You'd think everyone who cares about bees, bats and butterflies would cheer President Obama's plan to bolster their food supply and habitat, while imposing new restrictions on pesticides.
Scientists and other bee experts were certainly thrilled that the President is prioritizing pollinators, pouring millions of dollars into restoring 7 million acres of land over the next five years – an action that likely will also benefit other species and even entire ecosystems. As The Washington Post reports:
I have to say that it is mighty darn lovely having the White House acknowledge the indigenous, unpaid and invisible workforce that somehow has managed to sustain all terrestrial life without health-care subsidies, or a single COLA, for that past 250 million years,” said Sam Droege, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist and one of the country’s foremost experts on native bee identification.
But rather than welcome this long-needed protection for pollinators as at least a pretty good start, environmental groups immediately went on the attack, criticizing the plan because it doesn't “go far enough.” By which they mean ban neonicotinoids, and preferably all pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency has already issued a moratorium on approving any new use permits for neonics, and is speeding up its review of their impacts. It's also going to impose new restrictions on the pesticides farmers can use when commercial bees are pollinating crops.
The problems facing pollinators are multi-pronged, and pesticides are just one part. But groups like Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council make money only by fighting and opposing, which means they have to identify one simple enemy. And voila, a complex issue suddenly becomes only and all about neonics.
I can't count how many appeals I've gotten from groups using the plight of the honey bees to raise money. Not one of them proposed restoring habitat, offering farmers subsidies for pollinator zones, reducing the practice of trucking bees all over the nation to pollinate crops or educating people not to fear bats and bees.
Nope. It was all about we gotta ban neonics, so send us the money to do it. And now that the Prez has come out with a comprehensive plan, they can't embrace it because that cuts into their fundraising.
It's so disheartening to see so many “green” groups use this strategy, which undermines any sort of compromise or cooperation.
Sadly, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has taken her cue from these groups, sending out an email asking her constituents to oppose a bill that would prohibit state and local governments from adopting GMO labeling requirements. Oh, and while you're at it, kick in a little dough for a campaign contribution, OK? Because even though I'm your elected official, with generous perks and salary, I won't do anything on your behalf unless you make it worth my while.
On a related note, I was interested to read an Associated Press article about how states — often at the behest of business — are increasingly stepping in to stop cities and counties from adopting laws that regulate industry, such as plastic bag bans, anti-GMO bills, sugary drink prohibitions and health care and minimum wage requirements.
Businesses argue that they need predictability, while municipal governments argue for local rule. In the end, as is so typical of patriarchal societies, it's all about who gets to wield the power and control.
As the AP article noted:
"The fights over economic policy have overwhelmingly shifted to the states" away from the federal government, said Gordon Lafer, a political scientist at the University of Oregon who studies state labor laws. He added: "There's kind of a race going on, which is can local ordinances be passed faster than influence at the state level can pre-empt them?"
We certainly saw mainland anti-GMO groups sponsor that race in Hawaii, with divisive and ugly results. The Kauai and Hawaii county laws regulating GMOs and pesticides were struck down on state pre-emption grounds. The Maui voter initiative is likely to meet the same fate since state legislators took no action to specifically give counties that power.
So who actually won again, after all this expenditure of time, angst and taxpayer cash? I mean, besides the anti groups like Center for Food Safety that are still using it to raise money.
Now County Councilman Gary Hooser, who helped Kauai lose the race with a badly written bill, is now taking on the minimum wage. Only this time, he thinks Honolulu should take the lead. As he wrote in a Facebook post:
The trend is County and City governments raising minimum wage because state governments are too slow and too timid. Each County would have to pass something, since Honolulu is largest County it seems to make sense to start there. IMHO.
But for some reason, it didn't make sense to start the pesticide-GMO movement there. Perhaps because Hooser knew it wouldn't get any traction in an urban area where folks couldn't so easily be misled through fear tactics and “community radio” propaganda. Or maybe he just wanted the glory of leading the parade.
The post prompted this exchange between Hooser and Allan Parachini:
Parachini: Mr. Hooser, you could yourself introduce such a measure for Kauai County. Why are you focusing on Honolulu? Another thought about a way you might actually pursue a solution is to get the County Council to ask the County Attorney if Kauai County could pass a minimum wage ordinance. That way, whether such an ordinance came from legislation or an initiative, there could be a realistic sense of whether such an ordinance would get past the courts.
Hooser: I addressed my reasons earlier in this thread Alan.
Parachini: Yes, but just because Honolulu is biggest does not mean it has to be first. Why not just take the initiative, or at least start a line of inquiry on whether the county has the authority to do this.
Hooser: And Allan, how do you know I have not done so? And yes, from a strategic perspective Honolulu would be the natural and best place to start. If Oahu did this it is certain that other Counties and or the State would follow.
Allan. Please. I am done with this conversation with you. You do not approach these conversations with a positive intent but rather with a "gotcha" attitude. Please take it elsewhere. "Churlish" is the word I was looking for.
Parachini: I figured if you'd done anything, you'd have said so. I view my comments to you on this matter as entirely constructive. It's a shame you are so resistant to simple common sense. BTW, I have taken the conversation elsewhere.
Because you can't really have a conversation with Hooser unless you're willing to nod, smile and always agree.