Opinion: Vote “Yes” to Move Military Money to New Haven

Kim Stoner, NH Independent, Oct. 20, 2020

I mailed my absentee ballot today, and I almost missed it. I was so focused on the people I wanted to vote for—and certain people I wanted to vote against—that I almost missed the block of text on the right-hand side of the ballot:

“Shall Congress prepare for health and climate crises by transferring funds from the military budget to cities for human needs, jobs and an environmentally sustainable economy?”

Fortunately, I noticed it as I was folding my ballot to stuff it inside the inner envelope, stopped, and energetically marked the oval for “Yes!” I testified to the Board of Alders last June, asking them to put this on the ballot, and they unanimously agreed. I am a scientist, so I like facts. My testimony to the alders was a compilation of facts:

  • Direct military spending in the fiscal year ending in September 2020 will amount to $746 billion — more than $2 billion per day, more than $1 million per minute.
  • The U.S. military is the largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world. Since the beginning of the “War on Terror” in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is more than double the annual greenhouse gas emissions of all the automobiles in the U.S.
  • Green manufacturing—the kind of work that would employ the technical skills used in defense manufacturing in Connecticut—creates 28 percent more jobs per dollar spent than defense spending.
  • Retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency —work we desperately need to do in New Haven, with our older and less energy efficient buildings—would create twice as many jobs per dollar spent as defense spending, and would immediately benefit the people of New Haven in reducing our energy bills and improving our health and comfort.
  • Our endless wars all over the world since 2001 have killed over 800,000 people and have not added to the peace or security of our country.

Why do we have such a huge military—bigger than those of the next 10 countries combined? The events of the last six months have shown that our status as a military superpower cannot keep us in New Haven safe from disease, from economic collapse, from gun violence, and from our divisions along racial and economic lines. Neither can it protect our country from the wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that seem never to end—and that are only a foretaste of the climate disasters to come.

We can’t solve our most pressing problems here in the city of New Haven, in the state, in the country, or in the world through military domination. COVID-19 is a global problem. The solution will ultimately be a global solution. We need to do everything we can locally to prevent the spread, to support the vulnerable and to prepare for fair and rapid mobilization when vaccines and treatments become available. In the meantime, the solutions lie in cooperation, not domination.

Climate change is also a global problem. We are way behind in grappling with the complexities and the will to implement global solutions, so just as with COVID-19, we need to do everything we can locally to make sure that those most vulnerable have the resources they need to adapt to the heat, the flooding, the increases in disease and the massive economic shifts that we know are coming. We also need to radically change our city in cooperation with the state and the rest of the world to stop putting the gases into the air that will make climate change worse.

Shifting money from the military would provide enormous practical benefits—making money available for human health, jobs, and environmental sustainability in our city. It would also represent a paradigm change in the federal government by raising the focus on human needs, not just in response to a crisis, but in supporting the community to reduce and prevent the crises of the future. And maybe—just maybe—it could lead to more cooperation and less domination in our relationships with the rest of the world.

Football Versus Survival

by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist

On Nov. 23 about 130 students from Yale and Harvard ran onto the field after the half-time show at the annual playing of a rivalry so iconic it’s simply called The Game. They unfurled banners calling on the two prestigious, almost unbelievably wealthy universities to divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt. I was one of a handful of baby boomers who joined them.

Divestment would help de-legitimize the fossil fuel industry, which is doing everything in its power to obstruct the transition to renewable energy that is so desperately needed to prevent climate disaster. Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, urgently needs debt relief. Thus, the overall theme was “climate justice.”

To me this action was right in line with my involvement over the past five years with Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been fighting to stop the expansion of fossil fuels, especially fracked “natural” gas, which the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) routinely approves, and to call for FERC’s conversion to FREC – the Federal Renewable Energy Commission. Gas leaks methane at every stage of production and use, which makes it not a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future as industry and politicians have touted for years, but actually a dirty fuel than can be worse for the climate than coal.

Since becoming active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, I have participated in an untold number of protests, but this was perhaps one of the most impactful. Time will tell if the global media coverage will help move Harvard and Yale to divest these holdings from their endowments ($39 billion for Harvard, $29 billion for Yale). But the action has already had an impact on me.

After we sat down in mid-field and prevented the second half of the game from starting, hundreds more students (and some others) flooded onto the field to join us. It was a beautiful sight. We chanted ’til we were hoarse: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!” The game announcer pleaded, “Out of courtesy to the players and the fans, please leave the field. The game must go on.” The absurdity of prioritizing a football game over the survival of life on earth as we know it was not lost on us. I wonder how many people in the stands noticed.

Climate scientists say we have until 2030 to reduce the emission of global warming gases enough to prevent irreversible climate chaos. The students know they are facing a changed, diminished and very scary world. Despite the exuberance and joy we all felt in accomplishing our goal of reaching the field and unfurling our banners, the overall feeling is one of trepidation. But also a fierce resolve.

I love these young people with all my heart. I love their commitment, their love for each other, their welcoming elders like me into their bold, creative actions. I love that one of the organizers said we might have to run onto the field and asked me if I could run. You betcha I could.

