Damien "Nakoa" Farrant of Haleiwa was one of 15 U.S. students selected to participate in NOAA's Ocean for Life program at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary this summer. Nakoa with Jean-Michel Cousteau of the Ocean Futures Society. Courtesy photo.
NOAA selected Nakoa, 17, to participate based on his submission of a series of essays on ocean conservation and cultural understanding. NOAA was also impressed with his research project on the effects of ocean acidification on the growth of a marine bacterium at the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair earlier this year.
Ocean for Life, a partnership between NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, The GLOBE and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is an educational field study program enhancing cultural understanding among high school students through ocean science.
The students learned about a wide range of topics at Channel Islands — climate change, ocean acidification, kelp forest ecosystems, marine life of the Santa Barbara Channel and the different cultures and backgrounds of their fellow participants. Their experiences were documents with photos and video. And they got to meat with Jean-Michel Cousteau of Ocean Futures Society.
"Ocean for Life taught me many lessons and truly changed my life," said Farrant. "The ocean connects the world and the actions taken by humanity continuously influence the health of the ocean. By finding interconnectedness with people from around the world, we can make significant change through simple actions like recycling. I plan to start by raising awareness and getting people to take action in my home community on the island of Oahu."
There you have it — a simple action in everyday life: recycling.
Ocean for Life more specifically brings 15 Middle Eastern and 15 Northern American high school students together to study marine science. Its premise is simple: "We are all connected by the oean and by studying the ocean, we can learn about improving stewardship of the planet and our ourselves: one world, one ocean."
The program was born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy. Three Washington DC public school students, their three teachers and two National Geographic Society staff who were on the way to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary were victims of the tragedy that day. They were on American Airlines, Flight 77.
Surfrider Foundation and Barefoot Wines host a beach cleanup at Magic Island on Saturday (Aug. 24). Photo from www.aloha-hawaii.com.
Love Magic Island?
Help clean up the beach and have fun at the same time, at the Barefoot Wine and Surfrider Foundation beach cleanup from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 24. Meet by the lake across from the parking lot at Magic Island (at the east end of Ala Moana Beach Park).
If you want to warm up with some yoga first, go earlier for some Karma Yoga at 9:30 a.m. courtesy of Green Girl Yoga.
Please bring your own bags, water bottles, hats, swimsuits and gloves if you can.
After the beach cleanup, volunteers (21 and over) are invited to Tiki's Grill & Bar, 2570 Kalakaua Ave. for a celebration including food, drinks and surf-inspired fare from noon to 2 p.m.
The event is part of the Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, now in its seventh year, in which volunteers gather to clean up beaches, rives, parks and lakes all across America.
Wow. I just saw "Blackfish," the documentary by director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite at Consolidated Theatres.
The film created a buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and opens at Kahala Theatres 8 in Honolulu Aug. 23. If you ever went to marine parks or have any love for marine animals, I highly recommend that you go see it. If you're a parent with young kids, I also recommend that you see it.
Cowperthwaite's documentary, which was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films, is eye-opening, exposing the dark underbelly of what really happens behind the scenes at a place like SeaWorld. Actually, the film takes SeaWorld on directly, interviewing several of its former (and now disillusioned) trainers about what went on.
The pivotal focus of the film is on the Feb. 24 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced and well-respected trainer. During a routine performance, she was dragged underwater, thrashed and killed by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. in front of a horrified audience, resulting in a lawsuit by OSHA.
Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (Credit: Gabriela Cowperthwaite).
As a child, I went to Seaworld and have memories of being splashed when Shamu the whale crashed down in the water. Everyone did. We never thought twice about it. The amusement park is a place of sunshine, happy smiles and the trainers lead you to believe that the animals enjoy performing.
Until a tragedy like Brancheau's death happens, and you say, "Wait a minute. What happened?"
That's what started the whole project for film director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, herself a mother of 7-year-old twins who took them places like SeaWorld. Cowperthwaite, who in an interview said she never planned to make this documentary, nevertheless got drawn in by the need to put the truth out there.
It turns out Brancheau was not the first, but the second trainer (and third person) to be killed by Tilikum, 20 years apart. But none of the trainers interviewed knew anything about the previous incidents, and often when there is an accident, the well-oiled PR machine of SeaWorld would blame the tragedies on trainer error.
So we don't have a SeaWorld in Hawaii, nor any Orca whales in captivity here. But many of us have been to marine amusement parks on the U.S. mainland. The film may also cause you to start examining the larger picture of animals in captivity for the purpose of entertainment.
>> "There's no record of any Orca doing any harm in the wild," says Orca researcher Howard Garrett. But dozens of injuries (and several deaths) have been caused by Orcas in captivity, which have hurt one another and the trainers they work with. Tilikum, the whale that killed Dawn Brancheau, had previously killed two other people as well.
>> The film delves into Tilikum's history. He was plucked from the ocean near Iceland as a 2-year-old calf, separated from his mother (who grieved and would not leave even though she could have), then mistreated at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. At night, Tilikum was held in a small module, pretty much a prison cell for a mammal meant to travel miles in the boundless ocean. Former diver and Orca hunter John Crowe, who remembers rounding up the whale calves in Puget Sound, says: "This is the worst thing I've ever done."
>> Natural life span. In the wild, marine biologists say there's evidence Orcas can live 60 to 70 years, but SeaWorld staff are trained to tell the public that they live an average of 25 to 35 years, and that they live longer in captivity because of vet care. Who do you believe?
Cowperthwaite skillfully weaves imagery and footage (including the 911 call placed for Brancheau) with heartfelt interviews, capturing some of the most powerful quotes and emotions from former trainers at SeaWorld.
You can see that the trainers loved the whales and the thrill of working with those magnificent creatures, but were naive and surprisingly, had very little scientific knowledge about Orcas.
Just like "The Cove," in 2009, I think "Blackfish" is going to make an impact. It's kind of a wake-up call that will make anyone think twice about going to a place like Seaworld again. "Free Willy" (1993) was a movie with a similar message, but this one isn't fiction — it's based on real life, which strikes a deeper chord.
Should these majestic creatures of the ocean deep be held in captivity and trained to do tricks for our entertainment? What are the consequences? More importantly, is it morally wrong to forcefully take a whale calf from its mother for the purpose of making money?
Needless to say, SeaWorld declined to be interviewed for the documentary.
To its credit, SeaWorld claims it plays a role in both conservation education. Go to its corporate website and you will actually see links to "education" and conservation." The link to conservation is cleverly branded as www.seaworldcares.com, and includes stories on how the SeaWorld Rescue Team returned Claire the Manatee to her natural environment, for instance. The team also responded to the BP Gulf oil spill, saving more than 100 endangered sea turtles.
Here are some rebuttals from SeaWorld and the film published on indiewire.
While watching the film uncovers an ugly truth, unveiling footage of accident after tragic accident, as well as confessionals from former trainers, it also makes us love and respect these Orcas even more. We discover they are marine mammals that stick together like family and display linguistic, cognitive and emotional abilities (as well as the smarts to try outsmarting their captors by having one group leading them away from the calfs and mothers).
In my generation, we may have accepted sea life amusement parks blindly but in the next generation, maybe this won't be the case and there will be some change.
The film opens and closes with images of the Orcas swimming in their natural environment. What it conveys is the beauty of that, and of the "blackfish" as "an animal that possesses great, spiritual power, not to be meddled with."
Orca whales in the wild, majestic and free. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures (from Christopher Towey).
To learn more about orcas, also known as killer whales, visit the following websites:
The city and county of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services has not only embraced the concept of DIY (do-it-yourself) recycling bins, but is inviting schools, community groups and volunteers to help make and install them at district parks, beaches and bus stops.
The city's goal is to install 1,000 of the HI-5 recycling bins around the island this year.
This month, Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i was one of the first groups to step up to the plate and partner with the city for the project. B.E.A.C.H. brought together volunteers to learn how to make the wire recycling bins that they will install around Oahu while educating the public about the city's new no-smoking rules.
They first made the bins in 2006, installing the first one in front of their home. The simple wire mesh bins come with a sign that says "HI-5/ Take, Leave, Whatevas..." The idea caught on and they were invited to give workshops.
The self-serve bins attach to existing trash containers to help keep recyclables separate. The city will not be picking up the recyclables.
Volunteers from Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii attend a city workshop to learn how to construct DIY HI-5 recycling bins. Photo courtesy B.E.A.C.H.
Folks who are participating in RevoluSun's Solar Saver social media campaign. Courtesy RevoluSun.
One Hawaii solar company is using social media to help spread the word about solar savings (from solar photovoltaic systems).
Honolulu-based RevoluSun has established a Solar Savers team that hangs out at local beaches and community events handing out free shirts, sunglasses and more to spread awareness about solar energy.
Here's how it works: People who meet the Solar Savers team take a photo and tag themselves and RevoluSun on Facebook. Those who agree to do so are entered in a drawing for a $50 American Express card in a monthly drawing.
The social media campaign started in July and runs through September.
Find out through the actual eyes of a Hawaiian monk seal, thanks to National Geographic Crittercams — video cameras affixed to the seals' backs. The premiere of this monk seal footage will be showcased at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 17) at Doris Duke Theatre.
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet, according to NOAA Fisheries scientist Charles Littnan, but "their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end." Their population has declined dramatically over the last 75 years — today, only 1,100 monk seals remain in the wild.
