National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month:Kahi Kahakui

By Kahi Kahakui– Ocean Advocate

As a part Native Hawaiian woman, my culture is based upon the concept of resource management. My ancestors called it Kuleana – the responsibility of taking care of resources not only for the present, but for the next seven generations. They had strict rules about the kinds of fish you could catch, and when, to ensure that there would be enough for generations to come. The penalty for violators was death.

I was fortunate to be an “ocean baby.” I began swimming before I could crawl, and was riding on surfboards at age three. Because I loved the ocean so much, at age nine I was given the Hawaiian name, Kahiwaokawailani – Chosen One of the Heavenly Waters, a name which actually shaped my destiny.
At 15, I joined a competitive women’s outrigger canoe paddling group. During practices and races, I saw dead sea turtles with plastic bags stuck in their mouths and around their necks, and Hawaiian monk seals and dolphins trapped in abandoned nets. I wanted to do something, but what? A friend joked that I should do extreme long distance paddling from one island to another. She laughed and told me it would get people to listen. I took it seriously, and began with a 78-mile solo outrigger canoe journey from Maui to Oahu, to build public awareness of the need to take care of our ocean.

It worked! As a result, I ended up paddling the entire chain of Hawaiian Islands, sending a clear message: Take care of our ocean. I founded a non-profit, Kai Makana, which means Gifts from the Sea. We organized cleanups of beaches fouled with plastic debris, and a year-long youth mentorship program emphasizing ocean awareness, responsibility, and action. My biggest project with Kai Makana has been restoration of Mokauea, a small island off Honolulu Airport — one of Hawaii’s last fishing villages. We’ve brought thousands of volunteers there to remove invasive species, plant native plants, restore a native fish pond, and remove the never-ending stream of debris.

As an EPA Special Agent, I’ve seen that one 55-gallon drum of toxic waste can hurt a whole community of people who depend solely on the ocean to live and eat. We live in paradise, and we must remember that it is our Kuleana to take care of it!

About the author: Kahi Kahakui is a special agent for the Criminal Investigations Division of EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9). Kahi is part Native Hawaiian and part Chinese American.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFQemJ9xbhM[/youtube]

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Zac Appleton

By Zac Appleton, Livability

Like many people at EPA, I’m the sort of person who feels compelled to go the extra mile, to right the wrongs we find. My daily job is to work with grantees, businesses, and the public to cajole them to go a little greener, to find the resources and tools they need, and give them credit for their success when it’s due. Yet beyond the daily grind, it’s the unexpected challenges that become the test of who you are as a public servant.

One day in March 2010, as I dashed out of the office to grab lunch before a conference call, I was shocked when I witnessed a parked vehicle reverse into a pedestrian crossing, missing a family with a small child by millimeters and milliseconds. The driver was equally shocked when I let her know how close they were to tragedy. I went on with my day’s work, but I couldn’t forget about it. There was no reason for the loading zone stripe on the sidewalk there to extend all the way to the pedestrian crossing, creating a deadly hazard.

So, I went back outside with a camera and took photos, using them to lodge a complaint with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)’s Livable Streets website. I described the near-miss, told how a design flaw in the designated loading zone was the root cause, and proposed solutions. To my great surprise, SFMTA responded promptly, and painted a new 9-foot red “No Parking” zone nearest the crosswalk! It might not have been the solution I suggested, but the red stripe got the job done.

For me, this is what “Livability” is about — recognizing that the built environment we’ve inherited has lots of design flaws that need fixing, for people, now. Like a lot of us at EPA, we fix these problems because they need fixing, not because we crave recognition. I hope readers will take time to look around their own parts of the world, see what needs fixing, and talk with their neighbors and government to get it done.

About the author: Zac Appleton is a project officer and E-waste coordinator for the Office of Strategic Planning & Partnerships in EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9). Zac is part Burmese.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.