Art has an inept way of cutting across cultural barriers, overstepping verbal communication and getting to the heart of an issue or topic by invoking raw emotion and offering dynamic perspectives. In this vein, the Conservation Council for Hawai'i produces an annual poster highlighting a particular native Hawaiian species or ecosystem to celebrate nature and to raise awareness by creating a conversation of knowledge, respect and conservation.
Created 50 years ago by people committed to preserving Hawai'i's unique flora and fauna, the Conservation Council for Hawai'i, or CCH, continues to advocate scientifically-based management of Hawai'i's natural heritage through research, public education, service, and when necessary, legal action. As the state affiliate for the National Wildlife Federation, CCH members took a cue from their national counterpart and began enlisting local artists in 1975 to create a poster specific to Hawai'i's wildlife. Distributed free of charge to all public, private, charter, and native Hawaiian language immersion schools in Hawai'i, in addition to being mailed to all CCH members, elected officials in Hawai'i, and given to community groups and government agencies, the earlier posters began as single color outlines that the kids could color. Over the decades, the artwork has evolved to feature beautiful full-color renditions of the artists' work.
Every year, the theme of the poster differs to highlight a particular species or habitat or to coincide with community and political action. For the 2007 poster, artist and wildlife biologist Patrick Ching painted the original artwork "E Ola Mau Na Manu O Kawainui! Long Live the Birds of Kawainui!" It was a bright, realistic depiction of native birds in the Kawainui Marsh. The 2002 poster carried more of a call to action, focusing on the plight of the endangered and sorely neglected Hawaiian dry forest at Pu'u Wa'awa'a on the Kona side of the Big Island. "Pu'u Wa'awa'a Native Treasure or Alien Wasteland?" is a compilation of photos that compares the area in its current state, devastated by feral ungulates, to what it might have looked like as a pristine native dry forest.
The posters now feature a teacher's guide on the back to aid educators in providing students with information about Hawai'i's incredibly diverse wildlife, including their cultural value, threats and ways to protect them. The visually compelling posters bring species and places to life that many people might not have the opportunity to bear witness, like the 2005 poster, "Mauna Kea Kuahiwi Kuha'o I Ka Malie, Mauna Kea Mountain That Stands Alone in the Wind," which features the different native ecosystems on Mauna Kea showing the adze quarry and waiau of the summit in the foreground, while also showing the summit from a distance in the background.
Boasting artwork from native Hawaiian artist and historian Brook Kapukuniahi Parker, wildlife photographer and biologist Jack Jeffrey, Sheryl Boynton, ornithologist and painter H. Douglas Pratt, wildlife biologist Tonnie Casey, D. F. Poche, and animal welfare advocate and painter Karen Petras, the Conservation Council for Hawai'i has created a legacy of awareness and attention to Hawai'i through its annual poster. The 2011 poster, which is available this spring, is painted by Patrick Ching and features the rare and fascinating anchialine pool ecosystem. And award-winning writer and block print artist Caren Loebel-Fried has been commissioned to create the 2012 poster, a tribute to the endangered monk seal. All you need are four push pins to admire the complexity and beauty of our natural world.