The Great Responsibilty of Science Based Knowledge in the Age of Information

As I think more about my experience of going into my daughter’s fourth grade class, I came to a realization about the need for us as well fed individuals to be responsible for the kind of information we share.  I reminded them of how lucky we are and that it’s important for us to use good information regarding the issues at hand.  What we share may have an impact upon others that we are not aware of.  Just because we don’t see these people, it doesn’t mean we should not care about them.   

We have a wealth of information available to us and because of that, we have a great responsibility to use it wisely.  Why? It’s because misinformation can become very harmful and even deadly in many cases.  

One example of the harm in misinformation comes from what happened to my great grandmother.  She died in her 20’s because she believed that drinking vinegar was good for her.  Despite it being naturally derived, she was told that it was helpful.  She wasn’t well educated or given professional advice and just believed it.  She died when my grandmother was a young girl.

The misinformation about the Japanese Americans being spies for the enemy without any evidence is another example of bad policy that harmed people.  My uncle lost everything, from his belongings, house, and his business because of this unfounded belief.  He has to live in an internment camp for sometime as a result.  When it was clear that the Japanese did not pose a threat, he was released but had to start anew again.

Despite having an wealth of evidence showing that vaccines are safe, a single man and his bad study caused significant harm and death.  The former Dr. Andrew Wakefield unscrupulously spread fears about vaccines causing autism and unleashed decades of vaccination refusals.  People even gave bleach to their children in hopes that clearing their guts will get rid of autism.  Babies have died from being exposed to preventable illnesses or suffered permanent injuries as a result of unvaccinated children.  Measles has come back recently with several hundred being affected by it.

Bad advice about cancer treatments has also taken lives too.  The preference for supposed natural cures have cost lives being taken away too early. Is that fair to a child to be denied treatments that could save his or her life? Do we deny them a chance at a better life or is nature the preferred course to take because one fears modern medicine?

The story of Matthew Sheppard is another one where misinformation and hateful ideology led to his death.  With the media spreading allegations about homosexuality, it’s of no surprise that so many people became homophobic.  Parents shunned their children for being gay.  That in turn led to harsh feelings towards gay people and some going as far as killing people and even some being bullied and escaping through suicide.

While the much of the developing world is being denied the opportunities to grow better crops, the western world can keep new agricultural technologies from these farmers.  We don’t hear or see how farmers from India are thriving with Bt cotton and needing less pesticides to grow it.  We don’t see how much cassava is turning toxic due to plant disease.  We don’t see or experience those problems so many people feel the need to express fear about a technology they do not understand.

We never see our children going blind or dying from something so preventable like vitamin A deficiency. Instead of speaking truthfully about this potential solution, the activists state things like vitamin supplements and carrots and leafy greens will be better.  Duh, if it was that simple, why didn’t it happen? 

It behooves me even more about the how other food providers are hit by the misinformation campaigns.  So many people love their sashimi and poke but then will state that Hawaii is overfished.  If that really were the situation, where’s the data to support this and why aren’t markets stopping the selling of fish? It’s because what’s being said in the media just isn’t supported with evidence.  The hard working fishermen are left with a bad reputation while we still enjoy our raw fish. 

The Internet has given people who have no connection to agriculture a loud voice.  Just because they are loud, it doesn’t make them right in their assumptions.  All of their demands have consequences that many haven’t even considered at all.  Policies should always reflect the evidence available as the best source supporting it.  That is how we disperse information responsibly and end unnecessary hysteria and harm people’s livelihoods.

We live in a world of plenty.  Plenty information.  Plenty food and clothes.  Plenty of things to do.  Because we are blessed with plenty things, we have to add in responsibility.  Google does not give one a license to promote harmful misinformation.  The social media does not give one a license to share badly research memes and links.  Everything we do must be done responsibly.  It’s our role as a global citizen and to each other.

 

My dad is the hardest working person I know. Sharing bad information harms his way of living as well other small farmers who benefit from technology around the world. Be a responsible information sharer!


 

Agriculture Awareness Day 2015

  

Yesterday was the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Ag Day at the State Capitol in Honolulu.  As always, the ag community came out to educate the public and our politicians about farmers and food.

I took off of work to help my dad out for the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association table.  Instead of slicing papayas this year, we handed out the whole fruit.  The papayas we gave out were the Rainbow type from a new field my dad bought up in Haleiwa.

Off grade fruits that are too small to sell in the stores but perfectly delicious to eat.

I even brought along my Biofortified plushies of Frank N. Foode and Lanakila Anuenue Papaya.  These were total hits and awesome conversation starters.   

    

                

Courtesy of Sarah Thompson.

Courtesy of Mae Nakahata.

