ʻAkolea - a Cloud Forest Watershed

Sunrise over Waimea town
Waikoloa River
On Saturday we hiked up Pu'u Ao'aowaka - the hill that is directly in front of our living room window (for those who have been here - its the hill next to the one with the trees in the shape of a "P").  Even though I look at this hill everyday, I realize now that it is a stranger to me.  We met for the first time this weekend.

Behind that hill is 'Akolea, a beautiful and rare cloud forest watershed, which supplies fresh water to Kohala.  Families from the school went up to kill the invasive ginger species, which is taking over the forest and, of course, causing all kinds of problems.  For the first time in a long time, I really appreciate how delicate an ecosystem truly is.  Even the Waikoloa River, which used to flow over the dam (built in WWII), is now so clogged with invasive plant life that it no longer reaches down to the ocean.  With that chain broken, 'o'opu and 'opai (goby fish and shrimp) can't complete their life cycle in these waters anymore. 

I don't quite know how to explain it, but I'm thankful that my children are being exposed to this at such an early age.  Native Hawaiians, simply by nature of who they are, are environmentalists.  Its not a label - its just an alignment of core values.  My children are being taught that when we take care of the land, we are really taking care of ourselves.  We don't exist outside of nature, we cooperate within it.  I hope they become familiar with all the hills and valleys of their homeland, instead of passively enjoying them from a window.

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