From September 1 to 10, the people of the state of Hawai‘i welcomed more than 10,000 people from around the world — delegates to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC) — to Honolulu for what is commonly referred to as “the Olympics of conservation and environment.”
The Congress, entitled “Planet at the Crossroads,” was held for the first time in the United States, and making it even more special, the location was Hawai‘i. With the WCC being held in Hawai‘i, members of the HPU ‘ohana along with the larger community of the state, had the amazing opportunity to showcase the Hawaiian Islands and its leadership in conservation.
An opening ceremony to kick off the WCC highlighted Hawaiian culture and practices. The chanters and dancers represented hālau from Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Māui and Hawai‘i. Director of Tax and Financial Compliance Jory Cummins, Kumu Hula of hālau Na Pualei o Likolehua, was a chanter in the opening (31:30 to 50:50; then 2:54:19) and closing (at 1:52:40) ceremonies of the WCC; (see Star-Advertiser story and gallery of photos.) Cummins said “it was not only such an honor to participate with such great cultural practitioners, but to be a part of something with such global impact.”
Jory Cummins, front row, third from left
Representing Hawai‘i Pacific University, an affiliate member of IUCN, Associate Professor of Environmental Science Regina Ostergaard-Klem, Ph.D., worked with the WCC host committee to provide a range of opportunities for HPU students, faculty, staff, and alumni, representing colleges and departments from across the university, to participate in the Congress. In turn, student and faculty volunteers received passes to attend WCC sessions. Many students from Environmental Science and Studies programs took advantage of the opportunity to learn about environmental efforts at the national and international levels as well as network with local organizations.
High level sessions included world-renowned speakers such as Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson. WCC also included hundreds of workshops and panel and roundtable discussions. Associate Professor of Oceanography David Hyrenbach, Ph.D., took part in one of the panels, entitled “Seabirds at the Crossroads,” presenting his research on seabirds to track ocean pollution.
The activities were non-stop in the Exhibition Hall of the Hawai‘i Convention Center, with a variety of themed pavillions that were free and open to the public. In the Hawaii and Pacific Pavillion, HPU hosted a booth and over several days, more than 35 university faculty, staff and student volunteers provided delegates with information about HPU and its sustainability-related programs and initiatives. Thomas Kohler, Ph.D., Associate Professor Marketing and founder of the Hawai‘i nonprofit travel2change, shared the organization’s mission of “connecting travelers with the local community to create a positive impact.”
Associate Professor of Marketing Thomas Kohler, Ph.D.,
and Biology major Polly Miller, manning the HPU booth
HPU students also volunteered directly with IUCN, serving in various capacities to facilitate operation of the event. For Emily Macri, an MA/GLSD student who volunteered as a quote capturer, “it was empowering to sit in a crowd of individuals from all around the world who are really striving to make a difference for our planet.” She also described her experience as a quote capturer “like a big melting pot of knowledge in one room. The gathering of such a diverse group of environmental leaders enabled me to see that it is now 100% possible to tackle these problems on a larger scale.”
Tim Fallis, Assistant Professor, Department of Communications, and MA/COM program chair, also participated. Fallis and his students worked in the press center and as quote capturers. Fallis said “all the students were delighted to be there, and soak in what was being discussed and what people are trying to do to protect the environment.” The most exciting thing for him was “to see that there are so many really smart people who are donating their time and money doing amazing things.”
Two MA in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development students, Delphine Homerowski and Rachel Sherman, in their roles as interns for Susty Pacific, collected data at the Congress to certify it as a Green event. They worked with HPU alumnus Kristopher Wee (MA GLSD ’16), Sustainability Manager for Susty Pacific.
Through HPU’s affiliate membership, Ostergaard-Klem was able to sit in on the Members’ Assembly. The assembly included discussion focused on the establishment of IUCN mandates and the election of the IUCN Council and President. Klem said “to witness the negotiation process was an enlightening and exciting experience.” The motions that are passed at WCC provide guidance and direction to international negotiations for the next four years. “It was a chance to see history being made on environmental policies like marine protected areas, wildlife trafficking, and economic valuation of natural resources,” she added.
Additionally, HPU had the opportunity to invite WCC delegate Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Vice President for Conservation Policy at Conservational International, to campus. Rodriguez served as the guest speaker of HPU’s September 7 Presidential Lecture Series on Global Leadership and Sustainability, made possible through a grant from Hawaiian Electric Industries. Rodriguez, who was previously the Minister of Environment and Energy for the Republic of Costa Rica, told the inspirational story of Costa Rica — once a poor, underdeveloped nation — rising to become one of Central America’s strongest economies while maintaining its natural resources.
Dr. Sylvia Earle and MA in Global Leadership
and Sustainable Development student Gabby Lout
Overall, hosting the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai‘i was a success. The shared knowledge and insights from international leaders made the event a learning experience for all. The presence of HPU was helpful in exposing the progressive work that is done at the University in terms of sustainability. Hosting the WCC in Hawai’i was the perfect place to spark awareness and spread knowledge of the delicate ecosystems that surround us. Truly, bringing the IUCN WCC to O‘ahu provided a solid framework for tackling environmental issues from an international level, which is ultimately what our future depends on.