Note to readers: This is an analysis and personal inculcation of my own narrative tied to one specific topic — Lincoln County’s aerial spray ban (toxics, weedicides/herbicides) ban which was overturned and is now being presented to a judge for revalidation. Too many times people come to me thinking I am a news writer, or mainstream journalist. I was one of those, years ago, for years, and I am not that person now. “I don’t need no stinking Press badge, cabrón.” I can lead the reader down some curvy and out of the way places in my style of writing. Call it rant, diatribe, polemical, what have you . . . or just bad prose. It doesn’t matter to me anymore because I am not following the Associated Press rule book/style guide. I am no longer following the small-town newspaper tenets, or all those other big-town so-called journalism 101 keeping it objective crap. Unfortunately, I have to keep reminding readers of this fact.
And, I have been engaged in so many local battles, either in them as a member of this or that group or committee, or as a writer, or as a faculty member with students from various colleges in tow. In reality, under capitalism, as each nanosecond ticks off, things are really getting ugly. Predictable, sure, as anyone who has drilled into this perverse system of profits over all. Still, though, I am beyond journalism 101, which in some sense really never existed in a real world . . . or, for most cases, newspaper journalism was always about “fabricated balance,” and showing two sides (how absurd is that, two sides!) to an issue. AND, my experience is the more intelligent and deeply holistic and systems thinking voices are never heard . . . or allowed into the journalism story.
I’ve written extensively about this, and while some call me Gonzo 3.0, nevertheless, I have to caveat my work regularly such as I have now. Be forewarned — this is not Journalism 101, which for all intents and purposes has failed, failed, failed.
Waldport — I was driving back from Portland, hitting the scenic route, Highway 34, the so-called Alsea Highway. Two lane winding road. Farms and a river and homes on the slow-running river and no real towns except for Alsea. My wife was driving, fast, and I was a passenger looking hard at the surroundings.
On a sunny day, with this spring verdant overlay, a nice drive. It’s a green drive, with lots of leafing trees and conifers in the low-slung Coast Range. Of course, everything in the driver’s viewshed has been messed with more than a 100 years ago onward to this decade. Third growth tree plantations, clear-cuts, huge swaths of rye grass fields. A lot of dilapidated homes, cabins on the river and newer McMansions out there, with two RVs and four car garages and brand new out buildings.
Lots of clear-cuts, up to the road in some places. On one level, everything seems green and natural, but most of what a driver gets to see are second and third growth tree stands, AKA fiber/lumber plantations. There is a uniformity in the trees that are 50 years old. All the same size. All bunched up together.
No old growth in these here parts.
I know a few people who live out here, people who came to the area in the 1960s and ’70s. They are old now. On property that seems way out in the forest to some folk, but all are connected with paved roads, cement bridges spanning creeks, and with electricity and Wi-Fi. It’s an idyllic life in some regards, but for years (before this state’s draconian lockdowns) Highway 34 has been used as a byway for RV, pull trailers, Subaru’s with surfboards strapped to their roofs.
The destination is the coast. Small towns like Newport or Yachats. Plenty of beach. Tons of Air B&B’s and hotels.
The area indeed is an odd mix of retirees, out of towners, tourists, lumber and fish folk, people connected to the Oregon State Aquarium and the Hatfield Marines Sciences Center associated with Oregon State University. Like a lot of things in North America, these places are worn out, rinky-dink, prime examples of those who have and the haves not.
It’s conservative with many centrist democrats tied to the hospital, Hatfield, many of the retired, and most from the community college. The rest of the population (to generalize) is stuck in a time warp, always impressing upon me about the good old days.
Those were the days when timber was king, and when there were beach house rentals, not this huge influx of STR’s (short term rentals) run by Portland-based Air B&B outfits like Vacasa.
Boom or bust, quasi back to the land, McDonald’s and Taco Bell, a Walmart, and a coast that depends big time on those crazy, congesting, demanding, beach swarming tourists.
Food, surprisingly, is not king here, as there are fewer and fewer unique mom and pop type eateries. Either a few high end resort restaurants, or small Mexican restaurants.
The drive from Corvallis down Highway 34 toward the coast is easy when the traffic is light.
One small business, Deb’s Cafe, would have been on our list for a bite to eat, but the huge “Timber Unity” sign out front is a turn-off. I don’t want to have to pay for food from a mom and pop that visually supports anything as part of their advertising scheme: not Raytheon, Dow, Democrats, Republicans, the country Turkey or the Armenian people. To blatantly put up that Timber Unity logo sign is a sign of some sort of hard right, mean politics within, redneck politics worn on Deb’s sleeves (if there is a Deb there to begin with). Timber Unity signs are plastered all over homes and large yards and businesses in this neck of the woods. Unity my ass:
While the group has been hailed by state and national Republicans, and includes at least one former Oregon GOP lawmaker among its leaders, its participants have had no qualms associating with violent extremists and far-right groups. Several senior members have been photographed alongside members of neofascist or militia groups, and when pressed, its leadership has failed to disavow such ties. Its rallies have prominently featured messages backing QAnon, the sprawling internet conspiracy theory that posits a cabal of liberal elites are running a pedophile ring, and that has spurred real-world violence.
“While Timber Unity has sought to downplay these links, an investigation of its social media channels has found extensive ties between its leaders and Far Right figures, as well as the use of racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and violent rhetoric by its supporters,” explained Spencer Sunshine, a sociologist who researches right-wing extremists, in a report he compiled for Oregon environmental groups. “The organization already has a history of and association with groups who have either made violent political threats or have supported violent actions.” — “The Oregon GOP’s Favorite Anti-Environment Group Is Awash in Racism and Violent Threats”
Right-wing groups. The Trump years. That’s all I have to go on since I’ve been here short-term — December 2018. Pro-cops/pigs, pro-military grunt, pro-timber, pro-all-red-white-blue.
Coming from Portland, supporting more than just a few days of protesting cops and such in downtown PDX, I know small towns from way back. Small towns supporting Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Towns supporting Reagan. I’m old enough to know those Nixon years, and those small towns. From city councilmembers, to police chiefs, and librarians, small towns and the conservative bent.
It was always more than support — called a traitor, threatened with violence, and handcuffed by pigs for non-violent protesting. Pre-Trump. Oh, Occupy Seattle, those Obama years. I’ve always been a traitor when speaking with Republicans, and I am now speaking with Democrats.
Yet here I am, in a poor rural country, with a mix of interesting people, divergent, many hopeless, a few lucky ones with retirement and health, hopeful. But hopeful in primarily a kind of transcendental mediation way. As a parenthetical, the idea impressed upon me is there are many people living in this area with college degrees and even graduate degrees since we are relatively close to Eugene and Corvallis, where the state land grant colleges are located. Retired professionals. And artists. This for many people infers a level of enlightenment and sophistication and wokeness not normally scene in other rural environs.
That’s debatable for me, since I subscribe to Chris Hedges “death of the liberal class”.
“In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue.”
― Chris Hedges, The Death of the Liberal Class
Jumping Out of the Rural Plane into War
I easily segue from one massive war crime after war crime — the American War Against Vietnam — to a small rural county in Oregon, and for the reader, may seem disjointed. So goes the world of corporate wrongs, along with their various hitmen and hitwomen serving as financial thieves and legal Mafia. Because with lawyers, any company can literally get away with murder. And in the process, the murderer (collective, corporate, governmental) can blame the victims.
We are fighting that “timber unity” and the unchecked growth model, the clear-cut model of business, the boom or bust economics of real estate and out-of-state money dragging down the local economies. We are fighting chemical sprays.
The idea of blaming the victims isn’t new. If the economy goes bust, then blame the treehuggers and spotted owl kooks. Blame anyone or any group that is concerned about public health, safety and well-being. The judicial system is out of synch with the people, but in many ways, in synch with the destroyers, the extractors, the people with paid-for experts and those with PhDs and MDs and what have you who will be the voice for corporations, giving both barrels for anyone who might question the bottom line — profits at any cost.
Here’s a living example of this legal system in the employ of the corporation. Chevron, no less:
Steven Donziger won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The company sued him in New York, and now he’s under house arrest. — Sharon Lerner, The Intercept
Again, shifting to Lincoln County, Oregon, we are tied to the big case in France — for sure, again, one single woman up against lawyers, their assistants, and the thugs and chemists for DOW. We are talking massive poisoning, massive murdering, war profiteering, empires of subjugation, the entire shooting match in Indochina. Death and history, and empire and corporations. The War Machine which is in a sense the machine that drives a lot of things in the USA, including lobbying (sic) groups like Timber Unity:
ÉVRY, France — Almost six decades after the U.S. military began dropping a toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, a French courtroom in a Parisian suburb has become the unlikely setting for a faceoff between a woman who says she was a victim and some of the world’s largest chemical and pharmaceutical corporations that supplied the substance.
The landmark case has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old, against 14 companies. A ruling is expected on Monday.
If the court in Évry sides with the companies, including American multinational Dow, it would crush hopes for what activists have seen as a “historic trial” and a unique chance for accountability. But if the court rules in Tran’s favor, she would be the first Vietnamese civilian to win such a case. — Source
So back in my neck of the woods, Waldport, Oregon in Lincoln County, I have a jarring perspective because this small town is isolated, and alas, yes, it is backwards, and the retrograde thinkers are in the hundreds and hundreds. Yet, there are slivers of hope, where smart people for many reasons, ended up here, and in the country at large. Some of those smart people are fed-up with the lies, the birth defects, the diseases, the entire flimflam game that is capitalism — whether it is health insurance scams, lemon automobiles or poisons peddled as “green chemistry for better farming/living/family rearing.”
I’ve been lucky enough to feature two of the people fighting the aerial spray ban reversal — Maria Krause and Carol Van Strum:
Both pieces ended up in Dissident Voice: here and here. I even did a review of that documentary, The People VS Agent Orange, which highlights Tran To Nga‘s fight in France — “Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes“. Here’s one passage from that story I wrote:
Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was ordered to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.
“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”
Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”
However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunistic weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.
Both Carol and Maria, along with others, are working to convince a judge to stop aerial spraying of herbicides by timber companies on private land they own, huge portions of the state in fact, abutting communities, river and creek systems, property owners’ homes, etc. This coming June 1, a group of local activists — citizens, home owners, those with a few acres of “property” — face down the judge in the case that ended a two year temporary stay on aerial spraying of chemicals so closely linked to the Agent Orange formula, that herbicide which is a brother of another mother (Agent Orange).
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. — Source
This above was also written by Lerner of The Intercept . The article’s headline — “How a Ragtag Group of Oregon Locals Took on the Biggest Chemical Companies in the World . . . and Won” — speaks to a common “liberal” form of journalism which seems to harken all these amazing hopeful signs of American democracy (sic) at work, with all the elements of (almost) patronizing the “locals” who in the headline writer’s eyes, are a “ragtag” bunch. It’s always nice to have a Karen Silkwood ( Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma, which made plutonium pellets) or Lois Gibbs ( she discovered that her 5-year-old son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York, was built on a toxic waste dump; Love Canal) highlighted in these stories.
For the Intercept, having these activists in Lincoln County working to stop aerial spraying is a David vs Goliath environmental script ready for Netflix prominence. The group, Lincoln County Community Rights (I’ll get to Spokane in a sec), worked hard to get the gumption and impetus going for this to end up on the ballot. But in USA, you can vote for no added two or three mile runway for an airport, but that goes out the window for the greater good — they call it the greater good of the community or public, but it is all about greater good of the pocket book. This is typical in societies, all part of the rapaciousness of industrialized and now digitized societies. “You hate noisy new airport runways? Get some earplugs.”
Just reading how Zoom-Google Hangouts will be the way of the future for doctors visits. Imagine, articles just before the planned-demic (SARS-CoV2) on how poorly western medicine is doing with diagnostics, with integrated medicine, with hands on medicine, without a compassionate treat-the-whole-person modality. These court cases are on Zoom, and now evictions across the country are Zoom, but with no time for a family or individual making a statement to the judge, the court. Many eviction hearings are lumped together on Zoom, thirty or 60 at a time.
Give the bastards an inch, and they will take a mile.
Laws against protesting. Real murderous laws allowing drivers to rundown and murder protestors.
I remember the anti-Monsanto protest in Portland. At the Lloyd Center. We did make it to the roads, and while much of the protest was “permitted” in the sense the organizers got all the paperwork done for an announced, planned peaceful event, there was no telling how many people would break off.
Impede traffic at the giant mall? Shoot, how many states are passing ““run over them if you feel triggered, in danger” ordinances, the right to run over pedestrians, AKA terrorist, ordinances. Stand your ground is no “pedal to the metal” laws.
Protesting the pesticides in a small town like Toled, OR, might be an invitation to the Timber Unity folk and the people coming out of the woodwork who love their open carry permits, love taunting peaceful protestors. And the local pigs, well, they are in the same camp — any protestation against “industry” or the capitalist way, well, that is clear and present danger to the public, the community, to their own fascist leanings.
When I was there with my 16-year-old daughter, I did look for exit paths in case the pissed off automobile drivers behind us decided to go “postal.”
Just having a bumper sticker in many parts of Oregon declaring anti-spraying could get you good, let alone a bumper sticker against Timber Unity (there are none).
Beyond Pesticides is an advocacy group looking at the devastating effects of pesticides on community health — the avian, aquatic, terrestrial and human communities. As an organization, they function as a great clearing house of information on the various poisons used in industrial capitalism’s gift to the world: factory farming. The Lincoln County aerial spray ban may have passed in May 2017 with 64 yeah votes over the nay ones, of the total 14,000 votes, but it was one of more than 200 local measures that do some form of “restricting” of pesticides (weedicides, fungicides, fumigants, herbicides, rodenticides, and the like). Many communities have passed protective measures that surpass basic limits set by the feds, the EPA. Some have banned glyphosate (Roundup). The first community ban or restriction was passed in 1970 in Maine.
Nationwide, 71 communities from across the political spectrum have passed either rights-of-nature or community-rights statutes, said Craig Kauffman, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, whose research focuses on legal and political arguments for the rights of nature.
Part of the motivation behind the campaign is to put ecosystems on an equal footing with corporations, which already have personhood rights under federal law. “Where we often see these campaigns is in rural communities that don’t want outside corporations coming in and destroying the ecosystems and watersheds,” Kauffman told me. With the twin pressures of climate change and biodiversity loss mounting, people are looking for new ways to fight back on the local level, he said. — Carl Segerstrom, “Can a campaign for nature and community rights stop aerial spraying in Oregon?”
So, this upcoming June 1, the case will be made to reverse this judge’s action, which she declared in September of 2019: Judge Sheryl Bachart ruled that the county ordinance was pre-empted by an Oregon law that allows, with basic state-approved restrictions, aerial spraying of pesticides on forests and prohibits local governments from making any ordinance, rule or regulation governing pesticide sale or use. “Where local enactments are found incompatible with state law in an area of substantive policy and explicit preemption, state law will displace the local law,” she wrote.
Lincoln County, Oregon, voters approved the “Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides” ordinance. That was May 2017. It was a first-in-the-state law recognizing residents’ rights to clean air, water, and soil, their right to local community self-governance, and the Rights of Nature to exist, flourish, and evolve.
Soon after, the timber industry lawyered up — sued the county to overturn the ordinance, stating this Oregon county (or any county) had no right or authority to pass it (this sort of community rights legal codes) in the first place, and that this ordinance/ law “adversely affected” them. This is a tactic used in Capitalism, whichever form you want to qualify your pro/quasi-pro capitalism with: predatory, usury, parasitic, disaster, casino, zombie — which has put a stranglehold on communities who vote to not allow some industry into town. Suing for imagined future losses (out of thin air profits), these Mafia corporations wrote the playbook on predatory capitalism. They time and time again, bring in an army of legal vultures to do battle with cash-strapped counties and municipalities threatening them with years of expensive litigation if a city or county prohibits their siting and industrial processes in that locality.
