Madison Nena of Kosrae Receives 1999 Seacology Prize
Madison Nena was awarded the 1999 Seacology Prize on December 2, 1999 at a ceremony at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai, Hawaii. Nena was recognized for his efforts to promote sustainability and conservation on his home island of Kosrae, Micronesia (see Fall 1999 Seacology newsletter). Following are excerpted remarks from his acceptance speech.
Aloha, Keselelia, Talovah, Ekewo, good evening everyone. I am honored to have an opportunity to express myself this evening in appreciation for the award given to me in recognition of my work in conservation as Indigenous Conservationist of the Year as presented to me by Seacology. This is a prestigious recognition, and I am thrilled and overwhelmed with this award. Words cannot express the feelings I have. However, as recipient of this yearís award, it definitely makes me realize that there are more people out there who commit their lives to support the conservation issues we all face, especially the small islands in the Pacific region.
For centuries Kosraens and many Pacific Islanders depended solely on the food and materials we can grow or harvest. Even today, many of us depend, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment for our way of living. Our culture and traditional practices, our history and our language itself, is intricate to the environment.
We Kosraens are therefore acutely aware of the need to protect and nurture the natural resources of our small island. However, as an independent people we must also develop those resources to provide a source of cash income. The population continues to increase and therefore more demand for the resources will also continue to increase. At the same time we are already experiencing financial difficulties due to the end of the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. As we enter an uncertain future, the value and threats to our natural resources will increase.
I do not believe that the type of tourism that has overwhelmed some Pacific islands, including Hawaii, is suitable for Kosrae. Such tourism would not only place at risk the beauty of our natural environment and integrity of our ecosystem but would threaten our way of life. Rather, I want to encourage visits by people who are interested in the very things that make Kosrae special, the spectacular underwater environment, the mangroves, the forest, the strong culture and the gentle and easygoing lifestyle of our people. At the same time we would like those visitors to be accommodated, guided and entertained in such a way that, to the maximum extent possible, protect our culture and our natural environment.
I am therefore pleased and honored that the Seacology Foundation has chosen me among many others as Indigenous Conservationist of the Year. I do not know if I really deserve to receive this wonderful award but I am honored and proud to be a recipient of this important award. It will certainly be a significant influence on my future work with the islandís communities to protect and sustainably manage our precious natural resources. I will remember and treasure this always. Thank you.