Two fishermen, some retirees, and young people sat down at a picnic bench on majestic Lane’s Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The majority were women. It was Sunday, August 9th, 2015. The date was particularly important to this gathering. It was August 9th, 1945 that a weapon of mass destruction was dropped on another Island. It obliterated the Japanese town of Nagasaki and instantly killed 80 thousand people. The United States of America detonated that weapon of mass destruction, killing men, women and thousands of children.

The youngest attendee brought the book, Hiroshima, by John Hersey. Three days before the plutonian-based atomic bomb wrecked death and destruction on Nagasaki, a uranium-based atomic weapon was detonated by the USA over Hiroshima. The radiation that stalked those lands would kill many thousands more in the weeks, months, and years following the initial blasts.

On June 12th 1982, there was a massive gathering of humanity from throughout the world in New York. This was the legendary Nuclear Freeze March on the United Nations. The demands were simple, straight forward, and clear. Freeze all nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in all countries and begin the process of ridding all peoples and the environment of these threats to life on our one, habitable planet.
The Hibakusha, survivors of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with later generations from those towns, marched. The Hibakuska handed out paper cranes, symbols of life, peace, and tranquility. The march is reputed to be the largest mass gathering ever on the planet. It was one of the most important and moving experiences of my life. The Peace & Planet March of spring 2015 in NYC was a logical extension of the historic Freeze March, with demands expanded to include opposition to nuclear power and climate change.

One of the most harmful myths about the atomic bombings was the rationale put forward by the U.S. government. It was claimed that it saved 100,000 lives of U.S. troops, as now an invasion of Japan would not be needed to end the war. This was a total falsehood. The U.S. bombing survey, conducted just weeks after the official end of WWII, showed that the 2/3 of the largest Japanese towns had been destroyed by the fire bombing of those areas from May of 1944 to June of 1945. Two hundred thousand Japanese men, women, and children were dead.

U.S. Secretary of War Stimson knew Japan was ready to surrender. He passed this information on to President Truman. While General Eisenhower concurred with this position, Truman had other political objectives. He was in the presidency because of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He faced his first presidential election in 1948 and wanted to appear a “strong” leader. He also wanted to demonstrate the power of the USA, via this weapon of mass destruction, as a message to the Soviet Union. It would display, for all to see, the USA’s willingness to wantonly kill thousands of civilians for its objectives. It was the beginning of the Cold War.

One of the myths of the later period is that Ronald Reagan initiated the freeze of nuclear weapons that followed the Nuclear Freeze March. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movement was initiated at the grassroots. In my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, there was a candlelight march supporting the freeze demand. Films and speakers educated us. This upwelling of understanding and support was occurring throughout the country and the world. It was this grassroots pressure that forced Reagan to meet with Soviet leader Gorbachev and begin acquiescing to the just demands of the people. No nukes.

The struggle against nuclear weapons and war continue. The recent agreement between seven countries and Iran over its nuclear program is the most recent example. The deal limits Iran to a stockpile of less than 300 kg of low enriched uranium. A metric ton or 1,000 kg are necessary to make a bomb. Two thirds of their centrifuges will be removed. Iran will not reprocess spent fuel rods, which is the pathway to a plutonium-based bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared the agreement good, verifiable and enforceable.

Those opposing this deal want war with Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is spending tens of millions of dollars to sink this deal and beat the war drums. It’s up to the grassroots to prevent this from happening. Peace loving people are asked to call/e-mail their senators on or by August 26th. Confirm the agreement with Iran.

Let’s make the same effort as those who gathered on Lanes Island, Maine, and throughout the country this August, and make HOPE happen.
In Maine:
Angus King (I) 1-207-622-8292
(202) 224-5344

Susan Collins (R)
(202) 224-2523

In Connecticut:

Richard Blumenthal (D) 1-860-258-6940 1-202-224-2823


Christopher Murphy (D) 1-860-549-8463


Recent events in South Carolina cry out for a wholesome response. Below is an extension of the previous blog on freedom and human dignity. I’m presently on book tour with my fourth book, Hurry Down Gunntown, where a similar theme is emerging.
Impressment, billeting of British officers, losing control of what was coming in and out of our country, and a striving for a more democratic way of life, were just some of the issues that led to radical changes in North America in the late 1700s. After the mass killing of African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, the need for substantive changes are on the national agenda again.

Of course, the fight against racism and its ugly entrails have been on the agenda of left/progressive movements for decades. It has taken the cell phone era to literally capture the violence directed at African Americans for all to see. President Obama said it best. This is nothing new.

I remember returning to my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut in the mid-1970s and events there. A young African American man was walking in the north end of the city. He was told to halt by police. The information we have is solely that of the police. They saw a shiny object, thought it was a gun, and killed the youngster. The object was a radio. There was a second happening where police gunned down an armed African American male. Yet in a similar circumstance, a white male was disarmed with no injuries.

An organization was born at this time called Waterbury People United Against Racism. It had black, white and brown leadership. There was a march on city hall and a mass meeting at the old Wilby High School. One concession came out of this struggle. Existing major political parties nominated two African American candidates for state representative in the north end. The town had its first black state representative. Unfortunately, it took the deaths of two African Americans and the grassroots response to it, to make this happen.

The political home where racism festers and bursts forth is a known brand. While police departments are under somewhat more scrutiny of late, the ideological and political sources lie elsewhere. Nor does it arise from a deranged individual here or there as I am hearing of late. The breeding ground for this smoldering hatred is the extreme political right.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has touted the warning signs for years. With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, armed militia groups in our country quadrupled. The Center counts 784 hate groups in the country. A Justice Department statement indicated that, since 2000, twenty-five law enforcement officers have been killed by right-wing extremists who fear government confiscation of firearms.

Let’s be clear on this point. We are not referring to Muslim initiated actions here. Since 9/11, there have been 50 deaths perpetrated by American Muslims. In the same period, non-Muslim right-wing extremists have caused 254 fatalities. According to the Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, that latter number has increased since 2012.

But such activities and the one at the church in Charleston do not occur in a vacuum. They are encouraged by more “official” and seemingly acceptable events. Just five years ago in the same city a 19th century ball, including the singing of Dixie, exalted the racist and counter-revolutionary secessionist movement. It was all white. While Charleston is celebrated as “progressive”, its black population, through gentrification, has seen a decline of 16%.

Charleston’s deeper history has its warnings. The Denmark Vesey led slave rebellion in 1822 was put down with a vengeance. Thirty-five were hung. And this is most telling. The A.M.E. church was burned to the ground.
The attacks on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care, have had racist overtones. Even the Pope was not spared. David Brooks, Op-Ed writer for the NY Times, led the way. He attacks the Pope’s encyclical on the environment as “relentlessly negative”, “condemns market-based mechanisms”, and “links self-interest with violence.” Brooks then chastises the Pope, a la Ronald Reagan, because he does not recognize, “greed can lead entrepreneurship.” Apparently the Pope came too close in hooking up greed and violence.

Solutions are many and varied. Racism can no longer hide behind freedom of speech. The four freedoms of FDR need to be extended and codified in law. Racist literature, whether in print or on-line, needs to be outlawed and purveyors should be fined and/or imprisoned.

Second, the disparity in living conditions needs to be vigorously addressed. It is a classist and racist legacy that needs to be halted. A living wage and an extension of Obama care e.g. a single payer system, would have the USA join the rest of the developed world. Most importantly, the four centuries of chattel slavery and the ideology of racism that arose to defend it, need to be addressed head on. An official government apology followed by a structured system of reparations involving jobs, housing, and education need to be on the political front burner.

Now, how do we get there? We saw a hint of the unity that can deliver the goods in the massive climate march in NYC in the fall of 2014. The composition of that march showed a deeper recognition by its many component parts or movements. We are in this together. That level of unity has to be reflected in all issues. When the Black Lives Matter gatherings occur, all components of the alliance must be there. When labor fights for the $15 minimum wage, all allies must be there. Immigrant rights must be fought for with recognition of its general humanity. In particular, the environmental movement needs to be a consistent participant.

Now we need your thoughts, ideas, and solutions. Show what’s right or wrong with the above. Start where you wish. Let the discussion flow.

My latest book, HURRY DOWN GUNNTOWN (May 2015 involves a specific fight to save land. But there is a broader theme that connects it to colonial days of yore. In just a thousand words, let’s explore the theme of freedom and human dignity in a historical context that connects these struggles to the USA today.

March, 1780. A British secret agent slips into the Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut. He recruits a Tory gang to raid the home of a privateer hired by the revolutionary government. After the raid, they make their way into the Gunntown neighborhood of Waterbury. By happenstance, they kidnap a young colonial because he recognizes members of the gang. Rebel trackers are on their trail. The chase is joined.

What possibly could any of this have to do with a 20th/21st century struggle to preserve land? Further, what could it possibly have in common with other environmental battles e.g. fossil fuel pollution, gas pipelines, climate change? Plenty. Here are the connections.

Why would any commoners be so committed as to change their daily routine instantly, leave their families, and join the chase of a dangerous Tory gang that terrorized a family in Bethany, Connecticut? Actually, before April of 1775 and events at Lexington and Concord, they probably wouldn’t have been moved by it. Many were loyalists, particularly in the Gunntown neighborhood of Waterbury. Blacksmiths for example, depended on trade with the mother country for metals.

On the other hand, Revolutionaries were talking about freeing the slaves. This was a direct threat to slave owning families like the Scovills and the Gunns of Waterbury. They remained loyal to the Crown.
There were other events that shook the everyday life of commoners. The British burned Danbury in April of 1777. This was getting close to “home.” These events were augmented by onerous British policies like the impressment of colonists into the Royal British navy. This was an instant involuntary military draft. Young people were grabbed, literally off the streets, and sent for years to serve British imperial interests. (For a cinematic representation of this policy, see the old film Mutiny On The Bounty, 1962).
The list of grievances had been growing during the revolutionary period well before the outbreak of hostilities. An armed struggle ensued. The raid of the Dayton house in Bethany, and the subsequent kidnapping of a young colonial in Gunntown, were symptoms of the intense civil strife within the colonies, especially in border states like Connecticut.

The pursuing of the Tory gang and freeing of the kidnapped boy became a defense of the revolution itself. It was the sloughing off of the tyrannical British King and being ruled from afar. It was a struggle for freedom and human dignity.

But just as the revolution began well before the war for independence, the struggle for freedom and human dignity continued after the victory at Yorktown in 1783. The revolutionary government declared that there would be no king what-so-ever. There were revolutionary repercussions throughout the world.

Was that the end of the struggle for freedom and human dignity? Not by a long shot. Slavery was still intact. Within the bowels of the antislavery movement came the abolitionists. They pursued, not only freedom for the slaves, but equal rights for all. The 1840s and 1850s saw this revolutionary movement gain steam. After the Civil War, it found further expression in the many freed slaves occupying state legislatures in the South.
In the late 1870s, reaction again gained the upper hand. The KKK terrorized African Americans. Lynchings became commonplace. Even during this retrograde period, strivings for freedom burst forth in the form of the women’s movement for the vote. None other than Fredrick Douglass, eminent abolitionist and freedom fighter, saw the potential of this movement for human dignity of all people. The women’s right to vote was won in 1920.
Labor unions burst on the scene in a big way in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1950s, a third of workers belonged to a union. Due to unionization, workers prospered. Many working families transitioned from rental property to single family homes. Their children now had some access to higher education.

But progress is not a pure enterprise. The lynchings and separation of African Americans and whites continued in the south. Both black and white realized no one could live in freedom and human dignity while these conditions prevailed. It took the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s to begin applying a turniquet to the abuses. The “whites only signs” came tumbling down.

As in the previous two centuries, freedom and human rights movements continued to burst forth in new ways. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 added a new dimension to peace strivings. The U.S. War in Vietnam spawned the peace movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The production and wanton use of chemicals gave birth to a reinvigorated green movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It helped give a deeper grasp of the situation when agent orange and napalm were used by the USA in Vietnam. Connections were being made.

Society, like nature, did not remain static. As throughout the Cold War, the Reagan Administration attacked unions in the 1980s. Membership plummeted. Attacks on the environment, ranging from fossil fuel hunting in the USA and abroad, escalated. War became a permanent feature of US policy. In the new millennia, Black males, hunted on our streets by racist police, has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement. Fast food workers are striking for better wages.

Just as there were those loyal to the Crown during the revolutionary period of the late 1700s, we have those loyal to the high priests of profit today. Let’s go right back to Connecticut. In May 2015, the state passed legislation for five dirty fossil fuel (gas) pipelines to be rammed through the state. Incredibly, a new dirty fossil fuel (gas) power plant is OK’d by the CT Siting Council for the Oxford/Naugatuck/Middlebury border. In response, CT has its own climate march on Sunday, May 31st. Will it and other actions be enough to reverse the pipeline and power plant decisions?

Climate change grudgingly became recognized as a threat, as over 400,000 marched and flooded NYC streets in 2014. It included many unions, peace, green, and social justice groups. Is the fight for freedom and human dignity reaching a new level? Are we entering a new revolutionary period? Are we already there?
Now it’s your turn. What is your answer to the questions of the previous two paragraphs? Are we there yet?

Climate change, environmental history, pollution from a proposed dirty fossil fuel power plant, democracy, and a vigorous response at the grassroots, are the topics of the March / April Blog.

The famous Spanish historian, Jorge Santayana, said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While such repeated events can be farcical, they can also be tragic. While there is not much comedic about what is happening in Naugatuck, Connecticut, these days, it is repeating history. Once again the environment and the health of the people there and elsewhere are in jeopardy.

In the not so distant past, the colossus in Naugatuck was the U.S. Rubber and Chemical Company. Starting in the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century, for the most part, the company dominated everything, including town politics. It was, in the worst tradition of the word, a company town.

That remained the case until the 1930s when the union movement that swept the country blossomed in the Naugatuck Valley. Five unions eventually established themselves at the Rubber Shop. Some of the wealth, which previously flowed mostly to the captains of industry, made its way to the workers at the Rubber Shop. The company became Uniroyal Inc. in 1961.

By the middle to late 1970s, the owners had enough of those pesky unionists who demanded a modicum of work place democracy and a living wage. On top of that, pesky environmentalists demanded the pollution of the Naugatuck River stop. The Corporation, in a fit of anti-patriotism, flew to the Philippines and South Korea in search of a place where it was harder for people to organize. They also wanted to shake those pesky greens.
But struggles with a company town tradition and mentality were not over. The chemicals from the runaway shop, and other manufactories, sat on a landfill perched atop a mountain. It was given the benign name of Laurel Park. What was occurring was anything but benign.

Benzene’s, toluene’s and dioxin made their way into surface and ground water. Grassroots organizing fought the landfill company and the “company mayor.” It became a superfund site by 1983.

Here’s some of the more immediate story.

A proposed dirty fossil fuel power plant in 2014 along the Oxford/Naugatuck border in Connecticut (CT) has raised a firestorm of debate. Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) of Mass. has proposed a methane (CH4) driven plus oil plant (805 Megawatts) based on a 1999 approval of a smaller construction (around 500 Megawatts) by the CT Siting Council (CSC). The new, larger plant is before the CSC. The financial backing is from the hedge fund of Warburg/Pincus with monies from the USA, Brazil, India, and Asia.

Why are people up in arms over a start-up methane plant now versus 1999? Because we have learned so much more about dirty fossil fuels, pollution, and climate change since 1999. Here’s some data.

An article in the March 6th, 2002 issue of the American medical Association (AMA) found that with each 10-micrometer increase in one cubic meter of air in fine particles of soot and sulfur dioxide-related pollution per cubic meter of air, the risks of heart and lung diseases increase, including an 8 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer. In fact, the study’s authors were quoted as saying that the higher risk is equivalent to living with someone who smokes cigarettes. The research involved 500,000 subjects. That is a study of high power. Data and conclusions are considered very reliable.

The Oxford plant is projected to generate particulate matter (PMs) = PM2.5 micrometers. These PMs are extremely small and therein lays the danger. They are invisible. The particles can go into the blood steam to our organs, including the lungs. So with a simple calculation, if the Oxford plant gives off 4 or more PMs/cubic meter of air, we can expect increase risks of heart and lung diseases. That includes the 8% increase on lung cancer. CPV projects a pollution radius of 10 miles, so that includes Oxford, Southbury, Middlebury, Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, and parts of Waterbury, CT. Of course, prevailing winds and weather patterns come into play.

Concerning heart disease, we know soot (basically carbon) can play the same role as cholesterol in the coronary blood vessels that surround and give oxygen to the heart. The soot begins blocking the arteries leading to heart disease.

