"A'ohe hana nui ka alu'ia..." (No task is too big when done together.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bittersweet Ending: 7/11/14

Mālama 'Āina Field School Ho'ike

 As the weeks went by in this program our class became an 'ohana. This unique summer experience not only filled us with knowledge but also helped us form friendships with the people we met. Through our field experiences we used teamwork and genuinely had fun, being able to work outdoors and do things that benefited the 'āina without us even knowing.  Through this program, we made friendships and memories that will last forever. As a student, I feel a bittersweet sensation when knowing this program has come to an end. My classmates and I didn't want it to end, yet we were eager to use the things we learned and apply it to our own lives. Being able to share this remarkable summer with my friends and devoted teachers has really made my summer one to remember.

PVT Landfill, Solar Farm in Ewa Beach, and Hawaiian Earth Products: 7/9/14

Tour of PVT, Kalaeloa Solar Farm, and Hawaiian Earth Products 

Today's field experience was packed with tours of three different places. The first place was PVT Landfill up Lualualei Naval  road. We were guided around the site by Mr. Ben Yama, an employee at PVT. He taught us that PVT isn't just a landfill that buries municipal waste and pollutes the earth. PVT is a landfill that only accepts construction debris. They also check every piece of material to make sure the chemicals in them aren't harmful to the 'āina. Mr. Ben introduced us to the different machines that were part of an effort to start recycling materials at the landfill in order to be more active in helping the environment. He went on to talk about how they hire employees preferably from west coast because they feel it is a way for us to give back to the community. Learning how PVT is a local company that recycles and cares for the environment really astonished us.

The next stop was at a Solar Farm in Ewa Beach. We were shown around by Mr. Larry Greene who taught us that the farm was built around an old military runway that was also a key battlefield in the attacks of Dec. 7, 1941. It was important that  before they developed on the land, they know the history of the place out of respect for the people who were once there. With that in mind, the company that built this farm spent extra money on cement blocks to drill every solar panel onto so they wouldn't make any holes in the ground. He went on to explain that this solar farm was a multi-million dollar plan that consisted of 5.91 megawatts of energy (a single megawatt can power 240-400 homes!). It was neat seeing rows and rows of these energy efficient devices that are so helpful to the environment.

Our last tour was at Hawaiian Earth Products in Kalaeloa. Hawaiian Earth Products is a facility that recycles organic materials to turn them into fertilizer for people to use. Two employees gave us the tour and taught us that they are partnered with the city and county and that all the green waste bins are delivered to them. They take green waste from anyone who is willing to give as well. They also explained that they allow people to purchase compost straight from their facility (it is also cheaper). We were educated on a brand of fertilizer that they produce called Menehune Magic. It is a mix of organic nutrients that they make there.  We were all impressed at how smart they were in recycling materials and using them towards a purpose that would benefit our environment.

This experience really made us aware of all the different efforts people around us are making to help the environment. Being introduced to all these places help us connect what we are learning in class about being sustainable to the different jobs that require all of this knowledge. Jobs that are right in our community! Touring these places truly gave us an introduction to the different careers in environmental sciences.   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ka Papa Lo'i o Kanewai: 7/7/14

Ka Papa Lo'i o Kānewai at UH Mānoa 

Ka Papa Lo'i o Kānewai is a cultural learning center and lo'i at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. It was our second Saturday field trip and a very memorable one. Located in the ahupua'a of Waikiki, Ka Papa Lo'i o Kanewai was discovered by UH students in the 1980's. They noticed an auwai (canal) in the overgrown area and began to clear the space. The lo'i got its name from the mo'olelo of a spring made by the two brothers: Kane and Kaneloa. Over the years, this place was develpoed into an old style Hawaiian village and used to educate students on the Hawaiian culture. Later, Ka Papa Lo'i o Kanewai also became Hawai'inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

When we first arrived there, we immediately went to work, peeling kalo (taro) along with other college students/volunteers. For many of us, it was our first time handling kalo. We had to make sure that we kept everything clean and sanitary when it came to touching the kalo because for the Hawaiians, preparing kalo isn't just a physical action but also a spiritual experience. This moment really highlighted the importance of sustaining our culture because being able to hold something as precious and culturally significant as kalo really motivated us to keep our thoughts positive so the mana (power) we would be putting into the kalo would be pono (righteous).