After 45 minutes, police threatened to arrest those who didn’t leave the field, and most did. Fifty of us stayed and were detained, charged with disorderly conduct. Our court appearance was the morning of Dec. 6 – the same day as another round of powerful and well-attended youth-led climate strikes. How fitting.

Yale Students Walk Out Of Classes To Join Global Week Of Climate Strikes

by Fossil Free Yale

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, 500 Yale students walked out of their classes at noon as part of the global week of climate strikes, claiming that business as usual cannot continue while Yale remains invested in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rico’s debt. The students and community members, who marched to President Salovey’s office from Cross Campus, pointed to Yale’s political and economic influence and demanded that Yale divest from the fossil fuel industry and cancel its holdings in Puerto Rico’s debt.

At noon, students stood up in their seminars, lectures, and workplaces, spoke briefly about the urgency of the climate crisis and their reasons for walking out, and then led their classmates to Cross Campus for a rally. Many students walked out of introductory physics and biology lectures, microeconomics, and a class called “Natural Disasters,” all of which had course rosters of over one hundred people. Professors in Yale College, as well as the Law School, the Divinity School, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, canceled classes in solidarity with the protestors.

“We are in a moment of unprecedented youth mobilization for climate justice,” said Elea Hewitt, a member of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, who walked out of her Sex, Markets and Power lecture. “We feel we cannot continue to sit in our classes while Yale invests in companies that contribute to the climate crisis and exploit the people first affected.”

Speakers at the Yale rally included Adriana Colón-Adorno, a member of the Puerto Rican student group Despierta Boricua, who spoke about the effects of intensified storms on the island. A Yale School of Forestry student, Manon Lefevre, spoke about the linkage between the Amazon fires and Yale’s continued investments in fossil fuels. By the end of the rally, over 1000 Yale alumni and current students had signed a pledge not to donate to the university until they met the protestors’ demands.

The walkout of Sept. 25 followed a rally on the New Haven Green on Friday, Sept. 20 that drew 400 people. That event was led by the high schoolers from the New Haven Climate Movement Youth Action Team, and was part of the largest coordinated day of climate action in history, with 4,500 events in 150 countries and an estimated total of 4 million participants.

Press contacts:  Martin Man, martinmi5@hotmail.com, (845) 505-9281; Nora Heaphy, nmarie.heaphy@gmail.com, (203) 584-8017. Organization email: fossilfreeyale@gmail.com.

Three Things You Can Do About Climate Issues

by Chris Schweitzer, New Haven/León Sister City Project

Earth Day celebration.
On April 27, 1,200 cyclists will travel between West Rock and East Rock, with celebrations on both sides of the city. Along the way, they will eat tasty food, hear great music, and explore the city’s parks. In 2019 there will be five rides: the 5-mile family-friendly parade/ ride; a 12-mile adult ride; the 20-mile ride; the 40-mile ride; and a metric century (60+ miles), all traveling through scenic and park filled routes in the New Haven region. Live music at various stops and at the end at East Rock will be provided and include performances by local musicians. The event closes with a state-wide Climate Rally organized by 350 CT. All proceeds from Rock to Rock support over 25 high-impact environmental groups and projects. For more information go to www.rocktorock.org.

Sign the New Haven resolution endorsing the declaration of a climate emergency to restore a safe climate:
“I am very concerned that global warming has already set in motion disastrous changes to the Earth system, including accelerating ice mass loss from the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, melting of the Arctic and thawing of the permafrost, ocean acidification, accelerating species extinction, and year-round forest fires. In addition, 19,000 scientists in the 2nd Warning to Humanity (2017) agree that the only way to avoid “vast human misery” is to greatly change our quality of stewardship to the earth. As a result, I am asking New Haven to join with other cities across the country and declare a climate emergency–entailing the mobilization of programs to offer mitigation, resilience, and education on global warming.” Full resolution and petition at: newhavenclimatemovement.org/emergency-resolution.

Join Climate Week today!
Climate Week is for teachers and students to learn about climate impacts and actions to cut greenhouse gases, improve health, and reduce energy use and expense.

We hope you and your school will take part in the movement towards climate solutions and participate in this Climate Week in 2019 from April 27-May 4. Climate Week is a project of the Climate Health Education Project, a year-round online climate education resource. For more information, visit https://www.climateeducationnh.org.

Environmental Leadership Series!

Deadline to Apply: June 6, 2017

Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New Haven is proud to announce our Inaugural Environmental Leadership Series! Learn about the environment and your neighbor-hood, connect with useful resources and people, and aspire to create your own environmental projects.
This year’s workshops are as follows:

June 13, 2017: Climate, Health, and Neighborhoods
June 20, 2017: Home Energy-Efficiency, Going Solar, and Other Renewable Solutions
July 11, 2017: Planning a Project
July 18, 2017: Water in Your Home and Neighborhood
August 1, 2017: Talking Trash, Managing Waste, and Greening Neighborhood Spaces
August 8, 2017: Transportation Matters and Project Showcase

Participants must attend at least five of the workshops listed above. Sessions will be held from 6 – 8 p.m. at NHS of New Haven. Dinner will be provided. Visit our website to apply today! nhsofnewhaven.org/content/environmental-leadership-program.

The application, as well as $20 registration fee, is due by June 6, 2017. Scholarships are available upon request.