I have statistics for asthma cases in Naugatuck and they are not pretty. In the Naugatuck Valley (2005-9), Naugatuck was second to Ansonia with 777 asthma emergency room visits. Naugatuck had the highest number of asthma hospitalizations at 193. The Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve is only 1.2 miles from the projected utility plant. The Southwood Apartments are only about 2 miles away. Hundreds of people live there including many elderly and young working families. The elderly and young people are most affected by this kind of pollution. Environmental injustice comes to mind.

The lack of credible information on the effluent is astounding. I sat in on a Water Pollution Control Board meeting and the lawyers from CPV could not answer this most basic question. They do state over 6,470 gallons per day would be headed to Naugatuck Waste Treatment Plant. But what is in it? Further complicating this is that the Treatment Plant is not owned by Naugatuck. Viola, an international company based in Paris with over 300,000 employees worldwide, is at the controls. The company is in a court case for ripping off the town of Naugatuck. Yikes.

The proposed state cutbacks by the Malloy (D) Administration are another concern. Open space funding is to be cut by 10 million dollars. Environmentalists understand that one of the best ways to protect waterways is to protect the land it runs through. As pipelines do break on occasion, how will this mysterious effluent be handled on both public and private open space? No answer.

The combustion process that is employed by these methane driven utility plants contributes 30% of the chemicals driving climate change. The methane itself that is combusted with oxygen under high heat, upwards of 2000 degrees F., escapes early in the fracking process. Whether living in the Oxford / Naugatuck area or not, upwards to 5.0% of the CH4 releases to the atmosphere. Methane molecules are 34X, and some authors put it as high as 100X, more powerful as a climate changer than carbon dioxide (CO2). In total quantity, it is the number three cause of climate change. We have to be concerned because in the community we are connected to what goes on elsewhere. The atmosphere is our commons.

The combustion process generates the pressure to turn the turbines which then generate the electricity. It’s a chemical to mechanical to electrical energy transfer. It is the same process utilized 50 years ago. The two large byproducts of combustion are CO2 and H20. Incomplete combustion generates the soot mentioned above.
The mega amounts of CO2 released travel around the planet in two weeks. It is the second leading cause of climate change. The mega amounts of water vapor released are the number one leading cause of climate change. The weird weather and vicious storms, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy for example and others internationally, generated by these chemicals, kill.

Dangerous Territory – The Company Organizes Workers Against The Community

In the early 1980s, the company owning the Laurel Park Landfill brought in truck drivers to harass Mary Lou Sharon, the leader of the first environmental group in Naugatuck, at town meetings. Now we have the construction company, CPV, bringing in job hungry construction workers to flood Town meetings. Meanwhile, the Carbon Lobby with funds from people lathered in oil, like the Koch brothers, are working overtime in Washington D.C. to block carbon standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Can you hear the wheels of the system grinding?

In both the 1980s landfill pollution battle and the present day struggle around the dirty fossil fuel power plant, collusion with the local mayors were obvious. The company organizing workers against the interests of the community and those same workers families is very dangerous territory. A hallmark of the process of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s in Italy and Germany was the organization of workers by corporate funded elements.

Of course, we don’t have fascism, which was roundly defeated worldwide in the 1940s. We are addressing a dangerous process between a company, a Mayor, and certain unions. So in the present day fight, what spooked this cabal? The Western Connecticut Central Labor Council supported the Naugatuck Environmental Network in its efforts to block the project earlier in the year. The company and local Mayor went into overdrive to both split the Labor Movement and split the Labor Movement from local greens.

So we have the Naugatuck Mayor, usually quite logical in argumentation, picking up on the company line. One of them is that everybody pollutes with their cars and with home heating arrangements. Really? This piling on argument is as illogical as condoning one’s throwing trash out a car window because “everyone does it.” This is a blaming the victim(s) argument. No thanks.

The other company line is that the federal government isn’t doing anything for renewables and the environment so why should we do this arduous task locally. A quick look at the national scene quickly shows where the real “hold up” is. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency put forward the first regulations for carbon e.g. think methane (CH4). The carbon lobby e.g. Koch Brothers, have seen to it that this proposal has not seen the light of day. So we are to kow-tow to the oil boys. No thanks.

Of course, renewables are sweeping the world. A renewable energy committee, with Naugatuck Town Burgesses and local greens participating, will generate green, sustainable jobs. It isn’t just solar and wind. Tidal power is churning out electricity in Maine. The Northwest Central Labor Council had it right. The Climate March in NYC (2014) had it right. The Peace & Planet March on April 26th, 2015, NYC had it right. Labor, Peace, Social Justice, and Environmental movements united are an unstoppable force. The clock is ticking for the Carbon Lobby. The question is how long will it take and at what cost to the environment, people, and other living beings?

Thanks to readers who attended the book talk on my memoir Moon Shadow Of War at the Naugatuck Historical Society. The book is now available in their store at the old railroad station on Water St., Naugatuck. There is a possibility for a spot on the Democracy Now radio show. Readers are asked to e-mail/call the station to request an interview with Len Yannielli to discuss the book and connect to present day endless wars. or
call +1-212-431-9090
In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, adventurous children experience a sense of wonder as they go through the doors of a wardrobe into a dark, mysterious world called Narnia.

I felt a similar sensation when finally reaching The Climate March in New York City on September 21st, 2014. The difference from Lewis’s children’s classic was that my group, from both Connecticut and New Hampshire, were greeted by a joyous and determined 400,000 other marchers. It was neither dark nor mysterious. It was luminous and exciting.

It was also massive. We first realized the enormity of the event when subways to our March site were jammed and would not allow any other riders. We had to take an alternate route more than 20 blocks short of our designated entry point.

Once above ground, we endeavored to at least watch the March as we moved against the stream of delegations from all over North America and the world. No go. Feeder marches were jammed at all the entry points. Reality was hitting home. We were in the midst of an historic happening.

I had had similar experiences in the past. The 1971 march on Washington for peace in Vietnam was the first. I remember getting on a friend’s shoulders and saw marchers from where we were to the end of the march at the Washington Monument. Feeder marches were jamed on side streets. Massive best described that march.

Again in 1982, the Nuclear Freeze March on the United Nations, also our destination on the Climate March, was huge. Its distinctive character was its international composition. It was reputed to be the largest mass protest gathering ever. Again massive.

Was the Climate March deja vu all over again as famously said by Yogi Berra? No. Did it share their massive size . Yes. I want to focus on what was different.

The rainbow of peoples marching along with the coming together of disparate movements was a distinctive character of the Climate March. Let’s count the ways.

The Cowboy/Indian Alliance was an outstanding example. It consists of ranchers, farmers, Native Peoples, and greens from the Midwest and west. They operate in such conservative states as Wyoming and Idaho and bring together groups that in the past were at loggerheads. Opposition to the Keystone pipeline was one of their unifying issues.

A new group was Idle No More, consisting of Native People of Canada and beyond. An exciting interview with Idle No More marchers can be found here.

A crucial ingredient to this diverse march was the contributions of both people and financial resources nationally from seventy five unions. In my case, train cars were secured for Climate Marchers out of New Haven, Connecticut, with the help of the International Association of Machinists (IAM). In all, 13 unions and the CT state AFL-CIO supported the March. Reaching out to wide-ranging groups has been spearheaded by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whose statements and commitments around the struggles in Ferguson, Missouri, have been widely publicized and read. The “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” rally cry from Ferguson could be heard throughout the Climate March.

Historical Perspective

It was throughout the 1980s and the fight-back against the policies of the Reagan Administration that one can see, in retrospect, the developing base of this massive peoples’ climate alliance. The taking down of the solar panels on the White House was just the opening salvo of this anti-environmental administration. Reagan aggressively went after roadless areas in national forests, opening them to logging, and he especially went after the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for fossil fuel exploration.

One consequence of this was that people at the grassroots saw the drawbacks and hesitancy of national groups, like the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, to fully enter the fray. In response, grassroots groups, by the thousands, popped up like prairie dogs. This phenomena continued in the 1990s and into the new millennium.

A good example was in Naugatuck, Connecticut. Nine grassroots groups sprang into action in the 1990s around fights to stop gravel extractions in neighborhoods, pollution of the Naugatuck River, battles around a future super fund site, and the birth of two passive open space groups.

On the Labor front, attacks on the air traffic controllers union by Reagan and other battles, sparked a rank and file labor movement that moved many unions away from the “business” unionism model to struggle actively on the job and in the communities. Richard Trumka’s election is really part of the result of these decades old struggles. A corner has been turned.

