Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Musings: Debunking Myths

Like papers getting sorted off my desk, clothes shifted out of my closet, some mental energy about Bill 2491 needs to be moved out of my head before the New Year begins. As a truth-seeker, I've been dismayed for months by the almost gleeful, and certainly Orwellian, glorification of misinformation – right down to the celebration of a law that ain't all it's cracked up to be.

So I'd like to end the year by debunking seven common myths about the bill and its movement. If the “red shirts” who have responded with bewilderment and fury to my criticisms read this with an open mind, perhaps they'll understand why I haven't been gung-ho, and why I have called out some activists. Their missteps have consequences for all of us who care about “home rule” and protecting people and Mama 'Aina.

#1 “It was the best bill we could get under the circumstances.”

No, it's the bill that evolved from circumstances created by its sponsor and supporters. Remember when Christi “A'ole GMO” DeMuth and other “red shirts” literally broke down in tears, begging the Council to “vote it up or down tonight, we can't go on, we're exhausted?”

So the Council obliged and passed a bill in the wee hours of the morning. It contained a number of amendments that had been hashed out behind closed doors with no chance for public review or comment.

One of those amendments has the power to derail the bill. I'm talking about language that JoAnn Yukimura introduced that prohibits growing ANY crop in the pesticide buffer zones, even organic crops. That's right. The law says no crop can be grown on ag land. Doubtless biotech attorneys will argue that restriction is both a “taking” and a violation of the state's “right to farm” act.

It's wording that would have been caught with a bit of reflection, just like another one of JoAnn's amendments, which changes the trigger for disclosure to buying 5 gallons or 15 pounds of any SINGLE restricted use pesticide. Previously, it had been 5 gallons or 15 pounds total. If the biotech companies buy small quantities of numerous pesticides, the law won't apply and we'll have no disclosure.

Furthermore, rather than choose a strong co-sponsor for the bill, Councilman Gary Hooser picked Tim Bynum, whom he described to me as “an easy keeper.” This strategy served Gary well, allowing him to dominate the spotlight. But the bill suffered badly because Gary lacked the political clout to prevent it from being seriously gutted in committee.

#2: “It's a start.”

With all the drama, angst, money, time, energy and political capital that was expanded on this issue, we should have gotten more than “a start.” But what many folks don't seem to understand is that this flawed bill has the potential to be a “finish.” If it's struck down in a court ruling that affirms the “right to farm” and/or the state's power to pre-empt certain actions by the county, we'll be left with nothing, nada, zip. Except a big razzberry from the chem companies as they operate with impunity.

#3 “It's about protecting people and the environment.”

If the bill was truly about protecting people and the environment, it wouldn't allow the companies to spray in the buffer zones so long as they erect signs. And it would have curtailed the use of pesticides, particularly in public areas where the county has clear authority. It would have addressed the toxic gas that is released into neighborhoods every time a tent is removed from a termite-treated building, the pesticides applied to golf courses that drain onto reefs. But it didn't, because it wasn't about pesticides or protection.

#4 “The bill's not about GMOs or driving the chemical companies off the island.”

Bill 2491 was all about GMOs and trying to drive the biotech companies off the island. That's why the original bill included a moratorium on new GMO crops. That's why GMO Free Kauai, Center For Food Safety and Earthjustice were so heavily involved. That's why the bill targeted the biotech companies, rather than the county or the pest control companies, both of which use far larger quantities of restricted use chemicals than ag. That's why we got in a pissing match with multinational chem companies instead of passing a bill that actually reduces pesticide use on the island.

#5 “This was a spontaneous, leaderless, grassroots movement of local kids.”

Yes, Kauai youth — and old hippies, too — did march and testify in a sincere expression of social media-fueled community concern. But the movement was orchestrated by mainland groups that funneled in money, expertise, activists and infiltrators, playing Kauai as a pawn in a bigger battle. That's why Gary told me it didn't matter if the bill was never enforced — all that mattered was getting it passed.

#6 “This movement hasn't divided the island.”

