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Many mahalos: A CCL tour through Hawaii

Rainbow over Hawaii beach

Many mahalos: A CCL tour through Hawaii

By Tamara Staton, CCL Regional Coordinator, Greater Pacific Northwest

This past December, I had the honor of leading a climate tour in Hawaii for two weeks. We started on the Big Island for six days, moved on to Oahu for three, and rounded out the tour on Maui for six days. While there were definitely palm trees to be enjoyed and papaya to be eaten (both of which we did!), we accomplished a huge amount: we directly reached at least 200 people through 7 outreach events. We hand-delivered 50 constituent letters to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. We trained 36 new climate advocates at 3 Climate Advocate Trainings and ultimately started 2 new chapters. We discussed endorsements for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act at meetings with 13 nonprofits, 6 businesses or business associations, and 2 utilities, and we gave radio interviews on Hawaii Public Radio and a local Maui station.

None of this would have been possible without the direct support of more than 20 volunteers on three different island host committees. I continue to be impressed and inspired by their efforts, and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who worked on this tour and supported it.

During the tour, I wrote down some reflections each day and shared them on my own Facebook page. Here are a few of the highlights:

Hit the ground running

I flew into Kona mid-afternoon. Chuck Grigsby, one of our new volunteers from Waikoloa, was determined to welcome me in Hawaii style, with a beautiful lei and a lovely afternoon lunch at the Fish Hopper. Nothing like a wonderful start to a powerful climate tour with mahi-mahi on Kailua bay.

Our first CCL event of the tour was a meeting with Wendy Laros, Executive Director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. We learned a wealth of valuable information about the Chamber, including the fact that they are one of the only Chambers with a Sustainability Committee. We were also encouraged to hear that, in addition to focusing on economic prosperity for their members, they also seek to improve the quality of life and local community—all of which would benefit from a carbon fee and dividend policy like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

Letters to Tulsi Gabbard

Constituent letters to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

As the sun was beginning to set, we made our way north for our first outreach event of the tour. Rusty and Les Iijima kindly opened their home for our “CCL Meet and Greet” evening in Waikoloa. We had a group of 12 gather in their living room to learn about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and the actions they could take to have an impact, like writing constituent letters to Senator Brian Schatz, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The group was very engaged and asked many thoughtful questions, ranging from government guarantee of the funds, to protecting lower-income households and individuals.

Packed house for movie panel

You know that feeling when you’ve worked really hard at something for months and months, and the outcome feels like such a success that you want to jump in the air with an Irish kick of the feet? Well, that was my experience after our Chasing Coral movie screening and panel discussion in Hilo at the Sweet Cane Cafe.

Lava flows Hawaii

On that day, we also visited Isaac Hale Park, which opened back up to traffic just a day before we were there, after lava flows this summer covered the access road.

The house was packed: close to standing room only with nearly 50 people, which is a lot for a little town like Hilo. Joanna offered a well-spoken welcome, thanking people for coming and providing a brief introduction to who we are and what we do as CCL. Upon hearing that 10 years of diligence had led to the introduction of the Energy Innovation Act in the House just the week before, people cheered.

After watching the film, people seemed eager to hear from our panelists about actions being taken and how to get involved. Thanks to folks from the Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, Big Island EV Association, Pacific Science Advocates, University of Hawaii Hilo, and Keaukaha Canoe Club for joining CCL for the panel. By the end of the event, 30 mins past our scheduled end time, we had to kick out many eager conversationalists, needing to respect our gracious hosts at the Sweet Cane.  

To savor and to save

Banyan trees HawaiiThis Citizens’ Climate Lobby tour has offered opportunities to get out and adventure between events, creating an amazing balance between work and play, save and savor. As E.B. White attests, “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”

On day 4 of the tour, I had the pleasure of a relaxing morning in Hilo, in the spacious home of Bodhi, Joanna and their sweet family of 7. A sunny walk through the lush quiet neighborhood was a wonderful way to wake up, followed later in the day by an muddy jaunt through a tropical banyan forest just up the street. Bodhi led us on this adventurous descent to the silty raging river between the volcano giants of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa—the rocks were beautiful, washed in rays of sunshine along the banks.

