tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN May 23, 2016 2:51pm-4:52pm EDT
>> reporter:. it's not -- [ applause ] -- thank you. that's entered into lightly. we do a lot of work with scientists. and they have typically little league protection because they're not whistle-blowers, not revealing waste, fraud, and abuse. a good example, one of our clients goss hawk expert for the u.s. forest service, one of the indicator species like spotted owls, and he was featured by the agency, sent away to conferences and allowed to publish. when his publish work used by environmental groups to sue the agency to stop timber sales because he founded the goss hawk needed a broader area, the agency turned on him and his science. through no action of his own, doing what he had done every day for the last 20 year he went from golden boy to pub nick enemy number one. even -- it doesn't matter how objective the science is, one of our signature cases involve a fish passage center, mul multisignatumult
multisignatumultiagency unit. larry craig, center from idaho nope for his wide stance, didn't like the information they were putting out, and he reached out and had unit abolished. we were able to sue and get their positions restored. but throughout all of the head of the center asked the question that haunted us, which was, who knew math coulding dangerous? so we employ a number of tools to help scientists suing under statutes where best available science is required, use of scientific integrity policies and even tools like the data quality act and industry sponsored law that allows us to file administrative challenges to government agency policies. recently we were able to use this act to get, again, guided by agency toxicologist, the epa to drop safety assurance for artificial turf made with crumb rubber. we were able to persuade the white house to order overdue
multiagency risk assessment on using solid waste as a play surface. [ applause ] thank you. and a number of our employees, basically, are in trouble because they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing their job too well at an inconvenient time. when employees become the victims of witch hunts, it terrifying to see. we represented, two polar researchers who had observed drowned polar bears in open ocean after a storm because of the retreat of sea ice. the agency became upset when their published work became an important vehicle to help the public understand the effects of climate change in the arctic and went after them and started this investigation. and it turned into a criminal investigation. it went on for 4 1/2 years. caused three criminal referrals, all of which without merit. they couldn't find anything
wrong. with the whole thing imploded after we posted transcripts of the clueless criminal investigators trying to interrogate these ph.d. scientists. but the point of it is that, when people find themselves in that situation, one person against an entire institution, they need outside help. so like "ghostbusters" who you gonna call? here's how this works for a larger civil society. and it's about things that people talk about, transparency, accountability, responsiveness. a transparency example. we do a ton of freedom of information act work. by the way, foya turns 50 this year. the typical scenarios approached by somebody with documents and in essence don't want us to use the leaked version but go through the front door and forced them to be diskorjed by the agency. knowing whackly what we're looking for, we file on the average one lawsuit every three weeks. the information laundromat, our
job to wash the identifying marks off the material and hang it on the line for everybody to see. or institutional change. the point of a lot the of this isn't to win individual victories. it's force change so the same thing doesn't occur over and over. for example, trying to work with forest service special agents who after the agency blocked timber theft investigations used that scenario to justify creating a new chain of command for the voeginvestigations. the same thing with land appraisers who pointed out you the taxpayer were losing millions if not billion of dollars on one sided exchanges because the agency had its thumb on the scales. we're enable to enact reforms. lastly, one of the top economists from the army corps of engineers revealed the corps was cooking the books to -- corps reform adopted to require that these studies be interpenly
checked. the idea is empowerment. make clear staff is not spelled with ph, you're a peer, you have a seat at the table and you be part of balance of power because expertise cannot be ignored. part of what we're doing allowing internal critique to reach the true -- the true employer, the public, and validate that many of the critics of the agencies, their criticisms, shared by those inside and in many instances shared bit people that should know best the feedback look can be em treatmently powerful. we're facing a number of changes of course, environmental changes such as climate change. a generational shift where a whole group of baby boomers is leave something we're trying to harness the great wave to come back and help the agency. and of course, there's a presidential transition, you can imagine the demand for our services in a trump
administration. what we're doing can be exported to any one of a number of agencies, and the approach is cost effective because we don't hire experts, you already have hired the experts. we're just trying to make sure their expertise can shine forth. so, we're relatively small organization with $1 million budget and 5 field offices. we can always use more support. we invite your involvement with our organization. you don't have to have been a a public employee. you have to appreciate the importance and not centrality of public service. so thank you. [ applause ] >> so, now let's get into still a consumer effort but one little bit different, consumer watchdog, based out in los angeles, halrvey rosenfield.
first of all, he's a trial lawyer, you know powers that be try to make that per jorty somehow or another but as a trial lawyer supporting me when i was running in politics in texas, we take from the rich and give approximately half to the poor. that's not a bad relationship, really. but harvey takes on medical malpractice issues, hmo reform, insurance reforms, utility rates and goes at the big guys, insurance giants, in particular. i grew up in the small town in texas and i learned early on, you should never hit a man with glasses. you should use something much heavier. heavier thing that we have, the heaviest thing that we have, are those values of fairness, justice, opportunity for all, and in particular, people who represent those, bringing the people inside, again. and that's what consumer watchdog does a lot of, in
addition to straight out litigation, they rally citizens into direct citizen action behind issues and referendums. harvey's known for numbers, proposition 9, proposition 45, these are victories for consumers that he and his organization with local people have produced. proposition 103 alone was about auto insurance reform. it has saved over $100 billion for consumers on auto insurance rates since 1988. it's remarkable advances that they're making. so let's bring up harvey rosenfield. >> thank you. thank you. well, this is an amazingly opportune moment to conconvene a citizen conference like this. in my entire lifetime, i have not seen people as mad and as engaged as they are today. there is -- there is deep, deep
outrage about the corruption in our democracy and i think that a lot of people across the united states are suffering from a form of posttraumatic stress disorder from the economic collapse of 2008. most people, most americans, not all, but most americans have not really fully recovered from that disaster, either financially or emotionally. and the unconditional bailout of wall street, while leaving all of the rest of americans to fend for themselves, is something that i think was a revelation for even those people who were not paying attention to politics in our country. i once calculated that the amount of money that the federal government handed over to financial corporations in the aftermath as a part of the bailout could have easily paid off every residential mortgage
in the country. but instead, instead, it was handed, unconditionally, to a bunch of banks and insurance companies. so there's a disruption of the current status quo under way in our political or electoral campaigns. it's aided by the democratization of communications, technologies that make it easier for people to communicate and enhance people's creativity. but the bad news is, at the end of the day, i think all of us know that no one person, not even the president, can stop the force of corporate power in this country. no nobody has the ability to do that by themselves. and so going in, even as exciting as this election campaign is, as startling as it
might be -- >> feel the bern! >> feel the bern, yep, and feel the donald. as powerful as the emotions are part of the electoral campaign this year, there's no doubt at the end there will be d disappointment. that's the bad news. the good news is that for people who do what we do, who are advocates, we can -- we can and must be poised to answer that d disappointment to vector the public's engagement, to keep them insipired and bring them into the work that we all do once the dust settles, whoever wins in november. because that is what advocates do, they seize or create moments and issues at points in time when there's -- when the public per serve receives there's a problem and looking for a solution and question is, who will provide that solution? will the politicians provide it?
or will citizen advocates and activists provide it? today's discussion is all about how it's done. so i'd like to summarize the approach the consumer watchdog has taken over the last 31 years. it's an approach that is set forth in our mission statement which consists of three words, expose, confront, and change. so, first of all, expose, we bring a journalist's or a lawyer's eye to uncover and expose problems in our society. in fact, of the 13 people on our staff, 4 are lawyers, 3 are journalists, or former journalists, and the rest are advocates and researchers and what they do, and we expose things, we tell the story in terms that people can relate to, in human interest terms.