Does it make a difference when huge numbers of people march? Let’s go right back to the examples above. After the 1971 march for peace in Vietnam, much happened. The Committee to Reelect the President (Nixon) was poisoning the country’s atmosphere. At the same time, a certain turn to the grassroots of activists was maturing. Local politicians, responding to that grassroots pressure, were now part of delegations to congresspeople and to Washington D.C. They demanded an end to hostilities in Vietnam as the war was draining the countries resources. The grassroots pressure and economic arguments helped bring an end to that criminal war.

Did the 1982 Nuclear Freeze March make an impact? That march was huge number-wise and was followed by many local initiatives. The effects of a nuclear exchange between the USA and the Soviet Union was explained at community gatherings, union halls, and town meetings. Towns declared themselves nuclear free zones. Delegations were exchanged between Soviet and U.S. citizens. The result was an agreement between parties to freeze nuclear stock piles. By the end of the decade, missiles were being destroyed in their silos.

I recently saw a performance by the talented music duo Schooner Fare. At the end of the performance, they mentioned the meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev in Iceland in 1986 as representing hope for the world. While there was truth in that statement, it was the massive Nuclear Freeze March and the ripple effects from it that brought the two presidents together to begin defusing the nuclear threat at that time.

No one has a crystal ball concerning the future. What can we say? The 2014 Climate March, which is easy to predict and as previous massive marches have proven, will have ramifications for many years. I see two new phenomena on the horizon. But first we need to entertain an important question. With this new push for change, who should we listen to?

Let’s start with who we shouldn’t listen to.

Tom Friedman, arch dispenser of confusion via the New York Times, who supposedly is good on Climate change. That is only half correct. He joined the chorus calling for an invasion of Iraq in the beginning of the new millennium. That, as we know, destabilized the Mid-East. He now wants legislation allowing oil to be exported from the USA. His unwritten goal here is support for the Keystone XL (Fast Track) pipeline, drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and harming other national treasures. He deserves a new moniker – Fast Track Friedman. He claims to be hip with climate change yet lines up with the likes of Shell and ALEC who deny that climate change exists and that there is no scientific consensus.
Tell Shell to stop funding ALEC’s climate disinformation today.

Who to listen to: Elizabeth Kolbert, of Sixth Extinction fame, supplies ample data on anthropogenic climate change but with an asterisk. While her book makes a solid case to fight against climate change, she recently said her writing is not a call to action. Luckily, 400,000 marchers did not listen to the Kolbert on that one.

Here’s what I see developing. Yes, it is a call to action.

1. One of the most successful solidarity movements in recent times was the divestment movement supporting the end of apartheid in South Africa. It helped, with the African National Congress (ANC) and Nelson Mandela doing the heavy lifting, bring down the racist South African government. Labor unions refused to unload cargo from South African ships. Environmentalists took copious notes from this movement. Let’s look at our towns, unions, pensions, colleges, and universities and demand divestment of any resources in fossil fuels. From the get-go we need discussions with unions for green jobs to keep workers employed during the transition. We need a just transtion sometimes called climate justice. Go here for more on these topics.

2. A transformational movement is needed along side the transition movement shifting away from fossil fuels, What is transformational? A political movement that would not only defend the gains of transition but would also go on the offensive. This would of necessity involve the electoral arena. How much of this movement would include established political parties and/or the development of an independent electoral vehicle would depend on an assessment of the balance of forces at the time.

What needs to be defended? A good example is Vinalhaven, Maine. Three wind turbines supply electricity there. Within a year of generating clean wind energy, along came a legal challenge by a small group with major funding by a nonresident with deep pockets. The almost one million dollars spent by the electrical cooperative defending itself has, thus far, made the hope of lower electrical bills in Vinalhaven unattainable.

What could a transformational movement do offensively? It could put in place, through mass mobilizations and electoral work, policies that extend major funding for renewable resources. Lower prices for solar, wind etc. would lead to much greater demand for their use. The trend is there. The price for solar has dropped 50% in four years. A transformational movement with a strong labor contingent could help shift money from the highway fund to public transportation.

Along side the above, a transformational movement would see to it that the enormous funds drained away by the military budget and endless wars be shifted to green, peace time production, and green jobs. Of the 29% of the federal budget that is discretionary, 55% goes to the military. The present Futures Commission of Connecticut is a glimpse of what such a movement could make possible and permanent in every state. They are holding hearings to make this green shift happen.

Ending the dominance of the financial military industrial complex is important for many reasons. We must never forget that militarism plus political extremism can lead to barbarism. C.S. Lewis won’t let us forget. The children in his classic children’s book have come from London to rural England. Why? To avoid the bombs of Nazi Germany during WWII.

Those children created by C.S. Lewis entered Narnia and encountered many evil characters. That was not the case with the Climate March. With a confidence in the future, marchers celebrated with joy and gladness. They celebrated not only the collective goals of the end of fossil fuel destruction of our shared planet, promoting peace, green jobs, and social justice but also our necessary unity marching forward.

Was the Climate March a sign a developing transformational movement in embryo? It’s green, peace, labor, and social justice composition certainly goes in that direction.

What do you think?

Climate Change And the Need for a Transformational Movement– Theory & Practice

I want to thank blog readers who responded to the “What’s enough?” question in my June blog via e-mail. My reply to one blog reader’s response on this question and on climate change follows. Pursuant to that is a more nuanced response that connects the environment, peace, human rights, and labor movements with specific examples and the upcoming, all important climate march on Sunday, September 21st, NYC.

P.S. For those who can make it, I will be doing a book talk on my memoir, Moon Shadow Of War, at the Mitchell (Westville) Library of New Haven, on Harrison St., Monday, September 22nd, 6:30 PM.
Directions – From Rt. 69 or 63 into New Haven, go down Whaley Ave. Turn right onto Harrison Street. It’s the second right after McDonald’s. The Mitchell Branch Library is the first building on the left.
“For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish piecemeal.”
– Thomas Jefferson

One blog reader, an active supporter of efforts to mitigate climate change through community-supported agriculture, told me that climate change is “more than a theory”. While well meaning, that statement tends to diminish climate theory and the good science behind it. It is just a cut above the “It’s only a theory” that is leveled at the science of evolution.

As with evolutionary theory, the grouping of ideas around climate change contains facts, tested and to be tested hypotheses, and laws. The most important criterion of a theory is its predictive qualities. For example, scientists said with global warming, storm surges would reach new levels e.g. witness hurricane Sandy’s disastrous impact on New Jersey and New York City in 2012. Now, let’s dig both deeper and more broadly.

Last week, I received two of the many emergency e-mails that are, unfortunately, so common in the environmental movement. One was quite local. Herbicides were applied along the road of the Gunntown Passive Park And Nature Preserve in Naugatuck, Connecticut. The second was a petition call, with the usual and important plea for money. This had to do with pesticides applied to agricultural fields where workers, many immigrants, toiled. Let’s take them one at a time.

The Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve was the result of a protracted 15-year battle to save incredibly important land, ecologically speaking, in Naugatuck, CT. A grassroots environmental group composed of young and old, people of color, trade unionists, and others waged battle with an entrenched power structure.
The greens clearly defined the goal, centering on the need for passive recreation for all citizens and saving land that was festooned with wonderfully diverse wetlands. They explained time and again that those wetlands were critically important for wildlife and people. They clearly defined the enemy as a cabal of relators, lawyers, certain banking interests, administrative self-interested elements, and political hacks all too willing to go along with plowing and paving critical habitat for an outdoor sports facility.

The greens fought off attempts to divide the community, particularly winning the sports-minded, as well as people physically challenged, to the need for passive open space. They educated themselves by doing research and sharing the data and conclusions with the group and the community. They eschewed legal entanglements but when such challenges arose, learned how to raise money and support such efforts to save land. They began putting people on key local commissions e.g. wetland commission. Greens entered the electoral arena where much political power lies. And they won. Now a different but very important challenge – pesticides.

We owe a continuing debt of gratitude to government worker, and writer, Rachel Carson. Through her seminal book, Silent Spring, Ms. Carson exposed the chemical and pesticide producing companies, particularly those producing DDT, as willfully poisoning the environment, wildlife, and people. She won the enduring enmity of the owners of the chemical industry and the enduring gratitude of the people.

