Last month I had the pleasure of attending the opening day of the state legislature in Hawai’i. I joined our Protect Our Keiki coalition partners and hundreds of people from across the islands — including busloads of students — who came to meet up with their legislators, take part in workshops, and participate in traditional cultural practices, including pounding poi.
Our coalition’s table was one of dozens distributing materials highlighting our priorities in the upcoming legislative session, and encouraging people to get involved.
This year, there was also a powerful display of solidarity with the Mauna Kea protectors. At 8am and noon, hundreds of people gathered in the central plaza of the statehouse to dance hula and chant (oli). This is a daily ritual on Mauna Kea, led by elders who have been blocking installation of the TMT (Thirty Meter telescope) since July of last year. Mauna Kea is a deeply sacred mountain that includes hundreds of revered places and over 34 burial sites. TMT is proposed to be three times as wide with nine times more area covered than the largest currently existing visible-light telescope in the world.
Overall, it was an inspiring day celebrating Hawaiian culture and civic engagement. What if statehouses across the country marked the first day of each legislative session with public celebrations?
Onward with the good work
This engagement is making a difference. In May 2018, Hawai’i became the first state in the country to ban the brain harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. This win inspired action in other states, including decisions to withdraw use of the chemical in California and New York, and bills now moving forward in Maryland, Washington and Oregon.
Our colleagues in Europe also tell us that state-based actions like Hawai’i's strengthened the case for a chlorpyrifos ban in Europe, which went into effect last month. As a result of all this, the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos (Corteva, which was formerly DowDuPont) just announced it will discontinue production of the pesticide by the end of this year.
This current session, the Protect Our Keiki coalition — with the support of this year’s PAN Fellow, Lorilani Keohokalole — is working to strengthen pesticide-free buffer zones around schools and to increase transparency and documentation regarding pesticide drift. We’re also supporting restrictions on glyphosate.
The coalition will also keep building power. Protect Our Keiki is part of a growing movement across the islands for just and healthy local food production — a stated aim of the Governor as well. Yet the giant seed/pesticide corporations that have set up shop on the islands (Bayer/Monsanto, Syngenta et al) continue to undermine these goals as they pollute Hawaiian waters and lands.
Together, we’ll continue to challenge them.