This is pure denial, an assertion made by those who are either too insular or too ignorant to assess the social and political pulse of this island. Or maybe they just don't want to admit that this issue was made far more contentious than it needed to be because of the way Gary introduced it. In any case, this issue has deeply divided Kauai.

#7 “We got them to stop poisoning paradise.”

This myth is grounded in the “stop poisoning paradise” website hosted by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). In fact, the bill does absolutely nothing to lessen, much less stop, pesticide use on this island. All it does is require the companies to tell us how they're poisoning us.

Assuming, of course, that they are. But given the biased, elaborate, expensive — and woefully underfunded — Environmental and Public Health Impact Study the Council has planned, we'll likely never know for sure.


Anonymous said...

Great post today, now I understand why you have not been acting all supportive.

Anonymous said...

In response to #1: While I agree amendments have weakened the bill,the alternative may very likely have resulted in deferral and killing of the bill. Those that were following closely know that the state will try to preempt the counties right to pass a bill to regulate pesticide use in the upcoming legislative season. A deferral may have pushed right through the holiday and then of course they could vote to "wait" to see what the state would do since we would hear bills so soon. To not mention this is not being thorough in your assessment.

Anonymous said...

In response to #6: If it is true that the movement has "divided" the island than you must admit that the bill had the support of a large percentage of island residents, particularly in the westside community. Otherwise the bill (or ordinance now) would not be capable of dividing the island. You just can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

8:36. That's a false argument. The bill will be dead anyway if the legislature passes a pre-emption law.

8:40 huh?. Sorry I just can't follow your illogical "llogic."

Anonymous said...

It is naive to think the pesticide companies have not been flexing big muscle and threatening and cajoling the council and Mayor.
I mostly agree with the blogs points today. But I also think the misinformation flows both ways and Kauai eclectic has been spending an unusual percentage of prose calling out the activists' hyperbole, mis-fires, gaffes and skimpy clothes, without giving the same critical eye to the multinational corp's doing the same (but more stealth, more effective and with expensive clothes covering up aging bodies).
I saw the Facebook exchange and you two are talking over each other and not listening. On that one, Joan is more correct - she quotes studies that show that sexualizing a cause does not help the cause. Then the BAB crowd hits her with fury, saying Joan is not from their generation and is de-powering women. There was even a not-so veiled threat by the aule GMO lady. Shooting the messenger, really. Because while the breasts are indeed lovely, they don't make me write to my council person. DuPont, however, is doing that most effectively.

Anonymous said...

People want something for the people, and our politicians want something for themselves.

Like chickens they pick apart our wants and needs, create new laws and taxes....and we are left with nothing but rotten bones to pay for.

Logical or illogical....its what's so.

Dr Shibai

Fern said...

I actually agree with a lot of your commentary Joan! There is so much more I would like to say but a few of my immediate thoughts.

#1 “It was the best bill we could get under the circumstances.” - Probably not we could have done better, but there was so much factoring into the amendments and the changes - definitely could be better.

#2: “It's a start.” - I guess this one I agree with but to be honest this is just part of the long process of working through these issues, not necessarily the start or the finish in my eyes.

#3 “It's about protecting people and the environment.” - this is where the bill started for sure, whether it ended up achieving this goal is questionable and yes I agree there are ways it could do this better!!

#4 “The bill's not about GMOs or driving the chemical companies off the island.” - there is so much I want to comment on about this one I don't even know where to begin. I think the aspect of GMOs that this bill was suppose to cover was never addressed so it became not about GMOs - but it should have been - because when it comes to this issue here locally they are inherently linked by the corporations that are working with the GMO experiments here and producing these pesticides. I don't disagree we should be looking at ways to lower pesticide use across the board, for sure, but this bill was about the restricted use pesticides being applied by these large chemical agri businesses that are experimenting here and that are using much higher restricted use pesticides (that other places or ag operations) out in the open with really no regulation and community protection. Its not about driving them out of town, its about attempting to balance the field for the community and environment. For a very long time the state of Hawaii has given large agricultural operations the upper hand, this is about trying to level things out a bit. If it was about driving them out of town it would be a bill that they were not allowed here, or had to leave. The moratorium was suppose to just stop new leases from being taken up until the EIS was complete and the community could have some ease / or justified unease about the level of impact the industry was having on the island. There were people genuinely afraid that these pesticide experimentation plots would start popping up in Kealia and this was suppose to address that concern until some data and real investigations could be made.

