After nearly 10 years of writing Kauai Eclectic, and getting some 3 million views, it's time for a change. I'm in a very different place — literally and figuratively — than I was when I started this blog. My muse was crying out for a new venue, and here it is:
Please visit my new site, where I will be writing about science, agriculture, GMOs, tourism, philosophy, politics and whatever strikes my fancy. Thanks so much for reading Kauai Eclectic, and to those who have offered words of support and donations, a special mahalo nui loa! A hui hou!
Earlier this week I wrote about Hawaii
Community Foundation, and how undisclosed donors can funnel money
through such entities to gain tax breaks and discretely influence
As a friend noted:
What's going on at HCF is reflective
of a massive national trend. A lot of new wealth philanthropists are
dumping money into community foundations. It saves them the bother --
and accountability -- of starting up their own foundations and the
more activist types quickly grasp that their donor-advised giving
affords them anonymity. Meanwhile, the working press has been very
slow to catch on to the "new politics" of using NGOs rather
than political parties to advance their causes; hence, the
philanthropy game eludes attention and public understanding. All this
furthers the hard right and hard left and the various forms of
disinformation and silo communities they create and nourish. It's bad
juju and our friends in Russia have figured out that it's also a
platform for creating havoc.
Yesterday, President Trump waded into
the issue by signing an executive order that prevents the IRS from
expanding its restrictions on political activity by religious groups.
Currently, a tax-exempt group can lose its exemption if it is found
to have endorsed or actively opposed a candidate for political
office. Though his order does not change that prohibition, it
prevents the IRS from expanding the restrictions
Though the actual order is more
symbolic than substantive, evangelical Christian leader Russell Moore
was already pushing for more:
"The very fact that religious
freedom is part of the conversation and religious freedom is being
affirmed I think is a step in the right direction. Now obviously if
this is the end of the story, I'm really disappointed, but I think we
ought to hold out the hope that this is just the beginning and that
there are more steps to be made."
Meanwhile, a new report shows that the
cultivation of biotech (GMO) crops has reached an all-time global
peak, with nearly 90 percent of the crops grown by small-holder
farmers. Developing nations planted 54 percent of the total. As I
wrote in a blog post for the Alliance for Science:
Biotech crops also have achieved
significant environmental benefits, according to the report. These
include cutting herbicide and insecticide use by 19 percent; reducing
CO2 emissions —largely due to reduced tillage — equal to annually
removing approximately 12 million cars from the road; and conserving
biodiversity by sparing 19.4 million hectares of land from
agriculture in 2015.
I also found it interesting that GE
crops also expanded in Europe, which is often touted as anti-GMO.
Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovakia increased their
cultivation of biotech maize by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Further GE crop expansion is expected
with the recent approval of two potato varieties and the Arctic
Apple, which is now being sold as packaged slices. In Africa, field
trials are under way to develop pest- and disease-resistant varieties
of cowpea and banana, two important subsistence food crops.
And though Earthjustice has been busy
taking credit for putting water back into the Waimea River, its
recent Star-Advertiser commentary and last night's Kauai community
presentation has been scant on actual details. Here's what the
mediation settlement allows:
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative
(KIUC) will assume responsibility for the operation and management of
the Kokee Ditch system up to the Puu Moe Divide if it is able to
execute a land agreement with the state Agribusiness Development
Corporation (ADC). Kekaha Ditch will remain under the management and
operation of Kekaha Agriculture Association (KAA).
KIUC is allowed to divert a rolling
average of 11 MGD at the diversions, and will be charged with
delivering irrigation to farmers on ADC mauka lands, tenants on
Hawaiian Homelands Puu Opae mauka lands, and farmers on ADC land on
the Mana Plains, as well as providing storage for these irrigation
users at both Puu Lua and Puu Opae Reservoirs.
The Waimea Mauka hydro will continue
operations, but with reduced water being diverted. Waiawa may be
rehabilitated with a smaller capacity and continue operations, but
with vastly reduced water volumes. Both facilities will continue to
be operated by ADC/KAA.
