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Hawai'i CC Updates: Global Problems, Local Action


The Spring 2022 semester at Hawai‘i Community College is well under way. We kicked off our semester in January with our “All-College Meeting,” which focused on sustainability and in particular climate change and carbon sequestration. 

Rachel Solemsaas

This is an urgent problem, but there are many positive things happening locally and many ways Hawai'i Community College can be part of the solution. 

Joining our All-College Meeting was Dr. Greg Asner, Director of the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science at Arizona State University. Dr. Asner lives here on Hawai‘i Island, is based at a research station in Miloli‘i, and shared data from his Hawai‘i Island research. 

We also had representatives from Terraformation, Jill Wagner and Peter Keali‘i Thoenea. Terraformation is a unique global organization based here in Hawai‘i that is devoted to reforestation as a solution to climate change. 

In addition, we heard from our own faculty who are involved in academic programs and projects related to this topic. 

Dr. Asner focused his presentation on carbon sequestration and the importance of resilient ecosystems that can withstand extreme weather events (often the two go hand-in-hand). 

The huge growth in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is driving climate change, so we not only need to reduce emissions, we also need to reduce the carbon that’s already in our atmosphere through carbon sequestration.

In the realm of carbon sequestration, Dr. Asner pointed out that Hawai‘i has a lot to offer, even if globally speaking Hawa'i has a relatively small landmass.

“Because we have so many ecosystem types here, because we have so many people living near one another, we have to learn how to craft solutions that are transportable elsewhere — the knowledge, the technology, the approaches,” Dr. Asner said. “And the ultimate goal is to keep that carbon dioxide moving into ecosystems, especially the long-lived parts of ecosystems like trees and soils where carbon can be stored for long periods.”

Dr. Asner also pointed out that science is only part of the solution. 

“I’ve learned that science is only going to take us so far,” he said. “There isn’t some magical solution that science is going to create, but it’s really our communities at all scales, especially at the scale that we can individually participate in, that really matters.” 

That’s a powerful message, and my takeaway is that we all have an important role to play. 

As our faculty shared, Hawai‘i Community College offers so many potential ways to be involved at the scientific and community action levels, and we can educate the future leaders who will address climate change and ecosystem degradation. Just a few examples: 

  • Hawaiian Studies offers knowledge about indigenous ways of mauka-makai ecosystem management, values of mālama ‘āina, and creates leaders within our communities. 
  • Agriculture and Forest TEAM programs can teach how to manage the land and food resources. 
  • You can learn about renewable energy in our Electrical Installation and Maintenance Technology program. 
  • Then of course there is our Natural Science degree that can lead students on pathways to bachelor’s and graduate degrees. We’re in the process of approving a new track in the Natural Science degree that is focused on Ecosystem and Environmental Science. 

In addition to degree programs, there are the opportunities to be involved in our Kauhale sustainability efforts and things like our new Palamanui Forest Preserve and Botanical Garden projects.

With more than 91% of students from Hawai‘i Island and 78% staying after they graduate, the education we deliver can have a major positive impact here — and potentially across the world. 


Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas