129 nations — 9,000+ participants
The World Conservation Congress opened this morning in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The recent announcement of the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea into the largest protected area in the world lent the event a celebratory mood. The host country greeted participants to epic traditional hula dances describing the history and nature of the Hawaiian islands. Unfortunately, President Obama was not in attendance. He’d spoken to a smaller group the night before at the East-West Center but had to move on to Midway Island. We had his greeting read out by the IUCN President, Zhang Xinsheng. Later, Erik Solheim, Director of the United Nations Environment Program, quipped that the proclamation “reminds me how much we will miss this President when he leaves office.”
Hawaiian words were often employed during the event to express ideas, sometimes in fuller terms than can be used in English. Other than aloha and mahalo, the most common word was kuleana. Translated to mean responsibility, a quick scan of online sources suggests that kuleana is something much deeper, extending to the value of responsibility. It seems kuleana is not just about accepting responsibility, but seeing it as a privilege. The word resonates for me with our notions of stewardship.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was introduced as the “Steward-in-Chief…of approximately 20% of the United States.” She responded that, “every day I think of my work as being in the forever business.” She recognized the Centennial of the National Park Service, and later pointed to “evidence that we are beginning to plan and think and work at a broader landscape scale…the path to our sustainable future means pulling up to a larger landscape level.”
The President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, set the bar high for future conservation targets. He described how his country has set aside 80% of its Exclusive Economic Zone as no-take marine reserves. Returning to the theme of Papahānaumokuākea he said, “Good start, President Obama. When you protect 80% of your EEZ, then the United States will be ready to join the big leagues!”