KIUC has an agreement in principle
for its pump storage hydro project, which includes renovating three
reservoirs, adding two power houses and associated equipment. But it
still must execute final agreements with DHHL, ADC, and DLNR before
it can proceed. The project also needs environmental, historic
preservation and other permits and approvals, and it must prove to be
economically viable for KIUC and its members. KIUC spokeswoman Beth
Tokioka noted, “We anticipate roughly two years of study and
permits before KIUC can make the decision to proceed with the
Finally, Time magazine has a troubling
report on our lack of preparedness in dealing with the next global
From Ebola in West Africa to Zika in
South America to MERS in the Middle East, dangerous outbreaks are on
the rise around the world. The number of new diseases per decade has
increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years, and since 1980, the
number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled.
Research groups are working
feverishly to predict the next pandemic before it even happens.
They’re cataloging threats and employing next-generation
genetic-sequencing tools to speed the discovery of new or mysterious
viruses. They’re helping identify and track outbreaks as they
But microbes evolve about 40 million
times as fast as humans do, and we are losing ground. “Of all the
things that can kill millions of people in very short order,” says
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, “the
one that is most likely to occur over the next 10 years is a
Speaking of risks, one police
department found a humorous way to build traffic on its Facebook page:
It's easy to hate on the Hawaii State
Legislature. Shoots, everybody has their gripes about what did and didn't get
But what's with the epic fail shame
strategy advanced by the Young Progressives Demanding Action, Sierra Club, Center
for Food Safety and Gary Hooser's HAPA as they march on Miller Street this morning?
Haven't they learned yet that silly
tactic doesn't work with the Lege, or elicit sympathy from the
I understand they're trying to build
participation by allowing folks to indulge their narcissim. But
soliciting selfies with the hashtag #HiLegFail really falls flat.
Because truthfully, nobody really cares
if Hawaii Center for Food Safety's Kimiko LaHaela Walter is unhappy
about the fate of HB 790 and HB 1580. Or anything else:
Well, the effect achieved is just silly. And what's with the
banana? (Which looks like something imported from the despised
corporate plantations in Central America. She couldn't find a
Center for Food Safety jumped on this
bandwagon with its usual simplisitic view of the world:
So many bills that would have
benefitted everyday people and the environment died this legislative
session because our lawmakers continued to serve the interests of
Come on. It's not that black-and white,
cut-and-dried. If you're trying to lead a political movement, much
less a revolution, you really need to grasp both the nuances and
complexities of the legislative process. Especially when your own organization is funded by the heirs of large corporations, as CFS is.
As I noted in the comment section of
Hooser's Civil Beat column excoriating the Lege and urging folks to
join his shame-blame game:
Actually, Gary, it looks like HAPA
"failed" to convince lawmakers of the value of its agenda,
which was replete with poorly written bills, fear-mongering testimony
and a "my way or the highway" refusal to negotiate or
compromise. And you got this poor result despite spending thousands
of dollars on advocacy (undisclosed lobbying). Maybe you need to look
within, instead of playing your usual blame game.
Hooser was trying to make the case that
the Legislature's failure to approve bills he supported “should
hasten the movement for new leadership.”
So why aren't the Young Progressives
and their supporters — one woman aptly dubbed them faux-gressives —
presenting a proposal on how they would have funded and implemented
all the stuff they demand/desire?
Instead of “demanding action” from
others in their usual self-entitled way, why not be the
action? Recruit some viable candidates, run for office, do a good
job. But maybe start with articulating a solid platform that includes
how they expect to pay for it. Yeah, that's the tough part. So
easy to dream and demand. Do much harder to do the work and foot the
In any case, Hooser's Kuleana Academy
candidates mostly fell flat, as did he, despite spending more money
than any other candidate in the history of Kauai elections. That
ought to tell him people's appetites just aren't whetted by either
his menu or its execution and presentation.
As one commenter observed:
HAPA seems more like a one-man band
than a competent movement.
Of course, if Hooser hadn't indulged
his own narcissm and ego, he might still be in the Lege, where he
could be working his will on his colleagues and making his
faux-gressive dreams come true. But instead he abandoned a powerful
post as Senate Majority Leader to make doomed runs for Congress and
Lt. Governor. With his tail between his legs, he returned to the
Kauai County Council, sold out to the anti-GMO movement, and in the last election, was rejected there,
The voters have repeatedly given Hooser
a failing grade. So how is it that he thinks he can now sell them on
Organic farming is often idealized —
and commercially promoted — as producing a better product and
treading more lightly on the land. Indeed, folks pay a premium to
indulge this perception.