  

Courtesy of Mae Nakahata.

  

Courtesy of Janelle Saneishi.

Mahalo to all of our friends and supporters who stopped by for a papaya and came with an open mind to learn more about papayas.  The more people support local farmers, the more they can produce those locally grown foods.  

Never forget to be grateful for the food you eat and the things you wear and use. You can bet that a farmer had something to do with it!

 

Rise Up People: Redefining What It Means

 

My grandfather with his grandparents, my great great grandparents, dated in the 1920’s.

 
My grandfather literally was dirt poor.  His parents, my great grandparents, left Okinawa seeking a better life for their family and Hawaii was that opportunity.  They left their familiar home to start a journey to make a better life for themselves.  It’s a story that many of us here in Hawaii share regardless of our ethnicity.

What helped to get my grandfather ahead and to provide for the family was hard work on the farm.  He started off raising pigs, then onto dairy, and finally to producing vegetables and finally papayas.  This was very hard and laborious but he did it for his family.  

All of his kids including my dad was required to help on the farm.  If he wasn’t on the farm, he was with his dad scouring the dump for metal hardware that might be usable again.  It wasn’t fun to walk a dump but to a little kid, it was fun.  If he wasn’t at either of the places, he was supposed to be at school.  

My dad’s childhood as well as his time in the military, as a minority, taught him many lessons.  He learned what it meant to work hard, do a quality job, respect the elderly, and make the family proud.  He learned appreciation for what he had.  Some of these values are ingrained into Asian culture, and local culture to some degree from the plantation days.

As a result of his upbringing, I too was raised with these values.  I was raised in the old fashion way of having very strict parents with tough rules and high expectations.  We were not to do anything to shame our family name and do our best to make the family proud.  We were expected to get an education and go beyond what our parents achieved.  That is my cultural upbringing.

It was stressed upon my siblings and I that we do better than our parents.  They were the first generation of college graduates and we were expected to surpass them if we could. All of us did complete college with 3 of us getting master’s degrees.  I paid for my own graduate education with loans and scholarships.  This made my parents proud even though they never stated it to us.  My dad would say, ” Well, that’s what I expected of them!”

When one comes from nothing, once you find the key to success, you embrace it.  They key for our family was getting an education that set the foundation for my future.  Education provided a wealth of opportunities and options.  It opens your eyes to the world and what’s happening as well as gives one a strong base to critically evaluate the events around us.  

My dad stressed to me that with this education, I had a responsibility to be a contributor to society.  I always keep it in the back of my mind and exemplify this with volunteering with elder care organizations and advocating for my day job profession.

When I hear the slogans used by protests calling to “rise up,” I have a different concept in my mind.  I see rising up as getting truly educated at a higher institution of learning and not via Google.  Rise up as people who started from nothing and figure out ways to be a genuine contributor in this world.  Embrace your cultural values and demonstrate it in all you do.  It is each of our duty to make this world better through real education and using a factual basis to solve real world issues.  Ask yourself if you have truly done your due diligence researching the issue to see the whole picture to voice your stance upon.  Using misinformation doesn’t help the cause, it just weakens it.  

The world already has too much discord and turmoil and adding more doesn’t improve anyone’s situation.  Being steadfast in your beliefs drawn from misinformation doesn’t leave much in the way for collaboration.  If you’re finding your information being challenged as false, be willing to accept it instead of fight on a weak stance. True discussions and dialogue are much more productive that way.

People can continue to take the literal course of action of rising up or take the symbolic meaning to rise up that can sustain itself from each generation to the next.  We all have those choices and opportunities.  Which path do you think will have the most impact with the issues at hand?

What Are You Giving Back?

The Star Advertiser loves to give attention to protesters.

It really bothers me that Hollywood stars have convened upon our state when it comes to supposed hot topic issues.  We’ve had Darryl Hannah, Roseanne Barr, Kelly Slater, Bette Midler, and Ben Stiller getting involved with the GMO protests.  Now Jason Momoa is involving himself in the TMT protests also.

If you’re going to block something, I hope that there is a tangible alternative that could be offered.  It’s one thing to be against something but hopefully have something to give.  When Hannah, Barr, Stiller, and Midler got involved with the anti-GMO issue, did we see something come out of it? Did we get more local foods grown? Has more farmers farmed? Have they made farm land cheaper? Did they create economic alternatives to those who would be displaced by getting seed farms shut down? None of these alternatives were ever thought of and backed by a real action plan.

It’s fine that Jason Momoa can protest the telescope but will he provide a plan to help the community that stands to benefit from it? How will he help stimulate Hilo’s economy long after the protesters leave? Will he provide educational funding that was agreed upon with the building of the TMT? What high tech opportunities will be replaced in that area? What construction jobs will be provided if it isn’t built? Has he promised to provide financial support to educating the Hawaiians long after the protests are done? 

