As my awareness expands with NVC, I’m becoming increasingly curious about how empathy influences people in our relationship with nature. In my NVC groups we practice empathy for nature, and I am deeply moved in the way nature inspires us in “following what is alive.” When I connect with nature, I feel deep peace and my needs for sacredness and trust in the mystery are always met. Nature is my “go to.” It’s my place where there is consistent, reliable connection to the sacredness of life.

I experience an extra special connection with butterflies. When I learned that the Kamehameha butterfly, an endemic species in Hawai’i, is declining in population, I was inspired to write a grant to raise awareness about their decline. The grant is called “Empathy for the ‘Aina and the Pulelehua.” It is privately funded and housed by the Network for Nonviolent Communication. The intention of the grant is to raise awareness in relation to the Kamehamehas dwindling numbers and to promote curiosity as to how we can relate to them with empathic presence.

This project involves multiple activities to support the butterflies. We are building hatcheries that are free of pesticides and herbicides that poison the butterflies’ food, thereby protecting them from life threatening poisons. Another benefit of the hatcheries is that the butterflies will be protected from their predators including wasps, ants and flies. We will also raise Mamaki, an important host plant for the Kamehameha butterflies. By laying their eggs on the leaves they ensure that newly hatched caterpillars will have their favorite food source. Newly hatched butterflies will be released daily to ensure that no butterflies are trapped. When I consult with agencies about bringing hatcheries to their work place, I make a clear agreement that butterflies will be free to fly and have an uncaged life because their dignity is important to me. Initially, in the hatcheries we will raise Monarch butterflies who will serve as “ambassadors” of the Kamehamehas until the time comes when we can raise Kamehamehas. I have a vision of hatcheries for the Kamehamehas as a strategy to replenish them, but for now, the Pulelehua Project at the University of Hawaii has requested that they stay in their natural habitat. Monarch butterflies are not regulated.

When people visit the Monarch hatcheries, they will receive information about the dwindling Kamehamehas. The blessing of holding a freshly birthed Monarch is unforgettable and I trust that this will inspire them to act as ambassadors for the Kamehamehas.

Our first hatchery was recently completed with the help of many, including a materials donation by Maui Irrigation Systems, and 7 hatchery builders. A special shout out to Becky Lewis and Melanie Turner, whose support in the construction was invaluable. We were a delightful power-with team, using our NVC skills at every step in the process. An equally important shout out to the other 4 laborers: Paul, Jai, Odel and Axl. I couldn’t have done it without their support, strength and encouragement The scientists at the Pulelehua Project at the University of Hawaii have requested any sightings of the Kamehamehas be reported to their website:

I have opened dialogue with the University, expressing my hope that someday the hatcheries could serve to repopulate the Kamehameha’s. For now, we report sightings and leave the Kamehameha butterflies in their natural habitat. Another aspect of this project is Empathy Hikes on Maui, in the Kahakapao (Makawao) Forest Reserve where the Kamehameha’s have been sighted. The Kamehamehas are fast fliers and the forest is well shaded so we hope that the light of midday hikes will provide us with sightings. The hikes are an opportunity to be with a group of empathy “buddies” while experiencing the natural habitat of the Kamehameha’s. The hikes are open to the public, so please join us! For more information and directions, call me at 808-264-2928 or website.