You don’t need to go back too far in history to see how industry works —
Hmm, many in my league just wrote about the 107th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, simply, a mass killing by a militia, anti-striker thugs during this period called the Colorado Coalfield War. This is the score — soldiers from the Colorado National Guard and then private guards/mercenaries in the employ of Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) attacked peaceful Occupies — a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families. That was April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, and while 21 people, including miners’ wives and children, were murdered, the infamous John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a part-owner of CF&I, got away with it, with just a talking to during a US congressional hearing.
The right to your own labor, to strike, to refuse an illegal or dangerous order. The right to tell your supervisor things are smelly in Denmark. The right to expose malfeasance and shoddy manufacturing and death-creating products. The right to question the killer ingredients in chicken McNuggets?
It’s shoot to kill now, if as a citizen you want to photograph clearcutting, animal factory farms, fracking facilities, even fields of GMO Franken-Corn.
When a community declares it is against war, against nukes, anything, the long arm of government and corporations comes in upper-cutting hard. Worse, though, is the longer arm of the mob, the herd, the bandwagoneers. Propaganda is a valuable tool of fascists and Madison Avenue, of governments and of right-wing movements. And let it be clear there is no real left left when that person announces his or her Democratic Party allegiances. Shifting the center to the right has been witnessed by yours truly my entire lifetime as a journalist — it is embarrassing how so-called weekly alternative newspapers are as rightwing as Mitt Romney. Let alone the massive experiment on the populous for this continual shifting baseline disorder. One day a few months ago, Big Pharma was despised in poll after poll. Now, Big Pharma wins the Nobel Prize collectively. Imagine the billions Pitzer has paid out in lawsuits, single ones and class action. Imagine that, and now imagine the profit hoarders, the mercenary capitalists, making billions on this jab-jab-jab jabberwocky.
Imagine the thugs the thugs hire to do their bidding, their dirty work. Imagine the Sisyphus of it all now, now that not just companies like Comcast, but their competitors, too, and entire countries, use app’s to send in faked and false comments to politicians. Imagine that, Sisyphus. The new normal is citizens scrounge up people to push a bill like the aerial spray moratorium, and then, imagine, those great software engineers and former military setting up companies that set loose false statements, push propaganda to a new level.
Try the Google search on Dow or Agent Orange or on Timber Unity. You’ll get more and more accolades, fewer and fewer critical hits.
You can lose your job as a pig/cop for calling an African American a n—–, but you keep your job if you put a bullet to the back of the head of that black man while in uniform.
How does this all relate?
Again, communities taking control of their boundaries, their health, safety and welfare? Communities defunding the police. Communities putting the brakes on growth, on building and construction, on projects that impede healthy traffic loads. Communities demanding smoke stacks not release toxic chemicals. Imagine that, in Newport, where the largest users of our freshwater system — a brewery and the shrimp industry.
Who will sit on the water board? Who will be at the table when more scrutiny hits the beer and shrimp industry?
Then the Chamber of Commerce, and then the Rotarians, and then all manner of people saying, “We need jobs, we need infrastructure, we need corporation x and company y in town. Putting all these limits on their growth, on their profits, on their business model, is antithetical to capitalism. They know best. They hire the best engineers, the best economists, the best communicators, the best scientists. You do-gooders know nothing about running a business, keeping the lights on, building employment bases, providing a culture to a community. You are against all growth.”
Growth is that timber industry buying up more and more parcels of land, and in fact, insurance companies and other investment portfolio “holders” own (sic) this land. In fact, you can own your 100 acres, but if you got snookered thirty years ago to get some shekels from shifty insurance and timber companies to “have the right to come in and sustanabily log said designated acreage in 30 or 40 years, here’s how much big money we will give you up front to keep those beautiful trees growing big and healthy and keeping that air clean and all those streamlets pure.”
This is reality, man. People in their 60s or 70s who came out her in the 1970s, now have seen their property cut down vis-a-vis those three to five decades old contracts.
Now there are some things in the world we can’t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and wellbeing. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die. Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere, for example.
–– Canadian scientist and TV series producer David Suzuki
The model of forestry is to use it all as a commodity, to manage it, to turn real ecologies into tree plantations. Some people call these places out here, deserts:
It’s a no-brainer trees also provide shade for maintaining water temperature. To carry the analogy to the end point, we see fallen leaves, limbs and branches support food webs by providing food and habitat for insects that are food for fish, Hayduk states. Clean, cool water with more food equals bigger fish.
Nuances like growing alders on the flood plain or marsh plain encourages other species of trees to grow on the decaying fallen alder.
Looking at the ecosystem from a centuries-versus-a-few-decades perspective is important in understanding what Evan and others of his ilk are attempting. “Big conifers that fall help with grade control. Water tables rise. Conifers in the riparian areas can grow from 100 to 200 years before they fall into the creek.”
This concept of a “messy” stream refugia as being the most healthful for all species is anathema to the way most humans have thought about rivers. Scientists like Hayduk know fish get through any of the hurdles a natural stream environment presents them — even with huge logs and entire trees with root balls integrated into the water flow.
The Lincoln County law held for over two years, preventing aerial application of pesticides. This got under the skin of the coalition of people and businesses in that so-called Timber Unity outfit.
The rule of law, of course, supports every aspect of predatory and disaster capitalism.
That judge in September of 2019 wrote: “Oregon does not recognize an independent right of local community self-government that is fundamental, inherent, inalienable, and constitutional.”