Just like the biotech issue, it seems that people are so willing to block everything and use a lot of false information to base their assertions upon.  Yes, we need to malama the Aina and that means everywhere.  Who is cleaning up the junk cars left in the rural areas of our island? Who is cleaning out the water ways that run into the ocean like the Ala Wai canal? Who is cleaning up the trash piles left by the homeless in our communities? Who is refusing to drive their car to keep the air clean? How is each and every person restoring the sacredness back to our whole island? 

It’s one thing to protest, but we’ve got to stop and ask ourselves, what have we given back? How are we contributing to the big picture of helping our communities, the aina, and the people? Focusing just on one issue doesn’t serve us well.  Let’s expand that attention and energy everywhere to Hawaii to have an even bigger impact for everyone.

Hawaii is Not the A’ole State

  
I really never thought that the TMT on Mauna Kea issue would come to my community, but alas it did.  I came upon a busy intersection full of protesters against the telescope.  There were people of all ages there from old folks to babies.  

It makes me sad to see these protests.  These people held signs with A’ole TMT written on it.  A’ole is the Hawaiian word for “no.” The prior two years we had protests of A’ole GMO and now it’s moved onto the TMT.  Some signs stated that the telescope was a desecration to the aina (land).  This issue is eerily similar to the GMO one when they claimed that there was a need to malama (care) for the aina from biotech crops.  

These protesters claim that this telescope is desecrating sacred land over and over.  Meanwhile, a new Whole Foods is being built upon burial grounds as well as Target Kailua.   I’d consider that land to be sacred but there were no protests against that.  Shouldn’t people be standing in front of those grounds blocking it to stop others from supporting this desecration too? 

I’ve also seen videos of people 4 wheel driving up Mauna Kea and snowboarding down the slopes.  If the mountain is so sacred, who is protecting her from this kind of ravaging of the land? I don’t see anyone blocking these kids from doing that up there.  Just visit YouTube and see how many people have done this up there.

I really suspect that too many people have not done their due diligence to research the facts about TMT at all.  Hawaii Business Magazine did a great overview on why our state moved forward with this project.  It’s about opportunities for our people.  It’s about providing education also and diversifying an island that doesn’t have much of an economy.  It’s about bringing science and technology to a part of our state that can make it a world renown place to make new discoveries.

While many of the protesters have extra time and money to protest, they aren’t seeing that they are depriving others from opportunities.  Kaneohe isn’t suffering from limited jobs and a depressed economy but some people here are willing to deny others of that. Oahu isn’t anything like the Big Island and yet we city folk want to dictate to these folks what they should be doing.

Hawaii has opportunity to be a center of high technology that will indeed be making it a center of knowledge to the world.  Knowledge itself brings a profound reverence in itself.  I feel that we shouldn’t be protesting something that can give us more information, but we should embrace the desire for knowledge.  

There is an estimated 40% of the prison population that are native Hawaiian.  How can people malama their own so that these people too can enjoy the aina? If we don’t value education, what will prepare people for the future and keep them from a life of crime, drugs, poverty, and homelessness?

Hawaii isn’t known as the A’ole state.  We should remember that we are the Aloha State!
**This is the aloha spirit, alive and well in the anti-TMT activists.  As you can see, it’s not much different than the anti-GMO folks.  Insulting and derogatory comments are just a reflection of the person who sent it.**

  

Something to think about…

The Search for Knowledge on Mauna Kea is a Sacred One

Opposition to the TMT is Based in New Age Anti-Science Activism

Rise Up People: Redefining What it Means

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Why Did I Have Children?

   

I had a very interesting discussion the other night with my husband about why we had kids.  I honestly never thought I’d ever want kids when I was a summer fun leader back in college.  I thought they were dirty, gross, and to some degree, bratty.  Why would I ever want that in my life?

I can honestly say that I totally feel differently now that I’m a mother to three kids.  None of them were planned either.  I didn’t expect to have them, they just happened when I least expected it.  I do feel blessed that my stubbornness to not want them in my 20’s changed in me.  My children have given me new vision for what life is really about.

The actions we take now and the lessons we teach them all shape our future world.  I my kids aren’t here just for me to love and develop a bond with.  It’s so much more than that.  They are my hopes and joys.  They are my chance to instill important lessons I learned as kid into them so that they can continue the legacy of our family.  My dad always told me that no matter what I did, I had to make the world better in some form or fashion.

The anti-everything people are right in some ways with preserving our past and malama the keiki.  They are dead wrong with the way they do it however.  We must use education to make this next generation better than the one before.  This is the expectation that my dad held for me and my siblings.  It’s the same expectation I hold for my own kids.

