Many would say the concept of mauka to makai – or mountains to the ocean – shaped ancient Hawaiian culture. Pools of fresh rainwater gathered near mountain tops and traveled downward by way of a stream super highway. Hawaiians routed some of the flowing waters to irrigate their crops, and all of it trickled into the ocean. This geographical system sustained Hawaiian communities for centuries and continues its progressive flow into the present day.

Mauka to makai takes a playful approach so children may better understand the concept.

This weekend, the city hosted the 5th Annual Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo at the Waikiki Aquarium, stressing the importance of keeping Oahu’s streams and storm drains clear of pollution. Much of the litter on roadways unfortunately follows the mauka to makai concept and ends up in the ocean.

VIDEO: A beautiful day of learning malama aina (caring for the land).

It was nice to see children getting involved in the movement to care for the environment and the ocean. I watched as they swarmed around the different booths, excited to “fish out” the next trivia question or to spin the environmental wheel. While most didn’t know the answers (those questions were pretty challenging!), I’m sure they still managed to learn a little here and there. I instantly thought of my nieces and nephew and hope, for their sake, that 20, 30 years from now, the ocean will remain a pristine part of Paradise.

Kids fish out environmental trivia and enjoy educational body art.

Taking care of the ocean also means replenishing what has been removed. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle joined several elementary students in releasing Hawaiian moi into the Waikiki Marine Land Conservation District (MLCD). Only found in Hawaiian waters, moi was reserved for the Hawaiian alii (royalty) as the desired fish in ancient Hawaii. Today, moi has become a popular fish because it’s not only perfect for poaching, frying and steaming, but it’s known for its tasty, moist white meat as well.

I was able to talk story with the mayor after the moi release. Instead of a suit and tie, Mayor Carlisle wore something less intimidating – a tattered baseball cap, swim shorts and rash guard top. I knew beforehand that he had a soft spot for animals. A few months ago, he introduced the new elephant habitat at the zoo and then last week, he announced the zoo’s recent accreditation.

VIDEO: Mayor Carlisle helped release moi into the ocean, near the Waikiki Natatorium.

That day, we talked about moi and how tourists can educate themselves on how to keep our ocean and environment beautiful. “When (visitors) come to Hawaii, it’s a great time for (them) to be able to go out and learn about the sea, to learn about the resources that we have there…It’s something they can take back and share with the people no matter where they are or where they came from.”

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