This is a battle line fought in many communities.
“Though this decision will be appealed on the grounds of denying the exercise of the right of local self-government, it also serves as positive energy to move the amendment forward so ultimately people, not corporations, decide the fate of their communities,” said Nancy Ward, coordinator for the Oregon Community Rights Network.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lincoln County Community Rights in drafting the law and representing them as an intervenor in the case. CELDF also sought to represent the Siletz River watershed’s interests in the case. The judge denied intervention.
Appeals were filed by Lincoln County Community Rights and the Siletz River watershed. They have their proverbial day in court June 1, 2021. This is from their May 8 press release:
Lincoln County Community Rights, the non-profit organization that placed Measure 21-177 on the ballot, filed an appeal against invalidation of the measure. The Siletz River Ecosystem also appealed the trial court decision to deny it intervention in the case. Oral arguments will be heard virtually Tuesday, June 1, 2021 in the morning session.
Speaking on behalf of the Siletz River Ecosystem, Carol Van Strum notes that” securing rights of the river to exist, thrive and be protected from poisoning by aerial spraying is part of a global movement of tribal and other entities to grant natural systems standing to defend themselves in our courts.”
What is at stake is whether state government exists to protect people’s rights to save themselves and their environment from poisoning, or to protect industry’s right to poison people and their world for profit.
There have been more than the immediate effects on residents exposed to these chemicals: severe headaches, rashes, respiratory problems, and nosebleeds. Pets, livestock and wild animals exposed to spraying have died. Doctors and other medical professionals have been stating for years that long-term exposure to chemicals like glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine (just a few of the major ones used by the logging industry) can injure the liver and kidneys. The number of stillborn and miscarriages and babies with intellectual, learning and developmental disabilities is high in areas where these chemicals are sprayed.
Yet, the reality is Capitalism is all about might makes right, and as is true of any of the x,y,z you-name-it industries, in Oregon, the logging and chemical industries hold the Damocles sword (in the form of political influence) in Oregon. As is true every time, when these x, y, z you-name-it industries’ actions put people at risk, and ecosystems, one might believe there is a moral imperative for legislative and regulatory bodies to have a legal righteous imperative to intervene. The very idea of keeping industry spraying and industry land holdings secret should strike anyone believing in a democracy as both wrong and harmful to the public’s interest. Oregonians should have a right to determine which chemicals are verboten, but also, there has to be a set systems of do no harm, at any cost to the capitalist interests.
Solutions like having no-spray buffers from chemical drift speak to the inability of Oregon and other governments to hold them accountable. The Community Rights organization is in this to make sure state agencies work to protect our health by protecting wildlife, water, and not just private property.
Shielding politically influential industries from accountability is the name of the game, but community bill of rights movements have been proposed (and defeated in court, and the ballot box) to do exactly that — accountability and agency to decide what a community deems safe.
The fact is we have let capitalism frame all debates, so, if there are movements to say stop animal cruelty in the agricultural arena, those movements should be part of the public interest, backed by government scientists and planners in concert with real science.
We can read a headline in the pro-farmer-rancher, Capital Press, “Anti-animal ag initiative raises alarm among Oregon farm groups … protections for livestock producers under the state’s animal cruelty laws,” but that entity, so-called journalism, will never access or refer to studies going back 20 years on the enormous amounts of cruelty the factory farming does to animals.
Source: Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systemic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food or Food Production Animals raised for food or food production in the United States are, in large part, excluded from legal protection against cruelty. For Oregon, that’s Initiative Petition 13, which all the farmers and ranchers and producers call anti-ag, and backed by animal rights extremists.
The same sort of mumbo-jumbo is leveled at people like Maria and Carol and the entire movement to put a stop to poisons in the air, water, soil. The fact a community group has to set forth an initiative process to get a spray ban even on the ballot box, up against the compliant media, the huge coffers of money to spend on propaganda by the timber and chemical industries, is not democracy at work.
For me, the work of a community bill of rights comes from a body of work tied to a community’s right to set the standards for human and ecological health, as well as the standards for labor and health and welfare. My own background includes 10 solid years in Spokane, and I was part of the push for the Envision Spokane, Community Bill of Rights, which bestowed legal rights on the Spokane River, granted residents the right to block development in their neighborhoods and given employees workplace protections. The kicker was to restrict any corporation’s “rights” that might be conflicting with the measure.
It took a coalition of business groups and governmental entities to sue, and the Washington Supreme Court “gave a victory to local business groups after unanimously ruling that Envision Spokane’s sweeping Community Bill of Rights ballot measure was outside of the initiative process and should not go before voters.”
Note the verbiage in the quotation marks. Very telling how business groups (backed by big bucks, and out of state bucks) is stated as a “coalition”, as opposed to a lobbying entity, special interest group, an anti-voter league. The media and press are spokespersons for the business community. Rocking the boat (taking a stand, or looking at community and nature bills of rights with a deeper analysis) is not part of the DNA of most co-opted media/Press entities.
At least High Country News gave LCCR a better shot at their story than other sources:
Anti-spray activists are appealing — and going after the pre-emption law itself. They say that the state and federal government shouldn’t be able to prevent locals from seeking greater protections for community and environmental health. It’s a new twist on long-running efforts by rural Westerners to gain more power. Traditionally, rural counties in Oregon and across the West have sought to undo state and federal environmental protections and open up land for logging and other industries. Now, Lincoln County residents want the power to create additional environmental protections, which they believe are necessary to end corporate political dominance and protect their health.