so the next thing we do, once we've told that story, we confront the folks who have caused the problem. once we explain what the problem is, then we confront the folks who are the wrong doers. now, most corporate ceos tried to hide behind pr people and other surrogates because they don't want to have to be -- to defend themselves. they can't really very well defend themselves. but what we do, honestly, we're pretty aggressive about it, is prevent the special interests, corporate executives, the greed-driven corporate officials, from escaping accountability for causing the problem. we hold them directly accountable. and these confrontations, by the way, are very dramatic sometimes. we invite the immediate media to witness them. the final part, final role, the
most important role we play, once we created the conditions for it, we seize the moment to supply the needed solution. now, as in corporate -- in the battle between consumers and corporations, corporations are always advocating their own solution. usually it's by scapegoating something else, they never take responsibility. but we advocate the solution that we determined to be the one that best protects consumers, taxpayers, workers, savers, and we ask those voters, those consumers, to support us, and we use our opponents' weight against them. it's kind of like a political jujitsu. we use their weight, their sloth, their arrogance, against them in order to win. let me describe the one kind of seminal example of this that i'd like to present to you today.
and this involves auto insurance. and 1980s, auto insurance rates were skyrocketing in california. the insurance companies were claiming that they had to raise rates because there were too many lawsuits. their solution to restrict the consumer protection laws in a state of california. but we did some research and we exposed the faing that the problem in california was, unlike every other major state in the nation, california had no ruled that regulated the insurance companies. so we put an initiative on the ballot to regulate, to roll back and regulate auto insurance, home insurance, business insurance premiums. the insurance companies spent an unprecedented $80 million fighting our proposal. and i'll give you an example of one things they did, this mailer, which features me on one side, one of the guards that were guarding the petitions we submitted to put the initiative
on the ballot, this went to every household in the state of california. and they spent tens of millions of dollars on tv ads. how did we counter that? first, we pointed out, guess who's behind the ad blitz? the more they spent, the more it made sense to people in the political jujitsu, it's the insurance companies trying to defend their right to rip you off. but we had no money. so we resorted to things like this, where i delivered a truck load full of horse manure to farmer's insurance, that was one of the major backers of the opposition to proposition 103. and then, of course, what happened was, it took off. people -- it galvanized public opinion and every dollar they spent against us, we jujitsued it into a galvanizing people to support our initiative. there was one other element to our campaign and this is ralph
nader, in 1988, farmer's market in los angeles campaigning for proposition 103. and his button says "103 is the one for me" because of the battle involved insurance companies putting three competing initiatives on the same ballot to try to confuse people. but on election day, thanks to ralph, the voters saw through the insurance industry's campaign and passed proposition 103. it passed in blue, democrat los angeles and reagan country, orange county california, and that shows you that when people are approached with a policy issue and a solution to it that makes sense to them, they will support it. turns out that was just the beginning of the battle. there were a hundred lawsuits filed. the insurance companies were relentless. we've defeated every single one of them. and it took us, just for one
provision of the pop significance that barred companies from basing auto premiums on your zip code, it took us 16 years to win that battle. not as long as it took -- and clarence -- to get air bags. but it took us 16 year than perseverance led to immediate $1.4 billion in rate rollbacks. $100 billion in savings for motorists alone. between 1989, when prop 103 took effect, and 2013, auto insurance rates went down in california. it's the only state in the nation where rates went down. rest of the nation, went up 43%. and yet, of course, the -- you can't even read that site, forget about that -- that describes the average in california for auto insurance premiums. and then -- sorry, a little bit of a delay -- okay, they come
back at us. in 2010, one of the insurance companies puts initiative on the ballot to repeal part of proposition 103. they spent $17 million on ads like this, vote yes on prop 17 and used our own tactics against us. if you pass prop 17, it will lower your insurance rates. but it didn't work. we spent -- we had to raise a million bucks and we did the following 15-second ad -- >> this is a consumer alert. why are car insurance companies spending millions to pass prop 17? the california attorney general says prop 17 will raise your rates. stop the hidden rate increases. vote no on 17. and then, so we beat them, we beat them in 2010. [ applause ] and then, and then the same insurance company that did that put it back on the ballot in 2012. they spent another $17 million.
this time we spent $100,000, and we beat them again. [ applause ] so it's all about -- it's all about perseverance. now in addition to this battle, which goes on to this very day, there are dozens 0 of lawsuits, administrative and judicial lawsuits on challenges part of prop 103 and we challenge the rates under proposition 103 to force over $3 billion in rollbacks just from consumer watchdog's work over the last ten years or so. but we also work on things like hmo reform, health insurance rates. we fought electricity deregulation. we fought to change the unfair and draconian limits on medical malpractice lawsuits in california law. these days, we're doing a lot of privacy, trying to -- trying to ensure that the nation's auto safety regulators, working with
clarence ditlow and joan clay brook, make sure nhtsa national highway safety administration, requiring companies to develop regot cars, driverless vehicles, they don't want to comply with federal law, auto safety laws. we're trying to make sure the federal government hues to the mission it's supposed to follow and regulate auto safety for those companies. so we do a lot of different things besides insurance. but i want to move very quickly and just address -- speak to those of you in the audience at the beginning of a possible career in citizen advocacy or thinking about whether to spend the rest of your lives devoted to the public interest. and i've kind of distilled my experience to ten tips that i'd like to convey. first, find a battle and jump in
right away. now, there are lots of projects out there. you can be a volunteer to get started. and get a taste of it before you decide. don't think you can't do it or you're not skilled enough to do it. for example, there's a big ballot initiative campaign scheduled for november to regulate prescription drug prices in california that needs a lot of volunteers. start by jumping in. number two, you've got to work hard. time and time again, as ralph indicated earlier, a handful of committed people can defeat goliath. never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. indeed, it's the only thing that ever has and that's what we've all fought and that's what you're hearing about today, people who took it upon themselves initiated something, and then joined with others and then others came along. but it all starts with work
hard, perseverance. third, trust yourself -- >> this is a consumer alert -- >> oops. another consumer alert. trust yourself. when you do not allow yourself to be controlled or limited by other people's perceptions of reality, when i first wrote prop 103 they said it would never pass, it was too tough, and the insurance companies would defeat it. i didn't listen to them. similarly -- thank you. speak up. don't wait your turn. i'm directing this to young people. i know you're told know your place wait in line. don't wait your turn. start fighting now, trust your instincts, and speak up. speak up number 5, do not compromise fundamental principles. you know, when we put prop 103 on the ballot, it initiated, as
i mentioned a moment ago, initiative war that threatened more than just prop 103. it threaten the to change the state's consumer protection laws. it's a vendetta move by the insurance company a lot of pressure to withdraw the initiative. we said no because -- and the truth of it is, when you know you are doing the right job and a great job, when people come to you and say it's too dangerous, you have to compromise, you have to withdraw, next, six, play offense, not defense. seven, never be afraid to say you don't know and ask for help. eight, embrace defeat. because that is part of success. and that's part of perseverance. nine, main name your capacity for indignation. the enemies of our work are not the big corporations. the biggest enemies of our work are cynicism, complacency and compromise. ten, seek out a mentor, and then
when you have learned, become a mentor. one thing that struck me today, speeches from people from the podium made clear the work that they were doing originated in the inspiration and training of ralph nader who built and inspired so many institutions that will be as proud and enduring at constitution hall, we are all grateful to ralph nader for the work he has done, not just consumers but building institutions. [ applause ] thank you. >> we've heard several times today, including from my mouth, we should learn to collaborate and see if we can't make the whole of our effort greater than the sum of its parts. but now, we need to also get
holy. reverend al fritch our next speaker. he's a hero to the people of appalachia and an inspiration to ordinary people everywhere who dare to stand up to rampant corporate power he takes on the mountaintop removele forces, the mining forces, the abusive environmental forces, abusive human forces over in the mountain stated. he's not -- not only is he the founder of ach labor shah science in the public interest but a pastor of the pastor of lady of mountains in stanton, kentucky and pastor of st. elizabeth of hungary in kentucky. i think of him in terms of a couple of other folks that i knew over there who were great
fighters over the years, tom and pat gish, they had a newspaper, the mountain eagle, it was in every big fight in appalachia that ever happened, taking on racism, taking on the mining companies and supporting unions and et cetera. so they were despiced by the powers that be and one day their place, the newspaper office, was firebo firebombed. the subseitel of the mountain eagle was "it screams" after the firebombing, the next wednesday the payment came out, nonetheless and subtitle was "it still screams." that's the spirit of the mountains and that's the spirit of father al fritch. >> hi y'all. you know, this midafternoon,
stand up, hold up your hands high for a moment and wave them. wave them to the people in appalachia, the ones that never get waved to too often. 6300 of our people lost their jobs in the past 15 months because coal mines stopped. but i don't try to emphasize this only. we have to emphasize the good things. so for a start, i want to say what the previous speaker said, and that is, let's thank ralph nader for what he's done for us, what he's done in our region, what he's done for the country. it takes a leader to do what ralph nader does. and i'm so appreciative of it, he's a brother to me. also, i'd like to remember many ways the people who work here and the volunteers for really appalachia science and the public interest is mostly a voluntary organization. and we have had a number we had
7,500 kids that came through in the last ten years to be -- to have experiences in some voluntary ways, along with 3,000, little over 3,000 college students, either during a week of break during the spring or fall semester, and also in the -- in summer programs. so, really, we are, to a great degree, a voluntary organization. why do we go to the place we did? because we were trying to open a demonstration center. what was it demonstrating. when i was working in washington with mike jacobson, jim sullivan, for the center of science in the public interest we had a book called "99 ways to a simple lifestyle" and i was hoping to get back to appalachia and put them into effect. we have most done. one on simple funerals, and they're waiting for me to die to put it into effect. but anyway, beyond these, we have been trying to find a location because we were trying
to do the ripple effect, that is, make it such that demonstration would be available to people and then they would go and do it themselves. we had to have a place available for more people. so we chose a site two miles from the interstate 75, which is third highest traveled route in america from upper michigan down to miami. we had that. only two miles from exit 49, in kentucky, and right beside the scenic route and wilderness, really, area of the rock castle river. so we opened the center down there building a variety of things. but that was a reason for the site. we got a good location because the owner had a property that had a cold seam in it and was afraid it would get disturbed. also the cover on it is the
forest, oldest and most varied hardwood forest in the world. we had a hundred native species -- you can't do that too many places in america -- native species of woody materials. there are supposed to be around 1,400 floral species in at least the areas. we only have found some, not many. that many. but anyway, there's 500 mosses and ferns in that region. it's biodiverse. we wanted to keep it that way. and that's why we opened what we did. and so, we wanted an appropriate technology center that really it was going to be low cost, friendly, it was going to be open to the public, and it would still be where the citizens were involved themselves, we didn't have to expert -- have an expert come in and do the work for them, they wanted to do things, and that was the important part.
