This week will kick off the 30th Pacific Islands Environmental Conference, a bi-annual event that rotates between the CNMI, American Samoa, and now Guam.
According to a press release, this year’s theme is “Greening Growth in the Pacific” and will focus on the urgency of creating a sustainable economy in the midst of the global climate change crisis.
Conchita San Nicolas-Taitano, Pacific Islands Environmental Conference Chairperson, said they have been planning the conference for over a year.
“Each of the sessions was thought out carefully, in addition to the speakers. We were sourcing out speakers for about six months last year and we secured most of them. And I believe the number of people who have registered – these are record numbers – is a tribute to the fact that we have a great program in store and great speakers,” Taitano said.
These speakers include figures from all over the world such as an earth scientist from NASA, a renowned marine biologist from Colombia, and representatives from zero waste nonprofits who will talk about issues such as the future of coral reefs, zero waste initiatives, and building green economies.
“We’re bringing in these special speakers to potentially build capacity where it is lacking or to enhance capacity where it exists on the island. So it’s not just for the people of Guam. We also thought about the region. So there are many nexuses to many of the subjects that are going to be presented,” Taitano said.
Attendees for the conference will not only include residents and local organizations but also people who see it as an opportunity to bring back knowledge that will help the people of their homeland.
One of these people includes Norman Harry, the environmental director of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California who attended the conference to obtain certification to administer radon testing and connect with other indigenous people about environmental issues.
“For me, as a Native American, it’s nice to be in the homelands of our island relatives. So it’s an honor and a privilege. This may be my once in a lifetime trip to Guam, but it’s something I’m taking home with,” Harry said.
“And I think that what’s really important in all of this is that as indigenous people…you know, we all share the same impacts. And I can’t think of a better term other than colonization for a term that we’re all experiencing on our indigenous lands. And so as indigenous people, we were all given gifts, songs…to protect the things that are most sacred to life,” Harry said.
The Pacific Islands Environment Conference will be ongoing from June 23 to the 28 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.