Addressing Drug Abuse & Addiction on Kaua`i

Growing up on Kaua’i I have watched first hand loved ones and friends fall into the darkness and emptiness of drug abuse and addiction. We have lost friends to overdoses, mental health issues, suicides, tragedies and lives of addiction and isolation. For many of us there is nothing more painful then this reality and our inability to help those that we love. It is a heavy burden that our community carries and something we cannot brush aside, jail away, or ignore. We must face it.

I strongly support existing efforts to establish an adolescent treatment center and we need to work together to get it up and going as quickly as possible. We also need to work to ensure that it is effective and meets our needs.

I will work for all around inpatient programs that help any age group and provide the kind of in-depth services our community needs.

I think we should provide drug rehab classes and programs in our jails so that when people transition back into society they can do it with a handful of basic skills and understandings.

We need to work on enforcement at our ports and stop these drugs from making it onto our streets. We need to look at ways we can better control prescription medications and prevent abuse and illegal sales.

We must be committed to addressing the drug abuse issues holistically and along side other interconnected core social issues we face. We need to provide affordable housing and reduce the cost of living that drives people to depression, illegal activities and drug abuse.

We need to stop treating drug abuse as a criminal issue and instead treat it as a medical and mental health issue, with compassion and with a plan.

Access Issues at Waipahe'e

This morning while I was getting ready to jump in the car, I was preparing myself. Preparing myself to be shaken to the core, heartbroken, potentially even arrested.

When I heard that the Waipahe'e slide and natural waterfall structure had been destroyed my brain couldn’t even wrap around it. What does that even mean? I had to see it for myself. My heart sunk to think that right under our noses we could let this happen! How?

When I got up there I was immediately informed and reassured that the waterfall is intact and fine and not been damaged in any structural way. In-fact some of the guys concerned had been invited up to see for their self a few days prior.

Phew! The waterfall is still there!

Those working for the land owner and refusing to open the gate, plead their case explaining that the rumor was started intentionally because of the amount of people coming up there, tourists and locals alike, the liability was too great.  Locals were drinking partying and were doing illegal activities up there, and potentially dumping waste. This happens island wide and it needs to be addressed in many capacities, through addressing the lack of ability to dump certain waste and cars on Kaua’i, community education and watchdogging, but it is not a reason to block access to public lands or native inhabitants.

As the day progressed and the conversations (respectfully being carried out between locals, friends and `ohana on both sides of a depressing jail looking electric gate) continued, it became clear that there are many problems and concerns with this site.

Access

We start with the gate. According to current government maps the road is marked as a public government road. The gate is a violation of public access, just as much as it would be for anyone to decide they wished to place a gate for their own private interests across a public road.

The access was the issue of the day.  As uncle Liko arrived with the maps fresh out of the Department of Land and Natural Resources files it became even clearer that there were additional concerns with the access rights and land ownership of this area.

Land Ownership & Use

It is not private land at all. It is mapped as a Forest Reserve.  This is in opposition to the claims being made by workers refusing access that the land was ‘sold’ from the plantations and currently privately owned by their boss, Tom Mccloskey. However, the maps suggest that the land is actually a Forest Reserve being leased at a cost of $1.7 acre/year.  That is one dollar and 70 cents, per acre, per year.

This immediately raises concerns about the agricultural designation process and raises further concerns.

Access for Native Inhabitants

Precedent has been set with multiple previous cases that clearly establish native people have access to natural resources for hunting and gathering and other purposes. Kanaka cannot be denied access to these areas. This is a violation of multiple laws and conventions for native inhabitants.  However despite this, today the land occupier repeatedly insisted that his workers refuse access to Hawaiians attending the site to hunt gather and maintain their ‘aina and water sources. Multiple Hawaiians were denied their rights today to not only access a site, that we now know is a forest reserve, but also access to a US government public road. These are clear violations of their rights under many levels of law, including international.

Water Diversions

What’s actually happening with the water diversions on site? According to Hawaiians on the front line this site has recently been diverted with evidence of new concrete diversions. Where are the permits for this process and the environmental assessment of these diversions, if they exist? Are these diversions in violation of more recent water catchment laws or have they been entirely inherited from sugar? Are these old diversions impacting ecosystems downstream, robbing the system of sustenance?

