Students who accompanied Dr. Spencer Ingley to the Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event at Artistry Honolulu on Oct. 19, which featured a panel of scientists and other professionals, argued the topic of climate change isn’t spoken about enough in the classroom and in religious settings at BYU–Hawaii. From their perspective, every member has a responsibility to be a steward of the earth.
Hawaii Public Radio’s Catherine Cruz moderated the discussion between the panelists who aimed to answer the event’s topic, “What can Hawaii teach the world about climate change?”
Emmalee Smith, a senior from Virginia studying biology, said she thought it would be interesting to see what actions Hawaii as a state is taking to combat climate change. “I feel climate change affects us a lot here, being so close to the water.
“Climate change isn’t talked about a lot. Even on campus, the professors have differing views, and not everyone talks about it in the classes here. Brother Ingley has been one of the only professors I’ve had who has actually talked about it.”
Emmalee said she learned about the trip to the conference from the email Ingley sent. “I’m particularly interested in conservation. I think it's important to study climate change to understand the effects on animals and the environment.”
Tanner Smith, a junior from Oregon double majoring in biology and English, explained the reason he attended the event on climate change with his fellow students was because of his interest in the environment. “My whole life I’ve been interested in climate change and the environment, especially in the past little bit. I got back from my mission and I knew I wanted to do something to help people.”
The topics of climate change and environmental stewardship are not addressed enough at BYUH and in the Church, according to Tanner. “A big reason why we don’t talk about environmentalism as much in the Church is because we separate the two, but I believe that environmentalism and spirituality are connected.
“It’s a detriment to the scientific community and the spiritual community that they are separated. Both [communities] would benefit from teaming up.”
Ciara Sanchez, a senior from California double majoring in anthropology and peacebuilding, said, “My friend told me about [the event] after he heard about it in his class.”
Sanchez said, “I definitely don’t think we are doing enough. With single-use plastics, it’s really relevant to us here in the islands, because Hawaii exports so much trash and non-recyclables and other trash that stay in our ocean forever.
“I think the Church is starting to [get more involved]. They just released this article from one of the seventies that was addressing why church members need to be more environmentally aware. I think it’s going to come more in the church as we understand the impacts.”
The talk can be found here.
The event’s purpose and what it accomplished
Students who attended the event said the panelists did a good general overview on the issues facing Hawaii from the changing climate. Emmalee said, “I got to learn about what is being done in Hawaii and why that’s important for the rest of the nation.”
Emmalee said one drawback of the event to her was its failure to educate on how to initiate the conversation of climate change with others. She said, “I think for the time they had, it was good, but I think it’s important to address the issue of how to talk about climate change and global warming to people because it’s such an abrasive topic. I believe there’s a lot of miscommunication out there about climate change.”
For Tanner, the event succeeded in bringing together qualified individuals who could have an educated discussion on the effects of climate change on the islands.
He said, “The event was interesting. The panelists were awesome, [and] it was really cool who [Zócalo] got because they had the guy more involved in the politics, and they had a couple of experts from [Hawaii and the mainland]...so I thought the panel was well selected.
“I totally agree with the panelist who said we need more innovation. We have so many resources being on an island: wind, water, solar power. There are so many ways we can get off of carbon. There are a lot of solutions, but no one solution is going to work for everything.”
Speaking up on where he thought the discussion fell short, Tanner said, “I wanted the discussion to be longer and maybe more time for questions. They [also] didn’t talk a lot about what people could do individually, but they did say [it was] our civic duty to go out and vote.”
Sharing her thoughts Sanchez said, “I felt it was worth it to be there to hear the experts about why we need to care more for the environment, and they addressed a lot of the local issues and platforms. So that was interesting to hear about because I didn’t know about it.
“I was super impressed with the event. It was really nice inside, and I thought it was great at the end when they had refreshments that were all locally sourced from the islands. And I liked how they explained how a lot of the food they wanted to get wasn’t available due to the natural disasters that have been happening to the islands.”
Sanchez continued, “I thought that was really cool to make it really relevant to us. How our food sources are dwindling because of the effects of climate change.”
For Tanner, the reception at the end of the event provided a key opportunity for himself and the other students to network with the panelists and others in attendance who shared an interest in the environment and climate change.
Tanner said, “The mixer at the end was cool, and I got a chance to talk to the panelists. I was talking to one panelist, a [University of Hawaii] professor, about how I got into conservation because of my interest in naturalist literature and philosophy but also for the science part of it. He said, ‘Oh, I was a double major in English too.’
“I also talked to the other [panelist] who works for RAND, and we talked about different literature out there on the environment, and then I talked to him about the spiritual aspect for me–how religious people should be into the environment, and then he recommended some literature for me to read.”
Tanner concluded, “It was really cool, and he gave me his card. I emailed him the next day and he said ‘please keep in touch.’ So it was really good networking.”
Our responsibility as members of the Church and the human race
Sanchez remarked on her takeaway from the event on climate change as she said, “I think it re-instilled in my mind the importance of doing our part and doing all that we can to reduce our carbon footprint. I still don’t know many ways I can, because I don’t have a house or a car yet, but it was cool to think about the future.”
Tanner expressed his views on why BYUH students should be interested in environmental issues. “I believe in the commandment, ‘Multiply and replenish the earth.’ From the start, I believe the word ‘replenish’ [has been] lumped together with ‘multiply,’ when really multiply means to have families, and replenish means there’s something there we’re using and we need to put it back.
“There is spirituality and divinity in nature. We can see God in His creation.”
Emmalee said, “Even if climate change isn’t a human cause, if that’s what some people believe, it doesn’t hurt to do better and to treat the planet better.
“We know we have a stewardship over the earth, so we have a responsibility to do all we can, and I think we will be held accountable for the way we treat the planet.”
Going along with Emmalee’s statement, Tanner added, “If we think of God’s dominion, it’s a loving dominion, therefore our dominion over the earth should also be a loving and caring thing.”