The kabuki unfolding in the Council Chambers has crossed over to the absurd. We blast the State for its dereliction of duty, all the while pointing to them as our savior. We bang on the State for their incompetence and then beg them to rescue us. We bemoan our lack of resources and ability to enforce the law while ignoring our ability to charge the agrochemical industry to provide those very same resources necessary for enforcement.
While the industry sprays tons of poisons in our community, refuses to provide the council with even the most basic information, and threatens to sue us for the right to spray pesticides near schools, we smile and continue to act like all is ok. We assume that if we just shared a little bit more aloha we could achieve a “win-win” while all the while hoping like hell the State or someone else will step in to solve our problem.
Many in our community believe in their hearts and souls that harm is occurring to their health and to our natural environment because of the practices of large agrochemical companies operating on Kauai.
Physicians who practice at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital on Kauai’s west side have stated in writing their belief that a significantly higher rate of congenital heart defects exists among newborns in their community. Other physicians have stated similar concerns with regards to certain forms of cancer as well as a higher incidence of nose bleeds, asthma and other conditions. They acknowledge that no long term, peer-reviewed scientific studies have been done on Kauai regarding this situation. But they believe something is going on in their community that is not right, and they are concerned enough about it to offer public testimony in support of passing Bill 2491.
When the men and women in our community whom we trust to deliver our babies step forward and say they believe we have a problem, that is enough for me.
Certainly this is enough to justify full disclosure, modest buffer zones and a comprehensive study of health and environmental impacts.
Add the concerns of west side physicians to those expressed by a majority of pediatricians from all around Kauai County combined with the Hawaii Nurses Association, the Hawaii Teachers Association and over 150 residents of Waimea Valley who have filed suit against Pioneer Seed.
To be clear, resolving this issue is not simply about passing Bill 2491, but about determining as quickly as possible whether or not harm is occurring in our community and then acting accordingly.
Good decision making starts with good information. Until these large companies are willing to provide our community with the basic information and disclosure requested in the Bill, no meaningful study of impacts can be conducted.
The three remaining provisions in Bill 2491 are essential.
#1) Disclosure – The people have the right to know.
#2) Study/Report – Is harm occurring and what can be done?
#3) Buffer Zones – Interim action offering modest increased protections.
Personally, I believe an immediate moratorium on expansion is needed. However, the political will for taking such action at the County level does not exist at the present time.
I agree with those who believe the State has failed us and that the State should step up to the plate with more money, more inspectors and more commitment. .
We must pass Bill 2491 now and we must also reach out aggressively to the State and Federal governments.
We are all in this together. All levels of government and our entire community share responsibility for resolving this issue.
But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that the four agrochemical corporations are going to help us in this effort.
These companies have never supported any legislation whatsoever that attempts to put greater public protections in place. They spend millions of dollars every year to fund political candidates and run public relations campaigns designed to defeat any and all efforts that might be seen as affecting their profits. From the Monsanto Protection Act at the Federal level, to SB727 at the State legislature, to squashing Bill 2491 at the County level.
These companies are focused in doing whatever it takes to control government regulation and they are used to winning in whatever field they play in.
I am hopeful that on Tuesday my colleagues on the Council will see fit to vote in support of the very modest proposals contained within Bill 2491. We need to move forward and bring resolution to this very important issue. Passing Bill 2491 is the first step.