Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Climate Crisis Demands Conversion! News Conference Highlights

Youth Climate Strike leader Anna Siegel speaking on June 21, 2019 in Portland Maine

As the September 20 climate strike approaches, I wanted to share selected excerpts from the June 21 news conference in Portland for the Bath Iron Works conversion campaign.

It would be well worth your while to view the video of the whole event, as much wisdom and insightful calls to action were shared.



(If the embedded YouTube video does not work for you, you can view it at the link here.)


Barry Dana, Penobscot Nation:
Love the earth, treat the earth as you would treat your own mother... Do no harm to the earth, or that harm will fall upon you and future generations.

We’re living today as though we have infinite resources, infinite growth, and that is unsustainable.

Anna Siegel, Youth Climate Strike:
When I blew out my 13 candles, the clock in my head ticked forward: one less year. That is what I believe climate insecurity is...Youth worldwide don’t know how long they’ll have a healthy planet, or what the future holds.

Campaigns like this effort to convert bath iron works are what alleviates these fears and bring light to what can be difficult activism. We are working on a local solution to the climate crisis that has global impacts.

Next year when I blow out my birthday candles I hope I think about the progress we’ve made not how time is running out.

Luke Sekera, SEEDS of Peace:
As the climate crisis unfolds and escalates before us, we need to accept resp for our roles in the problem in order to change our behavior patterns. We must also put significant pressure on industrial polluters to hold them accountable and use their capital investments to re-imagine their destructive bus models as soon as possible.

The military-industrial complex is among the largest polluters in the United States, and Bath Iron Works here in Maine is a significant part of it.

Considering how much the US spends on national defense I know that we have the resource necessary to commit to converting the practices of industrial centers such as BIW into evironmentally sustainable ones.

We are owed a shift in direction esp as a growing climate crisis poses a national security threat.

Besides the loss of life, what will the carbon foot print of yet another war be? Will another Zumwalt give us clean air and water?

I work hard at trying not to be afraid.

Our military appears to be failing us, not protecting us. Iran is not the problem -- US imperialism and America’s ongoing quest for oil and other resources is... What can we expect from a govt that spends 10 times more on fossil fuel subsidies than on education?

We need to stop investing in this war culture and start investing in our youth and restoration of our planet.

Nickie Sekera, Community Water Justice:
Just as bottled water is being sold as a false solution to our global water problems, we’re being led to believe that half of our discretionary spending should continue to maintain a non-viable excess of dominion.

What we call a just transition ...could help align bath iron works’ own values as published on their own website which includes being a good corp citizen and supporting the environment.

We are only as strong and as innovative as we can imagine. It is up to everyone of us to put our imaginations together and mobilize as if everyone’s lives depended on each action.

Justin Beth, Maine Green Independent Party:
Right now we are on the verge of war with Iran..our government thinks that we need to protect shipping channels...to secure our oil future here in the U.S. We do not need this oil. If we truly invested in conversion of Bath Iron Works to renewable energy production, we would then have the means to say, “No we don’t need that oil. We don’t need to protect those shipping lanes. Let’s get out of those wars. Let’s invest in the future.”

It is time that we stood up for Mainers and for Americans that don’t want war. We’ve had enough of it!

It is time for our government to really respect the needs of the people. The majority of Americans want a  Green New Deal...that promises to end these wars.

The idea of this Bath Iron Wroks conversion is the first step on that path to a Green New Deal that we so very much need...we can be the leader on a Green New Deal here in Maine to end war and produce the renewable energy that we need for a sustainable future.

Jill Stein, Green Party US 2016 candidate for President:
Conversion at Bath Iron Works... really should be the launching pad for the Green New Deal.

That Green New Deal would create 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, which is basically what the science tells us that we need to do. This is an emergency program, and we should settle for nothing less.

It’s also a solution to our broken economy which is failing so many Americans.

The Bath Iron workers...have had to sacrifice gains in wages and pension benefits, have lost health care, in order to be “competitive” to attract these contracts… the workers are victims of this economy that forces us into militarization.

The Green New Deal is essentially a revolution for our economy, our climate, and it makes the wars for oil obsolete.

BIW workers.. once were demanding of our elected officials that they fight for Green contracts with the same vigor that they fight for these war contracts.

Rob Shetterly, Americans Who Tell The Truth:
Militarism is not protecting us in a dangerous world, it’s making the world far more dangerous.

We’re here because we love...the earth, all its species, its people, its children, its hope...we will do what we need to do to protect these things.

Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space:
[During the state-wide campaign against General Dynamics’ tax giveaway from the state of Maine] I did a 36 day hunger strike and on most of those days I went to the shipyard at noon during shift change and I got to speak to a lot of workers. And I can tell you that there are many workers who said, We’d rather do something else. We’d rather build something that we’re proud of. We don’t feel so great

And most of them that said that were younger guys, people who grew up in schools that were teaching them about climate catastrophe. And so they really, really understand the connection when we stand outside the gates with our signs.

Mary Beth Sullivan, Peaceworks of Greater Brunswick:
The climate crisis is the true security prob that we in the world must organize to confront.

Our vision is that we wrestle our hard earned tax dollars from the permanent war economy..that we retool our weapons manufacturing plants and pay our neighbors to build an alternative energy infrastructure.

The youth of our world are so very clear what the real crisis is..let’s listen to their vision, and mobilize to make it happen.

Dud Hendrick, Veterans for Peace:
This is now: a fleet of warships larger than the next 13 largest [nations] combined, part of the U.S. military that has the largest carbon footprint on the planet.

Today there are over 800 U.S. bases on foreign lands, all playing a role in the despoiling of the environment.

