When sailing late at night, into the immensity of open space, the uninterrupted quiet, and the relentless rise and fall of the swells, you’re left only with your thoughts, your emotions, and your fears. You and your fellow crewmembers are driven as much by the wind and sea as you are a singular goal to reach your destination. During moments like this your dependence on the environment—and the mercy it may or may not choose to show you— becomes as clear as the ocean is vast, as obvious as the darkness is complete.
It was during just such a time last night that I was reminded of the words of the Head of State in Samoa—the country’s anointed spiritual leader. Shortly before leaving Apia, he invited us to his home to bid us a proper and formal farewell. During the ceremony he told us how he believes that the solutions to today’s enormous challenges, such as climate change, are not written in our past, but our return to the ways in which we once approached our problems might hold the key to finding them. He humbled us with his insistence that while traditionally navigating the Pacific, and the world beyond, it is these same qualities in our approach to voyaging— of intrepidness, courage, faith, and most importantly, this return to an intimate relationship with our natural world— that will reawaken our ability to recognize and ultimately address these global issues.
And while looking out into the night, there was another lesson I remembered from that day. Samoan culture is strong and proud, and this is fully reflected in its ceremonial protocol. The orator, serving as master of ceremonies, conducts the proceedings at the top of his lungs, shouting his words as loudly as possible to the guests and participants over ‘awa. It is moving for one to experience, not only because it is so shrill, but also because it is so powerful—as if to say, if you don’t hear me, it’s not for a lack of trying. It is a proclamation to the universe. And with the help of Rex, one of our Samoan crewmembers, this is a small part of what he wanted the world to hear: “Your bones are my bones. Your blood is my blood. Your family is my family.”
For me, through this experience, this is what Mālama Honua is all about. It is a reconnection to our natural world, but also to each other as a global community on island earth. It is only through these renewed relationships—both to our environment and each other—that we will be able to devise shared solutions to our shared environmental problems. It is only in this way that we will be able to cross the void though the darkness and reach our next destination in the dawn of a new day. In safety, good health, and together.