People vacation on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i to swim, snorkel and surf. And to unplug. We did. For three weeks. My wife and I also spent one Saturday night at a rally supporting a ballot initiative to control the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and pesticides on the island. Admittedly, not the most touristy thing to do.
Part of the draw was Makana, which means “gift” in Hawaiian, which he surely is. Makana has been hailed as Hawaii’s greatest young slack-key musician and songwriter. You may know him because he wrote a song, “We Are the Many,” that became the anthem of the Occupy Movement. Slack-key, which characterizes Hawaiian music, was the legacy of Mexican cowboys, who came to the island as contract workers over a century ago – the beginning of a long history of workers imported there from other countries.
We were also interested because we had stumbled across the anti-GMO movement while exploring the island a year ago.
“Can Google Solve Death?” read the cover headline of a national news weekly. It cleverly enticed readers to read the story inside. The question also represents one of the major problems facing human beings. No, not death, but hubris.
Hubris was one of the themes of the great Greek tragedies in the fifth century before the Common Era. The Greek playwrights like Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles understood all too well the capacity of humans to extend themselves beyond their ability to limit the damage caused by their actions.
So great families disintegrated, monarchs fell and society itself came close to collapse – all because people in power could not stop themselves from reaching beyond their limitations as human beings. We do the same, but in new ways with unknown consequences.
Global climate change comes instantly to mind. Last spring, for the first time in human history,
(This post first appeared on California Progress Report and is reposted here with permission.)
This November, California voters will have an opportunity to vote on a simple, yet important ballot initiative called Proposition 37 – the California Right to Know Act. If approved, it would require food sold in California supermarkets be clearly labeled if it has been genetically engineered.
What many probably don’t yet know is there is no clearer David versus Goliath fight on this year’s ballot. On one side, is a truly grassroots people’s movement that generated over a million signatures in just 10 weeks, easily qualifying for the November ballot. On the other stands the largest anti-union, pro-pesticide, agrichemical interests in the world dedicated to saying and spending whatever it takes to hide the fact that some of our most important crops are being genetically engineered in a lab without our knowledge or consent.