Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Whales still singing

We can still hear whales singing in the distance here.  I want to thank everyone who made this season possible for our project - those of you who volunteered at events, helped paint and repair the buoy, those of you who donated money.  As we wish aloha to the whales on their departure to northern waters, we are already planning for next season.  We plan website improvements, more class room interactions, a webcam to view the buoy and whales.  We also plan to be in the water earlier next season.  It's a lot of work, but it is a labor of love by a group of people who care about the oceans and want to do something to raise awareness about their importance.  Thank you for supporting us!  

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What is Hawaiiana, pono, aloha?

Our dear friend and Whalesong Project co-founder, Nona Beamer, continues to be close to our hearts and thoughts here in Hawai'i and beyond.  For those of you that didn't get a chance to meet Nona, I highly recommend this video, posted on youtube, from a Hawai'i Public TV interview recently.  It really shows the woman we love and cherish, and the wisdom that she shared with the world.

Thanks for listening.

What does the whale song mean?

I get this question all of the time and for some reason people think I might know the answer, just because I've listened for so long. Being basically distrustful of "experts" myself, I have a hesitancy to assume that role myself....especially given the mystery that surrounds the whales and their singing. Research scientists who have spent much more time than I studying whales don't have answers to the questions people ask me at events like Earth Day last weekend.

Psychologists like Dr. Arlette Alexander, who volunteers with The Whalesong Project, point out the tendency of humans to "project" their own conditioned view of the world, childhood family dynamics, etc. - onto the whales or anything else in their lives. She says if someone had a dysfunctional family relationship, for instance, they might think the whales sound like they are arguing. How can we step back from our own stress, trauma, conditioning, and listen to the song? There's a challenge in itself.

Scientists also warn us of the human tendency towards anthropomorphism. The dictionary says this is the "attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena." Dangerous territory indeed.

Some cultural and spiritual practitioners tell us that the whale songs are vibrational, intended to create healing energy for the planet. Are they projecting, or is there truth to this?

To me, it's all fun and interesting to think about. And in the spirit of playful speculation, I present a human interpreted, possibly (probably) anthropomorphised, translation of one verse of this year's song:

How long?
How long?
Must we sing this song?
Before the humans can hear?
That there's truth to the notion
That we must have healthy oceans
Or life on land could disappear
Yes, life on land could disappear

As reports continue to come in of glacial melting, rising CO2 levels in the atmoshpere, ocean pollution issues, air quality diminishing to dangerous levels in some parts of the world, lack of political will to address these problems - I ponder my song. Am I projecting my own fears? Or do we really need to do something rapidly to have a harmonious, healthy family here on the planet - for us and future for future generations? Can we preserve the beauty of this planet that has abundant potential and resources for us to enjoy, if we take care of her? These questions are almost as large for me as "what does the whale song mean?"

Aloha kakou,


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Whale songs are live again - the buoy is working

There are still a few whales singing out there, and when they are singing it's a little easier to hear the nuances of each singer....as compared to when there are hundreds of whales singing at once.  I want to welcome my family who is arriving this coming week from the mainland and Australia. My mother, June Sythe, is a board member of The Whalesong Project, and my family, including Australian cousins, are contributors and co-creators of this project.  Thank you, family, for the support these past eight years!  The happy occasion will be the marriage of my niece, Elena, to Shep, a bright and wonderful Maui Boy.  We are wishing them great happiness.

Mahalo again to Robert Bonifacio for assisting in the repair mission.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More on Nona Beamer

As mentioned in an earlier post, our founding board member and my close personal friend and mentor, Nona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Beamer, passed to another realm this last Thursday. For the seemingly thousands of friends and students and admirers of her, all across the planet, this is a time of grief...and a time of remembering the beautiful radiant woman that she was, who lived aloha daily throughout her life. Her son, Keola, has posted a beautiful update about Nona on his website at www.keolabeamer.com. Nona's daughter Maile has posted an update on her website for The Hula Preservation Society.  When you access the Hula Preservation Website you will hear an 'oli, a Hawaiian chant, done by "Aunty Nona."  The Hula Preservation Society is a project created by Nona and Maile, and a project deserving support from the public.  Maile continues to serve on our board of directors, and I look forward to working with Maile, Keola, Moana and their  'ohana to embody Nona's caring and devotion to Hawaiiana and aloha in the work of our organization. Aloha from all of us at The Whalesong Project to Keola and to Maile, and the entire Beamer 'ohana, and all of Nona's relations.

Aloha kakou, Ka'ili

Monday, April 14, 2008

Aloha 'aina - as above so below

Aloha 'aina is an ancient Hawaiian value - the love of the 'aina, the land, the sea, everything around us that sustains and nourishes us. Practicing aloha 'aina means recognizing its intrinsic value and taking care of it. It goes deeper than that actually - Hawaiians felt that the 'aina has sacred qualities beyond just the practical value of the food it provides.