But two recent articles are casting
doubt on those beliefs.
The Washington Post has a lengthy piece
on organic dairies, which may be much larger and less bucolic than
some consumers imagine. It focuses on the Aurora Organic Dairy in
Colorado, which has some 15,000 cows producing enough milk to supply
Walmart, Costco and other big box retailers.
It was interesting to read that “the
USDA allows farmers to hire and pay their own inspectors to certify
them as “USDA Organic.” It was also ironic, considering how many
of the Hawaii anti-ag folks dissed the seed companies' voluntary
disclosure of restricted pesticide use as insufficient.
Basically, the article is saying that
the coveted “organic seal,” which boosted annual sales from $6
billion in 2000 to $40 billion in 2015, is based on “an unusual
system of inspections” that are pre-announced and funded by
You mean, it's really all kind of a sham/scam? As the article concludes:
The growth of mega-dairies that may
fall short of organic standards and produce cheaper milk appears to
be crushing many small dairies, some analysts said.
“The mom and pop — the smaller
traditional family dairies — who are following the pasture rules
are seeing their prices erode,” said [Pete] Hardin, the Milkweed
editor. “It is creating a heck of a mess.”
You mean, consumers who have bought the
organic marketing speil, but balk at paying a premium, are
undercutting the very system they claim to cherish?
My sister, who lives in Portland, likes
to buy Tillamook because she sees their cows grazing on her way out
to the coast. But it claims neither to be organic nor GMO free. In
response to a consumer question, a dairy spokesperson noted:
organic feed for organic farms is extremely difficult to verify as
GMO-free because of cross-pollination.
Maybe it's time to revisit the organic
standards, and re-assess consumer attitudes. Are consumers truly
looking for organic, or do they actually want pasture-raised? Of
course, even pasture-raised doesn't pass muster for some, as we saw
with the opposition to the proposed rotational-pasture dairy farm at Mahaulepu. (Btw, I ran into this piece about how very little manure leaves well-managed pastures.)
Do people even know what they want? Or
like the barn-raised dairy cows that had forgotten their natural
grazing instinct, are we so manipulated by marketing that we've
forgotten how to think, how to assess our true needs and desires?
Meanwhile, a columnist with the Daily Camera is writing a multi-part series on the GMO crop ban recently
adopted in Boulder, a Colorado county where the sensibilities are
akin to North Shore Kauai. The ban was passed, despite unanimous
opposition from county open space farmers, including the organic
Columnist Mara Abbott, who spent five
months researching the debate, starts by citing a 2015 briefing paper
that Colorado State University developed for county commissioners
considering the ban on planting GMO crops in the county's open
[O]rganic crops on six Nothern
Colorado farms used 10 times more water, five times more pesticides
and released six times more sequestered carbon from the soil than
genetically engineered crops.
I was paralyzed. I had always
self-identified as a good Boulder environmentalist, and figured that
meant that non-organic was a non-starter (and the organic definition
excludes GMOs). Now where was I supposed to buy my kale?
After all, the ban's loudest
supporters claimed to be fighting for reduced pesticide use and more
sustainable cropping methods. Commissioner Deb Gardner specifically
cited researching carbon sequestration as a top priority of the
It also turns out that "organic"
doesn't mean "pesticide-free." The pesticides just come
from natural rather than synthetic sources — and apparently some of
those are harmful to honeybees, too. Given that the purpose of an
herbicide is to kill weeds, and an insecticide to kill insects, any
crop protection practice won't be completely benign. Some natural
pesticides are less effective, requiring more frequent applications,
and higher overall life-cycle toxicity.
This isn't to brush off the value of
organic, but it is to say that agriculture is rarely black and white
— and that's actually why diverse approaches are important. Really,
the only way to know what is being put on your food is to know the
farmer who grew it.
"It's just such a complicated
web in agriculture," third-generation county farmer Scott Miller
told me. "You can't just say you're going to block one thing and
that is going to fix it."
Once again, we're
reminded that the world is so complex. Try as we might, we can't
contain it into neat little boxes of good-bad. There are no silver
bullets, no one-size-fits-all solutions, especially when human nature
comes into play. We want to blame the corporations, but the
corporations are also us. We want to return to the good old days, but
there's no turning back the clock. All we can do is move forward, and
try to be honest about the issues and our own choices.
