‘At a crossroads’

KALAHEO — Humanity is all sitting in one canoe and it’s imperative everyone rows together in order for the Earth to stay afloat.

That was the main takeaway Melissa Fisher got from the week she spent at the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress held on Oahu. The event began Sept. 1 and runs through Saturday.

“It was an awe-inspiring event, to have everyone share tools and knowledge and insight, and to learn from each other,” Fisher said. “To have the world come to Hawaii was amazing.”

Fisher, who works with The Nature Conservancy, was back on Kauai on Wednesday to help with the Kauai Conservation Expo hosted by the Kauai Conservation Alliance in conjunction with the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.

The event in McBryde Gardens attracted about 300 people and boasted nearly 30 organizations that highlighted Kauai conservation efforts.

Ulalia Woodside, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, was the keynote speaker and was joined at the mic by Chipper Wichman, chief executive officer of NTBG.

“As a planet we are at a crossroads. We have jacked up our homeland,” Woodside said. “It’s time for us to do an overturn, to have a change.”

She related that change to the regeneration that comes after a volcano erupts and lava has wiped out all that existed.

“We need to tap into the regenerative energy we have,” Woodside said.

People had the chance to chat with Jan TenBruggencate, board chairman of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Helen Cox, chancellor of Kauai Community College; and Ben Sullivan, energy and sustainability manager at the County of Kauai.

Carolyn Price, senior at Island School, was particularly interested in talking with the nonprofit Zero Waste Kauai, as well as with the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation about reducing polystyrene use on the island.

Her goal is to come up with methods of increasing the landfill diversion rate.

“I’m doing a senior thesis project on ultimately banning Styrofoam (on Kauai),” Price said.

NTBG’s Breadfruit Institute was what caught the eye of Mary Jane Burger, from Wailua, and its effort to feed the world’s hungry people with the fruit.

“What a beautiful idea, feeding the hungry with breadfruit,” Burger said. “I had no idea that one tree will feed a family of four and it’ll grow for years.”

Hawaii is full of those “cutting-edge” ideas, Wichman said, because the state is so biodiverse, and many of those species are endemic to Hawaii.

“We could be the world’s worst example or we could be the world’s best example,” Wichman said.

It’ll take a blend of science, culture and community to set that best example, Wichman said, and he illustrated the idea with a Venn diagram.

“Science, culture and community (come together), and it’s that sweet spot in the middle,” Wichman said.

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