Until the 1976 voyage of the Hōkūle‘a, scholars did not believe that such intentional navigation and landfinding had been possible. In this engaging presentation, Doug Herman reveals the intricate arts of Oceanic navigation and landfinding that enabled this amazing feat.

“The Art of Oceanic Canoe Building”

A thousand years ago or more, peoples living on small islands in the Pacific Ocean were able to build large voyaging canoes that could travel over 2000 miles and back between remote islands.  This talk explores the art and engineering involved in building a large canoe in traditional times, from the making of the stone tools to the weaving of the sails and the lashing and gluing of the parts. It demonstrates the ingenuity of Pacific Islanders, living on volcanic islands with no usable metals, in determining the best materials and methods for using only what they had at hand to make these amazing vessels. 

“Who will look after the stones?” Rocks as family.”

In the Hawaiian creation chant Kumulipo, the gods give birth to the islands, the taro plant, and the human race, making these three in particular (and all of creation more generally) siblings.  Stones—broken off pieces of the bodies of the islands—are therefore also part of the family, and this relationship is recognized in various ways even today.  Moreover, there are particular stones that manifest particular roles, or presences, or energies and have been recognized as such.  And with that kinship relationship comes responsibilities. This presentation draws on myth, ritual, sacred places and historical and contemporary experiences to elucidate this kinship bond between Hawaiian society, the mineral world, and the spiritual world.  It begins from a question asked by Native Hawaiian consultants when a stone altar (ahu) was proposed for a Hawai`i exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian:  “Yes, but who will look after the stones?”  It extends to the larger question of human interrelationships with the animal, mineral and spirit worlds and how such interrelationships could shape our environmental policies.

“Mālama ‘Āina: Traditional Hawaiian Land Management and Contemporary Sustainability”

From the 14th to the 18th centuries, the Hawaiian islands experienced a land-and-sea management system based on land divisions (ahupua‘a) running from the mountains to the sea.  These were grouped into larger, semi-self-sustaining groups called moku. The moku-ahupua‘a system was implemented to ensure access to necessary resources and fruitful production of agriculture and fisheries.  The land divisions cut through all the major climatic-resource areas produced by altitudinal zonation.  In each ahupua‘a, resources were carefully managed by an overseer. While this system fell slowly into disrepair during the 19th century and was largely replaced by U.S. land laws after 1900, there is now a slow resurgence of reclaiming traditional practices.  The use of traditional knowledge is being merged with contemporary science, while retaining the critical Hawaiian value of “malama ‘aina”—take care of the land.  This presentation will explain the traditional system, and examine two contemporary case studies where conservation and traditional food production are being brought back: Hā‘ena ahupua‘a on Kaua‘i, and He‘eia ahupua‘a on O‘ahu.

“Nu‘uanu, O‘ahu: Case study of a Cultural Landscape”

Every land division on every island has stories to tell, and it would take a lifetime to hear them all.  In this presentation, we look at Nu‘uanu, the valley uphill from downtown Honolulu.  Underneath the physical transformation by Western urbanization lies a storied landscape rich in places, myths, legends, and historical events.  Based on research conducted for the Pacific Worlds Nu‘uanu community profile, you will be walked through layers of history, culture and meaning, from the mythic past to the present.  By this you may come to look differently at your own place, and begin to explore your local cultural landscape.

“Making things right: Hawaiian approaches to Conflict Resolution”

The traditional Hawaiian approach to resolving conflicts is rooted in a deep understanding of balance and harmony in the universe and in society.  Dis-ease arises when things get out of balance, and so traditional healing is also linked to the resolution of conflicts among members of the community. This presentation will give a brief overview of the structure and principles of traditional Hawaiian society.  It will then examine two approaches.  Both are called ho`oponopono—“the act of setting things right.”  The first is the traditional method, involving several members of the community and a facilitator to elicit the root of the problem and to develop a solution that is agreeable to all.  The second is a modern revelation by the late kahuna la‘au lapa‘au (healing kahuna) Morrnah Simeona, that takes the traditional process to an internal level for self-healing.  Both reflect broader understandings of how humans should act in the world, the taking of responsibility for the effects of our actions, and the permanent rectification of conflicts without lingering animosity.

Understanding Hawaiian Sovereignty

Most people who are not from the Islands—and some who are—do not know that the Hawaiian Kingdom was a sovereign and independent country on the world stage.  How did that happen, and why did it end?  The story behind the Smithsonian exhibition “E Mau Ke Ea: The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation,” this presentation will walk you through the unification of the islands under Kamehameha I, the formation of a constitutional monarchy, international recognition, the impact of Western businesses, the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Territorial Period, Pearl Harbor, Statehood, and up to the Hawaiian Renaissance and the growth of the sovereignty movement.  This is essential knowledge for anyone coming to reside in these islands, and important information for visitors.


We bring together Western science and Oceanic tradition to help visitors, new residents and outsiders become more familiar with the Islands, giving you surer footing to navigate situations and conduct yourselves appropriately and effectively.

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