President Barack Obama announced plans for $30 million dollars to combat climate change concerns to Pacific Island government leaders at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Honolulu. “While some members of the U.S. Congress still seem to be debating whether climate change is real or not, you are planning for new places for your people to live,” he said.
“Crops are withering in the Marshall Islands. Kiribati bought land in another country because theirs may someday be submerged. High seas forced villagers from their homes in Fiji,” Obama said.
The $30 million dollars will go towards stronger infrastructure, more sustainable development, and safer drinking water to help combat climate change, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
Obama’s private speech, attended by the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, included 20 government officials and was chaired by Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minster Peter O’Neill, reported The Honolulu Civil Beat. It took place just a day before the commencement of IUNC’s 10-day event in Honolulu, which several BYU-Hawaii natural science major students said they
William Alia, deputy director of Hawaiian Home Lands, said, “He spoke very boldly on climate change and the need for everyone in the world to come together to meet the challenge,” Aila said. “In Hawaii, we call it a kakou thing where everyone showed up, like the president requested tonight, to move in one direction to get an acceptable outcome.”
According to the Honolulu Civic Beat, “Hawaii, too, is feeling the effects of climate change. Local government officials are exploring strategies to help the state adapt to rising sea levels, unprecedented coral bleaching and mosquito-borne diseases wreaking havoc on habitats in island forests.”
The IUCN, as described by the Honolulu Civil Beat, is “the largest conservation organization in the world. It makes decisions that can influence the environmental agenda for government agencies and nonprofits across the globe on everything from the protection of endangered species to combating climate change.”
The World Conservation Congress, held by the IUCN, is held every four years as its 1,300 members convene together in one place and debate environmental policy, and outline the agenda for the next four years.
Ashlin Cooper, a senior from Nevada studying marine biology, said it was a great experience and she is happy she attended. “It was the first time it was held in America at all, and it’s cool it was on Oahu and during the semester I took a class [that attended]. There were experiences we had there that really encompassed what we were learning in class.”
Daxton Brooks, a senior in marine biology from Utah, said he had a great time at the congress and enjoyed meeting new people. He said, “I love conservation. I love this planet. I want to know what I can do to protect it. If I didn’t have to go for class, I would have gone anyway. I want to go into marine conserve. I want to protect the world in any way I can and make it a better environment. The most important thing is that I can change the world. I know I’m just one person.”
Lasting for 10 days, the IUCN took action on 99 motions, which have the potential to shape the future of global conservation efforts, said the Honolulu Civil Beat.
The IUCN reported, “Some of the motions include calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets to curb the illegal wildlife trade, placing 30 percent of the world’s oceans in marine protected areas to promote biodiversity and developing a legally binding mechanism to manage conservation on the high seas, which are lawless territories outside of national jurisdictions where overfishing and human rights abuses go unchecked.”
Emmalee Buss, a junior in biology from Wyoming, said, “They had tons of different speakers you could go listen to, and there was a whole schedule and you could pick which ones you wanted to go to. Some of them were classes, some of them were huge discussions. There were presentations, panels, question & answer sessions. There were researchers explaining the work they’ve done. Then there were knowledge cafes where people would get together and discuss what they’ve done in their own area, as far as conservation in the work they’ve done.”
Buss said there were people from almost every country in the world. “There were officials and leaders from a lot of different organizations, world-famous biologists, the vice president of National Geographic was there, the president of environmental stuff for the United Nations was there, really high-profile people were there. So it was a really big deal.”
The Honolulu Civic Beat reported, “Environmental advocates had wanted Obama to…announce the fourfold expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Instead, the president signed the proclamation for the expansion last week.”
Benjamin Jordan, an associate professor of physical science and oceanography at BYUH, said, “I support the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. I think that it is wise to keep out large commercial fish companies. The ocean is like farmland in that there are places where there needs to be time and space for marine animals, such as fish, to recover after they have been harvested.”
Jordan continued, “The monument creates, in my opinion, a recovery zone where marine animal populations can recover before spreading out into other areas of the ocean, outside of the monument, where they can then be harvested. In other words, the expanded monument will hopefully serve as an island of recovery in the greater ocean.”
Obama said, “No nation, not even one as powerful as the United States, is immune to a changing climate. There’s no conflict between a healthy economy and a healthy planet.”
The Members’ Assembly at the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress at the Hawaii Convention Center was held this past September. Nicknamed the “Olympics of Conservation,” this is the first time the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress met in the United States, according to the Honolulu Civic Beat. It was established in 1948.
Buss said, “There was one session we went to and it was done by religious leaders from around the world, which I though was really interesting because usually a lot of people think there’s this disconnect between science and religion. They did this panel discussion about how religion and conservation can go hand and hand. So that was something that was really cool for us to hear because it’s something I think about a lot. And I love thinking about the connection between science and God. I think it makes so much sense. God, He did give us dominion over this earth, but He also gave us stewardship and responsibility, and we need to keep it beautiful because He created it.”
The congress also helped Buss decide what she wants to do in her future. She said, “It was really eye-opening for me to get a better idea of what conservation really is. I used to think, ‘When you hear conservation you think of crazy conservationists. You think of crazy hippie people.’ But by going to this congress I realized that it is so much more than that, and there are so many different disciplines that go into conservation.
And it’s such an important thing too. It affects everyone in the world. It made me think more about the things I do, as far as recycling, wasting tons of water, like do I leave the water running? Little things like that. It also it really helped me decide what I want to do with my career. After this, I know that I am going into wildlife biology.”