Later that afternoon, we headed north to Waimea for our second outreach event: another Chasing Coral movie screening and panel discussion. Tutu’s House was a lovely space, easily accommodating 37 people with 5 additional panelists from Carbon Buddy, Hawaii Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Hip Ag, and North Hawaii Action Network. The movie set a powerful tone for the evening, with a solid, engaging and interested audience who asked many insightful questions. 14 people signed up to learn more or get involved with CCL and many of the participants wrote postcards to their members of Congress in support of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

Climate change panel, Hawaii

Teamwork makes the dream work

The Hawaii Island Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby is made up of such a stellar group of passionate and committed volunteers, it’s hard to express what a joy it was to work with them on planning this Climate Advocate Training over the past 3 months. The way the group came together to nail out the details—reserving the rooms, buying food, hanging flyers, creating FB posts, talking to their friends—really blew me away.

Thus, having the opportunity to provide them with some deeper training through our 3-hour Climate Advocate Training workshop, was a real joy for me. In addition to the 7 core members, we had an additional 6 people join us (two of whom were under 16!) and most of whom were on their first in-person interaction with us as Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

climate training Hawaii

People were engaged, focused, optimistic, curious, and certainly fostered the beginnings and deepening of relationships and ideas for moving together as a solid chapter into the future. Thank you to everyone who came to UH Hilo on Sunday morning, and a huge round of love and gratitude to Emily Garland, Ron Reilly, Joanna Norton, Bodhi Gaea, and Keith and Cheryle Neal, and Chuck Grigsby for ALL of your support, commitment, passion, hospitality and friendship!

Engaging Hawaii’s grasstops

Day 7 of the tour started off with a spectacular meeting with the newly elected Lt. Governor of Hawaii, Dr. Josh Green. While we are always cognizant of the confidentiality of every meeting that we have, I can say that we are in “warm conversations” with Josh, and great possibility exists with the advent of this relationship, particularly in the area of health savings and climate change.

Dr. Josh Green Hawaii

CCL volunteers met with Lt. Governor of Hawaii, Dr. Josh Green (second from left)

Next, we had a meeting with Hawaii Electric Company (HECO). I’d been a bit nervous about that meeting, concerned that we might veer into content that would leave me feeling lost and dumb. But alas, Scott Seu, VP of Public Affairs, was engaged, interested, and left me feeling that the meeting was very worthwhile, with room for follow-up and possibility.

The day closed with a 3-hour Climate Advocate Training workshop. All 12 attendees signed up to participate or learn more about CCL Honolulu going forward. That congressional district had been the only district remaining in our region without an officially active chapter – until this training – so this was a particularly exciting event. The chapter just held its first official meeting this past weekend.

The day wouldn’t be complete without public displays of gratitude towards the entire Honolulu Host Committee, who worked so hard over the past 3 months to make our CCL time in Honolulu productive and effective: Chip Cox, Nick Davis, Nate Hix, Sarah Moore, and Paul Bernstein, as well as our initial committee members, Shane Caberto, Taylor Garner and Nathan Grey—thank you so much!

climate training Honolulu Hawaii

Climate Advocate Training workshop attendees in Honolulu

Launching chapter three

I was excited to visit Maui after many months of working with Mark, Molly, and a handful of other volunteers on our Host Committee, who came together every few weeks to plan our Climate Advocacy Training. Shanna was a wonderful host, sharing her beautiful home complete with a delicious spread of snacks and tea. We were happy to nearly fill the room—probably about 13 of us—with about half who’d come to our introductory meeting on Maui the week prior, and another half who were at their first Citizens’ Climate Lobby event.

Maui Climate Advocate Training CCL

CCL volunteers Mark, Bobbie and Paula at the Maui Climate Advocate Training

The atmosphere felt warm and engaging. People listened attentively and supported my attempt to fly through as much as possible in just over 2 hours. Tamara F. brought a bunch of great eco-swag, and Bobbie and Paula were able to join us this week now that finals were behind them at Maui College! I enjoyed meeting everyone, including Dale, Bob, Patty, and Merrill, too, who led us in a Hawaiian blessing chant, which was a very relaxing and powerful way to start our event.

This was the official start of the Maui CCL Chapter, which is the third CCL chapter on the islands of Hawaii! Congratulations and thank you to everyone who came. I’m so happy you have this new community of committed and passionate “climateers.” The chapter’s first official meeting will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Many mahalos

Many mahalos to all of you. This tour couldn’t have happened without you. Your support helped us create a climate tour that far exceeded my expectations. I feel incredibly grateful and honored to have been able to participate and help lead this tour.

To get involved with CCL’s activities in Hawaii or to offer connections and outreach ideas, contact Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator Tamara Staton.