Tourist Access & the Blue Book

The ‘Blue Book’ destroys lives. We need a collaborative meeting with those responsible to clearly outline places that tourists are in no way to be brought or encouraged to go, especially alone. We need to put lives and culture above profit and the tourist industry. We can do this by taking key places off brochures and out of things like ‘the blue book’.  We can work with stakeholders to get the right information into tourists hands and provide specific areas, where oversight and education is provided, that are tourist encouraged and advertised sites. These sites can be well funded and kept to manage capacity, but we can not be encouraging self guided missions to places that are dangerous, sacred and kapu. This is simply unacceptable. Some system like this would establish places where local families could feel comfortable going occasionally but tourists are unlikely to even hear about. Locals shouldn’t be paying the prices for poorly and misguided tourists who make bad decisions.

Trash, Drugs, Crime and Degradation of the Site

It is clear from the conversations that the people on both sides of the fence are acting from the love for and the desire to protect this place and this is a strong common ground we share.  Those on the other side explained the thousands they have spent, often out of their own money to clean and restore the area after cars, waste and degradation of the site has occurred. This is a problem island wide and it needs to be addressed systemically and holistically, because it is unacceptable anywhere, but it is a separate issue.

Police Oversight Costs

As police surrounded a handful of us and listened to the conversation take place, it became apparent that the KPD had, once again, been put between the public interest and the private. I think they handled today incredibly well; their approach to non violent and thoughtful policing was exceptional. How much did that cost our taxpayers today to deny our rights and who pays for this?

There Can Be No Conservation Without Community

Tonight I listened to fishermen concerned with the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Moment. I attended their rally and meeting and went to hear their concerns. They have real concerns with process and communication, and are deeply concerned that their access will be further limited in the future.

They bring up good points about the military use in this area and why they are being cut out while military expands.

They bring up good points about enforcement and the foreign illegal unregistered ships that will still take from the monument (due to lack of enforcement funding and abilities) while Hawaiian ships are denied access.

I think smaller scale fishermen should be exempt from the closure and should be allowed to continue to fish near the northern weather bouys and into the northern waters as is needed.

It's the industrial longline fishing and purse-seine net fishing which isn't sustainable and what threatens marine stocks. It isn't cultural and it isn't responsible and these are the concerns of marine conservationists and Hawaiian cultural practitioners.

I understand the desire to take out industrial fishing, and I have a well founded science based understanding of the impacts of these non discriminatory types of industrial fishing practices, their bycatch and the ecosystem impacts they leave behind.

I understand that our fisheries, our predators and our marine resources are collapsing and I understand that we have to ensure the perpetuation of these stocks into the future.

Tomorrow I will go to the meeting in support of expansion to even better understand this situation, the concerns and justifications.

I believe we need real and meaningful management of our oceans but it has to engage and involve small scale fishermen, who should be allowed access to these areas, as they continue to fish pono.

The expansion of the monument needs to come with exemptions for Kaua'i and smaller scale local fishermen, of which it sounds like very few actually go this far north, so don't deny them access.

There can be no conservation without community. Without stakeholder engagement this process will never be done from the bottom up and it will therefore never be based in community, respect, and understanding.

We can not close out our local fishermen and expand the Department of Defense occupation of these areas at the same time and expect people to accept this as conservation. If it's conservation it should be conservation, not military testing and millions of approved takes.

Let's start with enforcement on the current illegal fleets and foreign ships that are already poaching in our waters and get serious about protecting these areas into the next generation.

I know that together we can find real meaningful solutions that provide opportunities for local fishermen and conserve and protect this incredibly special area and the amazing resources it holds.

Want Some Perspective on Pesticides? Talk to the Swiss

Switzerland no longer allows the use of many chemicals that are still sprayed on American fields.

After five days in Basel Switzerland, where chemical corporations were birthed, I prepare to return home with a greater understanding of the situation we face in Hawaii and across the world.

We have learned first hand the impacts that chemical industries have had here in Switzerland, both to the environment and their people.

We have heard from historians and scientists about the chemical waste leaked from these corporations into their rivers and air. We have learned that the chemical plants that created DDT and their associated landfills are still contaminating the rivers here.  In fact, DDT still leaks from chemical landfills 40 years after it was banned in Switzerland and is still found in both the Rhine River and the breast milk of mothers here.

The Swiss were appalled by what chemical companies are doing to stop efforts to force more disclosure of what’s being sprayed and when.

We have met with specialists, historians, politicians, unions, university students and concerned citizens. We have gained an understanding of the experiences and reasons GE experiments and pesticides like Atrazine, Paraquat, Permethrin, Methomyl, Triazine and others sprayed on Kauai are not approved for use here in Switzerland. Despite Syngenta being a Swiss-based corporation, these products of theirs are banned in their home country, and for good reason.

We came to share our story and to gain the support of members of government and the Swiss people, and we have done so.  Political leaders have been appalled to hear our story, to know how hard we have fought, and to know that we even succeeded in passing government initiatives to obtain disclosure, buffers and studies — only to be sued by Syngenta and the “chemical cartel.” They are appalled to know that we are only asking for disclosure, so we can know when to shut our windows. The Swiss have repeatedly expressed their disgust that we would even need to consider this.

When we present the list of chemicals applied by Syngenta, and others, you can see the surprise and the concern. It is obvious that the Swiss people and the science are clear, and their minds have been made. These chemicals are damaging to life, of all kinds, and there are legitimate reasons to avoid their use in open-air applications.

We have been reached out to, been given heartfelt apologies and sympathy that the home that we love has became the research center for these chemical corporations, which leave destruction and pollution in their wake. We have had political leaders, organizers and students reach out with the desire to help advance our efforts. Official requests have been made to Syngenta, by the Swiss government here, that they abandon their lawsuit, abide by our laws and provide better protections for our people.

It has been an honor and an amazing experience engaging the people here, sharing our story, learning about theirs and gaining more inspiration about how we move forward as a collective worldwide community to better the health and life of our environment and world.

This was published in Civil Beat on April 15th 2015: http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/04/want-some-perspective-on-pesticides-talk-to-the-swiss/

Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World

Despite GMO supporters’ claims in Hawaii, the “Chemical Agriculture Age” is not essential to producing enough food for all the planet’s inhabitants.

A recent opinion piece in the Maui News blog opposing organic agriculture and in support of biotech GE (GMO) research in Hawaii accused organic agriculture of being a reason people are starving.

It was ridiculous and over-reaching and perpetuated more fear. Fear that if you in some way oppose GE chemical agriculture you also oppose feeding the starving.

In the 2014 study conducted by University of Berkeley Institute of Food, researchers demonstrated that organic agriculture could satisfy the world’s appetite. Organic agriculture can compete and potentially even create higher yields and more food over a longer period of time.

Organic agriculture: Could it produce enough food for everyone?

GE chemical dependent mono-crop industrial agriculture has resulted in many impacts that are never weighed evenly against the “positives,” which are often exaggerated future projections. There are countless pollution events, environmental damages, deaths, cancers, diseases, dust bowls, super weeds and bugs that have resulted in farm losses, reduced quality of food, chemical “tread milling” and possibly irreversible damage to communities and environments around the world.

GE organisms have not been independently shown to produce higher yields, increase production, environmental tolerance or nutrition! This simply isn’t true. Even our kids’ current science textbooks acknowledge that the promises of GE crops has never actually come to fruition.

Instead, the technology has mostly been applied to the development of pesticide producing and herbicide resistant crops and boosting chemical and biotech sales for corporate interests. This is an industry driven by chemicals, corporate agenda and profits, not efforts to feed the starving.

The problem is not yield or production. We already (by a significant amount) produce enough food to meet the world’s needs.  We produce nearly enough food annually to feed 10 billion to 12 billion people, and there are only about 7 billion on Earth.

Then why are people starving?  They starve and go hungry because of over consumption in developed (first world) countries and under distribution (because of greed and politics) in underdeveloped (Second and Third World) countries.  Corporate and government agendas and profit margins prevent feeding the starving.

The “Chemical Agriculture Age” will no doubt soon be looked back on as a barbaric and foolish answer to the production of food, a mistake and a learning curve in agricultural advancements. As our understanding of the natural world, ecology and agriculture grows we look more at the chemical age as obsolete. We have moved beyond it.

Recent advancements in agriculture have found reliable alternative pest control measures that utilize healthy functioning ecosystems to increase yield and produce quality food. It is these, agro-ecological approaches that will make it possible for nations to feed themselves (healthy and well) into the seventh generation.

So next time someone tells you organic agriculture can’t feed the world, let them know that it can, and it will.

You can read this publication printed in Civil Beat at: http://www.civilbeat.com/2015/01/organic-agriculture-can-feed-the-world/

Fear of GMOs: Stop Derailing the Issues

We aren't talking about the safety of our corn chips. We are talking about pesticides that are proven to damage life, harm kids, create birth defects and damage environments. Fear is a powerful motivator.  The fear spread through our community by large chemical corporations, about job losses and complete collapse of the economy, has struck fear unnecessarily into the hearts of many locals and perpetuated the spreading of half truths and blatant corporate lies. This fear has derailed an already confusing issue.

Turning the focus to the eating GMO (GE food) is another way people are blurring this complicated issue even farther. This distraction takes away from the reason communities are speaking out and counties are passing bills to protect themselves. Yes, labeling is important, but we need to address the real concerns around recent county initiatives.

We are talking about the application of experimental and restricted use pesticides used on, and in, open-air GE field trials. We are talking about the application of incredibly large amounts of incredibly toxic pesticides in close proximity to our schools and our homes, and the impact it is having (and has the potential to have in the future) on our children, their learning and their health.

We aren’t talking papayas or future potential, we are concerned about Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine, Dicamba and pesticides that are banned in many places yet applied to our backyards at rates up to 10 times national averages.

It is completely misleading to make statements about the lack of danger associated with GMOs when you don’t stop for a moment to address the real dangers or issues. We aren’t talking (with recent county initiatives) about the safety of our corn chips. We are talking about pesticides that are proven to damage life, harm kids, create birth defects and damage environments. This is better researched, supported and clarified by science then your satisfaction with the substantial equivalence of GMOs and conventional food crops.

More and more institutions (medical, ecological, agricultural and even recently the UN) are realizing they have been fed mostly marketing and half-truths by GE lobbyist and vested interests. Due to loops holes and backdoor deals (like self-regulation, the conditional registration exemption, subsidies, substantial equivalence and the revolving door) deception has been occurring for decades, possibly for a 100 or more. But now as we truly advance in our understanding of working with the natural world we create the new future for food production.

So while your 90-day studies on the consumption of GMO food have left you feeling comfortable with eating them, this isn’t why we are passing bills to protect our families and communities. We are passing bills to protect our children and future generations from the damage caused by experimentation by chemical corporations.

Keep talking money and economy and we will keep talking about saving children’s lives.

Published in Civil Beat Here: http://www.civilbeat.com/2014/12/fear-of-gmos-stop-derailing-the-issue/

Comply with Ordinance 960

The Agri-Chemical Industry here dubbed the 'chemical cartel' (Syngenta, Pioneer, Down, Monsanto & BASF and the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association) was quick to dismiss the recent findings of trace amounts of pesticides in the statewide water study, dismissing them as below toxic thresholds and within regulated amounts 

But the absolute truth is this, they are present, in some amount. That was all the study set out it do. This was only a pilot study. It tells us where to focus our studies. Now we adjust to season, to rainfall, to event specific sampling. This is only the first snippet of information we are starting to get as these studies gain traction.

So don't be quick to dismiss the concerns or be satisfied with these findings, after all they are not suggesting all is well in paradise anyway.

The study suggests that there are areas where there are more pesticides in surface samples, Ohau & Kaua'i. There are locations within those that have more elevated levels. This is where the effort should now focus. It will be a while before we know for sure whats coming down in the run off from these properties.

The Chem Cartel wants you to be easily deterred by their reassurance that the study supported 'their side' of all this, that their having no impact on our surroundings.... but the study didn't do this. Instead it did the opposite. 

"The statewide pilot pesticide sampling project has found over 20 different types of pesticides in Hawaiian waterways, some of which are no longer registered for use in Hawaii."

This is river water, not ground water from drinking wells that have absorbed chemicals that were being applied 20 years ago- but from river (surface) runoff and water and sediment associated with it (which can have residual chemicals from years prior). This is only one environmental element, water and of that it is only one part of it, surface water.

"25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides were detected, with atrazine the most commonly found.... Atrazine is the most detected pesticide in the study with 80 percent of sites containing the chemical. The report theorizes these frequent detections are due to downstream impacts of current and historic uses in sugar cane and seed corn (GMO Corn)."

"Some atrazine detections in Kaua'i exceeded aquatic benchmarks." 

"Some atrazine detections in Kaua'i exceeded aquatic benchmarks." 

Yes the Pilot study even found levels here on Kaua'i that "exceeded aquatic benchmarks", or anotherwords that were high enough, even the government and industry will acknowledge, can have a negative impact on the 'life of our land' and the animals and plants that are present here.

Yes. The pilot study supports more study. It supports disclosure, buffer zones, a thorough environmental and health study. The study support Ordinance 960.

Nearly two years ago when I sat down with Gary Hooser and explained that we needed to know how much of these different pesticides, Atrazine specifically, they were spraying, that we needed to know where so we could really target our studies to better understand what the concern is. The response from the Chem Cartel to Council Member Hooser was simply, "we don't use Atrazine".

It's astonishing how much their tune has changed in two years. We went from "we don't use Atrazine", to "well we do but...." this is how much we use (believe us) and don't worry, its not that much, its actually only a little compared to the ocean, and don't worry it disappears when it hits the ground, like magic, doesn't hurt a thing.... 

Really?

Sorry, no trust here. Your time for open voluntary disclosure has long passed, its time to follow the regulations our island has set in place. It's time you comply with Ordinance 960.