New group to promote education, awareness of changing climate

PUHI — Talking about climate change as a way to generate awareness and solutions is the goal of a new Kauai hui, the Kauai Climate Literacy Initiative.

“The goal is to increase climate literacy — both to help mitigation and adaptation efforts locally,” said Ben Sullivan, energy and sustainability manager at County of Kauai.

The group was established a little over a year ago when a group of people came together to “commiserate over the fate of the world,” according to John Latekiewicz, of Hawaii Small Business Development Center.

“Each of us has our own perspective and are all united in the idea of climate change being a serious issue,” Latekiewicz said. “And we’re all trying to figure out how to move forward.”

Latekiewicz and Sullivan partnered with Helen Cox, chancellor of Kauai Community College as well as Steve Taylor and Benjamin Katz from KCC; Jan Tenbruggencate associated independently and as a member of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board; and Malia Nobrega-Olivera, of Hawai’inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

The group aired its debut demonstration in an hour-long session with the KCC sustainability club on Wednesday, and opened the door to student involvement.

“Students here at KCC and at Island School helped with the video for the presentations,” Cox said. “So we’ve already got some students involved, but we’d love more.”

The video showcases people who live and work on Kauai and how climate change has affected their daily lives.

Most of the 15-20 students in the sustainability club meeting were eager to discuss the contributions to climate change — from local food production to carbon emissions.

“But how do we get community input and let the community know that we’re even trying to lower emissions,” asked Tori Jimie Craig, a KCC student.

Sullivan said that’s the mission of the Kauai Climate Literacy Initiative.

“It’s definitely something I’m interested in helping out with,” Craig said.

Keahi Lopes, KCC student, suggested starting right away with the students at KCC by interweaving topics like climate change and sustainability into classes and by requiring every major to contain at least one class on the subject.

“Connecting green energy and sustainability to all majors will make an impact,” Lopes said. “All majors can benefit from sustainability.”

With the students on board, Cox said that’s a realistic goal.

“You, the students, have so much power,” she said. “At this age in your lives, you’re in your golden years and people in power listen to you.”

Along with voicing their vision for addressing climate change and caring for the land, students agreed to help with the hour-long presentation created by the Kauai Climate Literacy Initiative.

Involving the students is imperative when it comes to the goal of having open, interactive discussions about climate change; but involvement from the County of Kauai is also necessary.

Sullivan got the endorsement of the county when he joined the hui partly because Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., has directed his office to develop a Climate Action Plan and the hui is a good way to get community feedback.

“We’re not experts. We just want to help people talk and think about the many issues that climate change raises so that, as a community, we can be more effective in our response to this challenge,” Sullivan said.

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