The fiery archipelago of Hawaii is one of the most fascinating places I have visited. The islands’ stunning landscapes contain high levels of endemism. Walking around the sprawling metropolis of Honolulu, bright, fragrant flowers attract colorful birds with rounded narrow beaks. Diversity in nature intersects diversity in culture as Polynesian traditions blend with Filipino and Japanese influence.
Conservation International’s (CI) field office in Hawaii works with local communities and policy makers. Community stewardship and cultural traditions that incorporate appreciation and preservation of the land and sea are at the center of the conservation practice here. I am inspired by the work of my colleagues and as a practitioner of community-based resource management, I hope to emulate their success engaging with local communities to revive custodianship through the celebration of cultural practices.
As a CBE Fellow, my internship with CI focuses on the Coral Triangle, a biodiversity hotspot located in the Indo-Pacific. Known for its tropical marine ecosystems the region boasts the world’s highest diversity of mangroves, seagrass, and corals. These resources are severely under threat due to climate change, coastal development, and over-exploitation. CI and partners in the region have been supporting communities in the Coral Triangle for over a decade. While progress has been made in creating the enabling environment for environmental conservation the pressure on natural resources is unabated. Conservation of the marine environment varies from one signatory to another under the Coral Triangle Initiative; the least resourced countries are protecting less than 1% of their marine environment while power players like the Philippines are still below 2% protection of their marine area. This is far below commitments under the global Convention on Biological Diversity. Mobilization of community-based resource management is the goal of an Innovation Lab that I am helping to design with CI. The event will take place in Bali and we are looking outside of the normal scope of conservation practice, hoping to exeptate from the business, international development, and social enterprise to break the model for conservation.