COAST IS CLEAR: What inspired you to dedicate your life to managing our waterways?
KATIE CALLAHAN: I grew up on a farm, spent summer weekends on a boat fishing with my family, and would swim until my lips were blue. Water has always been my peace of mind, my source of rejuvenation. As a kid, I saw how water was so necessary for life and the production of our food. It drew me in, and I want to help protect it for me, for others, for my kids, if I can!
CIC: What is it about the Reedy River that has garnered it so much attention, support and TLC from groups like FoRR?
KC: Greenville is super unique. Just think about this: how many cities have you visited that have a 1000-foot waterfall? Water has always created gathering places in all its forms; waterfalls create energy and moments of awe. Research shows that most people want to protect what is clean, beautiful. And when the Carolina Foothills Garden Club reclaimed what was not pretty and made it accessible, they rallied support for the creation of Falls Park and this tremendous community space.
CIC: How are you convincing businesses and individuals to pitch in?
KC: Our local economy is linked to the health of our natural resources. Imagine if the Reedy River just dried up every once in a while from over use? Would our downtown businesses be boosted by a river that smelled putrid? No! South Carolina is a land rich in outdoor possibilities, with every type of waterway to explore, and a shellfish and fishing industry that creates jobs when our waterways are healthy. It’s mind-blowing, but researchers from Clemson University found that our natural resources provide $33.4 BILLION to our economy annually. If a business needs convincing, there are numbers we could connect them to. Really, though, I think businesses understand this connection, but just need assistance in carrying sustainability messages and priorities to all their staff in an instructional way.
CIC: COAST IS CLEAR has a mission to not only educate the public about plastics pollution but to also put resources behind cleanups of – and alternatives to – single-use plastic items. What's your take on the plastics issue that's threatening our oceans and coastlines?
KC: I’m absolutely baffled by the statistics lately on plastic pollution. Benoit Lecomte is swimming across the Pacific Ocean right now as I type, and he will cross through a mass of accumulated “plastic smog” the size of Germany, France and Britain combined. It’s an absolute disgrace. Whether you’re a fisherman, an avid beachgoer, or a Christian who thanks God for this green earth, whatever your motivation, that statistic should make you a) feel nauseous, b) act now.
I’m thankful COAST is taking action and telling this story. I think that so many people do not feel that their individual action counts towards these enormous problems, but with this visual in mind, it’s the individual actions that have caused this issue, and it’s the individual actions that can keep this issue from growing.