Elephant In The Climate Room: Rocket Launches

As many readers of this blog know, I’ve spent years collecting research and reporting on the climate harms of militarism. When I began this was an obscure perspective shared by few; it is now mainstream in climate movements (as long as they are not controlled by the Democratic Party, that is).

Sept. 17, 2023, New York City. WW PHOTO: Monica Moorehead 
Source: Workers World “Mass march targets Biden for an ‘End to fossil fuels’”  

So it is gratifying to see this fact of modern life represented at last weekend’s big climate march in New York City.

Sept. 17, 2023, New York City. WW PHOTO: Monica Moorehead 
Source: Workers World 

Other points of view also trend in that direction.

Sept. 17, 2023, New York City. WW PHOTO: Marsha Goldberg
Source: Workers World

If capitalism is the root cause of rapidly warming oceans and extreme weather events, then the wars that are necessary to sustain capitalism are implicated.

But what about war in space, which is already well underway even if few realize it? The proliferation of rocket launches in recent years and the accompanying environmental damage are almost never mentioned in reporting on either space topics or military topics.

This coming weekend I’ll attend Maine’s biggest annual green lifestyle event, the Common Ground Fair. It draws thousands from all over the region for a “celebration of country living” sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association.

On Sunday morning in the political and social action tent a group of us will update fairgoers on plans to build a rocket launch site on the coast of Maine. Steuben is within sight of Acadia National Park, and the floating launch pad proposed would sit amid lobster fishing and seaweed harvesting activities already generating jobs and providing sustenance for the last several decades.

The town of Steuben is outlined in red. The proposed launch site would float just off the coast.

The plan is for up to 30 launches each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day of rockets roughly the height of a mature White Pine. 

Noise from tests of the proposed engine developed by blueShift Aerospace in Brunswick is so loud that parents report their child woke up frightened and crying after hearing it in his sleep. Toxic fallout from rocket launches reaches as high as the stratosphere, where soot particles linger and damage ozone. Toxic fallout from rocket launches in other states has polluted wetlands, breeding grounds, and beaches. And when rocket launches fail — as they often do — forests burn and areas several miles wide are littered with debris like concrete.

All rocket site construction involves toxic substances, including the PFAS foam used for fire fighting and stored in vast quantities on site until it may be needed. And when rockets and satellites fall from the sky, they disintegrate into a chemical soup that then falls to Earth. Mass deaths of birds and other animals have been observed at rocket launch sites in other states.

Maine was once considered Vacationland because of its deep forests, clean water, beautiful shoreline, and abundance of foods like lobsters, trout, and clams.

Although organized lobster fishermen in Jonesport blocked the construction of the toxic launch site in their fishing grounds, Steuben has not been so lucky. Resident Larch Hanson is ready to sue blueShift’s CEO for trampling on the democratic process and putting his seaweed harvesting business at risk. The town government of Steuben has squelched discussion of the rocket launch site plan and silenced critics, according to Hanson.

It’s worth noting that a bill rushed through supposedly as “emergency” legislation and passed under the gavel (i.e. without a roll call vote) established a private-public partnership called the Maine Space Corporation to support just this kind of project. So undemocratic methods are a signature of bringing rocket launches to Vacationland.

SOURCE: The Independent “Fire at SpaceX launch site burns 68 acres at protected refuge, killing wildlife

But isn’t space cool? you may ask. And educational?

All space programs are inherently military in nature, no matter what NASA or the University of Maine tell you. Every rocket launch site built on other pristine coasts such as Kodiak, Alaska or Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand was sold to local residents as non-military but once built has been used extensively and repeatedly to launch military satellites. (More details on that here.)

As a retired educator, I know STEM fans will enthuse about how much science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education will be advanced by projects such as this one. STEM educators in Australia are currently excited about how middle school students will be involved in projects connected to nuclear submarines the U.S. is forcing on them despite considerable pushback from the public. 

STEM can be a force for good, but not when it’s used as a cover up for militarizing education and other public resources.

I have been astonished at the lack of interest among environmentalists who I might have expected would oppose building a rocket launch site on the Maine coast. No doubt it’s partly attributable to the slavish reprinting of bluShift press releases as “news” in corporate media. 

