People & Groups Archives: Activists

Visit the global Activists archives for posts from all DGR sites.

Biotech & Departments of Agriculture closed-door meeting

From GMO Free Hawai’i Island:

It recently came to our attention that NASDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, is having a closed door meeting in Kona next week, and they will be discussing the setting of the agenda for agriculture throughout all the states for the next five years. And what is most troubling besides the meeting’s secrecy and use of public agencies, is that the speakers and agenda items mostly concern the interests of the biotech industry.

Speakers include:

  • Marjory Bronster – the lawyer who is suing three counties in Hawai’i on behalf of the biotech industry for passing laws regulating GE agriculture
  • Dennis Gonsalves – the creator of the GMO papaya, and the chair of the whole national association
  • our own Hawai’i Department of Agriculture chair Scott Enright

One can speculate what the reason is for having this meeting in private on Hawai’i Island; most of the chemical companies have their experimental GE field trials and grow outs on the other islands, so perhaps it will be easier to paint a rosier picture of “the success of GMO farming in Hawai’i,” and use this as a model to follow through the rest of the country without the distraction of having to contend with communities most affected by these toxic farming practices. With agenda items such as “Preventing Flawed Food Safety Research From Becoming Scientific Dogma”, and the chosen speakers, it seems pretty clear that the ongoing exposure of the promotion of junk science conducted by the biotech industry, and studies showing the ill effects of these technologies on animals for example are increasing the need on the part of the biotech industry to control the messaging in order to save their business model from the public finding out about the actual science that shows harm.

GMO Free Hawai’i Island is considering holding a protest on the highway in front of resort; email them at gmofreehawaiiisland@gmail.com if you would be able to attend on Sunday, September 13th at the Sheraton Kona Resort.

You can read the official press release, or see the agenda.

Pesticides in paradise: how do we fight back?

The problem of pesticides

The islands of Hawai’i, especially Kauai, are frequently described as “ground zero” for GMOs. As an unwilling host to parasitic chemical agriculture, the land is bombarded with pesticides and chemicals at concentrations unseen in most other places; the test and seed crops grown by agribusiness can be dosed at much higher levels than crops meant to be eaten. The effects on the aina and its people are predictable: sterilization of the soil, massive pollution of the waters, and widespread negative impacts on human health. Though much of this harm is inherent to agriculture, even organic agriculture, the severity is drastically worse in these modern operations.

Indirect action

Legal response

Residents on Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island responded by passing laws reducing the harm the chemical companies are allowed to inflict on us, but this has two big drawbacks:

  1. It operates from a framework of limiting, but still permitting, the companies to poison and destroy life, rather than establishing a normative expectation of healthy landbases and sustainable operations, with all actions evaluated against that.
  2. It doesn’t proactively address the constitutional structure in place in the US, deliberately set up to facilitate corporate extraction of resources. Under the hierarchy of preemption, local municipalities are explicitly denied the power to enforce protections stricter than those allowed by the state and federal governments. Unsurprisingly, agribusiness immediately used the court system to strike down most of the restrictions fought for and won by the people.

Symbolic response

Photo: Pasha Yushin | OrganicHawaii.org

Photo: Pasha Yushin | OrganicHawaii.org

The response by the people in early August was the “Aloha Aina Unity March” through the streets of Honolulu to protest the diverse manifestations of civilization in the islands, including pesticides, the TMT construction project, lack of home rule, and militarization. Though it roused an impressive turnout of 10,000, this sort of symbolic protest is unlikely to be effective without organization into a credible threat to those in power. Simply asking them nicely to do the right thing won’t get us anywhere.

Direct confrontation

CELDF

A more strategic approach via the legal system is offered by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). They help localities draft bills declaring and enforcing the rights of communities and of nature against corporations. Their tactics expect and leverage legal challenges to the passage of such bills, using any pushback to highlight the undemocratic nature of our system, galvanizing and radicalizing further opposition. A CELDF representative visited multiple islands in 2013, presenting their strategy and offering assistance if a group on the ground wanted to put forward a bill or initiative. That remains as a promising possibility if anyone wants to organize towards it.

