Buffer Zone

I push the alarm back another hour. Let myself rest.

It was a fitful night of rain and wind. Moodah the dog just kept waking. Whining to go outside, then barking in the dark at shadows, not coming back inside when I called.

My sleep was stitched with remnants of dishonest corporation heads and buffer zones against toxic pesticides. I must have been digesting the segment I saw before bed. Twenty minutes of film footage taken from the twelve-hour county council session that dedicated a portion of ‘dialogue’ with the representatives of some of the largest agrichemical companies in the world: Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow, and BASF.

When asked basic questions by council member Gary Hooser, such as “Could any of you disclose to me the amount of general-use pesticide that you use on an annual basis?,” the seed company representatives sat silent.

Council member Hooser resigned, “I’ll take your silence as a ‘no.'”

Their silence remained through multiple questions that tried to find some sort of common ground with an industry that has taken up 15,000 acres of Kauai land and turned it into an experimental test ground for genetically modified organisms and the exorbitant amount of pesticides that go along with them.

With an annual amount of 18 tons of restricted use pesticides being employed (not including the undisclosed amount of general use pesticides), the 500 foot buffer zone proposed by Bill 2491 seems less than adequate to protect school children, hospitals and waterways. In my opinion, 500 feet is not going to stop the drift carried on our island’s trade winds, or limit the seepage into our water supply.

And yet, these companies, when asked if the Bill were to compromise by removing the provisions for buffer zones in certain instances, they responded, yet again, with silence.

Before giving birth to my son, ten years ago, I used to host a call-in talk show. I followed the news, I got passionate with causes. But after giving birth, everything shifted. All of my energy wanted to funnel into raising my son. I traded in newspapers for non-violent communication parenting workshops.

So I am a bit surprised to see this issue seep into my dream time. Maybe because I know it’s one which has such farther implications than just the health of my island. It certainly affects the future of our planet, the future of generations to come.

We may appear as grown ups at the helm, but why does it feel like we’re toddlers that were just given a lighter and a tank of propane? Do we really have the wisdom to hold these tools of technology in our hands?

Today there is the anniversary of one surreal morning when planes crashed into gleaming towers. There are now cell phones that no longer need passwords, just your fingerprint. Someone has created a gun with their printer. The president wants to strike abroad against the use of chemical weapons, while American doctors won’t be told the names of the toxic chemicals used near the playgrounds of our own children.

This is why I stopped tapping into to current events and started hiding out in the garden.

This morning, I’d really love a buffer zone (for us all).

2013-09-11_water garden leaf

Mana March

I don’t usually write about politics, but the “Mana March” I participated in on Sunday was more than political…

Some of the world’s largest agricultural biotech companies have taken up 15,000 acres of Kauai land to test genetically modified crops. A part of their process involves massive amounts of pesticide use. About 18 tons of “restricted use pesticides” are sprayed annually (Atrazine to name one, which was banned in Europe in 2004), as well as employing at least five times that amount of ‘non-restricted’ pesticides, which are potentially just as harmful.

One company, Pioneer DuPont, has been recorded as applying these pesticides to their crops between 10 – 16 times a day, at least 250 days a year. There are currently no buffer zones to protect nearby schools, neighborhoods or waterways from the drift or seepage of these toxic pesticides. Currently, the agribusiness companies utilizing Kauai’s 15,000 acres for their genetically modified crop experiments, refuse to disclose the exact chemicals being used, when, or where.

Residents of the surrounding community where these crops are located are reporting unexplained illnesses. Babies are being born with strange, life-long defects. Doctors, nurses and teachers are voicing concern, especially for children, who’s developing bodies (in utero and in maturing years) are most susceptible to the harmful effects of these chemicals.

A bill, titled Bill 2491, has been created to insist that our island have a right to know what pesticides are being used and that a buffer zone be created around drift-prone areas, especially schools. It also insists that environmental evaluations begin to determine the safety of these chemicals, implementing restrictions when necessary.

Sunday, Jeb, the Bohemian, and I walked with about 4,000 Kauaians down Rice Street to the County building in support of Bill 2491. The demonstration is said to have been the largest in our small island’s history.

This issue of Genetically Modified Foods, pesticide use, and monoculture farming is complex and multi-layered. There is much that I have yet to learn.

One thing I do know, you have to care for the earth in order for it to care for you.

For myself, for my island, and for our children, I walked to represent this truth.  It was one  small gesture, but with 4,000 strong, it was many steps in the right direction.

2013-09-09_Boh stps

2013-09-09_Boh Jeb

islanders, as far as the eye can see
islanders, as far as the eye can see

Check out the Garden Island Newspaper’s report:


And for more information on GMO experiments on Kauai, here’s a FACT page from www.stoppoisoningparadise.org.

On the Big Screen

Our new house comes with a big screen. That is, a big flat TV screen that (shhh…don’t tell Jeb) has cable.

We are typically a TV-free home. I’ve never actually owned a television. We get our fair share of media, but it’s always been through selective web searches or our Netflix subscription (which can I just say, is fairly silly, as over 50% of the time the movie we want to ‘watch instantly’ is “unavailable”).

Still sampling dimmer switches and exploring cupboard spaces in our new home, the Bohemian and I take the opportunity to check out cable TV while Jeb is gone for the night. The possibilities seem endless with channels galore.

Much to our dismay, we scan through 100 channels of television commercials, impassioned “news” programs, sports highlights and late night TV hosts chatting about nothing. We turn it off and wander outside.

It’s a dark, new moon night. We lay a blanket on the grass and go horizontal to the sky. The summer air is warm, the scent of puakinikini mingling with the melody of crickets.

“So show me where you’re from up there,” the Bohemian says.

My eyes scan the constellations for a hint. I sigh. “I don’t remember.”

But I do remember the first time I really saw this big screen display. I was five years old in the foothills, cozy inside the light blue, down sleeping bag next to a fire. The sky so black, the stars so infinite. I was in awe. Staring until my eyelids fell deeply into sleep.

“Look at that satellite,” the Bohemian points. “It’s going so fast.”

And it is. Moving with great speed through starlight.

“I wonder what it’s doing up there.”

He laughs. “Probably trying to find something good to put on TV.”

We rest in quiet. Watch occasional clouds cover stellar patches, whisping peeks of keyholes to the cosmos.

Then we both see it. The strong, white streak arching overhead. We catch our breath at the display. Feel the elation of beholding a shared vision.

Shooting stars will never be dull.

“Now that…was fast!”

photo courtesy of Lai Ryanne
photo courtesy of Lai Ryanne