Just read some of the stuff here on the chemical industry, the state regulators, and more. Carol Van Strum, in her book, A Bitter Fog, and when one talks with her, demonstrates the sacrifice of her activism — she lost four children in a fire at their cabin/house during the heated battle she was having with the chemical companies and forest service. She stated to me that the fire chief felt the fire was suspicious. Carol is clear that something wasn’t right that evening when she went to a neighbor’s with freshly baked bread and returned to her four children’s lifeless bodies from the fire.
From my piece on Carol: This is an idyllic life until the four children are sprayed. Then the court battles, the scientific investigations (and backtracking and cover-ups) of the real effects of these herbicides. We are talking about neighbors throughout the area, up to a mile away from each other, collectively having multiple miscarriages, children born with genetic defects, adults suffering cancers and other ailments.
The dedication in her non-fiction book is emblematic of the struggle Carol has undergone: “For my children, Daphne, Alexey, Jarvis and Benjamin Van Strum.”
I asked her what gives her hope. “The death of our children left me with what they loved — this farm, this dirt, these trees, this river, these birds, fish, newts, deer, and fishers — to protect and hold dear. These became my anchor to windward, keeping me from just drifting away with every wind that blows.”
Even that tragic story isn’t simple — there is evidence the four children, old enough to babysit each other, perished in a house while Carol was next door at a neighbor’s house. The fire marshal indicated it was suspicious, potentially the result of arson. Carol has her suspects.
This article was to be a precursor to the Lincoln Community Rights court case this June 1. For me, this is more than that, running into the gauntlet of US “rule of law.” The game is rigged, and you can ask anyone, not just public citizen Ralph Nader.
Describing the United States as an “advanced Third World country,” longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. “It is not too extreme to call our system of government now ‘American Fascism.’ It’s the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism,” Nader says.
I end this long article with my interview of Maria Kraus and Debra Fant, two of the Lincoln County Community Rights activists:
Paul Haeder: What personal stake do you have in this fight to ban aerial spraying?
Maria Kraus: Personal stake? Every person aware of what is going on with our ecosystems, how they are unraveling due to ravenous extraction from them and toxic spraying on them to increase profits derived from extraction, has a stake in the effort to save the planet from becoming uninhabitable. This is a fight that is everyone’s fight, in which the personal examples of deadly illnesses, malformations, pain, hunger, and misery, together with the sight of degraded ecosystems, streams drying up, vanishing wildlife species are what should make this a universal fight.
Debra Fant: As a person who lives in coastal forest and appreciates clean cold water to drink for myself, my family, my community, I am highly motivated to end use of toxic chemical combinations from industrial tree farms in our watersheds.
PH: Fiftieth Anniversary of Silent Spring. Ironically with your case being heard next month. Any comments about this fact with reference to that below, here –
MK: Rachel Carson’s voice was the first to sound out publicly about the danger of using chemicals, DDT in her experience, not only to people, but to the environment. She held that chemicals should be studied for their effects on living organisms, soil, water, and air before being released into the environment.
In other words, she insisted on the Precautionary Principle, according to which, chemical substances are not considered safe for use until proven to be so. However, industry, which dominates government here and in many other countries, believes that “business is business”, and that the profit motive has priority in all business decisions. Accordingly, the world has been freely experimenting with thousands of chemicals regardless of their possible effects on all forms of life and on the environment. The din of profit-making silenced Rachel Carson’s voice. Not only did use of chemicals proliferate during the many decades since Silent Spring was published, but chemicals used for war, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam, which were banned while the war was still going on due to the harm they caused to people exposed to it, started being used as herbicides in the US afterwards. There was a massive surplus of them and that could not be wasted. A market had to be found for them. Meantime, production of some chemicals has been banned only to make room for reformulations of their ingredients in new chemical products launched by the thousands into the market, with only a fraction going through testing. The EPA, created under the Nixon administration, has functioned, in Nixon’s own words, as a “buffer between industry and the public”, to make people believe they are being protected rather than to actually protect them.
Industry tests its own products, and regulations are written to stop only the most extreme and obvious harms, ensuring that they remain effective for the purposes that industry produces them, and, with that, harmful to every living organism that comes into contact with them. The evolution of chemical use is glaring proof that government, in the US especially, is of, by, and for profit-driven industry, not for the health, safety, and welfare of the people and the places where they live.
DF: Biocides – “any substance that can kill living organisms,” came out of chemical warfare after WWI and became chemical warfare in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The US Congress stopped the military use of Agent Orange four years before the war ended because of the harms to people, land, water, wildlife, and food crops. Why then was it sprayed on timber lands of our county and elsewhere in Oregon? It not only killed plant material but created deformed farm animals, aborted elk and deer fetus’ with defects, and babies born without brains. These experiments on living people and communities confirmed toxicity of forever chemicals that do not degrade or disappear The US Government agencies and industry collaborated for profits, corruption rampant in safety testing protocols, and so called scientific results suppressed or simply changed to support the lies that these chemicals are “safe” when label instructions are followed. Rachel Carson warned us and spoke clearly the dangers yet industry and regulatory agencies were motivated by greed, dazzled by man-made innovations without the wisdom to question destructive practices. If this is an intelligence test, I fear the human family is flunking.
