Earth Day is an annual event held every April 22nd to demonstrate support and awareness for environmental protection. This year, Hawaii kicked off Earth Day with a signing of The Pledge to Our Keiki on April 21st at the Hawaii State Capitol.
The Pledge to Our Keiki is a commitment to living sustainably and reducing human impact on the environment. It calls on individuals, businesses, and government agencies to take action to protect Hawaii’s natural resources, reduce waste, and promote sustainability.
The Pledge to Our Keiki is modeled after the Palau Pledge. All visitors to Palau have the pledge stamped into their passport and must sign it before entering the country. The Palau pledge and the Hawaii pledge were both written and developed by local children in efforts to involve younger generations and future stakeholders.
In attendance were the Governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, the President of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr., and EARTHDAY.ORG’s National Campaign Manager, Evan Raskin along with many business leaders, dignitaries, and government officials. Keone Kealoha, the executive director of Kanu Hawaii officiated the ceremony and has played an instrumental part in promoting the pledge as well as maintaining a web site for local volunteer activities.
We feel honored to have attended the signing of the Pledge to Our Keiki along with Kyle Ingram from PADI, and Autumn Soda, Chris Stoebenau, Gillian Boraiko, and Hannah Rayburn from Aqualung. We were all there to show support for the pledge as well as to promote our big Earth Day event happening the next morning at Magic Island.
This year for Earth Day, Aqualung and PADI partnered to create #DiveForEarthDay. It is an attempt at the world’s most extensive self-organized dive cleanup in support of the launch of Pledge to Our Keiki in Hawaii, across the pacific rim, and around the world. Oahu’s main event was chosen to happen at Magic Island.
Magic Island is the perfect spot for a large-scale cleanup effort because of its location. It is a manmade peninsula at the east end of Ala Moana Beach Park, just outside of Waikiki. On the eastern side it is bordered by a boat channel that is the pathway to the ocean via the Ala Wai Canal. The canal is a 2-mile-long drainage waterway that runs through Waikiki and tends to collect a high amount of trash that, unfortunately, makes it all the way to the ocean. After heavy rains, Magic Island becomes flooded with trash and natural debris from the canal. Some SCUBA divers dive at this site, but due to decreased visibility, boat traffic, and the presence of so much trash, it is often overlooked. It rarely gets cleaned like some of the more frequented dive sites.
On the morning of the event all the joining organizations set up their tents and tables and got ready to dive, clean up the park, and educate visitors on the importance of caring for our earth. In addition to Aqualung, PADI, and Nudi Wear, Aaron’s Dive Shop, Island Divers, Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), Kuleana Coral, Sea Lancers Dive Club, Ocean Alliance Project, Ocean Defender’s Alliance (ODA), and Trees to Seas all joined the event. Governor Josh Green and The Green Team also showed up to help. Scott Kaeo, the Malama Aina coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation provided his assistance and spread the message to help keep Hawaii clean. We were also graced with the presence of Mermaid Linda Stephanie and Mermaid Mia who did a fantastic job getting the keiki excited about Earth Day!
The entire event was livestreamed to over 100,000 people on TikTok via a group of divers called Maui Pose. Maui Pose came over from the neighboring island of Maui just for the event. They arrived early and took their viewers for a live dive before everyone else got in the water and the visibility became compromised. They also interviewed lots of people throughout the day teaching their viewers about Earth Day and ways to care for our Earth. They even got to interview the governor!
After a welcome and safety briefing, the rest of the divers headed for the water and the land crew got to work pulling debris out of the rocks along the water edge. The first large item recovered from the ocean was a mattress that was floating at the dive site entry.
Divers surfaced with heavy loads of trash recovered from the reef and sandy channel bottom. Some removed large items like tires and boat anchors, while others came back with bags full of lead weights, clothing, and aluminum cans. The articles of clothing are especially deadly to the reef. They get wrapped around coral lobes and smother it. If the clothing can be removed in time, the coral does stand a chance of recovering.
The land team removed a lot of plastics from the shoreline and then started removing natural debris too. This kind of debris can be just as harmful to coral reefs. Waves can cause the logs and sticks to smash into the reef and cause damage or parts of it can settle on top of the reef.
Some of the items collected include 10 tires, a traffic cone, 2 boat anchors with line, exercising equipment, 4 pairs of goggles or glasses, a SUP paddle, a knee brace, 230 pieces of lead fishing weight, 42 plastic bottles, 2 stuffed animals, 38 pieces of clothing, and much more. All the items collected from the ocean were logged with PADI Aware who tracks marine debris globally to help address key threats facing the marine environment. Liv from Trees to Seas and volunteer Kay Smullen brought biodegradable bags donated by Kalihi Beer and Honolulu Beerworks that once held brewery hops. After documenting all the trash, we used these bags to contain and transport the smaller items instead of creating more waste with single use plastic trash bags.
Disposing of all the trash and debris would not have been an easy feat without Aloha Junkman. Owners, Luke and Matt, showed up with smiling faces and all the right equipment to make the job easy. Volunteers formed an assembly line to hand the debris up to Luke and Matt who separated the trash for proper disposal. They were ready with a saw to cut up large pieces of wood for an easier transport. We can’t thank them enough for volunteering their time and services for the day. They are truly great people with a much-needed business on Oahu.
In just a few short hours, we were able to remove 4,840 pounds of trash and natural debris from the ocean and surrounding beach park. It was a very touching day to see so many people come together and make such a large impact while having fun.
Mahalo to everyone who helped bring the magic back to Magic Island by volunteering at the event, stopping by the booths, or watching from TikTok. We hope the day had a lasting impact and everyone will continue to think about how we can make every day Earth Day!
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