In closing, I'll
leave you with this amusing little call to action from the Maui Babes
Against Biotech, which typifies the simplistic, reactionary approach
that underlies so much conflict:
Yup, nothing says
home rule like an email blitz from thousands of miles across the
Newly released tax returns offer a look
at the spending priorities, staff salaries and steadily growing
coffers of the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Islands' largest
The foundation closed 2015 with net
assets of nearly $460 million — successfully soliciting some $45.6
million in grants and donations that year, according to its 2015 federal form 990.
This represents a dramatically upward
trend of undisclosed mainland philanthropists parking money at HCF,
where they are allowed to discretely engage in donor-advised giving.
In 2011, HCF reported gifts, grants and contributions of nearly $16.7
million. That figure increased to $23.9 million in 2012, $27.7
million in 2013 , $30.5 million in 2014 to $45.6 million in 2015.
However, HCF cut the total amount of
grants it awarded by $573,897 between 2014 and 2015.
Overall, HCF spent $13.8 million to
award grants of $29.4 million in 2015.
In 2015, HCF spent some $6.7 million on
salaries, up $266,447 from the previous year. Kelvin Taketa, HCF
president and CEO, was paid $359,792 plus $149,129 in additional
compensation from HCF and related organizations, for a total of
$508,921. HCF's top 11 employees, including Taketa, received
compensation totaling $2.3 million in 2015.
HCF spent $3.2 million on fundraising,
$725,225 on conferences, conventions and meetings, $120,256 on
advertising and promotions and $106,563 on travel.
The foundation's giving pattern also
indicates a receptivity to funding organizations that talk about
alternative approaches to farming, as opposed to actually advancing viable agriculture.
For example, it gave a whopping $476,670 to the Kohala
Center — a Big Island group that reported income of $5.2 million
in 2014, with little to show for it. The Center's School Garden
Network is directed by anti-GMO activist Nancy Redfeather.
Malama Kauai, another do-nothing faux
ag group, was awarded $100,000 by HCF — more than a third of the
$274,846 the organization reported as income in 2015. The group spent
$121,598 to deliver fruit and veggies to after-school programs and
Kauai food banks, and $35,077 on its community garden and “food
forest.” But what, pray tell, was the value of the food it actually
Similarly, HCF gave $80,000 to the
Center for Food Safety — ostensibly for “environmental”
programs — while Gary Hooser's Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action was given a $52,500 grant for “public policy and advocacy.”
Yet just today, Hooser published a Civil Beat column bemoaning HAPA's
complete failure to advance any of its objectives in the state
Legislature — while blaming lawmakers, of course.
HCF also gave $12,500 to the Kauai
Community Cat Project (KCCP), which engaged in a vicious cyber-bullying campaign against former Kauai Humane Society Director Penny Cistaro
and is now suing Kauai County to stymie its efforts to develop an
ordinance aimed at controlling the island's feral cats. Furthermore, the KCCP spent $80,000 to manage just 510 cats.
And inexplicably, HCF gave $10,000 to
SHAKA, which mounted an anti-GMO moratorium in Maui County that was
later thrown out by the courts. Though SHAKA's 2015 tax return has
not yet surfaced on Guidestar, its 2014 return showed income of
$329,056. It ended that year with just $46,053, having spent $87,931
on “management,” another $84,243 on advertising and promotion and
and $30,321 on legal fees.
Uh, so what, exactly, was the public
charitable purpose that SHAKA provided with its money? And none of
its funding sources were disclosed, either.
Why is HCF funding groups that are
decidely opaque, and actively working to undermine agriculture and
sow discord in Hawaii? Especially when its mission is “investing in
community well-being” and “strengthening Hawaii's communities.”
Now compare the grants given to those self-serving groups with their very narrow agendas to the amounts
awarded to organizations that serve a broad sector of the public:
$116,295 to Aloha United Way; $62,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters;
$78,600 to American Cancer Society; $85,403 to American Red Cross
Hawaii Chapter; $50,000 to Polynesian Voyaging Society; $55,888
National Tropical Botanical Garden; $10,000 Hawaii Meth Project.
Something seems out of kilter here.
