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Timeline of Adaptation

I ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope.

Literally translated as “in the time before, in the time after,” this ōlelo no‘eau tells us that the future is in the past, or that learning from the past can guide the future.

The wisdom of lessons learned in the past may be the most important things for adapting to future changes. “Resilience,” the capacity to adapt to change and disturbance, is our focus in this timeline. Change events can be either environmental or social, or both. They can happen slowly, such as the spread of invasive grasses or the adoption of a cash economy; or they can happen quickly, such as volcanic eruptions or outlawing the Hawaiian language in schools.   After change events, the “memory” of a social-ecological system can initiate times of growth, reorganization, and to get it revert back to previous conditions.  Ecological memory includes biological process that continue, such as plants re-growing after fire or ´ōpae ula returning to a once-dried pond. Social memory comes from the knowledge, practices, values, and worldviews of the people in the system.  Although the descendants of Ka‘ūpūlehu have endured multiple social and environmental changes, the cultural identity, attachment to the place, and the practice of caring for it remains strong.  Reflecting on and learning from these aspects can strengthen resilience.


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