Ho‘ala Student’s Environmental Plea Wins State Essay Contest

Contest winner Kate Welch. Courtesy photo.

Contest winner Kate Welch. Courtesy photo.

Ho’ala School seventh-grader Kate Welch was selected as a winner in the 2014 My Hawaii Story Contest, a creative writing competition open to all middle school students.

The youths were invited to submit their best story or poem that addresses the theme, “Navigating Change in the Pacific Islands.”

An excerpt of Welch’s essay, “Ka’ena: A Journey Through Time,” is below.

I’m walking on the beach as water and sand swirl around my ankles, and between my toes. Waves crash upon the rocks and salt spray fills the air around me. Looking toward Ka’ena Point, I feel relaxed and at peace.

As I continue my trek along the coast, my happiness is shattered when I look toward the nearby land and notice broken glass, food wrappers and cigarette butts spread across the dirt roads made by trucks, ATVs and dirt bikes.

Along the coast, fishing line and plastic bags are entwined throughout the cracks and crevices of the uplifted coral reef.

Over the ear-splitting sounds from dirt bikes and trucks racing past me, I hear the voice of the earth goddess, Papa, on the wind whipping around the coast. She calls out, ‘What have you people done to your home? Your ‘aina? Hawaii?’

The voice fades away when I start walking toward the point. There is less and less trash. I hike until I reach the protective fence. As I open, then walk through the gates, it feels like I’m going back to the time of our kupuna.

Here, there is no trash! Here there are no dirt bikes, ATVs or trucks. I see the moli, flying freely over the cliffs and the ocean. The koa’e kea squawk and call out to each other while they search for caves to build their nests.

On land, there are no roads, only footpaths. The air is filled with the sounds of ancient oli, thanking the gods for providing food for the day.

The clap of thunder in the distance snaps me out of my slumber. The ‘ilioholoikauaua hear the storm as well and return to their underwater home. I move on and pass by several ‘ua’u kani (wedge-tailed shearwater) burrows.

I remember hearing from my kumu that these birds only return to their burrows in March and lay a single white egg in June. This is the season for moli to nest at Ka’ena.

It’s turning late and the sun is starting to set over the horizon. I thank the gods for showing me the Ka’ena of the past, and why we need to take care of our aina.

This protected coastal ecosystem shows us what it could look like if we all cared for the spectacular coastline. As I trek back to the trailhead, I notice the pa’u o hi’iaka and ‘ilima reclaiming the land.

I pick up as much trash as I can carry. The bags are heavy, and the trash smells horrible, but I’m helping to heal the aina. I hear a whispered ‘Maika’i’ from the gods. I will be back soon, and I will bring friends.

Together we will care for this land we call home.