I’m hopeful that we can raise some awareness of this issue at the Common Ground Fair this weekend. 

Rep. Jared Golden Steps In An Enormous Pile Of BS On Twitter

My representative, Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District (we only have two) is pictured here with two of the other three members of our congressional delegation plus their party leader President Biden. (Senator Susan Collins is missing.) Collectively these people have sent $160 Billion to Ukraine.

Here’s what he posted to Twitter yesterday, getting thoroughly roasted by his own party. It appears to be in response to this follow-the-money article: “Golden’s Blue Dogs Get Money From Sallie Mae After Opposing Student Debt Relief” by Dan Neumann in the Maine Beacon.

The ratio on this (negative comments vs. supportive comments) was enormous. It sounds ignorant enough for me to believe that Golden actually wrote it himself, but such tasks are usually done by comms staffers.

Let’s break down his arguments.

The phrase “radical leftist elites” caused equal parts of hilarity and pushback. In Maine??? Super old, super white, and, in the district he represents, super conservative demographics. Some comments waded into the oxymoron of “leftist elites” but I’m going to give Golden a pass on this one because of years of corporate media claiming that people like him and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-CD1) are “leftist” have deliberately confused many about the meaning of that word.

I am an actual leftist, and I don’t believe in elites. Mostly because this is the kind of garbage government they produce.

Next point: “silence and destroy anyone who disagrees with your views and goals.” This one is highly ironic coming from a person who takes big money from tech giants like Apple who are in the business of silencing dissenting speech at the behest of the federal government. But it’s a dog whistle for his largely MAGA electorate.

He stands by his vote against a paltry $10k student loan forgiveness bill. It’s not unusual for him to vote against the Democratic herd (unless it’s on wars or military, that is). Maybe Golden plans to drop the D in 2024 and run as an “independent” since that’s worked so well for Senator Angus King?

Here’s where the comments really went nuts: “They [college loan recipients] were privileged to have the opportunity and many of them left college well-situated to make six figures for life.” Bre Kidman, an attorney who doesn’t live in Golden’s district:


Okay here’s where he really goes off the rails: “The Twitterati can keep bemoaning their privileged status and demanding handouts all they want…”

Some are opining that an intern wrote this but use of the absurd and laughable term Twitterati implies to me that an older conservative author was responsible. Also who “bemoans” their “privileged status”? The bemoaning I hear in Maine is from people living on the streets who’ve got nothing to eat, or are about to get evicted because their rent has skyrocketed, or can’t believe their insanely high grocery bills. Or can’t afford medical care they desperately need. (Golden abandoned his first campaign promise to support Medicare for All after taking money from the health “care” industry plus tech firms looking to expand into health “care”.)

“…but as far as I’m concerned if they want free money for college, they can join the Marines like I, and so many others, have done in the past and many more will in the future.” Now we arrive at the real point of this ungrammatical post (maybe he did write it himself): making college debt prohibitively high, with no escape route via bankruptcy, is a strategy to boost military recruitment. 

Was Golden supposed to say the quiet part out loud?


In any case it’s been an abject failure because currently only 9% of those in the right age band will even consider military enlistment, and the Pentagon is struggling to find enough recruits. Their own research found the reasons that so few want to follow Golden’s example: they don’t want to die or be injured, they don’t want to leave friends and family, and they don’t want to put their lives on hold (in that order).Maybe the decades of U.S. wars where the only winners are the military-industrial complex are a factor? Either way, literate young people who qualify want nothing to do with the U.S. military.Also, much of the pushback on this notion came from disabled Mainers.


Meanwhile, over on reddit, even his fellow veterans weren’t buying it.


Finally, there was a lot of pushback on Golden voting to forgive PPP loans that corporate entities like (checks notes) the biggest law firm in Maine took out in 2020.

All in all, beating up on a generation shackled by predatory loans in an economy where most can’t make a living wage, afford homeownership, or start a family is bully behavior. Way to punch down, forgetting (?) that you represent one of the lowest income areas in the nation. 

But not to worry, he’s fundraising in the rich part of Maine.