In the context of the anti-biotech war being waged in Hawaii, I got an email from an earnest reader who shares my frustration at the inability, or unwillingness, of people to look at the bigger picture. He wrote:
Because most people don’t have the time or the desire to dig deeper, maybe we all want a clear and simple message fed to us?
I thought of his words when a friend told me she'd been asked to sign a petition to get Kauai Rising's 18-page anti-ag charter amendment on the November ballot. Did you read it? she asked the signature-seekers. No, they replied.
They had, however, read the large-print summary, with its clear and simple message spelled out in red: Let the People Decide.
I thought of his words again when I read Chris D'Angelo's abysmally simplistic article on the charter amendment in today's The Garden Island. He, too, apparently read only the summary. Otherwise, surely he would felt compelled to report on the actual “meat” — though it's more like pink slime — of the proposal.
Crazy, absurd stuff like this (emphasis added):
[P]rohibiting activities and practices that result in the intentional or unintentional introduction into [terrestrial and aquatic] such systems of GMOs or toxins that may endanger, or may reasonably be suspected to, endanger or threaten the existence, survival, productivity or natural diversity of organisms comprising such systems, or the ability of organisms naturally present in such systems to thrive.
So right off the bat, we're talking no more chlorinated water. No more prescription drugs, or even coffee, because that stuff isn't removed from treated sewage. No more treated sewage because it uses chlorine. No more cesspools, or even septic tanks. No more cars, because they drip antifreeze and oil. Oh, and no organic pesticides, either, because don't they also endanger the “natural diversity of organisms,” e.g., insects?
But let's back up just a minute. The amendment is a weird, self-contradicting hybrid that's part bill of rights, part ordinance, part administrative rules and part pure bullshit. What it does — and this comes from the actual amendment, not the sugar-coated summary — is create an Office of Environmental Health under the sole purview of the County Council.
The Council would set the agency's budget and pick its administrator, who would be appointed for an initial term of five years, and then allowed to serve indefinitely, removed from office only by a two-thirds vote of the Council. This administrator would implement and enforce all county environmental laws, including Ordinance 960, which is now under the domain of the mayor's Office of Economic Development.
The administrator, essentially untouchable and unaccountable, would have broad powers to enter and inspect the premises of any “commercial agricultural entity” and order the production of records and reports. It also could accept grants from “public interest foundations and research institutions to implement studies, monitoring and investigations related to the protection of human health and the health and sustainability of natural systems.”
The Council also would appoint a seven-member Environmental Health Advisory Committee that would join the Administrator in deciding whether a commercial ag operation seeking to use GMOs or restricted use pesticides had provided “acceptable proof” that their activities aren't harming the environment.
The Administrator, in turn, would have authority to convene “expert panels” — whose members could include mainland groups like the Pesticide Action Network — that would impose elaborate environmental monitoring protocols.
As one example, to get a permit, ag operations:
[M]ust provide evidence demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt, to the satisfaction of Kaua`i County, that any toxin, or any combination of toxins, proposed to be used will not be released from or transported beyond the boundary of the terrestrial or aquatic domain under the control and management of the commercial agricultural entity that proposes to engage in the use of such toxin(s).
Well, that's pretty much an impossibility in this land of big wind, heavy rain and frequent natural disasters.
Let's look at some of the other provisions (emphasis added):
Wow. Super scary stuff, that. Kind of like the Inquisition, or the Salem witch trials.
Kaua`i County, or any resident of Kaua`i County, may enforce the rights, duties and prohibitions of this Charter Amendment through an action brought in any court possessing jurisdiction.
In other words, anybody can go after anybody. And even if you lose, you can recover all costs, including attorney's fees and travel expenses for those mainland lawyers to come and represent you:
Such costs shall be awarded if significant objectives of the action are achieved without requiring that plaintiffs prevail by obtaining favorable decisions or an order granting relief.
Which I assume includes such significant objectives as trying to delay an application, or bankrupt a farmer.
Compensation for the cost of restoring contaminated waters, soils or ecosystems shall be paid to Kaua`i County as trustee of the protected resources to be used exclusively for the full and complete restoration of the waters, soils, food sources, ecosystem or natural community.
Is full and complete restoration even possible, much less economically quantifiable? I mean, look at Kahoolawe.
Prior approvals not a defense. Actions, activities or conduct authorized by any applicable local, state, or federal permit, approval or registration shall not be lawful if prohibited by this Charter Amendment. Any such permit, approval or registration shall not be a defense to an action for enforcement of any requirement under this Charter Amendment.
This alone guarantees this amendment, if approved, will end up in court.
I especially liked this grandiose provision:
Through the adoption of this Charter Amendment, the people of Kaua`i County call for amendment of the United States Constitution to recognize the right of each person to a clean and healthful environment free from governmental pre-emption, nullification by corporate “rights” or any priority for economic interests established pursuant to the interstate commerce clause or by confirmation or ratification of international trade agreements.
Yes, Kauai shall exert its will upon the nation. .
Returning to my earnest correspondent, yes, people do want clear, simple messages, because so many simply can't be bothered to think. Which is why groups like Kauai Rising and Malama Kauai are gaining signatures on their petition drive.
So here is my clear, simple message, with a nod to Rage Against the Machine:
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
And reject this crazy, totalitarian amendment.