Now we know the consequences of wanton disregard for our beloved planet are undeniable. Is there time for change?

We’ve invited each of our congressional representatives to be here today.  None are, not even a staffer. Tomorrow they will all be at the christening. So will we -- demanding conversion.

Sue Pastore 350 Maine:
Based on current realities, what is predictable is great pain for many, a pain that could be avoided or at least minimized.

We are confident that people have the power to take effective action and to attend to the crisis.

Success requires action. Success requires sacrifice...We need to change business as usual. We need to move on.

The intersection of jobs and the economy, militarism and violence, and the climate and the health of the natural world is an undeniable opportunity for such action. In Maine that interaction and opportunity is revealed at Bath Iron Works...there is tremendous skill, tremendous infrastructure,  so much ability there. Such potential is limited by its current support of military development...Conversion removes such limits.

Ken Jones, retired professor, University of Southern Maine:
I wrote a poem entitled “A Prayer In the Face Of The Destroyer”:

I do not consent to your presence or your future.

I’ve come to ring the bell of freedom from war, to awaken us from our dreams of conquest, so that we may see the storms coming for us all.

We have sown the seeds of our own destruction.

Let us move our hearts and spirits so that we see what we have done...let us turn this ship around: decommission it, unchristen it.

Patsy Messier, Bath Iron Works employee (now retired):
(Note: I delivered Patsy's written remarks as she was working at BIW on the day of the event.)

And, of course, as people get older and wiser, personal changes are inevitable. You learn why it has been so difficult to provide the American Dream for yourself and your families. Why people and huge companies are denying income inequality, climate change, and racial injustice throughout the world. To me, it all boils down to greed. And to change that attitude is like turning a destroyer in the water. It takes patience, hope, and persistence to this task with the goal of making the economy work for all its peoples. It's that important to the whole world! 

I believe BIW has the capacity with all the equipment and/or people that are already there for the conversion to happen pretty easily.

Imagine wind turbine platforms, fast trains, or Ships of Peace (Mercy Ships) being built at BIW. I can just imagine the workers' pride then! 


Bill Slavick, Pax Christi Maine:
The military-industrial complex owns Washington, including those Maine has sent there.

The military is the most polluting operation on the planet.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Support Public Education With More Than Your Smile



We started back to school in Maine this week. 

My students will begin today, but the adults in my district spent almost all of yesterday in state-mandated trainings: suicide prevention in the morning, and child abuse reporting in the afternoon.


I should be careful what I wish for because, with the addition of a long mid-day staff meeting, I was out of time and had to work long after the contract day just to be ready for tomorrow. (Yes, I worked this summer, too, some of it compensated by a school improvement grant, much of it not.)


When I say I wished for those trainings, it's true. For 20+ years now I've been aware that, despite being trained to teach by an excellent post-graduate program at the University of Southern Maine, I was unprepared for the social work aspect of my job.


Yesterday afternoon we practiced looking at photographs of real homes where children were removed in order to practice providing accurate descriptions of what we witness.


Glancing at a bedroom with a shelf of children's books, a bureau with the drawers missing, and a mattress you wouldn't let your dog sleep on you might be likely to comment: drug addicts live here.


I teach in Somerset County, the largest, poorest county in Maine and the source of more child abuse referrals than any of the other 15 counties.


In 2018 Child Protective Services received nearly 50,000 calls which resulted in around 25,000 documented reports of neglect or abuse in our state.


Drug addiction, depression and other mental health conditions, obesity, suicide: these are the diseases of despair that characterize the poorest parts of our state. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are both the cause and the effect. 




Our next round of professional development will be on creating trauma-sensitive classrooms and schools that support students with high ACEs. Not on how to best teach reading, writing, mathematics or geography. Not on how to engage and motivate students in learning activities.


Rather, how to make school bearable, maybe even productive, for a child suffering from PTSD.

Lots of teachers are found on crowdsourced funding sites pleading for money to do their jobs.


Progressive news site Maine Beacon reported yesterday that teachers in Maine spend millions of dollars out of pocket each year to provide basic supplies to students. That sometimes means paper and books, but it also can mean shoes, snow pants and snacks.

"That teachers subsidize schools should come as no surprise. In some districts, teachers are increasingly called on to serve as first responders when it comes to children's basis needs," wrote Emma GarcĂ­a, an economist for EPI. “That generosity extends to filling the gap when schools, districts, and states don’t provide all the needed educational goods. And for teachers in high-poverty schools, filling the gap is costlier.”

Meanwhile, News Center Maine reported that General Dynamics is staffing up to build six more carbon-belching war ships at their Bath Iron Works plant. Maine needs good paying, full-benefit jobs, and BIW is the biggest employer in our state.


Tragically, the money wasted building weapons of mass destruction will hasten climate emergency and produce far fewer jobs than building, say, public transportation would produce.

Congress is still voting for the biggest Pentagon budgets ever, well over 50% of the discretionary budget each and every year.





If embedded video does not work for you, use this link: Back to School 2019 - Thank You from Maine Department of Education.


All of Maine's congressional delegation appeared in this "have a wonderful school year" video produced by our new Commissioner of Education.

Pender Makin and her communications staff no doubt thought that after eight years of teacher bashing by our former governor, an infusion of optimism and support was warranted. 

Too bad those in Congress don't put their money where their smile is. 


They continue to lavishly fund the Pentagon at the expense of education, Medicare for All, or conversion of the military-industrial problem. This is true whether they have R, D or I after their name.



The children in my school don't have much of a voice in government. General Dynamics with its campaign contributions and super PACs does. What's wrong with this picture?