Follow the Leader: How to Talk to Your Neighbors About Pesticides
I’d like to thank the folks at Wisconsin Public Radio, who had us on the air yesterday to talk about the release of our film, A Chemical Reaction. The response from their audience made Tuesday, Aug. 11, the busiest day of the summer for SafeLawns.org (it generated more “hits” than my appearance on Good Morning America back in July).
One of the great questions I received concerned how to talk to a neighbor who stubbornly refuses to cease applications of pesticides. If your neighbors are spraying or spreading pesticides — designed to kill target insects, weeds and fungal diseases — you need to know that these products rarely land where intended. A study by Dr. David Pimentel at Cornell University found that as little as one-tenth of one percent of applied pesticides ever reach their target pest. That means most of the product is winding up in the wrong destination and maybe even on your yard, in your home, on your skin or in your lungs.
Communication is key to keeping these potential poisons at arm’s length. Here are my suggestions for talking about this delicate subject.
1) Offer to share your knowledge about pesticides with neighbors in non-threatening, friendly terms. Angry approaches rarely work, but chatty banter can get people’s attention.
2) Collect web sites and magazine articles that can be photocopied and disseminated among friends and family. Some of the best on-line sources are www.BeyondPesticides.org, www.chem-tox.com, www.panna.org, www.ehhi.org and (of course) www.safelawns.org.
3) Organize a local seminar and recruit an expert to speak. Invite local garden clubs, watershed alliances, civic organizations and church groups to attend. Offer to buy your neighbor dinner on the way.
4) Give your neighbor a book about the dangers of pesticides. One of the best new releases on the market is Pesticides: A Toxic Time Bomb in Our Midst by Marvin J. Levine and released by Praeger Publishers in March of 2007.
5) Lead by example. If you grow a beautiful lawn and landscape without using chemicals, your neighbor will willingly follow your example.
6) Find common ground. If your neighbor has children, then you can focus your conversation on the risks associated with pesticides around children. If your neighbor has a dog or a cat, show them studies that associate the health risks of pets around pesticides. Pesticides also affect fishermen, hunters, bird watchers, or the water supply. If you get to know your neighbor, you can usually find a way to bring the conversation back to pesticides.