Kona Earth and Ocean Day set for Saturday

  • Kona Earth and Ocean Day is 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Hale Iako Building at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. The celebration features a variety of speakers as well as workshops and a potluck lunch. It is free to the public. (Metrocreative Connection/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — The world is waking up.

That’s one of the slogans for Kona Earth and Ocean Day scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Hale Iako Building at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. The celebration features a variety of speakers as well as workshops and a potluck lunch. It is free to the public.

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“It’s just like a buffet of what’s going on in the community,” said Sue Aronson, organizer and real estate agent at Kona Coast Realty, which sponsors the event.

Speakers include Rick Bennett, chairman of the Hawaii County Environmental Management Commission, who will give an update on the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant conversion, Kirstin Kahaloa of the Blue Zones Project, and Jill Wagner of Future Forests and Hawaii Island Native Seed Bank, among several others.

“By introducing what they’re volunteer projects could be, we could get some of the snowbirds to volunteer or create foundations,” Aronson said. “It’s about getting it out there so that people know what they can help with.”

Perhaps the most crucial message of the day, Aronson said, will be delivered via video rather than over a microphone by University of Hawaii at Hilo Professor Mark Huntley. Titled “Reversing Climate Change within a Generation,” Huntley speaks for just over 20 minutes on the role algae could play in turning the tide against one of the most prominent issues facing humanity — and doing so with efficiency and haste.

According to Huntley, microalgae can produce clean replacement options for transport fuels and macroalgae can accomplish the same when it comes to replacing industrial and residential heat sources. Each account for roughly 20 percent of global emissions.

Algae grows more quickly than any other photosynthetic organism known to man, he explains, at a growth rate that allows it to essentially double every day. It can be grown on barren lands in areas like the desert, allowing crop fields used for biofuel to revert to forests. Algae also cleans the water in which it’s grown of nitrogen and phosphorous, two compounds detrimental to reef health globally.

“The possibilities are endless,” Huntley says of algae applications in the video.

Aronson is pushing for the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant to use its recycled water to grow algae for these purposes. Currently, roughly 1.7 million gallons of partially treated water makes its way to Hawaii Island oceans every day.

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As to why she’s been organizing and hosting Kona Earth and Ocean Day for the last 18 years, creating a platform for the dissemination of ideas and connecting people with causes, Aronson’s answer was simple.

“I just have a passion for education,” she said. “So we can do something … so we can actually do something.”

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