The green movement in Naugatuck set up a steward system to protect the land just as trade unionists have stewards to help protect workers at workplaces. It was one of those stewards who reported the poisoning of the land. Here’s how one blog reader responded.

“Pesticides WILL get into ground water, contaminating the ultimate source of water for all local wildlife, pets, and humans. Runoff after rains can carry the pesticides many miles, creating not only a potential local catastrophe, but also one downstream in the Naugatuck River and Long Island Sound.

Pesticides should not be used ESPECIALLY near naturally preserved corridors such as the Gunntown parcel on Gunntown Road. The roadside is the upper perimeter of the park, and gravity will take the spray directly down into the wetlands, meadow, and Longmeadow Brook. This poison will first affect microorganisms, then work its way up the food chain. Each organism that eats another with toxins inside, will show an increase of 10 fold as far as the amount of toxins in its tissues.”

The toxic process this reader writes about is called biological magnification. Many of these pesticides get caught up in organic tissues, take up permanent residence, and are not excreted by organisms. Thus the poisons accumulate has they spread through the myriad of food webs in an ecosystem.

A network of green groups is now being alerted through electronic newsletters. The community is being alerted via letters-to-the-editor in the local print and regional electronic press. The poisoning of the environment is being connected to the severe cutbacks of public services, including the park department. Usually Park Department workers would carry out this roadside work mechanically with various kinds of mowers. Using chemicals as a quick way to control roadside flora is a direct result of the loss of jobs at Naugatuck’s Park Department. But is alerting the community of the dangers here going to be enough?

At this juncture, let’s entertain the question posited in my last blog. What is enough?
Let’s bring in the second e-mail I received. It concerned a petition call to aid agricultural workers toiling in fields with pesticides. We can discern the same mentality concerning chemical use experienced with the application of herbicides at the Gunntown natural area. With the latter, it is purported that the massive cutbacks in public works, thus the lack of workers, necessitated the faster way to clear brush for vehicular visibility along roadsides. As the above blog reader responded, this leads to the toxic chemicals making their way through the ecosystem to all levels of wildlife, magnifying their impact through the web of food chains. Of course, since people in this relatively rural area have wells, this means peoples’ washing and drinking water. Double ugh.

With the former, the Farm Workers Union negotiated contracts with growers to eliminate pesticide applications while workers are in the fields. Good but multiple problems remain. First is that many migrant field workers, with children in tow, do not have union coverage nor benefit from negotiated contracts. Second, even if workers are not present when the chemical application occurs, chemicals don’t instantly disappear. Third, and consumer-wise, how much of these chemicals remain internally in the fruit we consume, no matter how long we wash them externally?

So, given all the above, what’s enough? My simple, preliminary answer is that when material conditions of life reach a point where significant sectors of people quest for answers and for solutions in a deeper way. It’s happening but neither in all sectors of life, nor where motion around issues like the environment, labor and/or peace, is detected. It is uneven. It is also complicated.

One of the problems and complications is that not enough people are questing. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey asked people if they were satisfied with, dissatisfied, or didn’t know enough about the how the USA was dealing with the ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the conflict in the Ukraine, and Israel/Gaza? Depending on the conflict involved, between 30 to 42% responded that they did not know enough to have an opinion. That translates to tens of millions of people not knowing even the ABC’s of these conflicted areas to render an opinion.

When people did respond with an opinion, those who were dissatisfied considerably outnumbered those who said they were satisfied. Most of the dissatisfied(s), however, said the USA should do more. My guess is the “more” meant more military intervention versus humanitarian aid. The survey did not go there.

So here we have our people either disengaged or willing to go along with military intervention. How can this be? The US War in Vietnam generated one to three million deaths, depending on who’s counting and geography, with more than 50,000 being USA military men and women. Even if we take the lower figure of one million killed, that’s a 20 to one ratio and the people on the wrong side of that ratio are said to have “won.”
The conflict in Gaza alone is said to have generated 1,814 Palestinians killed and 67 Israeli’s killed. (Figures based on 8/14/2014 data.) That’s a 27 to one ratio. What have we learned?

The peace movements, here and internationally, have learned that those ratios indicate that justice cannot be served with continuing warfare. Battlefronts dissipate and citizens, especially women and children, make up much of the casualty lists. All involved will “lose.” But that message is not getting across to our citizens in a big enough way. So that begs another question. Why not?`

Corporate power, and the wealthy people behind that power, controls the content and flow of information. For example, General Electric owns NBC and Viacom owns CBS. By and large the ownership of those large corporate entities are extremely wealthy, and conservative, including reactionary.

Here’s an example from my direct experience, detailed in Moon Shadow Of War. The Pape family, with a lineage to military secret service, owns the Waterbury Republican newspaper in CT. “On October 15th, 1969, a newspaper reporter wrote and published the names of Waterbury people killed in the U.S. War in Vietnam. A black outline framed the names of the dead. The Waterbury Republican fired the reporter the next day. I’ll let your imagination picture what the editorials of that paper said on a day -to -day basis about the U.S. War in Vietnam. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, famous basketball player and writer, recently said it best when referring to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

“How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent.”

But even if the peace movements here could break that strangle hold on “news”, would it be enough? While it would help, the limited answer is no. Forces promulgating military solutions and war have a like-wise strangle hold on elected officials, just as the fossil fuel industry has a strangle hold on energy matters with those same officials. But in stating those two facts lies a partial answer to the “What’s enough” question. We need cooperation between movements to take on an entrench power structure. Let’s move on to a related question connected to the military and war.

The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is an unfortunate example. So how is it related? Police there look more like an invading U.S. force in the Middle East. And why so? The Department of Public Security in Missouri received about $69 million from the federal government in just the last five years. It showed on the streets of Ferguson. “Warrior” cops, replete with military hardware including armored vehicles and heavy weaponry, dominated news pictures. One has to ask does a “warrior” mentality run through the police department there with the death of this black youth just one example? (How often during a sporting event have you heard of players referred to as “warriors”?)

One must ask, what if the millions used to militarize our state and hometown police were used to help fund our towns so that massive layoffs would be a thing of the past and the pesticides wantonly sprayed into the nature preserve in Naugatuck, CT, would never have happened? In a related question, what if the military budget was cutback, say 50%, to raise even more funds for our beleaguered towns? Wouldn’t that relieve the amount of carbon spewed into the air, as the US military is the largest fossil fuel consumer in the world?

With the permanent war policy, the renewed bombing of Iraq, the violence in Ferguson, vicious cutbacks in municipal budgets, and wanton pesticide use, raises the question again. What’s enough? An important part of the answer lies with yet a third movement that we touched upon with farm workers– organized labor.
Thomas Jefferson recognized that there are key links in the chain of nature (See epigraph above.). If lost, that species or link could have a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. Let’s look at this both ecologically and politically.

Ospreys are good representatives of one of Jefferson’s links. In modern science lingo, these large birds are a signal species. Connecticut, in the 1960s, saw a rapid decline in these fish eagles, as they are sometimes called. They prey on large fish e.g. pike in saltwater environments. It was a Wesleyan University graduate student who discovered that the pesticide DDT was weakening Osprey eggshells to a point where they broke during the incubation period. These birds “signaled” us that something was very wrong. This chemical was then found splattered throughout complex food webs in tiny organisms and then magnified in larger ones like pike and osprey. This chemical was eventually found in mothers’ milk of our species.

Now the good news. Thanks to the environmental movement, DDT was banned and ospreys have made a comeback along Connecticut’s coast. These sky diving birds are beginning to reestablish territories up major rivers in the state. Thanks to volunteer groups, like the Naugatuck River Revival Group, nests are monitored, and threats to the same, are made public. Now let’s go to our species.

In my home state of Connecticut, Pratt & Whitney Co. (United Technologies Inc.) was a mainstay of the economy and jobs. Where certain organisms e.g. ospreys, are the bellwethers of ecosystems, P & W “signals” the overall health of the economy in CT. The signal has not been good for some time. Jobs in this military dependent company have plummeted from over 40,000 to 4,000. Gaboom. But P & W isn’t just a bellwether of CT’s economy. To grasp this, let’s use yet another ecological example – coral.

Central to climate theory is that CO2 anthropogenically released into the atmosphere impacts climate. There are other processes at work. Oceans are usually at pH 8.2. The thrusting of carbon dioxide in the air with industrial production, and product use, has also tossed CO2 into our oceans. The interaction of CO2 and H2O produces carbonic acid. This, in turn, has lowered the pH of ocean water to 8.1.

