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The Politics of a Safe Lawn

Howie Carr

Howie Carr

Several New Hampshire supporters of proposed legislation that would ban certain synthetic pesticides used to kill lawn weeds and insects sent me the same audio clip today. Featuring Boston radio host Howie Carr talking with former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu on WRKO, the segment took blatant and wildly misguided potshots at the ongoing efforts to make schools and playgrounds safer for children.

Calling the upcoming election “the most important of his lifetime,” Sununu joined Carr in pointing to the lawn care legislation as an example of why it is so important to take away the Democrats’ majority in both the New Hampshire and United States legislatures.

Carr referenced an alleged conversation with a lawn care “professional” who said, “There’s this moonbat up there who keeps filing this legislation to ban all pesticides. Everybody has the right to file any legislation they want, but if they had sane people running the legislature, these bills would be deep-sixed.”

The inference, of course, is that Republicans would be the ones restoring “sanity.” The “moonbat” would be Suzanne Smith of Hebron, N.H., a first-term Democrat who, by suggesting the state ought to study lawn pesticide toxicity, entered a fray that she never imagined would be so political.

Since last February, she’s had to endure a steady onslaught of name-calling and fear-mongering from lawn care professionals that seems to have no end. Carr kept up his own rant, which came right off the top of his interview with Sununu, the former three-term New Hampshire Governor known nationwide for his questionable financial ethics:,

“My friend had to go back to Concord (New Hampshire) every two weeks in the spring because they had these nonsensical bills that would have put him and many lawn care companies out of business,” said Carr — as if anything he had just said were true.

The reality is that HB1456 was a bill to study the impacts of pesticides where children congregate. The bill wasn’t trying to put anyone out of business; it was simply an attempt to have a conversation about keeping children safe from products that already say “Keep Out of the Reach of Children” on the label.

In this sadly political world, any attempt to look at safety issues is invariably seen by half the population in the United States as a left-wing attack on business. It almost makes you wonder if these pro-business-at-any-cost Republicans love their children and pets, too.

IN MAKING THAT STATEMENT, I realize I’m sounding as extreme as Carr and Sununu. Some folks probably assume I’m a died-in-the-wool Democrat, but I’m actually a registered independent. I always vote for whomever I feel is the best person, the one most likely to take each issue on its merits and make a good decision. I’ve voted, for example, for Maine’s Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins every year they’ve run. I can’t imagine I won’t in the future, even though I don’t agree with all their positions. I simply admire their legendary independence within their own party; I, like many, respect their ability to think for themselves.

I still hold out hope that folks will continue to do that in New Hampshire this coming week as the state legislature continues to hear arguments about HB1456. On Tuesday at 10 a.m., the final hearing on the bill will be heard prior to the upcoming election. I hope that many of the folks who will attend my sold-out presentation in Jackson, N.H., on Monday at 11 will make the trek to Concord to make their voices heard.

The great part about Democracy is that individuals still have the opportunity to speak out. The sad part of the way we’ve skewed Democracy is in making it so disgustingly partisan.

Ultimately, whether the Democrats retain control or the Republicans take back the power, we simply have to get this issue of pesticide safety out of the realm of politics. We have to make politicians, business leaders and, most importantly, parents understand that using poisons to kill dandelions put their children at risk.

Eighty percent of Canada has reached that conclusion and banned many of these products — any you know what? The lawn care industry is still alive and well.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Tom

    I listened to the Howie Carr interview myself this weekend and at first I was incredibly frustrated but after calming down a little bit I think I was able to put the whole thing in perspective.

    First of all, I’m glad you are using the word “alleged” when describing the conversation that Howie alludes to. I’m fairly certain that conversation never took place because I’m MORE than fairly certain that there isn’t a lawn care owner on this planet who is stupid enough to proclaim Representative Smith’s legislation will put him out of business. Again, I have to stick up for my industry because it continues to be made to look a group of bumbling idiots.

    From the debate that has actually taken place in Concord and now to the syndicated radio airwaves the lawn “care” industry comes off looking like Marlboro, Winston or Skoal. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the vast majority of lawn care service companies are not as ignorant as they are being made out to be. The VAST majority of lawn care companies continue to seek out better ways to create nice grass and nowadays we can accomplish that without using cancer causing products. If you actually stop and think for a second that we as a society, in 2010, spray acutely toxic poisons in the paths of our children, on purpose, you must pause for reflection.

    And that is my point exactly, most no longer do spray cancer causing poisons. As a point of reference, if you Google, “organic lawn care service followed by any city in the United States you will find that health conscious and environmentally friendly companies have popped up EVERYWHERE. If, in fact, a business owner actually did tell Howie Carr that he was going to go out of business if this legislation passes, well, that person has no right being in business anymore because that particular company is acting recklessly. Lawn Care companies are NOT pesticide companies. The vast majority of lawn care companies are smart, modern, educated business’s that work hard to deliver a quality product.

    The fact of the matter is that HB1456 is scheduled to reach a conclusion tomorrow in Concord. The study which was created as a result of this Bill will be complete. (I’m sure the chemical companies will spin this appropriately.) The next question is whether or not a new bill will be introduced and I hope it is. It is the duty of our legislators to protect their citizens from the dangers associated with chemical pesticides. In the meantime I’d like to ask you to please continue to promote all the good that is happening in our industry. The reckless behavior and dangerous operation of one or two firms should not continue to put mud on the face of an entire business segment.

    Thomas Kelly
    Fire Belly Organic Lawn Care

  • Andrea

    A great read both of you (Paul and Tom) as always. As the owner of a growing organic lawn care company, I’m always working to find my boundaries in terms of safety for our community and at the same time keeping customers happy. You guys have provided me with some food for thought. Thanks.

  • Pingback: New Hampshire Pesticide Vote Hangs in Balance of Election | Safelawns Daily Post and Q&A Blog

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