Native Hawaiian Strategies Presented at Vienna Climate Change Conference

Professor Beamer addresses leading scholars at the international conference.

An international movement to combat climate change by redesigning cities to operate more sustainably recently recognized traditional Native Hawaiian strategies presented by a University of Hawaii to Professor Manoa. Professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and Endowed Chair in Hawaiian Studies, Literature, and the Environment Kamanamaikalani Projector from Hawai’inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge captivated audiences at an international economics conference in Vienna this fall with fresh insights infused with vital concepts that enabled Hawaiiof the native population to prosper for centuries.

Related:Beamer Selected as Inaugural President Endowed to Hawai’inuiakeaMay 2021

“Our work really tries to work alongside and uplift aloha ʻāina (love of the land). This Indigenous philosophy is about our relationship between Dad, Mother Earth, and us as a people. It allows us to infuse incredible regenerative practices from our kūpuna (elders) into today’s transition and change,” Beamer said.

Circular economy

In September, Beamer and uh Manoa Graduate Students Kawena Elkington and Pua Souza presented at the International Society for Industrial Ecology Conference at the School of Business and Economics at the University of Vienna in Austria. The researchers were the only team of Hawaii and believed to be the only Aboriginal-focused presenters.

The conference brought together leading scholars from around the world who highlighted ideas based on circular economy strategies. A circular economy is a regenerative system that minimizes the way energy is produced and consumed, and incorporates sustainable design and maintenance through reduction, reuse and recycling.

According to Beamer, cities across Europe are competing to become more circular and regions like Amsterdam and Vienna have successfully redesigned cities to be more walkable and refined public transport to be greener.

Ancestral circular economy

Beamer and his two graduate students, alongside a colleague Hawaiimultidisciplinary ecologist and industrial ecologists from the University of Augsburg, recently published research based on regenerative practices that enabled the old Hawaiisociety to be self-sufficient for thousands of years. The team delved into Hawaiian literature, biocultural perspectives, and industrial ecology research to identify the key principles that shaped Hawaiithe ancestral economy of.

  1. Balanced bottom-up and top-down resource governance
  2. Kalai ʻāina (regular and systemic redistributions of wealth and power)
  3. environmental kinship

Paving ke ala hou (a new path)

Three smiling people
Left to right, Kawena Elkington and Pua Souza tour Vienna landmarks with Kamanamaikalani Beamer

The 7,700 mile trip to Vienna was a first for Beamer’s fourth year PhD students who accepted the experience felt both intimidated and inspired to be part of a strong global conference.

Souza, a Kohala native, reveled in participating in discussions with other international students about policy-making around circular economies.

“If you had told me when I started uh that I would find myself in Vienna at a conference on economics and social economic metabolism, I really wouldn’t have believed you,” Souza explained. “And just because I thought of myself as incapable doesn’t mean I didn’t see these opportunities as accessible or manageable. To be able to have this opportunity and get a foot in the door, just on a personal level, it opens up this whole new part of research and international engagement.

Elkington, of Koʻolaupokorecalls being surprised by the number of conference attendees who were moved by Beamer’s presentation, which included traditional Hawaiian protocol like oli (chanting).

“When your work touches people on an emotional level, it’s more likely to resonate with them on that technical, intellectual level,” Souza said. “That was my conclusion, to merge those two things and see the impact it can have.”

Retrace aliʻi steps (royal)

Bernice Pauahi Bishop
Bishop Bernice Pauahi in Vienna in 1875. (Kamehameha Schools Archives)

After the trip, Elkington researched whether any members of the Hawaiian royal family had visited the city in the past, as monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom often visited Europe. To Ke Aliʻi (Noble) Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s diary of her travels in Europe in 1875, she wrote about visiting the city of Vienna during the winter. Bishop loved the city’s opera, theater and architecture. One of the entries describes Bishop’s experience on a sleigh ride mentioning that it was his first and his last because of how cold it was.

The memory struck a chord with Elkington and Souza, recalling how they both quickly discovered they didn’t have enough freezing outfits to brave the freezing temperatures that plunged into the 1940s.

“We were all ready to leave the hotel and when we got out I don’t think we were about 20 feet. We agreed to go back inside and put on more clothes because it was too cold,” Elkington said.

Holo mua (move forward)

The team’s goal is to help pave the way for Hawaii by offering their research and other innovative practices implemented internationally to address socio-economic injustice and environmental degradation in islands.


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