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Volume 53 Number 2 Spring 2020
Edited by Susana Helm, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Written by Susana Helm, Niki Harré, Toshi Sasao, Nikolay Mihaylov, Douglas D. Perkins, Gordon Lee, Sae Chinen, and Julie Pellman
The Prevention & Promotion Interest Group coordinated a 50-minute “innovative other” session at the 2019 Chicago SCRA Biennial meeting by focusing on the conference theme - Ecological Praxis and the Natural World (http://www.scra27.org/event/biennial-conference/2019-biennial/) - in the context of Islands of the Pacific-Asia region. This region was selected by the session organizers, each of whom reside in Pacific-Asia island nations: Niki Harré in Aotearoa New Zealand, Toshi Sasao in Japan, and Susana Helm in Hawai`i. As session organizers, we sought to promote dialogue and action as acts of resistance against impositions of destabilizing change affecting our island nation homes resulting from globally inspired changes that challenge local sovereignty and self-determination. Theory, concepts, and methods from community psychology prevention and promotion were considered through a series of critical questions addressed among the session participants (Figure 1). What follows are ripples of thought and action from the session participants.
I live in Varna on the coast of the Black Sea, a small gray-blue appendix to the Mediterranean. I love the sea. Swimming is my flying, and when I look up to the stars, I imagine I am in a shoreless ocean and timeless universe. People who live by the sea share a common good. Our states and corporations organize for the sea – to catch its life, to extract its oil and gas, to transport materials between markets, to construct entertainment for incoming consumers. They see the sea as a resource, an obstacle, a dump and a postcard. We have to live with the side effects of the organized exploitation of the sea. We can and should create a community around our love for the sea and our concern for the sea and for ourselves. A few steps in the water and we are together, citizens and denizens of the biggest country in the world.
I have been landlocked in Tennessee and Utah the past 30 years. But in response to Question 1 (Table 1), whenever I am near the sea/ocean, I am filled with a sense of awe and oneness with the water and land, which carries over to a sense of community with those sharing that bliss. So, responding to Question 3, I believe we can create the community cohesion necessary for local responses to global warming. But the question correctly poses one key challenge: we must address inequality as we tackle climate change. Another challenge? The difficulty of creating mutual caring and responsibility (Nowell & Boyd, 2010), if not sense of community, among strangers from different countries and cultures and from the coast and interior of the same country. Part of the solution may be the motivation of our deep attachments to place (Mihaylov, Perkins & Stedman, in press).
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the ocean sometimes goes by the name of Hinemoana, a personification of the sea and all her offspring, such as shellfish, eels, seaweed and octopuses. The Whanganui river and a large area of native forest called Te Urewera also have legal status as living entities with value in and of themselves (New Zealand Parliament, 2014, 2017). From a traditional Māori perspective, these living landscapes are full of ancestors that must be respected as kin. Kaitiakitanga, or care for these landscapes, flows from their relationship to the people of a place (Roberts, 1995). Many non-Māori New Zealanders, including me, are deeply attracted to the notion of kaitiakitanga and the stories that weave us into the living landscapes we are surrounded by. But can we live this beautiful idea if we do not have a long history with the land? Can we, and how do we, work together as indigenous and non-indigenous people to weave new stories that include us all? And finally, is it possible to create the community cohesion needed to respond to our environmental challenges in conditions of economic inequality?
Volcanoes emanating from the earth’s core, surrounded by air and water, connected by everything swirling in the breezes and tides. Hawai`i remained sustainable and sovereign until recently, when Captain Cook arrived from England in 1778 and the US enacted an illegal overthrow of Queen Lili`uokalani in 1893. Today, we consider ourselves the crossroad of the Pacific – represented by a diverse population largely due to the agri-business and military economy established by colonizing nations. As a settler-resident, I embrace aloha `āina, which refers to humans living in a sacred, beloved, familial relationship with the land – these islands, the ocean, the winds. Professionally, I practice aloha `āina by seeking to improve Hawaiian health and contributing to my university as a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning. Aloha`āina is one form of community cohesion which allows us to rise up locally and globally, such as the protection of Maunakea currently (Lam, 2019; OiwiTV, 2015) and Kaho`olawe in the recent past (Yamashita, 2012).
“So vast, so fabulously varied a scatter of islands, nations, cultures, mythologies and myths, so dazzling a creature, Oceania deserves more than an attempt at mundane fact; only the imagination in free flight can hope – if not to contain her – to grasp some of her shape, plumage, and pain” - (Albert Wendt, 1976).
