Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Musings: Chasing the Green

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.


Dawson said...

"...Because you can't really have a conversation with Hooser unless you're willing to nod, smile and always agree."

That's not good news for the citizens he is supposed to selflessly serve. But look on the bright side, at least he isn't one of those people who:

- Has a sense of entitlement.
- Is highly reactive to criticism.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, brilliance.
- Exaggerates his or her achievements and talents.
- Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others.
- Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people, groups or institutions.
- Exploits others to get what he or she wants.
- Has an impaired ability to recognize and identify with the needs and feelings of others.

Anonymous said...

Rumor is Pioneer is pulling out of Kauai because it is not worth the effort. Other countries are more welcoming and actually want jobs unlike our council that lives like leeches off the public.

Anonymous said...

With regard to bees, here's a column from Wired that elaborates on your point of view regarding multiple causes of hive collapse. At the time I read it, I thought why not put the effort where it would do the most good: in habitat restoration? Now, I know.

Joan Conrow said...

5:35-- I checked with Pioneer and they aren't pulling out of Kauai. They are closing the Kekaha parent seed operation and consolidating it with the parent seed facility at Waialua, Oahu. The Waimea Research facility, with its 100 Kauai employees, will remain open.

Anonymous said...

Then Joan, that will coincide well with your comment that Oahu is more AG friendly than Kauai. But I still hear thst 55 jobs will be lost here.
If so, and one is my nephew, maybe Hoosier will employ them.

Joan Conrow said...

Pioneer says a total of 34 jobs will be lost -- 23 immediately and 11 after a few months as they will work to properly close the site.

I hope things go well for your nephew.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he can run a B&B. I heard one operator say something like the island has spoken, we don't want seed corn, permit us , we want B&B's!! You gotta feel sorry for both the council and every local person on the island with this kinda crap.

Anonymous said...

A cadre of people on our island don't want big ag, don't want dairy, don't want resorts, don't want in-home stays, don't want big box stores, don't want traffic, don't want new middle-class housing, don't want, don't want, don't want...
I hope folks get involved in the General Plan discussions, because we need some help figuring out what we do want.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Here's a post about bee hive collapse, supposedly from the terror of modern science, and almost no one responds? I guess science has gotten in the way of fundraising yet again.

Anonymous said...

In the newest national geo issue there is a whole article regarding bees and attempts to use gmo technology.

At the very end of the article it states that "Any gmo technology is seen as poison in the industry at this point so it will be nearly impossible to market successfully since n one wants to touch it.

that isn't a direct quote but the gist of it.

The bottom line from countries around the world crackdown on gmo technology in food and feed crops is causing shutdowns, such as the recent ones on Kauai, which had nothing whatsoever to do with 2491 ordinance there is no law or ordinance forbidding gmo technology at all on Kauai.

Meanwhile food manufactures are labeling things :Orgnic,GMO free, and gluten free. Restaurants are offering organic and gluten free meals and the entire food markets shifting.

Manufacturers would not stop using ingredients for their food products unless they thought too continue using they would affect their bottom lines severely.

Just something to-ponder. Meanwhile Kauai honey is the best in the world!

Anonymous said...

I've looked through the 4 most recent National Geographic magazines and could not find anything even vaguely like what you posted. Got a link, 10:10?

I did find "Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?"

"We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.

"In a sense all this is not surprising. Our lives are permeated by science and technology as never before. For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards—but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can’t easily analyze.

"We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood."

And no, people are not running from modern biotechnology. Just a few loud people who are terrified of science. Agriculture is going to have to change quickly due to climate change, and biotech is quicker, more accurate, and more targeted than the old fashion way.

Food manufacturers and restaurants are in the marketplace. It's good business to offer an array of choices, thus reaching a broader market. But there are few people in the world who can limit their shopping to higher priced "organic" food, nor is there any reason to do so from a nutritional standpoint.

Anonymous said...
here is the issue

the statement is made a the very end of the article, about bees.

I bought the hardcopy at Kapa'a Safeway. It has dolphins on the cover

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I searched the table of contents, I've searched the website, including your link. Nothing like what you are claiming. Next time I'm in a store, guess I'll search the hard copy magazine. Or maybe not. Nat'l Geo is science based, so I doubt I'd find the claim you are making, but can't bother yourself to quote.