Now that doesn’t sound like any big deal, except for the following. The pH scale is logarithmic. That 0.1 drop equals a 30% DECLINE in ocean pH. That, in turn, has impacted oceanic species, especially coral. How? Let’s use an example any farmer or gardener can relate to. One can have all the potassium, phosphorus and other essential nutrients needed to grow crops, but if the pH is not in a range useable by those crops, those essential nutrients will never be released and available for use by fruit bearing plants e.g. tomatoes.
It is the same for the array of organisms, many microscopic, we call corals. If the pH drops in a range they are not adapted to, the corals cannot take in calcium and other minerals. What happens? The corals die off and take with them the myriad of oceanic organisms dependent on them. Thus corals are what scientists call a keystone species. Just as a failing keystone in an old roman arch leads to the failure of the entire structure, the failure of coral leads to the collapse of entire reef ecosystems. Thus the white “skeletal” remains of reefs seen by divers.

One important role of reefs is as incubators for fish. Along with the shear number of our species and the market driven frenzy leading to over fishing, reef collapse is contributing to ecosystem imbalance in our oceans and the decline of staple fish for diets all over the world. Welcome to fish farms and their dependency on an array of chemicals including, ouch, pesticides.

Now let’s tie these threads together.

Back to Pratt and Whitney in CT. The downward spiral of this military dependent industry sent the union representing the workers there, the International Association of Machinists union (IAM), on a quest. They were bleeding members along with the many union and nonunion workers in related industries also dependent on those military contracts. What to do?

The good news is IAM reached out to the peace and environmental movements. They were embraced by progressive elements in those movements. A coalition was born. That coalition in turn moved politicians to help seek a viable solution. That solution, which was passed by the State Assembly in Hartford, was in the form of a Future’s Commission. It is charged with helping develop a plan for the peacetime conversion of this military dependent industry and state to green production protocols.

The message here is straight-forward. Organized labors shrinking numbers were a signal of distress, just as the shrinking numbers of ospreys in the 1950s and 60s were a signal of ecosystem distress. Furthermore, organized labor is a key link in the chain of political change. Let’s draw this out a bit further.
Organized labor is the keystone of the growing cooperation between peoples’ movements. All movements must relate to organized labor and unions, in turn, must relate to the array of peoples’ movements. Unions face the General Electrics , the Viacoms, the DuPonts, and large corporate controlled newspapers on a daily basis. Unlike other peoples’ movements, the Labor movement has a presence in every major community in our country. And they have the resources. Like coral in reef ecosystems, they are the keystone of the growing web of interconnecting peoples’ movements.

The company, whose chemicals were used in the town of Naugatuck that are now leeching into its nature preserve, was DuPont Corporation. That should ring important bells for those active in the peace movement. It was the same corporation that brought the world Agent Orange. Two million gallons of that herbicide were used to clear an area the size of Massachusetts in Vietnam. Along with that massive destruction of plant and wildlife, came the deaths of 400,000 Vietnamese and genetic damage felt to this day. When President Obama announced earlier in the year that if President Assad of Syria used chemical weapons, he would be crossing a threshold, did he forget these war crimes in the U.S. War in Vietnam?

One link in the chain of peoples’ movements needs special emphasis. With the events, marches, and struggles in Ferguson, Missouri, it is critically important that this connection be made. It’s the reason the United Auto Workers (UAW) were heavily involved during the civil rights battles of the mid-20th century. It’s the reason the President of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, went to Ferguson. That town and its struggles are also sending up a signal. It’s a distress signal and, concurrently, in its struggles there is a sign of hope. Furthermore, if there is a keystone on the community side, it is African Americans, so eloquently written about by Vincent Harding in There Is A River.

“So we black people are the river: the river is us. The river in us, created by us, flowing out of us, surrounding us, re-creating us and this entire nation. I refer to the American nation without hesitation, for the black river in the United States has always taken on more than blackness. The dynamics and justice of its movement have continually gathered others to itself, have persistently filled other men and women with the force of its vision, its indomitable hope. And at its best the river of our struggle has moved consistently toward the ocean of mankind’s most courageous hopes for freedom and dignity . . .“

As was said during the civil rights movement, let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We need that single-minded focus. What’s the next logical step? Easy. The national march on climate change in New York City on Sunday, September 21st. The focus is the United Nations as a major international climate change conference is going to be held there.

There has been much talk in progressive circles about the need of a transformational movement in our country. Why? Because no movement alone can bring about the changes across the board that are needed. No movement alone can confront the challenges to peace, to the environment, to civil and human rights and achieve anything approaching a lasting victory. Need evidence? The interconnected web of issues and struggles outlined above; Gaza, fossil fuels, pesticides, and the “Fergusons” all of which keep going on and on.

No movement can battle the large chemical companies, the financial military industrial complex, and the structural racism endemic in the USA alone. No movement can bring about the change needed across the interconnected issues that abound here.

So what to do? Individually, commit to the climate march and recruit friends. Going and/or in lieu of that, notify your union, community group, church, to commit marchers and/or money. Help publicize the march in your local, state newspapers and via Facebook, tweets, blogs, and other electronic sources. For additional information, go to Sierra Club and which initiated the statewide organizing effort in CT this summer and nationally.

If we were to peel back in history, who would be marching with us? How about Tom Paine, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, W.E.B. DuBois, Chief Seattle, Paul Robeson, Rachel Carson, Caesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, and, representing the international community, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela? What made them such effective leaders? They made the connections, helped others see them, and took action.

How far along are we in developing an electoral expression of such a collaborative peoples’ movement? Can we bring the movements mentioned above to see their self-interest in the battle against climate change? The climate march will be a test of how far along the path we are of developing the cooperation between movements, and at the level that is needed, for lasting change. You’ll want to tell your children and grandchildren about your experiences during this moment in time. Let’s hold on and move on. Let’s also get to work.

P.S. My next blog will evaluate the climate march and continue to grapple with the question of -What’s Enough?

The latest edition of Moon Shadow Of War is now available at I want to thank those readers who were kind enough to review, comment – and encourage the project.

I’m getting responses to the previous blog on theory, evolution and climate change. We’ll pick up that thread shortly. The resending of military “advisors” to Iraq prompted the below response and connects to climate change.

Next up, for those who can make it, is my book talk at the Thomaston, Maine, Public Library, July 16th, 2 PM.
June/July Blog – What Is Enough?

I was in the basement of our family home when the bombs began to fall. Almost whispering, the petite, elderly woman near the front of the large room said it in a matter-of-fact way. She was ten years old and living in Germany during WWII. A hush settled over the audience.

The above was from a recent experience while conducting a book talk on Moon Shadow Of War at the Belfast Free Library, Belfast, Maine. The woman who uttered those spell binding words revealed that she has been steadfastly antiwar since that experience. It is wonderful, while speaking or writing, to get a confirming statement from the audience or readership. Thank you.

My mind drifted. How many Vietnamese had these same experiences? I remember sitting in a church pew in New Haven, CT, 1972, when the news of President Nixon’s Xmass bombing of Hanoi and Hiphong harbor reached a peace gathering there. Sixteen hundred men, women and children were murdered that day. The U.S. Administration did this act of military terror knowing peace accords were imminent in early 1973. How many Vietnamese became, in the same vein as the German immigrant above, advocates of peace that day?

President Kennedy sent military advisors to Vietnam in 1963. Where did this lead? Le Monde recently reported data seldom seen in the U.S. press. The U.S. military dropped more bombs in South Vietnam than the total number of bombs dropped by all sides in WWII. Robert MacNamara, former U.S. Defense Secretary, wrote that 3.6 million Vietnamese were killed in the war. He later divulged that the war was a “mistake.” Now we have President Obama sending military advisors into Iraq.

The challenges are nonstop. We, who oppose war, in all its viciousness and destruction of people and the environment, have to be just as mercurial and steadfast. We have to seek out creative ways to draw more people to the rewards of policies of peace. Bringing awareness to the repression that accompanied the U.S. War in Vietnam is one way of using history toward that end. But is it enough?

I told some of these stories in Moon Shadow Of War. Book talks are generating more of these stories about the havoc war generates on the home front. Another book talk at the Bethany Library, Connecticut, generated yet another. This patron was going to high school in New York State during the late 1960s. She became distressed over the firing of a male teacher. I asked on what grounds was the firing carried out. She responded that he stole school material. When I asked the obvious follow-up question, the answer astounded not only me, but also the audience. The teacher was fired for stealing paper clips.

