Precious Dirt Protest 2012
Chemical Drift & Growth Suppression
By Iona Miller with Zanna Wilderness, 2012
for Paranoia Magazine
Chemical Drift & Growth Suppression
By Iona Miller with Zanna Wilderness, 2012
for Paranoia Magazine
“If we are ever to find our way out of the present deplorable situation, we must remain vigilant, we must continue to challenge and to question, we must insist that the burden of proof is on those who would use these chemicals to prove the procedures are safe.” (“A New Chapter to Silent Spring,” Bulletin of the Garden Club of America, May 1963)
Better Living through Chemistry?
As Robert Frost says, the woods are “lovely, dark and deep”, but they hide a deadly secret, rarely known to their inhabitants, much less those who admire their lifestyle.
How much exposure to agents which are toxic in parts-per-million is too much?
The answer is, "Any". But pesticides and estrogenic herbicides, the chemical cousins of the notorious Agent Orange, are routinely used in forest management and to spray ditches and roadsides. But whose growth is really being suppressed? Our naturalist aesthetic is the victim of toxic defoliants designed to bend nature to our will. But there are catastrophic consequences to such unsustainable actions, counted in human and environmental degradation.
Dioxin-laden Agent Orange was a 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow. When the Vietnam War failed, systemic toxic agents were turned on the homeland, secretly decimating the American countryside. The stated goal was to accelerate the log rotation cycle by about one third to one-half with clear-cutting and defoliant-assisted tree farm planting. Opponents of such forest management consider these practices a “manufactured reality”, largely benefitting the chemical producers at all costs, including collateral human damage.
This is essentially an undeclared asymmetrical war at home on the people of America, perpetrated by mega-corporations and corrupt politicians, supported by battalions of lawyers and judicial collusion. Everyone, from Good Ole Boys to ecosophical hippies to the farming community and outdoorsmen are equally affected, many without leaving their homes. It all takes place in the name of falsely so-called “sustained yields”.
But most affected residents remain unaware of the systematic chemical warfare perpetrated against them, year after year. Synthetic plant hormones are absorbed through the leaves and translocated to the meristems of the plant. Uncontrolled, unsustainable growth ensues, causing stem curl-over, leaf withering, and eventual plant death. Mutagens and carcinogens affect humans in analogous ways.
The term "downwinders" usually refers to those exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents. We've all become downwinders due to the Jetstream since Fukushima, but the term could equally apply to those caught in the life-changing slipstream of toxic sprays.
Human Health Hazard
Delivered by helicopter, the initial attack travels downwind, into every stream and runoff, into watertables, and game fish and animals that are the backbone of rural recreational opportunities and tourist trade. It makes its home in our flesh, disturbing our lives and well-being. The chemical time-bomb often results in a burden of medical and care expenses for which there is no legal remedy, due to a preemptive trick of the law.
Though Agent Orange was internationally banned after extensive use from 1961-1971, such herbicides have been sprayed on the wary and unaware in the intervening decades. The carcinogen dioxin is toxic in parts per trillion. Systemic herbicides allegedly reduce the growth of broadleafs and release young conifers from competition with aggressive “weed species”, which include such noble trees as the valuable hardwoods California Bay Laurel, Oak, and Madrone. After more than 40 years of "SOP" forest management [sic], no one knows the extent of contamination of the rural environment. There is no testing for most metabolites, though the breakdown chemistry remains carcinogenic, estrogenic, and mutagenic.
Citizen efforts to curtail the toxic management practice have been ongoing since the 1970s. But, after several protests in the capital, state officials in Oregon recently emphatically declared there is “no moratorium” in sight, nor will there be. This is despite the fact that urinalysis reveals over and over that even those consuming an organic diet test positive for the deadly chemicals, in both short and long-term.
Grants Pass resident Patti Jo Edwards told the authors, "I actually have gotten dizzy and passed out driving through the area west of where I live after they had sprayed. I am very sensitive to pesticides. Now when I feel dizzy, I pull over and call for my husband to come and get me. Every time this has happened I found out later they had been spraying."
