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Growing up Wild  

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Kim Hum:

For the past 12 years, I have been managing our Hawaiʻi marine program, which we started in 2000 with just one person working in Kāneʻohe Bay. Now we work in partnership with state and federal agencies and other NGOs on five islands supporting more than a dozen communities working to keep our fish and coral reefs healthy and productive. I’ve been with the Conservancy for 24 years, and have also worked in marketing, government relations, and land protection, and have been overseeing our Palmyra program since 2007. 

A new survey reveals parents around the world are concerned children are not spending enough time outdoors. What is your reaction to that?

Kim Hum: 

That’s absolutely true. I think kids don’t spend enough time interacting with other people or with nature. And you can’t care about something you don’t understand, so if kids haven’t experienced nature it will be hard for them to care for it.

It is our responsibility as parents to give kids opportunities to experience nature so that it becomes a part of who they are. If they grow up in nature, then they can choose if they want to read a book or play a video game or go on a hike or go to the beach. I am not saying one is better than the other, but it is our responsibility to ensure they experience the outdoors as kids, so they can make informed decisions about how they spend their time as adults. 

Why is it important to you that your son grow up connected to nature?

Kim Hum:

My son grew up in and on the water. When he was about five years old, we went snorkeling near our house, and after about 15 minutes, he saw one fish. He was so excited that he saw that one fish.  It blew me away – I had never experienced the concept of a shifting baseline so clearly before. I wanted him to understand that there should have been a lot more fish out there, so this one experience more than any other inspired me to ensure he saw much more of the natural world. After that, I made it a priority to take him snorkeling and hiking in other places in Hawai‘i, and to get him dive certified so he could see the Great Barrier Reef and other amazing underwater places. 

Can you explain this idea of a “shifting baseline?”

Kim Hum:

In this case, I am using “shifting baseline” to refer to the change in each generation’s understanding of what our oceans and reefs are supposed to look like. My son saw one fish that day. If he hadn’t gone to other places, he would think that was normal, what the reef should look like. I can say that I saw a lot more fish in the ocean 30 years ago, but my son’s father saw a lot more than that, and his grandfather saw even more. As each generation’s experiences change, so do their expectations, and their willingness to accept what they see as the norm. But what we see in our oceans is not the norm. I want my son to understand how many more fish there used to be – and can be again – so that he cares about the ocean and makes a positive difference for Hawai‘i’s very special environment.

How does spending time outdoors impact your son?

Kim Hum: 

We are very lucky in Hawaiʻi—we don’t have to pack up and make a special trip to be in nature--we are surrounded by beautiful mountains and an amazing ocean, which we see everyday.

Our house is adjacent to a forest reserve, and Keao and his friends grew up outside, either climbing the mountain or playing at the beach. Now that he is a teenager, the thing Keao wants to do most of all is be in the water – he swims and plays water polo for Kamehameha (Go Warriors!), and he loves surfing and body surfing. I don’t think he even thinks about nature as something separate, it’s just a normal part of his life. That would be my wish for all kids—that  nature becomes a part of who they are, so that they care about it, and take care of it.  









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