I spoke with my aunt, Kimiko LaHaela Walter, who is now working with the Sierra Club of Hawaii. She is actively aiding in the shift toward a greener world through her efforts as a grassroots organizer and lobbyist. In speaking with her, I learned about the logistics of fighting for environmental policies. Locally, Kimiko reaches out to the community with the goal of both learning from and educating them. Furthermore, connecting people together to work collaboratively and effectively in order to help solve various environmental issues. She is often at the capitol building: “meeting with different legislators, going to different hearings, and testifying on environmental bills.” So I asked Kimiko what type of resistance she has to face from legislative authorities. She said that it depends on the legislator. “…there are legislators that are more environmentally friendly of course, and some that are not, for various reasons, whether it be because they are actually representing the communities that they’re a part of, which may not be that environmentally engaged or aware, or for personal reasons… Some of it has to do with ignorance, they just are well educated on certain issues and they just don’t want to know, it’s not their priority. Some of them have personal vendettas against different people in the environmental community, and some of them think environmentalists are alarmists and there isn’t much substantiated data behind what we do and why… some of them are unfortunately bought out by corporate interests. For example, Monsanto has a huge presence here in Hawaii and they frequently spend big bucks to donate to the campaigns of certain legislators, so those certain legislators… often heed to the interests of the industry, rather than the environment and the community. This happens with relative frequency… those are big road blocks for the environmental movement here”
With all this resistance, and with a crisis of such size, I had to ask how Kimiko personally copes with the thought and the gravity of facing such seemingly unreachable goals. She told me how there is a lot of movement between having both hope and confidence in the ability to make a change, and also a feeling of hopelessness. In the more negative times, she copes by getting out in nature by taking a hike or doing another activity in order to become grounded again. This also serves as a reminder as to why she is fighting such a battle to begin with. “Nature has an inherent value,” she points out “we should protect it, we shouldn’t just take and take and take because we can… Its not separate from us, we are nature and nature is us… the more that we destroy it, the more we destroy ourselves, we destroy our culture, we destroy our society.” (Listen to the audio below to hear a bit more)
Because of activists, like Kimiko, and others who are engaged in the fight for our planet, we are not without hope. This year, the sierra club in Hawaii alone is on track to have 6 environmental bills signed into law. This is a huge success considering the environmental group is usually lucky to see 1 get passed each year. It can be easy to get caught up in the politics and logistics of such a huge battle to shift to a more sustainable society, but it is really important that we take a step back and take a look at why we are doing it. For our communities, our children, and for all of nature itself, we must take a deep breath, band together, and tackle this problem.