I recently met Norman Bezona, the founder of the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary and a 50 year veteran of tropical forestry here on the Big Island of Hawaii. He is what you would call, the man “who speaks for the trees”. He opened my eyes last weekend while I was up on his property doing a tour and filming for the Big Island Film Office. When I first saw the gorgeous and exotic trees and property, I kept thinking what a great place it would be to film a documentary or a major motion picture project. Then the more I spoke to Norman, I realized it was a property that had been tended to and kept by a man who knew the sanctity of an ecosystem that was endangered. He had used seeds and plantings from his travels from all over the world to re-establish the forest after it had been clear cut for cattle grazing.
Norman explained that the cloud forest exists because it takes moisture out of the air from passing clouds, turns it into fresh water that then enters the aquifer system which supplies fresh water for people living “downstream”. Folks, like myself, from the mainland know little about where our fresh water actually comes from, not knowing the delicate balance of nature which is going on above us 2500 feet on the mountain within the cloud forest. Coming from California where the Sierra snowpack is dwindling each year, I thought I had escaped the fresh water problem that millions of Californians are now facing.
Norm shared that ranching (i.e. cows, horses, sheep, goats) have done damage to the forests but he would like to see ranchers get involved in reforestation of marginal ranch lands with incentives from government and others. He stated that this is already happening to a limited extent. He works to encourage the protection of existing forests on ranch lands, as well.
Norman is a rock, a man who makes things happen. He created the 70 acre sanctuary in the cloud forest and has educated and encouraged his neighbors to reforest their property, as well. He is looking for ripples. The kind of people like me who have visited his sanctuary and took the time to listen, and want to let others know of this magical garden forest he has created. He welcomes student groups for free. Norm, along with his business partner Voltaire Moise and Norm’s family, take guests on guided tours, keep the forest healthy and manicured, and even put some surprises along the trail for people to discover.
Norman is 75. He’s not going to be around much longer to be the rock, dropping into the pond to wait for the ripples hoping to reach the right people. He has been approached by his neighbors who want to sell their properties to a land trust that will ensure the forest is never cut down for development. The County does not have the money or the management to be able to do this. It has to be a grass roots effort, much like the Open Space Authority in the Bay Area that purchased private land, piece by piece over many years to build an amazing trail and recreation system for the public to enjoy. This is not about hikers, however. It’s about the environment and sustainability and fresh water for a thirsty island.
Rocks and ripples. I am taking a group of “ripples” for a tour of the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary in November to ask them to blog, photograph, video and talk about this special forest so that more people can understand, appreciate and come see this beautiful and fragile environment. The right people will show up who can help keep the cloud forest alive and well-if you think you can help, let me know and I will include you in the tour on November 16th. Once you meet Norm and Voltaire and have a chance to experience the peace and serenity of the sanctuary, you will know Aloha.
A friend of mine who was there as an amateur videographer was as smitten with Norman and his forest as I was. I told him that if he could do a short documentary on Norman, I would show it at my TechConKona conference in November to small business owners and sustainability experts. He just wrapped up filming today. This documentary could be a major ripple and bring Norman’s story and knowledge to more people who are out there trying to save forests, ecosystems and habitats.
This is how social media/PR/ digital marketing all come together to make a difference. Rocks and ripples. Which one are you?