Hawaiian Concepts to Know and Practice
Hawaii is a natural paradise. It is physically stunning and has as close to the perfect climate as you can find. But Hawaii is more than this, it is also its beautiful people, people who have evolved a way of life, a way of being that keeps the focus on being connected and in harmony with all things. Paradise is beautiful nature, climate, and righteous, loving people.
The native Hawaiian concepts of pono, aloha, aina, ohana, and mana are the essence of every good thing humans have ever aspired to. To embrace these concepts is to find peace and honor in life.
Pono, in the Hawaiian thought, means righteousness and being in perfect balance with all things in life. It means doing what is morally right and unselfish. Being pono means you live with integrity.
Pono means you are in harmony with your custodial relationship with the earth—that your stewardship of the land leaves it better than you found it so that future generations can enjoy the resources that were gifted to you in your lifetime and during your stewardship.
Pono means that you have a proper respectful relationship with your parents, spouse or significant other, with your children, your extended family members, and with your co-workers. Pono means that your relationships with others are just and fair and untainted by anger, jealousy, resentment or any negative energy.
In truth, every action in life is either pono, or not—your assignment is to be pono in all things. If each of us really aspired to be pono—a pono guardian of the earth, a pono daughter or son, a pono spouse, friend, co-worker, employer, government servant—what a different world this would be.
Aloha, in Hawaiian thought, means love and everything that comes along with it: peace, empathy, compassion, mercy, grace… People don’t just say, “Aloha”—they live with aloha, work with aloha, drive with aloha, surf with aloha . . . Aloha is the guideline of how to live. A life of Aloha is one when your heart is so full, you have the ability to connect with others around you. The aloha spirit is a part of everything in Hawaii.
Aina means land. Hawaiians are deeply and passionately connected with the land, thus, respecting it and living pono on it are of the utmost importance. The concept was based on the premise that everything a community needed to survive and thrive could be found from nature. This concept is further described in the section directly below, Mālama I Ka ‘Āina I (Respect and Care for the Land)
Ohana means family, not just your family of origin or your nuclear family; it extends to other groups of people with whom you have a bond: friends, neighbors, people in your community and in your workplace … The idea is that family and friends, and by extension, all people, are bound together, that we must work together and not forget each other—because we are all part of the same family.
Mana in Hawaiian, means power, in the sense that there is a life energy, a healing power flowing through all things. To have mana is to have the power to perform well in life. A person can gain or lose mana in everything they do—if you live with aloha and are pono, you gain mana. Mana is an external as well as an internal thing, for example, certain sites in the Hawaiian Islands are believed to possess strong mana. The Iao Valley and the top rim of the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui are believed to be locations of strong mana.
Mālama I Ka ‘Āina
Respect and Care for the Land
Coral reefs occupy only 0.2% of the world’s oceans, yet are home to a quarter of all marine species; crustaceans, reptiles, seaweeds, bacteria, fungi, and over 4,000 species of fish make their home in coral reefs. They are believed to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet—even more than a tropical rainforest.
Environmental degradation and human misuse, coral bleaching, overfishing, abusive fishing techniques, anchor damage, algae blooms, coastal development, global warming, and careless tourism are some of the problems impacting coral reefs. Ten percent of coral reefs have already been damaged beyond repair, and if we continue with business as usual, WRI projects that 90% of coral reefs will be in danger by 2030, and all of them by 2050.
Sunscreens Are Killing Hawai’i’s Coral Reefs
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 8.9 million visitors came to the Hawaiian Islands in 2016, a 3 percent increase from 2015. This translates to about 220,000 visitors in the state on any given day. Maui visitors increased by 3.9% to 2.6 million. That’s an extra 100,000 more people here than in 2015, which was itself, a record breaking year.=
All these visitors come to Hawaii to enjoy activities in the tropical sunshine and need protection from its intensity. What we have learned recently, however, is that as people protect themselves from sun damage, the sunblock products dump thousands and thousands of gallons of sunscreen into our nearshore waters, damaging and even killing Hawaii’s coral reefs. The situation is becoming critical.
Research studies now show a direct correlation between coral mortality and sunscreen ingredients. As a visitor to Maui, you can reduce the risk of harming coral by taking a more reef friendly approach to sun protection. Please check the ingredients labels of sunscreen products—some manufactures claim to be reef safe when they are not. The best way to know what to buy is to check the ingredients list and avoid those with oxybenzone, the chemical that has been scientifically proven to harm coral reefs. It is also best to avoid butylparaben, octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor. Instead, look for mineral based active ingredients like Zinc and Titanium Dioxide. These are natural mineral ingredients and have not been found harmful to corals.
You can also protect yourself and the reef by ‘covering-up.’ Wear hats, sunglasses, and light, long-sleeved clothing to protect you. In the water, a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard will help prevent sunburn.
Even if you are not going in the ocean, sunscreen gets into the sea by other means. Many sunscreen ingredients are readily absorbed through the skin and can be detected in urine within 30 minutes of application. When you flush the toilet or wash off sunscreen in the shower, chemicals from the lotion enter the sewer, septic and other systems and end up in the ocean.
There is an old Hawaiian saying, “From the mountains to the sea,” that reflects the Hawaiian Islands’ unique mountain-to-sea ecosystems. Ancient Hawaiian life was based on these, the “na ahupua’a”, land divisions extending from the volcanic ridges and upland tropical forests to the fringing coral reefs and the ocean beyond. The na ahupua’a were ruled by an Ali’i, or chief who assigned the sections to families and communities.
The concept was based on the premise that everything a community needed to survive and thrive could be found in these strips: food from the land and from the sea, fresh water, plants that are medicinal, create clothing, make canoes and build shelter, and resources that build religious sites. Ancient Hawaiians knew that what you do upland, finds its way to the reef and the ocean, and that whatever happens on the reef and in the ocean impacts everyone and everything upland.
Remember, if it’s on your skin, it’s on the reef. Take only pictures, leave only bubbles!