Why this Work is Important

Navigating Humanity Towards a Sustainable Future

Life on remote Pacific Islands is very different from that found on continents.  It is much more intimately tied to the environment, with unique cultural forms arising from societies’ needs to survive on finite resources, far from other places.  These unique environments and cultures are much more susceptible to damage from introductions: new species, new technologies, new ideas and new people.  In the past, islanders were able to choose what new introductions were worth keeping and what were not.

Today, globalization of communications and transportation has done great damage to these peoples and places.  In this age where anyone feels they can go anywhere, our aim is to educate visitors and new residents—including people who come here to work on short-term assignments—how to treat this place and these people appropriately. Billed as tourist paradises, these places are also peoples’ homes, and the peoples and their cultures need to be respected and appreciated.  If you are expecting Hawai‘i to be just like “America” except tropical, then you are likely to be part of the problem.

Hawai‘i offers to the world a sense of aloha—a way to recognize the humanity in each of us. But the peoples here are burdened by the mantle of unrecognized and unresolved historic trauma. Despite this huge drawback, the doors remain open to those who hold in high regard all opportunities to move from victim/victimizer to friendship across time and space. Through our educational resources and training, we enable participants to learn the universally relevant and important lessons these islands have to teach.  As the Earth itself is now an island, it behooves us all to understand the principles of island living.

Our Guiding Principles:

Cultural Heritage

Cultural Heritage:

The Pacific Worlds Indigenous Geography Cultural Documentation, Preservation and Education project is a web-based educational initiative that presents an interlinked portfolio of community profiles. Pacific Worlds works with elders and culture keepers in selected communities to present place-based cultural, historical and environmental knowledge as told by the community members themselves. The project includes a curriculum for teaching Indigenous Pacific-Islander culture and geography, and has included teacher workshops that help educators use the project. We also provide consulting on cultural heritage management and documentation.

Social Justice

In the Hawaiian Islands, where Pacific Worlds is based, the indigenous people have suffered 200 years of Western influence and a century of direct occupation by the United States, resulting in enormous loss of land, cultural practices and traditions, access to resources, and language.  U.S. citizens coming here from the continent have driven up land prices and fostered an individualism is anathema to traditional Hawaiian values.  Through our promotion of traditional culture and values, Pacific Worlds is working to mitigate against both of these forces.


In remote island communities, however stratified any given society may be (and there is quite a range), one thing in common is that we all depend on each other to some degree.  These are not cultures of individualism, but cultures of responsibility and mutual dependence.  The Hawaiian word kuleana denotes both rights and responsibilities, and might be compared to your “turf”: you don’t want someone else infringing on your turf, it’s your area.  But if you don’t take care of your area of responsibility, it affects everyone else. Through our trainings and workshops,  work to instill the values of kuleana to the community and to the environment, of pono (acting appropriately, “doing the right thing”), and mālama—looking after and taking care of the land and resources, so that they look after you.

Food and Environment

Small islands have finite resources, and the people of old learned how to live sustainably with what they have. Particularly in more remote islands with no access to trade (such as the Hawaiians Islands), what you have is all you have, and you have to make it last. For the land and sea to sustain us, we need to manage them in ways that serve both their interests and ours.  Sustainability is a reciprocal relationship between society and environment. Traditional Oceanic cultures taught us how to do this, and today we can combine that wisdom with the best tools of modern science to build greater food security and resilience in the face of climate change and natural disasters.

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