Could BIW lead in climate solutions?

By Russell Wray and Robert Shetterly

With the looming threat of climate change and the resulting chaos and conflict it will bring increasingly to this planet, isn’t it long past time that we began making changes in our society so we can better deal with what’s being called the Mother of All Risks?

We have a responsibility to make some of these urgently needed changes right here in Maine. A good place to start would be at Bath Iron Works (BIW).

Currently, BIW produces one thing: warships for the U.S. Navy. Instead, BIW, with its skilled workforce, could be designing and fabricating products that will reduce this country’s vast carbon footprint and move us toward a sustainable and peaceful way of living.

High-speed rail systems, electric cars and buses and next-generation non-fossil-fueled cargo ships could be built. BIW workers could build wind and tidal turbines, solar panels and other environmentally responsible energy systems that would help kick this nation’s addiction to climate-changing fossil fuels.

BIW ingenuity might even come up with solutions to another huge environmental problem facing the planet, the massive accumulation of plastic in our oceans that is killing marine life and poisoning those oceans as it breaks down into toxic particles and chemicals.

BIW could be a leader in plastics removal and recycling. It could be a leader in moving the world away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy and non-polluting transportation systems. And it could provide solutions to other industrial design problems that would improve the chances of future generations being able to live on this beautiful planet.

Were BIW to start producing these life-enhancing green technologies, it would create substantially more well-paid jobs for the people of Maine. This is because, as studies show, spending on education, health care, green housing and alternative energies creates far more jobs than military spending.

We are repeatedly told we need BIW’s warships for our national security. What about that?

Well, the United States spends more on its military than the next seven biggest spending countries combined. The U.S. Navy is already superior to the next 20 largest navies in firepower, and its fleet is larger than the next 13 largest fleets combined. Do we really need more ships for more war? Is all this military buildup really for security or is it corporate subsidy for the “defense” industries?

Ironically, the Pentagon, unlike other sectors of our government, acknowledges the reality of climate change, stating in its 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap that it poses “immediate risks to U.S. national security” and is a “threat multiplier,” which “will intensify the challenges of global instability … and conflict.”

The good news is that the Pentagon understands the immensity of the security threat posed by climate change; the bad news is that the Pentagon itself has the single largest carbon footprint on the planet! It generates more than 70 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the United States, using more oil than all the oil consumed by 175 countries combined!

Perhaps the grossest irony lies in the fact we can see when we brush aside the false justifications for war: most modern U.S. military deployment is about controlling oil-rich regions.

So climate change is bringing the world more and more conflict, and many of these escalating conflicts are over oil or other climate-changing resources. We are supposedly being protected by the world’s single greatest consumer of fossil fuels. In other words, it turns out our security system is the biggest instigator of insecurity! This is surely a vicious cycle if ever there was one, and a lose/lose situation for all of life on this planet.

We can do better. Let’s start making the changes so urgently needed — right here in Maine at BIW. Please join us and the many others outside the main gate of BIW at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, when the “christening” of the $7-billion Zumwalt destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson will take place. We will peacefully protest the celebration of this weapon of mass destruction, and insist that BIW begin making its conversion from the production of its aptly named “destroyers” to products that sustain and enhance life. Also, please contact Sens. Collins and King and Rep. Golden and urge them to help make this BIW conversion happen. Humanity, and every other species, will all be better off for it.


Russell Wray of Hancock volunteers with Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST) and is an associate member of Veterans For Peace, and Robert Shetterly, artist, Americans Who Tell the Truth, Brooksville

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