Afterwards, we got our hands into the 'āina and started gathering leaves and stepping on them, pushing them to the bottom of the lo'i. This was to return the nutrients back into the soil since the kalo was recently harvested. The mud in the lo'i cold and thick. Pushing the leaves down into the soil was amusing because it even though the lo'i had an unpleasant scent, we wondered how it produced something as delicious and treasured as poi.  We then picked off any weeds on growing kalo in case they were stealing any nutrients. We also got to take home kalo we previously prepared earlier in the day.

We got to rinse off in Kane and Kaneloa's freshwater spring!

This field experience really showed us the importance of sustaining our culture. To be a part of a cultural practice and learning how to keep traditions really got us thinking on how we can pass our mana'o (knowledge) on to our children. We knew at the moment we learned all of this new information that it was our jobs as natives to carry on the message and to make sure that the aloha spirit never dies.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Loko Ea Fishpond: 6/30/2014

Loko Ea Fishpond in Hale'iwa

Loko Ea fishpond in Hale'iwa is a perfect example of natives making an effort to restore traditional Hawaiian practices to be sustainable and protect the 'āina. Originally, Loko Ea was used to cultivate native Hawaiian fish which was then distributed along the north shore. Their main goal is to return to that way of living. Our Mālama 'Āina Field School felt so honored that they could be a part of this endeavor.

For now, their primary focus is to clear the fishpond of any unattractive invasive weeds. The major problem is the California grass. We got into the mud with our pick axes and shovels and went to work, pounding its sides and extracting it from the roots. This was to prevent any future sprouting. The rest formed an assembly line, passing down the hefty lumps of grass mixed with mud and tossing it into a pile that would then be used to make compost. Getting dirty in the mud and yanking out invasive species was a blast! To many of us, this was by far the best field trip yet.

Later, Ms. Napua and Mr. Ikaika gave us a lesson on how to properly throw a fish net into the pond. This was important because it is a traditional method of catching fish, rather than the modern way. We practiced on the ground and found that it was much more difficult than it seems. But with a little practice, we got the hang of it. Mr. Ikaika gave us a preview of what it would actually look like by throwing the net near the shore so we could observe . We were ecstatic when we found that he caught two invasive tilapias. 

Our visit to Loko Ea really inspired us. It made us aware that there are many people who not only care about the environment but also involving the Hawaiian culture and setting that example and mindset for their entire community. It was enlightening to see that these people have so much passion towards the things they do and how they pass their knowledge on to the younger generations.

Anchialine Fish Ponds in Kalaeloa & Barber's Point Beach: 7/1/14

Anchialine Fish Ponds in Kalaeloa & Barber's Point Beach

What is an Anchialine Fish Pond? An Anchialine Fish Pond is a unique ecosystem found in Hawaii. They are a mixture of salt and fresh water, although there is no direct contact with the ocean or any freshwater stream. The ocean water seeps through crevices in the lava rock and rain water runs off into the pond. These ponds are homes to the endemic 'Opae 'Ula (red shrimp) and our field school was fortunate enough to visit them.  

Today, 'Opae 'Ula is a rare and endangered species because of invasive predators and destruction of their habitat. We were led through the ponds and grounds at Kalaeloa by Dr. James Kwon and the team at the refuge. We were able to collect water quality samples from the ponds and from the beach tide pools. They also allowed us to capture and count 'Opae 'Ula that were about the size of a paperclip. Legends state that 'Opae 'Ula was so abundant in the past, that the water used to appear red. We hope that if we mālama these ponds enough, that legend can become true.