Mega-corporations have avoided disclosure mandates. The fast, cheap and easy defoliation method is surreptitiously tested and executed on human populations. They include unborn generations, blithely used as guinea pigs for largely untested killer chemicals forced on the nation by Syngenta, Monsanto and Dow Chemical. In the meanwhile, such practices remain perennially lucrative, while poisoning our air, water, wildlife, children, and the very dirt we rely on to sustain our existence.
Even as science attempts to create artificial life, we remain unmindful of the life that is already here. We cannot create the fundamental elements from which life arises, which are the gift of the Universe, cooked in giant supernovae aeons ago. It's like that old joke where the scientist says to God, "We can now make an Adam out of clay", and God says, "No; first you have to make your own dirt!"
The activist group, “Precious Dirt” began in January of 2011 when residents received ODF Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) notification indicating helicopter-spraying was scheduled to dispense toxic chemicals over the next six months within close proximity of a rural community surrounding Lake Selmac in Southern Oregon.
Locals, retirees, and concerned parents were unaware of such wide-spread practice. The recreational lake, residents and local ecosphere are all vulnerable to direct spraying and drift of contaminants. The disheartening reality made their bucolic paradise into “a toxic soup bowl” that has invaded their bodies, psyches and lives. It makes people feel they are among the “pests” recklessly slated for extermination by a government who sells them out to corporate management interests.
No official notifications of dates for spraying were given or required by law, nor was a list of chemicals provided, which could include any grandfathered into a list of 60,000 toxins, headed by Hexazinone, Clopyralid, and Atrazine. From the 1970s through today, the same area has been widely sprayed with 2,4-D, just one molecule removed from the deadly jungle-killer Agent Orange. All of these activities are taking place in at least 22 states, with ZERO public notification, awareness or scrutiny required.
One study from POCIS showed residues of common herbicides used by the timber industry were recently found in all four public streams tested near Triangle Lake, Oregon. Naturally, similar results might be expected in all affected states.
Concerned groups point out that, “50 years after Rachel Carson’s profound warnings the average child born in the U.S. today now has 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord, at birth." In her new book Raising Elijah, Biologist Dr. Sandra Steingraber speaks of the chronic childhood diseases now being linked to toxic chemical exposures; Asthma, ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, as well as premature development in young girls, all now common in children, along with premature births themselves. “All together, asthma, behavioral problems, intellectual impairments, and preterm births are among the ‘new morbidities’ of childhood”, she writes. The fact these disorders are now considered the ‘norm’ was in and of itself disturbing and we feel also warrants attention.”
The public and all who seek this information however, are kept in the dark, because perpetrators avoid the Freedom of Information Act, through ‘proprietary’ issues. They are granted immunity from private action based on farming or forest practice. The Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Act. ORS30.930 to ORS30.947 supports the timber industry’s position, citing ORS30.933(2)(c):
“Persons who locate on or near an area zoned for farm or forest use must accept the conditions commonly associated with living in that particular setting”.
The telling excuse follows: "Certain private rights of action and the authority of local governments and special districts to declare farming and forest practices to be nuisances or trespass must be limited because such claims for relief and local government ordinances are inconsistent with land use policies, including policies set forth in ORS 215.243, and have adverse effects on the continuation of farming and forest practices and the full use of the resource base of this state."
It Gets Personal
But who is EVER warned? No one, including their real estate agent, tells the prospective resident retiree or young couple with children that they will be subjected to the fallout of decades of ecological abuse as well as potential medical horrors to come. Urban dwellers aren't notified that their outdoorsy vacations are fraught with similar unimaginable dangers. Downwinders describe their chemical assaults, not only as children but into their 40s, 50s and 60s. They report mastectomy, clavectomy, amputations, compounded often by industrial poisoning on the job. Numerous vectors can weaken the immune system.
After repeatedly voicing their many concerns to local foresters, local, state and county officials, along with the facts and information about the toxic nature of these chemicals, the site near Lake Selmac was indeed sprayed via helicopter on Saturday April 9, 2011 around 8:30 AM with Atrazine, which has already been banned in the European Union. The same area was routinely sprayed again in Spring of 2012.
A study sponsored by Syngenta, themselves, dated 1980, justified the procedure at the expense of public welfare and waterways. This is no isolated incident, but an annual occurrence in national forests, BLM lands, state and private lands, and other public areas or easements adjacent to homes, schools, and agricultural land. A similar policy problem, minimizing human welfare, exists in Canada, particularly in British Columbia.
