Saturday, September 22, 2012

Musings: Common Complaint

It's the fall equinox, and it feels like it, with an inch of rain falling overnight, the day coolish, grayish, subdued. Not that I'm complaining, because it's been quite a week, what with Shay getting suedtwice — the Guv getting booed more than twice, statewide Occupy Monsanto protests and the first confirmation that Japanese tsunami debris has arrived in Hawaii, though I've been seeing an inordinate amount of styrofoam and plastic bottles with kanji lettering washing up for a couple of weeks.

I've been thinking a lot about the governor's meeting — you can listen here, thanks to KKCR — and what it really meant. Though Civil Beat portrayed the Kauai crowd as a bunch of ungrateful, rude hicks fixated on the Public Lands Development Corp. (Act 55), the discontent is a lot deeper and broader than that.

Yes, opposition to the PLDC is strong and growing — some are calling it the new Superferry — but fishermen and ocean users who are worried about plans to expand the humpback whale sanctuary had an equally strong presence, as did the anti-GMO contingent.

There's a common complaint in all of these concerns, and it's about centralized decision-making, centralized control of land, water, resources, food. Centralization works to disenfranchise local communities, make people feel like they aren't being heard. 

So it really didn't help when the guv kept deflecting criticism by telling people to take their complaints about GMOs and the PLDC to the Legislators, because they make the laws.

Yeah, technically, but we all know the guv not only helps set the Legislature's agenda — the PLDC is a key component of Abercrombie's “New Day in Hawaii” — but holds veto power over any bill.

And though DLNR Director William Aila patiently explained that the state is partnering with the feds in many of the controversial ocean initiatives, I'm not sure too many of us believe that relationship is equal – not with the feds holding the purse strings, not to mention the guns.

The Administration showed it was particularly out of touch when the issue of GMOs arose, as it did right off the bat, when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked the first question: how come no organic farmers in the Kekaha ag park? Why, they're welcome, of course, replied the Dept. of Ag's Scott Enright, who talked about how tough it was to make a profit with small farms. “But we can accommodate them if they come forward,” he said.

“Not in the GMO fields,” someone yelled from the crowd. “The air and water is all contaminated over there.” And off it went. The guv, trying to regain control, fumbled badly, telling folks the “philosophy of agriculture” is something they needed to take up with the Lege, because “we're trying to encourage agriculture any way we can.”

Scott inadvertently threw more fuel on the fire. “I realize there's a passion when it comes to GMOs, but the biotech industry is legal.”

“That's the problem,” someone yelled.

“We're talking about government, and you're part of it,” another person called out.

There you have it, the crux of the issue. It seems people are increasingly inclined to look at all the many factions of government as a single entity that isn't going to fix anything, because it's part of the problem, in bed with special interests, rather than serving the public good. 

"We don't trust you," was a common refrain. And that's hard to hear when you're in government because you truly believe in public service, as many public workers doubtless do.

Though I'm not sure the guv and his Cabinet got it, there was a take-away message, and it's this: It's not enough anymore to give a community money — in this case, $71.6 million of the state's $469 million capital improvement budget, which one man later characterized as  “a little crumb.” People also want a direct say in what happens in their community — hence the uproar over the PLDC, with its omnipotent, Honolulu-based, five-member board of bureaucrats and developers.

They also want to feel like government shares their concerns, and is looking out for them. So the biggest gaffe of the night came when a woman who identified herself as a healthcare worker came to the microphone and spoke of “seeing people every day who are really ill from the effects of Pioneer, Syngenta, the GMO spraying.” She then said a Kauai oncologist had told her the westside has the state's highest incidence of colon, breast and cervical cancer.” Is anybody looking into this? she wanted know.

The guv's press secretary, Donalyn Dela Cruz (whose brother Donovan, a state senator, co-sponsored the PLDC bill), tried to dismiss her with with a trite, “Thank you for bringing the issue to the table.” That's when the crowd started taking on the stirrings of an angry mob and a man yelled out, incredulously, “Somebody has to address it!”

An awkward silence followed and finally state Health Director Loretta Fuddy said no GMO-human health studies were under way in Hawaii. “I know that nationally and internationally there is a concern and they are looking at it... but we don't have the science yet.”

Which leads quite naturally to the question: since Hawaiii is ground zero, the world capital of open-air experimental testing of genetically modified crops, and a major producer of GM seed, why aren't there any health or environmental studies going on?

I recently did a short piece on the Department of Water's decision to settle a class action lawsuit with Syngenta, in part because they don't believe the pesticide is currently in wide use. So I called Syngenta to ask if they are still using atrazine on their westside corn crops. 

But they never called back, because they don't have to. They're not required to answer to the public, to be held accountable for agricultural and business practices that greatly affect our community.

And that's exactly what folks rightly fear will happen with the PLDC, and the ocean sanctuary. More layers between them and the decision-makers, no local accountability. Because as we've seen over and over again, it's so easy to blow off the citizenry when you can do so with impunity.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

the state has myopic vision

Anonymous said...

Kauai can Thank Kawakami, Kouchi, and Tokioka for what is going to be an over zealous attack on the natural beauty of Kauai. These Kauai GOB's are Uncle Tom Sell Outs.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget tag along Morikawa. She's lost

Anonymous said...

What I observed is how they shut down any form of disent. Gov knows all about that. He was very much a part of the anti-war movement of the 60's. In the heat of the civil rights and Hawaiian movement that began around the same time. It takes true disent, civil disobediences aka PKO and Superferry to affect change. I came away from that meeting realizing that real change that benefits ordinary people will come from the bottom up. I think we need to accept that we can't expect government to do for us. We have to affect the change we want for ourselves by organizing and pressuring our elected officials, and getting rid of them when they don't serve the interests of our community. They only have power over us when we remain obedient. When we disobey they loose power. Its time for a grassroots movement. Time to scare politicians into doing what we want or kick them out on their no good asses!

