Today, we began bright and early. We left the hotel at 5:30 to attend the unofficial opening ceremony: the arrival of state delegates in traditional Vakas (canoes). Because of inclement weather (there are multiple hurricanes in the Pacific), the arrival was canceled. But everything else was business as usual. We pushed on with the other ceremonial activities, even in the midst of some heavy wind. The sky was clear and beautiful while the wind rumbled like thunder around the beach. I thought it was drums at first. Those who attended (there were surprisingly few of us, maybe 150 or so) got to witness a beautiful ritual ceremony. The state delegates asked permission to enter Hawaii by presenting gifts of nature to a man, who then arranged them on the sand in front of him.
The state delegates than spoke to the crowd. Today, the planet at the crossroads was repeatedly emphasized. Speakers discussed the sustainable initiatives that governments and individuals have taken and how our future is optimistic. Instead of emphasizing our failures, the speakers emphasized the unity of earth’s peoples and how we can come together and make a change. Another big theme of the day was community.
Hawaii’s state model is the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. I think this motto is rather fitting for a state hosting the WCC. The life of the land is disappearing and this disappearance won’t be stopped without the intervention of righteous people. Today, we heard from righteous people, people trying to implement and promote change. They reminded us of our moral obligation to protect the environment. They reminded us of our moral obligation to our ancestors and to future generations.
We heard from many important politicians: the governor of Hawaii David Ige, the president of Palau Tommy Remengesau, the president of the Federation of States of Micronesia Peter Christian, and many more. They reminded us that the Pacific Islands is on the front lines of climate change. There are more hurricanes and cyclones than ever before. The coral reefs are disappearing and Islands are being washed away. But, they were not pessimistic. Today, the first day of the conference, was filled with hope and promise. I learned that if we stand together, anything is possible.
COP21 Paris 2015 & WCC 2016
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Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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