Mainers Brave Bitter Cold To Join Thousands Across The U.S. Demanding: No War With Russia!

photo credit: Martha Spiess

Yesterday thousands rallied across the U.S. to protest the threat of war with Russia, expansion of NATO, and arming Ukraine at taxpayer expense. 

photo credit: Bob Klotz

Around 30 people stood in Topsham at the big intersection where thousands of people passed by during the hour long protest. Sponsoring organizations Maine Natural Guard, Peaceworks of Greater Brunswick, Peace Action Maine, Maine Veterans for Peace and WILPF-Maine sent representatives. It was also exciting to see members of many other organizations in our state join us including Maine Poor People’s Campaign and 350 Maine. 

WMTW Channel 8 and WABI Channel 5 news both ran segments on our protest that included my statement: “I have grandchildren. They don’t want nuclear war. My children don’t want nuclear war. And all the people you see standing out here don’t want nuclear war.

What happened to diplomacy? Let’s sit down and talk. Let’s talk about our mutual security needs and work something out.”

Many of the messages shared yesterday reflected a concern that nuclear war could be a consequence of U.S.-NATO military attacks on Russia. 

Cynthia Howard in Topsham photo credit: Martha Spiess

Although the corporate press have repeated that unnamed sources believe Russia plans to invade Ukraine, no evidence for this claim has been produced.  Ukraine and NATO nations have moved approximately 150,000 troops and nuclear-capable weapons to several borders with Russia, and in response Russia has increased to around 100,000 the troops stationed on its own border with Ukraine. 

Russia has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading Ukraine.

The president of Ukraine has asked the U.S. and NATO to tone down their bellicose rhetoric as it is alarming the people of that nation.

Note that Russia has a long-standing no first use policy on nuclear weapons. The U.S. does not, nor has it signed the United Nations treaty on the ban of nuclear weapons after more than a year in effect.

photo credit: Russell Wray

Elsewhere in Maine yesterday a group including Veterans for Peace members gathered on a bridge in Ellsworth. Russell Wray reported: “We stood for an hour and got quite a bit of positive response, honks, thumbs up, and even clapping.” It was bitterly cold throughout, and Rob Shetterly reported that he thought about jumping into the Union River to warm up. We also heard that a group stood in Bucksport.

An online rally at noon brought together representatives of national and international peace groups including the Black Alliance for Peace, United National Antiwar Coalition, the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, World Beyond War, WILPF-U.S and many more. Recording on YouTube & Facebook

Bruce Gagnon and I were on from Maine, and Bruce spoke to his experiences visiting Russia and the Crimea and Donbass regions of Ukraine following the 2014 coup that installed a Nazi-aligned government there. Bruce’s same day blog post about U.S. mercenary corporation Blackwater joining the Nazi Azov battalion in Donbass may be read here.

Photo source: Organizing Notes

Militias displaying Nazi insignia are common in Ukraine and operate there with the tacit agreement of the government.

I spoke about how U.S. imperialism is in trouble abroad as Russia and China released a joint statement on security, economic development, and public health policy just prior to the opening of the Winter Olympic games in Beijing. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is in trouble at home with extremely low approval ratings. No national plan for public health in a pandemic as U.S. deaths approach 900,000 without universal healthcare and galloping inflation further impoverishing those struggling to feed and house themselves are contributing to loss of faith in the current government’s ability to respond to people’s needs. 

Promoting a land war in Europe seems to be a desperate strategy to improve the Biden administration’s approval ratings as nonstop war coverage by corporate press outlets tends to improve a war president’s standing in opinion polls.

Meanwhile, in calls with investors, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin expressed pleasure that the worsening situation in Ukraine is helping their profits.

See reporting by Sarah Lazare here.

Feb 5 demonstrators in New York City, photo courtesy Codepink

Guard Against The Greed And Ignorance Driving Climate Crisis

Research in the UK turns up the unsurprising fact that a tiny group of humans cause the lion’s share of air pollution via air travel. I’m old enough to remember when the fawning press called these elites “the jet set” due to their excessive use of machines that allow for swift travel. 

The wealthy use travel to show off their privilege. For example, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz flying to Cancun during a statewide power outage last winter in Texas. 

Or, in an anecdote I was told by an Afghan friend, a bride in Kabul flying to Dubai for her wedding makeup.

Of the two examples, one was the direct result of unprecedented freezing weather crashing a U.S. state’s (unregulated) power grid. 

Thus, climate change begets climate change.

Then there’s greedy capitalist Elon Musk’s SpaceX flops that belch carbon and other greenhouse gases to exalt his ego if not to consolidate his wealth.

My friend and neighbor Barry Dana, past chief of the Penobscot Nation, has been ringing the alarm bell about air travel for years. His response to my sharing the news that a handful of people cause most of the climate damage due to aviation was, “I see flying to be one thing we have in our daily choices that we have the power NOT to do.” He is critical of Native environmental activists who fly in indigenous experts from around the globe to confer about our climate problem.

My response is to listen to Barry, an educator for traditional wisdom about how to live sustainably on this planet, and to make my choices accordingly.

But the elephant in the climate change room is actually military aviation.

Neoliberal rag The Guardian naturally did not offer this context in their article about elite air travel.

Source: Brown University, Watson Institute, Costs of War Project

Luckily for us, academics have been studying military contributions to climate crisis for a while now. I’ve been collecting their reports here for a few years and was excited to learn that peace activist emeritus Kathy Kelly referred to my collection in an interview recently. Podcaster Kollibri terre Sonnenblume characterized this as:

“most US Americans are ignorant of the consequences of US militarism.” 

No kidding.

Like The Guardian, the corporate press here in the U.S. works overtime to ignore the real drivers of climate change. To help craft this false narrative, military emissions were exempt from being quantified in the Kyoto climate protocols, and were made optional in the Paris climate accords. Because our planet’s atmosphere isn’t affected by pollution if it has the right flag on it?

Now, with a former Raytheon board member heading the Pentagon, this problem is unlikely to be addressed. The U.S. military is well aware that climate change is a thing and they have lots of contingency plans for dealing with the coastal flooding of many of their 800 bases around the planet.

I founded the Maine Natural Guard to help people connect the dots between climate crisis and U.S. taxpayer funded military aviation. So few people seem to care that we bomb civilians constantly no matter which of the two corporate parties is in power at the moment, but many do care about the existential threat of climate emergency. 

I’m glad to see Veterans for Peace has a web page for their Working Group on Climate Crisis and Militarism with their #1 focus: “The unequal burden of both climate change and militarism on people of color and the poor.” 

This point is important to bear in mind as we witness the ramp up to war with China, Russia, or (are the generals insane?) both. When I read Ann Wright’s comprehensive review “In Alarmist Turn, NATO Is Increasingly Positioning Itself In Opposition To China, I saw our carbon bootprint spreading like the stain it is.

Want to be part of the solution?

Add your name to join the Natural Guard effort from wherever you are!

I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me.

In discussions about security and safety, I will remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet.

In discussions about acting soon to protect our loved ones from the effects of climate chaos, I will remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.