Our Philosophy

Embodying Hawai‘i's Biocultural Legacy for a Harmonious Tomorrow

I ola ‘oe, I ola mākou nei
My life is dependent on yours; your life is dependent on mine

I ola ‘oe, i ola mākou nei, a perspective rooted in the psyche and ways of life of native Hawai‘i, translates to “My life is dependant on yours; your life is dependant on mine.” As younger siblings to land and ocean, native Hawaiians hold that these foundational familial relationships require passionate love, deep respect, and committed stewardship, described most eloquently as Aloha ‘Āina and Malama ‘Āina. These powerful perspectives are founded on the notion that all life and the physical environment are sacred, that sacredness grows from intimate relationship, and that sacredness sustains life. And so the health and well being of one depends on the health and well being of the other.

Hawaii’s extraordinary natural and cultural resources have been linked through time, and this linkage holds many critical insights into biological conservation, restoration and sustainable development. The Foundation is keen to foster the re-emergence of this mindset in Hawai‘i and abroad with the goal of transforming Hawaii’s natural resources community.

This transformational philosophy builds on the visionary thinking of contemporaries and deep ancestral knowledge. It also aligns with broad acknowledgement that conservation perspectives depicting mankind as an inherently destructive force to nature is too limited, failing to fully embrace the growing perspective that people are a critical feature in landscapes and seascapes, and a necessary part of the solution. While natural protected areas continue to be important components of regional conservation strategies, most lands and waters exist outside of protected area boundaries, where people live in close relationship with biodiversity and ecosystem services. These often under-appreciated human dominated landscapes can serve not only to enhance our conservation and management efforts, but also, by building on the wisdom of traditional cultures, can serve to sustain ecosystem services, biodiversity, cultural traditions, and livelihoods.

Hawai‘i is home to many efforts that integrate ancient wisdom with modern technology and research. This biocultural approach honors the interdependence of humankind and nature, and the capacity for us to live in harmony with and restore our land. Drawing from the Hawaiian concept of laulima, many hands working together for the good of all, we are committed to supporting these efforts, and growing biocultural initiatives that foster sacred relationship among families, communities, and the environment.