Since the audience was of the 1960s “boomer” age, it required no explanation. But for those who did not live through the late 1960s and early 1970s, here’s a short one. My work area at home as an educator was always strewn with paper clips, and I would quickly add, chalk. Those were the tools of the trade before computers, power point, and smart boards. Any diligent educator had that collection.

Of course, the tense atmosphere of those times that divided our nation, like a line down a highway, is the most important ingredient to the answer. That line also divided educators. At one point, President Nixon asked those who supported his bomb first ask questions later approach to turn on their car headlights during the day. This was well before daytime running lights. I can remember driving down route 8 in CT when one overzealous teacher and supporter of the U.S. War in Vietnam, put on his high-beams and then passed by me to make sure his identity was revealed.

Again I pose the question, is conveying this history enough? Are solar panels enough? Are wind turbines enough? Are community gardens enough?

If the answer is no, which I agree with, it begs the question – what is enough?
Connecticut has established a Futures Commission. It is charged with planning the peacetime conversion in that state to green production. The trade union movement, particularly the International Association of Machinists (IAM), are intimately involved. This is a high-level activity involving unity of the Labor, Peace and Environmental movements that can be taken up in every state. But is it enough?

The fall elections will be upon us in a heartbeat. Defeating the ultra-right Tea Party Republicans has to be high on the list of must dos. They constantly argue for war and oppose mitigating climate change. Taking them out of power has to be part of the equation. There are no skipping steps. But again, is that enough?

The planned march in NYC addressing climate change, and scheduled for Sunday, September 21st , is extremely important as it will bring together many movements for social justice. Will that be enough?

In May I invited readers to address climate change and theory. Now I invite readers to answer the even broader question. What is enough when it comes to continuous warfare and to climate change? My August blog will address the responses to both blogs.

May Blog

Earth Day. I disagree with those who say we should not have one day but celebrate it everyday. Of course we should work at protecting and enhancing the environment everyday. We should celebrate that work on Earth Day.

People come to the work of protecting and enhancing the environment in a variety of ways. For some it is spiritual. For others it is self-interest at the work place. A discovery of asbestos will garner attention in a hurry. Still others come via the community when a beautiful vista, land or water, and wildlife habitat are threatened.

The question I want to raise here is who sticks with it? Who weathers the storms of attempted threats and intimidations from the powers that be? What about the wear and tear on one’s relationships with partners, family and friends in the heat of battle and the long run?

My answer is straightforward. Who sticks with it? Those who understand science in both general and specific ways are my answer. Let’s take one very important example.

It’s only a theory. How many times have you heard that one? Currently, we hear it relative to climate change. To illustrate, let’s go to another area where this invective is raised. Evolution.

But first a challenge to readers – apply the below to climate change by responding to this blog. Let’s see what comes out of the wash.

That Word Theory

I have never gone through a discussion on evolution without someone saying, “It’s only a theory.” Due to the popular use of the word to mean guess or any old idea, it seems to be an iron law of these discussions. “It’s only a theory” will rise to the surface like fermenting dough. Many teachers and authors have pointed out this phenomenon but few offer a remedy. Like with most vexing problems of getting evolutionary thought across to people, there is no one single answer. Here is what I have found to be effective.

A colleague of mine returned from an American Association for the Advancement of Science convention bearing gifts. He gave to me a copy of Evolution Vs. Creationism – An Introduction by Eugenie C. Scott. And it was even autographed by people from the National Center for Science Education who had advised the lawyers in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case. What a treasure trove! While thumbing the pages, I came across an interesting passage that considered how scientists and other people rank the terms facts, hypotheses, laws and theories. It stated that most people rank these terms, from most important to least important, as follows:

Most Important
– Facts
– Laws
– Theories
– Hypotheses
Least Important

Scientists rank them this way:

Most Important
– Theories
– Laws
– Hypotheses
– Facts
Least Important

I decided to test this in my biology classes although it can be done in many group settings. Sure enough, I got every possibility starting with Laws, Hypotheses and Facts placed as most important. There was one glaring exception. Never was Theories placed first. Never. And this was after doing a unit of work on the scientific method and in the midst of a unit on evolution. This called for a change in strategy.

Along with presenting the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, I now consider the following activity the most important one to foster acceptance of evolution. Have people work in groups of three. Give them four index cards. Ask them to write Facts, Laws, Theories and Hypotheses on the four cards. Then ask them to rank those science terms on their desks from most important to least important.

Now tabulate the class results. Ask how many groups placed Facts at the top of the list. How many placed Laws at the top of the list etc.? Barring a gathering of budding science researchers, Theory will top few if any lists. Ask why they think this is so and let the discussion flow.

Now write the word THEORY in large capital letters. Develop the idea that a theory is an amalgam of facts, laws and tested hypotheses. IT IS THE ONLY CONCEPT THAT POTENTIALLY ENCOMPASSES ALL OF THE OTHER THREE SCIENCE TERMS AND CONCEPTS. I show this schematically by writing the terms Facts, Laws, Hypotheses and drawing arrows feeding into Theory.

Laws >>>>Theories<<<>>>Evolutionary Theory<<<<Endosymbiosis Hypothesis
Fossil Data

So evolution is an excellent example of how laws (Mendelian), hypotheses (for example, endosymbiosis or origin of cells) and facts (fossils) blend to put ideas together in such a way as to explain how change through time happens (evolution). In other words, it’s a scientific theory.

Now, it’s your turn. How does all this apply to climate change, the Keystone pipeline etc.? Let me know by responding to this blog. Thanks!

April 2014 Blog

First I want to thank all those blog readers who came to the Silas Bronson Library and John Bale Bookstore, Waterbury, in support of myself and my memoir Moon Shadow Of War, and, most importantly, peace and the environment.

Next up is a reading and discussion at the Bethany Library, Saturday, May 3rd, 2 PM. It’s right on route 63 at the caution light in Bethany. I’ll also be at the Bethlehem Library, Sunday, May 18th, 3 PM, Bethlehem center with 9 other authors. Come join these exciting discussions.
Mr. Bartoletti was my neighbor as I grew up in the North End of Waterbury. I used to watch him go off to work at Fulton Park that sprawled out just below my family home on the dead end side of Tudor Street. He was an immigrant from Italy.

I played football, baseball, and basketball and swam in the pool at Fulton Park. The Olmsted Bros., the architectural firm who also designed Central Park in New York City, also designed this multi-use park of green, open space and water. While playing sports and walking its many trails, I would see truckloads of men being ferried hither and yon. Many were Italian immigrants, including my neighbor Mr. Bartoletti, who kept this active park in tip-top shape.

Earth Day is about making connections. Along with the biosphere, these involve people who are an integral part of nature. Immigrant history, especially as it pertains to the environment, is part of the hidden history of our country.

Immigrants keep contributing to our environment and communities into the 21st century. Listen to the words of Jose Marti, Cuban Independence fighter back in the 19th Century:

“Yo soy un hombre sincero,
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
E char mis versos del alma.”

Loosely translated,

I’m just a sincere man who is trying –
To do some good before dying,
To ask each man and his brother –
To bear no ill toward each other.
This life will never be hollow –
To those who listen and follow.

Every time I hear those words by Jose Marti in his poem and song Guantanamera, I think of Naugatuck resident Felipe Flores. It’s really a love song and that sums up Felipe Flores, because his love extends from his wife, Susanne, family, and to those in his community here, in Mexico, and globally.

At the same time, his love and sincerity is based also on his understanding of science, especially in ecology. He understands the danger to our climate if the Keystone XL pipeline should become a reality. He understands passive open space mitigates climate change. CO2 is taken in here. Asphalt can’t do that. Green organisms can.

This entry is from my journal, 9/26/1995. Vaneza Guoveia, Casey Knittle , girl scouts with their scout leader, Maria Folsom, came to a passive open space meeting at the Stop & Shop Community Room (We are, unfortunately, losing these community rooms in Naugatuck.) concerning land in the Gunntown Neighborhood. Ed Coelho and Felipe Flores were there.

We mark that date, September 26th, 1995, as the beginning of the Committee for a Cultural/Environmental Center – Gunntown Road. This is the group dedicated to preserve 39 acres of historic and ecologically important passive open space in Gunntown.

