I am an American Citizen. A Patriot. My family has lived, worked (mostly as coal miners, farmers, and teachers), loved and died on American soil for over 400 years. I love my country. I’m also a well-educated researcher, trained in scientific method, the daughter of an electo-chemical engineer and wedded to a physicist. I rely on Truth, not “alt-facts” to navigate reality. Therefore . . .
Early in the morning on Earth Day, we gathered at the downtown offices of the Union of Concerned Scientists, where we had coffee and donuts, got our tee shirts, talked, and made signs. Then we marched. In spite of bitter driving rain on Earth Day, at least 300,000 people marched in the nation’s capitol (and many more participated in cities around the country) to support scientists, scientific rigor, funding for scientific research, science-based governmental and non-governmental institutions, and respect for the scientific process as a means of understanding reality and verifying facts.
The following weekend, more than 100,000 people turned out despite ironic record-breaking heat. We marched all the way from the Capitol Building to the White House to demand that our governmental representatives honor commitments we made, with the signing of the Paris Climate Accord, to reduce carbon emissions.
Lately I often feel like I’m standing on the sidewalk watching my house burn down. Paralyzed. Hypnotized. Slack jawed. In shock.
Since the November inauguration, we’ve witnessed a violent assault against all the institutions that Make America Great: our national Environmental Protection Agency, our Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Protection Acts, our National Parks and National Monuments, our National Security System, our Courts, our Health Care, Social Security, and Medicare, old age pensions, labor unions, Food Safety, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, our Middle Class, our Public Educational System, freedom from the threat of nuclear holocaust, national infrastructure providing good roads, hospitals, sustainable energy and healthy water systems and our respect for honesty, civility and truth. In fact every aspect of government that makes Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness possible for We the People is now under threat of being dismantled.
Every day on the news I hear new revelations about high Treason, Lies, Theft and Corruption. I, like you, try to stay balanced and positive, try to juggle day-to-day survival in an economy where it seems increasingly difficult to make ends meet. I try to eat healthy, exercise, maintain my home and garden, do creative work, read and write, meaningfully connect with family and friends, sustain a spiritual practice. I try to devote time to uniting with others in our life-or-death struggle to resuscitate the greatest democracy human civilization has yet known, to unite with others to keep those things we’ve worked so hard to protect from unraveling, to unite with the people of the world to peacefully usher in the Great Turning . . .
But often, the best I can do is lay on the couch twittering and facebooking the latest shockwave on my smart phone while the timber that scaffolds my earth household collapses and falls around me in flames.
In case you too have been feeling that we’ve lost our collective soul, I offer you these photos, which I took at the Climate and Science Marches. Look in the faces of these people, our fellow Americans. And know that at the marches I found that which Makes America Great: The best of America. Our Character and Values are alive and well in our People: Hope. Perseverance. Creativity. Intelligence. Humor. Ethics. Compassion. Strength. Care. Craftsmanship. Rigor. Fortitude. Innovation. Scholarship. Genius. Diversity. Union. Justice. Honesty. Respect. Faith. Courage. Love.
Is Your Child Being Exposed to Dangerous Pesticides?
U.S. EPA Chief Pruitt just gave the okay to Chlorpyrifos, a brain harming pesticide the agency knows to be extremely dangerous to children. Want to know what else is your child is being exposed to? HERE’S HOW TO Become a CITIZEN RESEARCHER.
“Kids today are sicker than they were a generation ago, and a growing body of scientific evidence points to pesticides as a reason why. From childhood cancers to learning disabilities and asthma, a wide range of childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise.” A Generation in Jeopardy, How pesticides are undermining our children’s health & intelligence
What’s the Problem?
I’ve been a teacher in agricultural communities in Central California for over twenty-five years. I’ve seen first-hand the abnormally high incidence of child cancers, and the rising rate of autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, respiratory and autoimmune diseases.
In October, 2015, two schools in the Pajaro Valley School District were exposed to pesticide drift when a pesticide application was made to strawberry fields during school hours. In an exchange between the teachers and the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, we learned that the carcinogens telone (1,3-dichloropropene) and chloropicrin – both banned in the European Union – were applied within one mile of the school while classes were in session.
Teachers, staff and children experienced watering eyes, wheezing and difficulty breathing, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, and nausea. According to the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Management Pesticide Education Program, the symptoms that teachers and students experienced the day of the pesticide application are typical signs of poisoning by organophosphate pesticides – a class of poisons commonly used near the school. Nevertheless, the agricultural commissioner’s response to community concern was that, “the applications were made consistent with pertinent laws, regulations and permit conditions.”
When we ask school, corporate, and government officials to tell us what dangers our children are being exposed to through the food they eat and the schools they attend, the answer is usually, “Everything is perfectly safe. Don’t worry about a thing. There is no problem here, whatsoever.” But what if your instincts tell you everything is not “perfectly safe”?