we also wanted something more. our local bulk materials, that's food, fuel, building materials, and water, should come locally. now that comes to be a challenge at times. we didn't have that much land. but we taught people how to do intense everybody organic gardening or encourage it because it had been done for years and years and old had to unite themselves with the young. and actually make this an effect that could be the whole family affair. and so, food was greatest importance, as mike jacobson was talking about this morning. and water, of course, should be -- we were trying to take it from the roofs -- but to have purifying method of doing and it having safe containers and use the groundwater. and we had dry composting toilets which cuts out half of the water use in a domestic
home. we invented one type oups. and we had four different varieties on the property. and also, we took materials, waste and water materials and put them through artificial wetlands. so we were trying to hard to use the water at hand. building materials, had two that we used for the wood on the solar demonstration center, which was finished, by the way, in 1978, and really was the first complete one, we said in america, but at least in kentucky. and so but we -- besides that, we've done yurts. why? it's a mongolian idea. why bring it to us? because appropriate technology should be suitable for various parts of the world, not just certain area. and so we went on to take the fuel, of course, we moved into nonfossil fuels, and that would be solar, wind, mostly solar, and we used it for passive
heating, for electricity, and we were really the first organization that had its surplus electricity return to the grid in our state. we had -- we also have used wood in burning. wood has been an important aspect for us because we have done a number of overseas projects in haiti, dominican republic. we were trying to show solar energy being used. and also peru, helped with the opening of a woman's cooperative on cooking food solarly. but also, there was more to that, and therefore, the volunteers we sent over to malawi also to peru and to honduras, twice to each of those places, they learned a lot from it. and therefore, developed a very energy efficient wood-burning device that was used in the
home. so, in many ways, appropriate technology was spread. it was not just spread from us to them, but to them back to us. and only -- on site education was becoming a component, looking at older people, but then beginning to think about young people. for the idea of appalachia was to them something that was sort of removed. and they were not proud of the region. and we consider to this day that to get appalachian pride as being the center piece of what we want for our region, and therefore, more emphasis has been coming in recent years on education from kindergartens through sixth grade, and also teachers, and we consider that this is the very important aspect of our program. funding has always been difficult, you heard that coming up today. well, we're at a lower key than
some of em in. budgets that run from 80 to 250,000 a year, low end at this time is still the area of expertise that we want to try to reach. and how do we do it? a variety of different things. now, here i differ a little bit from the other public interest groups in that we did not mind taking money from any place that was not industry, but any governmental source that was still receptive to what we were trying to do. we had ted kennedy's science for citizens program started during the carter administration and it was getting ready to start in a full blast and they called me it to represent 11 groups that were -- we went over to the white house, not too far from here, transition team of reagan came along, i got up to tell them, i breathed a little, started the first sentence and
he said, next speaker, please. that was the end of appropriate technology as far as the federal government went at that time. but anyway, nsf did save us, our project, and a different device. we were able to continue it in some fashion. the -- but the -- we went on to gone to see from that that had to be done we raised money by what we do. so one thing is, if we had appropriate technology center, and a lot of people were trying to do different things, renewable energy, energy efficiency, growing right types of food, and so forth, if those types of people needed an example of how you set it up, over a ten-year period, many just tried everything at once and half of it failed. so, really, we were going around, trying to help people set their -- depending on what they had, therefore, we had to use their resources -- but we tried to set that up in some
fashion. we did 200 of these in 33 states and 2 provinces of canada. it took a lot of time, we had to inspect property, understand resources, and then work with them on what it was that they could actually do to set up their own appropriate technology place as part of their nonprofit work that they were doing. so, that was a major part of my earlier years there. i stopped at 2002, and it has been continuing with more emphasis, more emphasis, both on solar energy, and also on gardening. we had publications got started ear early. we had -- we were giving visitors the same talk over and over, and found out, well, they were only catching so much of the technology by -- on the fly. so, therefore, we gave them technical papers, and we made 70 of those, on a whole range of subjects that we were working on. so we had those papers and we
begin to send them out to people before the internet came on full speed. but at the same time, we were -- paul gallimre and i, collected, made a book called "healing appalachia, sustainable living through appropriate technology" it's the university press of kentucky and it's still -- you can get it, if you care to, googling our doing amazon field. we opened then it was all rural, where we were, 12 miles away in the county seat, we opened a small town demonstration center. took a parking lot, we bought a building, took a parking lot that was a half acre almost, turned it into a garden, telling people that you can make in your life, you can make what is good in some sense, but even better
by trying to grow things on the land in which you have. so, those -- i haven't been watching the different photos that are coming up but hoping that's showing itself in many ways. recent aspi attention has been moving away from fossil fuels. some of our early work was to attack blasting effects on homes in the region by coal mining, coal haul roads. we worked on surface mining and also deep mining issues. but we moved away interest there because we have to have a change. therefore, we put far more emphasis on the positive and that was on solar energy. and so, that has been a major concern of ours. but in the last two or three years, something else has been happening and it's forcing us to consider sort of what i call negative effects again.
