The Center for Pacific Islands Studies (CPIS) recently hosted an international conference on climate change that brought together policy makers, academics, community workers, and students from Hawai‘i and a number of Pacific Island countries. The conference, titled “Waves of Change: Climate Change in the Pacific Islands and Implications for Hawaiʻi,” was held at the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge on the University of Hawaiʻi–Mānoa campus  4–6 April 2013.  In addition to the center’s faculty members, the conference advisory committee included Jerry Finin and Melissa Finucane (East-West Center), Ulla Hassager (Ethnic Studies Department), Joakim Peter (College of Education), Maxine Burkett (Richardson School of Law), and Joshua Cooper (UH West Oʻahu). Several pre-conference programs were designed to initiate discussions around climate-change issues that were explored in more depth during the conference. A seminar and film series included a range of faculty members, students, activists, researchers, and community members.
Students from Kaimukī High School’s (KHS) Imua Program participated in a curriculum to prepare for the conference. Their participation was academic and practical and is described in a separate article by Jocelyn Howard. The curriculum was created and taught by community leaders and faculty and students from the  UH Mānoa and KHS under the leadership of Nelson Ikaika Fernandez (Pālolo Science Discovery Center), James Skouge and Joakim Peter (UHM College of Education), Leslie Harada and Lisa Shimokawa (STEM and Imua, KHS), Lola Quan Bautista, and Ulla Hasager. In addition to the academic and media-learning outcomes, the high school participation helped to strengthen relationships among Pacific Islander youth groups.
Minister Tony de Brum, Senator J Kalani English, and Tarcisius Kabutaulaka with Kaimukī High School students at the keynote address, photo by Leonard Leon.
The conference began with a keynote address by the Honorable Tony de Brum, Minister and Assistant to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Minister de Brum highlighted the need for global action to address climate change, especially by the “earth’s polluters.” He said that small island nations like the Marshall Islands have done their part to combat climate change, often in ways “disproportionate to their size, population, their financial capabilities, or their economic status.” The remaining two days of featured speakers and panels focused on issues such as the potential for climate change–related migrations and the implications for metropolitan centers like Hawaiʻi, community responses to climate change, climate change and indigenous knowledge, and the legal issues surrounding climate change, particularly related to human rights. Topics by featured speakers included an overview of significant climate change issues by Noah Idechong, discussion of policy issues by Ambassador Asterio Takesy, implications of migration by John Campbell, and an example of a community toolkit by Willy Kostka. Panelists presented a diverse range of research and personal experiences from Pohnpei, Chuuk, Guam, Fiji, Hawaiʻi, and beyond. The KHS students attended all of the conference events and had personal interactions with many of the conference speakers and participants during interview sessions. The students’ interviews with conference participants will be made available online as part of an attempt to create awareness about climate change in high schools in Hawaiʻi. Participants celebrated the conclusion of the conference with an inspiring evening of poetry, music, and food organized by Craig Santos Perez and Brandy Nālani McDougall (UHM English Department) with performances by several CPIS students.
The conference initiated important discussions that the center hopes to continue through future programs, including a course with a focus on climate change in fall 2013. The working idea is that the course will culminate with students participating at an international conference on climate change or working with communities.
The center is grateful for the generosity and support of the conference sponsors, including the Pacific Islands Development Program at the East-West Center, the Office of Hawaiʻi State Senator J Kalani English, ʻŌlelo Community Media; UH Mānoa’s School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, Ethnic Studies Department, College of Social Sciences, and Office of Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED); and Joe Nalo and Art Stret Gallery for providing the conference artwork Save the Sinking Art & Culture (2012). ʻŌlelo Community Media filmed the conference proceedings and has made the keynote address available online at http://olelo.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=30&clip_id=34311. Announcements about online access to the other conference sessions and the Kaimukī High School interviews will be posted on the CPIS website and Facebook page.
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About cpis

The Center for Pacific Islands Studies, in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is both an academic department and a larger home for initiatives that bring together people and resources to promote an understanding of the Pacific Islands and issues of concern to Pacific Islanders.