Deep Green Resistance

transmission-sabotage
Another approach is that advocated by Deep Green Resistance: trace all these problems back to the root problem of civilization, especially industrial civilization. While strengthening local communities and rebuilding sustainable practices, work to end the ability of the rich to steal from the poor, and of the powerful to destroy the planet.

Given the small number of people willing to question civilization, let alone confront it, and given the desperately short timeline we face before the planet is pushed to irreversible and catastrophic collapse of its life support systems, DGR believes it necessary for some people to carry out direct attacks on critical infrastructure. By disrupting the underpinnings of systems of control, including communications, energy transportation, and electrical distribution, hypothetical underground groups would directly erode the power of those working against life, and make them more likely to concede to demands by the more “reasonable” of us in aboveground groups.

It’s uncomfortable, and even scary to contemplate life without the conveniences of civilization to which we’ve grown accustomed, but we should keep in mind:

  • These conveniences come with costs usually unseen until we actively investigate: exploitation and murder of life here and abroad, human and non-human, in the present and in generations to come. Nothing civilization can give us is worth the death of the planet.
  • Hawaiians lived good lives here for centuries before European contact. Depending on what you most value ― family, intimate connection to community & aina, a clean environment, and meaningful work; or short-lived labor-saving devices, fleeting visits to places far and wide, and flashy gadgets ― one could argue Hawaiians lived much better lives than we do now.

Resources

For more on the issues in Hawai’i around industrial agriculture, chemical company influence, and GMOs, see:

For more on potential big-picture solutions, see:

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  • If you have questions specific to DGR Hawai’i, email hawaii@deepgreenresistance.org

Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea

In his latest piece on the struggle to protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, Will Falk daringly takes on the sacred cow of today’s enlightened and rational society: western science. Western science, in its quest for pure knowledge, is portrayed as a value-neutral tool employed for the highest good of humanity, and therefore the entire world. But Falk goes to its roots to expose it as just another manifestation of our human supremacist culture. Contrary to the common view, science has damaged the world far more than it has helped it. Even with a narrow evaluation of the net benefit to humans, science has caused far more harm than good, except for a privileged few.

Even within liberal and activist circles, this is an unpopular view. But if we don’t honestly name root problems, we risk falling into isolated NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) struggles, each fighting off threats with the compromise “You can do it somewhere else, just not here.” It is time for us to identify the culture of civilization and its supporting ideologies, including science, as an unacceptable threat to all life, and it is time for us to stand united in fighting it back anywhere it encroaches on living communities.

Proponents of the status quo frequently shut down such discussions by charging hypocrisy: how dare you critique science using technologies developed by it? As a proactive rebuttal, Falk writes:

Sitting Bull used American made rifles to defend his people from American cavalrymen. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian poet who was murdered for resisting Shell Oil in his homeland, wrote in English – the language of his oppressors.

I wish with all my heart that I could live as our ancestors lived – a life free from the deepest anxiety that in a few years everything might be gone. I was raised in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah, and I wish with all my heart that I could spend my life walking in Indian paintbrush, columbine, daisies, and lupine consumed in the total wonder and beauty of life. I wish with all my heart that I could sit still in simple expression of the love I feel. But, while everyone I love is under attack, it is simply unforgivable not to do everything within my power to protect them. It is simply unforgivable not to use every tool at my disposal to defend them.

Or as another Deep Green Resistance member puts it: “We’re using our computers to fight injustice. You’re using yours to defend it. Who’s the tool user, and who’s the tool?”

Read the entire essay at Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea.

June 24: Mauna Kea protectors vs cops

We’re late in sharing this, but at the end of June the DLNR attempted to escort a TMT construction crew past the peaceful protesters blockading access to Mauna Kea’s summit. The crew and their armed security were turned back by the bravery and ingenuity of the defenders as they creatively used rocks to slow and ultimately halt the progress of the assaulting forces.