and that is, we have a lot of fracking of natural gas and oil deposits in our part of the region. so in doing sort of being concerned about that, we're finding in our local area that they're condensing some of the affluent materials coming from fracking and they're slipping them in to different types of toxic places where -- well, we were already slated with a deposit location that was very near our school, our principal school, and found out that they were slipping from another state, which wasn't allowed from west virginia, they were bringing in this condensate, this material that was heavily radioactive. so our people locally are very concerned about that. as they are about the fact that fracking could come to our region and we're one which has a lot of car stereos, we have a
strong local group going that are environmental in nature. we're really happy how they are trying to defend their property. [ applause ] . thank you, thank you. that's good. we're trying to do also various on site educational practices for the various people. it is always difficult to work on that. a person asked me once, i was talking about composting waste materials and she says, what can i buy to do this? i said, what do you mean? what commercial product is there that i have to start with? i said, well, a shovel or a spade or something like that. and so, she says, isn't there a tumbler that costs dids 300, $400, don't i have to do something more? and i think we become too
commercialized, simple appropriate technologies can be done by us and they can be done in a way which is, well, physically, enduring to us and it's also something that is a lot cheaper and also does not use as much resource. the -- we have -- we want to constantly return to tourism. and the reason we do is because our region is within a half -- is in a day's drive of half of the american people. and really, we have friendly people, good folks, that really welcome others. we have a tremendously diverse region. we've reintroduced the elk, black bear, turkeys, of course -- too many -- and the deere. we also have really good places for them to do water sports. i live in my parish area is the
wilderness area that's red river gorge and a lot of rock climbing occurs and also the natural bridge of kentucky and that draws many. we draw a million people in our eastern part already, and hope we can draw more as years to come. the -- i did a book with the late kristin johanssojohansson, was on ecotourism in kentucky. it can be received -- you can buy it from -- on amazon.org. but tourism is one of the areas that is of good -- of great importance to us. and sort of as a conclusion, we need funds, of course. we always do. and that's part of the perennial problem in our public interest work. you people know that. and at the same time, we have great hope for the future. we think that young people are
changing. they're not afraid of being appalachian people. we can be poor, but we are also proud of what we have in our past and what we will have in our future. and i think this is being conveyed. we don't have the billions of dollars 0 worth of stuff. i'm not near emphasizing things that were done in a fashion in which some of the earlier ones did. but at the same time, we are people that are trying to make our future. and i want to say, in conclusion, i'm in the indian summer of my life, probably the older than you can say wolf. i realize that aspi experience must move beyond the rational level. the prescription drug and consumer addictions of our region of the world cannot be solved through purely secular practices, no matter how well intin intini intentioned we were all socially
adirected to some degrees and need to engage in collaboration. as -- it's 12-step program we need recourse to a higher power. without that, our efforts will be in vain. god bless you. [ applause ] . >> thank you he's in the spirit of pope francis, says be of service, be humble, but be bold. that's seeming dichotomous relationship but you can see what they're doing in appalachia that relates to all of that. let's move into the northeast. janet, who i'm known probably 140 years, i think, heads mass mass public research group up there. she has been at it there for 36
years, running initiative and referendum campaigns and also, by the way, president of the consumer federation of america. but she represents, in my view, need for continuity, for a building of an ethic and a framework for constant action because you lose a bunch of these things. you usually don't win first time out. willie nelson said the early bird might get the worm but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. always have to let that lay out there a little bit. so enough of this. let's bring up janet from mass perg. >> thank you very much. thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to you today. it such an honor to be here and
huge congratulations to ralph nader on this truly important 50th anniversary. [ applause ] i was thinking of injecting humor in to my remarks. but all know consumer advocates and can't recall a joke. thank you. i'm going to try in the next 20 minutes to break down 45 years of perg history answering five questions which ralph asked plea to address, one, how and why did it get start? i'm cheating fitting two questions into that one but i'm transparent. in um two, what are the problems we aim to solve? number three, what does our track record look like? number four, how do we do our work? and number, five, what's next? number one, how and why do the pergs get started? few periods in american history
have been suffused with a spirit of civic innovation as early 1970s. new social movements from environmentalism to feminism to consumer movement experimented with new ways to achieve change creating institutions and tools that would make a concrete and enduring difference in people's lives. the pergs were born as product of one innovation, creation by college students of self-funding, self-governing organizations that married the passion and creativity of young people with the naders raiders style expertise of professional staff in service of the public interest. in 1970, a year one of the "time" magazine covers broadcast the number one domestic problem in our country as student unrest on college campuses the words "student activism" evoked, quote, bomb throwers and building occupiers.
but in that same year, ralph nader, who was already a well-known consumer advocate in his own right, co-authored a book with donald ross called "action for a change" the book was an invitation to students to focus time and energy on concrete social problems investigate these problems, expose them, and propose an advocate solutions to them without regard for any ideology or social theory, beyond the idea that america had more problems than it should tolerate and more solutions than it was using. nader and ross launched a speaking tour of college campuses to promote their concept which they called public interest research groups. soon, dozens of college campuses had perg chapters, students turned off by the factionalism of left on campus were turned on by the opportunity to make a real difference. and of course, college administrators and trustees used to dealing with student groups boycotting classes or occupying
buildings or threatening to blow them up were more than happy to get behind the group to do research. chapters took off. in the late 1970s and early 1980s, pergs involved inviting citizen members to the organization through the time-tested tool of door to door canvassing. the action of the organizers and work of thousands of staff, volunteers and members and sore supports over the last 45 years have made america a better place extending critical protections to consume consumers, preservin national treasures, giving citizens a meaningful voice in their government and much more. in summary, the right time, the right place, there was a vision and a plan, when enyou mix in hard work and passionate people you get the dna of a great organization. number two, what are the problems we aim so solve? for 45 years pergs have been
dedicate to standing up to powerful interests in the defense of the american people. pundits in media constantly play up the divisions that separate americans, the left versus the right, the rich versus the poor, coastal elites versus denny zans of the heartland. at times there seems little bringing us together. when you talk to the american people, as our organizers do hundreds of thousands of times each year, if neighborhoods, street corners, on the phone, at community meetings and over the internet, you begin to get a more nuanced picture. you find that whether someone spends evenings watching fox news or msnbc, nearly all of us want the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food our families eat to be healthy and safe. you learn that whether someone
supports or opposes government regulation on principle, nearly reference agrees wall street and main street should play by the same set of rules and that v vulnerable consumers should be treated fairly. whether you believe in big government or small government, everyone agrees government we have should be transparent in its operations, careful in its use of public monthny a n money. pergs's focus on these public interest issues, researching problems, educating the public about them and bringing together diverse coalition of ordinary citizens to create powerful campaigns for pragmatic changes that make people's lives better. that work is more important than ever before. america faces challenges unimaginable to the organizationers in 1970s. antibiotics that fail to work due to overuse on factory farms,
databases hoedi databases holding the most private information vulnerable to hackers, organizations free to give as much as they desire to congressional candidates under the guise of free speech. what remains the same over the decades, we take the words "public interest" literally and solve problems across all constituencies. okay. our track record. this is bragging, so don't tell my kids. if you look back over the decades you not only see an organization of people that is managed to grow and thrive, you see a network that has won hundreds of laws, regulations, executive orders, lawsuits in changes in corporate practices that improved public health, public safety, quality of our environment and strength of our democracy. despite the fact we've grown and learned plenty lessons over the years it's not as if social
change has gotten easier. court decisions like citizens united have made it easier for the wealthiest americans and big corporations to determine who runs and who wins in our elections. and the country's far more polarized than it was when we started. back in the day, republicans were just as likely, if not more likely, to support you on the environment or campaign finance reform or even consumer protect as democrats were. and sadly, that is no longer true in washington, it's getting less true in the states, and it's getting even less true among the you public. however, one of the reasons we keep growing and evolving is to find new ways to win and that's how we've kept winning victories for the public environment. california and other states going solar because of victories like our million solar roofs initiative, consumers across the
country who are saving millions of dollars because we fought hard for and won a consumer financial protection bureau to watchdog the credit card companies and big banks. dozens of communities on both coasts are banning plastic disposable bags because of the campaigns that we've helped run. states like oregon that are knocking down health insurance rate hikes thanks to our investigations and advocacy and organizing. cars and trucks getting cleaner and et abouter mileage because of the clean air cap campaigns and the recent adoption of the clean car standards on the federal level by the obama administration. we're proud of this. but our proudest accomplishment is the activist pipeline. by that i mean, first with perg and our entire network that our organization has been entry point and pipeline for thousands of new activists and organizers. talking about the students who have gotten involved in campus
chapters, canvassers who have door to door, the fellows and organizers and at voe indicates and other staff who have learned their craft with us. many of these people are in leadership positions throughout the larger social change sbhunt politics. many in leadership positions within our own network. all add up to our most important and enduring legacy. number four, how do we do it? don't write this down. this is like me telling you my grandmother's secret recipe, okay? first, principles. we've learned to embrace a few time-tested principles when it comes to organizing social change. among the principles are, we are always focused on recruiting. always reaching out to new people, we don't just preach to the choir. we value field by which i mean being out in the field, organizing at the grassroots, being where the people are
