Maui Paddles Out for Climate Change Awareness
An estimated 100 Maui community members took to the ocean to raise awareness about climate change on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, as part of the Global Climate March. The worldwide coordinated event was organized in support of climate justice and an end to carbon pollution. Maui’s Paddle Out for Climate Change Awareness event included educational displays with participants making personal climate change pledges.
During the Maui event, individuals aboard kayaks, outrigger canoes, surf boards, stand-up paddle boards, and even an inflatable swan paddled out along the south Maui coastline, carrying home made signs warning of the dangers of climate change.
“This event was all about bringing our community together to raise awareness,” said Lauren Blickley, a local environmentalist. “We are calling on our global leaders to take real action and transition away from fossil fuels.”
Maui’s paddle out event was hosted on the eve of the United Nations’ two-week climate change conference, the 21st Conference of Parties or COP21 being held in Paris.
“It’s all about education”, said Malia Cahill, event organizer and Executive Director of Maui Huliau Foundation. Cahil said she was also impressed by the number of families and children who attended. “It’s the next generation who will be most affected by our decisions. In addition to empowering our youth, we really need to set a new, more sustainable course for them to build upon,” she said.
An estimated 785,000 people in over 175 countries participated in the weekend’s Global Climate March.
“We considered hosting a march,” said Malia Cahill, event organizer and Executive Director of Maui Huliau Foundation, “but after discussing with our students, decided that a paddle out event would be a really unique way to raise awareness about how climate change will impact our oceans and particularly island communities.”
According to Cahill, global temperatures have risen about 1.75 F since 1880, and unless steps are taken, could rise to 9 F over pre-industrial levels by 2100. Scientists reportedly predict that reaching the extreme end of these temperature projections would be catastrophic, and suggest that a 2 C (3.5 F) temperature rise would represent a global tipping point.
Organizers say that in Hawai‘i, this year’s extreme ocean temperatures have led to one of the largest and most severe coral bleaching episodes in the state since 1996.
Liz Foote, executive director of Project S.E.A-Link and coordinator of the Kāʻanapali Makai Watch and the West Maui Kumuwai campaign, was on hand for the event and stressed the severity of the ongoing mass coral bleaching that is affect on Maui’s reefs.
“Corals face many threats at both a local and global scale, and the more we can do to reduce local stressors, such as land-based pollution and fishing pressure, the more resilient the reef will be, meaning corals will be better equipped to withstand the larger scale pressures associated with climate change,” said Foote.
In addition to warming ocean temperatures, island nations are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and a host of issues associated with food supply and habitat changes, event organizers said.
The Global Climate March will continue to host events throughout the next two weeks.