Will Falk, who has been reporting regularly on the fight to protect Mauna Kea, wrote a gripping eyewitness account of how events unfolded that day. He shares his personal experience, describes people involved in the struggle, and shows the importance of their relationships to each other and to the sacred mountain, driving home the personal connections making this resistance possible. Just as importantly, he recounts how personal connection and integrity do not stop those in power and their hired guns from harassing and roughing up nonviolent resisters. It may be important for us on the side of life to maintain moral superiority over those furthering business as usual, but it’s not enough. As militaries know around the world, only application or the credible threat of force will stop those in power.

On June 24th, that force took the form of piles of rocks slowing the ascent of the construction crew. The crew was on tight enough a schedule that this delay made it impossible for them to reach their goal. This application of force is a beautiful example of using our strength in numbers to work with the aina (which also wants to protect itself) strategically against agents of destruction. (And unsurprisingly, those agents and their media mouthpieces immediately tried to spin the piles of rocks as a “public safety concern” ― a laughable example of why you can never believe their rhetoric!)

As the fight on Mauna Kea continues, and resisters to another telescope on Maui’s Haleakala prepare for their own showdown this week, the lessons of June 24th are important to ponder.

Read Falk’s report-back: Protecting Mauna Kea: “We Are Satisfied With The Stones”

Action alert: geothermal issues this week

Puna Pono Alliance (PPA) just sent a newsletter, reposted below, calling for immediate community support and testimony on two issues this week. Please share this information, and testify in person or submit testimony by noon of the day prior to each meeting. Even if you read this too late to testify, it’s worth reading to stay up to date on what’s going on.

Email counciltestimony@hawaiicounty.gov (one email for each agenda item) with your testimony, which could be as simple as “I support the Puna Pono Alliance position on Bill 77.” and “I support the Puna Pono Alliance position on Resolution 249-15.”

Bill 77

Committee hearing Tuesday 8/18/15 at 1:00pm
Submitted testimony due Monday by noon

Bill 77 would take the money we fought for to help relocate people impacted by geothermal and instead use it for typical political purposes at the impacted residents expense. IMO this is another shameless attempt to take the few crumbs given to the community forced to live with these toxic power plants for political gain by Council member Illigan.

From PPA’s perspective, the problem with Bill 77 is that it further dilutes the fund, the primary purpose of which is (or should be) the relocation of residents adversely impacted by proximity to PGV. What Bill 77 does is add “staff expenses related to the program, including salaries for staff or contractors, and related fringe benefits.” Thus, the funds could be used to pay anyone for any “public purpose” expenditure in Lower Puna. Unfortunately, this has turned this into a political “slush fund,” particularly after the Planning Director suspended its use for its initial intended purpose. Instead please tell the council to restore the geothermal relocation fund to its original purpose of helping the people forced to live with these dangerous industrial developments.

  • In January 2015, the Planning Department suspended purchase of homes using funds from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund.
  • The reason for suspension of the program was uncertainty about lava flow then in progress. Some scenarios would have prevented operation of PGV and would have resulted in no further geothermal royalties.
  • The county bought five homes late last year, the first purchases since the program was flooded with applications in 2012.
  • The Geothermal Royalty Fund had $2.7 million as of Jan. 8, with another $1 million in reserve. That would be enough funding to continue with purchases of homes, but not enough for all remaining 30 homes requested.
  • PPA Position: Since the program is insufficiently funded, no funds should be taken from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund until a formal review of the program is completed and new direction is developed.
  • PPA Position: Under no circumstances should the fund be used to supplement the county budget for required county functions. Rather the fund should be used for relocation and community benefits. As to benefits, the priority should be to provide benefits first to those most impacted by geothermal.

Resolution 249-15

Council meeting Wednesday 8/19/15 at 9:00am
Submitted testimony due Tuesday by noon

Resolution 249-15 is also problematic and I never cease to be amazed by elected officials like Illigan who appear so cold and out of touch with the families that live near these plants.