Later, in the afternoon, we went to Barber's Point Beach to discuss plankton and phytoplankton (plankton consisting of microscopic plants). Ms. Anuschka and Ms. Trisha from Kahikai, a non-profit marine science organization taught us about their importance. We used a new technology called cellscopes to examine different types of plankton. We did this using our ipads and were able to get videos and pictures of these tiny yet magnificent creatures. We found them to be so neat because even thought they are so small, they supply 50% of the world's oxygen.

Today, we learned how much of a difference small beings like phytoplankton and 'Opae 'Ula can make. This lesson not only introduced us to these spectacular plants and animals but also taught us that even the smallest creatures can make the biggest difference.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wai'anae Forest Reserve

Wai'anae Forest Reserve

The Wai'anae Forest Reserve is another example of an effort to save our forests. We were greeted by Ms. Yumi and Ms. Michaela from the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership at the bottom gates in Wai'anae valley and then walked five minutes into the reserve.

Ms. Michaela gave us a brief description of the work that they were doing there and how we could help. She started off by talking to us about the invasive Koa Haole trees (stacked in the background of the picture above) that were taking over our forests. She explained that they were the number one problem for this area and they are what we would be cutting down. She then went on to talk about the out planting of native plants they were doing with the cleared space. 



Afterwards, we were assigned very laborious work. We were supplied with hand saws and gloves then went to work, cutting down invasive Koa Haole trees and stacking them in rows on the side. The trees towered above us. We were driven to take them down. We admit that sawing through a 2-5 inch in diameter Koa Haole tree trunk and then watching it fall was a satisfying feeling. It was a symbolized our fight against invasive species and our love for the natives. The work was hard, but we were filled with content in the end because we knew that the work we did was to protect our 'āina from the aggressive alien species.

To end the day, Ms. Michaela gave us a tour of the reserve. We got to look at all the native plants that were planted by the students of Mililani Middle School. We were amazed with the work that was done and how a forest of horrendous non-native species can be turned into a resplendent place of Hawaiian plants and cleaner air. At that moment, we realized that we didn't mind the hard work. We knew it would be turned into a well-formed native forest that our keiki (children) would later mālama (take care of).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Native Cultural Learning Center at Ka'ala & Kipuka: 6/24/14

Kipuka Forest Reserve

Located deep in Wai'anae Valley, the Kipuka forest reserve is a portion of the five percent native dry forests that remain intact today. We were welcomed by Dr. Bruce who taught us the importance of restoring these rare native forests.

Hawaii's native dry forests are close to extinction for a number of reasons. The first being invasive species. Invasive species can do a number of things, including stealing water, sunlight, and crowding native plants. Another is human activity such as modernization and littering. Dr. Bruce asked that we keep in mind that Wai'anae is our home. As natives to Hawai'i, it is only right that our people are responsible for increasing the percentage of these forests, taking care of our 'āina, and cherishing what we have left of these dry forests.

After Dr. Bruce's talk, we were put to work. We broke up into groups of three and was then assigned an area to clear weeds and lay down a weed mat. Raking the invasive species and yanking them out of the ground was tiring, but we powered through it for the love our our 'āina. 

Later, we had to ask for our plant that we wanted to outplant by it's Hawaiian name. Planting a native plant that would then grow into a massive tree in the future was an exciting experience because we knew that we did our job as natives.

Last, Dr. Bruce gave us a tour of the Cultural Learning Center at Ka'ala. We were presented with a stunning view of rows of lo'i patches, an abundance of native plants, and a panoramic sight of the ocean. Being there was like going 300 years into the past, when the only people who lived here was Hawaiians who lived off the land. We found it amazing that there is a place like this in our own community. We felt more prideful of our culture, seeing how ravishing our land can be and that it is quite possible to keep these sacred grounds in tact.