PH: So Carson took up her cudgels. Her book is not a mathematical theorem. It is a carefully researched, precisely reasoned, and elegantly written argument for what she passionately believed to be the public good. It is a product of her social conscience, but not the diatribe that her critics complained about. She did not call for a ban on all pesticides, but mostly for the long-lasting chlorinated hydrocarbons such as DDT whose movement through the environment cannot be contained and whose residues, being fat soluble, are stored in animal tissues and recycled through food chains.
“It is not my contention that chemical insecticides should never be used,” she wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potential for harm… I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effects on soil, water, wildlife, or man himself.” See Yale e360 source.
PH: Science should be “science” always in quotation marks since many in the “scientific” community (sic) adhere to a belief that chemicals have been tested extensively, and that there are no scientific connections to harms done on animals and humans at the level of dilution say an aerial application of said herbicides are used. Comment on this.
MK: The question is what “tested extensively” means. When does “extensively” become enough? Many of the chemicals used, in the concentrations they are used, don’t show their effects until many years after exposure, and some only in future generations.
Industry, of course, will not wait that long before launching chemicals into the market.
Once that happens, and time passes, it is hard to trace harmful effects to the chemical that caused them. In the race to justify its profitable products, the chemical industry is eager to find reasons to market them, not to refrain from doing so. Having the freedom granted to it by government, it conducts its own testing, and conveniently does so in search for the answers it needs to launch its products. The EPA accepts those results. What industry does to get chemical products approved for marketing has little to do with science, and much more with fooling the public to accept what they say. How much or for how long were flame retardants tested, or formaldehyde, before they were released for their various commercial applications?
We all know that growing food with poisons is madness, and that growing it on poisoned soil is madness too. We also know that forests have grown for millions of years without poisons, and that a mature or old-growth forest is healthier than a planted industrial one.
DF: The people of Oregon who sued the Forest Service to stop their spraying of Agent Orange in the 1970’s won their case and caused 1/2 of AO, 2,4,5, T to be de-registered. They also won a case proving that a contracted firm named IBT that EPA hired to do live animal studies of toxic chemicals used fraudulent practices and did not follow scientifically sound protocols to determine safety for the chemicals. Evidence of collusion between EPA and industry changing study results showed up in their own documents and communications which are part of the digitized “Poison Papers” online. That’s not scientific research, that is corruption.
PH: Yes, the rights of nature, yes, that’s where I come from, a deep green ecology. But for you both, how to frame that concept of a river having rights or land having rights to the average miss-educated and misdirected citizen you might run into at a grocery store or public meeting?
MK: The argument we frequently use is that corporations are considered to be persons and have rights, and yet corporations are just a bunch of documents authorizing certain activities. Supposedly they speak through money.
Fundamental to the idea of Nature having rights is the fact that we are part of Nature and that all life is interconnected and depends on that interconnection. If we hurt one creature in the web of life, we hurt all the others that depend on it one way or another. We know that the absence or presence of wolves in an area can change the landscape of that area. If the wolves are no longer there, species that wolves predate on will multiply and eat vegetation that was abundant before. That vegetation will fail to provide nourishment, or shade, or shelter, to another species, which will not survive in that area, and so on. If starfish die, like they have in certain areas of the West Coast, sea urchins multiply exceedingly and eat all the sea grass, which is one of the main carbon sinks in the ocean. Westward winds over the Sahara Desert blow across the Atlantic Ocean and fertilize the Amazon Forest.
We all depend on Nature, and our need to protect it from human greed, crucial to its survival and that of all life, is best translated into recognition of Nature’s right to exist, flourish, and renew itself, a right which needs to be protected by laws, as perhaps the fastest way to get people to understand that transgressions against Nature have to stop. As we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just because we exist, a right that is not up for discussion (although it has and continues to be violated), the right of Nature to be itself is not up for discussion. We have treated Nature as property. That has gotten us into the predicament we are in now, being as we are in danger of losing it as a source of life. This is still a concept that is difficult for people to grasp, but more and more people are coming to terms with it.
DF: Legal rights and the ability for a harmed river or a blasted mountain to be represented in a court of law are only needed where human beings have no limit to their willingness to harm balanced ecosystems whether for extracting fossil fuels, metals, board feet of lumber, or clean drinking water. When humans lose the ability to value clean air or fertile soil in a non-monetary way, there is no end to extraction no matter the cost to wildlife, oceans, humans, and nature’s resilience. Legal rights may be the only way of keeping intact what is needed for life on this planet!
People who relate to the Earth as our Mother, a forest as our grandparents, a river as our sister are not likely to defile or poison those ones who are family. When we all live with that value, knowing when what we have is “enough” and caring for clean water more than we care about money, we won’t need legal rights for nature to exist, thrive, and persist.
PH: Construction and finance rule the world, and here in Oregon, and in the world, there is a reported lumber shortage, and now a doubling of the prices of lumber. All sorts of reasons tied to lockdowns, SARS-CoV2 and more. Anticipate the push back from the timber industry which will cite that jobs are at stake and their own scientific studies showing aerial spraying is safer and more efficient and more expeditious than crews going out on the land hand spraying.
