This was a good week for the grassroots on the political front. Actually it has been a phenomenal year on many levels for the grassroots citizenry working hard to protect health and environment, and to expand and improve citizen based democracy.
On Saturday, August 25, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to end the practice of “Superdelegates” voting on the first ballot during the 2020 Democratic Party National Convention. When rank and file pledged delegates attend the Convention, their votes will be counted first and the insider/establishment “Superdelegates” will only be allowed to vote on subsequent ballots or to confirm the choice of the rank and file pledged delegates.
This historic rule change and other important reforms passed during last week’s winter DNC meeting in Chicago is a testament to the power of the grassroots, and to the Democratic Party’s responsiveness and willingness to embrace change.
As the Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and voting member of the DNC, I was honored to work alongside both grassroots Party activists and mainstream establishment Democrats to help make this historic change happen.
This major win at the DNC in Chicago is amplified by the many Primary Election wins that are now occurring across the continent and here in Hawaii by progressive and environmentally friendly candidates. At least for now anyway, the good guys are winning at the ballot box while the corporate polluters and poisoners are not.
On the judicial front the same is true, with two major, major, humongous victories for health and the environment.
On August 9th, a Federal Appeals Court ordered the EPA to ban Chlorpyrifos nationwide.
Judge Jed Rakoff wrote, “There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neuro-developmental damage to children.”
Chlorpyrifos is used widely in Hawaii and testing by the State of Hawaii has confirmed evidence of its presence in small amounts at the Waimea Canyon Middle School and in other areas of West Kauai.
Then on August 10th a San Francisco Superior Court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages over their cancer causing RoundUp.
Monsanto “acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct,” Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos announced in court.
Thousands of additional plaintiffs are in line with similar claims and the potential net financial impact on Monsanto (now Bayer) is astronomical. The chemical giant will of course appeal.
I wish I could report that government agencies across Hawaii have reacted quickly to the mounting evidence that RoundUp/Glyphosate causes cancer and have banned its use at parks and schools across the State.
However both, the State and the County government, continue to ignore the warnings put out by the World Health Organization and this particular court decision. One would think, that in the abundance of caution, they would at least begin limiting the use of this pesticide around schools and places where children frequent. Perhaps a law to this effect will need to be passed during the 2019 legislative session. It’s a shame really, as administrative agencies could make this happen without the necessity of legislation.
This month was a bit of a triple whammy for Hawaii’s chemical companies. On August 9th, the court orders the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, on August 10th a different court hammers Monsanto with a $289 million fine and then locally on August 11th, two of the industries most vocal advocates were soundly trounced in their bid for election to the Hawaii State House and Senate.
On the legislative front, all of this, follows on the heals of the passage into law of Hawaii’s SB 3095 on June 2nd. This measure created a “first in the nation” phased ban of chlorpyrifos, modest buffer zones around schools, and full disclosure of all Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP).
Yes, this past few weeks and months have been good ones for those of us engaged in the fight to expand democracy and protect health and the environment. The pendulum it seems, is finally swinging our way. It behooves us however, to keep growing the movement for change, to take nothing for granted, and to keep pushing hard to protect the world our children and grandchildren deserve.
First published on August 29th, 2018 in The Garden Island Newspaper