I believe that every child has the potential to be a contributor to making the world a better place.  The only way we can achieve that is through education to inspire our kids to go over and beyond what’s expected. After the disturbing anti-GMO excerpts found daughter’s textbook, I decided to contact the teacher and the principal about it.  I was not the only person to see that the material presented was not evidence based.  I was invited to speak to the kids today.

I took the teacher up on the offer and went in today to talk about the issue.  My goal was to give them tools that will help them think critically about anything that pops into their radars.  If I could give this tool, it would serve as a lifelong lesson in how to vet eivedence and protect them from getting sucked into the latest scheme.  These kids learned about the basics of how Google works and how to pick correct terms to see what is evidence based.

I then proceeded to talk about why so many of us don’t farm.  The kids threw out numbers like 50% of folks farm to 30%.  Only one kid gave me the correct percentage of less than 2% farm.  I told them the story about how my grandfather farmed with a water buffalo and how my dad farms.  I added the analogy about how our phones used to be all corded and now are connected via satellite.  Technology has changed around us and the same applies to how we grow food. 

I touched upon various topics like basic genetics, plant breeding, how science works, and current events on various crops that may affect them like oranges and chocolate.  We even talked about how and why seeds are grown here in Hawaii and how it comes back to us in the form of various proteins like beef, chicken, and pork.

I gave them lots of time to ask questions and realized that the problem isn’t only coming from the fact that we are so farm removed from agriculture but also that we don’t know the basics about our foods, textiles, and other products.  They do not realize how nearly every aspect of our lives are touched by a farmer.  

I reminded them about how lucky we are to have so many modern conveniences that because of it, we should be responsible for sharing good information that can help others. I asked them if they have gone without food or water or had no shelter over their heads.  None had ever experienced this.  These kids could never understand what it’s like to suffer.  If we have to power to alleviate suffering, we should do that for others as we are global citizens.

I briefly spoke about school gardens and how it’s good to know how to grow plants.  However, a garden can’t feed the masses 365 days a year 3 meals a day or clothe them or provide other useful products for them.  That’s the reality that our keiki just can’t comprehend.  They can’t even comprehend what it’s like to go hungry day after day either.

I took my two friends along, Frank N. Foods and Lanakila Anuenue Papaya to tell the story of agriculture to these kids.  Even though I did the teaching, I got the most important lesson of all. The people who know and love agriculture must tell their stories not only to adults but to our future consumers, the children.  If we miss them, we will lose a generation of young minds, who can continue our legacies to leave their mark in the world to make it better?

Our kids deserve to remain fascinated by the world around them, not fearful of what they don’t understand.

  

Mom, Does GMO Corn Make Holes In Rats’ Stomachs?

Just a few days ago, my 9 year old daughter came home from school and asked me, ” Mom, does GMO corn make holes in rats’ stomachs?” I have to say that I was literally floored.  I asked her where she heard that.  She said that she has a GMO debate in her 4th grade class and she read it in her book.

I asked her to bring the book home since I wanted to read it for myself. She brought it as requested and I was just shocked with what was presented.  The textbook was a literature anthology that supposedly presented a controversy. 

Here’s the whole text of what was being presented.

 

 

  

  

 

This chapter presented both a farmer’s perspective as well as a consumer’s perspective.  The issue I had with the consumer’s view was that it is chockful of misinformation about this technology.  It’s being presented to 9 year olds as “facts” and it likely goes home to parents who don’t know much about GMOs either.  This audience isn’t likely going to know how to research what is being stated as fact.  I’m extremely disappointed with the Department of Education in selecting this book.

If you take a closer look at the photo on the page, it’s clear to see the source of this misinformation.  It’s wealthy paid activists touting this to schoolchildren.   

 

I’m not a happy parent knowing that these are the things being introduced to my child.  It scares them and uses false information to make them believe.  It also shows me how easy it is to manipulate young minds with scare stories and how quick these kids pick up on it.  My daughter was really scared when she heard this.  Who wouldn’t be if you don’t quite understand the controversy?

All I can say is that if our educational system plans on using these types of textbooks, it’s no wonder less kids want to consider science and technology fields when science is presented in a black and white context.  I hope that education opens minds and provides possibilities that will continually strive to make our world better.  Promoting fear and misinformation does nothing to inspire a child to think outside the box when looking at the world.  

My hope is that my child sees the wonderment of science and technology and learns to not to fear what she hears.  I’m glad that she took initiative to ask me about what she read.  It gives me the perfect lesson on how to think critically about things.  It’s a lesson I hope she continues to use throughout her life.