I do give HCF kudos for listing all of the grants it made. However, in the name of public interest and transparency, it would be even more revealing to see where it's getting the money that is being used to effect change in Hawaii, and what sort of strings the donors have attached.
It's troubling to see Kauai Dr. Lee
Evslin use his column in the local newspaper to promote organic food
as inherently more pure than its conventional counterpart, and some
sort of silver bullet for attaining good health.
In this case, he's advancing the idea
that various chemicals known as endocrine disrupters are responsible
for everything from America's obesity epidemic and slow sperm to ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease in children. And, as he
intones, “the same suspects are on the list: pesticides,
flame-retardants, plasticizers and cosmetics.”
Though Evslin admits that he's talking
about “a new scientific theory,” which means it's not yet proven,
he has no problem offering a dangerously simplistic “bottom line”
solution to what ails us: “Store your food in glass containers,
stop buying water in plastic bottles and eat organic whenever
Evslin totally glosses over all the
non-food sources of pesticides, including treatments for home and
garden pests, pet flea and tick products and even water, which is
treated with chlorine, a restricted use pesticide.
What's more, he fails to understand
that organic food also is packaged in plastic, grown using pesticides and carries pesticide residues. But in any case, according to the US Department ofAgriculture, these residues are considered holistically and present no cause for concern:
The PDP data show, overall, that
pesticide residues on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances
established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and
pose no safety concern.
EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]
makes a safety evaluation for pesticides considering all possible
routes of exposure through food, water, and home environments when
setting the maximum residue (tolerance) level of pesticide that can
remain in or on foods.
EPA is required to periodically
re-evaluate pesticide registrations and tolerances to ensure that the
scientific data remain up to date.
Evslin also seems to be unaware that
pest-resistant GMO crops, which cannot be labeled organic under USDA
standards, are actually working to minimize pesticide use. One
compelling example is Bt eggplant, which has enabled farmers in Bangladesh to reduce their pesticide applications by 80
I want to believe that Evslin is
well-intentioned. Sadly, he is not well-informed. Every time a
well-fed, well-heeled Westerner starts beating the organic
drum, he is helping to close the door to GM technology that is
working to address environmental issues and help hungry people in
developing nations to achieve food security. Though Evslin no doubt
can afford the high price of organics, he seems to have forgotten
that many of his own neighbors are struggling to feed their families.
The last thing they need is some short-sighted doctor guilt tripping
them for not buying organic.
Meanwhile, a number of organic
certificates used on both domestic and imported products —
primarily from China and Africa — are fraudulent, according to the
Evslin also likes to throw stuff out
there without any citations, so the curious and/or critical are
unable to check his apparently dubious sources. A case is point is
his claim that “Glyphosate is patented as an antibiotic and as an
herbicide and has been shown to affect our intestinal bacteria.”
GMO Answers has an interesting segment
on why Monsanto pursued that patent, while noting “to date, nobody
has demonstrated that glyphosate is an effective antimicrobial agent
for treating human or animal infections.” It's really quite
specious for Evslin to make that particular assertion.
If Evslin plans to keep inserting
himself into the conversation about food and pesticides, he really
needs to be more thorough in his research and careful with his facts.
That is, if he wants to be taken seriously, which I'm sure he does.
On a related topic, I noticed anti-GMO
acivist Jeri DiPietro, who presides over the group Hawaii SEED,
advocating in a newspaper article for “the precautionary
principle,” which The Garden Island defines as “an approach to
risk management that requires proponents of an activity to prove its
safety in the absence of a scientific consensus.”
Jeri's complete rejection of the scientific
consensus in support of GMO food safety aside, there are several
problems with the precautionary principle, as I learned with
attending the American Academy for the Advancement of Science meeting
earlier this year. As Gary
Marchant, an Arizona State University professor and expert on the
legal issues around genetic engineering, noted:
There has always been a degree of
precaution in regulations. To make the precautionary principle the
regulatory standard, it has to be quantified legally, which requires
a very detailed definition. But it's never been properly defined and
all efforts to do that have failed, even in Europe. So we have these
very vague definitions of precaution being used in absurd and
Speaking of absurd, it's never been
more cool to make like you're a farmer or blue collar worker — just
wear the $425 jeans and forego the actual dirty work!