Captain Cook, upon visiting Hawai'i, called the Hawaiians the "worlds greatest ecologists." The ahapua'a system of ancient Hawai'i recognized the connection between what happens on the land, from the top of the highest mountain, and the reef and ocean world below. There were strict rules, kapu, to protect the entire ecosystem. Taro, kalo, the main staple of the Hawaiian diet, was grown in wet shallow ponds, lo'i, fed by mountain streams. These lo'i kalo also created a percolation effect that replenished the delicate aquifer that provides sustainable fresh water. They also filtered the water and created nourishment that created a healthy environment in the ocean reef ecosystem. Careful observation of nature over time allowed refinement of this system. Watch Calvin Hoe speak about this beautiful system of caring for the land while nourishing people.

Things are out of balance today, and we as a world society are not paying careful attention to what we do above or below the ocean. This CNN video shows how this is affecting the world's oceans, and in turn affecting our physical health and well being as human beings.

Getting back to Hawaiian values, it is pretty clear to me that there is tremendous wisdom that could be applied to making life on this planet not only livable and sustainable, but healthy...by practicing aloha 'aina. But are we listening? Or are Hawaiian voices like the voices of the whales and natural world, difficult to hear above the roar of modern civilization and progress? One would think that their voices would be heard here in Hawai'i.

An article in Sunday's Maui News, Crying for Water, highlights the plight of East Maui's kalo farmers. Their water has been taken away to support sugar cane farming and development elsewhere on Maui by Alexander Baldwin and Company. They struggle to adapt and their way of life has been threatened. They call it cultural genocide. They have been waiting for a hearing on their problem for seven years. A member of Alexander Baldwin Company is on the water board. The Honolulu Advertiser Sunday edition reports the CEO of Alexander Baldwin was paid over $15 million dollars while the Hawaiian farmers struggle. The photos in these stories say a lot. He is smiling, they are not. Is this aloha? Is this aloha 'aina? I don't think so.

And I have to ask myself what am I doing to perpetuate aloha, aloha 'aina? I drive a car, I use electricity, I'm living on land that used to belong to Hawaiians. How can I honor this culture and malama (take care of) the 'aina in better ways each day?  Can I remember to take reusable bags to the store, send less plastic to the land fill, put solar panels on my house?

Hawai'i has much wisdom to offer the world if we listen and practice aloha, whether it is to the 'aina, the oceans, or just daily kindness to other human beings. Aloha kakou! Take care.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A great sage passes

It is a difficult time here for me and many people in Hawai'i as news reaches us of the passing of "Auntie Nona" Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer.   Nona was a founding board member of The Whalesong Project, and a close personal friend and mentor of mine.  My love for her goes very deep.  A short synopsis of her life "Islands have lost more than an auntie" in todays Honolulu Advertiser also features a video clip of one of her last public interviews on PBS Hawai'i. Nona has been a lifelong educator and activist.   She was a Kumu Hula, teacher (and dancer)  of traditional and modern Hawaiian Hula, for most of her long life.  She was consulted by world leaders, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, a collaborator with Pete Seeger, a representative of the Hawaiian People to the Dalai Lama this year.  She has stood up to presidents and congress people to address injustices.  Of ancient ties to royal lineages, she never spoke of this.  She always practiced aloha, kindness, humility.  A dark cloud and light rain hang over Maui today.  We send our love to the Beamer 'ohana.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Status Report and more on climate change

We are still playing recorded whale songs until the hydrophone can be repaired, and I hope that can be soon.  CNN/Time is running a story today on the health effects of climate change.  The World Health Organization, American Public Health Association, and others are working to create awareness of the public health implications.  It's not just rising ocean levels, melting ice caps, warmer temperatures.  Read more if you are interested.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dolphin Bubble Rings, Oceans, Hawai'i

Broadening the conversation a bit -  Pamela Melenani Polland sent me this very fun and playful video link of dolphins playing with bubble rings.  Mahalo e Melenani!  

Katie Grove-Velasques sent this link to the UN Oceans Atlas project.  It has great information on ocean ecology.  The organization is elsewhere pointing out the problems of "desertification" of certain parts of the ocean due to acidification from carbon dioxide.

Two airlines serving Hawai'i went bankrupt this week, leaving many looking for other ways to get home to Hawai'i, or back to their homes from Hawai'i.  The cost of fuel and living continue to get higher here, leaving many local people in a tight squeeze.  For the many prosperous people who buy increasingly expensive homes in gated communities here, it is not a problem.  Local people, Hawaiians who have lived here for generations and have lost land and culture in ways that were not just, continue to be squeezed.   

Hydrophone status

We had a major power outage with high winds yesterday.  A trip to repair the buoy is being delayed until a window emerges for a team and good weather combined to make the trip out there.  We hope to have live whale songs playing again by Saturday morning.