because that's where our power is. we value building an organization that we can sustain, not just through next week, next year but the next decade and beyond. we think long term. we value small donors and other members more than we do a few super wealthy donors or foundations. we underpromise and we overdeliver. we do what we say we're going to do and then some. we set clear goals and hold ourselves accountable for reaching them. we focus on winning. we focus on results. we take a righteous stand on the issues but we are not satisfied with being righteous. we want to win. and we want to make a difference in people's lives. that's what drives us. and we value hard work. that's what happens when driven to accomplish something and win. those are some of our principles. part b is strategies and tactics. one thing we do is separate those, strategies and tactics. it is no the commonplace but it
is absolutely key if you want to break through power. we set the goal of the campaign, establish our theory or strategy of how we will reach that goal, and then we pick we pick our tactics. i think it was ralph nader who was the first one i heard talk about those tactics as a tool kit and we like to keep ours full. organizing, advocacy, research, policy analysis, litigation, ballot initiatives, media outreach, public education, coalition building, socially responsible investing and the latest one on the menu and social media. i'm going to tell you a quick anecdote that brings together a few of the things i've talked about already, including student activism, evolving ways of winning. long story short, in 2014, we launched our campaign to save
antibiotics. the center for disease control and prevention says it's a crisis. we're losing antibiotics at an astonishing rate. 23,000 people died last year in hospitals because common antibiotics don't work anymore. why? because of nervous jewish mothers like me whose toddlers got lots of ear infections? even though they would like to think that. the problem is the gross and irresponsible use of antibiotics on factory farms. 70% of the use of antibiotics in this country are on healthy animals on these factories. this must be stopped. fast forward to a big push in our campaign. we're one of many organizations involved. i was there in our war room. so i'm telling it from that point of view. we ramp up to get mcdonald's, obviously a huge factor in the
marketplace of meat in our country. we launch our effort in the fall of 2014. the students plan a social media campaign which includes something called a thunder clap. i don't know about you, but until last year i thought a thunderclap was a weather phenomenon. that is so 20th century. the students scheduled a valentine's day thunderclap which means people agree to send the same message to the same person at the exact same time. 300 social media hits are sent in less than a few hours to mcdonald's ceo. a few weeks later, he announces mcdonald's is phasing out chickens that come from farms that treat with abx. coincidence? i think not. we get it done with principles, goals, strategies, tactics.
and with super sized passion. so where are we going from here? today, the need for civic innovation is as great as ever. while pirg remains committed to the core public interest, principles and strategies that have defined our work over the past decades, the broader movement of which we are apart has broadened in ways we never could have anticipated. in the age of one dimensional communication and historic powerful corporate influence on our democracy, we will use our tools and do something bigger over the next 45 years. while what began on college campuses 45 years ago has grown and inspired a much larger network, it's clear that the institutions of higher learning themselves will be an important factor in the progress that we make as a society. students are no less concerned about the planet, social justice
and the future than they were 45 years ago. as they attempt to make a difference, they face new and different challenges that will require different approaches. for instance, the willingness now of campus administrations to allow students to form, fund, and control their own public interest organizations on campus has steadily declined over the years putting the traditional mechanism for students to establish a pirg chapter out of reach for many. it comes from the same special interests that pirg students challenge in their campaigns is not likely to diminish. declines in state funding for higher education have made colleges and universities only more reliant on support of corporate sponsors and the strings that come attached to that funding. but it presents opportunities for students to organize themselves without relying on the mechanisms of the college
administration. inde indeed, pioneering students at campuses are using new creative tick tacks to fund a pirg chapter. we're committed to making the most of these tools and in so doing, spark a next wave of public interest advocacy by students. and we expect that creative use of these new tools will not only provide students for students to create institutions. but allow them to be more effective in their advocacy. we will engage tens of thousands of idealists in this ra of corporate wealth on our dcy. i have my own two college students now. while i've been with pirg for more than three decades, that might be the most motivating reason of all for me to keep on. thank you.
[ applause ] >> all right. now for something of a patron saint of our environmental movement in this country. lois gibbs runs the center for health, environment, and justice. i think that pretty well covers it, don't you? don't know what else you could add to that. and of course rose to prominence in the environmental movement by taking a stand in her home area, love canal, many, many moons ago. she discovered that, you know, people were not willing to stand up, government officials, some of her own neighbors, some of her family, et cetera. they say it's been pointed out a couple times here today that the opposite of courage is not
cowardess, it's conformity. lois has always -- she stood up in her own community and then became a symbol that turned other people to her inspiration. because this toxic chemical fight is constant and it's in just about every community in one form or another and we see it pop up in huge ways, like in flint, michigan, recently. we certainly have it down in texas and the whole louisiana cancer channel down through there. now she's dedicated to helping groups and communities throughout the country and the world taking on these toxic chemical fights. she's assisted more than 11,000 communities and groups in the last several years, winning victory after victory after victory. let's welcome lois gibbs. [ applause ]
>> thank you, jim, one of my favorite thing is breaking through power. i love breaking through power. it's a lot of hard work. but, boy, when we win, i mean, you've heard it all day. there is systemic change, right? i do want to say quickly, when i moved to d.c. after love canal, there was only one person in d.c. who believed in me, and that was ralph nader. other people said, goes to washington, what are you doing here or something like that. but ralph stood next to me. he stood by me. i'll forever be grateful to ralph to breakthrough that other sort of cultural power if you will that's out there. so thank you, ralph. and let's all give him a round of applause. he's done something for all of us, right?
so i love breaking through power. but i have to say i didn't used to when i was gidget, whatever that means. i was a homemaker. i believed in the system. i believed that if there was a problem, something -- someone would come to our aid. some government agency would do something. how silly. but i believed it. and so we went at love canal, we had 20,000 tons of chemicals. it leaked out of the dump. it was in our communities, for those who don't recall the struggle, because it was quite some time ago. and our children got sick. so we went to the agencies and they said they weren't going to do anything because we don't evacuate communities because of toxic waste. we don't do this. we have no laws. we have no regulations. we are going to do nothing. i thought, well that's not what i learned in school.
that's not what my mama and daddy taught me. and so we -- i started knocking on doors and talking to people, and we created local power. and we began to challenge the government, the epa at the federal level, the state department of environmental conservation and department of health and the governor. everybody said, you can't talk to the governor. why not? he's my governor, right? the idea that society has these things that you can do and you can't do and it discourages people. i'm like, no, i'm irish. right? and as a result, we started making -- we started making headway and they were beginning to test and do all these things. but i still believed that they were just not too bright, right? and if we showed and proved that there was a problem and they got it intellectually that something would happen. we proved 56% of our children,
over half of our children were born with birth defects. over half our children had three ears, extra fingers, extra toes and mentally retarded. we thought that's enough evidence, the united states government, the place that we're so proud of, we pay taxes, we go to church, my husband's a union man, i teach sunday school. this has got to work. and it didn't. what they said the reason we had birth defects of that rate is we were a random clustering of genetically defected people. my point of telling you this part of the story is that when i realized that it isn't about science, it isn't about facts, although all those things are critical for making your case and making sure you're right,
it's about political fight. that was the moment that it dawned on me that we are not going to fight this just proving there's climate change because we proved it. it was proven years ago. decades ago. we're only going to win this if we get involved politically. and for that reason, i established the center for health, environment, and justice after i left love canal. i got evacuated along with 800 other families and i moved here and met ralph amongst others. my goal here was to help other communities across the country. and as i was introduced, we have assisted in the last 35 years over 11,000 communities. 11,000 communities. we have changed so much as a result of love canal, the super fund was created. the super fund is a piece of federal legislation. [ applause ] thank you. the purpose of super fund is to
go in and clean up these fights and stop the quarrelling. unfortunately, under ronald reagan, it sort of got misinterpreted and we haven't yet been able to right it. but we're still working on it, and there is money there. we also work with communities who are fitting incinerators and landfills where they were taking our garbage, our garbage, our resources, our solid waste and turning it into waste by burning it and burying it and destroying the air, groundwater, and the earth and wasting our resources. all across the country, literally, thousands of incinerators were shut down. our garbage was no longer burned. it was turned into a resource. thousands if not tens of thousands of landfills were stopped. they stopped putting it into the ground. it turned into a resource. and communities around these various struggles actually learned that it's not about
science and it's not about numbers and it's not about being right. it's about politics and they learned how to fight. they don't just fight around community-based environmental justice issues, but they continued to move onto work towards zero waste, for example, in other sort of organic farming, farmer markets, things like that that were really going to enhance and improve their community. so they didn't stop exactly where their fight was. but it wasn't just about waste. we hear a lot about waste. it's also about corporate influence and dominance in our environmental protection agency as well as other agencies. so in florida, we received a call at the center from a woman who said, i was just approached at this free clinic for my baby about a study they're going to do in florida and it's a study on pesticides. i'm like, okay, tell me more.