I'm talking about its state health
officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang. He's been a bit distracted in recent years,
which may help explain why he failed to recognize or head off a real
and serious health threat on his island.
Still, as one friend observed upon
seeing a news photo of him picking through leaves in search of the semi slugs that spread the disease, “Finally they have Lorrin Pang doing
It's also been interesting to see some
of the anti-pesticide folks avidly embrace poison — sales of rat traps and slug bait are booming — once they feel threatened by a pest.
In following up on last week's water forum on Kauai, the truly telling part came when panelists were asked
whether they condemned or condoned last October's vandalism at the Blue Hole diversion last October. Adam Asquith, Kui Palama and
Hope Kallai didn't consider it vandalism at all; indeed, they felt it
While I respect Kui for the
well-researched work he's done to uphold traditional Hawaiian rights,
which included a prolonged (and ultimately successful) court case
following his 2011 arrest for hunting pig on Gay & Robinson land,
Adam more typically incites others to do the dirty work rather than
risk a run in with the law himself. As for Hope, why was she even on
that panel? How is she qualified to be talking about Kauai water
In any case, those who condone the
vandalism of a fully permitted water diversion that serves a public
utility's hydro plants are standing on shaky moral and legal ground. One, KIUC
customers will foot the bill for the damage. Two, the vandalism was
poorly executed and ineffective in achieving its goal, though it did
dump debris into the stream. Three, it was stupid, especially since
the state and KIUC are already working to establish flow standards
for that stream and revise the diversion so it doesn't take 100
percent of the stream during low-flow periods.
Rubble dumped in stream from vandalism.
In other words, a solution based in law
and science was already in the works before vandals got into the act.
Moral of the story? Educate yourself before jumping to conclusions
and taking matters into your own hands. And it's always wrong for people who
should know better — Adam and Don Heacock — to use misinformation
to provoke others to do something foolish.
Speaking of doing something foolish,
the state Legislature is still considering HB 2, which would allow
the construction of tiny homes on agricultural lands. As written, the
bill currently applies only to Hawaii Island, but it sets a terrible
precedent for allowing the proliferation of housing — and
sub-standard housing, at that — on ag land. The bill is set for a
conference committee hearing today, where hopefully it will be put to
Rep. Cindy Evans, who introduced the
measure, deserves an F grade for promoting a really stupid approach
to her island's housing shortage. As a leader, she should be finding
solutions to the housing problem, not allowing non-farmers to profit
by building shoddy shacks on their ag parcels. Talk about a cop out.
Continuing on the “something foolish”
track, the Lege is also considering two bills that would allow online
brokers, like Airbnb and VRBO, to collect taxes for the state.
Problem is, only one would require operators to prove they are in
compliance with county laws, while the other allows owners to
Now, why would the Lege want to
undermine the hard work of county planning departments, which are
already struggling to enforce the existing vacation rental
Speaking of which, Kauai County
recently scored an enforcement victory when Judge Kathleen Watanabe
found the county acted properly in shutting down Rene Campos' illegal
TVR in Kilauea. Though attorney Jonathan Chun argued the conversion
of a guest house to a TVR was “grandfathered,” the judge didn't
buy it. Planning Director Mike Dahilig praised the action, using
strong language in a a county press release:
“I would like to acknowledge our
legal team in defending our enforcement actions to stop those wishing
to cheat our land use laws because they are tempted by the large sums
of money these vacation rentals can yield. Illegal vacation rentals
like these take valuable housing out of the long-term housing market
for our local residents, and is precisely why our vacation rental
laws need to be respected.”
And finally, Joni Kamiya managed to win over one of the activists protesting her participation in the Honolulu March for Science on Saturday. Turns out he didn't actually know what he was talking about, and like so many other misinformed activists, wrongly equates Monsanto with all things GMO.
Education is a wonderful thing, so long as a mind is open enough to accept it.
I suppose it was inevitable that
controversy should intrude into Saturday's March for Science-Hawaii.
Though the international event is
intended to be a non-partisan celebration of the scientific method
and scientific innovation, it seems that some folks just can't handle
the presentation of viewpoints that oppose their own, especially when the facts aren't on their side.
Yes, the anti-TMT (Tirty-Meter Telescope) and anti-GMO
activists are all huhu that the Hawaii March organizers dared to
invite speakers who represent the science side of these two issues.