I was born and raised on the island of O`ahu, ancestors from the Pearl River Delta, who may have been part of the maritime Silk Road over a thousand years ago. The water has always connected us. I grew up in Kaimuki, a ten-minute drive to Waikiki, where high-rise hotels stand side-by-side housing a million tourists a month, equal to the total local population. Waikiki was once the site of a large lo`i fed by natural streams and springs. It is an incredible feeling to see and feel the terrain of the island, from the mountain to the ocean. To remember how it once fed all the people. Albert, where is Oceania now?
“The island is small; the ocean is vast. Let us sail to various countries and bring back the wonderful treasures!”- A theater, Kimutaka-no-Amawari line from Lord Amawari of Katsuren Region, under the reign of Ryukyu Kingdom, 2019 July 27th, Kimutaka Hall.
The Island of Okinawa is one of the main islands in southern Japan, where I was born and brought up most of my life. When there used to be Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879), it was known as an independent maritime nation. For the Okinawan ancestors, the ocean was full of wonders and beauties. They freely sailed across the seas of Asia, and Ryukyu served as a bridge between nations. Nowadays, for Okinawans, the ocean is where we relax, and enjoy the sea-breeze and the sunset. It continues to bless us with rich natural resources and its magnificent scenery. It also is the source of spiritual energy. The ocean gently surrounds daily living just like a mother holds a child in her warm bosom. It is unambiguously a symbol of my identity as a “Uchinanchu (viz., Okinawan).”
A trip to the beach is feeling the sand between my toes, the wind and the sun on my body, jumping into the surf, and experiencing the waves. Sitting on the jetty and listening to the waves brings peace and tranquility. I watch the sea gulls, black cormorants, piping plovers, terns, crabs, and clams. I see shells, seaweed, and driftwood. Living near the ocean is being part of nature, part of the web of life. New York City is part of a coastal community. One can see wildlife at all seasons: harbor seals in the winter, ospreys and horseshoe crabs in the spring, and whales and dolphins in the summer. I can also appreciate water in my neighborhood. I can see boat traffic on the East River, listen to the tide, and smell the salt. Water is part of my home (I live in New York City).
In conclusion, we as island people, or supporters of island people, recognize our connection to the global forces that influence all life on this planet. Community psychology is a human endeavor, and much of our focus is on caring for the people hurt by our social systems. We ask here, however, that we keep in mind the oceans from which so much life is generated; and acknowledge them as entities in themselves beyond the human-environment connection – with their own physical, biological and spiritual forces.
Amawari Roman-no-Kai (2019) Kimutaka-no-Amawari. Uruma-city, Okinawa.
Lam, K. (2019). Why are Jason Momoa and other Native Hawaiians protesting a telescope at Mauna Kea. What’s at stake. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/21/mauna-kea-tmt-protests-hawaii-native-rights-telescope/1993037001/).
Mihaylov, N., Perkins, D.D., & Stedman, R.C. (in press). Community Responses to Environmental Threat: Place Cognition, Attachment and Social Action. In L. C. Manzo & P. Devine-Wright (Eds.), Place attachment: Advances in theory, methods and applications (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.
New Zealand Parliament (2014). Te Urewera Act. https://www.ngaituhoe.iwi.nz/vdb/document/107 (Accessed 23/7/2019).
New Zealand Parliament (2017). Innovative bill protects Whanganui river with legal personhood. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/innovative-bill-protects-whanganui-river-with-legal-personhood/ (Accessed 23/7/2019).
Nowell, B., & Boyd, N. (2010). Viewing community as responsibility as well as resource: Deconstructing the theoretical roots of psychological sense of community. Journal of Community Psychology, 38(7), 828-841.
`ŌiwiTV. (2015). Maunakea. Aloha `Āina warriors. https://oiwi.tv/oiwitv/mauna-kea-aloha-aina-warriors/.
Roberts M, Norman W, Minhinnick N, Wihongi D. & Kirkwood C. (1995). Kaitiakitanga. Maori perspectives on Conservation. Pacific Conservation Biology, 2, 7-20.
Wendt A. (1976) Towards a new Oceania. Mana Review, 1(1), 49-60. https://ethnc3990.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/wendt-toward-a-new-oceania.pdf.
Yamashita M. (2012). Mai ka piko mai a ho`i. Return to Kanaloa. Quazifilms Media Productions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fJZHYzcaoA.