Geography, History, Culture,
and Ecology of Islands in the Eastern Pacific
Students research the geography, history, and culture of any of
the remote islands that will visited by Hokule'a--the Marquesas,
Mangareva (Gambier Islands), Pitcairn, Rapa Nui, Rangiroa (Tuamotu Archipelago),
and Tahiti. Research will be a challenge, as reports on these islands are
neither numerous nor widely disseminated.
One of the themes of the voyage is sustainable living--on a canoe, on
small islands in an ocean, on the planet earth, a small island in space:
thus, a focus of research could be ecology and subsistence on small islands.
A. How have communities lived on these islands in the past? How
did the Polynesians manage their resources to survive and flourish for ten
or twenty or thirty centuries on their small islands? What cultural values
and resouce management strategies did they use? What was the state of the
different islands groups visited by European explorers, beginning in the
sixteenth century? Were all the islands equally successful in protecting
and conserving resources? What was the minimum land-base area needed to
sustain a Polynesian settlement? What were the
factors that brought about Rapa Nui's "tree-less" landscape?
What kinds of lessons can we learn from the histories of these islands?
What has happened to Hawai'i's forests since the coming of the Western economic
systems. What is being done to restore and manage Hawai'i's
forests. Are these steps sufficient?
B. How do communities live on small islands today? The small islands
of the world have come under extreme pressures of modern Capitalism's expansion
of population, consumption, and waste production and pollution. Many are
suffering from environmental degradation and overcrowding. They are also
in danger of losing land mass to rising seas that may be caused by the melting
of the polar icecaps under global warming. Could these islands, like the
canoe itself, be microcosms of the planet? Have they begun to manage the
problems of limited resources and limited space and overconsumption and
waste? If so, how? Are the industrial nations of the world doing anything
about their wasteful consumption habits or the pollution that may be causing
global warming? If so, what?
C. Taking Care of the World's Oceans: Students research
ocean environmental issues such as pollution in the world's ocean,
or why the stocks of ocean fisheries are declining today, and what steps
are being taken to maintain a sustainable yield (One place to start the
research of fishing is with Michael Parfit's article "Exploiting the
Ocean's Bounty: Diminishing Returns" (National Geographic November
1995: 2-37.) Other Topics: Damage to/Loss of Coral Reef Habitats due to
Global Warming, Pollution, and Human Use; Pollution of the World's Oceans
from Shipping: Garbage and Oil Slicks Accumulating in Areas such as the
Equatorial Doldrums. (See the Website
for the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme [SPREP].)
D. Cultural Revival: Students research and write about the
devastation of Polynesian population, cultures, and landscapes after the
arrival of European and American explorers, imperialists, and colonialists;
they could research the modern political and cultural movements to restore
native culture and sovereignty in islands that have become colonies of Europe
and America. For information and links about Hawaiian sovereignty, see the Nation of Hawai'i Website.
E. Malama Hawai'i? Students apply their ideas
about living on islands to our island home: What is unique and special about
our island home? What steps do we need to take today to protect what is
unique and special? What could students do, or what have they done, to insure
that their children and grandchildren and future generations will enjoy
those things we love about Hawai'i today? What resources are being consumed
daily in the communities where they live? What resources are renewable?
unrenewable? What steps would they take to insure that the resources they
have would be available to their children, grandchildren, and future generations
in perpetuity? What groups in their communities have been active in working
for a sustainable future? What kinds of potential conflicts are there in
the community? How can these conflicts be resolved?
Possible Activities: Students do a project to restore,
care for, enhance, or protect some part of Hawai'i's unique and precious
heritage, environment, or community. See "Our Sacred Earth" and
"Malama Hawai'i Projects" in this education packet.