They survived 1,000 years in the middle of the Pacific. And then we arrived.

It's a 1,000-year-old idea we may finally be ready to understand.

There's a place that's got more of everything there is on Earth.

Or there was until Westerners arrived.

It's called the Hawaiian Islands.

Just about any life-form on the planet could find its "sweet spot" there.

Dr. Sam Ohu Gon III, speaking as Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor to The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, explains that there's something really important to learn about what happened when outsiders came in.

When Westerners arrived 300 years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of Hawaiians already having lived on these islands for a millennia, on their own, in the middle of the ocean.


The Hawaiians lived lightly off the islands whose resources they depended on. They used only about 15% of it, and, even so, they were still completely self-sufficient, with nothing they needed from the outside world.

The Hawaiians' belief system was the key.

They saw the islands as having different realms.

Wao kanaka are the lowlands along the shores where people lived. It's where they grew and caught the food they needed.

Wao akua was the uplands above wao kanaka. It was an intensely sacred place where humans had no role in the native forests or the waters that flowed out of it. It's where their ancestor gods, aumakua, lived.

Theirs was a system based on love, not fear.

The Hawaiians believed aumakua could take the form of individual plants and animals, or kinolau. So all the life in wao akua wasn't just plants and animals. It was literally family.

“When your gods are also your family and the elements of nature are their physical presence, your relationship with nature is transformed." — Sam Ohu Gon III

Hawaiians considered themselves actual kin to nature, a much richer way of thinking than viewing yourself of just a consumer.

They believed in aloha, which isn't just “hello" and “goodbye," as it often seems. It's actually the word for empathetic compassion, and it extends beyond the people you care about, to āina, the place you live. Together, aloha āina is a deep appreciation of and love for the features of your land. You're not whole without your place, and its fate is your fate.

To take from the land without thinking of what you're doing to it would be, as Gon says, “a direct and conscious prostitution of not only a family member, but an elder. And what right-thinking person would do that?"

And then Western civilization landed on Hawaii's shores.

A different idea came along with them. Nature to them was a set of resources to be exploited by property owners and purchased by human consumers. The human footprint on Hawaii expanded to 85%, and many of the islands' natural resources were destroyed or used-up. This shows how things changed.

And now the traditional Hawaiian self-reliance is gone.

Modern Hawaiians are now so dependent on imports that if they stopped, it's estimated there'd be famine in just three weeks.

This story should change our attitude.

In it may be the key to us stepping back from the environmental ledge.

Our global climate challenges come from losing sight of our relationship to the ground we stand on, the air we breathe, and seas we sail. By combining aloha āina with modern technology, there's a chance we can set things right. Maybe "aloha āina" isn't just a saying, but instead a practical formula for how we survive on our own little island out in the middle of the ocean of space.

Heroes

Los Angeles is experiencing a homeless epidemic that was years in the making.

Over the past six years, the unhoused population in the city has risen 75 percent. The city's lack of homeless shelters and affordable housing has forced many who can't afford L.A.'s sky-high rents to live on the streets.

According to LAist, since 2000, renter incomes have decreased by 3 percent while rents have gone up 32 percent.

While the city has launched a $100 million-per-year program to help the problem, rapper, entrepreneur, and actor Jaden Smith has found his own way of responding to the crisis: love.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family


Social media may be "ruining society" according to a lot of people's grandparents. But it's also a pretty helpful tool for spotting racists and publicly shaming them. Incidentally, a lot of those racists are also people's grandparents... kinda makes you think, hmmm?

Recently, two elderly white ladies were spotted in a Burger King in Central Florida being racist towards a man who they overheard speaking Spanish. That man turned out to be the manager.

Some nearby customers were filming the incident and posted the video online where it's gone viral. "Go back to Mexico," says one of the women. "If you want to keep speaking Spanish, go back to your Mexican country." She then continues: "this is America. Our main language is English. ... Speak your Mexican at home."

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture