For over 11 years I have worked on this issue. I have (along side many, many others) fought consistently against the corporate greed and injustices waged on communities and environment by multinational chemical corporations. Over the last six years my effort has been, in my own backyard, on the county and state level where Hawaii remains an experimental research hot spot for these corporations.
There were incredible highs and lows over the last six years. We passed Bill 2491 with unprecedented community empowerment and grassroots action and a whirlwind of emotions and passion.
We were vetoed and crushed by Mayor Carvalho’s decision to do so, but picked back up by the council when they overrode the mayoral veto to pass Bill 2491.
Then we launched into years of federal court battles while Syngenta, Dow Chemical, BASF, Monsanto and their conglomerates sued the county of Kauai for the right to spray these poisons up to schools and homes without disclosure. The courts ruled against us and in the end it was upheld that it was “implied” that we were preempted because the law wasn’t clear we were not.
A devastating blow after years and years of effort by Counties of Hawaii to protect themselves in the face of utter negligence by the state and federal governments to provide any protection or accountability.
We picked back up and we sat back down at the drawing board and moved forward. Our networks have grown and the movement has changed but committed individuals from throughout Hawaii have kept the pressure on our state legislatures and governor to take action.
Wednesday, Gov. David Ige signed SB3095 into state law. This bill will (over a three-year period) phase out chlorpyrifos entirely from use in Hawaii. It will finally provide a statewide mandated disclosure process for users of highly toxic “Restricted Use” pesticides and it will provide a 100 feeet (minimal and unacceptably small) buffer around our schools during school hours.
It is not the beginning and it is certainly not the end of this movement, but it is a step forward in the right direction and a step towards accountability, disclosure and our communities right to know. It’s also a ban on a potent neurotoxin, one that is extremely dangerous to children both in and out of womb.
To all who have called and emailed, who have marched and taken action, to all who have furthered the conversation, engaged in the debates and been involved in the process that got us here, thank you. To the lawyers and groups who have represented and advocated for us and to the representatives and officials that have introduced and supported measures including SB3095, thank you! To my family, friends, bosses and colleagues who have supported me being a part of this, thank you!
Together we will continue to move this ship forward, to turn the tide on corporate greed and the mistreatment of our lands here in Hawaii and we will further bend the arch toward justice. For all of you I am forever grateful. We have lots of work to do, but what an incredible honor and experience it is to work from and be from a community so resilient, so empowered and so committed to a better and greener Hawaii.
Fern Holland is a resident of Kapahi.