And in their typical “my way or the highway” approach to things,
some of them are calling for a boycott –oh, boo hoo; your absence won't even be noticed — and/or actively trying to
discredit and smear the participants they don't like.
Not surprisingly, their ranks include
the Sierra Club's Nate Yuen and failed politician Gary Hooser, who huffed:
Uh, for starters, Joni Kamiya is hardly
an “industry hack” — she's a health professional and the
daughter of an Oahu papaya farmer — and it's kind of hard to see
how the Alliance for Science can be a “Monsanto front group” when
we don't get any money or other support from Monsanto. But then, when
you have nothing real to criticize, you just make stuff up.
And truly, what could be less
progressive than Hooser and his faux progressive group HAPA trying to
stifle freedom of speech, open discussion, science and the presentation of
various points of view? But as I've noted ad nauseum, the antis are afflicted with psychological projection, which is defined as:
Projection is a psychological defense
mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they
find unacceptable in themselves to another person. For example, a
husband who has a hostile nature might attribute this hostility to
his wife and say she has an anger management problem.
Of course, Hawaii Center for Food Safety had to chime in:
Sure, Ashley Lukens, come on down. Science deniers are always welcome at a science march. Sort of like the KKK crashing a civil rights rally.
Of course, this is nothing new. But
what's really sad is how the University of Hawaii, which is hosting the March event, is cowering in the
face of this controversy, rather than standing up to these bullies. Per usual, the antis started attacking Joni on the Hawaii
March for Science Facebook page, which had posted an announcement
about her planned speech, just as it acknowledged the other
speakers in tomorrow's line up at UH.
Joni responded to correct the lies and
other science-defenders joined in, pointing out the misinformation
and lack of science that drives the anti-GMO stance.
The organizers —neophtyes to the
ugliness that characterizes the anti-GMO movmement — were appalled
and began deleting some of the nastier comments. This was followed by them asking Joni not to talk about GMOs or pesticides during her 5-minute
Or as a friend quipped:
Dear Galileo -
We are looking forward to your speech
at the Vatican. We all agree on the value of science. Just please
don’t mention your idea about the earthgoing around the sun.
Love, the Catholic Church
Now, Joni hadn't actually planned on
talking about GMOs or pesticides, but nobody likes to be gagged,
especially at an event that is supposed to be about defending
But here's the really troubling part:
the UH organizers said they didn't want any hot topics. Huh? Uh,
guys, that's what the March for Science is all about. Defending
scientific integrity and the increasingly critical need for
evidence-based decision-making at a time when ignorant, anti-science
demagogues and their sheep are making like beliefs and opinions are more
important that facts.
Sadly, UH has been intimidated by the
anti-GMO activists for quite a while, ever since Walter Ritte ranted
and raged about GM taro in yet another one of his ill-informed
self-promoting tirades. Never mind that the research involved Chinese
taro, and was being conducted by a Chinese woman. It wasn't Haloa (the taro plant from which Hawaiians believe they are descended) at
all. But UH was so cowed that it not only stopped the research, but
destroyed all the lab work so that it couldn't be continued or replicated elsewhere.
That's a pretty sad stance for a
publicly-funded university to take. And it's even sadder when you
consider how far UH has fallen since the College of Tropical Ag (CTAHR) dean asked Dennis
Gonsalves to come up with a solution to the ringspot virus that was
destroying Hawaii's papaya industry.
In response, Dennis developed
the ringspot-resistant papaya — the world's first public sector GMO food crop. Now UH has very little biotech research going on, and it keeps it down low to avoid the wrath of the antis.
I'm certain UH would not tolerate
bullying in its classrooms, or among its faculty. So why does it
allow the activists to bully its professors, its deans, its March for Science organizers, the people it has invited to speak at events it is
Unless the people in Hawaii stand up to
this bullying, it's only going to get worse. And if the highly
educated professionals at UH are too afraid to stand up to the
bullies, then it really doesn't bode well for the future of
science-based research and policy-making in the Aloha State.
Still, at the end of the day, Joni will
be speaking at the March for Science and the antis will not. So let
them stew at home in their own toxic juices as those who support science, not
fear-mongering, stand up for what's right.
For a little extra inspiration, I'll leave with you this video from Neil deGrasse Tyson: "When you have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy. "