Food security, sustainable energy, Native Hawaiian culture a priority for Hawaii non-profits

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—In the first week of the 2011 Legislative Session, the priorities for achieving a more sustainable future in Hawaii are already apparent. Ending Hawaii’s over-dependence on imported food and oil, as well as basic respect for indigenous knowledge and traditional practices as a component of environmental protection dominated the latest meeting of the Environmental Legislative Network (ELN).

“The time is now to make fundamental changes,” said Marti Townsend at the ELN meeting. “This year, Hawaii has a real opportunity to finally flip our dependence on imported food and energy and embrace culturally appropriate management paradigms.”

As the longstanding roundtable of Hawaii-based organizations involved in environmental policy, ELN convened this forum last week at the State Capitol to hear the priorities of more than 20 groups, citizens, and agencies tracking legislation this session. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Caucus of the Hawaii Democratic Party highlighted the need for a system to promote and encourage local agriculture.

The Hawaii Farmers Union and Hawaii School Garden Hui echoed the need for more agricultural education and resilience in Hawaii’s food systems.

“Agriculture is alive in the hearts, minds, and hands of Hawaii’s youth who are experiencing nature through school gardens and other outdoor, applied learning opportunities,” said Hui member Lydi Morgan Bernal. “They are the future farmers and pono stewards of our lands, waters, and communities.”

ELN members recognized that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures, and traditional practices is key to sustainable development and proper management of Hawaii’s environment. Accordingly, ELN members prioritized proposals that addressed fundamental concerns for the rights of Hawaii’s indigenous people.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) identified three environmental priorities, including tightening of the requirements for the sale of state lands; establishing basic training for appointed officials on the rights of Native Hawaiians; and setting minimum requirements for all cultural impact assessments included in environmental impact statements or assessments.

“OHA is committed to safeguarding Hawaii’s land and cultural resources,” said Clyde Nāmu‘o, OHA’s chief executive officer. “This benefits Native Hawaiians and all of the people of Hawaii.”

In addition, groups at the ELN forum highlighted the need to continue support for land conservation funds and to find additional dedicated funding to address invasive species. 

“These funds and programs play a direct roll in protecting the state’s forests and fresh water supply, and prevent invasive species from doing further harm to our economy, environment, and quality of life,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Mark Fox. “We ask the Legislature to continue to recognize that a healthy economy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is dependent on a healthy environment.”

Also at the top of the list for legislative initiatives this session were: reducing plastic bags, improving invasive species controls, protecting endangered species, greater shoreline setbacks, and funding for the Climate Change Taskforce. All of the issues presented at the ELN forum are included in the attached summary of legislative priorities.

ELN members will be using the new Capitol Watch system as a method of tracking bills and resolutions throughout this legislative session.

“We know the legislative process can be opaque to most people,” said Robert Harris of the Sierra Club. “The Capitol Watch is intended to demystify the process so people can follow their passion this legislative session.” The Capitol Watch system is open to the public and available at

To use The Capitol Watch system, click here

ELN Participants

Conservation Council for Hawaii
Environmental Caucus of the Hawaii Democratic Party
Friends of Lanai
Hanalei Watershed Hui
Hawaii Audubon Society
Hawaii Farmers Union
Hawaii School Garden Hui
Hawaii’s Thousand Friends
KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance
Life of the Land
Livable Hawaii Kai Hui
My Organic Mom
Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Pono Aquaculture Alliance
Progressive Democrats
Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter
Surfrider Foundation
The Green House Hawaii
The Nature Conservancy
Trust for Public Land
Voter-Owned Hawaii
Windward Ahupuaa Alliance

To see Hawaii Environmental Network’s 2011 Legislative Priorities, click here