The glorious South Pacific needs to be protected and preserved. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Guardians of the South Pacific

At the same time as the World Summit Meeting on Global Warming in Paris in December 2015, John Hay was on board our boat talking about environmental issues in the South Pacific. His concerns were especially in relation to climate variability and change. When asked why he wasn’t in Paris for this major summit meeting, he said he thought he could do more being with the populace.

He is a believer in Paul Hawken’s assertion: “If you look at the science about what is happening on Earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this Earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.” I was impressed by his knowledge, his deep, honest concern, his commitment to solving our Earth’s environmental problems, and his down-to-earth patient way with people.

John Hay is an Adjunct Professor at the University of the South Pacific and New Zealand and involved in many world environmental programs. It was great to meet him, up close and personal, while in the Cook Islands. I live so far from this part of the world and we hear so little about what is happening here I am happy there is a concern to save this part of the world still left somewhat in good shape.

About the same time period, I met Mark Eddows, an anthropologist and archaeologist who has been living and working in this area since 1987. I learned a lot about the South Pacific Islands from Mark. He has headed projects on the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and the Marquises. When I was on the islands of Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mo’orea, and Taha’a, I went to several of the historic sites he had excavated. He did studies on the atolls of Teti’aroa. This island was bought by Marlon Brando during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty in the 1960s. It is near Tahiti and is a reserve for marine life and native sea birds.

Mark explained that he found almost 100 sites of ancient maras, archery platforms, dance pavements, and habitation sites. He mentioned that this island was the pleasure island of ancient chiefs, where only the highest ranked Ma’ohi men and women could visit. The Brando island is an eco-friendly concept where guest contributions fund various research projects to preserve, protect, and educate at Teti’aroa.

It was great to listen to Mark Eddows tell about Captain James Cook and the Mutiny on the Bounty. Mark’s studies of Bligh and the original journals give you the Tahiti perspective, which is different than the famous movie. One of the most spectacular views of the South Pacific was on Mo’orea, at Belvedere Lookout Point: from there, I could see both Opunohu and Cook’s Bay, where so much of the history happened.

This resort on Mo’orea incorporates fish and coral nurseries into the lagoons. Photo by Madelyn Given.

This resort on Mo’orea incorporates fish and coral nurseries into the lagoons. Photo by Madelyn Given.

A few days later, I was on Bora Bora and I met Denis Schneida, an environmentalist heading Espace Bleu, which was created in 1997 to protect the islands of French Polynesia. Besides increasing world awareness about environmental issues in this region, he began development of fish and coral nurseries in hotels and resorts. I went to one on Mo’orea. It is part of the landscape throughout the lagoon, where the stilted bungalows make up part of this luxurious resort.

It is one thing to travel, but a step beyond is to learn first-hand what is happening to our environment and who is protecting it. I returned home reenergized to do just a little more to save our Earth and make it a better place.

(posted March 8, 2016)