Monday, September 2, 2013

Kauai III -- The Sweet Side of an Island Divided

*** NOTE- I prepared this blog entry a month ago after returning from Kauai, the day after I posted the angry messages I received, but neglected to post it.  I really regret that because this was meant to be the contrast to the anger.  This one is about the kind side and a common goal.***


As I watched the island of Kauai disappear in the airplane window I was a little sad at what I left behind.  It is a beautiful place with wonderful people for and against biotech-- for and against Ordinance 2491.  The companies brought me out there because I reach out and try to talk about the science.  When you reach out softly, you can't be surprised when someone kindly reaches back.

greet 2491.jpg
This picture from the day of the public hearing speaks volumes. You can't tell if the Rivera bothers are arm wrestling or shaking hands from both sides of the issue. Do any of us know?  In reality, we just don't want either one to lose. 
photo credit: Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island
(Hi Fern!)

My last post was about the the threatening, angry and viscous.  It made reference to a handful of angry and maybe evil emails I received since appearing on KKCR radio.  To me, it was science time.  The first 20 minutes were full of understanding. So good. It turned a little sour after 20 minutes and that's fine.  It rattled a few cages if the dozen emails I received are any indicator (I gave out my actual email on the air, so that 'splains it).

Since I've returned I've enjoyed great emails and Facebook exchanges via messages with several people on the island.  After a few back-n-forths it ended in an offer to visit and some understanding that we all are on the same side- we just disagree on how to get there.  I can live with that because from there we can adjust.  It is not the hard line of 2491-- "GMOs kill", "companies are evil", etc.

There still are some that were provoked by a scientist speaking from evidence that was inconsistent with their worldview.  Some of them had the desire to fire off angry emails.  That's fine.

Throughout the trip I met with many that had concerns.  Deep in my science brain I knew that their concerns were based on thin data and perhaps misinformation.  Still, these were humans, mostly wonderful caring people that I was glad to meet.  Their concerns were real and deserved answers.  Corporate seed farms are there, but the good dialog was always missing.  You can blame the companies or you can blame the people, but my feeling is that both need to do a better job at fostering understanding.

Yes, I received a few nastygrams.  They didn't phase me. They were lost in the kind thoughts on Facebook, twitter and various blogs. There were also people that thanked me for coming and others that just appreciated me interacting and not being a complete jerk.

Even one of the leading and most visible anti-GM activists left a nice message and her phone number on my work voicemail box.  You know who you are. I've enjoyed great dialog with others via Facebook and social media.

To the companies and the concerned residents-- you are in this together.  Nobody wants to poison children or harm the environment.  The companies are populated by people, with families and a community, that honestly believe in humans first.  They have children there, they love the place and the people.  You can wave a middle finger at the nameless faceless Wall Street symbol and that's fine.  But those companies are made up of people that care, in a wonderful home, on a beautiful island that worry about tomorrow.

Kauai is a special place with a special problem, the collision when an abstract and on-the-face creepy science meets a pristine environment.  It is time for everyone to dial it back a notch.  Decide where you can agree.  Decide how to find experts that can guide science on the island and ensure its safety.

I feel bad saying, "This is your problem, you sort it out", but I'd like to see this come to a good conclusion. Ordinance 2491 is not the solution. I'd personally like to see citizen concerns and corporate responsibility meet somewhere in between.  Let science be the guide.

If we trust facts, science and reason we all win-- as does the Island of Kauai.


*** Last note in proof.  One month after I've been there I enjoy almost daily interaction with those on the pro-2491 issue, and can't wait to visit them on a return trip. Even those that have reputations as being aggressive anti-GM personalities have been kind and reasonable lately.  Hope to see all of you again.***