Activists converged locally last week to renew their call for Bath Iron Works to be converted to non-military use.

As part of the sixth annual Maine Peace Walk, activists in the Bath/Brunswick area distributed fliers, hosted a conversation and held vigils outside of the shipyard.

“We’ve done peace walk six out of the last seven years,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. “It’s always about peace and the environment.”

While the Maine Peace Walk usually has a bit more walking, this year the groups involved congregated locally to call for the conversion of BIW to non-military work and to address climate change.

“Climate change is severe right now, and if we don’t do something about it on a massive national scale, we’re sunk. We’re literally sunk, and our kids and grandkids have no future,” said Gagnon.

Part of that massive reaction to climate change needs to be a reorientation of the nation’s industrial vision toward building solar and tidal power and mass transit, said Gagnon.

“How can we create these technologies? Where are we going to do that? Well, you’ve got an industrial production plant right in our community, why not do it there?” said Gagnon.

For Gagnon and the other activists gathered in the Bath/Brunswick area for the week, BIW offers a perfect intersection of their interests — peace and the environment. As anti-military activists, they would like to see BIW turn away from the construction of destroyers for the Navy. Instead, they claim, the company should build things like equipment for solar and wind energy production.

Additionally, they argue, it would be better for the environment to shrink the military and the industrial base that supports it.

“The military is the biggest polluter on the planet,” said Gagnon.

Gagnon points to a University of Massachusetts study that says defense spending would create more jobs if spent elsewhere — which is to say, BIW could hire more people if it converted to the construction of non-military things.

“I call it a win-win-win. It’s a win for the environment. It’s a win for the peace movement, because we’d move away from endless war. And it’s a win for the humans, because you’d get more jobs,” Gagnon said.

On Tuesday, activists walked from Bath to Brunswick, where they held a supper and panel discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Together, the panel discussed BIW’s impact on the region and the world through the construction of destroyers for the Navy.

“General Dynamics is the fourth largest war profiteering corporation in the world, and that’s something to speak out against,” said moderator Jason Rawn of Veterans for Peace.

“Maine is dependent on our politicians successfully bringing defense jobs and defense contracts into our state,” said Bath activist Leslie Manning. “Ten percent of our gross domestic product in the state of Maine is reliant on military contracts. We are very much caught up in this web.”

While the message may not be terribly popular in a community heavily dependent on work at BIW, Gagnon says that people are becoming more receptive to their arguments.

“People are noticing that the weather is changing. It’s not so cold here this time of year when it’s supposed to be much colder,” said Gagnon. “Even in Bath, there’s a much greater net positive response than any kind of negative response.”

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