Two of the WHEREAS statements Mr. Illigan wants passed are patently false (lies)

  • “…..production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers”
  • “….drilling operations by PGV (have) been conducted in a manner consistent with best available control technology….”

We agree that Hawaii County needs a resolution addressing geothermal energy. The county’s geothermal resource permit (GRP) is out of date and does not conform to Clean Air Act Title V permit requirements. The county resolution should be revised to strike the false statements and instead focus the Planning Director on re-doing the GRP, to include conformance with pertinent laws and regulations.

  • The General Plan is an appropriate vehicle to state the County’s intent about future geothermal development
  • Some discussion of geothermal development have included use of geothermal power for local industrial and farming use, without connection to the utility
  • Geothermal plants are major industrial plants and should be built only after as much consideration as a pig farm or school
  • In the County of Hawaii, residential areas are often zoned for agriculture
  • Many of the WHEREAS statements are incorrect. For example, the resolution says, “WHEREAS, the development of geothermal energy to help meet the energy needs of the County of Hawai‘i has a promising future, as the production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with near zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers. This statement is in error in that:
    • Many believe centralized power sources on the grid, regardless of how the power is generated, are wrong headed. See Thomas Lee Travis testimony to the PUC regarding the NEXTERA acquisition of HECO companies. Therefore, the promise of geothermal energy is in doubt.
    • On August 7, 2014 PGV had a serious release that made over one hundred people sick, knocked out over ten people, and may have contributed to the death of two people. It is expected that a major tort suit will result.
    • One quarter of the power on the island is produced by geothermal, yet Hawaii has the highest utility rates in the Nation excluding Lanai and Molokai
  • As recently as 2012 PGV drilled without using best available control technology. Only because of pressure from the County did they do better in 2015. No new regulatory issues were involved beyond the threat that the County’s nighttime drilling ban might apply.

PPA Position: Before approval this resolution must be modified as follows:

  • The wording in the WHEREAS section must be modified to remove the errors.
  • The wording of the recommendations should be modified to read as follows.
    1. The appropriate Hawai’i County Planning Commission should have the authority to regulate future geothermal development in Hawai’i County, particularly as concerns land use and zoning decisions.
    2. Development of geothermal resources should mitigate impacts to people by the use of best available control technology.
    3. Additional development of geothermal resources not approved by Geothermal Resource Permit 2 should not be built within three miles of zoned residential areas. Placement of a geothermal plant should be approved only after considering environmental, economic, community, cultural, and social issues.

Finally, County Council members would be well advised to seek input from the affected community before offering documents such as these for consideration.

Protecting Mauna Kea: This Is a War

So many good-hearted people want to see change in the world, with an end to environmental devastation, social injustice, and exploitation of women; but aren’t prepared to face the full difficulty of righting these wrongs. Those in power do not enforce their policies of extraction, oppression, and domination by accident or through mutual agreement with those giving up their resources. Rather, to maintain their control, those in power use the persistent and systemic threat of force with judicious enactment of violence when the threats aren’t enough. Much of this is hidden: domestic violence usually occurs behind closed doors; we don’t widely discuss the enslavement of more humans today than crossed in the entire history of the Middle Passage; and corporations maximize their bottom line with governmental police and armies to enforce laws written by the corporations themselves.

On every front we are at war, under siege, and we have been since the beginning of agriculture and civilization. It’s scary to acknowledge this reality, as it has serious implications for how we pursue justice. If exploitation and this horrific imbalance of power are not accidents; if we can’t expect that asking nicely for what’s right will effect change; if we must expect those in power to inflict violence in retaliation for any truly effective action; then what do we do?

The answer to that question is not straight forward, and will be different for each person and each circumstance. But we must bravely face reality so that we can make grounded and informed decisions.

Will Falk writes about this reality in our islands:

Sitting outside the 10 by 20 foot makeshift tent that has served as my home for the last 34 days on Mauna Kea, I watch the tent poles shudder to the concussion of US Army howitzer cannons firing live shells at their training grounds below. When the wind blows just right, from the south, the rattle of automatic rifle fire reaches the occupation. There’s no denying it: A war rages in Hawai’i.