she went onto say that at this free clinic, they were recruiting. this is an frfrican-american community, not surprising. they were recruiting young women with children under the age of 3. they were going to do a study that was going to be conducted by the environmental protection agency and the pesticide industry. their plan? if you agree to participate, you got $750, which is a lot of money to a low wealth family. you got a camcorder so you could record things, a bib for your baby and a certificate of participation. what the people were supposed to do was go home and spray pesticides on the baseboards of their house. use the camcorder to actually document the children, infants
pretty much, and toddler's experience and then report it back. i said, well this doesn't sound like a really good idea. i don't think you should participate. and let's see if we can find other people who would join with you to stop this study. so we put something out to the network. in 24 hours, with the help of peers, beyond best sides, other organizations, we got 80,000 signatures saying we don't experiment on our children and the pregnant women in america. this is america. [ applause ] vul as a result, not only was the study canceled, those who got their $750 got to keep it. yes. not only was the study canceled, by senator boxer led the fight on the hill short time after and actually won legislation that went through the house and the
senate to stop experiment on children in this country. and i'm thinking like, yeah, right? why would we ever do that? why do we need law that says the pesticide industry cannot sit next to and join with the environmental protection agency and poison our children? why do we need a law? but we do. so where are we today? today, we are in flint, michigan. where 100,000 people, 100,000 estimated, i think it's much more than that. 100,000 people were poisoned by their own government. 100,000 people drank lead contaminated water.
100,000 people, by our own government. gm, by the way, when the water was switched from the lake water, lake huron to the flint river water, gm complained because it was corroding their parts for their automobile. and so the state of michigan changed the water for them. and the state of michigan paid for the water to be changed to their plant so that their automobile parts would not be corroded while the children were being poisoned and the families. we received our first phone call in february of 2015. how did flint happen? well, we know the government part. we know the water part. it's been in every paper and
media out there. but how did flint come to the surface? how did people learn about it? melissa mayes is a mom who's sick and her children are sick. when she turned on the tap and found the water was brown and ugly and tasted awful, she and her neighbors spent out of their own wallets money to do 65 samples in their neighborhood of the water. and then they sent those results, not only to chej, to our center and our scientists, but sent them to mark edwards and said, tell me what this means. and mark did some other sampling. it was melissa who got mark edwards to ring the sirens, like we saw on that advertisement not too long ago for the legislation or the ballot initiative, to ring those bells to get the government to go in and check it. how did we know the children were being poisoned?
melissa mayes and her neighbor, she's not a college graduate like me. she's just a mom who really wants to fight hard to rebuild flint. so she went to the pediatrician and said check the lead levels of the children coming in here, there's something wrong. mona did. she goes, oh, my gosh, something's wrong. when we talk about this, all of these people who have ph.d.s and different sort of professional credentials are all taking about this, but really it's melissa mayes, it's the flint coalition who raised the flag who take out of their pocket every single day to do sampling. our government, they put filters on people's homes. and said don't worry about it. except their hot water heaters are filled with arsenic and lord knows what else is in there.
this is 35 years after love canal and we're still poisoning people. how dare we as a country. and it's not just flint, michigan. in st. louis, missouri, two landfills, or one super fund site. one is burning beneath the ground. it's an old garbage dump. they can't put it out. four to six years, it will burn out. the other one is radioactive waste from the manhattan project. the fire is moving towards the radioactive waste. and the attorney general for the state of missouri said that when they meet it will be a chernobyl like event. who lives across the street from this chernobyl like event? spanish village, a mobile park. because people are poor, because people are of color, they are often forgotten, ignored, or
poisoned by our own government. the environmental protection agency has chosen to do nothing in that situation. it has been on the superfund list since 1990. under this particular administration, gina mccarthy, i know a lot of people love her because she did great work around climate change. and i give her that. but under gina mccarthy, the head of epa's administration, since she's taken office, you might remember the freedom spill into the river in west virginia that poisoned hundreds of thousands of people with pesticides, chemicals. hundreds of thousands of people. in february. then you would think that epa would watch over what they were doing, right? in july, that same company dumped more into the elk river poisoning people all over again.
gina mccarthy was in charge when the dam broke that released all that coal ash into north carolina river where people were drinking water from that river. people were fishing in that river. gee ma mccarthy wasn't charged and responsible for the river in colorado that turned orange and people could not feed their livestock and they were on well water. gina mccarthy's people were in part responsible for flint. what's going on now? there is a cozy relationship between the environmental protection agency and industry. and we need to break that cozy relationship. [ applause ] i'm tired -- 10,000 people, just name a fight from pig manure to
pesticide, we've done them all. but we need more. we are winning these battles. we are winning in the field. we win more than we lose. and i will tell you flint will be taken care of because it is the local people who are going to ensure that flint is taken care of. [ applause ] but winning these battles doesn't help us win the war. and it is really all of us at this conference and conferences like this that we really need to join together and say there's really one enemy, if you will, or opponent if you're opposed bad words like enemy. the opponent is big industry. it's corporate money in our politics. corporate money in our epa. corporate money in our food and drug. corporate money in everything. i am an american and i am proud of being an american.
and this government needs to treat me and my friends and neighbors and colleagues and everyone else like an american. and that means the freedoms that we should enjoy, the human rights that we deserve. we just went to the united nations, and we took the case of the st. louis people to the human rights. and we asked them to talk to the secretary general about suing the united states before a chernobyl like event occurs. if they can't do it, then i'm not sure where to go. but we need to use these out of the box ideas. someone was saying we can't compromise. playing out of the box. they don't know what to do with us in epa now and in the white house because we went to the united nations. holy moly, what do you do with that? right? thinking out of the box is how we're winning the battles in the
field, but we really need as a whole to think out of the box how to get corporate america out of politics, out of the very agencies that were put together for the sole purpose of protecting the american people. thank you. [ applause ] >> imagine when we gets other her shyness. power house. up to the penultimate presentation here this afternoon. long thought as many environmentalists do that one of the great missing qualities in our public policy is we don't have a precautionary principle. rather we have the crew you
principle in our country. they can produce anything they want and we have to somehow or other as the public just come up with solutions. so, you know, any chemical company can put any concoction they want basically out there. and i think this -- the results of that are obviously horrible. but it was expressed pretty well by bruce king who's a pretty good democratic governor over in new mexico a few years ago. bruce had a problem with his metaphors and literary references. he said, i don't know, boys, i'm afraid it's going to open up a big box of pandoras. and sure enough, the pandoras are loose on the land. but jay feldman has taken a totally different, very constructive and healthy approach to our pesticide problem, not just opposing the
pesticides themselves, but also proposing and trying to impose across the country as regimen of organic production and certification. and he served on the committee that helped put together the organic standards at the u.s. department of agriculture. we were just talking backstage about that's one of the few laws that has actually worked in terms of using chemicals. the reason it worked is because it's got principles and ethics built into it. the people themselves created the organic standards. it didn't come from a lobbyist or a member of congress. the people themselves put it forward and now we have to defend it again because the powers that be are trying to undo it. jay has been head of beyond pesticides, working to eliminate poisons by extending organic
production. jay feldman. [ applause ] >> thanks, jim, and thank you, ralph nader. i am so honored to be a part of this illustrious group of people and organizations. what i would like to do in my 20 minutes is take you on the journey that i've been on because it's been an extraordinary one. ralph has asked that we all tell our story, so i'll share that journey with you going back 40 years. we are -- we're now facing a sustainability/survivalbility issue in this country when it comes to public health and the environment. i always like to take an upbeat approach to that question as we sit on the precipice of worsening environmental public health problems, we can see the solutions in sight. beyond pesticides was set up to take advantage, leverage those solutions and empower people to act. you know, a lot of us grew up
with ddt. and these are the kinds of ads you could see in magazines at the time. ddt is good for me. and the advertisers were telling us that not only did it kill destructive pests, but it was a benefactor to all of humanity. that's in the small print on the slide. thankfully rachel carson came along in 1962 and wrote "silent spring." she said that we could not lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life. i personally had the opportunity to travel through florida, texas, and california, meet with farm workers in labor camps. they looked me in the eye and said, we're not being protected, we're being poisoned every day we go out into the field. something needs to be done about
this. the program i was working on was actually -- this was before beyond pesticides. that gave me the motivation to begin working with folks to develop a farm worker protection standard. that previous slide was the report that we published to advance that worker protection standard which took ten years after the publication of the report to become long. they told farm workers what they needed to do to protect themselves and of course they had no power or ability to do that. then we formed beyond pesticides. at that time, we called it the national coalition of against the misuse of pesticides. we brought together all kinds of exciting people. this is our board president
currently. he's in the audience. representing the medical community. we brought together public health scientist, has now deceased, many of you andrea kidd-taylor. an ecologist like terry from kansas. paula with p.e.e.r. thank you, p.e.e.r. tremendous advocate and attorney. chip osborne, a land manager, phenomenal horticultureist. nelson, farm worker advocate. and melinda who roughen runs a radio show, food sleuth and wants to beat the system with vegetables. y'all can stand up, please, incredible group of people. [ applause ] so our -- thank you.
