When I think about life, I think about how beautiful the world can be, how every single little detail has its own meaning in the circle of life. I think about humans and how we have an ample amount of potential to do good and bad for the Earth. Although, after having woken up in my own little reality, in particular on an island that my heart would now call “home away from home”, I believe that we tend to get so caught up in the world. What I mean by this is that I am starting to see that humans may find it easier to view life only as how we comfortably know it, rather than giving our minds the chance to see it through another’s eyes, perhaps, the eyes of the wild. A friend of mine here had put it this way; when you get too caught up in life, you start to miss out on the life that is around you, the beauty that you’re surrounded by each day. It can be quite easy to lose sight of our surroundings when we are too stuck on, perhaps, the future, past, or the good ole materialistic cycle of life. When doing this we are missing the best part; the present. If anything, the wildlife of Holaniku has helped me understand and practice this lesson the most. Maybe we should be taking more notes from seabirds and turtles and monk seals, rather than social media and the weekly trends. Ever wonder how the world looked hundreds of years ago, how it was? Books and chunks of history have brought me to believe that it was in better shape, science has told me that it was healthier and filled with a greater abundance of biodiversity. I can only imagine the shape that Earth was in back then. I have been asking myself a lot lately how detrimental humanity and the pure act of greed can be to the very Earth that we live on, but also how we could just as easily be the solution, too.
When my team and I complete seal and shorebird surveys on Kure, we thoroughly walk the beaches that make up the beautiful edges of the island. What we see is something that I wish everyone could have the chance to see that lives on this planet. There is not a step that anyone takes in the sand where there isn’t an eroded or brand new piece of a man-made product resting on or submerged in the ground. Materials that have been slowly released from the blue heart, or buried by past visitors that inhabited this island long ago are continually becoming a part of this place. The delicate ribcages of decayed albatross carcasses host a colored variety of microplastics, lighters, plastic water, soda bottle caps, and toothbrushes, to name a few. Chunks of styrofoam peek out of the naupaka that range in size from a peanut to a jumbo bean bag, awkwardly stuffed next to a red-tailed tropicbird pair. A variety of familiar brands of shoes, bike helmets, buoys, and fishing nets are delivered ashore frequently with hitchhikers attached to the product, revealing a questionable estimate of how long it has been out there, floating in the ocean. Green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals haul themselves out onto the beaches, picking a suitable spot to cuddle up next to marine debris conglomerates, consisting of fishing nets, rope, plastic water bottles, gas containers, and even remnants of refrigerators, or a whole one. Things that you wouldn’t want to believe any wild creature would have to live among in its habitat, make its way to the northern-most atoll in the world.
I have been trying to use the classic “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” saying throughout my time here, although it seems more fitting to “put myself in the mind, body, and soul of another organism that’s not a human being”, in order to truly get a sense of the things that I should understand. I want to understand how it has gotten to this point in the world for the wildlife and their home, why it has taken me almost the entirety of my life to wake up and smell the roses, or should I say see the waste. I am hopeful for the future, and know that we can do better together! All it takes is a little effort. Sylvia Earle once mentioned something along the lines of “nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something”. That single quote instilled my belief that there is still a chance that we can make things right, and do our part in taking better care of the world, just as the wildlife does their part. I wasn’t always environmentally concerned growing up until I had seen more of the world and began to learn how certain things that we do and what we create are affecting and corroding the very natural motors that run this planet. I had to work my mind into becoming more open, and less narrow. I opened my eyes more to the world around me, acknowledging the variety of things that reminded me of how grateful I should be for the life that Earth gives us each day!
The world is lovely, and it can provide a much better environment for the species that live in it, including ours. We just have to give it a better chance in order for it to restore itself back to health and do its thing. It is calling out to us to come together more than ever right now to treat it like it’s our top priority–our ʻohana–because it is!