Anonymous said...

Health and enviornmental studies have been done all over the world. That's why gmo's were kicked out of european countries. The biotec people don't accept studies that haven't been done in us because they don't like the conclusions. They want to continue to say we don't have the studies. They have been saying that since 1990 when liz lipsky did her dissertation on princeville golf course. They haven't done any studies about what combinations of these chemicals are doing to us either. We are getting sicker and sicker and if we don't get them out of here, they will kill us. Karon diamond has a lot of information. She has been fighting them for years.
They became "legal" before they were tested. Now the head of ag and the head of the epa are monsanto guys.
What can we do. They even went into kamehameha schools. That really makes me mad.

Andy Parx said...

The problem is that there are two directly related but separate issues on the westside: the use of GMOs and the resultant use of the herbicides Roundup, and, although we can't get an answer as to their use, Atrizine and 2,4D. While the studies showing harm due to GMOs have been slow going- mostly because the industry first blocks them from being conducted and then says there haven't been enough studies- the harm from high levels of herbicide are undeniable. So when we question the levels of herbicide they say "GMOs are safe and legal" using misdirection and essentially misinformation although the latter has been hard to show because they won't give straight answer straight questions,

By the way, I keep hearing about this alleged "west side oncologist" but, despite attempts to find him/her, no one has come forward with what should be vital information.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Kauai just need to spend 15 minutes a day reading about super fund sites and how GMO has been banned from several countries.

What happpened to all the kids that got sick on the west side of Kauai and how about all the people getting cancer in Kekaha. If Kauai wants to find out where and why this is happening, they just need 15 minutes a day and research about super fund sites the USA and the effects that it has caused in the surrounding communities.

Let's start by getting educated then we must go to state and federal courts to get rid of GMO on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that GM farming increases the use of pesticides and herbicides...polluting air, water, and soil.

The doubt comes with our government that is "supposed to" be aware, up to date with science and not in bed with Syngenta.

What we have here is either chronic ignorance or chronic
"pay olla" ....the "greased palm" makes things happen.

Unfortunately, for the rich and NOT the common person on Kauai gains on these public projects.

Keep the natives ignorant, rant against the Haole, and fill your pockets with development and GM money and God Save Your Soul.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

I think this blog is a place for all disgruntled "local" haters to take their frustrations out on stupid locals. E komo Mai all those who look down on locals.

Anonymous said...

Oh, get off it 9:30.

Anonymous said...

Chad Blair, yes he is a poor writer. Not just in this article but in most. He appears no have no substantial background or schooling for a career in writing.
His works are a lot of ad hominem and fairly undisguised bias.
I made a complaint about him a few days ago and cc to Nathan Eagle and Michael Levine.
Maybe he should be covering sports if he isnʻt replaced by a real journalist.

Anonymous said...

Abercrombieʻs sidekicks (his cabinet) are trained to get him off the stage before his temper blows and he is further discredited.
His temper is like clockwork.
He is a very nasty person.

Anonymous said...

9:30 I agree. It hurts me as a local to read some of the comments. It seems like people never miss a chance to bash the locals, like all the talk about bringing in the feds to tell us what to do.

Anonymous said...

No need the feds to tell us what to do when we have multinational corporations based in New York, London, LA, etc. to tell our "leaders" what to do.

Anonymous said...

There are good and bad Locals, we just trying to rid Kauai of the Bad Locals that is connected to the criminal elements of Kauai's Mafia.

Anonymous said...

Yeppers The GOBAG (good ol boys and girls) is Kauai's Terrorists.

Joan Conrow said...

To the same Anonymous who keeps posting about terrorists, Kauai mafia, costa nostra, FBI, Ritchie, Alves, D. Morel, etc., etc. -- please, enough. You're repetitive, you 're not shedding any new light on the topic and at times you're incoherent and libelous. I'm tired of you hijacking the comment section. This is your last warning. From now on, all such comments will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Aberdumbie cracks me up.

He says building a hotel at Kokee is out of the question, the county would never allow them water usage.

He thinks Kauai people don,t know. His state gov runs the water system in Kokee.

What a MORON!!!

Faith in government, gimme a break!! No wonder all the kids are on drugs.

Anonymous said...

Joan ,

Tell us why come ain't nobody releasing the names of the people who were in the pohaku program? They gone put names of the arrested in the TGI but won't release the names of people who plead guilty and were given favortism to be in the pohaku program to make the prosecutors numbers look good. These people pay to get out of jail and a record, it seems like a support a Shayme campaign. A program that mimics a ridiculous pay raise for supporting her campaign . There's a deferral of records for first time offenders who plea no contest, wouldn't it be redundant. To have a similar program? Is there or were there offenders in the pohaku program that had a lenghty record and was arrested before, during, and after being selected in the pohaku rogram. Inquiring minds wants to know.

Anonymous said...

No Joan you are wrong, there is more than one anonymous who is or was writing about the above stated comments.

Joan Conrow said...

However many of you there are, please challenge yourselves to come up with something fresh or reframe your message.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Joan, article and comment.

Anonymous said...

I know that there is more than two but they are less than one hundred.

Sue Jansen said...

I lived in Hanapepe on Kauai's westside. I got breast cancer 5 years ago, my next-door neighbor had BC, my friend a few doors down also had BC and I'm not sure who else in the neighborhood may have had it. What's going on?