How can you find out for yourself what’s really going on? In California, you have the legal right to access pesticide use records.
After the exposure at the two schools in my district last Fall, I contacted the county Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and requested pesticide use reports.
What I Found Out
In addition to the two carcinogens that the Agricultural Commissioner admitted were used next to the schools, I found that many other EPA Category 1 restricted use acutely toxic pesticides are being regularly applied in close proximity to both schools. Following are some of the worst of those toxins:
Santa Cruz County Pesticide Use Permits 2016
gophers (may also kill hawks and other birds)
EPA Acute Toxicity Class I Restricted Use Chemical; heart, lungs, central nervous system; gastrointestinal tract; liver; kidneys
a wide-spectrum carbamate insecticide (highly toxic to honeybees, crustaceans, fish, aquatic insects)
carcinogen; affects nervous and respiratory systems; reduces sex hormones; reproductive toxin; affects the lungs, kidneys and liver; behavioral and neurological damage; mutagen; suspected a viral enhancer; immune suppressant; has been detected in muddy banks and groundwater
chloropicrin (“tear gas”)
a highly toxic and reactive soil fumigant (gas) with a tendency to drift far from intended target
Class 1 Acute Toxicity; carcinogen; suspected reproductive & developmental toxin; inflames airways and respiratory system
chlorpyrifos (“Lorsban” “Dursban”)
In June 2000 EPA and Dow AgroSciences agreed to stop sale of many uses of chlorpyrifos due to its health risk. March 2017 US EPA Chief Pruitt gave ok for resumption of widespread agricultural use
acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life
“A 1996 study of children exposed to chlorpyrifos in utero found that extensive and unusual patterns of birth defects, including brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, palate, teeth, heart, feet, nipples, and genitalia.”
may affect the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and respiratory system; skin and eye irritant. Symptoms of exposure can include numbness, tingling sensation, incoordination, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, headache, vision disturbances, muscle twitching, drowsiness, anxiety, slurred speech, depression, confusion. Has been linked to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
MIT researchers released a study in Winter, 2014 linking use of glyphosate with rising rate of autism
banned by the Montreal Protocal on Ozone Depleting Substances and scheduled for phase-out by the year 2000 but still widely used on strawberries; a Class 1 Ozone depleting chemical; significant greenhouse gas
prone to drift; a gas fumigant against insects, termites, rodents, weeds, nematodes, and soil-borne diseases; used to fumigate agricultural commodities, grain elevators, mills, ships, clothes, furniture and greenhouses
toxic to aquatic organisms
Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) because of its high acute toxicity to applicators. Readily absorbed through the lungs. Effects range from skin and eye irritation to death. Cumulative poison. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and a dry throat, slurred speech, blurred vision, temporary blindness, mental confusion, and sweating, lung swelling; irritates eyes and skin; rashes, itching and blisters; congestion; hemorrhaging of the brain, heart, and spleen; severe kidney damage; and numbness; fluid accumulation in the lungs, paralysis, and kidney, liver, and nervous system damage; vision and hearing disturbances, depression, confusion, hallucinations, euphoria, personality changes, and irritability. Depression of the central nervous system. Can affect muscle control and behavior. Other targets of the fumigant are the heart, nasal cavities, adrenal gland, and the testis. Evidence indicates that methyl bromide is a mutagen & carcinogen.
(see what you can find)
paraquat (agent of chemical warfare)
(Google it – be sure you fact check.)
toxic to bees
(You can research more.)
Many of these pesticides were developed for chemical warfare. Why are we waging chemical warfare on our school children?
Exposing a child or pregnant mother to just one of these poisons is unconscionable. What about serving up a multi-poison potion for our children to breathe while they are trying to get an education? Methyl Bromide, Chloropicrin, and Telone are well-known by the agricultural industry to be synergistic when used together to kill soil-borne organisms, which is why they are usually combined to fumigate the strawberry fields. Wouldn’t exposure to the combined chemicals also magnify toxicity to humans? “No problem. Don’t worry. Everything is perfectly safe.” Really?
A new report released by researchers at UCLA, “Exposure and Interaction: Potential Health Impacts of Using Multiple Pesticides,”documents the synergistic effects of pesticides used in combination. Current pesticide assessment and regulation has not addressed the potential synergistic risk of multiple pesticide exposure even though “the California Environmental Quality Act (1970) mandates that Department of Pesticide Regulation identify and evaluate significant cumulative impacts of the use of a pesticide.” The long-overdue UCLA case study focuses on the toxicological responses to mixtures of three chemicals commonly used in our area: Telone (1,3-dichloropropene), chloropicrin, and metam sodium. The rigourous scientific study finds “greater than additive enhancement” of cancer risk and neurological damage and recommends further study and enactment of regulation based on new information about the impacts of multiple chemical exposures.