Those who seemingly escape the initial effects of airborne toxins worry about the emergent possibilities of cancer down the line. Perhaps surprisingly, Oregon markedly exceeds the national norm in certain cancers, according to the CDC. The four most common cancers among Oregonians are breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal. One person already stricken says, "you know, I generally avoid thinking about the cancer; I feel like that gives it power. But I will do what is needed to hopefully help stop the carcinogenic warfare being waged by the chemical big whigs. Don't disease me!"
Activist, Zanna Wilderness reports:
After they sprayed the last time  my 73 year old friend went out walking in the spray. He has seizures and unannounced spraying is hard on his nervous system. When I walked out in it to get him, my skin developed several very odd spots on my face. Many of my friends here have had uterine cancer and prostate cancer. Since the spray turns male frogs female and interrupts endocrine actions this effects many systems of the body. The corn states have long used atropine. Now around 40 of those cities need to truck in water due to polluted wells and watertables. The new GMOs require about four times as much spray as the regular seeds. The herbicides mutate them to be more atrazine resistant.
Immunotoxic Atrazine causes cancer, asthma, seizures, birth defects, infertility, thyroid disease, leukemia, and other illnesses. 76 million pounds a year are sprayed n the US. It has been banned in Europe, where golfers and hockey players developed ALS while young. When they spray this aerially, the drift is often seen for miles.
Glyphosate (Round-Up) is sprayed along our roadsides. They go out in unmarked trucks with no uniforms and spray until someone sees them. Then they go back to their trucks and pretend to be tourists. We have see this happen several times. Glyphosate causes: miscarriages, ADD, convulsions, breathing problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea, burning eyes, sore throat, rashes, irregular heartbeat and blurred vision.
Executive Director of Oregon Toxics Alliance, Lisa Arkin reports that a review of pesticide poisoning complaint records in Oregon reveals that children participating in school activities have been exposed to pesticides dozens of times. The report outlines 43 specific cases of poisoning in the last 10 years. Fourteen cases were severe enough to result in school evacuations, trips to emergency rooms, and the issuance of citations for violations of state pesticide law.
In one case, teachers and young students suffered adverse health effects, including sore throats and headaches up to six days after an insecticide was sprayed in the attic and building exterior near classrooms. Arkin claims, "The records under-represent the actual number of pesticide poisonings at school activities because children may not know why they are feeling ill, or adults may not report an exposure to a state agency".
Such known effects raise the ethical issue: Should a leader or manager act or fulfill his or her role and responsibilities to their employer or to humanity at large? The answer rests in the soul of each participant in the chain of events who knowingly continues to participate in or perpetuate the exploitive cycle of irreparable harm. Activists feel if you have a value, you stand up for it. Silence is complicity. After all, they are fighting for their lives.
Twenty-two states from coast to coast persist in this “Spray War”, with no end in sight. It is not merely a West Coast problem, but a national disaster in the making – a slow-motion bomb. Radical environmentalist group EarthFirst! gained notoriety for its dramatic protests to save the redwoods and prevent logging in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area in the early years of this battle. Their efforts were highly-publicized and extremely polarizing for pro and con factions, alike. They were accused of “eco-terrorism” and became the subject of aggressive countermeasures.
Activist groups addressing these homefront issues, serving as nonviolent protest exemplars for other communities and states, include the following:
- Headwaters: This group has been fighting high-cut practices of the Forest Service and BLM in the courts and in the field since the 1970s through the high-demand period of the last housing boom. Watershed groups have consolidated under its banner. BLM sites were challenged one-by-one.
- SOCATS: Southern Oregon Citizens Against Toxic Sprays, Inc. (SOCATS) is a non-profit corporation whose members live near or use forests designated for herbicide spraying by the BLM. The latter annually sprays forest lands in the Rogue and Illinois Valley to control non-commercial vegetation and to promote timber production. Such “watershed groups” protest on a site-by-site basis. Anti-herbicide campaigns have garnered the widest citizen participation, filing suits and delaying spraying in many cases. Environmentalists made some inroads in the forest planning process with the Fish & Wildlife Service and introduced the notion of indicator species preservation, such as the Spotted Owl.