our goal is first and foremost to listen. we need to listen to people's experiences. that's what i first started doing when i visited farm workers in labor camps. we need to research science to establish scientific base positions. we need to educate and create public awareness to engage broad public involvement. we need advocacy to ensure broad public awareness and public engagement on issues. we need policy advocacy and implementation. we've heard today a lot about institutionalizing change. we need marketplace change to drive practical responses to identify problems. in collaboration with grassroots board that you just saw, it only took a desk and a phone that david brower from friends of the earth allowed me to sit at in his office in crowded room, we began our work. >> good afternoon, ncamp may i
help you. >> it's a grassroots organization in washington, d.c. >> that's a pretty crowded room. then we changed our name to beyond pesticides to better reflect the fact that continued reliance on it was unacceptable and unnecessary. we began and continued listening to victims. and this is where we heard the stories, you may remember, termite insecticide in the same family as ddt. and despite the fact it was supposed to attach itself to organic material and not invade people's homes. we got media attention. >> if you're a homeowner or thinking of buying a home, our next story is for you and your
family. >> and then got bigger name attention. >> the truth could be far more startling, not just for ali, but for the millions of americans who have come into contact with a group of powerful domestic pesticides that this doctor has found to have existed in mohammed alli's blood. his story is only the most visible of thousands like it. millions of american homes have been treated with a termite anti-pesticide called chloradane. >> we're talking about liver and kidney problems. >> however, because of a federal court decision was removed from the shelves this past april 15th. >> yes. so we eliminated a pesticide.
a great victory. a long story behind that. but again, media amplified our voice. we recognize that we were not just focusing on particular individual residues in our food, but there's -- there was a regulatory system out there that was not adequately protected. whether we're talking about food or whether we're talking about our homes. >> president bush today proposed legislation to make it easier to remove pesticides thought harmful from the market. he referred to widespread public concern about apples and ebdc on fruit and vegetables. >> it is true that some of the public's perception is based on valid concerns about the government's slow and cumbersome process for removing pesticides from the market. and that's why we're here today to announce a major new
initiative. >> environmentalists attacked the plan. criticism also came from another environmental group. the national coalition against misuse of pesticides. >> the president is more interested in calming public fears about pesticide than actually doing something substantive about it. in fact, the proposals, if implemented, for the most part would mean business as usual when in fact the public is calling for a dramatic change in safety of food in the grocery stores. >> but we bring people together. we bring scientists, policymakers and activists together and we discuss issues that go beyond food safety. board member nelson. >> as consumers become aware in discerning about the meeting health impact of food in their
diet, awareness of the impact on food workers and in particular farm workers becomes imperative. >> so it's not just about the residues in our food. it's about who produces our food. how it's harvested. who produces the chemicals used in our food production system. and it's about environmental justice. here we have the father -- some call the father of environmental justice, pat brian, talking about the connection back to the communities in cancer alley, louisiana. >> all these chemicals, if there's a risk of poisening the environment, then we -- we were the risk takers. poor people, people of color. we're the risk takers. it was an acceptable risk. what i'm saying is that we who
are conscious have to look at the phenomenon of racism. so we look at the pesticides as an example. it's okay to kill the bugs. it's going to increase the crop yield. so what? if we got to produce it in a community someplace. so what if the workers at monsanto carry it home with their clothes. wash with the rest of the family. everybody gets sick. cancer's all over the place. so what? that's an acceptable risk to increase the yield. for whom we will increase the yield? >> we had a 1958 law federal
food drug and cosmetic act provision called the delanie clause which was repealed by congress. we went for an unacceptable carcinogen to determining acceptable rates of exposure to carcinogens. this is lois gibbs with her child and my family that came out to join a rally before a hearing outside congress. thank you, my kids are here and my wife as well. lois, i don't know if your son's here. but then we moved onto lawn care. >> when we come back, we'll be joined by a consumer advocate who says those gorgeous green lawns aren't worth the threat to public health. >> and the industry started pushing back, not that they weren't before. and we would see ads like this coming out. and this is like these manly gloves, right, and says because
of activists, extremists, consumers are questioning whether the products and resources such as water used to care for their lawns and other green spaces are a waste or a harm to the environment. our response? get a grip. the inadequacy of federal action results in increasing pressure on state and local governments. that's what's happening, has been happening. we have engaged at the local level, and we've achieved 21 state regulations that restrict pesticide use in schools. 21 states require posting sides and notification on landscapes. 14 states require prior notification to those on a registry. 19 states require restrictions on right-of-way use. 122 local communities restrict pesticide use on public property, three on property including private property.
[ applause ] so our campaign is for pesticide-free zones and that -- that was expressed very clearly recently in a ordinance passed in montgomery county. i want to recognize ling who passed an ordinance that affects 1 million people, the largest in the country, that takes away pesticide use on private and public land. maryland is one of several states that does not preemp states from adopting standards that are more stringent than the state's. that premeption. now of course we're hearing about zika. >> pesticides are poison.
that's why i think you should come to this big meeting to stop the poisoning at the river side church. famous doctors and scientists will be there and so will ralph nader. >> yay. >> ralph nader is our leader and we're really pleased to have him here with us today. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, jay. >> so and then there are poll nay tors. you heard about the colony collapse disorder, health. our job is to bring issues like this into the forefront. it takes years. those stories didn't just appear on the front pages of our
newspaper. it was years and years of education. one-third of all the food we eat is dependent on pollinators for its production. yet epa is eager to register the next new pesticide. so they did that. they invade the vascular system of the plant and express themselves through the nectar and pollen and indiscriminately attack beneficial organisms, bees, birds, butterflies. we brought a truckload -- the bees aren't actually in the hives. beekeeper came to the epa to make that point. congressman kiss sin niche joined with us. and then beekeepers speak. >> started seeing things that
nobody ever knew was there. looking at pollen samples, finding as high as 27 different contaminants in a sample of pollen about the size of your little finger. >> so here's where the transition happens for us. yes, we won tremendous battles. we got chloradine off the market. we could go down the list of chemicals. as other speakers have said, what we were really interested in is institutional change and question whether the hazards associated with these materials was valid. we found they were unnecessary and in fact not even beneficial. yet, the government was always looking for the cure. we're saying the cure is prevention, let's not use these in the first place, and we soot billions of dollars going into coming up for the pure for the disease that's created by the chemicals. that's when the organic shift
began to happen for us in a big way. but we as an organization fought for organic from the very beginning. we introduced organic farming act. didn't pass. passed the agricultural productivity act and then organic foods production act which created the symbol that you see in your grocery stores today. we did that. we did that with farmers and consumers and environmentalists. we created that law. it includes the values and principles that we believe in. it protects biodiversity and invests in our future and the sustainability of the planet. it looks at the whole system. it looks at the things pat bryant was concerned about and nelson is concerned about. what are the impacts of manufacturer misuse to disposal. we don't do that with pesticides. what are the impacts on human health. we're not doing that with
pesticides. and we've seen this tremendous growth. but beware because usda, even though it's in usda recreated an independent board, but that board is constantly being threatened. usda's captured by the industry. big food industry. this growth is something that is very tenuous. we need to protect this growth. now we see others embracing -- >> jay feldman of the advocacy group beyond pesticides has heard that before. >> when you call these types of conclusions junk science, then you're basically ignoring the body of scientific literature. you see incredible connections between brain cancer, leukemia, nonhodgkin's lymphoma with a lot of these chemicals used in turf manageme management. >> we're absolutely going through more environmentally and people-friendly products because
it's the right thing to do. >> i used to go out and talk to these guys, these golf course superintendents. the first thing i'd say, i'm hear today as a messenger and you have to promise me one thing, you will not kill the messenger. so we brought that message to them. we reached out. and most recently to local hardware stores and this is the response we're getting. >> they knew we had the organic section. when they saw it, they focused on what they were here for, picked out the varieties they wanted and left with them very happy. you're protecting the environment and you're protecting your family, children and grandchildren or your neighbors. nobody wants to have pesticides drifting into their front or rear yard and people are just loving it. i couldn't be happier. >> i promised we'd end on an upbeat note. these are the people that are driving the change. we are reducing our impacts on children and the elderly, or
farm workers, chemical workers, the safety of our food supply, the water supply is improving as a result of this transition to organic. these are all achievable. these are all achievable with organic if organic remains true to the principles and the underlying moral standards inherent in the statute. it is the citizenry and advocacy organizations based in science and law that must keep us on track. it is the experience of people and our ongoing advocacy, our collective advocacy that will move society in the direction it must go to sustain life. and individual and collective action will take us to the tipping point which is within our sight. within our sight. a sustainable and livable future. ty -- thank you very much.
[ applause ] >> okay. just a few closing observations. you've seen now over 500 years of civic action experience in one day. and you can see, i think, what i meant earlier today by the features of a civic personality. and what it takes to persist and to be accurate and to be open and to be inviting and to have priorities in order. years ago, when i was a youngster, we'd have discussions at the kitchen table. and one time my parents talked about something i didn't know anything about. we were talking about economic opportunity for people have a
decent job and livelihood. and they said, well, what about a civic opportunity. they were all pretty community minded. i had a lucky choice of parents. we said, what's a civic opportunity. they said one that works to make a democracy more able to function and to reflect people's rights. without civic opportunity, how much economic opportunity are the masses of the people going to have? if you don't have civic opportunity to elevate the labor laws, the consumer laws, get fair elections, get public debate under way, work on town meetings, work at the state level, you're not going to have the structure of a functioning democracy that provides economic opportunity. i think you share my
commendation of all these people and let's give them a good hand. [ applause ] this is a super bowl of citizen action all right. couple points here. you notice how many of these proposals, how many of these initiatives, how many of these reforms would be left/right support by home. once you get down to where people live, work, and raise their families, the ideology isn't as much around. it is around on some of the issues like reproductive rights and school prayer and things like that. but on the basic issues of health, safety, economic well being, you think conservative families differ from liberal families? you think they don't want their kid to breathe clean air, drink clean water, have safe food and
have economic security et cetera? divide and rule has been the strategy of the ruling classes for centuries. and they pick those areas where there are divisions. and they pit people against one another. and the media jumps in. but as i pointed out in my recent book "unstoppable: the emerging left-right alliance to dismantle the corporate state" i came up with 24 major areas in our country where there is major left-right support in the popular opinion polls and some of it going operational now. it's going operational now on restoring the inflation gutted minimum wage. it's going operational on challenging the civil liberties suppression in the patriot act. it's now going operational for criminal justice reform and juvenile justice reform and state legislatures.
that's what we have to focus on. once you get a left-right asliens on any issue, it's unstoppable. it doesn't matter how much money goes into politics. money's not as important as votes and rigged elections for incumbents. it's just a means to do that. but you cut them off at the money pass when you have a mobilized citizenry. and that comes to the point of it's easier we think to make real change. because look at the budgets of these groups. look at the staff of these groups. and they don't amount to a major bowling league in some new york borough in terms of numbers. never mind bird watching, which i'm totally in awe of, if we only had congress watchers like we had bird watchers. it is easy.
now just for a moment, just imagine in order to envision real possibilities. what if these groups and others like them had ten times the budget? ten times the rigorous advocates. what if they had 100 times the budget? 100 times the rigorous advocates? and it's still a drop in the bucket compared to what corporate executives get away with. and it's still a drop in the bucket in terms of the charitable contributions of the american people which are over $300 billion a year. but there's a distinction between charity and justice isn't there? charity is supporting soup kitchens. important. certainly immediate relief for needy people. why should a country like ours have soup kitchens at all? justice develops livelihoods
that prevent the need for soup kitchens. a society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity. that's what these groups are all about. structural change, institutional change. it's a lot easier than we think. less than 1% of the people mobilized in each congressional district, as i reiterate again and again based on history, based on how we achieved the blessings we inherited. it was far less than 1% of the people. even at the peak of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, there weren't more than 1% of the people who spent 300 to 500 hours a year on that mission because they represented overwhelming public sentiment by crucial parts of our society and a final recognition by those in
our society who were indifferent to these civil rights. this idea of polarization is a divide and rule myth restricted to a few areas of real disagreements between conservatives and liberals. by ignoring far greater differences is even a right/left coalition moving on the massive military bloated, wasteful military budget and empire. you had ron paul and barney frank when they were in the house. you imagine people further apart? they had a caucus to deal with the bloated military budget. and when it comes to fundamental small business communities, recycling communities and credit unions and community banks and farmer markets, when it comes to local sustainable energy, when it comes to communicate health clinics with emphasis on
prevention, you think there's a left-right divide on that? of course not. and the same is true in the educational area. but when we allow the few to rule the many, they will command the divide and rules tactics that distract attention from the broad areas of convergence. we live in a strange period of time. we live in the golden age of muckrakers and a golden age of documentary filmmakers. but they are received by very tiny audience which we hope to address tomorrow in the breaking through the media day. that should not be the case in a vigorous democracy. in our past, books made a difference. the other america by michael herrington on poverty. rachel carson's book "silent
spring." upton sinclair's book "the jungle." "standard oil" which helped lead to the breakup of the standard oil monopolies in the early 20th century. we've got to come back to a principle varity. that is readers think and thinkers read. readers think and thinkers read. and those tables out there are replete with books written by people you've seen on the stage here today. they're organized materials, magazines, publications. i particularly urge you to look at that lineup and see what you want to take back home to your friends, relatives, children, for expansive deliberation.
and i hope people are looking at this on the live stream especially, will start saying to themselves, we can start a group, we can start a citizen group, we can join a group, we can support a group. we can have a of the month contribution. i remember maggie kuhn, how many remember maggie? she retired from the methodist church social work in her 60s, and she started the gray panthers. she wanted to assail the te stereotype of older people. she called nursing homes cribs for older people. she got on johnny carson show more than once. she mate a difference. she had chapters all over the country that hat demonstrations one person, no money? no contacts.
just a driven social conscience. lastly, let me suggest the segue into day two, three, and fou has a good foundation now. if we don't break through the commercial media, if we don't develop alternative media, democracy cannot thrive. jefferson -- [ applause ] -- thomas jefferson was only half kidding when somebody askeded him, what would you prefer, mr. jeffer son, a government without a prepreprepa free press without a government? he'd say i'd prefer the later. we do not have a free press for most hours on television and radio. we have a commercial investment