Kids, activists rally for bill setting clean-fuel goal

Honolulu Star Advertiser - April 24, 2017
Kathryn Mykleseth

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, spoke to students from seven schools Thursday at the state Capitol in support of reducing gasoline reliance.

More than 600 students joined activists at the state Capitol rotunda Thursday in support of a bill that sets a goal of having all ground transportation in Hawaii run on renewable fuel by 2045.

Students from Lanikai Elementary School, Wheeler Middle School, Sunset Beach Elementary School, Le Jardin Academy, Hongwanji Mission School, the School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS) and Island Pacific Academy joined Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based clean-energy nonprofit, as the organization worked to persuade lawmakers to adopt House Bill 1580.

“Generations tomorrow will inherit the results of our decisions today,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation. “This is a vision today’s youth want, and one that a healthy climate requires.”

HB 1580 passed out of a key Senate committee earlier this month. The measure provides “guidance” for a 2045 target but has no enforcement mechanisms. The bill sets an intermediate target of reducing sales of gasoline by 5 percent by 2025. The bill needs to be approved by House and Senate conference committees and then approved by the full House and Senate before going to the governor for his signature.

“I think it is really important that we’re here today, because it brings awareness to all of the people who don’t know about the problems we’re facing,” said 13-year-old Chloe Davis, a seventh-grader at Island Pacific Academy who was visiting the state Capitol for the first time Thursday. “It’s important to learn about our environment and how we can make an impact.”

Davis said this after speaking to the crowd.

Davis’ presentation followed remarks from state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) and state Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kailua- Waimanalo), who introduced the bill. The lawmakers addressed the students before the students waved signs on Beretania Street.

Alyssa Kuffel, a science teacher at Island Pacific Academy, organized to bring more than 300 students and 25 teachers from the Kapolei school to the rally.

“With all of the global warming and the climate crisis that is going on, it is so important to help our environment and change what we’re affecting right now,” Kuffel said, adding that she hoped the students were inspired by the rally and walked away believing “if we come together as a community, we can make a big change.”