- CATS: Citizens Against Toxic Sprays operates in coalition with SOCATS for appeals, networking and cross-education.
- STOP: Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides, another action group, also works against indiscriminate spraying of toxic herbicides and pesticides on roadsides with petitions for moratoriums.
Make no mistake – this is an assault that potentially affects us all. These toxins can not only enter you but the food chain – in particular salmon and other stream and lake fish. Nonconsenting individuals are routinely exposed to neurotoxins and malignant substances without recourse or compensation.
These issues are one part of the bigger puzzle of environmental degradation described by expert biologist Dr. Robert N. Crittenden in Politics of Change: A Brief History, which begins in the mists of ancient history and ends with egregious Natural Resource Management and Land Use Management controllers. Rural areas are managed essentially the same as colonial plantations.
This and Crittenden’s other books are for the person who wants to know what the political agendas are, where they came from, and what they are trying to do. He is a quantitative biologist. His scientific publications range from the more traditional biological topics of population dynamics, genetics, and morphology to physical climatology, acoustics, and statistics.
For years he tried to avoid politics, but during the early 1990's he ran into a network in government and higher education that admittedly colluded in unnecessary and ecologically disruptive practices in the name of building the salmon population – a notion he thoroughly debunked. When Crittenden determined the elites were deliberately depressing salmon stocks with their "helpful" procedures, he decided to set aside his work and study it.
The results were a book on the salmon crisis, a book on the interlocking directorates of the organizations behind it, and a history of political thought. Salmon at Risk & the Elite Planners is a roadmap for all such projects foisted on the American people by big business interests.
Crittenden cites Chaos Theory as a model for the creation of engineered economic and environmental collapse in isolated segments of the economy, one-by-one. When “stabile limit cycles” are exceeded, disaster follows in the wake of “boom & bust” practices. They have left their mark already in many areas of our lives, from jobs and housing, to food production, and even education.
Such “pump & dump” systems become unpredictable at any point in time, but lead to disastrous avalanches of irreversible change. Compartmentalized systems promote this destructive result. The greed for exploitative control leads to uncontrollable consequences, environmentally, economically, and in terms of human welfare. When will we begin making better environmental decisions?
Added to the list of social pressures including climate change, radiation, chemtrails, and frankenfood, yet another assault vector affecting wildlife and humans is discouraging. Crittenden explains how the salmon recovery plans show that even the Endangered Species Act is perverted into its opposite. Stakeholders routinely invade grassroots groups with ringers and provocateurs. Representative government is non-existent and local input is unwelcome. The mindless machinery of state grinds on holding power over our lives. The stakes remain high.
Native people in the Olympic Peninsula report that livers in their hunted deer are nearly all bad, showing signs of degenerative disease. Cougars are born with testicles in their legs, demonstrating its mutagenic potential that also affects humans in the male reproductive organs first. Children’s Hospital in Seattle is seeing more and more such cases.
There is a blunt prophecy by Native elders that when the salmon are gone, we’re all dead.
- Arkin, Lisa, http://www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20081113#5
- Brown, Beverly, In Timber Country: Working People's Stories of Environmental Conflict. http://books.google.com/books?id=RtENGV8DzJQC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=SOCATS,+toxic+spray&source=bl&ots=BrLJ7qZVCx&sig=lesPjgNSDkfxOnVDC-54MXiRNlA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ujUIUJ6eNMvsrAGrue2vBA&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=SOCATS%2C%20toxic%20spray&f=false
- Cancer in Oregon: A Call to Action (2004), http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/Cancer/Documents/acalltoaction3-04.pdf
- Crittenden, Robert, Politics of Change: A Brief History, Hargrave Publishing, Inc. (March 1, 2000).
- Crown, Jane, "Agent Orange in the City of New Orleans: The War at Home", Paranoia
- Downwind: Big Ag at Your Door, http://100r.org/2012/02/downwind/
- Journal of pesticide reform - http://www.signaloflove.org/clearcutting/reports/24D.pdf
- Pesticide Action Network, http://www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20081113
- POCIS, http://stop-oregon.org/wpstop/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Lake_Creek_POCIS_-Study-PressRelease-20120605.pdf
- Precious Dirt, http://preciousdirt.org/
- Sustainable Forestry Network, http://www.sustainableforestry.net/chp4.1.html