Pages tagged "Community Rights"
A grassroots effort in a seaside Oregon county last year could serve as an example for how other communities can beat large corporate interests.
Last year, Lincoln County voters banned the aerial application of pesticides, despite opposition backing from companies like Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences that totaled nearly a $500,000. According to documents obtained by online publication The Intercept, pesticide-industry group CropLife America made the campaign its center of attention.
Rio Davidson, a solar panel contractor and a member of Lincoln County Community Rights – the group that wrote the ban, says the region's history of effects from pesticides helped overcome long financial odds.
"We were a bunch of committed locals that had seen these harms over 30 years, and we were here to kind of help guide the community along to a better, healthy way of living that's going to be better for our children, our wildlife and our watershed," says Davidson.
Scientific research has linked pesticides to cancer, miscarriages and other health effects. Many farmers in the area were opposed to this measure, because they said it would hurt their business.
Maria Sause is the secretary of the board of directors of Lincoln County Community Rights and retired. Sause says gave her a lot of time to dedicate to this campaign.
For Sause, this initiative was about more than pesticides. She believes there's an imbalance in the legal system that weighs justice toward corporations.
"We are a movement that works to put people's fundamental rights, like the right to safety and health, before corporate rights,” says Sause. “And in our times, our legal system really puts corporate rights above people's."
Davidson says just six people were at the core of this campaign. He thinks it's possible to replicate what happened in Lincoln County with a small group of committed individuals.
"You can organize and you can make this difference in your community, even against all the monied interests, but it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time," says Davidson.
More than 150 localities across the country have restricted pesticide use in their jurisdictions.
THE PEOPLE WHO wrote an ordinance banning the aerial spraying of pesticides in western Oregon last year aren’t professional environmental advocates. Their group, Lincoln County Community Rights, has no letterhead, business cards, or paid staff. Its handful of core members includes the owner of a small business that installs solar panels, a semi-retired Spanish translator, an organic farmer who raises llamas, and a self-described caretaker and Navajo-trained weaver.
And yet this decidedly homespun group of part-time, volunteer, novice activists managed a rare feat: They didn’t just stop the spraying of pesticides that had been released from airplanes and helicopters in this rural county for decades. They also scared the hell out of the companies that make them, according to internal documents from CropLife America, the national pesticide trade group. Although some of the world’s biggest companies poured money into a stealth campaign to stop the ordinance, and even though the Lincoln activists had no experience running political campaigns, the locals still won.
The Lincoln County aerial spray ban, which passed in May 2017, is just one of 155 local measures that restrict pesticides. Communities around the country — including Dubuque, Iowa; Reno, Nevada; Spokane, Washington; and Santa Fe, New Mexico — have instituted protections that go beyond the basic limits set by federal law. Some are aimed at specific pesticides, such as glyphosate, others list a few; while still others ban the chemicals altogether. In the three decades after the first local pesticide restriction was passed in 1970 in Maine, the bans came in a slow trickle. These days, they are coming in a flood, with towns and counties passing more of these measures in the past six years than they did in the 40 before that, according to data from the advocacy group Beyond Pesticides.
The uptick in local legislation is a testament to public concerns about the chemicals used in gardening, farming, and timber production, and reflect a growing frustration with federal inaction. In recent years, scientific research on pesticides has shown credible links between pesticides and cancer, endocrine disruption, respiratory illnesses and miscarriage, and children’s health problems, including neurobehavioral and motor deficits. As scientists have been documenting these chemicals’ harms, juries have also increasingly been recognizing them.
But federal regulation has lagged behind both the research and public outrage. Notably, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, to remain in use despite considerable evidence linking it to cancer. Under Donald Trump, the EPA also reversed a planned ban of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children. Frustrated by the lack of federal action, many people have turned to their towns and counties, only to find that they have been hamstrung by state laws forbidding local limits on pesticides.
In 43 states, laws prevent cities, towns, and counties from passing restrictions on pesticide use on private land that go beyond federal law. A provision in the Farm Bill now before Congress would extend that restriction to the entire country and could potentially roll back existing local laws. The House version of the bill that passed in June and is now being reconciled with the Senate version included a section that prevents “a political subdivision of a State” from regulating pesticides.
The measure is one of several “anti-environmental provisions” in the bill “that threaten public health,” according to a letter from 107 House members. The Republican-backed attempt to clamp down on local governments also flies in the face of the party’s rhetoric, according to Scott Faber, vice president of governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
“Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word for Republicans working to block local public health ordinances designed to protect children,” said Faber. “It’s a party that more or less exists to empower local government to make decisions.”
While the industry is hoping to tighten its already fierce grip on localities through federal law, it’s also waging a stealth campaign against local “brushfires,” as CropLife America refers to the local attempts to restrict and ban pesticides. In Lincoln County and elsewhere, the national trade group is quietly putting its vast resources into fighting local activists through opposition research, monitoring their social media, and trying to stop opposition to pesticides from spreading to other communities.
Photo from Pexels.
Read the May 31st Press Release by Kai Huschke of CELDF: Lincoln County, OR, Adopts First-in-Nation Ban of Aerial Pesticide Spray
On May 30, Lincoln County passed ballot measure 21-177, a measure banning the aerial spraying of pesticides, making it the first county in the nation to do so. A group in Lane County is looking to enact a similar ban.
Aerial sprays are used to kill unwanted plants and bugs on crops and on private timberlands. Though many environmentalists and environmental justice advocates have qualms with any usage of toxic pesticides, aerial application is particularly frowned upon due to the risk of pesticide “drift” or “trespass” — when pesticides are dispersed outside of their target area due to wind and runoff. That phenomenon can affect humans as well, whether directly or through waterways.
Along with making it unlawful for any corporation to aerially spray pesticides, the Lincoln County measure also includes the “Right to Local Community Self-Government,” according to the Lincoln County’s Voter’s Pamphlet, where “for limited purpose of prohibiting aerial spraying, community has collective and individual right of self-government.”
Within this section of the measure, it also “authorizes direct action by person if county or courts fail to enforce law.”
Although the measure’s passing was a big win for both environmental and community rights activists, it’s not totally out of the woods yet as it’s faced both legal backlash and public opposition from local government.
Photo from Lincoln County Community Rights.
The local initiative, entitled “Freedom of Lincoln County from Aerially-Sprayed Pesticides”, would ban aerial pesticide spraying in coastal Lincoln County, and will be voted on in the upcoming May 2017 election. This would be the fourth Community Rights Measure that Oregonians will have voted on.
You can read the full text of the ordinance here.
Backers of Measure 21-177 on the May 16 ballot in Lincoln County say the aerial spraying of herbicides that Hancock was planning should be outlawed.
“The ballot measure is about pesticide spraying from a helicopter, plane or drone,” said Rio Davidson with with the group Citizens for a Healthy County. He says the measure uses the word pesticide to refer to both bug-killing and herbicide chemicals.
“So, this measure would make the practice illegal here in Lincoln County. And, we feel that’s really important to protect our watersheds, our children, and our wildlife,” Davidson said.
Davidson and fellow supporters are concerned that when pesticides are sprayed from the air, the chemicals can drift to homes and waterways, affecting people and the environment. The Eugene organization Beyond Toxics has documented stories of Oregonians who’ve experienced health problems after their homes were sprayed by chemicals that drift from adjacent properties. Davidson and other measure backers say they want to stop that from happening in their county.
Photo credit: Rio Davidson / Lincoln County Community Rights.