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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.

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?

  • Enter your email address in the upper right of this page to subscribe to our blog.
  • Volunteer for DGR in whatever way suits your skills, interests, and availability.
  • Join DGR as a full member.

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

Oppose geothermal night-time drilling January 19

What: Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) community meeting
When: January 19, @ 6:30pm.
Where: Pahoa High School Cafeteria.
Why: PGV plans to drill without following the county ordinance that prohibits drilling between 7 PM and 7 AM

The county representatives for Puna are looking out for geothermal interests at the expense of community health. Following is an email alert from Bob Petricci of Puna Pono Alliance:

Geothermal Update

Drilling Alert

PGV has joined forces with Puna Council reps Greggor Illigan and Danny Paleka to actively campaign against the night time drilling ban we enacted to protect our community from PGV’s previous impacts due to 20 years of poor drilling practices.

Specifically, Paleka and Illigan support PGV’s stated intention to drill 24/7 in violation of the night time drilling ban.

Several major accidents and missteps at the PGV power plant last year resulted in harm to our community again, and both DOH and EPA cited PGV last year for numerous violations of their permits.

In discounting and essentially disregarding what this community has endured at the hands of PGV, both council members Illigan and Paleka have said publicly they support PGV intention to drill at night regardless of the law. That of course is in direct conflict with the communities best interest. These council reps are doing this with no legal experience to speak of and without even bothering to ask for a legal opinion from the Corporation Council. They instead are relying on a special interest (PGV) to interpret the law. This is an example of how bad government works to the detriment of the community, we should shine a light on this type of improper behavior by our our elected officials. In this case corporate interest have clearly been put ahead of the public interest by these 2 elected officials to benefit a special interest at expense of our community.

I went to Danny’s office to talk to him about this and ask for a copy of corp council’s opinion, he told me he never talked to them. He then promised to do so promptly, but don’t hold your breath. We will probably have to do that as well.

I also spoke with Council member Aaron Chung (an attorney), who told me he disagrees with Paleka, Illigan, and PGV. In fact he agrees with PPA and the community – the law applies to PGV as written. He based his opinion as do we on reading the law and the permit requirements that “PGV obey that law and all county laws.

In my opinion it is dangerous and unfortunate that Illigan and Paleka appear to be playing fast and loose with the best interest of our Puna community to benefit a special interest (PGV). I see no valid reason for them to fight for PGV against the community on this law. It is a sad commentary on the state of our county government.

Puna Pono Alliance needs your support now, this is our chance, let PGV know how you feel about the planned drilling now – before it starts.

Background

On January 19, next Monday, Puna Geothermal Venture is holding a community meeting. At that meeting they will be discussing upcoming drilling, currently scheduled from late January until March. During that drilling, PGV does not plan to comply with a county ordinance that requires drilling activity to stop between 7 PM and 7 AM.

This intended action is an insult to the community and to those who must bear the personal cost of PGV actions. If you live close to PGV, we ask that you come to the meeting in a show of solidarity in which we say you must stop placing community families second. If you live elsewhere we ask that you show your support for our neighbors that are being sacrificed to corporate convenience.

Thank you again for your past support in helping us defend our neighborhood from industrialization. We passed a law, now we need to let them know we intend to see the law enforced.

PPA Noise Committee

As you may have heard, PGV is planning to begin drilling a new well on January 25 and they say they expect it to go on for 3 months. The last time they drilled a well, it went on for 5 1/2 months and it made life miserable for people near the plant.

Despite a Hawaii County ordinance which bans nighttime drilling from 7 pm to 7 am, passed by the Hawaii County Council in response to PGV’s last drill , PGV says they will drill day and night because–they say–the ordinance does not apply to them.

We need the help of those that live close to the plant because if we don’t step up, PGV will continue to drill day and night–and they drill new wells every few years.

Paul Kuykendall and Suzanne Wakelin are working to document the noise and its impact on neighbors to force the county and state to address it as a health and quality of life issue.

The good news is that we live in an age where we can capture data via crowd-sourcing that will build our case with some very cool, high tech tools. We are going to use NoiseTube to collect and collate data using mobile phones which we can later analyze and show on google maps to quantify the noise impact.

To learn more about NoiseTube, please read this short Scientific American article

Or visit the NoiseTube webpage for more information:

We need your help to be successful. Please support us by doing the following:

1. Email lists@punapono.com with your phone number and consent to receive email updates on this project.

2. Please meet us at HAAS this Tuesday January 20 at 3:30 pm (before the usual Puna Pono Meeting) for a 30 minute training on how to use the crowdsourcing App

Please be prompt because we will only have 30 minutes.

3. If you can, please download the free app to your mobile phone by following the link below. It has instructions on how to download to an Iphone and an Android phone. If you do it before the training, we can show you how to use it.

4. Please share this email with friends and neighbors who could be negatively affected by the drilling noise.

If you want to help us stop PGV from illegally drilling at night, we need help this Monday,

If you want to connect with PPA, please come to the 4 o’clock meeting this Tuesday at HAAS School.

New geothermal well planned, with typical lies

pgv

Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), operator of the geothermal plant in lower Puna on Hawai’i island, plans to start drilling a new well as early as January 2015.

The existing five wells have mysteriously dropped in electricity generation from 38 to 30 megawatts. The last well PGV drilled two years ago, at great expense to the sleep and health of neighbors, has never come online as it failed to find sufficient heat. In the past few years, the plant has released potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide on multiple occasions, with ongoing refusal by PGV or civil defense to put proper monitoring equipment and systems into place to protect nearby residents.

Yet PGV wants to drill a new well, and is trotting out obfuscations, vague promises, and lies familiar to anyone who’s been following the fight over the years. PGV has promised effective noise mitigation measures for decades, but never delivered.

The community fought hard to pass a county noise ordinance two years ago to ban 24 hours a day of disruptive and health-damaging drilling. PGV claims the ordinance doesn’t apply to it, and that it is dangerous to stop drilling once it has begun. Yet when the community suggested it shouldn’t start drilling if it can’t guarantee safe shut-down in emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, or lava flows, PGV claimed those situations are totally safe. (One of the dangerous gas releases occurred recently during Hurricane Iselle – and PGV was just operating the plant, not trying to drill a new well.)

The geothermal exploitation is also a direct violation of the religion of traditional Hawaiian Pele practitioners, who oppose drilling into and stealing energy from the goddess.

Nonviolent civil disobedience was suggested at the Punaweb Forum to block any new drilling until PGV agrees to abide by the noise ordinance. Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i fully supports such an action. PGV, and corporations in general, have proven themselves indifferent to community concerns, responsive only to force (nonviolent or violent). It is insufficient, as nearby resident Paul Kuykendall put it, to “[hope] that PGV will honor not only the county law but also the impact to the community and not drill at night.”

We will report if plans unfold for direct action, so comment here if you’re interested, and subscribe to email updates in the sidebar to the right.

Investigative journalist on Hawai’i’s GMO war

Jon Rappoport, a free-lance investigative journalist, has written numerous posts recently about GMOs, labeling vs banning, and the recent passing and subsequent overturning of laws in Hawai’i to ban GMOs and their attendant poisons. He provides some good insights into the corruption in the political and judicial systems, and even with big NGOs supposedly looking out for the health of humans and our landbases. The main angle he’s missing is CELDF style laws, which not only block unwanted industry or pollution from a locale, but explicitly state that the local protections supersede the rights of corporations or the State or Federal laws written by those corporate interests.

You can see all of Rappoport’s posts on GMOs or read some specific posts: