In today's The Garden Island, Dominic Acain of Kekaha bemoans the fact that “industries, profits and jobs were always placed before safety, health and environmental concerns.”
Yes, it's an age-old scenario that is still playing out in so many ways today: poachers wiping out entire species; women and children sold as sex slaves; endless wars; mounting carbon emissions in the face of perilous climate change — all due to placing profits and jobs above all else.
So Dominic and I are very much in agreement on that point.
Dominic then goes on to draw a parallel between the regulation of lead paint and the “battle here on Kauai, or Hawaii for that matter, regarding the use of pesticides.” He ends his piece with:
Regardless of which side of the pesticide issue one stands on, the bottom line is what is morally just. It’s easy for people to find facts and supportive evidence that works to ones [sic] own interest. It’s easy to find a way to discredit or supposedly debunk claims on each side. However, what matters most is moral responsibility. The true test of moral citizenship is when you uphold what is morally right even when it is a personal, political or economical inconvenience.
What has concerned me deeply in this “battle” that Dominic references — and it has included GMOs as much as pesticides — is the murky moral muck trod by so many in thick of the fight, coupled with the self-righteousness that frequently permeates the rhetoric and actions of those who believe they inhabit the high moral ground.
It seems, at first, an easy moral call to oppose pesticides — they are designed to kill life forms, and we have ample evidence they can harm ecosystems and humans in sufficient and/or prolonged doses.
Yet in today's paper we also have a letter from voyager and artist Keala Kai, writing on behalf of the Hikianalia and Hokulea crew to thank Aloha Termite Kauai for fumigating the handmade koa gifts that will be presented to dignitaries as Hokulea continues on the fourth leg of her worldwide journey.
Is the use of pesticides in that situation morally wrong? What about to treat water to destroy pathogens that historically killed millions? Control mosquitoes that infect humans and animals with diseases? Remove termites from a home that represents someone's lifelong investment? Increase crop yields so as to help stave off starvation?
Similar moral questions can and should be raised and deliberated about our energy use, the plastics that are an integral part of our daily life, the heavy metals employed by industry, the sweatshops that produce the cheap goods we buy, the deadly emissions produced by motorized transport, pharmaceuticals that can heal and kill, the species destruction caused by overfishing, over-logging, overgrazing, over-population by the dominant human species, the rampant destruction of life and land by war.
When you look at these practices, singularly or as a whole, it's quite easy to pronounce them all morally wrong. We know they are harmful, and yet we continue, out of greed, laziness, selfishness, short-sightedness, convenience, habit, or what have you, to engage in these activities. We are none of us exempt from this immorality.
Which is why it is impossible for the “red shirt” movement to claim the high moral ground in the GMO/pesticide “battle,” smugly portraying itself as the good and just defenders of the land, saviors of the keiki, and the “blue shirts” as the evil and corrupt land poisoners, baby killers.
But it not only has claimed that ground, it has justified the most immoral activities — lying, cheating, harming farmers, misusing money, rampant egoism, propaganda, fear-mongering, slandering, intentional deception — under the shaky rationale that the end justifies the means. In their belief system, anything goes when you're fighting “evil,” which they have defined solely as the “other,” and never themselves, even though they all use products made by the companies they're fighting.
This “battle” can never be moral because it has been funded, in large part, by the heirs of manufacturers and oil barons who have wrought their own devastation upon the Earth and humans. What's more, it has been waged unjustly.
We know pesticides can harm, but we have no proof they are being misused by the seed companies. We know other entities on Kauai use pesticides, in greater concentrations, and in proximity to homes, schools, hospitals and waterways, yet only the seed companies have been targeted. We know other businesses — and even the “red shirts” themselves — are not transparent about their operations, but only the seed companies are being ordered to disclose.
We know that tourism results in a certifiable number of deaths and injuries each year, but only the seed companies, which have no verified deaths or injuries, are denounced as dangerous businesses. We know that certain politicians, like Councilman Gary Hooser, have waged this “battle,” fed and fomented divisiveness and deception for political gain, yet he continually portrays himself as the righteous David fighting the Goliath of craven multinational chemical companies.
We have allowed some of our political leaders to engage in a sanctioned witch hunt, openly discriminate, abandon the rule of law as we know it and declare the seed companies guilty as charged by an angry mob, with no evidence, no trial, just Facebook memes, rumor, hysteria and innuendo. And when the courts finally stepped in and said, Kauai County, you were wrong, those same politicians said no, we reject your ruling, we will carry on.
That is why I have found myself, a one-time GMO/pesticide foe, curiously on the side of the "blue shirts." I don't like pesticides, approve of the chem companies' business practices or unequivocally embrace GMOs. Nor am I a paid (or unpaid) biotech shill.
I'm just, to use Dominic's words, a moral citizen, trying to uphold what is morally right. And sometimes that means condemning actions, and movements, that are morally wrong, but trying to pass themselves off as morally right.