Categories Archives: The Problem: Civilization

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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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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.

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.

Hawai’i life endangered: will you fight for those you love?

Susanna Moore shares a heartfelt recounting of the many endemic and native species driven to, or to the brink of extinction by humans and especially by the culture of civilization:

Each year I await with dread the federal government’s catalog of endangered and threatened species in the Hawaiian Islands, where I was raised and where I live.

On its 2015 list, the Fish and Wildlife Service included the ‘ea, or hawksbill turtle, as well as the green turtle, Ridley sea turtle, leatherback turtle and loggerhead turtle. Four mammals are considered endangered: the Hawaiian hoary bat; the kohola, or humpback whale; the sperm whale; and the endemic Hawaiian monk seal. Among the 34 endangered birds are the Hawaiian goose, or nene; the Maui parrotbill; the Nihoa millerbird; the red-legged stilt; and the i’o, or Hawaiian hawk. There were once 99 species of tree snails in the Islands; of the 25 that survive, nine are endangered. Fifteen anthropods are at risk, including the sphinx moth and the oceanic damselfly.

The pressures on non-human life in the Islands have only increased with the expansion of industrialism and a consumeristic human population. Will you join us at Deep Green Resistance in fighting for those we love?

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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.

Protecting Mauna Kea: They Hate Hawai’i

Will Falk of Deep Green Resistance recently arrived in Hawai’i, and uses his latest essay to examine the “pornification of Hawai’i” ― the commodification of Hawaiian culture, women and the natural beauty of the aina. He draws on analysis by Haunani-Kay Trask of the effect of settler culture on Hawai’i, and compares that to the effect pornography has had on women in this culture.

In this Protecting Mauna Kea series, I want to encourage tangible support for native Hawaiian sovereignty in settler communities. In order to do that, I think it is necessary to understand the hatred expressed towards Hawai’i by the dominant American culture.

Before arriving in Hawai’i, I read and heard from several native Hawaiian scholars about the pornification of Hawaiian culture. I’ve learned right away how true this is. Just like men are conditioned to overlook hatred of women early in their lives through pornography’s propaganda, settlers are conditioned to hate Hawai’i through the pornification of Hawaiian culture.

I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Hawai’i, for example, and the complimentary in-flight snack included a candy called “Aloha-macs.” This product, by a company called “Hawaiian Host,” is self-labelled as “creamy milk chocolate covered macadamias – the original gift of aloha.” Hawaiian Host and the dominant culture seek to transform an ancient indigenous wisdom – aloha – into a candy, sugary trash, something to consume.

As soon as we boarded the plane, I noticed the video monitors displaying clips of beautiful, dancing Hawaiian women. I thought immediately of Trask’s brilliant essay “‘Lovely Hula Hands’: Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture” where she explains how tourism converts cultural attributes into pure profit.

In both the tourism industry and in pornography, entitlement is sold and reinforced: haoles have the right to buy bits and pieces of Hawai’i to satisfy their desires for relaxation and pampering or adventure and novel experiences; men have the right to buy bits and pieces of women to satisfy their desires for sexual gratification and control. Both industries create toxic mimics of respectful, mutual relationships, and harm those being objectified and sold off.

Read Falk’s entire essay at Deep Green Resistance News Service – Protecting Mauna Kea: They Hate Hawai’i.

Also read a response by a Filipino-Hawaiian-Portuguese woman reflecting on her own experiences under patriarchy and under occupation. She validates the important connections drawn by Falk of the intersections of male and haole entitlement: My Body, the Island.

See all of Will Falk’s “Protecting Mauna Kea” essays, plus other resources, at our page
Protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope

Kauai’s ongoing battle against pesticide companies

Deep Green Resistance advocates a return to land-based food systems rather than the fossil-fueled and toxic war against nature that characterizes industrial agriculture. Many homesteaders and organic farmers have proven we don’t need to douse our environment in pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers; nor deploy genetically modified organisms to force monocrops onto the aina. This biotic cleansing of the earth to steal all its production must stop.

In some good news, residents of Waimea, Kauai have won a multi-year struggle to get justice for DuPont Pioneer poisoning them with pesticide laden dust. A Honolulu jury decided that the corporation must recompense the residents for property damage caused by its reckless behavior. Unfortunately, the health and environmental harms caused by the pesticides were not redressed.

Although this is a victory, it’s just a start. Kauai and most of the other Hawaiian islands are under assault by the agrichemical complex. Read more about this decision and the other threats to the aina and its people at Pulling Back The Curtain: Jury verdict unanimous, DuPont Pioneer guilty of harming Waimea Kauai residents.

Petition to Switzerland to stop Syngenta’s poisoning of Kaua’i

After Kaua’i residents passed an ordinance last November to provide limited protection from pesticide spraying, agrochemical companies including Syngenta sued to shut down even minimal steps towards the health of residents, including children and the hospitalized. The Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) traveled to attend Syngenta’s annual shareholders meeting and request that the company apply to Hawai’i the same pesticide restrictions in place in Syngenta’s host country of Switzerland.

In Switzerland, the Kauaʻi delegation [also] met with local and national Swiss lawmakers resulting in the Social Democratic Party, the largest political party in Basel, issuing a Statement of Support, asking Syngenta to “honor the democratic process and protect the people of Kauaʻi.” These meetings also resulted in several articles in Swiss Newspapers, television news and Swiss Public Radio covering Syngenta’s activities in Hawaiʻi and the Kauaʻi residents’ concerns.

HAPA is pushing for 10,000 signatures on a support petition by this Thursday, when allies in Switzerland will present it to Guy Morin, President of the Government of Basel, Switzerland and to executives of Syngenta at a public meeting. Please sign and share widely!

Petition to Switzerland to stop Syngenta’s poisoning of Kaua’i

Background information: Kauai delegation delivers strong message to Syngenta, Swiss lawmakers