Felipe Flores’ name is in my journals for the next 19 years concerning the battle. Here’s just a sample,

– July 1998 Discussions on the Land. These were a series of discussions on the environment. Felipe led one of these on land battles in Mexico. It gave us an international perspective on such struggles.

– April 1999 – Felipe led the program, Tai Chi on the Land. Among his many skills, he is a Tai Chi instructor.

– May & June of 2000. The Stolen Boy Play. It was Felipe who spotted the grant at NVCC with the phone Co. that help make this dramatic production come to life on the land in the Gunntown neighborhood of Naugatuck. Then he became the official organizer of the drama. He won the producer / director to the project. (We have found out since that this was the first outdoor play on the Colonial Revolution in Connecticut.)

There were countless organizational meetings and town hall events to save this beautiful passive open space. Felipe clearly was and is the best extemporaneous speaker the environment has in Naugatuck.

It doesn’t stop there because Felipe’s concept of community is broad. Of course many students, including from Naugatuck, attend Naugatuck Valley Community College where he was a Math professor. Felipe set to work.

– He organized the Hispanic Student Union there.

– He kicked off, with those students and other student clubs, going to the Saint Vincent DePaul Food Center, Baldwin St. in Waterbury where the homeless gather. That work is on going. The hardest aspect of organizational work is the following question. Will it endure when you are not there? Felipe retired from the community college. The work by Community College students for the homeless continues.

– He created and helped organize the Unity Film Series at the Community College. Unity here means racial, national, cultural & political diversity. He always emphasizes what we have in common – our families, our environment.

– Personally, he convinced me to participate in the regional Labor Council. His point was that we needed Labor involved with the environment and that I had to learn about organized Labor. He was a leader in our educators’ union at the Community College.

– He is a Eucharistic Minister at his church and sang in the choir.

– In retirement, he has written a white paper with a colleague on how to organize an environmental and people friendly housing project. He calls it Vision Village.

– He is a candidate for the State Sponsored Commission on the Future. This commission will be planning out the conversion of military production to green, peace –time production in Connecticut.

How many people know that this immigrant from Mexico made these contributions to our town and greater community? Hopefully more will after writing.

I’ll sum this up with a number of messages that were received upon people learning that Felipe Flores was nominated for Naugatuck’s Earth Day Mayor of the Day.

Casey Knittle – “Felipe has been an inspiration to me as a humble leader in the fight to preserve the town land on Gunntown Road. His kind, wise demeanor shines in his commitment to the good things in this world; honoring the value of natural open spaces, equality, justice, and social action with the future generations in mind.”

Kit Salazar Smith of the Regional Labor Council – “Congratulations Felipe!!!”

I received this one when Felipe was first mentioned as a candidate for Earth Day Mayor. It Said, “I want Felipe, not to be just Earth Day Mayor of the Day, I nominate him for Mayor.”

When you touch one part of the environment you find out it is connected to the rest of the universe. John Muir, who made this statement, started the Sierra Club. He is considered the father of our National Park System. John Muir was an immigrant from Scotland. Like so many immigrants, he contributed to our economy and culture.

We owe this immigrant for teaching environmentalists an important tactic on how to influence those in power. Muir used to take politicians to special natural areas to better understand their importance. Many think President Teddy Roosevelt started our National Park System. It was John Muir who button-hooked Roosevelt to scenic and ecologically important lands and waterways in our country.

With great historical beauty, it goes on. Felipe led yet another Tai Chi lesson at the Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve later that Earth Day morning on April 25, 2014. And taking a page out of John Muir’s legacy, with deep breathing and arms swinging skyward, there was Mayor Bob Mezzo of Naugatuck.

The next time you walk the Gunntown Passive Park and Nature Preserve, be sure to say, Gracias Senor Felipe Flores.


A note to readers: As I wrote this blog, my mind continually drifted to the early attempts to grapple with the pollution of the Naugatuck River. Some of this history is in the just released print edition (2014) of my memoir, Moon Shadow Of War.


For many years, industrialists told us they would build their smoke stacks high. That way the pollution would dissipate in the air. The higher the smoke stacks, the less worry about air pollution.  Thus began what seemed like a contest. Who could build the highest stack? 


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While the owners of these industries would make us believe in a magic act, physicists knew better. One of the basic principles of physics declares that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter may be spewed up but it also must come down. And come down it did.

The national Resources Defense Council studied air pollution. What it found wasn’t pretty. “From soot to toxic heavy metals, dirty coal and fossil fuel smoke stacks emit vast quantities of dangerous pollutants that are well known to cause disease and death. The total cost of these health impacts (especially respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema) is more than $100 billion per year.”  Remember, this is after 40 years of the clean air act! And this does not even consider the big kahuna, climate change.

I raise this point for a specific, relevant reason. On December 25th, 2013, a pollution episode occurred along the Naugatuck River in Seymour. A burst sewage pipe dumped the untreated material into the river at a rate of 100-200 gallons per minute. Estimates are 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of raw sewage were released into the water.

Days later a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman stated that DEEP was satisfied with the actions of the private company that runs Seymour’s waste treatment plant. He followed this with, “the river’s fast flow would quickly dissipate the sewage.”

Sound familiar? We are supposed to believe that the toxins, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, not to mention the bacteria, viruses and other microbes, “dissipate.” That is they disappear. Another mythical magic act, this time promulgated by DEEP. Ugh! A statement by the Connecticut Rivers Alliance that “ . . .fish usually can swim away.” was hardly helpful.

Phosphates alone do great damage in such spills. Found in detergents and washing powders, they combine with other nutrients in untreated human waste. This can lead to an overabundance of bacteria that proceed to suck the dissolved oxygen out of the water. That, in turn, hurts aquatic organisms that require certain defined amounts of the oxygen.

Of course this pollution was passed down the Naugatuck River to Ansonia, Derby and into the Housatonic River. From there, some of the untreated mess was deposited into Long Island Sound. I doubt that the statement by DEEP about the so-called dissipation of sewage will warm the hearts of fisher people and others fighting the pollution of Long Island Sound.

Now the first selectman of Seymour has raised the specter of sabotage. While he quickly followed this with its too early to say, this scary story is out there. Others, including one official in Naugatuck, are repeating the story.

 While school is still out on final causes here, it sure smacks of a diversion from the real issues. Was the spill due to the lack of maintenance? Are there enough employees in this privatized sewage treatment plant to do maintenance and to what amounts to preventive action? Data from the 1990s shows the number of workers in wastewater treatment in Seymour has gone down from 9 – 10 to 6 workers. Is that enough to do preventive maintenance on the many pipes and other structures involved?

(One can just imagine the maintenance problems if the Keystone XL pipeline, carrying the tar sands dirty oil from Canada, were allowed to travel the great distances proposed in the USA. Those interested to join the fight against this, go to

Are there reasons those of us upstream in Naugatuck, or elsewhere, along the river should be concerned? Plenty. Veolia, the private company that runs Seymour’s wastewater treatment plant, also operates Naugatuck’s.

Veolia Water is a huge international company headquartered in Paris, France. Its national base here is in Chicago. It has 100,000s employees working as far away as Iraq.

Compared to Seymour, we have a much bigger operation in Naugatuck as the town takes in sludge from other towns. We have 30 workers. The town inputs between 1.0 and 1.2 million tax dollars for the operation of the plant. How much profit is made and taken out of the town? No one seems to know. Are our pipes and equipment being properly maintained?

With all this as a backdrop, our towns are being hit with cutbacks from the federal and state levels. The military budget takes over 53% of our federal tax dollars. The sequester is just the latest round of cutbacks. Naugatuck hired Blum Shapiro, which has ties to Baker Tilly International, to find a way out of the mess. Their solution to all this is . . . more privatization.

Concerning the privatization tact of the present Mezzo Administration in Naugatuck, it would directly affect visiting nurses, sanitation and family services. VNA patients, for example, are worried they would lose the close relationship they have with their present nurses and see their time allotment with them diminish. Products are not involved here. Nor are they commodities for the market. These are people services. People walk, talk and have dreams.  

Creative solutions are beginning to come forward from the grassroots. The VNA of Naugatuck is willing to also work outside of Naugatuck and bring those dollars back here. Let’s take over the operation of our own wastewater treatment plant. Those dollars, especially the fees collected from other towns for treating their sludge, can be used to finance the running of the plant. Tax dollars saved can then be used to help fund our public works e.g. sanitation and also family services.

Now we need your solutions. Get your creative juices flowing and respond to this blog.