He discusses how this fact might affect the strategies and tactics of those fighting for Mauna Kea and for Hawaiian sovereignty, and what resisters should consider as they decide their course of action. These issues are relevant to all struggles for justice, and his essay is important reading even for those not involved in this particular battle. Please read Protecting Mauna Kea: This Is a War.

Protecting Mauna Kea: Vocabulary for Haoles

Language is important. The words we use matter, and the ways we use them are fundamental to our communication. With this in mind, Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance wrote a primer for members of settler culture to better understand the struggles around Hawaiian sovereignty, and the occupation on Mauna Kea to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The terms I define in this essay — haole, racism, white supremacy and genocide — are experienced in a very real way by oppressed peoples around the world. It is not my place to explain these terms to people experiencing genocide in the most vivid ways, so I write to those privileged enough to be free from these realities. The first step to acting in true solidarity is accepting the truth and to accept the truth we must communicate with the most honest words.

[…]

One thing I’ve noticed in my attempts to work in solidarity with people of color is that many white people hate being reminded of their whiteness. When I was a public defender bemoaning statistical realities like the fact that there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850 to a roomful of white judges, prosecutors and cops, I was shouted down and told we live today in a colorblind society. When I was at the Unist’ot’en Camp pipeline blockade in so-called British Columbia and our Unist’ot’en hosts explained the need for separate indigenous and settler camps due to the reality that many indigenous peoples felt more safe expressing their opinions away from settlers, there was always a white person who tried to set up in the indigenous camp with the logic that we’re all one human family.

So, the question becomes: Why do white people hate being reminded of their whiteness?

Although uncomfortable, it is crucial that those of us in positions of privilege examine the oppressions from which we benefit. Falk’s essay is an excellent start for understanding the colonial situation in Hawai’i, or the basics of white supremacy anywhere in the world. Please read Protecting Mauna Kea: Vocabulary for Haoles.

Action alert: stop county spraying of pesticides

From GMO Free Hawai’i:

Action Alert

On Tuesday August 4th, Hawai`i County Council Member Margaret Wille will introduce Bill 71, for the county to stop spraying herbicides on county property, including roads, parks, etc that the county maintains.

Please send testimony now to counciltestimony@hawaiicounty.gov ― even a quick email as simple as “I support Bill 71” ― to be received by Monday at 2:30 PM. Ask your friends, ohana, & visitors to send testimony too.

It’s probably most valuable to submit testimony, but you can also sign a petition

If you want to email individual councilors, their addresses are:

dru.kanuha@hawaiicounty.gov
margaret.wille@hawaiicounty.gov
karen.eoff@hawaiicounty.gov
maile.david@hawaiicounty.gov
greggor.ilagan@hawaiicounty.gov
valerie.poindexter@hawaiicounty.gov
aaron.chung@hawaiicounty.gov
daniel.paleka@hawaiicounty.gov
dennis.onishi@hawaiicounty.gov

You can also submit testimony in person at the Hilo Council Chambers (25 Aupuni Street) or via videoconference:

  • Waimea Council Office
  • Video Conferencing Site in the old Bank of Hawai’i Building in Kapa’au
  • Kona Council Chambers – West Hawai‘i Civic Center
  • Pahoa Neighborhood Facility
  • the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates Community Center

Background info from Margaret Wille

Bill 71 prohibits toxic herbicides on all County owned or maintained property.

At the Council’s May 2015 hearings for our County 2015 -2016 budget, the line items of greatest concern were that “Roundup” spray line items in the several department budgets, including those of Parks & Recreation and Public Works. At that time I promised to draft a bill to address the community’s concerns.

As drafted this bill would prohibit the use of toxic herbicides, such as those containing glyphosate (Monsanto’s “Roundup”), on County owned and maintained parks, roadways, waterways, and other county spaces.

