September 27, 2023
Honu Nichols is based in Hale’iwa, Oʻahu, ahupua’a o Kawailoa, Hawaiʻi. They are an NACRP member and Climate Education Coordinator at the Mālama Loko Ea Foundation. Read their spotlight below!
What communities are you most accountable to?
I am accountable to ka po’e Hawai’i, and everyone who falls under the rightful determination of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi (which can include citizens of the Kingdom who do not have koko or native blood). I have been serving the North Shore of Oʻahu, in the moku district of Waialua. I am working out of the ahupuaʻa or land division of a mountain to sea connection called Kawailoa. I am most accountable to the loko iʻa fishpond systems, the phytoplankton that serve as food for our native fish, our surrounding plants and the people who visit our ponds.
In a few sentences, what would you like to share about yourself and your journey/personal connection to community-driven planning?
I am a Kanaka Maoli kiaʻi wai (water protector), aloha ʻāina, activist, haʻi ʻōlelo (orator), organizer/facilitator, musician and creative. I currently work at Mālama Loko Ea Foundation as the Climate Education Coordinator on site. I identify as a queer aloha ʻāina and kiaʻi wai (water protector). Aloha ʻāina is loosely translated to love for the land. However, to be aloha ʻāina to native people is to understand aloha and ʻāina as a living, breathing organism in which we have a symbiotic relationship with. Since the beginning of colonization in Hawaii, our aloha spirit has been weaponized and commodified against us. However, aloha ʻāina understand our pilina or relationship to ʻāina as a familial one. Knowing this, how far would you go to protect your loved ones? As long as you need to.
I started my journey with community-driven planning through small political campaigns in college, grassroots organizing and now I am sharing energy at a community based non-profit organization, Mālama Loko Ea Foundation.
In a few sentences, can you share about a current community-based project you are working on? (What is your vision? What are some of your goals? How are you co-designing the community-driven planning process with community members?)
The organization that I am with, Mālama Loko Ea Foundation, joined a collaborative and historical role with the City and County of Honolulu this past year. The current project that I have been facilitating over the summer in partnership with the City and County and a few other community based and culturally informed organizations is tackling a four pronged approach - Education, Community Readiness/Resilience, Risk Reduction, and Cultural Leadership. Based on the ʻolelo noʻeau (ancient proverb), i ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope, the lessons of the past are the key to the future. I was able to develop and pilot an Environmental Justice Curriculum through an aloha ʻāina lens with our Waialua families and community and more intimately with the summer interns. We were all in charge of our program projects over the summer. Over the summer, I had the pleasure and privilege to pilot a number of facilitated discussions focusing on Climate Change, Environmental Justice, Social Justice through a culturally informed and transformative lens. Every two weeks of their internship, we would get together to have different lessons, some focusing on climate change, different forms of justice, waste management, debunking the recycling myth, history of aloha ʻāina, food and energy sovereignty, etc.
Utilizing the Popular Education tools from the Climate Innovation Center and the NACRP cohort, I was able to engage intergenerational spaces in kinesthetic learning and critical discussion about current oppressive systems and the difference between top down versus bottom up. Climate research is pointing towards watersheds as one of the great solutions to mitigating climate change. Loko iʻa are great at nutrient cycling, carbon fixing, slowing floods, diminishing coastal erosion.
We hosted one community workday focusing on climate mitigation that was facilitated by our Holomua interns. It was opened in oli/protocol, a brief history of Loko Ea, Climate Change talk story, with some malama ʻāina in the water. Our post workday survey had a 99% response rate that the community would participate in a community workgroup.
In developing the curriculum, the goal is to create a Curriculum Advisory Board consisting of educators, scientists, community leaders, and throughout the year to peer review. We plan to host workshops for educators to utilize this ʻāina based EJ Curriculum for all grade levels.
Another long term goal is to rebuild relationships with the piko ʻohana (original families/inhabitants) of Waialua to engage as community leaders in a recurring working group. Create a multidisciplinary team of community leaders advisory board & working group with piko ʻohana and local ʻohana of Waialua, scientist, CBOs to support the local community of practice. This workgroup will facilitate the community carrying out personal risk assessments of needs, priorities, and solutions and create a climate adaptation plan for Waialua and return it to the community for review and present it to the City and County.
Being in the hui with the City and County has fostered some of the best relationships that has transformed what form this project has taken. Currently, our City and County cohort is awaiting the Notice of Funding Announcement for the upcoming NOAA Climate Resilience Regional Challenge (2023) for a five year grant.
We are currently in the process of developing partnerships with another program under the City and County and the University of Hawaii system called CERENE (Center for Resilient Neighborhoods). In creating this partnership, the goal is to identify and center traditional agricultural spaces, such as loko iʻa (fishponds) and loʻi kalo (taro farms), as resilience hubs in and out of disaster situations.
Lastly, in a few sentences, what does being part of the NACRP network/community mean to you? Being a part of the NACRP network/community has been monumental in the development of the Environmental Justice Curriculum, training our summer interns, the facilitation of community talk story days, and the development of our plans for building a more climate resilient community.
It was almost a perfect synchronization with the training of the program with what was most needed in our summer programming. Quite literally, the day after we had learned about resilience hubs we had scheduled a teach in with our interns for the same topic. As soon as I had a community workday and needed more ideas on how to engage the community, we had a training with folks who worked to build Oaklandʻs successful adaptation plan.