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Whose Earth is it anyway? Maui series to explore “rights of Nature”

By Jeanne Cooper
San Francisco Chronicle
May 14, 2012

The relationship of humans to the natural world — from understanding our origins to dealing with contemporary issues of food security and property rights — will be explored in an intriguing four-part conversation series with Hawaiian and Western scholars and activists, starting tomorrow at Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

“Man/Woman and Nature: Restoring the Balance,” presented by MACC and Ala Kukui, begins with “Rights of Nature,” a discussion by Kaua‘i native Kapua Sproat, director of the UH Environmental Law Clinic and counsel for Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office, and Thomas Linzey, co-founder and executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Their perspective, as summarized in event publicity:

To restore the Earth’s balance, we need to shift from a philosophy of dominion over nature to one of interpenetration and respect. For indigenous peoples, recognizing that we are part of the web of life is obvious. But in Western law, nature is property and laws protect the property rights of individuals and corporations (as persons), but not those of the natural world. Rights of Nature is a worldwide movement to amend constitutions and introduce laws to codify the rights of the natural world, balancing what is good for humans with what is beneficial for other species and the planet.

Supported in part by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, along with Maui County, the series continues July 26 with “Journey of the Universe,” a film screening and conversation with Puanani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, the leading expert in Hawaiian creation myth, and Yale research scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology with moderator John Grim and producer of the hour-long documentary “Journey of the Universe” (see trailer below.) The event will bring together “discoveries in astrology, biology, geology, ecology, and traditional wisdom.” The film’s Web site notes:

We live in a universe of remarkable creativity that has evolved over some 14 billion years. The goal of “Journey of the Universe” is to tell the story of cosmic and Earth evolution drawing on the latest scientific knowledge, in a way that makes it profoundly relevant and deeply moving to the viewer. What emerges is an intensely poetic story, which evokes emotions of awe, excitement, fear, joy and belonging.

“Biomimicry: Learning From the Natural World” will be the topic of the Aug. 16 conversation, led by Bryony Schwan, executive director of the Biomimicry Institute in Montana, and Sam ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon, a master chanter and director of science at the Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i. Food security — a particularly pressing concern in the islands, where 85 percent of food is imported — becomes the focus on Nov. 15, when Kīpahulu taro farmer John Lind and New York community garden activist Karen Washington discuss the issue with moderator Manulani Aluli Meyer of Hoea Ea Food Sovereignty Youth Conferences.

Admission is $10 per event, or $35 for the series if tickets are purchased by Tuesday, May 15.

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