boat in the water with an island in the distance

Cayos Cochinos, Honduras. (Photo by Jason Flower)

Why islands? Almost two-thirds of global species extinctions to date have occurred on islands, and up to one-half of animals and plants that are critically endangered are island species. So taking care of island environments presents formidable challenges. Islands have many important lessons for society, and these strategic questions are being discussed at the 7th International Conference on Environmental Future (7ICEF) at the East-West Center’s Hawaiʻi Imin International Conference Center on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus.

The five-day conference, April 16–20, brings together islanders, researchers, managers and non-governmental organizations from around the world to focus on topics critical to island communities and ecosystems such as climate change, invasive species, growth, development and resource management. Other topics include the latest advances in island biological and cultural conservation, the management of natural resources and forward looking governance practices, and what global lessons have come out of those efforts.

Three island films will be shown on April 18, 7–8:30 p.m. at the UH Mānoa Art Auditorium. They are Moana Rua: The Rising of the Sea, Yilimanu and My Garden, No Longer. Also, a panel discussion on themes of the conference going forward is Friday April 20, 1:30–3 p.m. at Keoni Auditorium, East-West Center. Both the film night and the panel discussion are free and open to the public.

Conference theme focuses on humans and island environments

Work in and around islands has informed much of our understanding—from the origin of species, through the organization of nature to how ecology and society interact, adapt and evolve, to the need to take account of the profound expertise of indigenous and local communities.

“This conference on the theme of humans and island environments is the fruit of some four years on interaction and planning,” said conference leader Nick Polunin, professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and president of the Foundation for Environmental Conservation. The ICEF brand has a pedigree going back to 1971, and the aim is to address not only the science but its implications for policy at all levels.

“Being in the forefront of many environmental hazards, island communities are already developing innovative ways of reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience in the face of limited resources,” Polunin said.

Speakers from schools and departments throughout the UH System are participating in the discussions. Results of the talks and meetings will be compiled into a series of documents intended to address challenges now and in the future.

“Island ecosystems are vulnerable to future climate changes, and scientists play a key role alongside policymakers, conservation practitioners and community members in making a difference,” said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology at UH Mānoa.

Sessions will also be live streamed, recorded and archived on Facebook.