By: Robert Howard, AKA AOJ
The always generous Glyphosate Girl has once again asked me to write an entry for her blog. I had to think about her request, which was prompted by the widely reported good news that a California Court of Appeal fully upheld the $87 million verdict in Pilliods v Monsanto.
Why did I have to think about blogging such good news? After all, this is the third of three verdicts against Monsanto/Bayer to have been upheld on appeal. Mike Miller et al are batting a thousand! This should make me smile, as should other recent developments, like Bayer pulling Roundup off consumer shelves, and ponying up another $4.5 billion to cover ongoing litigation costs. But, to be honest, the smile is more of a rictus, and I really don’t want to be Agent Downer all the time.
So what is my problem? Thinking about problems these days is a major triage project, but something I read in the ever vexing opinion pages of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal might shed some light into the dark corners of my grumpiness. This from a piece on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report: “A sensible climate policy will continue to monitor trends, while allowing a free economy to find solutions and build the wealth that will allow for adaptation and amelioration if the worst happens. This lacks the drama of the Apocalypse, but it will better serve the world.”
Instead of the word “climate,” insert your favorite problem:
“A sensible policing policy…”
“A sensible peace policy…”
“A sensible healthcare policy…”
“A sensible pandemic policy…”
“A sensible agricultural policy…”
“A sensible pesticide policy…”
What the people with the big money are telling us, as if we didn’t already know, is that they are hoarding wealth so that when they are finished ravaging the planet, they can buy seawalls, buy private police, buy private doctors, buy designer vaccines, and secure food and water resources and everything will be hunky-dory. Maybe the WSJ piece angers me because the “Apocalypse” has already happened if you are sick or died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma caused by Roundup, or some other malady caused by some other chemical spewed into our environment. Or your town just burned in a wildfire. Or you are sick from COVID and don’t have health insurance. The Apocalypse is not a “drama,” it is just pain and suffering that most of us can’t “ameliorate” with wads of cash.
But since me whining is not a solution to any problem (more on solutions later), let’s head down to Southern California where the fourth Roundup trial of Donnetta Stephens v Monsanto is underway in San Bernardino state court. According to US Right To Know, on Monday jurors once again listened to the testimony of esteemed scientist and expert witness for the plaintiff, Christopher Portier. I vividly recall Dr. Portier’s calm, meticulous, and ultimately convincing testimony from the Johnson v Monsanto trial, (which concluded three years ago yesterday).
The San Bernardino trial is significantly different than the first three Roundup trials because Monsanto/Bayer convinced the judge to disallow the failure to warn claim. (The plaintiff has soldiered on with the design defect claim.) This is part of an ongoing strategy by Bayer to put to rest thousands of outstanding lawsuits, and likely future lawsuits, by arguing a preemption defense—that federal law preempts state law because the EPA did not require a warning label on Roundup. It is an argument that has previously not held up under the scrutiny of trial and appeals judges in the first three Roundup trials, but Bayer has said that they plan to appeal Hardeman v Monsanto to the Supreme Court on the preemption claim. Bayer’s SCOTUS appeal is a Hail Mary, as are most SCOTUS appeals, but I worry the ideology of that court has shifted dramatically in Bayer’s favor. Oh, and there is the ominous fact that associate justice Clarence Thomas was a Monsanto lawyer from 1977 to 1979. (That muffled wail you might have heard is just me screaming into a pillow.)
As you have read this, I doubt you would have guessed that AOJ is actually an optimist. I believe we can successfully fix the problems we as a species face through our collective power. But what is our power?
I call it the three Vs: Voice, Vote and diVest.
- We can use our Voices: Directly protesting, writing to elected representatives, writing letters to editors, petitions, etc.
- We can Vote: Repeat, We can Vote
- We can diVest: Don’t underestimate this one. Fossil fuel corporations, for example, have been hit hard by divestment in recent years.
And lest you think it takes getting everybody onboard of to make big societal changes, it doesn’t. A study published in Science found that it takes only a 25% minority to sway a larger group. Wow, there must be a study for everything…