Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Trades and Me: A Dialog on Going Green
By Rich Kozlovich
For some time I have been disturbed by what has been appearing in the trade journals promoting Green Pest Management (GPM). Some months ago I sent an e-mail to Frank Andorka of Pest Management Professional (PMP) magazine and Dan Moreland, of Pest Control Technology (PCT), asking if they would allow me to interview them for an article that would appear in The Standard (Newsletter for the Ohio Pest Management Association) dealing with this issue.
Dan thanked me for asking but felt that PCT’s role was to tell the story, not to be the story. Since so much of what they print can mold the industry I found that to be unfortunate and I still do, because clearly; the trades are part of the story.
However, Frank Andorka agreed with relish…Frank does seem to enjoy pushing the edge a bit. I also asked if he could include Pete Grasso in this interview and they agreed, so we set up a luncheon date at the best steakhouse in Cleveland; John Q’s Steakhouse right in the center of Cleveland’s downtown area.
What finally prompted me to ask for this interview was an article by Pete that appeared this past April in PMP which seemed to be promoting GPM. I commented to everyone that Pete must have had an epiphany. After all, here was a guy who has been involved in the pest control industry for a nanosecond and he is already promoting GPM; so he must have had an epiphany. I told this to Pete and he seemed genuinely puzzled. He said that he gets a great deal of feedback from our industry, but this was the first (and seemingly the only time) he got a telephone call about an article…..and they were upset at what seemed to be his promotion of GPM.
As I said, Pete seemed genuinely puzzled at this because that wasn't his intention. He said that this was merely a follow up from an article that appeared some years previously (before he was involved with our industry) and he was interested in seeing if any views had changed within the industry.
I then asked them to define green. Frank started by saying that “green was the use of all tools including pesticides, emphasizing inspection. As a result, pesticide impact is minimal." He went on to say that “newer pesticides will be getting better environmental profiles, because in reality the only green manufacturers are interested is in money." (I would like to point out that Frank didn't say this to denigrate the manufacturers, merely to point out that they would react to the market because that is what they are in business for.) He also said that “you can be as green as you want, but if a house is infested with termites the homeowner wants something done. “
I then turned to Pete who had a somewhat different take…one that I was impressed with. He said that green can't be defined with our own definitions. "We need the customer’s definition. Only the customer can properly define green for us. What if you declare you are doing green pest control and the customer says that they don't consider what you did to be green enough? As a PMP you can only define green as your customer defines green." Pete felt that each customer has their own definition. Or they may just want green, but have no idea what that means which is why Pete and Frank liked the idea that NPMA could present one definition.
Each agreed that an industry definition was needed as a jumping off point, but Pete maintained that the definition must be within the customer’s framework of green. Frank pointed out that you have a consistent standard and if you have six or seven organizations creating competing standards, that can't happen. They both seem to agree with this concept.
Frank felt that the industry must take “control of green and not lose this issue as we lost IPM. “ This prompted some back and forth discussion and I commented that IPM was never our issue to define and neither is “green”. This issue belongs solely to the green activists. They started it and they promoted it. It belongs to them! I said that there is no such thing as IPM in structural pest control and neither is there any such thing as GPM. This is their issue and it is our job to defeat it, not embrace it. I also stated that there is no such thing as “traditional pest control” either!
If you look back to the ads that appeared in newspapers in the 1850’s the first reaction you get is….WOW they had IPM in 1850! Like medicine, pest control is a practice; it is not a methodology, and we use whatever tools that work. Those tools and techniques have changed over the last 150 years, but it was just pest control then and it is still just pest control now.
I pointed out that only two states have a definition of green. APSCRO (Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials) sent out a survey to find out if any states had a definition for green. That’s it….two states, Georgia and California. “Georgia’s definition is that “Green Pest Management can best be defined as a service that employs and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach while utilizing fewer of the earth’s resources as a part of a larger effort to reduce human impacts on the environment”. California’s report of a definition of GPM referenced their existing definition of integrated pest management and did not elaborate further on GPM.
Frank chuckled because he had always been taught that you don't use a defining term such as IPM to define another defining term. The fact of the matter is that defining GPM is a bad as defining IPM. The states can’t do it any better than they were able to define IPM. There will be no end to the changes or demands. As I stated, pest control isn't a methodology, it is a practice. Well, IPM and GPM aren't a methodology either, but neither are they a practice. Both IPM and GPM are ideologies disguised as methodologies and that is why they are so hard to find a single definition, which I believe is a Sisyphean task.
At this point I changed the direction as I wanted to know why they don't run more articles dealing with science issues that would give the technicians the intellectual tools to defend the industry. As an example, I asked why are there not more articles on cancer and pesticides?
They felt that this isn't what the industry is interested in. They both felt that the technicians are not out there fighting the science battles of our industry. They felt that they are more concerned about how to do their work effectively and run their businesses profitably. While this is true, I disagree that there isn't enough interest in the science that defends our industry! After all, I do it all the time; why should we think that no one else wants to have the intellectual responses to these attacks against us?
I would love to see a survey of the pest control industry to see how many believe that pesticides cause cancer. I would be willing to bet that there are far more than we think because the information deliverers of our industry don't focus on it. And if our information deliverers don't explain it where else are they going to find it? If they don't explain it; doesn't that lend credence to these false health claims? After all, silence denotes agreement.
I know that there is pressure on anyone who does editorial work and takes in advertising dollars. Newspapers are brow beaten all the time by customers who are being attacked in the news or editorial sections. Pete said, “whatever you know about newspapers, it is ten times more intense in trade journals. “ Frank observed that when it comes to trade journals; it is “ten times more intense in this industry.” They seem to get it from everyone! I may have to stop browbeating the trades a little.
I asked them what their mission was for the pest control industry.
Pete – "We must be a reliable information source on technical issues, news, business information and keeping everyone informed as to what other PMP’s are doing."
Frank –"We are an advocate and conscience for the pest control industry. We advocate for the industry when we can and we act as a conscience when we must."
I think that is a great quote, one that the leaders of our associations may wish to dwell on for a while.
This interview took two very fast hours, and there was a lot more give and take between us. I must say that I came away far more impressed than I expected. They are sincere in their efforts and they don't necessarily have the same views on what goes on in pest control. I think that this was what surprised me the most. They don't have meetings to decide what they think, or what they will say. I'm not sure how I feel about that as a business practice in general, but I like it as an editorial practice.
One thing is for sure. Green isn't going away and it is clear that the trades aren't in a position to do many of the things that I would like to see done.
I have taken the steps to start a third trade magazine. I initially was thinking about a quarterly magazine that would focus on defending the industry, challenging irrational claims by activists, unscientific regulations and decisions by industry leaders. Unfortunately I found that the costs of such an endeavor are breath stopping. So I am looking at a web magazine that would be on the order of Townhall.com. I am attempting to get funding, writers and those with technical expertise lined up. I don’t know if this can be pulled off, but we will have to see.
Thanks to both Frank Andorka and Pete Grasso for their taking time away from their work to do this. It was very gracious of them both. As a side bar, Pete is a lot taller than I expected and Frank seems much healthier, which I am happy to report.