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Paddling to Protect the World's Water

Aired June 22, 2001 - 07:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: While there may be more water than land on our planet, we do take it too much for granted.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.

MCEDWARDS: That's for sure.

LIN: And that is the opinion of championship paddler and native Hawaiian, Donna Kahakui -- sorry, Donna. She founded the environmental group Kai Makana to draw attention to protecting the environment.

MCEDWARDS: And Donna Kahakui is in New York, taking part in the Aloha for Liberty Paddle to call attention to the Hudson River.

Donna, thanks for being here.

LIN: Good morning.

DONNA KAHAKUI, FOUNDER, KAI MAKANA: Aloha, Carol and...

LIN: Aloha.

KAHAKUI: ... Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Thanks. I understand that it was an encounter with some dolphins that sort of inspired your environmental sensibilities. What happened?

KAHAKUI: That's true. You know, I grew up -- born and raised there. And it was such a great experience. And I feel very fortunate to be -- to be a part of a state of Hawaii that is so beautiful and is basically paradise.

And I was befriended by a few dolphins who came up to me on my one-man canoe and kind of looked at me and said: It's time to take care of the environment. And then it was time to get my friends together and form an organization called Kai Makana, which is a non- profit 501c3 organization run totally by volunteers.

And our mission is basically that: ocean education through awareness. And we try to utilize these extreme, somewhat crazy paddles, if you will, as well as environmental educational projects through youth, specifically high school students, to bring awareness about stream restoration and plant restoration, as well as instill a cultural value of taking care of the mountains, our land, and how it affects our ocean waters.

LIN: So why in the world would you want to go down the Hudson?

KAHAKUI: I know. Everybody keeps asking me that: Why the Hudson?

Well, you know, last year, I participated in a Liberty Race here that was on the Hudson. And I had the opportunity to take a look around and hear stories about how the Hudson used to be back in the 1980s. And we have a similar body of water called the Ala Wai Canal which we are trying to improve as we speak.

But it seems like it was a great time to take a look and participate, actually, in the International Year of the Volunteer. And when we were invited to participate in that, it was an honor for us to come to this great state and say: OK, here, this is what we're doing in Hawaii to take care of our oceans. This is what we've seen that you're doing on the Hudson and try to make a bridge between communities so that we can come together as a global arena, if you will, to take care of the ocean.

MCEDWARDS: How tough a paddle is this going to be for you?

KAHAKUI: Well, actually, this is going to be the shortest one, I'm happy to say.

MCEDWARDS: And it's, what, 50 miles or something?

KAHAKUI: Yes.

LIN: That short?

(LAUGHTER)

KAHAKUI: It's about 55 miles, yes. It's from West Point. And then we're going down around the Statue of Liberty to pay tribute to the freedom of choice and, basically, the freedom if you want to go in the water or not. And we're going to finish at Pier 63. And I hope it's going to be a great time.

LIN: This is probably going to be a drop in the bucket, though for you, Donna. I mean, last year, I read that you paddled around the Island of Oahu?

KAHAKUI: That's correct. I've done some kind of what they call "crazy paddles." But all in bringing awareness. And you know, Kai Makana is an organization that's just about bringing awareness and teaching people: Hey, this is your option. You can do this. And we can come together and do this as a group of human beings.

Because no matter what religion you are, no matter what color you are, there's one thing that connects us. And that's water and the ocean.

LIN: So, Donna, I got to ask. I got to check out these arms of yours. Can you hold...

(LAUGHTER)

KAHAKUI: No!

LIN: Can you hold it up? Are you -- you must be in awesome shape.

KAHAKUI: Fortunately, Hawaii is a beautiful place. And we can train year-round. And there's a lot of wonderful people there who help be a part of Kai Makana to help get me here and help pull off these paddles to try and bring awareness.

So I don't want to show my arms. But I do -- you know, this is a great state. And I think it'll be a great paddle.

(CROSSTALK)

MCEDWARDS: You're modest and lovely.

LIN: Yes.

MCEDWARDS: Best of luck with it. Donna Kahakui, thanks very much for joining us.

KAHAKUI: Mahalo.

LIN: Mahalo.

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