Fern said...

#5 “This was a spontaneous, leaderless, grassroots movement of local kids.” - I am honored to have marched and testified alongside many Kauai people representing many ages and ethnicity's. The common attacks on "red shirt" as haole hippies are really over exaggerated - none of the people involved in the original meeting with Gary about this were from off island. I marched along Hawaiian kupuna I have much respect for and am honored to have worked with on this. Some of which are not here with us to share their mana'o anymore. It is absolutely not true that the movement was orchestrated by mainland groups. For most of the last year we got NO money for these efforts, I have spent the savings I came home with and back to figuring out a way to make this community work viable for me so Im not working two jobs everyday in between. We reached out to PANNA and they came on board to help us at our request and paid for SOME printing of flyers. PANNA does't run the website either, its managed by a local lady from Waimea. They did give Jen a job to help organise some things related to the bill - this was helpful considering everyone of us directly involved work jobs and dont have the time to work on this as much as was needed.

Dustin, Eli and I - Hayley Ham Young and the extended Ham Young 'ohana, Moku Chandler many other Kauai Born and Raised kids that love this land came together to form 'ohana o Kaua'i in January last year - we aren't just focused on GMO and Pesticides by biotech, we have other concerns, but it IS grassroots and it is building and we aren't going away and we are gonna keep building the get involved movement and help shape Kauai for the future and I am really grateful for this awakening and desire for involvement.

#6 “This movement hasn't divided the island.” - I think mis-information (spread on both sides) has divided our island, not the movement itself.

#7 “We got them to stop poisoning paradise.” - obviously this simply isn't an accurate statement.

Anonymous said...

8:40 Am

The Island has been misinformed about what this bill is all about.

The community is divided because we have so called leaders reaching out and playing people heart against one another

It is so sad when our leaders tell us we must pass a bad law but we can fix it later

well later never comes and we are left with finger pointing, name calling and a bad taste in every ones mouth.

Joan is harsh sometimes but its her blog, just the facts, no crap.

Id rather have no bill than a bad one that needs fixed

Joan Conrow said...

Anonymous @ 9:57 wrote:
I also think the misinformation flows both ways and Kauai eclectic has been spending an unusual percentage of prose calling out the activists' hyperbole, mis-fires, gaffes and skimpy clothes, without giving the same critical eye to the multinational corp's doing the same.

I've spent years writing about the crap the GMO companies are doing. It's old hat, well-covered and predictable. What I've found more fascinating is seeing some of the "red shirts" adopt the same strategies they claim to deplore in the GMO folks.

Though I've been attacked by the TVR realtors, the GMO companies, the Shay crowd, the military and many others, I've never been attacked so viciously and relentlessly as I have been by the "reds." Apparently the truth hurts, especially when folks don't want to see it.

So while I don't really have any hopes of the GMO companies "getting it," I keep pointing out the foibles of the "reds" in hopes that maybe they will. It's the eternal optimist in me.

Anonymous said...

Correct you are Joan. Well it's true JoAnn's amendments did water down the bill and possibly introduced legal problems in it, but JoAnn's not done yet trying to undermind the law formerly known as Bill 2491. Watch her try to stack pro-GMO people on that study group.

Anonymous said...

It is hypocritical that the medical community on Kauai was/is so supportive of #2491. They are an integral part of the "chem industry." Prescription drugs are all "restricted chemicals," many of which are the very same chemicals/pesticides used in agriculture,and many of which are derived from GMOs.

It is a well-known fact that the greatest abusers of pesticides are homeowners. The latest pesticide case at Wilcox School is due to a neighboring homeowner spraying pesticides upwind of the school. Homeowners will use just about anything for anything, not knowing what they are spraying for what. Only because a pesticide is not restricted, it does not mean that it is not poisonous. Many of the non-restricted, over-the-counter pesticides, in fact, have a higher LD50 than restricted ones.

It is also hypocritical for homeowners to want to disallow pesticides to be used in agriculture and yet call the pest control operators as soon as they need to eradicate bugs (including termites) from their home.

Another myth is that this bill will not hurt "small" farmers. Even before the bill was passed, due to the divisiveness of the issue, small farmers have been hassled by neighbors and "do-gooders."

Anonymous said...

JC wrote: "I've spent years writing about the c@#p the GMO companies are doing. It's old hat, well-covered and predictable."

What was the results of that Joan? Did your methods change anything? Maybe these young punks deserve a swing at bat? Who knows, they might be able to connect...

Anonymous said...

You forgot Myth #8 "Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum will be re-elected". Taxpayers will end up funding the legal defense as well as any potential damages incurred by the GMO companies for a bogus, politically self-serving bill that was only orchestrated to garner votes. Despite being forewarned about the legal flaws by their own counsel, this dynamic duo chose to put baseless rhetoric and fear mongering above the law and recklessly committed taxpayers monies to bolster their campaigns. Shameless! The "take a recess and bring in Mason Chock" move further demonstrated how dispicable these politicians are. Aloha o'e. Time for some new blood at Council. Kauai deserves better.

Joan Conrow said...

12:51. Apparently it had some effect because look at all the people who are now aware of the issue. I believe in education, and I'll continue to do that. No one is trying to stop the youth from coming to do bat. I welcome their involvement and participation. I hope they can come up with new strategies for resolving old problems but I didn't see any indication of that w 2491,

Anonymous said...

Joan- There are few things the Council cares about. Most are very comfortable in their re-election and/or their wonderful retirement benefits. But, if there is one thing any Council person or County Department fears is your opening the book on their actions. This blog, an opinion piece- resonates and is discussed and creates the fear that OH NO not another TVR fiasco. The County is allowed to do as they please and there is no education or discourse for the people. The ire you create by the Redshirts is because they know of the power of your pen.
This limp law will achieve nothing.
However, your item #6 on the division of the island is spot on. The Anti-corn people bring up "all the locals in the movement" as a banner to show acceptance. This is BS, the process toward this law and Gary's methods, has done more to divide the Haoles and locals than when the first Hippy/Surfers came in the 60s with Pakalolo or when the NS was bought out by the Trust Funders. Locals know they have been marginalized and used by Hooser and the so-called environmentalist do- gooders. Next years election will tell all.Even pontificating Jay with all of his fat Aloha spirit may find his actions have put him back on his Jumbo surfboard.
You will see many of the Council start their glad-handing soon, but when you get to the heart of the old time locals, they are sick of "newcomers" telling them which way is up, how for things should be and whether they should stay go or go stay.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere between the angry local and the self-entitled los angeles malahini is a properly balanced person.

Anonymous said...

Mahalo to you, Joan, for continuing to shine your light on Kaua`i issues.

While I applaud the efforts of citizens who marched and testified on both sides of this particular issue, it became obvious that the red shirts had unknowingly become mere puppets for the BAB gang.

GMO crops have been around for years. Nothing our lackluster politicians can do to stop it. Money talks on this island, as has been proven over and over and over again.

Anonymous said...

Joan if you had posted this sooner it would've helped to understand your position. This is far more productive than previous posts that blasted the "red shirts". As a long time reader of your blog I was puzzled by your opposition to 2491 as I know you are a strong advocate for the 'aina. This helps to explain why. My opinion only but this should have been posted long ago.

Joan Conrow said...

You're right. I should have posted this at the beginning. In future, I shall be more clear from the get-go. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Joan, Hawaii Free Press are big fans of you now. They quote you in every issue nowadays.

Joan Conrow said...

I don't know about every issue but I did notice they excerpted a portion without permission this week. And I had to laugh because ever since I exposed the Superferry-military connection the editor Andrew Walden has been screaming, she's not a real journalist. Until I finally wrote something he liked. People are so silly.

Anonymous said...

Oh please! You have to be pretty obtuse or disingenuous to have missed the point in Joan's previous posts. And, many of her points were also obvious during the whole 2491 circus. Nevertheless, thank you Joan for a clear and concise summary of your 2491 posts.