As a writer who loves the natural beauty of Hawaii, Kirsten Whatley said she faced a moral dilemma as she developed her skills as a writer doing essays on the natural places she visited.
"Any place that is natural and pristine is that way because it isn't overrun by people," she said. "But by writing about it, more people would know and want to visit."
Her way of resolving the dilemma led to her new guidebook to environmental volunteerism in Hawaii, "Preserving Paradise, Opportunities in Volunteering for Hawaii's Environment."
70 ways to preserve paradise
It's a listing of nearly 70 organizations and projects on five of the eight main Hawaiian Islands involved in beautification, restoration or preservation of biological resources of the islands.
There are connections to multi-island programs such as the Hawai'i Nature Center, Hawai'i Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation. There are specific projects such as the Honokohau Valley project to restore native habitat and the Kipahulu Ohana's Kapahu Living Farm cultural project.
Government projects include the state Na Ala Hele trails program and projects such as the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge as well as volunteer opportunities at the Hawaii Volcanoes and Haleakala national parks.
* "Preserving Paradise: Opportunities in Volunteering for Hawaii's Environment," by Kirsten Whatley (Island Heritage Publishing, 2008, $9.95)
The goal is to allow individuals to become acquainted with the natural places of Hawaii by helping to keep them natural, whether by weeding invasive species, being involved in regular litter cleanups, replanting forests with native species or monitoring natural areas in upslope forests and in offshore reefs.
"Personally, my passion, I guess you would call it, is to try to inspire people to change their relationship with nature to recognize that we are part of nature and we need to respect it and protect it if we are going to sustain ourselves," she said.
"I try to do that with writing, which is what led to this."
She said she was asked to do pieces on outdoor activities, covering hikes and related activities in natural areas. She enjoyed exploring the natural world herself. But she had to question the consequences of her work and she said she began to look at going beyond exploring the natural environment to finding ways to keep it natural.
"Anyone can have a wilderness experience that goes beyond being low impact to being able to provide a benefit to the environment if they want," she said.
As a Hana resident for eight years and previously a Kauai resident, she was aware of a number of volunteer restoration programs. But getting information on the range of opportunities for volunteerism took a year - and she already knows she didn't get them all.
"I knew, of course, of some of these programs and I kind of did it word of mouth. It kind of came through me sending each person I contacted a list of what I previously had and ask if they knew about projects that I didn't have listed. Being small island communities, everyone does know each other in this network of volunteers for the environment," she said.
"I thought it would be just so valuable to have them listed all in a single place, and the information in the book is set up so the reader can reach the organizations directly. Almost all of them have their own Web sites so the potential volunteers can get more information if they need to."
After growing up in a small town in California, Whatley, 40, said she appreciates the rural lifestyle she found on Kauai and in Hana while she developed her talents as a writer over the past 15 years. She studied business in college, got her initial job as a copy writer for an advertising agency, noting that she once wrote material for the Esprit clothing business when it had an ecological division.
In Hana, she is married to Rick Rutiz, the contractor turned vocational education teacher at Hana High School, who developed the Ma Ka Hana Ka 'Ike program to train students in construction skills that they can use when they graduate.
In his nonprofit program, Rutiz also promotes ecological consciousness. Last year, his students built an alternative energy laboratory for the school to demonstrate the effectiveness of renewable energy technology, including photovoltaic panels, wind power and solar heating.
Whatley's book, published by Island Heritage Publishing, is available at Borders and Barnes & Noble among other island bookstores. It is a soft-cover, full-color book with 164 pages. It is listed at $9.95.
Whatley said she knows it will need to be updated periodically.
"I'm kind of waiting to see how things do change. It definitely will be repeated and revised. There will be new organizations, and I've already met people who were missed in the first pass," she said. "It will grow."
* Edwin Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.