Spinner dolphin leaping from the ocean. Photo credit: SAPPHIRE Project under NOAA Scientific Permit.
I've loved dolphins since I was a kid.
To me, they are magical, beautiful creatures with a fun and playful side. Intelligent, too. A recent study from the Dolphin Research Center in Grass Keys, Fla. indicates dolphins are smart enough to problem solve in much of the same way that humans do.
So I am in kind of a dilemma when it comes to swim-with-dolphin programs and marine amusement parks. While I want my 3-year-old son to experience the wonder of dolphins (all kids love dolphins), I hesitate to bring him to one after watching a documentary like "The Cove" (2009) and interviews with marine mammal activist Ric O'Barry.
O'Barry, who was the dolphin trainer for the popular TV show "Flipper" at the Miami Seaquarium, is now an activist calling attention to the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, from September to April. O'Barry became an activist after one of the dolphins playing Flipper died in his arms — ever since, he's spoken out against keeping dolphins in captivity or training them to do tricks for human entertainment. O'Barry urges people not to buy a ticket to a dolphin show.
As a kid, I went to a number of amusement parks — I still have a vivid memory of a bottlenose dolphin coming up to me when I was 6 or 7 years old at an underwater aquarium, and "greeting" me from behind the window. It was vertical, floating upright with both flippers out and what looked like a smile on its face.
Given what I know now, though, I'm refraining from taking my son to any marine amusement parks.
Here in Hawaii we have tours that offer you a chance to see dolphins in the wild. That might be a better option, as long as you give dolphins respect and space (if you happen to see one while surfing or paddling, then cherish such a special gift but give them the same respect and space). It's also disturbing to see really aggressive tour operators circling the dolphins and letting their guests swim up to dolphins while they are trying to get some rest.
That's where The Nai‘a Guide, an app created by Duke University graduate Demi Fox aiming to be the "ecological conscience for tourists seeking to experience Hawaiian spinner dolphins" comes in. The app was developed in partnership with NOAA's DolphinSMART program, which trains tour operators to voluntarily minimize harrassment to spinner dolphins and to encourage responsible viewing.
Dolphins are by nature, social and curious.
"Just as we are watching them, they are watching us," said Fox.
But they are also conscious breathers who must swim and move about while resting, which is what they are doing in sheltered bays and coastlines during the day when tourists are coming by in boats.
The DolphinSMART guidelines are spelled out in the word SMART. The "S" stands for staying back 50 yards from dolphins, "M" for move away cautiously if dolphins show signs of disturbance, "A" for always put your engine in neutral while dolphins are near, "R" for refrain from feeding, touching or swimming with wild dolphins and "T" for teach others to be dolphin smart.
If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Sarah Courbis, Research Associate at Portland State University, gives a lecture at the Pacific Whale Foundation's Discovery Center (oceanside lower level at Ma‘alaea Harbor Shops off Route 31, the Honoapiilani Highway) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22. Her presentation, part of the foundations "Making Waves" lecture series, is titled "Hawaii's Dolphins: Human Impacts and Conservation Action." Free and open to the public.
The "Nai‘a Guide" (available free on iTunes for iPads) serves as an educational resource for the responsible viewing of wild spinner dolphins in Hawaii. Courtesy image.
Spend the day cleaning up the coastline at Kakaako beach, then stick around for a rock concert on Saturday (Aug. 10).
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is hosting the event on Saturday afternoon. Registration is at 1-2 p.m. at Kakaako Amphitheater. Help clean the coastline, whether it's picking up litter, cigarette butts or sifting out marine debris from 2 to 4 p.m. Please bring a reusable water bottle, reusable bags and reusable bags if you can (which will otherwise be provided).
From 4 to 7 p.m., enjoy live music by Tavana and Chaotic Five, plus food, keiki activities, educational booths and more.
Kakaako is becoming the new, hip and happening place, with a slew of new condos scheduled for construction over the next few years, along with new eateries, retail shops and food events like Eat The Street and Honolulu Night Market. This is Susatinable Coastline's first event in Kakaako.
Rocka‘ako is free and open to the public. If you won't be volunteering to clean up the coastline, a $10 donation is suggested for attending the concert. Visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org.
They cleared trails of leaves, branches and muddy debris strewn by recent high winds and rain, spread gravel along trail paths and painted over graffiti on stone bridges. It was all a part of "A Day on the Land," an effort to preserve an important, natural habitat with a rich, cultural heritage.
HECO brought about 50 volunteers to help spread gravel along the trail in Moanalua Valley. Courtesy photo.
Volunteers braved both humidity and mosquitoes during their efforts Saturday.
The work day was sponsored by companies including Alaska Airlines, Alexander & Baldwin, Central Pacific Bank, First Insurance Co. of Hawaii, the Hawaiian Electric Co., HMSA, Makai Ocean Engineering, Servco Foundation and Title Guaranty.
