.By Oahu Volunteer Coordinator & ODA Advisory Board Member Marjorie Zensen
Earth Day 2023 was a little different this year for ODA-Oahu.
While we kept to our usual Earth Day spot at Magic Island, we joined a larger effort this year.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery after you read the article -- we have SO MANY great photos of both cleanup on land and underwater. Thank you to Anke Roberts for most of the onshore/topside photos and also thanks to Crystal Gray for the underwater pics and a few of the topsides. Great work both of you for documenting this event so well!
Aqualung (scuba diving and snorkeling equipment) and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors, a recreational diving membership and diver training organization) partnered to attempt the world's most extensive self-organized dive cleanup in support of the launch of Pledge to Our Keiki.* The event was named #DiveForEarthDay.
Another organization called Kanu Hawaii allowed nonprofits to use their website to list their events and spread the word about this event where nonprofits, dive shops, and other environmental groups could join together to hold a huge clean up. And we did. In addition to Aqualung and PADI, others that were present were Nudiwear (who helped rally the local troops), Aarons Dive Shop, Aloha Junkman, Department of Aquatic Resources, Island Divers, Mauipose, Sea Lancers Dive Club, Trees to Seas, and ODA! Oh, and I must not forget Hawai’i Governor Josh Green and The Green Team showed up to help out!
Also present was Scott Kaeo the Malama Aina Coordinator for City & County. To help explain that title - "Malama" means to care for and "Aina" means land. He does this for the city of Honolulu and county which is Oahu. He encouraged and thanked all involved!
ODA-Oahu’s Dive Team Leader & ODA Advisory Board Member Glenn Roberts, his wife Anke, my husband Mark England, and I arrived pretty early to make sure we got a parking spot so we could unload the tent and supplies and be all set up and ready to go when the others arrived.
Michael Dal Pra and underwater photographer Crystal Gray jumped in the water soon after Mauipose began their underwater live stream! Crystal wanted to make sure she was able to get photos before the divers stirred up the water. I think she and Michael were underwater for a good two hours. Thanks so much, you two!
Following is a list of our volunteers. The list may very well may be missing some people because each of the organizations involved had sign-up sheets, and so some of the volunteers who helped us may be on other list (if that’s you, please let us know and we’ll add you to our list): Tyffany Bruno, Derek Clark, Angelina Criscione-Domalik, Michael Dal Pra, Zoe Daquino, Chris Denton, Robert Domalik, Mark England, Jonah Fuentes, Kakoa Fuentes, Sarah Gaston, Raymond Goodrich, Crystal Gray, Tyler Green, Samantha Happ, Nicholas Jarvis, Christina Klemme, Dwight Ladyfritz, Michelle Miller, Robert Montalto, Dan Norman, Brian Pittman, Adam Reddick, Glenn Roberts, Anke Roberts, Chloe Simpson, Ed Sisino, Kay Smullen, Gary Trost, and me (Marjorie Zensen).
After a couple of briefings, the other divers began to make their way into the water.
Mark and Brian Pittman stood at the edge of the water, ready to grab anything that was collected and handed to them. This included bags of fishing line and weights, bags full of clothing and fabrics, 10 tires, mattresses, blankets, pillows, shoes, bags, and so much other trash.
Often, they would carry the trash up to the tarp to dump then return to the shoreline.
However, for a while Brian was handing off the trash to waiting hands as a human chain had formed, not realizing until later that he kept handing off bags of mucky trash to the Governor!
The divers didn’t stop. In and out, in and out, filled bags, large unidentifiable objects, it just kept coming. Huge, huge mahalo to the divers who battled horrible visibility, crazy surge, waves, and carried large objects underwater. I cannot express to you all how hard they worked!
Michael Dal Pra was able to gently release an entangled slipper lobster from some gnarly fishing line while its helpless lobster friend looked on. While handling, we were relieved to see it was still alive and kicking (literally!). Once free, the pair retreated safely into a puka along the shelf.
Here's a short video of Michael doing the difficult work of disentangling our little friend!
And then there were shore and park cleaners! They hauled bags and bags of trash from the park and beach areas and from in between the rocks, Hawaiian sun beating down on them all morning. What a group they were!
As the day wore on, we knew it was time for our next heroes to arrive! Alohajunkman to the rescue with their trucks! ODA has used them before for our cleanups and we’re super happy to have them for this one because they hauled off 2.42 tons of debris!
That is 4,840 pounds of trash that was disposed of in the proper manner, gathered all in just a few hours!
Thanks to Aqualung, PADI, and Nudiwear for inviting us to join you. Thanks, Green Team and Governor Green for helping us to keep it green (and blue)! Thanks to our Sea Lancer buddies for always being there, and all the other groups and volunteers. What a blast – and so inspirational – to work together with so many people for a common cause and have fun doing it!
Earth Day 2023 was Saturday, April 22. As I write this, it is Monday morning April 24. Most of you have already headed off to work, to school, or wherever else your day is taking you. The excitement and energy of Earth Day is now behind us, and we are back to “normal.” Have you already set aside what you did this weekend? Have you already forgotten? Probably not if you’re reading this because I’m not letting you!😀 But maybe you did or maybe you will forget by tomorrow or next week.
I’d like to leave you with one last thought: When you walk outside, wherever you are, look up at the sky, look at the trees, the grass, the flowers (do you SMELL the flowers? I’m sitting on my lanai on Oahu and right now and I smell the early morning fragrance of flowers!). Let’s all take care of our home! Please don’t forget about it as you carry on with the week. Oh, you who are reading this and totally surrounded by land and city, I heard you just now! You know who you are! The one who just said “ut what can I do?” Each and every one of us can think about our single-use plastic consumption (reusable water bottles, coffee cups, lunch containers, straws). What about dryer (laundry) sheets? Upcycle clothes, donate instead of trashing items, reuse grocery bags, pick up trash as you walk your dog, at the beach, in the park…the list goes on and on. Consider what YOU can do because Every Day is Earth Day!
* Explanation of The Pledge to Our Keiki from Kanu Hawaii’s website: “Students from multiple islands and local schools created The Pledge To Our Keiki. The Pledge is a commitment to respect and care for the island places that they call home so that future generations continue to enjoy all that Hawai‘i has to offer.”
We sure hope you'll be active for the land or sea wherever you live, and we'd love it if you'd join us "in spirit" by donating towards a debris-free sea. Thank you for helping keep our crews cleaning coastal waters!