We have been told for decades by regulatory agencies that there is not sufficient data to support the assertion that pesticides cause significant harm to people and environment. Yet a large body of peer-reviewed studies going back to Rachel Carson’s work would argue otherwise. Will this newly-published UCLA research be glossed over and forgotten by our regulatory agencies as many other studies have been? Perhaps. It’s up to us.
It’s Up To Us
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is currently drafting long-delayed new policy regarding pesticide applications near schools. The DPR will most likely ignore the new UCLA research findings . . . unless they hear from us. Ultimately, most of us would like to see a complete transition to socially just, environmentally sustainable organic and agro-ecological practices. But for now, we are asking for increased buffer zones around schools, drift monitoring, and notification prior to pesticide applications.
We need more Citizen Researchers to find out what’s really happening near our schools, behind the smoke screen that “everything is perfectly safe.” And we need to get involved in shaping new policies – “pertinent laws, regulations and permit conditions” – that reflect current scientific research and findings about pesticide exposure and other forms of chemical trespass.
Do you want to know the truth about chemical exposure in your community? Become a Citizen Researcher, share your discoveries and demand that public policy reflects current scientific findings. We have a right to know, and to raise our children in healthy communities.
 Schafer K, Marquez E, et al. 2013. A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides are Undermining our Children’s Health & Intelligence. Pesticide Action Network North America. http://scruzclimact.pbworks.com/
 Zaunbrecher V, Hattis D, Melnick R, Malloy T, et al. 2015. Exposure and Interaction: The Potential Health impacts of Using Multiple Pesticides. University of California Los Angeles School of Law and the Fielding School of Public Health Sustainable Technology & Policy Program.
Finished the scene where Ms. B attends her first meeting of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch and learns about the struggle to save the Tai Property on the ocean side of Highway 1. Doing background research for this scene, I learned more about the courage, perseverance, wisdom and genius of the people who built the organic movement in this region and have saved wetlands and farmlands in our area. I am in awe of these brave and brilliant people. I hope my story can convey the importance of the work they have accomplished.
My story is a “roman a clef”, a true story thinly veiled in the guise of fiction. I need to figure out fictional names for the Wetlands Watch people and update my “character bible”. Since I’m going after Monsanto in a big way in this story, I have been told to get an attorney before I ever put the story into the public sphere. Monsanto is a very scary entity, to be sure. They are why my story is a murder mystery, if you get my drift.
Went to an excellent mystery writers workshop at Univ of SF downtown classroom last Saturday, put on by the Mystery Writers of America. Good information and advice. Nice to get out and network with other authors and wanna be’s. Among other things, we worked on our “elevator messages”:
“A teacher in an agricultural community on the California Coast discovers that the pesticides being used on the fields surrounding her school are deadly, in more ways than one.”
I stepped out of the classroom in the evening, right into the Occupy San Francisco/Occupy WallStreet march going by in the middle of Market St. So I joined in for about an hour. It was Invigorating! The cops and the spectators on the street were so so positive. Cops even smiled and flashed us peace signs. Very different from the civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the 60′s. A hopeful experience.
Recently, I’ve had some excellent time with the Watsonville Brown Berets, who are working very hard on the ban Methyl Iodide issue (the chemical proposed as an “alternative” to methyl bromide). Last night, at the Resource Center for Non-Violence, I attended a sub-committee meeting on the juvenile justice system. The people who put their time and energy into these projects for the good of the community are so admirable. My respect and love for them just grows and grows.
I’ve taken about a week “away from the canvas”, to work on a permaculture rainwater harvesting project at my casita. Joe and I went to several of the excellent, free films shown around town this week at the Pacific Rim Film Festival. Another group of astounding people giving of their time, passion and intelligence to the community. Last night, we watched a Japanese sci fi animee called Summer Wars. The other night we saw an eco surf film from New Zealand called Last Paradise. I highly recommend both films, which you can probably find by googling.
Went to a meeting yesterday to try to try to help save the Salmon and Trout Education Project. The native Steelhead have now become such a threatened species in California that Cal Fish and Game will no longer grant permits for teachers and students to incubate eggs in the classroom for release in the local creeks. The meeting was tragic, heartbreaking. It underscored the urgency I feel to tell Ms. B’s story. I feel so strongly that people need to know what’s at stake, and what is being lost, from a personal, “being-there” perspective.
Ms B and my other characters are calling me back to finish the story. I’m looking forward to introducing Ms. B and her friends to you. I think you may have a lot in common. Let me know if you’re interested in reading the story when the first draft is ready to critique.
May the Clear Light Surround You. Peace and Love.