HECO brought about 50 volunteers, some of whom brought their families, to the community work day. It was an opportunity to work side-by-side with the community and hike into areas of Moanalua Valley that are rarely accessible to the public, said HECO's director of education and consumer affairs Ka‘iulani de Silva.
Moanalua Valley is one of the last, truly open spaces in urban Honolulu (which narrowly escaped becoming a potential corridor for the H-3 freeway as well as residential development). It's home to five distinct forest types and more than nine miles of streams. The valley is a critical habitat for endangered plants and animals, including the elepaio, and home to cultural important sites including a famed pohaku (stone) carved with petroglyphs of winged warriors.
The Trust for Public Land purchased Moanalua Valley in 2007 and transferred it to the state's Forest Reserve system where it will be protected in perpetuity.
More than 100 volunteers showed up to help at the Trust for Public Land's A Day on the Land at Moanalua Valley. Courtesy photo.
Linda Howe from A & B helps clean graffiti from a bridge at Moanalua Valley as part of The Trust for Public Land's community work day. Courtesy photo. To learn of more community workdays, visit www.tpl.org/hawaii or call 524-8694.
Volunteers from HECO lent a helping hand at a Day on the Land in Moanalua Valley. Courtesy photo.
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Reporters drink a lot of soda. These aluminum cans of Pepsi and Coke went to Reynold's Recycling. Photos by Nina Wu.
Let's just say reporters drink a lot — of soda and water, I mean.
All those cans of soda and plastic bottles of water add up if you recycle them.
For the Star-Advertiser Today staff alone, it amounted to $37.80 after hundreds of bottles and cans collected over six months were redeemed at Reynold's Recycling. Sure, it takes up space and requires sorting and transporting (which can be a pain), but it's well worth the effort.
Our drink and snacks vendor just came in to refill two cases of soda (each case includes 24 sodas). He says we go through about four to five cases a week (do the math and that's between 96 to 120 bottles). So actually, if we recycled bottles from the entire newsroom, that could potentially be much, much more...!
It's interesting how the bottle bill in Hawaii (enacted in 2005) has changed the way we look at bottles with economic value rather than another piece of trash to throw away and add to our overflowing landfills. True, there is controversy over how it's implemented, (and the program's badly managed, according to an audit last year), plus the handling fee went up by a half-cent last year, but it has boosted our recycling rate.
Though you can't see the immediate effect, there has to be some value in diverting this stuff from the landfills.
Here's a look at recycling:
After setting up a collection center in our office, we brought four large trash bags full of aluminum cans and three kitchen-sized trash bags full of plastic bottles to Reynold's Recycling. When you go, expect to hear a cacaphony of sounds – the clatter of aluminum and glass being poured from one trash can to another and the smell of fermented juice.
The Tomra Reverse Vending Machines at Reynold's Recycling let you count each and every can and bottle (worth 5 cents apiece). When done, it will spit out a receipt with your count to redeem at the front counter.
You can either put each can and bottle into a reverse vending machine, one by one, to get 5-cents or have them weighed. There are different machines for plastic, glass and aluminum. This can be time-consuming and requires a lot of repetition, but the machines work pretty smoothly, overall. Sometimes the machines can't read the barcode on the can or bottle, and will reject it.
A small can of V-8 didn't make it.
Some people say you get more by counting each bottle (up to 200 or less must be counted upon the customer's request), but in the end, it's probably just a matter of cents. So you can do it if you have the time, or just go up to the front counter to have your recyclables weighed. Crushing aluminum cans saves space but can't go through the machine.
Just pour all of your sorted recyclables into one of the trash cans with wheels on site and roll it up to the counter. Here are instructions, in case you're not sure what to do.
One of the guys at Reynold's, seeing the big load, was nice enough to step in and help feed the bottles in the machines. He did two at a time (requires coordination). Also, if you feed plastic bottles into the machine, make sure you remove all the caps first because they will jam it up.
Cha-ching! We redeemed roughly 700 aluminum cans and 56 plastic bottles for a total of $37.50.
In the end, it was astonishing just how many beverages we consumed in the office. We had a total of about 700 aluminum cans plus 56 plastic bottles. The total for that was $37.80.
Reynold's has dozens of locations — from Ala Moana to 555 South St. in Kakaako, Aina Haina, Mililani, Pearl City, Wahiawa, Haleiwa, Waianae Boat Harbor and Waikiki. Click here for a full list of locations.
If you can't be bothered to redeem your bottles for 5 cents each, then just toss them into your blue bin for curbside pickup (or you can donate to a non-profit which could use the funds). Organizations like the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii actually schedule a time to come pick up your donated goods, including recyclable beverage containers.