MK: We have had that kind of pushback from the timber industry all along, going on four years now. What has changed is the number of lawsuits filed for illness caused by the use of certain herbicides (mainly glyphosate) against the chemical industry, which have resulted in billions in fines for Bayer/Monsanto. In addition, many scientific publications and presentations by environmentally aware economists, foresters, and others (see Ernie Niemi, John Talberth, Chuck Willer) have raised awareness of the harm done to the soil by aerial pesticide spraying (and other forms of spraying), such as the death of micro-organisms; acceleration of global warming and climate change provoked by clear-cutting, drying up of streams in industrial forests, which carry only 50% of the water carried by streams running through mature and old growth forests, dying of fish and other water life due to increased temperature of the water in industrial forests, decreased capacity of industrial forests to store carbon because trees are not allowed to grow to a size that permits more storage, being cut down at 30-35 years of age instead of 80-100, and chemicals reaching streams and rivers due to drift or percolation in the soil. The discussion is evolving from aerial pesticide spraying to use of any herbicides and pesticides as more and more information on their harm comes to light.
The timber industry will continue to use its old arguments unless and until the law changes, and, together with that, also building materials. Our argument centers around preemption laws, which forbid local communities from protecting their health, safety and well-being, together with that of Nature, on which all life, including ours, depends, from the ravages of the timber and chemical industry through local democracy (people’s initiatives) such as our Measure 21-177. It focuses on the fundamental duty of government to protect the people from harm, and its use of preemption laws to instead protect the right of industry to profit from activities that constantly threaten and undermine the people’s and Nature’s wellbeing. Such laws turn the people in whom constitutionally all power is inherent to the guinea pigs of industry, making them the constant subject of chemical experimentation which they quietly oversee, like silent gigantic parasites sucking on the people’s and Nature’s lives while government looks on.
DF: Toxic chemicals are not required for re-growth of trees in this temperate rain forest. it is a fallacy made up by industry who wanted a market for their chemicals just as they made up those stories for food production.
Industry has been cutting at unsustainable levels for decades and finding loopholes in the law to clear cut far more than is wise. It’s time to keep standing natural forests who work daily to absorb C02 and release oxygen, hold moisture and fertility in the soil, protect the effectiveness of watersheds’ abilities to provide clean drinking water, provide habitat and food for wildlife, cold water for fish survival. It’s time to transition to growing hemp and bamboo that are fast growing fiber crops that can be processed locally for new building materials like “hemp-crete” and provide jobs for our people.
PH: This is coming down to a legal issue, where the concepts of precautionary principles and do no harm and holding polluters and chemical companies accountable to carry out all necessary objective studies of all their chemicals before being allowed to get approval for use might be powerful to me, a deep green ecosocialist, but we live in a country where herd immunity toward understanding/respecting/caring about the whole of nature and immunity to arguments about long-term health and safety concerns are the ruling orders of the day. We are expected to believe mainstream scientists about things like vaccine safety or the approval of what, now, (scientists) haven given the green light to a million tons of radioactive water being dumped from Fukushima, so why not agree with the scientists who are in the employ of DOW, Monsanto and OSU forestry program?
MK: Our fight is to change how the government works and, ultimately, to bring down capitalism and its perverted and suicidal values. Can we win? Do we have enough time left to win, as the abolitionists and suffragists did? Probably not. We can either submit to the status quo or die fighting. Everyone has that choice.
DF: Because it’s BULL SHIT!
PH: What lessons learned for both of you as you go into this hearing, going on four years since you all activated?
MK: Everything I have written here I have learned through working on the aerial spray ban, from working with a group of people who are committed to putting their efforts into improving the world we live in, to seeing the importance of working for others, of contributing to one’s community. From the harms being inflicted on our environment to how government really works, especially here, but also in varying degrees in many other countries; from working as a team, to admiring the dedication of others and the varying forms in which it is expressed, and also appreciating the different talents that people doing the work bring to it. One of the main lessons has been to arrive at an understanding of how capitalism works, how disastrous its emphasis on profit is for the planet.
DF: I’ve learned that you can learn how to do almost anything that is unfamiliar or unknown, that commitment and truth telling are powerful and attractive forces to draw people together, that person power of volunteers can take on powerful corporate interests and make local law to protect safety and well-being, and it’s not all about the MONEY! Industry’s own public opinion polls late in the campaign showed that a majority of voters in this county did NOT want aerial spraying of pesticides and that included families who were a part of timber industry services. Would have loved to watch the Timber guys when they learned that poll results!
Two plus years without aerial spraying of toxins was a huge relief to all of us who live downstream. Listening to a spraying helicopter within a mile of my home after that was traumatic and made me cry for the streams getting poisoned, any life forms remaining on the steep slopes, for the ignorance of those who believe the spin and lies told about toxic chemicals being “safe.”
PH: In your own words, respond to: “Our argument is that the local government exists to protect public health and safety and should be immune from pre-emption laws that prevent them from doing so,” said Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin. “State preemption is a weapon of corporate special interests, which can more easily control state legislatures rather than deal with counties and local governments that are closer to the people.”
MK: I believe that preemption can be used for different purposes, and can be necessary (such as preemption of racism, violence, slavery, etc.).It is being used to protect corporate interests at the expense of public health and safety. That is the use we object to. Local governments should be able to enact more stringent laws than the state to protect the people’s and Nature’s health, safety and wellbeing (ceiling preemption, which prohibits more stringent protections of safety and health than the state has imposed, is what we are fighting). In that sense local governments should be able to complement the state government, because they are closer to the people. Preemption interferes with that closeness.
DF: Amen. Who cares more for finding solutions to local problems than the people who live there? Who will value and care for the land on which we live, work, play any more than we will?