The World Health Organization and other health organizations have recently brought forth more evidence concerning the negative effects of glyphosate on human health and to the environment. In my opinion it would be irresponsible to continue to ignore the cries of so many to find alternative means to deal with weeds that are less harmful to our people. To instead simply do another study or to only undertake some pilot project would be doing next to nothing. The proposed bill has an effective date of July 1, 2016 to allow time for the County to transition to alternative means of weed control.

Help stop this from continuing

Why the Mountain

Why any mountain?

Appalachian mountains, destroyed
by mountaintop removal
streams buried under rubble
of valley fills…
… who are we, humankind
to remodel the flesh of this earth –
– cutthroat surgeons
sinfully rich reshaping
mounds and curves…

Tainting soil and groundwater
toxic metals
selenium sulphate magnesium
degrading water quality of
streams and rivers
left over pollutants
disposed of
‘slurry injections’ into the earth
poisoning groundwater
animals plants people…

Coal mining on Walden’s ridge
mercury spewing
into the atmosphere
smell the coal burning
concentrating, millions of times higher
than in untainted water
once released, irretrievable
mercury compounds never disappear….
.. not so our mountains;

Ancient mountain forests
home to hundreds… thousands
birds and animals, insects and plants
threatened to extinction
ancient guardians
ripped and torn
open-cut-mining stripping the land
every plant and tree decimated
all creatures driven out
or worse
driven to extinction…
who are they, we….
to tamper with the integrity
of ecosystems
unleashing, instead
volumes of contaminants and toxic particles…

I weep at humankind’s audacity
its psychotic need to claim control recreate
and reshape the flesh of this earth;
The Alps
from Nice to Vienna
struggling in the face of major threats
–pollution and habitat loss
in the name of tourism and mankind’s intrusion
such exploitation of age-old mountain
is criminal…

I might never visit the lush beauty
of Hawai’i nor breath in the spiritual vibrations
of Mauna Kea Mountain…
I might never feel the potent sacredness
of those ancient lands
but I weep to think of future times
when my children’s children should do so
and are confronted with
such a phallic symbol
as a thirty meter telescope atop Mauna Kea…
I ask… why the mountain-
why any mountain?
please… protect them
raise your voices
defend Mauna Kea
of humankind’s psychotic need
to claim control recreate
and reshape the flesh of earth;

by Sharon Lee Goodhand, © July 22 2015
supporter of Deep Green Resistance

Protecting Mauna Kea: Pule Plus Action

Will Falk reports with clarity on what is needed in the struggle to protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope project. It is critical for defenders to connect with the land and the mountain they love through prayer, but also crucial to translate that love into effective action. The environmental movement has been losing on all fronts for 40 years: not because of any lack of love for the world, but because we aren’t taking this war seriously and are not developing and implementing strategic plans.

Falk shares his perspective as a member, on the ground, of a developing resistance campaign. Different people have different ideas for how to proceed, often based in well-meaning and tradition-rooted ideals of kapu aloha, love and respect. Defenders of the land, holding to these ideals, must recognize that the state and its minions will not behave with the same respect. A successful campaign strategy must take this into account.

I think I’ve demonstrated that the TMT project is enabled by a problematic worldview and should not be allowed to proceed. After Governor David Ige’s announcement last week that he would support and enforce the TMT’s construction, the Mauna Kea protectors want the world to know we never expected the State to help us. We must stop the TMT project and we must do it ourselves. The question becomes: “How do we do it?”

The occupation on Mauna Kea is an expression that the protection of Mauna Kea is the people’s responsibility. We cannot trust the government to stop the TMT. We cannot trust the police. We cannot trust the courts. We have to do it ourselves. In other words, nothing has changed since the occupation began over two months ago. In many ways, the occupation on Mauna Kea reflects all of our environmental and social justice movements around the world.

Read the rest of Falk’s analysis at Protecting Mauna Kea: Pule Plus Action. And for a big picture scenario of what successful resistance might look like, read the Deep Green Resistance strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare.