[OPINION] Aloha Āina spurs Kanaka Maoli in diaspora to take bold climate action

87-125 Helelua Street, Wai’anae, HI, 96792. That’s the street where I was raised on for the better part of 15 years. Most of my recollections here are the many Saturday mornings I spent popping in a VHS tape of Scooby-Doo or running down the street to the local park to see which one of us siblings could race down the hill on our bikes the fastest. But it’s the haunting memory of seeing black plumes of smoke jet up the hill that stood overlooking our tiny third floor apartment that will forever be etched deeply into my soul.

Our home, nestled just 1,000 feet away from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, had now found itself perilously close to the Wai’anae mountain range’s dry tinderbox conditions during the scorching summer months– an all too familiar sight for local residents and a haunting one for anyone in its path.

For me and for so many others, wildfires were not an abstract notion; they were a constant threat that could sweep away the homes and memories of our communities. It was in the midst of such experiences that the words of Joseph Nāwahī, a Native Hawaiian patriot, legislator, lawyer, and newspaper publisher, gained profound meaning to me, as he encapsulated the essence of our connection to our āina (land) and the battle we face as communities of color on the frontlines of climate action, often without the means to alter the circumstances that surround us.

Nāwahī’s poignant words “O ke Aloha Aina, oia ka Ume Mageneti iloko o ka puuwai o ka Lahui, e kaohi ana i ka noho Kuokoa Lanakila ana o kona one hanau ponoi” echo like the magnetic pull of our hearts towards the lands that birthed us. Much like a compass needle, we are guided by an unseen force that directs us unwaveringly toward our ancestral homes, just as the needle of a compass points resolutely to the North Star. The same unity and loyalty resonates across races and cultures, compelling people to stand unwaveringly in support of their native lands’ sovereignty and independence.

The Lāhainā wildfires serve as a haunting reminder of the consequences of environmental neglect and the global repercussions of a changing climate. Nāwahī’s timeless words remind us that it is our kuleana, our profound responsibility, to safeguard our ‘āina from the forces that threaten it. Decolonizing industry practices is not just a call to action, but a commitment to honor the wisdom of our kūpuna (ancestors) who thrived through the sustainable ahupua’a system.

Just as my kūpuna (ancestors) revered the interconnectedness of āina (land) and kai (sea) , so too must we weave that reverence into the fabric of our actions today. The recovery of Lāhainā must be an endeavor led by Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Native Hawaiians), with their wisdom at the forefront and the federal government as a steadfast ally in amplifying our efforts. A profound shift towards sustainable practices that prioritize the land, water, and communities is a necessity, not an option.

Nāwahī’s words resonate with the resilience that Lāhainā, Maui, and all of Hawai’i’s people embody. The fire-prone landscapes of Nevada parallel the risks Hawaii faces, and the lessons from Lahaina are a guiding light for our desert home. Just as Hawaii seeks to diversify its economy beyond tourism, so too does Nevada have the potential to transition from harmful methane gas dependency to a clean, sustainable future that nurtures both kanaka people and honua.

Our economies are intertwined with our environment, our culture, and our people. The lessons of Lāhainā are universal; they implore us to cast aside outdated models that compromise our future, and embrace practices that embody the essence of aloha āina. Just as the fire burned away the invasive grasslands in Lāhainā, so can our collective efforts reshape the landscape of Nevada, fostering thriving ecosystems and sustainable prosperity.

Nāwahī’s words remind us that the aloha āina (love for the land) within us is a beacon of hope. Just as the magnetic needle of a compass guides us unerringly, so does our love for the land propel us towards a brighter future. We must heed the rallying call of Lāhainā, the once proud capitol of the Hawaiian kingdom, utilizing tradition and innovation, culture and science, to propel us toward a resilient, sustainable world.

As I stand between my lands of Hawaii and Nevada, I see the power of lōkahi (unity) in diversity. Let us draw inspiration from the strength of Lāhainā’s recovery and infuse it into every aspect of our lives, our policies, and our actions. Let us kindle the flames of resilience, recognizing that just as the fires of destruction have the power to transform, so do our actions have the power to forge a sustainable, united future.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Dillon Livae is an indigenous Hawaiian-Micronesian activist and Digital Organizer for the Nevada Conservation League, who was born and raised on the island of Oahu.



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