Aloha from the Islands of Hawai'i, where we are eagerly watching the great progress of the FossilFreePCUSA overture as it makes its way toward the 222nd General Assembly.
We here in the Hawaiian islands are especially concerned about climate change as we see its effects already impacting our island home. For us, the threat of climate change is no longer a future potentiality but a realtime catastrophe observable in rising sea levels and ocean temperatures and increased storm severity.
Perhaps you have visited Hawai'i and observed its precious and endemic wildlife; if you haven't we hope you will! It is a beautiful and unique landscape. But because the life of our islands is so closely tied to the health of our ocean, any changes in that relationship—such as rising ocean acidification, a direct result of increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere—have the potential to threaten the delicate balance of life that makes this such a unique place to live and visit. Perhaps you are aware that warmer oceans damage coral health which in turn impacts related ecosystems and reef fish communities; it is all an interconnected web of wellbeing that is threatened when ocean health is undermined.
We also have grave concern about the impact of these changes on our human neighbors here in Hawai'i and in the entire Pacific world. Rising ocean levels and increased storm severity are a huge threat to health and safety for island nations. Because Hawai'i is almost entirely dependent upon imported food, fuel, and goods we feel particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and their potential to damage infrastructure and threaten food and water security. Additionally, we see rising sea levels, coastal flooding and erosion already threatening entire communities in the smaller Pacific island chains and we worry about their wellbeing and the ways mounting environmental threats is already forcing significant migration.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to hope. Rooted in the Native Hawaiian value of malama 'aina or care for the land, we here in Hawai'i have a strong drive to care for the earth and to recognize all the ways its wellbeing is connected to our own livelihood. Hawai'i continues to be on the cutting edge of alternative energy solutions. As of December last year, 12% of all homes in the state had active PV panels. Our governor also recently signed into law an energy bill directing the state's utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045. Change is certainly afoot.
We are proud to report that many faith leaders have been active in the fight to preserve our island home from degradation and in the work of finding new energy solutions. At Christ Church Uniting, for instance, a Solar Fair in 2013 introduced members of our community to solar options for homeowners. As a result, approximately 40% of church members' homes now have installed PV panels. At least 1/3 also drive green (electric or hybrid) vehicles. (Notably easier when the furthest one can drive from home is only 40 miles, but still an accomplishment to be celebrated!)
Though we in Hawai'i represent only a small voice within the larger denominational body of the PCUSA, we are glad to be able to add our support, through the Presbytery of the Pacific's overture concurrence, to this important ministry of enacting our shared values of stewarding God's creation....particularly the small but beautiful part we call Hawai'i and our home.